Sam

Archive for the ‘Pet Peeves’ Category

Not feeling so patriotic today

In Pet Peeves, Satire, Traditions, Trivia and Nostalgia, Uncategorized on July 4, 2009 at 12:43 pm

Wasn’t planning on writing anything today. It is after all The Fourth of July. But then I tuned into Fox’s Game of the Week ( Dodgers-Padres) and found that their coverage of Manny Ramirez’s return to the Dodgers lineup warranted an entry.

It is as if Fox and MLB were celebrating Ramirez’s return. There was Manny all primped up in a pre-game press conference saying how nice it was to be back. No mention anywhere about why Manny had been out of the lineup. When Manny came up for his first at bat, Dick Stockton and Eric Karros fawned on him – again no mention really of why he had not been in the lineup for two months.  I could read the lips of one girl in the stands who was yelling “come on Manny,”  perhaps unaware that Manny had been suspended 50 games for drug use ( it being more likely that she knew but just didn’t care). When Manny hit a HR Stockton’s, call betrayed nothing but unbridled  joy while Karros added how incredible it was that Manny can return to the lineup and be back in top form so quickly.  All the while the fans cheered ( even though this game was being played in San Diego) adding to this sick feeding frenzy.

You wonder what kind of message this sends to people, particularly to young kids or to players at the lower levels of professional baseball who are trying to crack ( no pun intended, Manny ) a major league lineup ? The message I think it sends is that, hey, it is OK to cheat.  If you are good enough people don’t really care how you get there and they will still cheer for you. This is America.

A final irony. As were all the players on the field today, Manny wore a patch commeratiing the 70th anniversary of Lou Gehrigs famous Fourth of July speech at Yankee Stadium. This juxtapositon of class and no class was so funny that I could not help but chuckle before getting up to turn off the TV. I had had enough.

Happy 4th of July.

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Red baseball caps ?

In Pet Peeves, Satire, Traditions, Uncategorized on July 3, 2009 at 9:45 pm

There is nothing I love more than plopping down on the couch on Friday evening and watching a ballgame. After dinner tonight I turned on Giants-Astros game, Lowenbrau in hand ( a beer actually brewed in Germany, not one that  says “Imported” and is, in fact, brewed in Canada.  Read the labels carefully and you will see what I mean ) and just about had a cardiac when the Giants took the field wearing red caps !  So confused was I that it took me a few batters to figure out that the Giants were wearing these hats in observance of the 4th of July ( even though today is not the 4th of July but the 3rd, obviously what threw me off  in the first place)

Even my wife was confused when she walked into the room and glanced at the TV screen. Seeing the red hats, she asked me ” weren’t you watching the Giants game ?” I replied that I was and that the Giants were wearing red hats in observance of Independence Day, to which she shook her head and walked away.

The Giants franchise dates back to the 1880s and the teams have always worn either blue and orange ( occasionally in Mel Ott’s day) or black and orange from the early 1950s.  In short, the Giants have no business in red ! In fact, the only teams that should wear red caps are the Reds, the Phillies, the Cards and maybe a couple of other teams.

When I switched over to ESPN during a commerical I saw that other teams were wearing the  caps as well.  Giants Broadcaster Duane Kuiper mentioned that teams were wearing the red caps this weekend as a show of support for the Armed Forces.  But I suspect this is nothing more than marketing behind a veil of patriotism.  The cap is one more product – among a dizzying array of cheap memorabilia, tacky replica jerseys and chatchkis- that MLB can market to a growing fan base  ignorant about the history of the game. Sure enough when I went to the MLB website this morning, there they were, the “Stars and Stripes Perfomance on the field hats.”  If you want one it will only cost you $ 36.99.

Because this is America.

Interleague Play; not for the connoisseur

In Pet Peeves on June 30, 2009 at 8:09 am

Well, another season of inter-league play has ended. The world is right again. The Giants are playing the Cards, The A’s are playing the Tigers, The Red Sox are playing the Orioles etc etc.

Inter-league play is something I wish would just go away.  It has not only deprived the World Series of considerable mystique – there used to be much anticipation before the Series because it was the first time teams from the AL and NL met in any given season excluding an occasional match up in Spring Training – but inter-league play has generally sucked the romance out of the game.

In the “old days”  if you followed a National League team you did not even remotely consider the American League.  If you grew up in NY, for example, and were a Mets fan you followed the Mets and probably never even so much as glanced at an AL box score. Heated arguments would arise occasionly with your friends who were Yankees fans, about which was the better league, the NL or the AL ?  But that was the great unknown and in this respect baseball mirrored life in that there were some questions we would never have the answers to. For an 11 year old kid the question of whether the NL or the AL was the superior league was as important as the question of whether there was life after death ? Call it the Beauty of the Unknown.

Ah..the good old days…when the AL teams played only AL teams and the NL teams played only NL teams. And then in October the best AL team would meet the best NL team in a 7 game series. There was a purity to this arrangement.  It was as classic as Scotch on the Rocks. Interleague play, on the other hand, resembles a Long Island Ice Tea, a drink popular with tourists and frat boys, but most definitely not something for the connoisseur.

In Praise of Folly

In Pet Peeves on June 29, 2009 at 10:04 am

In San Francisco taking your baseball glove to a Giants game has become de rigueur. Every time I tune into a Giants game, team broadcaster Mike Krukow (“Kruk” as he is affectionately known to local devotees) applauds those fans who have brought their mitts to the ballpark.  Krukow proudly observes that Giants fans with gloves far outnumber their counterparts in other National League cities, and he always adds that by bringing a glove to the game one attains a certain level of “coolness”.

This is all news to me. When I was a kid the one thing you most certainly did not do was to take your glove to the ballpark. Taking your glove to the game was one of the anti-social behavoirs of adolescence, and if you even so much as thought about it your friends would mock you. And the next time they were going to do something cool, they would probably leave you out. If you could not catch a foul ball with your bare hands then you didn’t deserve the foul ball in the first place. That was the American Macho ideal in action at the ripe age of 11.

When I go to Giants games nowadays and see kids with gloves I really have to shake my head. But I reserve my harshest scorn for the adults with gloves. These are the kids from my childhood with buck teeth and black horn-rimmed glasses, who wore plaid short sleeve shirts and sat at the front of the room for Math. They talked like Sherman and Peabody and never popped their pimples. They are the kids who had no athletic ability whatsoever and if they had a baseball glove it was usually a Montgomery Wards or a Kokona, an obscure brand imported from Japan – before Japanese imports had cachet. Yes….they have grown up… but they are still nerds.

Maple Bats

In Pet Peeves on June 21, 2009 at 2:28 pm

Was watching the Giants game the other night.  Bats were exploding everywhere and one shard almost took the eye out of home plate umpire, Brian Runge. At that point Giants broadcaster Duane Kuiper turned to his broadcast partner, Mike Krukow, and said “partner…it is only a matter of time..” Kuiper was of course referring to the likelihood that one of these days someone is going to be seriously injured when a maple bat breaks and a piece of it goes in the wrong direction.

Not only are maple bats dangerous, but it distracts from the visual enjoyment of the game when players and batboys scatter on the infield every couple of innings to pick up the pieces of a shattered bat. The careless ease with which today’s player breaks a bat and quickly replaces it with another bat also de-romanticizes the game. Part of the lore of Joe  Dimaggio’s 56 game hitting streak is that he used a total of 3 bats !  The first bat he used for 41 games until it was stolen between games of a double header in Cleveland, an incident that made national headlines until the bat was returned a few days later. One of these bats sold at auction a few years ago for an absurd amount of money.  But what a great story !  Can’t see this happening nowadays when players go through bats like Kleenex.

There is a common perception that balls hit with maple bats travel further because maple is more dense than ash. For this reason so many players nowadays prefer maple over ash. Still you would think that MLB would outlaw these bats simply because of the risk they pose to players, coaches and spectators.  The fact that ballparks nowadays are smaller than those of yesteryear means that players will still hit their share of home runs. Moreover, the “dead ball era” tells us that baseball is not only about home runs.

But the league does not act because they are focused solely on making the game as entertaining as possible.

In the meantime we flinch with every broken bat.

Baseball accessories: The Shin-guard

In Pet Peeves on June 13, 2009 at 2:11 pm

It is a quiet Saturday afternoon here and I just turned off the Game of the Week. Between the interleague matchup ( Mets vs. Yankees) and the broadcast team of Tim McCarver and Joe Buck, I decided that my time would be well spent otherwise. Remember the “good ole days” when we were blessed with Curt Gowdy and Tony Kubek on a Saturday afternoon. What happened ?

Watching the game this afternoon, I notice how many players nowadays are wearing ankle-guards, Major League Baseball’s latest fashion statement.   In fact, today’s ballplayer is covered in armour, some of it practical – meant to protect against costly injury – but much of it cosmetic it seems.

As I just finished a book on Ty Cobb I thought to myself what would Ty Cobb think of this ? The injuries that Cobb played through during his career just boggles the mind.  Cobb once even took the field with open knife wounds, suffered in a scuffle with fans before a game.  No doubt he would be rolling – or more likely cursing, for such was Cobb  – in his grave if he saw all the additional protection that today’s player puts on before stepping into the batters box e.g. the batting gloves, the elbow braces, the ankle-guards….what is next ?

Not only are all these uniform accessories ( for lack of a better term) an eyesore but it slows down the game considerably when players have to call time to adjust their gear time and time again. No one is more guilty of this than Nomar Garciaparra who goes through a lengthy OCD ritual in which he fastens and unfastens the straps on his batting gloves several times before stepping into the box.

Anyway a far cry from yesteryear, when players, real warriors like Frank Howard, Norm Cash, Mickey Mantle, just grabbed a bat applied a little pine tar and stepped into the box to take their cuts. The game back then had a decidedly simple quality which it completely lacks nowadays.  

Why do I even watch anymore ?

Major league affectation

In Pet Peeves on June 3, 2009 at 10:38 am

Was at the Giants – Cards game last week with Lin.  Stopped off at O’Neils before the game for a couple Guinesses and a burger ( decent burgers to be found there ). Had the ’58 Hamms beer cups with me. One of the ushers stopped dead in her tracks when she saw those, said it reminded her of the old days at Candlestick. Ah yes..the old days…

Baseball has changed so much in recent years. I have noticed that whenever there is a conference at the mound these days, the pitchers and catchers have resorted to the practice of covering their mouths with their gloves – as if worried that someone in the opposing dugout is going to read their lips and tip off the batter about the upcoming sequence of pitches.  This little affectation – for such is what it is – drives me crazy.  All the more so when you have someone like Barry Zito on the mound ( I scheduled our visit to the ballpark last week around his turn in the rotation) who is going to give up a hit whatever he throws. Anyway, I wish pitchers and catchers nowadays would act like normal battery mates and discuss how to pitch to hitter instead of acting like two hoods standing outside Jiffy Liquors doing a drug deal.

“The vulgarity of too-muchness”

In Pet Peeves on May 3, 2009 at 10:49 am

Was at the ballpark on Wednesday for a Giants – Padres matinee.  What a beautiful day for a ballgame. Weather was sunny and about 70 degrees as the Giants took the field. Although I used to prefer night games, I have really come to enjoy day games now . There is a guilty pleasure one gets watching a ballgame in the sun with a cold beer ( even if it is a $9.00 beer) while others are locked ( metaphorically) in their cubicles somewhere.  And easy for me to do these days since, like millions of Americans, I was laid off a couple of months ago.

We took the BART and walked to the park from the Embarcadero station. As usual we stopped by the Bayside Deli to pick up a sandwich. Beats paying $ 10.00 for a “gourmet” hot dog inside the stadium. Those hot dogs are as grotesque as a Reubenesque woman. The last time I had one it was so soggy – because of all the junk the concessionaire loaded on it – that I had to throw it away after a bite or two ( just like that $ 10.00 down the toilet. that is a beer and $1.00 in change mind you ! )

It being Earth Day, the Giants were giving out re-usable shopping bags to the first 20,000 fans.  It seems like every time you go to the ballpark these days you get something. Among the Giants promotional events this year are:

Star Trek night (I kid you not)
Singles night
Legal Professionals night (these are bascially the only people who can still afford to go to a game )
LGBT night ( I don’t think this would go over well at Crosley Field )
Indian Heritage night
Irish Heritage night
Chinese Heritage night
Jewish Heritage night

and the list goes on and on and on.

Thinking about all this,  I am reminded of a remark the art critic Sir Kenneth Clark made about a painting by an old Dutch master Pieter de Hooch.  De Hooch’s style had changed over the years and his later paintings were much more “opulent” in their detail according to Clark who referred to this aesthetic as “the vulgarity of too muchness.” In another essay,  Clark wrote that splendour is dehumanizing, and a certain sense of limitation seems to be a condition of what we call good taste. In other words what the Giants and probably most of the other MLB teams are doing by giving away all this junk – and that is all it really is – is not in good taste.

Contrast this to the “old days” when teams had just a few promotions a year . With the Giants it was Bat Day, Ball Day, Cap Day, Helmet Day, T-Shirt Day and Fan Appreciation Day, usually the last home game of the year. Five promotional days a year and that was it. When you got your pocket schedule from the gas station at the beginning of the year , the first thing you did was to look to see when bat day was. Of course, they no longer have Bat Day. It is now “Kids Bat and Ball Set Day.”  And as you can guess from this description, you no longer get a real Hillerich and Bradsby signature model just  a cheap wiffle ball set.  

But in the meantime the cost of beer goes up. Go figure…