Stickball

December 30, 2009

First off, let me apologize for the lack of blog posts recently. I’ve been trying to figure out how to work this new website. Plus the holidays, family stuff, etc. You get the drift.

Anyway, I got this book for Christmas called The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem. I can’t give you a full review yet, but so far so good. It’s the story of a boy growing up in downtown Brooklyn in the 1970’s. There are some great descriptions of neighborhood stoopball games including this one where Dylan (the boy) gets his first hit.

Stickball in Havana by Walter Iooss.

Stickball in Havana by Walter Iooss.

You evolved in full view and secretly at once, grew bony and hairy, twisted out a baby tooth and spat blood and kept playing, claimed to know certain words the first time you heard them. A day came when you made contact, stung it somewhere not foul, rounded first before the bat clattered to stillness in the street. It was no big thing, you weren’t looking for congratulations. Dylan danced off on the manhole cover, second base, daring the throw, the next order of business. Reward for trickling the ball between Alberto’s feet. Leading off, batting one thousand.


He scored on Mingus Rude’s own home run. Struck out hyperventilating his next time up. But. Five kids in a batting order and no defense to speak of, you’d get up a hundred times on a night like this. Strike out ninety. Lace it off a lamppost and call it a triple, didn’t matter-you could
bunt a triple in the dark. The close of the day you’d resist like sleep, like sickness. One kid’s mom yelled for half an hour and even then nobody else paid attention, nobody went inside.

I love it. What a great couple paragraphs. Raise your hand if you felt just like this. I sure did. Those hundred at-bat days were the foundation of my baseball career and are the foundations of all the “less fortunate” kids in third world countries who are dominating the big leagues these days.

I’ll take one of those hundred at-bat, no pressure, no parent, making up the game as we went along, imitating George Brett, imitating Eddie Murray, imitating Ted Williams, learning how to hit the ball away from the “closed” field, no umpire, days over any four at-bat day I ever had playing organized Little League.

So many great things came from those days. So much baseball development….without the stress of having to perform or succeed or impress. Pure fun. Pure repetitions. Pure and simple baseball.

I know it’s a different world now. Pushing kids out the door and having them come back when the street lights come on isn’t really an option any more. But there’s got to be a way to facilitate this kind of ball, isn’t there? This might end up being my New Year’s resolution. To provide a place where kids can play pick up ball. Nobody watching, nobody judging, and no umps (figure it out amongst yourselves.) Maybe one adult – not allowed to watch the game….only there to make sure the area remains safe.

Would anyone show up? I’ll keep you posted.


Tiger and HGH

December 16, 2009

I wasn’t going to weigh in on at all on the Tiger scandal because People magazine does a much better job at infidelity than I can. Until now.

Now we’re getting into the performance enhancing drug arena and that perks up my ears a bit.

If you recall, way back on Sept. 17 of 2008, I wrote a blog about performance enhancing drugs. Here’s an excerpt….

Tremendous guns Tiger.

Tremendous guns Tiger.

So where does that leave us? Well, let me just start out and pop everybody’s bubble by saying that in my opinion, the day of the pure athlete is LONG gone. There is just so much more money in the taking side of drugs than in the catching side. The drugs will always be about 5 -10 years ahead of the tests to detect them. Like I said, nobody really cares, they want what they want and they want it fast and big and right now. In some lab in the hills of San Francisco they have probably have a rat bench pressing 200 pounds for crying out loud. And its in every sport, not just baseball. Even the pro surfers are doing it! I can’t wait till they catch a golfer.

So where is the problem you might ask. After all, the fans are happy, the owners are raking in the glue, and the players are indestructible in their own minds. Well, I’ve got a couple problems with the deal. The first problem is I’m a dad and my son likes baseball. Now he’s only 9 and I’m not saying he’s gonna be a grande leaguer or anything, but I would love to see him compete on a level playing field where excellence depends on skill and hard work rather than how good a chemist you are. Call me crazy, but I’m not thrilled about his hat size changing from a 7 1/8 to a 8 1/2 in an off season. A red flag goes up in my brain right there, it just doesn’t seem healthy for some reason. I really don’t want him to get to the crossroads where he has got to chose between hitting the industry standard 40 homers or going home.

The second problem I see is all those great players who have come before us. What happens to them? How do you compare the game of today with the game back then? After all, this is as Ken Burns says “a haunted game in which every player is measured against the ghosts of all those who have gone before.” Tell me, how are you going to measure Barry Bonds and Hank Aaron? Sorry folks, can’t do it.

So that’s that. Sorry, but I’m going to gloat for a second and say I told you so. I’ve been saying Tiger was on the juice ever since he went from looking like me to looking like Barry Bonds (which was about 8 years ago.) Mark my words, here’s what’s going to happen next. Someone will be able to come close to proving that Tiger was using PEDs and Tiger will comeback with the standard “I only used it to rehab my knee” response.

Now I can’t be 100% sure he’s using, and I honestly hope he’s not; however, having lived with and around it for about 15 years, I do have a pretty solid intuition for these things. And my intuition says absolutely yep. Some of you will say I have a keen sense for the obvious. Others will say I’m flat out wrong and shouldn’t point fingers without proof. Maybe so.

But I’ll tell you what’s even crazier. Tiger Wood’s life. How does a guy with such a squeaky clean persona have 50 mistresses? If he cheated on his wife, it’s not too big a jump to say he’s capable of cheating on the course, right?  And with access to the greatest doctors in the world, why would Tiger risk his reputation by associating with this HGH clown to “rehab” –  if he wasn’t using? I’ll tell you why, he’s got performance-enhancing-drugistis. And one of the side effects of PEDitis is you think you’re above it all. Indestructible. A Superman. Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds….doesn’t this story sound familiar?

Like I said, I wasn’t even going to comment on this mess. Infidelity is one thing. That would definitely have passed over (does anyone even remember Kobe’s escapade?) Cheating on the course is an entirely different animal. Especially if you have the misfortune of being the first high profile guy to ever get caught in your sport. Unfortunately, I think Tiger is going to be that guy.

And if he’s that guy, what a bummer. Here we all are thinking we’re privileged to be witnessing the greatest golfer that ever lived. Come to find out, all we’re witnessing is a fake. A great player, but like Barry or Mark or Sammy or A-Rod, not quite human. More like half human, half robot. We’d love to compare Nicklaus to Woods, but it’s impossible now. You simply can’t compare a human to a robogolfer.

If this does turn out to be true, sorry Tiger. I love you as a person and God knows we all make mistakes, but as an athlete, I’ve got to throw you on the (ever growing) pile with all the others. Just another guy who caved in and cheated. What a bummer.


Brian Kelly

December 15, 2009

Alright, can someone explain to me why Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly couldn’t have waited till after the Sugar Bowl to leave Cincinnati? You know what, never mind. I don’t need anyone to explain. Because unless someone has one of his family members hostage and is threatening to kill them if he doesn’t leave right now there is no excuse.

The guy leads his team to a 12-0 season and jumps ship in the championship game. Unbelievable. I guess the 12-0 part doesn’t even matter. They could have been 0-12 and I would feel the same way. Kelly is walking out on the kids he’s been in the trenches with for 3 years so he can gain what? 14 extra recruiting days?

Benedict Arnold.

Benedict Arnold.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand it’s a business and I don’t fault him one iota for taking a better job. Just finish the fricking one you started. For no other reason than it’s the right thing to do.

In my opinion, there’s no reason – money, prestige, better uniforms, better town, anything – that justifies his decision to abandon his team. And I honestly don’t see the upside for anyone. Everybody loses…Kelly, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, and the players.

Don’t tell me it was necessary for recruiting. I mean, if I’m being recruited by Kelly right now, there’s no way I’m going to sign the line to play for a guy I can’t trust any farther than I can throw. And I can’t be the only one. How does Notre Dame benefit from that? How does Kelly benefit from that?

I’ve never been a football player, but it seems to me that a big part of the game is emotion, commitment, protecting your teammates, playing for the school not the individual, etc. How will Kelly ever be able to give a pre-game-pump-up-your-player speech about playing the game with integrity with a straight face?

All for a couple weeks. Weak.

Not that anyone cares, but I’m officially boycotting ever watching a game Brian Kelly is involved in. So there.

Brian Kelly.

Brian Kelly.

Gammons to MLB

December 13, 2009

This year’s baseball winter meetings were pretty much a yawn for me. Who knows, maybe something will come of them down the line, but for the time being – Boring with a capital B.

The most exciting thing about the meetings for me was the blockbuster free agent signing (trade?) of Peter Gammons from the ESPN network to the MLB network. Whether you like his style or not, this was a pretty big deal. Gammons is legit. I’m not sure who his sources are, but the guy delivers the goods most of the time. He’s got great historical knowledge of the game and some pretty interesting insights. He works hard, he’s kind of weird (in a good way), and he adds some depth and weight to the MLB network’s lineup.

The big signing of the winter meetings...Gammons to MLB network.

The big signing of the winter meetings...Gammons to MLB network for a player to be named later.

This for me is the equivalent of Manny going to the Dodgers. Gammons could take the network to the next level. One thing is for sure. ESPN’s baseball ship is taking on some serious water. In the last year or so, MLB network has pretty much blown ESPN out of the water. It seems Harold Reynolds is getting the last laugh.

Look for Steve Phillips to pop out of the hat and join the network pretty quickly too. You might even see Tiger do some color commentary soon. You’ll really know that the ESPN baseball ship has sunk if MLB lures Buster Olney over to their side.

It’s all good in the end. I’m sure ESPN will survive, and we (the baseball fans) will thrive no matter what.

The 2009 Hot List

December 11, 2009

The end of the year is a good time to reflect. A time to appreciate the good things in your life and take stock of the things you can improve upon. A time to be thankful (for example – that your not Tiger), and a time to share with family and friends.

With all of that in mind, I present to you some of my favorite things as I reflect on the year 2009….cheers.

My favorite board this year, the Al Merrick Biscuit. So fun.

My favorite board this year - the Al Merrick Biscuit. So fun.

Buster Olney's blog.

Buster Olney's excellent blog.

Bill Murray is on my list every year no matter what. World class combover.

Bill Murray is on my list every year no matter what. World class combover.

The bright lights of New York.

The bright lights of New York.

The front yard garden.

The front yard garden.

The juicer.

The juicer.

The homemade desk.

The homemade desk.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Mark Rothko at MOCA.

Mark Rothko at MOCA.

Cy Twombley at MOCA.

Cy Twombley at MOCA.

The Louise Bourgeois show at MOCA.

The Louise Bourgeois show at MOCA.

Carlos Ruiz.

Carlos Ruiz.

The Five Finger shoes and discovering the joys of running.

The Five Finger shoes and discovering the joys of running.

The book.

The book.

The lens.

The lens.

Newport on a good cold west.

Newport on a good cold west.

The ride.

The ride.

Song o the year…wasn’t even close. Jay-Z and Alicia Keys with “Empire State of Mind.”

And Most of All…….

The Kids.

The Kids.

And most of, most of all – you Hillary…