Saturday, July 31, 2004



Maybe we should have picked the first or second itinerary options, because then we would have beat the Pennsylvania Turnpike toll increase that takes effect Sunday.

But at least we're not going to be driving a vehicle weighing 100,001 pounds or more! I think our Pennsylvania Turnpike toll is going to be $16.25; the heaviest of trucks would pay $636.00 between the same two interchanges. Actually, based on my previous experiences, if that toll rate keeps a few trucks off the turnpike, it's good, because driving between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh gets very tedious when you're having to pass hundreds of trucks that are going very slowly up the hills.

Original comments...

Luke: Ah, fond memories of how Sandy and I decided to take the turnpike to get to Maryland. (Sorry the display is all munged up, and I can't link to the precise post. It's the fifth one.)

Jim: What was then a $6.50 toll (from the Ohio state line to Breezewood) is now $9.50.

I guess I can't compare the I-79/I-68 routing to Three Rivers Stadium anymore, since I-79 and I-68 are still in existence. Perhaps someday they will be replaced by or supplemented with high-speed railroad corridors, which I will then be able to compare to PNC Park.

Speaking of your 2001 trip, have I ever mentioned that I bought a Nikon 990 digital camera based on the loveliness of the pictures from that trip (which, alas, seem to have disappeared from your site)? Sometimes I wish I'd bought something a little smaller, but I have to admit it takes lovely pictures. Of course, it's way out of date now, much like my third-generation iPod that will also be making the trip. These kids today, with their 8-megapixel digital cameras and their click-wheel iPods...

Levi: If all goes well, I'll next weekend (at my brother's wedding) be getting my sister's extra iPod (She got one, then her husband won one), passing mine along to Stacey, who has less need for thousands of songs at her fingertips daily.

I don't know how big this one is, but it's bigger than my 5-gig one, that's for sure.

Jim: Won one by buying the 97,600,000th song (or whatever) from the iTunes Music Store? If so, awesome! If not, slightly less awesome, but still awesome! I can't even remember now how many total songs I won from Pepsi bottlecaps. If it's a third-generation iPod, it'll work with the car charger I'm bringing, so there will be no need to worry about having to charge up the battery in order to listen to Jack Benny.

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Friday, July 30, 2004


I hope the game justifies the positive feedback

I have been checking eBay occasionally to see if anyone is selling tickets for the games on the trip. Finally, that paid off, because I found someone selling his 18-rows-behind-the-plate season seats for the August 23rd Tigers-White Sox game. I gambled on not using "Buy It Now," and that paid off as well; I ended up being the only bidder, so I got them for his starting price, a significant discount from the face value. The tickets came in the mail today.

I didn't post anything about this before now because I didn't want any of the miscreants who read this blog to bid on the tickets and bump the price up. These will probably be the best seats we have for any game on the trip, except perhaps Davenport, or Montreal.

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Rumors and reports of rumors

With Major League Baseball's trading deadline edging up on us, I am beginning to feel skittish. Talking last night to Dan Rivkin, who will be covering the hoped-for frenzy on Saturday for MLB, I confirmed that he's heard the same rumors that I've heard trickling in all week: Baseball-Related Program Activities 2004 is considering trading me for a player to be named later and the usual "cash considerations."

I thought it was odd when Jim started talking about reviving No, No, Nanette, but it was only in the last week, when I discovered that Ken Jennings would be taking a break from driving the Jeopardy question writers around the bend, that I began to worry.

I can't really even blame Jim. Think about it: what do I bring to the trip that Ken Jennings can't? I'm sure he even knows St. Louis Cardinals history better than I do. Taking me on the trip is like writing Rey Ordonez into the lineup when Alex Rodriguez is available.

But then I remembered my little version of the no-trade clause: I do have the Cardinals tickets. And I bet Ken Jennings's family doesn't live within convenient driving distance of Busch Stadium.

Maybe I'll get to stay on the roster after all.

P.S. One more thought about the deadline. I really dislike that MLB has moved it up to 4 p.m. Eastern on Saturday. I think it should be the stroke of midnight on the 31st, and that at that moment, Bud Selig's voice should come over the speaker phones of every general manager: "Time. Put your pencils down."

Original comments...

Jim: As far as I know, Ken Jennings is unavailable for the trip because "Jeopardy!" is taping shows on August 24th and 25th. But even if he's lost, you don't get your "Jeopardy!" winnings check from Sony until after your last air date (and it can be up to 120 days later), so it's not like he'd be able to spring for, say, rooms in the SkyDome Hotel.

Also, he may be the fun, easy-going type of Mormon, but he's still a Mormon, and for all I know, he might spend the trip berating me for drinking caffeinated beverages. True, Levi might spend the trip berating me for eating hot dogs, bacon, hot dogs wrapped in bacon, and other meat products, but at least I know how to deal with him -- distract him with some sort of reading material, and he'll be quiet for hours (why do you think I made sure to get all those AAA Tourbooks?). Ken Jennings seems to like movies better than reading, believe it or not, and there won't be a DVD system in the rental car.

Jason: I would think Ken Jennings would be Jim's nemesis. (Or is that 'arch-nemesis'?)

Toby: I say trade Levi for me. I have a press pass.

Toby: ...And I eat nothing except meat!

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Friday reading

Last year, ranked all 30 ballparks...which, of course, means their list is out of date already, and I've got to believe the two new-for-2004 parks would rank higher than the parks they replaced. I can't disagree with most of their observations, at least of the stadiums I've been to, although some of the items they rated aren't relevant to me (I've never had much of a desire for stadium beer, for example).

On the trip, we'll be going to their best (PNC Park) and their worst (Olympic Stadium), as well as their Number 9, Number 11, Number 12, Number 16, Number 19, Number 20, and Number 23, plus the new, and therefore not on their list, Citizens Bank Park.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004


Let's see, if I call in sick Friday and Saturday...

I'm trying to figure out if I can get up to Fresno for the Grizzlies game Friday evening. It's Best of the Worst Night, so people get in free if they're wearing paraphernalia related to the New York Mets (because of their 1962 season), the Ottawa Senators (1992-93), the Philadelphia 76ers (1972-73), or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1976). I happen to have not just a Buccaneers T-shirt, but an authentic orange and white Buccaneers T-shirt, i.e., the colors they were wearing in 1976. (Authentic, unlike this jersey, which has several things wrong with it, most notably the large red stripes on the sleeves.)

Granted, that's a long way to go solely for a free ticket to a minor-league baseball game, but where else am I going to get to show off my old Bucs shirt? (I wore it to a friend's house to watch Super Bowl XXXV, but that get-together was filled with non-football fans who didn't fully appreciate the significance.) Maybe if I combined it with my Devil Rays cap, the Grizzlies would actually give me money at the gate.

Original comments...

Steve: Since you are on the West Coast, would any Seattle Pilots memorabilia count? They only won 64 games and they only lasted one year. That's pretty bad. By the way, with someone approaching their 30th birthday (me) nothing says "You're 30" like a bright orange historically inaccurate long sleeve Doug Williams jersey in size L

Jason: Since it's about a 3 1/2 hour drive, you'd need to leave by 3 p.m. to make it.

I'm wondering if I should figure out a way to go along. I'd be willing to wear my Northwestern Wildcats hat (whose football team lost 34 straight games in the early '80s), but it appears they're only concerned with professional futility.



Basebrawl, the fun version

Now, even if you didn't enjoy Jason Varitek's attempt to pluck out Alex Rodriguez's eyes on Saturday, I think you'll enjoy the brawl from last night's White Sox/Twins game as presented by Batgirl.

What, you say? There was no brawl? Well, she thinks there should have been, after Corey Koskie was hit by pitches three times in the game. And she's got Lego men and a digital camera, all she needs to make her own brawl.

By the way: what do you think Varitek was going to do with A-Rod's eyes if he got them? At first I thought he was planning ahead to use the hidden ball trick, but I don't think that would work as well with eyeballs as it did with a potato that one time.

Original comments...

Dan: I think I read Varitek was going to threaten to throw his eyes into the Tigris River unless the Yankees withdrew their club from first place.

Jason: I think he was confusing Alex Rodriguez with Bette Davis.

Just ask Kim Carnes.

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Monday, July 26, 2004


Alternate universe version of the trip number two, the end

Cubs 3, Brewers 1. Hooray for Matt Clement and that thing on his chin! I'm sure Levi would rather have been in Cincinnati to see the Cardinals get four runs in the 11th inning, though.

But now that this imaginary trip is over, we can concentrate fully on the real trip, which -- lest we forget -- begins in less than four weeks. And by the way, Levi, you might as well enter this contest. Just send a picture of yourself wearing one of those Cardinals caps you're always wearing, even to games involving the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates. (That picture was taken the night of Mark Prior's major league debut, incidentally.)

Original comments...

stacey: i don't think matt clement shaved before last night's game. thus he was described as "gritty" by mlb today. *sigh* i'm just glad that the cubs have FINALLY scored some runs to back up their cutest pitcher.

Luke: Remember when Matt Clement shaved his beard last year?

That was great.

Levi: Remember when Mark Prior didn't have facial hair?

And remember when Matt Morris didn't have that soul patch that's about the size and strength of Cheney's soul?

And remember when Johnny Damon had a beard?


Jason: Remember John Kruk?

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Sunday, July 25, 2004


Alternate universe version of the trip number two, almost finished

Indians 5, Royals 1. Brand-new Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley started his career in Cleveland, which I didn't realize until I looked him up just now.

Tomorrow: Speaking of brand-new Hall of Famers, it's Milwaukee, home to Paul Molitor for most of his career. This was pretty well-planned, eh?

Back here in the real world, on the lookout for airplane reading material for the trip, I came across "Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy" on the bargain shelves at Barnes & Noble for $3.98.

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Alternate universe version of the trip number two, continued

Blue Jays 4, Devil Rays 2. The Rays' winning streak of June is now but a distant memory.

Tomorrow: Cleveland! Actually, it's late enough that it's later today, really. My excuse is that, since this is only a pretend version of the trip, I can go to a friend's birthday karaoke party in real life.

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Saturday, July 24, 2004


Alternate universe version of the trip number two, continued

Expos 2, Marlins 1. I don't know, Les Poissons didn't look like World Series champs to me. But maybe that's because I'm still bitter.

Tomorrow: Toronto, and at last, I won't look so out of place with the Devil Rays cap I've been wearing this whole time!

Original comments...

Jason: You should probably have washed your Rays hat by now. Just because you're in a French-speaking region, that's no excuse to drop your sanitary habits.

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Friday, July 23, 2004


Schubert, Schumann, and Senators?

According to a Washington-based media news site, assuming the greater D.C. area really is getting the Expos, one radio station group owner is already looking forward to getting the broadcast rights...and putting the broadcasts on their classical station, which would henceforth use the slogan "Bach, Beethoven, and baseball."

Elsewhere, someone has already suggested Washington Insiders as a team name. If it were up to me, though, I'd follow the Swing of the Quad Cities model and name the team The Fat Cats in Washington.

Original comments...

Jason: I'd name them the D.C. Follies. It fits so well.

Dan: Or do the trendy non-plural team name: The D.C. Cab.

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Batgirl, the baseball variety

Got some time to kill on a slow Friday afternoon at the office? Stop playing Minesweeper and check out Batgirl's site. I found it yesterday, and she sold me with this post that features a lot of great possibilities for newspaper headlines about that day's Twins win.

She's a Twins fan, which is probably all you need to know about the depth of her passion for baseball. Although I enjoyed the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome the one time I was there, it would take a great love of baseball for someone to spend more than a couple of the beautiful days of the Twin Cities' short summer staring at the baggie in right field instead of having a beer at an outdoor restaurant and keeping your eyes out for Prince.

We're talking The Human Computer and Fruit Pies kinda love. That's the kind of love Batgirl has for the Twins.

Original comments...

Jason: Talking in the 3rd person? Is she Bob Dole's granddaughter?

Jason wonders if she's gone to any St. Paul Saints games. Jason would go if Jason was in the Twin Cities area.

Donna Cochener: leeeeeviiii.... when you guys do your baseball roadtrip, can you get me a Hello Kitty from each team? It's my newest collection. I'll pay you for the Kitties and for the pain and suffering, too. :) I already have a Mariners Hello Kitty and a Dodgers Hello Kitty, so those are covered...

Levi: No.

Well, maybe.

Note my kindness getting the better of my better judgment here. I think Hello Kitty should be put on just about everything . . . except baseball trip itineraries.

stacey: donna, if levi won't get you a hello kitty from each park, i'll make you several slices of hello kitty toast and mail them to you.

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Just in time

According to this story, officials from the Major League Baseball Players' Union met with Montreal Expos player reps yesterday to inform them that there would be no baseball in Montreal next season. The team's new home hasn't been decided, but it appears that it will be either Washington, DC, or northern Virginia.

Since one of the main reasons Jim and I are taking this trip is to see the Montreal Expos, I'm glad we didn't put the trip off a year.

But before the Expos leave us, one more thing needs to be said: Major League Baseball killed baseball in Montreal. Though baseball in Montreal was never a good bet to be as big as in baseball's best cities, the Expos were popular in the past, and there's no reason to think that, with a winning team and smart ownership, they couldn't be popular in the future.

Take a look at this chart of Expos home attendance through the years. From 1979-1983, when the Expos were winning at a .543 clip (picking up their one division title along the way and finishing second (to the Pirates) twice), the Expos averaged nearly 28,000 fans per game. Attendance fell along with the Expos' winning percentage throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, but it didn't utterly collapse until the late 1990s, on the heels of two fire sales and the loss of the 1994 postseason, which cost the best Expos team in 15 years its chance at a World Series.

If this were any other business, some smart young rich guy would look at those figures and decide to take a crack on turning baseball around in Montreal. But in the Seligian fiefdom that is MLB, the 30 owners thought they were better off with wrangling another taxpayer-funded stadium, depressing salaries for a few years, and trying (and failing) an experiment in Puerto Rico. And as for the remaining Expos fans, well, tough merde.

So enjoy your new Senators or Swamp Rats or K Street Killers or Suburban Sluggers or whatever, [insert name of Expos new home city or region here], in the new stadium you built them. But you might want to get started drawing up the paperwork on those bonds for 2035, when Zombie Selig will reveal that the stadium is antiquated and will keep the team from ever succeeding, and if you don't build a new one, he might just have to authorize a move to . . . . Montreal.

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Thursday, July 22, 2004


Alternate universe version of the trip number two, continued

Orioles 8, Red Sox 3. The Sox and Orioles played two at Fenway today; unfortunately, it was a doubleheader of the day-night variety, so we didn't get two games for the price of one.

À demain: Montréal, pour les Expos contre les, uh, Poissons. (A chance to demonstrate my vague knowledge of French!)

Original comments...

Toby: Translation:

Tommorow: to Montreal for the Expos against the, uh, Fish.

A chance (probably the first and only chance) to use that French minor I have hanging on the wall.

Levi: One of my favorite stories (wait: I suppose it's really the only one I know) involving baseball and French: A guy online wrote about being at an Expos game when Michael Barrett homered. The two guys in front of him jumped up and shouted "Oui, Monsieur!"

I've been practicing this so it will sound natural in August.

Jim: Memorizing French translations of baseball terms may come in handy. The best and most poetic rendering by far is knuckleball, which is apparently "balle de papillon" in French: "butterfly ball."

Actually, a lot of these are great. Fly ball is "chandelle," which means "candle." Fair ball is "bonne balle," or "good ball." Walk is "base automatique," which is exactly what it sounds like. Home run is "circuit," or better yet, "coup de circuit," and that's exactly what it sounds like, too.

Jason: If you guys don't purchase & consume any poutine while you're there, I will be disappointed.

As Wade Carney would say in his Elvis impression: "It's a king's world, baby...and gravy's a beverage!"

Jim: I think poutine is made with meat gravy, which means Levi probably won't be consuming any. Guess I'll have to eat enough for both of us.

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Ya never know

The last two Cardinals games have provided an example of one of the reasons I like baseball. Day to day, you never know what kind of game you'll get. One day, you hit five home runs and win 11-8. The next, you get three hits--two by your pitcher--and win 1-0.

You never know what you're going to get, that is, unless you're Barry Bonds, in which case you at least know you'll get walked about 1300 times per game.

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Alternate universe version of the trip number two, continued

Yankees 10, Blue Jays 3. No Jeter! No Giambi! Yankees still win. Levi grumbling about not being able to watch the Cardinals' current awesomeness.

Wait a minute. What am I doing up so late? We've got to get up early to make it to a day game in Boston tomorrow!

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Tuesday, July 20, 2004


Alternate universe version of the trip, number two

The answer to the question posed at the end of this entry is, no, I won't remember when July 17th rolls around. So here's the first half of Itinerary Number Two...

Saturday, July 17: Cubs 5, Brewers 0. A complete-game shutout for Greg Maddux!

Sunday, July 18: Tigers 4, Yankees 2. The Tigers get their 44th win, one more win than they had all last season!

Monday, July 19: Expos 6, Pirates 2. A rare Expos win!

Tuesday, July 20: Marlins 9, Mets 7. A seesaw battle in the Big Apple!

Tomorrow: The Bronx! Also: More exclamation points?!

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Quinton McCracken strikes again!

I don't like to post these on a regular basis because I don't want to screw up future results...but yesterday someone found this page by searching for "baseball related things that start with the letter Q."

Original comments...

Jim: Hooray for whoever searched for "baseball related things that start with Levi and Jim."

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Last chance

I'm going to order tickets for game 2 of our trip tomorrow, once I know whether my brother is joining us. That's the game in St. Louis on August 22nd versus the Pirates.

So it's your last chance, potential hangers-on. We've got a group of 9 so far (Me, Jim, Stacey, Luke, my parents, Tony, Geoff Goldman and his fiancee). Want to join us?

Original comments...

Luke: Is our group big enough to get a group rate and get welcomed on the DiamondVision? Maybe the nine of us can be waiting out on the field when the Cu^^Cardinals come out to start the game!

Luke: Oh, and I sure hope Matt Morris is pitching that day and does as well as he is doing today. Hee-hee!

Luke: Umm, nevermind. I expect that by the time of our trip I'll be rooting for the Cards to keep the Pirates out of the wild-card race.

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Cards/Cubs notes

I'm only here at the office half a day today, so all I've got today is a few quick notes from last night's game:

1) Wendell Kim has failed to master any of the three elements of a third-base coach's job. As I see it, those elements are knowing the speed of the runners on your team, knowing the quality of the throwing arm of the opposing outfielders, and knowing, at the very least, how many outs have been made already in an inning. Breaking down last night's Wavin' Wendell moment, we see that Kim sent a slightly hobbled runner, Aramis Ramirez (Element 1), against the great arm of Reggie Sanders (Element 2) when there were no outs in the inning (Element 3). Hilarity ensued.

Kim was apologetic after the game.

2) In the 4th inning, after Jim Edmonds deposited a ball onto Sheffield, he admired his shot too long for Carlos Zambrano's taste. Now, my seatmate, Michelle, and I didn't notice anything, and even as we watched the slow-motion replay on the TV hanging above our heads, we didn't think Edmonds had been out of line. Zambrano thought differently, so he yelled at him, almost precipitated a brawl, and then in the 8th, after giving up another home run, this one to Rolen, he hit Edmonds. I agree with Phil Rogers today (Wow. That's the first time that's happened that I know of. And I thought it was weird when I found myself agreeing with something Pat Buchanan said recently. These are strange days indeed.) in the Tribune: if you're pitching for a team whose superstar does a wiggly little hop every time he homers, you should probably keep quiet about demonstrations by your opponents.

3) Zambrano was ejected immediately after hitting Edmonds--who, to his credit took his base in manly, "I'm above this shit--and we're about to have a 9-game lead" fashion, singlehandedly preventing a brawl--which led Michelle and me to consider the rules. Zambrano knew he would be ejected for hitting Edmonds, as both benches had been warned earlier. Because there was no one getting ready in the bullpen, Mike Remlinger, when called upon, was given all the time he needed to get warmed up.

Michelle and I agreed that that's an understandable policy. After all, it's not in anyone's interest to have pitchers getting injured because they only got eight warm-up tosses. But we also agreed that such a policy could lead to abuse by managers: in this case, Zambrano had just given up the lead. He wasn't going to be lifted from the game, but it's easy to imagine a circumstance in which the manager, his pitcher suddenly falling apart on the mound, has him get ejected from the game in order to avoid having to keep him out there for another batter or two while the reliever gets ready.

But I came up with a solution to this problem. The reliever who enters following an ejection gets all the time he needs to warm up . . . but the opposing manager gets to pick who that reliever is. Jeff Fassero, are you hiding down there behind the tarp? Come on down! Mel Rojas, are you in the clubhouse wrapped in a towel? Tony LaRussa would like to see you!

Next time I harangue the Commish in a dream, I'll suggest that change in the rules.

4) And a quick note on selectivity and patience at the plate. I was tracking pitches while keeping score last night. Cubs leadoff man Mark Grudzielanek saw only eight pitches while making four outs. Meanwhile, Cardinals leadoff man Tony Womack, in the course of going 0-3 with two walks, used up 21 pitches. That lack of patience has dogged nearly all the Cubs all year long, and it goes a long way towards explaining how Chris Carpenter was able to get through eight innings last night on only 97 pitches and four earned runs despite giving up 12 hits. Well, that and point #1 above.

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Monday, July 19, 2004


The trees are all gone

With one month to go until the trip officially starts with me flying to Chicago, I thought I'd show you all the items I got from AAA...

Not all of these items will make the trip, because their weight adds up. Most likely to be left at home are the Tourbooks for Arkansas/Kansas/Missouri/Oklahoma and Iowa/Minnesota/Nebraska/North Dakota/South Dakota, since in both cases, we'll be in one of the included states for no more than a few hours.

Original comments...

Levi: I guess I'll make the reservation for a trailer rental now.

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What just happened?

Saturday at Wrigley Field, I saw Greg Maddux throw a shutout in 2:05, which I think is the shortest game I've ever seen. If the Cubs hadn't scored some runs in the 8th and thereby forced a pictching change, it would have been around 1:45.

If all the games we see on our trip move that quickly, Jim and I might have to find some nearby minor-league games, just to keep busy. How does 21 games in 11 cities in 10 days sound, Jim?

Original comments...

Jon Solomon: I went to a Yankees game on opening day in the late 1980s. Yanks won 2-0. Game was over in +/- 1:50. Rafael Santana hit into an around-the-horn triple play to end the 8th.

Jim: It could be 21 games in 21 cities with the minor-league games added. Now, some are close -- the Clearwater Phillies and Tampa Yankees aren't too far from St. Petersburg, home of the Devil Rays; and I think you know about the locations of the minor-league teams in the Chicago area -- but as far as I know, the Brooklyn Cyclones and Staten Island Yankees are the only minor-league teams to be in the same city limits as a major-league team.

Jon Solomon: I am proud to report that there are FOURTEEN minor league teams within 2.5 hours of my home in Lawrenceville, NJ. Trenton. Camden. Lakewood. Montclair. Reading. Wilkes-Barre. Harrisburg. Wilmington. Atlantic City. Somerset. Newark. Augusta. Brooklyn. Staten Island. Woo!

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Sunday, July 18, 2004


Eternally yours was represented today at the 2004 induction into the Baseball Reliquary's Shrine of the Eternals, a.k.a. the parallel universe version of the Hall of Fame. The best part is that I didn't have to go all the way to Cooperstown for the inductions; instead, I took public transportation to Pasadena.

Where else are you going to hear Lester Rodney, the 93-year-old former sports editor of the Daily Worker, tell Jackie Robinson stories? Probably nowhere. The story about Pee Wee Reese putting his arm around Jackie never fails to move me.

Later, Dick Allen waxed eloquent about having to play Roberto Clemente and the rest of the "Lumber Yard": "They'd keep us on defense for 35, 40 minutes, and then we'd only be in the dugout for 7 minutes."

After I got home, I watched my TiVo recording of (what turned out to be) a 10-4 Cardinals victory over the Reds. DirecTV has had another free preview of the MLB Extra Innings package for the few days following the All-Star break, hoping to sell a few people on ordering it for the second half of the season (for only one-third less than what it cost at the beginning of the year). I figured I should watch the Cardinals so Levi and I will have something to talk about all those days in the car. That Scott Rolen certainly is a good player! Also, the Reds held my interest by bringing in a member of my All-Name team, Todd Van Poppel. (Among the other members of my All-Name team: Quinton McCracken and Delino DeShields.)

Since it was a home game for the Reds, it was the feed from Fox Sports Net Ohio, and something strange was going on every time announcer George Grande would do a "Reds baseball on Fox Sports Net is brought to you by..." announcement; he'd read the plugs, and then would shut up for 15 or 20 seconds until the music bed ended. (And 15 to 20 seconds of a baseball announcer being silent seems like an eternity!) My semi-educated guess is that local cable systems put in their own sponsorship announcements there, but if anyone knows differently, please use the comments below. Actually, since I don't watch much baseball on TV, for all I know, all the Fox Sports Net affiliates are doing that now.

Original comments...

Jim: Two things I forgot to mention...the induction ceremony was being interpreted for the benefit of the "Dummy" Hoy contingent, and because I was seeing it over and over, I now know the sign language for "baseball": bring your fists together in front of your chest, elbows out, as if you're in a batting stance.

Also, the first person to leap to his feet to give Lester Rodney a standing ovation was a man wearing a Dennis Kucinich T-shirt.

Levi: No, the pause is the new system where you, the viewer, supply the ad copy. Then you send Fox money.

Toby: What a Smart Alec Levi is. Yes, Jim, that slot might be for local inserts or it could be for a local station identification.

And I certainly hope Montreal's Terrmel Sledge makes your All-Name list.

Was Buck O'Neal at this gathering you attended?

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Friday, July 16, 2004


I'll admit that I assumed it was lame.

A week or two ago, watching Houston fall to the Padres, I finally saw Trevor Hoffman's grand entrance. As you all probably know, when Hoffman enters a game, the stadium PA plays AC/DC's "Hell's Bells." At the Padres' new ballpark, the song is accompanied by devilish flames licking Hoffman's name on the big screen in left field.

And I have to admit that it was pretty cool. Sure, it's overblown, and AC/DC is so . . . obvious? Cliched? But the crowd was into it, and as Hoffman walked through the outfield, he did seem tougher.

This got me to thinking about the music that's played when hitters come to the plate at most ballparks these days. I used to agree with Luke (and probably most of the readers of this blog, who tend, it seems, towards traditionalism) that such displays had no place in the ballpark.

Then Magglio Ordonez happened. When Magglio--one of the best hitters ever to play in semi-obscurity--comes to the plate, the PA runs the marching chant of the Wicked Witch of the West's palace guards, the Winkies: "Oh-Ee-Oh." The crowd finishes the line, "Magg-lio." It's a low, rumbling sound, it makes wonderfully creative use of Magglio's name, and if I were a pitcher, I'd be getting ready to back up third. At the Sox game a couple of weeks ago, the scoreboard announced that Ordonez had that morning been activated from the Disabled List, and the PA--with Magglio nowhere in sight--played his music. The crowd went wild.

So my coworker, Peter, and I started having a silly discussion about what we might have played when we came to bat, were we major league players. Peter hit upon what I think is the best possible idea: Dr. Octagon's "I'm Destructive!" I kept dithering between the intro to Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground" and the intro to Cornershop's "Sleep on the Left Side." Or the horn intro to Gloria Jones's "Tainted Love," or Tom Wait's "Black Wings," or the Beastie Boys doing "Johnny Ryall."

I also thought about a part of a live version of "Cypress Avenue" where Van Morrison shouts"Baby!" forty-five times in a row. If that won't wear a pitcher out, I've got no hope. But I suppose if I were to be honest about my abilities, I'd probably play another Stevie Wonder song, "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing."

And what for you?

Original comments...

Steve: The Magglio chant is pretty cool if a little overblown but it brings up an interesting issue. My boss, and no slouch in the trivia department, insists that the chant actually has words and they are... "All we owe...we owe...her."

I keep telling him to put up or shutup with an internet link or Wizard of Oz fan site. So far he "has better things to do." Still, if he's right it ads an interesting dimension.

Steve: Shit. I forgot my song to enter the game. ZZ Top, "Just got Paid" if I was a batter and if a reliever, Willie Nelson's "Time of the Preacher"

Jim: "Jimmy Mack," by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, despite the fact that I don't go by Jimmy and my last name doesn't start with Mc or Mac. Actually, if I were making the major-league minimum, I might go with They Might Be Giants' "Minimum Wage."

Jim: Better yet: Jim Croce's "You Don't Mess Around with Jim." (Lyrics not linked because, after a quick search, I can't find a page that doesn't open a million pop-up ads and has the correct "its" instead of "it's" in the first two lines of the song.)

Becky: I'm tempted by Psycho Killer by Talking Heads for batting (because I'd be a big slugger). For relieving I'd go for Right Now by Van Halen, and There She Goes by the La's when I get pulled three pitches later (do we get to pick the music for when we get pulled?).

Toby: For Levi (who I've always called Leviticus), how about The Theme from Exodus or anything by Genesis.

If I was coming to the plate, I think "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" (with the crowd changing the chant to "Bad, Bad Toby Brown" would be cool. But, since I would only want to play for my favorite team, the Pirates, there's probably little chance of any crowd participation (unless we traveled back in time to about 1979).

Levi: Hell, Toby, if we're making ourselves into big-league ballplayers, we might as well throw some time travel in, too.

I'm going back to October 1985 and rescuing Vince Coleman from that tarp-rolling machine.

Jason: Batting music: Opening intro to "Money" by Pink Floyd

Pitching Relief music: "Funeral Pyre" by The Jam

Dan: Walking in from bullpen: The intro track off Dr. Dre's The Chronic (the one with Snoop talking over the sample vamp -- "If that bitch can't swim, she's bound to driz-zown.")

Batting: Handel's "Messiah"

stacey: it'd be pretty awesome if i were in the majors. i'd have to go with P.U.N.K Girl by Heavenly . . . i'd be such a punk hitter. also, i am a girl.

Toby: I've met Stacey and I think "Heartbreaker" by Pat Benatar would be a better choice.... Levi, you lucky S.O.B. ....

Luke: I'd do the first few measures of Schubert's Unfinished Symphony, but only if the stadium had enough bass to loosen people's fillings. It'd be such a low rumble that the crowd wouldn't even notice that music were being played, except for the screws coming out of their seats.

thatbob: If I was a pitcher, I'd probably be some kind of knuckle ball/submarine closer. So a little Theremin music would be cool - maybe from the Bernard Herrmann score for The Day The Earth Stood Still? Batting, maybe the exuberant opening riffs from Les Paul & Mary Ford's "Tiger Rag"? Or would I need to be a Tiger for that?

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Tuesday, July 13, 2004


All-Star Game thoughts

1. That was interesting having the starters enter from the stands, but instead of having them lined up in the aisle, they should all have been sitting in various places around the lower deck, and would have acted surprised when they heard their names know, having to put down their hot dogs, maybe borrowing a glove from the kid next to them, whatever.

2. I am amazed to find out that there are teams in the National League other than the Cubs and the Barry Bondses. I have also heard rumors that there are teams in the American League other than the Yankees and Red Sox, but saw no solid evidence during the game broadcast to back up the gossip.

3. I know Suzuki is a very common last name in Japan, but why does Ichiro Suzuki get to rise to the level of Cher, or Pelé, and get only his first name listed in Fox's on-screen graphics?

4. Seriously, Joe Buck is almost completely insane, and I'm certain that it's all Tim McCarver's fault. They need to be separated immediately before there's an ugly incident in the press box, and by that I mean Joe Buck should stay where he is and Tim McCarver should be dropped on an iceberg somewhere in the Arctic.

5. Hey, Fox spent some money to upgrade Scooter's animation since I last saw him! Great; that's money that could have been spent to teach illiterate kids to read, or to increase the salary of a certain "Malcolm in the Middle" writer.

Original comments...

Toby: I couldn't agree more about dropping McCarver!! And that's a great idea about introducing the starters (kind of like a "Price is Right" intro).

Does anyone else remember when Vida Blue played and he had just "Vida" on the back of his uniform?

Levi: I've always liked Ichiro!'s first-name-uniform thing in part because of Vida Blue, who was before my time as a fan, but whom I've seen in photos.

And I agree wholeheartedly with Jim and Toby about McCarver. I used to like Joe Buck when he was just a kid doing Cardinals broadcasts. He was modest and straightforward and obviously had grown up listening to his dad and Moon Man Shannon. But a few years with McCarver and he's completely around the bend.

And that was yesterday's bad news: in the midst of all the good news about how baseball is doing well and ratings are up, Fox has said they may be interested in extending their contract. Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!

Steve: 1) How about Piazza getting his revenge by tipping pitches? "Hey Manny, here comes the fastball."

2) I watched the game with the sound off mostly but it was quite awkward to see them give Clemens whatever award he got in the middle of the game.

3) Fantasia and Ruben both suck!

4) I know its the all star game and the AL was leading and all but talking to the manager in the dugout while the game is happening is just plain wrong.

5) I guess Taco Bell just wrote off that million dollars they gave away since that fat guy who throws as hard as Matt Morris was still able to hit a target the size of rhode island. Where's the drama.

6) Danny Kolb!

Dan: I was hoping at the last minute there'd be a mixup forcing Muhammad Ali to sing the national anthem and giving the first pitch to Fantasia.

And I'll say this much.. good thing Piazza wore a catchers' mask, because I sure bet he was smiling underneath it as the AL rocked Clemens.

Jon Solomon: Comcast has taken to talking to Lary Bowa in the dugout in the middle of certain (non-exhibition) Phillies games. It just isn't right.

Secho: A couple of weeks ago I was watching a White Sox telecast and they had an in-game interview with Ozzie Guillen, and Hawk prefaced it with something like "I hate that we have to do this in the middle of the game but I guess we do" and then handed it off to DJ who threw some softball questions at Ozzie for 2 or 3 minutes. (BTW, I hope Hawk clubs Mariotti upside the head the next time they cross paths) The whole thing just seems so forced as to counteract any possible insight you can get from the dugout mid-game.

How about Ali throwing up the bunny ears behind A-Rod during the team photo? Good stuff.

Dan: Ali really was the perfect guy to have there, considering his long, righ ties with the game of baseball as well as the city of Houston. Nolan Ryan -- you know the guy they had as the Taco Bell pitching coach? -- now HE'S a guy that most certainly had no business being there at all

Jason: I didn't watch the game. Did I miss any shots of Calista Flockhart eating a hot dog?

Levi: I would think that in these worried days of FCC crackdowns, a broadcaster might think twice about interviewing Larry F'in Bowa.

Buck and McCarver interviewed Steve Kline during Saturday's game, and it was actually kind of fun. On a couple of close plays, Kline said, "Oh, he was out, obviously out," and Joe would say, "No he wasn't, Steve."

And in reference to a statement McCarver said about muscle weighing more than fat, Kline said, "Well, then that bacon I had for breakfast this morning must have had some muscle on it." And on why he doesn't stretch much: "I learned that you can't tear fat. So you don't have to stretch."

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If you thought 10 in 10 in 10 was a lot...

...make it 11 games in 11 cities in 10 days. Clearly having our trip in mind, the White Sox and Phillies have scheduled a makeup interleague game for Monday, August 30th, at 1:05 P.M. at Some Sort of Cellular-Type Company Field in Chicago. If the game doesn't run too long past 3 hours, we should be able to see it, then drive to Milwaukee afterwards and see the 7:05 P.M. Brewers-Pirates game that's been on the schedule all along.

I'll update the itinerary later today. (Also, this would be a great day for Chicagolanders to take off work and become official hangers-on. We should have space for three of you in the car.)

Edited late Tuesday afternoon: As promised, the itinerary is updated.

Original comments...

Levi: I have to admit to proposing this addition to Jim with a bit of trepidation. I really do think that ending the trip with a two-city twinbill will answer, once and for all, whether I can possibly get tired of baseball.

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Important background information

For those of you who will be watching the All-Star Game tonight, there's a bit of information about tonight's National League battery that you should know:

About four years ago, Roger Clemens hit Mike Piazza in the head with a pitch. And then later, in the World Series, Piazza broke his bat on a pitch and the head of the bat flew onto the infield, CAUSING CLEMENS TO ANGRILY TOSS IT IN PIAZZA'S GENERAL DIRECTION!!!!!!!!!!!*

I felt like I ought to pass that on, because I was worried that Joe Buck and Tim McCarver might not think to mention the incident tonight, or show the clip, or mention the incident, or show the clip, or mention the incident, or show the clip, or mention the incident. They might also not think to mention that Clemens and Piazza have put it all behind them.

*I know that using all caps on the Internet is thought to be rude, because it's considered to be like shouting. But I used all-caps anyway, because the story was so big that I HAD TO SHOUT!!!!!

Original comments...


Dan: Also, mind you, Piazza was something like 5-for-12 off Clemens with four or so homers before Clemens nailed him in the head. So it wasn't like Clemens accidentially hit him... he had no desire whatsoever to face him. Clemens remains a redneck asshole, all these years later.

I will submit, however, that perhaps my favorite Clemens memory: back in 1986, before I had genuine hatred for the guy. The Mets had just won the World Series (I'm pretty sure this was after Game 7, not 6) and they cut to Clemens in the dugout, head in hands, weeping. Good for him, that loser asshole baby.

Levi: You know what I bet they won't show? I bet they won't show those old Pert Plus ads that Piazza used to do when he had all that great hair.

Thinking about those commercials makes me realize even more clearly how great the ads with Piazza and Alf are: who would have thought that Madison Avenue could top the image of Piazza's freshly-conditioned hair flowing in slow motion? Yet they did, and they did it by reviving a long-dead rubber-suited Melmackian whom no one had given a thought to in decades.

maura: i dunno, piazza was looking pretty shampoo-ad ready at the press meet and greet yesterday. i wish i could find a photo somewhere...


I'd hit it.

maura: woo!

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Monday, July 12, 2004


As so often happens twice

Hey, remember this post? Might as well revisit it and look at the actual team standings as of the All-Star break, along with how often we're going to see each team.

NL East
1. Philadelphia Phillies (1x)
2. Atlanta Braves
3. Florida Marlins
4. New York Mets
5. Montreal Expos (1x)

NL Central
1. St. Louis Cardinals (2x)
2. Chicago Cubs
3. Cincinnati Reds
4. Milwaukee Brewers (2x)
5. Houston Astros
6. Pittsburgh Pirates (3x)

NL West
1. L.A. Dodgers (1x)
2. San Francisco Giants
3. San Diego Padres
4. Colorado Rockies
5. Arizona Diamondbacks

AL East
1. New York Yankees
2. Boston Red Sox (2x)
3. Tampa Bay Devil Rays
4. Toronto Blue Jays (1x)
5. Baltimore Orioles

AL Central
1. Chicago White Sox (2x)
2. Minnesota Twins
3. Cleveland Indians (1x)
4. Detroit Tigers (2x)
5. Kansas City Royals

AL West
1. Texas Rangers
2. Oakland A's
3. Anaheim Angels
4. Seattle Mariners

That's right, Sports Illustrated predicted in April that we'd be seeing only one first-place team, but if the standings stay this way for the next five weeks, we'll be seeing four.



More bites from the Big Apple

One of my stops while I was in New York last week was the New York Transit Museum, which is in an old subway station in Brooklyn. Many of the old subway and elevated cars that are normally parked on the lower level had been moved out to run on fan trips all summer (this being the 100th anniversary of the opening of the first subway line in New York), so instead they brought in some not-so-old cars that have only recently been retired from the system. Including this one:

Yes, there's a Yankees logo on the other end of the car, but the platform wasn't wide enough for me to get a picture of the entire car. Besides, I would see plenty of Yankees logos at Yankee Stadium.

When I arrived at the stadium from the subway, wearing my Devil Rays shirt and cap, I ended up walking around the stadium the "wrong" way looking for the ticket booths. At the press/game personnel entrance, one of New York's finest stopped me and said, "You look like a big fan," then asked me who Paul Olden was, since he had just come in. I eventually remembered he was their radio play-by-play announcer. He was the TV broadcaster for the Yankees in the mid-1990s, but perhaps the cop was actually a Mets fan in disguise.

At any rate, there were plenty of good seats left for this game, now that the Devil Rays were no longer the hottest team in baseball. Here's the view I had:

Yes, you can smell the history at Yankee Stadium, or maybe that was just in the men's room. I completely forgot about going to Monument Park on my way in, so I had to settle for taking pictures from across the field. Also, I guess Adidas has enough money that they can print up a different bullpen awning for every visiting team:

Now, here's the sacrilegious part: because certain people had to work Thursday night, I was at the game alone; when I'm at a game alone, I try to keep up my scorekeeping skills. At Yankee Stadium, you had to buy the $7.00 magazine to get a scorecard, which I expected because of their evilness. (Surprisingly, though, they serve good and pure Coca-Cola instead of evil Pepsi.) One of the articles, written by Keith Olbermann, was about how no one can remember who the P.A. announcer for Yankees was before Bob Sheppard took over in 1951, not even Bob Sheppard himself. These days, he doesn't even do the between-inning promotions, just announces the starting lineups and does some of the other announcements at the beginning of the game, and then announces the players during the game. Problem is, I found him a little bit hard to hear and understand, especially his first announcement of each half-inning where he was usually talking over music. It's probably a combination of the P.A. speakers all being in center field, plus his 136-year-old voice. Vin Scully, who is almost as old, has the benefit of going through radio and/or TV audio engineering.

Also at the game, by the way, were former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms (who got a lot of applause) and current Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden (who got no applause because they showed him briefly on the Diamond Vision screen but didn't put his name on the scoreboard, so I may have been the only person who noticed him and recognized him). I saw only two other people wearing Devil Rays merchandise. I was asked a couple of times if I was from Florida. "Originally," I said both times. The man sitting next to me asked if I knew why Fred McGriff only had two home runs for the season, so I attempted to explain the whole sordid story.

Anyway, here, have some more pictures. Anyone want to translate the orange-and-white ad here, which I assume is for the benefit of people in Japan watching Hideki Matsui?

And anyone want to translate the "F" and "G," or perhaps "FG," on the out-of-town scoreboard? It's hard to see because I didn't take this picture until after dark, but there is a column of single-digit numbers available under each letter, which weren't used at any point. Until I hear differently, I'm going to assume it stands for "Faraway Games."

They still make the groundskeepers do "YMCA"!

The Number 4 wins the subway race!

Speaking of which, this isn't necessarily a baseball-related story, but people who know me may find it amusing: on the way back from the game, I had to change trains at 59th Street-Columbus Circle. So picture me, wearing a Devil Rays shirt and cap, on a subway platform with dozens of people wearing Yankees shirts and/or caps, so I perhaps looked less like a New Yorker than every other person there. Nevertheless, two people came up to me and asked about getting to Penn Station. I'm beginning to think my reputation is preceding me. (Yes, I did know the right answer, more or less. I didn't realize it was as late as it was, so I told them they could either take the local C on the outside track or the express A on the inside track, whichever came first, but in the late-night hours, the A runs local instead of the C, so what showed up first was an A on the outside track. The people I had helped had wandered off, so I didn't see if they managed to figure it out or not. Yes, the New York subway is somewhat more complicated than, for example, the Chicago 'L'.)

Later, waiting for the light to change at the corner of 48th Street and 8th Avenue, a man asked me if I knew where the strip clubs were. But that's another story.

The final line, on the Yankee Stadium scoreboard (and note that, although they have enough money to make a "Tampa Bay Devil Rays" awning, they don't have enough money to put in a scoreboard with enough characters available to allow a space between "Tampa" and "Bay"):

Here's the headline from the Daily News. Really, the difference in the game was that Victor Zambrano was shaky at the beginning, and Jose Contreras wasn't.

And the front page. I wonder how many people know what that thing between "Daily" and "News" is supposed to be, now that they're "New York's Hometown Newspaper" instead of "New York's Picture Newspaper." Why, they don't even own WPIX-TV anymore. But the good news is that, since both New York teams have baseball-shaped logos, it makes for a nice layout balance.

Later, in Connecticut, I saw The Ballpark at Harbor Yard, home of the Bridgeport Bluefish. You get a very nice long view into the stadium as you're on a train that's decelerating into the Bridgeport train station, it turns out, but there wasn't a game going on as I was preparing to detrain in Bridgeport.

Original comments...

Dan: I believe I read somewhere it's an ad for a Japanese newspaper (Yomiuri Shimbun?)

Luke: FG = First game?

Levi: I bet the guy who asked you about the strip clubs had been hoping to run into Mo Vaughn, but in Vaughn's absence, he turned to you.

Steve: I find it hard to believe nobody knew who Jon Gruden was. During the football season they cut over to him on the sidelines more than any other coach.

maura: victor, not carlos, zambrano. but don't worry, people make that mistake all the time.

Jim: Well, Carlos Zambrano would have been shaky at the beginning, too, if he'd been there.

maura: a handy mnemonic: the 'v' in victor stands for 'get out of the way, because there's a good chance he'll hit you.'

DrBear: Yup, FG is for first game. You kids may be too young, but us old-timers remember when teams used to play two games in one day! The old scoreboard at County Stadium in Milwaukee had the same thing as G1, even including it at the end of the linescore for the Braves/Brewers game.

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Halfway there

Well, we're more than halfway there. When I was a kid, the pedant in me (which was, like 75% of me) was regularly annoyed by the demarcation of the All-Star break as the halfway point. Now that I know what it's like to be an adult and once in a while need some days off, I understand better why three days off in the midst of a long season should be viewed as the halfway point, regardless of its mathematical accuracy.

So at the halfway point, it's time for a quick list of the best things about the first half for me:

1) The Cardinals, and their position in the standings relative to the Cubs, the Astros, and the rest of the Senior Circuit.

2) Johnny Damon's first at-bat of the season. Even more than the rest of his season, the spit-out-your-beer surprise of seeing him stand in that first night has made me smile for three months.

3) Scott Rolen

4) The Unit's perfect game.

5) The Tigers' win total, one less than at the end of last season. Do you think they'll just take the rest of the year off?

I'm sure I've missed some. For example, there's no way that the Tigers' season has been one of the five best things about baseball this year, even for Tigers fans. But I am impressed with their season, and I'm working, and listing Johnny Damon twice would be wrong.

So you should add your own top five in the comments. 'Cause yours will probably be better than mine.

Original comments...

Steve: 1) The Cubs are being the Cubs
2) The White Sox are making baseball fun (at least for me)
3) Baseball Related Program Activities
4) The NL East Race
5) Ivan Rodriguez (his stats are crazy when you consider he's a catcher. He hit .500 for the month of June)

Levi: .500?

That's insane.

Oh, and if I expanded my list, I might include:
6) The AL looking like it might, just might have a different order of finish for the first time since the birth of the Devil Rays. The teams have all finished in the same spots every season since then.

Dan: 1) Mets finally giving me a reason to enjoy the day-to-day pennant races again.
2) Traditionally shitty teams doing really well, in nearly every division: Tigers, Rays, Brewers, Padres, (erm, Mets), Rangers
3) Jason Marquis establishing himself as the best Jewish pitcher since Steve Stone
4) Mets sweeping the Yankees and winning the season series, both for the first time ever
5) The Astros imploding.
**6) Johnny Damon -- indeed, that first game was magic, and I was sitting here watching alone

2nd half wish list:
1) Mets sneak into the playoffs, I don't care if it's with an 82-80 record like it was in '73
2) Someone hits Clemens in the head (or hand)
3) Someone hits Jeter in the groin
4) Rickey Henderson returns
5) Andy Baggarly breaks open the BALCO case

Toby: 1. A Hoosier from Levi's sister's town leads the All-Star voting
2. Blue Jays' new logo/uniforms
3. Astros virtually out of the race
4. The Braves NOT in first place at the break
5. D-Rays' and PIrates' long winning streaks

Jason: 1. Finally getting to a Visalia Oaks game.
2. Finding a A&W Restaurant before the Oaks game.
3. Visiting PETCO park for a Padres-Cubs game.
4. Taking a pleasant weekday drive through the San Gabriel mountains before a Rancho Cucamonga Quakes game.
5. Watching Cal State Fullerton win the College World Series, giving me incentive to try to attend a game there next season.

Levi: How could I have forgotten the Braves' struggles? That really is a top-five event. Go, Mets!

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Note from the Big Apple

Yes, I was at Yankee Stadium for last Thursday's 7-1 loss by the Devil Rays. I'll post photos and more details tomorrow (or later Monday, given what the time stamp is going to be on this post), including some perhaps sacrilegious observations regarding Yankee P.A. announcer Bob Sheppard and my ability to understand what he was saying.

Actually, here's an observation I'll post right now: during the seventh-inning stretch, the Yankees play "God Bless America" (a recording of Kate Smith, in this case) and then "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." A disheartening number of people sat down after "God Bless America."

Original comments...

Levi: Though I'm with you on the "Only one song should be played during the seventh-inning stretch, and that's 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame' (although I make an exception for Wisconsin, where tradition and history demand following it up with 'Roll Out the Barrel'), I'm willing to give Yankee fans a pass for a few weeks.

After all, maybe they were worn out from booing Cheney recently.

Dan: Yankee fans, with a handful of exceptions, are bandwagon-jumping pricks. And they have been for the better part of 80 years.

Go Mets, woo!

Dan: Oh, and kids who like the Yankees are even worse.

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Friday, July 09, 2004


That's my life

Two quick notes:

1) Reggie Sanders, in his online diary for today, says that during the break, he'll take his family out and do some fun things. But, he admits, "I will think about baseball on the off-day. That's my life. I would like not to think about it, but it's what I do, you know?"

Maybe MLB's "I live for this!" slogan isn't too far from the truth.

2) I can't link to it, because it's from a video clip, but Stacey alerted me to a wonderful photo on
of Johnny Damon, hair everywhere, scoring the winning run in last night's Red Sox/A's game.

Original comments...

stacey: really, that photo was amazing enough that i've snagged it to share with our gentle readers. you can see it (in a probably not very legal way) here: GORGEOUS

Levi: I commented earlier to a coworker regarding the post about the kid having to leave early, "I'm kind of like a right-wing radio host with a tiny audience: I know what to throw them to get them all riled up."

That photo clearly belongs in that category, too.

Jason: Like Johnny Damon, I not too long ago had a lot of hair. And, like Johnny Damon, I have cut it. Unfortunately, I have no photographic proof to that fact, but believe me, it's true.

Or just look at a more recent photo of Johnny Damon. We're identical.

maura: and the headline that night? 'it gets hairy, but red sox win in 10th'

Dan: Was I the only one who really disliked Johnny Damon when he was with the Royals? He was so damn clean cut and seemed a bit snooty, even. Now, he friggin' rules.

I guess it could be I was the only one who paid attention to him at all.

thatbob: If I was the umpire I would call Johnny Damon safe as soon as his batting helmet leapt across home plate - a full second before Damon himself. Also, if I was his batting helmet, that would be cool!

Steve: I guess Dan can't vouch for this but I have had a full-blown man crush on Johnny Damon since the Royals days. He just seemed like the perfect ballplayer looks-wise. Now, if it was 1973 he would still look like the perfect ballplayer. Of course, in our postmodern times, its perfectly legitimate to argue that he is still the perfect ballplayer looks wise. PS-my all time favorite ballplayer looks-wise is John Kruk but I never had a man crush on him

Levi: And John Kruk has gotten all . . . boring, now that he's on ESPN. His suit is always clean, his tie is tied, his hair has that same mix of superglue and horse polish stuff in it that Jeff Brantley uses, and he never drinks a beer or eats a hot dog or talks about his missing ball on the air.

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Good day, bad mom

Any day that the Cardinals and Cubs both have off is a bad day. Not as bad as a day when the Cardinals lose, but pretty lousy.

In part to make up for those teams having an off-day yesterday, I sneaked out of work at noon with my coworker, Peter, an Angels fan, to go see the Sox play the Angels. It was an exciting game on a beautiful day. When the Sox got runners at the corners with one out, the Angels called Jose Guillen in to play at the second base position while they shifted the second baseman to the left side to join the shortstop; Guillen went to the dugout to borrow someone's infield glove. When you have five infielders and they're all playing up on the grass, it looks like a wall of fielders. So Juan Uribe hit it over them, way over them and off the left-center-field wall for a long game-winning single.

Around the third inning, a couple of women showed up with about ten kids in tow, ranging in age from about 5 to 9. Each kid had a plastic cup of some particularly noxious-looking red slush. They sat a few rows behind us and watched the game. Then, in the 8th inning, with the Sox down 8-5, I heard the lead mom say, "OK. It's time to go. Put down your cups [of particularly noxious-looking red stuff] and come along."

Just as I was about to turn and give the mom the glare I usually reserve for SUV drivers who run red lights while talking to their broker on two phones, I heard a boy pipe up, Oliver-like, "But the game's not over."

It wasn't an exclamation; it was more a combination of clear statement of fact and implied question. "Exactly!" I thought. "That kid gets it. That kid is going to go far. Reserve the Oval Office, because I'm ready to vote for that straight-talking kid as soon as he hits 35."

But the kid might as well have been Helen Thomas in the briefing room, the way the mom Ari-Fleischered him. She ignored him. He might as well have spoken in Ancient Assyrian. She didn't even pretend there was a legitimate answer to his statement. The kids filed out, the Sox tied the game, then won it, and everyone got back to Rolling Forest Meadowsville Park Hills half an hour earlier.

My only hope is that the boy's clarity of thought, his sharpness of understanding, are not damaged in coming years by his mother's obvious lack of same. I have little hope, though. We all know that the sins of the fathers have a habit of redounding unto the seventh generation; can the sins of the mothers be any less malevolent?

Original comments...

Toby: My only hope is that word of this post doesn't get back to the mom, who, in turn, sues Levi for the emotional pain it has inflicted on her.

Jason: Levi could always countersue her for the emotional pain *he* had to suffer because she took her kids home early.

He could even try pinning child endangerment on her, as well.

Becky S: Sheesh, what kind of values are people teaching their kids these days? My brother once dumped a woman because she wanted to leave a Phillies game during extra innings. He's gonna make a great dad!

Levi: Should I have called DCFS? I don't have a phone, but I bet I could have borrowed one for the sake of the child.

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Wednesday, July 07, 2004


The Golden Years

Despite my crankiness in the comments to Jim's post about the Sports Illustrated piece about baseball being in good shape right now, I do agree with the general premise. We're in a great era for baseball.

Over the weekend, which we spent being rained and eaten by John Kruk-sized mosquitoes in Door County, Wisconsin, I was reminded of one example of why it's a good time to be a baseball fan. I thought of this recently when we were in Lake Tahoe and I was reading the Sacramento Bee, and it came to mind again while I was reading the Green Bay Press-Gazette last weekend.

Both cities, lacking major league baseball teams, cover teams from nearby cities, with the Bee leaning towards Oakland but covering the Giants as well, and the Press-Gazette covering the Brewers. But, their home cities being medium-sized, the papers don't have extensive sports sections. They run bare-bones box scores. You get the at-bats, runs, hits, RBI. You get basic pitcher stats. You get the time of game and the umpires. And at best, you get a capsule summary of a paragraph or so to go with the box score.

Which brings me to my point. I'm spoiled. Reading a big-city paper or two or three every day, I'm used to getting the bells and whistles on my box scores. I want the pitch count, batters' walks, batting average, details of the types of errors made.

And that's just the beginning. When I moved up here in 1992, the expanded box score and the capsule summaries were my only way to follow Cardinals games that I couldn't pick up on KMOX. Once in a while, I got to see a Post-Dispatch at a newsstand. But most days, I was deprived of a lot of
the fun of following a major league team: I got no rumors, no human-interest stories, no detailed stories of exciting wins. And, lacking cable, I got no replays.

Twelve years later, being away from the Internet and a big-city paper for a few days reminds me of just how much things have changed. I now have more baseball information than I could ever use, from all the stats in baseball history to great Cardinals commentary to the Post-Dispatch. And, though the design sucks (I keep hoping a certain Major League Baseball employee will get it fixed.), is fantastic. The audio portion alone makes it a godsend to people like me rooting for out of town teams. Add in the video highlights (like a bit of thievery by Jim Edmonds that's currently available on the Cardinals site), and you've got the best thing Major League Baseball has done since barring Pete Rose.

Add in all the other reasons already discussed in the earlier post, and it's sure a good time to be a baseball fan.

Original comments...

maura: oh,, how i coveted you back in the day...

Levi: Yeah, I should probably fix that so it links to, say, your page instead of Hasbro's.

Ok. Now it does.

Jason: What were you doing in Door County?

Levi: Not making a documentary about Wisconsin. Instead, we were camping. In the rain and a mosquito convention.

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Monday, July 05, 2004


Well, I haven't left for New York yet

The Sports Illustrated cover curse strikes again! The Devil Rays have a losing record since the "10 things that are awesome about baseball" issue came out last Thursday with their name mentioned on the cover (2-4), and now with his blown save today, Eric Gagne is not quite so awesome anymore. The other items specifically listed: "Perfect Randy Johnson," "Yankee Economics," and "Must-see Barry Bonds." So let's see: Randy Johnson gets hypnotized into thinking he's a chicken, Barry Bonds falls into a bottomless pit...

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Last word on the flag flap

On Saturday morning, Bush signed an order raising flags back to full staff in advance of Independence Day. So we were only officially mourning Reagan for 27 or 28 days. Some of the flags around here are still at half-staff, so either they didn't read the "brief" in Saturday's paper, or there was a separate order from Governor Schwarzenegger that I'm unaware of. (The LAPD station near my apartment had their flag at half-staff this afternoon, but a Burbank fire station was flying theirs at full-staff, to name the two government facilities I noticed.)

I'm leaving for New York early Tuesday morning, and probably won't have computer access until I get back late Sunday. I intend to go to the Yankees-Devil Rays game Thursday night, but may be going solo because certain people have to work, or so they claim.

Perhaps while I'm gone, everyone can complain about the All-Star Game selections. Where's Victor Zambrano and his awesome June?! Where's Maura's favorite player?! Why can't I do a write-in on this "final vote" thing?!

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Sunday, July 04, 2004


Also, Ditka doesn't look any better in HD

This evening, I saw the last four innings of the White Sox-Cubs game in high-definition. I'm still not convinced that HD offers that much of an advantage over the standard-definition picture I get via DirecTV (which has that crisp "digital" look anyway), although I guess I could have counted the blades of grass on the field if I'd been really bored.

What was really ridiculous, aside from the fact that the game ended with the winning run being walked in: the commercials on ESPN HD are in standard-definition, and movie ads are letterboxed, so when one of them is on, there's a lot of "blank" real estate on the screen. Oh, and the score box looks a little weird because it isn't all the way over to the left. So, in conclusion, I'm not spending several thousand dollars for a new TV. Also, I'd have to move, since there's a tree between my current apartment and the DirecTV satellite that delivers most of their HD programming.

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Friday, July 02, 2004


11. Intestinal parasites!

The new issue of Sports Illustrated contains an article titled "10 Reasons Why Baseball Is Awesome Now," or something like that. Their reasons:

1. A lot of teams are still in contention for playoff spots (more teams are within 5 games of at least a wild card spot at this point in the season than in any year since the current playoff format was adopted).
2. Attendance and TV ratings are up.
3. The Yankees are a big draw, both at home and on the road.
4. Devil Rays!
5. They're about to announce what they're going to do with the Expos. (Speaking of which, they're playing the Blue Jays this weekend in San Juan instead of, I don't know, somewhere in Canada?! Well, at least no one will be able to point to a sudden uptick in attendance if there's a lawsuit seeking to block the move.)
6. Padres!
7. Randy Johnson! Tom Glavine! Roger Clemens!
8. Barry Bonds!
9. There's going to be an international baseball tournament next March.
10. Eric Gagne!

Comments? Additions? Reasons why baseball sucks, instead?

Original comments...

Levi: I have as little interest as humanly possible in an international baseball tournament. In fact, I'm kind of actively against it. If there's one thing I don't need to see again, it's a stadium of people shouting "USA! USA! USA!"

Actually, I'm always bugged by these lists because of their premise. Look, baseball's always there. That's one of its greatest charms. If you're too busy with other things to pay attention, that's your loss. Even when they were talking all through the nineties about how baseball was in trouble, attendance was at astonishingly high levels compared to all of baseball history except like 1990-93. It was way high compared to other sports. Revenues were up across the board. And despite a few remarkably mismanaged teams (Sorry, Toby), nearly every team had a shot at the postseason at some point in the decade.

But despite my complaining, I'll take good news and positive coverage wherever. The Yanks/Red Sox game the other night, on _cable_, won the time slot in NYC. That's unbelievable for a regular-season game.

And I'd add one more thing to this list: the Cubs. Anytime the Cubs are this successfull, in winning and attendance, it's good for baseball.

stacey: it should be noted that levi is not always this cranky. he accidentally slept in this morning, and that probably accounts for this grouchy post.

ps: eric gagne is on the all-cute team!

Levi: Yeah, that probably sounded crankier than it should have. The reasons the guy gives are all good, and they're all fun aspects of this season.

Eric Gagne is so awesome he should be two reasons. And Scott Rolen's defense should be a reason all by itself.

Steve: I just want to vote that the Padres are decidedly uncool. They may have a new stadium, they may have my initials on their hat, and San Diego may be the home of Mandy Stadtmiller but their uniform looks like a college or minor league team. I could be talking out the other end here but I can't help but think they are going out of their way to be PC and disavow their "padre-ness" in the wake of the catholic church sex scandal. Instead, they should embrace it. Can't you see the headlines, "Wells, Beck, Bugger Dodgers."

Jim: Their mascot, the Swinging Friar, was very visible at the game I went to at Petco Park in May.

Toby: I got some reasons why baseball sucks now
--3 1/2-hour games
--Interleague play (two teams meeting in the World Series that have already played each other)
--Fat managers wearing uniforms (no other sport does this)
--I can't go one *#!@ing summer without seeing a replay of Fancisco Cabrerra's hit to win the 1992 NLCS (as if I don't see that whole inning enough in my own nightmares)
--An average family's cost to go to a game - approx. $80
--No Jack Buck anymore (and though I used to always defend him when people put him down, Mike Shannon isn't nearly as good without him)
--Paying for autographs
--No more powder blue road uniforms
--Does every team need a new park every four or five years???
--Too many teams
--A good ERA is in the mid 3's
And most of all
--An unprecedented 14 years of sucking for the once-proud franchise known as the Pittsburgh Pirates. They will never compete again.

(The point, in case you missed it, is that any sport is fun when your team is winning... and not so much when they're losing... though my last-place team just swept Levi's first-place team)

Luke: File under suck:

ESPN's behind-the-plate ads, seen on TV (fugly!)

ESPN's behind-the-plate ads, seen in person (fuglier!)

ESPN making Wrigley games night games so I can't go

Retractable roofs

Fewer double headers

Major League Baseball allowing into the park fans who do not intend to stay for the entire game

MLB allowing fans into the park after the first pitch

Absence of European soccer-style relegation, which would deal nicely with the problem of too many teams

Beers more than $3

Tribune Co.

Rooftop owners

Tribune Co. vs. Rooftop owners

Warm-up jerseys worn during games (especially at home)

The off-season

File under awesome:

3 1/2 hour games!

Fat managers wearing uniforms!

My team winning

Derek Jeter and his game face

Dusty Baker's contempt for pitch counts

There's going to be an international baseball tournament this August

Wayner Messmer and the perfect, sub-3:00 National Anthem

$2.25 malt cups

Ed and John

Sox fans blaming the rain on the Cubs

Roadtrip blogs

Johnny Damon's hair

No more powder-blue road uniforms; less teal


Thursday, July 01, 2004


Baseball is all about statistics

Since it's July 1st, here are some highlights of the June statistics for this site...

Original comments...

Levi: It's not that I obsessively check this page. It's that I have assigned my assistant, as about 70% of her duties, to obsessively check it and write up reports for me.

Jim: Also, you can't really access the site anywhere but your office (unless you take your laptop, um, "warwalking"), whereas I can access it from my office, from home, and probably from my cell phone if I'm willing to pay 25 cents a minute. And I get new comments e-mailed to me, so I only have to check the site if I can't figure out the context of a comment (e.g., when I get an e-mail that tells me nothing but that Steve said "You're a regular Charlie Lau or whatever the hell that guy's name is."



Swingin' Simon

While the Cardinals were busy losing, again and again and again, to the Pittsburgh Pirates this week, I was thinking about Pirates first baseman Randall Simon.

Who doesn't love Randall Simon? Well, a certain sausage in Milwaukee might not. And those of us who prefer our hitters to be patient and hit for power, especially if they're manning first base, well, we might have our quibbles with him once in a while, too.

But is there any baseball fan who doesn't love watching him hit? There are hundreds of impatient hitters. Rey Ordonez approaches his at-bats as if he's Cinderella at thirty seconds to midnight. Corey Patterson, until recent weeks, swung at bad pitches as if he were the pitcher's therapist and wanted him to feel good about himself. But no one I've ever seen combines a burning desire to hit every single pitch with an incomprehensible ability to hit just about every single pitch.

Sure, a lot of the balls he hits get fouled off. Or popped up. And he's never hit for real power. But that takes nothing away from my marveling at his sheer ability to introduce bat to ball. Shoetops, helmet-high, inside, outside, in the dirt. It's never mattered much to Simon. He's a superhero of hacking.

And he's chubby. Even rotund.

Though Simon's career on-base percentage of .328 is abysmal, his .297 batting average has enabled him to keep a major league job for seven years. But I worry that the end is near: It's only 100 at-bats, but Simon's line this year is .210/.292/.280 is bad. He's not striking out much more than usual, with 10, but he's also not hitting for any power at all, with only 4 doubles and 1 home run. If he doesn't come back strong in the second half, even the lowly Pirates (see the first sentence of this post) might let him go.

Who knows what the problem is? Maybe his bat speed is slowing just enough, though you would expect that to be reflected in increased strikeouts. Maybe he's been unlucky.

But I have a new pet theory. Remember in the spring of 1998, when New Sammy burst on the scene, no longer flailing at curveballs in the dirt? Maybe Simon's the Bizarro Sammy: he's more than doubled his walk rate, from a career rate of one walk per 23.5 at-bats to this year's rate of one every 11 at-bats. Maybe that's the problem: he's being too selective. That goes counter to everything I understand about hitting, but we're talking about Randall Simon. Anything's possible.

So my advice is to hack away, Randall. I think you shouldn't take another pitch this season. Not a one.

If my advice works, Pirates fans can thank me later by beating the Cardinals' rivals down the stretch.

Original comments...

Steve: You're a regular Charlie Lau or whatever the hell that guy's name is.

Toby: Ahh yes, thank you, Levi, for highlighting another in a long string of Pirate first baseman who really suck. I can trace it all the way back to the early 80s and Jason Thompson, who replaced "Pops" Stargell. Yes, I know Willie wasn't really a first baseman--he played there late in his career, but still, he was the last good first baseman they had.

I liked Sid Bream when he played there, but then he went to Atlanta and then in that game 7 in 1992, he slid home with the winning run... So, now I pretty much hate him.

Man, I've been on vacation all week and must have built up some real anger. Sorry about that.

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