Results tagged ‘ oakland a’s ’

R.I.P. Joe Morgan

I have an old cigar box where I stash my autographs, baseball cards, and other assorted bric-a-brac. Today I was looking through it for the first time in eons when I stumbled upon this Joe Morgan pin. I didn’t really get to watch Joe play, as he had retired before baseball was part of my stratosphere, but I know he was a fine second baseman and a damn good leader on some star-studded Cincinnati Reds teams in the 70’s. He was also a Hall of Famer, a label that hasn’t been treated kindly in this demoralizing year of 2020.

I suppose when people die an individual always reminisces and then takes the inevitable look at their own mortality and wonders: When is my time? Where do we go? Is it just nothingness? So here I am raising a glass for you, Joe. Let us all acknowledge the fact that no matter race, economic status, or popularity that we will all end up in the same place. And that enough should be reason alone for us to try to figure out how to end oppression and bigotry so we can all live a better life, and hopefully achieve a more peaceful existence on this spinning rock that we call home.

Bring on the lying, sniveling cheaters known as The Asterisks

What a series. I aged about 10 years and definitely acquired a few gray hairs. At times I was sweating like a whore in church, and at other moments I didn’t know what to do besides pace and stare at my fingernails. It wasn’t lost on me that this series started exactly one day after the 100th anniversary of the Black Sox scandal. Did the baseball gods still care? This club hadn’t won an elimination game since game 7 of the 1973 World Series-that is-never in my lifetime. The Sox had a vivid fashion sense, were known for “Cadillac-ing it,” had the best pure hitter in the league, and the probable MVP. That being said– let’s dive right in, shall we? (To be frank: I absolutely despise series recaps on blogs. They are humdrum and as dull as dishwater. I know, what a hypocrite.)

Game 1: The gods certainly must have stifled a chuckle when the front office (or Melvin?) decided to start LH pitcher Jesus “Jesus Lizard” Luzardo in game 1, garnering a snarky response from Tim Anderson whose Sox were 14-0 against such freaks of nature.  And rightly so, as after the (predictable) loss it was almost a universal feeling from the fan base, with torch and pitchforks, that it was time for Bob Melvin and Billy Beane to make their exodus. The power of frustration compels me! Sox 4 A’s 1

Game2: Chris Bassitt my be the best pitcher in the A.L., and he proved it by shutting down the powerful Sox lineup, saving the season, and maybe Melvin’s managerial career in the green and gold. Mark Canha made an incredible catch in LF giving all the old coots LSD flashbacks of Joe Rudi in the1972 WS and essentially saving the game. Dallas Keuchel couldn’t get out of the 4th, the South-Siders tried to make a late-inning comeback, even loading the bases in the 9th before being shut down by Jake Diekman. A’s 5 Sox 3

Game 3: A HUGE 4 run 4th inning erased a 3-0 deficit and an absolute feeling of deflation and the “here we go again” sentiment that the fans were universally experiencing. This game could be forgotten as the playoffs mature, but for now it is one of the biggest wins I’ve had the pleasure of watching. It really could have gone either way as both teams left a lot of ducks on the pond in big situation after big situation before a 5.5 hole stinger by Chad “Swiss Army Knife” Pinder scored two runs and cemented the eventual final. Sox manager and hot head Rick Renteria made some baffling pitching decisions, playing “3-D chess” and pulling his starter in the 1st after 2/3 of an inning and using SIX pitchers to get the first 12 outs. A classic case of over-thinking, and now the fan base wants him strung up. What a strange managerial flip-flop. In the end, it wasn’t our problem as it was the Elephant’s first series win since 2006 and gives us an invite to Dodger Stadium to exact sweet revenge on the Asterisks. A’s 6 Sox 4

“I know a lot of people are mad. I know a lot of people don’t want to see us here,” shortstop Carlos Correa said. “But what are they going to say now?” I know what I would say: you won a “Wild Card” 3 game series and haven’t accomplished jack shit. Your pitching is weak. Quit playing the victim. My inner Joe Biden wanted to say, “Will you shut up, man?” If this team was a living annex of your personality, you would cheat on your wife and then return home to blame it on some other shmuck with an unapologetic smirk. Classic blame-shifting. It’s the Oakland A’s and every other fan in the baseball world vs. The Asterisks, and they need to be humbled in the worst kind of way. “Bang a Gong,” as Marc Bolan famously sang, and not a trash can. A’s in 4. 

Bring on the Sox

R.I.P Eazy

When I think of the White Sox I immediately think of N.W.A., Bo Jackson, Bill Veeck, Charles Comiskey, goofy softball uniforms. Carlton Fisk, Disco Demolition Night, Frank Thomas, Shoeless Joe Jackson, “Black” Jack McDowell, Tony LaRussa (this one is confusing), and last but not least….a completely wasted, living and breathing trailer-park-cliche father and son materializing from the stands to beat the shit out of an umpire

There’s a largely uncelebrated and rich history on the South-Side of Chicago, but much like the Oakland A’s, they hone their craft on the more working-class (black) side of town with “derelict” followers, so they get very little national screen time or respect from anyone in the baseball world but the rabid fan base that supports them. They are considered the plucky little brother from a city that can hardly pull their eyes away from the bourgeois North-Side Cubs that are synonymous with a large fan base of drunken college kids lurking in the bleachers, throwing up on themselves (and others) and not even bothering to at least go to the restroom to urinate when they’re not harassing and hurling death-threats at an innocent, headphone and turtleneck-wearing nerd.

Alas, there is a wealth of young talent on this exciting Sox team that would surely be household names if they played for the Yankees, with the likes of Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez, and Jose Abreau swinging the sticks, and Lucas Giolito and Dylan Cease taking the hill for the Medias Blancas de Chicago. And in an abrupt topic change, I would also like to take this time to thank the Sox for letting us defraud and embarrass them in the Jeff Samardzija for Marcus Semien and Chris Bassitt trade. We didn’t care much for Jeff in the East Bay anyway. Ribbing aside, I have much respect for this team and their history and I am looking forward to an exciting, highly competitive series that should be a treat for all baseball fans.

Hot Dogs!!!

A hot dog amongst hot dogs.

There isn’t enough mustard in the world to cover Reggie Jackson.” –Darold Knowles, Oakland A’s, 1973

Once a year on the 4th of July weekend, the world focuses its curious attention to the freak-show known as Coney Island for the formerly Japanese-dominated, highly anticipated athletic event known as Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. Half drunk crowds watch with glee as contestants literally stuff voluminous amounts of the mystery food down their throats like a starving 2-year-old child to the tune of a 10,000 dollar prize and accolades that only a B movie actor or 3rd rate hip hop artist could receive.

I attended this event with my bikini-clad girlfriend in the summer of 2006. She had short blond hair akin to Communist-loving Brigitte Nielsen of Rocky 3 fame and turned her nose up to the event. And I, like much of the crowd, was pleasantly buzzed and was absolutely tranquilized by the spectacle. It was a much more desirable choice than loitering on a dusty and windy East Coast beach while Eastern European chess players eyeballed the thin, blonde California girl who had been turning heads since she was a pre-teen growing up in a small town in the north side of the Golden State.

And in my hazy state on that sunny New York day, I started to wonder how eating hot dogs was a gluttonous spectacle, and “being” one in the baseball world was to be the same: an all-encompassing, excessive personality who craved attention and Reggie Jackson certainly was emblematic of this. The parallels were astounding. Like the hot dog eating affair, New Yorkers, who voraciously consumed gossip newspapers, had some sort of love/hate affair with NY Yankee Jackson: the “grotesque” that lovingly had a sprinkle of S&M around the edges. Pure, unadulterated spectacle display for a culture of ostentatious citizens that prides itself on having a vulgar personality and shoving mass quantities down its own throat for the sake of a story.

Pass the mustard.

 

A baseball player no longer

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:

https://www.shortoftheweek.com/2020/08/25/el-artesano-the-artisan/

Sometimes life is the Pitts

Card courtesy of whentoppshadballs.blogspot.com

Is hitting zero home runs in the big leagues like being a writer who was never published? Or is it about the experience? The tactile thrill of putting pen to paper and seeing jumbled thoughts form on the page in a cohesive unit without fan-fair, without a record of speech.

Done with love unrequited.

There is a collective, who? from the crowd and a lot of head-scratching. The pitcher sneers, why are you here? this refugee from the bush leagues. The player goes through automated motions before digging in, slicing dirt and skipping pebbles; stepping into the box without adulation. No one scurries from the beer line to watch your at-bat. Persona Non-Grata. No one writes about and examines your life and travels, quoting you endlessly. You are no Joe DiMaggio or Ernest Hemingway or any other black and white face on a postcard. 11 career base-hits. I’ve had more lovers than that. Every one categorized and resonated in my mind’s eye with a dying quail, a check-swing squib, a flare here and there, or a hotshot that juuuuust went foul. Our struggles happen concurrently with everyone else’s — and sometimes done with love unrequited.

A’s defeat Asterisks under surreal, Dali-esque sky

“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.

Trades, psychobabble, etc.

Through a shroud of cloudy-fogged smoke I had a constellation of ideas, but the major thought proposed in this imaginary world was a Franklin Barretto for Taijuan Walker trade, because….pitching. I am a proponent of pitching and more pitching. And when you think you have enough, you need more. It worked out that way….somewhat. Never in my wildest dreams of weed-induced narcosis did I think GM David Forst and I had some sort of non-verbal state of consciousness, and that we could just vibe together through time and space, but baseball appeals to the fanatical personality, so why not?

As of this writing, Barretto has exactly ONE at-bat for the Halos, so there is no reason to think “Mad Genius” Joe Maddon has any faith in baseball’s most hyped pinch-runner since Herb Washington aka Josh Donaldson’s little brother aka Mr. Nashville. Alas, baseball seasons (and careers) represent an indefinite cloud of future potentialities, so perhaps this kid from Venezuela can learn to lay off the two-strike slider in the dirt and become the superstar Brad Pitt had imagined when he made perhaps the worst move of his exemplar model of decision making. (Let’s leave Milton Bradley for Andre Ethier out of this)

I read somewhere that coffee has the same neurological effects as cocaine, and I have my doubts as I sit here this beautiful morning, typing this, with absolutely no desire to dance all night to 80’s New Wave or have crude sex with a stranger in a public restroom. Although the psychobabble, apparently, still applies, because here I am: howling into the abyss of the Internet. The narrative here is that the A’s made “A’s trades” when they acquired Tommy LaStella and Mike Minor. LaStella is synonymous with OBP, and there is nothing that gets the Oakland brass hotter than a truck stop hooker than being a regular on the base paths. Mike Minor was acquired for a couple bush leaguers because (good) starting pitching is at a premium. Give us 5 frames a game and call it a day.

Billy Beane famously said that the baseball playoffs were a crapshoot, so lock and load, boys. The dog and pony show is over. The A’s have entered the casino, fresh-cut, wearing suits, and they are ready to roll.

A simple, yet inquisitive letter to former baseball player Brian Kingman

History was unearthed for a few bucks.

Hey man…I bought this little pin at a garage sale, and it 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 reservations 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.) 

 

How did Bob Welch invade my stream of conciousness?

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. They all want your existence as nil. And this 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.

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. 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 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 cut in line. (I learned later that he was in a hurry because he was throwing out the first pitch, which was just as horrible as you would expect.)

There was an “Old Timers Game” before the real contest, with the Dodgers facing the Yankees, and Bob Welch was on the mound for perhaps his final outing on a big league field with his marvelously exaggerated wind-up and leg-kick. All these memories coalesce and swirl and there is little attention to any small fragment of detail as I pull them from the blanket 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 a lifetime ago.