I don’t have a wooden heart

Don’t ask me why I specifically remember this: on July 3, 2003, Levi and I were at Wrigley Field for a Cubs-Cardinals game when somehow the talk among Levi and his season ticket buddies turned to Viagra spokesman Rafael Palmeiro, and specifically, various baseball terms that had now turned into double entendres where he was concerned. I piped up with “He really got some good wood on that one,” which was enjoyed by all. Actually, I probably remember it because it’s one of those rare times I managed a bon mot at exactly the right moment, rather than 90 seconds later and after the conversation had gone in a completely different direction.

Anyway, slightly over two years later, on July 27, 2005, Bob Costas appeared on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and used basically the same line.

I’ve got my eye on you, Costas!

God on baseball

Because I like a good Biblical quote as much as–hell, let’s be honest: more than–the next nonbeliever, I enjoyed seeing The Pinstriped Blog making use of Job a couple of days ago. For those of you whose joy in Yankee misfortune rivals Satan’s joy in Job’s boils, you can instead think of this quote as it applies to yesterday’s Cubs bullpen disaster.

“Truly I cannot help myself; I have been deprived of resourcefulness.”–Job, 6:13.

The author also, with thanks to Robert Benchley, gleefully takes Hebrews 8:13 out of context:
“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.”*

What do players think?

To tide y’all over until I get around to writing about the Sox/Tigers game a couple of us attended Monday night, I’ll point you to the blog written by new Cubs outfielder Jody Gerut. He hasn’t updated it in a year or so, but I’m impressed with what’s there. He’s a capable writer, and he gives some real insight into what it’s like to be a ballplayer. His piece on why he thought Hideki Matsui shouldn’t have been eligible for the Rookie of the Year award (but because he was eligible, it was right that he won it) is more clearly articulated and sensible than many a sportswriter’s position on such matters (I’m looking at you, Mariotti!).

I hope he picks it up again now that’s he got a new team and a new town. Maybe he can tell us about becoming a Cub despite his childhood allegiance to the White Sox.

They come from Anaheim, Azusa, and Cucamonga, too, for the sewing circle and book review

If it’s Saturday, it must be minor league baseball. Sorry, Golden Baseball League, but Jason and I drove to Rancho Cucamonga for a California League game: the Quakes versus the Lancaster Jethawks.

The Quakes’ ballpark is called The Epicenter, and it’s the home of the happy aisles…

No, seriously, here’s the view from my seat…

The Epicenter is new enough to have a fancy-schmancy scoreboard…

And another scoreboard with the team name in lights…

There’s a mall nearby — featuring JCPenney, Robinsons-May, and an Apple store — that Jason swears was not even under construction yet the last time he was here for a game…

Before the game, these folks threw junk to the crowd…

No, seriously, they hopped off the truck onto the dugout roofs and started dancing. Then there were some cheerleader types who also danced…

Later, Jason asked if I noticed that the cheerleaders seemed unusually voluptuous, albeit not with those exact words. Anyway, Tremor the mascot bothered the umpires for a while…

Then he was joined by the other mascot, Aftershock, and if I recall correctly, they did some dancing…

And then some Cub Scouts danced — no, I mean they tried to keep the flag off the ground during a solo saxophone performance of the National Anthem…

Jason alertly pointed out that you don’t often see minor-league players with their names on the backs of their uniforms. Since the Quakes are affiliated with the Angels, it’s entirely possible that they’re doing this solely to embarrass the Dodgers (“Ha ha, even our Class A team uniforms have names on the back”).

A conference on the mound about the mound…

Which led to the landscapers performing emergency mound surgery…

The final line…

And after the game it was time for fireworks…

Yes, everyone loves fireworks…

For Levi, we’ve saved the best two pictures for last. Waukegan isn’t the only place where there’s a statue of Jack Benny (although unlike in Waukegan, here in Rancho Cucamonga, the statue is not located in the public way; instead, it’s just inside the main stadium entrance gate)…

And, in fact, Rancho Cucamonga has done Waukegan one better. This is the street the stadium is located on…

So now that I’ve been to baseball games in both Anaheim and Cucamonga, Jason, does Azusa Pacific University have a baseball team?

The grass is always greener on the other side, they say

The only real comment I have about watching the Devil Rays-Blue Jays game on TV tonight is that when Levi and I saw the Jays at SkyDome last year, the artificial turf was a brilliant shade of bright green; now that the building is known as Rogers Centre, they’ve switched to the modern-day artificial turf that more closely matches the color of real grass, yet somehow manages to look much worse on TV than real grass does.

Since that wasn’t quite substantial enough for a post, I’ll also provide a baseball-related excerpt from Bennett Cerf’s 1956 collection of jokes and anecdotes “The Life of the Party”…

Two rooters at a ball game were so engrossed in the contest that neither wanted to take time out to march back to the refreshment bar for hot dogs — and there wasn’t a vendor in sight. They finally bribed a kid nearby to go for them, giving him forty-five cents and saying, “Buy a dog for yourself at the same time.”

The kid came back with thirty cents change for them, explaining, “They only had my hot dog left.”

Actually, this one is slightly more typical of a Bennett Cerf collection of jokes and anecdotes…

Milton Berle discovered Tallulah Bankhead rooted to a radio in her dressing room one day, screaming her head off for the New York Giants. “Gosh,” exclaimed Miltie, “I didn’t realize you were so interested in the national pastime.” “Darling,” snapped Tallulah, “I am the national pastime.”

Incidentally, Tallulah wanted some new recipes for her chef to try. She called her favorite bookseller and ordered two copies of Fanny Farmer’s Boston Red Sox Cookbook!

Salt of the Game

Today I offer a toast to a player whom you’re unlikely ever to have given a second thought to: longtime bench player Mark Sweeney.

Sweeney, a lefty, was born in 1969 in Framingham, Massachusetts, and he attended the University of Maine before being drafted by the California Angels in the 9th round of the 1991 draft. He was traded to the Cardinals in 1995 and made his debut on August 4th of that year against the Cubs, going 1-4 with an RBI groundout in a loss. He remained a Cardinal until midway through 1997, playing outfield and first base, at which point he was traded to the Padres (for, among others, Fernando Valenzuela). Since then, he’s been with the Padres, Mets, and Rockies, with 2005 finding him back in San Diego.

His career batting line is .256/.349/.392, and he’s never even 200 at-bats in a season. For his 11-year career, he’s hit 27 home runs, or five more than Sosa hit in June of 1998. But all in all, a solid major league career, something to be proud of.

And he’s always been a favorite for some reason, a player I keep an eye on every season. Why? I’m not really sure. Part of it’s his batting eye, definitely. Ever since the first time I read Bill James back in 1990 (when he confirmed my suspicion that all those walks Jack Clark used to take were extremely helpful), I’ve liked players with a good eye. I’ve also always had a soft spot for bench players who do one or two things well and seem, by all appearances, to accept their role. And I enjoy rooting for the Lesser Sweeney, forever playing in the shadow of Mike Sweeney, who, though drafted a round after Mark and making his debut a month later, has been a much better hitter (.305/.377/.498) and a four-time All-Star and has made nearly 20 times what Mark Sweeney has made.

But that’s about all the reasons I have. Not a lot, really, but even so, every spring when the Cardinals are stocking their bench, I keep hoping they’ll pick up Mark Sweeney. And each year I hope his team will make the postseason, and he’ll get a chance at a Tito LandrumTimo Perez-type postseason moment, forever lodging himself in the memories of some team’s fans.

So the next time I raise a glass, it’ll be to Mark Sweeney.

Things are easy when you’re big in Japan

As I’ve been going through the archives of this blog putting the old comments into the actual posts (almost done, but not quite), I was reminded of a few things. Spider-Man and Dr. Octopus bringing their fight to baseballrelated.com, for example. Jason’s strange obsession with Calista Flockhart eating hot dogs. Oh, and back in March of 2004, I had expressed dismay that a certain page on baseball-reference.com was unavailable for sponsorship at that time.

I immediately checked its current status, and, well, baseballrelated.com is now sponsoring baseball-reference.com’s Tuffy Rhodes page.

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.

Two more reasons to always read King Kaufman

1) Because he watches dreck like the Home Run Derby so you don’t have to.

2) Because if you don’t read him–or watch dreck like the Home Run Derby–you miss things like this: “‘There’s nothing better than a home run contest,’ Joe Morgan told Berman, indicating that Morgan needs to get out more.”

If I started right this second naming things that are better than a home run contest, at the rate of, say, one per second, I would still be naming things when the sun burns out or global warming sets my hair on fire or the Left Behind novels are proven spectacularly wrong. And that’s all before I even start thinking about Karl Rove going to jail, and how much better every second of his sentence would be than a home run contest.

A far better question for our legions of fans: what isn’t better than a home run contest?