Archive for January, 2008

17:NY Carpetbaggers Challenge Salty’s Bama Barnstormers

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by williamwallace

ATHENS, GA – The days of barnstorming during the offseason were thought to be long over. Then some enterprising Dixie whistler named Salty secured funding to start up his own barnstorming team from his bootlegging buddy Klobber. And, yes, Klobber, we know you are a bootlegger. We know this much discussed red velvet cake is mere code for one of your bootlegged products. Although I guess this would make sweet Flbravesgirl a bootlegger as well.

But, anyways, as Salty has previously announced in this here place, Salty has formed his own barnstorming squad of Bama greats.

Salty’s squad boasts an infield of Willie McCovey, Ted Sizemore, Ozzie Smith, and Joe Sewell; an outfield of Billy Williams, Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron; Charlie Moore playing catcher; and a bench of Riggs Stephenson, Jim Davenport, Rudy York, Carlos May, Monte Irvin, Heine Manush, and Luke Sewell. His pitching rotation has Don Sutton, Early Wynn, Satchel Paige, Jimmy Key, Doyle Alexander, Bob Veale, Virgil Trucks, Rip Sewell, Jeff Brantley, and Clay Carroll. His manager is Gabby Street.

This barnstorming team from Sweet Home Alabama is taking the world by storm, going town to town, taking on all friends and foes, winning every game, while Salty pockets boatloads of money.

Of course, being the bootlegging, rum running shyster gangster that he is, Klobber collects kickbacks from the earnings of Salty’s team of Bama barnstormers.

Klobber is also using these games as a way to franchise his saloons. Klobber’s Knob Creek Saloons have been opening all over the country wherever Salty’s Bama Barnstormers leave the townfolk in their wake. The players are reportedly only being paid with the privilege of indulging in Knob Creek.

Many across the nation breathlessly await news of the daily exploits of this group of Bama Barnstormers. Some beet writer has been Johnny-on-the-spot and has capitalized on the success of the team and the demand for news about the team. This beet writer is being called a modern day Grantland Rice. Whether that is true remains to be seen.

But, recently, the beet writer has announced he is bored with the team. The beet writer has made a nationwide call to arms to come challenge Salty’s Bama Barnstormers. The beet writer is demanding a tournament be played. Many are reportedly too scared to take on Salty’s squad.

I decided to take the beet writer’s challenge to come conquer the unbeaten Bama Barnstormers. I secured some funding from the bootleggin’ Klobber myself, purchased a Juggs gun, binoculars, a stop watch, and a whistle. I was determined to go do some bird dogging.

Not knowing where to find players, I looked around locally here in Athens, Georgia. I only found 5 players who had played in the majors who could claim to have been born here in Athens, and only 2 of them are worth anything as ballplayers: Brian McCann and Jake Westbrook. That just wasn’t gonna work. So, I decided to head back to the place of my birth and raising: the Boogie Down Bronx.

So, I took the Amtrak up to Penn Station, did some sightseeing in Manhattan, and then headed over to Grand Central to catch the 4 train up to the Bronx. When the 4 emerged from the dark tunnel where the subway becomes an el, I knew I was back home in the Bronx because I could immediately see the splendid Yankee Stadium straight ahead.

I went all over the Bronx, from Fordham Road to Soundview to Morris Park to Gun Hill Road to Van Cortland Park to Webster Avenue to Broadway to the Grand Concourse to White Plains Road.

I was saddened to learn that Macombs Dam Park was no longer there. They were now building the New Yankee Stadium on top of the sandlot park where Rod Carew had learned to play baseball as a kid.

Searching here and there, near and far, I was bitterly disappointed there were not many more players who could claim they were technically born in the Boogie Down than could claim they were from Athens, Georgia. But up in the Boogie Down, I managed to find Ronnie Belliard, Bobby Bonilla, Frankie Frisch, and B.J. Surhoff.

Belliard is a nice little player and all but I can’t expect him to be able to touch the likes of Satchel Paige. Surhoff may have technically been born in the Bronx but, as we all know, he is more well known as the catcher from Rye, New York, not the Bronx. And, from his time with the Atlanta Braves, I believe B.J. to be a lil’ sourpuss. I didn’t want to bring B.J. along for the ride but he was a catcher and catchers are hard to find. So, I invited Bobby Bo, Frisch, and B.J. to open tryouts. Had to keep Bobby Bo.He was the guy, after all, who once taunted beat writers that he was gonna show the beat writers the Bronx. Love the spirit even if I don’t like the guy.

I decided to broaden my search to all the boroughs of New York. I next took the ferry over to Shaolin, a.k.a. Staten Island. Unfortunately, there was no one out there. So, I headed over to Queens. Same thing there. No one worth anything. Brokenhearted at this point but not broken in will, I made my way over to Crooklyn.

Over in Crooklyn, the first player I found was Ken Brett. I asked where his brother George was. Ken responded that unfortunately George wasn’t born in Brooklyn like Ken was. What good are you without George I thought to myself. Angry about it, I decided not to invite Ken to an open tryout.

I then found some interesting prospects such as Rich Aurilla, Shawon Dunston, David Dejesus, Sid Gordon, Joe Judge, Paul Loduca, Joe Pepitone, Rico Petrocelli, Eddie Yost, Richie Zisk and invited them to open tryouts. Nice little players but I can’t exactly take on Salty’s Bama Barnstormers with these little fellas.

Just as I was about to give up hope, I happened upon a sandlot where Lou Whitaker, Joe Torre, Sandy Koufax, Phil Rizzuto, and Wee Willie Keeler were playing. I didn’t invite them to an open tryout. I told them they were on the team, told Torre he was the player/manager, and told Sandy he was the staff ace.

After looking through 4 of the 5 boroughs though, my squad wasn’t looking too good. My search through Manhattan was gonna have to be very fruitful.

Puzzled about the lack of ballplayers born in the outer boroughs, I decided to check baseball-reference.com for how many prospects had been born in Manhattan. I didn’t want to just go wandering aimlessly from Battery Park to Inwood to the Upper East Side to Harlem to Hell’s Kitchen to Greenwich Village if there were no ballplayers there.

Much to my surprise, I found that most of the ballplayers from New York City had been born in Manhattan. Guess that is not so surprising since the best hospitals are in Manhattan. But I don’t think that is what the problem is. Pregnant mothers about to deliver babies are not exactly gonna hop on the subway down to Manhattan after their water breaks. And they are not likely to hail an expensive cab at that moment either.

Most likely what was causing the problem was laziness on the part of those listing the player’s place of birth on their birth certificates. When you list New York, New York as the birthplace, this is supposed to mean the child was born on the island of Manhattan. If you are born in one of the outer boroughs, it should be listed as Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, or The Bronx. But whatever. I finally found the prospects I needed to take on Salty’s vaunted barnstorming squad from south of the Mason-Dixon.

When the team finally took shape, this is what the barnstorming Carpetbaggers from New York City looked like: Joe Torre, Lou Gehrig, Hank Greenberg, Lou Whitaker, Frankie Frisch, Alex Rodriguez, Phil Rizzuto, Edgar Martinez, Rocky Colavito, Ken Singleton, Wee Willie Keeler, Bobby Bonilla, B.J. Surhoff, Rico Petrocelli, Sandy Koufax, Jim Palmer, Ed Lopat, Whitey Ford, John Candeleria, Matt Morris, Dennis Leonard, Waite Hoyt, Larry Corcoran, John Franco.

My bird dogging complete, I turned the fellas over to our manager Joe Torre. This is the lineup card Grandpa Joe came up with:

AVG
OBP
SLG
1
CF
Wee Willie Keeler
0.341
0.388
0.415
2
LF
Ken Singleton
0.282
0.388
0.436
3
1B
Lou Gehrig
0.340
0.447
0.632
4
DH
Hank Greenberg
0.313
0.412
0.605
5
3B
Edgar Martinez
0.312
0.418
0.515
6
RF
Rocky Colavito
0.266
0.359
0.489
7
C
Joe Torre
0.297
0.365
0.452
8
SS
Alex Rodriguez
0.306
0.389
0.578
9
2B
Lou Whitaker
0.276
0.363
0.426

As you see, Torre is still trying to bat AFraud 8th. Joe really doesn’t like Alex, but who likes the $300 million dollar man anyway? As long as Wee Willie is hittin’ ‘em where they ain’t, I’ll be happy with whatever lineup Joe throws out there.

On the bench are:
AVG
OBP
SLG
C
B.J. Surhoff
0.282
0.332
0.413
IF
Frankie Frisch
0.316
0.369
0.432
IF
Phil Rizzuto
0.273
0.351
0.355
IF
Eddie Yost
0.254
0.394
0.371
OF
Bobby Bonilla
0.279
0.358
0.472
OF
Rico Petrocelli
0.251
0.332
0.420

The pitching rotation looks like this:
W
L
ERA
SV
1
Sandy Koufax
165
87
2.76
9
2
Whitey Ford
236
106
2.75
10
3
Jim Palmer
268
152
2.86
4
4
Waite Hoyt
237
182
3.59
52
5
Ed Lopat
166
112
3.21
3
6
Dennis Leonard
144
106
3.70
1
7
Matt Morris
121
88
3.91
4
8
John Candeleria
177
122
3.33
29
9
Larry Corcoran
177
89
2.36
2
10
John Franco
90
87
2.89
424

All in all, I think it is a team worthy of engaging in a war of northern aggression against Salty’s Bama Barnstormers. We’ll see. Torre might not be Sherman but Torre did a pretty good job of burning down Atlanta by winning 8 straight in the World Series against the Braves in the 1990s.

Let’s go old school and play a best of 9 series like they did back in the day. No night games under the lights. Only day games with a true doubleheader or two during the series. None of this day/night doubleheader garbage. We’ll have a hard time convincing Klobber of that though. Klobber wants to maximize profits. Lost profits due to true doubleheaders are certainly not in the plans of that crooked bootlegger.

Any other challengers out there? Do you dare take on the Bama Barnstormers or the New York Carpetbaggers?

williamwallace

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16:Promise and Hope

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by Bob, Journalist

NASHVILLE, TN – Spring Training is always filled with promise and hope … losers have for months been saying “wait until next year” and here it is at last, well almost!

Not a pitch has been thrown … nary a bat has been swung … we’re assured a winning season, though it hasn’t yet begun. A dominant lineup, deep rotation and great management are always to be envied … and in this game where “above the neck” is where it’s at, we have an unbeatable combination … the championship is surely ours!

It’s a team game and this one has chemistry too … My Lady, Esteemed Jimmy Smith, Scribe, Sir Guy, Berigan, Gil, Lew, NaCly, Chris, Chopper, Christmas Stealer and BraveHeart … an All Star, HOF lineup, and now it looks like I’m to be given a chance!

Sure, it’s just an audition, a test … not even Spring Training … but I’m still all excited … in awe, to be exact … this is the bigs and I’m just so proud to be here!

Performance enhancers? If I can’t find adequate inspiration from them what’s gone before me, ain’t nothing else gonna help! Guess I feel like all the other young prospects … “they built it, you came … so now, what you gonna do about it?”

It sorta reminds me of Spring Training more than a few years back … we had a promising, highly touted prospect who had exceeded expectations, done everything asked of him … and then some. Unfortunately, he and the manager didn’t get along and his chances of making the club seemed slim to none. The truth is that the kid was trying too hard to impress the manager with his knowledge and total recall of the manager’s own stats as a player, some of which were best forgotten.

Finally, the manager had had enough … “Kid, you see those three over by the batting cage? Together, they hit twice as many homers last season as you did playing Rookie Ball … and the product of their three individual home run totals for the season was 2,450. I’ll take you North with us if you can tell me how many home runs each man hit last year!”

Our bright young prospect thought long and hard but finally had to admit he was stumped, muttering: “Skipper, that’s unfair, … not enough information, especially for a kid just trying to make the team”.

The manager, quite satisfied with himself, … smiled, and musing on the past, chuckled … “well it took me several years to do it but I hit more homers in my career than any of you did last year”.

Yes, the manager was a man of his word and the kid made the team! That is to say, he answered the question … and indeed, had a great career and was known, not only for his outstanding play, but for his acumen and aplomb.

Several years later, another manager, who had himself heard the story … found himself in a somewhat similar situation … a promising young kid who had excelled in spring training, but about whom he wasn’t quite sure … “Kid,” said Bobby, “several years ago, back when I was playing … we had a promising young player, like you, trying to make the team … but the manager, like me, couldn’t quite decide if he was ready … so he gave him a test.” “I like tests … tell me the story Skip!”

“Well son, it went like this … the manager told that kid, ‘Kid, you see those three over by the batting cage? Together, they … ‘ Yes, the manager was a man of his word and the kid made the team!”

“That was a nice story Skip, but a reel hard test! How did he figure it out?” “I really don’t exactly know,” said Bobby, “but I’ll take you North with us if you can tell me just how many home runs that manager hit during his career!”

Well, this kid made the team too … I’m told you could hear Bobby shouting over and over, “Larry, your a Hoss!!”

Actually, today’s sermon is about winning …

I remember last year, as the season was winding down … there was great dissention among bloggers on that other blog. No, there’s nothing unusual about that … but, methinks it is worth noting that with every loss, more and more joined those who gave up and chided those of us who kept the faith! Yes, the Braves failed in their quest … and the naysayers had their day.

Or did they? I’m not so sure … we were in second place, but much of our fanbase had all but conceded the race to the Mets! Well, they said it couldn’t be done … pointed to our record to date, and they were right … we came up short, … so did the Mets!

Contagion is a strange baseball animal … as is the Phoenix that was consumed at season’s end and will be reborn in a few short weeks.

I remember last year, as the season was winding down … a sincere youngster who, inspired by increasing numbers being openly critical of the Braves’ failure to win, proudly proclaiming that he became a fan during the streak because they always won … and, if they were going to lose, he’d look for another team … he saw no sense in pulling for a team that lost, just a simple waste of time! Good for him … at least he didn’t try to hedge his bets … no hypocrite, this kid … told it like it was … win or else!

Just a few posts and he was gone … maybe he switched his allegiance to the Rockies … good choice that! They were behind us at the time … no, they didn’t win the ring but they were the real winners of 2007! Well, maybe it was their fans who were the winners … or who made them winners … I know I pulled for them to beat the Padres in their “playin/playoff” game … Here’s to the Rockies and all their fans who kept a “never give up” attitude … remember the Rockies had to win 14 of 15 and overcome a 2-run 13th inning deficit against Trevor Hoffman … and they did! It ain’t never over till it’s over!

Were you to ask most fans, methinks you’d hear that winning is the objective. If you asked most owners, they’d give you same answer … but, methinks the truth is that their objective is to maximize profits on a present value basis. While not diametrically opposed, those are not the same objective.

We all admire and applaud dominant performances … at least, I know I do. It’s a team game but where would it be without Cy, Diz, Ty, Willie and the Babe?

Sometimes I think I’d enjoy the Braves having a 162-0 season … and sweeping the playoffs! Two 33 game winners and three winning 32 … goodness, no saves ‘cause none of the games were close! No I don’t … and neither do you! There’s no sport in fishing for hungry Brim with 100 pound test! Can you imagine anything more boring? Of course, 0-162, but not much … and goodness, still no saves!

Baseball is a very complex sport … with special meanings to common words and phrases … perfect, fair, foul, ball, walk, run, slide, single, stealing (signs and bases), balks, hit and run, bullpen, fly, sacrifice and squeeze.

Perhaps its least exciting aspect is the fly ball, which is also considered by many to be the most exciting, especially those that are long.

It requires just the right amount of energy so that properly conditioned players can perform at a consistently high level for long periods, day after day … month after month … providing both fans and participants with excitement and satisfaction. Unlike football and basketball, the game is not on the clock … each team has the same number of outs and each player has his time in the spotlight … albeit, some like that better than others.

“Coach” would probably call it striving for mediocrity but I think MLB’s objective should be for every team to have the same basic overall/aggregate player skill level. To me, the excitement is in the drama … consistently having the significantly superior talent is a no win situation from an expectation/satisfaction/appreciation perspective … for if we have it and perform as expected, it’s fun for a while but then, like fishing with 100 pound test, it becomes boring, unfulfilling … and if we underachieve, it’s worse.

Give me a team that’s competitive from a talent perspective … obviously, one that is well prepared, focused and executes fundamentals … but especially, one that has enthusiasm in abundance, believes in themselves, and never gives up, even when they’re down to their last strike! Everybody talks that talk, but few walk that walk. It’s the intangibles that make the difference!

I understand and even support the notion of even keel, business baseball … if you have a superior team from a raw talent perspective, … but I hate it! Looking at our prospects for 2008, I like what I see … we’re competitive and we’ll be just fine in Center, especially if we go with our young talent as I hope we do.

I would have preferred that we would not have signed Tommy and had used that money, and maybe a player or two, to “overpay” and get 2, 3 or 4 phenomenal, young arms, but we can play the cards we’re dealt … and win!

However, our fate depends on three positions, not one … our performance enhancers … the Manager, Pitching Coach and Hitting Coach. Scary, huh?

Speaking of scary … a famous instructor was once asked … well, he was frequently asked but once answered that “you should swing as hard, and only as hard, as you can while maintaining your balance and consistently making solid contact” … pretty good player too.

Bat speed is important … but only if you know how to use it. Baseball bats still look about the same as when I was growing up … but, boy! have they changed … time was when a player might worry about his favorite bat cracking, but now, it’s we who worry, … about someone getting killed!

When I think about that, I’m reminded of poor Billy Mitchell … called a good game, but couldn’t hit … they should have listened to that kid … the way I heard it, he got tossed from the game for wildly predicting the Japanese would one day bomb Pearl Harbor.

Still pondering the “Promising Prospect Puzzle”? I have it on good authority that a certain unnamed young beet writer just interviewed a certain third baseman, again unnamed … regarding a certain test … “Uh, I remember it well … reel easy for me, multiple choice test … Bobby only mentioned three numbers 2,450 … so you see, the answer was obvious!” “Huh, … obvious? … three numbers?” Smirking, “That’s right, 2,000 … 400 and 50. Everybody knows ain’t nobody never hit 2,000 homers … and if that manager had 400, it wouldn’t have taken him several years to do better than them guys did in a single season!”

The promising young beet writer empathetically thought it best to kill the story but another, perhaps more famous and of different ilk, overheard the interview and proudly gave his “scoop” to the AJC … “Hoss tells all … makes Monkey out of Seal!”

Well, what did you expect? … I was an actuary, not a beet writer.

I’m not sure exactly what I want in 2008, but I really think winning is its byproduct rather than its objective, whatever it is.

Bob, journalist

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15: Where Have All the Heroes Gone?

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By Chrisklob

CHARLESTON, SC – On January 16, 1972, the Dallas Cowboys won Super Bowl VI. As both of my parents are from Dallas, were fans of that team, and we traveled there at least once a year to visit family it was essentially predetermined that I should like them too. I was just shy of my eighth birthday and that was the exact day that I fell in love for the first time.

At the time, the Cowboys were easy to like. They were clean, humble and wholesome and for the most part were a God-fearing lot. Not too many tabloid stories diminishing the reputation of “America’s Team”. There were so many likable, talented guys associated with that team: Landry, Ditka, Reeves, Schramm, Hayes, Howley, Lilly, Pugh, Renfro, the list goes on. They weren’t all saints I suppose, but reviewing the roster today it still amazes me how many good and great ball players were on that team. But there was one guy that truly intrigued me above anyone else: Roger Staubach.

Throughout my childhood, Roger Staubach was my hero. Heisman Trophy winner. Super Bowl MVP. Six time Pro Bowler. Five time All-Pro. Hall of Famer. A man who served his country for four years, including a one year tour in Viet Nam, when he could have asked for his release from his obligation due to his impending football career. What was not to like about Roger Staubach? Even today the very mention of his name excites me. He’s the one celebrity-athlete that I’m truly afraid to meet because I’m afraid that somehow, some way, I’ll be disappointed. Kind of like when I met Johnny Bench, but that is a story for another lead.

I think back about my friends and it seemed that they all had heroes too: Fran Tarkenton, Larry Bird, Pete Rose, Lynn Swann – you get the idea. Whenever we had a pickup game in the neighborhood I was always Roger Staubach and the kid across the street was always Terry Bradshaw. I beat him like a drum on a regular basis, at least that’s what I choose to remember!

The reason that I dredge up all this personal history is that I have a son who is barely older than I was when I found something to follow and love for the first time. My son Matt is ten and claims to be a Braves fan, yet I wonder and worry if it’s only because he sees my passion and wants to be like his old man.

I worry though because Matt doesn’t have a hero. He does seem to love sports. We regularly go up to the ball field near our home and do baseball drills. He’s a good baseball player with a very strong arm and an incredibly smooth stroke for a boy his age. I say this not to brag (although clearly I am) but because other parents and coaches have come up to me and reaffirmed these things. And this makes me proud!

But, as usual, I digress.

He really enjoys the basketball goal that he received for Christmas. Almost every day he makes us move the cars so he can shoot goals. He’ll even sit and watch a few innings of baseball on tv with me while I help explain the what’s and why’s of the game even though I know that the subtle nuances are above his young mind.

But he doesn’t have a hero. I know this because I have asked him before. And this bothers me.

Perhaps times have changed and the concept of “hero” is no longer relevant to our youth. Besides, who would he choose as his hero? Terrell Owens? Roger Clemens? Barry Bonds? Pacman Jones? Even the teenage stars that are manufactured and marketed towards kids his age seem to eventually implode. Jamie Lynn Spears, anyone? How about Britney or Lindsey Lohan? I don’t think so. There just don’t seem to be as many stars out there for our youth to look up to, at least not the ones that we want them to look up to.

On Friday night, the Charleston Riverdogs held their annual Hot Stove Banquet. The keynote speaker was none other than Mr. Jeffrey Baden Francoeur, Gold Glove winning right-fielder for the Atlanta Braves. I invited Matt to go with me tonight because I am hoping that he will become a fan of Jeff Francoeur; that he will look up to him and want to be like him.

Frenchy’s an immensely likable fellow. I had the chance to see him in Charleston (when he played for Rome), Myrtle Beach and spring training a year or two. We spoke on numerous occasions and I was always impressed with his humility. Just before his first trip through Charleston in 2003, I read an article that predicted he would have a Dale Murphy-type career. I asked if he’d seen that article yet and he quickly stopped signing whatever it was that I’d given him and looked me in the eye. He told me that he had not, in fact, seen that article. I could tell by his facial expression and his body language that he was truly touched by I had just said. That humility thoroughly impressed me.

Friday night was the big event. Ladies and gentlemen, you couldn’t ask for a nicer, more genuine human being than Frenchy. There were about 250 people in attendance and he must have signed his name 1500 times, always with a smile on his face. He stopped to talk to every single person that came to his table, shook their hand, smiled, looked them in the eye – all the things that our mothers’ taught us to do but somehow so many people forget. He graciously took dozens of pictures with young and old alike. I honestly believe that he was as happy to be there as we were happy that he was there.

I won’t bore you with details of what he talked about as I know that I won’t be able to do it justice. In short, he was a very good speaker, entertaining, articulate and funny. But, I would like to share one story told by Torre Tyson, manager of the Riverdogs. He explained that he called Rocket Wheeler and Randy Ingle, who managed him at Rome and Myrtle Beach. He told them that he had to have some “dirt” on Frenchy because he knew that he would be speaking about him. Both managers replied that they had no bad stories about him, which is unusual because both of them spent most of a season with him. After spending virtually every day for an entire season together you’d think that they’d have something to give up!

One aspect of his life that I was not at all aware of is his faith. Now, I’m not a particularly religious person but it was obvious even to me that he draws a lot of strength from his spirituality. On his batting gloves he writes “Joshua 1:9” as a reminder of his faith and from which to draw strength. By his account, it’s the one passage that he leans on in difficult times. [Editor’s Note: Joshua 1:9 says “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of good courage; be not affrighted, neither be thou dismayed: for Jehovah thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.:]

Aside from his obvious athletic abilities and accomplishments, Jeff Francoeur seems like a young man that we all should like. In spite of his budding stardom, he’s down-to-earth, personable and polite. He’s the man you would want your daughter to bring home. My hope is that Matt will remember this night forever and will choose Frenchy as his own personal hero, as I chose Roger Staubach as mine. And more than anything, I hope that his young heart is never broken by his hero.

Matt.Jeff spacer Jeff3

Chris

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14:“Where’s the Fahr?”

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by The Grinch 

ATLANTA, GA – Anyone else notice what’s missing? We’ve all heard a lot over the last few years about how “Atlanta isn’t a sports town.” In fact, there used to be a big billboard that had that quote up over the interstate with an enormous tomahawk coming down right through the middle. Remember that? Where did it go?

I was reminded of that sign (and its absence) a few days ago when I was going through some old videotapes I found in a box in my attic. One had me and an ex of mine sitting on a couch in a house I used to live in on the Northeast side, and we were watching and cheering on the Braves. I was glad to see that, because while I remembered her as a hot 17 year old redhead (I was 19 at the time; I don’t want to hear it), I also remember her as an evil, shrieking harpy whose soul I continuously wished into the sixth circle of hell. Nice to see she was once happy about something.

Anyhow, my mind took that memory and ran with it, as minds will do, and I remembered a few other things from that time period.

I remembered the year before (1991) where I was living in the same place and dating the same girl, and I worked 2nd shift (5pm to 3am) at a local machine shop. There being no internet or cell phones at the time, this naturally meant the only way to keep track of the Braves was by portable radio/walkman (the predecessor of the I-pod for all you youngsters out there).

This practice of wearing headphones during Braves games had never been a problem before because the Braves had been terrible so long it didn’t exactly interrupt work. We were nine back of the Dodgers that year at the break, and then something funny started happening. Not funny “ha-ha,” but funny like “hey…don’t you guys start messing with us now; you don’t have a chance. Do you?”

It was gradual, of course; nobody believed it for a while. But they kept winning. And winning. The Dodgers got nervous, and obliged us by starting to lose. The silent fist-pumps after wins got stronger and more animated, eventually accompanied by one or two people mouthing “YES!” (You couldn’t hear anything over the machines or headphones).

The impossible started happening, less work got done, and late in the season it began to get to even the most cynical of us, even me. Yes, the Grinch’s two-sizes-too-small heart started pounding a little faster for the first time that didn’t involve drugs, authority, or hot 17 year old redheads.

Nixon set the table and automatically stole second, and sometimes third. Terry Pendleton was clutch. Glavine was steady. Avery was way too young to be that nasty. Belliard was smooth as butter. Pena had ice water in his veins (does anyone remember how good he really was? Nobody ever talks about it). Jeff freakin’ Treadway hit .320 (I can’t believe I remember that).

It was going to happen, it was a miracle, and we were witness to it. So little work got done we lost a contract with Lockheed to build parts for the F-22 (don’t kid yourselves that it hasn’t been in the works for a while) and the 2nd shift foreman got fired (he was the biggest Braves fan of all, and didn’t have the heart to order the radios off).

It didn’t matter. WE WON. And when Nixon went down Dion rode a helicopter in and took over. It didn’t matter, WE WON.

If Minnesota hadn’t openly cheated in a half-dozen ways, we would have won it all. We won our three home games by an awful lot of runs, and that was good enough. We knew who really won. The city was ON FIRE.

The next year I was at my girlfriend’s place watching game 7 of the NLCS and we were down 3-0 in the 8th. I was mad at her anyway so I left to walk home (I had a suspended license). When I got to the bridge over 85 cars started laying on their horns as they passed me and people had their heads out of the windows hollering. I kept checking to see if I had panties hanging out of my jacket pocket or something, then finally noticed people were doing it on the interstate below as well. Sid slid and THE WHOLE CITY WAS ON FIRE.

Where did that go, people? When was the last time you saw anyone in this town laying on the horn and hollering out the window that wasn’t just an isolated drunken fool? This city had spirit at one point; you can’t tell me all those people have moved since then. They just don’t seem to care that much anymore.

Back then, you brought your own beer, food and liquor into the stadium and everyone had a good time regardless. Now, you’re frisked like a terrorist, charged a kidney for beer so you don’t even have something left to filter it, and when you get loud with excitement people look angrily at you because you’re disturbing their cell phone calls. Who are these people, and what did they do with the old ones? I was gone from Atlanta from 1994 to 2006, so the change was a shock to me. I assume it was gradual; I don’t know. It doesn’t matter.

The billboard has disappeared, and with it the baseball spirit of this city. It’s been replaced by quiet mediocrity and worse, apathy. Look what passes for a beet writer, for (censored)’s sake (hopefully soon to be supplanted by Chop Seal)! Instead of quietly (censored)ing and moaning on message boards that we’re gonna lose it all every time a lead gets blown, then shrugging our shoulders and saying “I told you so” ‘cause we knew it was gonna happen when it finally does, we need to TAKE OUR (CENSORED) CITY, STADIUM AND TEAM BACK.

Did this country give up when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor (shut up, I’m on a roll)? NO! I don’t care if we win 40 games next season; I don’t want to be the only one out there making some REAL noise, not just polite yuppie applause in between stock tips. If you can’t make it to the game, lay on your horn and stick your head out the window and yell like a fool. If you don’t do either there’d better be some yellow clown shoes involved and I want to hear the details.

Now. Who’s with me?

And yes, I’m sober, though it shouldn’t matter.

Grinch

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13: Chop Seal on Beet Writing and Baseball

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by Chop Seal 

ATLANTA, GA – Hello, Everbudy!

Thank you Carulina Lady for letting me be a beet writer. I know I have been a pest about the expenze account but I have to keep up with the other beet writers in town who smoke cigares costing up to a dollar. I will try to be better behaved.

Where will we stay at Spring Training? And where are the really good seafood restaurants there? Where do we find the best bowl of whelk? Since I now have an expenze account I will be treating.

And where is the best place to obtain a player’s autograph? I would like someone big to be with me when I ask Chipper Jones because I do not want a signature on my hide.

And since this is the hi-tech blog, bloggers here should consider if a motion-activated butt-cam might reveal the truth about steroid injections. We would need someone crafty (artsy?) to install the camera, though. 🙂 😀 🙂 😀

And not many seals get the chance at beet writing. Carulina Lady is the bEst! But here are some reasons why I want to be a collumist instead.

a beet writer goes into a restaurant and is seated. All the waitresses are gorgeous. One of them comes to his table and asks, “What would you like, sir?” He looks at the menu and then grins and answers, “A quickie.”

The waitress turns and walks away in disgust. After she regains her composure she returns and asks again, “What would you like, sir?” Again, the beet writer answers, “A quickie, please.”

This time her anger takes over, she reaches over and slaps him across the face with a resounding “SMACK!” and storms away.

A man sitting at the next table leans over and whispers, “Um, Pal, I think it’s pronounced ‘quiche’.”

Let me share some New Year’s Rezalutions:

1. Become a Colummist Quick

I have not always been a beet writer. I was once a baby seal in Canada and I was almost clubbed to death there before Jimmy Smith came along. Just before the big club swung, Jimmy Smith shouted: “No, not him, he’s a journalist.”

The big man seal clubber hesitated, drew back his club and snarled, “Is he a beet writer?”

“No”, Jimmy Smith fibbed, “he’s a colummist.”

And the feersome clubber lowered his club and let me live. I am grateful to Jimmy Smith and now I help him meet girls. I want to be a reel colummist soon in case the seal clubbers come back.

2. Releese the new Chop Seal Bobble-Head

Bloggers wiill be glad to know that the new Chop Seal Beet-Writer Bobblehead will soon be available to all bloggers here. A beet-writer bobblehead has been tried only one time before, unsuccessfully, by another beet writer – but the head was so big that there was no bobble. There will be plenty of wobble in the Chop Seal bobble.

3. Become the best beet writer until i can be a collumist.
“What, what Carulina Lady? already the best? Oh, thank you!”

Beet writing doesn’t pay much but it is okay if you are a seal or don’t date much. Being a beet writer is important stuff if you have been a seal mostly and I promise to do my best to get the story and get along well with others without getting too big for my britches.

I am heering all kinds of beet writer stories.

A beet writer was walking down the road with a healthy looking pig under his arm. As he passed the bus stop, someone asked, “Where did you get that?”

The pig replied, “I won him in a raffle!”

Here is one of my favorate beet writer storeez:

Two beet writers went to the pound where each adopted a puppy, er cat. The joy of their new best friend was quickly overshadowed when they got home and the first beet writer said, “I think we’re in trouble, how are we going to tell them apart?

This led to several hours of concentration until finally, the second beet writer said, “I’ve got an idea. We’ll tie a red bow around my kitty and a blue bow around yours.”

The next day the first beet writer comes running up to the second when he got home, “Oh no, I can’t tell whose kitty is whose… they’ve pulled the ribbons off while they were playing.”

“OK, we need to find a better way to tell them apart,” says the second beet writer. After several more hours of concentration, they came up with the bright idea of getting different colored collars.

Again, the next day, the first beet writer comes running up to the second as soon as he gets home, “Oh no, I can’t tell whose kitty is whose… they’ve pulled their collars off while they were playing.”

“There’s got to be some way to tell them apart,” says the second beet writer.

After several more hours of concentration, the first beet writer finally comes up with another idea, “I know! Why don’t you take the black one and I’ll take the white one!”

This is why I want to be a colummist. Or a broadcaster like Chop Caray.

And now some baseball . . .Seal transition. I hope I am wrong, but the Braves could be in trouble next season. The starting pitchers are old and brittle and the rotation may come apart at any time.

Winning early is never important to Bobby Cox and he often fritters away early season games, then, when the team must win late in the season, there are holes from injury and such. And the team does not respond well to must-win situations (see playoffs).

If Bobby Cox is to remain manager of this team I think they should consider every game as important as the next and try to get off to a big lead in the division before the old guys drop. If/when the old-man rotation falters this may not be a pretty season.

Then again, this team could dominate with bionic arms and other enhancements.

Questioning this team is not normal beet writer stuff and may not play well for this Seal but Chop Seal has courage and Carulina Lady likes me.

And now, one last beet writer story:

A salesman is driving toward home when he sees a minister thumbing for a ride on the side of the road. As the trip had been long and quiet, he stops the car and the minister gets in. After a bit of small talk, the minister notices a brown bag on the front seat.

“What’s in the bag?” the minister asks the driver.

The driver says, “It’s a bottle of wine. I got it for my brother; he’s a beet writer.”

The minister is silent for a moment then says, “Good trade.”

Please make me a collumist soon, Carulina Lady.

Goodbye, Everbudy! Go Braves!!

Chop Seal

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12: “The Winter Doldrums”

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by Chrisklob

CHARLESTON, SC – That’s what I call this time of year – the winter doldrums. The holidays are behind us, college football is almost over, NFL football is winding down and there are fewer and fewer choices of sports to watch on the television.

Of course, there are plenty of basketball and hockey games on TV, but quite frankly, if those sports decided to shut down tomorrow I wouldn’t have a second thought about it. I’m not really a big football fan either, but I force myself to at least watch SportsCenter. In this day and age, if you’re a guy and don’t know what’s going on in both college and professional football you run the serious risk of having your “Man Card” revoked immediately and terminally. So, reluctantly I follow it, but have no real passion for the sport.

My true passion in sports lies strictly in baseball. I prefer professional baseball. There’s just something about the “ping” of an aluminum bat that rings hollow, both literally and figuratively, to my ears.

But, over the years, I’ve had the chance to see some pretty decent college baseball in my area. Clemson, the University of South Carolina, College of Charleston (my alma mater), and The Citadel are all nearby and I have seen them all play over the years and enjoyed watching them and their opponents, especially many of those fine programs from the ACC and SEC. The South is blessed with good baseball.

Not living in a major league city, I don’t get to see many big league games in person but I typically attend 30-40 minor league games a year. Most of them are here, but over the years I’ve traveled to Myrtle Beach, Columbia, Greenville, Jacksonville, Charlotte and Zebulon to see a player or team that I was particularly interested in.

I’m equally happy watching the younger guys play ball too. We have an excellent AAU program that plays less than half a mile from my home so I’ve been known to stop by on my way home from work to catch a couple of innings. My son, Matt, has been playing since he was four and I’ve attended and helped coach just about every game he’s played in and enjoyed every one of them. Very few things are as exciting as watching a kid get his first big hit. Matt hit his first homerun this past spring and I’m not sure who was more excited, me or him.

I simply enjoy the beauty of the game. I enjoy watching the pitcher battle the hitter, sometimes winning and sometimes not. I love watching the shortstop and second baseman work together to turn a double play. I love a close play at the plate.

But while any baseball game is good, my preference still lies with professional baseball. There’s just something about the sound of a well-struck ball as it leaves the bat that makes my heart sing.

As a kid, I never gave baseball much thought. I liked playing it well enough, but football was my favorite sport to watch. Baseball is sometimes described as a “thinking man’s sport” and “a game of inches. As I matured I came to understand what these expressions meant. I began to appreciate the subtleties of the game.

Let’s face it, there’s nothing subtle about two tons worth of lineman trying to smother each other into oblivion. Nor is there anything subtle about a 300 pound center, lumbering through the paint, knocking bodies in every direction and slamming the basketball through the rim.

However, there is a beautiful subtlety watching a pitcher strike out his opponent with a wicked splitter or perhaps an inside fastball after only offering off-speed stuff off the plate. Homeruns are great but it’s equally intriguing to watch the hitter battle that pitcher, fouling off pitch after pitch, and finally earning an off-field single, or perhaps just drawing a walk.

Sometimes those seemingly insignificant plays (which some would classify as just plain “boring”) are as important as, and sometimes even more important than, the three-run homer. In my opinion, folks that say they don’t like baseball because it’s too slow simply have not learned to appreciate these nuances. Yes, the subtleties of this game are a large part of what make it so attractive to me.

Anyway, I digress. Ah yes, the winter doldrums. Winter is my least favorite time of the year. Aside from the lack of sports entertainment I find it a generally depressing season. The excitement and anticipation of Christmas is past, and the mailbox only brings the holiday’s bills.

Plus, in spite of being pretty well insulated, I can’t stand cold weather. Living in coastal South Carolina, I realize that I shouldn’t complain. Relatively speaking, it doesn’t get very cold here and rarely do we ever experience snow, a fact that irritates my children.

There is just something about the barren trees, the dormant grass, the lack of any color outside aside from brown and gray and the short days that leave me feeling, well, just cold inside. Oh, and coincidentally, winter is the worst time of the year for my business. Frankly, I find it all to be damn depressing.

Pitchers and catchers report!

In my opinion, that short series of words is one of the finest sentences in the English language. These august words coincide with longer, warmer days.

It means the grass will very soon be turning to its proper, glorious green and the skies will once again be blue. My business will show signs of life once again, much like the dogwood tree at the edge of the woods behind my house and my neighbor’s azaleas will dazzle us with their beautiful flowers.

“Our” bluebirds will (hopefully) like the new nesting box that I just built for them well enough to raise their brood there. My wife’s tulips will soon fill the garden with their stunning pastels and our rose bushes will push out their first new shoots. The scent of purple wisteria will fill the air and the long shadows cast by the winter sun will be replaced by longer days.

More importantly, it means that we’ll soon see baseball being played again. The first games mean nothing, but they seem so important. They answer many questions, yet those early games raise many more. Did we solve our rotation issues? How strong is the bullpen? Who will play in center this year? Will the bench be worthy of its task?

To me, those four words mean that all the things that I dislike most about winter will soon be gone and they’ll be replaced by those other good things. Ah yes, once the pitchers and catchers report, things will be good in the world once again.

It’s a time of hope, promise and the anticipation of another great season of baseball. I know that if I can hang on until that glorious day, life will be good again.

chrisklob

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11: “Don’t Pray When It Rains If You Don’t Pray When the Sun Shines”

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by Salty

WOODSTOCK, GA – Many of you know my affection for Charleston and my Tigers…and obviously baseball. My roots, however, started elsewhere…LA. For the ‘southern uninitiated’, we’re not talking ‘Tinsel-Town’, but the butt of the joke: it keeps Georgia from being neighbors with Mississippi. Yep, the ol’ ‘Heart of Dixie’. Granted, Alabama has some less than stellar history, but in baseball lore, show me a state that has delivered more with less.

A brief perspective: the City of Lost Angels has more folks than the entire state (a shade over 2 million), and Mobile wouldn’t rank as a decent size city by today’s standards.

“I Ain’t Ever Had A Job, I Always Played Baseball”

In my baseball card collection, the Alabama players were special. Which gives rise to this blog lead: who would make an all-time Alabama team? Also, is there a similarly populated area that could match the depth and quality of the team? The second part, that’s for debate by you fine denizens, but the team, I’ll lay my choices down for you. By the way, it wasn’t easy!

You folks remember George Foster? How about Amos Otis, Willie Wilson, Al Worthington? Tommy Agee, Cleon Jones…Bruce ‘Eggs’ Benedict? Perhaps ‘Vinegar Bend’ Mizell, Frank ‘Yankee Killer’ Lary, or youngsters Jake Peavy, Juan Pierre, and Matt Cain ring a bell? They didn’t make the cut. Heck, there are Hall of Famers (noted by *) who don’t even crack the starting lineup!

Numbers…it’s what makes baseball history so grand. My team: eleven Hall of Famers. Starting lineup: over 1800 home runs and 10000 RBI’s! The bench: almost another 1000 HRS and over 5500 RBI’s. Pitchers: exceed 1400 wins, 300 saves, 200 shutouts, 13000 strikeouts. And know this; a couple of players’ stats are light. Their years in the Negro Leagues aren’t included. Yikes!

Without further adieu, let the numbers do the talking!

Oh, and the quotes…you do know who’s talking, right?

“If a Man Can Beat You, Walk Him”

11.table

– Salty –

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