Another trip to Orange County…Oakland A’s vs. The Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles by way of Fullerton and Santa Monica

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Me and 3 time World Series winner John “Blue Moon” Odom.

Long time readers of this blog know that my girlfriend and I make the hellish, bumper to bumper trip down the I-5 to Anaheim once or twice a year when the Athletics come to town. Since I live in Los Angeles, it’s difficult for me to make it to the Coliseum; and the “Big A” or whatever the hell they call it these days is my only opportunity of the year to see the good guys up close and personal.  A’s fans, in past years, seemingly turn out en masse and this game was proven to be no different. The day started out on a high note as I met 3 time world series winner John “Blue Moon” Odom in the parking lot. He and his wife were charming and cordial. He got a kick out of it when I told him that announcers Glen Kuiper and Ray Fosse always show him in the crowd and give him a little air time whenever the A’s play the Angels on television. (He lives in Southern California, so like me, he only gets to see the A’s when they come to town twice a season.) I got an autograph and a photo, and after thanking him and shaking his hand, I noticed he was wearing a World Series ring. There is no doubt in my mind that those Oakland A’s teams from 1972, 73 and 74 were some of the greatest teams of all time!

Right away I had a bit of a problem with the Oakland lineup. The A’s were facing a left-hander in Hector Santiago, and their 8/9 hittersphoto 2 (19) were both lefties, each of which were batting .100 and .080, respectively. With Nick Punto batting in front of Reddick and Barton in the 7 spot, we were essentially GIVING AWAY 3 outs. Jesse Chavez gave up an RBI single and a homer to Albert Pujols, (his 496th) which were all the scoring the Angels did as they were shut down in the last 6 innings. Hector “who the fuck is this guy” Santiago had a shutout going until Oakland cut the lead in half with a Yoenis  Cespedes solo shot in the 4th. The game resumed and Angels fans were being their typical, boring selves. There was absolutely ZERO passion. They remained in a zombie like state until they started to do “the wave” in the 6th inning; completely ignoring the fact that the A’s were threatening to tie the game with runners on. Oakland fans were out numbered 3,000-1 and were undoubtedly louder and more into the outcome of the game.

The game was essentially dominated by the bullpens until the 9th. Whipping boy/super scrub Jim Johnson shut down the Halos in the 8th; and then this happened with a runner on and 1 out in the 9th:

The entire stadium deflated. The smug, “we all but have this in the bag” quietness turned into disbelief, verbal disappointment and booing. It was one of the MOST WONDERFUL moments I have EVER experienced at a ballpark.  I was beaming as Oakland fans high- fived each other on the way out of the stadium. We had proven who the KINGS OF THE WEST were once again.

 

Brian Kingman interview…part 3

kingman

This is part 3 of my Brian Kingman interview…

3) You were best known for being a 20 game loser before Detroit Tigers pitcher Mike Maroth “achieved ” this honor in 2003. Have you spoken to Mr. Maroth about this dubious achievement?

No, I never have spoken to Mike. I didn’t want to distract him during the 2003 season. I think I can safely assume he wasn’t very interested in talking to me
about losing 20 games after the fact. The Tigers were having a horrible year and didn’t appreciate the added media attention regarding the possibility that Maroth
might lose 20 games.

When I lost 20 games in 1980 it wasn’t as uncommon of an occurrence as it was in 2003.  There has been a 20 game loser almost every year in baseball history, and some years there were multiple 20 game losers. A  list of 20 game losers was established by baseball reference.com because of the media created interest started and fueled mainly by Jayson Stark. In 1991 Stark wrote a column in the Philadelphia Inquirer that mentioned a couple of
pitchers that might lose 20. He noted that no one had lost 20 in over a decade and that “somewhere Brian Kingman was praying for someone to lose 20 games
so he could be relieved of the dubious distinction of being the last 20 game loser”. A friend of mind who lived in Philadelphia mailed me the article. I called the Inquirer and
they gave me Stark’s home phone number. I called him and told him that I wanted to remain the last 20 game loser, basically forever. He of course didn’t believe it was me calling at first. He thought he was being pranked by one of his friends. This was the start of what I call my “Reign as the Last 20 Game Loser” which lasted until 2003. This however is a story in itself and deviates from your question.

When Mike Maroth lost 21 games in 2003 it had been 23 years since I had lost 20.  Baseball, and especially pitching, had undergone a lot of changes. Complete games were on the decline, and the importance of the relief pitcher increased. Pitch counts gained in popularity as front offices worried about injuries to starting pitchers who had been rewarded lucrative contracts. Because of these factors starting pitchers didn’t pitch as deep into games, and had fewer decisions.
Just as it became harder to win 20 games it became less likely that someone would lose 20. It took a historically bad team (2003 Detroit Tigers) losing 119 games for Maroth to “achieve” 20 losses. When a team has that many losses they are very likely going to produce a 20 game loser. The 1962 NY Mets finished lost 120 games and produced two 20 game losers as well as a 19 game loser.
In this sense becoming a 20 game loser was most likely less stressful for Mike in 2003 than it was for me in 1980. No one on the Tigers was winning while on the 1980Mike Maroth
Oakland A’s everyone was winning except me. I am sure the casual fan believed I was a horrible pitcher.  It is assumed that over the course of a baseball season
everything evens out. If you get shut out once in awhile you’ll likely be the be beneficiary of an offensive outburst every now and then as well. I learned first hand that
this isn’t always true;
A section of a blog by Aaron Gleeman:
 

Perhaps more amazing than the fact that no one has been able to do what he did in 1980 in 22 years is how Brian Kingman lost 20 games that year. First of all, he actually pitched for a good team. The 1980 Oakland A’s went 83-79 (.512) and finished second in the American League West. The AL East was much stronger that season, but A’s had the 7th-best record in the 14-team American League. 

Secondly, Brian Kingman was actually a decent pitcher in 1980. He pitched 211 1/3 innings and had a 3.83 ERA. . 

So, he pitched for a good team and was right around league-average in preventing runs, yet he went 8-20. 

Meanwhile in 1980…
Dan Spillner pitched 194 1/3 innings for a Cleveland ballclub that went 79-83. He had a 5.28 ERA - 29.4% worse than league-average – and he went 16-11.

Well as you can see here I have drifted off in my answer to the original question! 
Jack Morris pitched 250 innings for the Tigers who went 84-78. He had a 4.18 ERA - 1.5% worse than league-average – and he went 16-15.
Len Barker pitched 246 1/3 innings for that same Indians team that Spillner was on. He had a 4.17 ERA - 2.2% worse than league-average – and he won 19 games.
Dennis Leonard pitched 280 1/3 innings for the Royals

who were American League Champions (97-65). Leonard had an ERA of 3.79 verysimilar to Kingman’s (3.83) and was a TWENTY game winner (20-11). 

Oakland’s runs per game when Kingman pitched:

             R/G

Wins        4.12

Losses      2.50

No-Dec.     2.75
That’s the difference run-support can make. For the season overall, the A’s scored 4.43 runs per game. So, even in the games Kingman won, he got below-average run support from his teammates.In the games Kingman pitched in, the A’s scored 2.87 runs per game. In the other 130 games they played in 1980, they scored 4.55 runs per game. That’s just plain, old, simple bad luck.

Of the 20 games Kingman lost, 5 of them were games in which the A’s got shutout.

The 2.50 runs per game the A’s scored in Kingman’s 20 losses are even a little inflated because 11 of the 50 runs scored were in one game. If you take out those 11 runs and that one game, Kingman got a whopping 2.05 runs per game in his other 19 losses.

*************************************************************************************
Well as you can see here I have drifted off once again from the interview question! The answer sort of morphed into things I would have mentioned to
Maroth if I had talked to him. That’s why editors get paid the big bucks.
When I lost 20 most fans didn’t realize the number of really good pitchers that had lost twenty games. The average fan assumed that only bad
pitchers lost 20. They forget Steve Carlton lost twenty games the year after winning 27 games, and that there are several 20 game losers in the Hall
of Fame, including Pud Galvin who lost 20 games ten years in a row.
The biggest factor in a pitcher losing 20 games is almost always poor sun support. Pitchers ERA’s are always posted on line or in the sport section
along with their won-lost record. There should also be a number that indicates the average number of runs scored for the pitcher. I think it would
be enlightening for fans and players to see run support adjusted W-L totals. Some big winners would look less impressive, and some pitchers with unimpressive records would gain respect. It is so much easier to pitch when your team scores for you.

Brian Kingman interview…part 2

kingman062111

Part 2 of this amazing interview…just some nuances that are the ambrosia of baseball.

2) What was the day like when you took the photo for the Sports Illustrated cover, and how did that come about?

I am going to answer this two part question in reverse order: How it came about…

SI decided to put us on the cover for two reasons. First was our performance during the 1980 season. We went from 54-108 in 1979to 83-79 in 1980. That’s a remarkable 29 game turnaround. We racked up 94 complete games, which I believe is the modern day record. I don’t know though, does 1980 qualify as modern day or does it seem rather ancient to the readers of your blog? It was the most complete games since 1946, and
if you look below at the innings pitched per start, it was quite an aberration from the norm!

The second reason was that we started off the 1981 season 11-0 which was an MLB record at the time.

Only 20 teams in modern history (since 1901) have produced a season in which five players logged at least 200 innings. All but three of those seasons occurred before 1930.
The exceptions:

1. 1980 Oakland Athletics (Matt Keough, Brian Kingman, Rick Langford, Steve McCatty, Mike Norris)
Record: 83-79
Finish: 2nd in AL West
Runs scored: 686
Runs allowed: 642

2. 1977 Los Angeles Dodgers (Burt Hooton, Tommy John, Doug Rau, Rick Rhoden, Don Sutton)
Record: 98-64
Finish: Lost World Series (4-2) to Yankees
Runs scored: 769
Runs allowed: 582

3. 1957 Detroit Tigers (Jim Bunning, Paul Foytack, Billy Hoeft, Frank Lary, Duke Maas)
Record: 78-76
Finish: 4th in American League
Runs scored: 614
Runs allowed: 614

So, how do the 1980 A’s fair when compared to the teams from long ago? Well, incredibly, Oakland’s 1,261.1 innings logged by their starters stills tops the field. Ye, gods.

That isn’t really fair because the season is longer now. Besides, I already noted IP/GS is a better way than raw IP. When you look at innings per start, a handful of teams do nose out Martin’s bunch, as the chart below reveals:
Year Team IP/GS
1923 NYY 8.03
1922 NYY 7.99
1920 CWS 7.96
1920 BRVS 7.90
1920 PIT 7.81
1932 NYY 7.81
1920 CIN 7.81
1920 BRK 7.81
1980 OAK 7.78
Notice something there? They are almost entirely made up of teams from the early 1920s. That’s interesting. There have been three periods in baseball history when workloads for starting pitchers declined noticeably: 1) In the 1890s when the pitchers were pushed back to 60 feet, 6 inches; 2) In the early 1920s when the lively ball came out; and 3) In the 1990s when pitch counts became all the rage. In each instance, the game changed in a few years, causing managers to adapt to how they used pitchers.

So how did Martin run the 1980 A’s? Like someone who hadn’t fully realized the Dead Ball era had ended.

 Part 2>  What was the day like when you took the photo for the Sports Illustrated cover?
It is probably more interesting the effect the SI cover had on me for years after the day it was taken……………
 
The photo was taken in the visitors locker room at Anaheim Stadium. All of us were proud to be on the cover. Perhaps I was a little less proud than the others.
They were all winners, and I was a 20 game loser. 1980 was a nightmare year for me. In fact that was the hardest part of my 20 loss season was that I was losing
while everyone else was winning. Virtually every 20 game loser pitches for a bad team where losing becomes expected . Typically these are 90-100+ loss teams.
In 1980 we were a  winning team (83-79). The last time a pitcher lost 20 game was in 1922 when Dolf Luque was 13-23 for the Cincinnati Reds. dolf
  Misery Loves Company
The last pitcher before me to lose 20 games for a winning team  might have had some good advice for me. Trouble is he died in 1957.
 
They say misery loves company, but I had to suffer in solitude. While the other guys enjoyed the thrill of victory I had to endure the agony of defeat. Sports Illustrated
gave each of us a framed blow up of the cover but, I couldn’t look at it for at least ten years. Not only did it remind me of the 1980 season, but when my career was
over looking at the cover made me dwell on how different things may have turned out if I had won 14-15 games instead of losing 20.
Just as dramatic as the 1979 A’s turnaround from last place in 1979 to second place in 1980, was my turnaround from 8-7 In 1979 to 8-20 in 1980:

Who was the last rookie starting pitcher with a minimum of 15 decisions to have a winning record on a team with at least 100 losses?

Answer: Brian Kingman, 1979
Brian Kingman was 8-7 for the 1979 Oakland A’s who were 54-108. Before that Tom Seaver was 16-13 for the 1967 NY Mets who were 61-101. Kingman ironically went on to become a 20 game LOSER the very next season going 8-20 for the A’s. Not only did he remain the last 20 game loser for 23 years until Mike Maroth lost 21 for the Tigers in 2003 he did it for a winning team, the A’s were 83-79. The last time that happened was in 1922 when Dolf Luque lost 20 for the Cincinnati Reds.

Brian Kingman interview part 1…the minor leagues

Brian, just a young buck in the “bushes”.

This is the first part of what will eventually be a 4 or 5 part series interview with former Athletics pitcher Brian Kingman. I know this is the part where I usually talk incessantly about nothing, but I’ll let the man speak for himself. I will, however, add that Brian was gracious enough to give me some in -depth answers that read like a book. This is good stuff readers! I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

 1) Well, I suppose we should start at the very beginning. I have a sort of strange obsession with the life of a minor leaguer. The trials, tribulations and bus rides in the “bushes” always stoked my imagination. Do you have any stories or thoughts about any of your stops in the minors?
 
LIFE IN THE MINORS
                                                “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it”
                                                                                        ~Henry Thoreau
Baseball has always been a game of numbers, and some of the biggest numbers are the odds against making it to the big leagues. Less than
one percent of high school players and about five percent of college players are drafted. Less than ten percent of minor leaguers will play even
one day in the major leagues and somewhere between 1-2 percent will actually have a career in the big leagues. I think my first day of spring
training the Director of Minor League Operations said something similar to this in a speech to all of the Oakland A’s minor league players.
I am sure virtually all of us were confident that we were among the 1-2 percent. If we weren’t, we probably wouldn’t have made it this far. 
Knowing that you will make it to the major leagues makes it easier to endure the grind, which is the grueling schedule of 140 or so games,10 hour
bus rides, cheap hotels, doing your own laundry, missing your girl friend, and crappy food. This was just another obstacle to be over come on the path to the big leagues. You were no longer just playing baseball, you were being paid to play baseball. So what if you made less than $10,000 a year, you
were living the dream. Actually as I always liked to point out, we were chasing the dream. Living the dream would be life in the major leagues.
The fact that professional baseball was different from the baseball you had played up to this point in your life was quickly apparent. There were far more
players in spring training than there were rosters spots in the minor league system. Almost every day a few players would get to their locker in the morning ready to start their day, only to notice that their locker was empty. The only thing in their locker would be a pink slip informing them to see their manager. The pink slip mean that they were released. In the real world it would be referred to as being fired or terminated. For all but a few who might
catch on with a different organization it mean that their days of playing baseball were over. Most of these guys had been playing baseball since Little
League, and had been stars in high school or college.
As the season drew closer and the certainty over roster spots became more clear, it was common for the pranksters to remove the contents of one of
the remaining players locker and place a forged note in their locker instructing them to see the manager. The locker room would be full of somber faces
and condolences regarding the bad news. More than a few guys fell for it hook, line and sinker, some of them near tears as they walked into the managers office only to learn it was all just a joke.
I remember reading in a book (Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell) that one of the elements involved in the development of excellence at performing complex tasks is to have spent at least 10,000 hours of practicing it. In order to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world class musician, chess player, baseball player – anything, you basically have to spend at least 10,000 hours working at it. That’s one of the reasons why to excel at something
you need to really like what you are doing, or the odds are you won’t put in the hours. For most of the guys who were cut in spring training, they had
put in 10,000 hours working at something they loved, there just happened to be an excess supply of baseball players competing for a limited number
of spots. The ten thousand hour rule might get you a spot in the minors, but to continue along the path to the big leagues it is just a prerequisite.
My first full season in the minor leagues was spent in the Southern League. The Athletics double A team was the Chattanooga Lookouts. 

Kingman in Chattanooga

Kingman in Chattanooga

When

we landed at the airport in Chattanooga there was a crowd waiting to greet us, and a parade that took us to our home park, Engel Stadium. It had been eleven years since professional baseball had been played in Chattanooga, and the city was elated to have a team once again. 
Engel Stadium had quite a history. Satchel Paige made his professional debut at Andrews Field, future site of Engel Stadium, in 1926, playing for the Chattanooga White Sox, a negro league team. Twenty one years latter,16-year oldWillie Mays made his professional baseball debut as a center fielder for the Chattanooga Choo-Choos in the Negro Southern League at Engel Stadium. Harmon Killebrew also played there. He is the only player ever to hit a ball over the centerfield wall which was 471 feet from home plate!brew
It is 325 feet down the line to left and probably 340 feet or so to the scoreboard, which was over 30 feet tall.  I spent the first half of the season trying to fungo balls over the scoreboard before I finally succeeded. No one had hit a ball over the scoreboard in a game, although Dale Murphy almost hit a ball through it one night. The combination of throwing a lot of innings and swinging a bat has hard as I could a countless number of times eventually took its toll on my elbow.
Engel Stadium is no longer used for minor league games, it was however used in the filming of 42, the Jackie Robinson story.
The bus rides in the Southern League were long. Sometimes we would leave after a night game at midnight, endure a 10 hour bus ride which arrived at 10 am in the next city, with a game a7pm that night. I’d say the average bus ride was6-7 hoursbut there were several 10 and 11 hour rides in the mix. Players in the minor leagues spend a lot of time together. In addition to sharing an apartment, you had a roommate on the road, all that time on
the bus, and of course at the ballpark. We also shared a common goal which was to make it to the big leagues.
Professional baseball is a way of life. During the season you eat, sleep and drink baseball. It is like a parallel universe to the real world. Players become
totally absorbed in mastering the skills they need to be successful.  Almost everyone in the minor leagues was able to dominate the competition in
amateur baseball. Now for the first time many minor league players have to learn how to transcend failure, something they may have never experienced
before. For someone who was never hit below .400 in their life it can be quite humbling when your struggling to hit .250. In order to play in the major
leagues you not only need the physical skills, you need to be mentally tough.
Days off were few and far between but that didn’t stop us from having fun. While it is true that there were very few off days, there was still plenty of time for mischief. Games typically ended at 10pm, bars closed at 1 and you could sleep till noon if you wanted to most of the time. Some organizations,
like the Dodgers were known for their discipline, dress code and curfews. The A’s organization was at the other end of the spectrum. This remained true even when I reached the major leagues. Billy Martin encouraged his players to drink, in fact if you weren’t a drinker he thought there was something wrong with you. In Billy’s view there was no better way to celebrate the thrill of victory, or to drown the agony of defeat than by closing down the bar.
Playing baseball in many ways allows you - for better or more likely worse! – to have an extended adolescence. Teams tend to get more out of control
on a road trip. After a game ends players need to unwind. Food, alcohol and womenbeer always seem to go a long way to alleviating, hunger, boredom,
loneliness, horniness and even depression. The good news was the necessities always seemed to be readily available. If left completely unsupervised
I am sure our hotel would have turned into something resembling a party from the movie Animal House.

                                  “Being with a woman all night never hurt no professional baseball player

                                        It’s staying up all night looking for a woman that does him in”
                                                                                                     ~ Casey Stengel
Fortunately for baseball, and minor league teams every where, the minor league manager always seems to be around to keep things from getting
too far out of control. Minor league managers have to be able to manage more than just the game. They also teach how the game should be played
and are instrumental in passing on the oral traditions of the game: 

The 1976 was a fun season with a lot of great memories. Matt Keough was still an infielder, and played third base. Steve McCatty was our closer, and Dwayne Murphy was the centerfielder. Bruce Robinson was my catcher and closest friend on the team. Bruce caught for the A’s in September of 1978, and was traded to the Yankees in 1979. Bruce_Robinson
As great as 1976 was, there also was some bad news for me. During the last month of the season I had severe elbow pain which prevented me
from being called up to the major leagues during the month of September when they expand the roster. It also threatened to end my goal of making
it to the major leagues. I spent 1977 with the Athletics triple A team in San Jose. I was no longer able to throw in the mid 90′s, and there was no bite
to my slider. I spent a lot of time in doctors offices, getting cortisone shots and on the disabled list.
I had elbow surgery after the 1977 season, and couldn’t even throw a ball until spring training of 1978. I rehabbed with the triple A team in Vancouver and
was sent to Modesto (A ball) when I was ready to pitch. It was psychologically hard to find myself in A ball two years after being close to making the big
leagues. Watching my teammates from Chattanooga move on to triple A and the big leagues was hard as well. I felt like I was going backwards. Instead of developing as a pitcher I was learning how to pitch all over again. My goal of making it to the major leagues seemed to be slipping away, and even though my surgery was successful, I was a different, less dominating pitcher now. Just a little less velocity, and a curveball instead of a slider, I still
had “good stuff” but the my path to the big leagues was definitely going to be harder now.
Pitching is never easy, but when I was able to start pitching again after my elbow surgery it was a lot harder. It was a long frustrating recovery, but if baseball teaches you anything it is how to deal with frustration and failure. It rewards hard work and persistence. So there was really no other choice
but to claw my way back. On one of those long bus rides, I think it was from Reno to Bakersfield I heard Jerry Rafferty’s song Baker Street. One segment
of the lyrics just jumped out at me. I think I listened to Baker Street a thousand times that summer. It was inspirational for me. I planned on working my
way back, all the way to the major leagues.
Just one more year and I was happy. I was called up to the big leagues in June of 1979.
You used to think that it was so easy
You used to say that it was so easy
But you’re trying, you’re trying now
Another year and then you’d be happy
Just one more year and then you’d be happy
But you’re crying, you’re crying now

 

Ready for baseball!!!

LET’S GO OAKLAND!!!!!!

1984….the year Rickey stripped down to his chonies.

RickeyHendersonPlaygirlPT I’m not going to do a spring training report this year because…well, let’s face it, spring training doesn’t mean much to anyone but minor league players who want to sniff a few jock straps and have some stories to tell on the bus while they’re travelling to another crappy hayseed town. Most players think that the whole ordeal lasts waaaay too long, and I tend to agree. At this point in time I have no interest in watching Joe Blow from AA Round Rock pinch hit and strike out on 3 pitches because he’s never seen a curveball.

Instead, I have decided to take you on yet another virtual time travel. Rickey Henderson posed for Playgirl in July 1984, and I thought “gee, that was an interesting year in pop culture.” I was 9 years old and loved Michael Jackson. The biggest topic on the playground was,”would you fuck Madonna?”  Of course, we were all virgins and wouldn’t know what to do with our peckers even if Madonna was a pedophile who was attracted to small town knuckleheads.

Have a look and listen. Maybe a few of these videos might shake loose a memory from your rotted cerebrum and you can experience a serious case of the deja vu’s. I love when that happens. It leaves me speechless and almost comatose for a few moments.

Prince’s version was actually the number 1 single, but since he is such a hard-on about his music, here is the Patti Smith version. I love her.

number 1 album.

top grossing movie.

Padres and Tigers in the World Series. Yuck.

Who could forget the George Orwell classic!

Bitch Be Gone!!!

bonds begoneunder” Bonds is completely, undeniably 100 percent full of shit. He truly is. I no longer buy his love of baseball history any more than I buy the sanctity of his marriages or the purity of his blood stream. I was at Shea when the Giants came to New York a few weeks ago, and I had to laugh when hundreds of my media peers swarmed around him for comments. I understand why they were there, but it’s a waste of time. Nothing he says holds any meaning. He’ll say the sky is blue one second and red the next. He loves Dusty Baker, then he hates him. So on and so on. Bonds cares no more about baseball history than does my goldfish. He knows what Hank Aaron went through to hit 755 home runs, and he was more than happy to cheat, load up on steroids and HGH and surpass him. I’ve maintained some contacts, and I know of no one who’s actually happy that he’s breaking the record. It’s like I wrote in the book—Bonds has never treated people especially well, so there’s very little loyalty for the man. Do you root for someone who refused to sign a ball for your kid? Who ignored you when you asked for advice? Who told you you couldn’t carry his jock? I still often think of Dan Peltier, the former Giant backup who brought his young son to the team’s Family Day. When Bonds asked the kid to name his favorite ballplayer, he said, “My dad!” To which Bonds replied, “Why? He never plays.”

(Jeff Pearlman, Bonds’ biographer)

Glenn Burke.

frolic                               “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” –Oscar Wilde

The Frolic Room is squished into the armpit of Hollywood Boulevard that is the area between the Pantages Theater and the corner of  the world-famous streets, Hollywood and Vine. It was reportedly one of the famous scribe Charles Bukowski‘s favorite places to drink. I like to go there because it’s a few blocks away from where the tourists hang out, and it exudes the seedier and more retro-glam side of Hollywood that only a denizen of the City of Angels can appreciate.

Gaylord is my favorite bar-tender of the joint, and the separate syllables of his name correctly describe his sexual orientation and demeanor. G. is a bit on the larger side and is known in the gay community as a “bear.”  I’m enjoying a whiskey soda and the Dodgers are playing a mid afternoon get-away game on the tube. There are only a couple of patrons; two sauced frat boys listening to Van Halen on the juke box.  I can tell G. is bored.

“Do you remember Glenn Burke?” glenn burke

“Yeah….gay baseball player… died of AIDS, what about him?”

“You know the Dodgers traded him because he was fucking Tommy Lasorda’s son?”

After some research, this turned out to be somewhat true. He was a close friend of Tom Jr. who died of AIDS in 1991. Dodgers GM Al Campanis had offered to pay for a lavish honeymoon if the talented outfielder and out of the closet gay man would get married.  He was eventually traded to the Oakland A’s because of his refusal.

“Sad story…he was a true visionary…or maybe he didn’t give a shit and just wanted to be himself.”

“I just thought about it a little more because of all the gay this and gay that in sports these days.”

I throw another five spot on the counter, and after a short silence, another drink is placed in front of me. G. gives me a double because I’m such a great tipper. I pound half of it and turn again to laugh at the frat boys as I’m crunching the ice.

“Yep. It’s a damn shame, but what’re you gonna do,” I say.

At that moment a man by the name of “Tip” Rosenberg walks in. I have doubts about the name Tip, but he can bullshit with the best of them, and always seemed to be good conversation. Tip was an agent who flashed the old-time world of show business; he had a gold cigarette lighter, fancy sunglasses and expensive suits. Mind you, these artifacts were impressive in the late 70′s, yet my knack for the retro look made me an obvious sucker for this weirdo.

“What’s the word, Tip?”

“Scripts. It seems to be the place where they spend the least money! If you have a good story and provide good dialogue the audience is happy….am I wrong?”

“Well how in the hell can you explain Transformers and Avatar then?”

Rosenberg had no idea what I was talking about. Him and the Bear start to reminisce about the gay scene of the 70′s.

“We were ALL beautiful….we were in our 20′s….” etc.

I smile at these lavish conversations. I love and adore the freedom and juevos these gentlemen had to have just to be themselves. I am brightened and enlightened as I take the staircase two stories down into the subway.

Just another face amongst the faces.

GLENN BURKE R.I.P. ALWAYS AN OAKLAND ATHLETIC, AND ALWAYS A PIONEER.

Burke.Glenn.Grave

1953 Philadelphia Athletics…and POP culture.

yearbook Hello everyone! I thought I’d take you on a virtual time travel…to 1953! The Athletics were residing in their original home, Philadelphia at the time and finished in 7th place in the American League with an embarrassing 59 wins and 95 losses. This was to be their second to last season in that city before moving to Kansas City in 1955. Outfielder Gus Zernial had an amazing 42 home runs with 108 R.B.I.s that season, but unfortunately the Athletics drew only 362,000 paying customers, all but assuring their move two years later.

Some of the popular novels at the time were Ray Bradbury’s “Farenheit 451″ and J.D. Salinger’s “4 Stories,” other notables were C.S. Lewis, William Burroughs, James Baldwin, Ian Fleming and Agatha Christie.

Peter Pan was the top grossing movie.

“The song from Moulin Rouge” by Percy Faith was the number one single.

Jackie Gleason had the top album.

The Yankees beat the Dodgers in the World Series for the 2nd year in a row…this was their 6th straight World Series title.

Bob Hope and the first televised Academy Awards.

Spring Training and Yves Kline

jeff jones

The non-autographed variety set me back about 25 cents.

At present, I am particularly excited by “bad taste.” I have the deep feeling that there exists in the very essence of bad taste a power capable of creating those things situated far beyond what is traditionally termed “The Work of Art.” I wish to play with human feeling, with its “morbidity” in a cold and ferocious manner. 

Yves Klein

The 1981 Topps baseball card isn’t a particularly exciting visual affair. The most prominent feature of the card front is the ball cap that’s at the bottom of the card. Player photos have a color outline that gives way to a thin white border with the Topps logo placed in a small baseball in the right corner. Of course, it’s just a baseball card. Most people see them as worthless pieces of cardboard for children. I always get a kick out of people who say, “well, where’s the art in that?” Despite the term “art” being static and self-appointed to each individual, I believe if you have an iota of intelligence and an active imagination, you can find art and emotion in ANYTHING.

yves kline

priceless.

Jeff Jones had a rather unremarkable career with the Oakland Athletics, playing 5 seasons and ending with a 9-9 record. There is nothing remarkable about this card from a baseball standpoint, (beside the fact that it’s an Athletic) but what really struck me was the marvelous blue background; reminding me of Yves Klines’ painting “IKB 191.” (right) This color makes me feel a myriad of emotions:  the lapis lazuli  reminding me of my Catholic school upbringing (Mary’s robes were almost always painted this color because of the brilliance of it; the stone also was semi-precious making it a “must have” for artists of the Renaissance and Baroque period.) and the time in fourth grade David K. told me not to swallow the “Body of Christ,” but to keep it still in my mouth so we could satisfy our boyhood curiosity and inspect it. (In retrospect, I have no idea why this would be interesting.) I eventually brought the specimen back to the pew only to drop the now mushy wafer on the ground because of haste and overall blood rushing to the brain nervousness. Some busy-body ratted me out, and the congregation was stopped as I was dragged to the front of the altar and berated by the priest in a back room. (At least that’s ALL he did. wakka wakka!) There was a closet full of priest robes and between thoughts of the robes looking like Batman’s closet and me getting my ass kicked by my parents, I was just simply embarrassed. Nothing was said to my parents in the end, and I came out of the situation relatively unscathed….. ah, the life of a day dreamer…and the thoughts keep crashing into the shore as one wave leads to another.

P.S. thank you Jeff Jones 1981 Topps.

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