Archive for February, 2008

25: The Minor League Experience

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by Chrisklob

CHARLESTON, SC – As many of you know, I am a huge fan of minor league baseball. There is something special and different about the baseball experience at a minor league ball park that you just don’t get at a big league facility. The seats tend to be a whole lot closer to the field and even the worst seats in the house are generally pretty good. It’s an inexpensive night out too, with tickets at my home park as cheap as $4.00. Beers are $3.00 and even the food is “normally” priced.

Another great aspect of minor league ball is how close you can get to the players. In Low A ball, the kids are generally pretty young and are not yet tired of signing autographs for the kids or of their budding celebrity. As a frequent visitor to our local field I have struck up friendships with a couple of players that exist to this day. The likelihood of that happening with a big leaguer is virtually nonexistent in my experience.

Another interesting part of the minor league experience is some of the great characters that work in the stadium. The Charleston RiverDogs is owned in part by Mike Veeck, son of legendary HOF’er Bill Veeck. Veeck the Elder owned the St. Louis Browns, Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox at various times. Larry Doby, Satchell Paige and Eddie Gaedel were all signees of Veeck’s. He planted the beloved ivy at Wrigley Field and as owner of the White Sox snuck a microphone into the booth while Harry Carey sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, had it broadcast into the stadium and a tradition was born.

It is very safe to say that Mike is definitely a “chip off the old block”. Remember “Disco Demolition Night”? That was one of Mike’s ideas. Granted it wasn’t one of his better ones but it really got a lot of people’s attention. Among the more interesting and zany promotions dreamed up by Veeck and his team for RiverDogs promotions include Vasectomy Night (some lucky guy was going to get a free vasectomy but the Catholic Church complained so they cancelled it), Funeral Night, and Silent Night (no one aside from the players, coaches and umpires were allowed to make any noise at all, which was a blast, by the way). This brings me to what I believe might be Veeck’s best idea ever.

Whenever I hear “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, I am automatically reminded of two gentlemen: Don Wardlow and Jim Lucas. For twelve years, three of which were spent in Charleston, they called the games for the radio broadcast. Lucas did the play-by-play; Wardlow, the color commentary. To say that they were excellent would be an understatement. Lucas had a way with words that is simply indescribable. He painted such a fine picture of the game’s happenings that, quite frankly, made it unnecessary to actually be at the game. Close your eyes and listen and you’ll know how long the pitcher’s sideburns are, how many steps the left fielder took to catch the fly ball, the exact color of the visiting teams uniform tops. You’ll understand with as much clarity as the catcher what the home plate umpire’s strike zone looks like, which cheek the first baseman put his dip in and how big a lead the runner at first has taken. The guy was truly an artist in his ability to paint a picture.

Lucas didn’t provide this information just for the radio listeners. He did it because it was a necessity for his partner. Don Wardlow has been blind since birth and has never seen anything, at least not in the way that you and I can see. But his baseball vision is astounding. His knowledge of the game and its history is astonishing. After hearing Lucas’ description of what had just occurred, Wardlow invariably had something interesting to add. It might have been a bit of baseball trivia from 1893 or 1983. It might have been about an event that took place at a game he’d attended as a child. It could have been about anything, but whatever it was, it was always relevant and interesting to the listener.

I mentioned Harry Carey and we are all aware of the tradition of the seventh inning stretch that has spread throughout baseball. Don Wardlow carried that tradition on at our games, but he had a twist. While we all know the verse that starts out “Take me out to the ballgame”, few of us, myself included, knew that this is actually the chorus of the song. Like Caray, Wardlow wouldn’t make it far on “American Idol”, but he dutifully sang the first two verses nightly.

By the way, the lyrics were written by Jack Norworth in 1908 and the music was composed by Albert Von Tilzer:

This is the original version:
Katie Casey was baseball mad,
Had the fever and had it bad.
Just to root for the home town crew,
Ev’ry sou
Katie blew.
On a Saturday her young beau
Called to see if she’d like to go
To see a show, but Miss Kate said “No,
I’ll tell you what you can do:”

(chorus)
Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd;
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don’t care if I never get back.
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don’t win, it’s a shame.
For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out,
At the old ball game.

Katie Casey saw all the games,
Knew the players by their first names.
Told the umpire he was wrong,
All along,
Good and strong.
When the score was just two to two,
Katie Casey knew what to do,
Just to cheer up the boys she knew,
She made the gang sing this song:

(chorus)
Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd;
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don’t care if I never get back.
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don’t win, it’s a shame.
For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out,
At the old ball game.

If you’d like to hear the song performed here’s a link (requires RealPlayer).

Wardlow decided to retire a few years ago. His wife is also disabled and he felt guilty about being away on long road trips when she would take ill. The RiverDogs decided to perform only the “traditional” version during the seventh inning stretch the year after he left. That was a disappointing but understandable decision as performing the first verse was really his “thing”. Either way, whenever I hear that song, no matter where I am, I am instantly reminded of Jim Lucas and Don Wardlow, baseball announcers extraordinaire. Just a thread in the fabric of the minor league baseball experience!

~by Chris~

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24: The Danger of Daydreaming, May It Never Go Away

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By Voice of Reason

“Sweet dreams are born inside you.

Sweet dreams are born to last.

Sweet thoughts within your makeup;

These thoughts will always last.”

from Sweet Dreams by Yes, from Time and a Word (1970)

JEFFERSON, GA – As I sit to organize my thoughts, my mind is constantly aware that today is the first day of full squad workouts for my beloved Braves at Champion Field in the Den of Disney. Although I am the consummate compulsive multi-tasker, I find that I am having a great deal of difficulty peeling my thoughts away from what is surely Paradise in the heart of The Big Mouse. You see, there is one constant peril in the routine of the compulsive multi-tasker: daydreaming.

Daydreaming can upset the balance of a carefully crafted groove, a perfected program, an unspoiled scheme, a mastered modus operandi.

I daydream of all the sights and sounds that go along with a day at the ballpark. I cannot escape the fact that as I sit and navigate the water that is my daily duties, my beloved Braves are cranking up the machine that is the 2008 campaign. Ah, yes… Here in late winter, the Boys of Summer open their Spring Training. And I find my thoughts constantly drawn to this seasonal paradox. I can’t shake it. It is an imagination addiction.

A daydream is a wistfully pleasant visual vacation. It is a creation of the imagination with one sole purpose: escape from reality. In fact, it is in and of itself its own reality complete with a symphony of sensory delights. And I daydream of being there – there in the middle of the Disney juggernaut in a small piece of heaven that is a baseball park.

I hear the pop of freshly oiled leather. I hear the crack of white ash, as the bat meets the ball in a perfect union of two bodies in motion.

I hear the kids playing on the grass just outside the outfield fence. I hear the birds overhead, packed and ready for the journey northward.

I hear the ooohs and ahhhs as the hitters launch their rockets from home plate. I hear Bobby yelling, “Come on, Kid!”

I smell the freshly cut infield grass. I smell the popcorn popping in the vendor’s wagon just outside the gate. I smell the SPF 50 from the Vermont vacationers.

I see the players, playing a boy’s game with a man’s skill. I see the sun and the shadows painting the field with their contrasting ideas. I see the fans milling about, each with their own contrasting ideas.

I see that glorious “A”, gracing the brow of the caps worn by my beloved Braves. (I’m wearing one, too!)

I feel the warmth of the Florida sun. I feel the anticipation of fulfilling a dream. I feel the excitement of new opportunity. I feel the tension of jobs on the line. I feel the joy of simply being in the midst of it all.

And I can taste it, just as nourishment for the soul as it all comes together in the perfect recipe that is my daydream.

Yes, this dream is born inside me, indeed. It lasts from spring to new spring and is surely a part of what makes me who I am. No, I’ve never been to spring training, at least not yet. But, I can dream, can’t I?

By Voice of Reason Raisins

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23: It’s five AM and deadline approaches…

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by Gil Elliott

MECHANICSVILLE, VA – Isn’t is funny how we sometimes have so much to say and just when we come up with a gem of and idea, someone else scoops you? Alas, being a bit slow on the draw only worked for Marshall Matt Dillon as he drew a steady bead each week while his opponent fired quickly and off the mark.

Media types I think are a lot like the unseen gunslinger who was quick on the draw but off the mark in his haste to be the fastest. Making wild and often unsubstantiated predictions based on little fact and much innuendo. Chalk it up to the 24/7 world we live in when no news is bad news and rumor is often reported as fact and the absence of real information is filled with countless hours of speculation.

Could we be talking baseball here? For each of us who is an ardent follower of the game of baseball, we wait for news of our team, anxious to learn every thing we can about our favorites. How do they look, think they will hit 30 homers this year, play more than 120 games, or stay away from the juice and other temptations? Maybe we are looking for a spark plug, a guy who has marginal talent but gets the most out of what he has and brings his “A” game every night. Everyone knows the story of “Charlie Hustle” and his drive to become one of the greatest ball players of all time.

The coming season holds so much promise for so many clubs. Right now everyone has a clean slate. Granted, some have a bigger slate with which to work and better chalk with which to write but for now everyone is equal. All full of hope that this will be their season. For 29 teams, that hope will be crushed by October. Some sooner than that but surely the World Series will produce only one winner.

It is unfortunate that our society has become so jaded that only a world championship is used to measure success verses failure. Does losing the Super Bowl mean the 2007 Patriots are still not one of the greatest football teams to ever have played the game?

I can remember very vividly how I felt when the Braves lost the World Series to the Twins back in ’91. Disappointed to be sure but I refused to feel bad. I had witness so many Braves teams fail to get to the big show. I told my friends and co-workers that although I was disappointed the Braves had not won what I thought to be one of the greatest world series ever played, I could not be unhappy because for an entire season they had brought me joy, had entertained me and lastly had made me proud to be a Braves fan.

In subsequent years the Braves have only one Worlds Series Championship but by no means should they be considered losers. A medium market club that has competed consistently with behemoths that by rights should be able to outspend and out play the Atlanta club every day of the week but baseball can be a humbling game. The best team does not always win. Even the worst of clubs manage 60 wins per year.

So fans, we are all equal in the standings on this date, we will scan the internet and newspapers and other media for some words of encouragement that our team is the best, that the Braves are a lock to win another championship and will grouse and complain when all the ink goes to teams located in big markets. Do not despair my friends, in ’91 the Braves were picked to finish last by nearly everyone, in ’06 they were picked to finish first. So much for the experts, the game still have to be played on the field. Just ask the NY Giants about that one.

Regardless, this looks to be a good year for the Braves, a deep pitching staff, good defense and a potential powerhouse for scoring runs, the Braves appear ready to make a run. However, do not judge success solely on a World Series Championship, look instead to the fact of whether or not they achieve to their full potential and didn’t fall short through lack of effort.

Like our old friend from Mercer University has said, “a team that works hard can beat a team with talent that doesn’t”.

~Gil Elliott~

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22: 101 things you didn’t know about Ted Simmons!

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by Berigan

Ah, spring is in the air! Winter doth protesteth a bit, but soon, she will make way for the rebirth of….oh who am I kidding, I can’t write that kind of stuff! But, I can write of the eternal hope that spring and spring training bring! And I bet I will be the very first one here to do it!

Hard to believe at one time (back in the day to be precise) teams used to play spring training in south Georgia! Now, teams barely make it north of Orlando. At least, that is what I think is true, but I am far too much of a brick wall to look into it and make sure! Something else this baseball history proves to me is that global cooling is a fact, and anyone that doesn’t recognize that we are in the beginning of a new ice age and that its an indisputable fact, is worse than a Nazi who kicks puppies! Either that, or people were just tougher in olden times. Either way, it’s all good.

As you may know (you may not care, but may know) I grew up a Cardinal fan. That sort of thing happens being born 5 miles south of St. Louis. Missed the glory days of 3 World series in the 60’s, but as a boy in the mid to late 70’s, I got to see Lou Brock Steal 893 (well, a replay on TV the next day – I did hear it though) and other fair to pretty good players like Bob Forsch (2 no hitters in his career), Kenny Reitz AKA the Zamboni machine (great 3rd baseman, hence the nickname, but the slowest runner in the history of the game, and he wasn’t even fat!) and Gary Templeton, who was the most exciting player in the game…for a few years. Honest he was!!! A Coke habit and bad knees don’t go well together. Also on the team of my youth was Keith Hernandez and Silent George Hendrick (he didn’t talk to the media). And of course, batting cleanup, the swellest catcher not in the HOF, Simba, Ted Simmons!!!

Anyway, the team seemed to have more than enough talent to compete; in 1980 the team had 6 guys hit .300 or higher. But, apparently, you also need pitching to complement the hitting! So, one year we’d be a bit above .500, next year below it. And no wildcard back then. Wish there had been, when you know the team is out of it in June, sad to watch the rest of the way. Then I became a Braves fan in the mid 80’s! 😦

But, the real prize was David Green! He was the reason why you trade the best hitting catcher in the game and the guys that would win the Cy Young in 1981 and 1982 (Fingers, then Vuckovich) David Green, we Cardinal fans were told, was not merely the best prospect in the game, he was the best prospect scouts had seen in 15 years! That meant, he was better than Al Oliver, Dave Parker, even Reggie Jackson! You name it, he was better! 5+ tools, fastest guy around, power, just an uber stud. His best year was 1983, when he hit .284 with 8 HR’s drove in 69, and had 34 steals. Whoopty-freakin’-do. He was out of the majors at the age of 26.

So, what happened to these two teams??? The Brewers won their division in 1981 and 1982, going all the way to the World Series in 1982.

And somehow, the Cardinals, doing the new math of addition by subtraction, won the division in 1981 (even though they were in 2nd place in both halves of the strike plagued season) and won it all in 1982 against the Brewers!

So, Lil’ Berigan was a happy camper…right???? Nope!!! I HATED Whitey Herzog! He traded all the players I had grown up with! This wasn’t my team, this was some team calling themselves the Cardinals. He replaced Ted Simmons with Darryl Porter, he of the very thick glasses, and supposedly much better catching skills….and a batting average of around .230 while in St. Louis.

What we had was Whitey ball. It bored me to tears. Take an extra base, pound the ball off the hard astroturf, and beat out an infield hit. Steal a base. Make an out to move the runner to 3rd. Watch the runner score on a fly ball to right. Watching paint dry was more fun, IMHO.

There was no power at all on this team. In 1982, his Porters 12 homers were the second highest next to Hendricks 19! 3rd highest was 7 Homers. Mark McGuire and Bonds both out homered this team’s total of 67. Tommy Herr, the 2nd baseman didn’t even hit a homer til his 4th year with the team!

I became a traitor. My hatred was so complete, I wished, prayed, the Cards would lose, and that Whitey would soon be out of a job. That didn’t happen, but at least when the Harvey Wallbangers of Milwaukee met up with the Cards in the WS, they would show which way of playing was best….I was not happy to see my former team win the WS in 1982. I know, a traitor I was. I was a hurt 14 year old.

Funny, to look back on those teams so many years later. The teams I loved were not championship caliber teams. The teams that did make it to the playoffs and the WS in 1982 and 1985 didn’t look like one of the best teams in baseball (even the baseball pundits of the time said that) but they were. As much as I didn’t like it, Whitey ball DID work, it was winning baseball. As Braves fans, we all know how very important it is to be able to move runners over, then drive them in. If a few Braves teams had a few more guys who could do that we might have had more than one WS ring since 1991.

It also showed me something I love about the game now more than ever. You just never know what will happen! When Spring training rolled around in 1977, ’78, ’79 and ’80, I was sure the Cards would win it all. In ’81 and ’82, clearly those teams were weak hitting teams and ol’ Whitey made trades that looked terrible on the surface and below it as well. Still look like trades made at gunpoint. Yet, somehow, they worked for both teams. Some sort of math that I still don’t begin to get.

The good news for the baseball fan in me was since I was moving out of St. Louis in 1983, I wouldn’t been seeing Cardinal games much anymore, and I got to see the Cubbies, and the team that would become my team, the Braves, via cable.

In 2008, we all hope the trades and signings the Braves made work and we will get back to our rightful place, the playoffs. But, who knows?? Perhaps the weakest looking team in the East, the Marlins will make a run at it. Every team and it’s fans will feel some optimism during spring training. The worst teams will beat the best teams. And, as the season unfolds, teams no experts, no fans can imagine right now will become the Diamondbacks and Rockies of ’07. Reason # 459 baseball is the best sport in the world!!! 🙂

by Berigan

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21: Baseball is back! What about that elephant in the room?

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by SavannahGuy

SAVANNAH, GA – Spring is fast approaching and the excitement of a brand spanking new baseball season is upon us. Braves pitchers and catchers have reported and all other players soon arrive in camp. With great anticipation and high expectations we await news. It’s a great time for baseball fans.

Can’t wait…but before the southern Dogwoods and azaleas bloom and I once again become too enamored with real live baseball being played, I’ll get a few issues off my chest and put them on the table.

There’ll be plenty of time soon to get caught up in the games, the players, the teams, trades, stats and standings. Before all of that begins and we baseball fans become immersed in all that is good and wholesome and competitive I wonder: What about that other stuff that can turn good fans into cynics? You know, the baggage…the steroids, the allegations, the excess…the ugly stuff we ignore until it hits the headlines again.

Maybe it’s just my cathartic opine and statement of the obvious, but excuse me sports fans…uh, there’s an elephant in the room. Oh, I’d like it to go away but it won’t leave anytime soon. Perhaps by acknowledging its existence and calling it by name, it’ll at least be put it in its proper place, if but only for a little while.

This big, fat hairy elephant is not just steroids and the players that cheat. It’s the inept or corrupt trainers and team doctors. It’s the enabling owners, the unreasonable and elusive union, it’s the media and most of all it’s the MLB. It’s flamed by the always more, bigger, better, faster, further, stronger, never enough culture we live in.

Theatre of the absurd.

Off the field of play, baseball is seriously flawed. After years of the curse of steroids and a fundamentally rudderless, myopic MLB with a seemingly owner-managed, Howdy-Doody Commissioner, major league baseball has once again become tarnished. Oh, it’s happened before with the Black Sox and the strikes…but never quite like today. Sure, baseball will survive and thrive for the foreseeable future and we’ll enjoy the games themselves, but the gaps between the businesses of baseball, the game of baseball, the players and loyal fans continues to grow wider.

Baseball is in the midst of a perfect storm of steroids, outlandish salaries and payroll pressures never before seen or imagined. Each cascading wave of the storm has a cumulative effect on television costs, game broadcast times and coverage. During the regular season but particularly during playoffs, the games are being played later at night, ignoring an entire generation of youth…the next generation of future fans.

Hey Bud, it’s also the economy, stupid. If MLB leadership doesn’t take a good, hard, rational, big-picture, long term look at baseball then provide reasonably affordable, dependable and consistent access to its fans, they could be unwittingly reducing an American institution to just another reality television property. Our American pastime risks becoming an elitist stadium event and a mid-level television commodity, competing with an explosion of entertainment content choices today.

Don’t blame the players on baseballs economy. Sure, the phenomenon of super-rich players hoisted to the “stratusphere” of an athlete society elite make easy targets, but they are the game. They’re the only reason we watch. They are the content. They take the field and play the game. They are the talent. They play their hearts out. They hit, pitch, catch, throw, scrap and claw, run the bases, score the runs and entertain us with their valiant effort. Like film actors, artists and musicians, they deserve whatever the market will bear. They are the actors on the stage we watch, write about, talk about, measure and obsess over.

Our game is changing. Baseball is either evolving or devolving, depending on your point of view. Perhaps there’s a transformation…no, make that transmutation taking place, but it is in no way unique to our favorite pastime or even sports. The state of baseball is but a reflection of our society, an index to a larger, faster, bigger, better, “let’s see how big we can grow it and how far we can stretch it until we break” it American culture.

Media plays its part in our changing sport culture. Around the clock sports news and non-stop gossip, steroid and designer drug scandals, the he said-she said blather, the paparazzi-like, star-worshiping sports journalists, a “blog universe of rumors” may just mark a shift in sports to attract and appeal to a 24/7 generation of stat-obsessed, instant gratification hooked, win or you stink – lose and we’re personally miserable sports fan culture.

Now, back to that big fat hairy elephant. Wait, that’s no elephant. That’s a Tyrannosaurus rex and baseball may not be evolving…it may be knee deep and wading further into the tar pit of irrelevancy.

So, where does that leave us? Where is the good old inter-subjective, traditional fans game we can get behind and root for? Where are apple pies and the American flag? Where is the Star Spangled Banner? Where are the peanuts and Cracker Jack? Where are the Blue Angel flyovers? Where are the boys of summer? Who in baseball has the “right stuff” to fix it?

What would Tom Wolfe say?

With his “new journalism” style and his amazing ability to go instantly from tarmac to 30,000 feet and back like no other, Mr. Wolfe can delve into the depths of a subculture and emerge holding the beating heart and speaking the vernacular of a generation. Wolfe can coin a phrase, give title to a cultural movement and capture the behavioral, aesthetic essence of a particular group. With that talent, what would the esteemed author write about America’s traditional pastime, the game of baseball?

Tom Wolfe played baseball. In 1952 he earned a tryout as a pitcher with the New York Giants. His baseball career ended when he was cut after three days. A failing Wolfe attributed to his inability to throw good fastballs. Fortunately, for those of us who have long appreciated his social commentary and exploration of sub-cultures, Wolfe abandoned baseball.

How might Tom Wolfe describe the myopic MLB that allows the sport and many of the players to remain caught up so long in a self-perpetuating, ostentatious tsunami of excess, unreasonable expectations and illegal “drugs for enhancement” culture? What would he think of the lowered bar of personal integrity and sportsmanship of those that cheat and those self-serving enablers that look the other way? How would Mr. Wolfe illustrate the ignored health risks taken by drug taking players?

What would Wolfe write about a Player’s Union that staunchly supports excess and eludes drug testing? What of the owners that benefit from the “financial steroids” of a full stadium, big TV deals and enjoy the artificially “pumped up” long ball even more than the chicks!

Perhaps Mr. Wolfe might apply just one word to describe the dark side of baseball. Omerta.

Be wary of the strawberry Kool-Aid.

Perhaps there is an “electric Kool-Aid acid test” for traditional baseball fans. That is, after swallowing all of the news of controversy, steroids and financial excess of our great American pastime, we can still appreciate and enjoy watching the game itself. Despite all of the controversy, so many good, young athletes with God given talent still take the field and play the game.

Kenesaw Mountain Landis is gone and Bud Selig is entrenched at the fenceless zoo, so what can we fans do? We continue to watch the games and root for the old home team, but we have to speak out whenever possible and wherever appropriate. Oh, and give Bud a one-way ticket to Palookaville.

Where is Tom Wolfe when you need him? Perhaps baseball needs a high profile outsider with an understanding and appreciation of baseball that can do what the MLB and misguided Congress can’t do…capture the beauty and essence of the game, identify the threats to the game, magnify the problems, shine a light, put it all into perspective, write the book, make the movie, generate simultaneous love of game and outrage at the ineptitude and corruption around it, create a catalyst to change the culture of the game…and entertain us all at the same time.

C’mon Tom…you could do it.

~SavannahGuy~

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20: Driven by that championship moment

 

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by ssiscribe

ATLANTA – The ball hung in the air for what seemed like forever. It stayed airborne for just a few seconds, but those ticks of the clock felt like a lifetime.

 

Inside a stadium jammed full of people on a cold October night, throughout a sprawling metropolitan city, and around countless TVs and radios scattered far and wide, a fan base held its collective breath.

 

The moment – one born on sandlots and storytime and highlights of Octobers past, one forged through two heartbreaking near misses – finally had arrived.

 

And as Marquis Grissom gloved Carlos Baerga’s fly ball at 10:27 p.m. on Oct. 28, 1995, Braves Nation erupted in a joy that washes over only those who have just witnessed their team win the World Series. It is a moment I was so very blessed to experience in person, eight rows high in the upper deck, down the right-field line at old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

 

Every year about this time, as baseball players gather their belongings, end their winter slumber and head south for spring training, I think back to that magical moment that now is 12 years old. In some respects, it seems like yesterday; in others, it feels like an eternity.

 

That’s what they play this child’s game, for a chance to win it all, to run onto the field knowing the season is over and the pursuit is finished, and you have made it to the finish line. No more late-inning tension, no more clutch hitting needed, no more pleading for that ground ball to turn two and get you out of this bases-loaded jam.

 

It’s over. You’ve won.

 

You’re the champion.

 

It’s the moment fans long for, too, because a team’s fan base is an extension of the team itself. Fans live and die with every pitch. Fans hang in the balance as games go back and forth. Fans save money to take their kids to experience the game first-hand, just as their dads and granddads did for them. Fans forego sleep and rearrange plans and get in arguments with their best friend and their better half because of a team made up of people you may never meet.

 

And that’s OK. That’s what fans do. And when that team, the one that is among the few items consisting the center of your existence from February to October, wins the World Series, the euphoric feeling is one that never, every fades away. It warms the coldest winter morning. It burns deep inside your soul, and always will.

 

It’s moments like this that remind us of why we do this in the first place, why we come together with people scattered far and wide to stand united behind a jersey, a hat, a rallying chant, a manager and a franchise. It does not matter what color we are, where we live or how much money we have in the bank. Our political and religious preferences and biases are checked at the door. The day-to-day grind takes a back seat, if only for a few hours 162 times a year. Together, we stand as fans, and as the journey begins again, we know there will be heartbreak and ecstasy. We know there will be moments where we will swear off this ragged bunch of semipros forever and ever.

 

But there will come a moment when the team rallies for a victory it has no business getting, when Smoltz or Hudson or Glavine authors a masterpiece, when Chipper or Frenchy or McCann blast one 425 feet deep into the clear Georgia night, and we’ll remember why we fell in love with this team – and this game – in the first place.

 

I don’t know if the Braves will win the World Series this year. But I know I’ll be on board for every step of the journey. It’s now, in the midst of February, when the rush begins. It will end as the leaves change and the weather turns cold again. And when it does, somebody will be running onto the field, throwing their gloves high in the air like kids and celebrating a dream come true. Its fan base will jump with glee, shed tears of joy, hug total strangers and bask in the warmth of seeing their team win the world championship.

 

Here’s hoping this year, it’s our turn. Again.

 

–30–

~ ssiscribe ~

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19: oh, the humanity! baseball is the best!

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by journalist jimmy smith

CORDELE, GA – well, the super bowl was pretty special this year (as far as the super bowl goes) and jimmy smith watched every play. journalist was entertained – but jimmy smith felt no real passion for the contest. jimmy smith was never on the edge of jimmy smith’s chair and jimmy smith did not nervously bite jimmy smith’s fingernails. jimmy smith just watched. the grandest game in football was okay for a sunday night in february – but it might be only jimmy smith felt that way.

see, jimmy smith likes baseball. really likes baseball. baseball is the unchallenged favorite sport of this journalist. and football is no substitute for baseball. jimmy smith likes baseball so much that jimmy smith can hardly wait for the new season to begin.

jimmy smith is reminded of what bart giamatti had to say about the game of baseball:

“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. ”

yes, it has been lonely without baseball. cold, disagreeable. full of winter sports, leotards, basketball, hockey, snowfall and misery. misery because there was no baseball.

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

bloggers here long for baseball. that is apparent. well, spring will soon be sprung. and jimmy smith reminds all that pitchers and catchers report in only 9 days at the time of this writing.

and, after bobby and chino and the boys hone this team to perfection in florida, the team will open the season in the nation’s capital and on national t.v.and everybody knows who will throw out the first ball, right? not archie manning. not eli manning. not cher. baseball is america’s pastime. america’s president will throw out the first pitch. as it should be. better arm than al gore or john kerry.

many will know that the braves home opener is march 31 versus the pirates and the feared adam laroche – well, maybe not feared early in the season.

fans can enjoy all the pleasures of baseball and a trip to the ol’ ballpark. and the trip to turner field remains special – though jimmy smith is no big fan of tooner field and other such amusements.

there is plenty of entertainment for youngsters on the baseball field if taught to properly appreciate. in fact, a day at the ballpark cures all ills and makes bread rise in the oven. a day at the ballpark is always special to this journalist.

“A hot dog at the ballgame beats roast beef at the Ritz.” ~Humphrey Bogart

then again, baseball is not everyone’s cup of ugandan ginger tea.

“With those who don’t give a damn about baseball, I can only sympathize. I do not resent them. I am even willing to concede that many of them are physically clean, good to their mothers and in favor of world peace. But while the game is on, I can’t think of anything to say to them. ” ~Art Hill

still, for many (including this journalist), “That’s the true harbinger of spring, not crocuses or swallows returning to Capistrano, but the sound of a bat on a ball. ~Bill Veeck

pitcher versus batter. manager versus manager (oh, the humanity!). pick a winner.

and the challenges! the confrontation! the strategy! the execution (or lack thereof). the gamesmanship.

“The pitcher has to find out if the hitter is timid. And if the hitter is timid, he has to remind the hitter he’s timid.” ~Don Drysdale

baseball is a sport that makes you feel good. springtime. summer. outdoors (mostly). and national league baseball is the best baseball in the world – with strategy and abundant baseball skills on display. and braves baseball stirs passion. makes fingernails into nubs. creates havoc with dinnertime and with other pursuits. game time is reserved for watching the braves. and jimmy smith plans to be at the ted watching a lot of games this season. journalist hopes to see many braves and stuff bloggers there.

still, jimmy smith is struck by this last question and has no answer:

“Why does everybody stand up and sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” when they’re already there?” ~Larry Anderson

oh, the humanity! let’s play ball!

journalist jimmy smith

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18: Yin, Yang, Jerry Falwell and The Spiders From Mars*

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by Lew

RANDOLPH, VT – *The title alludes to an album by David Bowie, entitled “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars.” It tells the story of a fictional guitarist named Ziggy Stardust and his band The Spiders From Mars and their rise to stardom. It is a story detailing the detrimental effects of fame and fortune and what happens when one thinks they are greater than their bretheran. I know Savannah Guy and a few others may have understood the reference, but doubted that CL and Bob were listening to Glam Rock in the 70’s.

My little story also speaks to the duality of the universe and it’s often opposing forces. We all encounter this duality daily-Day and Night, Hot and Cold, Sunny or Rainy. Pitch and Hit. Home and Away. DH or no DH. You get the idea. The Yin and Yang of life-wonderful concept, that. We’ve all seen the collision of these forces-A pitching duel between Gibby and Koufax. A slugfest at Wrigley or at the Green Monster. Strikes when greedy players argue with greedy owners. We also see what transpires when hot and cold air masses collide-Thunderstorms which make Bob quit blogging and his computer to self destruct. Yes, much can happen when forces collide, but more on that later.

Much has been discussed on this blog about Heroes, Legends, Icons and Roll Models (don’t blame me for the spelling, I hang out with Beet Writers). With the recent steroid scandals, much has been discussed about their feet of clay (had to get at least one podiatric reference in, right?). We’ve also spoken much about our enjoyment of everything from baseball, to family and friends, to sci fi movies. I even talked about some of my favorites in my last blog.

My interest in all forms of science fiction and fantasy has by necessity, led me to attend Sci Fi conventions (Cons, as they are known). I’ve gotten some of my best art jobs at these events and made some pretty decent money along the way. I’ve made many friends there. I’ve also gotten the opportunity to meet many authors, artists and actors associated with the genre (note the alliteration, Oh Scribe). I’ve met R2D2 (Kenny Baker and his wife are nice people). I’ve met actors from Horror Films, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, and Star Trek. I’ve seen numerous fans dressed as Fairies, Witches, Wizards, Barbarians, Hobbits and Elves. I’ve seen others dressed as Romulans, Cardassians, Vulcans, Borg and Klingons. Many Klingons. Multitudes of Klingons. Hordes of Klingons. They are actually a common sight at these cons. But not in Lynchburg, Va. in 1993, at Kaliedoscope, the area’s first sci fi convention.

This was a good event, as these things go. I made several life long friends at this one. It was also significant for me because it was the first time I had been invited as a Guest Artist-a pretty big deal all those years ago. I also got to meet with one of my own icons (some may only have cowboys as heroes, but I prefer authors and artists), the author Roger Zelazy, for the final time before he died.. It was also my first time in Lynchburg, an old southern town which is also the home of the Late Evangelist Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University.

Now as discussed earlier, forces collide. Air masses meet and thunderstorms send Bob scurrying on Pruny Toes back to his hot tub. It seems that this particular September Sunday every year, was the annual brunch for the Reverend Falwell’s congregation-here in the very hotel where all these denizens of sci fi fandom frivolously frolicked and otherwise reveled. In the lobby (If I was a Prophet, I would Not have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express, last night), a quartet of The Reverend’s choir gave a recital. The throng of Star Fleet Officers, Fairy Princesses, and Wizards listened intently. The singers were quite good and we are a cultured lot, after all, despite our various eccentricities. When they finished, we applauded heartily. The Reverend was not amused. Then the Klingons arrived.

Reverend Falwell stopped in mid sentence at the microphone. His eyes went wide and he turned ghostly white. He turned on heel and walked through the front door of the hotel, congregation trailing behind. They never returned, not even in subsequent years. Bob, though not even there, refused to leave his hot tub for a week. That is why Bob is wrinkled. He’s not really old, just Pruny.

Just a normal day in Dixie. Bob got old. Jerry met the Klingons. Cultures merged momentarily. I witnessed the Fall of Ziggy Stardust. Like I said, just an normal day.



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