Archive for the ‘Baseball’ Category

The Giants in the Series: They’re ours (well, some of them)

October 27, 2010

In my heart of hearts, the World Series would have started at Willie Mays Plaza tonight with the Giants hosting the Yankees. I’ve been a Yankee fan for most of my life — save for that period from 1981-98 when I was mad at Steinbrenner — and besides, it’s really not a Series without the Yankees, is it?

The Texas Rangers? Sheeeeesh. They’re synonymous with postseason baseball, alright. But I guess they should win a pennant once every 50 years or so. (Except that not so deep down, despite my surface sarcasm, I do know Nolan Ryan is putting together a contender to last through the next generation.)

But with New York out of the picture (and possibly at the start of a long decline), it frees me up to pull for San Fran, which is in its first Series since I moved here. And it saves Giants fans the chance of another heartbreak at the hands of the Yankees — like, say, 1962.

And let’s face it: It’s always fun to see guys you followed, or at least watched, in the minors make it to the show — and even more so if they make it to the Series. And in a city with little to be proud of, Fresnans are gonna be able to see several Giants they saw at Grizzlies Stadium and at least enjoy a small dose of civic pride.

I saw Tim Lincecum when …

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These are places that are gone (Bobby Thomson, 1923-2010)

August 17, 2010

Oh, to be able to do one memorable thing in your life — something so wonderful and momentous and once-in-a-lifetime that people, even ones who weren’t born when it happened, will talk about you after you’re gone.

Something people by the masses will remember in shorthand.

The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.

The Miracle of Coogan’s Bluff.

Bobby Thomson.

Ralph Branca.

The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!

Well, he’s gone now. Thomson, the Glasgow-born, Staten Island-raised Flying Scot, the New York Giants’ third baseman whose improbable bottom-of-the-ninth, one-out, three-run line-drive homer off Branca lives on as perhaps the most dramatic moment in American sports history, died yesterday at 86 at his home in Savannah, Ga.

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Yet another psychic blow for Cleveland: RIP Lou Brown

July 20, 2010

James Gammon as one of the most successful managers in Indians history, Lou Brown.

The city of Cleveland, already reeling from the losses of LeBron James and one of its most unique native sons, Harvey Pekar, suffered another psychic blow this past week: The loss of beloved former Indians manager Lou Brown.

Actually, it was the guy who played the Tribe’s gruff, kind-hearted, paternalistic manager in the two “Major League” films, James Gammon.

Gammon had a cool career as a rugged, rough-edged guy: TV Westerns, “Cool Hand Luke,” “Natural Born Killers,” Nash Bridges’ father. And on stage, he founded the Met Theatre in Los Angeles, and eventually became Sam Shepard’s go-to guy in several of his most notable plays:”Curse of the Starving Class,” “A Lie of the Mind,” “The Late Henry Moss” and a Tony-nominated star turn in “Buried Child.”

But as someone who was an Indians fan from the mid-’80s to the mid-’90s — including ’87, the year Sports Illustrated said the team would win the pennant, then they went out and lost 105 games — it warmed my heart to see a film where the Tribe went out and won the damn pennant, even if it was a far-fetched fantasy. (And it was equally heart-warming to hear X’s version of “Wild Thing” in the film.)

And Lou Brown was the guy who managed to turn the wackiest ship in the majors into the greatest rags-to-riches sports story of all time.

Who else could have put up with the superstitious, voodoo-practicing slugger Pedro Cerrano (Dennis Haysbert)? Or the vain third baseman, Roger Dorn (Corbin Bernsen), who didn’t get the memo that his career was on the downside? Or the creaky-kneed catcher, Jake Taylor (Tom Berenger), trying to coax one last season out of those knees? Or the no-hit, no-run speed diva, Willie Mays Hayes (Wesley Snipes)? Or the biggest headcase of the bunch — pitcher Ricky Vaughn (Charlie Sheen), straight out of the California correctional system, nicknamed “Wild Thing” with good reason? (Think “Juuuuuust a bit outside!”)

Lou Brown was the one person in baseball who could make these losers believe in themselves. (Well, him and the evil owner who deliberately put together the shittiest team in the history of baseball in the hopes she could move the Tribe out of Cleveland … to Miami …) And baseball/movie fans are a little richer for having had Gammon play that role so well. And the city of Cleveland is juuuuuust a bit poorer this week …

George? Yes, God? You’re fired! Hey — that’s my line! (George Steinbrenner, 1930-2010)

July 14, 2010

The man just had to go and steal the headlines one last time, didn't he? Photo: AP

The guy always had to be on the back pages of the tabloids, y’know? He just couldn’t help himself! George Steinbrenner always had to command all the attention.

Why is this so appropriate? Two days after the passing of one of the classiest and longest-serving of Yankees, 99-year-old Bob Sheppard — and on the morning of the All-Star Game! — George had to go and grab all the headlines one last time.

This time, it was God doing the firing and George, for once, on the receiving end. It’s just funny. Whoever says God doesn’t have a sense of humor doesn’t appreciate the cosmic comic timing behind this.

(And, in a case of morbid symmetry: My previous two posts were tributes to a longtime Yankee and a man from Cleveland. Steinbrenner was a longtime Yankee from Cleveland.)

George Michael Steinbrenner III, born on the Fourth of July 1930, was a one-of-a-kind Yankee Doodle Dandy. Thank God.

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Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please: A moment of silence (Bob Sheppard, 1910-2010)

July 11, 2010

Bob Sheppard, the man Reggie Jackson called "The Voice of God." Photo: AP

In my perfect world, if you live to be 99, you automatically get a free pass to 100.

Well, it’s not my world and it’s certainly not perfect, and twice in the last five weeks, in the sports world, that hasn’t been the case. Now it’s two men who personified excellence but didn’t get to cross into the promised land called Centenary.

The first, of course, was John Wooden, born Oct. 14, 1910, the most influential person in basketball history whose name wasn’t Naismith, who passed on the night of my birthday.

This morning, I woke up to learn that Bob Sheppard, born six days after Wooden — the man whose clipped, precise diction was the platinum standard for public-address announcers, and whose exact, classy tones were part of the Yankee Stadium experience for 56 years — departed this morning from his Baldwin, L.I., home without seeing triple figures, either.

Life is not fair sometimes. But I have a feeling Mr. Sheppard would be the first to rebut me and say that he did have an excellent life.

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ARCHIVES: Not being Manny

May 31, 2010

This pre-Franorama World post is from my MySpace blog May 8, 2009, 10:08 a.m. PDT:

The electronic air is thick with people weighing on the Manny Ramirez suspension yesterday.

(If you’re not a sports fan: One of baseball’s most feared sluggers and oversized personalities, Dodger left fielder Manny Ramirez — the overgrown kid with the long dreads, petulant behavior and pine tar all over his helmet — was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball yesterday for using a banned substance. In this case, it was a woman’s fertility drug. Yes, you read right — not saying it was used this way, but it can be used to jump start the production of testosterone after going through a cycle of steroid use.)

Anyway, every sports pundit in America seems to be weighing in, and I woke up to this. This is the topper of Scott Ostler’s column in this morning’s San Francisco Chronicle:

“Manny Ramirez flunked a drug test because of meds he got from a Florida doctor. Ramirez isn’t providing any more info, so we’re all free to speculate on the nature of his “personal health issue.”

I’m going to go ahead and rule out dandruff.

From what drug experts say about HCG, the banned drug Ramirez used, there’s a good chance Manny used the stuff to boost his flagging testosterone production and head off embarrassing side effects. So it wasn’t Manny being Manny, it was Manny not wanting to be Franny.

That’s OK — I wouldn’t want to be Manny, either. And what’s wrong with being Franny, anyway (except not having a job)? And if Ostler only knew …

(If you’re not a sports fan: One of baseball’s most feared sluggers and oversized personalities, Dodger left fielder Manny Ramirez — the overgrown kid with the long dreads, petulant behavior and pine tar all over his helmet — was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball yesterday for using a banned substance. In this case, it was a woman’s fertility drug. Yes, you read right — not saying it was used this way, but it can be used to jump start the production of testosterone after going through a cycle of steroid use.)

Anyway, every sports pundit in America seems to be weighing in, and I woke up to this. This is the topper of Scott Ostler’s column in this morning’s San Francisco Chronicle:

Manny Ramirez flunked a drug test because of meds he got from a Florida doctor. Ramirez isn’t providing any more info, so we’re all free to speculate on the nature of his “personal health issue.”


I’m going to go ahead and rule out dandruff.


From what drug experts say about HCG, the banned drug Ramirez used, there’s a good chance Manny used the stuff to boost his flagging testosterone production and head off embarrassing side effects. So it wasn’t Manny being Manny, it was Manny not wanting to be Franny.


That’s OK — I wouldn’t want to be Manny, either. And what’s wrong with being Franny, anyway (except not having a job)? And if Ostler only knew …

ARCHIVES: Ladies and gentlemen, your attention, please: This chapter is over

May 30, 2010

This pre-Franorama World post, about the final game at Yankee Stadium, is from my MySpace blog Sept. 21, 2008, 10:07 p.m. PDT:

Sports means a hell of a lot less to me as I approach middle age and shed the excess testosterone of youth. (Though I did yell like an idiot in January when the Giants upset the Packers, then the Patriots.)

But I’ve found myself watching ESPN much of the day, something I never do. Been glued to the set, watching the coverage of the final game at Yankee Stadium. (That is, unless the miracle of miracles happens — the Yanks win every game between now and next Sunday, and the Evil Empire, which clinched a tie for the wild card today, loses every game between tomorrow and then.)¬†And I find myself feeling swirls of emotions right now, and even choked up at times, wondering just how I should feel.

I know, I know — it’s a fucking ballpark. It’s a decrepit hulk of concrete and steel with a questionable ’70s-style facelift that, like most ’70s architecture, looked a lot better then than it does now. And it’s in a grimy setting in the South Bronx, among the creaking No. 4 train and the bodegas and worn-looking cheap restaurants and souvenir stands. And I covered a couple games there against the White Sox in ’89 when I was still a sportswriter; no great world-class memories — just that the Saturday night game went til 12:30 despite the near-freezing rain because Steinbrenner said so, and the next day, a gorgeous Umbrella Day, was the day the Yanks traded Al Leiter to Toronto for Jesse Barfield. But no, it’s really not just a ballpark — it’s been indeed much more than that.

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ARCHIVES: Frozen ropes, dying quails, good music and dying ballparks

May 30, 2010

This pre-Franorama World post ran on the Fresno Beehive Aug.6, 2008, 7:50 p.m. PDT:

So it was 35 years ago Monday — Aug. 4, 1973 — that my Uncle Bill took my brother Jim and me to our first big-league ballgame: 10 stops down the No. 7 line from his apartment in Queens to Shea Stadium. When Fresno’s greatest athlete was still the beloved ace of the Mets’ staff, Yogi was managing and Tug was starting to tell everyone “Ya gotta believe!” When Shea still had those cool blue-and-orange squares and rectangles on the outside that screamed ’60s as loudly as the girls inside screamed for The Beatles those two legendary nights.

We sat in the upper deck in foul territory in short left. And I got to see the beginning of a second Mets miracle. And it began with a loss.

The Cardinals (back when Joe Torre rocked those muttonchop sideburns) were in first in the National League East; the Mets were in last, I think nine games out. It was Jerry Koosman against Bob Gibson. And the Cards won the battle, 4-3, but lost the pennant that sunny Saturday afternoon. Gibson singled with one out in the second. The next batter — I believe it was Ken Reitz — hit a sharp liner, but it was right at Teddy Martinez, the shortstop. The mighty Gibson ripped up his right knee trying to get back to first. He eventually got up and went to the mound to test the knee, but collapsed in a heap. By the time he returned in mid-September, St. Louis had faded from the race and the Amazins were on their memorable run toward the seventh game of the Series in Oakland.

I also wanted to see Willie Mays. I figured, at 42, it was gonna be his last year, and I wanted to see him play once. He didn’t. The consolation prize was heading back to the train and seeing a swarm of kids in the Shea parking lot crowding around a pink yacht of an Imperial with a black vinyl roof — and black California plates: SAY HEY.

I forgot about the anniversary … until I got in a little summer listening this past week and heard Scott McCaughey sing a trippy, wistful bit of nostalgia titled “I Dream of Willie Mays” on the most excellent new album by The Baseball Project, “Vol. 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails.”

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ARCHIVES: Why I like Brian Wilson

May 30, 2010

This Franorama World post was from my MySpace blog July 16, 2008, 1:54 a.m. PDT:

Ha — Gotcha. Thought I was talking about the Brian Wilson, huh? (And if you know me, you know what I think of the Brian …)

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