Monday, April 30, 2007


Report from the minor leagues

Jason and I went to see the Lake Elsinore Storm play the Stockton Ports yesterday. That's about a 90-minute drive from Los Angeles.

The folks from the 2004 trip who were in Davenport will note that the Swing of the Quad Cities isn't the only team that has problems with rabbits getting onto the field...

The Storm claims their "eyes" are the best-selling logo in minor league baseball. They're definitely one of the most creepy...

The Storm's mascot, Thunder, is suspiciously similar to the Phillie Phanatic, although he's supposed to be a dog and not an alien, or whatever the Phanatic is...

Final score...

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007


You can't beat a pizza at the old ballpark

Nice to see television slow-motion technology being used in this manner, during the broadcast of Monday's Red Sox-Angels game.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Now what am I going to talk about when I'm on the show?

A transcript of Alex Trebek's interview with a contestant on tonight's "Jeopardy!"...

Alex: Tim Woodward is a teacher from Salem, New Hampshire. There is, ladies and gentlemen, a fine line between "fan" and "fanatic," and I suspect that Tim may have crossed over that line with regard to baseball. Tell us.
Tim: Yes, a friend of mine and I had some summer free time, and we decided to see nine baseball games in nine days all across the country. We started in Los Angeles, drove 26 hours to Houston, and then went on from there. Dallas, Wichita, Oklahoma City. Ended in Chic-- oh, ended in Detroit after going to Chicago.
Alex: What was the purpose of this?
Tim: To see some baseball.
Alex: How cool. Nine games in nine different cities -- you know, you can see nine games in the same city. We have the Angels and the Dodgers here. You could see four or five --
Tim: The Angels were out of town.
Alex: Oh. That explains it. All right.

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The Wave, Redeemed?, or An Indian Invasion!

When MLB announced that they were going to reschedule the Angels' snowed-out games at Cleveland this week to Miller Park in Milwaukee, my first thought was, "Oh, if I weren't going on a trip in a couple of days, I'd love to go to that first game." Then I thought, WWJD? What, after all, would Jim do?

So, in the spirit of Baseball Related Program Activities, Stacey and I called Bob, hopped in the car, and trekked up to Milwaukee after work. Following are some notes.

1. Apparently, wherever the Indians travel, Eastern Time folllows? The game started, not at 7:05 central time, as a weeknight game in the Central Time Zone would ordinarily do, but at 6:05. Now, granted, we wouldn't have been able to get out of work in time to make a 6:05 start regardless, but had I paid more attention when I first read about the game, we wouldn't have been surprised to see that the game was in the fifth inning when we arrived.

2. We had anticipated getting to sit a few rows from the field, near home plate, which is what Luke and I were able to do at the Marlins/Expos tilt that was relocated to Comiskey Park a few years ago. It drew 4,000.

Apparently, more than 19,000 other people had the same thought. The entire lower deck sold out, even the bleachers, which the Brewers had intended to keep closed. Concession lines were very, very long. I've been to Brewers games there in April against the Cardinals where the actual attendance was under 2,000, from what I could tell, with 60% of that Cardinals fans. This attendance, on 24 hours notice, was an impressive testament to the power of $10 tickets. As my coworker Mary said, "If there's one thing Wisconsinites love, it's cheap stuff."

3. That attendance of 19,000+ was more than the paid attendance in Florida, Baltimore, Atlanta, Oakland, and Pittsburgh, let alone the actual attendance at about six other parks.

4. The majority of fans seemed to be rooting for Cleveland, though the only team they were unanimously against was the Cubs.

5. Though we didn't get to see it, the Indians' mascot, a hideous purple thing that is only excusable because a Chief Wahoo mascot would be an abomination, slid down the slide following a couple of Indians home runs. He didn't, of course, slide into a vat of beer, because the Brewers, in order to demonstrate that they hate fun, didn't move Bernie's stein to the new ballpark. I guess he only drinks the hard stuff now.

6. Late in the game, the wave started. Though I'm no purist, I'm sure you realize that I hate the wave. There is, after all, a baseball game going on, and people standing up at random moments is not as much fun as watching a ballgame. But last night, after a few trips around the stadium, the wave suddenly slowed to a crawl, then slowed down even further until it was just creeping along. Eventually, as I laughed until my sides hurt, the wave looked like slow-motion video, with people quietly and ever-so-gently lifting out of their seats and bringing their arms up. After one trip around like that, getting slower all the time, the wave snapped into an instant double-time for a few rounds before petering out. It was one of the funniest things I've ever seen. I've learned from a couple of sources today that the slo-mo wave is common at UW-Madison games.

7. When the Indians closer came in, the PA guy played "Wild Thing," a nice reference to the last time the Indians played as the home team in Milwaukee, when the movie Major League was being shot at old County Stadium.

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Monday, April 09, 2007


Wrigley Field

As I'm about to head out into the cold and show to enjoy yet another Opening Day at Wrigley Field, I thought it would be appropriate to point out Michael Barrett's thoughts about the future of the ballpark.

The Tribune asked him, and some other Cubs, about the ballpark because of the uncertainty created by impending new ownership. Barrett, it turns out, thinks the ballpark should stay exactly the same.

The same, that is, except for one little improvement:
"Ideally, especially for this time of year, you'd like to see a dome put on the outside of it," Barrett said. "Don't change anything about Wrigley Field. Just reinforce it and have a dome covering it."

Well, that should be easy enough.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007


One of Pansy's friends

It seems Easter Sunday was Mascot Day at Tropicana Field for today's Blue Jays-Devil Rays contest. One of them ate someone.

And then spit out the shoes.

The name of this cannibal? Roger Clamens. Like that pun? They've got a million of 'em! Well, more like a couple dozen.

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Friday, April 06, 2007


Opening Day follow-up

I have been informed that Twins games that are broadcast on WFTC in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area also appear on FSN North in the rest of its service area, so that's why DirecTV was able to present the "My 29" coverage of Opening Day. So their Extra Innings package still only includes games that appear on channels that they have the rights to distribute nationally, which is why I couldn't watch the Devil Rays' home opener tonight on Extra Innings -- it's against the Blue Jays, and the only place in which it's airing in the United States is on Channel 66 in Tampa, the local Ion affiliate. Yes, the network that used to be Pax. It should not surprise anyone that the Devil Rays' local over-the-air TV outlet is not quite of the quality level of, say, WGN.

And I wish I'd known on Monday of the existence of this channel!

I should have known there was such a channel, because there's a similar channel available for NFL Sunday Ticket (it's part of an extra-cost option to which I don't subscribe, so I only see it during its "free preview" on the first week of the football season). If I had one of DirecTV's more newfangled receivers, I'd be able to use the cursor keys on the remote to pick a game and switch to the channel that's showing it full-screen. But since I'm sticking with TiVo, the only option is a complicated series of button presses to switch which game's audio is coming through.

And you may notice that things are high-tech enough that they're able to black out the Angels game for me without blacking out this entire channel --although if they were really high-tech, they'd show the channel number on which it's appearing, not just "0."

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Monday, April 02, 2007


Opening Day 2007: Hour 10

7:00 -- Texas Rangers at Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (FSN West)
7:01 -- Someone runs onto the field at the Metrodome. I understand why they don't show the action on TV, but the fact that they're not showing it just makes me want to watch it even more (and because all the shots of the players standing around doing nothing are really, really boring).
7:09 -- After a little trouble in the top of the 9th, the Twins win.
7:10 -- With all of the Sammy Sosa excitement, I didn't realize that Kenny Lofton was on the Rangers this year, and that he's at 599 career steals.
7:12 -- He gets number 600. There has been a noticeable amount of first-inning steals today -- managers trying to set an aggressive tone for the season, obviously.
7:17 -- Boneless Buffalo wings at Carl's Jr.? I'm going to guess that the "wings" portion of the name is not quite accurate.
7:22 -- Vladimir Guerrero's batting helmet is already filthy. How does he do it?
7:31 -- While the Angels announcers aren't paying attention because they're interviewing Troy Percival in the booth, Sammy Sosa strikes out. They don't even get a closeup of him before he bats, just as he walks back to the Rangers dugout hanging his head.

7:35 -- End of the Rangers' half of the 2nd. I've been watching baseball for over nine and a half hours now. I think that's all I can handle for today.

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Opening Day 2007: Hour 9

6:02 -- Why, they've got a special graphic to use when Craig Biggio gets a hit.

6:11 -- Xavier Nady, who has a great name, hits a home run to tie the Pirates-Astros game at 2.
6:21 -- Hey, the Twins aren't on WCCO anymore, which is kind of like the Cardinals not being on KMOX anymore. Herb Carneal may well be rolling in his grave already.

6:25 -- The Pirates-Astros game isn't quite as speedy now that it's gone into extra innings.
6:32 -- Perhaps somebody with more time on their hands than Levi or me -- probably a member of SABR -- has calculated the percentage of World Series and/or pennant winners that won their first game of the season. I'm suddenly interested in what that statistic is.
6:33 -- Jason Bay hits a 2-run homer in the top of the 10th. He should be on the Devil Rays instead of the Pirates, given that both have "Bay" in their names.
6:38 -- The Astros strike out, in the bottom of the 10th, for the first time in the game.
6:42 -- The Pirates win a game! The Pirates win a game! And now there's only one game in progress.
6:43 -- In this post-literate age, "DQ Grill & Chill" seems to be the new name for "Dairy Queen Brazier." I wonder how Bob Greene feels about that. (The former columnist for the Chicago Tribune, not Oprah's personal trainer.)

You know, after I got fired two years ago, I should have tried to contact him to commiserate. We could have had a chat over Blizzards or something. I don't even remember exactly what our disagreement was about.
6:53 -- The Twins announcers are comparing former Devil Ray and current Oriole Danys Baez to Rick Sutcliffe, and talk about how he hooks his hand around behind him before he delivers the ball. At one point, they call him "a hooker."

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Opening Day 2007: Hour 8

5:05 -- "My 29" is using the FSN graphics package, which isn't particularly unusual, but their graphics seem to be making more noise than they currently do on FSN. Guess that's part of the MyNetwork attitude.
5:10 -- They're not booing in Houston, they're saying "Luke," as in Scott, who just hit a 2-run home run.
5:16 -- The Astros announcers mention that Brad Ausmus is a news junkie, and suggest that while his teammates are watching "Sportscenter," he's watching C-SPAN or CNBC. I'm sure Fox management sent out a quick memo with a suggestion of their own about which network should have been named there.
5:27 -- A commercial for a concept I haven't thought about for a while: Perkins restaurants.
5:35 -- Watching the Pirates is making me hungry for pierogies for dinner. Good thing I have some in the freezer for just such an emergency.
5:49 -- Waiting for the pierogies to thaw in boiling water, I switch to the A's-Mariners game just to see it end, on a fly ball to Ichiro in center field.
5:50 -- Meanwhile, the Pirates and Astros are already in the top of the 8th, so it's a pretty speedy game.
5:58 -- Yes, it's sad when ballpark prices for food and souvenirs are so high that families are forced to choose one or the other, but kids are always ready to improvise.

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Opening Day 2007: Hour 7

4:00 -- Baltimore Orioles at Minnesota Twins (ESPN and WFTC)
Pittsburgh Pirates at Houston Astros (FSN Houston)
4:01 -- Extra Innings is carrying an over-the-air game broadcast, something I haven't seen before on DirecTV. I guess the ability to do this is part of their new contract. It's from "My 29" -- well, not really mine, because it's WFTC in Minneapolis/St. Paul and KFTC in Bemidji.

4:03 -- They do a nice little tribute to Herb Carneal at the beginning of the Twins broadcast. I have to admit that he's someone who was never really on my radar.
4:05 -- I'm getting a little tired of "Magic Carpet Ride," which is the music being played during a Chevrolet ad that's been running a lot today. But I guess the members of Steppenwolf aren't getting tired of cashing their royalty checks.
4:10 -- The Orioles haven't opened a season on the road since 1977.
4:12 -- The Rockies are down 8-6 going into the bottom of the 9th, but anything can happen. 3 out of 4 Opening Day games previously played at Coors Field ended with a walk-off home run.
4:20 -- An ad read by the Rockies announcers goes, in its entirety, "Hey, if you have a crack in your windshield, call Elite Glass, number one for more than one reason." This makes the broadcast interactive, since it allows the audience to speculate endlessly about what those reasons might be.
4:24 -- True, anything could have happened, from a walk-off home run to a "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"-type magical transformation causing the person in the mascot costume to turn into an actual small purple triceratops. But what actually happens in the bottom of the 9th is a double followed by three straight strikeouts. The new red uniforms worked for the D-Backs!
4:36 -- Forget C.C. Sabathia. Kent Hrbek is looking a little large now that he's retired.

4:37 -- However, while Kent Hrbek is being interviewed, the Twins hit back-to-back home runs. So whatever he's doing, it's working.
4:40 -- Very sad that the Menards guy isn't in Menards commercials anymore. At least they haven't turned him into a computer-animated character who appears at the end of the commercial as they've done with the Empire Carpet guy.
4:52 -- Shannon Stewart of the A's certainly looks different than he did when he was Playboy's Playmate of the Month for June 2000 (relatively work-safe link to Wikipedia).

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Opening Day 2007: Hour 6

3:09 -- NESN does an in-game promo for the Boston Globe's online store without mentioning the actual web address. Guess everyone in New England is supposed to know already.
3:15 -- My afternoon snack is Pringles Select potato chips. Yes, upscale Pringles that come in a bag. Now that they've had Lays in a can for a while now, I guess the reverse was inevitable.
3:18 -- Some company is donating $100 to a food bank for every Rockies home run. It'd be a little more charitable if they were making a donation for every run, period.
3:23 -- The wind suddenly kicks up at Coors Field and hot dog wrappers start blowing around, which allows the announcers to awkwardly transition to offering their best wishes to people affected by a recent tornado in Colorado.
3:26 -- Okay, NESN does the "scorecard" graphics, too, like TBS. So they're partially forgiven for their score bar.

3:30 -- Oakland A's at Seattle Mariners (FSN Northwest)
At last, another game starts.
3:34 -- Listen, whoever was responsible for this FSN promo, you need either the dollar sign or the word "dollars." This says "six million dollars dollars."

3:42 -- Wow, it's a new rule that batters are supposed to keep one foot in the batter's box when they take a time out. I predict that this rule won't be enforced very vigilantly.
3:53 -- Looking forward to the new Belle and Sebastian song "Piazza, Oakland DH." He strikes out in his first appearance as such.

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Opening Day 2007: Hour 5

2:00 -- Unfortunately, there are only two games going on right now. Or maybe it's fortunate, so I can follow each one better.
2:06 -- So if there exists a baseball-themed ad for, why did I see their basketball-themed ad several times already today during other baseball games?
2:15 -- DirecTV is offering a fight on Saturday night on pay-per-view for $24.95, "or," as the announcer says, "as part of your regular Showtime subscription." Showtime is $12 per month, with only a one-month-at-a-time commitment.
2:19 -- The Aflac trivia question on NESN is "Other than Schilling, Martinez, and Clemens, who was the last Sox pitcher with back-to-back Opening Day starts?" If you have to qualify it that much, perhaps you should find another way to ask the question, or perhaps you should ask a different question.
2:20 -- You can tell it's a little windy in Kansas City when the fountain water gets blown into the shot from the centerfield cameras.

2:23 -- Hey, it's a pinball-themed Pepsi commercial, which makes me want to play pinball more than it makes me want to drink Pepsi.
2:26 -- I happen to see on the ESPN ticker that the Tribune Company is going to be getting rid of the Cubs at the end of the season. So let me be the first to predict a World Series victory in 2008. Yes, for the 100th anniversary of the last one.
2:30 -- The answer to that trivia question is Dennis Eckersley, who pitched on back-to-back Opening Days in 1982 and 1983 -- actually, he was the Opening Day starter from 1979 through 1983.
2:34 -- NESN's score bar is bugging me because the number of outs isn't right next to the inning count. As far as I'm concerned, the number of outs is very closely related to the inning count. Compare ESPN's version, which is better.

You can also see the batter a lot better on ESPN, at the cost of the grass looking really, really bright.
2:49 -- Eric Byrnes of the Diamondbacks makes a throw from right field with such force that he winds up doing a somersault. It's very impressive.
2:54 -- Apparently, the fountains at Kaufmann Stadium were "worked on" over the winter, so it's no wonder they're getting in the way of the camera shots.
2:59 -- Southwest Airlines has new nonstop service from Denver to Tampa starting in May. Except they say "Tampa Bay" in the commercial, which would seem to indicate that they're using a floatplane, given that Tampa Bay is a body of water. I think I complained about this last year, but this time I have a screenshot as evidence.

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Opening Day 2007: Hour 4

1:00 -- Boston Red Sox at Kansas City Royals (ESPN and NESN)
Arizona Diamondbacks at Colorado Rockies (FSN Rocky Mountain)
1:01 -- At last, a game is over: Marlins 9, Nationals 2.
1:05 -- Mariano Rivera comes on for the Yankees. The Devil Rays were keeping it close for a while, but the Yankees now lead by 4.
1:11 -- Hey, the Diamondbacks really did switch to red uniforms. If their fellow expansion team were to follow suit, though, they'd be accused of copying the Red Sox, their division mates.
1:14 -- But they lost 9-5 to the Yankees, so maybe they should think about switching to red.
1:17 -- Gary Sheffield is still swinging his bat wildly in an amusing manner as he waits for pitches.
1:18 -- Didn't help. He struck out.
1:22 -- The Dodgers-Brewers game must have been a quick affair, since the postgame show is already airing.
1:29 -- Ken Griffey Sr., in the FSN Ohio booth, claims he grounded his son a few times while they were playing together for the Mariners.
1:45 -- I check my e-mail. Nothing much seems to be happening in the world except for Opening Day.
1:52 -- It's hard to come back from 9 runs down in the bottom of the 9th, and I'll be surprised if the White Sox do it.
1:54 -- There's another Molina?!
1:58 -- Turns out I'm not surprised, although the Sox did manage to score 2.

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Opening Day 2007: Hour 3

12:00 -- Salsa, chips, and cheese -- lunch of champions!
12:07 -- Say what you will about TBS, I enjoy their "scorecard" graphics.

12:09 -- On WGN, they're interviewing Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, who at one point refers to baseball as "the industry," which is just a horrible way to refer to baseball, although I'm sure it feels like it from his perspective.
12:16 -- Hey, Ken Griffey Jr. is in right field for the Reds! He's still around?
12:17 -- The Reds catcher still has the old Mr. Redlegs design on his mask (well, the old new Mr. Redlegs design, without a mustache, which has now been replaced by the new old Mr. Redlegs design).

12:20 -- Ah, the Midwest!

12:25 -- Mrs. Owner of the Dodgers is being interviewed at hipster hangout named Barney's Beanery in West Hollywood, where I've been once. Various Dodgers people went to various establishments today to watch the game with the fans. Given the game action on the TVs in the background, I can tell that this interview is not airing live.

12:32 -- A woman with a loud and high-pitched voice is sitting very close to a microphone that TBS is using to capture crowd noise, and she's cheering for Tom Gordon: "Come on, Flash!"
12:41 -- At this moment, both the Braves-Phillies and Blue Jays-Tigers games are tied at 3 with 1 out in the bottom of the 9th.
12:44 -- At this moment, a cat has jumped onto my lap to watch her beloved Tigers.
12:49 -- Tigers and Blue Jays go into extra innings. The Braves-Phillies game already went into extra innings, while I wasn't paying attention.
12:54 -- Bud Selig is in the booth at the White Sox-Indians game. Hawk Harrelson tells him he's the best commissioner since 1959, with the late Bowie Kuhn second. Uh-huh.
12:57 -- W.B. Mason has helpfully added "Office Supplies" to their outfield wall advertising this year. Now we can assume that things there are just like they are at Dunder Mifflin, as seen on TV's "The Office."

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Opening Day 2007: Hour 2

11:00 -- Chicago Cubs at Cincinnati Reds (ESPN 2, WGN, and FSN Ohio)
L.A. Dodgers at Milwaukee Brewers (FSN Prime Ticket)
Cleveland Indians at Chicago White Sox (Comcast SportsNet Chicago)
11:01 -- Vin Scully! "And a pleasant good day to you wherever you may be." Now it really is baseball season.
11:13 -- Hey, a new family movie starring Ice Cube! Looks about as good as the Devil Rays.
11:15 -- There sure are a lot of car commercials on YES. But I thought no one in New York drove.
11:19 -- The Blue Jays caps have a "T" instead of a "J," I notice. Too bad, because I liked the "J." Maybe that's still the home cap.
11:21 -- Two female fans in the upper deck of Comerica Park are interviewed. One of them refers to it as "Tiger Stadium" and is quickly corrected by the interviewer.
11:24 -- Since the Reds are wearing their new mustachioed Mr. Redlegs patches, perhaps they should all have grown mustaches to match.
11:25 -- The Superstation WGN Scoreboard graphic has a problem, I say.

I contend that "Sponsored By:" should either be right-justified so it's against the sponsor graphic, or that graphic should say "Sponsored by Scotts" (which would work fine even with the graphic there on the right).
11:29 -- C.C. Sabathia looks a little large.
11:31 -- The White Sox announcers start talking about how one should not judge a book by its cover when it comes to C.C. Sabathia. I guess I've been properly chastised! However, Darin Erstad promptly hit a 2-run homer off him to pull the White Sox to within 3 runs in the bottom of the 1st.
11:37 -- Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley is in the stands at U.S. Cellular Field, but does not have to be interviewed by someone with a radio mike.
11:39 -- The Yankees infield has been a bit error-prone today, which has helped the Devil Rays tie.
11:40 -- First appearance of Joe Maddon, coming out for an explanation from the umpire about a player being called out on a bunt that hits him in fair territory.
11:42 -- Rocco Baldelli hits an RBI single, and the Devil Rays are leading.
11:44 -- Amtrak -- the Washington Nationals of transportation!

11:49 -- Hey, Dr. Cox from "Scrubs" is in that movie with Ice Cube. Well, John C. McGinley, I mean. I assume he's not playing the same character he plays on "Scrubs." Not to be confused with John C. Reilly, who is not to be confused with Andy Richter, who is not to be confused with John Candy.
11:54 -- Comcast SportsNet's "Scores on the Fours" should perhaps be renamed "Scores on Most But Not All of the Fours."

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Opening Day 2007: Hour 1

When Opening Day came around a year ago, I was unemployed with no immediate prospects. Within a month, I had been hired for a full-time temp job. And by the time the World Series rolled around, I was hired as an actual employee.

So it's clear that baseball is a force for good. Let's see what it can do for me this year.

10:00 -- Tampa Bay Devil Rays at New York Yankees (ESPN and YES)
Atlanta Braves at Philadelphia Phillies (TBS)
Toronto Blue Jays at Detroit Tigers (FSN Detroit)
Florida Marlins at Washington Nationals (MASN)
Time for everyone's pre-produced "Opening Day" intros.
10:05 -- The Tigers manage to get under way first.
10:06 -- The Blue Jays have the first at-bat of the season -- a walk.
10:08 -- And the Blue Jays steal against Ivan Rodriguez. This season is going great for the Tigers so far.
10:09 -- The Marlins steal third! Looks like this is going to be the Year of the Stolen Base, as the L.A. Times sort of predicted today.
10:11 -- Carl Crawford leads off for the Devil Rays with a hit against the Yankees.
10:12 -- Crawford steals second!
10:15 -- Rocco Baldelli, whose name is on the back of the Devil Rays T-shirt I'm wearing, hits to the warning track. The Yankees announcers say it could have been a home run if the humidity were lower today.
10:19 -- I have to go get my laundry out of the dryer. Meanwhile, things fall apart for the Devil Rays.
10:30 -- The Yankees score two runs, which the YES graphics briefly award to the Devil Rays.

10:40 -- Hey, it's Adrian Fenty, the mayor of Washington, D.C., in the stands at RFK Stadium, being interviewed with a radio mike that's not quite working properly.
10:49 -- The Devil Rays get their first run of 2007. First of many, I'm sure.
10:52 -- Not particularly baseball-related, but I get an automated phone call from the L.A. Times telling me that the "TV Times" section is being discontinued after next week, but I'll still be able to get TV listings online. They don't know I have a TiVo.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007


Play ball!

I became a baseball fan the summer I turned eleven. My mother was taking classes towards a degree in social work at a college about an hour's drive from Carmi, and my brother and I would ride along with her a couple of nights a week to the campus. On the drive, we would tune in to the Cardinals, carried at that point on the clear-channel powerhouse of KMOX. The Cardinals were very good that summer, holding off a tough Mets team to win the division and then the pennant before a disappointing World Series performance. Jack Buck and Mike Shannon described it all, and made us fans.

Sometime in the next few years, as my baseball fandom turned into the sort of obsession that only preteen boys, it seems, are capable of, I discovered on an out-of-the-way bookshelf in our house a musty, digest-sized baseball magazine previewing the 1974 season. Opening it, I discovered on the first page a nearly inscrutable scrawl, one bearing no little resemblance to my own:
June 1974--Play Ball, Boy! Love, Col.
It was a gift, given at my birth and no doubt tucked away at the time and forgotten, from my great-grandfather, Grandpa Colonel, about whom I've written before. Living his whole life in rural Kansas, he spent a lifetime enjoying baseball--and the Cardinals--the same way I grew up enjoying them: on the radio, far from the ballpark. Jack Buck may be gone--as is Grandpa Colonel--but the radio is still my favorite way to experience the game if I can't be there, and sound of baseball on the radio is still, for me, the heart of summer.

I never was much of a ballplayer, but I find myself thinking of Grandpa Colonel's admonition every spring. Last Sunday, I spent the morning playing catch with my nephew at Montrose Beach, throwing until our arms ached. Tonight, Stacey and I open the house to friends--several of whom haven't visited since October--for chili, brats, cornbread, and beer, all in honor of the return of spring. One of these days, we'll have to get Jim here for the opener.

It's the Cardinals and Mets. The last time we saw these two teams, they played one of the most exciting, stressful, and rewarding games I've ever seen. Tonight, like every spring, it starts all over again.

Play ball.

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