RSS Feed

Tag Archives: Bronx

Baseball Returns

Posted on

 

YankeeStadium

Here we go again! It’s baseball season, and all I can do is grumble. You’d think I was a Mets fan, or that my team was any one of a number of basement dwellers, the way I feel. I’m a Yankee fan, I’m supposed to be on top of the world all the time—that’s what ol’ G. Steinbrenner demanded, win the World Series every year or you’re losers. Okay, that, I think, went a little too far in wrecking morale. Still, he may have been a tyrant, but what’s gone on since Georgie’s demise is a nightmare.

As the 2014 season opens, I am facing the loss of Mariano Rivera (gracefully retired), Andy Pettite (ditto), Curtis Granderson (sold to the Mets by some moron in the Yankee org) and Robinson Cano (also moronically sold). Even outside of the Yankees I face a heavy loss: Barry Zito, former Oakland A and SF Giant, one of my favorite players and human beings, seems to have vanished after the Giants failed to renew his contract (and who could blame them? But that’s another story.Zito2012

 

 

 

DerekJeter

Last but not least, as we raise the curtain on another year of baseball, the one Yankee remaining on the team that saw its last period of glory during the late ’90s and early ’00s, Derek Jeter, announced this year as his Swan Song—so don’t bother shouting “Next year!” if things hit bottom. And, indeed, the guys lost their first game yesterday against one of my most hated teams, the F.O.B. (Friends of Bush) Houston Astros.

My allegiance to the New York Yankees is, like some people’s allegiance to a particular religion, by birth and by choice. I’m a Yankee fan by birth: I was born in the Bronx. But I chose to be a Yankee fan because in this one area of life, unlike politics and a few others I’ll decline to mention here, with the Bronx Bombers I get to be a winner more often than not. Unlike the hapless Met fan, I get to experience joy more frequently than pain. At least, that was the deal for decades. Now my Yankee fandom is going the way the aging experience goes: it’s all about loss, as beloved players and managers leave. No choice have I but to butch it out and adjust, the way I do over the loss of teeth and energy.

One thing I don’t have to lose, though, is hope: the Yankees might be great this year. As the little kid in Angels in the Outfield says of the improbable all throughout the movie, “Hey, it could happen!”

rivera-patch

 

So Play Ball!

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

 

Baseball Season Winds Down…or Up For Some

Baseball Season Winds Down…or Up For Those Who Only Watch Post-Season Games

TGIO! Thank God It’s October!BaseballFan

I never thought I’d utter such heresy, but for the New York Yankees the 2013 season was the worst in recent memory, and stats will no doubt prove it. Talk about injuries! The dugout in the Bronx was like the Emergency Room at Bellevue.  Every time a supposedly healed player returned, another one went down—and sometimes, as in the case of Captain Jeter and his stubborn ankle, the same guy came and went the same day. These guys probably had more emotional pain than physical. I sure did.

When the Mets swept the Yanks in a four-game series, they had the grace and humility to recognize they hadn’t actually swept the Yankees, but, as I came to call them, a bunch of Strangers on the Field. In fact, the thrown-together, ragtag, rotating players did pretty well considering their experience and team cohesion, or lack of both. They fought bravely to the last, nearly making it to the playoffs as a wild card—but didn’t.

And now the Playoffs. As noted up above, some people don’t even watch baseball until things heat up for the post-season. Players pull out all the stops come October, and the games are their most exciting. Each year, it seems, more and more teams compete to get into the World Series, as MLB comes up with more new ideas to make it happen, crowding the field with more wild cards than a poker game among six-year-olds.

Big PapiNow we’re down to just four teams, two from each league, both in the midst of the semi-final battle. In the National League it’s the LA Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals, while in the American League it’s the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers. I care more about the American League, given who’s playing, but I don’t care so much who wins as I do  who should not win. Which is obvious: as a Yankee fan I’m fervently hoping the Sox go down soon with as much humiliation as possible (with the exception of Big Papi–one of my favorite players, he’s allowed to do well as long as he doesn’t win it for them). This year in particular, after what the Yankees and their fans have been through, it will be devastating if the Sox take the WS title. Besides, the only bright spot in the whole of a bankrupt, dying Detroit is their baseball team. So go Tigers! Whip their butts! Whip ’em good!

As for the National League, I’m not fond of the Dodgers and their violent fans, one or more (the perpetrator still hasn’t been caught) of whom severely beat up a Giants fan on opening day two years ago, compromising the workings of his brain. Before an LA fan jumps in here to deliver the news that a Dodger fan was recently murdered on a San Francisco street—I know this. So? It doesn’t lessen the vileness of the first incident or make it right. Let’s hope these crazy morons call it even, and the guy didn’t die entirely for nothing.

Chair of Broken Dreams

The other 2013 story, in the Bronx if not in all of MLB—no, it isn’t A-Rod and his steroids and lawsuit–it’s Mariano Rivera’s season-long farewell. It was such a heartwarming event, or series of events, it almost made us forget what else was going on. Rivera is probably the only player in all of baseball who’s respected and even loved universally. The gifts, the accolades, the notes, the speeches, the donations to Rivera’s charity—every time the Yanks showed up in another city, we got another wonderful story, like the Chair of Broken Dreams or Mariano as Pizza Man delivering to stadium staff. What a trip! What a guy! This is one player who is irreplaceable, and will be greatly missed. So will Andy Pettite, who only announced his retirement a few days before the season closed. Maybe he didn’t want to steal Mariano’s thunder…but Pettite’s also well regarded throughout baseball. Remember the Core Four?  Jeter, Posada, Pettite and Rivera—they played together for something like 18 years. And now there is one. I sure hope his ankle heals by next season!

As my son, a diehard Mets fan says every October, Wait until next year! This is the first time I’ve been forced to say it. Come on, all you broken-hearted Yankee fans. Take a deep breath. Repeat after me:

WAIT UNTIL NEXT YEAR!

 

 

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

Big Blue Eyes

Posted on

Garry Moore, quintessential 50s TV emcee. Photo: Wikipedia

Garry Moore, quintessential 50s TV emcee. Photo: Wikipedia

Some time around 1950, my mother sent away for free tickets to some corny daytime television show. I don’t recall what it was, only that it wasn’t a soap opera or game show. The emcee, to whom I was rude, blunt, and contemptuous, might have been Garry Moore. The sponsor I vividly remember: Chef Boy-ar-Dee. At

Chef Boyardeethe end of the program each mother-child pair marched across the stage, shook the emcee’s hand, and received a can of ravioli. This ceremony was televised, was part of the programming.

When it was our turn, the emcee smiled at me and cooed, “Where’d you get those big blue eyes?” Four years old, I thought he was an idiot. “I was born with them!” I said, silently conveying the tag, “Stupid!” He was taken aback, but luckily we had to keep moving so the next kid could get a can of ravioli.

My little playmate Barry was home in his Bronx apartment watching TV and sucking his thumb. When I came on camera he shrieked, “That’s my Marcy!” Or so his mother told me. I guess he didn’t notice my bitchiness—or maybe he was used to it. Or maybe it made perfect sense to Barry that I called a grownup on his bullshit: of course I was born with my blue eyes—where else would I have gotten them? For years I’d tell this story for laughs, proud of my youthful honesty. Now, having reached an age where I know who I am and how I got here, I see that my behavior came from a personality in development, one that I cultivated and honed and carried with me into the future. It was not a personality likely to generate success in most areas of life.

The evidence was on my quarterly report card: in first grade, when they only gave out “S” for Satisfactory or “U” for Un, straight S’s ran down and across for every subject but one: “Works well with Others.” Unsatisfactory! Marcy does not work well with others! These days a parent who saw a report card like that would rush their kid to the nearest shrink. My parents ignored it.

Cartoon: Dane Anthony

Cartoon: Dane Anthony

 

This wasn’t really unusual; in fact, it would’ve been considered odd if they had consulted a shrink. That’s the way my generation’s parents were: they pushed us out the door in the morning and expected us back by supper. We were to do our homework without their help, do well in school, wash our face and comb our hair. They were nothing like today’s “helicopter” parents.

The other day I heard someone roughly my age on a podcast, talking about the parenting style of the generation who raised us, who raised me. It might’ve been Marc Maron, who I listen to a lot, but he’s younger. Whoever it was, he joked that our parents won World War II, saving us from living in a Hitleresque world

Photo: "Life Under Nazism" at from Center for Holocaust & Gender Studies/http://www.chgs.umn.edu/histories/documentary/nazilife/index.html

Photo: “Life Under Nazism” from Center for Holocaust& Gender Studies/http://www.chgs.umn.edu/histories/documentary/nazilife/index.html

under Nazism; now what more could we possibly want from them? The guy he was talking to said he didn’t think our generation could’ve done it, that we could not have won the war. He had a point.

Still. I’m not the only one who was raised by a system of benign neglect (or worse). I’m not the only one struggling not to be bitter, who genuinely wants to stop blaming my parents for my problems. I’m not the only baby boomer who would like to be able to forgive them.

Dead or alive, they deserve no less.

The Tsuris of Gelt

The Tsuris of Gelt

Until I was 12, c. 1958, my family lived first in the Jewish American heartland, the Bronx, and then in an immigrant enclave of Queens. During those years I never once heard any denigration of Jewish people. If that seems impossible, I concede I might just have forgotten it—but I honestly don’t remember a single slur, anti-Semitic incident, or hurtful comment.

When we moved to Long Island, all that changed. Suddenly people were asking me if I rolled around the aisles in synagogue. Jewish in spirit only, we didn’t go to synagogue, so I had no idea if people rolled around in them. Nor did I know why I was being asked. On the first day of school, my sister and I were called kikes, and when I asked her what it meant she, staring straight ahead, hissed furiously, “Shut up!”

As for money—gelt—I didn’t know that, as a Jew, I was supposed to love it more than life itself. I noticed that most adults wanted more of it, but this was true of them all, Jewish or not. I didn’t know I was famously “cheap,” especially since I was always buying my friends candy and cigarettes (or, more often, shoplifting and distributing them). I didn’t recognize an anti-Semitic remark when I heard one; in fact, the stuff my new friends said seemed really stupid, so I pretended to be dumber than I was in order to fit in.

On the way home from the bus stop one day, two girls and I were speculating as to what we were each probably having for dinner; I said I expected Campbell’s soup. I didn’t realize that in their households, which were poorer than mine, soup was frequently served for the full meal; in our family it was just a first course. I told the girls that my mother added extra water because there were five in my family, causing them to start laughing and exchange knowing glances. I stared at them blankly. What were they laughing at? Years later I got it: they thought my parents were cheapskate Jews and we lived on diluted soup. At the time I understood none of these cryptic clues about miserly Jews.

I don’t know why or how it happened, but when I finally put the pieces together and saw what they thought I was–a money-hungry Jew–I had a visceral reaction. It was as if I literally reached down inside myself and flicked a switch: then and there I became someone who would never, ever, make money  a priority. I would never, ever do anything, purely for the sake of making money. I would never base any of my choices on their financial ramifications. I tell you, I kept these vows more faithfully than I’ve stuck to anything else in my life. I was a Jew for sure—but I’d show them a Jew could be generous, or not even care about money. I was a Jew, but never, by g-d, a Jew who loved money!

I trained myself to despise the filthy stuff. Any time I accidentally got my hands on a substantial amount of cash, I spent it as quickly as possible. Other people sell stuff they no longer want, but I give old cars, furniture, and electronic gadgets away when I upgrade. Bills get crunched up and stuffed carelessly in my purse;  coins float around in my pockets, bags, and the cushions of my furniture. I throw pennies away. You’ll never catch me saving money, and the only valuable thing I own is my computer. I take great pride in being unattached to things, so unattached that I break, stain, mar and maim everything I own. I’m proud, on a political level, of not being “materialistic.”

I set out to live my life by these principles. I knew nothing about the way money worked. Stocks and investments were a complete mystery. Even interest on savings was inscrutable. At 24 I left my (Jewish) husband, in part because he was making a lot of money selling life insurance, and using it to buy new suits and fancy cars. Vietnam was raging, rock&roll was in its ascendancy, and I was trotting about my big bright kitchen, supervising pots on the automatic pudding stirrer and staying up late to oversee my miraculous self-cleaning oven. When I began smoking pot and saw I’d turned into the ultimate Suburban Housewife, I swore to get out. I took enough child support from my ex- to get by, but not a penny of alimony. By then I fancied myself a Marxist and a feminist, and I was going to be a self-supporting independent woman.

We all know how that turned out.

I don’t know about other people, but to me it seems natural, at 66, to look back and analyze the narrative of my life. I admit that, being obsessive, I might’ve gone overboard; I’ve been doing this for at least ten years already–but what the hell, I write the same way, constantly revising. The more I revise, the more clarity I gain. Thinking and writing about  how being Jewish affected my relationship to money, I feel pretty foolish for being such an idiot–but I also see the damage done by anti-semitism. No, I wasn’t so unfortunate as to live in Nazi Germany, nor have I been prevented from doing anything significant because of my religion/ethnicity. But fighting against nasty stereotypes helped push me into poverty and placed serious limitations on my life. I’m not making excuses for myself, believe me; I’m just examining all sides of the issue.

Now I live in a dirt poor neighborhood, and I’m constantly being hit up on the street. People assume I’ve got money–but more than half my clothes were inherited from a wealthy  friend who left me her Fifth Avenue wardrobe when she died of lung cancer, and my teeth look good because I sacrificed car ownership to get them fixed. I guess I look like a stereotypical American Jew : loaded. Well, get a load of this:  the other day I walked over to the Alameda County Food Bank to pick up the fixin’s for dinner. Of course, I still cook like a suburban party hostess, so the casserole I threw together was excellent—except I kept wishing I had a can of Campbell’s mushroom soup to toss into it. Like they say, you don’t know what you got till it’s gone.

I’m The Drama Queen of Baseball

Mid-August. I’ve come to hate this time of year, when football comes roaring back to town, pushes baseball off the front page, and hogs half the talk time on Mike and Mike in the Morning. I’m not dissing football (though I could); it’s just that baseball’s the only sport I’m into, it lasts a mere seven months of the year as it is, and I can’t get enough chatter about the human drama that swirls around the game. After seven years of following baseball, I’ve come to realize that’s the aspect of it I love most—the human drama. My friend Steve Bjerklie, who knows more about the sport than anyone else I know, has assured me this is fine, that there are many valid ways to enjoy baseball.

Speaking of Drama

It seems to me that baseball generates more human drama than any other team sport—although a blogger I bumped into last week insists, with great rancor, that baseball isn’t a team sport:

“If you want to say that baseball is even close to as much of a team game as basketball, football, or hockey, then… you’re not much of a basketball, football, or hockey fan, and you’re also living on another planet. There is no team sport in existence in which teamwork is less important than baseball… The vast majority of baseball is an isolated duel between pitcher and batter. If you don’t realize this, then I guess you’re not much of a baseball fan either.”

The person who wrote the above is a Libertarian who thinks Barry Bonds ought to be declared a national hero as the ultimate symbol of capitalistic freedom. I made the mistake of commenting on his blog, pointing out that, although it may well be Bonds’ right to use his body in whatever way he sees fit, steroid use does give him an advantage over players who don’t use.

Speaking of Barry Bonds


Those of us who’d hoped that once Bonds broke the home run record we’d stop seeing the Daily Bonds Report have already had those hopes dashed: the saga continues. A column by Scott Ostler in the SF Chron describes the reporter’s experience of waiting, day in and day out, for No. 756. The rest of the Giants, he says, were pretty good-natured as they climbed over news people to get to their lockers, something that could have been avoided had Barry met with them for even five minutes, or given them a time when he’d be willing to talk, or even had a PR person tell them he didn’t intend to talk on any given day. Instead, Bonds simply went about his business until it was time to go out and play. Reporters, of course, had to wait, lest they miss the one out of ten times that Bonds deigned to talk to them. Ostler says Bonds liked making them wait, ignoring them, and blowing them off. I really hate arrogance.

The Bronx Bombers Rise Again

get_image-3.jpg I’ve got better things to talk about—like the New Yawk Yankees, da Bronx Bombers, the team to end all teams, the comeback kids. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Never count them out. I haven’t seen that many games this season—grrr!--since ESPN and other stations haven’t seen fit to televise them much, so I only know what I read and hear. And what I read and hear is fantastic. The Yanks are back to playing like the team of the dearly departed Phil Rizzuto, whose team, in 13 years, won ten pennants and eight world series. After playing their hearts out since the All Star break, they’re now five games behind the Red Sox in the Eastern Division—I know, in years past that might’ve been cause for hand-wringing, but considering they were something like 12 behind in July, it’s cause for celebration. (I was beside myself when the Bosox got Eric Gagné, once a fearsome closer–but he’s turned out to be a disaster for them.) Plus, the Yanks are leading in the Wild Card Race—not that they should have to resort to the wild card road to the playoffs, but hey, we’ll take it any way we get it.




A Night of Yankee Drama

Last Tuesday night the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees staged some excellent baseball theater. First Alex Rodriguez was hit by a pitch from Josh Towers in the third inning; apparently there was some leftover hostility from the previous game, when A-Rod “distracted” the Blue Jays with a yell. Both teams spilled out onto the field, and Toronto’s Matt Stairs had to be restrained by New York’s Andy Phillips when he tried to go after A-Rod at first base. After the field cleared and the umpires huddled to discuss the situation, Towers and Rodriguez exchanged words and walked toward each other, Rodriguez calling, DeNiro style, “You talking to me. You talking to me.” He was restrained by first base coach Tony Pena as benches and bullpens cleared. Still, no punches were thrown and no one was ejected. Then, in the sixth inning, New York designated hitter Shelley Duncan slid hard, crashing into shortstop John McDonald‘s left leg, knocking his glove off and sending the ball rolling away. When Toronto came up in the seventh, Roger Clemens hit Alex Rios with his first pitch, and the umpire ejected him. Joe Torre came out of the dugout and got himself ejected, as the Yankee infielders surrounded the entire umpiring crew. And that was that. The two “fight scenes” were, of course, repeated endlessly on sports news all that night and the next day. As juvenile and pointless as these brawls may be, I always get a giggle out of them. I love the phrase cleared the benches. Maybe I’m just not a very good sport—or maybe, as I’ve admitted, I’m just a sucker for drama, the more intense the better.

Eric Byrnes: The New Face of the Diamondbacks

When Billy Beane, who has a penchant for suddenly erasing players from the Oakland A’s, whisked Eric Byrnes out of town one gloomy night, I suffered, as did many other A’s fans who loved to watch Byrnesie in the outfield. Some players fear the wall—Bobby Abreu, I’m sorry to say, is one—while others are sanely cautious. And then there’s Eric Byrnes, who goes crashing into the wall without any regard for bodily harm, his blond locks flying, his limbs flailing, as he jumps or dives after the ball. Byrnsie, who never wanted to leave the Bay Area, who’d hoped to play for the Giants someday, is leading the Diamondbacks, who’re in second place in the Western Div. They love him so much in AZ, they just gave him a three-year, $30M contract. And Byrnes loves them too—he says they remind him a little bit of the A’s the way they’re always “trash talking and having a lot of fun. We go into every game thinking we should win. It’s like a false confidence has become a reality.” I’m relieved—I was worried about Byrnsie’s well-being when he left the A’s, the same way I’m worried about Barry Zito; A’s players seem to get really comfortable with one another, and when a player moves to another team, he doesn’t always find the same easy camaraderie. But Eric Byrnes, apparently, couldn’t be happier. You go, Byrnsie!


Suffer the Little Children

Now for a piece of baseball trivia: Chipper Jones of the Atlanta Braves has a son named–are you ready?Shea! That’s right, Jones named his boy after the Mets stadium, where he’s had more success with home runs than anywhere else. Hey, it’s better than Roger Clemens’ little strikeout team—The Rocket has four boys, whose names all begin with “K.” Talk about drama!