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J.B. Number One


When I heard that Jimmy Breslin passed away, Todd Drew was the first person I thought of. Man, Todd loved Breslin.

Over at The Stacks, I’ve got a swell Breslin profile—by Ambrose Clancy—for you as well as a fine appreciation by our man Schulian.

Lighten Up, Francis

magic hour bags

WBC, spring training…Yo, is it Opening Day yet?

Oh, and there’s also March Madness which brings us to Will Blythe’s 2010 Esquire piece on Coach K:

Hatred makes scholars of its practitioners, which is to say, all of us. We study the objects of our disdain like old dons in the British Library poring over ancient manuscripts. No less than lovers, good haters notice everything about their enemies. Every tendency, every inconsistency, every speck of newness. Hatred focuses the attention.

As a North Carolinian raised and educated in Chapel Hill, with a robust distaste for the privileges of class, I have hated Duke University basketball and all for which it stands for as long as I can remember. And my attention has been focused.

As a Yankee fan I have no idea what Will is talking about.

Picture by Bags


Reflection Bags

I like that Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez are dating because, well, of course they are dating. The only question is for how long.

If you’ve come here for the latest on the Yanks I can only point you to places like River Ave Blues where they actually know what’s going on.

Meanwhile, so off the topic, but I did a cool interview with the journalist Chip Brown this week over at Esquire Classic:

EC: You said David Maraniss was your first editor. What was it like working for him?

CB: I learned an awful lot from David. I can still hear him say something that, again, seems absurdly basic now but at the time was a revelation: Every paragraph must advance the story. Among many fine editors I’ve had, I rank him as one of the best. Another would be Will Blythe, who was the literary editor of Esquire when I was working for the magazine and encouraged me not to be afraid to throw in an occasional quote from E.M. Cioran, the great Romanian philosopher, whose wonderful screwball provocations include lines like “One always perishes by the self one assumes: to bear a name is to claim an exact mode of collapse.” And there is also Julie Grau who now has her own book imprint Spiegel & Grau. I remember Maraniss once said even if you are writing about someone who is corrupt, rotten to the core, you can’t take away their humanity. You have to kind of cradle them when you write about them. It doesn’t mean you pull a punch, but you can’t be self-righteous or snide or judgmental. That just makes you look worse.

EC: You want to let them hang themselves.

CB: If it’s a capital offense, maybe that’s right. But in a way there’s editorializing in that too — in letting the reader make the righteous judgment — only it doesn’t seem as objectionable. And it’s truer to life, not to say more decent, to make room in what you write for the frailties of your own character, or to allude to the degree that all of us are imperfect.

EC: Did Maraniss encourage you to work on having a strong point of view or moral position?

CB: Not in the sense of consciously taking up issues with a moral agenda, but yes, in the sense of having a moral sensibility. He told me to work on my coldness. He would say, “Don’t be uncharitable.” Actually that might have been advice for managing a bollixed love life, not journalism. But it carried over.

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From the Outside Looking In

blue sky bags

What I know from these Yankees is less than somewhat. I did catch a few pitches of a spring training game the other day and saw Greg Bird hit a long home run. Now there is a guy I am eager to watch this season. He was so appealing in 2015, young, sure, and poised. I really liked his quiet confidence.

Who are you looking forward to watching this year?

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Baseball Time

red door bags

In all the time I’ve hosted the Banter I have not been more distant from the game than I am now. But that doesn’t make it uninteresting to me. I am just busy with other stuff—like unearthing this bitchy 1967 Rex Reed profile of Warren Beatty while he was promoting Bonnie and Clyde. But I hear they are playing games already.

Sounds like fun. What do I need to know?

Picture by Bags

Feduciary (yawwwwn!)

Nick SwisherToo tired to put up a real post and not wanting to spoil the tribute post to a recently passed well-known and respected contemporary jazz singer/entertainer, I’m tossing this up for discussions on various things baseball and Yanks related. Among those things:

Nick Swisher retired. Well, at least he didn’t drag it out too long. But he was one of those guys who always seemed to let the kid inside come out and play. I’ll miss that.

Both Tyler Austin and Mason Williams have injuries that, although not career-threatening, will certainly alter their destinations after Spring Training (unless they have super powers).

Front office is sounding quite jerky yet again. I mean, you can be right and correct, but you can also control the impulse to gloat about it, and Randy Levine continues to make the team (and its fanbase by proxy) look like complete [insert favorite expletive here]s. Which, maybe they are, but we don’t seem to want anyone else to say it. What it means down the road is almost obvious though, and it would be really disheartening to lose great talent because the person or people in charge are loose-lipped sociopaths, which is certainly a New York sports-related specialty of late.

Okay, never mind with the vague grinding of axes, let’s get on with the show already!

Walking in the Moonlight

Al_Jarreau_MoldeRise in Power, Mr. Al Jarreau.  Thank you for the excellent adventures.

Bye Bye Balboni, Where Have Ya Been?

bags city grate

The Yanks have signed Steve Balboni, no Rob Deer, no Tom Brunansky, no Glenallen Hill, scratch all that—Chris Carter to a one-year deal so that he can wear the pinstripes, hit a few homers and strikeout more than somewhat.

Well, okay, then.

Picture by Bags


Black Umbrellas Adger Cowans

So, are we done with football? Got that out of our system have we? Bueno.

Onward. Pitchers and catchers report soon and that can only be a good thing, am I right?

Meanwhile, and completely unrelated, check out this interview I did with Adger Cowans over at The Daily Beast:

Faye Dunaway in The Puzzle of a Downfall Child, 1970 (1)

Taking pictures on a movie set is such a specialized kind of photography. How were you able to get crucial shots while staying out of everyone’s way?

When a shot is going down, the director is standing there, so you have to think of little games to get your picture. Because the director was always watching me to see where I was standing for a good vantage. And then he’d stand in front of me and I’d duck to the side, which is where I really wanted to shoot in the first place. Little games. Always positioning yourself. Dealing with the camera crew too, not bumping into them. You had to be stealth.

Did you approach the job by staying quiet or being more out-going?

Both. Depended. But it started with how you got along with the people on the set. The director, the camera people, the actors. You had to make friends. You had to put yourself out there in a way that people trusted you.

Actor and Director Bill Duke

Which directors did you liked working with most?

Alan Pakula was a hell of a nice man and a very good director. But my models for great directors would be Francis Ford Coppola (The Cotton Club), Sidney Lumet (Night Falls on Manhattan), and Bill Duke (The Cemetery Club). Lumet was the master. He knew what he wanted and never went past three takes. He did two weeks of rehearsals and then shot quickly. Duke and Lumet were so humble with the actors. They never yelled at an actor in front of the crew. They’d pull them aside and talk quietly but confidently to them. It was beautiful to watch.

[Pictures from: Personal Vision by Adger Cowans, copyright © 2017, published by Glitterati Incorporated www.GlitteratiIncorporated.com]

Look Sharp


Hey, is it baseball season yet? I try to watch the NFL, really I do, but I find it so dull. Boring, which sounds funny, coming from a baseball fan, right, but there you have it.

In the meantime, check out this piece in the Guardian on the late John Berger who recently passed away:

“The way I observe comes naturally to me as a curious person – I’m like la vigie – the lookout guy on a boat who does small jobs, maybe such as shovelling stuff into a boiler, but I’m no navigator – absolutely the opposite. I wander around the boat, find odd places – the masts, the gunwale – and then simply look out at the ocean. Being aware of travelling has nothing to do with being a navigator.”

Picture by Bags

So This Is Christmas

charlie-brown-snoopy-w-treeWhether you feel it or not,

whatever part of the spectrum your light falls in,

from us to each,

look out for each other,

from me to you,

and you to me.

Be safe. See you on the next calendar.

Always Be Closing: Flame On! Edition


The Yanks might not be contenders for another few years but they are banking on Aroldis Chapman being in top form when they are ready for Prime  Time. The deal is reportedly worth $86 million over 5 years. (Gasp.) Chapman gets a full no-trade clause for the first three years and a limited-no-trade for the final two;  has the ability to opt out after 3 seasons.

Ton of dough for a closer, even a formidable one. Ton of dough for a guy who is an alleged woman beater. But there it is, Chapman and his 100 mph heater is here for the foreseeable future.

Caps for Sale


Chris Sale to Boston and the Sox just got tougher.

Picture by Bags

Let’s Make a Dope Deal


I used to work for a guy who said real Yankees unbutton the top button of their jersey cause that’s what the Mick did. Always think of that when I see Matt Holliday who often has the top few buttons of his jersey undone. As the Winter Meetings kick off news is the Yanks have signed the big fella. He’ll look good in pinstripes. Now, here is hoping the Yanks steer clear of Encarnacion.

Picture by Bags

Go Fish, Gin Rummy, Five Card Stud & Other Games The Yanks Apparently Aren’t Playing This Offseason

peanuts-5So far, there’s been relatively little of seriousness to discuss this off-season, which is par for the course these days around this portion of the year (unless you consider cashing in Brian McCann and his post-trade thoughts for a couple of futures worthy of going ballistic in the comments section). As I (meaning me) have suggested recently, it would be surprising if the Yanks made any tectonic-scale moves to bolster (replenish?) their starters in either the batting lineup or the pitching staff, but don’t be surprised if they swap out some guys for bullpen help or to shore up their bench. In fact, considering how well 2009 went regardless of our initial beliefs, anything’s still possible, so save that thought.

According to Mark Polishuk at MLB Trade Rumors (who apply their own accord on this to George A. King III), Yanks are in on our old pal Aroldis Chapman, though they are considerably wary of going five years with him. Similarly, but to a lesser extent, they are also interested in the hard-hitting Edwin Encarnacion, but are equally uninterested in a five-year deal with him. Both would represent considerably improvements in their area of expertise, though their need for Chapman outweighs their need for Encarnacion based on the presence of Gary Sanchez and (again) to a lesser extent the expectations placed on both Greg Bird and Aaron Judge. To this, we also add the possibility of the Yanks bringing back Carlos Beltran, though they might not get that chance either if they are trying to stay within their given budget parameters.

I would think that considerable attention should be paid to third base, where Chase Headley has been somewhat of a letdown and where the Yanks are considerably thin in their system having traded their former Trenton Thunder 3B Eric Jaigalo (their first pick overall in 2013 and by all accounts their closest-to-ready 3B prospect for the majors, even if he wasn’t really that close) and three others to bring in Chapman last off-season. Among their top ten prospects, none are slated to play third, which along with second has been a perennially overlooked issue with the Yanks of late. Maybe Cashman believes one of their infield prospects will take to the hot corner well enough to cover this seeming oversight, maybe he thinks Starlin Castro or Lil’ Ronnie Torreyes or a player to be discovered later will be good enough, or maybe he even thinks Headley can only go up from here. Perhaps, even, the Yanks can’t afford to go deep on any more starting infielders without trading for one that would ultimately upset the balance he’s creating with all of the prospects he’s stacking in the system at the moment (or because of, you know, the budget). Who really knows? As fans, all we can do is react and speculate, and I’m all out of Big League Chew

So here we are, waiting to see if Cashman can figure out a way to bring back the best closer currently playing in the majors (who you still might be a little wary of considering how he was used by manager Joe Torr–err, Maddon during the post-season) without breaking the bank or the system or future plans in the process, and also hope that while you know in the back of your mind there’s not much hope for contention in the coming year, they can at least make it interesting for far longer than they did this past season.

Ahem, take your time processing all that, it looks like it’s gonna be a long winter at any rate.

What’s Happening?


The baseball season came and went with the Banter largely asleep at the wheel. I’ve been so busy doing other things I’m afraid the posting has been sporadic at best. That said, I am still so honored that you folks continue to drop by—it means a ton. And I have no plans of shutting anything down around here no matter how quiet it’s been.

Over at Esquire Classic, check out Q&A’s with John Edgar Wideman, Robert Benton, and Edward Sorel. I really like how they came out. Such interesting guys. Also, check out Sally Kempton’s 1970 profile of Dustin Hoffman, Garry Wills’s 1969 portrait of Richard Nixon, and Federico Fellini’s 1963 remembrance of Vita Veneto, Rome, and La Dolce Vita. Fun, fun, funski.

In the meantime, hope you all are doing well.

Picture by Bags

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, Dyin’ Time’s Here


Tonight gives Game 7 and it’s like this: If you are an Indians fan you know, you just know, deep in your bones, that no matter how likable your team is, it would be just your luck to have them blow a 3-1 Whirled Serious lead to the…Cubs! of all teams. That would be just your luck. Because that is what it means to be an Indians fan.

If you are a Cubs fan you’ve got to be thinking that no matter how great your team is, how much fun this year has been, and how promising the future looks, you know they are going to lose. Who else would come back all the way from down 3-1 only to blow it in Game 7 and rip everyone’s heart out? Because that’s what it means to be a Cubs fan.

The loser’s loser persona gets calcified either way. Fortunately, at least one long-suffering fan base will be happy tonight.

Never mind the gloom:

Let’s Go Base-ball!

No Pressure


The Whirled Serious moves back to Cleveland. Indians can win it all tonight, while the Cubs try to force a deciding game.

What we live for.

Never mind the nerves:

Let’s Go Base-ball!

Picture by Bags.

The Whirled Serious


Cubs vs. Indians. Dream match-up. Hope it goes seven.

Let’s Go Base-ball!

Picture by Bags 

Don’t Know Much About History


So here we are. The Chicago Cubs are on the verge of going to the Whirled Serious for the first time since 1945. The Dodgers have their ace Clayton Kershaw on the hill. I’m pulling for Kershaw to have a great game. If the Cubs comeback against the bullpen, okay, fine., but I’d like to see the Dodgers win tonight and then the Cubbies take it in Game 7.

Worse case, Cubs win tonight and go to the Serious. I can’t be mad at that. There’s Alex Ciepley, our old All-Baseball/Toaster pal, to think of, as well as a whole bunch of other Cub fans I know and love. Then again, there’s Dodger Thoughts’ Jon Weisman—who now works for the team—to consider. And my pal John Schulian. We’re talking about two of the all-time great mensches—Dodger guys.

I’ll be thrilled for someone, bummed for someone else. So it goes.

Let’s Base-ball!

Picture by Bags

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