Tag Archives: dodgers

Jean Shepherd on New York Baseball Fans, 1963

On the way to work this morning, I listened to a Jean Shepherd radio show from April 1963 in which he discussed the attitude of New York baseball fans in general and Yankees fans in particular. The reason I listen to 50-year-old radio shows is because of how amazingly prescient Shep was, especially when discussing philosophy or commenting on media and show biz. He was no less insightful on the “lesser” topic of sports and fandom.

In this clip, you’ll hear Shep (a Chicago native and lifelong White Sox fan) talk about how nutty the WIN NOW! attitude of New York fans looks to outsiders. He relates the grumbles of a Yankee fan friend who couldn’t stand the thought of his team not winning a pennant in 1959. He also shares memories of a trip to Yankee Stadium with his old pal and fellow Chicagoan Shel Silverstein, when the two of them witnessed Mickey Mantle get booed for the audacity of not hitting a home run that afternoon. Shep provides a passable Shel Silverstein impression to boot.

Shep tops things off with some thoughts on the then-fledgling Mets, the real reason the Dodgers’ and Giants’ move to California was lamented by the press (their gravy train stopped running), and how the New York WIN NOW idea extends to all sports.

I find this fascinating because it is a contemporary account of what fan attitudes and fan experiences were like during the late 1950s and early 1960s. In our cemented memories, this era is rendered in Ken Burns-ian sepiatone nostalgia. But when Shep was speaking, the era was still The Present, and thus could be discussed in an unvarnished way.

When studying most aspects of history we accept that, in order to really understand a time, you have to get as close to contemporary accounts as humanly possible. When it comes to sports, however, we often let ourselves be swayed by myth-making. That makes this Shep clip even more rare, and valuable. I hope you enjoy it.

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Frank McCourt Runs Into an Old Flame

Oh, hey Dodgers. Haven’t seen you in forever. Who woulda thought I’d run into you here in Chavez Ravine?…No, I can’t go in for a hug? Alright, a handshake is okay…Or a wave, sure, a wave is fine.

You look great. Really, I mean…wow.

Me? I couch surfed for a while after you kicked me out, stayed with my brother for a bit. Right now I’m rooming with my buddy Mark in Los Feliz. You remember him, right? He does the lighting for I Carly. No? You don’t remember him? He’s an awesome dude. You’d like him.

Yeah, been working out a bit. That’s why I’ve got this bike, trying to stay in shape. The binoculars? Bird watching. I like to bird watch when I, um…when I bike.

Finally working on that screenplay idea, too. Some stuff has really come together in my mind, just really gelled, you know?

God, it’s good to see you. We should get together some time, get some drinks or something. Hey, I know you must be busy since you’re running away, so I’ll leave my new digits with the bat boy, okay?

Scratchbomb’s Thoroughly Compromised 2011 MLB Preview: NL West

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

2010 record: 65-97

Biggest offseason acquisition: Armando Galarraga, who will bring with him all the luck of a man who was denied a perfect game by an indecisive umpire.

Biggest offseason loss: Mark Reynolds. Now that he’s in the AL East, could he become the first man to strikeout 300 times in a season?

How can a team with this much talent perform as badly as it did last year?: With just the right amount of counterbalancing suck.

Best name on 40-man roster: Leyson Septimo, master of darkness!

The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Take your pick. Melvin Mora, JJ Putz, Aaron Heilman, Xavier Nady, Mike Hampton…it’s like the bargain bin at the Ex-Mets Yard Sale.

Spring standout: In a typically Diamondback-esque performance, Justin Upton already has 7 RBIs, 3 homers–and 13 strikeouts.

Probable Opening Day starter: Ian Kennedy, presumably due to his ex-Yankee pedigree. It certainly ain’t for the 25 hits he’s given up in 17 innings pitched.

Biggest question for 2011: Is this the year Arizona’s young core makes the transition from promising to disappointing?

Strengths: Well-regarded GM, no actual snakes on premises

Weaknesses: Copious amount of strikeouts can cause brief cyclones

Semi-serious assessment: The “young” Diamondbacks are rapidly becoming middle aged, in baseball years anyway, with little to show for the promise shown way back in 2007. In fact, much of that “young” lineup has been whittled away, to where it’s essentially Upton and Chris Young. The pitching has disaster potential written all over it. It doesn’t take much to compete in this division, but the Diamondbacks don’t have it.

Continue reading Scratchbomb’s Thoroughly Compromised 2011 MLB Preview: NL West

The Parallel Universe Fake Mets: Games 20-22

pufm20.pngGame 20: Dodgers 5, Mets 3 (23)
In a game that took three years off my life, the Fake Mets took an early lead on a Fake Jason Bay 2-run homer. But the Fake Dodgers battled back to tie, and the game dragged on into the wee hours. The Fake Mets mounted numerous threats but could not push a run across, and a homer by Fake Rafael Furcal in the top of the 21st inning seemed to doom their chances. But Fake Jose Reyes led off the bottom half with a single, stole second, advanced to third on a wild pitch from Fake Jonathan Broxton, and scored on a sac fly, thus prolonging the agony. The Fake Dodgers lay in the weeds until the 23rd inning, when a 2-run double by Fake Russell Martin put them back on top. The Fake Mets could not mount another comeback, and suffered another agonizing loss.

In real life: In the first half of a rain-necessitated doubleheader, Johan Santana blanked the Dodgers through six innings, while the Mets converted some timely hitting en route to a 4-0 win. Jason Bay finally hit his first home run as a Met.

Game 21: Dodgers 2, Mets 1
Fake Johan Santana kept the Fake Dodgers off the board for seven innings, while his teammates could do very little against Fake Eric Stults. In the bottom of the seventh, they finally pushed across a run when a slow roller by Fake Jason Bay was thrown away, allowing Fake Jose Reyes to score. But Santana faltered in the eighth, giving up a leadoff homer to Fake Casey Blake, then a two-out go-ahead RBI single to Fake Rafael Furcal. The Fake Mets’ anemic offense could not recover.

In real life: In the cold and blustery nightcap, Oliver Perez couldn’t get through 4 innings or make an early 3-0 lead stand up. But Hisanori Takahashi played hero again, and the Mets’ bats came alive with a 3-run fifth and a 4-run sixth, capped by a bases-clearing triple by David Wright. Mets roll on to win 10-5.

Game 22: Mets 3, Dodgers 2
The Fake Mets took an early 1-0 lead off of Fake Chad Billingsley, but the Fake Dodgers got runs in the fourth and seventh innings on identical circumstances: leadoff hit by Fake Russell Martin, intentional walk to Fake Manny Ramirez to try for a double play, only to see a two-out RBI hit from Fake Andre Ethier. Fake Carlos Beltran singled in the bottom of the seventh and eventually came around to score on a Fake Daniel Murphy groundout. Then in the eighth, Fake Jose Reyes led off with a single, then scored the winning run on a hit by Fake Jeff Francoeur. Fake Frankie Rodriguez pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to preserve the win and salvage the last game of the series.

I should also note that, on the computer’s recommendation, I rested a “tired” Fake David Wright in this game. Although I did not take its insane suggestion to swap Fake Jeff Francoeur and Fake Jose Reyes in the batting order.

In real life: John Maine had a good bounceback outing with 6 solid innings and 9 strikeouts. The Mets touched up rookie John Ely for 4 second inning runs and never looked back on their way to a 7-3 victory, their seventh in a row, and the culmination of a 9-1 homestand.

Parallel Universe Fake Mets record: 8-14

Real Mets record: 13-9

Scratchbomb’s Thoroughly Compromised 2010 MLB Preview: NL West

Thumbnail image for dbacks2.jpgARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

2009 record: 70-92

Local weather: Ball-meltingly hot

Namesake: Venemous rattlesnake responsible for the majority of fatal snakebites in northern Mexico, thus explaining why the Diamondbacks are Lou Dobbs’ favorite team.

Do they really play for the entire state of Arizona?: Yes, except for small pockets of Tempe. They know why.

Perpetually overused team-related headline: Raising Arizona. Cease and desist letters from the Coen Brothers have proven ineffective.

Best name on 40-man roster: Clay Zavada (also owner of best mustache on team)

The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Billy Buckner. Not the former Dodgers/Cubs/Red Sox first baseman, but a young relief pitcher. Still, you’d think teams would shy away from anyone named Billy Buckner.

Spring standout: Justin Upton, whose .324 batting average and 16 RBIs are an obvious attempt to shame his brother B.J.

Probable Opening Day starter: Dan Haren, whose hitched delivery is almost as confounding as his facial hair.

Biggest question for 2010: Will their talented core of young players once again prove woefully outmatched, or merely disappointing?

Advantage to start the season: Close proximity of spring training facility removes the disorienting effects of jet lag.

Semi-serious assessment: The Diamondbacks lineup is full of stars, near stars, or should-be stars like Upton, Stephen Drew, and Mark Reynolds (all of them born in years I actually remember, which depresses the shit out of me). But their rotation is Haren and not much else until Brandon Webb comes back from shoulder surgery. They’ll score a lot of runs, but they’ll give a lot up, too, especially in their home park. Even in a relatively weak division, I don’t see how they finish much better than .500 this year.

Continue reading Scratchbomb’s Thoroughly Compromised 2010 MLB Preview: NL West

Blatant Homerism Theatre, in Conjunction with Lack of Historical Perspective, Brings You a Jayson Stark Production

The great thing about sports in general–and baseball in particular, I think–is that it turns adults into little kids again. It makes us marvel at amazing feats, believe in miracles…

/the theme from The Natural swells

Sorry, almost had a Costner moment there. Schmaltz aside, sports are fun because they can bring us unbridled joy and enthusiasm. We can all go a little nuts when our team wins The Big Game, pump our fists and proclaim THAT’S THE BEST DAMN GAME I’VE EVER SEEN!

And when I say “we”, I mean “the fans”. That should not include members of the media, who are paid to be impartial and stoic and have a sense of perspective during even the most thrilling moments. Jayson Stark of ESPN must have missed that day at J-school, because he busted out a column about game 4 of the NLCS that blew my mind with its complete lack of historic perspective or rational thought.

When last we met Mr. Stark, he was advising the Mets (via anonymous MLB scouts) to trade Jose Reyes. So his judgment is already suspect in my eyes. My opinion of him has not been elevated by his piece about Monday night’s thriller, entitled “Phillies walk off into history”.

He sets the scene with a series of one-sentence paragraphs, describing how the Phillies were down to their last strike when Jimmy Rollins belted a two-run double into the right field gap, completing a come-from-behind victory and putting Philadelphia on top three games to one in the series.

It was a dramatic win, to say the least. It deserves some dramatic prose. What it does not deserve is to be described as “an October baseball game that is going to be talked about for the rest of our lifetimes.”

Maybe Stark has powers of prognostication that I don’t. But “talked about for the rest of our lifetimes”?! This was, at best, the third-best playoff game played in the past week. It was the second-best playoff game played that day. Games 2 and 3 of this year’s ALCS–extra-inning, tension-filled marathons–were both better.
Continue reading Blatant Homerism Theatre, in Conjunction with Lack of Historical Perspective, Brings You a Jayson Stark Production

1999 Project: Games 141-147 (West Coast Swing #3)

Click here for an intro/manifesto on The 1999 Project.

johnrocker.jpgAs the Mets began the last of three lengthy cross-country road trips, they were 3.5 games behind the Braves. It was no small feat to be so close to Atlanta so late in the season. The Braves hadn’t had a serious rival for a division title since 1993, when they edged out San Francisco to take the NL West crown on the last day of the season. Ever since their transfer to the NL East, they strolled into the postseason every year; their closest shave came in 1996, when Montreal finished a mere eight games behind.

If there was any year to catch the Braves, 1999 should have been it. Andres Galarraga, Odalis Perez, Javy Lopez, and closer Kerry Ligtenberg were all lost for the year with injuries. John Smoltz spent time on the DL, and Tom Glavine pitched surprisingly mediocre. Rumblings began early that their dynasty was over.

And yet, between July 25 (when Lopez was sidelined indefinitely) and September 11, the Braves had a mind-boggling 30-11 record. For the season, they had an astounding 27 come-from-behind victories. Chipper Jones said, “No matter what happens this year, it’s going to be my most satisfying season. This is a team that really has overachieved.”

The Braves even said they welcomed the Mets nipping at their heels. Quoth Chipper again:

In years past, September was a month when we kind of took it easy and took some days off here and there to get ourselves prepared for the postseason. That may have an impact on what happens in the postseason, in that guys have trouble just flipping the switch on and off. I don’t foresee us having any problems flipping the switch this year.

As the Mets would soon find out.

Although the Mets had more than Atlanta to contend with. They began this trip 3.5 games ahead of Cincinnati for the wild card berth. The Reds were not picked by many baseball minds to seriously contend in 1999, but manager Jack McKeon had gotten the most out of them (as he would for a young Marlins club a few years later).

Plus, they would have the advantage of a softer schedule than the Mets down the stretch. While New York had six games left with the Braves, The Reds had only one series left against a team with a winning record (Houston), and would only play two games against them. During the series in LA, Darryl Hamilton admitted, “I think [now is] the first time I’ve actually looked to see what the Reds were doing. We’re not looking back, but we’d like to know who’s trying to get up on us.”

Continue reading 1999 Project: Games 141-147 (West Coast Swing #3)

1999 Project: Games 110-116 (Mets Drive 55)

Click here for an intro/manifesto on The 1999 Project.

At the season’s lowest point, Bobby Valentine said he should be given 55 games to lead the Mets out of the wilderness. Game 55 arrived as the Mets returned to Shea, and found the Mets with the best record in baseball, 1.5 games up in first (the Braves shaved a half game off their lead with a win on a Mets off-day).

“When I talked about 55 games, I remember saying, ‘Who knows, maybe we can win 40 of them,’ ” Valentine told Mike Lupica. Amazingly enough, a win in the series opener against the Dodgers would mean the Mets went 40-15 over that stretch.

“Now we’ve got the chance. Now let’s see how we do over the next 55.” As Lupica pointed out, for the Mets to play another 55 games, they would have to make the playoffs.

hundley.jpgThe Dodgers series also meant a Shea return for Todd Hundley. In the Mets’ leaner years, the switch hitting catcher had been a fan favorite (particularly when he set the single-season home run record for catchers). But Mike Piazza’s arrival, repeated clashes with Valentine, and rumors of a drinking problem (among other things) made Hundley expendable. He was dealt in the previous off season, in a three-way trade that brought Armando Benitez and Roger Cedeno to Queens.

The Daily News anticipated a warm reception for Hundley, and no such thing between him and his former manager. Asked if it would be odd to be on the same field as Hundley again, Valentine simply said, “Why would I give a shit?” For his part, Hundley said he wanted “to try to meet [Valentine] in a dark alley.”

The series also meant a return to Shea for LA manager Davey Johnson, who’d led the Mets to a World Series ring. In one of those Only In NY stories, before the series, Johnson was greeted warmly in his hotel lobby by an NYPD officer who was also a September call up for the ’86 Mets. “Funny how small the world is,” Davey marveled.

Continue reading 1999 Project: Games 110-116 (Mets Drive 55)