Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Talking John Birch Society Blues

Talking John Birch Society Blues

                          It was all finally coming together for Ray Kroc.  The owner of McDonalds and The San Diego Padres was about to put together a winner for the first time in the team's 15 year history, signing such playoff proven veterans  as Goose Gossage, Steve Garvey and Craig Nettles, while letting some of the younger players like Tony Gwynn, Alan Wiggins, Kevin McReynolds and Carmelo Martinez do their thing.  The year was 1984, and it started with something that even  Mr.Kroc couldn't have seen coming... his own death. The team would wear "RAK" on their armbands for the rest of the year, and go on to win their first NL pennant after coming from behind 2-0 to the Cubs in the NLCS, due in no small part to their pitching staff, also a mix of veterans and youngsters...oh, and a trio of radical right wing fanatics led by Mr.Pleasant himself, Eric Show. 

             Although more famous for letting up Pete Rose's record breaking hit (and scowling on the mound during the ceremony), Show was also  a member of the John Birch Society, a far right organization founded in the late '50s and named after a missionary who was supposedly killed by a communist in China durung the '40s.  As a relatively older member of the team, Show decided to convince other teammates to join, although only Dave Dravecky and Mark Thurmond actually did, making 3/5 of the starting rotation rather "red fearing".  One would think Steve Garvey would have joined, but I guess even "Mr. Clean" had his standards.  By all accounts though, Show was an intelligent man, often writing mathematical equations and posting them in the locker room.  One time , Alan Wiggins, also a smart man with demons of his own, solved it within minutes, and Show lost his shit.

        Founded in Belmont Ma. in 1958 by Robert Welch, The John Birch Society is still going strong, although it has a lot of competition now, including a group founded by former JBS member Thomas Metzger called "WAR"...better known as The "White Aryan Resisitance", a neo Nazi group (never understood the term "neo Nazi"...there's nothing really "neo" about them, really).  Other famous JBS members included John Wayne (yes, the very same) , Floyd Paxton, inventor of the bread clip, and  several members of the FBI.   Although being a staunch member of the group, Show was a mystery.  On top of his skill in pitching and matematics, he was also a jazz musician (not something you would think a radical right thinking person would excell at).  Anyway, no one knows for sure how much influence he had on the team's success that year.  Yes, they did win the pennant, but then they got steamrolled in the World Series by the powerful Detroit Tigers.

               Show retired a few years later, and his life took a turn for the worst, succumbing to drug addiction, which led to his death in 1994 by overdosing on a speedball in a hotel room (dying of a drug overdose...hey, maybe he WAS a jazz musician after all).  As for the other two converts on the team, Dravecky pitched for a few more years and teams, survived cancer, then became a Christian motivational speaker.  Mark Thurmond also pitched a few more years and then started an insurance business in Texas.  As for the Padres, they would have to wait another 14 years to play in the World series again, only to be swept by an even more powerful team, the New York Yankees, winners of a then record 114 games.  Not sure if there were any JBS members on that team, although if you offered a few of them steroids they may have joined...          

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What's in a name?

                                   Since the dawn of baseball time, many a team has packed up and moved to another city.  Sometimes they keep the team name, like the Dodgers, Giants, Athletics, Braves and such, while other franchises chose to change the name altogether, like The Nationals (formerly The Montreal Expos) , The Rangers (Formerly The Washington Senators), and The Brewers (Formerly The Seattle Pilots, who only had one year, 1969 before moving to Milwaukee...look it up!) .  
However, what I'd like to talk about today are the teams who, for one reason or another, chose to slightly alter their team name.  Most of these changes were temporary, although the most recent example will probably last a good long while.  I'm of course talking about The Tampa Bay Rays.

                     Starting life as The Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1998, The Rays, along with The Arizona Diamondbacks, became the latest expansion franchises in the MLB.  Their early years were fairly nondescript, mainly serving as a final stop for aging All Stars such as Wade Boggs, Fred McGriff,  and Jose Canseco.  In fact, the only interesting event during these  seasons was when a 36 year old rookie pitcher named Jim Morris made his debut in the late '90s.  His story was the basis for the 2002 movie "The Rookie" starring Dennis Quaid (a pretty good flick, actually) .  Every season from their inception in 1998 to 2007 (a full ten years) were all losing ones, usually as cellar dwellers.  That all changed in 2008, when the team shortened their name to just "The Rays", dropping the fish symbol and adopting a sunshine logo.  The team went on to capture the AL pennant that year.  Some religious folk say it's because of them losing the "devil" part of their name.  I don't know about that, but you can't argue with results, as they have been a good team ever since.

               As I have said  though, most of the name changes have been temporary.  In the early part of the 20th century, The Cleveland Indians became the Cleveland Naps, named after their best player, Napoleon Lajoie (still one of the greatest names ever).  Ditto for The Brooklyn Dodgers in the teens and '20s, changing their name to the "Robins" after their field manager Wilbert Robinson.  In the '30s, The manager of the Boston Braves, Casey Stengel suggested they change the team name to "The Bees" and called the Huntington grounds "The Beehive" to attract more fans.  It didn't work...The Braves/Bees were a second division club for years to come.

         By far the most reactionary name change had to be The Cincinnati Reds changing their name to the "Cincinnati Redlegs" for a brief time during the "Red scare" of the 50's.  I found out about this in a weird way.  I have a brother who's 15 years older than me, and he owned a baseball cap with all the team names on it.  It was from the late '50s, and had all 16 teams in the ML.  One of them was the Redlegs.  I asked my dad about it, but  he quickly changed the subject, figuring I was too young to learn about commie conspiracies.  Actually, my dad hated the whole McCarthyism deal, as did most level headed people.  To tell you the truth, I'm surprised the current Tea Partiers haven't tried to change the name of some of the teams to fit their own agenda.  Some examples:...

1)The Cincinnati Red States
2)The Seattle Marines
3)The Washington National Review
4)The Chicago White Supremist Sox
5)The Houston Colt 45's (oh, wait, they became The Astros...they do love their guns though...)

               If there's any team that I would like to change the name of, it would be The Angels...well, to be more specific, the whole "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim" nonsense.  Pick a city, for chrissakes...Also irritating: The Texas Rangers calling their stadium "The Ball Park  at Arlington".  That's a little too Yoda-ish for me.  All they need is the whole "it is" at the end to make it complete.
Seriously, I don't want to make any unnecessary changes to the game...that's Bud Selig's job...or at least he thinks it is...


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I'd like to thank Jesus for the grand slam I just let up...

I'd like to thank Jesus for the grand slam I just let up...

                  The Texas Ranger's Josh Hamilton is an inspiration, isn't he?  C'mon, the man came from the depths of drug addiction to win the 2010 AL MVP and lead his team to two straight pennants in 2010 and 2011.  How was he able to accomplish such feats against all odds?  To once and for all destroy his demons and take control of his life?  Why, the Lord, of course...sigh... Now before everyone gets up in my grill, I do believe in God, I'm not a heathen and so forth , but can't ANYONE do anything these days without bothering Jesus?  I mean, it always seems as if it's the people who get caught doing something bad, or can't figure things out for themselves that  bring God into everything.  And where was God when they screwed up?  Sure, God helped you hit that home run, but was he also responsible for the previous at bat when you struck out?  Did Satan help strike you out?  Were you remembering the time back in the day before you found the lord, where you spent night after night having sex with lingerie models, drinking hard liquor and snorting coke off of toilet seats?  Did these thoughts lead you to wiff on three straight pitches, only to remember that enjoying yourself is a sin, and only by praying  can make your box score better?  Of course not.  For one thing, there are plenty of players and managers throughout the years that were pretty much devil worshipers, or at the very least, flat out evil...

            A lot of people are anticipating the first openly gay baseball player. That is, the first one to acknowledge he was gay while still playing.  A couple of players have come out long after their playing days were over. One was Glenn Burke and the other was Billy Bean (not THAT Billy Beane), and they had such nondescript careers that no one remembers them. I can only imagine what it would be like to come out while playing sports, it being such a macho occupation.  Because of this, no player has come out while still on a major league roaster.   Mike Piazza didn't help his cause a few years back when he appeared with those babes on the cover of the Daily News, clearly overcompensating for something.  But hey, what do I know?  It could have been legit.

            Me, I'm still waiting for the first openly satanic player, or at least the first that will admit it.  I'm pretty sure Craig Nettles had a black bible in his locker at all times.  I'd say Tampa's Luke Scott probably has one too, but that would imply that he knows how to read.  An early 20th century player named Hal Chase was reportedly pretty evil, and Ty Cobb's racist, sociopathic ways are well documented.  Pete Rose ended Ray Fosse's career in a meaningless game, then went on to philander and gamble his life away. Would I take any of these players on my team?  You bet !  Except Scott, screw that birther idiot. There's evil, and then there's stupid-evil.  So who do I think will be the first openly satanic player? Hard to say, although Vincent Padilla kind of looks like the devil and his pitching has been evil all season.  If we're going to go with the person you least suspect, any of these God fearing bible thumpers will do.  I'm just thinking that one day one of them will slip up and instead of pointing to the heavens after a homer or completed save, they'll point straight down...TO HELL...

        Also, the thing with the religious players is that they're all Christian, pretty much.  It's rare these days to see a Jewish player take off a Saturday because of his faith like Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg used to do.  Not sure if any of today's players are Buddhist, but I wouldn't be surprised.  Are there Muslims in the MLB?  I know basketball and football have their share, but I can't think of any in baseball off the top of my head. Religon's fine if you think it helps you play better, or makes you a better person...well, I wasn't going to do this, but I've changed my's the all time evil-person baseball line-up:

1)CF Ty Cobb(Racism is a hell of a drug)
2)LF-Pete Rose(Gambling's also a hell of a drug, but he's here for the Fosse incident)
5)RF-Albert Belle(Chasing little kids with your car during Halloween is not a good PR move)
4)1B-Hal Chase(Was involved in the throwing of more games than anyone, apparently)
5)3B-Craig Nettles(Epitomized the late 70's Yankees...also, Bill Lee didn't like him, so that's good enough for me)
6)C-Tim McCarver(If he never went into broadcasting, he would not be on this list)
7)2B-Billy Martin(Was quoted as saying he would let Hitler play on his team if it would help him win some games...I guess playing Nettles and his anti semetic comments were close enough)
8)SS-Frank Duffy(Watching him try to fill in for Rick Burleson in 1978 was pretty evil)
9)P-Roger Clemens(His recent steroid scandal aside, Clemens was a real dick to my wife when she used to work at Chili's in Framingham Ma. back in the day...)

The Josh Hamilton Story


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Father no-no

                                      Well it took 50 years and 8,020 games played, but the New York Mets finally have their first no hitter.It happened yesterday, June 1st(also the 10th anniversary of me moving to New York, but anyway...)2012 , and it was pitched by Johan Santana , or "No-han" as the papers called him.(Non-sport savvy nerds may have read this as someone is in no way , shape or form like Han Solo, but I digress) .When the Mets signed Santana a few years back, they had visions of Cy Young awards(as he won 2 with the Twins)and multiple playoff berths.Well, that hasn't happened...yet anyway...but yesterday gave Mets fans what they've been waiting for, an actual NO HITTER...Tom Seaver came close back in the day , and a few others in recent memory have as well , but this was the first , if controversial one they've ever had.The controversy happened in the top of the 6th , when former Met(of course it had to be a former Met)Carlos Beltran , now a Cardinal, hit a liner down the third base line , but was called foul, although replays clearly showed it hit the line.This is the second most memorable Cardinal/Mets memory for Carlos Beltran(Adam Wainwright, anyone?), and Carlos was classy after the game when asked about it, saying it wouldn't have mattered because no one else was hitting, and so forth.

                  Too bad the St Louis Papers weren't so tactful , showing the headline " No hitter* ".An asterisk?Really?You lost 8-0 and your team is the defending world champs , couldn't you just let it slide?(In case you were wondering , the last defending World series champs to be no- hit were the 1990 Oakland A's , by some guy named Nolan Ryan). Maybe it was a slow news day.Anyway , now that the Mets have their no hitter , it's time to talk about the only franchise left to not have one:The San Diego Padres.Formed in 1969 as one of the four expansion franchises that year(Kansas City Royals,Montreal Expos(became Washington Nationals in 2004) ,and The Seattle Pilots(Played one year and became the Milwaukee Brewers), have had their ups(few)and downs(many)over the years.Two NL pennants , one in 1984(losing to the powerhouse Tigers in 5 games) and in 1998.(losing to the even bigger powerhouse Yankees in a sweep)They've had a couple of Cy Young winners, and even an MVP(Something the Mets still have not had, although if David Wright stays healthy, blahblahblah)in 1996 , by the name of Ken Caminiti.(Speaking of asterisks , Caminiti admitted to using steroids the entire season and died a few years later).

                    So for the rest of the year, all(well, some)eyes will be on San Diego and their last place team.Maybe one of their young pitchers can catch lightning in a bottle.I doubt they'll no hit a team like the St. Louis Cardinals ,(and the Padres don't have a horse like Johan on their roster), but there's always questionable offenses out there to take advantage of , like The Pittsburgh Pirates , Houston Astros and (Let's face it)The New York Mets.(That would be a weird way to have it come around full circle)For now though , they are the only no hitterless team left.Well , at least they have  a couple of pennants , unlike the Seattle Mariners and Washington Nationals.The Jury is out on who will be the first of those 2 teams to finally get a flag , as they both have come close:In 1981, The then Expos were an inning (and a Rick Monday hit)away from going to the 1981 World series, and the 2001 Mariners won a record 116 games, only to be beaten in the ALCS by the team whose wins in a season record they broke: The Yankees(1998, with 114) .When a Padre does pitch a no-no, let's just hope they do it at home, at Petsmart, or Petco, or whatever the hell that field will be called then.