Notes from the first few days of the season

Expanding on a few tweets I’ve made while watching some games this week…

1. Nice to see Albert Pujols quickly rewarding our faith in calling him a Player to Watch by hitting two home runs on Opening Day. Obviously, he knows a Cardinals-friendly blog when he sees one.

2. When I got home from work Monday, the only game on TV was Giants-Astros. Things were going along unremarkably until an Astros pitcher named Sammy Gervacio came in for the top of the 9th. He had, it turned out, a bizarre pre-pitch ritual, wherein he would briefly stare down the third-base dugout while holding the ball up. I’m not really doing it justice here; suffice to say that Mrs. Levi thought he was a robot. The only videos I can find of it are only halfway decent; here’s someone’s shaky-cam from the stands on Opening Day, and a brief video from spring training.

He was effective on Opening Day, striking out 2 of the 3 batters he faced; however, he ended up taking the loss in the second game, giving up two hits and an earned run in a third of an inning. And then he went on the disabled list with a shoulder injury. But I hereby proclaim him a Player to Watch once he gets back.

3. The Rays should know better than to set off fireworks inside Tropicana Field, as they did before their Opening Day game, which was not on Opening Day, for unexplained reasons. The haze never dissipated during the game, and for me watching on TV, it made Tropicana Field look even darker and dingier inside than it normally is. At one point, Rays announcer DeWayne Staats had to read an ad proclaiming that game was broadcast in “beautiful HD, brought to you by H.H. Gregg.” That HD was not beautiful. If H.H. Gregg had that game on any of the TVs in the store, it would have caused potential buyers to run away screaming, going home to embrace their old standard-definition TVs.

4. Wednesday evening, I discovered that DirecTV was carrying the Rogers SportsNet coverage of the Blue Jays-Rangers game, including the Canadian commercials. Which, it turned out, weren’t all that exciting. In fact, Lowe’s is running the same commercials in Canada that they are in the U.S., just with a different announcer at the end saying “Canada’s new home improvement warehouse.” Also, movie ads in Canada don’t end with the rating, which make them seem incomplete — they just kind of stop.

Don’t expect many more posts like this from me during the season, since I’ll be watching a lot less baseball once DirecTV’s free trial of the MLB Extra Innings package is over. This really should be Levi’s type of post, but he has unfortunately turned his attention to his “I’ve Been Reading Lately” blog, and to other literary activities, in the past couple of years. Just in case you’re wondering where he is…

Fire up the TV set

At 7:00 P.M. Eastern on January 1, the brand-new MLB Network will present a rebroadcast of Don Larsen’s perfect game from the 1956 World Series. As I understand it, the source is a kinescope that was discovered fairly recently.

Channel 213 on DirecTV. For other services, check

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your listings.

Hit by pitch with the bases loaded: the most exciting play in baseball

And it’s even more exciting when it happens in the bottom of the 11th inning, thus becoming a walk-off hit by pitch, as it did in today’s Braves-Cubs game.

I watched this game because Levi e-mailed me this morning to tell me that WGN was doing a “retro” telecast to commemorate their 60th anniversary of broadcasting Cubs games, in time for me to use DirecTV’s web site to schedule my DVR to record it.

As it turned out, it was much less elaborate than when Fox gave the “retro” treatment to a Cubs-Dodgers game circa 2000. For the first two innings, WGN presented the game in black and white, with only a couple of camera angles; they also had their character generator on the simplest possible setting (white text only, but with a modern-day drop shadow), which continued through

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the entire game. And they used a cool “WGN 9 TV”

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logo that I hadn’t seen before — at least, I didn’t recognize it from any of the old Chicago TV Guides I have in my collection.

Also, this was the AT&T poll (which should have been the “Bell System” poll, but I know it can be hard getting sponsors to go along with such things):

Which of these new things are you enjoying the most?
A. Velcro
B. Vinyl 33-1/3 LP
C. Bikini
D. Scrabble

“Bikini” won in a landslide.

Opening Day follow-up

I have been informed that Twins games that are broadcast on WFTC in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area also appear on FSN North in the rest of its service area, so that’s why DirecTV was able to present the “My 29” coverage of Opening Day. So their Extra Innings package still only includes games that appear on channels that they have the rights to

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distribute nationally, which is why I couldn’t watch the Devil Rays’ home opener tonight on Extra Innings — it’s against the Blue Jays, and the only place in which it’s airing in the United States is on Channel 66 in Tampa, the local Ion affiliate. Yes, the network that used to be Pax. It should not surprise anyone that the Devil Rays’ local over-the-air TV outlet is not quite of the quality level of, say, WGN.

And I wish I’d known on Monday of the existence of this channel!

I should have known there was such a channel, because there’s a similar channel available for NFL Sunday Ticket (it’s part of an extra-cost option to which I don’t subscribe, so I only see it during its “free preview” on the first week of the football season). If I had one of DirecTV’s more newfangled receivers, I’d be able to use the cursor keys on the remote to pick a game and switch to the channel that’s showing it full-screen. But since I’m sticking with TiVo, the only option is a complicated series of button presses to switch which game’s audio is coming through.

And you may notice that things are high-tech enough that they’re able to black out the Angels game for me without blacking out this entire channel –although if they were really high-tech, they’d show the channel number on which it’s appearing, not just “0.”

Opening Day 2007: Hour 5

2:00 — Unfortunately, there are only two games going on right now. Or maybe it’s fortunate, so I can follow each one better.
2:06 — So if there exists a baseball-themed ad for, why did I see their basketball-themed ad several times already today during other baseball games?
2:15 — DirecTV is offering a fight on Saturday night on pay-per-view for $24.95, “or,” as the announcer says, “as part of your regular Showtime subscription.” Showtime is $12 per month, with only a one-month-at-a-time commitment.
2:19 — The Aflac trivia question on NESN is “Other than Schilling, Martinez, and Clemens, who was the last Sox pitcher with back-to-back Opening Day starts?” If you have to qualify it that much, perhaps you should find another way to ask the question, or perhaps you should ask a different question.
2:20 — You can tell it’s a little windy in Kansas City when the fountain water gets blown into the shot from the centerfield cameras.

2:23 — Hey, it’s a pinball-themed Pepsi commercial, which makes me want to play pinball more than it makes me want to drink Pepsi.
2:26 — I happen to see on the ESPN ticker that the Tribune Company is going to be getting rid of the Cubs at the end of the season. So let me be the first to predict a World Series victory in 2008. Yes, for the 100th anniversary of the last one.
2:30 — The answer to that trivia question is Dennis Eckersley, who pitched on back-to-back Opening Days in 1982 and 1983 — actually, he was the Opening Day starter from 1979 through 1983.
2:34 — NESN’s score bar is bugging me because the number of outs isn’t right next to the inning count. As far as I’m concerned, the number of outs is very closely related to the inning count. Compare ESPN’s version, which is better.

You can also see the batter a lot better on ESPN, at the cost of the grass looking really, really bright.
2:49 — Eric Byrnes of the Diamondbacks makes a throw from right field with such force that he winds up doing a somersault. It’s very impressive.
2:54 — Apparently, the fountains at Kaufmann Stadium were “worked on” over the winter, so it’s no wonder they’re getting in the way of the camera shots.
2:59 — Southwest Airlines has new nonstop service from Denver to Tampa starting in May. Except they say “Tampa Bay” in the commercial, which would seem to indicate that they’re using a floatplane, given that Tampa Bay is a body of water. I think I complained about this last year, but this time I have a screenshot as evidence.

Home plate dish

The MLB Extra Innings pay-per-view package will now be exclusively on DirecTV, because DirecTV offered a lot of money and also agreed to exclusively carry what appears to be MLB’s version of NFL Network.

I do have DirecTV, but don’t subscribe to Extra Innings (I certainly enjoy watching it on Opening Day via the free preview, but I wouldn’t watch enough games during the season to make it worth the cost). I’m a little concerned about MLB limiting its exposure like this, particularly to the all-baseball network.

In the past, DirecTV’s version of Extra Innings has only included games airing on regional sports networks carried by DirecTV — so if, say, a Phillies-Dodgers game were being carried on Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia (not available on DirecTV) and on over-the-air Channel 13 in Los Angeles (not available on DirecTV except as a local channel in the L.A. area), it wouldn’t be on Extra Innings on DirecTV. Or a Blue Jays-Devil Rays game that’s on whatever weird Canadian network the Blue Jays are on, and only available via Morse code relay in the Tampa Bay area. So I’m wondering if the new exclusive Extra Innings package these types of games — can’t wait to see, or perhaps hear, the Morse code Devil Rays games.

Opening up

Hey, the season starts in less than four hours!

I did it in 2004, I did it in 2005, and courtesy of my current lack of employment, I’ll be doing it again tomorrow: sitting in front of a TV equipped with DirecTV’s free-for-the-first-week MLB Extra Innings package and watching the Opening Day games. As far as I can tell, I won’t have the opportunity to watch all 13 games that will be going on; Cardinals at Phillies and D-Backs at Rockies are missing from the DirecTV schedule, although last year I was surprised by one game unexpectedly being available. Also, unlike last year, there are night games scheduled — including a West Coast night game (Yankees at A’s at 7:00 Pacific time) — so I probably won’t make it through the entire day, but I’ll try to stick around at least through the conclusion of the Angels-Mariners game, and maybe even until the Marlins-Astros and Giants-Padres games wrap up, especially if all the jeers, boos, and taunts at Petco Park are making Barry Bonds weep openly.

And now, off to the supermarket to purchase the fixings for chili (for tonight) and tacos (for tomorrow night).


Way back when we were in Detroit, Levi made a joke on this very blog about the Garfield movie, which was the film being promoted by the “LodgeNet” card on top of the hotel room TV.

The HBO channels are free this weekend on DirecTV, and in looking through the listings, I discovered that “Garfield: The Movie” was showing on MoreMax, so out of curiosity, I set the TiVo.

As it turns out, this movie is worse than you can possibly imagine. I couldn’t get past 10 minutes, which means I didn’t even see Jennifer Love Hewitt. What is in the first 10 minutes is Breckin Meyer as Jon Arbuckle microwaving a round plastic container of “Hash in a Dash” for breakfast — a container and a food that are pretty much indistinguishable from Garfield’s liver-flavored cat food, so I’m sure you can imagine the hilarity that is supposed to have ensued. Then Garfield goes outside and has some wacky misadventures with Nermal, who is a Siamese cat in the movie but the “world’s cutest kitten,” a gray tabby, in the comic strip. Now, cats that are a mixture of Siamese and gray tabby tend to be as cute as can be, but surely the filmmakers didn’t set out to specifically remind everyone of my cat; obviously, the problem was that they couldn’t get their hands on a well-trained gray tabby, just a well-trained Siamese. This is because while Garfield is completely a CGI creation so that he can look vaguely like he does in the comic strip, all the other animals in the film only have CGI applied to their faces when they’re talking, so it’s completely creepy and strange.

Then we are led to believe that there is a dairy that delivers old-fashioned bottles of milk to homes that are within sight of the downtown Los Angeles skyline, and Garfield uses Nermal as a pawn as part of a Rube Goldbergian scheme to get some of that milk. After his drink, Garfield is none the worse for wear — he doesn’t start throwing up everywhere, unlike real cats.

Fortunately, “Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don’t Come Back!)” appeared on HBO Family a little later — it has a few problems of its own, but it managed to get the bad taste of “Garfield” out of my mouth.

Radio from space

On Tuesday, DirecTV replaced their Music Choice audio-only channels with a selection of channels from XM Radio. They’re carrying many of XM’s music channels, but only two talk channels — so no Bob Edwards, no BBC World Service, and no old-time radio (although I’m sure Chuck Schaden does a better job than XM).

However, one of the XM talk channels that is on DirecTV is MLB Home Plate — just in time for it to not be baseball season! When I tuned in briefly this morning to research this post, what I heard was a woman talking via phone about putting up sun shades for elementary school playgrounds because it’s 115 degrees during the day in Arizona. Guess they can only talk so much about steroids and/or Ned Colletti. Helpfully, DirecTV’s on-screen display said, “You are listening to Sports talk.” (The other talk channel available on DirecTV features some people apparently named “Opie & Anthony” and “Ron & Fez” — just thinking about it makes my ears hurt.)

On the other hand, listening to the XM ’60s channel is surprisingly similar to listening to my iPod, except that there’s probably no chance of a They Might Be Giants song popping up, and all the jingles are for XM — well, and there’s a DJ who actually does things like talking during the part of the jingle where a DJ is supposed to talk, which I have not managed to duplicate on my iPod. (Also, while I’m sure DirecTV’s numbering system for the XM channels makes sense to someone, it seems a little strange to have “The ’60s on 6” on Channel 803 instead of, say, 806 — and “Highway 16” on 814, and “Top 20 on 20” on 816.)

And I’m a genius, genius

Comments are working again, thanks to me!

Well, not that I did anything myself that would have caused them to start working again — but I didn’t do anything to break them beyond repair when I was trying to figure out what was going on, and that can often be more important. It’s still a mystery to me why they stopped working, and now it’s even more of a mystery why they started working again just now. My best guess is that the host of this site, Dreamhost, twice made some behind-the-scenes changes to their PHP configuration. But I know nothing about PHP.

Anyway, in actual baseball-related news, the DirecTV e-mail newsletter that I got this morning says they’ll be having another free preview of the Extra Innings package from July 14th to 18th, so perhaps I’ll check in on some teams I don’t get to see often, such as my beloved Devil Rays, or perhaps a good team like Levi’s beloved Cardinals.