Results tagged ‘ books ’
Fastball John is an Amazing Book!
You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that
it was the other way around all the time ~Jim Bouton
Perhaps the best description of life as a professional baseball player from a players perspective since
Ball Four. John D’Acquisto and Dave Jordan have done a wonderful job of bringing the remarkable events of John’s career to life. A career in professional baseball is a journey, and the path to the major leagues is a precarious one. Obstacles abound. Temptations from all seven of the deadly sins surround you. Only a few of those who are chosen will make it as far a the major leagues.
John’s remarkable story is about his transition from the joyful innocence of high school baseball, to the business of professional baseball, and his return to life as a civilian. Professional baseball is more than just a game–it is a cut throat business. For John it was more than just a career, it was a way of life.
John’s stories are captivating, because they are real life experiences. His involvement in a mafia run restaurant, the fight with Bob Gibson on an elevator after beating him on the mound, betrayal by one of his best friends: The “Count” John Montefusco, and his legal problems after baseball are riveting.
Around 1993-1995 I completely lost interest in baseball. Being in my early 20’s my childhood interests waned, as they tend to do, and in my delusional mind my new interests were a bit more sophisticated and engaging. My interests in music were blossoming into a near obsession as I joined a garage band; and I was also delving into the literary and modern art worlds–doing my duty as a young person trying to “figure it all out.” As much as I loved to scan the box scores, I just didn’t have time anymore with my band-mates, job, and girlfriend needing my immediate and rapt attention.
F. Scott Fitzgerald thought that one of his pals had invested too much time writing about baseball. “A boys game,” Fitzgerald said, “with no more possibilities in it than a boy could master, a game bounded by walls which kept out novelty or danger, change or adventure.”
I couldn’t stomach Fitzgerald’s stuffy writing and disagreed vehemently with this statement. (I valued Descartes opinions much more, and wasn’t his vocation to think about thinking?…the absolute essence of the game) So after reading the classics : Genet, Hemingway, Hesse, Volmann, Fante, Auster, I decided one day through a haze of smoke that baseball was indeed a cerebral sport more suited to a literary rather than pictorial culture and returned to it for the ’96 season. The A’s were still the same pile of dung that i had flushed 3 years earlier finishing 3rd in the West with a 78-84 record, but the game was interesting to me again, even fun.
This was to be Mark McGwire’s last full year with the “Elephants” (his trade the next year was devastating and truly the end of my childhood) and he finished with 52 homers. This was also Jason Giambi’s first full year and he finished with a pathetic (for that time) 20 round-trippers. I attribute this to youth and the lack of steroids–a reputation that would turn out to haunt both players. Terry Steinbach was typically solid behind the dish; and a fan favorite with a funny name, Geronimo Berroa was coming into his own. There was also a curious player, Ernie Young, who hit 19 homers that season, never to hit more than 5 in any other season in his career.
As I enjoyed another season of watching my lovable losers, I had decided that baseball not only doesn’t acknowledge the passage of time, it ignores it. Then began my post-adolescent and lifelong obsession with the game that has taken over my daily existence with mind-boggling statistics and an even stranger anomalistic visual affair. I find that the more I know about this game, the less I know about this game. It keeps unfolding in ways I could never imagine.
The man sits regally and casually; wearing old style European clothing. Perhaps I felt this way because I was sitting in a park that reminded me of Spain– buildings towering around us in order to block out the sunlight. A couple of hummingbirds zip by me; connected in a seemingly sexual position. What a strange sound. As my attention span carbon copies the urban wildlife I notice that the “European” man is staring at me. (This is also known as the “devils” work of double–sense deluding.) The man rises and quietly opens an aluminum walker. And it is a woman. She was simply waiting for her granddaughter in the outside smoking section of a train depot in the middle of Los Angeles.
I rub my eyes and grab a newspaper to pass the time; a rare and tragic event that I enjoy and makes me look like a moth-eaten antique.
FRONT PAGE: More cosmetic culture. An American culture that cultivates an idea of a free destiny within a firmly imposed but imperceptible and uniform attitude. Most people are confused by this dilemma and just choose the easy way out: make money and fuck everyone else. Who am I to judge? I’ve done the same with impunity and thought I was better for it. We learn to sleep at night with no guilt. Sometimes that sense of peace and safety is all we have to hold on to.
ENTERTAINMENT: Idiot hip-hop artists and their self-importance; a soon-to-be-dead genre because of its chichi and an unrealistic approach to self-impressions as well as economics, actors schlepping terrible movies that will be forgotten within weeks, the occasional mass-produced book review, artists trying to make money from David Bowie’s still fresh corpse etc.
SPORTS: The A’s have acquired Khris Davis from the Milwaukee Brewers. Left fielder with some pop and a noodle arm. So– the only weakness is that we wont get a 7-5 tag-out during a dink base hit; and at least I am slightly reassured that Beane (or whoever the hell the new G.M. may be) is at least trying to put a competitive team on the field in 2016 and not tanking like many other teams……although everyone knows if they start slowly, the FOR SALE signs will quickly go up again.
I fold the newspaper and lay it on the bench for future travelers. The thought fades as soon as it appears.
“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
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 air is getting more crisp in the mornings and I’m looking forward to Fall and sweaters and hot coffee in the early AM hours. I walked the dog in the wet air, and after peeing in his preferred spots I came home, made my girlfriend a bagel with cream cheese and then sat down for some light reading. I found this to be a rather funny excerpt from the current book on the “devour list,”Billy Martin’s 1987 book, Billyball:
…Mickey Mantle and I were in (the club) and sitting across the room was Elizabeth Taylor. She was with Michael Todd, who was her husband at the time, and Rock Hudson. Ed Wynne came over and asked if Mickey and I would pose for a picture with the three of them. I said we’d be glad to.
We went over and Ed makes the introductions all around, and let me tell you, I looked at Elizabeth Taylor’s face and it was like looking at the face of an angel. Her features were perfect. She was simply lovely, the most beautiful woman I had ever seen in my life. I just couldn’t believe a woman could be that beautiful. And she was wearing a low-cut dress. Oh, my God, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
So Ed introduces us and she’s very nice and sweet although I’m not even sure she knew who we were. And we pose for pictures and that was it, the whole thing took no more than a few minutes. Now Mickey and I return to our table and I just can’t get over how beautiful Elizabeth Taylor is. I’m talking a mile a minute.
“Mickey”, I said, “Did you see that face? Did you you ever see such a face? That is the most beautiful face I have ever seen in my life.”
“I ain’t seen her face,” Mickey said. “but did you see them tits?”
In some ways, the home run is like the bright colors in a modern painting. They immediately attract attention, and for those not schooled in viewing modern art, they may overshadow other more subtle tones that are of equal or greater interest. But for those who appreciate the variety of baseball strategies and skills, the home run is not required. And importantly, the walk is not inherently disappointing. The walk opens up new tensions, new aesthetic possibilities, new kinds of drama, new story lines. — R. Scott Kretchmar
Coco Crisp was the singular player that made my mother fall in love with baseball. What makes it an interesting, even head-scratching affair was that she was in her 50’s when this happened. (A testament to his likability and edge of your seat playing style.) Perhaps it was his strange batting stance– bat held high and chin resting firmly on shoulder in an almost exaggerated motion. Or maybe it was simply because he always had a smile on his face and looked like he was actually having fun out there. (Hello, Mark Ellis!) She loved the tension in the ballpark when he was on the bag and eagerly awaited the eventual stolen base attempt. (surprisingly, he has only led the league once, with 49 swipes in 2011.) “He’s like a little flea!” she would exclaim.
As much as I love home runs, for me the most exciting plays in baseball are the triple, the stolen base and the bench clearing brawl. And as Coco could conceivably achieve 2 of these 3 in any game, he became one of my favorite players as well. (I digress– Crisp did actually charge the mound as a member of the Red Sox. James Shields had come up too far and inside buzzing Coco’s “junk.” Crisp ran at Shields at full speed, side-stepping a wild, girly haymaker before throwing one of his own. He was eventually tackled which gave current teammate Jonny Gomes the opportunity to pummel the now incapacitated Crisp. After the fracas Crisp had a smile on his face whereas Shields looked like he was going to cry.)
I always go for the underdog — hell, always have. I was one myself. You don’t get many opportunities growing up in a single parent home. Dad left us when I was around 5 and was never around, so we had many dinners of pot-pies and vinyl cheese on white bread. I have strong memories of watching cartoons while my mother would pace the room, chain smoking Marlboro reds in her Kenny Rodgers tour 1982 t-shirt. Even at such a young age I knew she was stressed about the rent– and probably even had regrets about her children (my sister and I) because we were born while she was still a teenager and was left holding the bag. These kind of things make you tougher than a bulldog in a junkyard and my cousins and random kids took the brunt of it. I would spend a lot of my time alone, and liked to hide my pain and confusion in comic books.
Brandon Moss was an underdog until he became one of the best power hitters in the A.L. (and unlike that human turd David Ortiz, can actually play multiple positions) I know that it’s difficult to compare one’s economic background to that of the the career of a sports figure, but to me it’s a reminder of the memories that could possibly fall into the abyss because you get so wrapped up in what you are doing now…and the passage of time had stored them away in the deepest, darkest recesses of your mind. Mr. Moss was let go by the Red Sox, Pirates and Phillies, never really getting the chance to excel despite putting up great minor league numbers. He once even contemplated retirement in order to work for the Fire Department. He has since excelled in Oakland and is great in the club-house, respects the game, his teammates and fans (who have deemed him “Boss,” the perfect fit) I now hide my pain and confusion (now non-economic) by reading comic books AND watching Boss hit soaring ‘taters; his Oakland teammates proving that you don’t have to use “unwritten rules” as an asshole tactic by being GOOD. A refreshing approach to the crybabies that the rest of the league embraces…an approach that turns a mild-mannered individual like me into the bulldog that I thought I had left long ago.
I usually don’t pay much attention to the MLB draft. By the time most of these guys even sniff the Majors I will probably be a different person physically, financially, mentally and perhaps even mortally. But, in this day and age it’s practically impossible not to hear some sort of information, and that’s exactly what happened as I was sipping a Corona and seeping in a hot tub. The media was lauding this as Bud Selig’s last draft (his desperation to go down in history was all but sealed when he became the first commissioner to unveil his own statue; a horrifically tacky move. I can’t imagine that sour-faced racist Kenesaw Mountain Landis doing such a thing….and really, did anyone in the history of man self-aggrandize themselves more?) when the Athletics drafted a kid out of Cal State Fullerton with the 25th pick.
“Holy Shit”, I thought, “I went to high school right across the street.”
That’s right…Fullerton, California.
( as the pot smoke clears….cue dream/reminiscent music)
I was sitting in class one day when the surfer kid with long, blonde flowing hair told me about a free concert at the college. (We had many “deep” conversations about how the Keanu Reeves movie, Point Break had bastardized surfing culture, and he knew I was highly involved in the local punk scene which consisted in playing in bands, setting up shows, putting out fanzines, making out, committing petty crimes, talking shit, and hanging out.)
“Dude, it’s Firehose….you remember Mike Watt right? The fucking Minutemen!”
Yep. We got some homeless guy to buy us beer, skipped school and saw an awesome show. (all before Matt Chapman was born in 1993!)
Obligatory ‘Fro scouting report: Mr. Chapman was undrafted out of high school, but seemingly grew into himself in college. Scout.com’s National Baseball Analyst Kiley McDaniel had this to say about Chapman in a recent scouting report: “I loved his infield and batting practice for Team USA, flashing huge raw power….. along with a plus-plus arm that some call an 80 and has hit the upper 90’s on the mound, though he’s thrown just a handful of innings in the last few years. Chapman is at least an average third baseman, so the only question is the bat. His performances haven’t been terrible, but he basically hasn’t shown the ability to hit and hit for power at the same time at any point in his career.”
The Athletics, always thinking ahead, know that this guy can be converted into a pitcher if he can’t hit professional pitching. He sees himself as a hard-nosed, scrappy player and that will always be of value in the Oakland system. I am going to give this pick a B minus….and now I am going back to the hot tub. Cheers.