Friday, April 30, 2004


More ice cream, more songs

After that last rant, let's just say it's a good thing the other book of old Charles Schulz cartoons that just came out, "Li'l Beginnings," did fit into the package lockers.

Now, then: Stacey also pledged to vote at Ben & Jerry's, and also got a free song from iTunes, and passed the code along to me. I already have three different versions of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," but figured one more couldn't hurt, so I downloaded a 2003 version by someone named Kathleen Holeman, who is not listed in the All-Music Guide. Turns out it's a neat rendition, including an additional verse with some ranting against the current state of Major League Baseball.

The three versions I already had were a 37-second-long instrumental version of the chorus only, a version credited to "Bruce Springstone" parodying a certain New Jersey-based singer (both from the "Baseball's Greatest Hits" CD), and a 1909 version by a singer named Edward Meeker that I downloaded from the "public domain 78s" collection on a few years ago.

By the way, if anybody feels like opening up iTunes and rating an iMix or two, why not try this one or perhaps this one? Sorry, no "Mix American Style" yet...that's going to be a big job, to try to substitute songs according to what's available in the iTunes Music Store. Actually, someone else has already done an iMix containing songs related to all 50 states, but they've got them in the order each state entered the union (a neat idea), and their first two songs are suspect because they're about a river that shares a name with a state ("Down Across the Delaware," James McMurtry) and a phone number in New York City that happens to have the name of a state in it ("Pennsylvania 6-5000").

Original comments...

thatbob: Along that vein, Oregon Hill is set in the deep south, Virginia is merely the girl's name, and of course Kansas City is in Missouri. But who am I to judge? My playlist "I Love to Count!" couldn't get past twelve.

Kathleen Holeman: Thanks for listening. I don't know if it told you when you downloaded it, but I wrote the commentary at the end of the song. The front part was the original verse. I am a jazz artist in the Kansas City MO area. My husband and I have started collecting pictures of us with various minor league (or less-than)mascots. Fun! Write back to me if you want to.



This is Priority Mail?

Way back in March, in this very blog, I maligned the AAA web site because it would only allow a total of eight destinations on the form to have a Triptik made for your upcoming road trip, so I had to make two separate requests, and then all I got in the mail was a Triptik for the final third of this trip; I had assumed that someone saw two requests by the same AAA member coming very closely together and threw away the first request.

Well, all this time, it turns out the AAA and their web site wasn't at fault. It was the U.S. Postal Service. The Triptik covering the first two-thirds of this trip, it turns out, came in a much bigger box (because of all the Tourbooks that came along with it), too big to fit in one of the package lockers in my apartment complex, as the mailman discovered when trying to deliver it on February 4th (I know this because of a telltale scrawl on the address label). But he didn't leave a note then, for whatever reason, and the package apparently got forgotten about somewhere in the North Hollywood post office until yesterday, when I finally got a note telling me to pick it up in a hurry or they would return it to the sender on May 3rd.

But now we have the small problem that all these Tourbooks are the 2003 editions, because the updated editions don't come out until March or April (if I had remembered this, I wouldn't have ordered the Triptik for this trip so early), and the more significant problem that the route shown on this Triptik doesn't reflect our current plans, which involve going from Carmi, Illinois, to Detroit via University Park, Illinois, so we can drop Luke off at the Metra station.

So I'm going to go in person to a AAA office soon to get them to make a "corrected" Triptik while I wait, and maybe a big pile of 2004 edition Tourbooks, thus avoiding the Postal Service altogether, and the North Hollywood post office in particular. (My copy of the April 11th TV Guide also seems to have disappeared into a black hole, but TV Guide extended my subscription for two weeks to make up for it.)

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Brain delay

Via Jon Solomon, from the Indianapolis Star-Tribune, on yesterday's Louisville Bats/Indianapolis Indians game:

"The game was halted for 15 minutes after the third inning when Indians first baseman Jeff Liefer accidentally got locked inside the team's clubhouse restroom."

Original comments...

sandor: Glad to see the good ol' Indy Indians get some press, however silly it is. I'll be the first to admit there isn't much to see on your way through Naptown, but Victory Field really is a treat. I treated my grandma to a game there a few years ago, and we had a blast. Highly recommended, even when the ballplayers are too dumb to remember how a door works.

(Small point: Last I checked the masthead it's the Indianapolis Star, no -Tribune. You must be thinking of that -apolis, up north somewhere. Incidentally, the one AAA park that I know of that stands up to Victory Field is that of the St. Paul Saints.)

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The Designated Hitter

Steven Goldman, writer of The Pinstriped Bible, a Yankees site worth reading--despite not being a Yankee-hating site--today calls the Designated Hitter "the Free Parking of baseball."

Aside from the fact that the DH sucks all the time, whereas Free Parking only sucks when your opponent lands on it, I think he's right on. Finding a good DH should be the easiest thing in the world for a team. That's why, when the Cardinals (in interleague play) batted Miguel Cairo there a few times, or when the Yankees, this season, have batted Ruben Sierra there against lefties, it has brought sorrow and joy, respectively.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2004


Yet another song

Of course Levi and Steve should coach Little League. It would be the only team with assigned reading every week!

I got another free iTunes song for going to the Ben & Jerry's web site on Tuesday and pledging to vote in November, so I downloaded "Joe DiMaggio Done It Again" by Billy Bragg and Wilco. It's a good thing I didn't have to pledge to eat Ben & Jerry's, since I tend to stick with ice cream with company names ending in "reyers."

By the way, the new "radio charts" feature in the iTunes Music Store is surprisingly cool, although they unfortunately don't list what's being played on Carmi's very own WROY. (They don't seem to list any oldies stations or "standards" stations...and since they also don't list any satellite format playlists, they only list a handful of AM stations nationwide.)

Original comments...

stacey: jim, did you know that "dreyer's" is known as "edy's" east of the rockies? this is akin the "hellman's" & "best foods" mayonnaise phenomenon.

Jim: Yes, especially since I grew up way east of the Rockies. In fact, I don't think they had Edy's in Tampa until, like, the late '80s or maybe even the early '90s. By the way, I'm still a little mad at them for discontinuing my favorite flavor ever, Banana Cream Pie, which was banana ice cream with chunks of vanilla wafers. Breyers makes a banana ice cream with chocolate chunks in it, which is okay, but I could do without the chocolate. I like banana ice cream.

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A Poll

You can vote in the comments section. I'll tabulate the votes, without, I promise, the help of Diebold.

Question: Should Steve and I coach a little league team together?

Not that I've asked Steve about this before this very moment. Not that I have a team in mind, or have any idea how one goes about getting one together. Not that I know a damned thing about pitching, or coaching kids (except that you can't talk like Lee Elia). Not that I am even known to be a fan of children.

It's just a poll.

Original comments...

Luke: Oh, God, yes. I'm imagining something of a cross between "Bad News Bears" and "Dead Poets Society," or

In my last season of Little League we were coached by a couple of guys from the high school team. We thought they were the coolest -- they introduced us to Eazy E and NWA, among other things -- especially relative to all the incompetent and abusive fathers we usually got. I'm pretty sure they were only coaching us to work off community service, but still. You guys could be Little League kings.

Can either of you throw a curveball? The greatest terror I've ever known was when one of these coaches threw curveballs straight for my head, only to have them break in for strikes. The day I learned to stand in against a curve without hitting the deck is the day I became a man.

(No, wait. I became a man the day I started putting mustard on my hot dogs -- I was 24 - but that's another story.)

How much does it cost to sponsor a team? Schlitzserv Sluggers has a nice ring to it. We could take them all out to Simon's after the game and buy them soda pop and chocolate cigars. (Unless they have lost, in which case we'd take them to the Y to run laps and lift weights.)

Steve: I don't know.... I hope you are talking about this Steve. Otherwise I'll feel stupid.

There was a time when Bloodshot sponsored a little league team. I watched them play a few times. They had this one fat kid who looked just like Fernando Valenzuela. He was so slow that unless he absolutely murdered the ball he would get thrown out at first on hits that would have been singles for other kids. The most remarkable thing about this kid though was that he could hit. Watching him swing was kind of like the famous Simpsons "Ringers" episode. They show Homer in slow motion and his whole gut is shaking with the momentum. This kid would wind up and almost completely extend his arms. The bat would come through the zone in slow motion and he would power the ball mostly to left field (a dead pull hitter). He was about seven or eight but easily had 10yr old power.

One thing I gathered is that if you can instill even the smallest bit of discipline you can seriously capitalize on the other teams errors. There was one team that would just run and run and run. They were kind of like the 85 Cardinals without the base-stealing. If they had a hit they would just keep running to force the fielding team to throw to second base and tag the runner. Many times the ball was late or would land at the second baseman's feet. Clearly this was the product of adults well attuned to the poor coordination of youngsters. There was this win at all cost mentality that didn't quite seem appropriate. It sacrificed the notion of fundamental baseball and all the kids were cocky because they were little doubles machines.

There were some drawbacks. A seven-inning game would last about three hours. Three innings were coach pitch and four innings were kid pitch. Kid pitch was excruciating. So many walks....

I'll strongly consider it if I get to wear polyester softball shorts and have a whistle.

Levi: Certainly I was thinking of you, Steve.

And my vote is yes!

Even though I'm not sure I'm serious about it yet.

stacey: i vote yes, too. this is way better than levi's plan that i lead a girl scout troop. i'll even bake cookies and bring them to the ballpark with oven mitts on.

Luke: Why not both? Hell, *I'd* join a Girl Scout troop if Stacey were the leader. You could even swap jobs occasionally: Stacey would coach the boys (and sporting girls) in how to bunt and spit, and Levi would teach the Scouts how to make bread and mulled wine.

Levi: And once in a while, I'd have Tony Becker and his mom come by for a lesson in making Mint Juleps, or Pete Bodensteiner could run a lesson on cigars.

This sounds better all the time.

Tom Ellwanger: Try to get Don Zimmer to coach third base. This is a guy who knows something about baseball.

Levi: But if we get Zimmer to coach third, there will always be the danger of him attacking the other team's best pitcher!

He'll at least deliver an honest, hearfelt apology afterwards, though. And kids need to see honest, heartfelt apologies--there are too few examples in public life. Maybe it would be worth a brawl now and then?

sandor: I vote yes. I was about to say, I'd even try to join the team, since I never got to participate in Little League when I was little. But then it occurred to me, what the hell was I thining, I did play Little League when I was little, but it was such a terrible experience -- for me and for my teammmates -- that I've apparently tried to block it out of my memory. So you better keep me away.

If I'd had coaches like Levi and Steve, however, who knows how much better it would have been. Certainly I would have learned the simple lesson of watching the batter when playing right field, instead of watching the planes fly overhead. Such pretty planes...

Tony: Not knowing much about little league, I guess I'd have to say it's really up to Steve and Levi. I think it would probably afford everybody more opportunities for sunshine, eating hot dogs, and wearing funny hats.

However, if you like the idea of Mint Julep lessons from my mother, you'll love these pictures that Dad took down at the ranch last summer.

thatbob: I can't see Levi having more than three minutes' patience with a bunch of kids - or they having more than a minute's patience with him - so to me, the proposal is reminiscent of The Country Show, in the sense that it would be a joint venture in idea only, while in reality Steve would be left to shoulder most of the work. Which would be great! Any venture that leaves Steve to shoulder most of the work is worth following closely! But I still have to vote against the idea, mostly because I think I have a better one: Steve and the rabbi coach a Little League team. That way, when Steve is working his ass off, the rabbi can get in a few drinks. And this all makes for a much better movie.

Toby: If you do, Levi, I promise I'll come up and cover one of your games.



The magic's in the music and the music's in me

I assume, Levi, that you're only referring to songs with vocal accompaniment being performed or played at the ballpark. Because as I see it, anything is fine if it's being played live on an organ. Especially "Three Blind Mice."

Original comments...

Levi: You're right, Jim, And I have to admit a dirty secret: I have a soft spot for "Jump", played as the Cubs take the field at home. It sounds great, it somehow hasn't dated, and its message of the importance of taking a leap of faith seems appropriate.

Oh, and a side note. I'm not entirely certain that there is _any_ song that wouldn't be improved by being sung by Roy Orbison. Just like I think there might not be any movie that wouldn't be improved by Peter O'Toole's presence.



Musical notes

1) Ross and I, to warm me up for my first vocal techniques class at the Old Town School of Folk Music (Really. I'm taking a singing class.) sang a falsetto version of "The Star-Spangled Banner." Stacey seemed horrified, but I recommend it. Until you try it, you won't realize just how high those high notes get. But I recommend you try it in the privacy of your own home, unless you're Wayne Mesmer, in which case I suggest you try it Tuesday, May 4th, which is the next time I'll be at Wrigley Field.

2) My newest unrealizable music dream is to hear Roy Orbison sing John Fogerty's "Centerfield." I agree with Rob Neyer that the only songs that should be played at a ballpark are "The Star-Spangled Banner," "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," "Centerfield," and, when appropriate, "O, Canada." "Centerfield" is a great song. It's a song that perfectly conveys much of what's wonderful about baseball.

But if Roy Orbison had sung it, it would have been even better. See, I don't actually believe that Fogerty is suffering because he's on the bench. Sure, he's antsy and itching to get into the game. He's pounding his fist into his glove and imagining crashing into the wall. But he will survive if he stays on the bench and the team wins. Just being around the game will, ultimately, be enough.

Roy Orbison, on the other hand, would quickly make clear that he will die a horrible, protracted, sorrowing death if he doesn't get into the game. Failure and despair will gnaw away at his insides as the innings roll by. There would be no joy in Mudville, no joy anywhere overlooked by his Ray-Bans.

And you know what? He'd get into the game. Ultimately--think of the end of "Running Scared"--the strings would swell and the coach would give in. Roy would be centerfield. The fans might not be able to see him for their tears, but he'd be out there, ready to do his part.

Original comments...

sandor: I'll be at Wrigley May 4th as well. My first game of the season. Along with Sarah, Adrienne and Syd, storyteller extraordinnaire. If Wayne doesn't deliver, I bet Syd will be happy to treat you to his falsetto version. With a little hair dye and a pair of sunglasses, he'd probably even be able to do it as Roy Orbison.

thatbob: "Beer Barrel Polka," dumbass.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2004


Another baseball song

I'm now 3-for-3 on winning iTunes from 20-ounce Pepsis purchased at 7-Eleven. I'd buy more if it weren't actually uneconomical (they cost $1.23 including the "CA Cash Refund" value), considering I wouldn't be buying 20-ounce Pepsis if it weren't for the fleeting fun of this iTunes contest.

Anyway, the song I purchased this time was Jonathan Richman's "Walter Johnson," with typically Jonathan Richman-esque lyrics...
All through baseball
He was loved and respected
Was there bitterness in Walter Johnson?
Well, it was never detected

I have seven more baseball songs I'd like to download from iTunes, but I probably won't be buying any more Pepsi between now and April 30th, the last day to redeem the codes for free songs (i.e., I won't be buying any more Pepsi unless they run another contest like this, because I like Coke better). If anyone has any leftover codes and has run out of songs they like, feel free to send them along.

Original comments...

sandor: See, if I had my act together, I'd already have built you the addition to this site that would let thankful readers (like myself) donate funds to your trip in any form they like, but preferrably gasoline credits, Pepsi bottlecaps or iTunes Store gift certificates. I'll get right on that. In the meanwhile, I'll send 99 cents your way through the iTMS.

sandor: Well, poop. The iTMS only allows gift certificates in increments of $10. The problem isn't whether I'm willing to donate 10 songs to the cause, which I of course am, but that those sneaky fuckers at Apple will be pocketing the extra 10 cents. Sniff sniff... is that salami I smell?

Jim: Apple wouldn't pocket the extra 10 cents...the entire $10 would go into my iTunes account, so I would effectively get 11 songs for a total cost to me of 89 cents. Or a full album plus one extra song for 98 cents.

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Things, wonderful, about the new Peanuts book, known by Jim, not told by him to Levi

Jim didn't mention that the best book ever has a Joy of Cooking- or Legends of the Jews-quality index.

For example:

Charlie Brown, insults to, general . . . 1, 9, 10, 27, 33, 41, 65, 102, 116, 128, 131, 171
Snoopy, clothes, depicted in, to disturbing effect . . . 163, 171
Snoopy, dog reference, offended by . . . 13, 41, 81, 118, 120, 130, 200, 209, 236, 257
Snoopy, dog reference, nonplussed by . . . 20
Tricycle, Charlie Brown bullied off by Patty . . . 100, 102, 104, 195

Baseball doesn't get such a specific breakdown, but it is featured on sixteen separate pages.

In the next few months, Stacey and I will be building the shelf that, in mid-2016, will hold all twenty-five volumes.

Original comments...

thatbob: Is it an index to only the first two years' encompassed in volume 1? Or is it an index to the whole 50+ years, to be printed in all twenty-five volumes? And if it's just an index to the first two years, I can't help but wonder whether subsequent volumes will include a cumulative index (hot!!!), or if maybe each volume will be individually indexed (yawn) with cumulative five or ten-year indices (hot!) or a separate full index volume (hottest!!!). This is something you should try to determine before building your shelves.

Levi: I was thinking about that last night. The Legends of the Jews has a separate index volume, which seems to most often be the way that multi-volume scholarly productions go. But I bet this will just be an index to each volume.

However, I _think_ there's no law that would prohibit us from making and selling a comprehensive index to all the volumes in 2016.

Hilary Spurling (with author Anthony Powell's encouragement) did that with the twelve volumes of _A Dance to the Music of Time_, tracking each character. It was called _An Invitation to the Dance_. We'd have to call ours _Peanuts Shells_ or something.

Jim: Assuming they don't change the format of the books at some point, the last volume is going to be 1999-2000...but the last new "Peanuts" strip was in February 2000. Plenty of space for a cumulative index in that one.



To be fair

Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Craig Wilson has so far gotten insufficient (read: zero) attention at this site for his fantastic new hairdo.

I bet he's muttering about East Coast media bias at his locker before games as he thumbs through the paper and sees photo after photo of Johnny Damon's hair and beard.

So here's to Craig Wilson and his gloriously flowing golden locks. We come from the land of the ice and snow, indeed!

P.S. My friend Downtown Toby Brown says I'm in trouble if, on our trip, I root for the Brewers to beat the Pirates. Toby's long-suffering Pirates fandom does deserve our support, so I guess I'll be rooting for the eyepatch and parrot over the suds and brats.

Original comments...

Jim: Ah, yes, now I recall that during the Pirates-Phillies game I watched way back on Opening Day, the Pirates announcers were being effusive in their praise of Craig Wilson's hairdo, comparing him to Johnny Damon (but also pointing out that with his blond hair, a Johnny Damon-style beard wouldn't look as good on him).

Steve: Golden locks my ass! As soon as he takes that helmet off you're looking at a mullet pure and simple. Just be careful if you try to talk to him about his hair or get his autograph on your upcomming trip. He might go Geddy Lee on you.---"Living in a fisheye lens/Caught in the camera eye/I have no heart to lie I can't pretend a stranger is/A long awaited friend"

stacey: Thing One: Johnny Damon makes my heart swell with love and hapa pride.

Thing Two: Sorry, Toby. Although pirates also make my heart swell, beer and brats and proximity win. At least until I meet an actual pirate, at which point I can reassess.

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Survey says . . .

At Saturday's Cubs/Mets game at chilly Wrigley Field, there was a play that I didn't have any idea how to score. I don't have my scorebook in front of me, so you'll have to bear with me--I might be wrong about which player did what--but here's the basics:

Todd Walker was at first base with one out. Corey Patterson hit a bouncer to second baseman Super-Joe McEwing. While fielding the ball, McEwing was in the basepath, where, in the process of fielding, he has the right to be. Walker's choices were to stop, crash into McEwing, or go around him. He chose to go around, at which point he was called out by the second-base ump for going out of the baseline.

It was the correct call, but how was I to score it? Was Walker out 4 unassisted? Or is there a special notation, like the single Japanese character Scott Sepich noticed a Japanese journalist using for a 6-4-3 double play?

I think I need the opinion of an official scorer. To the Baggarlyphone! Maybe Andy can ask the Giants' scorer for me, if he doesn't know himself.

Original comments...

Toby: Levi, I believe the indication is OOBP. You would draw a perpendicular line halting the runner's path between first and second. And no, I don't think McEwing gets that put-out.


Levi: Thanks, Toby. That makes far more sense than anything my friend Michelle and I came up with at the game. My excuse is that it was too damn cold to think.

baggarly: never fear. the runner indeed is called out for running out of the basepath. score the play a fielder's choice, the runner is out 4 unassisted.

next week, kids, catcher's interference!

baggarly: actually a smart play by the runner, since if he'd been tagged, i'm guessing the mets turn a double play (which, as all us budding official scorers know, you can never assume).

Levi: Thanks, Baggs.

If Walker had crashed into McEwing, he would have been out for interference, right?

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Another road tripper

Here's someone who has done a lot of road trips over the past few years, many of them involving baseball. He's a man after my own heart, since he's taken a lot of pictures of road signs along the way.


Friday, April 23, 2004


Scooter pie

The L.A. Times' sports media writer, Larry Stewart, ended his column today by pointing out that 10 years ago, everyone hated the continuously on-screen score display when Fox introduced it, and now everyone loves it, so perhaps we shouldn't be so quick to judge Fox's latest innovation, Scooter the Talking Baseball.

Well, there are a couple of faulty premises here. For one thing, I watched Fox's first preseason NFL game in the summer of 1994 and remember that I thought it was a pretty good idea to have the time remaining on-screen throughout (and was indifferent, at worst, to having the score up there as well).

More importantly, I think even people who hated the on-screen score display could tell that there was a sensible rationale behind it. The entire rationale behind Scooter seems to be "kids will love to watch baseball on TV if there's an animated talking baseball telling them what a fastball is, even if the game starts at 8:30 Eastern and lasts past midnight," which I don't think is sensible.

Also, when the on-screen score display was first introduced, it didn't make any noise, unlike Scooter.

Original comments...

Levi: I still refuse to believe that Scooter exists.

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Bowing to public demand

Another picture of Johnny Damon, new hairdo and beard prominently on display.


Thursday, April 22, 2004


Say it ain't so, Joe

Today, my co-workers and I went out to lunch at the Chicago-style place at the corner of Verdugo Avenue and Hollywood Way in Burbank. Joe Mantegna was there with a couple of other people, but I could only hear brief snippets of his conversation over the noise of me chewing my hot dog. One of the snippets was something to the effect of "Baseball is retro, you know?"

Eventually, he and one of his lunch companions got into his Global Electric Motorcar and drove off. Yes, you're right, I would not have expected Joe Mantegna to be in one of those, although they do look suspiciously like the kind of vehicle one might have expected to see a relief pitcher arriving in back in the 1970s.

Then Sean Hayes and an entourage showed up in a stretch limo. I didn't hear him mention baseball, although we left soon after he arrived. No wonder I don't watch "Will and Grace."

(Edited later to add that I discovered Joe Mantegna and his wife own the place, so no wonder he was there.)

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Jim Edmonds

Redbird Nation, the best Cardinals site on the web, describes Jim Edmonds's approach at the plate perfectly today:

That's the way Jim Edmonds plays baseball. It's like someone took a film strip of Will Clark swinging a bat, crumpled it up, cut out a few frames, reassembled them out of order, ran it back through a film projector, then used it to teach Jedmonds how to swing a bat. But the results -- those high, majestic home runs -- would be as if Thrill had hit them himself.

Side note: I miss Will Clark. Back in the late 80s, I would never have thought that possible, but watching him as a Cardinal the last two months of 2000 secured him a place on my team of all-time favorites.

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Move over, Wayne and Mike!

A coworker who is also a Cardinals fan has a twelve-year-old son with whom he watches most Cardinals games with the MLB Extra Innings package.

Recently, the feed was down for a few days, but my coworker and his son still wanted to see the game. So they did the next-to-next-best thing (The next-best thing being, of course, radio): they watched the pitch-by-pitch ticker online, and they announced the game as if they were broadcasting it.

All that was really just a long preamble so I can tell you this: my coworker's six-year-old daughter said, "You guys need announcer names. Dad, your name is Bob. Ethan, your name is Aladdin."

Which gave my coworker plenty of chances to say things like, "Matt Morris sure is pitching well tonight, isn't he, Aladdin."

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Wednesday, April 21, 2004


Phil 'er up

One of the quirks of DirecTV is that they not only carry ESPN, they also have channel space reserved for what they call ESPN Alternate, which means that unless there's some kind of blackout situation affecting your ZIP code, you have the opportunity to see both ESPN Wednesday night baseball games. So tonight, while Levi was forced to watch the Cardinals play the Astros on regular ESPN, I got my first look at Citizens Bank Park as the Phillies hosted the Marlins on the bizarre and strange world of Channel 210.

Now, the game actually lived up to its channel placement, and I certainly hope when we're there in August, we can get a game that's similarly bizarre and strange. The weirdness culminated in the bottom of the 9th with the score tied at 7, with Placido Polanco hitting a grounder to left field that ended up wedged under the padding on the wall. Jeff Conine threw up his hands and Polanco went all the way home, but the umpires only awarded him a ground-rule double. Larry Bowa ran out of the dugout and had a 5-minute-long apoplectic fit but managed not to get tossed out; after that performance, Jack McKeon came out of his dugout and had a slightly milder fit (because he's 73 years old) that involved a lot of gesticulating at his watch.

Oh, yeah, and Mike Lowell was almost Tuffy-esque, which I guess we have to say whenever someone hits 3 home runs. Citizens Bank Park looks good on TV (a lot different than the Vet, obviously), even if it doesn't have an existing building in the outfield the way Petco Park does. Also, it seems like their neon Liberty Bell should swing a little faster when it lights up for home runs. Actually, I'd like to get a closer look at whatever it is that's forming the batter's eye, which looks like nothing more than a tall brick wall with a suspicious jog in the middle of it.

Original comments...

Levi: Now, in today's game, the two teams have had a bench-clearing brawl.

Man, I can't wait to see Larry Bowa fired. Anyone who thinks he and his team are better off without Scott Rolen deserves to be fired, then rehired just so someone can have the joy of firing him again.

maura: my friend recently registered, or something similar.

i worked wednesday night's game; it was definitely fun (the marlins reporter, one of my favorite to work with, made it even more so), although at around 11 or so i was idly wondering if i was going to be stuck in the office UNTIL THE END OF TIME.

Levi: Maura-- Since there's no time in baseball, officially, even the end of time wouldn't end a game necessarily.

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Raised on radio

Well, no wonder, considering the fact that the Cardinals have a gargantuan number of radio affiliates. I'm thinking you wouldn't have had the same luck if you were driving through Florida trying to listen to the Devil Rays game, although I can't imagine a situation where that would come up.

Next time your iPod freezes up, Levi, try resetting it, by flipping the hold switch back and forth, and then hold down the "play/pause" and "menu" buttons simultaneously for about 10 seconds, until the Apple logo displays on the screen.

(P.S.: I see there's a show on WXRU that has a city in the title, but in reality has nothing whatsoever to do with that city. Where would they have ever gotten that idea? I'm not sure if I should be flattered, or join with WXLO-FM in their lawsuit. They ripped off those call letters from the former WOR-FM in New York anyway. Go to the link and scroll down for some info on that.)

Original comments...

Levi: I've been able to reset my iPod before by toggling the hold switch, then holding down the middle button, but I've not tried the menu/play button thing. Thanks.

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Radio notes

First radio note from the weekend:

On the way to my parents' house, on Friday night, we listened to the Cardinals game. We first picked it up just north of Champaign-Urbana on a previously unknown AM station. When that signal faded, Stacey hit the scan button, and the next AM station the radio found had the Cardinals game on. When that signal began to fade, she did it again, and again the next station the radio found was carrying the Cardinals. The fourth time, we got a station carrying some other programming, but the fifth time, we got the Cardinals again. We eventually switched to KMOX, once night had fallen, but later, when we had problems with KMOX, we were able to find an FM station carrying the game. We ended our night with a Cardinals win heard on AM 1460 WROY, Carmi, which only seemed right.

Now that's broadcasting in the public interest! I don't understand why the FCC's so worried about the state of radio.

Second radio note from the weekend:

Stacey and I drove back from a visit to my parents on Sunday. We listened to the end of the Cardinals game on KMOX. My iPod had frozen up strangely earlier in the day, so after the Cardinals lost, we were stuck trolling central Illinois radio, which is a desert that would even the Old Testament God wouldn't be willing to force on the ancient Israelites. A lot of bad religious programming, even more Nashville crap, and not much else.

Then, as we were sitting in a ten-mile bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go mess of a merge, we hit upon WHOW AM 1520, Clinton, Illinois. And there we stayed, because their programming was like a gauntlet thrown down, a chip being knocked off our shoulders, a triple-dog dare: could we bring ourselves to keep listening until they went out of range?

What, you ask, was their programming? They were playing "The Superbowl Shuffle". Over and over. Every couple of times through, a recording played of a guy imitating Harry Caray, saying that starting Monday, WHOW would be sports programming. "But now, let's get back to 'The Superbowl Shuffle!'"

So we listened to "The Superbowl Shuffle" at least fifteen times. We couldn't turn the dial. Eventually, we got through the traffic and the signal faded. But Monday as I was bicycling to work, I kept thinking of Walter Payton informing us that "We aren't doing this because we're greedy./The Bears are doing it to feed the needy."

Third radio note from the weekend:

This will be of interest only to those of you who lived in the Communications Residential College at Northwestern University. I saw a bumper sticker for WCRC FM 95.7, Fairfield, Illinois. That reminded me that the dorm's station changed its name to WXRU a few years ago after getting a complaint from 104.5 FM WXLO, Worcester, Massachusetts.

Original comments...

Steve: How awesome that Bob is the face of CRC even today!

Levi: Yeah, I decided not to point that out just to see who was interested enough to click on the link.

Toby Brown: What Levi didn't tell you is he used to engineer Cardinal games at WROY as a teen-ager.

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Here's Barry Bonds so far this year.

I said to Stacey last night, "Maybe this will be the year he hits .400, just to show that he can."

Stacey said, "Maybe this will be the year he hits .500."

I'll go out on a limb and say that if he hits .500, he'll win another MVP.

Of course, he's going to have to get past Dontrelle Willis to do that. Dontrelle Willis as a hitter, I mean.

Original comments...

Steve: So is he using a new more glamorous steroid or just trying that much harder? I like those projections but what about the non-breakable record no one talks about 190 RBI?

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Tuesday, April 20, 2004


Good ol' baseball

"Peanuts" began on October 2, 1950, unfortunately at a time of year when it would be incongruous to draw kids playing baseball. But the first mention of it was less than a month after the debut, on October 27, with Shermy showing Charlie Brown a globe:

Shermy: So you see this proves that our Earth is round like a ball...
Charlie Brown: Like a baseball?
Shermy: Sure, like a baseball.
Charlie Brown: Like a basketball?
Shermy: Sure, just like a basketball.
Charlie Brown: I don't believe it!
Shermy: Why?
Charlie Brown: No stitches!

Then after the long, cold winter, the first appearance of baseball equipment was March 1, 1951, when Shermy and Charlie Brown are wearing baseball gloves for a non-baseball joke. So what I would call the first "Peanuts" baseball strip is March 6, 1951, in which Charlie Brown is wearing a catcher's mitt and a backwards baseball cap, and Shermy appears in the last panel with regular glove and cap in normal orientation...

Charlie Brown: Pitch to me, boy! Throw it right in here! He can't hit it!! Just pitch to me, boy! Pitch to me! O.K., I'm all warmed up...let's start the game!

(Yes, as you may have gathered, this arrived in my mailbox today. Perhaps I should have posted this under the heading "whetting Levi's appetite," since it looks like they're shipping the pre-orders via Media Mail from Seattle, so he probably doesn't have his copy yet.)

Original comments...

Levi: I'm still waiting for mine. In fact, I've taken to sticking my head in my mailbox every afternoon and shouting, "Hello in there!"

Last night, I was speculating with Stacey and Bob that Jean Schulz, in a final tribute to her late husband, had decided not to send the books after all, and to cancel the series, keeping alive the feelings of sadness, despair, and shattered hopes that Charlie Brown was so familiar with.

But Bob pointed out that the better idea would be for them to send books to all those who ordered except one person, leaving that person to wait and wait and wait while his friends talked about the book and posted to their weblogs about it.

Jim: Sometimes you call Fantagraphics: "Thanks for the copy of 'Complete Peanuts' you sent me." They respond, "We didn't send you any copy of 'Complete Peanuts.'" Then you say, "Don't you know sarcasm when you hear it?"

If it makes you feel any better, you have historically had better luck with women than I have. Of course, I can now use the pickup line, "Hey, want to come back to my place and see my copy of 'Complete Peanuts'?"



No matter what the question is, the answer's always "Jeopardy!"

I tried out for "Jeopardy!" today for the third time in three years, and passed the test for the third time, which means you get to play a brief mock version of the game and be grilled by the contestant coordinators. I mentioned this trip, and was asked what city/stadium I was looking forward to the most; I said Boston and Fenway, because I thought it would take too long to explain that I'm looking forward to all the stops for different and varied reasons. Then, when asked what I'd do with the money, I said maybe I'd do an "all 30" trip...but it's probably a little too early to start planning that one, since they didn't call me for the 2002-03 season, and they didn't call me for the 2003-04 season. Perhaps the problem is that they calculate everyone's expected winnings based on how well they do at the tryout, and I would blow the show's budget.

Really, what I'd first do with my game show winnings is move to a place big enough to hold a pinball machine without it taking up half the space in the living room. And then I'd get a pinball machine.



My Bud-dy

Well, as the folks at Redbird Nation have pointed out, someone out there despises Bud Selig as much as I do. And they work for the Cincinatti Post! Either that, or this was the best photo available. You decide.


Monday, April 19, 2004


Good grief, more baseball!

I saw "The Punisher" today, which was filmed in, and takes place in, Tampa. I don't think I'm giving anything away here, since it was mentioned in several reviews I've read, but there's a torture scene involving someone's facial piercings and a pair of pliers. Perhaps it would have been more effective if the torture had instead involved attendance at a Devil Rays game.

I say that with love, of course, since the stars have aligned such that I will be in my hometown a mere three weekends from now, and I will be seeing the Devil Rays play the Rangers at Tropicana Field on Tuesday, May 11th. I guess technically, this counts as a new stadium for me, although I've seen both NHL hockey games and college basketball games there in its previous incarnations as the Florida Suncoast Dome and as the Thunderdome.

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The answer you've been waiting for

Here's the answer they gave on "Car Talk." (Had to wait for it to be posted to the web site, since the show airs in L.A. while I'm at work on Saturday.) Levi is correct in the comments on the question (back on April 13) that this is a hard situation to plan for, and Luke is correct that they'd mention his pick-off move to first. If only we'd sent in the answer, perhaps we could have won a gift certificate for "Car Talk" merchandise.

RAY: The fact that his nickname was Lefty should help. Lefties have good pick-off moves. So imagine this: It's the top of the ninth, and the game is tied. The opponents have a guy on first base and there are two outs. Lefty's brought in. He doesn't throw a single pitch. Instead he picks the guy off of first base.

Inning over. Did he throw a pitch?

TOM: No.

RAY: Bottom of the ninth, one of his teammates hits a home run, end of game, Lefty wins, gets his bonus, gets his thousand bucks, and the manager gets fired anyway.


Friday, April 16, 2004


Just when you had forgotten about the hockey robots

As is my habit, I watched my recording of last night's "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" during the 5:00 P.M. hour today. Joe Buck was the third guest, promoting tonight's Fox "'Wonderfalls' Memorial Friday Night Broadcast" of the Red Sox-Yankees game, and at one point, the topic turned to Fox's new innovations for their baseball coverage this year.

Their discussion of one of the innovations led me to immediately start the TiVo recording the game, mainly because I wanted to see if it really existed, or if this was a bizarre example of Joe Buck's deadpan sarcastic humor.

The innovation in question is Scooter the animated talking baseball, and he really does exist, much like the bubonic plague really does exist. Now, upon hearing about Scooter, Conan immediately did an impression of him, saying in a high voice, "Hey, kids, a slider moves from side to side!"

Since the game had already started, my TiVo recording only captured the third inning on, and I had to fast-forward all the way to the eighth inning, stopping only to admire Johnny Damon's hair, before Scooter showed up. Now, first of all, referring to him as "animated" is an insult to actual animators, by which I mean that Fox just has him making one certain mouth movement over and over again while he's supposedly talking; even the cheapest 10-frame-per-second cartoons never resorted to that sort of thing (in fact, the cheapest cartoon ever, "Clutch Cargo," superimposed actual mouths on the drawings rather than have incorrect mouth movements).

And, as you might have guessed, Conan's impression was almost perfect; the only fault was that it wasn't long enough. Here is my transcript of the Scooter segment I saw: "What's up, bros? This is Scooter. When Scooter really wants to scoot, it's time for a little heat. The pitcher just rears back and throws me as hard as he can. Whoa! A good fastball comes so fast, a hitter has no time to react. Stee-rike!"

Anyone who thinks Tom Kenny should start limiting himself to HBO sketch comedy programs and maybe "Powerpuff Girls," raise your hand. I thought so.

Original comments...

Levi: You must be making this up. Otherwise, there's no hope in the universe. And I refuse to believe that.

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Only trust the audience on questions about movies

Later that same episode...the second contestant, going for $64,000, is faced with the question "in 1947, who became the first African-American baseball player to play in the American League?", and the choices Larry Doby, Satchel Paige, Dan Bankhead, and Jackie Robinson.

He says that he knows it's not Jackie Robinson because the Dodgers are in the National League, but then makes the mistake of polling the audience. The poll results: 55% for Paige, 23% for Doby, 18% for Robinson, and 4% for Bankhead. Then he takes the 50/50, which leaves Paige and Doby, says "I should have trusted the audience instincts," makes Paige his final answer, and leaves with $32,000.

If only it had been a question about Rob Dibble!

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Obscure references to baseball players

On the November 28, 2000, episode of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," the four answer choices were "nib," "tang," "bail," and "dibble" for the $125,000 question "what is the name of the unseen part of the knife blade that secures the blade to the handle," and the following ensued:

Regis: Well, I drank some Tang once, if that helps. Somebody bailed me out, as a matter of fact. And I do dibble well.
Contestant: Rob Dibble -- he was a pitcher with the Reds at one time.
Regis: There you go. Good reliever. (Although as Regis said it, it sounded more like "reliefer.")

The contestant chose to quit, and left with $125,000. If only he had been able to think of Frank Tang-nana!

Original comments...

Levi: Is it the nib?

Jim: No, it's the tang, hence my reference to Frank Ta(ng)nana, and not to, um, Nibbles.

A nib is the metal part you write with on a fountain pen; a bail is, among other things, the metal bar on a typewriter that holds the paper against the platen; and this is a dibble (used to make a big enough hole in the ground so that you can put in a bulb or a seedling).

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Viral marketing

The Subservient Chicken will play baseball, if asked. But he doesn't know how to steal home, and when asked to cork his bat, he just plays baseball.

Original comments...

Luke, hanger-on: I think the truth is that it's actually a Subserviant Cub inside a Subserviant Chicken suit. It does not know how to "go to the World Series" or even "win," but it does know how to "lose," "make questionable trades" and "raise, then dash, hopes and dreams."

Levi: Speaking of stealing home: I learned today that Jackie Robinson stole home 19 times in his career!

Why, oh why is there not more stealing home? It's one of the greatest plays in sports. But I've never gotten to see it live.

Time to clone Jackie Robinson!

Jim: I saw someone steal home live in a minor-league game involving, if I recall correctly, the Lancaster Jethawks and the team that was then known as the Mudville Nine in an ill-conceived attempt to disguise the fact that they were from Stockton.

I'm sure it would have been slightly more impressive if it happened in a level higher than Class A, where the players are slightly more skilled.


Thursday, April 15, 2004


"Things we should have thought of", or "Pat and Ron, Nor DNA Tap"

On the WGN Radio broadcast of today's Cubs game, Pat Hughes thanked a listener for sending him and color man Ron Santo a book of palindromes. "Well be getting to that later on," Pat said. I can't think of a better gift for those two.

Now we get to see how Luke spells a weary groan in the comments.

Oh, and while we're on the subject, here's Ron Santo on the Opening Day weather (This is from memory, so it's not exact): "I remember Opening Day back in 1997 was so cold I couldn't feel my toes. Of course, I can't feel my toes today, either."

Original comments...

Luke, hanger-on: !OooooooooO!

Steve: "Florida Marlins 4, Chicago Cubs 2 Day Game Played on Tuesday, April 1, 1997 (D) at Pro Player Stadium"

That must have been a cold day in Miami.....

Luke: Heh. Clearly Levi is remembering this cold day and this humbling loss to the Marlins. Low of 24, gusts up to 31 mph! My first Opening Day, and I think the first time I met Jim.

Levi: How embarrassing. Luke and Steve are right. I had the wrong week. By the time we saw the Cubs for the first time that year, they were already something like 0-6.

Steve will remember attending this game with me two days later. I remember the heaping plate of futility that Alex Fernandez served the Cubs that day, but I was surprised to learn it was so cold. I guess when you go into a game expecting a no-hitter and you come very close to seeing one, you don't notice that you don't notice your feet.

Levi: Also, if you look at that box score, you'll see that "third baseman" Bobby Bonilla had already committed three errors.

Jim: And from today's L.A. Times: "On this day in 1997, the Chicago Cubs set the mark for the worst start in National League history, losing their 12th consecutive game, 4-0 to the Colorado Rockies, and breaking the record of 11 losses in a row by the 1884 Detroit Wolverines."

Ah, yes, that was the trip to Chicago where I had some sort of 24-hour stomach flu and spent the first day on the floor of Stacey and Nikki's dorm room (although if you're going to have stomach flu, Stacey and Nikki's dorm room is a pretty good place to have it). Perhaps I caught the virus from the Cubs as they were leaving Miami, flying over Florida a few days before I followed them up north.

The secondary purpose of that trip was to meet up with some game show fans I knew from the Internet, and I was supposed to go with them to another Cubs game that week that ended up being snowed out.

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Much more music

Forgot to mention here that I got another winning Pepsi cap on Monday, and the baseball song I purchased from iTunes was "T.E.A.M. (The Baseball Game)" from the soundtrack to the Broadway version of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown." I hope you approve, Levi.



Bobby V.

Stacey pointed out that my suggestion back on April 7th that the Cardinals pretend, for an important at-bat, that Albert Pujols is So Taguchi resembles former New York Mets manager Bobby Valentine's greatest moment. To recap: On June 9, 1999, In the 12th inning of a game against the Toronto Blue Jays, Bobby Valentine was ejected for arguing a catcher's interference call. He went to the clubhouse--presumably after doing a bit of dirt kicking and enthusiastic swearing--but returned a few minutes later wearing a disguise. After a while, the announcers noticed the stranger lurking at the back of the dugout, and a few days later, the National League suspended Valentine for two games and fined him $5,000.

The difference between Valentine's approach and the one I advocated for the Cardinals is instructive. When confronted by the league about the disguise, Valentine fessed up. He argued that he wasn't really trying to fool anyone, and he swore--despite seemingly contradictory photographic evidence--that he wasn't in the dugout. But he never denied that the man with the big nose, glasses, and mustache was him.

Denying photographic evidence is a start--in fact, it will be a necessary part of my plan--but it has to be accompanied by an all-out denial on all fronts. The only hope of avoiding a lengthy suspension for Pujols, Taguchi, LaRussa, and probably me, too, is a refusal to accept that any type of evidence proves that the player who we claim is Pujols is not actualy Pujols. It's hard to believe, given Valentine's reputation, but in this case what did him in was not being stubborn enough. I wonder what Ari Fleischer's doing these days. Given some of the lines he peddled during the last couple of years, this would be child's play.

I wonder if Bobby Valentine would put up that kind of defense if you accused him of manufacturing that strangely orange tan he sports these days?

Oh, and the Mets won, 4-3.


Wednesday, April 14, 2004


"Anybody who played rounders..."

Found while I was searching for examples of pitchers getting a win without actually throwing a pitch: the BBC attempts to explain baseball.

Original comments...

Eyespy: How come the Limies had basketball referees playing at all the positions?



Bush dodges important issue

I have many thoughts on Bush's press conference last night. But since most of those thoughts aren't family-friendly, I'll stick to this one:

What happened to the scourge of steroids? Aren't they--along with gay marriage--ravaging our youth? Aren't they shattering our trust in our sports heroes? It was just three months ago that they were important to include in the State of the Union address. Now, despite the prime-time slot, they rate nary a mention.

Maybe we've defeated them? After all, Barry Bonds only has three home runs so far this season, so clearly he's off the 'roids.

Maybe that can be Bush's campaign slogan: "Vote Bush. At least he defeated steroids. Maybe."

Back to baseball later. I promise. I'm just waiting to hear what Rickey Henderson's up to these days.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Well, Wrigley Field still has less signage (modern euphemism for advertising) than any other ballpark. Actually, at one point during the broadcast, I think Bill Murray was joking with Chip and Steve about putting ads on the wall behind the ivy, at a reduced price, of course, since they'd only be visible in April and perhaps October. Or maybe it was Senator Dick Durbin doing the joking and not Bill Murray. I forget. What did come up during their conversation with the senator was a suggestion that he introduce legislation to force the Cardinals to trade Albert Pujols, preferably to the Cubs, or to the American League.

Anyway, here's this week's "Car Talk" puzzler, posted here because it happens to be baseball-related:

RAY: Lefty McDougal, star pitcher of the Kenosha Ramblers, had an incentive clause in his contract that guaranteed him an extra thousand bucks if he won 20 games during the season.

TOM: This sounds like 1925!

RAY: It's last game of the season. Lefty has 19 victories, and is scheduled to be that day's starting pitcher. The opponent is a lousy team. They've got a terrible record, and Lefty knows he's going to get the bonus.

As luck would have it, an hour before the game his manager approaches him and says, "You ain't starting, Lefty."

Lefty asks, "Why not?"

The manager says, "The owner of the team came and said, 'If you start this bum... if he throws even one pitch, you're losing your job!'"

Lefty's dejected. He says, "Jeez, I was going buy a new house in the Hamptons with that thousand bucks!"

Lefty's discouraged, and the manager is discouraged too, because he has great regard for Lefty. The manager wonders, "How can I get Lefty to win his 20th game and collect his bonus-- and not throw a single pitch?"

And that's what happens. Lefty wins the game without throwing a single pitch.

How did he do it?

Original comments...

sandor: Here's a guess. I'm not an expert on how win-lose records are figured, so I may have this wrong.

If the game is away, the Ramblers will bat first. Assuming they get a run in in the first inning, they'll have the lead going into the bottom of the first. Lefty starts the game, but gets pulled for a reliever immediately before throwing a pitch. Assuming the reliever does his job, and the offense does theirs, and the Ramblers keep the lead for the entire game, wouldn't Lefty get the win?

Levi: No--to get a win, a starting pitcher has to go five full innings.

The rules for relievers are much less solid, and I'm trying to come up with an answer. The problem I'm having is that so far, the only scenario I can come up with (pitcher comes in with 2 outs, runner on first in a tie game, picks him off, team takes lead in the bottom of the inning, he gets the win) is not a situation that the manager could plan for. And technically, that pitcher ought not to get the win, because the rule for awarding wins for relievers says that they should be the pitcher of record when the team goes ahead to stay, but it also mentions that, in a game featuring multiple pitchers, the win could be awarded to the pitcher who pitched most effectively. Wins are almost never parceled out that way, but in this case, I think even the official scorer might have to agree that a different pitcher deserved the win.

I'll keep thinking.

Jim: I have here a link to a recent example of a pitcher getting the win without throwing a pitch. It's similar but not identical to the situation Levi described, and it would still be hard to plan for.

Luke: Who gets the win in a forfeit? Maybe the manager persuades Lefty to offer half of his bonus to the other team if it forfeits.

Or maybe lefty balks four times to each batter, thus walking him, then picks him off the bag. He is left-handed, after all. He probably has a wicked move to first.

Luke, hanger-on: Oh, what happens when a starting pitcher dies after the game starts but before he's thrown a pitch? Is it like when your roommate dies in college and you get a 4.0 for the quarter? (It's probably a 5.0 now with grade inflation.) Assuming it's a home game, let Lefty take the mound in the bottom of the first, then right as he's about to start his wind-up, he takes a big lick of the hemlock he's hidden in his glove, next to the emory board and Vaseline.

Luke, hanger-on: Well, what was the answer?

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Some thoughts on yesterday's Cubs opener:

1) The forecast, for once, was right on: 40 degrees, with a 20mph wind out of the northeast. That's like having a personal wind just for my season ticket seat. So it was cold.

2) Sadly, no one wore a balaclava like Shawon Dunston used to do. I always felt like it was a form of protest from Dunston, saying, essentially, if you guys are going to force me to be out here in this shit, I'm going to look as silly as I can.

3) None of the players seemed to be playing with the urgency of people who realized how absurdly cold it was until the 6th inning, when three Pirates struck out, a couple of them on "We've got a six-run lead and my fingers hurt" kind of swings.

4) Not content with raising my ticket price 70% (from $10 to $17) in six years (and more than 100% in the twelve seasons I've been going to Wrigley Field), the Cubs seem in the last couple offseasons to have spent most of their time trying to figure out how to bring in more billions. Two seasons ago, they added silly little Sears ads by the dugouts. Last year, they added really tacky-looking LED screens along the roof of the upper deck in right and left. This year, they've replaced the three light boards--the one below the scoreboard in center and the two along the facade of the upper deck--with LED screens. So now we've got McDonald's ads in center field during play. What's their slogan these days? Gotta love it?
I half expect to show up for Opening Day next year and find the outfield grass mowed in the shape of a McRib.

5) Public address announcer Paul Friedman welcomed "those Cubs fans watching from the rooftops." The request did not elicit the booing that the whole enterprise--and the strongarming the Cubs gave it--deserves.

6) The Cubs lost. Badly. I only lasted six innings, the fierce cold and wind overcoming my desire not to start the season with an incomplete entry in my book of scorecards.

Original comments...

Levi: By the way: I am a little bit embarrassed that I only lasted six innings. I don't regret it, seeing as seven or eight of the thirteen walks the Cubs issued came after I left. But you'd think that, dressed for the cold, I could hold out longer.

Luke, hanger-on: Didn't Stacey give you her flask to keep you warm?

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Monday, April 12, 2004


As long as I had the scanner running...

I don't have enough outlets, so every time I want to plug in my scanner, I have to unplug my electric pencil sharpener. (Actually, I would have enough outlets if I didn't have so many items that had a gigantic transformer brick attached to the plug, including the scanner.)

Anyway, the result is this list of all the regular-season major league baseball games I've ever been to, complete with scans of the ticket stubs. The list, I'm sure, pales by comparison to Levi's.



Our nation turns its lonely eyes to Tuffy

During the Cubs home opener today, Chip Caray asked Steve Stone about his favorite Wrigley Field opening day memory. Prompted by me yelling "Tuffy!" from my chair, Steve said it was Karl "Tuffy" Rhodes hitting three home runs off Dwight Gooden in 1994. Hard to believe that was 10 years ago. No such luck for a similar memory today, with the wind blowing in.

Also, for the pregame show and the first inning, WGN's graphics were being cut off on the sides of the picture, which is what happens when you haven't paid enough attention to what's going to happen when you downconvert your high-definition feed to standard definition. I blame the Superstation WGN technical crew in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and their weird "S" logo and incessant "Becker" promos. Maybe Cubs games should be letterboxed on the SD feed, although that might confuse all the elderly Cubs fans in Florida and Arizona who they're always sending get-well wishes to during the broadcasts.

(Yes, unfortunately, my ticket stub really is that faded, even though it's been in an envelope in a drawer for most of its life...and that's with me trying to use some tricks in a graphics program to make the text a little more readable. Cheap ink: another example of Ticketmaster's evilness.)

Original comments...

Luke, hanger-on: I'm not a big fan of the new WGN baseball graphics. The strip takes up a lot of screen space without passing along much information, plus it often lops off the top of a player's head. Seems like in past years game data took up just a small corner of the screen -- score, inning, tiny dots to denote the count -- plus maybe a WGN watermark in another corner. I even seem to recall that cameramen at Wrigley put masking tape in the corner of their viewfinders to remind them to leave important action out of that corner when composing their shots.

Anyway, I'm keeping my eye out at the Tower. One of these days I'll share an elevator with someone wearing a polo shirt with "WGN sports graphics" embroidered over the pocket, and I'll refuse to let him off until he agrees to go back to the old design.

Jim: I don't have a problem with the WGN strip, but maybe that's because I've watched a lot of sports on Fox (football and baseball), inventor of the continuous on-screen score display and then the strip. In fact, I find WGN's strip more aesthetically pleasing and somewhat easier to read than Fox's. And the good thing about the strip is that the horrible "Superstation WGN" bug goes away when it's on-screen.

The strip looked fine in the first inning, and I assume they use the same one in high-definition and standard definition, just with some "white space" on the ends in high-definition. The graphics that were getting cut off on the sides were the ones at the bottom of the screen, which I would call "lower thirds" if I were being pretentious about my radio/TV/film degree.

These days, the WGN cameramen are probably using masking tape (or vertical lines drawn with a Sharpie) in their high-definition viewfinders to show them where the edge of the picture is in standard definition.

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Anxiety about the trip already?

All right, enough about jingles. Last night (really this morning), I dreamed that I was at the Phillies game on this trip, and first I realized that I hadn't done anything about the quality setting on my digital camera, so I was fooling around with that for a while. Finally, once I had matched up the space remaining on the memory card with the number of pictures I thought I'd be taking on the rest of the trip, it was time to settle in and watch the game...except that the seats were uncomfortable metal benches instead of regular stadium seats, and they didn't slope enough so I had to crane my neck to see around the people in front of me, and the seats weren't really facing the field, they were facing the scoreboard, which was a lot farther to the left than one might expect. Speaking of which, the scoreboard wasn't working at first, and once it lit up, it listed the home team as "Padres," so I thought, "They've got the wrong 'P' team listed." Also, Levi and the other hangers-on weren't around at the beginning of the game, so a family of four took their seats.

I woke up shortly after the game started, with the visiting team having hit a ball to left field that was just least, I think so, since I was having trouble seeing. Any amateur dream interpreters want to take a crack at this?

On another note, as I alluded to earlier in this blog, I will be visiting a place we're bypassing on this trip and going to New York for a few days in July, planning on attending the Yankees-Devil Rays game on Thursday, July 8th. (No chance to see the Mets, or either of the two minor-league teams in New York City, unfortunately...the Brooklyn Cyclones and the Staten Island Yankees are playing each other that Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, but I have to go up to Connecticut for a wedding, which is the justification for the trip.)

So here's the real anxiety about the trip: why are there cheaper rooms available at well-known hotel chains in midtown Manhattan than there are in downtown Detroit? I'm going to assume the rooms are smaller and noiser on West 48th Street than they are on Gratiot Avenue, but still...

Original comments...

maura: wait, you're going to see the rays?! maybe i can come along!!

Jim: Yes! I'll be in touch.

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Here we go. From WCOL in Columbus, Ohio, circa 1963:

1230's doubleheader
(15-second instrumental bed)

And a pair of jingles from 1970, from a no-longer-in-existence Washington, D.C., station:

Double play, WEAM

Triple play, WEAM

True, they're not directly related to baseball, but they are more grist for my upcoming thesis "An All-American Pick Hit: Baseball Imagery in PAMS Radio Jingles, 1958-1975."


Sunday, April 11, 2004

I've gone through two of the nine CDs from the grab bag, and already have two baseball-related jingles...

From 1973:
WFIL, the Phillies

And from some indeterminate time in the '70s:
WBAL, sounds like Baltimore sports
(7-second instrumental bed)
WBAL and the Orioles
(7-second instrumental bed)
WBAL, sounds like Baltimore sports

Unfortunately, neither of these is anywhere near as good as the awesome KDKA "World Champion Pirates" jingle I have, which Levi has already heard. There is, however, a 1974 series of jingles for WMAL in Washington based on the bizarre theme "we're living in a city of song"; their longtime slogan was "where all is said and done," so one of these jingles calls them "the saying and doing station."

(P.S.: In case you're curious after looking at their web site, yes, WFIL has a slightly different format now than they did back in 1973.)


Friday, April 09, 2004


Black water, keep on rolling

I'm not sure if I'm going to have room on my iPod for any additional Johnny Cash songs beyond the handful I have ("Ring of Fire," "Folsom Prison Blues," and a couple others). This purveyor of radio station jingles has a special this month: a "grab bag" of nine random CDs for $99, which was a deal I couldn't pass up, since those CDs are normally priced at $39(!). It won't be such a good deal if I end up with duplicates of CDs of theirs that I already own, but still...

Anyway, the comments should be functioning properly now, thanks to some remote troubleshooting by Sandy. We lost one comment in the process, unfortunately, so perhaps the person who posted said comment would like to repost her words of wisdom.

Original comments...

Dan: If you don't want Cash overload, yet still want to appease Levi, just bring along the Waco Brothers' fine cover of Big River -- it's on Cowboy in Flames, which you should own, anyway.

Go Mets!


Jim: Yeah, there's a lot of music I should own but don't. Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be able to drink that much Pepsi between now and April 30th.

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It's not all Cardinals

Lest anyone think I've forgotten that this site isn't supposed to be solely about the Cardinals, how about them Tigers? Or those first-place Brewers?

Oh, and Jim: I have one more song request. When we enter the Quad Cities, we really need to be playing "Big River." The lady who loves the big river more than she loves Johnny Cash, you might recall, does some cavortin' in Davenport.

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The Knuckler

I was able to see a couple of Cody McKay's pitches on ESPN last night. The knuckler was a thing of beauty, floating up there all wobbly, whispering seductively to the hitter, "C'mon. Take a hack. Pound me into the ground." And the hitter did.

The "fastball" on the other hand, was lacking not just most of what is best known as the "gitty," but it was also a little short on the "up" and the "go."

Still, two scoreless innings, right now, are enough to put McKay in the running for our fifth starter job.

Oh, and Hector Luna deserves some attention for hitting a long home run in his first major-league at-bat. The last Cardinal to do that? Gene Stechschulte, a relief pitcher, whose baseball-reference web page is sponsored by, with the tag line, "Large fire truck picture website that recognizes Gene for the great pitcher he is."

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Petco from the get-go

While you slept, Levi, you missed the game I watched on TV tonight, in which David Wells had to run from first to third (but, alas, didn't end up making it to home).

Oh, yeah, Jay Payton climbed the wall in the 5th to prevent Barry Bonds from going down in history as the first person to hit a home run in Petco Park, and the Padres came back to tie in the 9th and then came back to win in the 10th, both times on Sean Burroughs singles.

Also, in the top of the 1st, the Giants announcers were making fun of the scoreboard that was listing the count as 5 strikes and 3 balls. Then they realized it was the pitch count scoreboard. I would obviously have rather watched the game with the Padres announcers, and DirecTV usually goes with the home team version of the games in their Extra Innings package...but only when the home team is on a regional sports network that DirecTV carries. The Padres are on a cable-only network.

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Thursday, April 08, 2004


The real reason the blog moved

Suddenly, this blog has become a 2-way communication, much like an argument between a manager and an umpire. You, the readers, now have the ability to make comments on any or all of the posts. However, you do not have the ability to kick dirt on us.

Edited later to add: Hmm, something's not quite right, since there's been at least one comment added to this entry, but it still shows "0 comments." But I swear, the comments are there.

Original comments...

maura: break up the tigers!



Small consolations

Well, the Cardinals lost to the Brewers today, dropping their third game of their first four. In doing so, they managed to give up ten home runs and thirty runs.

But I can take a few shreds of hope from the good things about this series.

1) It's not so bad to lose three of four to the first-place Milwaukee Brewers, right?

2) Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, and Jim Edmonds all hit very long home runs. More to come.

3) Mike Matheny, who every year, it seems, comes to Spring Training with a new batting stance, a new determination, and a story about how he worked all winter on his hitting, then hits very well in Spring Training and in April, only to fall off the face of the earth in the summer heat, has done all of those things so far. That's one of the things I love most about baseball: it's a reliable tie to the seasons. The same things happen every year at around the same time. (I probably won't feel so good about the seasonal appropriateness of his slump in August.)

4) Down by seven runs, the Cardinals sent Cody McKay to the mound. If you follow the link, you'll see that Cody McKay is a catcher. He's also been known to stand in the vicinity of third base with a glove. Until today, I had not heard of him being a pitcher. But he went out there and threw two innings, no hits, one walk, and no runs. He committed a balk, but you kind of expect one or two of those from a non-pitcher. He threw eighteen pitches (ten for strikes), using a "fastball" and--this is the best part of the whole day--a knuckleball. Who doesn't love a knuckler?
Cody McKay is the son of Cardinals first-base coach Dave McKay, and there has been some talk among Cardinals fans that McKay got the backup catcher job because of that relationship rather than because of his skills. But if he's also a knuckleballer, I'll take him. He may not be Brooks Kieschnick, but he's already established that he's a better pitcher than Jose Oquendo, Gary Gaetti, or Mark Grace, just to pick three. Two scoreless innings--especially given how few of those the Cardinals have had so far this season--is nothing to scoff at.* When he batted with two outs in the ninth, he got a standing ovation. Then he struck out.

5) No Cardinal seriously injured himself during any of the games.

*I suppose it's possible that nepotism got Cody McKay not just on the team, but on the mound today, too. But I don't think first-base coaches--even those working for Tony Larussa--have that kind of pull.

Original comments...

thatbob: Also makes him a better pitcher than Billy Sunday, to name one more.


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Check the math

A correction from today's L.A. Times: "The box score from Monday's Chicago White Sox-Kansas City Royal baseball game in Sports on Tuesday incorrectly gave the pitching line for Chicago pitcher Damaso Marte as 1 inning pitched, 0 hits, 3 runs, 3 earned runs, 3 walks, 0 strikeouts, 0 pitches, 17.00 earned-run average. The correct line is 0 innings pitched, 3 hits, 3 runs, 3 earned runs, 0 walks, 0 strikeouts, 17 pitches, earned-run average of infinity."

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Wednesday, April 07, 2004


We have a blog (in a new location)

Much like the Washington Senators moving to Minnesota, or perhaps Texas...we have now indeed moved to We're no longer beholden to any sponsors, so there are no longer ads taking up space at the top of the page.

The time stamps on the posts are now Central time, which seems to make slightly more sense.

And for those of you who know what this means and what to do about it: we have a site feed.


Much like Shawn Green moving from outfield to first base when the Dodgers acquired Milton Bradley, if all goes well, this blog is about to move to its very own baseball-related domain, Join us. Be a hanger-on.

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Wow, Jim. Thanks for passing along Johnny Damon's statement about his hair being, in part, an attempt to do everything the opposite of the Yankees. That is just about the only thing that could possibly make his hair and beard better. Well, other than them, say, defeating President Bush or leading efforts for world peace.

And I forgot--one more good Damon note before I move on to whatever exciting baseball news happens today. During Sunday night's game, about two-thirds of the way through the game, ESPN dug up a photo of Damon from when we last saw him. They placed it side-by-side with a new photo from that day. The entire audience at the Rocketship gasped. As the noise died away, Jon Miller's voice cut through, saying, "How do we even know that's Johnny Damon out there?" It got a good laugh.

Which ties in with an idea I've had for a long time: say you're the Cardinals. You're playing a big game against the Cubs, and you're down by a run with two guys on in the bottom of the ninth. You've got So Taguchi coming up. People start heading for the exits.

But you've got Albert Pujols on the bench. He's even got a bat in his hands, because, well, that's how he is. Why not put Pujols in Taguchi's jersey and send him to the plate as Taguchi? Sure, he's not Taguchi. Everyone knows he's not Taguchi. But he and the manager and the rest of the team swear up and down that without a doubt, swear on Tony LaRussa's Pure Beef Heart, he's So Taguchi.

What's the umpire going to do? Obviously, he'll have no choice but to let him bat. I'm picturing buttons popping off a way-too-tight jersey as Pujols/Taguchi hits the ball into the Mississippi. Think how much the hometown crowd will get into this! Sure, the opposing team will lodge a protest, but I don't think the Basic Agreement allows for DNA testing. Barring that, who can be certain that the hitter who won the game for the Cardinals wasn't Taguchi? David Hume and Bishop Berkeley would be with me on this, guaranteed. Certainty is impossible.

Clearly, the keys to the success of this strategy are three. 1) Have Albert Pujols on your team. 2) Make sure that everyone involved--from LaRussa on down--absolutely refuses to budge in their certainty that this hitter is So Taguchi. 3) Don't have any of those problematically honest born-again Christians on the team.

If you were really serious--and commensurately willing to be impressively offensive--you could even put Pujols in bad makeup to make him look Japanese. Like Mickey Rooney, only worse.

Original comments...

thatbob: Actually, I think the born-again Christians would be very open to the uncertainty argument. If I was Tony LaRussa, I would say: "Although you think you just watched Pujols put on Taguchi's jersey, isn't it possible that this illusion was created by a miracle of God? Or that, by a miracle of God, Pujols is now Taguchi? Or do you deny the possibility of miracles, and claim to know the mind of God? Now since you can't claim with certainty that Taguchi is Pujols, I would ask that, for the sake of the team, you hold your tongue on the matter."

See, this is why I would have made such an excellent Jesuit. Is it too late for seminary?

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Tuesday, April 06, 2004


No wonder they won five Pulitzers

Levi, you may be pleased to note that Johnny Damon made the L.A. Times sports section's daily "Quotebook" feature at the upper left of page D2, complete with photo. To quote the quote: "'[General Manager] Theo [Epstein] told me I can keep it. I don't think we want to compare ourselves to the Yankees. We'll do everything the opposite of what they do.' -- Johnny Damon, Boston Red Sox outfielder, on his long hair and beard, which is not allowed by Yankee management"

In other news, the location of this blog will be moving soon. More details later.

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Luke had a good thought about Johnny Damon: maybe he's about to re-form the House of David traveling team. That would make this the best season in seventy-five years or so.

Other Opening Day notes, from someone who was stuck at work and couldn't have watched the Cardinals anyway:

1) The Detroit Tigers are above .500 for the first time since April 8, 2001. And, as Stacey noticed that Ron Santo won the attendance game on the Cubs broadcast on WGN, so is Ron, although the drought has probably been longer.

2) The Astros are in last place. But so are the Cardinals. Maybe it's best that, as Wittgenstein used to suggest whenever his favorite team lost a big game, we should just pass over that in silence.

3) Johnny Damon's hair is still the story of the day. If I had a newspaper, the headline today would be "Opening Day features thrillings comebacks." But the subhead would be "Johnny Damon's hair, beard have no comment on Jimy Williams's decision to pitch to Bonds."

4) Even Bush and Cheney throwing out pitches couldn't ruin Opening Day. It's good to know there's something in the world they can't destroy. I suppose I should keep quiet about that, or else next year they'll try harder.

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Monday, April 05, 2004


Notes from Opening Day

Turns out six hours of watching baseball on TV, much of which includes trying to follow several games at once, is a little too much for me.


Wow. Also, wow. In conclusion, wow. (I didn't watch the Sunday night game because I was cleansing my palate for today's action, which starts in an hour and 25 minutes.)


I may have a new favorite non-Cardinal player.

Last night, we had a couple of people over to watch the opener between the Red Sox and the Orioles. We settled in, started the TiVo, and the first image of the season caused everyone to gasp in sheer, unadulterated awe. Johnny Damon, over the winter, turned into a god. He grew out his already shaggy hair so that it hangs over his shoulders, trailing out of his batting helmet or cap. And he grew a beard. It was hard to concentrate on what he was doing during his first at-bat, because all anyone in the room could look at or think about was all that hair. Then, on his first play in the outfield, he was coming in for a ball, not too fast, and it looked like there was no hope of his cap falling off. Everyone was disappointed. Then, like a silent prayer being answered, the cap popped off his head and his glossy locks floated free. There was much cheering in the Rocketship.

I apologize for not having a link to a photo. I haven't seen one today, which just tells me, once again, that the majority of sportswriters have been doing their jobs so long that they no longer really love sports. Otherwise, today's headlines would be along the lines of: Damon's Hair, Beard Open a Glorious Season.

You know it's going to be a great year now.

P.S. While looking up links for this post, I discovered that the Baltimore Orioles own neither or The latter hosts a site for the United States Beer Drinking Team, with a link for Beer Radio.

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Sunday, April 04, 2004

To mark the impending Opening Day, they dug up another baseball movie over there at the Encore channel: "The Slugger's Wife," from 1985. This movie has everything, including the Braves' blue-and-white uniforms, Mark Fidrych and Skip Caray as themselves, and Rebecca DeMornay and Loudon Wainwright III singing rock hits of the late '70s and early '80s, including (why not?) Neil Young's "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)." Not to mention the titular slugger having a chance to break Roger Maris's home run record on the last day of the season while his Braves need to beat the Astros to capture the N.L. East title. (Levi, I'm sure, is bristling at the merest idea that this is what actually happened in 1985.)

While I'm at it, I'll mention that some parts of the country got a baseball-related TV Guide cover this past week: Detroit got Ivan Rodriguez, Philadelphia got Jim Thome, South Florida got Josh Beckett, Chicago got Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, Houston got Andy Pettite and Roger Clemens, and Southern California got Vladimir Guerrero. Any or all of these people could be the answer to a future trivia question, since this was the first TV Guide issue since 1954 to contain eight days of program listings. (The national cover was "Where Are They Now?", spotlighting such long-gone television personalities as Eriq LaSalle and Gillian Anderson. The current editorial staff at TV Guide seems to believe that the public's memory extends no longer than eight days, an opinion they share with the producers of the VH1 show "Best Week Ever.")

Still, it's nice to see TV Guide using baseball in an attempt to drive newsstand sales in certain areas, rather than their regular standbys of "Star Trek" or an upcoming movie.

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