Results tagged ‘ literature ’

A short story ode to Mickey Klutts.

“Baseball is a universe as large as life itself, and therefore all things in life, whether good or bad, whether tragic or comic, fall within its domain.” –Paul Auster

I am in the far-flung recesses of my mind, probably contemplating throw-away culture or how the scope of time is too vast for humans to comprehend when I stumble upon the fly strewn corpse of a baby raccoon. My eyes immediately shift too a rather large, honey sweet black woman in stained sweatpants; a mother, and she is giving her child a tongue lashing for being a malcontent. She has a beautiful smile and a confident demeanor, she transcended simple tackiness and wore it well.

“The world needs structure! Without structure there would be chaos!”

Why was this profound? Is baseball chaos, structure or both? I’ve heard arguments for both the former and latter but I can’t seem to argue the contrary– and how did this short walk turn into mental digressions and glorious abstractions? Do I need to see a pharmacologist to ease this mental psycho-babble?

I suddenly trip on the curb, my modus-operandi quickly shifting from faux-philosopher into incoherent boob. The mother chuckles.  “You need to look where you’re going kemo sabe, it’s not good to look like a klutz.” I appreciated her simple candor, and she had no idea how profoundly I connected with her simplistic berating of a young ankle-biter. I made sense of the fog for a moment–I was a “klutz.”

 

 

The end of the innocence. (not a Don Henley reference!)

ernie young art

The great Ernie Young

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.

Bob Locker and the seagull.

bob locker 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.”

 

 

 

 

Kendall Graveman gets sent to Nashville, the mecca of country music.

2015-tsr-10-kendall-gravemanThe Athletics’ young pitcher and top prospect Kendall Graveman was absolutely shelled in his last two starts and subsequently sent down to (AAA) Nashville. The problem? The downward sinking and cutting action on his pitches that he used to get ground balls during his impressive spring training is missing. I have no doubt that the young man will be back soon, and as an effectively solid MLB starter once he gets properly schooled in the muscle memory category. He is already well schooled in the Bull Durham school of baseball interview clichés, “It’s just something that I’ve got to go back to work on…continue to work and not give up.”

My advice to the youngster while he is in Nashville is to learn about the rich history of music that the city has spawned. Here is but a very small list of bards that were born there:

The Allman brothers: This “southern rock”styled group had a string of hits in the 70’s. Unfortunately their leader, Greg Allman was killed in a motorcycle crash in 1971. They have re-united on multiple occasions in recent years to the confusion of everyone but their accountants.

Pat-Boone-In-a-Metal-Mood-No-More-Mr.-Nice-Guy

Boone getting cray cray.

Pat Boone:  All American, squeaky clean gospel music singer and Christian who confused everyone by putting out a “heavy metal” record and promoting it by dressing like Al Pacino when he was an undercover cop looking for a killer in the San Francisco gay club scene. The 1980 cult-classic “Cruising” is a must watch for any movie buff with a sense of humor. You can pass on the Pat Boone, though.

Miley Cyrus: Does this even count as someone with musical talent? Apparently her dad, Mr. “Achy Breaky Heart” was recording in or around Nashville when she was conceived because the whole thing reeks of STRANGE.

Donna Summer: I was bummed when I learned Summer had died in 2012. She had great success in the 70’s with some disco smash hits that will stand the test of time and that are still embraced by gay clubbers. She also gets bonus points for being in a psychedelic rock band in the 60’s called “Crow.”

johnny-cash-eating-cake-in-a-bush-highJohnny Cash: Well, technically the “Man in Black” wasn’t born in Nashville, but he did die there in 2003. For those of you living under a rock, Cash can be seen as arguably one of the most influential country music singers of all time. His most famous album “Folsom Prison Blues” was a standard on my turn-table for many years. A little known fact–Folsom, which is 23 miles north of Sacramento, my hometown, is quite the quaint and conventional little town full of cow-licked, barefoot little hicks munching on cotton candy.

Tammy Wynette: Wynette was called “The First Lady of Country Music,” and is arguably the most influential woman of the genre. She sang beautiful, time-tested songs about loneliness, heartbreak and the difficulties of relationships. Her most famous song, “Stand by Your Man” is one of the greatest selling songs in the history of country music. Wynette died in 1998 at the age of 55 and is buried in Nashville.

A fictional account of the adventures of Bob Hale, scout for the Kansas City Athletics.

scout Bob Hale was tired and just wanted to eat, have a beer and perhaps grumble to a stranger. He spotted a flashing motel sign in the distance and pulled his station wagon into its gravel strewn parking lot. There was a small light above a window/door that said, ring bell for service. The bell hadn’t stopped ringing before a short, twerpy guy popped up from behind the window, leaping from a portable cot that was hidden from sight.

“Yeah, I’ll take a room for the night.”

“That’ll be ten dollars for the night and it comes with a hot shower,” the twerp said, adjusting his thick horn rimmed glasses.

Hale pushed the ten spot across the wooden counter, all the while thinking about a card game he had lost a few weeks earlier.

“There a place to get a drink around here?”

“Yeah, The Double Deuce, right down the street. You’ll be in room 5 and check out is at 10.”

“Thank you kindly.”

The Double Deuce was a small place with sawdust on the floor and a jukebox in the corner. There were a few local toughs milling around mingling with their girlfriends. This was a cesspool, a dump, a junkpile and a shithole all wrapped in one, yet it was fine for a few quick drinks before stumbling back to the room with a melancholy residue. Hale was used to the more classy joints in his hometown of Chicago, but he was here on business so the intricacies of this hick town meant nothing to him.

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Kansas City Athletics owner Arnold Johnson (L) yukking it up with president Harry S. Truman. (R)

Hale had driven to Kansas City from Chicago a mere 12 hours ago. Arnold Johnson, the Athletics owner had set up a mandatory scout meeting earlier in the day at Municipal Stadium. The meeting was not pleasant in the mind of Hale as Johnson was more of an industrialist-capitalist than a baseball man. He despised men like Johnson who had  Yankee Stadium in his possession and were using the game for profit. He also had no respect for a man that had weaseled the team from the Mack family with the help of his rich cronies. Baseball was a little different, a little sadder, for the era of one of the game’s greatest figures in Connie Mack was over.

“What’s it gonna be, buddy?”

“Tom Collins,” Hale said as he lit his Cuban cigar.

“Sorry, pal, we don’t have the mixins’ for that. I can get you a gin and tonic if you’d like.”

“Sounds fine..”

One of the locals, the one with the Elvis Presley haircut, stood up suddenly and started barking at his girlfriend. Hale had the prescience to know that this would happen and didn’t move a muscle. There was a minor dust-up until order was quickly restored.

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local toughs.

“The kids today and their rock and roll,” Hale snorted.

“Yeah, they’re a goddamn pain in the ass, but I’m not one to turn away customers…say, are you from around here?”

Hale was wearing a Panama hat with cuffed khaki trousers, a sign that he definitely was not from around “here.”

“Naw, but I’m a baseball man…the Athletics.”

“Wow! They sure are big around here, buddy, you can be sure of that! Are you some sort of big-wig or somethin’?”

“Naw. I’m a nobody, an ass-kisser, a smudge, a nothin'”

“Fair enough. Well, we love the team around here…I just took my kid last month.”

“Actually, I’m just in town for a few days to meet up with my shit-kickin’ boss and to scout a local kid for the ball-club.”

“A local kid! Sheeeeeeeit. What’s the kid’s name?” said the bartender as he looked over Hale’s shoulder at the toughs.

Hale took a long drag off his cigar and exhaled just as “Rock around the Clock” poured out of the jukebox. The hoodlums started to dance in unison.

(To be continued……)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So long, J.D., you will be missed.

donaldson

This trade hurt; J.D. was easily one of my top 5 favorite Athletics of all time.

 

“We needed to do something that wasn’t timid.”

–Billy Beane

Billy Beane waltzed into the saloon again with guns blazing as he traded Josh Donaldson to the BlueJays for Brett Lawrie and 3 prospects, 2 of which are supposedly ML ready. I saw this coming when Kyle Seager, an inferior third baseman, signed a huge contract with the Mariners–all but pushing the A’s out of the picture for an extension during arbitration. Donaldson also had endeared himself to his already rabid fan base by calling owner Lou Wolff a cheap son of a bitch on Twitter, or in his own words, “they have plenty of money, my friend. they just tell everybody they don’t.

The fans are predictably upset and tired of the Oakland owners playing with MLB’s piece of the profit-share pie for ultimate profit. There is an underlying stench of betrayal, lack of loyalty and an overall disregard to the fan base. Donaldson was the Athletics most popular player and maybe the most popular 3rd baseman in franchise history. (sorry Chavy!) J.D. was very likable with his defensive hustle, power when the game was on the line and awesome trademark mullet/mohawk/rat-tail combo. He was visibly shaken and spoke to reporters about the trade: “I’m so shocked, I just got off the phone with Billy Beane, and I guess they got an offer that they couldn’t resist. I’m definitely a little emotional about it. Oakland is my home. At the end of the day, it’s a business, as much as it hurts emotionally. The guys in that clubhouse are my brothers.”

Brett-Lawrie-2

Our new guy…40 ounces to freedom!

I was/am a huge fan of J.D., and although I’ve analyzed the trade with a heavy heart, I am trying to stay positive and see the pot of gold through the rainbow, or as the Dalai Lama says, “In order to carry a positive action we must carry here a positive vision.”

1. It is no secret that Beane loves pitching, and the two minor league pitchers we received in return (Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman) put up some good numbers last year. You can be positive both of these gentleman will start a handful of games in an Athletics uniform next season all but assuring Jeff Simardizija or Scott Kazmir will be traded in a packaged deal for oh, say….Justin Upton.

2. Brett Lawrie plays 3rd base with a little bit of second sprinkled in…the dude has a shit load of tattoos and epitomizes the word “bro” more than anyone in my own personal life. The ladies might see him as a “sexy scumbag.” As far as on-the-field he is much younger than Donaldson (25) and is just a notch or 2 below J.D. on the offensive and defensive side. A major concern is his history of injury. He is definitely serviceable with the talent to be really good.

In the end Donaldson says this to the fans of Oakland:

“To the fans of Oakland: Thank you for all the memories on and off the field I truly am blessed to have been part of it. We have had a lot of great memories together and the memories I will have will always hold a special place for me. Everyday I wore that uniform with pride, and gave you all that I could. Thank you again!!”

Strap yourselves in Oakland fans….this is just the beginning.

Hot Dog Eating a Hot dog.

john kilduff

John Kilduff–Rickey Henderson 1980 Topps rookie

As longtime readers know, I like to incorporate different facets of life into this blog, mostly from the realm of modern art and literature. It tends to get a bit tedious talking about baseball players and stats and free agency and Bud Selig’s ego and PED’s and Hall of Fame voters and the widening strike zone until I’m blue in the face. We’re getting closer to the Christmas holidays, I drank too much Crown Royal and I’m feeling a bit silly.

John Kilduff was a loco personality. He hosted a “painting show” that I would watch late at night here in Los Angeles while sucking on the hash pipe. I was supposed to be writing a thesis on “Modern Art and Capitalism,” but this show seemed more interesting and vital at the time. I couldn’t tell if the guy was gifted or if he was a charlatan looking to make a buck, (he turned out to be both) and I loved it. Some of his work had titles like, “Hot dog eating a hot dog,” and “African-American titty burger.” All this talk is meaningless, you simply must see for yourself…

C’mon, come see a game!

A rather funny video….go on waste 45 seconds of your life.

 

 

Denny McLain, beer, dinosaurs and Jean Paul Sartre.

denny

“Get off my lawn!”

“Poured a caramel, amber, clear color with five fingers of khaki, frothy head, which settled nicely. Lots of bubbles streaming up from the bottom of the glass. Sporadic spots of lacing along the sides of the glass. Average-to-above average retention on the top all the way down.” 

Beer reviews have always tickled me. I enjoy the attention to detail and the ability to pick out the minutiae. Denny McLain was never a person that I fancied as a beer review kind of guy. In fact, if he was going to give a beer review it might sound more like the below quote:

“Its best ice cold, has a good looking creamy pour, and after the first 2 who gives a damn about character anyway.” 

McLain enjoyed the adulation and trappings of being a 30 game winner and also endured 6 years of prison for embezzlement, mail fraud and conspiracy. Life is but a dream. At some point in our lives we all must confront these four word sentences…Why am I here? Where am I going? What does it mean? I think McLain deserves admiration for sending these thoughts straight to hell, ripping out his balls and giving life the finger as he gives it the “one eyed salute.”

Sometimes over-thinking can be the bane of anyone’s existence. I just recently read a wonderful theory regarding the asteroid that landed in Mexico some 66 million years ago, in essence, wiping out 80 percent of the life on earth. The theory states that if the asteroid had landed 5 minutes earlier or 5 minutes later or even had a slightly different trajectory (we’re talking feet here) the dinosaurs would most certainly still rule the earth giving mammals no opportunity to thrive. You wouldn’t exist. The crap computer that I am typing on now wouldn’t exist. This was confounding to me because I had laid in my bed at times (listening to Depeche Mode….just kidding.) trying to wrap my head around the astronomical odds off surviving during the sperm/egg process and now the chances of being “me” were so large I would have to write the number down from here and the moon and back over a trillion times. (This is a made-up equation by the way…as you may or may not know…I am no scientist.)

Of course, at this moment in time most people in the sanctimonious world of baseball blogging are scratching their heads thinking, “what the fuck is this guy talking about?”– their hubris keeping them from thinking about not much more than grown men gripping wood, playing with balls and over-the-top vomitous nostalgia. It probably took you longer to read this essay than the time McLain was with the Athletics–all of 5 horribly pitched games towards the end of his career in 1972. That’s what the fuck I’m talking about.

Canseco schills for Old Milwaukee

I know, we’ve all had Canseco over-load this week, but this commercial is pretty funny and kind of poignant considering he’s a teetotaler. Go on….waste 30 seconds of your life.