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Monthly Archives: June 2011

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Diggum Smack

Randy Wolf walked Brett Gardner in the bottom of the first this afternoon on a full count pitch. Gardner stole second. then Wolf went to 3-2 on Nick Swisher then walked him too. When he got to 3-2 to Mark Teixeira on a foul tip, Gardner had swiped third, with Swisher trailing him to second. The home plate ump threw Wulf a new ball. It went over his glove, so Wolf turned around, walked to the ball and picked it up. Gunna be one of those days, is it? he might have said to himself. Wolf struck Teixeira out but then gave up a line drive double to Robinson Cano. Before the inning was over, he’d thrown over thirty pitches.

Wolf recovered and went seven innings. Gave up another pair of runs in the third and the Yanks had more than enough because C.C. Sabathia was terrific. The Brewers didn’t stand a chance against him as Sabathia pitched into the eighth inning and struck out thirteen, matching a career-high. Mark Teixeira hit a solo homer run (25), career homer number 300, and Francisco Cervelli drove in two runs.

Final Score: Yanks 5, Brewers 0.

Ahhhhh. The Yanks swept the Brewers and will head across town against a hot Mets team feeling good about themselves. The only thing that could halt their good vibes is losing all three in Queens. Here’s hoping that doesn’t happen.

In the meantime, today was a good day. Every day in first place usually is.

C.C. and the Wolf

It’s C.C. and the Killer B-Squid-id-ad this afternoon at the Stadium:

Brett Gardner CF
Nick Swisher RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Robinson Cano 2B
Jorge Posada DH
Andruw Jones LF
Eduardo Nunez SS
Francisco Cervelli C
Ramiro Pena 3B

It’s absolutely gorgeous in New York for this Goldbricker’s Delight.

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

Beat of the Day

Well, you know, what can I say?

New York Minute

Speaking of old New York, I was on Columbus Avenue last night with my sister and my cousin, an 18-year-old Belgian girl who arrived in New York two days ago. It’s her first trip to the States so we went out for a burger last night. She is a good kid, shy, but speaks English pretty well. We strolled up Columbus after dinner, past 81st Street where my grandparents used to live. Most of the neighborhood has changed, but here is one spot, between 82nd and 83rd, that remains. It was almost arresting to see it there, a piece of my childhood in tact.

Mix n Match

Looks as if Bartolo Colon will be back to pitch against the Mets on Saturday. Phil Hughes will return shortly as well (and for you comedians out there, yep, the Yanks reacquired Serge Meatray and designated the vocal stylings of Buddy Carlyle for assignment). I’m curious, when Hughes comes back, who gets bumped from the rotation? Can’t be Nova, right? That leaves Freddy Garcia and Colon. Freddy won’t take well to losing his spot, and if he does, he may ask for his release. Colon has pitched better but may be more flexible. Whadda ya think?

Morning Art

The Miss Black North Carolina Series, by my pal Kevin McGoff.

Shoeless Joe vs. Encino Man

It’s been bothering me since April. Every single time Russell Martin comes to the plate or pulls off his mask, all I can see is Ray Liotta. It didn’t take me long before I had myself convinced that Martin actually looked more like Ray Liotta than Ray Liotta does, if that’s possible. And then the Brewers came to town this week and I got my first real close-up look at the wunderkind Ryan Braun, and — it’s Encino Man! Braun is a dead ringer for one of the greatest actors of our time, Brendan Fraser. (As it turns out, a quick Google search reveals that I’m not the first person to make either of these connections.)

As if they were playing from a script, both characters had leading roles on Wednesday night in the middle game of this three-game interleague series. Braun struck first, driving in Nyjer Morgan with the first run of the game in the first inning with a single to right. Braun would finish the night three for four with a stolen base, extending his hitting streak to 19 games.

Milwaukee pitcher Shawn Marcum was in control throughout the early innings, setting down the Yankee hitters without much drama or difficulty. In the fourth, though, the Score Truck finally pulled out of the garage. Robinson Canó led off with a triple over Morgan’s head in straightaway center field, and Nick Swisher, who is rapidly putting April and May behind him, laced a clean single to right to score the first Yankee run. Jorge Posada followed with a long single off the wall in right, putting runners on first and third as Ray Liotta strode to the plate. With Michael Kay and John Flaherty talking about how long it had been since his last extra base hit (sixty-nine at bats), Martin caught hold of one and drove it into the left field seats for a three-run homer and a 4-1 lead. As he crossed home plate, the field mics clearly picked up his narration: “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a home run hitter.”

Speaking of home run hitters, there was an interesting moment in the bottom of the sixth. After having the lead had been cut to 4-2 in the previous inning, Posada came to the plate at launched a laser shot towards the short porch in right. The ball seemed to bounce off the top of the fence and return to the field of play, allowing Corey Hart to field the ball and fire it into Rickie Weeks who applied the tag to a bewildered Posada who stood halfway between first and second, confused as to why he wasn’t being given a home run. Girardi jumped out of the dugout immediately, asking for an official review. The umpires disappeared down the rabbit hole and saw what the instant replays were already showing the television audience: it was indeed a home run, as the ball had bounced off the top of wall, struck a fan’s outstretched hands, and bounded back onto the field of play.

A.J. Burnett was basically in control all night long, and even came out to start the eighth before an Eduardo Nuñez forced Girardi to bring in the increasingly dominant David Robertson. Robertson made things a bit interesting, as usual, but came up with two big strikeouts to end the threat, as usual. How good has Robertson been this year? After the game Girardi was openly campaigning for him to receive an All-Star nod. (Oh, and in case the usual drama surrounding the Subway Series isn’t enough, Francisco Rodríguez seems to want Robertson’s job.)

I don’t think I need to mention what Mr. Rivera did in the ninth inning. You’ve seen it before. Yankees 5, Brewers 2.

More is Better

It’s warm in New York.

Bombers and Brewha’s at it again tonightski:

Brett Gardner LF
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Jorge Posada DH
Russell Martin C
Eduardo Nunez SS

Never mind the letdown:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

[Photograph by the most talented Robin Cerutti]

From Ali to Xena: 14


By John Schulian

Like every other job candidate at the Post in those days, I had to get the approval of Ben Bradlee, the executive editor who had covered himself in glory with the paper’s Watergate coverage. One of the first things he said to me was that he liked my Jimmy Breslin style. As soon as I heard that, I knew I’d better develop my own style, and do it fast. If I was going to prosper at the Post, I couldn’t be a cheap imitation.

I realized I was in the deep end of the pool the instant I walked into the place. It was crawling with heavy hitters and on-the-make newcomers, intrepid reporters and positively wonderful wordsmiths, all of whom seemed to buy into Bradlee’s theory of creative tension. I’d hate to think of all the intramural treachery that went on there — and that was in addition to going out and bumping heads with the New York Times and L.A. Times and Boston Globe and Wall Street Journal. On top of that, the people at the Post seemed exceedingly full of themselves-–no surprise, I suppose, since I showed up in the wake of Woodward and Bernstein bringing down Nixon and his cronies. In fact, the paper was building its Batman and Robin an office back by the sports department. Nobody thought it was funny when I asked if they were going to take high school football scores on Friday nights. What did I know? I’d just come from Baltimore, where people took their work seriously, but not themselves.

I’m probably going to wind up sounding negative about my time at the Post-–it was not the greatest 17 months of my life-–but I want you to know that it was an honor to work there. I was never on a better paper, never kept company with more talented people, never had more of a sense of the glamour of the newspaper business. Bradlee was forever strutting around in his Turnbull & Asser shirts-–the kind with bold stripes and white collars-–and he loved to go slumming in the sports department so he could see what we’d dug up on the Redskins. He was big pals with the team’s owner, Edward Bennett Williams.

One day I get into the elevator to go up to the newsroom and a guy jumps in at the last minute. He’s dressed the same way I am: tan corduroy sport coat, blue button-down collar shirt, Levi’s, cowboy boots. One big difference, though: he was Robert Redford and I wasn’t. They were making “All the President’s Men” then, and Redford must have been hanging around to do research on Bob Woodward, whom he played in the movie. When we got off the elevator, it was like I was invisible.

There was a copy boy at the Post-–the head copy boy, to be specific-–who wore Gucci loafers and was said to have a degree from the University of Virginia. And there was a copy girl who was an absolute babe-–absolute babes are a rarity in the newspaper business–and was said to have a tattoo of a butterfly on her ass.

In the midst of all that whatever-it-was, there was Donnie Graham, son of Katherine, the publisher who stood so tall during the Wategate era. Donnie would be publisher one day, too, but on his way there, he spent time doing every kind of job there was at the paper, from loading trucks to reporting to taking a turn as an editor in the sports department. This in addition to having been a beat cop in D.C. for a year or two. All of which is to say he was as decent and down to earth as he could be. I forget what job he had at the paper when I was there, but he still used to swing by sports to shoot the bull. One day he comes up to me while I’m pounding away on my typewriter and asks what I’m working on. I tell him it’s a feature about a former University of Maryland quarterback who washed out of the NFL and is playing semipro football in Baltimore on Saturday nights. And I mean down-and-dirty semipro football, on a field as hard as an interstate highway. “Oh,” Donnie says. He didn’t need to say anything else. I could tell he thought this one was a loser. But I wrote the hell out of it, and when I came into the office the day after it ran, there was a note from Donnie saying that in the hands of a good writer, anything could be a wonderful story. With the note was a copy of George Orwell’s essays. Memories don’t come much better than that.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the pressmen’s strike a month or so after I started at the Post on Labor Day 1975. The paper was getting ready to change from hot type to cold type and jobs were being lost in the backshop. One night everything went sideways, blood got spilled, the paper didn’t come out, and the next thing I knew, my fellow members of the Newspaper Guild and I were voting on whether to honor the pressmen’s picket line. I thought we should. Many more people thought we should cross it. And so we did. A few people actually left the Post because of that. I wasn’t one of them, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t feel a sense of shame and betrayal every time I crossed the picket line. I did, and it has stayed with me to this day.

I’m still not sure exactly why the Post came after me, particularly when so many good young sportswriters around the country would have sold their wives/mothers/firstborn for a chance to work there. Nor am I sure whether it was Donnie Graham or George Solomon who spotted me first. Sometimes I heard that it was my SI story on the Baltimore fight promoter that stirred their interest. Other times it was a funny but barbed Evening Sun feature I’d done about students at the school where the Colts trained standing up to the team’s abrasive general manager.

A funny thing about that fight promoter. Well, not funny, because he died in the time between my departure from the Evening Sun and my arrival at the Post. His name was Eli Hanover and he was barely into his 50s, one of those guys who’s so full of piss and vinegar that you figure he’ll outlive everyone. George Solomon told me he tried to get hold of me to write something about Eli, but I was off on an assignment for Sports Illustrated and nobody knew how to reach me. (Ah, those were the days.) The Post had a new sports columnist, a guy named William Barry Furlong who had had a truly distinguished career as a magazine freelancer, and he wound up writing about Eli. But all he did was lift things from my SI story, quotes and paraphrases and anecdotes. I don’t recall his having another source for his column. I hope he did. I hope he made at least one phone call. But if he did, I don’t remember it. Uncharacteristically, I didn’t say anything about it, not to Furlong, not to Solomon, not to anyone. It was one of those things I just filed away and said, Okay, pal, it’s good to know that’s how you play the game.

Click here for the full “From Ali to Xena” archives.

Whadda Mug: The Most Beautifullest Thing in the World

Still fit for magazine covers:

Joe Posnanski has the piece:

No man in the history of American sports—perhaps even in the history of America—has spent a lifetime facing more expectant silences. And it is happening again. Another afternoon. Another silence. Strangers stand at a respectful distance and wait for Lawrence Peter Berra to say something funny and still wise, pithy but quirkily profound, obvious and yet strangely esoteric. A Yogi-ism.

It ain’t over till it’s over.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

You can observe a lot by watching.

In this case the strangers waiting in the silence are a mother and son. They had been touring the Yogi Berra Museum in Little Falls, N.J., in anticipation of having the boy’s bar mitzvah here. The family had decided that there is no better place for a boy to become a man than in the museum of the greatest winner in the history of baseball. And when they got word that the legend himself was present, they had to meet him, of course. They found him here, in the museum office, looking for a glass of water.

“I cannot believe it’s really you!” the woman says to Yogi Berra.

“It’s really me,” he says.

Meanwhile, here’s a video from SI:

Taster's Cherce

I loved to eat breakfast at my grandparent’s home in Belgium when I was a kid. I spent a few weeks with them during the summer, alternating years with my twin sister and younger brother. Bonmamon and Bonpapa lived in a farm house in a small village between Brussels and Waterloo. Bonmamon made sure that we visited all of our relatives during my stay there so we traveled around the country, but I preferred when we stayed home. The days passed leisurely and were based around lunch and dinner, and late afternoon tea. There was always the potential for something scary to be served at those big meals–and I was expected to eat what was put in front of me–but breakfast was safe. It consisted of a cup of tea, often Earl Grey, and fresh bread from a local bakery. At the time, there weren’t many quality bakeries in New York, not as many as you find today, so good, simple bread was something to cherish.

I ate slice after slice of bread, butter and jam. Bonmamon made all sorts of jams and jellies but red currant stood out. Maybe it was because it was sweet and tart. Back home in the States, my mom also made red currant jelly and to this day, I love it. Because of how it tastes, of course, but also because it takes me back to a far away place where they spoke French and I felt welcome, like I was home.

Our man in Paris, David Lebovitz tries his hand at Red Currant Jam.

Dig it.

Beat of the Day

The Tribe Called Kvetch documentary is coming in a few weeks…

As for me I’m a nocturnal animal:

Million Dollar Movie

In the latest issue of The New York Review of Books, Geoffrey O’Brien has a compelling piece on the new Terrance Malick movie, “The Tree of Life”:

Malick has never shied from grandiosity, and in The Tree of Life more than ever before he risks the humorless and overblown. Into what might in other hands have been the small-scale, melancholy tale—too elliptical even to be called a tale—of the not unusually eventful childhood of a boy in Texas, his two brothers, and his father and mother, he has managed to incorporate the creation of the universe, the origins of life on earth, the age of dinosaurs, and the prospect of future dissolution, with musical accompaniment by the powerful tonalities of Berlioz’s Requiem Mass. But he has made an audacious and magnificent film.

The extreme variations of scale are no afterthought in Malick’s scheme. To show the world in a grain of sand he must first establish what the world is. So he will walk us through the stages and conditions and outer boundaries of human existence, provide a basic introduction to annihilating and fecundating cosmic forces, move freely back and forth in time for lingering glances at birth and death and family and memory as if they were only marginally familiar phenomena, as if no one had ever done any of this before, in a movie at least—and indeed who ever did in quite this head-on fashion? He manages to make childhood (and The Tree of Life is beyond anything else a movie descriptive of childhood) seem a somewhat neglected condition, deserving of reexamination. He is continually trying out different ways of representing acts of perception: the perspective of a child looking up at the adult world, or looking down from some hidden perch, the abrupt rhythm of a child looking quickly at some terrifying outburst of adult anger and then looking away, the sheared-off gaps in editing that can mark a moment as a fresh eternity disconnected from what preceded it.

I have not seen the movie yet and Malick is the kind of filmmaker that drives me to distraction. But he always has something interesting to offer, especially visually, and I’m sure our pal Matt B has seen this. If he says it’s good, that’s enough of a recommendation for me.

New York Minute

The New Yorker movie theater (and bookstore), The Regency and the Metro, M.H. Lamston’s,  Morris Brothers, Big Apple Comics, Funny Business, Applause, Shelter, Broadway Bay, The Saloon, Paulson’s, O’Neal’s Ballon. Hell, Tower Records. That’s a quick jog down memory lane of places I used to go to on the Upper West Side when I was growing up. Long gone. And now that H&H Bagels is closed for good, some Upper West Siders feel that the old neighborhood is done, reports Alexandra Schwartz in the Times:

You can find dog accessories and artisanal soaps and Coach handbags, or trawl for oxidized silver pendants and kilt pins at Barney’s Co-op. You can withdraw cash on every corner from the bank branch of your choice. You can load up on chewing gum and razor blades at a host of Duane Reades. You can treat yourself to a perfectly mediocre manicure.

But some of us want more. We want to revel in a neighborhood brunch tradition that has nothing to do with endless waits and haughty hostesses and glasses of orange juice whose prices defy the logic of supply and demand — a tradition that means fresh bagels and whitefish with onions over the newspaper in the living room. When we’re wandering with a hangover down the silent stretch of Broadway at 3 in the morning and the need for an “everything bagel” is stronger even than the need for water and sleep, what are we supposed to do without H & H’s round-the-clock bakery at 80th Street?

Big Nick’s Burger and Pizza Joint, I think of you and your root-beer-stained tables with trepidation. The smell of grease from your nonstop griddles billows out toward 77th Street 24 hours a day, seven days a week — a siren scent taunting gymgoers and health food nuts. You’re an unrepentant West Side institution, and that means that you, bubele, must be in the cross hairs, too.

Of course, it’s only natural for neighborhoods to evolve. My generation of Upper West Siders grew up during the Clinton years in a scrubbed-up iteration of the place our parents knew. Unthreatened by the muggings that were routine a decade earlier, we claimed the identity handed down to us: a certain shabbiness, along with a good dose of brains and a scrappy sense of local pride. Few of us noticed that the neighborhood’s personality had come under assault long before we started to take the subway by ourselves, when Shakespeare & Company and Eeyore’s Books shut their doors after Barnes & Noble took over the old Schrafft’s building at 82nd Street.

I remember when Amsterdam Avenue was a scary place. And parts of Columbus and Broadway too. I knew which sides of the street to walk down and which ones to avoid back in the 1980s. I still have some family on the Upper West Side, but the neighborhood I knew as a kid is a memory. It’s safer now, well-heeled, less shabby. A different place. The old neighborhood has been gone for more than a minute.

[Photo Credit: Monika Graff, Marilyn K Yee, William Sauro, Bob Glass and James Estrin for the New York Times]

Big Sexy (Italian Style)

Mama Mia.

Roll, Score Truck, Roll!

When I was a boy the Milwaukee Brewers were Gorman Thomas and Ben Oglivie, Robin Yount and Jim Ganter, Sixto Lezcano and Paul Molitor. It still seems odd to me that they’re a National League team, but I suppose there are fans a generation older than I am for whom it seems odd that Milwaukee ever had an American League franchise.

On Tuesday night they looked like a minor league franchise. Zack Greinke was on the mound for the Brewers, and I was looking forward to watching him pitch. I know what you know about Mr. Greinke — he’s apparently one of the best pitchers in the game — but all day I kept wondering how it was that I had never really seen him pitch. Apparently the schedule usually worked out for the Yankees when Greinke was in Kansas City, and they missed him more often than not. Right about now, I’m guessing Greinke wishes they had missed him again.

The first sign that the night might not go Greinke’s way came with the first batter he faced, as his normally pinpoint control deserted him and he hit leadoff man Brett Gardner. (Greinke would walk a season-high three batters on the night; he had only walked nine batters in his previous 60.1 innings.) Curtis Granderson then hit a sky-high fly ball to straightaway center field. It should’ve been the first out of the game, but instead center fielder Nyjer Morgan inexplicably fell over while attempting to field the ball, which skipped away untouched and allowed Gardner to scamper home on Granderson’s standup triple. (Later in the game Rickie Weeks would inexplicably fall over in the middle of what should’ve been an inning-ending double play.) Mark Teixeira then grounded out to second, scoring Granderson and opening a 2-0 Yankee lead.

Two more Yankees reached base that inning, forcing Greinke to expend 27 pitches to get three outs, and after Yankee starter Freddy García needed just nine pitches to retire the Brewers in the top of the second, Greinke was back on the mound again after only a few minutes rest. The Yankees took advantage. After Eduardo Nuñez and Gardner opened the inning with a single and a walk, then eventually advanced to second and third on a double steal, Teixeira picked up another ground out RBI for the Yankees’ third run. There were two outs, and it looked like Greinke might be able to get out of the inning with minimal damage, but he walked Alex Rodríguez, allowed a run-scoring single to Robinson Canó, and then served up fairly large (left-handed) home run to Nick Swisher. Suddenly it was 7-0. Greinke would finish the inning, but the Yanks had finished him. The second inning was his last.

From there, García put it on cruise control as he pitched to the scoreboard. He allowed base runners in each inning and two runs in the fourth, but he never let the Brewers get a look at the game. After his six effective innings, the Yankees piled on a few more runs to make things more comfortable for the bullpen. Teixeira hit his major-league-leading 24th home run in the bottom of the sixth, scoring two; Jorge Posada singled in a run; and Russell Martin plated another with a ground out, and the score was 11-2 when Hector Noesi took over in the seventh.

Noesi made it through the seventh and eighth, and Cory Wade handled the ninth, and the game was over. Yankees 12, Brewers 2.

If I had told you back in March that Rafael Soriano and Joba Chamberlain would be lost for the season, Phil Hughes would miss almost the entire first half, Bartolo Colón would emerge as the #2 starter before following Hughes onto the DL, they would insert a former minor league outfielder into the starting rotation, Jorge Posada’s batting average wouldn’t climb above the Mendoza line until June 9, Derek Jeter would spend almost three weeks on the disabled list, and the team would go 1-8 against the Red Sox, you surely wouldn’t have believed me. And if you did believe me, you’d expect that the team would be teetering on the brink of implosion.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. These Yankees sit a game and a half in front of those pesky BoSox, they’ve scored more runs than any team in baseball, they have the largest run differential by a wide margin, and they’re sporting the best record in the American League. What might this team do when all the missing pieces return in the second half?

[Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images]

What Kind of Fool Are You?

Brett Gardner LF
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Jorge Posada DH
Russell Martin C
Eduardo Nunez SS

Bombers vs. Brewers. Cliff has the Preview. Bottom’s Up.

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

Joba Rules

Over at Pitchers and Poets, Ted Walker has a long piece on Joba Chamberlain called “Private Anxiety Made Public in Baseball’s Age of Potential”:

Joba Chamberlain elicits a negative response from the average baseball fan that far outweighs his time spent as a big league pitcher. For a few years, Chamberlain was the lightning rod for Yankee-hating, embodying what outsiders disliked about the team.

The Yankees fan base, meanwhile, accustomed to a team that develops its own foundational members, asked too much of the kid. The Yankees called him up to the big leagues after just a year in the minors. In the hustle to nudge him, with Robinson Cano and Phil Hughes, up onto the Yankees pedestal once occupied by the four horsemen, Yankee fans made him Joba before he was Chamberlain. In the rest of the country, his unique first name became a slight, and a shorthand term for a long-held distaste for the Yankees. Soon, the name Joba came to symbolize a fatigue not only for the team’s ruthless big money practices, but also for the media’s clear favoritism towards East Coast franchises.

That Joba Chamberlain was the symbol of this sentiment is misguided and unfortunate, and more a result of bad timing than anything that Joba did. Because, generally speaking, Joba Chamberlain is the opposite of what people don’t like about the Yankees.

[Photo Credit: NJ.com]

Beat of the Day

I’ve posted this before but what the hell, it’s catchy…

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