"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: October 2008

Older posts            Newer posts

Even Fruit I Like Room Temperature

Did you ever suck the jelly out of a jelly donut and then fill it with chocolate-swirl ice cream?

Mm’eeeh, could be.

Grace Under Pressure

Cole Hamels, Ryan Madson, and Brad Lidge made like Stravinsky last night and composed a big win for the Phillies.


Philadelphia left a ton of runners on base because the Rays’ pitching was excellent too. The experts said that Philly needed to win Game One. Now, let’s hope the Rays tie it up tonight and make it a Serious.

Taking Stock

Untitled It’s strangely fitting that the Phillies and Rays are meeting in the latter’s first World Series. When then-Devil Rays general manager Chuck LaMar was assembling what would be the inaugural Rays roster in late 1997, he decided to build his team around pitching and defense. Any good defensive team needs a strong defensive shortstop, so LaMar worked out a deal with the Phillies to draft a young outfielder out of the Astros’ system in that November’s expansion draft and flip him to Philadelphia for the Phillies good-field/no-hit shortstop Kevin Stocker.

Stocker had taken over the Phillies shortstop job as a rookie in July of their pennant-winning season of 1993 and had since established himself as one of the game’s best defenders at the position. A 27-year-old switch-hitter who wouldn’t price himself off the team, Stocker was exactly what LaMar was looking for to anchor his new team’s infield. The problem was that LaMar had failed to notice the steep drop off in Stocker’s defense during the 1997 season. Stocker’s glove recovered in 1998, but he had his worst season at the plate, hitting just .208/.282/.313, and his season was mercifully ended a month early when his hand was broken by a pitch. The next year his bat picked up, but his glove work declined again, and knee tendonitis ended his season soon after the All-Star break.

That winter, LaMar scrapped his defense-first concept, signing aging sluggers Greg Vaughn and Vinnie Castilla to join Jose Canseco and original Ray Fred McGriff in the Tampa lineup. Stocker, the symbol of the Rays’ abandoned approach of just two years earlier, was released in May. Despite LaMar’s shift in focus, the Devil Rays of 2000 once again finished a distant last in the American League in runs scored. Making things worse, the young outfielder Lamar had used as currency to acquire stocker was a 23-year-old Bobby Abreu, who hit .312/.409/.497 as the Phillies’ right fielder in the Rays’ inaugural season of 1998 and proceeded to perform at a Hall of Fame level over his eight and a half seasons in Philadelphia.

Now, a decade later, LaMar is the Phillies’ scouting director, and his team is in the World Series against a Rays’ team that produced its first winning season, first playoff berth, first division title, and first pennant in part due to a renewed focus on pitching and defense. The signature player in that renewed focus is Jason Bartlett, a good-field/no-hit shortstop who was acquired for a talented young outfielder. The trick being that Bartlett wasn’t the key player in the deal that brought him to Tampa Bay from the Twins, righty starter Matt Garza was, and the outfielder he was traded for, Delmon Young, is no Bobby Abreu, which just goes to prove that intention is only as good as its execution.

To be fair, LaMar deserves to have a better legacy in Tampa Bay. It was under Lamar that the Rays drafted Aubrey Huff, Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, James Shields, B.J. Upton, Andy Sonnanstine, and Young, and it was Lamar who fleeced the Mets in the Scott Kazmir deal. Still, it took a change in ownership and an overhaul of the front office for the Rays to figure out how to make proper use of that bounty.

My point in all of this is that, even in a World Series in which the two combatants have just one prior championship between them (the lowest combined total since 1980 when the Phillies and Royals met, both looking for their first), there is still some history here.

For more from me on this match-up, check out my position-by-position breakdown and preview of Game 1, both up on SI.com.

Lasting Yankee Stadium Memory #43

By Jacob Luft

I was lucky as a kid in that my parents used to let me tag along on business trips. Oftentimes that meant New York City, though it could also be Chicago or D.C.. On one such trip to the Big Apple, I remember taking in the view atop the Empire State Building, looking west across the Hudson River and asking my dad, “What’s that over there?”

“Oh,” he replied, “that’s just New Jersey.”

(Little did he know he was talking to a future bridge-and-tunnel boy and proud resident of West Orange, N.J.!)

If mom and dad didn’t have time to take me out to see the sights themselves, they would leave me with my great aunt or some other family friend. Funny thing, though: I can’t recall ever being consulted on the destination. I was at the grownups’ mercy of what they considered to be a good time for a kid. That changed one day — I don’t remember the year, sometime in the mid-1980s — when my mom got in touch with an old friend of hers from the old country (Nicaragua) who volunteered to watch me for the day.

Upon picking me up at the hotel he asked, “Where do you want to go kid?”

That was my cue.

“Yankee Stadium.”

It was the dead of winter. I had heard the newsman on the TV say it would be in the teens with minus-7 wind chill. Suffice it to say, there was no baseball scheduled on this day. Don Mattingly was on a beach somewhere in the Caribbean bashing coconuts. He wasn’t bashing baseballs at the Stadium.

“Uh, you know it’s not open right?”

“I don’t care,” I said. “I just want to see it.”

“OK let’s go.”

He was kind enough to leave some frost on his windshield that morning for the benefit of a kid who had never seen snow, but it was more slush than anything at that point. Still, I was duly impressed. I recall crossing the river, heading toward the Bronx on the highway and seeing the big grey hulk of the Stadium rise up. He drove around in circles for a little while trying to afford me the best view possible. As many longtime Yankee fans have told me, the Stadium in the ’80s was drab and dreary, and that jibes with what I saw that day. From the outside it seemed a lifeless edifice, especially with heavy sleet providing all of 30 feet of visibility. But hey, that was The House That Ruth Built, and Lou Gehrig played there and so did Joe D. and Mickey Mantle and all those guys on the baseball cards I had back home in a shoebox. I was on Cloud 9 just being so near to hallowed ground for the first time.

Unable to gain access to the Stadium itself, we did what I considered to be the next best thing: We ate a McDonald’s a couple blocks away. Nothing like a Quarter Pounder, French Fries and a Coke to ease the sting. I remember the fries being extra salty, which went in perfect balance with the gritty neighborhood. And it wasn’t just any McDonald’s. It was a Yankee Stadium McDonald’s, with pictures of Gehrig and Ruth and other legends all over the wall. My pilgrimage felt complete.

“So,” my guide asked, “how about we go to the Statue of Liberty now?”

Jacob Luft is a senior editor at SI.com.


According to Joel Sherman, major league executives believe that Atlanta is a likely destination for Jake Peavy. Eh. So long he doesn’t wind up in the AL East (i.e. Boston), right?

In a recent chat at ESPN, Buster Olney answered a Yankee question:

Dave (NY): I know you’ve said Cashman wouldn’t make Tex a priority. How do things stand on that front? I’d rather have CC myself.

Buster Olney: Dave — they’ll make him an offer they’re comfortable with — say, 6 years, $18 million a year — but they won’t sniff the 10/200 that has been rumored. If the Red Sox or Orioles take Teixeira much higher than the Yankees, I don’t think they’ll chase it. On the other hand, all bets are off when it comes to CC — they’ll go crazy to get him.

And wouldn’t you know it, but Rob Neyer also fielded a Yankee question in his latest chat:

Josh (NY): Cano and Kennedy for Matt Kemp? Yankees need a center fielder and reports say the Dodgers love Cano.

Rob Neyer: One sticking point: I’m not sure Kemp is a center fielder for much longer. I think he’s about to grow out of the position (if he hasn’t already). Also, do the Dodgers need another young starter? Can’t Jamie McDonald be that guy if they want one?

Who out there is bully on Tex? What about CC? I don’t know that either will end up in New York, but if I had to pick between the two, I’d guess that the Yankees have a better shot at Teixeira. Whadda ya think?

Lasting Yankee Stadium Memory #42

By Dick Lally

June 8, 1969: Mickey Mantle day. I grew up idolizing Mantle, and when he came back on the field to accept the adoration of a crowd that under appreciated his great skills for far too long, I must have set the Guinness Book record for most goose bumps in an afternoon.

We sat in box seats on the third base side, I was fourteen and the cheering was as dense as concrete, a baseball version of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound. I came back a month later for Old Timers’ Day and received the commemorative recording of the event as a keepsake. I had it for years until it was lost in a move.

During the regular game that day, my friend Patty and I went to the concession stand and found Mike Burke signing autographs. The Yankees president had that great head of grey hair which he wore stylish coiffed and nearly down to his shoulders. Patty called out, “You’re a hippy,” and Burke said, “That’s right. Want to hear me hear me sing ‘Purple Haze?,” an answer that completely charmed the crowd of teenagers massed around him.

Dick Lally is the author nineteen books, including nine on baseball.


Silence is Foo!


Allen Barra writes about Philly fans today in the Wall Street Journal.

Nice Catch

"Never let a woman in a red dress pass you by without talking to her."


Rare Air

As Mike Vaccaro notes in today’s New York Post, life is moving quickly for one David Price.  He’s enjoying moments now that just don’t happen everyday.  Heck, any of us would be lucky if they happened once in a lifetime. 

Upside Down

I watched Game 7 of the 2001 World Serious alone in my apartment with the sound off. When the Yankees lost I heard yelling from somewhere upstairs in my apartment building. Clearly, not everyone in the Bronx rooted for the Yankees. Over the next few days I ran into many Red Sox fans whose season had been made by the Yankee defeat.

The Sox have handled the Yankees over the past five year and Red Sox Nation has turned into their own entitled version of Yankee fans. I’ll cop to it–I really wanted the Sox to lose the ALCS in the worst way. It practically made the season for me, saved us from another winter of Boston lording over the game. Now, I sound like a Sox fan. Funny how these things work.

Meanwhile, both Yankee and Sox fans will have the Rays to contend with for some time. But for now, I’ve got a peaceful, easy feeling. I can exhale, digest, and enjoy World Serious and then, the long winter.



Heat Rays

The Tampa Bay Rays are a good baseball team. In fact, they’re the best team in baseball. I give four reasons why over at SI.com.

Lasting Yankee Stadium Memory #41

By Neil deMause

Of the five hundred or so games I’ve seen at Yankee Stadium, a fair number would probably qualify as “historic”: The Pine Tar Game. The Jeffrey Maier Game. Don Mattingly’s first postseason appearance. Jimmy Leyritz’ game-winning 15th-inning homer in the 1995 ALDS, presaging his more famous game-winning 8th-inning homer in the World Series the following year. Game 6 of the 1996 World Series, which ended with Charlie Hayes’ catch in foul ground and Wade Boggs atop a police horse. Game 4 in 2001, which ended with Derek Jeter’s 10th inning “Mr. November” home run. Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS, which ended with my friend David and I watching the final out on the TV in the bleachers concession stand, then turning on our heels and leaving before the Red Sox celebration could begin. No-hitters by Jim Abbott and Dwight Gooden (though I missed Dave Righetti’s July 4 no-no against Boston, along with most of the other 300,000 people who now claim to have been there).

Those, though, are all historic events – they’d be just as famed if they’d happened somewhere else. When I think of my two-plus decades as a Yankee Stadium denizen, I keep coming back to one weekend in 1985, which though historic in its own way, was mostly memorable for other reasons:

FRIDAY: It was the summer before my sophomore year in college, and rumors of a baseball strike were in the air, so I was determined to jam in as many ballgames as possible. The final weekend before the deadline was a four-game series against the White Sox – still then in those hideous horizontal-striped jerseys – so I set out to see them all.

I took my usual seat in Section 39 – the bleachers were general admission in those days, so I’d sit in whatever row was far enough back to give room to stretch out, but close enough to hear what Dave Winfield was saying if he made one of his excursions through the outfield fence gate to chat with fans during a pitching change. The game was instantly a seesaw battle, and went into the 7th inning deadlocked at three apiece.

Andre Robertson, the former phenom whose career was derailed in a car wreck on the West Side Highway, led off with a single, and was pinch-run for by rookie Bobby Meacham. Dale Berra, brought in that year to play for his dad (who lasted all of 16 games), reached on an error, bringing up Rickey Henderson. Henderson lined a ball toward Death Valley – then still a spacious 411 feet from home – and Meacham charged home, pausing only briefly to see if the ball would be caught. Berra, meanwhile, was running head-down, and was only a few steps behind Meacham as they approached home plate.

I had a perfect view of the relay throw from Ozzie Guillen to Carlton Fisk as it arrived, well before Meacham. Fisk grabbed the ball, lunged one way to tag Meacham, then the other way to tag Berra. A stunned, awed silence settled over the stadium.

The Yanks ended up losing in extra innings. It all seemed somehow appropriate for those years.


Woo Hoo! Ray’s Send Sox Down Lonely Avenue

Mr. Charles…

Emily and I listened to the last couple of innings of Game Six on Saturday night driving home from a black tie function upstate.  By the time we returned to the Bronx Em made me promise that we were not going to watch Game 7.  So I had movies on Sunday afternoon–first The Pope of Greenwich Village and then Charlie Wilson’s War.  I watched Rourke and Roberts ham their way through the old Village and then made it through the first hour of Charlie Wilson’s War with Phillip Seymour Hoffman and his mustache chewing up the scenery before Em asked how to check the score on-line. 

We turned on the TV.  The Rays were up 2-1 in the sixth, so it was safe to watch.  And we didn’t turn the tube off until past midnight, until the dopey post-game celebration and interviews were finished.  We sat there, our hearts beating, especially during the top of the eighth, into it.  Em complained that her stomach was hurting.  Welcome to Baseball, lady, you asked for it.  Of course, when it was all over, we went to bed heppy kets. Matt Garza was terrific, just that much better than Jon Lester, who was solid once again.

So much for momentum.  So much for experience.  The Future is Now and David Price saved the Rays’ bacon and helped them advance to the World Serious.  The Red Sox defended their championship admirably–the Rays had to beat them.  And that’s just what they did.  Now, all the Red Sox fans littered throughout Manhattan can go home, go back to where they belong—they can go back to Brooklyn.

Don’t Call It A Comeback

They’ve been doing this for years . . . friggin’ Red Sox. If the Rays stagger like zombies through tonight’s game, which they likely will, it’ll be like 2004 all over again, except in a dome and on artificial turf. Awful. My preview of Game 7 is up on SI.com.


Joba Chamberlain makes his first boo boo. Glug, Glug.

Treasure Tresh

Over at Why I Like Baseball, Cecilia Tan posts an interview she conducted with Tommy Tresh back in 2004:

Tresh: You know, I grew up with my dad being a major league ball player and because everything was there in front of me all the time, I never paid a whole lot of attention to it, to stats and all that. But I tell you there are a lot of people out there today who do. Playing in these fantasy camps and so on you really run into people who know everything. They know everything about you. Those have really been fun, for the players as well as the people who come. I’ve been doing them for over 20 years now but some of my best friends are people I’ve met through fantasy camps. It’s like every year you have a week’s vacation with your friends. So it’s fantastic. As close friends as I’ve ever had. I’ve got friends of my own background that I might have known longer that I don’t see a week a year. But the thing that makes it all work is that everybody has a love of the game, they have that one thread of common thing, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a fireman from New York or you’re an attorney from Tampa, there are so many different variations of jobs and careers and so on that are all mixed together, and nobody wears that hat during that week, everybody wears a Yankee hat. It just really works well. I really enjoy it.

Slippin Away

The Rays were seven outs away from a pennent and now they are one game away from going home.  And they have to go through Jon Lester.  Good Night and Good Luck.  Or something like that.  If Tampa finds a way to win Game 7 it will be a terrific story but they sure are facing an uphill battle.  And I certainly wouldn’t put any money on them, would you?

Night Of The Living Dead

Some teams would have been knocked out by the Red Sox’s Game 5 comeback, the 2004 Yankees among them. I don’t think the Rays are one of those teams and expect them to wrap up the pennant tonight. My prediction for this series was Sox in seven, but only if the Rays fail to win it in six. Never mind that I got most of the others wrong (Dodgers in six? Not so much). My preview of tonight’s Game 6 is up on SI.com.

Observations From Cooperstown–Bucky’s Blast

Memory is what I have,” Hannibal Lecter said to Clarisse Starling during a thoughtful moment in The Silence of the Lambs. That might be a strange introduction to this story, but given the struggles of the Yankees this past summer, the memories of 30 years ago are far more appealing to this long-term fan of the franchise.  It’s been three full decades, but the impressions of the fall of 1978 remained sharp and fully defined.

It’s still the most memorable game I have ever seen. It was a tie-breaking play-off game that took place on October 2 that season, when the Yankees and Red Sox grappled in Fenway Park’s October twilight to decide the championship of the American League East. If you’re old enough to have experienced that game, you remember exactly where you were that fall afternoon.

Ridden with injuries to key players like Goose Gossage, and laden with controversies involving the triumvirate of Reggie Jackson, Billy Martin, and George Steinbrenner, the Yankees had endured a miserable first half of the 1978 season. On July 19, the Yankees reached a low-water mark when they fell 14 games back of the Red Sox. All seemed so incurably lost that Martin’s decision to resign four days later, which paved the way for the hiring of Bob Lemon, struck most observers as a move that would pay benefits the following season—and not any time sooner.

Lemon, a Hall of Fame pitcher who had received praise for his calm managing of the White Sox in the mid-seventies, didn’t see it that way. He restored order quickly by ignoring a fit of temper thrown by Jackson, and by fining Mickey Rivers and Roy White for breaking team rules. Under Lemon’s calming leadership, and aided by the continuing domination of ace left-hander Ron Guidry, the Yankees regrouped and slowly climbed back into contention in the American League East. A New York City newspaper strike didn’t hurt, either; annoying beat writers like Henry Hecht were no longer around to fan the flames of Yankee controversy.


To Serve Fans

Congress is taking Assemblyman Richard Brodsky’s report about the new Yankee Stadium’s cooked books seriously. The charge is being led by Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), who is chairman of the House’s Domestic Policy subcommittee:

In an e-mail interview on Thursday, Kucinich said that “our factual findings could be the basis for a later agency or court finding of legal liability.”

In the letter and interview, he cautioned that the I.R.S. could roll back the tax-exempt status of some or all of the stadium bonds. He also suggested that the I.R.S. could reject the Yankees’ pending request for tax-free status on an additional $366 million in bonds to complete the financing of the stadium.

One wonders if such action by the I.R.S. could have a direct effect on team payroll in the coming years, thereby making the Yankees’ proposed spending spree this winter one that severely handicaps their flexibility in subsequent offseasons. It seems a long shot, and I certainly wouldn’t expect the Yankees to alter their behavior in the near term, but this bears watching.

Older posts            Newer posts
feed Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share via email
"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver