Monday, May 31, 2004


More tales of mass-produced baked goods

There were no Hostess Baseballs at Ralphs today. There were plenty of Hostess Zingers, though, which rhymes with a baseball term ("dinger"), and which used to be a product of the Dolly Madison company and therefore used to be advertised by the "Peanuts" characters! See how this all fits together?

Now, does this mean I'm supposed to fill my luggage with Zingers, or does it mean I'm supposed to show up with empty luggage if I can't get Baseballs?

Original comments...

Levi: Surely you can make baseball-shaped snack cakes at home?

And you wouldn't think of leaving home for a long trip without some Hostess Fruit Pies, would you? Especially since we've already discovered that Doctor Octopus, for one, is aware of our itinerary?

Come on, Jim. You're supposed to be the good planner in this crew.

Steve: While I'm sure this will fall on deaf ears over at BRPA, maybe it's time you guys should consider corporate sponsorship. Perhaps you can get Interstate Brands to donate a suitcase full of baseballs for your trip.

Interstate Brands Corp.
Consumer Affairs
12 E. Armour Blvd.
Kansas City, MO 64111.

The phone number is (816) 502-4010.

Jim: What do fruit pies have to do with Dr. we keep throwing them at him until he has one in each tentacle, thus making him unable to grab us and do harm to us?

Trying to get corporate sponsorship sounds like a job for Levi.

Levi: "What do fruit pies have to do with Dr. Octopus?"

While you were reading about trains, Jim, the rest of us were rotting our minds with comic books. Rotting minds and rotting teeth go together, so Hostess advertised their fruit pies extensively in superhero comics.

The ads were like this.

Jim: See, I only read Archie comic books, which didn't rot your mind; they taught valuable life lessons such as the fact that brunettes are more desirable than blondes. Also, one character had an eating disorder (although the only consequence of it seemed to be the endless requests by Pop for him to pay his tab at the Chocklit Shoppe), so it's no wonder Hostess didn't advertise their products there.

Levi: When I was young, I had an Archie comic put out by Spire, a religious publisher. In it, some of Archie's buddies drink and drive and die, and Archie and friends (including, if I remember right, a ringer who was just in that issue (much like the dying friends) so he could spout some biblical verse.

Freaked me out and put me off Archie until adulthood. Now I can enjoy him, but when I was kid, I stayed away.

Jim: I also had a couple of the Spire Archie comics, mistakenly(?) purchased by my mother at some point. I don't remember the specific plot lines, but apparently, all the Spire Archies were about someone dying in a car accident, but not having to worry, because they were saved.

As a kid, I mostly bought the Archie digests, not the actual comic books, because that's what they had at Publix...sometimes in the checkout racks next to TV Guide and the Globe Mini Mags, and sometimes in the magazines/greeting cards section at the right front corner of the store. (I believe the link is to a picture of the actual Publix store I'm talking about...if not, it's absolutely identical, although the cars in the parking lot were slightly newer in my Archie digest-buying days.)

Jason: I had one of those religious Archie comics, as well. No car accidents, but instead the gang went to Africa to do missionary work. I think they ended up building a well for a poor village.

When I read it, I wondered why Archie got so preachy all of the sudden. Thanks for clearing it up, fellas!



Now ensconced on the iPod

This is only tangentially baseball-related because of the "Peanuts" connection, and because it has the potential to be played on the trip: thanks to Cartoon Network kicking off the summer season by showing "Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown" this morning, I now have the two songs from the movie on my iPod. Yes, one of those is the theme song, in which Larry Finlayson sings the profound observations written by Ed Bogas that "the sunshine is brought to you absolutely free" and that "when the sun sets down, it is gone, Charlie Brown." It's almost as good of a summer song as "Kokomo"! As far as I can tell, Larry Finlayson never did anything else in his life.

By the way, the All-Movie Guide description of "Race for Your Life" (sorry, I can't link to it directly) lists some things that aren't actually in the movie, but were in other "Peanuts" animated shows (and the strip, of course), most notably "Charlie Brown gets a 'go away and leave me alone' bunkmate." Also, they claim it was made for TV (as opposed to a theatrical release), list Larry Finlayson as a songwriter (as opposed to a singer), and misspell Charles Schulz's name. So, in conclusion, do not trust the All-Movie Guide, not even if you're trying to look for additional credits for Larry Finlayson.

Original comments...

Levi: For my birthday, Stacey crocheted me a very nice red iPod cozy with a Cardinal on it. I'm willing to bet I'm the only person on earth with one of these.

Jim: A picture of the iPod cozy needs to be submitted to the iPod Lounge. Since I'm already a member of that site, I can do it if you e-mail me a picture.

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Friday, May 28, 2004


More thinking on just rewards

I've been thinking a little more about the role one's behavior at baseball games could play in the handing down of eternal punishment or reward. It's a complex issue.

For example: Jeffrey Maier. You remember him. He's the twelve-year-old kid who helped win Game 1 of the 1996 ALCS for the Yankees by reaching over the fence and grabbing what would likely have been a flyout by Derek Jeter, turning it into a home run.

Now, my view on fan interference is this: feel free to interfere with a ball in play, but be sure of what you're doing before you stick that hand or glove out there. If you're rooting for the home team from the front row down the line, and the ball hit by the opponent is headed for the corner, a definite triple, feel free to lean over the fence and turn the ball into an automatic double. What I don't like to see is the fan who, wrapped up in his ignorant desire for a batted ball, turns his own team's triple into a double. It's all about thinking in advance. I guarantee that Scott Rolen, before each play, thinks through what he'll do in any situation. Is it too much to ask fans sitting at field level to do the same?

So Jeffrey Maier clearly fits into the category of righteous interference: he saw that Tony Tarasco was probably going to catch the ball. He may not have been sure that it would be ruled a home run if he caught it, but the consequence of not catching it was camped out beneath him. So grabbing it, despite the fact that he was taking a chance of being thrown out of a playoff game, was clearly the right thing to do.

But the situation gets more complex. After all, the team Mr. Maier was supporting with his action was the Yankees. And I like to think--Damn Yankees to the contrary--the gods know the Yankees are evil. What--you think the gods aren't as smart as a 6-year-old Sox fan? No, the gods definitely know the Yanks are evil. I think they allow the Yankees their success both as a trial to the rest of us, a test of our faith in our own teams, and as a kind of spiritual flypaper. Anyone foolish enough to fall prey to the easy seductions of the World Series trophies and the black-and-white pinstripes reveals a weakness sure to be noted by the gods.

So given that: was Jeffrey Maier's action a good action, in a philosophical sense? Is it likely to have added to the credit side of his spiritual ledger, or did it weigh down the debit?

See why the Old Testament God was so cranky? It's complex. I don't blame him for just sending plagues all the damn time rather than thinking about this kind of thing.

P.S. Added later
To clarify a bit the concept of "spiritual flypaper": I think of it kind of like the situation in Nina Simone's "Sinnerman": the sinnerman runs to the rock, and it can't hide him, then he runs to the river, and it's bleeding, and he runs to the sea to find it boiling, then he runs to the lord, who tells him to go to the devil.

The devil is waiting. He's always waiting. I picture him in a nicely tailored blue houndstooth smoking jacket, a circle of flattened cigarette butts around his spats a little indication of how long he's been waiting, knowing that the sinnerman would show up sooner or later.

Like the Yankees. They're content to wait until your team blows a 13-game lead or goes twelve years without a winning season or your cast-off first baseman rediscovers his youth in the very place Ponce de Leon came up empty.

Original comments...

Steve: So, according to this logic the Cubs are Isaac and Bartman is Abraham--only God decided not to intervene at the last minute.

Luke: >I don't blame him for just sending plagues all the damn time rather
>than thinking about this kind of thing.

How do you think we ended up with the wild card, green-screen ads and the Devil Rays? We also ended up with, for a time, Johnny Damon's hair, but if God truly loved us, the shaving cream would have turned to wine when it touched his face.

Other than a handful of personalities and talents who have made fandom worthwhile -- the Marks Grace, the Alberts Pujols, the Rickeys Henderson, the Antonios Alfonseca -- have there been any developments in the past 30 years to suggest God's grace? Streaming broadcasts, maybe, but one has to pay for them (that the Bill of Rights fails to mention our right to free baseball audio merely proves our forefathers' lack of foresight). All other changes to the game -- retractable domes, sponsored first pitches and lineup changes, elbow pads -- seem to be proof of God's retributive side.

Levi: So, Luke, you're saying that Selig is Satan?

Luke, hanger-on: I figured it went without saying, but just in case, I'll say it: Bud Selig is Satan.

"Allan H Bud Selig," after all, anagrams to "Hell! Bad! Sin! Luga!"

(Luga being the eskimo word for "menace to a great sport.")

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Thursday, May 27, 2004


Today's baseball-related press release

CBS has a new drama coming this fall that's baseball-related. Here's their official description:

CLUBHOUSE (Tuesday, 9:00 PM) is a drama about a 16-year-old boy who becomes a man in a world of overgrown boys when he takes a job as a batboy for a professional baseball team. For the first time, Pete Young (Jeremy Sumpter) takes a risk - perhaps the only risk of his young life - when he applies for and lands his dream job as a batboy for the New York Empires. The problem is his single mom, Lynne (Mare Winningham), has no idea what he’s up to. Until now, he’s been the golden boy while his rebellious older sister, Betsy (Kirsten Storms), has always been in the doghouse. On the job, Pete becomes a part of a new family that includes Conrad Dean (Dean Cain), the team’s captain and star third baseman and one of the boy’s all-time idols who takes on the role of an older brother. Also, in the clubhouse is his boss, Lou Russo (Christopher Lloyd), a gruff but fair equipment manager who becomes a much-needed father figure; Rich (Marc Donato), a fellow batboy who just happens to be the general manager’s nephew; Carlos Tavares (John Ortiz), a rookie who believes that Pete is his good luck charm, and Jose Marquez (J.D. Pardo), the Empire’s territorial head batboy. Pete is over the moon at being a member of his favorite team, but he must still balance life at home and life in the big leagues as he faces the moral dilemmas and curve balls that life throws his way. Emmy Award-winners Aaron Spelling and E. Duke Vincent (“And The Band Played On,” “Day One”), Academy Award-winner Mel Gibson (“Braveheart”) and Bruce Davey (“The Passion of the Christ”), Daniel Cerone (“Charmed”) and Ken Topolsky (“Party of Five”) are the executive producers for Spelling Television.

Aaron Spelling! Mel Gibson! And it means I won't have to look at Kirsten Storms on "Days of Our Lives" anymore! (Interesting that she's the "rebellious older sister" on this show, since her character on "DOOL" is a goody two-shoes, younger than all of her half-siblings there.)

Original comments...

Levi: If only Boychick from San Pedro Beach Bums could be on the program. I wonder what he's up to these days?

Jim: I seriously came very close to mentioning "San Pedro Beach Bums" in the original posting.

Looks like Boychick hasn't done much with his career, to the extent that the only people he can get to submit information about him to the IMDB can't spell "New Jersey" correctly.

But there is a connection: Stuf appeared in the "Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century" movies for the Disney Channel, which star Kirsten Storms as the title character, so maybe there's hope for a guest-starring appearance for him on "Clubhouse."

Jason: Anyone remember the short-lived Fox sitcom "Hardball"? At least, I think it was called Hardball. Anyway, it was a about a baseball team, the Pioneers, and all the wacky hijinks its players got into.

One of my favorite TV lines was said by Mike Starr, who later appeared as one of the mean toughs in 'Dumb & Dumber': "I love this guy! But not in the way you think. I want to have sex with him!"

It was so good, I used it in an episode of 'Sucks to Yer Azmar'.

Eric J. Ritter: (*)(*)


Viveian: Kirsten Storms Rocks i canot wait to see her on CH!!~

Mike: Kristen Storen Storms is really HOT!!~

Jim: Is that you, Mike, my supervisor? Has closed-captioning "Days of Our Lives" finally driven you insane? We'll talk when you get into the office.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2004


Twice the baseball?

I'm surprised Levi didn't mention this in the previous entry: that Cardinals-Pirates game that was rained out on Tuesday is most likely going to be made up as part of a doubleheader when the Pirates next visit St. Louis...which happens to be August 19th through 22nd, coinciding with our planned visit on the 22nd. So what are the odds they'll choose to do a Sunday doubleheader, and we'll get to see two games?

Original comments...

Levi: Have you worked up a doubleheader itinerary, in case every game we see ends up being a doubleheader? Can we make all the games if that happens?

And, on a side note, you do have a passport, right? Because I don't think they let you into Canadia without one these days.

Jim: If every game ends up being a doubleheader? I don't think that's going to happen unless we get some "Day After Tomorrow"-style weather within the next couple of months but things clear up by mid-August. For now, the doubleheader plan involves getting up earlier and/or driving faster.

Yes, I have a passport. Don't you have every post on this blog memorized?

Levi: I know it's unlikely that every game would end up a doubleheader, but do you want to be caught short if that happens? What's the only thing more impressive than ten games in ten cities in ten days? Why, it's 20 games in 20 cities in ten days!

Jim: I think you mean 20 games in 10 cities in 10 days, unless you're thinking the doubleheaders are going to be long enough that the home team is going to relocate between the two games. Which is a possibility for the Expos, I guess.

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Thursday night, Stacey and I helped out some friends who have six-week-old twin boys, staying overnight at their 37th-floor apartment and sitting up with one of the boys. While we were there, we got to watch a wild thunderstorm over the city, the park, and the lake. It was pretty amazing--I finally got to see the multiple lightning strikes on the Hancock Building that are captured in those time-lapse photos that are sold as posters in tourist shops downtown.

In the park below, four baseball fields were being flooded. In the morning, there was standing water all over the infield. That--and the Cardinals/Pirates rainout last night--reminded me of a time in high school when two ballplayers on the Carmi Bulldogs for some reason didn't want to play in the game scheduled for the next day. So late at night they went to the ballpark, ran a hose onto the field, and turned it on. They went home to bed and left the hose to do its work. Some beer might have been consumed at some point, too.

The field was flooded, and the game was canceled. But, the guys, being high schoolers, and not that adept at lying or covering up, got caught and suspended. It's always been one of my favorite stories of teenagers going to a fair amount of trouble to get out of doing something.

Maybe Toby can find the story in the Carmi Times archives and see if I've got the details right. I think I remember who the guys were, but I'd hate to libel someone.

Original comments...

Jon Solomon: I went to the Wilmington Blue Rocks game last night. There was a 70 minute lightning/rain delay in the top of the seventh inning. By the time the game ended, there were ~40 people in the stands out of the 4,500+ at first pitch. My friend Scooter and I moved down behind home plate and stood in the aisles, leading the crowd in cheers, trying to rally the home team (and earn a final appearance from Mr. Celery!). The Blue Rocks scored two in the bottom of the final frame to win 7-6. It was great.

Levi: Sounds like a great game, but I'm left with a lingering question:

Mr. Celery?

Steve: If I was a player on the Blue Rocks I'd want to be #2


Levi: I have since this post learned that players in the movie Bull Durham soak the field in this fashion. I'm not surprised to learn that my high school classmates got the idea from a movie, I suppose. Not as surprised as you probably are that I haven't seen Bull Durham. I just added it to my Netflix queue.

Jon Solomon: Mr. Celery:

He's a shy mascot, so he only comes out on the field when the Blue Rocks have a rally going, jumping up and down to "Song #2" by Blur. People in the stands shake stalks of celery at him. This is what we were doing behind home plate, produce held skyward.

Jason: Is Wilmington a strong celery-producing area? I'm not being sarcastic, I'm actually curious.

Jon Solomon: When I asked someone "why celery?" the first time I went to see the Blue Rocks play, the only answer I got was "exactly," followed by silence.

The Blue Rocks' new mascot this season is named "Rubble." Rubble is a small blue rock who flew in the slipstream down from Philadelphia when the Vet was imploded. He looks like Meatwad from Aqua Teen Hunger Force, kinda.


Toby: I wouldn't have to look it up in the archives because I can remember the whole thing quite vividly. But it was one of my better friends involved, so I won't reveal any names.

BTW, Levi, the baseball team went 28-4 this season.

And thanks for the link.....

Levi: 28-4?

What's up with Carmi sports this year? Seriously. We ought to field a polo team, synchronized swimming, and maybe a biathlon team, just to see if they could win, too. Clearly there's success in the air this year.

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Baseball-related press release of the day

Major League Baseball reminds you to buckle up. Remember that, Levi, when you're driving home from Wrigley Field...oh, wait. Actually, what I love is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration spokesman's awkward attempt to tie the message into baseball: "Just like a player would never face a 95 mph fastball without a helmet..." It's almost up to the level of a fake advertising slogan Dave Barry came up with in a column some years back: "Hit a home run against nasal discharge!"

(Despite my mockery of the press release, I do agree with the underlying message. Why, I wear my seat belt at all times, except when I need to lean way out to use the drive-thru ATM or grab the Double-Double from the person working the drive-thru window at In-n-Out. But the car is stopped at those times, assuming I've correctly shifted into "park.")

Original comments...

Levi: But what does Spider-Man have to say about buckling up?

Jim: "Since you probably can't quickly shoot a protective stream of sticky webbing out of your wrists if it looks like you're about to get into an accident..."

spidey: With the power of a drivers license comes the responsibility to buckle up.

Dr. Octopus: Don't listen to him, the web-slinging fool!

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Tuesday, May 25, 2004


Giving 110%

This isn't about baseball, but I figure baseball fans can relate to Dick Grasso's estimate of his efforts. Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly noted the following:

"New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has decided to sue Richard Grasso, the former CEO of the New York Stock Exchange, for using various forms of chicanery to overpay himself. Spitzer listed several main bullet points to support his contention, but this is my favorite:

On a 1-to-10 performance scale used to determine compensation, Grasso at one point assigned himself a 13, Spitzer said."

Original comments...

Levi: Oh, and Eliot Spitzer's one of my heroes. He's going to make a great Vice-President or Attorney General in the Barack Obama administration in 2012.

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Like a middle-school dance

That's how my father described the atmosphere of Wrigley Field the first time he was there, astounded by the fact that seemingly no one ever sits down for more than a couple pitches before wandering off again hither and yon.

Ordinarily, because my season ticket seat is high up in the upper deck, where the slope allows me to see over the heads of the perambulators, that's just a minor source of annoyance for me. Kind of along the lines of that caused by people who don't understand that you let the passengers off the train first before attempting to board.

But Sunday, we were in the lower deck, section 108, where to see the game we had to see over or through anyone in the aisle. And everyone was always in the aisle. Which led me to a couple of possible solutions.

The first idea is for true baseball fans to work up an advertising and media campaign to make wandering fans realize that, come the Day of Judgment, their behavior at baseball games--like all bad behavior--will be held against them. Just as a good fan might get extra credit for, say, knocking the glove off an opposing fielder reaching into the stands to attempt a catch, a drunken lout will find his balance sheet slipping more into the red for every time he staggered back from the concession stand and unwittingly left most of his new beer down the back of, say, a nearby nun. The calculation that determines eternal damnation is a complex algorithm, of course, making Fermat's Last Theorem look like the formula for figuring E.R.A., but I have faith that trips up and down the aisle while yammering into two cell phones have their part in it. We just have to make the drunks realize it.

The second option is to have Pedometer Day at Wrigley Field every day. Each fan, upon entering, would get a pedometer, which he would be forced to wear during the entire game. At the conclusion of the game, everyone's pedometer would be checked, and anyone who walked more than the average beer vendor would have to stay and clean the park with a toothbrush. His own. This plan has the virtue of simplicity and a very American attempt to encourage good behavior through imprisonment and hard work.

Anyone have better ideas?

Original comments...

Steve: Maybe make a 3rd inning, 5th inning and 7th inning stretch where people can go to a designated area and exchange phone numbers.

At Wrigley only of course....


Monday, May 24, 2004


Media attention

Maura has invited us to drop by the studios of WPRB Radio in Princeton, New Jersey, and join her on her radio show on Friday, August 27. Quite a coincidence that Princeton is between Boston and Philadelphia, and she's going to have such a conveniently scheduled Friday afternoon time slot, isn't it? Anyway, the itinerary has been updated.

Original comments...

Jon Solomon: I suggest a show of nothing but songs about baseball. Speaking of which, Levi I have a gift for you when I see ya...

Levi: Maura: Will Tim Zarazhan be there? 'Cause I don't know if I can do a show without Tim around.

Jason: I onced listened in on Maura's show on WPBR through the courtesy of internet streamline broadcasting (or whatever you call it). I called in, and it took her 8 guesses before I told her who I was. I should probably keep in better touch.

maura: ooh, tim. shiver. i was hoping for an all-baseball-related show, actually. i thought that would be lots of fun. especially since i've had barbara manning's cover of 'joltin' joe dimaggio' in my head for a good portion of the weekend.

thatbob: Mr. Announcer and Nibbles, together again at last!

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Your papers, please

In Boston, we'll be taking the Green Line from our hotel to Fenway Park for the game. Therefore, this item is of particular interest: they are soon going to start random ID checks of transit passengers in Boston.

If this is still going on in August, as much as I'd love to protest against it, I think becoming a test case would ruin the rest of the trip. So I'll grudgingly present my ID if necessary, although the real problem may be convincing the officer that the digital camera I'm carrying is for the purpose of taking pictures in and around Fenway Park, since some transit authorities are being a little touchy about photography of their property.

Original comments...

thatbob: Too bad the MBTA will be checking the *identity* of people riding their trains, instead of the *bomb-carrying status* of people riding their trains. I guess they just want to make sure that, in case of a bombing, all of the corpses can be identified?

Anyway, if I were you two, I wouldn't set foot in an unfamiliar train. Very, very dangerous things, trains. Very dangerous.

Historically unsound.

Levi: Now, does Jim have high enough celebrity status among railfans that the ID check is going to hold us up because of the ensuing autographs, or is he just objecting on grounds of privacy, civil liberties, and silliness?

Jim: I'm certainly no Mike Schafer!

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Doug Pappas, RIP

I just learned from King Kaufman's Salon column that SABR member Doug Pappas died last week at age 43 of heat prostration while hiking.

Doug Pappas wasn't well known outside the SABR community, but he was a hell of a baseball fan. He was a Manhattan lawyer who seemed to spend all his free time researching and writing on the business side of baseball. He did amazing research, wrote clearly, and, because of the nature of Bud Selig's administration, he spent a lot of his time calling Bud Selig a liar, then backing it up. Just about any time in the last four years that you've heard me railing about Selig, it's been Doug Pappas's research I've been spouting. In my dream where I told off Selig for an hour in my kitchen, I might as well have had Pappas on my shoulder as my little good angel, feeding my lines.

As King Kaufmann points out, another of Pappas's regular targets was that silly Team Fan Cost Index thing that gets ginned up and sent to the media every spring, proving that it costs something like $36,250 to take a family of four to a game. Pappas would always do what Major League Baseball, if it were able to see beyond the next labor battle, should have done: he'd point out that this silly figure is based on a family buying four mid-range tickets, two ball caps, two beers, four sodas, four hot dogs, some pretzels, etc., but is passed off as the "average" cost for a family to attend a game. You might as well throw the cost of their SUV and parking ticket into the mix. The Team Fan Cost Index tells you very little about what a family might be able to go to a game for; all it does is (I assume) scare off a few middle class families every year when they see the story in their paper with the $36,250 figure in the first sentence. Every year, Pappas reminded anyone he could what useless junk that number is.

His site gives an idea of what he was up to. I loved his work, if only because I was glad that someone was so dedicated to the game. I love baseball, but I will always spend too much time on other areas to be truly knowledgeable, so I greatly appreciate those who are willing to spend their time helping me to better understand the game. Doug Pappas somehow made the time, and he made good use of it.

King Kaufman describes well what we've lost: "Those of us who love baseball had a watchdog in Pappas, someone to let us know about the damage being done to the game by those running it. I hope someone with anything like his smarts, insight and writing ability can take over that role, but that's asking a lot. He'll be sorely missed."

Original comments:

Steve: Levi,

Sometimes I think I am being a gadfly on this site but apart from that I just wanted you and Jim to know that I enjoy this blog immensely.

So, to this average ticket price thing. The average price just gives someone a "ballpark" figure of what it costs to go to the game. Below I've compiled the "low-cost" index for the Chicago teams but more on that later. First, I think it's telling that they do use the average. I think the point of this exercise is that team X is "family friendly" compared to team Y. An individual or a family can certainly go to the park more cheaply than the average but of course the average implies that a cheaper as well as a more expensive possibility exists. There is a social construction in this figure whether you, as a childless man, want to buy into that or not. In short, this figure is inclusive of families and the middle class. If you did a cheap index you would have to keep reducing it to its bare essentials. You would end up with one person, eating no food, sitting in the worst seats in the house. The index is not trying to figure out the cost to a single, stogie chomping scorecard keeping retiree, it's the cost of a family going to the game instead of going to Blockbuster, the movie theater or Chuck E Cheese.

Based on my informal research, you see a hell of a lot more families at Comiskey (if you see people there) than you do at Wrigley because its more family friendly but also more affordable. I see in one of your other posts that you are bemoaning the fact that Wrigley is a meat-market. The ticket charge there is essentially a cover charge. I will admit that a lot of bad parenting goes on but when you take the kids out of the house to a game who wants to be a taskmaster? So, if you buy one kid a program you have to buy the other one a program. When kids (and adults) go to the park they want souvenirs. Obviously you don't have to buy your kids jack squat at the park but I think most people would like to think that they would buy their kids something besides food. If not a hat then a pennant or a "thunder-stick" or some other BS. If you're middle class you probably aren't taking the kids on the el so you have to drive and so on and so on. The point of this is that costs a lot to go to the park whether you do it on the cheap or not. If you want to determine how much it costs to take a family to the park it would be silly to simply take the cost of the four cheapest tickets, no food, etc. People consume things at the ballpark and that needs to be taken into consideration. Still as an informal study I've tried to mirror the average for Chicago teams by following the same rubric but with more reasonable expenses.


Ticket Price $14 each (but you can only go to three day games in Aug or any game in Sept or Oct -- another reason the average is telling)
Four Sodas (no beer) $2.50 each
Four Hot dogs: $2.75 each
No program
Two moderate souvenirs: $12 each
Public transport $1.75 x eight (four round trips)
Total cost $115


Ticket price $6each (but must attend one of 17 half price dates on a mon or tue)
Four Soda: $2.25
Four Hot Dogs: $2.75
No program
Two moderate souvenirs: $12 each
Public transport $1.75 x eight (four round trips)
Total: $82 (that's good value)

You could bring food from home and do this more cheaply but if someone is doing that you are either a cheap ass or a fat ass because you need more food than you can afford at the park. Good luck sitting though nine innings without buying anything at the park. As to ticket prices, if you want to take your kids to fireworks night or a weekend or a game during the summer at Wrigley this is blown out of the water. Again, this makes the average more telling than the baseline.

What about the "Baseball-related" itinerary? I would be very interested the average cost of this trip. What if you multiply your ballpark individual expense by four?

Levi: I think your analysis is correct, Steve, but you'll notice that without truly skimping--i.e., the kids won't be leaving the ballpark unhappy, because they've been fed and they've gotten some souvenirs--you've gotten a cost for the family drastically lower than our friends at Team Marketing Report. Their cost for the Cubs? $194.31. For the Sox? $160.23. All you did was do what any family on a budget would do: you looked for cheap seats. Period. TMR's use of the average ticket price is wrong because 1) the most expensive tickets both aren't available to the average budget-conscious family in the first place (They're held by season-ticket holders or scalpers, for the most part.) _and_ they're not of interest to the average budget-conscious family. A better plan would be to use the cost of the cheapest non-bleacher seat, because that's really what the family that has to count dollars will look at. You can even scrap the idea of looking for budget dates--although at Comiskey that would be silly, since _everybody_ looks at the two budget days*--and you'd still end up with a price much lower than TMR's.

Second, a casual fan doesn't buy a scorecard or program. Period.

Third, and this is my main complaint about this index: MLB should every year loudly refute this shit. Sure, they don't want to encourage people to bring their own food, and they don't want to mention that souvenirs are expensive, but there is absolutely no reason for them not to, every time this report comes out, mount a PR offensive about how cheap the cheap seats are, how great the views are in these new stadiums even from the cheap seats, what a great time kids have at the ballpark, and how goddamn expensive the movies are, let alone the NBA and NFL. The idea is to convince people that they can afford to get in the door. MLB knows that once they're there, they'll buy stuff, because that's what people do, and that's good for MLB. MLB sure as hell shouldn't let some outside group determine what people think it wil cost them to go to a ballgame. Yet every year, they not only let this story get out, but they almost encourage it, because they're always looking at any chance they can to say that players make too much money. And that's because the people who run MLB are shortsighted liars, for the most part.

The idea of keeping a running total of ballpark expenses for the trip is a fun one. I'll confer with Jim.

*The Sox tickets are way overpriced on non-budget days because the lease on Comiskey Park calls for the Sox to pay rent only in years in which they sell more than (I'm going to make up a number here, but that's not really important to the story) 1.5 million full-priced tickets. If I remember right, they've only paid rent once, in 2001 (?), primarily because they sell so many tickets at half price or through group sales or at a discount of some sort. And that's why they set their prices so high, because the marginal gain they would get from lowering them appears, to them, to be less than the gain from not paying rent. It's a silly, shortsighted strategy, of course, because getting a fan in the door is worth almost any cost in the long term. But again, they're MLB owners, so expecting the long view is just about futile.

Jim: Yes, I am definitely going to keep careful track of expenditures on the trip, if for no other reason than to make sure that Levi and the hangers-on pay their fair share for the hotel rooms and the rental car. So far, the only expenditure is that we've bought tickets for both the Red Sox and the Phillies. Both were $20, which is the second-cheapest seat you can get at Fenway Park (they have a very small amount of $12 seats), and the third-cheapest seat at Citizens Bank Park (they also have $15 and $18 seats). Actually, I've also paid for my plane ticket to Chicago already, but that's not relevant to this discussion.

To compare Chicago prices to southern California: both the Angels and Dodgers have a "family pack" for Wednesday and Sunday games, which includes four upper-deck seats, four hot dogs, and four sodas. The Dodgers' deal is $48 and also includes parking, and the Angels' deal is $39 without parking. Adding $24 in souvenirs to use Steve's matrix, they both come out to a little over $70. Not bad. (Actually, what the Angels' deal does include is $8 in game tokens for the pitching machines/hitting machines/whatever it is they have in the "interactive baseball-style game" area at Angel Stadium. So if that will pacify the kids enough that they don't need souvenirs, that really cuts the cost down.)

Steve: Okay, I think we can agree to agree. MLB should do a lot more to make themselves family friendly. Alas, it is clear they have given this terrain over to the minor leagues and are instead concerned with luxury suites and leather vibrating chairs right behind home plate. I think that probably gets to the core of why they don't try to squash the "average ticket" thing. They don't want to do anything to alter the perceived value of their sport. If they advertise how cheap or inexpensive their games can be, perhaps they fear that people will think of them as a lesser product. I think it's interesting the Red Sox and the Cubs are the two highest priced teams while the Expos are the lowest. Right there you see the difference between the Mercedes and the Kia. If a Mercedes cost as much as a Kia it would lose a lot of its luster, no? Baseball makes a hell of a lot more money off the luxury suites than the upper deck reserved so why do anything to advertise how cheap a game when you risk alienating people who are paying a far higher premium to see it?

thatbob: I can't help but notice that Levi's argument reflects upon his larger crusade against the abuse of the arithmetical average in describing American culture and economics.

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Lost weekend

Well, as you might have suspected, it was a sad weekend at the old ballpark for me, though not for 120,000 Cubs fans, puffed up with the arrogance that two playoff appearances in five years can bring.

Somehow, the Cardinals and Cubs managed to play three games in three days with no rain delays, despite strong thunderstorms and heavy rain all weekend. And somehow, the Cardinals managed to turn Glendon Rusch into the pitcher who pitched pretty well for the Mets in 2000, rather than the pitcher who was cut from the Brewers earlier this year. And the Cardinals managed three runs on only three hits against the remarkably good Matt Clement. Impressive, but it wasn't enough. So despair reigns, at least for a few days.

But there was one fully redeeming moment for me--a moment that was a huge highlight even for my Clement-fan wife and for Cubs-fan Luke--in Sunday night's game. The Cardinals were down 4-1, and with Albert Pujols at the plate, a chant arose. It began oddly--almost as if it had been planned in advance--with what seemed a whole section above and behind us shouting "Pujols sucks!" without any of the slow build that such chants usually require.

So as the first pitch comes in as a ball, the chant grows until most of the stadium is into it. "Pujols sucks! Pujols sucks! Pujols sucks!" The next pitch came in, and then it went out. And it kept going out, onto Waveland, or maybe Irving Park Road. The crowd fell silent, except for those of us who were giggling.

Wendell Berry
, in a story I read Saturday, described a driver showing "the extended middle finger that contradicts all contradiction." It's hard to imagine a way in which Pujols could have more clearly demonstrated that he manifestly does not suck. Maybe if he had hit that home run, then taken the mound the next inning and set down the Cubs in order with three strikeouts on nine pitches. But that's asking a lot even of Pujols.

Original comments...

Luke: Who you calling arrogant? I should point out, Levi, that I cheered Pujols' home run almost as much as you did. It was more than worth giving up the run to see him shut the fans up.

Every time I get to Wrigley I'm more dismayed by the boorishness of the fans. I don't know whether I'm getting older and crankier or they're getting more boorish, or both. My money is on "both."

Levi: No, no, Luke. I'm not calling you out on that--in fact, I mentioned that you seemed to enjoy the moment. I know your fandom doesn't allow for absurd slander.

And I'm not saying Cardinals fans are perfect. I'm sure plenty of them are complete tools. But I haven't ever heard a chant like that one at Busch Stadium, and I'm not used to hearing the regular booing that the opposing team's best player has frequently been getting at Wrigley Field lately.

Jim: Glendon Rusch was already turned into a good pitcher by the Padres a week ago Sunday. Opposing pitcher David Wells was so distraught about the situation that he went home, threw a bottle against the wall, and ended up cutting himself on the broken glass (or at least that's what I assume happened).

Does Barry Bonds get booed at Busch?

Levi: I haven't seen Bonds play at Busch, so I don't know. I don't think he does, but I could be wrong.

And the Wells story was great because the story in the San Diego paper about his injury actually included, in the subhead, "Padres GM believes Wells's account." Imagine being viewed as so untrustworthy that your believablity merits mention in a headline.

Luke, hanger-on: Sorry, Levi, I scanned past that. Didn't mean to slanderously accuse you of slanderously accusing me of absurdly slandering Pujols, the second-best player in baseball. (Though, admittedly, I have in the past slandered his funny name, stonethrowing-in-a-glass-house notwithstanding.)

sandor: I tuned in for a little of the game (it was one of those rare times when my cable company decided to give me free ESPN), though I missed the impressive first inning rally. But how about that weather system? That must have been impressive to see from the stadium. When they came back from a commercial break early on, the cameraman was pulling pack to show the bizarrely shaped cloud formations out in the distance. It was so striking that Sarah and I felt compelled to take a walk around the neighborhood and witness it ourselves. I figured I'd the be the only person intrigued enough in clouds to notice, but no, everyone we passed was looking up in amazement.

thatbob: Re: strange clouds and weather systems. I haven't even told you all about the ghost boat.

Levi: According to people who watched the game at home, Pujols made a shushing motion sometime after the home run. I'm unclear on whether it was during the trot or after crossing the plate. It's the sort of thing that would ordinarily get you knocked on your ass the next time up, but in this case, I think even the opposing pitcher would understand.

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Thursday, May 20, 2004


What a gal!

The folks at Redbird Nation, the best Cardinals site on the internet, noticed that in an interview with Esquire this month, Emmylou Harris had this to say:

"During those long summer tours, there's nothing on television that doesn't rot your brain except for baseball. And I love the game. I love the history of the game. I love that fact that anything can happen but probably won't. But sometimes does. I love that you don't have to be a perfect human specimen to be a good player; you can be overweight, you can be too short, too skinny. Let's just say I'm a National League girl, because I don't belive in the designated hitter. And you can quote me on that."

Original comments:

sandor: In the documentary Down from the Mountain -- the film of the concert of the music of the movie "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" -- one of the most smile-inducing moments is when they show Emmylou Harris in her dressing room, being rushed out to the stage, furiously digging through her purse to find her wireless baseball score receiver so she can check on the status of the day's games.

thatbob: The days games. Plural. That's heartening. I was afraid that, as a southerner, she might just be some kind of Braves fan.

Jason: Basbeall? What's that?

Jim: There is no such thing as basbeall. There was never a typo in Levi's post. We have always been at war with Oceania.



Oh, say can you see?

As Jim and I are always saying to each other, here at Baseball-Related Program Activites 2004, we're nothing if not a family site. We're like those sportswriters who are always lamenting about ballplayers not signing autographs or building childrens' hospitals or fighting crime. We want the whole family involved in the game. We're even thinking of making our site play the Baha Men.

So when my friend Jon Solomon sent me a photo of Dodgers pitcher Jose Lima singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Dodger Stadium last week, his wife and son by his side, I thought, "This little bit of Lima Time is perfect for Baseball-Related Program Activities 2004! A patriotic family photo!"

Then I looked at the photo. And I have to admit that it took me a moment to focus on Francis Scott Key's view of the battle for Fort McHenry. After a few minutes, I decided that the people who run the site the photo was located on weren't including it because of Jose's singing or their love of country. Nor was that the case on another site, on which there's even a rude poll relating to one aspect (two aspects?) of the photo.

But I want you all to be clear that, as we are a family site, I bring this photo to your attention for the same reason that I'm sure Jon brought it to mine: we think it's pretty cool that Jose Lima got to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Here at Baseball-Related Program Activities 2004, we--we take the road less traveled by. For the kids.

Original comments...

Levi: Oh, and last night, the woman who sang the National Anthem at Wrigley Field sang "For the ramparts we watched." I guess that's the opium-addled version, where the ramparts are streaming.

Jim: I'm not sure if Pax TV deserves to be the link for "a family site." Their Tampa affiliate is the broadcast home of the Devil Rays. (Yes, the Devil Rays really are bad enough that independent station "More TV 32" -- the equivalent of Channel 26, "The U," in Chicago -- which broadcast their games for the first few years didn't want to renew the broadcast rights, and apparently, nobody else wanted them either.)

toby: Just more proof--as I once discussed with Levi a long time ago--that EVERY single pro baseball player has a gorgeous wife. Do you remember Zane Smith of the Expos/Braves/Pirates.. Even he had a hot wife.

Levi: Jim reports that the phrase "Jose Lima's wife" has now passed "Johnny Damon's hair and beard" as the most common Google search that has led people to our site. I should have seen that coming.

Anonymous: Jim is correct

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What's that song by the Who about going mobile?

To follow up on the post from a few days ago, I now have a cell phone. As promised, it's a pay-as-you-go plan with no free minutes, so the number will only be given out on a need-to-know basis. As also promised, it's not Nextel, it's Virgin Mobile, and I'm only slightly worried about the fact that everyone pictured on their web site and in their printed literature seems to be 10 years younger and 10 times more hip than me.

I promise never to be seen on camera at a baseball game talking into the phone, but I can't promise I won't be playing Tetris during a rain delay.


Wednesday, May 19, 2004


The Big Unit

Last night was one of those rare occasions when I was glad The Superstation exists, because when the Cubs' announcers mentioned that the Unit had a perfect game through 8, we were able to switch over and watch the 9th.

The Unit was throwing as well as I've ever seen. He looked a little sweaty, but not tired.

With one out to go, he stepped off the mound and kind of composed himself, and Skip Carey said, "Johnson holds a little team meeting with himself."

With two outs to go, the Braves home crowd stood, cheering for Johnson to get the last out. But Stacey noticed at least one guy wearing a rally cap. Her thought: only a Braves fan would attempt to root for both a perfect game against his team and a rally for his team at the same time.

Then Johnson struck out the last hitter, and his catcher, Robby Hammock, leaped into the air, high, several times while the Unit smiled. That was the best part, I think, seeing the Unit smile. I'm not sure I've ever seen that.

And seeing his teammates touch his hair. I know I've never seen that.

So congratulations to the Big Unit, one of my very favorite players. Couldn't have done it to a better team.

Original comments...

Jon Solomon: Thankfully they made similar mention during the NBA playoffs (or was it the Mets game on MSG?) that Johnson was perfect through seven, so my Dad and I were able to switch over and watch it together.

sandor: My friend Jason was at the Yankee/Red Sox game a few years ago when Mike Mussina pitched 8 2/3 innings of perfect ball, only to have it ruined with a hit by ugly ducking Carl Everett. He said the entire Fenway crowd was on its feet, as Atlanta's was here, but not to cheer on the pitcher about to make history; he said they were still rooting for their Sox to break it up. Even with Everett, who pretty much everyone in Boston hated, at the plate. Which I guess makes sense, if you're the Red Sox and you're about to be put in the history books for the wrong reason, thanks to those bastard Yankees.

I tried to console him (Jason, not Mussina) by explaining he probably witnessed a rarer feat: "Sure, a perfect game is rare, but isn't a pitcher going perfect for only 8 2/3 innings only to have it broken up on the last out is even rarer!" (I don't actually know if this is true, but I imagine so.) Anyway, he wasn't consoled.

Levi: I will go to my grave believing that the reason Jim and I didn't see Frank Castillo throw a no-hitter against the Cardinals on September 25, 1995 is that, with two outs in the 9th, I cheered for Castillo to retire Bernard Gilkey.

The god repaid my breaking faith with the Cardinals by allowing Gilkey to hit a triple into the right-field corner.

Never again will I root against the Cardinals for any reason in any situation. Sorry about that, Jim.

thatbob: The Unit isn't as fat as I'd like, but he sure is ugly! And I'm a big fan of anything that strikes out Braves. Go Big Unit!

Levi: Re: my post above. That should read "The gods." I'm nothing if not a polytheist. Well, except for an athiest, that is.

Jim: Well, "the god" is probably appropriate if you're a polytheist, because there is probably one specific god of Punishing Levi for Rooting Against the Cardinals. Obviously, he doesn't have as many responsibilities as, say, Zeus, so when he gets a chance to do his thing, he's going to take it.

Jason: PLRAC? (pronounced pul-rak)

Levi: My coworker, Jim, says, "Maybe touching the Unit's hair is like touching a snake's skin. You know, you expect it to be all slimy, but it's really cool and dry."

Secho: I was in the pressbox at Shea Stadium scoring the Mets-Cards game during the perfect game hubbub. I happen to sit right in the middle of several members of the Japanese media, who were unfazed by reports of the Unit's perfection through 8, but outraged when Colin Porter was sent to pinch hit for So Taguchi in the top of the 9th. Taguchi had entered the game in a double-switch in the bottom of the 8th, an inning after 74-year-old Ray Lankford butchered a can of corn in left.

Anyway, the point: Longtime Met and Yankee official scorer Bill Shannon was sitting nearby, recounting every no-hitter he remembered in New York, and recalling who the official scorer was for each off the top of his head. It was unbelievable, hearing him talk about Larsen's game in '56. He noted there were 3 official scorers that day, as there are in World Series games, and tossed their names off as if he'd seen them yesterday, and then talked about a couple of pitches Larsen got away with in that game: "He threw a 2-2 hanging slider, but it was fouled back." How does he remember this stuff? I don't even remember most of Game 7 of the NLCS last year.

Levi: My memories of last year's NLCS game 7 are clouded with despair.

I think that's how you know the Cubs are only my backup team. If they were my real team, the despair would only bring the events into ever-clearer focus. Leading to more despair.

toby: Do I detect a bit of Braves-hating in that entry, Leviticus? I hope so.
A loyal Pirate fan

Francisco Cabrerra is the devil.

Anonymous: It could be worse, you could be a red sox fan


Tuesday, May 18, 2004


We're not watching our own network

Several times during tonight's hockey game on ESPN2, play-by-play announcer Gary Thorne promoted tomorrow night's baseball coverage by saying, "Barry Bonds and the Giants travel to Wrigley Field to take on Sosa and the Cubs."

Problem is, the ESPN2 "Bottom Line" ticker was repeating "Cubs OF Sammy Sosa (back) to be put on DL Wednesday."

And then there was some actual breaking news on the Bottom Line: congratulations to Randy Johnson on the perfect game. Couldn't have happened to a scarier-looking guy! I'm still going to refer to him as The Big Eunuch, but not when he's within earshot.

Original comments...

Jason: I thought I was the only one in the Western United States watching this game.

Actually, I only watched the replay at midnight, but I still tuned in. Let's hear it for a Tampa Bay-Calgary Stanley Cup Final!

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Monday, May 17, 2004


A thought on ballpark food

On Tuesday at Tropicana Field, I had a grouper sandwich; on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium, I had a Dodger Dog (included with the "family pack" ticket package); on Sunday at Petco Park, I had fish tacos. I think on the trip I'm going to try some local specialty at most of the ballparks, because even though my digestive system is used to me putting a lot of items consisting of meat and meat by-products down the hatch, I'm not sure it can handle a hot dog a day for 10 days. I'm also not sure what Levi's going to eat on the trip, other than Tim Horton's doughnuts while we're in Canada, if he's still practicing vegetarianism.

Original comments...

Levi: "Practicing"? I think I've got this vegetarian thing down by now.

And surely there will be enough to eat. Ballpark pizza is one of the worst foods in the world, but in St. Louis, for example, they've got a stand that sells veggie burgers and another that sells reasonably good burritos.

maura: i guess that seals the identity of the person who's going to try the schmitter at citizens bank park, then....

Jon Solomon: There are GREAT veggie dogs to be had in Toronto at SkyDome. They've got a whole vegetarian stand down on the first level, in fact.

Steve: My long list of reasons why baseball should be contracted just got longer. Veggie dogs? inside domes? in Canada?!? Great American pastime indeed. There's plenty of things vegetarians can eat at the ballpark--french fries, nachos, pretzels, peanuts, pizza, sunflower seeds, beer, big league chew, ice cream (if you aren't vegan) lemon freeze (if you are vegan) free diced onions at wrigley....

Jim: A cheese steak on a Kaiser roll with fried salami, fried onions, tomato, and secret sauce?! There is nothing about that I don't like, except that if it's $5.25 at the actual McNally's, I shudder to think how much they're charging at Citizens Bank Park.

Levi: Let's all give a moment of appreciation to Jim Bouton for inventing Big League Chew. That's almost as great an achievement as writing Ball Four.

thatbob: My only quibble: I wish it had been called Big League Chaw. (God, it sucks to be me. I really can't enjoy *anything*.)

thatbob: Re: veggie dogs inside domes in Canada. You know what Yogi Berra would say to that: "Only in America."

Jason: You could always eat before the game...if you're a COMMUNIST!

sarah: jon's post brought back some very scary and sad memories of the near-deserted vegetarian food stand at the expos game we went to in montreal. the echo of fans banging empty seats followed me into the dark back alleys of the food court. the whole adventure took me close to an hour, since i believe they had to actually form the tofu into veggie-dog shapes by hand. plus, a mishap involving a foul ball spilled our whole dinner onto my shirt anyway.

good times. good times.

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Don't go to the supermarket hungry

This box of delight was on sale at Ralphs today. (Marked at $3.79, rang up at $2.50.) The official Hostess site doesn't seem to acknowledge its existence, so I had to take my own picture. I think it should be the Official Snack Cake of this trip.

You know, if it turns out that real baseballs have a vanilla cream center these days, it might explain a lot of things.

Original comments...

Jason: There's a Hostess thrift store not too far away in Burbank. (Well, it's probably too far away for the Chicago folks.) I should see if I can find some Baseballs there. Last time I went, I brought home a box of Chocodiles.

Levi: Wow, Hug. I hadn't thought about Chocodiles in years.

Jim, this is like when Maggie found a stash of John Kruk folders at a dollar store: Your duty is to buy all the boxes of these that you can, then pack them in your luggage.

Steve: Levi, in case you haven't noticed the girth of your fellow midwesterners, its not like these are hard to find.

I vote that Jim packs nothing but Hostess in his luggage and if he wants a change of clothes must go to the local thrift store for an outfit featuring the logo of home team in the town you are currently visiting. And thanks for mentioning John Kruk.

Jim: Official TSA policy: "Avoid packing food and drink items in checked baggage." Sorry.

thatbob: Nonsense, Jim. You can (1) "avoid" packing the Hostess Baseballs in your checked luggage all day - all weekend, even! - and then, at the last minute, pack them anyway. (This is what I would do). Or you can (2) pack the maximum limit of carry-on with Hostess Baseballs, and not check any luggage. (This is what you should do.)

No excuses! No regrets!

Jason: Or, you could ship a case or 2 to Levi, and then pick them up from him and carry them in your rental car.

Steve: I think we are distilling this down to its essential meaning...

Jim is not allowed to pack any luggage for this trip unless it is filled with hostess baseballs and his diet for the entire trip must consist entirely of hostess baseballs. Now that would be a cool documentary!!

Levi: And _I've_ distilled Steve's post to its essence: Steve loves to see people barf out car windows.



Better than goose eggs

Cardinals farmhand Brad Thompson of the Tennesse Smokies threw six shutout innings on Friday night, running his string of scoreless innings to 52, two short of the minor-league record.

The local Krispy Kreme franchise in Sevierville has promised Thompson free donuts for life if he breaks the record.

That's got to be better than whatever major-league-consecutive-shutout-innnings-record-holder Orel Hershiser got for announcing his intention to attend a theme park in the aftermath of the Dodgers' World Series victory in 1988.

Original comments...

Levi: And I forgot to mention the next-best thing about this story: the holder of the record is Urban Shocker, regular denizen of the upper-reaches of lists of the best baseball names.

Steve: I hope he gets the record because as far as I'm concerned baseball can't have enough fat pitchers.

thatbob: Say, isn't it about time you guys got represented at, which cross-references area bloggers by CTA and Metra stop?

Jason: The local Krispy Kreme doughnut flavor of the week (or month, I forget which) is Strawberry Shortcake. I highly recommend purchasing a few if available in your area.

Jason: I also used to have a Smokies hat back when they were the Knoxville Smokies. I even purchased it in Evanston at some corner sports apparel shop that might not even be around anymore.

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Sunday, May 16, 2004


A waffle at the beach is a sandy Eggo

First of all, yes, there was the obligatory letter to the sports editor in Saturday's L.A. Times complaining about people at Dodger Stadium doing the wave during Alex Cora's marathon at-bat.

Today I went to one of 2004's new ballparks, Petco Park, with Cathryn and Jennifer (and Jason, who took this picture)...

It is a very nice place, albeit colder than Qualcomm Stadium, thanks to the breezes coming off San Diego Bay, and the fact that we were under the overhang. In fact, we were in the very top row of the upper deck section to the left of the "first base tower" in the picture below...

In the top row, there's some bizarreness involving the steel supports holding up the overhang, so although we had seats 7 through 10, there was about a 6-inch gap between seat 7 and seat 8, although it wasn't like there was a giant metal post in the way or anything like that. (There was also a gap of about 18 inches between seat 6 and seat 3. Seats 4 and 5 were missing.) Anyway, this is the view of the diamond from way up there...

And this is the view of downtown San Diego. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to get a picture of a plane landing (they come in just beyond the skyscrapers, eventually disappearing behind them)...

The lawn looked like a nice place to hang out...

So did the seats in front of the Western Metal Supply building...

And if you've got to pick one Padres player to hang out with, it's got to be David Wells...

The final line...

In conclusion, Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, where we'll be on August 27th, has a lot to live up to. I already think it's going to lose points for not being right downtown. But it may gain points for being warmer than Petco time, I'm going to wear long pants and at least bring a sweatshirt. Or try to get seats at least a few rows farther down, which will be in the sun.

Original comments...

maura: how about that ben sheets!!

Levi: On paper, the building they left in left field struck me as really dopey, almost as bad as the flagpole and hill at Bush/Cheney Field in Houston--though not nearly as bad as the stupid train at the same park.

But now that I've seen the new San Diego park on TV, I've changed my mind. The building's kinda cool.

Jim: What? Trains are not stupid. The fact that Houston has better train service at their baseball stadium than they do at their actual train station (a 3-day-a-week Amtrak train to L.A. and Orlando) is kind of stupid, but me ranting about inequities in government transportation funding is off-topic for this blog.

Levi: Actually, the train in Houston is remarkably similar to Amtrak rides I've taken. You sit on it for a long time and it doesn't go anywhere. Then it goes, but only a short way, at which point it stops and changes direction. Then you sit again for a long time.

But at least the train doesn't turn into a bus.

sandor: Trains going forwards and backwards and forwards again? Sounds like my trip on the L yesterday. Halfway between Irving Park and the Addison, the brown line train I was on stopped, then started going in reverse. In 10 years of riding L trains, I've never experienced such a thing happening. I didn't even realize they had a reverse gear. It was quite shocking.

Sorry, off-topic. But I thought worth sharing.

thatbob: "Thank you for not requesting autographs"?!? WTF?!?

thatbob: Now obviously those seats at Western Metal Supply Co. are supposed to be reminiscent of Wrigleyville rooftops, or that book depository (or whatever) in Baltimore. What I can't figure out is if the seats are actually part of the park, ie. ticketed revenue, or just an authorized use by a lucky neighbor. What's going on there?

Levi: Silly Bob. There's no way that a modern park would ever let any chance at a dollar slip by. Those aren't only seats: they're expensive luxury box thingies, and they bring in buckets of the ready for the Padres.

Jim: "Thank you for not requesting autographs": It was Photo Day, and you're just supposed to take pictures of the players, not ask them for autographs.

The ground floor of the Western Metal Supply building is the main Padres store, and then there's standing room in front of it; each other individual level is, I believe, a single "party suite," available on a per-game basis for your corporate get-together or other function. There's no actual suite on the roof, just some tables with umbrellas to go along with the ballpark seating, but it, too, seems to be a special group seating area.

Jason: What Jim forgot to mention - and I am shocked that he did - was the fact that he took a trolley train to the game. Must have been the sugar high from too many Hostess Baseballs to affect his memory.

Jim: I thought me taking a trolley was a "that goes without saying" kind of thing. Yes, parking near Petco Park is expensive, so the trolley was the best option.

thatbob: I'm a *big* fan of selling the crappiest seats in the house to the stupidest people with the most money! I heartily approve! God Bless You, Petco Park!

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Friday, May 14, 2004


More actual road trip-related content

Maura will be joining us for the game in Cleveland as well as the previously planned Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The itinerary has been updated. Hope she likes the Pennsylvania and Ohio Turnpikes!

Original comments...

Levi: Mo' Mo! Mo' Mo!

That's gotta be a good thing.

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Actual content related to the road trip

While I was in Tampa, I got to hear my mother complain, "I can't believe you're going to (insert city here), but you're only spending one night there, and all you'll be doing is going to a baseball game!"

In between the kvetching, she did bring up another point: a cell phone might come in handy on the trip. But you, Levi, don't have one, do you? And I'm the only person in L.A. who doesn't have one. I may get one of those prepaid, pay-as-you-go deals.

Original comments...

Luke: What, do you have tickets behind the plate?

Levi: Now--apologies to the Holderbys--while I'm sure that many people have said, "I can't believe you're going to Detroit," I have trouble believing that anyone has ever said, "I can't believe you're going to Detroit, but you're only spending one night, and all you'll be doing is going to a baseball game."

Jim: No, I would absolutely not call someone from a baseball game to tell them to watch me on TV. And I definitely wouldn't get Nextel service, solely because their walkie-talkie feature is much more annoying for those nearby than a regular cell phone is (and I know this for a fact because of someone near me using the walkie-talkie feature at the Padres game I went to last year).

You're right, although my mother's family lived in the Detroit suburbs for some years, she was most concerned about Montreal, and to a lesser extent Boston and Toronto.

maura: ohh, i loathe those walkie-talkie phones. when i took the bus to and from work in philadelphia, they were like the plague.

i was debating leaving my phone at home for our trip, but then i realized that i needed a backup plan in case of train problems. alas.

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Best at-bat ever?

Around here, and around the Internet, all the news from Wednesday's Cubs-Dodgers game was about Alex Cora's at-bat.

For those of you who missed it, here's the pitch-by-pitch.

Pitch 1 - Ball
Pitch 2 - Called Strike
Pitch 3 - Ball
Pitch 4 - Foul
Pitch 5 - Foul
Pitch 6 - Foul
Pitch 7 - Foul
Pitch 8 - Foul
Pitch 9 - Foul
Pitch 10 - Foul
Pitch 11 - Foul
Pitch 12 - Foul
Pitch 13 - Foul
Pitch 14 - Foul
Pitch 15 - Foul
Pitch 16 - Foul
Pitch 17 - Foul
Pitch 18 - Home run to right field. Jason Grabowski and Alex Cora score

Because I had just watched the Cardinals game and had to get up at 5:45 the next morning to get to work early, I went to bed just before that inning. Stacey came into the bedroom early in Cora's at-bat to inform me that Cubs announcer Pat Hughes had said, "For those of you just returning from a brief vacation, Alex Cora is still at bat."

Much later--or so it seemed to my sleep-addled brain--she returned to tell me that Cora had fouled off fourteen pitches. Soon after, she sadly delivered the news of his home run. But even though she's a Matt Clement fan and was sad to see him lose the battle, she was willing to concede that it was pretty impressive.

Two other notes:

1. Is Matt Morris trying to take up Johnny Damon's slack? Check out this photo. It's not there yet, but he's on his way to turning his hideous chin friend into a real beard.

2. The comment by Pat Hughes reminds me of two great baseball radio moments I've been meaning to share with you. One is a great bit of description by Cardinals announcer Mike Shannon. Describing Matt Morris pulling up short to stop at third base, he said, "He stopped so short that if he'd been a train, he would have jackknifed the last half-dozen cars."

The second is from a discussion Ron Santo and Pat Hughes were having the other day at Wrigley. It was chilly and windy, but Pat, expecting better weather, had decided to have the crew take out the window panes that protect the announcers from the elements. Ron was on his case about it, complaining that after so many years at Wrigley, surely he knew better than to take out the windows in May. Pat peppered Ron with questions like, "So, Ron, would you say it's a pain to have these windows out?" and "So, Ron, would you say that it's an open-and-shut case?" Ron continued his rant, oblivious to the joking.

Original comments...

Levi: Baseball Prospectus has a good point about Damon's beard: he missed a chance to raise much more money for charity. He should have set up two accounts, one for keeping the beard, one for shaving it, and asked for donations to each. The one with most donations decides the fate of the greatest beard of the decade.

stacey: levi, what is the point is saying i'm a matt clement fan without linking to a photo of him? he steals my heart with his super pitching, tall socks, and super cuteness!

Luke: The at-bat reminded me of Matt Williams' great at-bat in the 1989 NLCS against the Cubs, although it was only eight foul balls. Here's an interesting write-up about it (scroll down to "Foul ball!").

"According to research by STATS Inc., each foul ball shifts the balance in favor of the batter. After Williams's fifth foul, he was the favorite over Wilson. Why? Physically, the more pitches a batter sees, the better he can adjust to movement and velocity, and therefore time his swing. There is also the psychological toll on the pitcher to consider."

There's also some talk of the precision foul ball, like the scene in "The Natural" where Hobbs tries to snipe the photographer when he's taking BP after his injury.

"The carefully aimed foul ball is a rare but potent weapon, as Richie Ashburn once discovered. The Phillies outfielder was one of the best ever at repeatedly fouling balls off to frustrate and overwork pitchers, skilled enough to lead the league four times in on-base percentage. There came a day, however, when one of Ashburn's teammates called upon him to fine-tune his fouling skills. The teammate, who was angry at his wife, implored Ashburn to hit the ball at his wife, sitting in the left-field stands. Ashburn forgot about it until he happened to spray some fouls in that general area. When his teammate yelled from the bench, "two seats over, one row back and you've got her," Ashburn hit the next ball elsewhere, drawing the line at assault.

"Ted Williams, in My Turn At Bat, confessed to an occasion when he didn't draw such a line. Maddened by one of his chronic Fenway Park hecklers, Williams tried to hit the critic with a foul ball. Since the fan sat behind third base, Williams had to go literally out of his way in his attempt, eschewing his pull-hitting instincts to aim left for several swings. He didn't hit his target, but he probably made his point.


"Any discussion of foul balls must celebrate Luke Appling, the Michelangelo of the mis-hit. Appling once deliberately fouled two dozen balls into the stands to get even with his own ballclub's failure to provide free passes for a couple of his friends. Another time, he aimed at a peanut vendor who had laughed when a fan was struck by Appling's previous foul. "I'll fix him," Appling declared, then nailed him in the head; the vendor had to be carried out."

There are worse claims to fame than to be the "Michelangelo of the mis-hit."

Steve: ...uh...will join me in my...uh...loathing of Ron Santo? It seems that...ah....just when I have enough ammo to spread my..uh... hatred (like when he irresponsibly crashed his car after suffering insulin shock, like when he was characterized as "despondent" after not getting into the hall of fame) he goes and a double amputee without a bladder. I feel Grimes in that Simpsons episode. You person I'm destroying with hatred for Santo is myself. Um....Um....Worst color guy ever! All....ah...he's good for is ....YESSS!!!!... rooting in the pressbox, kissing Sammy's ass, ("just because Sammy has struck out seven times in a row, it doesn't mean he's not seeing the ball good." He's due.) wearing Pat Hughes out about his clothes and going on ad nauseum about the attendance quiz. But God forbid YOU rather than he make a joke about one of his three toupees. Pat Hughes is a Saint.

Levi: I'm not entirely sure I believe the Luke Appling story--two dozen fouls is more than I've ever heard of anybody hitting. But I could be wrong. To do that to demonstrate irritation is a pretty hilarious reason.

Every pitch of the Cora at-bat is at, so I got to see it. Three things stood out. First, Clement kept throwing the same pitch, to the same location, over and over. His location was right on, every time. Second, Cora hit all but one of his fouls to the first-base side, and they almost all looked very very similar. None was in the air, which made the home run seem even more surprising. And third, after a few pitches, Vin Scully was stuck saying, "And another foul." Over and over again.

Levi: I love Santo, despite agreeing with nearly every word Steve says. Especially that Pat Hughes is a Saint.

Luke: I will! I will! As Levi and Stacey and Bob well know, I agree with nearly word Steve says, especially that Ron Santo is the worst color guy ever.

Bob can testify how I put my palms to my ears when, in the 9th inning of a close game, Ron has nothing to add but "Noooo!" and "Yesssss!" and "Ohhhhhh!" and "Heyyyyy!" My latest annoyance has been his tendency to start anecdotes with two outs, resulting in Pat having to say, ".... and Sammy Sosa strikes out to end the enning. We'll hear the rest of Ron's story about (nonsense unrelated to baseball) after this break."

Come the Sox series, I'll be listening to Ed and John over on AM 1000. Sometimes I even prefer to listen to the Sox game, so brilliant are Ed and John, and count on the occasional update to know how my Cubs are doing.

Steve: Amen to the Rooney and Farmer comment, but don't you think Farmer is getting a little out there at times? Sometimes he gets this "know it all" air about him that makes him a bit pretentious. Iíve learned a lot about baseball from listening to those guys. They can make the AL fun. Back to Hughes and Santo: Here's another one that might not actually have happened but might as well have.

Pat: Bases full of Cubs two outs
Ron: Uh...I..uh got a fax here from....uh....Beverly in Davenport Iowa. She loves the...uh...Cubs and wants to uh...wish...
Pat: Alou hits a drive...
Ron: Yes!!! Cmon! Yes!!
Pat: And Bonds squeezes it for out #3
Ron: No!!!!

Levi, why do you love Santo so much? Is it for the same reason every kid at the Special Olympics gets a medal? That's what's so frustrating about this hatred. No one will contradict my general assesment of the man, instead they just say stuff like "He's a legend" or try to start some argument with me about Santo being in the Hall of Fame.

Levi: I will admit to being completely bowled over--robbed of my ability to think critically--by his resolute fandom, his Charlie-Brown-worthy yo-yoing between absurd, childlike hopefulness and Dostoevskian despair, and by his (apparently) complete lack of any pretension.

Plus, he should be in the Hall of Fame.

stacey: although i concede that ron santo is an absolutely horrid baseball announcer, i really do enjoy listening to ron and pat. it's like hanging out with two great friends. one of them knows a lot about baseball, and the other one's got a french-speaking canadian dog and a Really fat cat that exercises until it is sweaty in a giant hampster ball. and they both really love the cubs.

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Thursday, May 13, 2004


Not the Trolley Dodgers anymore

A question that could have far-reaching implications for the road trip, where we'll be seeing games on consecutive nights in cities that are several hundred miles apart: would I have a good time seeing games on consecutive nights in cities that are several thousand miles apart?

The link between the Devil Rays and the Dodgers? Why, former Devil Ray Wilson Alvarez, of course. He's the white blob on the left side of this picture, getting ready to pitch to Sammy Sosa...

You know when an at-bat is going on a long time when the scoreboard operator has enough time to type in something like this...

Cora fouled 14 times in a row, and each one was accompanied by some Little Leaguers in our section trying to start The Wave, which would peter out a couple of sections over because nobody else really cared. And then Cora hit a home run.

The answer is, yes, I had a good time, although I was pretty tired by the end of the game shortly after 10:00 Pacific time, since I had been up since 6:00 A.M. Eastern time. I'm not expecting any jet lag on the road trip. Fortunately, I didn't have to be behind the wheel to get out of the Dodger Stadium parking lots...

In the L.A. Times on Thursday morning, the headline spotlighted Alvarez (pulled after 101 pitches), but the picture is of Cora being congratulated after the at-bat that went on forever...

Original comments...

Levi: That's a remarkably pointless headline.

Biggest surprise for me in that game? Learning that Wilson Alvarez is in the league again, and that, despite losing some weight, he's still a very big man.

Tom Ellwanger: And at the Ranger/Devil Ray game on the afternoon of May 13, in order of perceived excitement:

1. The Rangers pitcher picked two Devil Rays players off first base, including Maura's favorite player. Per the surprisingly diplomatic Lou Piniella, no right-handed pitcher can have that good a pickoff move without balking, in this case with his knee, "but the umpires didn't see it."

2. The Rangers blew both resulting run-downs in different ways, something which nobody in the stands--all 2,600 of us--had seen since Little League. In one case, the picked off runner made second and got credit for a stolen base, producing the same result as a balk call (assuming Lou was correct).

3. The Devil Rays won the game. The starting pitcher got the win, the new-from-Durham setup man got his 95 mph fastballs close enough to the plate that people swung at them, and the closer got the save (save number 4 out of 11 total victories).

4. Raymond came down the aisle and stopped to kiss Jim's new stepmother. No photographer was around to memorialize this poignant image.

5. Jim's new stepmother wishes that Jim's father had used the ready-made excuse to pound this obnoxious mascot into the real-clay infield, but he (Jim's father) was too stunned by the entire spectacle to react that quickly.

Baseball fever! We have it in Tampa. Oh, Rocco Baldelli bobblehead doll night is next Tuesday, but I'm going to the Lightning/Flyer game.

Levi: At least with Rocco Baldelli bobblehead day, the Rays are sure they won't be faced with the ignominy of having to cancel the day because the player's in the minors again, like they were forced to do with Jason Tyner bobblehead day.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2004


Raised on Devil Ray-dio

First and most importantly, I have solved a mystery that has been puzzling Levi ever since last July, regarding the end of a certain White Sox-Devil Rays game, captured by Levi's TiVo and replayed endlessly. The question was, what was the deal with the Devil Rays mascot, Pansy the Wuss-Wuss Fish Who Can't Keep It Up (a.k.a. Raymond), when he was jumping around with the players?

The answer is that if the Rays are behind, he spends the bottom of the ninth standing around on top of the visitors' dugout, dressed in a black shirt and mask, "disguised" as Rally Ray. Unfortunately, I was unable to get a good picture of him as he was unsuccessfully attempting to work his mojo against the Rangers on Tuesday night:

And now, more pictures:

Tropicana Field, as seen from the Interstate. It's hard to tell, but we were driving through a sudden, very brief cloudburst at this point, approximately 6:40 P.M., and that's why the city of St. Petersburg built a dome in the late 1980s.

The view from my seat, on the club level. I have to admit that this would be a very nice stadium if not for the permanent roof.

Plenty of good seats available. The official attendance was 10,389, but there were probably fewer than 7,000 people actually at the game. This is what happens when a team has lost its last five games and 12 out of its last 14, and plays a Tuesday night game against a team other than the Yankees or Red Sox, and doesn't give away some sort of promotional item. They did not play Guess the Attendance on the scoreboard.

Maura's favorite player!

The final line.

Headline in the Tampa Tribune.

Headline in the Dallas Morning News (it was a coincidence that I was changing planes not too far away from The Ballpark at Arlington...excuse me, Ameriquest Field).

Unfortunately, although the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa has a "please touch" ray pond, since they're all the rage these days, they haven't labeled which ones are the devil rays. (Insert your own joke here, or better yet, in the comments.)

Original comments...

maura: haha, i was totally going to ask you where the picture of rocco was!! nice work, my friend, nice work. have you been to other roofed parks ever? i have never seen a baseball game indoors, and man people i know sure hate tropicana field.

maura: i am really sad about the rays this season, too, but i think i've mentioned that. sigh

Levi: I've been to a game at the Metrodome, with Stacey and Sarah Meisch and Dan Rivkin and Baggarly. We all kind of enjoyed it, although it was weird. The worst part was leaving a 65-degree sunny day to enter a 65-degree fluorescent-lit dome.

Steve: As much as I'm glad Jim was able to enjoy a trip home, (and catch an AL game in a dome) his attention to detail makes a strong case that baseball could use some contraction.

Jim: Nah, I'd have the same attention to detail even if the AL still had only eight teams. But it'll all be worth it if I get on "Super Millionaire."

Steve: I hear you on that super millionare. Will you be my phone a friend if I make it? I don't like the new "jury" lifeline. Even though they should be super brainy, I don't trust them. They are there at the producers behest no?

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Tenderized by throwing fastballs at it repeatedly

Devil Rays pictures shortly. First, here's this, from a supermarket ad in today's Dallas Morning News:

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Tuesday, May 11, 2004


Nothing gold can stay

Enjoy it while you can, folks. The Boston Herald is reporting the following:

"Johnny Damon has agreed to shave his beard May 21 as part of a charity venture, but he's not going to shear his long locks of hair. The center fielder, who has 3-for-4 last night and has raised his average to .283, agreed to shave when Gillette offered to contribute $15,000 to Boston Public Library."

According to an AP story, Gillette asked Damon to pick a charity.

I guess if the beard is gonna go, might as well help support a library.

Oh, and in today's search for Damon photos, I found a forum on beards with a thread on new baseball facial hair this season. But please don't let it distract you so much that you never return here.

Original comments...

sandor: Damon's mom will be happy. Apparently she thinks he's no longer as cute as he used to be.

Levi: Maybe shaving is a Mother's Day gift?

Luke: If only I were a rich eccentric, because then I'd offer $15,001 to charity for him to *NOT* shave it.