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On January 26, 2010, Ben Sheets agreed to a one year, $10 million with an additional $2 million in incentives, contract with the Oakland Athletics. “Ok,” I thought, “he was hurt last year and this is his comeback.” I knew Ben was injury prone as he had just undergone Tommy John surgery the year before and sat out the entire 2009 season to rehab. It seemed at the time a high risk/reward signing, but I put it out of my mind because of the fact that I had other things to do. You see, it was my day off and I was supposed to meet a nice young lady for some beers and some games of pool at one of those newly opened, posh “gastropubs”. The date goes fine, we drink some nice brews, play some pool and I nod my head at all the crucial moments. Everything is going great until we step out on the back patio to smoke a joint… and then it hits me. Didn’t I see this guy pitch in the minor leagues?
I can hear the readers screaming, “this guy is having a great time with this woman and he’s thinking about a fucking baseball player!” Well yes, I was, and even worse…I was thinking about the ex-girlfriend that had accompanied me to a baseball game. This is date suicide, I know, but bear with me–all of the thoughts below were fully compartmentalized within two minutes or so. (and it’s not as if it’s an epic, Homer-like story) That’s only about 3-4 head nods and a couple “mmm hmmm’s.”
It’s 1999. I had been wanting to go to a California League game for quite a while. Stockton, Ca. was the closest city to where I was living so it was the logical choice. The Stockton Ports were an (A) team for the Milwaukee Brewers, and I had a little rooting interest for the “Brew Crew;” I thought they were a scrappy, fun bunch. My girlfriend and I hop on the freeway and drive an half an hour south of Sacramento to the murderous, unemployed shit-heap known as Stockton.
Billy Hebert Field was in a sketchy neighborhood in the middle of a park. It was a bit old and had metal bleachers down the third/first base lines. The ballpark had opened in 1953, yet supposedly the land that was/is the field has been used for baseball since the late 19th century, and as legend says, the exact location where the poem “Casey at the bat” had taken place. We grab our beers and peanuts and sit on the third base line. The crowd is sparse, yet I’m enjoying myself.
Minor league games tend to have wacky promotions, yet this one was right out of the Bill Veeck hand book. The PA announcer tells the crowd that so and so from the opposing team would be the game’s “beer batter.” This meant that every time the batter in question struck out beer would be half off for 10 minutes. On the mound for the Ports that day was their newly signed “bonus baby,” Ben Sheets. Sheets proceeded to strike out the “beer batter” 4 times; and since there was barely a crowd, I would slowly walk to the concession stand and get a few beers for half off. The first few times were novelty, and then as the innings went by and the suds kicked in it became a sort of a right of passage and celebration of this young man’s talent. I was “three SHEETS to the wind” by the end of the game.
Times have changed. The Ports moved into a new, modern ballpark in 2005, leaving Billy Hebert unattended. They are now an affiliate of the Oakland A’s. Ben Sheets retired in 2012. He couldn’t shake off the injury bug that had hampered his career. I don’t speak to either woman anymore in this story. We had great times, yet that rolling stone keeps on moving. This isn’t a special story….it’s just another baseball fan’s testament, and a story that will all too soon fade away.
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!
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.
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.
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.
I drag my Dodgers loving girlfriend down to Anaheim once a year to see the A’s play the Angels because, well, the A’s are the greatest team on the planet, so fuck you. We do our usual pre- game routine of buying bottled water, sunflower seeds and other assorted bric-a-brac and then we’re off on the 45 minute drive south of Los Angeles to a place known as Anaheim. I’m not going to get into it here about my feelings on the O.C. (we get into that later) but let’s just say I think it’s homogenized crap.
We get to the stadium rather uneventfully and I say to the gfriend, “hmmm…the parking is much easier here than at Dodger stadium.”
“That’s because it’s in the middle of a city, this is a suburb!” she shoots back. Fair enough.
It’s 80 degrees outside. A perfect California night, and I’m feeling good as we begin to take the escalators to our upper deck seats. Now, there is a back story here. (Although readers Scott, Katrina, and Don “the cheese” will make fun of me unmercifully for this one.) I almost ALWAYS buy the cheap seats, wait the unwritten baseball rule of 3 innings, and then move to a better seat of my mood and choosing. (this has worked in Seattle, Oakland and San Diego) So I do this, buying 5 dollar seats off of some cynical asshole on stub hub and then pat myself on the head for a job well done. Dear readers, for future reference….THIS DOES NOT WORK IN ANAHEIM OR LOS ANGELES. These stadiums are not as “fan friendly” when it comes to common sense. Ahem. So my plan failed. Fuck you.
The game starts and the A’s scratch across 2 runs in the 2nd, and then a Howie Kendrick jack in the bottom half of the inning makes it 2-1. Ok, we got a ballgame.
gfriend: (who is proud of her Salvadorian heritage, mind you.)
” The vibe is different here, and the crowd is so…..white. All this red reminds me of Republicanism.”
No doubt, sweetheart. I hate the Angels and John McCain too.
Top of the 3rd: Jed Lowrie golfs a three run tater off Garrett Richards that barely clears the out of town scoreboard in left center for a 5-1 lead. I notice then that the Red Sox aren’t playing tonight. Tommy Milone does his best job of fucking it up in the bottom half, giving up a bases drunk double to Howie Kendrick to cut the lead to 5-4. I’m upset and even say a few un-choice words about Tommy boy under my breath, but I want to seem cool in the enemies ballpark, so I let it go. A few innings go by, and we make fun of everyone around us who seem to be checking Facebook on their phones.
Top 7th: “Boss” Moss hits one of the HIGHEST jacks I have ever seen into the Angels right field “shit dump,”
(I have no idea what it is…but it looks ghastly) to make it 7-4. I don’t know about you, but to me, this guy will be long remembered as one of my favorite Oakland A’s. Raw power and passion with a fucking red George Michael beard = bad ass mother fucker. The A’s bullpen effectively holds the Halos down, and they scratch together a few more runs to make it 10-5 as the Angels fans leave en masse to our delight (parking issues,dog!) Grant “gives me a fucking heart attack or puts me to sleep” Balfour comes in, walks a couple of guys, throws a shit load of pitches (his innings always seem as long as the first 8) and finally ends the game by striking out Hank Conger. There was a strange feeling that Angels fans had conceded. Even the victory was sort of bitter-sweet as I couldn’t wait for the playoffs, ergo the passion to start. We pass the strip club down the street and listen to oldies the rest of the way as the gfriend asks me about who I think the Dodgers will play in the playoffs.
sidenotes: Angel dogs are infinitely better than the Dodger dog. I will fight you if you disagree.
Tommy Milone has 12 wins. I can’t remember a pitcher who had so many wins and received so much criticism because he had “lost it” so quickly. The baseball gods are a fucking trip, man.
Howie Kendrick with a jack and 4 RBI’s. Always thought that dude was solid.
Josh Reddick has 55 RBI’s in a year that was a DISASTER with injuries. He’s going to be a special player when he gets right.
Daric Barton hasn’t been Mr. “look at a bazillion pitches” lately and he’s a better hitter for it.
A.J. Griffin was supposed to start this game. I was disappointed when he didn’t.
Two words: NO YO. bummer.
When the Rally Monkey crap started on the scoreboard, 2 Angels fans behind me said, “yeah, we’ll start our rally….in spring training next year!” Hilarious.
Mike Trout K’d 3 times. I’m lovin’ it.
Shyra: we met when I was 16 and we were the “firsts” for everything. She was compassionate, and loved my artwork, writing, and irrational love for baseball. I would drag her to all sorts of games ( from minor league to sub minor league) and she was patient, even asking a lot of “girlfriend questions” in order to boost my ego, yet she never officially had a team. She did, however, buy tickets to games and I felt like she enjoyed them. favorite team: none
Summer: dumb fucking name aside, this girl was absolutely brutal with attitude. I did ecstacy for the first time with her and some semi-famous D.J. asshole that I refuse to name here. She lived in Oakland and thought she was cool with her retro clothes and “diagonal haircuts”, but was a music nerd who had absolutely ZERO interest in the game. I remember watching Tim Hudson when he was a young buck in her room while her gay room-mate (who was going to Cal-Berkeley and absolutely HATED me) would make strange noises in the room next door. favorite team: none
Alisa: A sweet ginger. We went to a lot of AAA games together (Rivercats). She learned how to score a game, (which she enjoyed) yet never took a big league team under her wing. She had favorite players and we even named our cat after the announcer of the ‘Cats at the time. (Bip Roberts) favorite team: Sacramento Rivercats
Lindsay: She has to take the cake as the WEIRDEST girl I have ever dated. She was petite, artsy, a clothing designer, and a stripper. She also had a crazy Russian coke-dealer stalker who would confront me on occasion before I eventually got fed up and kicked his ass in front of a club and then kicked her ass to the curb. We went to a minor league game once and didn’t show up until the 3rd because she was too spacey too get her shit together. All in all we watched 6 innings in about 2 hours and she said it was “perfect.” favorite team: none….with a bang!
Oki: sweet, asian girl who had absolutely no interest in the game. She was a D.J.who had interests in painting and music and had a lot of knowledge in that area, yet I would sneak in games when I had the chance. favorite team: none
Tanya: The absolute love of my life and future wife! She grew up in Los Angeles and learned to love the Dodgers at a young age. I knew she was the COOLEST girl I had ever met on our 2nd date…and I was right! She woke me up the other night cheering because of the fact that Scott Van Slyke had just hit a game winner to left for the Dodgers in late night extra innings, and it reminded me why I was in love. I have been to some of the greatest concerts I have ever seen with this woman and she even took me to Anaheim to see the A’s and Angels. “This park sucks,” she said. OH…MY…GOD! favorite team: Los Angeles Dodgers