Category Archives: Baseball

21 Seasons of Joe Buck’s Fox Promos

Friday night brings us the start of the American League Championship Series. This means Friday night also brings us the return of Joe Buck to the airwaves.

Since 1996, Buck has been the voice of MLB’s postseason on Fox. When I think of Buck—and I think of him often—I don’t hear him calling a game-winning home run or series-clinching strikeout. For my money, the most indelible audio memory of Joe Buck is him being forced to read promos for Fox programming. And I do mean forced, because his android-like delivery of said promos suggests there is someone offscreen with a gun pointed at his head.

As baseball’s playoffs coincide with TV’s traditional season premiere season, Fox has always used its coverage of those playoffs as a vehicle to promote its brand new or soon-to-return shows. Each year Joe Buck has led these broadcasts as their lead play-by-play man—which he has since the last time Ross Perot ran for president—he has had to break away from the exciting playoff action to tell us all about these impending debuts. He knows as well as the anxious baseball fan watching at home that the vast majority of these shows will disappear without a trace three weeks after their birth. He also knows that even the “hits” he’s had to flog are either depressing monuments to fabricated culture (American Idol) or testaments of America’s disturbing flirtation with fascism (24). At least I like to believe Buck recognizes this task as the joyless death march it is, since he reads these announcements in tones that make Mike Francesa’s ad recitations sound like Marlon Brando.

In tribute to this autumn tradition, I’ve assembled a supercut containing Joe Buck promos from every postseason he’s been on the air so far, 1996-2016. You will hear and see him flog programs that I guarantee you have no memory of unless you personally apeared in them (and even then, you might struggle to come up with a name). You will also hear him blame Fred Savage for a power outage and linger a little too long on the charms of Zooey Deschanel. It is a testament to Buck’s dedication that, even when mooning over a pretty young actress, he still sounds as if he gobbled a fistful of Xanax.

Enjoy?

Me, Talkin Bout the Mets at Hofstra

So, there is a Mets 50th Anniversary Conference this weekend at which a whole bunch of awesome people will be presenting a wide range of papers, presentations, and discussions about the team from Queens. It will include ex-Mets like Buddy Harrelson, Rusty Staub, and Ed Kranepool, scribes like George Vecsey, bloggers like Greg Prince, and me.

Now, I think you would do well to attend any bit of this amazing (amazin’?) event, especially since proceeds will benefit a scholarship fund in the name of Dana Brand, late Hofstra professor and renowned Mets blogger. If you’re interested and want to know more, details can be gleaned from this New York Times article on the subject. New York magazine also published an excerpt from a paper about Mr. Met that will be presented at the event.

However, if you are specifically interested in my contribution, I will be moderating a panel on Saturday morning, and presenting a paper on the 1999-2000 Mets that afternoon. The paper is closely related to/informed by the book I am currently working on, Yells For Ourselves. This constitutes the first public “preview” of what this thing is. The short version is, it’s an alternate history. The long version is the book itself, the details of which are still knitting together, much like an infant’s skull.

Hope to see you there.

Up the Middle with Skitch Hanson: Shoebox Greetings for the Hall of Fame

Scratchbomb hands over the reins to nationally syndicated sports columnist Skitch Hanson, as we’ve done many times before. You may know Skitch as the author of the highly popular syndicated column “Up The Middle.” You may have read his best-selling book Why Eckstein Matters. He’s also a frequent guest on ESPN’s sportswriters panel show Mouth-Talkers! You can follow Skitch on Twitter here. Without further ado, here’s Skitch.

I apologize that my Hall of Fame column came later than usual this year. I actually handed in my ballot at the last minute. I was searching all over the house for it, then my wife told me she lost it. And while she told me she lost it, she lit the ballot on fire right in front of me. I told her tampering with a Hall of Fame ballot was a federal offense. She said it wasn’t at all and that she was leaving for Ibiza for two weeks with her special friend Marco.

Luckily, I was able to send my choices in by teletype. It’s good to know that the BBWAA still uses the latest technology. Do you know it took me forever to find a teletype machine in my newspaper’s office? And when I did, it was covered in dust, banana stickers, and somebody growing a potato in a jar. When I started in this business, we used teletype to send info back to the newsdesk, and as far as I’m concerned, no machinery has improved on it since. You can keep your Blackberrys and iPans and whatnot. Also, my editor won’t let me get one because the last time I was issued a company cell phone, I gummed up the keys with Mallomar residue.

When Jack Morris failed to get into the Hall of Fame yet again, I poured out a bottle of Yoo-Hoo in his memory. In truth, I knocked over a bottle of Yoo-Hoo onto the hood of my editor’s car, but I retroactively dedicated it to his memory. That and the sizable repaint bill, which is coming out of my paycheck. I had no idea Yoo-Hoo was so caustic.

It’s too bad that we’re letting so many people vote for the Hall of Fame that didn’t watch some of the eligible candidates play. If you look at Morris’s pure numbers, of course he doesn’t belong within a mile of Cooperstown. In order to understand his greatness, you had to have seen him in action, and then remembered that action many, many years later, when most of the finer details are rather hazy in your memory and mixed up with other things you’ve seen on TV. I, for one, will never forget that time I saw Morris pitch a 15-inning complete game and knock in the winning run to save an inner city rec center, aided only by his grit and determination and most of the Harlem Globetrotters.

I truly believe that you can only judge a player if you’ve actually seen him on the field, preferably from a press box view, while ingesting a Skitch Special. That’s when you anchor two hot dogs and a hamburger together with a shish kebab skewer, then drop it into a deep fryer. Some stadiums were better than others in making it for me. The guys at Wrigley were the best; they’d always have two Skitch Specials waiting for me when I showed up at game time, along with a fully charged defibrillator.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite players was Jimmy “Shoebox” O’Leary, backup utility man for the Senators. No one really knows how he got that nickname; some say it’s because he was born in a shoebox, others say it’s because he lived in one. I can’t tell you now why he was my favorite player back then. His batting average always hovered around the Mendoza Line, he couldn’t field worth a lick, and he got a nosebleed every time he ascended the dugout steps.

Still, I thought he was the greatest player in the world when I was six, and to honor that memory, I vote for his induction into Cooperstown every year. My fellow writers keep telling me I’m insane, that he’s not on the ballot, and that they’re going to drum me out if I don’t stop doing this and also bringing my homemade scrapple to the meetings.

If I’m disappointed that Morris failed to get in, that’s how pleased I am that Jeff Bagwell was also denied. As I’ve discussed before, there’s no hard evidence Bagwell ever did steroids, or soft evidence, or even some sort of evidence-mist. However, he did play at a time when many other people may or may not have done steroids at some point or another, and the fact that he didn’t speak up about it is a mark against his character. If someone was around that much cheating at that time and said nothing, they’re just as guilty as those who committed the act. If there’s anything I’m sure of after spending most of the last 30 years in locker rooms, it’s this.

I’m not looking forward to next year’s ballots, full of proven cheaters like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, cheaters by association like Mike Piazza…now that I think about it, it will be easier to vote than ever before. I’ll just draw a huge frowny face on my ballot, check off Morris, write in Shoebox, and be done with it. More time for homemade scrapplin’.

* * *

And now it’s time for Some Things I Think About Things I Think!

  • Tim Tebow has brought joy back to the NFL. Anyone who says something bad about him should be caged.
  • In this strike-shortened season, the play in the NBA has really fallen off, based on what I assume from not having watched a single game so far.
  • Love him or hate him, Shia LeBoeuf is here to stay, folks.
  • I’ve started an online petition to keep egg nog lattes at Starbucks all year round. I have 12 signatures, each from someone named Mike Rotch.
  • Alex Ovechkin is going to have to do a lot more to get my attention. Like play a sport other than hockey.
  • I don’t care for that “Partying Rock” song by L.S.M.F.T. Give me the Little River Band any day of the week.
  • Albert Pujols’ decision to leave St. Louis for the glamor of Hollywood is truly selfish, as it means I will probably have to drive from LAX to Anaheim several times this upcoming season.
  • Insider’s tip: Take a bag of microwave popcorn, poke a tiny hole, pour M&Ms inside, and seal it up before you pop. The result is a delightfully gooey mess and it tastes a bit like metal.
  • Have you guys heard about radishes? Crazy!
  • Stayed up late last night to watch a few old episodes of WKRP in Cincinnati. I really think that show holds up, and the roaring laugh track really helped mask the sounds of Marco and my wife upstairs.
  • Treat yourself to some fried spaghetti this week. You’ll thank me.

The Gift Basket Contents of Major Leaguers, Past and Present

Yankees star Derek Jeter, one of New York’s most eligible hunks since his split with longtime gal pal Minka Kelly, is bedding a bevy of beauties in his Trump World Towerbachelor pad — and then coldly sending them home alone with gift baskets of autographed memorabilia.

The Yankees captain’s wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am kiss-offs came to light when he mistakenly pulled the stunt twice on the same woman — forgetting she had been an earlier conquest, a pal told The Post. – NY Post, 12/13/11

ALEX RODRIGUEZ: small picnic basket filled with plush centaurs

STEVE GARVEY: a bad check and a lecture on fiscal responsibility

JOHN KRUK: three jars of his own homemade pomade/gravy

DAVID WELLS: A case of Natty Lite, a convenience store display of Slim Jims, and a gift card to Bass Pro Shops

CJ WILSON: Youth of Today compilation, large bottle of Dr. Bronner’s soap

DARREN DAULTON: step-by-step instructions on how to see into the secret, alien 7th dimension

JEFF KENT: a bag of Hall’s cough drops that happened to be left in the front seat of his car

OLD HOSS RADBOURN: tincture of laudanum, bone chilling stare on your way out of the hotel room

CURT SCHILLING: two-months of free gametime on World of Warcraft

JAMIE MOYER: hand-whittled doorstops–lady’s choice of duck or bear

ROGER MCDOWELL: can of “peanut brittle,” trick gum, pair of Bill Robinson’s cleats charred in successful hotfoot attempt

LUKE SCOTT: detailed manifesto on how the Illuminati and the Swiss bankers’ cabal are keeping evidence of Obama’s Indonesian citizenship from the American public

MANNY RAMIREZ: five pairs of tent-sized pants, several women’s hormone supplements

MIKE PIAZZA: Rush Limbaugh book-on-tape set, complete Cannibal Corpse discography

BABE RUTH: syphilis

For-Real Interviews: Craig Robinson

In America, baseball is, sadly, often seen as the brussels sprouts of sports: something that must be consumed because it’s good for you. Many people view the sport as obligation rather than entertainment, something you are required to take your kids to during the summer because, well, that’s what you’re supposed to do, right? Those who wax poetic about the game’s virtues can sound a bit like enthusiasts of quaint hobbies, like scrimshaw or silhouetting. The game is so fraught history and tradition and baggage that it seems impossible to say anything new about it.

Or maybe it just someone with a fresh perspective to say them. Enter Craig Robinson, an English illustrator whose love affair with the game was kindled by a trip to Yankee Stadium while in New York on business back in 2005. Not long after that, as his baseball fandom grew, he began to ponder questions that may not have occurred to someone who grew up with the game. Like, what is the actual monetary value of all the bases “stolen” during a major league season? Or how would A-Rod’s salary look if dispensed in pennies and stacked on top of one another? Or how long did it take to assemble, then disassemble, the 1986 Mets? Or what would the box score look like in a playoff game between the Wu Tang Clan and the E Street Band?

Robinson decided to answer these questions and many more at his site, Flip Flop Fly Ball, in gorgeously streamlined infographics. They are elegantly simple, packing enormous amounts of information into their space while not appearing remotely cluttered. They are works of art that beg to be seen write large, and that’s just what’s happened with the release of Flip Flop Fly Ball, a fantastic book that collects some of Robinson’s best work from the site, along with new items and essays on his evolution as an unlikely baseball fan. It is the kind of book that justifies the invention of the coffee table.

The author was kind enough to answer a few of my queries about his path to baseball fandom, the Mexican League, and what he would do with his favorite team. Answers to those questions and more after the jump.

Continue reading For-Real Interviews: Craig Robinson

Schadenfreuders Unanimous: World Series Game 1

So just before the playoffs started, I announced my intentions to do some recaps of the games and whatnot. Before doing so, I did not remember/calculate exactly how effin’ busy I’d be over those weeks. And so I was forced to not deliver on my promise for the first two rounds. I regret not being able to do this for the LDSes, all of which turned out to be pretty amazing, though I’m a bit relieved I couldn’t make it up in the LCSes, which, apart from a few games, were snooze fests.

Am I excited about this World Series matchup? Not exactly. Or not at all, actually. I’d hoped for a Detroit-Milwaukee series, for reasons that escape me now. Rust versus Cheese! Alas, t’was not to be, and so I have to decide between my generalized dislike for Texas (or maybe just the idea of Texas) and my specific dislike of Tony LaRussa. The Cardinals’ unlikely road to the Fall Classic has more annoyed me than intrigued me, even if they picked off the Phillies along the way, while the Rangers are one of those teams I was once happy to go years without thinking about.

But, since I went through the trouble of announcing this dumb feature and even made a blog category for it and everything, I present to you my in-time observations of this historic game one (in that it is technically part of history). All of the carnage after the jump.

Continue reading Schadenfreuders Unanimous: World Series Game 1

Schadenfreuders Unanimous, Engage!

So this looks like it might be fun! As I’m sure you know, the MLB playoffs are starting very soon. According to my calculations (mashes hand against keyboard), on Friday, in fact. I love watching playoff baseball, even in those years when my favorite team is not participating. Which is good, because they so seldom make the cut. I love the drama, the idea that a team’s every hope can come down to one solitary pitch. I love the idea that a player who barely anyone had heard of yesterday can become a celebrated hero today.

But more than anything else, I love mocking announcers, umpires, players, and managers whose idiocy demands such treatment. Because baseball, more than any other sport, has a postseason in which all of these people bring The Stupid in great, heaping bushels. I don’t know why this is, to be honest, but I do know that it is true and that I love it, and because it is bitter and because it is my heart.

So then, I’ve decided to do some features on this here site involving them there playoffs under the umbrella title of Schadenfreuders Unanimous. What, you can come up with a better title? Oh, that is pretty good, actually. Dammit, I should have asked you first.

No matter! We shall proceed. And what we shall proceed with is a series of recaps and live chats of as many of these games as I can humanly manage, with some of the more cringe-worthy moments and quotes from each broadcast. I imagine I will lean heavily on the broadcasting foibles, as those are the kind of things that tend to get under my skin this time of year (even in non-Buck/McCarver games).

Live chattery will probably wait until the LCSes, unless we get to some thrilling elimination games in the division series. I wouldn’t rule out that possibility, but if recent history is any indication, I wouldn’t hold my breath for it either. I did these way back during the 2009 World Series and found them an excellent way to stave off the dull, throbbing pain caused by watching the Yankees play the Phillies for a championship.

So keep watching this space! More details as they develop! Buy war bonds!

Bart Giamatti Said It Best, 2011 Edition

From “The Green Fields of the Mind”

It breaks your heart.

It is designed to break your heart.

The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again,

and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings,

and then as soon as the chill rains come,

it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.

You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time,

to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive,

and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most,

it stops.

* * *

Behold, the past! 2009 and 2010

Mets Block Yankees, Crush City’s Dreams

DOWN-TRODDEN NEWARK, NJ–It was revealed on Monday night that the Mets, an alleged major league franchise, had blocked the Yankees’ efforts to temporarily relocate their triple-A franchise to Newark. Critics have already labeled it the greatest miscarriage of justice in the history of baseball.

Supporters of the move say the arrival of the team from Scranton-Wilkes Barre could have rejuvenated this benighted urban area and brought a brief glimmer of hope to the many forlorn widows and orphans of this fair metropolis fallen on hard times. Instead, their dreams are snuffed, as they are denied the only thing that could brighten a crime-ridden, drug-addled, gang-ruled hellhole: minor league baseball.

“I tried everything with those cold-hearted Mets,” said a Yankees official, who could not be identified as his face was too obscured by large, bitter tears. “I promised we wouldn’t make the move permanent. I promised we would okay any move they wanted to make with their own minor league teams. Wilpon was unmoved by my pleas. First he asked for my watch, which was a graduation gift from my mother. I gladly gave it over, thinking only of the poor children of Newark. Then he asked me to get on my knees and pay homage to The Dark Lord. That I simply could not do. So he threw me out on the curb. And he kept the watch.”

Newark has a grand tradition of Yankee minor league affiliates. However, the team has not had a farm team in the city since 1949. Some believe that the Mets may have traveled back in time and forced the legendary Newark Bears to go bankrupt, paving way for the regrettable National League expansion of 1962 that gave birth to their hellish form.

Critics of the Mets say that the Yankees never have and never would engage in such churlish, petty behavior. They also point out that the Yankees’ attitude toward their “crosstown rivals” has never been short of cordial, and they have never attempted to interfere with their operations. Unlike the Mets, the Yankees have always conducted themselves with the utmost class and grace. To have the Yankees’ ceaseless kindness to their lesser neighbors repaid in such fashion is the kind of brazen insult that, in times of yore, would have demanded a duel of honor. No jury would convict them of such a “crime,” and yet they will surely take the higher road, as they always have.

“They couldn’t have won all those championships without always being consummate gentlemen,” said some guy I met on line at Starbucks while writing this article. “Only good people win things.”

Fred Wilpon was unapologetic for his act of wanton cruelty. Speaking while seated in a gargoyle-topped throne, each leg of which sat on a freshly killed puppy, Wilpon told the assembled reporters (all of whom were forced to genuflect in his presence), “I hate children.” He then drank from a chalice that may or may not have contained human blood.

The Singularity of Mariano Rivera

Mariano Rivera is special.

On the surface, “special” seems a poor adjective to describe him, but it’s the only one that fits. I’m sure we’re all familiar with his greatness, but I don’t think people truly understand exactly how much of a singular figure he is, and how much he has influenced the way baseball is played–to its detriment, I think. That is not in any way a knock on Rivera. Rather, it’s a criticism of the rest of baseball, and their failure to recognize just how special he is.

For one thing, when he notched his record-breaking 602nd save, the praise and congrats came from everywhere. And I do mean everywhere. In contrast, Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit–or rather, the cloying media slurpage that followed it–prompted nearly as much eye-rolling as applause, particularly when Steiner Sports ads on YES for commemorative DJ3K memorabilia made it seem like Jeter’s feat was just one arm of a larger marketing campaign.

Rivera garnered no such cynical reactions, at least as far as I saw. I don’t believe I saw one negative, sarcastic, or even snarky comment online about Rivera, which may be a new internet record. He just seems like a genuinely good guy, in the purest sense: the kind of good guy who just is a good guy, who lets his goodness speak for itself, and who would never campaign with his buddies in the press to write columns about what a good guy he is. Some writers may have played up his faith as a reason for his success, but you can’t imagine Rivera, a quietly religious man, doing so beyond being grateful for the gifts he has been given.

That’s why even self professed “Yankee haters” (I prefer the term “Yankee agnostic”) feel compelled to tip their cap to him. He reflects the best aspects of Yankee Tradition and is untouched by the worst elements of it. YES aired memorabilia ads marking the record-breaking occasion that were not unlike Jeter’s, and yet in the public consciousness Rivera remained unsullied by his proximity to such crass commercialization.

After Rivera earned his save, Michael Kay–never one to let a moment like this breathe when he can yammer over it–proclaimed him “the Babe Ruth of his position.” This is not quite accurate, though probably not in the way some might think.

Continue reading The Singularity of Mariano Rivera