Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ladies and gentlemen, the all time bullshit baseball lineup:

Ladies and gentlemen, the all-time bullshit baseball lineup:

                                    We all know about the baseball greats,  the not so greats, the decents, and the down right terribles (Johnnie LeMaster, come home, all is forgiven),but today I would like to discuss some of the true oddities of the game, and somehow put them into line-up form.I will admit, there aren't too many recent players on here, as some of the circumstances that allowed  these people on the field(real or imagined)are products of a bygone era of over- the- top crazy owners, political incorrectness ,and people's vivid imagination.(Not to mention, very questionable coaching moves)There will be controversies over who I've included and who I've not included, so I welcome any and all comments on this entry.Just know, that this is coming from someone who follows the game closely while trying to keep the past(time)alive.Anyway,enough of my chest beating, here they are, the All Time Bullshit Baseball Lineup:

  Starting Pitcher:Sidd Finch

                              (Yes, the second "d " is intentional.)On April 1st, 1985, a Sports Illustrated article entitled "The curious case of Sidd Finch" was published.The piece, written by George Plimpton, gives the details of The Mets newest phenom who not only could throw 168 MPH but would often do it wearing just one shoe.Although the story was obviously a hoax, many people believed it to be true(including a gullible, 15 year old me, although even I figured it out when my brother reminded me it was April Fool's Day),leading to a follow up story of his retirement a week later, then a confession a week after that.In fact,if you took the first letter of each word of the beginning sentence of the article, it spelled out "Happy April Fool's Day"! 

Catcher:Harry Chiti

             Chiti, a very real(and not very good)player is included here mainly for having had the distinction of being the only player in baseball history to be traded for himself.You see, when the Cleveland Indians wanted to trade him to the New York Mets, they settled for a "player to be named later" , but when Chiti proved to be incompetent, he actually became that "Player to be named later".You know you're bad when you can't beat out "Choo choo"Coleman for a spot.

First base:Abner Doubleday

            Did the inventor of baseball actually play first base?Did he ever play the game at all?Perhaps, but we'll never know, seeing as Abner Doubleday was actually a Civil War Vet who had nothing to do with the invention of the game at all.I put him here as a reminder to everyone that it's O.K. to admit that our national pastime most likely evolved from the English sport Cricket and, to a lesser extent(or greater, depending on your view) the game Rounders( played mostly by women).Nice to have a field named after you, though... 

Second Base:Eddie Gaedel

        Bill Veeck was awesome.The owner responsible for some of the greatest publicity stunts of all time (Hiring Max Patkin, the "Clown Prince of baseball" to coach for the Indians, Disco Demolition Derby night in Chicago, both beautiful disasters)may have set the bar too high(or in this case, too low)for other wacko owners to top.As owner of the 1951 St.Louis Browns, Veeck hired a midget, Eddie Gaedel to pinch hit leading off the second game of a double header against Detroit.The Tigers pitcher, Bob Cain, couldn't help but laugh, as he threw 4 straight balls to catcher Bob Swift, who was down on his knees to catch them.It was obviously Gaedel's only at bat, resulting in a 1.000 on base percentage,(Veeck got him a contract earlier that day, so it was an official at bat)and while he never played the field, I figured I'd put him at second, where they usually put the little guys(Sorry Dustin Pedroia).

Third Base:Bucky Dornster (from WKRP in Cincinnati) 

                 I know it was just a (great)T.V. show, and I know the episode I'm referencing was actually a softball game, but who can forget the iconic image of Bucky the station engineer (Played by Bill Dial, also a writer for the show)catching a line drive at 3rd while still holding a cup of beer?...If that visual doesn't embody the American spirit, then what does...

Shortstop:Mickey Stanley

                      Stanley, a superior defensive outfielder and decent hitter, was asked by Detroit Tigers manager Mayo Smith  to play the final 9 games of the 1968 season at shortstop, a position he had never played before.The move was made to prepare for the World series, as they had already clinched the AL pennant.You see, Ray Oyler, the Tigers starting shortstop, was a .135 hitter, so by playing Stanley at shortstop, they could put Al Kaline in the outfield, improving their line-up quite a bit.During the 16 games(9 regular season and 7 in the World Series )he played shortstop, Stanley made a total of 4 errors(which makes him Ozzie Smith compared to Jose Offerman),batted decent enough, and the Tigers won it all.People have said it's one of the greatest coaching decisions ever...I just think it took a lot of BALLS...

Left Field:Pete Gray

                    War is was watching wartime baseball, apparently...during the early-mid forties, so many of the game's great players had to serve their country in WWII, that a number of players who wouldn't even be considered to make teams, did.This resulted in The St.Louis Browns winning their only pennant in 1944(They lost to the cross town rival Cardinals),which doesn't sound so odd, until you realize that the very next year, the American league champs were so depleted of players, they actually called up Pete Gray, a one armed outfielder.He would swing the bat with one hand, and while in the outfield,he would switch his glove from his one good arm to the stub in order to throw(A move Jim Abbot, a pitcher in the 90's did to great effect, even pitching a no-hitter once).And yes,of course he was an inspiration, batting 2.18 in his only season(well above the Mendosa line),having a movie made about him and such, but it just goes to show you how much integration was needed... and I'm pretty sure Satchel Paige could have thrown a no hitter with one arm behind his back...

Center Field:Herb Washington

              Charlie O.Finley had a lot of ideas.The notorious Oakland A's owner wanted to use orange baseballs at night so they were easier to see(never happened),he also came up with the designated hitter idea(which, unfortunately, did happen),and then came up with the designated runner, which did happen, sort of...You see ,in 1974, Finley hired Herb Washington, a world class sprinter who hadn't played baseball since high school, to strictly be a pinch runner( Herb's 1975 Topps card is the only one ever to have a position listed as "Pinch Runner"),an idea that would be vetoed in these days of baseball labor unions.He did O.K., stealing 31bases in 48 tries(actually, that's not that great), but he also got picked off at first during game 2 of the 1974  World Series against The Dodgers by reliever Mike Marshall.And while he never had an at bat, and never played in the field, I put him in center for his speed.


Right Filed:Roy Hobbs/Pedro Ceranno Platoon

        Two right fielders from two baseball movies were included here, because A)I needed a right fielder,and B)Both Robert Redford and Dennis Haysbert look like they could actually play.(I believe Redford did play semi-pro ball at one point).And whether it was for the fictional New York Knights of the 30's or the all-too real Cleveland Indians of the late 80's(before they got good), these two represented their posititons well.I may do a "Best and worst baseball players in movies"entry in the future, but for now,I'll just settle for these 2...btw, The movie version of "The Natural", as some of you know, differs greatly from the book version(sadder ending there), but I'm a sap, so I don't mind seeing lights being broken by 500 ft homers.And as far as "Major League" goes, just remember ,"It's very bad to steal Jobu's rum...very bad"...

And now, where they would appear:
Batting first:Eddie Gaedel(Who will walk)
Second:Herb Washington(Who can bunt him over and maybe beat it out)
Third:Mickey Stanley(As the only good "Real" player, he needs to be in the hitter's spot)
Fourth:Hobbs/Cerrano(Depending on whether it's a left handed or right handed pitcher)
Fifth:Harry Chiti(I know, the pickings are getting slim , but he technically WAS a major leaguer)
Sixth:Pete Gray(Maybe slap one up the middle...I mean, what else is he gonna do?)
Seventh:Abner Doubleday(Maybe he can use his bayonet to threaten the umpire)
Eighth:Bucky Dornster:(His huge gut maybe produce a HBP)
Ninth:Sidd Finch(No matter what, he'll still be a better hitting pitcher than Phil Neikro was...)

The curious case of Sidd Finch                    


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

(Post traumatic baseball disorder)

                                I used to hate baseball...I really did, and I'm not sure why.My family would always play it in the backyard when I was little(like 7ish),and at first, it just seemed like something to do,play in the yard like a kid and such.I do however remember seeing my cat Gypsy get hit by a car during a game, (I almost did too,as the ball went into the street)and then watch the poor thing go into shock. (sorry,I'll lighten up in a sec)That was my first traumatic experience associated with would not be the last.So it was around that time I shut baseball out of my life.Wouldn't play it,wouldn't watch it, and hey,my G.I.Joes with kung fu grip weren't going to play with themselves(so to speak).It didn't seem important, and also,I always liked being a little different(My Brother Brian took this to the extreme,as he would barricade himself in the den with the black and white backup T.V. and watch The Bruins by himself, as his love of hockey was not shared by my brother Sean or my dad),so not being in front of the tube during a Red Sox game wasn't a big deal to me, but of course,eventually I surrendered to the baseball gods...all it took was a great catch by Fred Lynn in center,and the reaction my dad had to it, to make me want more.   .  

       Of course, this was 1978, the year they would make history (in a bad way) by blowing a 14 game lead to the hated Yankees,only to fall behind, then rally to force a tie ,resulting in the Bucky "Bleeping" Dent game.I can still see Yaz in left slumping down as the ball landed in the Green Monster's net .I remember after they lost saying"We'll beat them tomorrow", not realizing that there was no tomorrow, it was the end of the season.I learned the saying "wait 'til next year"all too well.Next year turned out to be 8 years later in 1986, but I'll get to that in a bit.First,there was my own bit of trauma going on.You see in '78,,I started to play Little League For The White Sox(Sponsored by Milton's Osbourne furniture company...they're out of business, so I'm not being a corporate whore by mentioning them),then '79 and '80 for the Milton Police Dept.(I believe they're still around).Our team in 1979 wasn't that good, but it was made up of a lot of my friends,John McCall,Mike Curran,Pat Gallagher,Jeffrey Kearns etc.(Most of the names on the team were like this,as Milton has the highest Irish population per capita of any place in America at 38%)and ,of course the most Irish name of them all, Patrick O'Shea(I dropped the "rick" as I got older).We went 2-13 that year, but had mostly the same team intact as we entered 1980.

                     1980 was great.We went an ordinary 8-7, but qualified for the playoffs,and eventually made it to the Town Championship, which was played in the fall rather than the summer, so we had 2 months to wait to play the 3 game series.We won game 1 on a walk-off double by Jeff Kearns, scoring "Bubba"(aka,John McCall).I remember doubling in that game fact, I remember having a great series against our opponent, The Knights of Columbus(Side note,years later, my brother Brian coached The Police to the finals,where they got it,the KOC..)The 1st game was at home,and the next 2 were on the West side of Milton.We lost game 2,not sure by how much, but game 3 is where it gets a little..well,familiar...It's the last inning of the final game,the bases are loaded,and guess who is up?...I got to the plate,and I was so revved up I felt I could have hit a  400 ft home run.My entire family and others were there to cheer me on,as I hit the first pitch down the 3rd fact it HIT third base, which would have been a good thing, had they used real bases.Instead ,perhaps because of budget cuts,the bases were giant beanbags, so what would have surely been a bases clearing double,turned out to be this giant mystery...CLOMP...the ball disappeared into the bag, and all the runners froze...they didn't know what to do...even the umpires were baffled.The only person who knew was the 3rd baseman, who grabbed the ball,which was one out, then threw to second,double play...end of series.

                    Two years later,I was playing for The Dodgers in prep league.This was the first year we were allowed to steal,and I took full advantage,swiping 12 bags in 14 games(it was 1982,EVERYONE wanted to be Ricky Henderson...if you don't believe me,ask Ricky Henderson),and again,my team made it to the finals(just one game,for some reason).Final inning,I stole second,and as they threw to get me out,a runner scored from third pulling us to within a run.Then ,I made a huge mistake.I let the shortstop convince me I could steal third..I kept looking at the third base coach and telling myself,"yeah,that's the sign, he wants me to swipe third,I'm gonna do it"...suffice to say,I was thrown out and ended yet ANOTHER final game...I would never get another chance.(I won a comedian softball tournament recently, but it's not the same)

         I was so depressed after that game.(Although I found out years later,that Babe Ruth ended the 1926 series  trying to steal as well).The game from 80 wasn't my fault.The '82 game was CLEARLY my fault,and I kept beating myself up over it(one of my favorite pastimes).Luckily,or unluckily, this was nothing compared to what happened to The Red Sox  in 1986.Now,we all know about the Buckner play,and the passed ball,and 4 straight hits and such,but what made the World series so bitter to take that year was the playoff win against The Angels beforehand.The Sox were down to their last out,and then came the Dave Henderson Home Run,which eventually would lead to the career(and life)demise of Donnie Moore(Talk about traumatic).It was very improbable that we would win the Angels series,yet we did,(and very probable we would lose the Series against The Mets,which we did), but what are ya gonna do?2004 went along way to heal the wounds from 1986.For years,when ESPN Classic would play game 6,I would make myself watch it,like someone who was viewing  the Shining.It was like a Horror movie.Now, it's like watching Weekend at Bernies 2(I'm assuming).Of course there's the demise of 2011,which, numbers wise was actually WORSE than 1978. (and they didn't even make the playoffs.)However,I am middle age now,(which didn't stop me from yelling at the T.V.,) so at this point,I can just put it in perspective;I've been dealing with PTBD my whole life....Fuckin' Calvin Schiraldi.....

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Drugs are a hell of a drug

                                 Is there anything more boring than labor talk?Seriously,men in suits who have never played the game deciding on whether or not one group of millionaires is going to play for another group of millionaires, all the while we sit there ,slack-jawed, wondering if we're going to have to deal with another 1981 or a(God forbid)1994.Man, it makes you almost wanna watch NASCAR(No it doesn't, actually).While I sit here typing this, I catch myself answering my own question...of COURSE there's something more boring than labor talk(almost typed labour...reading too much British lit...),and I'm not talking the whole wide world, or even just entertainment, for that matter(because, if that were the case,The Jersey Shore wins that...some find that show funny, others offensive...I watched 5 min. and almost fell asleep),I'm talking specifically about the realm of baseball, and the winner(loser)is...Steroid talk...

                      Steroid talk is mind numbingly dull;..Did someone take them, did somebody not take them..who cares?I mean, yes, they SHOULDN'T do PEDS, it's cheating, but do I have to hear about it?Can't these people be punished privately,fined,suspended or whatever and not take up half the sports broadcast?Just look at their heads for Godsakes..I could have told you Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi were on them, do we need Jim Rome to do a whole hour on it.And, by the way, drugs have always been in baseball, from the early days of beer and whiskey(yes,alcohol's a drug, no matter WHAT I keep telling myself)to the greenies(speed)of the 50' and 60's, to the cocaine of the 1980's(why do you think there were so many stolen bases then,besides most of the stadiums being on Astroturf...heck,Tim Raines dove head first to avoid breaking the cocaine viles in his back pocket).

                                Notice I didn't mention the 1970's...there a reason for that...oh, there were drugs out there:Pot,booze,Coke, etc., which may have helped or hindered a performance, it's hard to tell, but one drug that clearly can't help you do anything in sports is LSD..I mean, c'mon,it's a hallucinogenic ,made to make you forget where you are and can't possibly help you and your performance...well, unless your name happens to be Doc Ellis...As some of you may know,Doc Ellis of the Pittsburgh Pirates threw a no-hitter on LSD against the San Diego Padres on July 14th,1970.He didn't mean to have this happen, after all, he wasn't scheduled to pitch that day.And sure, he did walk eight batters,but he didn't allow a hit, and this story really didn't come out until fairly recently, like, say 20 years ago (In his book, entitled "In the country of baseball",Doc claimed he pitched the game with a hangover, which would have made him the 3,701st pitcher to do so.)because, at the time of the books release in 1976, he was playing for the Yankees and their conservative-minded owner George Steinbrenner, who obviously didn't want that kind of publicity for his juggernaut.

                       Now, I don't know if anybody out there has ever tripped(I did...ONCE, and looked what happened...hey I was hanging out in Fitchburg Mass and I was bored), but it's incredibly hard to do ANYTHING productive...I'm always amazed The Beatles,Hendrix,Pink Floyd, etc.were able to make cool music on it(actually,music and drugs go together quite well...except for cocaine, the "bad music"drug, responsible for late period Stones and Zeppelin offerings...on Zep's"In through the out door" you can hear the effect of coke in  Robert Plant's voice...and the disco records of the time also were cocaine influenced...
Anyway, point is, unless you've tried it, you cannot fully appreciate how amazing  a feat this was, as opposed to 'roids and other fact, LSD is probably the world's most performance DE-hancing drug available, at least that's been unless somebody throws a perfect game on heroin(I'm looking at YOU,Tim Lincecum),Doc Ellis' LSD no-hitter will go down as maybe the greatest baseball drug story of all...and there my friends, is one to grow on....


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Le Grande Orange

Le grande orange

     While watching a Red Sox/Nationals pre-season game today, I noticed how vastly improved the Nationals were...They had nice mix of veterans and young players,power and pitching,etc., maybe not enough to overtake the Phillies(actually, not at all),but a very promising team, and I caught myself  saying out loud, "Wow, pretty good for a recent expansion team"...oh, wait...I keep forgetting, they used to be the Montreal Expos...
For 36 seasons(1969-2004),Montreal had it's own baseball team, and while they never won a pennant, they had their moments...unfortunately, their 2 best years were strike years...

               1981, that was the year they were gonna do it, at least initially...they had 2 Hall of famers(but more on those 2 later),Steve Rogers(not to be confused with Captain America...figures the one player who had his name played for a Canadian team)Charlie Lea,Bill Lee and such as starters,they had speed,power, and also, maybe the ugliest stadium ever,Olympic Stadium(when I saw an Expos game in 2000, their fortunes had turned for the worse,and there were hardly anybody in the stands, so people would bang the ugly yellow empty seats together to make noise.)
But speed teams always did well with turf, and that year they came within an inning of winning the pennant, losing to the Dodgers(Known as "Black Monday", because of a big clutch hit by the Dodger's Rick Monday)

             Fast forward to 1994;They have the best record in baseball in August at 70-40,They have Pedro Martinez,Larry Walker,Moises Alou(son of the manager,Felipe),Delino Deshields,etc., but they were stopped again by a strike, but this time, the season never finished... they never recovered, and, just by coincidence,maybe, The other Canadian team ,2-time defending champion Blue Jays had major setbacks as well, but at least they got to keep their team...the Expos were not so lucky. They spent the next 10 years in a kind of limbo, and while they had some great players like Vladimir Guererro ,Orlando Cabrera and such, they never had the funds to sustain a good team.In fact, on top of losing their T.V. license , they also started playing a portion of their games in Puerto Rico, which must have made their opponents groan a bit with all that extra travel(except maybe the people who were from there).

               There is exactly one player in the Baseball Hall of fame who went in as an Expo, and that was the recently departed Gary Carter, who actually is more famous for playing for the Mets, who I believe only have one player as well(Tom Seaver) to go in there.Andre Dawson went in as a Cub, which is a little wrong, considering his best years were with Montreal(I know he won an MVP in 87 with Chicago, but still).And I'm sure Pedro will go in with a Red Sox cap on, but maybe if Tim Raines gets in he'll don the Expos cap.
I hope so, because their memory is fading fast.Then there's Bill Lee...

       One of my favorite players of all time,the man who called Don Zimmer the "Designated Gerbil"...the man who said he smoked pot to clear the bus fumes out of his lungs on a jog to the park...the man who told Dapper O'Neil that someone stole his stationary in a letter that O'Neil had filled with misspellings , Bill Lee was classic(and still playing at age 62...somewhere).....I grew up watching him play for the Red Sox where he won 17 games 3 times, then was shipped off to Montreal for Stan Papi(I know, "Who"?)Bill played his last 4 years with the Expos, and while he had only one really good year with them, he did stand up for his team mate Rodney Scott when the team tried to get rid of him, and then ended up getting rid of Lee as well...Baseball needs more integrity like this nowadays...

        Then there was the team's first superstar,Rusty Staub, nicknamed "Le Grande Orange" for his flaming red hair.Rusty would become more famous for playing for the Mets(sound familiar)and he was responsible for getting Keith Hernandez used to New York when he was basically nothing but a pinch hitter at that point.He played for Montreal back when they played at Parc Jarry, a much smaller venue than Olympic stadium(they could have used a smaller venue in the closing days...too soon?)I mostly remember him as an aging pinch hitter, but you can't argue with a great nickname like that...speaking of integrity  ,he also played in the 1973 World series for the Mets with a bum arm in the outfield, but still manged to play...echoes of Willis Reed...

                And look, I have nothing against The Nationals...well, except that their logo looks like the Walgreens logo, and the fact that Bud Selig had a lot to do with their move to Washington...oh, and I have a soft spot in my heart for the Orioles, whose turf is being invaded...O.K., there' are a few things, but I really miss Montreal...the weird logo, which I was convinced said "EB" for "Exhibition" for the longest time, only to find out it was a really fancy "M"(I only recently found this out, and I own a shirt of theirs,but a friend of mine insists it stands for both...he may be right),the powder blue "Away" uniforms(During throwback day, do the Nationals wear the Expos uniforms?I'm just asking, because I really don't know).French speaking people embracing baseball was a cool thing I thought...will they ever trust us again?Well, there's always the Alouettes(Which is their CFL team, not a tribute to the father/son duo from 1994,although,that would be awesome).