Results tagged ‘ MLB ’

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.

 

Bartolo Colon breaks record and does time travel.

bartolo artsy“I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.” –T.S. Eliot

Bartolo “Big Sexy” Colon went yard Saturday night becoming the oldest player in ML history to hit his first home run at age 42. This feat was of a particular interest to me as he is one of 4 players in the league that are older than yours truly. (Alex Rodriguez was born the day after.) I also have an affinity for El Bart because of his superb dos seasons in a Oakland uniform including an All Star nod at age 40. These affinities moved to the physical realm as well when Bartolo made us all feel proud that he could be successful on the field despite his “physical limitations” and humorously strange haircuts. I, like many other fans, found it hard to believe that the man could weigh 265 pounds eating a strict Dominican diet of rice, beans and tubers. No, it was decided that Colon was also imbibing on American junk food.

We may all have a more mobile relationship to age than to other perspectives or subject positions … because we are all aging at any one moment. Bartolo’s rookie year with Cleveland was in  1997: I was a young man, 22 years old and living in my first ramshackle apartment with my girlfriend at the time. It was a second story, one bedroom tenement behind a raucous gay bar. Many times I was awoken at the witching hour to make sure that people urinating and fist-fighting in the alley weren’t breaking in to her car. (a black Dodge Challenger!) We worked at a coffee shop and liked to collect records and vintage furniture. We were naive and world-weary at the same time–and here I sit 19 years later with the conviction that life is no more than the sum of contingent facts, a chronicle of chance intersections, of flukes, of random events that divulge nothing but their own lack of purpose…equivalent to a Bartolo Colon home run.

Each life is irreducible to anything other than itself. Which is to say: lives make no sense. Thank you Bartolo for the echoes of the past and congratulations on a record that makes little sense and may never be broken.

More self-absorbed baseball reminiscing.

I'm assuming the penis and cigarette has lowered the value quite dramatically.

I’m assuming the penis and cigarette has lowered the value quite dramatically. Perhaps done by a jilted Reds or Dodgers fan?

At 12 years old my interests were the same as your average kid from the 80’s era as I enjoyed playing with Star Wars toys with friends, re-creating scenes from Return of the Jedi and eating the latest sugary cereal concoction that hit the market. Seeing that we were boys and enjoyed rough-housing, there was also the random broken window from a baseball being batted which is decidedly why my friends and I began making balls with newspaper and duct tape– in retrospect this was a genius move as we couldn’t care less if we lost the ball and there were no more broken windows and the inevitable grounding and ass-tanning that came with it.

This was the year I went to my first Major League Baseball game which was on September 26, 1987. I know this because my Grandfather took me because it was “Reggie Jackson Day,” and Reggie being his all-time favorite player made this game matter-of-course. The Oakland Coliseum wasn’t the out-dated monstrosity that it has become today and back then you actually had a view of the Oakland hills behind the bleachers, a view akin to Dodger Stadium today. The details of the actual game have been blurred through time, yet I remember being disappointed that Reggie batted only once (on his day!) in a pinch hit role, popping out. After a bit of research what had once been in my mind’s-eye, indeed, the above date held true. Ol’ Reg had stepped in the box once–popping out with runners on second and third in a 3-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox and their new pig-tail “C” caps.

After the game Reggie was in a bad mood.

“I’m not into talking about how wonderful things are for me when we’ve lost four in a row,” he said. “I’m embarrassed.”

“If we had won, it would be different. But right now, my esteem is low. My self-importance is microscopic.”

The box-score is interesting to me as I remember my 12-year-old self wondering, “Who in the hell is Walt Weiss?” (Regular short-stop Alfredo Griffin must have been hurt or taking the day off) Weiss was in his third month in the league, and went on to win Rookie of the Year the next season. Long time Oakland A’s pitching coach Curt Young started the game, pitching 7 strong innings and giving up 1 run. (This wasn’t part of my memory, as the only one I remember is Reggie batting once and popping out which probably destroyed my belief in predestiny and prepared me for the heartbreak and disappointment of being an A’s fan for years to come) Overall, I don’t remember much as far as feelings or any other waxing “ball park details”, except the expansiveness of the field, my grandfathers chain-smoking of Marlboro “Reds”, and pissing in a trough for the first time. Yet, I must liken this experience to a crack head’s first hit as it led me a life-long obsession that still exists to this day.

The dumpster fire known as the 2015 season.

The 'Fro agrees with this fans assessment of the "split caps."

The ‘Fro agrees with this fans assessment of the “split caps.”

Baseball doesn’t always follow a Hollywood script and neither do baseball seasons. This past season, for me, conjures up the old baseball adage: we came, we saw, we went home. It was a quandary from the beginning that lent itself to flaccid penis. We as Oakland fans simply knew we weren’t going to be contenders a month deep, and it can be tough watching games day after day, month after month with no hope for the immediate future and a bullpen that resembles something my dog leaves on the ground after a brisk walk. The A’s pitching has been at its worst since the mid 1990s and it makes me cringe at how they would look without Sonny Gray and half a year of Scott Kazmir. This team reminds me of the crummy baseball team on the Twilight Zone episode “The Mighty Casey.” Perhaps the Oakland ball-club should sign a robot as well or maybe Kelly Leak from the Bad News Bears. Hell, the alcoholic manager of the Bears (played by the late, great Walter Matthau) could probably hit as well as Sam Fuld. The rest of the team (except for a few players) left me cold– like a disease but with a prescription that includes strychnine along with the penicillin.
This past Saturday gave Bay Area baseball fans something to talk about (besides provincial animosities) as the A’s and Giants faced off with 2 of Oakland’s “Big 3” facing off in Barry Zito’s first ML appearance since 2013 and perhaps the final appearance of his career. (obviously my local A’s radio affiliate couldn’t care less as they decided to carry a Division 2 football game instead.) The game echoed the year to date: much to do about nothing as Zito and Tim Hudson were knocked around and each left before the 3rd inning. The fans gave each a heartwarming standing ovation as they skulked off the field in perhaps the most ultimate display of nostalgia and a desperate attempt to cheer about ANYTHING in a season of despair, disappointment and the worst record in the A.L. Is there any way to smirk on paper? Fans were actually excited about a dumpster fire… but at least this one had an explosion at the end compared to the many others we’ve experienced that were just slow burning tire fires. I just refused to bring out the marshmallows.

The puzzling relationship between Reggie Jackson and his adoring public.

reggie puzzlePALM SPRINGS, March 23rd 1985 — Reggie Jackson and Brian Downing were involved in an altercation with an unidentified man following the Angels’ 8-1 exhibition victory over the Cleveland Indians at Tucson Friday.
The incident took place in the parking lot at Hi Corbett Field as Jackson and Downing were preparing to return to the Angel training base at Mesa, Ariz.
Jackson, reached by phone Friday night, said he was merely responding to the man’s belligerence by trying to restrain him. He said no punches were thrown and that the man ultimately apologized as he and Downing left in Downing’s car.
Witnesses told the Arizona Daily Star that the man had heckled Jackson throughout the game and continued to do so in the parking lot. They said that while there were no punches, the heckler suffered a cut lip, apparently in the jostling near Downing’s car.
by Brody D-Bag (name changed to protect the “innocent.”)
My buddies and I took a trip to Palm Springs in 1985 to get away from our wives, kids, jobs and the everyday hustle and bustle. I was working in real estate at the time and had the persona of a world class douche-bag. (hey, it was the 80’s!) We had been partying voraciously all week and had all downed a few “hair of the dog” bloody marys that morning before Dave looked in the newspaper and found that the Angels were in town for Spring Training.
“I want to see that .220 hitting son of a bitch play!” Dave screamed as he buttoned his Hawaiian shirt.
I knew who he was talking about– Mr. Hot Dog himself, Reggie Jackson.
We all climbed in the car, eyes bloodshot and ready for some beers, sun and some good times. Of course, we parked ourselves in the right field bleachers and proceeded to heckle Jackson mercilessly, as only 10 year olds can. FINALLY in the 8th inning, he turned around and gave us the finger. It was a triumphant moment of immaturity.
After the game I approached Reggie in a drunken stupor in the parking lot and tried to shake his hand.
“You and your friends were the assholes in the bleachers!” he said as he grabbed my wrists and shoved me to the ground.
Jackson then jumped in fellow player Brian Downing’s car and they sped off. It was later reported that I was shoving kids and offered him cocaine…in Spanish. I am not proud of my actions and have always regretted every moment, but that statement simply wasn’t true.
I don’t even speak Spanish.

The ‘Fro takes in a minor league game.

braden

Get off my mound!

 

I’m zipping at 80 MPH down the I-5 freeway from Sacramento to Stockton on a 2 lane asphalt road littered with tomatoes and dead possum. The smell of cow manure is thick and constant as it tends to be in California’s Central Valley. I am on my way to Banner Island Ballpark, home of the Oakland A’s single A affiliate, The Stockton Ports. I had contacted the Ports a week earlier and their representatives were kind enough to give me a free ticket directly behind home plate complete with media credentials. The mixture of early evening and broad anticipation were beautiful, and the sun was burning into my windshield as I daydreamed about life on a farm while they passed by in bunches like failed dreams and time.
Stockton is a city that has dealt with civic bankruptcy, gang-related crime and drugs; and like many other California cities during tough economic times Banner Island Ballpark is incipient of the city’s attempt at downtown revitalization and a catalyst for civic change. Built in 2005 and seating 5,200 the ballpark is a quaint and intimate gem sitting on the waterfront. I was impressed by the amount of fans waiting patiently for the gates to open an hour before the game, many wearing Athletics gear. The fans were lively and animated, a few old ladies were scoring the game and there was even an older gentleman sporting a handlebar mustache with a plastic megaphone heckling the opposing team. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed minor league baseball and was absolutely enthralled by the passion these fans were showing; I half expected Susan Sarandon to waddle by in a tight dress with a sexy Carolina accent and a copy of Walt Whitman.
The past: Dallas “Perfect Game” Braden is somewhat of a legend in Oakland because of his perfect game on Mother’s Day in 2010, but the Stockton native is an absolute God here. The man with 209 (the Stockton area code) tattooed jacobon his stomach had his number retired by the Ports this year and is a dominate presence around the park. I think it’s a shame that his career was cut short due to a “shredded” rotator cuff as he was a solid pitcher and a gamer who once confronted A-Rod for walking on “his” mound. Today he is a talking head for ESPN and the MLB Network and I enjoy him on that platform as well.
The future: Jacob Nottingham, one of two players acquired in the recent Scott Kazmir deal with Houston looks like an absolute stud at 6’3, 227 and despite his baby face has the look of a future big leaguer. (I have read scouting reports comparing him to Mike Piazza) It’s been said that the 20-year-old needs to work on his catching fundamentals but I saw no obvious weaknesses as he seemed in control of the game and the synchronicity with his pitcher, Matt Stalcup, equaled a one hitter through six innings. Nottingham stepped into the box in the first inning and the P.A. announcer told the crowd that everyone in my section would win a free In N’ Out (a California hamburger chain) double–double burger if he, indeed, hit a double. The next pitch was ripped down the third base line for a stand up double and free dinner for me and everyone else on the way home. Thanks, Jacob. You have a new fan here…and will always be known as “Double Double” from here on out as far as The ‘Fro is concerned.
Final score: Stockton Ports 4 Rancho Cucamonga Quakes 0.

The namesake of this blog has lost his position.

burns all star rookie As much as we here at The ‘Fro enjoy Coco Crisp and his exciting style of play, it seems as if the Athletics may have found a new center fielder. Every baseball team seems to want to get younger, and it just makes sense to play a 25 year old over a 35 year old with a potential career threatening neck injury and a .044 average. 

Billy Burns is superior to Crisp at EVERYTHING at this point in his career. Crisp had 19 stolen bases in 126 games last year. Burns already has 13. (and this blog  thinks he need to run more!) There is nothing more to convey, baseball fans. This is a no-brainer and a (near) ending to an otherwise great career for the man who once sported a giant afro and punched “Average Game” James Shields.

There has been a bit of controversy lately about Kansas City fans voting in 8 position players for the All Star Game. Kansas City fans have taken it upon themselves be didactic about their “passion” for their team by telling other fans to vote for their own teams and even appalling others by calling it a “popularity contest.” The average baseball fan doesn’t know Lorenzo Cain or Omar Infante from Jean-Paul Sartre, so that is an almost idiotic response to the detractors. As far as “voting” is concerned, all it comes down to is glorified “click-bait” by the MLB brass to get people to go to their website. This is capitalism mzojodisguised as democracy which means only an idiot would sit around making hundreds of fake e-mails in order to sit around pushing a button 35 times (the most you can vote per e-mail) in order to see their favorite player/s in an exhibition game. It all comes down to what cities have the most unemployed/unsophisticated/bored fans.  

I have no problem with the game deciding who has home field advantage because the league used to arbitrarily flip-flop it between leagues before Bud Selig decided to step in and make it just as arbitrary. My question is this–why didn’t K.C. fans vote for the players who deserved it? As a child I would sit in the ballpark during batting practice meticulously punching the paper chads, all the while still voting for the deserving players as I wanted to see an exciting All Star game which didn’t include Mike Gallego starting at second. I’m not saying your average American sports fan is a moron, but then again maybe I am. Alas, even a child had a better sense of democracy and fair play than a bunch of adults with an inferiority complex. Let’s hope commissioner Rob Manfred does what Ford Frick did before the start of the 1957 game. Another boring, Midwestern town, Cincinnati, stuffed the box and had 8 players starting. An investigation launched by Frick found that over half of the ballots cast came from the local newspaper, printing up pre-marked ballots and distributing them with the Sunday edition of the newspaper to make it easy for Reds fans to vote often for their favorite players. Frick then decided to appoint Willie Mays and Hank Aaron in the outfield positions they righteously deserved, all but deeming provincial hubris irrelevant and ultimately outing the so-called “voting democracy” as a farce that still exists today in electronic form. It may have been just as “easy” to stuff the ballot box using paper back in the old days, but having to use a pencil to punch tiny chads seems a whole lot more indicative of “fan loyalty” than spending 25% of a lunch break to exploit a ridiculously low-security voting web site.

40 years ago this month…Reggie gets his ass kicked.

reggie north swap blowsReggie 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.

The origins of the “Mustache Gang.”

mustache gang

Rollie Fingers has the most famous mustache in baseball history…although he wasn’t the trend setter.

The following is an excerpt from Bruce Markusen’s amazing and vital book, “A baseball Dynasty: Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s. 

Reggie Jackson reported to spring training in 1972 replete with a fully grown mustache, the origins of which had begun to sprout during the 1971 American League Championship Series. To the surprise of his teammates, Jackson had used part of his off-season to allow the mustache reach a fuller bloom. In addition, Jackson bragged to teammates that he would not only wear the mustache, possibly a full beard, come Opening Day.

wally schang

Wally Schang in 1914

Such pronouncements would have hardly created a ripple in later years, when players would freely make bold fashion statements with mustaches and goatees, and routinely wear previously disdained accessories like earrings. But this was 1972, still a conservative time within the sport, in stark contrast to the rebellious attitudes of younger generations throughout the country.  Given that no major league player had been documented wearing a mustache in the regular season since Wally Schang of the Philadelphia A’s in 1914, Jackson’s pronouncements made major news in 1972.

In the post Schang era, several players had donned mustaches during spring training, yet, in each case the player had shaved off the mustache by Opening Day, either by his own volition or because of a mandate from the team. After all, there existed an unwritten rule within the conservative sport, one that strongly frowned upon facial hair. In addition, several teams had more recently instituted their own formal policies (most notably the Cincinnati Reds in the 1960’s), policies that forbade their players from sporting facial hair.

Baseball’s conservative grooming standards , which had been in place for over 50 years, were now being threatened by one of the game’s most visible players. Not surprisingly, Jackson’s mustachioed look quickly garnered the attention of owner Charlie O. Finley and manager Dick Williams. “The story as I remember it,” says outfielder Mike Hegan, “was that Reggie came into spring training…with a mustache, and Charlie didn’t like it. So he told Dick to tell Reggie to shave it off. And Dick told Reggie to shave it off, and Reggie told Dick what to do. This got to be a real sticking point, and so I guess Charlie and Dick had a meeting and they said ‘well, Reggie’s an individual so maybe we can try some reverse psychology here.’ Charlie told a few other guys to start growing a mustache. Then (Finley figured that if) a couple of other guys did it, Reggie would shave his off, and you know, everything would be OK.

reggie_charlie_0_as

Reggie and Charlie O.

According to Sal Bando, Finley wanted to avoid having a direct confrontation with Jackson over the mustache. For one of the few times in his tenure as the A’s owner, Finley showed a preference for a subtle, more indirect approach. “Finley, to my knowledge,”says Bando, “did not want to go tell Reggie to shave it. So he thought it would be better to have us all grow mustaches. That way Reggie wouldn’t be an ‘individual’ anymore.”

Rollie Fingers, Catfish Hunter, Darold Knowles and Bob Locker followed Reggie’s lead, each sprouting their own mustache. Instead of making Jackson feel less individualistic, thus prompting him to adopt his previously clean-shaven look, the strategy had a reverse and unexpected affect on Charles Finley.

“Well, as it turned out, guys started growin’ ’em, and Charlie began to like it,” says Mike Hegan in recalling the origins of baseball’s “Mustache Gang.” Finley offered a cash incentive to any player who had successfully grown a mustache by Father’s Day. “So then we all had to grow mustaches,” says Hegan, “and that’s how all that started.” By the time we got to the (regular) season, almost everybody had mustaches.” Even the manager, Dick Williams, known for his military brush-cut and clan shaven look during his days in Boston, would join the facial brigade by growing a patchy, scraggly mustache of his own. Baseball’s long standing hairless trend had officially come to an end.

 

Rollie Fingers riding a dolphin….and other random thoughts.

rollie

Maybe I’m crazy and maybe I aint

So was Picasso and so were the saints

I’ve never been partial to shackles and chains

I’m too young for breakin’ and too old to change.

–Willie Nelson

I think Chris Rock is one of the funniest, hippest and most intelligent modern-day comedians out there–and he recently had some poignant thoughts concerning baseball. Rock referred to himself as a “dying breed;” a black baseball fan. Here were some of the more interesting points he had to make with my opinions in parenthesis…

4 out of 5 viewers are white and the average median age is 53. (I may be the wrong person to opine on this topic considering that I enjoy the beauty and intricacies of the game that take historical knowledge and the ability to let time slow down for a moment. Baseball is a thinking man’s game and always has been. This doesn’t bode well for the modern generation that isn’t known for its voracious devouring of books or ability to slow down and daydream for a moment without looking at their phones to see whats “going on.” Scoring a game will soon be as dead as cursive writing. All of these things are appreciated by someone who is older and is wise enough to realize that slowing down is vital to enjoying one’s existence. As far as race is concerned, African-Americans also aren’t interested in International Soccer…the world’s most popular sport. The reasoning behind this is difficult and not an easy black and white (no pun attended) issue. I will have to ponder the reasoning behind this.)

— other cultures embrace “fun” more than Americans. The Koreans love the bat flip and the Caribbeans/Mexicans turn a ball-game into a virtual party. (I’d have to agree with this assessment. A lot of fans were unknowingly acting culturally superior last season for criticizing Yasiel Puig’s bat flips. This type of thing is accepted, even embraced in Cuban culture, and personally I see nothing wrong with injecting a little pizzaz into the game. This is not even close to an issue of who is “classier” or not despite fans using this term liberally during their borderline racist attacks on the man. The game is supposed to be fun…period. This isn’t a stock broker convention, it’s baseball.)

–Black people like to look to the future and the “retro” ballparks that are in-vogue embrace the past. (This is an interesting statement and actually gave me pause for a moment. I can see why American blacks would want to forget about the injustices of their past that are unfortunately still going on today. But I also wouldn’t want to see cookie-cutter, faceless basketball stadiums either. My question is this: what architectural aesthetic quality doesn’t remind someone of slavery/oppression? and does this make a European trip virtually impossible?)

–In other news: Ike Davis recently became the first position player on the Athletics to pitch since Frank Menechino in 2000. Davis pitched a mopike davis up ninth inning job in a 14-1 beatdown by the Angels and actually did a decent job with a scoreless inning. I wasn’t surprised to learn later that Davis pitched at Arizona State as he looked like he knew what he was doing out there and had a semblance of command. It’s good to see Davis doing well early in the season for Oakland considering the bashing he took in New York with Mets fans and in Pittsburgh with Pirates fans. He is what he is…a platoon first baseman with above average defensive skills and a little pop that will probably bat in the lower .200’s. Anything is better than Daric Barton and I think A’s fans realize that.