Tuesday, March 27, 2012

When the hell is opening day again?

                   Tradition.It used to be the norm for the national pastime.Lately, though, it seems as if the powers that be are more concerned with competing with the likes of Football and Basketball than preserving the values of the past.Just in the past 40 years ,Major League Baseball has expanded to 30 teams,had more than half it's teams play on astroturf(a phenomenon which is all but gone,thank God)introduced the designated hitter, but only in American League(and if Charlie O.Finley had his way, there would be a designated runner as well),but none of these things bother me as much as what they've done with opening day.Now if I can put on my crotchety, old man voice (picture a more animated Wilfred Brimley),it used to be that opening day was always in Cincinnati , as they were baseball's first professional team.This lasted until 1990 when tradition was broken, and the played the Astros on the road(there were also 2 instances between 1877-1990 where they did this as well, but I believe that was due to weather).

        Nowadays, who knows where the hell opening day's gonna 
Yes,Japan, remember when they started doing that?(They may be doing that this year,too...uggh)Those games shouldn't count(unless they were played by the Yankees and they lost all of them).I can see trying to expand the global market, but do that in the off season,you know, like they used to do.I realize things have to change, but some things need to stay grounded.A couple of years ago, when World series games were scheduled in November, I almost lost it.
I mean, what if one of the teams in the series was Colorado...oh wait, that already happened in 2007...Denver in November is damn cold.Thankfully, they stopped doing this.I don't even like the idea of baseball games on Halloween.Shouldn't start the season in March either, and with yet ANOTHER  round of playoffs on the way, they're going to bring back the scheduled doubleheader's to avoid a March to November season again.

         So, if breaking tradition is what Stephen Hawking's twin brother Bud Selig wants to do, may I suggest these following ideas to "spice up" opening day?The following list is just a suggestion, so please don't take them too seriously...or at least not as seriously as I do(ha)...Enjoy:

1)Make the ceremonial first pitch count

             You see it all the time:Some politician ,T.V. star or local hero going to the mound,and lobbing some 40 foot dying quail to the plate.The catcher smiles,pictures are taken, and we all die a little inside.But what if this pitch were to count?No team wants to start the game with their pitcher already down a ball,that's why the teams will have to do some research.The only rule is,no former players(Nolan Ryan is in his 60's and can still bring it),,but anyone who ever portrayed one in a movie(Charlie Sheen,Kevin Costner,Tim Robbins,etc.)is fair game.I mean, come on, who wouldn't wanna see Ichiro take David Straitharn deep?Or Tim Robbins plunk Ian Kinsler,I'd pay to watch that...

2)Start the game with"Take me out to the ballgame"

     Don't worry, we'll still have the national anthem(Star Spangled Banner), it'll just be during the 7th inning stretch.And for those of you wondering, "What about God Bless America"?, I'll tell you what I tell everybody.That song sucks...the sentimentality may be alright, but the tune itself blows, and has no business on a baseball field.Let the angry comments begin...(Oh, and no more "Sweet Caroline...sorry Fenway faithful...)

            3)Honor fallen players

And do a better job of it than the Oscars did, Dammit!They took my favoriter part of that program and 
completely rushed it.I cant even remember who the most famous movie star death was, or even why I got on this tangent in the first place...oh, yeah, fallen players...ummm, the Mets need to really do a good Gary Carter should the Expos...I know they don't exist anymore, but they still should do one... 

      4)Phillie Phanatic/San Diego Chicken, murder/suicide 

  Sorry, just wanted to see if you were paying attention...

Opening day parade in Cincinnati,2011

Have the sausage races in Miller Park be a quest to save one's job
Then ,for once, you'll KNOW it's not fixed...also, have more obscure Presidents in the races in Washington.
I Wanna see Franklin Pierce beat out William Henry Harrison(he died in 30 days...)

6)Billy Crystal gets no air time...EVER

   I blame him for the Oscar Death Tribute fiasco...and he can't go 5 seconds with out mentioning Micky Mantle(or is that Bob Costas)?

7)If it is played in Japan,Tom Selleck has to revive his roll as ""

      Never actually saw the movie, but again , this idea is no dumber than starting the "National past time" in another country...

8)Bring back the bullpen carts

  Just for the day...they were so silly and awesome..Lee Smith really needed them too...   

9)Make all Dodger fans stay all 9 innings, no exceptions

 Self explanatory.

10)If "Smashmouth" show up to play, shoot them on site

Don't know where that came from, but...sure...

    And there you have it, a bunch of ridiculous ideas for opening day, which,if I had my way would start in Cincinnati , the way it's supposed to,crabnibbity...(Spell check has informed me that "Crabnibbity"is not actually a word...or maybe I spelled it wrong).May Bud Selig find the error in his ways, or convince Peter Ueberroth to come back...he's alive, right?     



Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Now warming up in the bullpen, a picture of Dorian Gray

 I'm a petty man in some ways.Seriously, there are actual real problems in the world that I can sum up and rationalize with minimal effort, yet it's always the little things that keep me up at night.Things such as, why isn't WKRP available on DVD?or, why isn't Captain Beefheart in the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame? , and why oh why did Tim Wakefield have to retire at the tender young age of 45?Because when you think about it, 45 for a knuckleballer is like 38 for other players...Phil Neikro almost made it to 50 for godsakes!

                 Now, I'm not saying this because I wanted him to continue pitching for the was actually rather painful watching him lose game after game trying to win #200.I'm saying this because...I want there to be someone older than me in the Major leagues.There, I said it...petty and foolish, but I feel the way I feel...part of  my youth(as it is)is fading...I'm 42, will be 43 in May.When Ken Griffey JR. retired a couple of years ago after a 20 year Hall of fame career, he was STILL 6 months younger than me.(despite that nasty case of gigantism he contracted drinking that brain tonic while playing for Mr.Burn's softball team)That's why the Matt Stairs and the Julio Francos of the world gave my non reality-based world hope.Thank God for Jamie Moyer and Omar Visquel.

               First Jamie Moyer.I was shocked to see the almost 50 year old lefty trying for a spot for the Colorado Rockies this spring.I hope he makes it.He had retired after helping his hometown Phillies win  pennants 
in 2008-2009, and when he left the game, there was no reason to think he would comeback.His rookie year was 1986, a great year for rookies(I was still in high school, sigh...)with Barry Bonds,Greg Maddox and many more making their debuts that year.He was a late bloomer, not figuring it all out until he was in his 30's.
It does worry me that, even though he may make the team out of spring training ,he will eventually have to play half his games at Coors Field(I don't care HOW many humidors they have there, it's still friggin' Coors field, where pitchers not named Ubaldo Jiminez go to die), but at this point,I'll take anything...

                         Then there's Omar Visquel, the ageless shortstop(actually aged 44) who signed with the Toronto Blue Jays in January.Everyone could use a good backup shortstop,and Omar certainly is that.I remember a Simpsons episode(yes, this is my second Simpson's reference ,get over it)where Bart trades a ripped Omar Visquel card to a distracted Milhouse for a vintage Carl Yazstremski.(He also gets Milhouse to give him a 1958 Micky Mante for a picture of Homer sleeping on the couch).Omar will eventually go the the Hall of Fame, I think...only Ozzie Smith(another potential Simpsons reference,geez)has more gold gloves.

                 Baseball history is ,fortunately on their(and my)side.There are a number of big leaguers who played into their mid-forties onward.Here's a selected list:

1)Satchel Paige(59 years old)
      Actually,Satch retired in his mid 40's, only to be brought back as a publicity stunt by Kansas city A's owner Charles O.Finley.He pitched a few innings, not allowing a run and striking out a few.Wish we could have seen him in his prime, but as Satch would say, "Don't look back, someone might be gaining on you".
2)Minnie Minosa (57 years old)

    Actually, this is a cheat.The White Sox used to have him play an inning every decade to break a record, but he still played a long time, and had one of the coolest names ever.

3)Hoyt Wilhelm(49 years old,Phil Neikro,48 years old and Charlie Hough,46 years old)
          All knuckleballers...geez,Wakefield, you couldn't have stuck it out for a few more years?

4)Tommy John (46 years old)
      See kids, you stick around long enough, and they'll name an operation after you(hey, better than naming a disease after you)And, as it turns out, even Lou Gehrig didn't have Lou Gehrig's disease...     

5)Julio Franco(49 years)

  Julio had retired for a few years,then came back mostly as a pinch hitter.When he hit a home run off of Randy Johnson a few years back, the combined age of both of them was equal to the combined ages of the entire 2011 Oakland A's...

6)Nick Altrock(47 years old)
    Famous not only as a pitcher, but also as the inspiration for a popular music trend in the 1990's.I believe
Silverchair dedicated their 2nd album to him...  

7)Hughie Jennings(49 years old,Jim O'Rourked,54,Charlie O'leary,51

These are dead ball era players, who knows what kind of endurance they needed...back when whiskey was considered a performance enhancing drug, and only women of a certain stature were seen at games, and a hotdog cost a nickel, and your grandad met Mordecai "Three finger" Brown at Wrigley in '08, and you could ride the trolley for free on Wednesdays, and you could play your collection of brand new 78 rpm records til the cows came home...

     Sorry, went off on a tangent there.Of course there's more...I remember the 2010 World series where a 62 year old Nolan Ryan(who himself played til he was 47)threw out the first pitch...and it was 88 miles per hour!!I don't think Jamie Moyer has hit 88mph since the 90's..all I know is, Jamie Moyer debuted for the Cubs, the same team that started a rookie shortstop 2 years ago named Starlin' Castro, born in....1990...
(Ouch!)Well, at least I have one or two players carrying the old guy torch for one more year, and if they both retire after the 2012 season, I'm sure the (almost literally)ageless Manny Mota can still swing a bat, because everyone needs a good, experienced, pinch hitter...just ask Matt Stairs...  
Satchel Paige on "What's my line"



Wednesday, March 14, 2012

                      My dad(far end of the table)and 3 guys dressed just like him.

 You root for who your dad rooted for...sort of...

            I was hanging out at Manitoba's bar in the lower east side watching a Red Sox /Yankees game during the summer of 2004 when something unusual happened:I was outed as a Sox fan.Now usually, I try to keep the fact that I'm a Sox fan on the downlow when I'm in Manhattan(Brooklyn seems more Met-friendly, but you can never tell with the city), and maybe it was a close game,or (most likely)I had enough drinks in me that my Boston accent slipped out, but the bartender asked me "Hey, you a Boston fan"?I've always noticed that New York fans never say "Red Sox" or "Celtics", they always say "Boston".So, I admitted as such, and instead of the sarcasm or out and out hostility I was expecting to receive, he then asked "Was your dad a Boston fan"?I said yes, to which he replied, "That's cool, you root for who your dad rooted for, that's always been my belief"...

       I was relieved.This was not what I had expected from a Yankees fan, who turned out to be non other than the owner of the bar,"Handsome" Dick Manitoba from the legendary New York punk band "The Dictators".Born in the Bronx, and usually sporting some sort of Yankees hat, he is what you'd call a "die hard", going so far as to call out all the fickle fans that had popped up in the past 8 years:"I was a fan during the 80's, when they didn't win know, the Mattingly years...Now, since they won in 96, everyone's on the bandwagon".

   I'm sure the conversation wouldn't have been as cordial had it occurred in October, but it was still nice to hear,which brings me to my dad.He did indeed grow up a "Boston" fan, it just wasn't The Red Sox...not initially, anyway.No, Daniel Francis O'Shea from the  Hyde Park section of Boston was a..wait for it...a BRAVES fan.Now those of you not aware of this, Boston had 2 major league teams from 1901-1952, until the Braves moved to Milwaukee, then later, Atlanta.(Even if my dad were a fan of both teams, he would have endured both of them sucking until the mid 40's anyway).My parents had me late.My dad was almost 50 when I was born, making him older than most of my friend's grandads.He also had the distinction of being the only person I know to see Babe Ruth play(for the Braves in 1935)and see Cab Calloway perform.

               My dad played a little ball too.He would often tell me he was a knuckleball pitcher,which I found odd, because he had the tiniest hands I've ever seen.Seriously, he had hobbit hands(and they were almost as hairy too),I remember helping him in the garage,and he would hand me a pair of work gloves that would not fit ,it was like I was O.J. trying them on,except they actually didn't fit, and I was twelve!He would also tell me about my uncles too, and where they played.(Uncle Jack was a shortstop ,apparently).And of course,they all served in WWII.Whenever I want to feel like a lazy ass,I just think of my dad's generation, AKA,(cue the Tom Brokaw voice)"The Greatest Generation".Veterans who raised large families,owned their own business(Dad had a flower shop)2 cars,a house,etc.

             Anyway, back to baseball.The only Braves player worth mentioning in the 30's was Wally Berger.He was their power hitter.Oh sure,Casey Stengel was their manager for a bit when the were called "The Boston Bees",(So they could rename the Huntington grounds "The Bee Hive"...really...) but they never won anything.A young Warren Spahn noted that  he played for Stengel "before and after he was a genius"(The Braves, then later, The Mets , missing out on that whole Yankee dynasty in between). The only really good year they had in my dad's lifetime was the "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain" pennant winners of 1948.Then they left town, but not before becoming one of the first teams to integrate with 1950 National League rookie of the year, Sam Jethroe(AKA,"The Jet"),which ,unfortunately ,was in stark contrast to the Red Sox, who were the last to do so(integrate, that is, which always bothered me).

 After '52, my dad really didn't have a team to root for.Sure, the Sox still had Ted Williams, and  he would casually follow, but it wasn't the same.It wasn't HIS team.It all started to change in the early 60's, however...By then,my brothers were into baseball, and the Sox were the only team in town,so my dad  begrudgingly started to care.It was made more difficult by the fact that the Sox really struggled during this period.The two highlights on the team were reliever Dick "The Monster" Raditz, the original "closer", with a booming voice and hands about 7 times the size of my dad's.And Carl Yazstremski, the man who replace Williams in left.However, little by little, they started getting good players; hometown boy Tony Conigliaro,SS Rico Petrocelli,1B George Scott,P Jim Longborg,etc.They all played a part in the "Impossible dream"season of 1967,where they went from a 2nd division club the year before,to making it to the 7th game of the World series the next.And while it was a team effort, most of the credit went to Yazstremski.

                  Yazstremski, or "Yaz" (not to be confused with Alison Moyet,the singer...and if you do confuse them, then you really are confused)as most of us know, was the last man to win the triple crown,and he became a Boston Icon.I can only go by my family's recollection,film clips, books and heresay...I had not entered this dimension...yet... My family would tell me about how they bought Yaz bread,(Yes,bread...Apparently, sport celebs got bread named after them in the 60's...a weird marketing technique,, but hell, my family bought it,although I'm sure it tasted awful)and how we had a cat named Yaz(who must have ran away, I don't remember he/she at all).So, because of the 1967 season, my dad was hooked...and found a new way to be miserable(ha).More heartbreaking years would follow,1975,1978,1986, with no title, but it gave my dad a chance to do what he does best, root for the underdog.Now I don't mean the team, really, I mean individual players.For some reason, he would fixate on one overachieving mediocre player and go on and on about how underated they were.Here's a short list:

               1)Reid Nichols
       Technically a 4th outfielder, but more like a 7th outfielder, Reid was about as nondescript as they get.
Even during they down years of the early to mid 80's(pre 86)he could never really crack the lineup, but the way my dad was talking about him, you'd think he was the second coming of Fred Lynn(who himself wasn't as good as Fred Lynn ).By the time the team got it's shit together in 86,Reid was all but gone...

            2)Al Nipper
 The answer to the trivia question:"What  pitcher started a WS game for the Sox in 86  not named  Clemens,Hurst, or Oil Can Boyd?I bet you the late Gary Carter could have told you...he took him deep twice during game 4.Really,though,Nip's claim to fame is that he was Clemens' best buddy, and it was important to keep the Rocket happy in 86.But my dad saw something in him(maybe because he looked just like my cousin Danny, son of my uncle Jack),or maybe he had a thing for sub .500 pitchers, but who knows.     
            3)Luis Rivera
Rico Petrocelli? Nope.Rick Burleson?Nope.My dad's favorite shortstop was none other than Luis Rivera, not a bad player at all, but not exactly a world beater either.When I try to think back on any memory I have of him,I just keep coming back to the time he made an error in a game(maybe a playoff game,not sure...was on T.V., I know that)and as he ran off the field,Clemens yelled at him for his muff...Apparently "Fundamentally sound",was the only criteria my dad needed.(This was back before every other shortstop hit 3.20 w/ 25 homers,btw)

  My dad never got to see the Sox win it all in 2004(he died in 1993)which is a shame ,because he really would have enjoyed that(especially after we wasted all that champagne in 86,seriously, most of it went down the drain), but also,it would have given him a chance to root for the likes of Gabe Kapler ,Cesar Crespo, and Pokey Reese(He Would have LOVED Pokey Reese,especially since he was past his prime)...and then watch them win again in 2007...and the horrible collapse of 2011 would have made him nostalgic for teams past...and give him a chance to root for the likes of 31 year old rookie Darnell Macdonald. 




Thursday, March 8, 2012

Baseball Esoterica:An Introduction
                    Hello everyone, and welcome to "Baseball Esoterica",a weekly blog created by me, hopeless baseball fanatic Pat O'Shea.As a comedian as well as a writer, my goal for this blog is to bring humor, insight and an original point of view to the national past time.While other such sites will either concentrate on the day by day goings on of the modern  game, or exist mainly as pure nostalgia, "...Esoterica" will try to contrast and compare both the past and present, cross referencing with other historical happenings not necessarily about baseball,as well as random comparisons between certain players and eras.

          As someone who played the game himself(I played in high school until my junior year,then showed up for Varsity tryouts my senior year a little hungover,dove for a ball at third, and it took me 20 seconds to get up and throw....CUT!)I can appreciate how hard the game is to play. In fact, once the kids in high school started throwing in the mid eighties with actual curve balls to boot, I knew my playing days were numbered, retiring from the game at the ripe old age of 17...I still play softball, but it's not the same...

     I am also a musician and music fan, so don't be surprised if I start to do things like compare side 2 of the Beatle's "Abbey Road"(or for those too young to remember LPs, "Here comes the sun" onward...)with the 1982 Cardinals(the shorter songs blending into each other being rather reminiscent  of Whitey Herzog's "small ball" philosophy)or how the song "King of pain" by The Police sums up my feelings toward baseball commissioner  Bud Selig(a much more obvious reference...he will appear in this blog often.)Mostly though, I will stick within the realm of baseball,only veering out here and there to make a point.

                                       Pat O'Shea-Baseball Philosophy.....   

Well, that's about it for the introduction.Most of my posts will be far longer than this.My first actual post will be next week, entitled, "You root for who your dad rooted for...sort of"),a story about how my dad  became a Red Sox fan and burdened his children with his eventual fandom.Above is a clip of my stand up, doing a bit called "Baseball Philosophy".Enjoy!...see you next week...