"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: October 2010

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Casting Couch

A few innings into last night’s World Series game, the camera focused on Bruce Bochy for a few moments, and I realized he reminded me intensely of… somebody. But I couldn’t figure out who. It was a specific actor, I knew I’d seen him in a movie, it was on the tip of my brain. So I asked the Twitter Hive Mind for help.

Suggestions included, but were not limited to:

  • Young Tom Selleck
  • James Gammon in Major League
  • Jeff Bridges
  • J.K. Simmons
  • Billy Bob Thornton
  • Old Tom Selleck
  • William H. Macy
  • Tommy Chong
  • Tom Selleck
  • A young Wilford Brimley
  • Charles Bronson
  • Charles Bronson (2)
  • Everett McGill
  • Bruce McGill
  • Edward James Olmos
  • James Brolin
  • Billy Bob Thornton (2)
  • “half Dabney Coleman, half Burt Reynolds”
  • James Gammon in Major League (2)

Some of these were more accurate than others, but neither was the particular person I was trying to place. It was Derek Jacques who finally nailed it:

Jackie Brown-era Robert Forster! Yep, that was it. I feel much better now.

Who wants to cast Ron Washington? How about Brian Wilson?

Beat of the Day

Chat n Chew

Taster’s Cherce

Two cool NYC food cats:

First Guess

Rob Neyer makes the call–David Murphy should play right field tonight for the Rangers, not our boy Vlad:

Is Murphy a great hitter? No. He is adequate. He’s got a career .288/.354/.487 line against right-handed pitchers. Which (again) isn’t great.

It’s not nearly as good as Vladimir Guerrero’s, which shouldn’t be a surprise.

But Guerrero is old. Well, actually he’s middle-aged. It’s his knees that are old. Whichever parts of his body you prefer, he simply isn’t the hitter he once was. Guerrero’s got a .301/.349/.501 line against righties over the past three seasons. Toss in Guerrero’s 35 birthdays (compared to 29 for Murphy), and it’s very, very, very difficult to convincingly argue that Guerrero, right now, is a measurably better hitter than Murphy.

Reading is Fundamental (Ya Heard?)

Michael Caine reads. We listen.

Joe Joe Was a Man…

Okay, show of hands: How many of you starting singing “Start Spreading the News” when Cliff Lee got pounded last night?

I’m just sayin’…

Looks like Joe Girardi is set to sign a 3-year, $9 million contract to manage the Yankees (Joel Sherman and George King have the scoop in the Post). I can only imagine that this news will be met by mixed reviews from the Banter Crew.

So…have at it.

The System is Rigged

As Leonard Cohen put it so eloquently:

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded, everybody rolls with their fingers crossed                   

Everybody knows that the war is over, everybody knows the good guys lost

Everybody knows the fight was fixed, the poor stay poor, the rich get rich,

And the Molina gets a World Series ring

That’s how it goes.

That’s not a prediction of a Rangers win, either: it doesn’t matter what happens in the World Series, who wins, or how they do it: Bengie Molina gets a World Series Ring no matter what.

This is (maybe) the last time I’ll mention that I did try to warn everybody.

Yes, having played for the Giants before being traded (about which he is slightly grumpy) to the Rangers, Bengie Molina is set, bling-wise.  Whether that ring will end up emblazoned with rubies in the shape of a drag queen or a diamond-studded cameo of Chuck Norris is the only thing that remains to be decided.

Bud Selig and the Player’s Association can blather on all they want about steroid testing and expanded playoffs, but when are they going to something about the terrible Molina imbalance that makes an even playing field truly impossible? What will happen when the fans of Molina-less teams eventually realize they have no real chance of success as MLB is currently structured? It’s a disgrace.

While you enjoy the World Series tonight, please take a few moments to write a strongly-worded letter to your congressperson.

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Beat of the Day

Eh, Sacramento is close enough to the Bay Area for me…

Bonus Beats…

Feel the vibe.

Blacked Out

Thanks to these two pussycats:

Mr. Murdoch and Mr. Dolan…

…looks like I will be one of many who won’t be watching the Whirled Serious.

[Drawing by Larry Roibal]

Taster’s Cherce

I’ve had these at Ssam and one cold day this winter I’m a try ’em at home.

Dig the recipe. I love that he uses cilantro stems. Why not, right? And the mint really makes it sing.

Whadda Ya Say?

Picturing History 

Peace to Think Factory for pointing out this most cool Life Magazine photo gallery of the 1955 Whirled Serious.

What Becomes a Legend Most?

There isn’t that much in today’s papers on Bill Shannon, the New York Press Box Legend who died yesterday at the age of 69 in a house fire. Disappointing, sure, but not a surprise–it is the eve of the World Serious, after all.

Still, there is plenty on-line, including pieces by Howie Karpin, Roger Angell, Keith Olbermann, Joel Sherman, Wallace Matthews, Pete Abraham, Joe McDonald, and most notably, Marty Noble. Noble writes:

The AP, which employed Shannon on a part-time basis for years, reported that a neighbor had placed a ladder up to the second floor to reach him, but the neighbor later said Shannon was unable to break the window and disappeared into thick smoke. Shannon had an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan for years, but had moved back to live with his mother after she developed problems about five years ago.

For all he did professionally — and there was much — he become a tad anonymous and borderline invisible in recent years when his primary responsibilities had included official scoring and his tireless work with the New York Sports Hall of Fame. If he were recognized at all, it was while working when a television camera focused on him in the press box at Citi Field or Yankee Stadium after he made a scoring decision the announcers thought to be wrong. But Shannon knew the scoring rules as well as Billy Martin, Tony La Russa, Joe Torre or any umpire knew the rulebook.

Shannon took pride in the reputation that he helped create — that New York had “tough” official scorers.

“He was a hard scorer, but hard is fair,” said Jack O’Connell, the New York-based secretary-treasurer of the BBWAA. “No homers here.”

Those who disagreed with Shannon’s decision to charge a fielder with an error often heard these words from OS Shannon: “This is the big leagues, sir. That play is supposed to be made.” He was objective to the Nth degree, but he did allow his absolute disdain for the sacrifice-fly rule to show through. Shannon was certain hitters didn’t deserve “free outs” for sacrifice flies and made his opposition apparent by his tone when he properly credited one.

Here are a few more thoughts on Shannon…

Ed Alstrom:

I thought he was a great guy. He was always cordial to me in the booth. My one lasting story of him is not much, but here it is: when I was asked to play ‘Goodnight Sweetheart’ at the end of the last home game in YS2, he was the only one that knew the song and the history of Layton playing it there (not surprising, I guess). I remember him singing it to me outside the stadium.

Sweeny Murti:

We should all hope that we are as good at our jobs and as respected for the jobs we do as Bill Shannon was.

I’ve covered games in nearly every ballpark around the league and in many of them reporters turn around and stare at each other after a bad call by the official scorer. “How is that a hit?” we usually say with disdain. I can tell you that never happened in Yankee Stadium when Bill Shannon was scoring, not by us and not by any of the out-of-town reporters either. Bill took his job as seriously as anyone I’ve ever known. That’s probably what made him so good at it.

Bill’s delivery of a pitching line was as unique as Bob Sheppard’s introduction of a batter. He was the voice of the press box in the same way that Sheppard was the voice of Yankee Stadium. If you cover enough games, Bill’s style of delivery is ingrained in your memory. It begins to feel as if Bill’s way is the only way to read a pitching line:

“The line on CC Sabathia…7 innings pitched. 5 hits. 2 runs. Both earned. 1 walk. 8 strikeouts. 1 home run.”

Then a pause, followed by a repeat, this time read at light speed as one long run-on sentence until a final pause before the last item.

“Sabathia, 7 innings5hits2runsbothearned1walk8strikeouts…and 1…home run.”

Unique is an overused word. It describes Bill Shannon perfectly.



According to the New York Post:

CC Sabathia was diagnosed with a minor meniscus tear of the right knee that will require surgery, The Post has learned.

Sabathia was diagnosed yesterday at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital and is expected to undergo surgery in the coming days. The Yankees do not consider the procedure significant and expect Sabathia to recover within three weeks and be fully ready for spring training.

The Fault Lies Not In Our Stars…

Therapists usually say that there’s some kind of reason for just about any behavior, however seemingly irrational; even if you end up hurting yourself, it probably served a psychological purpose. I’ve been thinking about this recently in light of the Yanks’ ALCS loss, and the accompanying customary wave of blame from fans that fell on various members of the team and front office. I think the  tendency of fans — and certainly not just Yankee fans, but perhaps especially Yankee fans — to instinctively blame their own team after a loss, rather than crediting the opponent, is pretty interesting. Obviously not everyone does this, but as an overall fanbase mood I think it rings true, unless maybe some undisputed whiz like Cliff Lee is directly involved. 

Setting aside for the moment whether or not it’s accurate or fair in a specific instance, what’s the psychological gain here? The outcome of any game depends on the combination of one team’s strength and another’s weakness, of course, and it’s often hard to disentangle a hitter’s success from a pitcher’s failure, or vice versa. How much of Colby Lewis’s kickass performance on Friday night was due to variables he controlled directly, and how much was due to the Yankees’ inadequate approach or execution at the plate? It’s not possible to tell precisely, although a lot of the newer baseball stats our SABR-inclined friends come up with are designed to help sort this out. And my first instinct, like many people in the bar where I was watching, was to yell “C’mon you useless #$&*s, it’s Colby Lewis” at the little pinstriped men on the TV. 

I think in the end, it’s mostly about control: the idea that your team mostly controls its fate (like the idea that you yourself mostly control your fate) is generally preferable to the alternative. No one likes feeling helpless to change their situation. Everyone wants to believe that we’re in charge of how our lives turn out, not larger forces we can’t affect. And hey, if the Yankees lost because they failed, well then, they’re still better. They just didn’t show it. There must be something they could have done differently.

I’m not entirely sure whether the blaming-your-team tendency is more prevalent in New York City, and specifically among Yankee fans, but I suspect as much. It seems clear that fans everywhere do this to a certain extent, but I think that like just about everything else, it’s louder in New York. And while Mets fans do it too — as Alex pointed out yesterday, the moaning about A-Rod and Ryan Howard ending their respective Championship Series with called third strikes brought back vivid memories of the hysteria over Carlos Beltran’s taken curveball in 2006 — I believe you can make an argument that Yankee fans do it most of all: this is part of the wide-ranging legacy of George M. Steinbrenner.

This is the flipside to all that winning, and the result of the idea, now internalized by seemingly the entire Yankee organization even in The Boss’s absence, that any year that doesn’t end in a World Series victory is a failure. Not anybody else’s succes: your team’s failure. We’ve heard this view expressed in different ways by many people for many years now — by George himself, by Brian Cashman, by Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada, even by scrubs passing through in August and September. This year, Cashman and Joe Girardi both made a point of saying that Texas had just flat out-played the Yankees, which I personally felt was good to hear; I think many fans share that point of view, too, but outside of our cozy corner of the blogosphere, it hasn’t been the dominant tone.  

Believing that they can and should win the World Series every single year is, from one angle, one of the most admirable things about the Yankees. The organization is never content with a few years of mediocrity; never holds back from a signing or trade that could help, damn the financial consequences; never coasts on a new Stadium or a star signing. And that is great for their fans. But that kind of ambition, by necessity, comes with a big heaping stench of failure. I think George Steinbrenner, in his prime, felt that having his employees live in terror of that failure was an important motivational tool; and the Boss will certainly be missed, but I hope his vision of win-it-all-or-else gets to rest with him. Other teams are gonna get that trophy sometimes, and not just because you messed up or didn’t get it done. Just because they’re better.


My favorite part about sitting in the Yankee Stadium press box is getting the chance to watch Bill Shannon, the official scorer, in action. Shannon, who for years was the head of public relations at MSG, was ripped out of the pages of Damon Runyon. He sounded like Will Ferrell doing Harry Carey and looked as if he’d been drawn by Walt Kelly. He was a bona fide gem.

I was shocked and saddened to learn that Shannon died in a house fire. According to an AP report:

William Shannon was unable to escape the flames that consumed the West Caldwell home where he lived with his elderly mother Tuesday.

Neighbors tell News 12-New Jersey they were able to rescue the mother through the front door.

One neighbor placed a ladder up to the second floor to reach Shannon. But a neighbor says the 69-year-old told them he couldn’t break the window and he disappeared into the thick smoke.

What a horrible twist of fate. I spoke to Shannon a few times but didn’t know him. I hope that the New York papers are filled with stories over the coming days.

At least Mr. Sheppard has good company.

Taster’s Cherce

Deconstruction fun.

By Marina Ekroos.

Peace to Saveur for the link.

It’s Only Rock n Roll (but I like it)

Dig Michiko Kakutani’s review of Keith Richard’s memoir today in the Times:

Halfway through his electrifying new memoir, “Life,” Keith Richards writes about the consequences of fame: the nearly complete loss of privacy and the weirdness of being mythologized by fans as a sort of folk-hero renegade.

“I can’t untie the threads of how much I played up to the part that was written for me,” he says. “I mean the skull ring and the broken tooth and the kohl. Is it half and half? I think in a way your persona, your image, as it used to be known, is like a ball and chain. People think I’m still a goddamn junkie. It’s 30 years since I gave up the dope! Image is like a long shadow. Even when the sun goes down, you can see it.”

By turns earnest and wicked, sweet and sarcastic and unsparing, Mr. Richards, now 66, writes with uncommon candor and immediacy. He’s decided that he’s going to tell it as he remembers it, and helped along with notebooks, letters and a diary he once kept, he remembers almost everything. He gives us an indelible, time-capsule feel for the madness that was life on the road with the Stones in the years before and after Altamont; harrowing accounts of his many close shaves and narrow escapes (from the police, prison time, drug hell); and a heap of sharp-edged snapshots of friends and colleagues — most notably, his longtime musical partner and sometime bête noire, Mick Jagger.

Georgie’s Boy

Here’s Mike Vaccaro, writing in today’s Post:

He is not a blood relative, so this wasn’t an inherited trait. And Brian Cashman is neither the bully nor the greedy back-page raconteur George Steinbrenner was in the prime of his career, a man willing to say and do just about anything to land that prime acreage of New York journalistic real estate.

But in some very real, and very important ways, Cashman has become the living legacy of the Best of the Boss.

Off with their Heads!

Million Dollar Movie

Michael Caine has a new book out.

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