Baseball HD chili

“HD” stands for “Highly Delicious” (or, shop perhaps, “Holycow, Dodgers!”).

In retrospect, Levi and I saw this coming at Wrigley Field on September 2nd, when we saw the Astros beat the Cubs 9-7 in 11 innings — a game which obviously impressed neither of us enough to write about it on this blog. (Also, that game lasted long enough that we had to get to bed, one of us to go to work, and the other of us to catch a flight back to L.A.)

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.

Chili today, hot tamale

First of all, after Kevin Millar made a good defensive play in the bottom of the first inning of the Sox-Angels game, ESPN color commentator Rick Sutcliffe asked the director for a close-up of Kevin Millar’s face to make sure it wasn’t Doug Mientkewicz in a Kevin Millar uniform. Someone’s been reading!

Second, and more important, I commiserated with the Rocketship by making chili con carne to eat during the game, and this is the recipe I used.

2 pounds lean ground beef (I guess any ground meat would be okay)
2 medium onions
2 bell peppers (I used one green and one red)
2 garlic cloves
1 28-ounce can ready-cut (“Recipe Ready”) tomatoes (because cutting up the onions, peppers, and garlic is plenty without having to cut up tomatoes, too)
1 15-ounce can kidney beans
1 15-ounce can pinto beans
2 cups water
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Dash of salt
Shredded cheese

Chop the onions and bell peppers into small pieces. Chop the garlic into very, very small pieces.

Brown the meat and drain.

In a big pot, stir together everything but the beans and cheese. Cook, covered, over low-to-medium heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Drain the beans and stir them into the chili. Continue cooking, still covered, for another 30 minutes.

Serve in bowls and put shredded cheese on top. As listed above, the recipe makes about 8 servings of chili, which is good in my case because although it’s good right after it’s made, it’s even better as a leftover. It should be fairly easy to halve, although you’ll probably have to make a choice between kidney beans and pinto beans instead of having both. (Why am I not having people over to my place? Fewer baseball fans among my southern California friends, worse start times in terms of people being able to drop by for the game after work, and the fact that my bathroom is a mess because the apartment complex maintenance staff is working on the ceiling.)

Here’s what it looks like before the cheese is put on top (and, no, you don’t use the whole bag on one bowl unless you like cheese more than you like chili)…

Goes great with $7.00 beer, and Sarah Michelle Gellar…

And it tastes even better when Johnny Damon is on TV…

Incidentally, the advantage to having a local team in the playoffs while you’re trying to TiVo their game, airing on ESPN, is that the coverage is duplicated on a local channel. In this case, the game bounced from ESPN2 to ESPN once the Twins-Yankees game finally ended, but L.A.’s UPN 13 carried it straight through, with a minimum of scrolling messages informing all 10 or 11 potential viewers of the UPN show “Kevin Hill” that tonight’s episode would be airing on Saturday.

Original comments…

Levi: One thing you might try in the future, Jim: Fritos. I think the only reason they’re on the earth is to be put in chili just before you put in the cheese.

We didn’t see much baseball last night, just a bit in a hotel bar while waiting for Stacey’s aunt and uncle to show up from the airport. So we saw the Yankees leeding 5-3 in the 8th, Rivera coming in. “Oh, we don’t need to watch–we can go sit in the lobby. We saw Rivera blow a lead in 2001, so we won’t see that again for another few years.”

Checking in a few minutes later, finding it 5-5, we decided to leave a note at the desk telling Auntie where to find us.

But then, at dinner, it all went bad. Stacey and I were occasionally our heads in the bar–where the bartendress was a Minneapolis transplant and where there was also one Yankee fan who, when I said to the bartendress, “Everybody hates the Yankees!”, said, “Not everybody!”. Stacey saw that the Twins had gone ahead in the 12th. Next thing I knew, I saw from across the restaurant a crowd of bouncing Yankees. And they didn’t look like they were bouncing the bounce of despair.

Oh, well. There’s always game 3.

Jim: “Bartendress”?

By the way, Rogue Dead Guy Ale was a $7.00 beer in Pittsburgh, and it’s still a $7.00 beer in L.A….but in this case, it’s $7.00 for a 6-pack at BevMo in Van Nuys. Actually, $6.99 plus “CRV” (deposit).

Dan: SMG, still hot? I lost track a few years back.

Jim: She’s no Alyson Hannigan, that’s for sure (although Alyson is admittedly more “intensely cute” than “hot”).

Levi: I’m so with Jim on the Alyson Hannigan thing, although I do tend to think SMG is hotter than, say, most blondes. But that’s mainly because she kills vampires, who are not hot.

It’s chili time!

Those of you who haven’t been living here recently–or ever–should know that for the last three baseball seasons, Stacey and I have done our best to turn October at The Rocketship into a baseball open house. I find that the best way to end the baseball season is surrounded by friends and big simmering pots of vegetarian chili, some cornbread, some cider, and some marveling at the color of Tim McCarver’s hair dye.

Though most of the people around these parts have trouble working up any interest in American League baseball, we’re kicking things off tonight with the Yankees and the Twins, and who can’t work up enthusiasm for seeing Johan Santana strike out Yanks? We’ll have even more trouble if any Astros/Braves games sneak into prime time: I know it’s a fundamental rule of life that one roots against the Braves, but I find rooting for Houston to be almost as difficult. I’ve been likening it to an election where you have a corrupt, unpalatable Democrat against a corrupt, unpalatable Republican. In that case, I’ll always go for the guy with the (D) by his name. In this case, that’s Houston.

So you’re all welcome to come out. All of you I know, that is. If you’re a stranger reading this blog from, say, jail, you’re not necessarily invited. We’ll have to discuss it. Here’s a schedule for the rest of the week.

First, however, we have to root the Cardinals past the Dodgers today at noon. I blame Fox for the fact that I have to listen to this game at work rather than watch it at home. I suppose if I were in LA I could watch it over brunch.

I’m still really busy at work–hence the staying here today instead of going home–but some quick picks:

Twins over Yanks
Red Sox over Angels
Red Sox over Twins

Cards over LA
Braves over Astros
Cads over Braves

Cards over Red Sox

You knew that was where I was headed, didn’t you? And what are your picks?

Original comments…

Dan: My gut:

Yanks over Twins // Sox over Angels
Sox over Yankees

Cards over LA // Braves over Astros
Braves over Cards

Braves over Sox.

Trust me, I hate that scenario. Just the gut feeling about the Braves this year.

Jim: Darn it, I was distracted by the lack of Hostess Baseballs at the supermarket yesterday, and forgot that I was going to get chili ingredients in order to have my own Rocketship-esque playoff viewing here in L.A. (Only “Rocketship-esque” because I prefer chili of the con carne variety.) But I wasn’t planning to watch a game tonight, so I can wait until tomorrow night, for the Red Sox-Angels game at 7:00 PDT. I think a few Bostonians are going to be very tired Thursday morning!

Levi: Time for baseball!

Go, Cardinals!

Luke: > What are your picks?

I like rice and pasta for the division series, then chili and Moose Tracks for the LCS’s. I’m leaning toward pizza and bratwurst for the World Series.

Oh, baseball? ABY: Anyone but Yankees. I’ll root for the Cards in the N.L., and then the Red Sox and Twins in the A.L., but will have to defer to the Sox when they meet, as I always will when a grass team plays a non-grass one.

Jason: What I’d like to see:

Twins over Yankees
Angels over Red Sox
Twins over Angels

Dodgers over Cardinals
Astros over Braves
Dodgers over Astros

Twins over Dodgers

What I’ll probably see:

Yankees over Twins
Red Sox over Angels
Yankees over Red Sox

Cardinals over Dodgers
Braves over Astros
Braves over Cardinals

Yankees over Braves in six in the 3rd least-viewed World Series in history (narrowly better than Yankees-Mets in 2000 and the other 20 times Yankees-Braves have faced off)

stacey: i’d just like to note that, although the chili is vegetarian, one of the optional condiments is bacon. lots of bacon.

maura: i have a weird feeling about an astros-sox world series. (you know fox would eat that up with a spoon, too — hell, they’d probably send their “news”casters down for live, snicker-filled remotes from halliburton park.)

Levi: Yeah, Luke: should I be eating pasta today instead of leftover chili? Am I setting myself up for a 9:47 marathon?

Oh, and shame on you, Dan. Did William T. Sherman look at Atlanta and think, “I wish I could burn this shithole to the ground, but I think it won’t happen?”

The Astros, though worthy of hate, are the William T. Shermans of the Division Series.

Jim: Bacon on chili?!

Luke, hanger-on: You’re probably OK today, but by Thursday or Friday you should consider a moratorium on all, let’s say, gastronomically complicated food. Just as you don’t see large plumes of smelly exhaust shat out by Indy 500 race cars, so too do you want to avoid combustion issues of your own come Sunday.

Jason: Have you ever tried adding a little chocolate to your chili? It’s not bad.

Matt B.: How Dare you compare the Atlanta Braves to “a corrupt, unpalatable Republican” – The Atlanta baseball franchise has been steadfast in its support of stem cell research!

Levi: We usuall put in about a quarter-cup of cocoa powder, which does give the chili a little hint of some dark, rich taste. If Stacey will allow, I’ll post the Rocketship Baseball Chili recipe in coming weeks so you can all play along at home!

Dan: I’m not saying I WANT the Braves to win — trust me, if it was up to me, I’d want the Mets to play the NY Jets in the World Series, that way I’ll be happy regardless who wins. It was just a lousy gut feeling. Especially lousy considering how shitty they played yesterday.

Jason: Re: Chili or pasta?

Why not have both? Pour the leftover chili on to your spaghetti or linguine or rotini or what have you for a real taste treat!