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The following is an excerpt from Ron Darling’s book 108 stitches:
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.”
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.
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.
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?
The Oakland A’s, in their never-ending quest to acquire all white guys named Tanner, acquired Tanner Roark from the Red-Legs at the 11th hour of the trading deadline for a high A prospect. If Homer Bailey is akin to ramen noodles, I would say Roark is the 99 cent kimchi ramen bowl. (I love to add my own kimchi to these, but that is a story for another time.) This is simply a small-market team with a Wild Card shot trying to hold together their pitching staff with duct tape and popsicle sticks in order to appease their fans and try to pull off another ragtag Oakland miracle. And I agree with it. I’ve bought into the future and the farm system, I drank the proverbial kool-aid and didn’t want to give up high-end prospects. Let’s all raise a glass for 2021!
More trade deadline crap: I’m not one to criticize the fans of my own team, but if you are going to be the proprietor of any sort of media platform concerning a baseball team, you should at least know a simple thing like…who is the general manager? I read numerous cases of people slandering Billy Beane about the recent acquisitions/lack thereof with David Forst being the actual GM making the big, important board-room decisions. Are baseball fans really smarter than the fans of other sports? Is it really so difficult to take 10 seconds out of your obviously busy life to google something? And if the answer is “no,” should I even care about what you have to say? That being said, it was satisfying and hilarious to see Yankees and Red Sox fans (probably the best example of toxic masculinity) having tantrums over the fact that neither team made a significant move at the deadline. This probably also means neither team has a shot in the playoffs because, well, you know…pitching.
“Baseball opinions are like assholes, everyone’s got one and most of ’em stink.” –Harry Caray
With the trade deadline approaching there were rumors that the pitching-hungry A’s were interested in Noah Syndergaard aka “Thor”. The Mets asking price for the demi-god was a bit too steep and personally I think I’d pass–although Thor is a solid, arguably top-tier starter, I just wouldn’t give up the farm for another shot at a Wild Card game and a chance that Odin’s son wouldn’t even take the hill in such game. The ‘Fro has been (rarely) wrong before but I’m hoping that the ball-club acquires a less sexy, and ultimately more humanly, Mike Leake. (Yes, I like to start my own rumors.) Leake would come at a much lower trade price because of his pedigree, and with the Athletics bullpen imploding from overwork, an innings-eater such as Leake might be undervalued. The Mariners, as always, aren’t opposed to being fleeced on the “minimal interest” trade market and sometimes even welcome it.
I, in a blushing moment of boredom, was checking my WordPress statistics the other day when I noticed that someone had stumbled upon this very blog by googling the search term, “Bob Geren smelling his own ass.” Curiosity got the best of me and when I googled the same sentence the blog before you was the first thing to pop up. Geren, of course, was the Oakland manager that everyone (including his players) loved to hate and he and his forever constipated looking face is now in Los Angeles as bench coach of the Dodgers. Good luck this year, Bob. Once a Yankee always a Yankee.
In 2002 I was living in Los Angeles, being young, doing dumb things, and hanging out with pompous art school kids in my spare time. I was, for the most part, puking in their studios and stealing their beer when I wasn’t attending a gallery opening. I once wandered into a walk-in closet stacked with cardboard boxes and immediately walked out thinking I had made a mistake.
“This is someone’s artwork.” a friend told me.
I’m not sure to this day if he was pulling my chain. Such is life in Los Angeles.
October came rolling around and the Angels and Giants were playing for the WS title…2 teams I just hated with a passion. Whom to root for?
It was gay rights icon Harvey Milk who described Orange County best, in response to California State Senator John Briggs describing San Francisco as “the moral garbage dump of homosexuality in this country.”
“Nobody likes garbage ’cause it smells,” Milk told reporters. “Yet eight million tourists visited San Francisco last year. I wonder how many visited Fullerton.”
–The Angels had the Rally Monkey, thundersticks, (basically inflated plastic) douche-bag and mouth-breather John Lackey, the most boring fans in the league, and they played in a white-power wasteland famous for birthing Richard Nixon: Orange County.
–The Giants had territorial rights over the A’s, were kind of dull, and had 2 cantankerous schmucks in their own right (who hated each other) in Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent.
In the end we all know what happens. The Giants blow a 5-0 lead in game 6, Dusty Baker makes some half-baked managerial decisions, Scott Spezio becomes a legend in Anaheim, and the Angels win their first World Series title essentially denying Barry Bonds his one and only shot and leaving him crying in the locker room.
The only saving grace? At least it wasn’t the Yankees.
There is nothing more therapeutic to a man’s soul than cuddling on a velvet couch with a beautiful woman on a lazy Sunday and watching a hilarious, star-studded sci-fi movie based on a series of Topps trading cards. In this case she brilliantly chose Tim Burton’s 1996 flick Mars Attacks. I had seen the movie many times, so I didn’t have to watch intently and was able to periodically check my phone for the score of the A’s/White Sox game when the news hit the fan: the A’s had made a lesser deal with Kansas City involving 33 year old Homer Bailey for an insignificant minor-leaguer.
This trade was like eating ramen noodles; you eat it because you’re hungry, but it’s not really that appetizing or interesting. The A’s needed a starter….any starter not named Tanner Anderson, and Bailey fits the bill. The hurler was acquired for virtually pennies, makes the league minimum, (the Dodgers eat the rest as they ran Bailey out of town with torch and pitchfork without tossing a single inning) and the A’s are hoping against all hope that he can catch “lightning in a bottle.”
I don’t have the highest hoped for this trade considering Bailey has had a sub-par career, including a 1-14 6.09 ERA debacle in 2018. This could get ugly in a hurry. He has been serviceable this year, however, and the A’s are hoping he can simply keep them in games long enough for the offense to lead them to a few victories that perhaps will be valuable down the road when the smoke settles and 2 Wild Card teams emerge. This is the life of an A’s fan…the Red Sox get Andrew Cashner and the Oakland ball-club gets Homer Bailey. The rich get richer and the poor eat, well, ramen noodles.
The All Star Break is a long and punitive horror show to someone like me. The All Star game itself was a snooze fest (I was bored by the 5th) and the home run derby was was like watching paint dry; but with people sitting on couches, giving inane, contrived interviews and then slapping each other on the ass at different intervals. (Sponsored by T-Mobile)
I loved the All Star game as a kid but let’s face it– baseball players just aren’t all that interesting as humans. I love your athletic prowess dude, but don’t really give a shit about or have time for a Crash Davis inspired buddy-buddy interview with Jack Buck and John Smoltz leaving everyone uninspired with their deadpan deliveries. It’s like talking to your dad about safe sex while mowing the lawn.
Evidently I wasn’t the only one that was uninspired/would rather do anything else, as the ratings were at an all time low. Are you telling me that skits of baseball players pretending like they can play musical instruments and acting like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is cool and edgy didn’t stoke the imagination of the “youth of today!?” Thanks, Cleveland, but I think the answer was a resounding “no.”
After all the sickening schmaltz and corporate fuck-fest was over the reality of a pennant race kicked in.
I usually listen/watch games while typing and straightening my tie at work. I’ve got withdrawals that give me flu-like symptoms, anxiety, depression and restlessness. I need to drink a lot of water because there seems to be a thirst I can’t quench. I have to feign interest in Netflix shows or dating sites in order to chat with my co-workers around the water cooler. This seems to be an ample time-killer. Staring at a lap-top screen gives you headaches after awhile. My boss saw me dragging the other day and told me this: “the calm lake is a mirror.”
Did I mention staring at a lap-top all day gives you headaches?
It’s the All Star Break and I’m not really sure if I will watch the HR derby tonight even though A’s favorite/clandestine in the baseball world Matt Chapman is competing. I have unadulterated “pachyderm pride,” I just don’t care too much about one of my guys winning a home run contest. That being said, I did enjoy watching the old black and white 1960 episodes of Home Run Derby as a kid with Mickey Mantle, Duke Snyder and Willie Mays so perhaps I will tune in tonight just out of curiosity. These kind of things can be tricky, of course, because by my estimation if I’m not entertained within the first 5 minutes than I will give up all together and move on to another activity. There was just something cool about guys from the 60’s hitting dingers in an empty, creepy stadium rather than into a mosh pit of “ooohing” and “ahhhing” fans biting and clawing at each other for something they unrealistically think they can sell on ebay to put their kids through college. Plus, you know, Cleveland. Yuck.
I was reading random blogs when I was thrust into a magical internet wormhole, stumbling upon whentoppshadballs.blogspot.com and a write-up on the anomaly known as Mark Williams. I have always been intrigued by the more eccentric side of baseball and it’s players, and here is what I found: Mark Westley Williams is a former professional baseball outfielder. He played in three games for the Oakland Athletics of Major League Baseball in 1977, going 0-for-2 with 1 RBI. Born in Elmira, NY the last of three children for Virgina and David Williams. Retired in 1977 after losing interest in baseball after finding out that he suffered from anti-social disorder and allergic to egoistic inflation. Later attended West Point Military Academy, and Elmira College receiving a masters degree. Now can be found hiking numerous trials in upstate New York under trail name “Let Me Be!”
If anyone denies the “baseball is juiced” conundrum one just has to look at the career of Eric Sogard who had 11 career home runs in over 1,500 AB’s entering this season and 9 this year alone. More home-runs were hit in June than any other month in baseball history, including the steroid era. If MLB wanted to put this “shameful era” on the back-burner it sure isn’t displaying remorse as I’ve read numerous accounts of the baseball and its inner core being compromised after scientists with way too much time on their hands x-rayed and analyzed two different sets of baseballs, one of modern day and one before 2015. It seems like 40 home runs, once a milestone, will be humdrum, and which begs the question–who will be the next Brady Anderson? Shall we also judge and slander modern day players for HOF consideration because they played during the “juiced ball era?”
The baseball season can be summed up by the opposite theater masks of tragedy and comedy and the Yankees/Red Sox London Series was quite the definition of both. I watched the first game out of curiosity and was instantly turned off by both teams scoring 6 runs in the first inning. What some people see as an exciting, high-scoring game I just saw as bad pitching and a clown show. The first half of the first inning took 27 minutes alone. I’m not sure what kind of individual wants to watch a game with numerous pitchers entering to throw gas and dynamite on an open flame over a 4 hour period but I certainly don’t. I watched about 2 innings before the novelty wore off and I immediately changed the channel in order to watch old Twilight Zone episodes which were infinitely more interesting. I suppose the Yankees and their fans will be on the tongue of baseball fans everywhere until their eventual elimination by the Astros, the Twins or some random Wild Card team. The last sentence garnering a resounding “touche” or “you suck” with little discernible sway.