"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Monthly Archives: June 2011

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New York Minute

Emma hipped me to this coolness: the average color of the New York City sky, updated every five minutes.

Golden Slumbers

Over at SI, Joe Pos has a piece about Adam Dunn, “The Least Exciting Player Ever.” In it, he mentions former Yankee, Bobby Abreu:

I’m not talking about winning and losing here. I’m not talking about value. I’m talking about excitement. And that’s something different. I’ve often written that Bobby Abreu is the MBGPIBH — Most Boring Good Player In Baseball History. I have immense respect for what he has accomplished as a player, what he continues to accomplish. The guy has a lifetime .400 on-base percentage (and a .400 on-base percentage this year). He’s had two 30-30 seasons. He’s won a Gold Glove, and he really seemed to be an excellent fielder in his younger days. He has scored and driven in 100 five times. I’m assuming he has 21 more home runs in him (though his power has dwindled to almost nothing) and that will make him only the eighth member of the 300-homer, 300-stolen base club. I don’t want to get into it here because this post is already drifting, but it seems every couple of weeks I have a discussion with a friend about Abreu’s Hall of Fame case. I think he’s making a case. I also think he’s headed for the Hall of Not Famous Enough.

Abreu, though, is an agonizing player to watch, at least for me. His at-bats feel like audits. They just go on and on, an endless stream of near strikes called for balls, good pitches spoiled, swings and misses, more near pitches called for balls — he’s doing exactly what he SHOULD be doing. Abreu controls the batter’s box as few ever have. He is an artist at the plate, but an artist in the way that a good auto mechanic is an artist. I admire what he does. I appreciate the value of it. But I wish they would give me a magazine or something to read while he does it.

Excellence and excitement don’t always mix. In Abreu’s case, his lack of flair or visceral artistry will hurt his case for greatness. His artistry is there, as Pos notes, but it is not dynamic. He is a fine player, better than fine, a winning player, but he never put the asses in the seats. But I liked watching him more than Pos does. What makes him different than Hideki Matsui? That Godzilla hit more home runs?

There are thrilling players who have style to burn who aren’t nearly as accomplished as a guy like Abreu or Matsui. Sometimes, you can’t have it all. At least Bobby’s got good teeth and a nice smile.

Brew Ha (Got You All in Check)

When I think of the Brewers in the American League I remember the 1981 playoffs and names like Gorman, Cecil, Oglivie, and Robin Yount. Reggie hit a big home run in that series. Of course they were in the league for a long time after that but when I picture the Brewers I think of Harvey’s Wallbangers.

The Brewers still have a decent team with some pop, led by Prince Fielder. I’m sure the balls will be sailing through the Bronx sky tonight.

Taster's Cherce

Fuh Breahfist.

I’m good to go.

[Photo Credit: My Recipes]

Million Dollar Movie

In less than a month, there will be a tasty Sidney Lumet Retrospective at the Walter Reade Theater in Lincoln Center. Put it on your calendar. Netflix is fine but doesn’t replace seeing a movie on the big screen.

Here’s the line-up:

The Film Society of Lincoln Center – Walter Reade Theater
165 West 65 Street, between Broadway & Amsterdam (upper level)

Tuesday, July 19
1:30PM FAIL-SAFE (111min)
3:50PM THE VERDICT (129min)
6:30PM 12 ANGRY MEN (95min)
8:35PM THE PAWNBROKER (116min)

Wednesday, July 20
1:00PM SERPICO (130min)
3:45PM NETWORK (121min)
6:15PM FAIL-SAFE (111min)
8:45PM THE OFFENCE (112min)

Thursday, July 21
No Sidney Lumet screenings

Friday, July 22
1:15PM 12 ANGRY MEN (95min)
3:45PM THE PAWNBROKER (116min)
6:15PM NETWORK (121min)
8:45PM THE VERDICT (129min)

Saturday, July 23
10:30AM THE WIZ (133min) **Movies for Kids
1:15PM THE SEA GULL (141min)
4:00PM RUNNING ON EMPTY (116min)
9:00PM SERPICO (130min)

Sunday, July 24
4:00PM Q&A (132min)
7:00PM PRINCE OF THE CITY (167min)

Monday, July 25
3:30PM THE OFFENCE (112min)
6:00PM FIND ME GUILTY (124min)

Fixing a Hole

Over at ESPN, Mark Simon looks at the fielding of Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira.

Taster's Cherce

This Italian breakfast dish is similar to a bacon, egg and cheese on a roll. But oh, so much better. And it’s good anytime, not just in the morning.

From Ali to Xena: 13

Up, Down, Up, and Out

By John Schulian

In my mind, it was going to be either a city column at the Evening Sun or a job at SI, and trust me, I campaigned like a mad man to get my foot in SI’s door. The magazine’s Baltimore stringer was a big-hearted, hugely energetic guy named Joe D’Adamo, who ran the backshop at the Evening Sun. Not a writer or editor, but a guy who oversaw the actual physical production of the paper. The editors at SI appreciated Joe because he was a fount of ideas, and Joe liked the way I wrote enough to talk me up to them. When Frank Deford came to town  to promote a novel he’d written, I did a visiting-author story in which I described him as looking like a waterbed salesman. I just couldn’t resist. Frank must have recognized the impulse, because he didn’t hold it against me. The next thing I knew, Joe D’Adamo was telling me that Frank had mentioned me to SI’s editors. Just the same, when Robert Creamer showed up in Baltimore to hustle his Babe Ruth book, I wrote about him, too.

Finally, in 1973, Pat Ryan, SI’s freelance editor-–soon to be known forever in my mind as the wonderful Pat Ryan-–asked me to send her a list of four story ideas. I did, and the one she liked the best was about the boxing promoter on the Block. When I sent in my first draft, Pat asked me to rewrite the ending so it involved a night at the fights. I did, and that was the last change that was made to the piece. Every word that appeared under my first byline in Sports Illustrated was mine. I was amazed, gratified, and filled with bigger dreams than ever.

Pat had a wonderful way with writers, a real gift for nurturing them. Her father, if I recall correctly, was a successful racehorse trainer, and she had started at SI as a secretary and worked her way up to writer and then editor. Nobody had strewn rose petals at her feet, and if she got the idea that you were committed to your work, she would beat the drum for you. She invited me to New York, took me to lunch, introduced me to other key editors, and treated me like I belonged even though I must have seemed like a rube. She kept giving me story assignments, too-–short items for the front of the book as well as longer stuff like the magazine’s first Moses Malone story and a piece on the amateur baseball team in Baltimore that produced Reggie Jackson and Al Kaline.

All the while I was still writing for the Evening Sun. It was a terrific place to work, as I’ve said, and the people I worked with were salt of the earth. They knew and cared about the city, and they were passionate about honest, energetic, imaginative reporting. They also knew how to put on a great ugliest tie contest. No, I never won. I was actually a pretty good dresser. I remember when I went to interview Jerry Lee Lewis, he looked me over with those spooky eyes of his and said, “I like a sharp-dressed man.” What I might have won at the paper was a bad temper award. Just about anything could set me off-–typos in a story I’d written, an inability to get a long-distance line, the list is endless, really. My standard response was to pound my desk or stand up and punch the nearest wall while yelling the obligatory “fuck!” It’s funny how in the 36 years since I left the paper, the legend of my temper has grown. One woman said I broke the window in the managing editor’s office. (Not true.) A guy said I broke a typewriter. (Also not true.) The only thing I might have broken was my hand when I punched a wall. The fact that I didn’t proves that God really does look out for drunks and fools.

By the time 1975 rolled around, I was starting to get antsy. SI didn’t have any openings for writers at my level and wasn’t expecting any. I could have lived with that if I sensed that I was about to be anointed the Jimmy Breslin of Baltimore. Instead, I was told that the managing editor had decided to kill my music column because nobody cared about rock and roll anymore. This, mind you, just as Springsteen was taking flight-–do I need to say more about the thickness of the managing editor’s skull? I was more than pissed off. I was crushed. Looking back, it was a great life lesson, because it was awfully easy to get comfortable at the Evening Sun and in Baltimore, which was just entering its resurgence. But the only way you’re going to get better is by challenging yourself, by going up against writers who are better than you are. If you do that, it’s sink or swim, and that was what I needed if I was going to make anything out of the career that consumed my life.

When I finally got my wits about me, I started plotting my great escape. I figured I could freelance for Sports Illustrated and a new magazine called New Times, which was showcasing up-and-coming writers like Bob Greene (already a star columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times), Frank Rich (in his pre-New York Times days), Paul Hendrickson (later a star in the Washington Post’s Style section), and Robert Ward (a novelist from Baltimore whom I didn’t meet until we both wound up in Hollywood). I was going to wait until my fifth anniversary at the Evening Sun-–September 1975-–and then I’d be gone. I just had to get through the next three months.

So I’m sitting at my desk one afternoon, not really giving a damn about whatever I was supposed to be working on, and my telephone rings.


“Is John Schulian there?”

“You got him.”

“This is George Solomon, from the Washington Post. How’d you like to make George Allen’s life miserable?”

I’m not making this up. That’s exactly how the conversation went. Solomon was the Post’s new sports editor, and Allen was the Washington Redskins’ head coach and the Richard Nixon of the NFL. And I, as I hastened to point out, was a guy who had never written a sports story for a newspaper. I mean I’d cheated a couple of times and done features about Willie Mays in retirement and a great local playground basketball player, but I’d never written a story about a game. You know, one with a score in it.

So I said, “Are you sure you’ve got the right John Schulian?”

“I’m sure,” Solomon said.

My life had just changed.

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

Morning Drawing

Pictures by Richard Diebenkorn.

New York Minute

Last Friday evening I saw these kids on the subway as I headed downtown.

Later that night, I saw the same crew again, this time on an uptown train.

Man, that’s the second time in a few weeks that I’ve run into people in both directions on the train. Weird but cool.

Observations From Cooperstown: Old Timers' Day

Bar none, it’s my favorite promotion on the Yankee calendar. It is “Old-Timers’ Day” and it arrived early this year. For the 65th time in their history, the Yankees officially celebrated their past glory. It is somewhat hard to believe, but Joe Torre and Bernie Williams participated in their first Old-Timers Day, several years after completing iconic careers in the Bronx. Their presence alone made the day special, but I was just as interested in seeing old schoolers like Moose Skowron and Hector Lopez, characters like Oscar Gamble and Joe Pepitone, and even those Yankees who made only cameos in the Bronx, including Cecil Fielder, Lee Mazzilli, and Aaron Small.

More so than any other sport, baseball revels in its ability to celebrate its past. Some would call it nostalgia; I’m more tempted to call it history. No franchise has had more cause to recall its own accomplishments than the Yankees, given the team’s longstanding on-field success, which began with the arrival of Babe Ruth in 1921. So it’s no surprise that the Yankees became the first team to introduce the concept of an Old-Timers’ Day to its promotional calendar.

The Yankees initiated the promotion in the 1930s, though they didn’t actually refer to the event as Old-Timers’ Day. Rather, the tradition began more informally as solitary tributes to retired stars like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. The salute to Gehrig became the best known of the early Old-Timers affairs. On July 4, 1939, the Yankees staged “Lou Gehrig Day” at Yankee Stadium as a way of paying homage to a legendary player whose career had been cut short by the onset of ALS.

After several former and current Yankees delivered emotional speeches lauding Gehrig as both a player and teammate, the retired first baseman stepped to the microphone. In an eloquently stirring address, Gehrig referred to himself as “the luckiest man on the face of the earth,” full knowing that he had only a short time to live because of the ravages of the disease. (Gehrig would succumb to ALS only two years later, at the age of 37.) At the conclusion of his speech, the capacity crowd responded with deafening applause, signifying its appreciation for an “old-timer” who had met with the unkindest of fates.

Seven years later, the Yankees introduced their first official Old-Timers’ Day to the franchise’s promotional slate. Rather than concentrate the honors on one retired player, the event became a celebration of teamwide accomplishments that had taken place over past years. Inviting a number of the team’s former stars to the Stadium, the Yankees introduced each one over the public address system, with each player acknowledging the applause from the 70,000-plus fans in attendance.

Ever since the 1946 event, the Yankees have held Old-Timers’ Day on an annual basis, always on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, and usually sometime from mid-July to mid-August. (Other teams followed suit in the 1960s and seventies, particularly older franchises with sufficient history to draw from. Even an expansion franchise like the Mets participated in the tradition by celebrating the New York roots of the Giants and Dodgers.) In the earlier years of the event, the Old-Timers’ Game pitted former Yankees against retired stars from the rest of baseball, with the non-Yankees wearing the opposition uniforms of their most prominent teams. In more recent times, the Yankees have invited only former Yankees to the party, largely because they have so many retired stars from which to choose, some as far back as the 1940s. The retired stars now play a kind of celebrated intra-squad game, pitting the “Bombers” against the “Pinstripes.”

Other than the game itself, the format of Old-Timers’ Day at Yankee Stadium—with an on-field announcer introducing each retired player, who then jogs (or walks) from the dugout to a spot along the foul line—has remained relatively unaltered. Yet, the voices have changed. For years, famed Yankee broadcaster Mel Allen handled the emcee duties exclusively. Standing at a podium behind home plate, Allen introduced each retired player with his stately Southern drawl. Eventually felled by declining health, Allen gave way to the less acclaimed but highly professional Frank Messer, the team’s longtime play-by-play voice who was best known for his on-air partnership with Phil Rizzuto and Bill White. In recent years, radio voice John Sterling and television play-by-play man Michael Kay have shared the announcing chores—a far cry from Allen’s dignified presence at the microphone.

Over the years, Old-Timers’ Day has occasionally managed to overshadow the events of the “real” game played later in the day by the existing version of the Yankees. This has especially been the case during the franchise’s lean years. In 1973, the Yankees staged one of their most elaborate Old-Timers events as part of a 50th anniversary celebration of Yankee Stadium. The front office invited every living member from the 1923 team, the first to play at the Stadium after the relocation from the nearby Polo Grounds. With Gehrig and Ruth long since deceased, the Yankees invited their widows to participate in the ceremony from box seats located along the first base dugout. Mrs. Claire Ruth and Mrs. Eleanor Gehrig, both outfitted in oversized Easter hats, helped bid farewell to the “old” Yankee Stadium, which was slated for massive renovation after the 1973 season. The day became even memorable because of a development in the Old-Timers’ Game that followed; the fabled Mickey Mantle, retired five years earlier, blasted a home run into the left-field stands. The Mick still had some power in his game.

One of the most indelible Old-Timers’ moments occurred only five years later. After the usual introductions of retired players, the Yankees stunningly declared that Billy Martin would return as Yankee manager. Martin had been fired only five days earlier, done in by his damning declaration that “one’s a born liar, and the other’s convicted,” a reference to the duo of Reggie Jackson and George Steinbrenner.

In spite of the omnipresent New York media, the Yankees somehow succeeded in keeping news of Martin’s return a complete secret. There were no whispers, no rumors, no hints in the local newspapers. Having managed to keep the agreement with Martin in tow throughout the morning and early afternoon, the Yankees arranged to have all of their old timers introduced as usual by Allen, clearing out a final announcement for their deposed manager. Explaining that Yankee Stadium public address announcer Bob Sheppard would now deliver a special announcement, Allen turned over the microphone to his announcing counterpart. Maintaining his dignified delivery throughout, Sheppard revealed that Martin would return to the Yankee dugout two years later, in 1980, with recently hired manager Bob Lemon moving up to the front office as general manager. As a gleeful Martin trotted onto the field at a sun-splashed Yankee Stadium, a capacity crowd greeted him with a prolonged standing ovation that was motivated as much by shock as it was by joy.

In terms of dramatic theater, it was as timely and well orchestrated as any announcement I’ve seen during my lifetime as a fan. It showcased Old-Timers’ Day at its best, combining the predictable and orderly splendor of a ceremonial day with an unexpected and newsworthy development that bordered on spontaneity.

We didn’t see that kind of news making event yesterday, but that didn’t make the day any less significant. Seeing former Yankees in uniform, sometimes for the first time in years, is something that will always prompt the goose bumps. If you like and appreciate the history of this franchise, then Old-Timers’ Day remains the one day that cannot be missed.

[Photo Credit: Ron Antoneli, N.Y. Daily News]

Bruce Markusen writes “Cooperstown Confidential” for The Hardball Times.

Never Be Another

Mike Lupica on Mariano Rivera:

Rivera reaches into his locker now, touches the home uniform he will wear. No. 42 on its back of course. This was Jackie Robinson’s number, one that will be retired permanently when Rivera retires.

“I think about putting on my uniform today,” he says, “and don’t worry about tomorrow. I think about the new day, the new challenge.”

He smiles.

“Let’s try to do it one more time,” he says.

He’s my favorite athlete.

Beat of the Day

Word to Ron Darling.

Happiness is Sunday in First Place on Old Timers' Day

After the usual sentimental events of Old Timers’ Day, which featured an extended and loving tribute to Gene Monahan, there was not much to cheer about for Yankee fans in the early going of their game against the Rockies this afternoon. Juan Nicasio retired the first thirteen Yankees and the Rockies had a 3-0 lead. Robinson Cano singled to break up the perfect game with one out in the fifth and Nick Swisher followed with a two-run homer into the right field bleachers. Jorge Posada was next and he hit a high home run and the game was tied. Just like that.

Ivan Nova wasn’t great but didn’t fall apart either. Ty Wigginton wore him out, that’s for sure. His second homer put the Rockies up 4-3 in the sixth, but the Yanks answered with single runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth. Alex Rodriguez tied it with an RBI single and Eduardo Nunez put them ahead for good with an RBI base hit of his own.

Perhaps the most encouraging performance came from Boone Logan who got three outs in the seventh. David Robertson pitched a scoreless eighth and won a long battle with Troy Tulowitzki to start the eighth. Onions.

Oh, know this: Tulo made a critical error in the bottom of the seventh but also made a sensational play look easy in the eighth when he fielded a ball, moving to his right and threw Nick Swisher out easily, from deep in the hole. Man, it was impressive.

And what better way to end a long afternoon love-in than with the Great One, Mariano Rivera?

Three up, three down. Three strikeouts. It never gets old as we savor the greatness that will never be replicated.

Final Score: Yanks 6, Rockies 4.

[Photo Credit: from the most cool site, I really Like the Rain]

And You Knew Who You Were Then

Old Timers’ Day should prove to be especially sentimental this year with the Godfather Joe Torre in the House. Sweet Lou Piniella and Sweet Pea Bernie Williams will also be there.

Here are some pictures I took at last year’s Class Reunion:

Hot and sunny in New York. Nostalgia followed by Yanks and Rocks.

Enjoy everyone!


C.C. was everything we expect from him today. His stuff was dynamite and he pitched eight strong, allowing just one run and a walk while he struck out nine. The Yankees pounded the Rockies, 8-3. Six players had at least two hits, including an increasingly banged-up Alex Rodriguez, who is now hitting an even .300.

Don't be Glum, C.C. is Here

Yanks look to bounce back from last night’s disappointing loss with a win.

Never mind the pessimisim, C.C. is pitching:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

Saturday Soul

Take me…

Breaking Bad


The bad A.J. Burnett showed up on Friday night–Bad A.J, Bad, Bad!–while the good Ubaldo Jimenez appeared for the Rockies–Bad A.J, Bad, Bad! The result was a 4-2 win for the Rockies. Yeah, five walks for Burnett just doesn’t cut it. About the only good thing to be said for the entire evening was that the Red Sox lost too, 3-1, in Pittsburgh. Oh, and if you are a Jason Giambi fan, and why the hell not, count me as one, you got to see the erstwhile Yankee have a good game. Giambi went 3-4 with a walk. He hit a monstrous home run into the right center field bleachers.

“I wasn’t touching the ground,” said Giambi, according to Brian Heyman. “I was excited. There’s an incredible energy playing in this stadium with the fans that they have here. It was like old times to have that opportunity to play in front of them again. I went up there, and I think he could’ve thrown the resin bag 2-and-0 and I would’ve swung at it. …

“I couldn’t have dreamed for a better game to have.”

Here’s hoping his sweet dreams lasted just one night.

[Picture by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images]

Rock n Roll

The Yanks vs. the Rockies. The Rocks? Okay…very well, then.

1. Gardner LF
2. Granderson CF
3. Teixeira 1B
4. Rodriguez 3B
5. Cano 2B
6. Swisher RF
7. Posada DH
8. Martin C
9. Nunez SS
Burnett P

We’ll be rootin’:

Let’s Go Yank-ees!

[Picture by Minh Dam]

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