Seven Octobers

Seven Octobers now we’ve been hosting Baseball Open House at the Rocketship, and this year’s has to rank as our most successful: * We had good friends in attendance throughout, ranging from two or three people all the way to a high of eleven (plus me and Stacey) for Kenny Rogers’s glorious (pine-tar-aided?) dismantling of the Yankees in the LDS. * Half a dozen or so friends made their first Baseball Open House appearance. * We hosted people for every night game in the entire playoffs except three, two of which were graciously hosted by TITANIA, and the other, the World Series opener, which we watched with the whole Stahl family at my brother’s house in Indianapolis following my running of the Indy marathon. * We cooked up a mess of food, relying more than in any previous October on the seasonal produce that we get each week from our membership in a local community-supported farm; in that way, we were closer to the autumn outdoors than ever before. * Stacey’s baseball jack-o-lanterns ran their World Series game-winning streak to 10. Damon went 4-0 in 2004, Ozzie Guillen went 4-0 in 2005, and the Yadi-o-lantern went 2-0 to close out the 2006 series. * Despite the brevity of many of the series–the teams only played six games over the minimum this October–we saw some very exciting baseball. As my mom put it on the phone minutes after Adam Wainwright struck out Carlos Beltran with the bases loaded to put St. Louis in the World Series, “That one nearly killed me!” Even the fans without a rooting interest in the game knew what she meant. * We had champagne in the fridge, and we got to use it. We drank some after the aforementioned strikeout of Beltran, and we put back more of it after Wainwright snapped off the same curveball against Brandon Inge . . . which leads to the final reason this Baseball Open House was such a success . . . . * THE CARDINALS WON THE WORLD SERIES! FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE I WAS EIGHT YEARS

OLD AND NOT YET REALLY A FAN! Thanks, Cardinals. Thanks, everyone who came out. Thanks, Jim, for another season of BRPA. I’ll try to be a more reliable poster in 2007, and maybe you can make it for Baseball Open House next October. The only proper way to end this is to turn the mike over to the Rajah:

“People ask me what I do in the winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”–Rogers Hornsby

Pitchers and catchers report in about 100 days.

Rain delay food and pumpkins

Levi’s normally a vegetarian, except when the Cardinals are in the World Series, and that’s because he has a superstition that involves eating Lit’l Smokies. And therefore…

Note that Levi is looking around furtively for any fellow vegetarians who might be ready to pounce upon him for this breach of vegetarianism.

Also note that this picture was taken Wednesday night, and Levi is in his kitchen instead of being in front of the TV. Suddenly introducing meat can cause problems for digestive systems that aren’t used to it — and something else that can cause problems for digestive systems is four episodes of “The War at Home” interspersed with Joe Buck telling America that it’s still raining in St. Louis. So Levi is wisely attempting to minimize the amount of Kaopectate he’ll need later.

On another note, after Johnny Damon in 2004 and Ozzie Guillen in 2005, this year’s baseball-related jack-o’-lantern carved by Stacey is…

…Yadier Molina.

Also, in today’s L.A. Times, Bill Plaschke writes a column that boils down to “the baseball season should start 10 days earlier so I’m not quite as cold while I’m being paid to attend the World Series.” You know, it’s warmer during the day, too.

Report from Santa Barbara, California

On one hand, my car radio could not pick up the NLCS game while in Santa Barbara this evening, although I could pick up the Raiders-Broncos football game on several stations, including the Raiders’ flagship station.

On the other hand, the ice cream stand on Stearns Wharf was serving up Blue Bunny brand ice cream. We like Blue Bunny.

On an unrelated note, for those of you who read this blog but not my personal blog, I start tomorrow as a full-time employee of the Yahoo! corporation. Which means I get paid time off. Which will make it easier to do another baseball road trip in the future. I’m thinking 2008 may be a more realistic proposition than 2007, but I don’t know what Levi is thinking.

Block that baseball metaphor!

From the June 5 Sports Illustrated: “Life these days for the Tigers is one big bowl of Frito pie: They’ve got a little bit

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of everything, and the end result is better than you think. They are stick-to-the-ribs good.”

At last, a reason to go to Sauget, Illinois

This season, the Gateway Grizzlies of the Frontier League will be featuring “Baseball’s Best Burger” at their concession stands.

It’s a bacon cheeseburger, served on a Krispy Kreme doughnut instead of a bun. Yes, I would eat one — remember, I’m the one who had a Schmitter for dinner in Philadelphia, breakfast at Eat ‘n’ Park in Harrisburg, and then a Primanti Brothers sandwich for lunch in Pittsburgh.

Operation Duplicate Chili: a qualified success

Hey, look, I made chili! And there are plenty of things to put on and in it, including Farmer John brand bacon, in honor of the poor Dodgers (their longtime sponsor, one of the few “longtime” things the Dodgers still have)…

The chili would probably taste a little better if Derek Jeter weren’t on TV, but that’s what Fox gives us…

I call this only a “qualified success” because I’ve heard no reports from Levi on whether he’s eating chili as well, which was the whole point of Operation Duplicate Chili. Levi’s been jet-setting all about, going from apple orchards to public libraries in the Pacific Northwest. But since I have plenty of the chili left over — and most of the makings for a second batch — it’s a safe bet that we’ll be eating the

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same chili some night in October. Actually, not exactly the same, since I bet Levi won’t be putting bacon on top of his.

The best part of the game was the tape of Joe Torre interviewing Gene Autry in the Angels’ locker room in 1986; that tape’s probably been shown before, but I don’t remember having seen it.

The views of Bill James do not necessarily reflect…

This is probably going to be the last Bill James excerpt for a while, because it’s playoff time. I have balsamic vinegar and cocoa powder in my kitchen right now, two things I have never had in my kitchen before, because I am preparing for Operation Duplicate Chili, in which Levi and I both eat chili made from the same recipe while watching the baseball playoffs, even though we’re several thousand miles apart. This can only help the Cardinals. Why, I might even take my stuffed animals into the living room and set them up facing the TV!

The following is from the 1986 Baseball Abstract, and the headline is “Is Steve Sax Available?”

The Houston Astros, I have decided, must be an acquired taste. You know what an acquired taste is, something like French cooking, modern sculpture, jazz, fat women, ballet, Scotch, Russian films…it’s hard to define. An acquired taste is a fondness for something the advantages of which are not immediately apparent. An acquired taste in my part of the country is painted saw blades. Do they have those where you are? You go to somebody’s house and you discover that above their fireplace they’ve got a bunch of old, rusty saw blades with farm scenes painted on them, look like a hybrid of Currier and Ives and Norman Rockwell. I don’t really understand what the advantages are of having them around, but I figure that they must be an acquired taste. Or like Charlie Chaplin. I mean, W.C. Fields is funny. The Marx Brothers are funny. Charlie Chaplin is an acquired taste.

We all acquire a certain number of inexplicable attachments; mine include Bob Newhart, Jethro Tull albums, sabermetrics, and Pringles potato chips. I am assured by other people in my life that all of these can be hard to get into if you have no history with them. If taken literally, everything in life is an acquired taste with the exception of a few basic staples like salt, sugar, sex, and slapstick comedy, which we all share an enjoyment of; however, the term is not usually applied to things which make an obvious display of their attractions — in the case of a baseball team, by doing things like winning lots of games, playing interesting baseball, or developing exciting young players. One would never describe the New York Mets, for example, as an acquired taste. Acquired tastes have very subtle advantages. The expression “this must be an acquired taste” is quite useful, inasmuch as it can be adapted to hundreds of situations, meaning something a little different each time.

If you hear the expression “Must be an acquired taste,” on leaving a French restaurant or any other restaurant in which the food costs more than $20 a pound and tastes as if the oregano was left out, what it means is “I suppose you’d rather have stopped at Kentucky Fried Chicken, wouldn’t you?”

On a date, if you hear the expression “Must be an acquired taste,” what it means is “This is the last time I’m going out with this bozo.”

In an art gallery, if you hear the expression “I guess it’s an acquired taste,” what it probably means is “What the hell are we doing here?”

If you’re discussing a fondness for some particular poet, painter, playwright, or breed of dog with someone you are close to, and he or she says “I guess it’s just an acquired taste,” what that means is “I don’t want to talk about it right now.”

“It’s an acquired taste” means either that I’m in the know and you’re not, or that this is a particular type of sophistication to which the speaker does not aspire. I do not aspire to be an Astros fan. The Astros are to baseball what jazz is to music. Think about it:

1) Jazz is improvisational. Jazz musicians, uniquely among musicians I hope, sometimes string the elements of their music together as they go, with no particular plan or outline. Do you think the Astros know where they’re going? Do you think there’s a score for this?

2) Jazz ambles along without crescendos or refrains, going neither andante or allegro and without reaching either fortissimo or pianissimo. A good piece of jazz only uses about half an octave. The ultimate jazz tune is a saxophone player undulating slowly between D flat and middle C.

Similarly, the Houston Astros amble along at 80, 82 wins a year; the last four years they’ve been 77-85, 85-77, 80-82, and 83-79. Since 1969 the Oakland A’s have finished a total of 216 games over .500 in their good seasons, and 169 games under .500 in their bad seasons. The Houston Astros have finished 70 games over .500 in their good seasons, and 67 under in their bad seasons. The ultimate Houston Astros season is one in which they lose on opening day, then win, lose, win, lose, win, etc. until they reach 81-81.

3) Jazz is usually played indoors.

4) Jazz uses comparatively few instruments. Jazz ensembles are rarely enlivened with sousaphones, steel guitars, oboes, bassoons, or any other instrument which might tend to break up the monotony. Similarly, the Houston Astros use comparatively few weapons, relying heavily on the stolen base and the starting pitcher, but with no power hitters, no batting champions, no Ozzie Smiths or Jack Clarks. Both jazz and the Houston Astros, in short, are boring.

5) All jazz music sounds pretty much alike to the uninitiated, that 99.97% of us who haven’t acquired the taste; it’s repetitious, depressing, ugly, and inclined to bestow a headache upon the recipient. Much the same can be said of the Houston Astros, well known for wearing baseball’s ugliest home and road uniforms. Similarly, one Houston Astros season, one Astros game, and one Astros player looks pretty much like the next one.

No, I’m kidding of course; the Astros have been a little boring in recent years, but they’ll get over it, and I’m sure jazz is as beautiful, varied, and enjoyable as real music if you happen to have a taste for it. It’s just that…well, I’m a night person. During the Abstract crunch (a fifth season, unique to Winchester, Kansas) I start to work around 4:00 P.M. and I work until daybreak. About ten years ago we went through a period where the only thing on the radio between one and four A.M. was country music. I’ve never understood this…I mean, if you don’t like C&W in the middle of the afternoon, why do radio executives think you’re suddenly going to be struck with a yen to hear some Merle Haggard at 12:59 A.M.? Now it’s jazz; I listen to a mixture of classical music, rock music, and talk shows as I work, and at seven o’clock every evening, they all decide that I’d like to hear Count Basie. Public radio stations, usually a reliable port in a storm, have for some unfathomable reason decided that jazz is socially and morally uplifting, and that they have a responsibility to impose it on us. But if I want to listen to Mozart in the afternoon, why does anybody think I’d want to listen to Miles Davis all night?

Ah well, I’ve got my Jethro Tull and a stereo, and baseball season’s coming…what I should do is get a VCR and record a couple hundred baseball games, and play them back while I’m working. I might even acquire a taste for the Astros.

This time around, Bill James lost me in calling Bob Newhart an acquired taste. This was written in late 1985, when he was starring in a very popular sitcom on the CBS Monday night lineup. The modern-day equivalent: would anyone call Ray Romano an acquired taste? No, everybody loves him.

Also, “…undulating slowly between D flat and middle C…” — I think Bill James may have confused jazz with new age here. I haven’t gotten around to reading the 1987 Abstract yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s mention of a myriad of fans of both baseball and jazz having written him angry letters in response to this piece. “Jazz is usually played indoors” is very, very funny, however.

Green M&M’s in pie form

While I’ve been editing the old posts here to include the comments from the old system, I have of course been reading a lot about Hostess Baseballs. So when I took a break and went to Ralphs to do my weekly grocery shopping, I took a longing look at the section that includes Hostess, Little Debbie, and other snack pastries. As has been mentioned already here, 2005 is a year without Baseballs; however, I saw a product there that I had never seen before, and I just had to buy a couple…

That’s Lemon Creme flavor on top and Vanilla Pudding flavor on the bottom. There were several other flavors available, including cherry, apple, and Chocolate Pudding. They’re made by Horizon Snack Foods of Salt Lake City, so I’m sure they’re just as sweet as Donny and Marie.

One problem: I don’t think the caricature of Johnny Damon on the label quite does him justice. (Also, that doesn’t quite look like a home run stroke, but maybe test marketing showed that a product called Bloop Single Pie didn’t sell as well.)