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The Baseball Gods have a message, and they have a sense of humor.

And as I crossed the Sacramento River towards the stadium, perhaps the baseball gods had a message for me with their semi-divine detachment?

I’ve been to 100’s of baseball games in my life, but perhaps the “miraculous strangeness of life” came into play recently as I recently attended a minor league AAA game between the Sacramento River Cats and the Reno Aces. (both teams are affiliated with a N.L. team, I am unpledged to any N.L. team except the Dodgers.)

It was Sunday; there there were hordes of annoying children and even more annoying non-baseball fans out for a sun drenched day–unable to simply figure out the Dewey Decimal system and standing around awkwardly with blank stares, metaphorically taking us back to the primeval seas as protozoa. Kudos to the drunk guy yelling “down in front!” to the yuppies, completely unaware that they had breached the unwritten baseball rule of finding your seat quickly and getting your ass out of the way.

Game facts: there was a grand slam. An event I can’t remember ever seeing live. I had also never come close to a foul ball, instantly disappointed as I dropped one, (bare and one-handed) that had such an unexpected force that my right hand was bee-stung for a few minutes afterward. I had to watch an old guy from the post-war generation two seats in front of me take a picture with my ball. That said, I still cringe when I see a grown man try to catch a ball and recoil like a coward at the last moment. I had just tidied myself with a 12 dollar beer in the 5th when the game was stopped because of a small snake on the infield. This is something I have never seen and perhaps will never see again.

Baseball season represents an infinite cloud of future potentialities, and as I walked in my door and flipped on the tube the Cubs and Yankees were playing an eventual 18 inning affair that broke the ML record for strikeouts in a game. This game has been played professionally since 1876.

Eat a dick, indeed.

 

 

The future is here and it looks so bright that I gotta wear shades.

jharel-baseball-card21We unload off of the BART train like a herd of cattle and enter the dingy station with a mixture of part excitement and part bovine expression. The afternoon glaze was the perfect California day in the mind’s eye of a dreamer from Detroit during a December snowstorm. Shorts and tank top weather. We cross the bridge en masse and in the distance a towering block of cement surrounded by barbed wire looms. This place doesn’t look like anything the Romans would build and is more akin to the prison Tim Robbin’s innocent and charmingly rebellious accountant had to face in the Shawshank Redemption. There are musicians trying to make a quick buck, and “vendors” wearing dashikis hawking unlicensed merchandise for both the working class parents who can’t afford the “real” thing and the renegade who has a predilection for quirky hand-screened memorabilia; both the former and latter seeming to be a Oakland tradition harking back to the radical, working class pamphlets of the late 1960’s. This is the embroidery of the Oakland Coliseum.

The conversations that rise above the herd can be astounding.
“Elvis didn’t steal black music, man. Music belongs to everybody.”
“Drinking decaf is like being shot by a government death squad.”
“What did people do before the internet?”
“I’m not sure why he didn’t come to work today. I had a low-grade hangover and I showed up.”
Marijuana smoke fills the air and an older couple complains loudly. Obviously the signals between the generations are irrevocably jammed and covered with goo. It makes me feel good, however, when I curl up to read a book at night knowing that people have some sort of right to use a substance that has been worshiped, degraded and used as racist propaganda,”media poisoned” and finally seen as medicinal and taxed throughout its modern existence in the social structure.

We have come here to see the flawed product known as the Oakland A’s: a team with a menagerie of flawed cast-offs, miscreants, and starry-eyed, fresh-faced youngsters.
When the June heat swooned and the losses mounted we were more hypersensitive to the terrible ownership than ever before and perhaps even felt ill about our place as fans. 11,000 and change entered the turnstiles this afternoon, perhaps echoing that disconcerting mood. On this day, however, baby-faced rookie Jharel Cotton dazzled the Halos by pitching a two hit gem through 6 in his ML debut–the only blemish being a home run by C.J. Cron, one of those modern-day, perpetually uninspiring and average hitting first baseman. Cotton left to a standing ovation, walking along the freshly painted football lines and doffing his cap. Sure, this was a lineup with the notable absences of Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, but it was also a feather in the cap of the downtrodden, a feast in a month of famine for the homeless and forgotten.

Josh Reddick traded as author almost swallowed by the Pacific.

2016-tsr-322-josh-reddick-tradedThere is nothing like the sensory pleasure of falling off a surfboard into the cold Southern California ocean as you tumble under a wave unmercifully for what seems like an eternity and surface gasping for air. I dragged myself across the sand, chest heaving heavily and amazed to still be in one piece.
“Did you know that most “friendships” are only reciprocal 53 percent of the time?”
A friend had brought the New York Times, a large umbrella and a bottle of vodka. She was definitely not going into the water and apparently this article had caught her attention.
“Hmmm…is this a modern phenomenon?” I asked, still gasping for air.
“I’d say yes, considering it was a modern study.”
I sat for a minute quietly thinking about my own life and the relationships that had come and gone. I supposed that I had never seen any sort of friendship as “forever” because of my own abandonment by my father. Because of this thought, and the anxiety of the inevitable, perhaps I never put the time or the effort into friendships that I should have. I simply exhausted all avenues and then quietly moved on with little care.
“Looks like your favorite player was traded,” she said.
“Josh Reddick!?”
Those bastards, I thought, they went and did it. Well, at least he went to the Dodgers. They’ll love him
here in Los Angeles.

Echoes of the past rumble through my head as I stared at the waves crash in deadly syncopation. I dragged
the surfboard slowly to the water and the thoughts disappeared as suddenly as they came. I didn’t like
re-visiting the past–and the way the waves were looking today perhaps I didn’t have a future either.

An ode to Matt Stairs and his beer belly.

matt stairs artIn case you haven’t noticed lately, some girls are all about that “dad bod”. I hadn’t heard about this body type until my roommate mentioned it. She was attracted to guys she claimed had the beer belly. After observing the guys she found attractive, I came to understand this body type well and was able to identify it. The dad bod is a nice balance between a beer gut and working out. The dad bod says, “I go to the gym occasionally, but I also drink a lot of beer on the weekends and enjoy eating eight slices of pizza at a time.” It’s not an overweight guy, but it isn’t one with washboard abs either.

Matt Stairs was a fan favorite in Oakland and made no apologies for his love for pounding beers and baseballs–the Canadian hit 122 home runs in 5 seasons with the Athletics. A veritable beer keg in motion; Stairs is best known as a pinch hitter, designated hitter, and corner outfielder, but he actually played every position except pitcher, catcher, and shortstop at some point. He also has the most pinch-hit home runs in MLB history.  Edgar Allen Poe could have been speaking of Stairs when he wrote this poem in the late 19th century:

Filled with mingled cream and amber,
I will drain that glass again.
Such hilarious visions clamber
Through the chamber of my brain.
Quaintest thoughts, queerest fancies
Come to life and fade away.
What care I how time advances;
I am drinking ale today.

 

The Oakland A’s and their June swoon.

june swoonI had what can be called a perfect summer evening last night: I watched Star Wars on a 60 foot screen on top of a 6 story building with the stars twinkling brightly above while drinking a wicked batch of sauvignon blanc.

These are the kind of nights that summer is supposed to represent: everyone is dressed casually and comfortably as they enjoyed a night out with friends and family and no cares in the world at that moment. After the movie my acquaintance and I returned to her house for some champagne and a light snack of falafel balls. The great ball of fires close vicinity to the Earth couldn’t ruin this perfect evening and perhaps even enlightened it with its creamy layers of cosmic beauty.

We had small talk for a moment about science fiction novels before “the acquaintance” slides in a DVD of Easy Rider and comments, “Boy, your baseball team sure does stink this year; it must be difficult to find things to write about on that blog of yours.”
“I’m not hypersensitive to it. Perhaps I’ve even given up–which makes me enjoy watching the fiasco all the more. It’s not as if I’m pulling my hair out; there is a sense of calm in losing. Now I know how Cubs fans felt all those years.”
“I find that hard to believe,” she said as she softly tossed her cat off the couch. “Ughh, don’t ever buy anything that eats.”
“Besides, why would I care so deeply about a bunch of millionaires running around in pajamas when I can think about how insignificant my own life is relative to a world that is filled with injustice?”
“I think a lot of the experience of being an adult is: what am I even complaining about?”
“Exactly. So I can be positive and talk about how Danny Valencia and Khris Davis are absolutely raking this season. And Daniel Mengden is a pretty exciting rookie.”

“I have no idea what you are talking about.”

“Neither do I,” I said as the opening credits to Easy Rider spread across the screen. I really do like Dennis Hopper in this movie I thought.

Ben Sheets got me drunk.

 

ben sheets suds artOn 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.

billy hebert this one

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.

LaRussa and the Hall of Fame

larussa

vegetarian, renaissance man, and originator of one of the most over-rated positions in sports: the one inning “closer.”

1986 And The Rest Is History…….. by Scott Guilmette
You can’t really fault Jackie Moore, the 1986 Opening Day Manager of the Oakland Athletics; the pitching on that team was suspect at best. The Athletics had a decent hitting team, with eventual Rookie of the Year Jose Canseco leading the way. Dave “ King Kong “ Kingman was playing his last season and the natives were getting restless, so a change needed to be made……Bring in one Anthony “ Tony “ LaRussa to guide this team of rookies, scrap heap rejects and players who’s better days have long been in the rear-view mirror. La Russa, who had spent 7 years managing the ChiSox was a great pickup by the Athletics after the ChiSox axed him three weeks earlier and he proved it in his first game as manager. The Athletics were in Boston to play the RedSox and he chose seldom used long reliever Dave Stewart to start that night against Roger Clemens and of course Smoke beat that ass!!!!! He started a trend that night that Clemens wished he was never part of…….NO LUCK AGAINST THE ATHLETICS OR STEWART……
LaRussa has a Degree in Law and I always thought of him as a smooth snake in the grass lawyer as to how he managed the game….he always seemed in control, no matter what the situation was, and he always seemed classy in doing it. He was just what the Athletics needed at that time in their history…..after it was all said and done in Oakland, LaRussa was the winningest manager in Oakland Athletic’s club history with 798, one World Series Championship ( 4-0 Sweep against the sorry asses from across the Bay ) and two Manager of the Year Awards. He is 3rd on the All Time wins- list with 2,728, behind only John McGraw and All Time Leader Connie Mack.  Not bad Athletics fans, some of us have had the good fortune to see one of the greatest managers of all time!!!!!
LaRussa will forever be linked to the shady past of the game of baseball known as the Steroid Era……It was during his watch that the Athletics clubhouse exploded with brawn, and it seemed that he did nothing about it…..you might as well put ALL of MLB’s managers, front office personnel and the Commissioner in that boat too because NO ONE did a damn thing to stop it from happening. It’s not the first time in this games’ illustrious history that there been a shadow cast on it and it won’t be the last either. It’s not LaRussa’s fault……but the haters will hate… oh well, get in line because he’s in the Hall of Fame now. He made it easy for me, a life long Athletics fan to follow him and the St. Louis Cardinals after he left the Athletics when Walter Haas, Jr. passed away.
So CONGRATS Tony, I’m glad I had the opportunity to watch you manage this game I truly Love…….

Jimmie Foxx…greatest Athletics hitter of all time.

1985-topps-circle-k-7-jimmie-foxx-baseball-cards-n-2e8a X is the first
Of two x’s in Foxx
Who was right behind Ruth
With his powerful soxx.

Ogden Nash, Sport Magazine 

In the 1930’s, Jimmie Foxx socked more homers than any other player. A fearsome power hitter whose strength earned him the moniker “The Beast”, Jimmie Foxx was the anchor of an intimidating Philadelphia Athletics lineup that produced pennant winners from 1929-31. The second batter in history to top 500 home runs, Foxx belted 30 or more homers in 12 consecutive seasons and drove in more than 100 runs 13 consecutive years, including a career-best 175 with Boston in 1938. He won back-to-back MVP Awards in 1932 and ’33, capturing the Triple Crown in the latter year. Called “the right-handed Babe Ruth.” Foxx became a baseball legend because of his enormous strength. In Comiskey Park, he hit a ball over the double-decked stands, clearing 34th Street. His gigantic clout in Cleveland won the 1935 all-star Game. In Yankee Stadium, he hit one into the left field upper deck where it broke a seat! A strong, powerful hitter, he was menacing looking at the plate.

He had great powerful arms, and he used to wear his sleeves cut off way up, and when he dug in and raised that bat, his muscles would bulge and ripple.   

After years in Philadelphia playing under the penurious Connie Mack, he finally started making good when he was traded to Boston. Tom Yawkey, who always paid his players well, even gave Foxx a share in gate receipts. Universally liked, almost everyone loved him, from Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth to Ted Williams. (Ted Williams even claimed that Jimmie could drink 15 glasses of scotch whisky and not be affected) He always went out of the way to befriend new teammates and rookies.

In July of 1967, after years of bad investments and ill health, Foxx died on the way to the hospital after he choked on a piece of meat in the backyard of his brother. By that time, he was a beaten and broken man, and those close to him felt that Jimmie had finally just given up, and did not have the will to live anymore. It was a very sad ending to a simply great guy. 

jimmies grave

Another trip to the “Big A.”

photo 2

you can’t see the Rickey Henderson pin on my right titty in this pic

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.

photo 3

oooh! take my pic for facebook!

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.

photo 2 (1)

oh yeah, i went down to the first base side to take pics of A’s fans when I saw THIS fucking guy, Mr. Rivercat.

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.

A history of girlfriends and their baseball teams.

Oakland A's ball girl Debbie, AK Mrs. Fields Cookiesphoto/Ron Riesterer 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