In 2012 Adrian Cardenas was a 24-year-old Chicago Cubbie, had 11 career hits, and publicly decided to quit baseball to drape himself in more intellectual pursuits. He wrote about his decision eloquently in a piece for The New Yorker garnering admiration from some and dismay from others. “With every semester that passed, I loved school more than I loved baseball, and eventually I knew I had to choose one over the other,” Cardenas wrote. Never wavering, Adrian went on to major in philosophy and creative writing at NYU and eventually obtained a master of fine arts degree.
Although Cardenas never played in an Oakland uniform, he was a top 10 prospect at one time, and I remember watching him quite often in the summer of 2011 with the AAA Sacramento RiverCats. I stumbled across his film, El Artesano (The Artisan) a few days ago, and found it to be quite touching with dazzling cinematography and an artistic touch without pretension. In a world of disposable media, I found myself reflecting on the short film even a few days after watching it. If you have 12 minutes of time I would like to petition you to click on the link below:
“People talk about escapism as if it’s a bad thing…Once you’ve escaped, once you come back, the world is not the same as when you left it. You come back to it with skills, weapons, knowledge you didn’t have before. Then you are better equipped to deal with your current reality.”–Neil Gaiman
By now everyone has heard about the tragic fires in California, which have been said to be the worst in recorded history of the state. These fires have given the sky a surrealistic orange hue, giving anyone who already had anxiety about the trials of modern-day an almost apocalyptic view on the vile calamities we now face as Americans in 2020. Our souls are in purgatory crying out for mercy…from ignorance, racism, destruction, greed, loneliness, economic uncertainties, pandemics, and a certain orange creature who leads the influx of oblivious humanity.
I thought it to be in the tradition of the Surrealist, and conjured in my mind the following Salvador Dali quote: “Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.” These shackles were indeed broken and destroyed above the Coliseum on a tepid Wednesday night as solid objects transmogrified and clocks melted.
I needed a moment of escapism….even for three hours and change, with a few gin and tonics as my only company. One of the sponsors, strangely enough, was called Planet Orange, a Bay Area eco-friendly pest control. What in the world is happening? Announcers Glen Keiper and Dallas Braden made a comment that this would be the first MLB game played on Mars. (Or Tatooine?) In the end, the good guys defeat the Asterisks in a highly contested fistfight, 3-2 as the bats awaken from their slumber in the later innings and the ‘Stros closer brings a bucket of gasoline with him to the mound. All seems normal and exciting for the moment. All is well in the world and there is consolation, if only for a very short moment.
Hey, dude…I bought this little pin at a garage sale, and it just happened to be attached to a ticket stub. After some research on the Baseball Almanac, you actually pitched that day! You tossed 7 innings giving up 2 earned, but unfortunately lost to Dave Steib who pitched a CG giving up only 1 in a game the A’s eventually lost 3-1. Do you have any additional information? I had apprehensions that you would remember a Monday game from the Coliseum in 1982, but I thought I’d give it a shot.
I do remember the game, but as you mentioned there was really nothing notable about the game itself, that I can recall. What I do remember about the game is that it was a scenario I was too familiar with. Dave Steib was sharp that day, and although I was pitching well enough to win most games, this wasn’t going to be one of them.
The game was played at a time when the players already knew Billy would not be returning to the A’s, but it was not public knowledge. These were the waning days of the Billy Ball Era, which was a bit of a phenomenon, but that time had now clearly passed. The game was played about a week after Billy had demolished his office. Rumors had been circulating for a few weeks that Billy wanted out of his contract with the A’s and apparently the A’s did not want to let Billy go. So Billy tore up his office, made some insulting remarks about the owners, and got what he wanted, which was a chance to manage the Yankees again. Steinbrenner had seen his success with the A’s and Billy could see from the way the 1982 season had gone that he had pretty much run his pitching staff into the ground. The future looked dim for Oakland and the grass looked much greener in New York.
I think Billy had been considering his departure from the A’s for a few months prior to the office incident. By mid-season he seemed less focused and intense than the previous years. I believe one of the symptoms of this can be seen in a game of June 23rd of the 1982 season. Billy picked a lineup out of a hat in a game we were playing against a division rival (KCR) Turns out he has done this before, but it seemed way out of character for the Billy Martin we knew. (ed note: Kingman lost that game as well, giving up 1 in 8 innings, but the terrible Oakland club managed only 4 hits and lost 1-0.)
The most ubiquitous Welch baseball card of my childhood. I must have owned dozens of them.
If you do an impromptu internet search on Bob Welch Death, the information wave catches your surfboard and guides you to the former guitarist for Fleetwood Mac and his shocking suicide from a self-inflicted gunshot in 2012. Remember that song, Ebony Eyes? Neither do I, but apparently Bob scored a top 20 hit with it in 1978. The song is painfully repetitive, is derivative of Fleetwood Mac’s worst songs, (and that’s being generous) and could possibly cause one to scratch their eyes out…I hope I never have to hear it again. In the zeitgeist of “good” late 70’s music, this turd should stay safely sound on a piece of old vinyl relegated to grandma’s attic or the local town dump. Believe me, I’m sighing on the inside as I write this.
The death of Bob Welch, the baseball player was just as tragic, and even more so, as poor Bobby slipped on what I’m assuming to be a tile layered with condensation in his bathroom and broke his neck. The University of York Department of Physics recently hosted a presentation titled, “5 Ways the Universe Is Trying to Kill You,” and I felt that this applied to the unfortunate and freakish situation. There are typhoons, hurricanes, asteroids, cancers, plagues, nuclear meltdowns, the sun and its inevitable enveloping of the earth, and, of course…a slippery tile.
The cosmos seemingly wants your existence as nil. And the above is just the tip of the iceberg of proposed cataclysmic events, although I suppose everything isn’t all that terrible on this planet considering 99 percent of the places in the universe would snuff out any life instantly if it had a chance to exist at all–there would be no “you” lying in bed at 4 AM in a wide-eyed cold sweat, recognizing the finite self in time and space.
I’m not even sure why Bob Welch invaded my cranium this morning as I sipped my coffee and flipped through an old Playboy from 1969 with an extended pause at the Brigitte Bardot layout. (Quick fact: both Bobs’ loved to imbibe on the Hollywood Happy Powder, but only the pitcher got to bang a member of the Go-Gos) Sometimes feelings are hard to pin down, with so many subclauses and digressions. Maybe it was because I was thinking about an ex-girlfriend and how she had dropped me off at Dodger Stadium on a perfectly lazy, brilliantly blue Los Angeles summer afternoon. Larry King pulled to the side of her car in his Mercedes and asked her if he could squeeze into the queue waiting to enter the mammoth parking lot. (I later learned that he was in a hurry because he was throwing out the first pitch, which turned out just as horrible as expected and would be scratched on a scorecard as: WP)
There was an “Old Timers Game” before the real contest, with the Dodgers facing the Yankees, and Bob Welch was on the hill for The Bums in perhaps his final outing on a big-league field with his marvelously exaggerated wind-up and leg-kick. All of these clouds coalesce, then quickly swirl and fade as there is little attention to any small fragment of detail as I pull nebulous memories from the attic of obscurity: except for my questioning and confusion of Billy Crystal playing Short Stop for the Yankees that day which now seems as if it happened many lifetimes, detours and transgressions ago.
What a perfect Sunday. I woke up early, had some coffee and went for a short walk to the little patisserie a few blocks away for some pastries. A friend and I then went to have some breakfast before checking out a legal graffiti park that had some amazing artwork. We found a can of yellow spray paint and added our own legacies to the mass of hodgepodge. “It’s getting a little hot today. Are you ready to go and watch the game?” she said. Why, yes. I was.
The retribution: It all started a few days before the Astros skulked into town on their “Revenge Tour” and former Oakland pitcher Dave Stewart said he couldn’t believe the Astros had traded Ramon Laureano to the A’s. “Thanks, cheaters,” he mocked. The Astros complained about the cardboard cutout of their mascot hanging out in a garbage can à la Oscar the Grouch which was promptly carted away by league officials. Some rascal in a plane flew above the Coliseum before the first game with a trailing banner that read: Houston Asterisks. Announcer Ray Fosse made buzzing sounds during a Jose Altuve AB which was a subtle nod to him wearing a buzzer during Game 6 of the ALCS.
Still, I wasn’t satisfied.
For his sacrifice/inevitable Manfred scapegoat suspension, Ramon Laureano will go down as a legend in the Green and Gold, and every baseball fan should thank him for some momentary, albeit small, semblance of making the baseball gods smile. Did the average fan win? Probably not, but sometimes your pride and integrity is all you have, and when a team of smug assholes try to take that away…you fight back. After the game the formerly unapologetic fake tough-guy Josh “We have nothing to apologize for” Reddick was trying to garner sympathy, saying he hoped there is not a carry-over of anger when the Asterisks play the A’s again. ‘We don’t want targets on our back as big as we already do now.” Too bad and too late. Not too smug are we now, eh, Mr. Reddick?
Am I satisfied? For the moment. And that moment ended just…about….now.
“Sports are like the reward for a functioning society.” –Sean Doolittle, Nationals
My choice for 2020 Covid A.L. MVP
Is there any reason why we, as a barely functioning society descending into chaos, deserve this “reward?” My feelings heading into the 2020 baseball season are an equal mixture of pure wonder, curiosity and the fetishization of a shit show. 60 games during a pandemic doesn’t really prove anything and is akin to a beer league or a wiffle ball tournament, and I believe that’s where the “wonder and curiosity” stems from. The “shit show” on the other hand should be fairly explanatory to any purist with a semi-open mind, as the winner of the World Series of Corona will be seen in hindsight as *Asterisk Champions (although slightly more legitimate than the Astros nefarious and refutable crown, but this time Manfred will supply a keg for the after party)
There will be cardboard cutouts in the stands and guys wearing masks sans spitting and licking with piped in crowd noise to simulate a good time; and why not throw a few drunk guys in the bleachers for maximum “realness?” How wonderfully psychedelic! How absolutely kitsch! Do we get pizza and snow cones after the game too? And I think we should all take a moment to thank whatever god we worship that at least one tradition–cup readjustment–isn’t going anywhere. Although ass slapping might still be up in the air because there still isn’t any proof the virus does or doesn’t spread through swamp-ass. Perhaps the players can celebrate with a slight nod and half-smile, akin to seeing your ex-girlfriend in a public setting as your current lover stands there, oblivious to the fact.
There is trepidation because of the naked truth that a few players (namely pitchers) that aren’t physically or emotionally ready will be absolutely GOD AWFUL and will single-handedly take away their team’s chances depending on how many times they trudge to the hill. One dreadful closer or set up man (think Jim Johnson in 2014) and your season is kaput, over, doneski, ancient history, yesterday’s news, finito. As you may or may not know, hitting is traditionally ahead of pitching for the first few months of any season. This means there will be many games that will be high scoring, good ol’ fashion “western shootouts” with pitchers in the interview room being quoted through gritted teeth, “I just couldn’t get my breaking shit over.” Remember that debacle in London last year? Get used to it, because there are going to be quite a few fireworks shooting off with the spark drizzle ready to inflame any random dumpster in the general area.
Hot button issues aside, athletes are not deities that are fundamentally different from us, but human beings that live in time and space. It will be interesting to see how they handle the psychological pressure of competition blended with mortality. Both will grip the continual psyche of all of the players in one way or another as the pelota flies out of the yard and the cash registers sing “God Bless America” while grandma quietly gives up the ghost in the next room.
I think it’s time to decompress, if only for a moment. The unfortunate and dynamic happenings of the past week has left anyone with an iota of compassion emotionally distressed and even questioning their own integrity and place in the social/political spectrum. But I digress– it’s time to embrace escapism and take a mental diversion by watching and then talking about the most brainless activity known to man…the MLB draft. In the past (pre-internet) this activity was relegated to a blurb in the local newspaper, but now must be scrutinized to the point of exhaustion on any self-respecting (don’t get any ideas about this particular one) baseball site. I’ve got the beers cooling and I’m already 4 deep. It’s high time I act like a professional journalist and do an impromptu review of the least hyped of the professional sports drafts. Let’s do this.
There is nothing more entertaining than watching a stiff Rob Manfred stand at a podium and announce a draft pick with the driest, most mundane zombie-like voice that any human can comprehend. Is there an elemental soul in there? The jury is still out if he’s a man, robot or a left-over from the cast of Night of the Living Dead. This is the type of show you’d want to watch if you actually hated sex because there is absolutely nothing on this earth that can turn off a woman more than Harold Reynolds talking about “statistical trajectory” or “cost/benefit analysis.” These guys are actually frothing at the mouth and full of hyperbole about guys that may never even sniff the majors but you’d think every single one of them was the next Mike Trout. It’s turned into an all out pissing contest. I’m 7 beers deep at this point. (hiccup)
It’s pick 26 and the Oakland ball club takes an 18 year old high school kid out of Turlock, a tiny valley town in California that is known for farming, meth busts and the Hell’s Angels that the locals have christened, “TurdLock.” This is a confusing pick because the A’s have made it a habit to take college players: at least during the Billy Beane era. Alas, this is the David Forst era. Tyler Soderstrom is a big kid with a big left-handed bat that probably will switch positions from catcher as he wasn’t even the best defensive catcher on his high school team. The most compelling aspect is that Soderstrom was voted the best high school player in California, a state traditionally deep in baseball talent. The sky’s the limit for this kid. He may be the next Terry Steinbach, may have a fledgling career in the minors, or may be packaged in a trade for a rent-a-player to help in a late season Wild Card run that has yet to be contemplated. Good luck young man, welcome to Oakland and good night. (hiccup)
“One of the most endearing things about baseball history is that it’s so packed with bullshit.” –John Thorn, MLB official historian
Joe Marty’s is a small-ish little bar and grill stuffed to the gills with baseball memorabilia located on a hobo-strewn, dusty section of Broadway in Sacramento, California. It isn’t uncommon to see a few meth needles lying around; the old Chinese ladies with shopping carts and straw hats are oblivious to the nefarious items as they go about their business of poking stray cans from garbage bins in filth infested alleys. This street was the hip place to be at one time, high school kids would cruise in low riders up and down the street trying to hook up with a hot girl or guy, but that was 40-some odd years ago.
There used to be a P.C.L. ballpark a few blocks away, but a wayward cigarette caught fire with a peanut and, poof, up it went in a ball of flames in 1948: a metaphor for a city that can, like a petulant child, never seem to take care of the nice things that it gets. Today, a Target store sits where the ballpark used to be, with the bodies of the forefathers of the city neatly tucked away in the earth for over 150 years in the cemetery across the street.
I was at Joe’s for Game 7 when the Cubbies finally kicked the billy goat in the face and won their first World Series in over 100 years– not the first American institution to be seemingly forever mired in a curse, as this seems to be the lot in life for the rich just much as the poor in a heartless, money-hungry mechanism such as ours. Erstwhile, they say every dog has their day, and I had a shit-eating grin on my face as the swarms of Cubs fans jumped around me in transcendent jubilation: as someone who enjoys seeing a rarity such as pure and unadulterated glee, I was also enjoying it historically as something more rare than Haley’s Comet or a sober Irishman. I felt that I was a kindred spirit to the ghosts that had suffered with this team and were no doubt sleeping more peacefully even though their lives had been long forgotten. I drunkenly kissed an Indians fan clad in Chief Wahoo amid the fracas although she was too young too know Albert Belle and didn’t seem too be broken up about the game. Do you think she was from Cleveland?
Around 1993-1995 I completely lost interest in baseball. Being in my early 20’s, my childhood interests waned and became passé–as they tend to do–and in my delusional mind, my new interests were a bit more sophisticated and engaging in an era that offered no safe landings. My interests in music and punk rock chiefly were blossoming into a near obsession: my friends and I tended to be critics who viewed the dominant culture of the day not with occasional skepticism but with permanent hostility.
In addition to joining a garage band, I was also delving into the often knotty literary and modern art worlds: doing my duty as a young person trying to “figure it all out” with a speculating, cynical, and sometimes critical mind. And as much as I loved to scan the box scores and catch a game or two, I just didn’t have time anymore with my band-mates, job, and girlfriend needing my immediate and rapt attention while I was learning how to piss standing up as a screwed-up human being in the paint-by-numbers slacker jungle I had created for myself. The coming-of-age ritual of being handed knowledge was tempered by the realization that it meant eventually outgrowing the certainties of youth.
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’s opinions much more, and wasn’t his vocation to think about thinking?…the absolute essence of the game)
So after reading a tiny smattering of the classics: Genet, Hemingway, Hesse, Didion, Auster (yes, and even that Post-Burroughs/Warhol/Patti Smith deluge we all overdosed on in our late teens/twenties) –I decided one day through a haze of mar-eee-wanna 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. It was a catharsis that I hadn’t needed before as my identity was becoming more complex and fluid.
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 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 a mystifying yet comfortably unorthodox 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, offering the viewer roller-coaster emotions, knee-jerk reactions, blissful states, and unadulterated anger in the vile pits of hell. This cruel game can also make an atheist recite prayer and a logical individual superstitious without apology or regret. Time seems to stand still and then speeds up again, with the changing of the seasons in the forefront amidst implied mortality–and shaping a world in which play seems vital.
Spiritually and morally, everything in life is a compromise. These are the kind of revelations that clank around your grey matter when you are experiencing day 15 of quarantine. I know what you’re thinking: tell that to the people hoarding everything. I haven’t showered in 2 days and my hair can only be described as “putting your fingers in an electric socket.” You can only read books, watch movies or scroll through social media (where the practitioners of uppity, hollow slogans are having a field day) for so long before tediousness stalks you like a hungry coyote. These days are a like a horror movie for a hypochondriac. The stores are out of bread, rice and toilet paper. We must distrust our natural inclinations to go out to eat or drink and socialize. I go for evening strolls and the streets remind me of Vincent Price in Last Man on Earth. And even though, by my estimation, we are all experiencing existential distress on some level or another, I thought I’d share a bit of the media that I’ve been digesting. For some reason or another.
Music: Duran Duran “Rio”– this album is silly, poignant, sexy and stupid. I haven’t listened to much music but this seems just about perfect because of its ability to see life the only way someone who has eaten the red pill can. And palm trees. Lots of palm trees.
TV: The Muppet Show– The jokes are corny and it feels like a psychedelic trip, but damned if you don’t forget that a pandemic is happening as you’re watching 70’s has-beens interact and sing with crazy animals, monsters and umm…Gonzo. Jim Henson was a genius.
Movies: Bad News Bears– Billy Bob Thornton plays the alcoholic, washed-up, ex-baseball player coach of a bunch of misfit kids on a little league team. A decent, funny remake of the 70’s classic starring Walter Matthau. Disappointingly, BBT never did ask for some french fried potaters mmm-hmmm. (Slingblade will forever be his best role) Highlight of the movie is when coach passes out on the mound while pitching BP.
Green Room– A touring punk rock band gets talked into playing a gig at a nazi skinhead shithole club in the middle of nowhere. Highlight of the movie is when they cover the Dead Kennedys’ “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” throwing the crowd into a hissy-fit. One of the band members stumbles in on a dead skinhead girl and all hell breaks loose in a bloody mess of punks, skins and random weaponry. Patrick Stewart stars as the leader of the fascists in a strange roll that really works for him at this junction in his career– strange that Captain Picard doesn’t anymore.
I was sad to hear about Kenny Rogers floating to the Great Beyond a few days ago. My mother loved “The Gambler” and would proudly wear his tour t-shirt when I was a child. His death was sort of a revelation as I had forgotten about the baseball player Kenny Rogers. My friends and I would always snicker whenever we came across his card in a wax pack. Rogers had a solid season with the Athletics in 1998 going 16-8 and pitching a workhorse-like 232 innings before being shipped to the Mets the next season for Terrence Long. Long, of course, turned out to be a bust while The Gambler (the baseball player) went on to play 9 more seasons before retiring at age 42. Rogers most famous moment on a baseball field came in 1994 when he pitched the 14th perfect game in ML history against the Angels. Kenny Rogers most famous moment came when he did the duet “Islands In the Stream” with Dolly Parton. R.I.P. Kenny. (the singer)