"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: April 2010

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Taster’s Cherce

The best pizza jernts in the country according to gayot.com (via MSN).

Must Be in the Front Row

Jay Jaffe hipped me to this from Miller Park Drunk: 10 Reasons Bob Uecker is better than whoever your announcer is.

Most tremendously excellent.

Oh, Baby

Ted Berg talks with Donnie Baseball. What fresh hell is this?

Breaking the Wall

[Editor’s Note: Here’s another one from the Pat Jordan vaults, a short, cutting profile of Burt Reynolds, from the late Eighties. While Pat reserves his harshest criticism for himself, but he’s especially hard on jockish, so-called tough guy actors like Reynolds and Tom Selleck. He thought Reynolds wasted his talent and was willfully lazy for easy money and fame.

When this story was published Reyonlds’ publicist called Pat and called him the “evilest man in the world, the anti-christ.” Pat said, “Then I’ll see you in Hell.”

No business like show business. Enjoy.]

By Pat Jordan

It was just a wink. But it defined the rest of his career.

“They told me I couldn’t do it,” he says. “It would break down the wall between the actor and his audience. But the movie was just a cartoon. Smokey and the Bandit. Cotton Candy. I just wanted to say to the audience, I hope you’re having as much fun as I am. So I looked in the camera, and winked.”

Audiences loved it. That conspiratorial wink united them with the actor in his inside joke. This movie was just a lark. He didn’t take it seriously. He wasn’t really acting. He was just partying with friends in front of a camera, and he invited the audience to join in. His fans were so grateful they made his movie one of the biggest grosser of the year, 1977, and they made him a No 1 Box Office Attraction. A Star. But more than that. Their favorite actor. The actor they liked the most. Which was his problem.

“I thought acting was synonymous with being liked,” he says. “I courted my fans. I passionately wanted them to like me. I thought being liked meant I was a good actor.”

The critics weren’t so accepting as his fans. That wink didn’t play well with them. They read into it, not the actor’s good-spirits toward his fans, but his contempt for them, and his craft. It wasn’t an actor’s role to be liked by his fans. It was to entertain them. Just because he was having fun with his friends – Jackie Gleason, Dom DeLuise, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, etc. – in a host of Sophomoric movies (Smokey and the Bandit, Iⅈ Cannonball Run, I&II) that actually did seem to be filmed parties of actors acting silly, that didn’t mean his audiences were having fun. They would have fun only as long as that wink deceived them into believing they were inside those parties. That they were getting drunk, cracking inside jokes, oogling beautiful girls, and crashing expensive cars with the actor and his friends. But the truth was, they weren’t and never would be. They were irrelevant to those parties, except that they made them possible by the vast sums of money they paid to see them on screen. When, and if, they woke to the deceit of that wink, how it made the actor rich at their expense, they’d stop paying to see such movies. Which they did. But not until after they made him a No 1 Box Office Attraction for five consecutive years.


Our Man

Our thoughts and prayers are with Steven Goldman, whose father has been ill. Steve is a friend. Hang in there, old chum.

The Hangover

Despite struggling with his command and walking four, two of those free passes forcing in a run in the second inning, Phil Hughes managed to pass a 2-1 lead (courtesy of a Jorge Posada solo homer in the top of the fourth) to his bullpen after 5 2/3 innings and 109 pitches. Unfortunately, the Yankee bullpen coughed up three runs before getting the final out of the sixth. Boone Logan walked the only man he faced, and David Robertson, after getting ahead 0-2 on Ty Wigginton, hit the Orioles’ replacement second baseman in the backside, then gave up a trio of RBI singles to the bottom three men in the Oriole lineup before finally striking out Adam Jones to end the inning. Alfredo Aceves took over in the seventh, but in the eighth Derek Jeter booted a leadoff groundball by Wigginton and Jorge Posada threw a rainbow into center field when pinch-runner Julio Lugo attempted to steal second with two outs, setting up a crucial insurance run.

Baltimore starter Kevin Millwood was similarly inefficient, but lefty Alberto Castillo and righty Jim Johnson held the Yankees to just two hits over 2 2/3 innings, handing a 5-2 lead to newly promoted Alfredo Simon in the ninth. A Nick Swisher one-out single and a pinch-hit walk by Nick Johnson set up, sandwiched between strikeouts of Curtis Granderson and Derek Jeter, set up a pair of two-out Yankee runs, the first of which scored on an error on a groundball by Brett Gardner (which, curiously, was also how the first Yankee run of the game scored), but after Mark Teixeira got the Yankees within one and pushed Gardner to third with a first-pitch single, Alex Rodriguez’s hopper up the middle was corralled for the final out of a 5-4 Oriole win, their fourth of the season.

Hughes’ performance was actually quite encouraging. He allowed just one run on two hits despite having far from his best stuff, but he was undermined by sloppy play around him. In addition to Logan and Robertson’s failures in the bottom of the sixth and Jeter and Posada’s errors in the eighth, the Yankees gave away two outs in the top of the sixth when Robinson Cano, who has been thrown out on 54 percent of his stolen base attempts in his career, followed a leadoff single by being caught stealing. Jorge Posada followed Cano with an ironic walk, then with two outs was caught rounding second too far on an infield single to the left side (Nick Swisher singled off Miguel Tejada’s glove, and Tejada wrangled the ball before Posada realized he never had a prayer of making it to third base). The Yankee offense also failed to score a run with the bases loaded and one out in the third when Alex Rodriguez lined out and Cano flied out.

I’m tempted to chalk this one up to a hangover from the team’s big day at the White House on Monday (Michael Kay said during the broadcast that he had never seen Joe Girardi look more exhausted than he was Monday night). Hey, Randy Winn got his first Yankee hit, so that’s . . . something. Of course, he also slipped when attempting a throw home in the bottom of the sixth, resulting in a throw that barely trickled into first base from shallow right field. It was that kind of game.

In other news, Johnson, who has reverted to number 36 which he wore in his first stint with the Yankees, should be in the starting lineup Wednesday night, but Chan Ho Park was unable to throw off flat ground and thus seems no closer to returning to the Yankee bullpen.

2010 Baltimore Orioles

I like to think I have a firm command of the obvious. To wit, the Orioles, who at 3-16 are four games worse than the next worst team in baseball less than 20 games into the season, aren’t this bad. After all, no team in baseball history has ever finished with a sub .200 winning percentage (the O’s are at .158 entering this week’s three-game series against the Yankees in Baltimore), and the O’s don’t profile as one of the worst teams in baseball history. What’s more, their Pythagorean winning percentage has them at a less compellingly awful .316.

Coming into the season, I thought that this would be the year the rebuilding O’s would slip past the directionless Blue Jays into fourth place, and I still feel that way. The Orioles have a solid collection of good young talent, some of which is still in the process of establishing itself in the major leagues, some of which could arrive in the bigs as the season progresses, and some of which may not even make it until next year or beyond. For that reason, when prescribing off-season strategies for all 30 teams for SI.com back in November, I said the Orioles needed to “avoid trying to buy in too early . . . Once those pieces have established themselves, the O’s can open up the coffers and flesh out the roster, but for now they’ll let [free agent Melvin] Mora go and should stick with inexpensive veteran stop-gaps in the infield . . . while giving the youngsters their opportunities.”

That’s exactly what the O’s did in bringing back the 36-year-old Miguel Tejada to play third base for $6 million, signing deposed Rockies third baseman Garrett Atkins to play first base for $4.5 million, and sticking with Cesar Izturis, on the second year of a two-year, $5 million contract, at shortstop. In a way, wins aren’t really what the O’s are after just yet. General Manager Andy MacPhail has been in enough rodeos to know that there’s no point shooting for a fluky 83-win division title in a division that also contains the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays. Instead, he’s taking his time, trying to get his kids established and sort the prospect wheat out from the remaining chafe. That sort of strategy can lead to exactly the sort of growing pains the O’s are experiencing now, but misfortune can create opportunity.

With the team desperate to get off the floor, manager Dave Trembley has found an excuse to bench the struggling rental Atkins in favor of minor leaguer Rhyne Hughes. Hughes is a 26-year-old rookie and not among the team’s better prospects, but he hit .301/.357/.510 in his Triple-A debut last year, and his time is now if ever. Hughes was the return for sending Gregg Zaun to the Rays in early August of last year, and if Hughes turns out to be a solid major leaguer, that’s essentially free production. If that happens, the decision to effectively leave first base “open” by signing Atkins will have been key to getting something for nothing there. Hughes has gone 4-for-9 with a walk in his first two major league games, one of which was the O’s third win of the season. That’s not terribly meaningful, but it’s better than having starting off with an 0-fer. Hughes is additionally compelling because the O’s top first-base prospect, Brandon Snyder, really isn’t. Snyder hits for average with some doubles, but he doesn’t walk much, doesn’t have significant home run power, and isn’t anything special in the field.

The O’s are much better off at third base, where they can thank another slick late-season deal for Josh Bell, who arrived from the Dodgers for lefty reliever George Sherrill at last year’s trading deadline. Bell is a big, power-hitting third baseman who is making his Triple-A debut this year and could be among the O’s prospects to arrive in the majors mid-year. There’s some concern about Bell’s defense at the hot corner, which makes him a peripheral concern in the first base picture as well, but wherever he plays, he should be a mid-lineup presence for the O’s in the very near future.

Add Bell and possibly Hughes to a lineup that already includes Matt Wieters and the outfield of Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, and Nolan Reimold, and the O’s have a solid young core that can be complimented through free agency or more deft trades. Before that can happen, however, those youngsters have to get their feet under them in the majors, which only Markakis has done thus far. Wieters and Jones are just 24 and Wieters, off to a solid start this year, has less than a full season of major league experience under his belt. Reimold, who like Markakis is 26 this season, is closer to Hughes than the other four and still needs to prove he’s a major league starter. The flip-side of the Atkins-Hughes situation is that the team’s start has been so bad that is has shortened the leash for lesser prospects such as Reimold. Despite a significant injury which will keep his primary left-field rival Felix Pie out until at least mid-season, Reimold, off to a slow start, has begun losing playing time to the still-older, still-lesser ex-prospect Lou Montanez (though Montanez is in the process of playing himself out of the lineup as well).

On the mound, the O’s have upgraded their brutal 2009 rotation by acquiring veteran Kevin Millwood, on the last year of his contract and thus effectively on another one-year deal, from the Rangers for reliever Chris Ray, who struggled mightily last year in his first year back from Tommy John surgery. More importantly, they’re already getting strong work from lefty Brian Matusz, who was the fourth overall pick in the 2008 draft and is a budding front-of-the-rotation starter and a popular pre-season pick for the American League Rookie of the Year. Millwood and Matusz effectively push Jeremy Guthrie down to the third spot in the rotation. Guthrie is still overextended, even as a number-three, and the final two spots are still filled by pitchers who probably shouldn’t even be in the majors, but that major league mediocrity is again just thin cover for budding prospects including Chris Tillman–who came over with Jones, Sherrill, and reliever Kam Mickolio in the Erik Bedard deal and got a taste of the majors last year at age 21–Jake Arrieta, a 2007 draft pick out of college who could join Tillman in the big league rotation later this year, and Brandon Erbe, who is making his Triple-A debut this year at age 22.

So the O’s have half a lineup, half a rotation, and following a shoulder injury suffered by fragile free agent closer Mike Gonzalez, not much to speak of in the bullpen, but those component parts remain compelling and potential building blocks of a future contender in Baltimore. Right now the Orioles aren’t a good team, but they’re not as bad as they’ve looked in the early going, and are continually getting better. The Orioles should move into fourth place for the first time since 2007, but they’ll still finish with their 13th-straight losing season, yet there remains reason for optimism in Baltimore.


Fo, Fo, Fo

Tom Verducci has lunch with the “Core Four” (also the subject of this week’s SI cover story).

Afternoon Art

Talk about chops. This guy wasn’t half-bad, huh?

Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)

Beat of the Day

No More Mr. Nice Guy

A revival of August Wilson’s Fences, starring Denzel Washington opened last night. I saw the original with James Earl Jones more than twenty years ago and recall it being a powerful night of theater. I think Washington can be a dynamic performer but I haven’t been interested in his work for a long time. This might be good though. 

From Ben Brantley’s review today in the Times:

There’s an exhilarated craziness in his eyes and a confrontational glint that dares us not to believe him. On the subject of his own life, Troy — a former Negro League baseball star turned sanitation worker, and a man whose name aptly evokes a legendary, ruined splendor — is a first-class mythmaker. Which means he’s also a first-class storyteller and a first-class self-deceiver, and that we’re going to hang on to his words.

Mr. Washington, a two-time Oscar winner, has his own personal specter to wrestle with in this production, directed by Kenny Leon and featuring a magnificent performance by Viola Davis as Troy’s wife, Rose. By starring in the first Broadway revival of “Fences,” which picked up about every major prize on offer in 1987, when it arrived on Broadway, Mr. Washington is stepping into the outsize shadow of James Earl Jones.

Large of frame and thunderous of voice, Mr. Jones has a titan’s presence that invested the embittered Troy with an aura of classical tragedy. He was big in every sense of the word, and there was instant pathos in the spectacle of a giant confined by the smallness of a world hedged in by 1950s racism. Mr. Washington has the fluid naturalness we associate with good screen actors, and when he played Brutus in the 2005 Broadway production of “Julius Caesar,” he often seemed to fade into the crowd of milling revolutionary Romans.

Taster’s Cherce


Not an onion and not exactly garlic, it’s the spring thing: Ramps! 

From chef Yoshi Yamada at Gourmet.com:

I have not put ramps in my pipe, but I have smoked them—and also roasted, sautéed, blanched, pickled, braised, and puréed them. I have eaten them raw and dirty, and I have cleaned so many in a row that I almost wished for winter again. This year I may take a few home to put under my pillow, just because…my precious. I’ll buy a little grill and set it up on my fire escape, coating the ramps in olive oil, salt, and pepper and grilling them until the white flesh is soft and smoky but still toothsome, the leaves limp and folded in on themselves, tender, wet, and charred at the edges. Then I will eat them—right from the grill, with a little fresh bread if I can wait, but probably just by the handful, with nothing else.

At Babbo, one way we prepare ramps is by heating a sauté pan until the olive oil is just beginning to smoke. We pull the pan off the flame and toss in the ramps, shorn of their leaves. We hear the sizzle, see the spattering oil, and toss them once or twice, calming the pan before placing it back on the flame. We sear them until the whites are blistered, brown, and soft. We add garlic to the pan to amplify that flavor, toasting it to make it taste nutty. After 6 minutes and 30 seconds in boiling water, we add 4 oz of linguine—supple but still al dente—to the pan. We throw in breadcrumbs for texture and add the julienned raw ramp leaves, which wilt in the steam of the pasta and bring a brightness of color and flavor to the dish. We toss everything a few times before plating and then grate Pecorino Romano over the top, so that it melts slightly by the time the dish makes its way onto the table. It may be my favorite pasta ever.

The recipe.

The result:

Lord and Master

The must-read of the day comes from the incredibly dope site, Whose Voice is That? 

Bob Sheppard: Voice of God; Scholar of Speech.

‘Nuff said.

Who Could Hate this Man?


Okay, stop laughing and dig  Morgan Ensberg’s take on the Alex Rodriguez (looking positively presidential yesterday at the White House) hubbub last week in Oakland.

And here is another priceless picture from Craig Robinson at his killer site, Flip Flop Fly Ball (I first caught this over at River Ave Blues last week). Robinson is reason #4080 why the Internet ain’t so bad after all:

[photo credit: espn]

I Think You’re a Choker, Kiddo

My pal Jay Jaffe is going to do a spit-take when he reads this but he and Curt Schilling have something in common–they don’t believe in Javy Vazquez. At least not in the American League East. According to an ESPN radio interview cited in this piece from the Daily News, Schilling said:

“I never, ever thought the move to New York the first time was a good one, and I didn’t think this (move) was good as well. I don’t think he suddenly learned how to pitch when he went back to Atlanta and dealt last year,” Schilling said. “It’s hard to say this without sounding disrespectful, and I don’t mean it that way – the National League is an easier league to pitch in, period, and some guys aren’t equipped to get those same outs in the American League. And he’s one of those guys.”

…”(Vazquez) thrived in Montreal and he thrived in Atlanta, and those are both second-tier cities from a baseball passion perspective. He’s not a guy that I’ve ever felt was comfortable in the glow,” Schilling said. “… You’re seeing what you’re gonna get from him consistently all year. Having said that, he could turn around next week and throw a one-hitter with his stuff. I just don’t see him being a consistent winner in the American League.”




Cliff looks at how the Howard extension will impact the market for the remaining class of 2012 free agent first basemen over at SI.com.

Afternoon Art

“El” Second and Third Avenue Lines;Bowery and Division Street, Manhattan, from the series Changing New York, By Berenice Abbott (1936)

Beat of the Day

It’s hard being hooked…

The King of Kool


Harvey Araton has a piece in the Times today about the understated elegance of Mariano Rivera. Nothing new here but I never mind reading another puff piece on Mo, do you?

[photo credit: William Perlman/The Star-Ledger]

Taster’s Cherce


Check out this terrific spring produce guide from the good peoples at Saveur.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver