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Baseball Midseason / Rivera’s Long Goodbye

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English: Baseball with clock to represent a &q...

Baseball with clock represents a current sports or baseball event. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Baseball fans of my blog might have noticed that posts on that topic have been more sparse than usual this season. I’ve been kind of disinterested this year thanks to the dismal state of Team Yankee—if I’ve written anything on baseball, it’s been about that. A 3-game run against the Boston Red Sox begins Friday, starring the ragtag group I call Strangers on the Field–and here comes the cherry on top of this mess: no Robinson Cano in the series: he was hit by pitch at the All-Star Game (which is why, incidentally, some players don’t attend the ASG). Some might see the situation as pure happenstance, nobody’s fault—but there are a few moves management made that contributed to the situation, like getting rid of Raul Ibanez and Nick Swisher. I know, I know: a lot of fans were in favor of the moves, in particular of dumping Swish. Not me. I’m not big on lateral trades and team re-organization. I need look no further than my own backyard for evidence: the Oakland As are in an eternal state of flux, always doing yet another re-org.

The All-Star Game was played at CitiField this week, with the American League the winner. The big event this year was a farewell to Mariano Rivera. Manager Jim Leyland sent him to the mound in the 8th inning, in case they didn’t play a  9th, to ensure he’d be out there for a planned tribute. When The Sandman reached the mound he was surprised to be the only player out there. The rest of them were in front of the dugouts leading a standing ovation. Rivera later said it was a highlight of his 19-year career, second only to his World Series wins. (More on Rivera’s farewell tour later).

Red Carpet Parade

Red Carpet Parade

Playing host to Major League Baseball, New York pulled out all the stops, beginning with carpets on Times Square for the Red Carpet Parade in which players rode through the Canyon of Heroes.

NPR’s sportscaster (sorry, I never got his name) delivered a mid-season recap starting with the Pittsburgh Pirates, which he defined as the season’s Big Story.  Having paid less attention (i.e., none) to the Pirates than to the Yankees, I hadn’t noticed. It’s true that after 20 losing seasons, they seem to be turning things around. More  Pirates—5 of them–played in the All-Star game than at any time since 1972, and their pitching staff leads the majors in shutouts. Still, his report was somewhat skewed.

AllStar Game logo

For instance, he paid special attention to California, saying our teams aren’t up to snuff, particularly last year’s champions, the SF Giants. We’ve also had poor performances from the Anaheim…excuse me, Los Angeles Angels and the Brooklyn…excuse me, Los Angeles Dodgers. Well? Does anyone else notice a glaring omission? Not one mention of the Oakland A’s, who IMO are as Big a Story as the Pirates: any time a team as poor as the A’s lands on top of their division for most of the season, it’s a Big Story.

Finally, he ignored the Yankees, except to say he “usually talks too much about them” (to me there’s no such thing). And he also ignored the Mets, which is indefensible considering they hosted the ASG, which he was in New York to cover. Arggh! Commentators! 

Rivera’s Long Goodbye

English: Photo courtesy of Keith Allison on Fl...

Photo courtesy of Keith Allison on Flickr. Mariano Rivera  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most fans are no doubt aware of Mariano Rivera’s impending retirement and the way he’s saying his goodbyes. Rivera’s been thinking it over for some time, and with the Yankees’ director of communications, Jason Zillo, came up with a plan to visit the people who work for each team—administrative staff, chefs, janitors, refreshment vendors—doing something different before the games. He delivered a pizza to the offices of the Oakland A’s, sat around in a suite talking baseball in Minnesota with invited guests that included, among others, the team chef , and hung around outside some parks holding baseball rap sessions with local  kids. Reported The New York Times: “With all their money and success, the Yankees may be the most widely disliked team in baseball. A rival executive once branded them the Evil Empire, and few people came to their defense. But in stadium conference rooms and offices, Rivera thanks rival fans, charms them, regales them, awes them. And he turns many Yankees haters into admirers.”

The teams, even arch rivals, (I can hardly wait to see what the Red Sox offer!) are showing enormous respect for the best closer of all time by giving him farewell gifts and donating to the Mariano Rivera Foundation, which focuses on the needs of children in his home country of Panama. As I reported a few days ago, the Twins outdid them all with The Chair of Broken Dreams.

For the past decade my favorite players were Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera—who together were the Yankees’ closing battery, a team within a team. Posada was pushed out two years ago and I’ve missed him like crazy. Now goes Rivera. (Going soon: Derek Jeter.) I’m not sure how I’m going to withstand the loss.

What Mariano Rivera is doing with his final season is unprecedented—then again, his whole career has been unprecedented. No pitcher in history, as far as I know, ever built a remarkable record with one—count it, one!—kind of pitch. Rivera says God gave him his cutter. As a non-believer, all I can say is what Shakespeare said in Hamlet:

“There are more things on heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Mariano Rivera

(sung to the tune of “Maria”)

Mariano—

I just saw a pitcher named Mariano

And suddenly I see how wonderful a pitch

Can be.

Mariano—

I just saw a closer named

Mariano

And suddenly the game

will never ever be the same to me.

Mariano

Pitch it fast

And they just can’t hit it

Pitch it slow

And the catcher will catch it.

Mariano

I’ll never stop loving

Mariano………

{sing operatically}

Ninth inning–

Mariano!

Still Here

I’m Still Here….

As my idol Barbra Streisand sings, “Good times/bad times/sometimes a kick in the rear/but I’m here.” Just because I haven’t been recording my life for posterity doesn’t mean my life isnt still happening….or so I tell myself. I do wonder about that sometimes. In any case, since my last post – Labor Day! more than a month ago! – I finished ghosting Connecting With The IN Crowd, which was published with my name under the boss’s, so I guess I’m not a ghost anymore; I went to a Book Launch at the St. Francis Hotel with it and my novel  Halfway to the Stars; I started another ghost gig; made plans to go to Costa Rica next month; and, as always, watched the world go by.


Yankees Still Playing….

In the world of baseball/Yankees, Jeter made his 3000th hit, Rivera made his 600th save, Posada was publicly humiliated and just as publicly resurrected; pitchers had meltdowns and freeze-ups; and at this moment the Division Series are in progress. Moneyball hit the screen and I still haven’t seen it – I hope to today. Billy Beane now thinks he’s as hot as Brad Pitt, and on the basis of the movie he’s been making the rounds on the financial speaker circuit — which should tell you something about sabermetrics and his baseball philosophy. Meanwhile, the Oakland A’s can apparently rot in hell as far as he’s concerned. Time for a new manager? It was time for a new manager at least three years ago!

And The Kids Are In The Street!

We seem to be in the throes of revolution, and I don’t mean Arab Spring. Wall Street protests are spawning demonstrations all over the country. They’re finding their platforms as they gather, making it up as they go along. This is, I think, for real: first of all, Karl Marx said that capitalism would implode on itself when it was no longer working. Secondly, all my life I’ve heard that the way to foment revolution is to let things get so bad the country hits bottom. And finally, electing someone we thought would make a difference, then being bitterly betrayed by him, showed people it’s the system, not who’s in charge of it, that has to change. So here we are. I wonder if this movement is strong enough to go the distance, or if the government, media, and corporations will find a way to defeat it. So far, it’s still here.

Autumn


Fall. My favorite time of year, the most beautiful, refreshing season, full of wonderful smells and sights and memories. Fall signifies Beginnings – ironic, considering it’s the beginning of the end of the year, when the leaves and the grass die, some animals go into hibernation,  and people face, metaphorically if not actually, a slowing-down in life.

Hawk on friend’s balcony in NYC. Photo: Joan Max

Two major events insinuate themselves into this enchanting time of year to predominate the national consciousness: the World Series (or football for those of a different persuasion I suppose) and elections. As a child I conflated the two, somehow connecting the competition between Dodgers vs Yankees and Democrats vs. Republicans. I hate to admit it, but I think I equated the Yankees with the party of Grampa Ike, the paterfamilias of the 1950’s.

This time around I’m a lot older and hopefully a bit wiser. I’ve learned to accept the loss by my hometown Yankees and rejoice in the rise of my adopted city’s Giants. Can I learn to accept ex-witches and anti-masturbationists as the new lawmakers? Are these clowns any crazier than the others? The answers are No, and Yes. Can you imagine a Congress in which a law against masturbation is seriously debated? Actually, I’d love to turn on my tv to find Susie Bright and Carol Queen heading up a panel of experts who’d explain to the red-faced Senators why masturbation is beneficial to the masses. Can you picture it? This is one of those times I wish I were a visual artist.

Then there’s Halloween. I wish I had the energy and wherewithal to dress up, but I haven’t done it in decades. Once you have kids, the creativity of costumery goes into theirs, and  it shifts your direction so that you stop dressing up yourself, even after they’re grown. At least that’s what happened to me – and I had kids at 19. When they were 2 and 4, I dressed all three of us up as hippies, a shocking concept to our  suburban neighbors. A year later I actually was a hippie – so were the kids, by default – but that’s another story.

Today I’m going over to Piedmont Avenue to watch the little munchkins parade up and down the street in their costumes. I wondered why they’re doing it today rather than tomorrow, the real holiday; my son says it’s so the little ones can avoid the older kids with their pranks, whipped cream, and even, in our neck of the woods, guns. It’s more likely Christianity’s influence: can’t get dressed as witches and devils on a Sunday morning. In any case, I love seeing the little fairies and ghosts stumbling down the street, confused, clutching their plastic pumpkins full of candy. Candy. Obesity. Is nothing purely joyful anymore?

The Giants are, and so is San Francisco. In SF any excuse for a party will do, and on Thursday night, when I went into the City to watch the game in a bar near the ballpark, they were out  in full force, wearing Giants regalia, beards and “Fear the Beard” t-shirts, with orange orange everywhere. Too bad they had to take their orange and black uniforms to Texas for Halloween, but I’m sure the locals will carry on regardless. It was a blast watching the game with a roomful of strangers, bonding for a few hours in a common goal. It helped that the Giants kept slugging the ball, racking up nine runs to the Rangers’ zero. I cannot for the life of me figure out how these bozos beat the Yankees. (I’ll bet they – the Yanks – are watching and thinking the same. Shame on them!) I love it when the camera closes in on Nolan Ryan’s unhappy face, though I don’t like seeing Ron Washington go down. Better yet are the faces of the SF players themselves, who can hardly believe what they’re doing. I always said that once they got the weight of Barry Bonds off their backs they’d take off.


As for the elections, I cannot remember a more annoying, intrusive, pointless campaign season. I groan whenever I open my mailbox and imagine the number of trees felled to create the latest batch of junk. My phone’s going to break from my childish slamming down on robo calls. With all this relentless harassment, there’s little real information, and I still don’t understand what’s up with Oakland’s mayoral race. I’m not looking forward to Monday, when I’ll finally sit down and read the pile of election books I’ve gotten to figure out WTF I’m voting for. Or against. Our political system is rapidly devolving, and I’m afraid nothing will save it but a complete overhaul. Nonetheless, it still behooves us to…

Yankees v. Rangers Game 3

Mariano Rivera

Image by Keith Allison via Flickr

I don’t usually rant and rave publicly during baseball games, but then, I’ve never been as violently pissed off during a game as I am now. Texas Rangers scored 2 in the first inning, nobody’s scored since then on either team. Theoretically the Yankees might’ve caught up, even in the 9th inning–except that in the top of the 9th Manager Joe Girardi didn’t being in closing pitcher Mariano Rivera, who would’ve shut them down, and the Rangers scored another 4 runs….and are still swinging. Why didn’t he bring in Rivera? WTF knows? I never know why Girardi does anything he does. I just wish George Steinbrenner were still alive and came down to the field and fired Joe right now on the spot. Girardi doesn’t seem to give a shit if his team wins or loses.

The score is 7-0.

Yesterday I wrote a song about Girardi with the line, “Won’t You Please Go to Chicago, Joe Girardi.” The Cubs want him to come manage them, let him go. I’ll pay his fare.

The score is  8-0.

Is Joe enjoying watching this massacre? Where is Mariano?

At last, the top of the inning’s over.

Next Day: Jane Heller says much the same thing, only much more calmly and eloquently.

SF Mime: A Perfect Day

A few small things in this world never disappoint me: M&Ms; West Side Story, no matter how many times I see it; the Alvin Ailey dancers; the San Francisco Mime Troupe. Today I got to see the latter at Yerba Buena Gardens. I’ve been to see the Troupe in North Beach’s Washington Square Park, Mosswood in Oakland, Live Oak in Berkeley, and Delores Park, and I must say, Yerba Buena wins my golden seal of approval: spacious, no street noise, shady trees, and they even supplied chairs — after I’d schlepped mine across the bay on BART.

The Death of the Worker, this year’s show, is typical Mime fare, so if you like what they do, you’ll like it. Oppressed workers are cruelly laid off,  but  they form a collective when the owners take off, and socialism rules. The seven or eight songs in this year’s play stood out for me as high quality, and I wondered if the group sells soundtracks (check out their site).

I’m a big fan of these guys, and I go to see them every year. They do high quality, meaningful theater all over the Bay Area, and charge nothing. They pass the bucket at the end — I’d guess that if everyone feels as good as I do by that time, they give generously. The Troupe survives primarily on grants.There’s not a better cultural deal in town, so check out the schedule for the rest of the summer and get thee to a city park!

This might be my last post for awhile. I just started a writing gig that’s going to suck up most of my writing energy. ( I seem to have only so many words to spend per day, so when I’m working on a big project, I’m unable to write anything else other than email, if that.)

Dozens of current topics, like the so-called mosque at so-called Ground Zero, are bursting to be addressed, but I’ll just have to squelch my need to write about them. There’s plenty of posts to read on this blog and my two others, though, so do a little exploring. The only stuff that’s really obsolete are the posts about baseball from seasons past. Speaking of which — I hope I can at least steal some blogging time when the Yankees hit the World Series! Go Yanks!