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.
As a child who grew up in the seventies, I’m flabbergasted at the degree of generational differences in health, medicine, food, safety, and general well-being of children. We had no internet, cell phones, computers or video games…but let’s get down to the brass tacks about something really important that we did have…television.
Highway to Heaven was a television show that ran from 1984-1989. At that time, I was just coming into my own as an imaginative, shy and loner pre-teen who hadn’t even learned how to bop his bologna yet. Television was sort of a meditative time for me as I didn’t watch it very often, (we entertained ourselves through peer interaction and physical activity.) and one of my favorite shows was Highway to Heaven. The synopsis of the show was that Michael Landon (left) is an angel sent down to earth to help the downtrodden and oppressed. The angel picks up a scuzzy-looking human partner along the way (Victor French, right) to help him out and generally be his driver and to give cynical advice. (these two were also co-stars on the insanely popular, Little House on the Prairie, a show that confused and baffled me as a small child while watching it with my aunt.) French was rarely seen without his old, beat-up A’s cap on the show, and I remember thinking that it was so strange that an A’s fan would be helping an angel. As in, the (then) California Angels, who are the A’s divisional rival. The show was sappy and didn’t stop shoving life lessons at you, in turn, a squeaky clean inspirational series that doesn’t tend to get much airplay anymore in a TV world clogged with police beat-downs, reality shows and Kardashians. Landon’s angel wants us to believe in the goodness of people. Most of the episodes dipped into a rich, creamy schmaltz which was pretty good stuff for a young idiot in the 1980’s.
French was a heavy smoker who died in 1989 at 54 of lung cancer. The two were close, and when French died Landon was so devastated that he stopped producing the show. Landon died in 1991 of pancreatic cancer, a sad day in Hollywood as he was seen as one of the more charming and good-hearted actors in a world of phonies and narcissists.
The following is an excerpt from Bruce Markusen’s amazing and vital book, “A baseball Dynasty: Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s.
Reggie Jackson reported to spring training in 1972 replete with a fully grown mustache, the origins of which had begun to sprout during the 1971 American League Championship Series. To the surprise of his teammates, Jackson had used part of his off-season to allow the mustache reach a fuller bloom. In addition, Jackson bragged to teammates that he would not only wear the mustache, possibly a full beard, come Opening Day.
Such pronouncements would have hardly created a ripple in later years, when players would freely make bold fashion statements with mustaches and goatees, and routinely wear previously disdained accessories like earrings. But this was 1972, still a conservative time within the sport, in stark contrast to the rebellious attitudes of younger generations throughout the country. Given that no major league player had been documented wearing a mustache in the regular season since Wally Schang of the Philadelphia A’s in 1914, Jackson’s pronouncements made major news in 1972.
In the post Schang era, several players had donned mustaches during spring training, yet, in each case the player had shaved off the mustache by Opening Day, either by his own volition or because of a mandate from the team. After all, there existed an unwritten rule within the conservative sport, one that strongly frowned upon facial hair. In addition, several teams had more recently instituted their own formal policies (most notably the Cincinnati Reds in the 1960’s), policies that forbade their players from sporting facial hair.
Baseball’s conservative grooming standards , which had been in place for over 50 years, were now being threatened by one of the game’s most visible players. Not surprisingly, Jackson’s mustachioed look quickly garnered the attention of owner Charlie O. Finley and manager Dick Williams. “The story as I remember it,” says outfielder Mike Hegan, “was that Reggie came into spring training…with a mustache, and Charlie didn’t like it. So he told Dick to tell Reggie to shave it off. And Dick told Reggie to shave it off, and Reggie told Dick what to do. This got to be a real sticking point, and so I guess Charlie and Dick had a meeting and they said ‘well, Reggie’s an individual so maybe we can try some reverse psychology here.’ Charlie told a few other guys to start growing a mustache. Then (Finley figured that if) a couple of other guys did it, Reggie would shave his off, and you know, everything would be OK.
According to Sal Bando, Finley wanted to avoid having a direct confrontation with Jackson over the mustache. For one of the few times in his tenure as the A’s owner, Finley showed a preference for a subtle, more indirect approach. “Finley, to my knowledge,”says Bando, “did not want to go tell Reggie to shave it. So he thought it would be better to have us all grow mustaches. That way Reggie wouldn’t be an ‘individual’ anymore.”
Rollie Fingers, Catfish Hunter, Darold Knowles and Bob Locker followed Reggie’s lead, each sprouting their own mustache. Instead of making Jackson feel less individualistic, thus prompting him to adopt his previously clean-shaven look, the strategy had a reverse and unexpected affect on Charles Finley.
“Well, as it turned out, guys started growin’ ’em, and Charlie began to like it,” says Mike Hegan in recalling the origins of baseball’s “Mustache Gang.” Finley offered a cash incentive to any player who had successfully grown a mustache by Father’s Day. “So then we all had to grow mustaches,” says Hegan, “and that’s how all that started.” By the time we got to the (regular) season, almost everybody had mustaches.” Even the manager, Dick Williams, known for his military brush-cut and clan shaven look during his days in Boston, would join the facial brigade by growing a patchy, scraggly mustache of his own. Baseball’s long standing hairless trend had officially come to an end.
Maybe I’m crazy and maybe I aint
So was Picasso and so were the saints
I’ve never been partial to shackles and chains
I’m too young for breakin’ and too old to change.
I think Chris Rock is one of the funniest, hippest and most intelligent modern-day comedians out there–and he recently had some poignant thoughts concerning baseball. Rock referred to himself as a “dying breed;” a black baseball fan. Here were some of the more interesting points he had to make with my opinions in parenthesis…
— 4 out of 5 viewers are white and the average median age is 53. (I may be the wrong person to opine on this topic considering that I enjoy the beauty and intricacies of the game that take historical knowledge and the ability to let time slow down for a moment. Baseball is a thinking man’s game and always has been. This doesn’t bode well for the modern generation that isn’t known for its voracious devouring of books or ability to slow down and daydream for a moment without looking at their phones to see whats “going on.” Scoring a game will soon be as dead as cursive writing. All of these things are appreciated by someone who is older and is wise enough to realize that slowing down is vital to enjoying one’s existence. As far as race is concerned, African-Americans also aren’t interested in International Soccer…the world’s most popular sport. The reasoning behind this is difficult and not an easy black and white (no pun attended) issue. I will have to ponder the reasoning behind this.)
— other cultures embrace “fun” more than Americans. The Koreans love the bat flip and the Caribbeans/Mexicans turn a ball-game into a virtual party. (I’d have to agree with this assessment. A lot of fans were unknowingly acting culturally superior last season for criticizing Yasiel Puig’s bat flips. This type of thing is accepted, even embraced in Cuban culture, and personally I see nothing wrong with injecting a little pizzaz into the game. This is not even close to an issue of who is “classier” or not despite fans using this term liberally during their borderline racist attacks on the man. The game is supposed to be fun…period. This isn’t a stock broker convention, it’s baseball.)
–Black people like to look to the future and the “retro” ballparks that are in-vogue embrace the past. (This is an interesting statement and actually gave me pause for a moment. I can see why American blacks would want to forget about the injustices of their past that are unfortunately still going on today. But I also wouldn’t want to see cookie-cutter, faceless basketball stadiums either. My question is this: what architectural aesthetic quality doesn’t remind someone of slavery/oppression? and does this make a European trip virtually impossible?)
–In other news: Ike Davis recently became the first position player on the Athletics to pitch since Frank Menechino in 2000. Davis pitched a mop up ninth inning job in a 14-1 beatdown by the Angels and actually did a decent job with a scoreless inning. I wasn’t surprised to learn later that Davis pitched at Arizona State as he looked like he knew what he was doing out there and had a semblance of command. It’s good to see Davis doing well early in the season for Oakland considering the bashing he took in New York with Mets fans and in Pittsburgh with Pirates fans. He is what he is…a platoon first baseman with above average defensive skills and a little pop that will probably bat in the lower .200’s. Anything is better than Daric Barton and I think A’s fans realize that.