“Look at everything. Don’t close your eyes to the world around you. Look and become curious and interested in what you see.” –John Cage
I am sitting on a friend’s second story balcony on a humid 95 degree evening listening to the A’s play the Indians on my tiny little portable radio. She lives in a sort of “urban” environment, so I enjoy watching the hobos, tweakers, weirdos, wackos, dog walkers, college students, yuppies, drunks and working class mothers that are usually shuffling by my metal, eagle perch..day after day. An impenetrable mass of prejudices, clichés and trite remarks.
First Inning: Rookie Chris Bassitt gives up 3 runs in the first inning on an error and a Carlos Santana blast to deep center. (Has any musician lost so much credibility so fast in the history of music?) Josh Reddick gives the fans in attendance and listening across the airwaves a small semblance of respect with his RBI double effectively erasing the goose egg and making our desperate fandom seem incipient of a team that could possibly throw a monkey wrench in another team’s plans. The people continue shuffling by, sometimes even looking up and making eye contact with me. An overwhelming feeling envelops me– all of our lives are tedious and pointless and I feel justified as I’m listening to a game that consists of silly boys swinging wood and touching balls.
Bottom 4th: An old man with a cast, wife beater and a mouth that he literally and seemingly can’t close like a gaping, jagged, and putrid cave calls out to a woman who lives in the building. She is in her early 40’s and dresses quite strange– all her clothes seem to be thrifted, yet she mishmashes them together in a way that would put a young fashionista to shame; always changing her clothes multiple times daily. She also walks with her right hand in the air with a sort of aristocratic delicacy, as if holding a tiny cup of tea. Brett Lawrie (who probably wears wife beaters as well.) is doubled off of second to end the inning. The radio continues to crackle over the hum of life and observation.
Top 6th: a group of drunk, reveling young people stroll by with a girl exclaiming,
“I’ve waited 21 years for this!”
The girls are wearing giant, clunky high-heels that seem to be all the rage these days. They can barely walk in them and it seems as if every synapse in their still maturing/intoxicated brains are working overtime during every excruciating step. Chris Bassitt gets out of a jam and is pitching very well.
Top 8th: A mulatto girl with a blond mohawk is talking to the 300 pound fat man who sits in his car for hours blasting house music (a genre of electronic dance music) and staring at his cell phone. The fat man is very meticulous about parallel parking as this simple task always takes over a minute each time. The A’s make a pitching change…R.J. Alvarez, another recent AAA cannon fodder call-up who gets a pop-up on a bunt attempt. 3 drunken girls stumble by with the one in the clunky shoes in the middle being held up by the other 2.
Bottom 9th: Carlos Carrasco twirls a complete game 2 hitter as he gets Josh Reddick to ground out in a moment of anti-climax. The A’s went down quickly and orderly in a game that lasts only 2 hours and 15 minutes which proves the dog days are already here with 2 months left in the season. A girl pees in a bush as her boyfriend looks on, while the man who rides the cruiser bike with classic rock pouring out of a ghetto blaster dangling precariously from his handlebars rides by. I wonder why he is always shirtless.
Final Score: Indians 3, Athletics 1
Oh, how A’s fans are tossed violently by the storms of life; by stupidity, by cruelty, by the miserable human condition and by the one thing that most people desire over all others….money.
The celestial qualities of Billy Frijoles and his ability to predict the future seemed to show chinks last week as he sent a position player, a starter and a closer to various teams for a menagerie of minor league prospects. The gods have, seemingly, spoken and past mistakes must be rectified. These same gods, as of yet, have not spoken on his allegiance to the people of Oakland. His greed, self-preservation and time will speak of that.
The Zobrist trade was the ultimate insult to injury as he was sent to the Royals, the team that knocked the Athletics out of title contention in the one game Wild Card due to a terrible bullpen and a catcher that couldn’t throw out Ty Cobb’s corpse–all in the same year the team went “all in” and had a chance at a World Series crown.
Someone once defined the meaning of life as “the interruption of peaceful non-existence.” I will have to remember this as I watch the rest of the regular season play out. The Oakland ball-club will be all but non-existent after they are picked clean by teams like vultures devouring a fresh corpse before the trading deadline. A mere ghost whose future will only be acknowledged on the back of bubble gum cards by young boys and in the mind of statisticians.
What are the Royals receiving? Depth, a “name,” and a W.A.R. hero, (quite less admirable than the gentleman who shot Osama Bin Laden) with 2 of the 3 attributes being worthless in the reality of the everyday game. At this stage in his career Zobrist is a 34-year-old, average hitter who can play multiple positions but is also a hinderance at the 7 position. It will be interesting to see how Ned Yost, a manager not known for his intelligence or tactical ability uses a player in his twilight as the Royals try to bully their way through the rest of the regular season and, ultimately, the A.L. playoffs.
The 5 tool prospect I was looking for was a disembodied spirit who lived in the clouds of my imagination. Those fluffy clouds have taken me from the deadlands of Northern Texas to the swamps of Louisiana. 100’s and 100’s of miles driven on black asphalt turned gelatinous by the unrelenting ball of fire in the Dixie sky.
My name is Bob Hale– Southern baseball scout for the Kansas City Athletics.
Scouts like to pride themselves on the prescience of finding a “stud” or a highly touted prospect. I, on the other hand, am a realist– I believe our lives are no more than the sum of manifold contingencies, and no matter how diverse they might be in their details they all share the same essential randomness in design: this, then that, and because of that, this. I was an expert in what it was that I was searching for, but like a gold prospector, finding it was a matter of luck and timing. And as you may or may not know, most prospectors who headed to the Wild West in 1849 ended up broke or dead.
Bouncing around from mosquito infested small town to dusty shit hole becomes unnerving after a while. Scouting isn’t a typical job where you must dress nice, smell good, be charismatic, be a team leader or have excellent communication skills. This isn’t academia and no one wears tweed. Most of us can’t do anything else–this is all we know. This leads to many lonely nights in hotel rooms with nothing but an orchestra of empty bottles. Most of us can’t even afford a truck stop hooker. Eventually the alcohol hits the blood stream and you stare at the dirty sheets…reminiscing about a girl who you once loved and who loved you in return. The ghosts of youth are always hiding around the corner, and since loneliness and time are your only consistencies the ghosts visit often. It is easy to be hard- boiled about everything in the daytime, but at night it is another thing.
Baseball men are naturally superstitious; and I am no different. I wear a gold chain around my neck given to me by my grandfather–St. Christopher, the patron saint of travel. There was no stronger bond with my grandfather than the baseball bond. I was the first grandchild, and since I was virtually fatherless he must have felt some sort of sense of nurturing. My mother was overwhelmed by the prospect of a small child with no job prospects in her future so my grandparents molded me in their own image. Those early days were pleasant for me as I was a curious young man with a shit load of piss and vinegar. I ran hell and high water around my Chicago neighborhood with my buddies; experiencing the world with fresh eyes and a zeal only a youngster could have. My mother, on the other hand, was a bit tyrannical and not educated or patient enough to converse or understand someone ready to devour the world so I didn’t see her all that much.
Grandfather would take me to the old Cubs Park in those early days. (They didn’t name it Wrigley until 1926.) I loved outfielder Max Flack in the way that only adolescents can love an unobtainable celebrity-object even though he was considered the “goat” of the 1919 World Series. The 1920 season on the field was disappointing—the Cubs tied for fifth place with a 75-79 record but I didn’t care. Max Flack managed to hit .302 to lead the team, but the real bright spot was the reemergence of Grover Cleveland “Ole Pete” Alexander as the pitching leader. My future was all but written.
I lay here with a battered copy of Playboy spread across my chest, and I wonder where all the days, hours, minutes and seconds went to die forever. Sometimes I embellish my existence and tell myself that I bring happiness to millions of fans and dreams to hundreds of young men. “Let go or be dragged.” That’s how the Zen proverb goes. I remembered that I had read this in a small china shop in San Francisco as I drank my second cup of oily coffee with just a nip of Old Crow and slowly drifted away…
The ‘ol banged up Chrysler started with a bang and a plume of smoke. The morning air is sticky already. I heard there was a young man with one helluva fastball in Baton Rouge and I always seem to have a rousing time there. The Yankees are interested as well so I’ll have to drive like a bat out of hell through the night to get there before they do– just to watch a teenager throw a five ounce sphere of cork, rubber, yarn, and horsehide. Let the chase begin.
As much as we here at The ‘Fro enjoy Coco Crisp and his exciting style of play, it seems as if the Athletics may have found a new center fielder. Every baseball team seems to want to get younger, and it just makes sense to play a 25 year old over a 35 year old with a potential career threatening neck injury and a .044 average.
Billy Burns is superior to Crisp at EVERYTHING at this point in his career. Crisp had 19 stolen bases in 126 games last year. Burns already has 13. (and this blog thinks he need to run more!) There is nothing more to convey, baseball fans. This is a no-brainer and a (near) ending to an otherwise great career for the man who once sported a giant afro and punched “Average Game” James Shields.
There has been a bit of controversy lately about Kansas City fans voting in 8 position players for the All Star Game. Kansas City fans have taken it upon themselves be didactic about their “passion” for their team by telling other fans to vote for their own teams and even appalling others by calling it a “popularity contest.” The average baseball fan doesn’t know Lorenzo Cain or Omar Infante from Jean-Paul Sartre, so that is an almost idiotic response to the detractors. As far as “voting” is concerned, all it comes down to is glorified “click-bait” by the MLB brass to get people to go to their website. This is capitalism disguised as democracy which means only an idiot would sit around making hundreds of fake e-mails in order to sit around pushing a button 35 times (the most you can vote per e-mail) in order to see their favorite player/s in an exhibition game. It all comes down to what cities have the most unemployed/unsophisticated/bored fans.
I have no problem with the game deciding who has home field advantage because the league used to arbitrarily flip-flop it between leagues before Bud Selig decided to step in and make it just as arbitrary. My question is this–why didn’t K.C. fans vote for the players who deserved it? As a child I would sit in the ballpark during batting practice meticulously punching the paper chads, all the while still voting for the deserving players as I wanted to see an exciting All Star game which didn’t include Mike Gallego starting at second. I’m not saying your average American sports fan is a moron, but then again maybe I am. Alas, even a child had a better sense of democracy and fair play than a bunch of adults with an inferiority complex. Let’s hope commissioner Rob Manfred does what Ford Frick did before the start of the 1957 game. Another boring, Midwestern town, Cincinnati, stuffed the box and had 8 players starting. An investigation launched by Frick found that over half of the ballots cast came from the local newspaper, printing up pre-marked ballots and distributing them with the Sunday edition of the newspaper to make it easy for Reds fans to vote often for their favorite players. Frick then decided to appoint Willie Mays and Hank Aaron in the outfield positions they righteously deserved, all but deeming provincial hubris irrelevant and ultimately outing the so-called “voting democracy” as a farce that still exists today in electronic form. It may have been just as “easy” to stuff the ballot box using paper back in the old days, but having to use a pencil to punch tiny chads seems a whole lot more indicative of “fan loyalty” than spending 25% of a lunch break to exploit a ridiculously low-security voting web site.
50 Years Ago Yesterday . . .
Major League Baseball holds its first Free Agent Amateur Draft (now known as the First Year Player Draft). The very first overall #1 pick was Rick Monday from Arizona State University by the Kansas City Athletics.
We all know what happened with Rick. He became an All Star, (on 2 occasions) and a fan favorite with the Cubs and the Dodgers. With the latter team he achieved baseball immortality by grabbing the American flag from two rabble-rousers trying to burn it in right field at Dodger Stadium. (I think our fore-fathers would have found the act amusing considering the modern day economic and civil rights breakdown of this once great country) and he is now an even-keeled announcer for the Dodgers when Ol’ Vinny needs a break between the 4th and 6th.
In my humble opinion he does a fairly good job–I find his voice soothing and boring enough with just a pith of telephone operator and 50’s television dad to fall asleep too on a hot Los Angeles day during an Indian summer. Complete with lemonade, a little bit of hooch, the lawnmowers blaring, the smell of grass and the parrots in my neighborhood playing screwball and scaring the crows, and it usually turns out to be a fine day for me. (the parrots are an anomaly of themselves; the locals tell me that a pet store burned down ten years ago and they’ve been here ever since.)
But, what ever happened to Tony Pierce?
Well, Tony used a baseball bat to fend off his daughter-in-law as she repeatedly stabbed him with a pair of scissors in his Columbus, Ohio home on Oct. 27th, 2010. Tony claimed she once called him “God” for two days and on one occasion crawled into bed with him.
Laura Pierce, 32, admitted stabbing her father-in-law in a detailed bizarre confrontation, saying she arrived at his home unannounced, left her purse by the door and put his 130-pound Rottweiler in the bathroom before assaulting him as he sat on his couch.
“I thought something was wrong with her,” he said. “It’s like a fairy tale. She’s jabbing at me, saying, ‘I have to die, you’ve got to die.’ I saw it in her eyes. She meant it, too.”
She stabbed him several times in the chest as they struggled. Eventually he was able to grab the scissors in one hand and her head in another. Scanning the room for some way to ward her off, he saw a baseball bat.
He’d decided by then that either he or his daughter-in-law had to die, he said. As he reached for the bat, she stabbed him in the back.
He hit her with half a swing of the bat.
“I was trying to hit her in the head,” he said. “I mean, this was for real. The whole thing is just hard to believe.”
She went out to his front yard, screaming that she was bipolar and schizophrenic. She was still there when police arrived.
Mr. Pierce died in 2013 at the age of 67.
Reggie Jackson had always gotten along with Bill North, and publicly praised the young center fielder several times for his fielding prowess. Sometime in mid-April, however, Bill failed to run hard to first on a routine ground-out. When he returned to the bench, Reggie harshly berated him in front of his teammates for not hustling. The seeds of The Fight were sown.
“He had crossed me, in some way, a couple of times,” Bill recalls without going into detail. “I tried to set him up for a month.” He gave Reggie the silent treatment despite Jackson’s torrid start, and refused to talk to him on or off the field. He would not congratulate Reggie after home runs. During this period, North lifted his average above .200, swiped seventeen bases in the month of May alone, and played exceptional defense. By the day of The Fight, he was batting .228 and leading the league in stolen bases. Jackson remained hot, batting .390 with a league-leading 15 home runs, and the A’s were first in the A.L. West.
Finally, prior to a night game on June 5, in the locker room at Tiger Stadium, Bill made a remark that infuriated Reggie and ignited the brawl. The superstar, who was not yet dressed for the game, charged North and the two wrestled on the floor, in full view of teammates and sportswriters. Catcher Ray Fosse, pitcher Vida Blue and others were able to separate the two, only to have the combatants tangle again a few minutes later. “It wasn’t a regular clubhouse fight,” said an A’s teammate anonymously. “There was no backing off. They went at it hot and heavy — twice.” When the dust settled, the consensus was that North had won the fight. Jackson ended up with a bruised shoulder and battered ego. Fosse suffered a separated cervical disk in the melee and was out of action until late in the season. Both North and Jackson played against the Tigers that night. Bill went 2 for 3 with a double, run scored and RBI while Reggie went 0 for 4. For the rest of June, the powerful right fielder batted .197 with just three doubles, no home runs and four RBI.
Bill looks back upon the incident with much more humility than braggadocio. “I had extracted my ounce of retribution,” Bill admits, but believes the path chosen to settle their score was from youthful ignorance. The Fight and its aftermath enabled Bill and Reggie to move forward as teammates with renewed respect for each other. Today, North says, they maintain a genuine friendship. Reggie Jackson wrote this about Bill in his autobiography: “North was a feisty little guy with a hair-trigger temper, and one of the reasons he was such a winner on the field was because he had a lot of piss and vinegar in him.”
originally written by Tim Herlich.
During the 1972 season Oakland A’s pitcher Bob Locker followed the philosophies professed in a book, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, that he also encouraged teammates to read as a way of life. The era of beatniks, artists and college students reading Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Herman Hesse and other existential writers was now considered out-of-date and the world of the quasi-philosophy paperback was finally entering the zeitgeist of U.S. culture and another culture not known for its intellectual capacities: baseball.
The premise of the book was simple–there is a seagull named Jonathan who is bored with his daily routines. Jonathan goes through an existential crisis, learns to fly, meets other seagulls who interest him in moral platitudes until he finally learns love, respect and forgiveness all the while embracing non-conformity.
The book was largely panned by critics and the literary crowd, yet I will leave you with a few quotes in order to make your own decision concerning the now largely forgotten novel:
“Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding. Find out what you already know and you will see the way to fly.”
“You will begin to touch heaven, Jonathan, in the moment that you touch perfect speed. And that isn’t flying a thousand miles an hour, or a million, or flying at the speed of light. Because any number is a limit, and perfection doesn’t have limits. Perfect speed, my son, is being there.”
“Your whole body, from wingtip to wingtip,” Jonathan would say, other times, “is nothing more than your thought itself, in a form you can see. Break the chains of your thought, and you break the chains of your body, too.”
“The fact is, we’re not going to blow teams away right now playing short. It’s more frustrating when you’re losing and you can’t explain it, but we knew when we starting losing those guys that we had a challenge ahead of us. It doesn’t make me happy, but I understand why it is happening. We’re going to have to hope the rest of division treads water.” –Billy Beane on the injuries the Athletics have faced this season.
The 2015 Oakland Athletics’ season has all the elements of a fireworks display– first, the excited anticipation, then the spectacular show, a near deafening explosion, and finally, silence. As of this writing the team has lost six in a row and are currently residing in the cellar like a red-headed step-child. They lead the league, in a pathetic display, with errors…32. (2nd baseman Eric Sogard, by himself, has 3 errors. In contrast, Mark Ellis, he of the same position had a grand total of TWO in 123 games in 2006.)
We shouldn’t be so surprised to find the ancient spirit of Pythagoras in our modern ballparks. The world is now conceived in a quantitative way more than ever before and it is seen as constituted by numerical magnitudes. Here is a but a small taste of the numerical horrors that played out before our very eyes:
— Coco Crisp came off the D.L. and perhaps showed his age or lack of passion. He is 0 for his first 21.
— The bullpen is stinkier than diarrhea on a hot tin roof in a Southern heat wave. They are a collective 2-10 with a 5.18 ERA.
— Drew Pomeranz is is proving why the Rockies gave up on him so early; even as a promising “bonus baby.” He is the poor man’s Kenny Rogers….a very, very poor man from a third world country. He is 1-3 with a 5.13 E.R.A.
Sure, there have been injuries and a bit of bad luck. Baseball is by definition the epitome of bad luck. Here are a few of the more exciting things to happen to the Oakland ball-club during this season so far: Brett Lawrie sliding into an over-rated Alcides Escobar, prompting fans in Kansas City to make the shirts on the right…
and two teammates standing next to each other in an unfortunate and funny display of the baseball gods coming together and dangling the proverbial losing yarn in your face.
Does that sum up the baseball season so far for the Oakland Athletics? In my humble opinion, yes. The rest of the baseball world laughs at Billy Beane’s failures hysterically as the faithful remain steady….and then as soon as there is a semblance of hope, ex-Giant Pablo Sandoval hits a game winning home run for the Red Sox in the 10th inning. I curse, shrug my shoulders and fall into a slumber. What does that feel like?
Semen in the eye.
When Charles Finley brought the A’s to Oakland, he hired Joe DiMaggio as Executive Vice President, coach, and public relations man. Apparently Joe set down some firm ground rules before coming on board with Finley. Specifically, he refused to work the base lines; reserved the right to decline invitations to banquets, supermarket openings and other functions he did not wish to attend; and wanted most of his goodwill time to be spent at the park so his free time would be left open. DiMaggio parted on good terms, explaining he wanted more time to golf and fish.
Many people downplay DiMaggios’ role as more of typical Finley antics, a claim which no doubt is partly true. However, as one would imagine, a presence such as DiMaggios’ does not go unnoticed. It was DiMaggio who taught Joe Rudi to turn his back on a fly ball, resulting in one of the most famous defensive plays in World Series history.
DiMaggio worked an hour every day with the young Reggie Jackson, teaching him how to make contact. To quote DiMaggio; “Reggie is still green as grass, we’ve just got to bring his talents to the surface. They’re all there, no question.”
In 1967 a young Sal Bando changed his batting crouch which resulted in a .192 batting average in 47 games, an injury and a demotion to single-A Vancouver. Joe D. provided the tip which pulled the future star out of his struggles. “I was getting jammed on everything, then Joe D. told me to close up my stance” said Captain Sal who anchored the championship A’s at third base from 1968 to 1976.
DiMaggio witnessed one of the proudest moments in Oakland Athletics history. After Catfish Hunter threw his famous perfect game, May 8, 1968, DiMaggio was asked about the performance. “Just two words,” he said, “A masterpiece.” Joe also experienced the early days of the color uniforms which were uncommon in baseball at the time. Add to this the colors, Kelly Green and California Gold, and one can understand why DiMaggio took some ribbing from fans.
Few people, however, remember the most famous move which DiMaggio made while with the A’s.
Before the start of the 1968 season, while things were tumultuous in preparation for the A’s first season in Oakland, DiMaggio was wandering around the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum checking out the new facility and views it had to offer when he noticed that the view of home plate was obscured from view in portions of the upper deck. Oakland officials fixed the problem by moving the infield further out from the backstop; a move which resulted in the largest foul territory in the Major Leagues, and which pleases pitchers and frustrates hitters to this day.
The Athletics’ young pitcher and top prospect Kendall Graveman was absolutely shelled in his last two starts and subsequently sent down to (AAA) Nashville. The problem? The downward sinking and cutting action on his pitches that he used to get ground balls during his impressive spring training is missing. I have no doubt that the young man will be back soon, and as an effectively solid MLB starter once he gets properly schooled in the muscle memory category. He is already well schooled in the Bull Durham school of baseball interview clichés, “It’s just something that I’ve got to go back to work on…continue to work and not give up.”
My advice to the youngster while he is in Nashville is to learn about the rich history of music that the city has spawned. Here is but a very small list of bards that were born there:
The Allman brothers: This “southern rock”styled group had a string of hits in the 70’s. Unfortunately their leader, Greg Allman was killed in a motorcycle crash in 1971. They have re-united on multiple occasions in recent years to the confusion of everyone but their accountants.
Pat Boone: All American, squeaky clean gospel music singer and Christian who confused everyone by putting out a “heavy metal” record and promoting it by dressing like Al Pacino when he was an undercover cop looking for a killer in the San Francisco gay club scene. The 1980 cult-classic “Cruising” is a must watch for any movie buff with a sense of humor. You can pass on the Pat Boone, though.
Miley Cyrus: Does this even count as someone with musical talent? Apparently her dad, Mr. “Achy Breaky Heart” was recording in or around Nashville when she was conceived because the whole thing reeks of STRANGE.
Donna Summer: I was bummed when I learned Summer had died in 2012. She had great success in the 70’s with some disco smash hits that will stand the test of time and that are still embraced by gay clubbers. She also gets bonus points for being in a psychedelic rock band in the 60’s called “Crow.”
Johnny Cash: Well, technically the “Man in Black” wasn’t born in Nashville, but he did die there in 2003. For those of you living under a rock, Cash can be seen as arguably one of the most influential country music singers of all time. His most famous album “Folsom Prison Blues” was a standard on my turn-table for many years. A little known fact–Folsom, which is 23 miles north of Sacramento, my hometown, is quite the quaint and conventional little town full of cow-licked, barefoot little hicks munching on cotton candy.
Tammy Wynette: Wynette was called “The First Lady of Country Music,” and is arguably the most influential woman of the genre. She sang beautiful, time-tested songs about loneliness, heartbreak and the difficulties of relationships. Her most famous song, “Stand by Your Man” is one of the greatest selling songs in the history of country music. Wynette died in 1998 at the age of 55 and is buried in Nashville.