How it looks: the Oakland A’s are a pathetic franchise that plays in an archaic, crumbling, feces-strewn, possum-infested stadium, only draw about 3,000 fans per home game, and have a squad of no-talents and nobodies that expect to lose 100 games.
The reality: According to Forbes, the A’s were the fifth most profitable franchise in MLB last year raking in 62.2 million dollars, which I’m assuming was garnered through revenue share (aka baseball welfare, which ironically was put in place to help teams, not bankrupt owners) and insane parking fees. This would make them more successful than the World Series-winning Houston Astros since the bottom line is profit–only the naive fans are concerned about nonsensical things such as wins, losses, and (chuckle) winning a “worthless piece of metal.”
How it’s going: I will, like last season, watch this dung pile for about a month or two until the losses pile up and I inevitably lose interest and decide that other summer activities are more pragmatic and worthwhile. (The Opening Day starter, Kyle What’s-His -Name, has THREE career wins, let that roll around in your noggin for a minute) God forbid I ask to be actually entertained by a ball club because that’s just not going to happen here. I would be wasting my time by essentially rooting for laundry as my emotional tie, affection, and nostalgia slowly die just a little more.
Besides, if I didn’t make it perfectly clear above…this team doesn’t need my money. In theory, you are supposed to go to a sanguine ballgame to lose yourself and forget about your everyday trials and labors, but the fantasy isn’t even safe there as the ineptitude on the field will be a constant reminder that you are being taken advantage of like a simple schmoe without hubris. Then you must proceed to eat that pile of shit over and over with a bovine, blind allegiance–licking your lips fervently and saying, “Yessir, more please.”
Burn in hell John Fisher, you horrible, awful, unsightly trust-fund baby.
“That man is rich whose pleasures are the cheapest.” –Henry David Thoreau
I’ve been dealing with a minor case of insomnia and had finally fallen asleep (I’ve written about this affliction on this degenerate blog before) when I was awakened by a couple of alley cats knocking over some plants on my porch. I knew I was screwed. There was no chance of embracing slumber again, so I layed in my bed for a while staring at nothing and dancing in synapse limbo before deciding to watch a random baseball game–in this case a contest between Oakland and Cleveland in 1991.
Five hours earlier I was half-assed watching the Schwarzenegger flick Commando, falling asleep just as our protagonist was chopping off the limbs of South American mercenaries with garden tools, and now Vance Law was stepping into the box on an early 90’s casual and freewheeling July evening in a city known for polluted river fires, rock n’ roll baseball riots, and other naughty examples of human depravity.
The announcers made a joke about the spectacled player looking like an Australian golfer, and how he had played in Japan a year earlier. Unable to find a job due to lack of power or anything else valuable to a ML squad, (scratch that–he could play multiple positions) Law went to Japan to play for the Chunichi Dragons, hitting well and being rewarded with a minor league contract. In a moment of desperation, the A’s recalled Law from Tacoma when regular third baseman Carney Lansford (a favorite) went on the IL–and he proceeded to play terribly hitting .209 in 134 AB’s before deciding to hang ‘em up.
The successful Japanese season was fugazi so to speak.
What does all this add up to? Well, two happy-as-hell gatos tearing up the neighborhood like a couple of coke-addled Hells Angels, and me witnessing the highlight of Vance Law’s Oakland A’s career–an RBI single down the right field line. So,….not much.
(I feel the need to mention that Law made a mind-boggling and bonehead (genius?) play when the very next batter grounded to first and instead of trying to break up the double play at second–per usual–he pirouetted and returned to first, interfering with the relay throw. An attempted 3-4-3 penciled-in instead as a 3-4. Alas, there was some squawking and stomping from the Cleveland manager, but no interference was called. Law was released 3 months later.)
I am currently reading Haruki Murakami’s Novelist as a Vocation, and I thought this was an interesting passage. I hope everyone enjoys it.
One bright afternoon in April 1978, I attended a baseball game at Jingu Stadium in downtown Tokyo. It was the Central League season opener, first pitch at one o’clock, the Yakult Swallows against the Hiroshima Carp. I was already a Yakult fan in those days, and the stadium was close to my apartment, so I sometimes popped in to catch a game when I was out for a stroll.
Back then, Yakult was a perennially weak team, with little money and no flashy big-name players. Naturally, they weren’t very popular. Season opener it may have been, but only a few fans were sitting beyond the outfield fence. I stretched out with a beer to watch the game. At the time there were no bleacher seats, just a grassy slope. It was a great feeling. The sky was a sparkling blue, the draft beer was cold as cold could be, and the ball strikingly white against the green field, the first green I had seen in a long time. To fully appreciate a baseball game, you really have to be there in person!
Yakult’s first hitter was Dave Hilton, a rangy newcomer from the United States and a complete unknown. He batted in the leadoff position. The cleanup hitter was Charlie Manuel, who later became famous as the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. Then, though, he was a real stud, a slugger Japanese fans had dubbed, “the Red Demon.”
I think Hirohima’s starting pitcher that day was Satoshi Takahashi. Yakult countered with Takeshi Yasuda. In the bottom of the first inning, Hilton slammed Takahashi’s first pitch into left field for a clean double. The satisfying crack when bat met ball resounded through Jingu Stadium. Scattered applause rose around me. In that instant, and based on no grounds whatsoever, it suddenly struck me: I think I can write a novel.
I can still recall the exact sensation. It was as if something had come fluttering down from the sky and I had caught it cleanly in my hands. I had no idea why it had chanced to fall into my grasp. I didn’t know then, and I don’t know now. Whatever the reason, it had taken place. It was like a revelation. Or maybe “epiphany” is a better word. All I can say is that my life changed drastically and permanently altered in that instant when leadoff hitter Dave Hilton belted that beautiful ringing double at Jingu Stadium.
“Could you pick up Thai noodles at the store?” she asked while absentmindedly fixing her hair and periodically snapping the panties out of her ass.
She lives on the 3rd floor in an old building with elegantly crumbling plaster and no elevator. I would have to walk six flights and ten blocks. Then there would also be the obligatory chit-chat with the stock boy about semi-obscure bands that had mostly deceased members. Of course, I would have to stare at the cereal, in a daze, for about 5 minutes before making the “mature” decision and buying one with less sugar.
“Is it dire now? Spring Training started today and I just wanted to catch a few innings.”
(I was interested in seeing how the new, extra large, clown-car bases affected the game)
“It’s just that I’m really craving Thai curry.”
She was listening to French Caribbean music which was making me feel euphoric with its bouncy, tropical vibe. En Fuego. The record was horribly scratched so I assumed she picked it up secondhand.
“I understand completely, it’s just that I’m taking a sabbatical from your taste buds for about an hour…or a few innings.”
I loved her because she was this and that and a million other euphemisms, but the current situation, as Elvis would say, “needs a little less conversation.”
Oh yeah, A’s beat the Snakes 12-7.
Mark over at Retro Simba, ever the generous spirit, sent me some more cardboard gems in the mail. What a guy! There were some vintage cards mixed in with some modern-day players–some of which with the 1973 borders. I’m excited to send out the Dick Green (doesn’t that sound like the effects of an STD?) to be autographed. There were some Rickeys, Carney Lansfords, Dave Stewarts, Terry Steinbachs, and even a Reggie Jackson KMart card. (Man, I used to love those slushies from KMart.) The 1973 team card that was included is hanging on my wall at this very moment. I love that card.
These cards conjure up so much nostalgia and give me the butterfly feels in my stomach…so thank you, Mark. I will always cherish these little pieces of my past.
“Eighty percent of the people who hear your troubles don’t care and the other twenty percent are glad you’re having them.” –Tommy Lasorda
The power went out for about a 20-block radius in our neighborhood so a friend and I decided to get out before we withered away from boredom and our muscles atrophied. I was happy to read by candlelight but consented because she had anxiety and OCD and it was impossible to concentrate with all the pacing and agonizingly trivial jabbering in front of me when she became bored of the infinite scroll on her phone. I’d imagine her internal and external worlds were in perpetual battle with each other over perceived micro-humiliations and misplaced mojo.
“I know a really chi-chi wine bar that just opened where we can get free drinks,” she said, “and then we can hop on over to the museum.” Pacifying this incorrigible monster was an overture to trouble to say the least. “When you’re single after 30 it’s like you’re playing a game of hide and seek except no one’s looking for you.”
We wobbled into the museum two hours later when I took notice of this piece titled, “The Game” by David Middlebrook. The artist’s statement is as follows: In this work, the enormous baseball, a symbol of the American pastime, is a metaphor for corporate America. The funnel represents the tunnel vision of this greed, whereas the umbrella is meant to suggest a narrative that the system will protect the less fortunate but, being crafted from wood, will ultimately not keep them dry.
Of course, the artist could be using a metaphor about the angst-ridden life as an Oakland A’s fan or even the slow diminishing of the middle-class and social security–either interpretation fits well and I nodded my head slowly in a pontificating “art critic” pose with thumb and forefinger placed expertly on the chin as if I was laboring over unseen details.
“Let’s go…this place smells tragically of lavender Fabuloso and perfume,” said the girl. And we did, returning to the chi-chi wine bar where I spent more money than I wanted to before walking home with my brains feeling like mayonnaise. The power was still out and I lit a candle before quickly falling asleep in a room that had the ambiance of an icebox that hadn’t been cleaned for months.
P.S. Please give Horror Fashion Review a look and perhaps a follow. Grace does a wonderful job of reviewing the clothes worn by the dames in horror movies. Funny and forward-thinking stuff!
We passed through the iron gates for what seemed like the thousandth time. I hadn’t seen Cheech for over 2 years, and we agreed to meet at our lucky cemetery (we’re obviously individuals with an aversion to group activities) on a soggy, overcast day for some beers and conversation. I walked the 15 blocks there for some fresh air and to reminisce, and lo-and-behold my hometown of Sacramento was still trashy and rough around the edges. A homeless-enclave-hellscape with a Cheesecake Factory and a state capitol.
“Man, we haven’t been here since you were dating Alice,” Cheech said as he took a long, sudsy swig from his expensive craft beer while leaning against the ornate headstone of some guy who had died of tuberculosis in the late 1800s. Oh, the brevity of existence.
It was true, and I remembered Alice very well even though she was galaxies away from my everyday thought process. She was Nordic pretty like the blonde in Abba: same nose, toothy smile, and almond-shaped bedroom eyes. On one particularly boring Sunday, she asked me if she could read my horoscope. Out of all the things to structure personal identity around, the random date you were born on seems the most boring, I said flippantly. We had good times together, but It’s funny how you only seem to remember moments that have the earmarks of being insignificant in the long run.
We stumbled out of the land of the dead before I mentioned that there was a baseball card shop a few blocks away where I impulsively spent 25 dollars on a Jose Canseco rookie complete with a pre-pubescent mustache encased in hard plastic. It’s really, really minty, I said over and over. And it was. It looked as if it had never been touched by greasy human meathooks–a pristine piece of Americana.
More cardboard treasures were purchased, and we proceeded to Cheech’s house where we decided on a lark to eat some “magic mushrooms.” Maybe it was the booze talking, or maybe it was because we were becoming less young and more old, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. I’ve been told that psilocybin cures emotional conditions and anxiety–and I refuse to argue with that analysis as we sat there for hours talking about hair metal videos (Stryper sucks and that is nonsubjective) and just laughing hysterically at nothing in particular.
I’ve got some time to kill on this chilly Northern California morning, so why not dig into the ol’ cigar box and tell some ‘graph stories? As you may know, my brain is a repository for worthless baseball stats, history, and mythos. Also, please keep in mind that these cards have a very strong and luscious scent of cigar stank that has slowly permeated the cardboard and will now follow them everywhereinperpetuity.
Most people envision Astrogate and the 2017 trash can-banging WS “Champions” when they think of AJ Hinch. I, on the other hand, will always remember him as being the starting catcher for the 2000 Sacramento RiverCats. This was an amazing time in the Capitol City as we hadn’t had a professional team since the Rangers-affiliated Solons (AAA) went the way of the dodo in 1976. The unveiling was a dream come true in every facet because our cultureless little burg had baseball again and they were an Oakland affiliate! Heaven. I showed up on a soggy and gray opening day (the stadium hadn’t even finished being built) and watched the starting pitcher warm up in the bullpen with his battery-mate Hinch as I stood there, drenched and confused about my emotions. I should be having the time of my life, I thought, but I’m just cold,and even worse…wet. I’ve been to many, many games since then and am still an avid fan of the team even though they switched affiliations to the hated cross-bay Giants. There are just way too many debaucherous 2 dollar beer nights, and sneaking into VIP boxes to speak of. Precious moments.
Canseco was close to divinity in my neighborhood as a kid, and his cards were hoarded like Scrooge McDuck hoarded gold. (The A’s were a powerhouse then, and if you were alive the last time they won a WS–it’s time for a prostate exam) My grandfather took me to a card show st the time, and we met the superstar and had him sign a ball for 20 bucks or whatever the price was. Now I just think of him as a guy who blew his finger off while cleaning a gun, and maybe even the hombre who saved baseball from eating itself. (Brady Anderson anyone?) A tarnished man, but relatable and simply human–albeit, a human whose reach far exceeded his tenuous and fingerless grasp.
In his book, Canseco exposed the hypocrisy of MLB–and maybe even the hypocrisy of capitalist and empirical grifting entities as admired cultural signifiers in a sort of off-hand, metaphorical way–consequently spitting in the face of naive fans who romanticize “fair play” instead of seeing the Selig Era as a money-making, numbers institution at ALL COSTS. Canseco simply wanted to say, everything you know is a lie. George Carlin summed up my feelings astutely on the matter when he said, “Bullshit is the glue that binds us together as a country.” The only problem is that some people actually like the bullshit and will oppress and belittle anyone who even remotely tries to debase their fantasy.
Alyssa Milanoof Who’s The Boss fame has banged many, many baseball players…and at the height of his career, Barry Zito was one of them. I sent this card to him when his baseball life was all but over and he was chucking horsehide for the A’s AAA affiliate in Nashville. At this stage in his journey, he was playing for the love of the sport and was cynical and dismissive about the money-making machine trappings of fame, sports cars, and chopping lines in swanky Hollywood discotheque bathrooms with supermodels.
Zito had found religion and started creating his own music, essentially taking it back to humble beginnings. That’s something I can really stand by. I am not a religious man by nature, but the worship of money and status can’t be all good and it was refreshing to hear that from someone who had experienced the fast lifestyle and then proceeded to rise above it. His last Coliseum outing was against Tim Hudson and the Giants and everyone in the joint knew that this was their hardball swan song. The mound masters still had remnants of youthful vigor, but now with an essential veteran powder keg of wisdom and tricks. Alas, two-thirds of “The Big 3” didn’t have their “stuff” and got shelled that day, but it was a wonderful time and both left the field to a standing ovation. Pure nostalgia dopamine.
I hadn’t been to Oakland in almost a decade due to living in Los Angeles for what seemed like a lifetime. This visit reminded me that I once knew a girl who lived here with short, blonde, finger-wave style hair done with a sort of Mae West flair… a precious time of pre-internet and seemingly pre-insanity seen through the lens of a murky jar.
This girl lived above an Ethiopian restaurant on Telegraph Ave. and the smell of the food permeated the hallways. The memory must have happened in 1999 because I remember being kind of tipsy in her room while she was at work, and the A’s were playing on a broken, tiny black and white TV she must have found in an alley. (This was common for the young and destitute in the 80’s and 90’s) There was a babyfaced phenom rookie pitching named Tim Hudson, and I watched him toss a colorless complete-game gem before I dilly-dallied the 15 blocks or so in a rainstorm that was vertical and polite to the record store where she worked. Floating and ignoring beggars with dead eyes and an empty, automatism hustle, while mingling with the outlandish and counter-cultural. The break-up happened soon thereafter and was concluded quickly and quietly with a mutual shrug.
We remained friends after breaking up, but I haven’t seen “Mae West” in about 15 years after inevitably drifting apart. We both grew older and created new myths, and reflecting and jotting these moments down on paper is a state of autobiographical surrender to the void. Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’… Thanks, Steve Miller Band…I’ve always liked that song.
I now have horizontal creases on my forehead that I noticed beginning to develop years ago but only recently started to recognize as the onset of my inevitable material decline–as such, the sensibility of myopic, youthful indifference has been liberated and humbled. We spend our time in a dream, don’t we?
“To me, the golden era of baseball is whenever you were 12 years old.” –John Thorn
Lazy Sunday. There were men outside my house audibly cutting a tree into pot belly stove-sized pieces and annoying me in the process. The massive tree had fallen in the night, destroying 3 cars, and almost killing a neighbor who was standing nearby, which must have been quite tempting to the tree. She ended up going to the hospital with only minor head wounds and escaping relatively unscathed. What better way was there to toast the cruel, cold universe and its magnificent indifference for a fleshy speck in the cosmos than by cracking open some cheap, tasteless beer, scarfing down some pretzels, and watching a ball game?
Since the latest incarnation of the Oakland Athletics has stumbled through the throes of helplessness and confusion, and could possibly be the worst in team history. (challenging the 1979 team–who went 54-108–a distressing cross to bear) I decided to take a pass on that dumpster fire and sashay down memory lane, instead choosing to embrace a time when a young boy’s love for the game was genuinely all-encompassing and untarnished.The talisman from the past with horrible picture quality and incipiently watched in a room with cheap wood-grain paneling? A’s vs Tigers, May 3rd, 1987.
This was an afternoon game where every fly ball was an adventure with fielders losing their regular big-league swagger and desperately shielding their eyes while staring into the blistering light-blue void…completely helpless. The A’s end up scoring twice–once on a manufactured run that started with a Ron Cey single (“Stan Javier pinch runs for Cey, and The Penguin waddles off the field.”) and the second on a Canseco bomb to left-center that scattered a sea of shirtless, oiled, and clearly intoxicated sunbathers who fell over themselves while inadvertently knocking over their buzzing radios and wax cups of beer.
Well, yours truly has finally been published…actual ink on paper. Albeit, it’s just one short story in an anthology of 100’s, but I’m still pretty excited to have a tangible piece of evidence documenting my madness, and even more elated that I didn’t have to deal with agents or manuscripts–no song and dance–in order for this to be actualized.
Backyards to Ballparks has a simple concept behind it, asking authors, “What is your favorite memory connected to baseball?” The stories are all different, but the heart and soul of the book are the same. What these “distilled snippets” all have in common is that tribute as to why baseball remains the American pastime–how it connects friends, families, and communities. These memories, often more human interest than play-of-game in nature, all have baseball as a setting, but speak to how The Great Game provides joy and anguish, nourishes family traditions, creates friendships, and can profoundly affect the ambrosia of the mind.
She just bought some bitchin’ clothes/Tosses her head/And flips her hair/She got a whole bunch of nothing in there–Valley Girl, Frank Zappa
I used to live on Huston Street. I’m not shuckin’ and jivin’ you here–look it up, it’s an actual street. It’s a quiet and unassuming stretch in North Hollywood right off the 101 freeway, and it’s pronounced hyoo-ston just like the former ballplayer. I always had a hunch that it was named after Walter Huston, who had won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1948 for his role in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Huston was considered one of the top character actors of his era–but I couldn’t state as a fact that the street was actually named after him, it’s just a half-baked theory.
The temperature is hotter and the architecture is sun-bleached and dull on the north side of the Hollywood Hills, which is generally seen as a cultural wasteland by the denizens of Los Angeles proper, and depicted as dusty, marginalized, lacking stimulus, and utterly hopeless in movies and pop culture. Lame. I mean, shit, the Bad News Bears were from the San Fernando Valley, and wasn’t coach Buttermaker considered an alcoholic has-been? Wasn’t the film narrative rowdy, working-class, profane, and consciously avoiding the cheap theatrics of a triumphant finale? The perfect metaphor for a place that breeds and exports scumbags with reptilian instincts for self-preservation. America in delirium.
Despite the negative reputation and mockery from friends, I loved that street. I lived two blocks away from a gorgeous park filled with “brown-bagging” cholos with time aplenty, and trash-talking basketball players. There was also a tiki bar a block away that had a time-worn, paint-battered sign saying, liquor up front and poker in the rear that apparently had never been thought to be re-touched. Proud of its crumbling state was a tiny fish and chips stand next door for conveniently sopping up the booze and chatting with girls when the bar was too loud and bursting at the seams with out-of-work actors from bum-fuck-nowhere letting off some steam. Another favorite of mine was the dark and smelly comedy club on Vineland Ave, and sometimes the patrons standing out front, and even the comedians themselves would give you cigarettes or free drink tickets as you sauntered by, searching for the next sliver of excitement in the humid jungle.
Although I haven’t been back in many years, the Valley will always make me think of lime and salt Tecate, the most beautiful, iridescent, smog-choked sunsets, getting drunk on Boone’s Farm in skate parks, abandoned strip malls, double-D bottle blondes in their 60’s, book stores with cats, screaming schizophrenic bums in a Ralph’s parking lot, and Mexican street parties with illegal fireworks and cumbia pouring from the speakers when the LA Lakers won the title (Kobe’s last) And, of course, Huston Street.