"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: February 2011

Older posts            Newer posts

Card Corner: Mike Kekich

Last summer I had the pleasure of interviewing former Yankee Fritz Peterson, who informed me of his involvement with a Ben Affleck/Matt Damon film project chronicling his famed wife swap with Mike Kekich. Now comes the news that Kekich will not give his approval to the project; in fact, one news report in the NY Post claims that the reclusive left-hander is “panic stricken” about the movie and “freaked out” that filmmakers actually found out where he lives.

I can’t say that I’m surprised to hear of Kekich’s reaction to the film. Ever since he retired in 1977, he has remained out of the baseball spotlight. I have never seen or heard him interviewed about his career, whether it’s talking about the Yankees or other stopping points in Los Angeles, Cleveland, Texas or Seattle. He has always been reluctant to talk about the wife swap, remaining so even with the passage of time. Unlike Peterson, I don’t think Kekich is planning any trips to Cooperstown in the near future.

So who exactly is Mike Kekich? Kekich the person remains a mystery, but Kekich the pitcher is very much the story of the highly touted left-hander who didn’t live up to his promise. Although he and Peterson are often mentioned interchangeably because of the wife swap, the reality is that Peterson was the far more accomplished pitcher.

Kekich came up in the Dodgers’ system in the mid-1960s, heralded as a talented left-hander with a blazing fastball. Some dared to call him the “next Sandy Koufax.” Unfortunately, the Dodgers at the time were just about the worst destination for a young pitcher because they were already bulging at the seams with talented hurlers; they had the actual Koufax, along with Don Drysdale, Don Sutton, Claude Osteen, and the up-and-coming Bill Singer.

Kekich could never gain traction with the Dodgers. After a terrible five-game stint in 1965, he went back to the minor leagues for two full seasons and didn’t return to Chavez Ravine in 1968. Kekich didn’t pitch particularly well, but he suffered from an unusual share of bad luck and poor run support, losing ten of 12 decisions while making 20 starts.


New York Minute

Heads Up

Mildly disturbed or potentially dangerous? This is a calculation every subway rider has to make a few times a week – maybe more. Somebody is going to be preaching, that’s just competition for your headphones. Sometimes it’s Showtime, and you need to make sure you’re out of the dancer’s kick-zone. Somebody is going to begging for money, but those guys never threaten. It’s tricky when someone is muttering indecipherable but unmistakably belligerent things to themselves. I see this a lot.

The clear tipping point is physical proximity. When I see a person going out of their way to occupy other people’s personal space, that’s when I take notice. One time, I was taking the train at an odd time – one or two in the afternoon – and only a handful of people were in my car. Two kids hopped on the train, 15 or 16 years old, obviously geeked up on something. They’re banging on the doors, ceiling windows, making their presence known. I was riding the train with a work buddy and, over a pause in our conversation, we heard them mocking our glasses. Trying to be heard.

There are no stops between 125th and 59th. That’s a long time to contemplate a perceived threat. We pretended we didn’t hear them. They got louder. We kept up the shield of ignorance, but we couldn’t return to our conversation. We were on full alert.

They bounced off at 59th St and, just as I thought the ordeal was over, one of the kids threw a punch at me as he was walking off the train. His hand got stuck in the plexi-glass divider that separates the three-seaters from the doors and his extended fingers ended up about 2 inches from my nose. He pulled his hand out just in time to squeeze through the doors.

I felt really stupid and helpless. These kids were obviously dangerous. I was aware of them the moment they got on the train and was prepared, I thought, for anything. And still if it wasn’t for that divider, I would have gotten punched in the face.

[Photo Credit: John Conn]

Beat of the Day (Part I)

In the words of the immortal Oscar Madison, “Now it’s garbage.”

Hey, Leroy, You’re Mama’s callin’:

Taster's Cherce

It is dark and wet this morning so let’s get right to some nourishment of the sinful kind. The New York Times gives a tour of the best doughnut shops in town.

[Photo Credit: NY Mag and Good Point]

Drive Bye

New York City picture by our man Bags.

That's The Way It Crumbles, Cookie-Wise

I’m tired and grouchy today, and Alex told me I was having an Oscar Madison kind of sports writing day. Which I am. This got us on a stream-of-consciousness email thread that moved naturally onto Jack Lemmon and led to our discovery of the following facts:

-Alex can’t stand Billy Wilder’s “The Apartment,” which in case you haven’t seen it, is awesome;

-He thinks Alfred Hitchcock is overrated;

-He doesn’t like Jimmy Stewart;

-He didn’t come right out and say it, but I assume he hates puppies and picks his teeth with their adorable little bones.

Meanwhile, I don’t like Faulkner and am kind of bored by Buster Keaton.

Pistols at dawn.

What do your friends or loved ones inexplicably dislike?

Head Games

Over at PB, Jay Jaffe takes a look at concussions in sports, specifically in baseball. The piece picks up on a column that Bob Klapisch wrote last week on Jorge Posada. Sobering material, indeed.

[Photo Credit: PS70]

Beat of the Day

When I was in high school, I went to Carnegie Hall one night to see the guitarist Stanley Jordan. Also on the bill was a guy named Bobby McFerrin, who put on a sensational show that I remember vividly to this day. Not too long after, he had a hit song and video. “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” came and went but McFerrin continued to have a productive and fascinating career. He’s a singular talent.

I always dug this tune:

These are the Pros and Cons of Sports Writing


Over at Son of Bold Venture, Jeff Pearlman talks about his life as a writer:

About four years into my time at SI, though, I started getting a tiny bit itchy. I was Tom Verducci’s No. 2 on baseball, which was terrific. But… I don’t know what it was. The players were starting to get younger than I was. The clichés drove me crazy. I dreaded getting blown off so some guy could read his Field & Stream (true story). I went through the inevitable, “Is this as good as it gets?” Udall stage.

Seminal moment came in 2001. I was covering Game 4 of the World Series between the D-backs and Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Great night, amazing energy. Well, early on my stomach starts to hurt. I start cramping up, and I say to Verducci and Steve Cannella, “I’ve gotta go home.” We weren’t filing for that night (at least I wasn’t), so I left and took the train to the apartment I shared with my then-girlfriend/now-wife. The two of us sat on the couch and watched the game—this classic World Series thriller that came down to a 10th inning homer by Derek Jeter. And as I watched from afar, the fans going nuts, Jeter rounding the bases, the announcers screaming, all I could think was, “I’m so happy I’m not there right now.” That’s the 100% truth—I was thrilled to not deal with the crush; the clichés; the blather. And it was that moment when I officially started thinking about exiting SI. Because if you’re not sad to be missing Game 4 of the World Series, you need a change.

[Photo Credit: Gawker Media]

Taster's Cherce

Fluffy Vanilla Marshmellows? Vhy d’hell not?

Seven Spoons gets chunky mit de flavor.

Dream On

Looking for a dream job? Then dig this over at MLB.com.

Morning Art

Thanks to Subway Art Blog, dig the work of Enrico Miguel Thomas–the subway artist of New York.

Million Dollar Movie

Mr. Verdoux, I presume?

From Matthew Sweet in the Guardian:

In a bomb-proof concrete vault beneath one of the more moneyed stretches of Switzerland lies something better than bullion. Here, behind blast doors and security screens, are stored the remains of one of the greatest figures of the 20th century. You might wonder what more there is to know about Charles Spencer Chaplin. Born in London in 1889; survivor of a tough workhouse childhood; the embodiment of screen comedy; fugitive from J Edgar Hoover; the presiding genius of The Kid and The Gold Rush and The Great Dictator. His signature character, the Little Tramp, was once so fiercely present in the global consciousness that commentators studied its effects like a branch of epidemiology. In 1915, “Chaplinitis” was identified as a global affliction. On 12 November 1916, a bizarre outbreak of mass hysteria produced 800 simultaneous sightings of Chaplin across America.

Though the virus is less contagious today, Chaplin’s face is still one of the most widely recognised images on the planet. And yet, in that Montruex vault, there is a wealth of material that has barely been touched. There are letters that evoke his bitter estrangement from America in the 1950s. There are reel-to-reel recordings of him improvising at the piano (“I’m so depressed,” he trills, groping his way towards a tune that rings right). A cache of press cuttings details the British Army’s banning of the Chaplin moustache from the trenches of the first world war. Other clippings indicate that, in the early 1930s, he considered returning to his homeland and entering politics.

Left Behind

Found on the subway platform this morning…

Meanwhile, down in Tampa, the young guns are getting some burn: here’s John Harper on Manny Banuelos, and Jack Curry on Jesus Montero.  And for you old fogies, check out Harvey Araton’s column on Yogi and Gator.

Hello Caramello, Hello

Carmelo debuts at the Garden tonight.

Million Dollar Movie

Allen Barra on the new Bogie bio:

[Pauline] Kael put words to the image in her book Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (1968) when she explained Bogart as “The man with a code (moral, aesthetic, chivalrous) in a corrupt society, he had, so to speak, inside knowledge of the nature of the enemy. He was a sophisticated urban version of The Westerner, who, classically, knew both sides of the law.”

He was, of course, faking it. As Stefan Kanfer makes clear in his new biography Tough Without A Gun: The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of Humphrey Bogart, Bogart’s ancestors were more like characters in The Philadelphia Story than the ones in movies that Bogie himself would become famous in. “In the 150 year history of cinema,” as Kanfer puts it, “few performers have arrived with a more impressive resume of monetary privilege and social distinction.”

Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects

Baseball America unveiled their Top 100 Prospect list today.

Six Yankees made the list:

3. Jesus Montero, c
30. Gary Sanchez, c
41. Manny Banuelos, lhp
43. Dellin Betances, rhp
78. Andrew Brackman, rhp
98. Austin Romine, c

In terms of sheer number of prospects, this is the best showing for the organization since 1999, when the Bombers also placed six in the top 100 (including SS Alfonso Soriano and 3B Drew Henson).

Montero’s #3 ranking is the highest for any Yankee prospect since Joba Chamberlain was the #3 prospect in 2008.  Montero was 38th on the 2009 list, and fourth last year.

In 2010, the Yanks placed only two names on this list (Montero and Romine).

Read more about the BA 100 here.

(photo: NY Daily News)

Spring Training, Prospects and the Circle of Life

It seems like a lifetime ago that YankeeWorld was obsessed with three minor-league pitching prospects: The Big Three of Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Ian Kennedy. And even though our wildest dreams for that trio might not have come true, given the unpredictability of pitching prospects in general (TINSTAAPP!), it’s actually pretty impressive that they’ve had as much success as they have. Ian Kennedy is 26, started 32 games for the Diamondbacks last year and came out of it with an ERA+ of 111; Phil Hughes is still finding his way a bit, but at 24 gives every sign of becoming a solid stater; and Joba, well, if we’re all a little disappointed, he still may well end up being a valuable major leaguer. Hopes for those three were so high – it’s easy to forget that while they didn’t turn into the trio of aces that we might have imagined in our less guarded moments, all of them have been helpful to major league teams, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.

Anyway, spring training is the time to dream on these things. Now we’ve got a brand-new trio of new prospects to hang our hopes on, the junior Killer B’s: Andrew Brackman, New York’s own Dellin Betances, and Manny Banuelos. There have been encouraging stories and profiles on each of them recently – ’tis the season – and even for a cynical veteran of spring training coverage it’s easy to get caught up in the high hopes. Even as I was writing this post, we got this from the YES Network’s Jack Curry:

There’s a lot to like about each of those guys. Brackman  may be the one I’d most like to see succeed this year, just because he’s been in the organization the longest and, a year ago, looked like he might be a bust. Bettances is a NYC kid and, as detailed in the link above, was in the bleachers for David Wells’ perfect game – you’ve gotta love that. And Banuelos, from Mexico, very nearly a foot shorter than either of those guys and a crafty lefty in the making, will be a fine underdog in this six-footed race (although it seems horribly unfair that he’s already being compared to Andy Pettitte. No pressure or anything).

It’s human nature to dream on these kids but I hope we don’t have such crushing expectations for them that, as with The Big Three, it’ll seem disappointing if in three years they aren’t all dominant aces. Growing your own innings-eaters and relievers is nice too, and if all of these guys end up healthy and in the majors that’ll be quite a success in its own right.

Creepy Crawly

Is Carl Crawford ‘noid or is it just the Red Sox?

[Picture by Stephen Sheffield]

Taster's Cherce

Thanks to the good people at Saveur, I found this great site, that is digging through the old Gourmet Magazine archives. Food Porn at it’s (dated) best.

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