I’ve got some time to kill on this chilly Northern California morning, so why not dig into the ol’ cigar box and tell some ‘graph stories? As you may know, my brain is a repository for worthless baseball stats, history, and mythos. Also, please keep in mind that these cards have a very strong and luscious scent of cigar stank that has slowly permeated the cardboard and will now follow them everywhere in perpetuity.
Most people envision Astrogate and the 2017 trash can-banging WS “Champions” when they think of AJ Hinch. I, on the other hand, will always remember him as being the starting catcher for the 2000 Sacramento RiverCats. This was an amazing time in the Capitol City as we hadn’t had a professional team since the Rangers-affiliated Solons (AAA) went the way of the dodo in 1976. The unveiling was a dream come true in every facet because our cultureless little burg had baseball again and they were an Oakland affiliate! Heaven. I showed up on a soggy and gray opening day (the stadium hadn’t even finished being built) and watched the starting pitcher warm up in the bullpen with his battery-mate Hinch as I stood there, drenched and confused about my emotions. I should be having the time of my life, I thought, but I’m just cold, and even worse…wet. I’ve been to many, many games since then and am still an avid fan of the team even though they switched affiliations to the hated cross-bay Giants. There are just way too many debaucherous 2 dollar beer nights, and sneaking into VIP boxes to speak of. Precious moments.
Canseco was close to divinity in my neighborhood as a kid, and his cards were hoarded like Scrooge McDuck hoarded gold. (The A’s were a powerhouse then, and if you were alive the last time they won a WS–it’s time for a prostate exam) My grandfather took me to a card show st the time, and we met the superstar and had him sign a ball for 20 bucks or whatever the price was. Now I just think of him as a guy who blew his finger off while cleaning a gun, and maybe even the hombre who saved baseball from eating itself. (Brady Anderson anyone?) A tarnished man, but relatable and simply human–albeit, a human whose reach far exceeded his tenuous and fingerless grasp.
In his book, Canseco exposed the hypocrisy of MLB–and maybe even the hypocrisy of capitalist and empirical grifting entities as admired cultural signifiers in a sort of off-hand, metaphorical way–consequently spitting in the face of naive fans who romanticize “fair play” instead of seeing the Selig Era as a money-making, numbers institution at ALL COSTS. Canseco simply wanted to say, everything you know is a lie. George Carlin summed up my feelings astutely on the matter when he said, “Bullshit is the glue that binds us together as a country.” The only problem is that some people actually like the bullshit and will oppress and belittle anyone who even remotely tries to debase their fantasy.
Alyssa Milano of Who’s The Boss fame has banged many, many baseball players…and at the height of his career, Barry Zito was one of them. I sent this card to him when his baseball life was all but over and he was chucking horsehide for the A’s AAA affiliate in Nashville. At this stage in his journey, he was playing for the love of the sport and was cynical and dismissive about the money-making machine trappings of fame, sports cars, and chopping lines in swanky Hollywood discotheque bathrooms with supermodels.
Zito had found religion and started creating his own music, essentially taking it back to humble beginnings. That’s something I can really stand by. I am not a religious man by nature, but the worship of money and status can’t be all good and it was refreshing to hear that from someone who had experienced the fast lifestyle and then proceeded to rise above it. His last Coliseum outing was against Tim Hudson and the Giants and everyone in the joint knew that this was their hardball swan song. The mound masters still had remnants of youthful vigor, but now with an essential veteran powder keg of wisdom and tricks. Alas, two-thirds of “The Big 3” didn’t have their “stuff” and got shelled that day, but it was a wonderful time and both left the field to a standing ovation. Pure nostalgia dopamine.
I was very happy for Sac to get the Rivercats. No more having to go to Fresno to see my Rainiers!
The Rainiers were in Tacoma! lol
Sure… but I was in Modesto!
The Nuts! whooo hoooo!
Thanks for a fun and enjoyable read, Gary. Lots to like. Your writing is so descriptive that I felt as though I could actually smell that stale cigar aroma and feel the chill at the Sacramento ballpark.
I think going to Pacific Coast League games would be a lot better for the mind, the spirit and the soul than attending the major-league ones.
You composed a magnificent line when you wrote: “Some people actually like the bullshit and will oppress and belittle anyone who even remotely tries to debase their fantasy.”
Ain’t that the unfiltered truth…
Thanks for stopping by, Mark. I hope you and your wife had a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Everybody involved in “Astrogate” seems to have landed on their feet except Carlos Beltrán. Wonder why that is? The Mets fired him before he ever managed a game. Hinch and Cora had jobs as soon as their suspensions were up. It somehow doesn’t seem quite fair. Of course, Hinch winding up in Detroit may be the equivalent of being sent to Siberia. By the way, I think Zito still lives here in Nashville.
Thanks for stopping by, Hugh. I think you’re right about Zito living in Nashville. I’ve never been there but I heard it’s quite the hipster destination these days.
I honestly don’t know much about Astrogate, but apparently Altuve wasn’t involved and Hinch was disapproving but wasn’t much of a leader/captain to end the shenanigans. All signs point to Beltran as being the catalyst and I’ve even read a few articles that were concerned about it tarnishing his HOF consideration. The Hall isn’t concerned about guys being scumbags and cheaters (only certain cheaters for some arbitary reason) so I doubt he’ll have a problem getting in.
I read a long article about Zito on the backside of his career and he seemed like a “changed man” indeed…changed for the better. Opening Day for the RiverCats…that sounds like several years removed now the memories are quite a bit warmer than you actually were during the game.
Thanks for stopping by Bruce. That first season for the RiverCats was kind of odd because they were on the road for the first month while the stadium was being built. Seems like eons ago…and I just keep getting older.
Time marches on, Gary!
Canseco really was the symbol of the steroid juiced-up days and because of him, I can look back and smile in that he came clean and told the public what maybe we didn’t want to hear. I wonder if he gets a lot of shit from players he whistle blowed on? I had no idea Zito became religious. It is kind of refreshing to know that he steered away form money and fame and Alysa Milano though I must admit to having a huge crush on her when i was in high school. I guess most people did. Why couldn’t she have come to our high school and slept with our baseball team? I wasn’t that great, but I did hit singles and steal a few bases. Or maybe Alysa preferred pitchers? The only other one I know she went with was Brad Penny of the slow wind-up. Anyway, this was, as it always, a great write up filled with wit and sarcasm and excellent description, anecdotes and what not. Happy Thanksgiving.
I hope you had a great Thanksgiving as well! I’m looking forward to the holidays and drinking highballs while watching football with my uncles. We’re easily amused, obviously.
I had a crush on Alyssa Milano as well as a kid, and she’s still pretty hot for a middle-aged lady. I wrote on this very blog some time back that Bob Welch was hooking up with one of the Go Go’s during their heyday. I’m not even sure how that was relevant but it was sure fun to type.
Thanks Gary, I’ve been drinking myself into oblivion this past week. Started a new job…..oblivion as in falling asleep with the lights on, not brushing my teeth and no dreaming. But I was sober last night and plan on continuing until next Friday night.
I know they say suffering makes for good art but I’d much rather you enjoy your new job and be happy. You deserve it Steve.
Thanks Gary. I don’t know how much more proof I need to convince myself that it’s best to drink less, but when I’m in the middle of a buzz, I want the feeling to last forever.
Awesome post…. I remember seeing Zito in Nashville with The Sounds.
Thanks Max….and Happy Holidays!
Lovely sentences, as always. All I can really say to this is that Alyssa Milano can still get it.
Thanks, Grace…yeah, she’s still a babe most definitely. 🙂
Baseball is a funny game, the more I age, the more I shun it, and yes, if I go to a game, it’s minor league one. Keep writing, you have a solid set of skills, be safe.
Thanks, Bill…and Happy Holidays to you and your family.
Gary, just stopping by to wish you and yours the best for 2023! Bruce (aka WOTC)
Thanks Bruce….same to you my friend.
LOL – I still have “The Bash Brothers” poster… as well as a
“(R)attle of the Bay” World Series poster from some gas station chain down that way.
I also know that Alyssa Milano is about the only woman I’ve ever seen who endorsed TOILET PAPER with her signature and likeness ON the plastic wrapper.
I know as well that you need a baseball card of the legendary “Shooty Babbitt” in the margin over there somewhere.
Maybe you need a “Billy Ball” sticker “KFBK” around here as well…
Thanks for the comment. I actually own a Billy Ball KRBK sticker….but it’s in some godforsaken box somewhere.