"Our lives have taken an odd turn"

Things seen in “Dancin’ Homer,” one of my favorite “Simpsons” episodes, that we will probably experience on this trip:

  • The Capital City Goofball, or at least his real-life equivalent, the Phillie Phanatic
  • A domed stadium so quiet, you can hear every individual smart-ass remark (in Montreal; of course, many of the remarks will be in French)

Things from that episode which I hope to experience on this trip:

  • An advertisement for a savings and loan proclaiming it “Safe from 1890-1986; 1988-“
  • A grounds crew/bullpen cart shaped like a baseball
  • A live organist playing “Baby Elephant Walk” with a reggae beat
  • The intersection of 4th Street and D

Things I hope we don’t experience:

  • A 26-minute-long version of the national anthem
  • Seats in the upper upper upper mezzanine

Finally, almost two months after the promotion started, the Pepsi iTunes caps have shown up in Los Angeles, so I no longer have to risk a Big Gulp spilling in my car in order to try to win free music.

Even though I didn’t try to cheat by tipping the bottle to look under the cap (because I don’t want to get banned from 7-Eleven), I won a free song on my first try today. With it, in honor of this trip and my unintentional namesake, I purchased Joe Cocker’s version of Bob Dylan’s “Catfish”…

Even Billy Martin grins
When the Fish is in the game
Every season, 20 wins
Gonna make the hall of fame

Yes, there is going to be a “baseball songs” playlist available on my iPod on the trip. Right now it’s almost entirely filled with the tracks on both of the Rhino Records “Baseball’s Greatest Hits” compilations. I also already have “What Bothers the Spaceman?” by Mono Puff, as well as a certain song that’s playing during a current “Sportscenter” promo, which is no doubt one of Dan Rivkin’s favorites. If anyone has other baseball song suggestions, pass them along. Extra points for naming songs available in the iTunes Music Store.

I was reminded today of one of my very favorite baseball nicknames: Cincinnati Reds first baseman Sean Casey is known as “The Mayor.” Apparently the nickname was bestowed on the reportedly down-to-earth, treat friendly, prostate outgoing Casey in the minor leagues because he seemed to know everyone in town.

Oh, and he did a good thing last year. Afterwards, do you think he drove off in one of these?

Cardinals lefty reliever Steve Kline–he of the nastiest cap in the majors–missed a few games early in spring training with gout.

I didn’t think people got gout anymore. Sure, the wealthy used to, because they ate terribly and way too much. Ben Franklin, you may remember, had a little talk with his gout. But nowadays?

And even more impressive: Steve Kline says he gets a case of the gout every spring. What do you think that man eats?

I suppose it’s not the weirdest ailment to sideline a ballplayer. Remember when the versatile, arachnaphobic Glenallen Hill was injured waking up from a nightmare about spiders?

Oh, and if you’ve been wondering how much better advertisements for some products would be if Steve Kline were pitching them, the Internet, as always, is here to remind you that someone’s already thought of everything.

When I got the bleacher tickets for the Red Sox, I also registered for the opportunity to buy tickets atop the Green Monster. However, I got an e-mail tonight telling me that I was not among the chosen few. Maybe it’s a good thing, because I got an up-close look at the seats on one of the Pat Sajak shows, and they look potentially vertigo-inducing, being so high up and pretty much directly above that steep drop-off.

Tony Womack may be a great guy. He may work very hard. He’s a far better baseball player than I’ll ever be. But he’s not a good ballplayer at this point. He hasn’t really done anything very successfully on a baseball field since he eliminated the Cardinals from the playoffs in 2001. Which, as you might imagine, still rankles.

And now he’s a Cardinal.

But at least he has a purple Lamborghini!

As the folks at the Cardinals Birdhouse say, “How can you not like a guy who has a purple Lamborghini?

One more politics post before I leave it behind like Bonds blowing past Willie Mays.

There are a couple of sites that allow you to search FEC records to see who has donated what to whom. This one lets you search for any contributions made to presidential campaigns this election cycle. One entertaining feature is that you can search by ZIP code and see what your neighbors are giving.

This site has, for some reason, the 1997-98 and 2000 election cycles. It seems to be much more comprehensive, too, including contributions to PACs and congressional campaigns.

So what’s this have to do with baseball? You can look up ballplayers! And owners!

Since I spend most of my time worrying about the National League Central, I thought I’d look up the owners of the teams in that division.

Cardinals: I already knew that Bill DeWitt, Jr. of the Cardinals was a Forest Ranger or Space Pirate or whatever Bush called people who raised a certain number of billions for him. But he’s also given thousands in soft money to the Republicans and thousands in direct money to John Ashcroft.

Cubs: Owned by the Tribune Company. If you read the Chicago Tribune’s editorial page any time between, say, the Lincoln administration and today, you already know where their money is going.

Reds: Owner Carl Lindner gives insane amounts of money to both party central committees, but on balance, the GOP takes home more of the money Reds fans (not to mention the residents of Cincinnati who funded that ballpark) cough up. Sadly, for both Lindner and the GOP, attendance at Reds games wasn’t helped quite as much as they hoped it would be by the new park.

Houston: Owner Drayton McLane likes to give to Tom DeLay. And Elizabeth Dole. And Craig Biggio, if you count extending his expensive contract beyond the point when he will be a good player a political contribution.

Pittsburgh: Pirates owner Kevin McClatchy is an oddity among MLB owners. He mostly gives to Democrats, in amounts in the low thousands of dollars. He did, however, write one check to Rick Santorum, for $250. The very smallness of the check in relation to his other donations makes me imagine him wrinkling his face in disgust as he wrote it, considering it a cost of doing big business in Pennsylvania.

Milwaukee: Ah, yes. Have you heard me rant about Selig? Well, despite his union-busting and serial lying, Allan H. Selig is on the same side as me here, with him and his family members giving across the board to the Democrats.

What’s most interesting in this is that nearly all these owners have given–freely, I’m sure–amounts ranging from $1500 to $7500 to the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball Political Action Committee. I guess that committee is one of the ways MLB convinces people like James Sensenrenner to lob softballs at the Commissioner during congressional hearings.

Oh, and ballplayers? Turns out they just don’t give much to anybody, despite having loads of the ready. I suppose that shouldn’t surprise me. Al Leiter, noted Republican and boyishly cute pitcher, did give to Jim Bunning’s senate campaign. From which filing I learned that Al’s full first name is Alois.

And Tony LaRussa gave to a Democratic congressional candidate, which doesn’t surprise me, seeing as he’s a vegetarian and animal-rights activist.

Weirdest of all so far? Steve Garvey, noted conservative first baseman, gave Bill Bradley $1000.

That’s it for politics, unless Jim wants to go through the rosters of all current teams in order to see which players donated to legislators who have supported Amtrak?

Me taking off my shirt to reveal “Kerry for President” would likely result in a lot of votes for Bush, or Nader, or Lyndon LaRouche, not to mention a constitutional amendment against taking one’s shirt off in public.

I’d kind of like to keep politics out of this in order to focus on the baseball, but then, I was the one who named the trip “baseball-related program activities,” wasn’t I?

Because I’ve been more or less obsessed with the presidential race for months now, I was thinking today about how we could do our part during our trip in getting Bush out of office. I’ve got a few ideas.

1) We could have friends and relatives and coworkers pledge money for each of several types of discrete baseball event we see. For example, people could pledge to give the Kerry campaign a quarter per single, fifty cents per double, maybe a dollar per triple, and seventy-five cents per home run. A nickel per strikeout. A penny per swear word overheard in the bleachers at Fenway. Two dollars per extra inning. We could really go nuts and have the truly flush pledge $25 per beanball, $50 per ejection, $100 per menacing confrontation around the mound, and $200 per legitimate brawl. A no-hitter would come in around $500, and a perfect game would cap the person’s legally allowable election cycle donation at $2,000. A Brewers or Tigers win would force the person to split his or her donation of $4,000 between the Kerry campaign and the Obama campaign.

And since the Bush campaign has names for people who are able to bundle huge amounts of cash (I have a name for them, too, but it’s inappropriate for a website on such an all-American topic as baseball.), maybe we should name ourselves when we hit $50,000 raised. Suggestions, Jim?

2) We could paint “Kerry for President” on our chests and take off our shirts. This tactic would be likely to get us more attention at the games which include female hangers-on. Maybe we could coax Morganna the Kissing Bandit out of retirement?

Since it’s late March, it must be time for plenty of baseball programming, even on non-sports channels. Tonight on the Travel Channel was, I swear, “Pat Sajak’s American League Ballpark Tour,” followed immediately by “Pat Sajak’s National League Ballpark Tour.” Each one highlighted what somebody decided were the five most unique stadiums in each league, including two of the parks set for this trip, Fenway Park and PNC Park.

The other four NL parks: Dodger Stadium, Coors Field, SBC Park, and Wrigley Field; the other four AL parks were Kauffman Stadium, Safeco Field, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and The Ballpark in Arlington. The SBC Park segments were taped last year, so Pat Sajak in his introductions had to point out several times that it was “formerly known as Pac Bell Park,” which is what everyone was calling it.

The best segment was the man who was redoing the 778 metal scoreboard number plates for Fenway Park, using paper stencils individually cut by hand, so that no two examples of the same number would look exactly the same.

Oh, by the way: it’s now 22 weeks until the first game on the itinerary.