Stephen King on Fox

Early in tonight’s Red Sox-Indians game at Fenway Park, the Fox TV cameras spotted lifelong Sox fan Stephen King reading in the stands. Now, as I’ve admitted before, I read at the ballpark–but only when I’m alone, and only between innings. King, on the other hand, was reading during the game.

He fully redeemed himself later, though. When sideline reporter Chris Myers sat next to him and asked him about being caught reading, King responded:

With baseball, you can read eighteen pages just in the inning breaks. And now that Fox is doing the games, you can read twenty-seven pages because the commercial breaks are longer!

Now if only he’d thought to describe, in bloodcurdling detail, what he thought should happen to Scooter the talking baseball.

Postscript: Too bad the Red Sox weren’t playing the Yankees–Stephen King could have probably written a whole novel about their zombie problem.

{Animated gif of zombie Shelley Duncan by rocketlass.}

Hooray! The animated baseball has been indicted!

Wait, what? Oh, sorry. Wrong

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Things that make Jim scream

At 9:33 P.M. Eastern time, Scooter explains that a 12-6 curveball is a curveball that changed its name after a cease-and-desist letter from the 7-Eleven Corporation. Steve Lyons jokes that Scooter would never have been allowed to play for Bob Brenly looking the way he does, round around his midsection and with his cap on backwards. Then Thom Brennaman says that won’t be an issue, because “just announced before the LCS, Scooter signed a lifetime contract with Fox.”

A couple of notes from the ALCS (so far)

  • Hope you enjoy watching A.J. Pierzynski running to first base while Josh Paul rolls the ball back toward the pitcher’s mound, because Fox is going to be showing it over and over and over and over and over and over and over, and that’s just during Game 3. (On the bright side, it’s not often that the Los Angeles Times has a box on its front page containing excerpts from the MLB official rules, as it does today.)
  • Lou Piniella has been fairly entertaining, and has had some good insights, drawing not only from his many years in baseball, but the fact that he was managing an American League team this season, a team that had to play against the Angels and White Sox on occasion. So it’s too bad he’s having to share a booth with Tim McCarver.
  • Talking about Mark Buehrle and the urgency with which he pitches, Joe Buck joked with Lou about the fact that some of the organizations he’s managed for would probably hate Buehrle because you don’t sell as many concessions when the games only last an hour and 40 minutes. I was hoping Lou would say, “Or sell as much furniture,” but no such luck. Maybe just in case, he’s making nice with new Devil Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg (whose attempt to get people to show up at Tropicana Field next year should not go unmentioned here).
  • Scooter explained what a change-up is 45 minutes into the broadcast (note that I did not say “45 minutes into the game”). At 8:45 P.M. Eastern, all the kids who are young enough to need Scooter to explain a change-up to them are in bed already, not that anyone in the Eastern time zone is watching any of the championship series games. At 7:45 P.M. Central — well, all the kids in the Central time zone are the children of knowledgable baseball fans of the type who go to Cardinals games and who used to go to Cubs games until the frat boys started crowding them out, so they don’t need Scooter to tell them what a change-up is. At 6:45 P.M. Mountain — well, no one lives in the Mountain time zone, especially during the daylight saving time months when Arizona is effectively on Pacific time. At 5:45 P.M. Pacific, there are no kids watching baseball because their parents are still stuck in traffic on the way home from work and the kids are watching soft-core porn via Cinemax On Demand because they’ve figured out how to defeat the “parental lock” on their cable box. At 4:45 P.M. Alaska time, kids are too busy drilling for oil or clubbing baby seals or whatever it is they do all day in Alaska. At 2:45 P.M. Hawaii time, kids are still in school, or cutting class to go surf, not cutting class to watch baseball. Therefore, Scooter is completely superfluous and should be destroyed.

Faux News

This just in: Fox has invited the Yankees and Red Sox to play a seven-game series in the consolation bracket. The games will be broadcast in prime time Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the NLCS and the ALCS play-by-play will be delivered via telegraph

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and local re-enactors. Or, if you prefer, you’ll be able to get a radio broadcast by Scooter.

Get your game on, go play

My thoughts about the All-Star Game, and Fox’s coverage thereof…

  • Perhaps you should not, during your pregame show that is tightly timed and controlled to the second, go live on the air and ask Ernie Harwell a question about Al Kaline, because he will of course give a long-winded answer, thus causing Jeanne Zelasko to have to cut him off and look like a jerk doing it. (I almost wrote “big jerk,” but I don’t want some pro-pregnancy group complaining about my choice of words to describe a woman who is, uh, with child.)
  • British national anthem? I know “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” when I hear it! The amount of patriotic songs played before and during baseball games is growing out of control.
  • Hey, I thought Scooter was dead! Too bad every kid who cares already knows what a change-up is because they’re faithfully rendered in video games these days, probably with better camera angles than Fox has available.
  • Hey, it’s the descendant of the glowing blue hockey puck, this time showing the path of the ball to the plate.
  • For a second, I thought they said Jim Bouton was the general manager of the Nationals, but it’s actually someone named Jim Bowden. Too bad; Jim Bouton might reach Ed Hart-ian levels of general manager-ness.
  • I should have realized the game was going to be sponsored by Chevrolet and gotten an apple Home Run Pie at the supermarket on Sunday, but no, all I had was lemon. It was slightly better than the vanilla pie I ate Sunday, but not much. I think I’m going to stick to Hostess fruit pies for my future fruit pie needs; they also do a good job of distracting comic-book villains, as I understand it.
  • Joe Buck: You can tell a lot about Dontrelle Willis by the way he wears his hat.
    Me (singing): The way he wears his hat, the way he sings off-key…
    Tim McCarver (starts babbling about how if Gershwin were alive today, he might have written that song about Dontrelle Willis)

    Oh, my God, I’m starting to think like Tim McCarver — well, sort of, since I had the sense to just start singing the damn song, instead of talking incoherently about it.

  • Those red-white-and-blue bases that were used at Tiger Stadium for the 1971 All-Star Game look pretty cool and retro, like ABA basketballs. All we get in the 21st century is “Spider-Man” advertising.
  • Doesn’t Fox realize “Bad News Bears” is not a 20th Century Fox movie? I guess they’ll take anyone’s money. And I guess no actual Fox stars wanted to go to Detroit, just noted crazy person Billy Bob Thornton.
  • No Danys Baez in the game? Poor Devil Rays. Guess I’ll have to take advantage of DirecTV’s post-All-Star-Game preview of MLB Extra Innings to watch, say, the Devil Rays-Blue Jays game on Friday. The TiVo is already set.
  • Is the National League ever going to win the All-Star Game again? I know, one might have expressed similar sentiments about the American League in, say, 1981.

Your National League Champions

Oh, too excited to organize my post today. And still too busy at work. So it’s a list again.

1) I kept telling everyone all day that the Cardinals would beat Clemens. After all, he’d lost 190 games in the majors–26 of them in the post-season! No Cardinal pitcher has lost anywhere near that many (Now, I do think Jeff Fassero may have lost 190 games for the Cardinals in 2003 alone, but we shipped him off to Colorado.). We surely had the edge going in.

2) The last time the Cardinals were in the World Series, I was in the 7th grade. My history teacher, John Reker, a Cubs fan, was not very gracious when the Cardinals imploded against the Royals.

3) I will understand if some unreliable folks among you are rooting for the Bostons. I realize that no one in America outside of Cardinals fans and Yankees fans is rooting for St. Louis. But we’ve already won the title that has always mattered most to me: the National League Pennant. I’m with John McGraw on this one–who really cares what that upstart, pipsqueak beer league does? Sure, you want to win the World Series, but that’s gravy.

4) Brian Gunn of Redbird Nation (who isn’t just getting links here–the Wall Street Journal seems to mention his column a couple times a week these days) quoted Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated as describing the NLCS as “a glorified game of HORSE between Pujols and Beltran.” I guess Pujols, with his 4 homers and .500 batting average, ended up on top.

5) That catch that Jimmy Edmonds made is the biggest catch I’ve ever seen him make. Maybe not his absolute best, in a Platonic, form-of-perfect-outfield-catch kind of way, but definitely the most important great catch he’s made. I think it’s far more impressive than the Mays catch that’s always replayed: he covered a lot of ground, back to the ball, laid out full-length, and caught the ball over his shoulder while landing. It made the difference between 3-0 and 1-0, and might have singlehandedly saved the nation from a week of bad political metaphors on Fox sports.

6) And last, but not least: did someone put Scooter out of our misery? We haven’t seen him since his two appearances in game 6. I’m not complaining, mind you.

Y’all are welcome at the Rocketship on Saturday night for chili.

Original comments…

Dan: On point No. 2… You mean overwhelmed by the Twins (’87), right? Joaquin, specificaly, imploded in ’85, although I’ve heard way too many Cardinals fans blame it on the umps.

Levi: Oh, you’re right. I blame the 1985 implosion largely on Whitey Herzog. After that call, rather than calling a meeting and rallying the troops–as LaRussa would have done–he kept up the whining and basically conceded the Series.

Luke, hanger-on: I’ll have you know, Levi, that I was the Cardinals never lost a game that I watched while wearing a red shirt. I’ll also note that I wore red socks for the last two games of the ALCS.

I wouldn’t suggest either team owes me a share of their championship bonuses.

But I woudln’t say they don’t, either.

Hurrah for chili! Hurrah for the best postseason in history! Or at least this millennium!

Cushie: I’m a bit conflicted. Would love to be watching this series at the Rocketship with good chili, but I have to go with the Sox due to the whole New England thing going on. However, as I’m in Old England I am instead figuring out how nocturnal I’m about to come. If the games go six hours I’m totally screwed. You guys get worried when games go until 1am, my games start at 1am.

Levi: I spent the fall of 1996 in London, and I listened to any games that I could pick up on Armed Forces Radio, but that did mean being up at nearly 2 am for the first pitch. That made for one of the worse nights in my life as a fan, when the Cardinals gave up 10 runs in the first inning of game 7 to the Braves. Even worse, at work the next day, very few people even understood why I was having a bad day.

Levi: LaRussa’s got wa.

Jim: This year, it looks like the World Series is being carried live in the U.K. on Channel Five, and then repeating the next day during normal waking hours on a cable channel called, of course, North American Sports Network.

Cushie: Yes, Channel Five has it, and that’s regular network tv. It’s just damn late. It’s hosted by some serious meat-heads (one British, one American). The funny part is that even though this is commerical TV, they don’t show ads during all the long breaks. Instead, they kick it back to the meat heads in the studio for more dumb banter. But I shouldn’t complain- at least they’re showing it. And it’s good preparation for staying up all night next week for the election results.

The first games

I’m still busy busy busy at work, but I couldn’t let the first games pass with no comment, so here’s a quick post with no links, mainly designed to get other people’s impressions of yesterday’s games.

1) I know one game does not a series make, but I very much enjoyed the dazed look that Odalis Perez wore when he left the mound in yesterday’s Cards/Dodgers game. The last time a team hit five home runs in a game in a division series–wait–no team had ever done that before. It was a good start.

2) I was a bit bothered by the curtain calls at Busch Stadium yesterday, though. Curtain calls seem to me to be a bit disrespectful. I know players feel like the crowd is compelling them to come out, and they have to do it to shut up the crowd, but like a band after playing a perfunctory encore, they should just ignore the noise. Eventually it’ll go away. No matter how hard I stomped my feet at his show, Nick Lowe wasn’t going to come back out and play “I’ve Been Everywhere.”

3) The Red Sox did as expected. I expect they’ll do more of the same in games 2 and 3. And Johnny Damon’s hair seems to be even longer than before: it’s down past his shoulders.

4) I finally saw Scooter the Talking Baseball last night. Acting as if it were the most ordinary thing in the world, Joe Buck said, “And now, to tell us some more about the change-up, here’s Scooter.” And there he was, unsettlingly flesh-colored, with a weird stitching mouth and backwards ball cap. Until that moment, I was still trying to make myself believe that he was a figment of Jim’s imagination. But no: Fox really does think kids are this stupid.

5) After the umpires took back the Sierra home run last night, deciding that it was foul after all, I decided that the only thing better than a Yankee making an out is a Yankee thinking he’s hit a home run, then making an out. I decided that every time a Yankee hits a foul ball–even just a grounder–the umpires should wave their fingers for a home run, make the hitter run the bases, then confer and send him back to the plate. Now that would be fun.

Original comments…

Levi: Oh, and how could I have forgotten the way the radar gun reading bursts into flames any time a pitch gets above about 92 mph? What a wealth of new excitement that brought to my enjoyment of the game! Thank you, Fox! Thank you!

maura: that near-hr was ruben sierra’s, actually. he promptly struck out.

Levi: Thanks, Mo. I fixed it.

Jason: When is Fox going to bring out the blue dot to follow where the ball goes? And when will we see Calista Flockhart eating a hot dog?!?!?

stacey: i was DEEPLY disappointed that sierra was not required to run the bases in reverse.

All-Star Game thoughts

1. That was interesting having the starters enter from the stands, but instead of having them lined up in the aisle, they should all have been sitting in various places around the lower deck, and would have acted surprised when they heard their names called…you know, having to put down their hot dogs, maybe borrowing a glove from the kid next to them, whatever.

2. I am amazed to find out that there are teams in the National League other than the Cubs and the Barry Bondses. I have also heard rumors that there are teams in the American League other than the Yankees and Red Sox, but saw no solid evidence during the game broadcast to back up the gossip.

3. I know Suzuki is a very common last name in Japan, but why does Ichiro Suzuki get to rise to the level of Cher, or Pelé, and get only his first name listed in Fox’s on-screen graphics?

4. Seriously, Joe Buck is almost completely insane, and I’m certain that it’s all Tim McCarver’s fault. They need to be separated immediately before there’s an ugly incident in the press box, and by that I mean Joe Buck should stay where he is and Tim McCarver should be dropped on an iceberg somewhere in the Arctic.

5. Hey, Fox spent some money to upgrade Scooter’s animation since I last saw him! Great; that’s money that could have been spent to teach illiterate kids to read, or to increase the salary of a certain “Malcolm in the Middle” writer.

Original comments…

Toby: I couldn’t agree more about dropping McCarver!! And that’s a great idea about introducing the starters (kind of like a “Price is Right” intro).

Does anyone else remember when Vida Blue played and he had just “Vida” on the back of his uniform?

Levi: I’ve always liked Ichiro!’s first-name-uniform thing in part because of Vida Blue, who was before my time as a fan, but whom I’ve seen in photos.

And I agree wholeheartedly with Jim and Toby about McCarver. I used to like Joe Buck when he was just a kid doing Cardinals broadcasts. He was modest and straightforward and obviously had grown up listening to his dad and Moon Man Shannon. But a few years with McCarver and he’s completely around the bend.

And that was yesterday’s bad news: in the midst of all the good news about how baseball is doing well and ratings are up, Fox has said they may be interested in extending their contract. Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!

Steve: 1) How about Piazza getting his revenge by tipping pitches? “Hey Manny, here comes the fastball.”

2) I watched the game with the sound off mostly but it was quite awkward to see them give Clemens whatever award he got in the middle of the game.

3) Fantasia and Ruben both suck!

4) I know its the all star game and the AL was leading and all but talking to the manager in the dugout while the game is happening is just plain wrong.

5) I guess Taco Bell just wrote off that million dollars they gave away since that fat guy who throws as hard as Matt Morris was still able to hit a target the size of rhode island. Where’s the drama.

6) Danny Kolb!

Dan: I was hoping at the last minute there’d be a mixup forcing Muhammad Ali to sing the national anthem and giving the first pitch to Fantasia.

And I’ll say this much.. good thing Piazza wore a catchers’ mask, because I sure bet he was smiling underneath it as the AL rocked Clemens.

Jon Solomon: Comcast has taken to talking to Lary Bowa in the dugout in the middle of certain (non-exhibition) Phillies games. It just isn’t right.

Secho: A couple of weeks ago I was watching a White Sox telecast and they had an in-game interview with Ozzie Guillen, and Hawk prefaced it with something like “I hate that we have to do this in the middle of the game but I guess we do” and then handed it off to DJ who threw some softball questions at Ozzie for 2 or 3 minutes. (BTW, I hope Hawk clubs Mariotti upside the head the next time they cross paths) The whole thing just seems so forced as to counteract any possible insight you can get from the dugout mid-game.

How about Ali throwing up the bunny ears behind A-Rod during the team photo? Good stuff.

Dan: Ali really was the perfect guy to have there, considering his long, righ ties with the game of baseball as well as the city of Houston. Nolan Ryan — you know the guy they had as the Taco Bell pitching coach? — now HE’S a guy that most certainly had no business being there at all

Jason: I didn’t watch the game. Did I miss any shots of Calista Flockhart eating a hot dog?

Levi: I would think that in these worried days of FCC crackdowns, a broadcaster might think twice about interviewing Larry F’in Bowa.

Buck and McCarver interviewed Steve Kline during Saturday’s game, and it was actually kind of fun. On a couple of close plays, Kline said, “Oh, he was out, obviously out,” and Joe would say, “No he wasn’t, Steve.”

And in reference to a statement McCarver said about muscle weighing more than fat, Kline said, “Well, then that bacon I had for breakfast this morning must have had some muscle on it.” And on why he doesn’t stretch much: “I learned that you can’t tear fat. So you don’t have to stretch.”

Scooter pie

The L.A. Times’ sports media writer, Larry Stewart, ended his column today by pointing out that 10 years ago, everyone hated the continuously on-screen score display when Fox introduced it, and now everyone loves it, so perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to judge Fox’s latest innovation, Scooter the Talking Baseball.

Well, there are a couple of faulty premises here. For one thing, I watched Fox’s first preseason NFL game in the summer of 1994 and remember that I thought it was a pretty good idea to have the time remaining on-screen throughout (and was indifferent, at worst, to having the score up there as well).

More importantly, I think even people who hated the on-screen score display could tell that there was a sensible rationale behind it. The entire rationale behind Scooter seems to be “kids will love to watch baseball on TV if there’s an animated talking baseball telling them what a fastball is, even if the game starts at 8:30 Eastern and lasts past midnight,” which I don’t think is sensible.

Also, when the on-screen score display was first introduced, it didn’t make any noise, unlike Scooter.

Original comments…

Levi: I still refuse to believe that Scooter exists.