Posts Tagged ‘baseball’

Good News, from Back to Front Page

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

By Bob Gaydos

 The newest Yankee pitcher, Gerritt Cole, pitches batting practice at Yankee Stadium. Spring training has been delayed.

The newest Yankee pitcher, Gerritt Cole, pitches batting practice at Yankee Stadium. Spring training has been delayed.

  The boys of summer are going to finally start playing baseball … in July. Better late than never. Basketball and hockey players will be busy, too. For them, it’s unfinished business.

    This falls in the category of good news, for the players and fans, not to mention team owners and all the ancillary employees. Sports may be considered a diversion by some, a trifle to others. But to millions, sports are a welcome, even healthful, escape. As citizens of an agitated world, we can all use something to, if only temporarily, take our minds off, you know, things. Something to at least start the day without anxiety and angst.

     I began following the late Earl Warren’s formula for starting the day in my late teens: Begin reading in the back of the paper with the sports pages. Warren said: “I always turn to the sports pages first, which records people’s accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man’s failures.“

     For me, it was the New York Daily News. Look at the other stuff later; it’ll still be there. I figured if it was good enough for a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, it was good enough me. Who won? Who pitched? How many, how fast, how about that?

     Later, when I was a sports editor for a couple of years, I tried to make my pages entertaining enough for other followers of Warren‘s philosophy. Here’s your morning jolt, sports fans! I don’t know if I succeeded, but it was certainly fun for me.

      So when they stopped sports along with everything else four months ago, it was bad news. There was nowhere to go for diversion. Netflix has served a purpose, but it’s tough to start the real day with fantasy heroes. Who hit the buzzer beater? Did the Knicks actually win? Who’s playing shortstop for the Yankees this year?

       I know it won’t be the same for a while. Maybe ever. So it’ll be different. But it’s likely that there will be pro sports later this month and, more likely, pro football in the fall. Go Giants! That’s good news.

      If you’re wondering why I’m focusing on good news here, it’s because of a comment Emma Gonzalez-Laders, a faithful reader, made on my most recent column: “You’re not normally the bringer of good news. I like this twist.”

      The “twist” she was referring to was taking a week’s worth of events that didn’t go the way Donald Trump would have liked — Supreme Court rulings, botched firings, campaign rallies in empty stadiums, stuff like that — and reporting it as good news. It’s what one has had to do to find “good news” in an age of all-Trump, all-chaos, all the time. It can get exhausting.

       But, nothing is forever. Witness the results of a recent poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The poll, taken shortly after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, reported that about half of American adults believe police violence against the public is a “very” or “extremely” serious problem. Last September, that same poll showed only about one-third of American adults felt that way.

       That is a significant change in a short period of time on a controversial social issue. The poll also revealed that 61 percent of Americans say police in most communities are more likely to use deadly force against a black person than a white person. That compares with 49 percent in 2015. And only about a third of Americans say the race of a person does not make a difference in the police use of deadly force. In 2015, half of Americans felt that way. Significantly, 65 percent said that police officers who cause injury or death in the course of their job are treated too leniently by the justice system, a 24-point increase over 2015.

        The poll results, along with the nationwide demonstrations protesting the way police took Floyd into custody — an officer knelt on his neck for eight minutes while three officers stood by and watched — suggest that Americans are finally ready to  rethink the role of police in their communities. Indeed, there has been a flurry of legislative action at city, state and federal levels to redefine the police mission, reduce police budgets, rethink training and recruiting, strip forces of military hardware, even eliminate police forces since Floyd’s much-viewed death.

         The fact that Floyd’s death was recorded and played millions of times on social media and that, subsequently, other examples of police violence against peaceful protesters were similarly recorded and played on social media for the world to see certainly had to play a role in this dramatic sea change in public opinion, as compared to the slow change in societal attitudes on other issues such as same sex marriage. It was finally hard to deny what people were seeing with their own eyes, over and over again. 

        The polltakers say the sudden, dramatic change suggests that this may be a permanent shifting in attitude, rather than the transitory flurry of outrage that has followed school shootings, for example.

        This is, to me, good news. Long-overdue, perhaps, but still good news. Like the long-overdue beginning of the baseball season.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Bob Gaydos is writer-in-residence at zestoforange.com.

 

Why Carlos Beltran Got Fired

Tuesday, January 21st, 2020

 

  By Bob Gaydos 

Carlos Beltran ... the gods were unhappy

Carlos Beltran
… the gods were unhappy

  The Greeks had it right. The gods are toying with us, letting us think we’re in control of what’s happening when, in reality (or what we perceive to be reality) the powers that be are teaching us a lesson. I don’t know what that lesson might be, but I’m pretty sure the gods are fed up with us.

      Also, that Donald Trump got Carlos Beltran fired.

      Consider. On a recent mind-boggling day that saw: a) the entire Russian government — with the notable exception of President Vladimir Putin — resign; b) a Ukrainian wise guy say on American TV that the president, vice president, secretary of state, attorney general, former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, the president’s personal lawyer, a Republican wannabe, and some shady Ukrainians were all part of a plot to intimidate (or worse) the American ambassador to Ukraine because she insisted on doing her job by the book; and c) the House of Representatives presented articles of impeachment against that president, Trump, for illegally withholding congressionally approved military aid funds for Ukraine in an effort to get that country’s government to say it was investigating the business dealings of the son of one of Trump’s potential opponents in the 2020 election … on that very same day, the New York Mets fired Carlos Beltran, their new manager, before pitchers and catchers even reported for spring training.

        What does Trump have to do with firing Beltran? Connect the dots.

        Trump was impeached, in effect, for attempting to cheat in the coming election, undoubtedly because that’s how he won the first time. In the 2016 election, he got considerable help from Russian hackers who infiltrated voting systems in all 50 states to swing the Electoral College vote to him. Those hackers work for Putin, the former KGB chief famous for arresting political rivals (the ones who don’t die of poisoning), having several unrecorded phone and in-person conversations with his American counterpart, and now, for setting in motion the tear-up-the-Russian-constitution process to make him ruler for life. Putin’s Russia was also found to be cheating in the 2016 Olympics and stripped of its medals. More recently, Russia was banned from all international sporting competition, again for using performance-enhancing drugs. Cheating.              

         Beltran was fired for being part of a Houston Astros baseball team that won the 2017 World Series, being helped considerably, according to an investigation by Major League Baseball, by an electronically based system for stealing the other team’s signs. Cheating.

      The Astros won their championship in 2017, the first year of the Trump presidency. What that presidency and the way it was attained said to the world is that you can cheat, have people know about it, and still be declared a winner. At least in America.  Nothing has happened yet to change that perception.

      History has shown that it is too easy for too many people to become accustomed to the abnormal, the improper, the inappropriate, the unethical, the illegal, the immoral when there appears to be nothing to do about it and there is no price to pay for it.

      Everybody does it, is the cry of the apologists. They’re all crooks and cheaters and liars anyway, say the uninformed or just plain lazy. Move along, nothing to see here.

       Actually, there was plenty to see. Major League Baseball investigated complaints of the Astros stealing signs flashed from the opposing catcher to the pitcher. It found the team was using electronic video feeds to spy on the catcher and then having someone in the dugout bang a garbage can to let the batter know what pitch was coming. High tech/low tech. This is against baseball rules. The fact that Astros batters had significantly higher batting averages at home in the World Series than they did in Los Angeles, home of their opponent, the Dodgers, was exhibit A.

      The whole Astros team was in on the plot. MLB suspended the Houston manager and general manager for a year apiece and imposed a fine and sanctions on the team. Houston owners promptly fired the two suspended men. Then the Boston Red Sox (under investigation for similar charges) fired their manager, Alex Cora, who was a coach on that Houston team. And the Mets, next in line, reluctantly fired Beltran, who was a player on that team, but the only player named in the MLB report, suggesting he had more than a supporting role.

        Consequences. When there is a fear that you could be caught cheating, most people don’t cheat. When there is a greater fear that you will be ostracized for not going along with the cheating than there is of anyone caring enough to punish you for cheating, many, if not most, people go along. Human nature. Fear. Negative energy begets negative energy. The abnormal becomes normal. Everyone does it. I didn’t say it. OK, I said it, but I didn’t mean it. OK, I meant it. Who cares? Cheating for hits or cheating for votes. Same thing. Look at Trump. He cheats all the time and he’s the president. You don’t see anyone coming after him, do you? Remember, this was in 2017, when we were making America great again.

    The Astros went to the White House in 2018 to be congratulated by Trump, a cheaters photo op. Beltran didn’t go. He’s Puerto Rican and was unhappy with Trump’s response to the island’s hurricane damage, but Beltran didn’t give that as a reason for his absence. He said he wanted to spend time in New York City with his family, sounding like every Republican in Congress who finds some excuse to avoid criticizing some aspect of Trump’s behavior. Fear. It’s contagious.

        But now, here come the gods. I think they may have had enough of letting us think we’re running the show. In their universe of actions and appropriate reactions, cheating must inevitably be punished, not rewarded. The energy flow must be corrected from negative to positive, lest a species destroy itself. Interestingly, the people in charge of our games seem to have had that awareness — hey, this is not right! — quicker than those who decide on our daily lives. The Olympics, Major League Baseball, even the long tone-deaf National Football League, have cracked down to some degree on cheaters. And, yes, in the same week as Beltran’s firing, Congress began the process of holding a president accountable for serial cheating.

        But, you say, Trump is still in office and the Astros team got to keep its title. None of the other Astros players was punished for going along with the sign-stealing rather than trying to stop it. Why?

        Fair question. I don’t know. While I respect them, I don’t claim to have a direct line from the gods, aka the greater consciousness. But I suspect that the Astros players, while they have their World Series rings, are going to spend a lot of time hearing fans remind them that they cheated to get them. The Greek goddess of shame, Aidos, may be their new mascot. And who knows, maybe the baseball gods will see the wisdom and fairness of simply declaring no champion for the 2017 season.

        As for Trump, narcissist that he is, he is undoubtedly twisting in agony daily with the Greek goddesses of pain and suffering, the Algea, as members of the U.S. Senate are challenged to live up to the oaths of honesty they publicly swore to gods of their choosing. 

        And Beltran? He was about to start a new chapter in his mostly stellar baseball career with his first managerial job. Why would the gods have the Mets fire him? Well, other than the cheating, the gods of Ancient Greece were known to be fans of sport and also occasionally spiteful. Maybe today’s gods are Mets fans with long memories. Just maybe they remember Carlos Beltran, as a Mets player, looking at strike three with the bases loaded to end the 2006 National League Championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Maybe that’s why he needed someone in Houston to bang the garbage can.

        Clang, clang, Carlos. Here comes the curve.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

Aretha, Elvis, the Babe … What’s Up?

Saturday, August 25th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

 Aretha Franklin, January 20, 2009

Aretha Franklin, January 20, 2009

A member of royalty has died. Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul,“ was 76 when she succumbed to cancer on August 16. Usually, the date of someone’s death is a footnote, an afterthought, unless the person is famous or a loved one or, as with Aretha, loved and famous. Even so, the actual date of death seems to us mortals to be random. The luck of the draw.

In this case, I’m not so sure. I’m wondering if there wasn’t more than randomness involved in choosing what for many fans of the music icon will be a date to remember. In fact, it’s almost as if August 16 was preordained to be the day Aretha shrugged off this mortal coil. It seems to be a day designated for royal departures.

As news of Franklin’s death spread, even a casual user of social media would’ve been hard-pressed not to notice that August 16 was also the date on which Elvis Presley, “the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll,“ died. Hmmm.

There was more. The immortal Babe Ruth, the “Sultan of Swat,“ the ultimate symbol of baseball royalty, also died on August 16, we were reminded. If you don’t believe in synchronicity, it might be time to start reading up on it. As a believer, I went to a website that lists famous (and not so famous) deaths on August 16.

Would you believe, Bela Lugosi, who brought the infamous “Prince of Darkness” to, um, life, on the silver screen, also died on August 16? Heart attack. No sunlight, silver bullets, or wooden stakes involved. He was buried in his full Dracula costume.

So, Count Dracula, the Sultan Babe, and the musical king and queen all died on the same date. Coincidence? Maybe, but I’m thinking it’s more likely there’s a message we humans haven’t figured out yet.

Well, some of us. Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist, offered what he thought was a pretty good explanation of “coincidences.” There aren’t any, he said. Everyone, he theorized, is connected through a greater unconscious and something called synchronicity ultimately controls what happens seemingly randomly. We just go around acting like we do it all. It’s obviously a lot more complex than that, but it’s the best I can do right now.

Then, of course, there is quantum physics, which also talks about everyone and everything being connected since everyone and everything is energy. Still, till, most physicists are reluctant to accept Jung’s explanation for scientifically unexplainable coincidence  — synchronicity.

Personally, I’m inclined to think that if we are all connected through a greater unconscious or consciousness or energy or whatever you want to call it, then there’s a force at work which we choose to call “coincidence” for lack of any other explanation.

And I think it is altogether reasonable to assume that this greater consciousness to which we all contribute would devise a way to keep “special” people together for the greater good. Like having them leave their earthly bodies on the same date as a way to help plan for future use of their unique contributions to lift the positive energy level on this planet, not to mention the universe. 

In fact, the mere recognition that such special people all died on the same date surely had an effect on our collective energy level this past August 16. With the shared shared sadness of the loss of Aretha Franklin also came innumerable shared memories of shared happiness that she — and all the August 16 departed — have contributed. W With those memories came the recognition that, even in this sometimes maddening, occasionally depressing world, there can be beauty, joy, special moments created by special people for all of us to share.

And, if I may theorize a bit, it need not solely involve “royalty.” Another of the August 16 Departed is Bobby Thomson, a pretty good baseball player responsible for one of the greatest moments the game has known — “the shot heard ‘round the world.” Thomson’s home run  in the bottom of the ninth-inning of the final playoff game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants in 1951 — a game the Giants were losing until Thomson came to bat — sent the Dodgers home and put the Giants in the World Series. It certainly made Thomson royalty as far as Giants fans were concerned.

But the fact that it was the first major sporting event televised live (another “coincidence”?) made it an exciting, exhilarating moment for many more than the 34,320 fans gathered in the Polo Grounds. Broadcaster Russ Hodges’ home run call, “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!“ became instant legend. The Giants had staged an improbable end-of-season comeback to catch the Dodgers and Thomson had finished them off. With baseball as metaphor, it was a dramatic that even when you’re down to your last at bat, there is always hope.

Dodgers fans, of course, have always blamed their “fate” on Ralph Branca, the pitcher who served up the home run ball. Despite that and the fact that the Dodgers and Giants were arch rivals, Thomson and Branca wound up being good good friends when their baseball careers were over. The greater unconscious, it seems, had something beyond a baseball game in mind when it brought these two men together.

Let’s all get together next August 16 and see who’s missing.

rjgaydos@gmail.com.

It’s the National Pastime, So to Speak

Saturday, April 15th, 2017

This article first appeared in Talking Writing on June 9, 2011.

By Jeremiah Horrigan

If the Mets can win the World Series, the United States can get out of Vietnam.” -- New York Mets pitcher Tom Seaver

“If the Mets can win the World Series, the United States can get out of Vietnam.”
      — New York Mets pitcher  Tom Seaver

Some still call it the National Pastime, but I’d say baseball is something closer to the National Religion. That revelation came to me after a few hours spent poring over a summertime favorite of mine: a 500-plus-page tome called “Baseball’s Greatest Quotations,” by Paul Dickson. It’s become a catechism of the game for me — a pain-free, smile-inducing way to rediscover a love of baseball I hardly knew I had.

Like other religions, baseball has seen better days. It’s under siege, even on the sports pages, which sometimes read more like the financial pages these days. Or the police blotter, with headlines about grand juries, not grand slams.

Make a pilgrimage to one of baseball’s storied cathedrals, and you’ll find that corporate grandees have paid far more than most of us can earn in a lifetime to secure the pews with the best sight lines. And then there’s the six bucks you’ll pay for a cup of baseball’s holy water: body-temperature beer.

Do I sound like a believer? A defender of the faith? I’m not. I grew up in the ‘50s and ‘60s and hated playing baseball more than doing long division. More even than mowing the grass.

But baseball was the faith of my father and his father before him, although both men saved room in their hard-working lives for the more traditional forms of worship.

Over the years, I’ve argued with and turned my back on both types of religion, but I know I’ll never completely say goodbye to either. Nor do I really want to. Both are too tightly entangled — for good and ill — in a remembered time that gives me great pleasure.

Which is why “Baseball’s Greatest Quotations” is sitting, Gideon-like, beside me on a hotel nightstand as I write these words during a weekend vacation. No longer in danger of being struck out, chosen last, or beaned by one of Tommy Corcoran’s famous fastballs; no longer forced to learn humiliating life lessons by shagging grounders or losing pop flies in the hot summer sun; in short, no longer having to practice the religion all the other guys loved so much, I find one of my greatest summertime pleasures to be this: reveling in the words of baseball’s most notorious characters.

An extremely partial and necessarily random list of these characters — whose nicknames even Damon Runyon couldn’t improve upon — would include Jim “Baby Cakes” Palmer, Kenny “The Incredible Heap” Kaiser, “Marvelous” Marv Throneberry, “Say Hey” Willie Mays, and Enos “Country” Slaughter.

These names are but the wispiest helix of baseball’s indestructible DNA, as evidenced by the book’s subtitle: “From Walt Whitman to Dizzy Dean, Garrison Keillor to Woody Allen, a treasury of more than 5,000 quotations plus historical lore, notes, and illustrations.”

The book is a century-spanning sampler of mots both bon and not-so-bon, requiring no great familiarity with the quotees or the particulars of the game. Its appeal is, quite simply, nostalgic, hearkening back to the storied “simpler times” that all nostalgia encompasses. And you needn’t have lived in those times to delight in them.

You want simplicity? Here’s the great DiMaggio, looking back on his first days in the majors: “I can remember a reporter asking for a quote. I didn’t know what a quote was. I thought it was some kind of a soft drink.”

Keep in mind that the gifted rube who said those words went on to marry Marilyn Monroe.

You want some more? Here are a very few of the choicest bits:

  • “You may glory in a team triumphant, but you fall in love with a team in defeat.” — author Roger Kahn.
  • “No, why should I?” — pitcher Don Larsen, when asked if he ever got tired of speaking about his World Series perfect game.
  • “Finley is a self-made man who worships his creator.” — sportswriter Jim Murray, describing A’s club owner Charlie Finley.
  • “If the Mets can win the World Series, the United States can get out of Vietnam.” — New York Mets pitcher Tom Seaver, circa 1969.

I could go on, but, as the great A. J. Liebling would have said, it would explode me.

The ultimate baseball quote belongs to Philip Roth (whose best and funniest work, “The Great American Novel”, is a baseball saga, natch). Here’s his description of what baseball meant to him as a kid growing up in New Jersey, a gem plucked by Dickson from the pages of The New York Times, circa 1973: “… baseball — with its lore and legends, its cultural power, its seasonal associations, its native authenticity, its simple rules and transparent strategies, its longeurs and thrills, its spaciousness, its suspensefulness, its heroics, its nuances, its lingo, its ‘characters,’ its peculiarly hypnotic tedium, its mythic transformation of the immediate — was the literature of my boyhood.

“Literature of my boyhood.” Wish I’d said that. But I’ll stick with my religious metaphor and recommend Dickson’s book to true believers and old apostates everywhere.

And, don’t forget, if memories of that centerfield sun get to be too much for you, quench that thirst with an ice-cold can of Quote — the drink of champions!

  • Baseball’s Greatest Quotations, by Paul Dickson, published by HarperResource, January 1991 (revised edition published by Collins Reference, September 2008).            

 

If the Grandy Man Shirt Fits, Wear It

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

The shirt

The shirt …

I’m wearing my Curtis Granderson shirt today. The Yankee shirt. Number 14. This is significant for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is why the heck a 75-year-old man is wearing a shirt bearing the name of any of today’s professional athletes.

It was a gift. Several years ago, my son, Zack, who has inherited my rooting interest in the Yankees and my mother’s desire to choose the perfect gift for whomever was on the receiving end, gave it to me for my birthday. (If my memory fails and it was Christmas, he will let me know.) It was … almost perfect. One size too small. A nice compliment, but that consigned Grandy to the bottom of the shirt drawer for … well, until now.

Now, I’m wearing it and, obviously, this is another significant reason for mentioning it. I’ve lost weight and gotten in better shape. Wearing the shirt actually makes me feel a little younger and a little stronger and who cares if it’s all in my head. My head can use all the positive vibes it can get these days. As I’ve mentioned before, I often turn to sports when the rest of the world is too much to face first thing in the morning.

… This seems like a good point to let the non- sports fans in on the conversation. Zack gave me the shirt because Granderson was my favorite Yankee at the time, and that was only partially because he’s a heck of a good ballplayer.

The man ...

The man …

Let’s get the ballplayer part out of the way first. Granderson, who now plays centerfield for the New York Mets (the Yankees should have never let him go), is a three-time All-Star. He has power and speed, being the rare major leaguer to have 20 home runs, 20 triples and 20 stolen bases in the same year. He can bat leadoff or third, depending on the team’s need. He’s an excellent outfielder. A streaky hitter, he is also a clutch hitter and can carry a team when he’s on a hot streak, as he did for both the Yankees and Mets. He is a quiet leader in the clubhouse. He also strikes out a lot, but today that doesn’t seem to matter in baseball. It also makes him human.

None of that is why I have a Curtis Granderson shirt. Nor is it because I liked to hear Yankees’ radio announcer John Sterling sing, “Oh, the Grandy Man can” after every Granderson home run. If I wanted speed and power I could have gone for Mickey Mantle, who was at least in my age group. The truth is, as good as Granderson has been on the field, he has been spectacular off it. Indeed, his biography on Wikipedia talks as much about his community and charitable work as about his baseball exploits. You don’t find many athletes who come close to what he has done and continues to do out of uniform.

And who, by the way, are as well-spoken as he is. In fact, his ability to express himself served him well as an ambassador for Major League Baseball International, traveling  to England, Italy, the Netherlands, France, South Africa, China, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan to promote baseball.

There’s more. With a noticeable decline in the number of black athletes choosing baseball, he has worked with the African-American community to discuss the reasons. When signed to endorse products for Nike, Louisville Slugger and Rawlings, he asked them to donate money to his foundation or equipment to inner-city baseball programs rather than pay him. That foundation raises money for the education of inner-city children and Granderson has also written a children’s book, ‘’All You Can Be: Dream It, Draw It, Become It!,’’ which is illustrated by New York City public school students.

Too good to be true, right? Other players, counting their home runs and their Twitter followers, must resent this guy, right? Well, in 2009, the players chose him baseball’s man of the year for his community work and, in 2011, he was voted one of the friendliest players in the Major Leagues, according to a poll Sports Illustrated conducted of 290 players. One more thing. He.wears his socks high, the old-fashioned way (which I really like), to honor players from the Negro leagues.

And so what? you say.

And so, I say, in my ever more persistent effort to be aware of synchronicity in my life, that I was given my Granderson shirt to wear today because it would inevitably lead me to a place of positive thoughts, a place of hope and a bit of serenity.

There are, after all, Curtis Grandersons in all walks of life, accomplished, intelligent, articulate, modest, compassionate, generous and willing to lead the way. Some of them are even rich. (Granderson’s getting paid $15 million this year by the Mets.) I’d venture to say that any one of them who happened to magically appear behind a big desk in the Oval Office tomorrow would have the common sense to say, “Get Steve Bannon the hell out of here right now or you’re all fired!”

That’s what. They’re out there. We just have to dig their shirts out of the bottom of the drawer and start wearing them.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

 

Back Page for Gary; Two Bits for 50 Cent

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Gary Sanchez ...future star?

Gary Sanchez …future star?

Back page stuff: Last week, I wrote about my need in this time of negative news to find a feel-good sports story, one worthy of the back page in a tabloid newspaper. The baseball gods must have read my plea and felt my angst.

They delivered Gary Sanchez, a gift to Yankee fans like myself, in particular, and baseball fans in general. Sanchez, 22, was liberated from the Yankees’ minor league affiliate in Scranton, Pa., as part of the major league’s club purge of aging veterans and infusion of young, potential stars.

Sanchez has been with the Yankees for two weeks and has been named American League player of the year both weeks. No rookie has ever earned that honor back-to-back, never mind in his first two weeks. In fact, the last time an American League player won the award in consecutive weeks was 18 years ago and that was an established star, Albert Belle of the Chicago White Sox.

Sanchez was installed as the Yankees’ starting catcher and immediately started hitting home runs, a Yankee tradition. He has not stopped hitting them yet. He has 11 home runs in 23 career games. No Yankee slugger got to that number that quickly and the Yankees’ roster of sluggers boasts such names as Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle.

That’s not all. Sanchez is batting .398, driving in runs and throwing out would-be base stealers routinely with a cannon of an arm. He has energized a slumbering Yankee offense. His at bats have become must-see TV, or, in my case, must-hear radio. The other day, listening to the Yankee game on the car radio, I parked in the driveway at home as the Yankees were batting. Sanchez was due up next. I waited to hear what he would do. No way I was going to miss his at bat. He walked. He has been walked a lot, too, a sign of respect from pitchers who haven’t yet figured out how to get him out.

That will come, of course. The pace he has been on is impossible to maintain, but that’s what makes it back-page material. That’s what is at the heart of the appeal of sports — the wholly unexpected happening. Will he do it again? Oh my god, he did it again! The drama, the amazement, the shared joy of fan and player. The lure that first made me want to start the day by reading the paper from back to front,

The Yankees’ obviously had high hopes for Sanchez when they signed him to a $3 million bonus as a 16-year-old in the Dominican Republic. But no one could have predicted what his first two full weeks as a major league player would be like. The hope, of course, is that he doesn’t flame out just as quickly as he ignited, but that he settles in and becomes maybe another one of those legendary Yankee catchers. The ones who provided plenty of back page material themselves. Yogi, Thurman, Elston, Jorge. … Gary?

Meanwhile, back in the front of the paper:

50 Cent ... two-bit star

50 Cent … two-bit star

When I read that the rapper 50 Cent was coming to Newburgh, a small city on the Hudson River that is struggling to regain its former glory, I had the same reaction as many other residents of the area: Newburgh? Really? He’s big time. Why’s he coming to Newburgh?

When I got the answer to that question, I had another question. Vodka? Really? He’s coming to Newburgh to shill vodka?

I have since asked myself numerous times whether my reaction to this appearance was somehow exaggerated or misplaced or unfair or even old-fashioned. I have decided that, in fact, my reaction was entirely appropriate and I can’t believe no one else has voiced it.

So … The idea that a world-famous black performer would come to Newburgh, a minority majority city that has had to battle drugs, gangs, drug-related shootings, crime in general, poverty, a sullied reputation and a revival effort that at times smells strongly of gentrification to sell, of all things, vodka in a company in which he is a shareholder struck me as ludicrous and incredibly tone deaf.

And talk about crass marketing. For a $40 bottle of vodka, a fan (more than 100 showed up at the liquor store) could get a bottle with 50 Cent’s signature. (I don’t know if he signs 50 in cursive.) For $240 — the price of a six-bottle case — one could get a photo with Mr. Cent. As far as I can tell, all the money stayed with 50. There were plenty of smiling faces. After two hours, he left, presumably to hawk his vodka at another liquor store.

This left a really bad taste in my mouth. Did he not know anything about Newburgh? Does he not remember his past in Queens? The drug-dealing as a teen. Being raised by his grandparents. Serving time in a juvenile detention facility. Being shot. Did he not have the sense even to say that any money collected from his appearance would go to efforts to fight drugs and alcoholism, to help after-school programs for children, to buy computers for the schools, to fund neighborhood cleanup programs, to promote cultural awareness programs, to help a shelter for victims of domestic abuse, to fund scholarships for talented students who might want to pursue a career in music? Pick one.

He doesn’t need the money. His appearance helped only the liquor store owner and the company that sells the vodka. They’re entitled to want to succeed. And 50 Cent is entitled to want to help make his shares in the company appreciate. But Newburgh deserved better. Be a source of inspiration for Pete’s sake, not a liquor salesman. You’re a star; act like one. Give a performance; raise money to promote revival of Newburgh beyond the waterfront.

On the same day as Mr. Cent hawked vodka, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman also visited Newburgh to “unveil a new affordable housing program in which residents can take over properties at little to no cost and get money for renovations,” according to the local paper. Unfortunately, more people were aware of the vodka event than the housing event.

By the way, the name of the booze 50 Cent is pushing? Effen Vodka. Yeah, it’s not funny.

And so it went …

rjgaydos@gmail.com

And So It Went … A Review of the Events of the Week

Sunday, July 24th, 2016

By Bob Gaydos

Fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear. Hate.

Fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear. Hate.

Ridicule, lie, insult, lie, mock, lie, bully, lie. Hate.

Fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear. Hate.

White, white, white, white, white, white, white. Hate.

God bless America. God bless Donald Trump.

She said/she said. She said she said/she said.

Ego, ego, ego. Lies, lies, lies. Fear, fear, fear. fear.

Hate.

For those fortunate enough to miss it, the preceding is my synopsis of the Republican National Convention, which dominated the news last week. This is by way of resuming my contribution to the Internet dialogue with a regular Sunday collection of events that piqued my interest, tickled my fancy or struck me as almost too dumb for words (see above).

For this first installment, I’m going back more than a week because the major media apparently had no time to report on anything but the white supremacist rally in Cleveland. So …

  • Mick Jagger is going to be a father,
    Mick Jagger ... proud papa to be, again

                              Mick Jagger
                 … proud papa to be, again

    for the eighth time. Gathering no moss (sorry), Jagger, who is a great-grandfather, will be 73 when the baby is born next year. Mom-to-be is a 29-year-old former ballerina, who is said to be quite content with her relationship with the Rolling Stones frontman, which includes everything but marriage, living together and Mick changing diapers. Mine not to judge. I was 50 when my first son was born, 52 for the second. But I changed a s***load of diapers. Also, vasectomies are safe.         

  • Interesting footnote that occurred to me as I researched Jagger: He has four children, aged 18 to 32, with his former partner, Jerry Hall, 60. She and Jagger split 17 years ago. Earlier this year, Hall, a former model, married media mogul and billionaire Rupert Murdoch, 85. There’s no talk of additions to their extensive families, but Hall chose a favorite site of her old Rolling Stones days for her honeymoon with Murdoch, who just seemed happy to complete the climb to get there. Draw your own conclusions.
  • The Russian track and field team was disqualified from the 2016 Olympics because of what was described as a state-sponsored comprehensive doping program involving the 2012 Olympics and other competition. (The International Olympic Committee, never known for bold action, decided not to ban the entire Russian team, leaving that decision to the ruling federation of each sport.) The sports world was not shocked at the news, but, responding on social media, Russian fans criticized the author of the report that fingered the Russian testing lab and government officials by saying he was a typically biased American. He was, in fact, a typically neutral Canadian academic. Denial knows no nationality.
  • Pokemon Go. Why didn’t I buy Nintendo stock two weeks ago? I have no idea how the virtual reality game works, but these people should be working for the CIA. Maybe they are. (By the way, there’s a Charmander hidden in this copy, which you can find if you buy the app. Only $1.99. See the e-mail below.)
  • The National Basketball Association moved its 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte to New Orleans. The principled move was a response to North Carolina’s transgender bathroom law, which is a classic example of the fear-based legislation proposed in the Republican platform at that hate-fest in Cleveland. Well-played, NBA.
  • Terry Collins, manager of the New York Mets, had the honor of managing the National League team in this year’s baseball All Star Game. He had two Mets on his roster for this exhibition of the sport’s best. Players consider it an honor to be chosen. They consider it even more of an honor to actually play and when your manager is the All-Star manager, you figure on having a good chance of getting in the game. Go figure. Bartolo Colon, at 43, the oldest all-star and a fan favorite, never got to pitch. Neither did Jeurys Familia, the Mets’ star relief pitcher. They were not happy, but politely kept it to themselves. Collins managed to get players from the 14 other teams in his league in the game, but said his guys were only going to be used in “special” situations that didn’t arise. Terry, Terry, Terry, the whole game was “special” and it didn’t mean anything in the standings. These were your guys. Special treatment would have been letting each pitch to a couple of batters.
  • Roger Ailes was fired as the boss of Fox News, by Rupert Murdoch, the owner of Fox News. Ailes was shown the door
    Roger Ailes ... Fox boss no more

                                Roger Ailes
                         … Fox boss no more

    (with a hefty severance check) when Gretchen Carlson, a former Fox anchor, filed a lawsuit  against him claiming sexual harassment. Other females then joined in to say Ailes had behaved the same with them. The move by Murdoch was swift. (It’s good to be the king and a billionaire.*) It was also without much controversy, probably because Ailes is well-known as a thoroughly despicable person. He is, in fact, in large part responsible for creating the orgy of anger and paranoia reported at the top of this   column by molding Fox News into an organ of fear, bigotry, misinformation, disinformation, and hateful, negative, bordering-on-compulsive propaganda directed at Democrats, in particular Barack Obama, the first black American president, and Hillary Clinton, who, if there really is some method to all this madness will soon become the first female American president.

R.I.P. GOP. Lincoln rolled over in his grave last week. So did Eisenhower and Reagan. John Boehner cried. Paul Ryan lied. And so it went.

* With a nod to Mel Brooks.

rjgaydos@gmail.com

For Little Leaguers, No. 2 was No. 1

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

By Bob Gaydos

Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter

Confession: As coach of my son’s Little League team, I used my responsibility as uniform distributor to make sure that Zack got the number he wanted. Number 2.

Yeah, it’s the number probably 90 percent of the kids wanted, but I never felt guilty about it because: (a) the smaller kids got the lower numbers and Zack had a delayed growth spurt and (b) c’mon, what dad wouldn’t do what he could to help his son got Derek Jeter’s uniform number?

For those who may have been on another planet, Jeter is retiring after 20 years as a New York Yankee. This is his last week as a major league baseball player. The season has been a continuous homage to his career and, more significantly, to the professional, dignified manner in which he has lived it. Number 2 has been Number 1 when it comes to athletes as role models.

Some people (not Yankee fans) have complained that the Jeter Love Train has been a bit much this year, with tributes paid to him in every ballpark the Yankees visited. I can understand that, but when the commissioner of the league says he’s proud that Jeter has been the face of baseball for a decade or more, I think it’s important. There has been no hint of scandal attached to Jeter for his 20 years with the Yankees. No steroids. No arrests. No trash-talking or posturing.

And, by the way, only five players (Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, Tris Speaker) have compiled more hits (3,460 and counting) than Jeter. He happens to have been a hell of a ballplayer. Clutch hits. Clutch plays in the field. Mr. November. The Captain. Five World Series rings. Mr. Consistency. More games at shortstop than anyone else. Never played another position. He is a guaranteed first-ballot Hall of Famer and any baseball writer who doesn’t vote for him should have his voting privileges rescinded.

Jeter managed all this in the toughest market and media center in baseball — New York City. Funny thing though, while he qualifies as an all-time great and conceding that playing with the Yankees has helped burnish his image, Jeter doesn’t even make the list of top five Yankees of all time in my opinion. That would be Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra. Still, being number six to that group is no small thing and it’s hard to imagine anyone breaking in to that Top Six club.

Mostly, when I look at Jeter’s career, I’m impressed with how quietly he went about his job, how almost routine he made the anything-but-routine appear. I don’t know how humble one can be when millions of fans shower you with praise every day for a year, when TV commercials extol your nice-guyness. Of course, Jeter has made hundreds of millions of dollars from baseball and those product endorsements. But that’s the world we live in and he has managed to carry it off with a sense of grace and dignity. You don’t hear those words used much around athletes these days.

Not to belabor what is really only repetitive, I felt an obligation to publicly thank Derek Jeter for showing youngsters how to go about whatever they do in life with a sense of purpose, responsibility, dedication, modesty, focus and respect for others. For showing them how to be grateful for the gifts they may have. That he also played baseball much better than most others was icing on the cake.

So here’s to Number 2. That number will be retired by the Yankees this year, which means a new generation of young ballplayers will have to find another number to demand. And a new group of dads will try to make it happen.

Going Home

Friday, August 15th, 2014

By Gretchen Gibbs

Roger Angell, the writer who constructed such great pieces for the New Yorker, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame a couple weeks ago. He could make baseball come alive even for those who consider it boring. One of his statements, paraphrased, was that baseball is a metaphor for life, that we struggle through it, only to arrive finally at home, where we started.

Remembering this philosophical nugget, I began to think about my ex-mother in law.

I was never close to Catherine, who was too self-centered and childish to be a good mother to my former spouse, or to hold a real conversation with me. She was only appealing to certain men, who were charmed by her beauty and child-like enthusiasm for pretty things and good food. In her seventies, demented with Alzheimer’s, or something like it, she still had a boyfriend who adored her.

After she began thinking there were men living in the back room of Southbury, her retirement village condo, men who were stealing things from her, she had to go to the Home, a comfortable nursing home with remarkably caring nurses. She would forget where she was and say in a matter-of-fact way, “It’s time to go home to Southbury now.” She spoke of the retirement village as though she still lived there, reminding herself, regardless of the season, that it was time to put out the green and white striped awnings, or that she needed to go through her papers. When we had brought her to the Home, we discovered that the Southbury condo was full of papers, unpaid bills mixed in with junk mail and old letters, and shopping lists, most of them stuffed into the washing machine.

A year passed. We visited regularly, and often Catherine would say, “It’s time to go home to Floral Park now. I want to sit on the screened porch.” The house in Floral Park, set next to the vast extension of the Belmont Racetrack, was where she and her husband had brought up their children through adolescence, and on hot summer evenings the screened-in porch was a soft green delight.

Another year. Catherine still seemed happy at the Home, but she spoke of needing to go home to Woodside, the apartment house in Queens where she lived when first married. She wanted to visit Aunt Anna who lived in the apartment upstairs, and to have the whole family over for Anna’s gingery sauerbraten and crisp potato pancakes. But Anna was no longer alive.

Finally, Catherine had to go to a hospital, where she died, unable to recognize us, wandering in her mind through her childhood home in Hastings, Pennsylvania, speaking to her dead mother and sisters, re-grieving the deaths of her brothers, one on an embankment and the other drunk on the railroad track.

Roger Angell was right, but he left out that at some point in our lives we begin going backwards around the bases, revisiting in our minds all our homes until we arrive at last at the beginning.

 

 

The Old Ball Game

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

By Jeffrey Pagerockland-boulders-secondary-logo

There’s plenty to grouse about at a minor league ballgame.

Example: Those stupid mascots that prance all over the field in the time between half innings. I think a mascot with a gyrating pelvis is inappropriate at a gathering where there are hundreds of seemingly innocent kids. But if the bump-and-grind weren’t enough, the bird-like creature that represents the Rockland Boulders in Pomona also parked himself on an inner tube and appeared to be delivering a lesson on potty training. Maybe I’m too critical.

Example: Then again, maybe I’m not. The Boulders’ announcement that if such-and-such a player on the opposing team struck out, everyone in the stands would get a ticket for a free soda at a future Boulders game. Now I have no problem with someone’s yelling to an opposing player, “Swing and miss, batter! Swing batter batter batter!” Somehow that’s part of the game. But to have free-soda-if-he-fans blasted into his ears (not to mention into our ears) over the stadium sound system? That should be outlawed by any league that is remotely aware of the concept of sportsmanship.

I could go on. There was the woman who sang the National Anthem and tried to jazz up “free” as in “o’er the land of the free” and proved that maybe the Star Spangled Banner is no rollicking affair.

But enough. Let’s talk baseball, which I thoroughly enjoyed at the Boulders game.

There’s a certain purity to be found in minor league baseball that once existed in the bigs but doesn’t much anymore.

The Boulders played the Trois Rivieres Aigles from Quebec at Provident Bank Park in Pomona. It was cat and mouse for the first seven and a half innings with the score tiptoeing one run at a time, finally reaching 3-3. The Boulders needed a run; I needed a hot dog. They succeeded; I got a dog whose flavor was unlike any other frank I’d ever consumed. That is not a compliment.

The major leagues have fixated on the home run, to the near exclusion of other run-producing weapons. But as Rockland and Trois Rivieres had at it, I got a nice taste of what the game used to be about.

For example, I saw the Boulders attempt a hit-and-run play, and could not recall the last time I’d seen this exciting tactic. (The runner on first base starts running as the pitcher lets go of the ball. The batter must make contact because if he misses, the runner is toast. If the hitter succeeds and gets a base hit to the outfield, the runner could well reach third base.

Rockland tried it and failed but at least I saw the attempt. Done right, the hit-and-run is as much choreography as it is athleticism and fun to watch.

Something else you find at little places like Provident Bank Park is the sacrifice bunt to move a runner. Do they bunt at Citi Field and Yankee Stadium? Maybe not at the stadium because it’s an American League park and AL teams have the designated hitter – an abomination if you ask me – and probably figure they don’t need to ask their players to bunt.

I saw one of the Aigles lay a bunt down so exquisitely that it caught the Boulders’ infield glued in place. Keats easily could have been describing a left-handed batter pushing a bunt along the third base line when he observed that a thing of beauty is a joy forever.

Back to the present. The Boulders’ bats, which had been suffering from iron deficiency anemia, finally came to in the bottom of the eighth, and the home team scored six runs with single after single. Very exciting. The Aigles picked up two runs – on a home run – in the top of the ninth, and that was it. The final: 9-5. A nice evening.

The hot dogs may taste like an alien life form, the management may make kids look like braying fools by tossing t-shirts into the stands and the children pleased for a shirt to be thrown in their direction, and we still may be blasted with a few notes from the Toreador Song, the Notre Dame Fight Song, and other adrenaline anthems after every pitch, but I’m going back.

It’s a great place to see some baseball.