Results tagged ‘ writing ’

Bill McNulty and the Summer of Flying ‘Taters

“Baseball is an orderly universe, and that appeals to people who see disorder in the universe.” –Bill James

Got his only knock off Nolan Ryan

Breezy night. Moths fluttered and slammed against a lonely streetlight in the massive, darkened parking lot next to an antiquated football stadium. Earlier in the evening I had attended a photo exhibition/art show which was a prelude to the sanctity of the parking lot to smoke a joint with my friend, Bret. We had been invited by an ex-girlfriend with emotional wreckage and psychological traumas  from places I would never go; or care to. Life is always a shifting cast it seems, and here she was again, always cold and ever-present with a sexually ambiguous haircut. We gobbled up the free food and drinks eagerly. It all had the veneer of a high school graduation with proud parents hovering, shouting, drinking cheap wine and making congratulatory post- show dinner plans. These are the nights that crawl by at a snail’s pace. This being a community college, far from academia, there was the obvious “mystic chatter,” theatrical hand motions, and desperate attempts at narrative. Taking a break from this thing was imperative.

***

“Thanks for dragging me out of there. I felt like I couldn’t breathe.”
“No problem and no shit.”
“I suppose no man is impervious to the charms of a beautiful woman, despite their…fallbacks.”
“No judgement here, my friend,” said Bret as he spit out of a tiny bit of wayward reefer.
“This is Hughes Stadium, right? Didn’t the Sacramento Solons play here?”
“Yeah, 1974. They converted it into a baseball stadium and it was sort of a joke. I used to come here a lot with my dad…yeah, I’m old you sonnuvabitch.”
“You’re practically an antique,” I said jokingly. “Your only goal in life should be to outlive the national mortality rate.”
“Some guy hit a bunch of homers that year, over 50 I believe.”

***

When I’m stoned I tend to get bleary eyed, staring at everything but nothing, and here I was entering the wormhole and researching this mystic “50 homer guy.” Turns out his name was Bill McNulty and in 1974 he had an impressive 55 ‘taters, although most of them were “cheapies” because of the converted football stadium and the 233 foot left field line: perfect for a right-handed pull hitter. This wasn’t a “band box,” it was by my estimation a toddler’s crib. McNulty was also born in Sacramento, as I was, and writer Joan Didion before us. Interestingly enough, there was a also a stint in Hollywood as he had a bit part in a movie, 1985’s No Big Deal, starring Kevin Dillon, (Matt’s little brother) as typical of his brother in a “tough-guy with a heart of gold who got a bad rap” roll, playing a troublesome teen getting out of juvie and dealing with an alcoholic mother while trying desperately to get his shit together.

****

Mr. McNulty had exactly ONE major league hit: It was for the Oakland Athletics and it was off of some guy named Nolan Ryan, a soft single in which none other than Reggie Jackson was thrown out at the plate. And just like that, another ball-player is ripped from the “blanket of obscurity” and breezes into the catacombs of my mind as legend. There are so many beautiful things surrounding us if only we would take the time to look around every once in awhile.

There ain’t no cure for the quarantine blues

Wash them thangs!!!

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)

Spring Training is here! A’s to win the A.L. West in 2020.

I didn’t even shell out the six bucks for a copy of Baseball Prospectus.

It’s not important that I bring to task a Spring Training update; personally I find them to be tedious, but I suppose I must write something considering that this humble dissemination has over 2,500 followers and people actually read the thing for crissakes.

After last years embarrassing one game playoff loss to the Devil Rays, the following remarks swirled in my mind: pointless, not again, now what?, same old shit…who in the hell is Yandy Diaz? The ever graceful and future ace Sean Manaea blamed himself for the loss although it was a team effort as the offense was anemic and made to look bush-league. Watching the game was every bit the “Babylonian” experience.  This squad, however, isn’t a “soft reboot” as the youngsters have aged a year and have playoff experience with the following players expected to have a breakout year: Matt Olson, Sean Manaea, Mark Canha and Ramon Laureano. Little was added or subtracted this off-season because of the aforementioned. The template for most prospective playoff teams is a daily set lineup, (depending on L/R matchups, of course) and this team doesn’t have many question marks. Bob Melvin should only have to  do a bit of airbrushing here and there.

No Spring Training review is complete without a contrarian view and the second base/bullpen situation must be addressed here. Second base: Franklin Barreto has proven to be impotent, still can’t lay off the slider, and has spent more time in Nashville than Johnny Cash. He has two things going for him: he is young and the A’s front office refuses to get fleeced in the Josh Donaldson trade. Sheldon Neuse should get a look at the position as well because of the big season he had in the desert for Las Vegas. Bullpen: This was definitely a weakest spot as the ‘pen blew more than 25 saves last year with most of the guys being question marks except for Petit and Hendricks. I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple of non-roster guys made the team. Melvin will be working with patchwork and will be criticized many times this year for how he handled it whether it be his fault or not.

I see no reason why this team can’t pull together, win a roll of the dice in the playoffs and haul the “piece of metal” as Ron Manfred so elegantly called the WS trophy. I think the Nats of 2019 proved that miracles can still happen when you have strong pitching and a lineup that works together without one self-absorbed prick mucking up the works.

Josh Reddick is a douchebag

Fuck off forever.

The Astros pathetic and chicken shit apologies for cheating yesterday were more awkward than teenagers trying to have sex in the backseat of a car after too much drinking at the prom. It was inevitable but ultimately there seemed to be little earnestness and the “apologies” seemed to be the hubris of the entire organization.

But at least it was something…anything.

Josh Reddick, however, in one of the most sanctimonious interviews in baseball history, felt that it was “unnecessary to apologize.” What a douche-bag move and the worst decision of your career. Cody Bellinger told the media on Thursday that the Astros “stole the ring” and that “Altuve stole the MVP from Judge.” You think the players aren’t pissed about this? Do you think it’s going away and people will forget about it? Your legacies are tainted forever. The narrative here is that you’re a self-indulgent prick who doesn’t give a shit about the fans or even your peers–so why should we give a shit about you?

Reddick was a popular and likable player in Oakland at one time, (and this blog) deemed “Spiderman” because of his defensive theatrics, he then became an overpayed afterthought in Houston and now he’s become a completely worthless (still overpayed) ass hat. Take away the ridiculous contractual obligations and it’s debatable that he should even be in the league. The guy couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat.

I don’t know who will lead the league in home runs or RBI but I have a sneaking suspicion that this guy may lead the league in hit by pitches. Here’s to this guy picking himself up off the dirt while grimacing on his way to first base. Many, many times. The guy should have a panic attack every time he steps in the box. You dug your own grave, dude. Now it’s time to jump in.

Super Bowl shit show (literally)

“Shakira’s ass is amazing.”

I woke up late Sunday morning to gallop on down to the local coffee shop when I found a rolled-up cocaine-laden ten dollar bill on the ground. My lucky day, I thought. The neck bearded hipster behind the counter was talking to what I previously thought to be a homeless person about “simulated reality” before the conversation segued into Brad Pitt’s 1999 vehicle Fight Club.  I love this violent and political story-(although I find the characters to be juvenile, simplistic and self-serving)-of disenfranchised middle-class masculinity but this wasn’t the time or moment for a conference and debate.

“I highly recommend the movie in addition to the novel. It’s worth the time and it helps put the book into perspective,” said the espresso expert, and moments before I was about to disconnect his head from his flannel wearing body he takes my order of a medium black coffee with a splash of half and half. It was about 1 o’ clock so I headed over to my “baseball buddy” Manny’s house to watch Super Bowl LIV. We decided to play a game of Madden 2019 to kill time and he proceeded to “shart” on himself moments before halftime. Gross. After showering he eventually beat me 27-25. (Did you expect this blog entry to reek of any sort of profundity? The joke’s on you.)

The game itself was a pretty well played, entertaining enterprise and this may be America’s first look at a future super star in Patrick Mahomes. There was laughter at the mostly contrived commercials, debate on the attractiveness and booty mass of J-Lo and Shakira, beer drankin’ and pizza eatin’. Need I say more? The Chiefs eventually pull it out in the 4th quarter in a exciting affair, 31-20. Manny fell asleep and I walked home in a semi-drunken state pondering the game and thinking about the upcoming baseball season with a sort of mild euphoria.

Spring Training starts February 12th.

 

Mike Piazza sounds off on all the young whipper snappers

Prefers the heavy metal over the hippity hop.

The following was taken from Mike Piazza’s autobiography, “Long Shot.”

…I wouldn’t have felt (my age) at all if the music in the clubhouse weren’t hurting my ears the way it did. When it comes to music I feel like I’m as open-minded as anybody out there, but (the A’s) had a young roster and, well, man. I like rap just fine–hell, I was wearing gold chains back when Olivia Newton-John was getting physical–if it’s classic rap, or even the new stuff when there’s a strong rhythm to it. As a thrash-metal guy from way back, I feel like I can handle some rough language and graphic lyrics; but some of the more contemporary rap is so blatantly hard-core that even an old Slayer and Anthrax man like me has a tough time dealing with it. I guess it’s a matter of age and tradition both. You have to understand, I came up with the Dodgers when the stadium music consisted exclusively of Nancy Bea Hefley at the organ. When that was cutback to modernize the atmosphere–to make the ballpark sound like every other ballpark–they turned to entrance music, with each player picking a theme song. With the Mets, I recall Tony Tarasco coming to the plate to an X–rated, in your face rap number that had the whole stadium sounding like a bad-ass clubhouse.

Can’t say I cared for that.

Houston, we have a problem! (Did Mike Fiers save baseball?)

He’s on Fiers!

“You better get your head and your ass together or I will take a giant shit on you.” –Full Metal Jacket (1987) or Rob Manfred to the Astros (2020)

The scandal involving the Houston Astros has been disputed and pondered more than all the John F. Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories combined and I’m just about to put it to bed with a lullaby and an Ambien. The waltz of the heart and mind just wont let me contemplate ostentatious behavior for too long before the disappointment of the inevitable keeps me looking elsewhere for a more positive spin on things. Baseball, with its cult of the masculine hero-worship all but cold and lifeless should think about robot players…never mind the umpires. We will cease to worry about self-centered, money hungry, skin-sack douche-bags–at least until the robots rise up and destroy humanity a la The Terminator.

Where’s Kyle Reese when you need him?

Alas, no one really cares about baseball too much until football season is over and it looks like (at this point in time) former baseballer and pitcher Pat Mahomes’ son is going to showcase his unique skills in the Super Bowl. This is the time of year to huddle inside, watch some gridiron, avoid the cold, crush a few man-sodas and eat pounds of meat off the party tray after expertly picking around the gherkins and radishes. A friend of mine laughs at the new Budweiser “hard seltzer” commercial and compares it to Zima. He has no idea that these things are all the rage with college kids. Ok, Boomer.

That’s all I got for now…I’m off like a dirty shirt!

Jose and Ozzie try to get laid

The following is an excerpt from Ron Darling’s book 108 stitches

Big pimpin’ (that’s Toni in the middle.)

My time in Oakland introduced me to some of the game’s greatest characters, Cassanovas, too. High on both lists was Jose Canseco, who’d already been a perennial All Star and was MVP by the time I joined the club. This was back before the time of steroids tarnished Jose’s reputation– and with it his fellow “Bash Brother” Mark McGwire, who followed Jose’s 1986 Rookie of the Year campaign with one of his own in 1987. The two sluggers were like princes of the Bay Area who could do no wrong in the eyes of the A’s fans, who loved to watch them bash the shit out of the ball, then bash the shit out of each other in celebration each time one of them bashed another of their mammoth home runs.

What a lot of folks forget about Jose Canseco is that he had a twin brother named Ozzie, who briefly played for the A’s as well. I’ll never forget it though–not just because Ozzie was bouncing around the Oakland organization during my time with the club, but because of the particular ways he and his brother bounced…or, guess I should say, because of the particular ways they rolled.

My first wife, Toni, and I stepped into the elevator at the team hotel one evening, just as Jose and Ozzie were stepping off. We greeted each other on the fly, they were in some kind of hurry–off to paint the town Kelly green and gold, I guess.

As the elevator doors closed behind us, Toni looked at me and asked if those two guys were twins.

I said, “Yeah, they’re twins.”

She said, “Well, they both tried to pick me up.”

I said, “Welcome to the big leagues.”

 

 

The dog days of summer are here.

Raley Field. Sacramento, Ca.

These are the dog days of summer. The days when you buy chopped fruit from a street vendor, wear breathable shoes, snicker at people wearing cargo shorts, wear a light sweater at night, and perhaps even kiss a summer fling. There are blasts from boomboxes (cell phones) and people lounging and splashing in the river. There are people sitting on porches with a can of beer and with no hope of ever getting anything done that day. The days are getting shorter and the baseball season is slowly coming to an end, as if a lovely friend was planning a vacation for 6 months. When it ends it would have been a deep and complicated relationship full of thrills, contemplation, happiness, anger, and finally…heartbreak.

Recently my “baseball buddy,” Manny and I decided to take in Game 1 of the Pacific Coast League playoffs this past week with The Sacramento River Cats (S.F. Giants) squaring off against the Las Vegas Aviators. (Oakland A’s) I was particularly interested in this game because Daniel Mengden was on the hill and he and his handlebar mustache had spent a significant amount of time as a starter in Oakland this season, doing a pretty solid job before being sent down. There were, of course, a smattering of A’s prospects that I wanted to see in person although most had been called up when the rosters were expanded a few days prior.

Manny and I did our usual “pre-game” routine of a twelve pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon in the parking lot complete with the musical stylings of Slayer and the Circle Jerks. We stumbled into the stadium right around game time and settled into our seats a few rows behind home-plate. This game was announced around 48 hours earlier and was only attended by 3000 and change making the atmosphere close to a funeral. The catatonic-like atmosphere only got worse as the Aviators took a 6-1 lead in the third inning, turning anyone in the place not wearing green and gold into a virtual zombie. This was quite the opposite of an MLB playoff game in every way possible.

He got one!

In a desperate attempt to liven up this experience, we had decided to walk around the stadium and take in the game from every angle possible every inning or so. This turned out to be fruitful as I had a moment of kismet when a ball was smoked down the left field line, arching foul and entering my outstretched hand on one hop moments before going over the fence. Manny returned from the bathroom and I told him he looked liked 10 pounds of shit in a 5 pound bag moments before tossing him the ball.

“Can I have the ball, dude?”

Of course you can.

It was time to go. The game was in the bag and Manny had his foul ball. It was a beautiful, breezy night and I walked across the Sacramento River before biking home and immediately retiring to bed.

 

Canseco and Cap’n Crunch

I was standing in the queue at the local health food store with my basket full of over-priced, organic, local, vegan, cage-free crap when suddenly I was struck by a haze of fog known as boredom reminiscing. This phenomenon, where synapses are sparked by everyday mundane activities, usually takes me back to the 80’s and a much more simpler time before parents were “enlightened helicopters” and kids started bringing guns to school to solve their commonplace problems.

While in this haze I’m begging my mother to buy me Cap’n Crunch, if only because of the 2 free baseball cards inside. She obviously isn’t very modern, (alas, this is the 80’s, stick with me here) so she doesn’t know what the hell organic means, and her idea of a “healthy snack” would be a syrupy granola bar with chocolate chips or a fruit cup. The only reason she’s debating this is because she can buy the very same, generic version at a much, much cheaper price by the hideously uninspired name of Crispy Crunch. Well, this was a complication of epic proportions for a 12 year old. There was no chance of getting a fucking Jose Canseco or Mark McGwire card in a box of Crispy Crunch. What to do?

I’m startled out of this mini psychedelic trip by the impatient, too-cool-for-school checker with dreadlocks and a Nirvana t-shirt. She had been calling out to me, and like an idiot I was standing there, in a daze, thinking about the time I wanted to eat a box of sugar- laden crap in order to obtain pieces of cardboard with the likeness of guys who injected steroids in their ass so they could look like Greek gods, break a bunch of records and hit the ball out of the goddamn stratosphere.

Wasn’t it great?