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Grand Master


Over at Deadspin I found two posts–with related links–of interest: one on Greg Maddux, the other on Jerry Coleman.  Dig in.

Out of Order


More mishegoss at the Rodriguez hearing. 

You Know You Done F***** Up


The Alex Rodriguez vs. The World Schmuck Watch Drones On…

Enemy of the State

Over at Deadspin, Barry Petchesky writes about how America Commie-Baited a Baseball Hero.




I’ve started a blog over at Deadspin called The Stacks, devoted to archiving memorable newspaper and magazine writing.  The Stacks will simulcast our Banter Gold Standard re-print series as well as include posts with links to classic material already available on-line.


A Victim of (Pomp and) Circumstance

Head on over to Deadspin and check out Alan Siegel’s funny story about Sparky Lyle and the birth of  entrance music for closers:

“The organization probably wasn’t ready for a rock song,” [Marty] Appel said. One of his friends was the son of David Carey, a studio musician who’d toured with Frank Sinatra. Appel described a typical Lyle entrance to the elder Carey and asked for advice. Carey recommended Sir Edgar Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance.”

The graduation march—known to ’80s and ’90s WWF fans as dearly departed “Macho Man” Randy Savage’s theme—was the kind of triumphant accompaniment Appel was looking for. And so, 40 years ago, the era of entrance music began.

When Yankees manager Ralph Houk signaled to the bullpen late in games, Appel would use binoculars to determine who was getting into the Datsun. Then, from the press box, he’d call organist Toby Wright’s direct phone line. If Appel said, “It’s Lyle,” Wright would slowly begin playing “Pomp and Circumstance.”

“As soon as the car pulled through the gate, the place started to get it,” Appel said. “It worked almost from day one.”


Beyond Strat-O-Matic


Over at Deadspin our pal Eric Nusbaum has a good piece on a game called Out of the Park Baseball:

The summer after my freshman year of college, I told somebody’s mother that I wouldn’t be attending her son’s funeral. I remember the moment, if not the conversation, with great clarity. I was working in my dad’s shop, filling orders for spare bike rack parts, when my phone rang. My hands were sticky with glue from the ancient packing-tape dispenser.

Here are some things I didn’t tell her: I never met your son. We only talked on the phone once or twice. He had my number in the first place because we played at being general managers in the same imaginary baseball league. When Chris and I did speak, it was about lineup exports.

Here is something I don’t remember if I told her: I’m so sorry.
I was 18. Chris, sick as he was, could not have been much older. I panicked. Our friendship was too convoluted and trivial to explain in the moment. Who was I to waste the time of a mother as she slogged dutifully from A through Z in her dead son’s contact list when I didn’t even know what her dead son looked like? But there was also another thing that was harder to admit: Chris’s death turned something fake into something real.


Back to the Dock

Dock Ellis is back in amination.

Love Story

The good folks at Deadspin have this excerpt from Frank Deford’s new memoir. It concerns Granny Rice.

Have at it.

One-Eyed Jack

Over at Deadspin, I profile the late George Kimball:

George Kimball hung upside down some 70 feet in the cold Manhattan air, still in need of a cigarette. Well, the doctors had said smoking would kill him, hadn’t they? The previous autumn, they had found an inoperable cancerous tumor the size of a golf ball in his throat and given him six months to live. Five months had passed. He’d finished his latest round of chemotherapy, and now George, 62 years old and recently retired from the Boston Herald, was at the Manhattan Center Grand Ballroom in 2006, to cover a night of boxing for a website called The Sweet Science.

He’d never set foot in the place before. He didn’t even know what floor he was on when he went for a smoke between fights. There was a long line at the elevator so he went looking for a backstage exit and stepped out into the winter night, onto a tiny platform seven stories over the sidewalk. And then, as George would later tell the story, he plunged into darkness.

His leg caught between the fire ladder and the wall. He knew right away it was broken. He dangled from the fire escape like a bat—except bats can let go. He tried calling for help but his voice was too weak from the cancer treatments; he could barely whisper. Also, he wanted that fucking cigarette. A security guard, ducking out for his own smoke, found him, and it took another 20 minutes before the paramedics could get George on his feet. They wanted him to go to the hospital for X-rays but George talked them out of it. His wife was a doctor, he explained, and with all the chemo, he had more than enough painkillers at home.

He went back to his seat to watch the last two fights. Afterward, he hobbled to a drug store and bought a knee brace, an ice pack, a large quantity of bandages, and a lighter to replace the Zippo he lost in the fall. Two days later George would go to a hospital to set his broken leg. But that night, he went home. His wife Marge cleaned the scrapes on George’s arms, and he took a big hit of OxyContin. Then he filed his story on the fight.

* * *
George was a large man with one good eye, a red beard, a gap between his two front teeth, and a huge gut. He was a literate, two-fisted drinker who never missed a deadline and never passed up an argument. One night, when he was 21 and partying in Beacon Hill, he was struck on the side of the face with a beer bottle. That’s how George got his glass eye.

It became his favorite prop. “You’d be amazed,” he said, “by how many people ask you to keep an eye on their drink.”

George began his career when Red Smith and Dick Young were the lords of the press box. On the night he fell out of the Manhattan sky, he had been a sports columnist for close to 40 years, “the last of his kind,” according to Michael Katz, the longtime boxing reporter for The New York Times. He drank one-eyed with Pete Hamill and Frank McCourt, smoked dope with Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, and did with William Burroughs and Hunter S. Thompson whatever was in their heads to do at the time. George covered Wimbledon and the Masters, the World Series and the Super Bowl and more than 300 championship fights. He golfed with Michael Jordan and sat in a sauna with Joe DiMaggio. “He’d show up with Neil Young,” Katz said, “and get drugs from the Allman Brothers. Mention a name and he’d somehow know the person.”

Check it out if you get a chance. I’m proud of the effort I put into this one.



The good folks at Deadspin have reprinted Bruce Buschel’s 1993 profile of Lenny “Nails” Dykstra. The story originally appeared in Philadelphia Magazine and was later collected in The Best American Sports Writing 1994.

Bang, Zoom

Check out this excerpt from Robert Weintraub’s new book, “The House that Ruth Built” over at Deadspin. And dig this piece by Weintraub on Alex Rodriguez and the Babe over at Slate.

Bo Knows Booty

Over at Deadspin, here’s my guy Pat Jordan on Bo Belinsky:

No character in sports was more authentic than Robert “Bo” Belinsky, a left-handed pitcher in the ’60s. Bo personified “cool,” real cool that was intrinsic to his nature, not his public persona. As a rookie, Bo pitched the first no-hitter in California major league history for the Angels. It made him a star and an instant celebrity whose name became synonymous with a lifestyle that was cool and slick and dazzling. But that no-hitter was the high point of Bo’s career, which, after eight years, saw him leave baseball with a 28-51 record.

After his no-hitter in 1962, Bo said, “If music be the food of love, by all means let the band play on.” Bo instantly became the first original playboy-athlete. He f**ked Ann-Margret, Mamie Van Doren, Tina Louise, Connie Stevens, and he partied with Eddie Fisher, Dean Martin, and Henry Fonda. But in those days f**king Hollywood starlets and showing up at his team’s hotel at 5 a.m., “reeking of bitch and booze,” was not exactly what team owners, managers, sportswriters, and fans expected from their idols. Bo was suspended, arrested, banished to the minor leagues, traded, and traded again and again, which confused him. Bo never understood an essential fact of celebrity in those days. He never had that knack of later, more beloved playboy athletes like Joe Namath of cultivating his persona precisely up to, but not beyond, that point at which his public would become annoyed, bored, and eventually furious with him. By the time Bo left baseball his name had become synonymous with dissipated talent.


Over at Deadspin, Katie Baker has a very good post up about her teenage life online, when she constructed an elaborate fake identity on a Usenet newsgroup as a Harvard-bound 18-year-old: “I Was Teenage Hockey Message Board Jailbait.”

The Flyers newgroup was my favorite by far.

I’m not sure when I started to lie, but it seemed like no big deal. Upholding a cherished tradition among so many high-school-aged girls throughout history, I shrugged and added two years to my age. Fifteen became seventeen. The truth just sounds different.

But the more I lied, the more I lied more, creating extraneous backstories to flesh out the details of my fictional life. I was about to graduate, I blithely allowed, scattering fibs around various posts like so much confetti. I had Rangers season tickets. I had gone to the 1999 NHL Draft party, I reported in one post, and boy,had I been surprised by all the boos for Jamie Lundmark!

On and on, each lie more pathologically gratuitous than the last. I explained that I was taking a year off before going to college at, wait for it, Harvard. It remains a great embarrassment to me that I would be so unimaginative with the location of my faux matriculation, but I more than made up for it in conjuring a whole cadre of fake older brothers whom I credited for both my love of sports and, having been knocked around by them for years, my own physical toughness at the hockey rink. I did play hockey, at least. “The Chick with the Hockey Stick,” my signature file read, one of the very few things that was actually true.

It’s a well-written piece, an an interesting story – if not a common one, at least one that I’d expect many of us can relate to. I never had any lie become as elaborate as Bakers’ eventually did, or spill over into my “real life” like hers, but my friends and I messed around on AOL chat rooms all the time, making up different identities. On several occasions a friend and I, when we were maybe 13, signed onto AOL in the guise of an 18-year-old named “sexpot69” or something equally silly, and giggled to each other while random guys (who, in fact, were quite possibly also 13) asked us into private chat rooms and narrated their masturbation. We thought it was hilarious. We would read for a few minutes, type occasional semi-encouragement or immature jokes, laugh hysterically, then sign off in a rush and delete all traces of sexpot69 from the computer.

I suppose this is exactly what parents are afraid their kids are doing online, but really, it never did us any harm – we were smart enough never to give out any addresses or phone numbers or personal details; the guys (if they even were guys) involved were gross and awkward but never scary. In retrospect, it was a pretty safe way to feed our curiosity. In fact, as in Katie Baker’s story, in the end it may have been harder on the guys involved than on us.

True Believer

Part One of “The 10th Inning,” Ken Burn’s two-part follow up to “Baseball” aired on PBS last night. “The Bottom of the 10th” is tonight.

I reviewed the show for SI.com. There’s a lot of good stuff in there. The Yankee Dynasty is represented nicely though I’m sure most of you wanted more (and there’s no sugar-coating Ken’s allegiance to the Red Sox, though it should also be noted that co-writer, producer and director, Lynn Novick, is a Yankee fan). The focus is on the ’96 Yanks, not ’98, a fair choice in terms of drama, though they didn’t mention Frank Torre.

There’s a ton on the Sox in “The Bottom of the 10th,” but Burns is never vicious–he doesn’t show the infamous slap play by Alex Rodriguez, for instance. I’d forgotten that David Ortiz won both Games 4 and 5 in ’04, man, totally blacked that out. This was the first time I’ve watched replays. Ortizzle’s name is noticeably missing from a list of stars associated with taking PEDS (Manny’s on it).

The baseball stuff is good. Plenty to debate, of course, but that’s fun part. Jonah Keri will be pleased that the ’94 Expos made the cut. I didn’t know from Mike Barnicle before watching the show and enjoyed his talking head interviews, even if they were ham-handed in spots. Then I read up on him and feel guilty for liking him so much.

But something felt off with the filmmaking. The Florentine films style—panning and fading over still photographs–is commonly known as “The Burns Effect.” I was talking to a friend recently who said, “How can you not jump the shark after you become a pre-set on iMovie?” I get his point but the Burns style doesn’t bother me because it works. You don’t look for every artist to be innovator, after all. I wouldn’t want Elmore Leonard to be anything but Elmore Leonard.

But I’m not sure that the Burns style  is ideally suited to journalism. Nothing is more frustating than the music. In “The 8th Inning” and “The 9th Inning,” Burns used period source music as a character in the story. But here, over and over again, I was distracted by the music selections. I thought they got in the way of the story. Most of the tracks aren’t bad pieces of music on their own, but they just don’t have much to do with the topic at hand. And they have nothing to do with what was on the radio at the time.

Burns does use James Brown and Tower of Power. This record from The Incredible Bongo Band opens the show:

P.E. and The Beastie Boys and the White Stripes are used but otherwise, there’s too much smooth jazz and strumming guitars, where songs like “Nothing Shocking,” by Jane’s Addiction or the Red Hot Chili Peppers version of “Higher Ground,” or any number of radio hits would have been interesting choices. There’s cool cuts from the Red Garland Trio and Wynton Marsalis, but Burns misses out on using Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” in the Mariano Rivera segment, an oversight than can only be excused by budget considerations And even when music choices work thematically like with David Bowie’s “Fame,” they are obvious, not to mention dated.

But that’s me. And I expect fireworks from Burns and company every time out. Still, “The 10th Inning” is certainly worth watching.

I’m curious to know what you think. Charlie Pierce weighed in this morning, and here is the Times’ review (which borders on being mean).

Oh, and over at Deadspin, dig this memoir piece I wrote about working for Burns back in the spring of 1994:

Ken got a kick out of turning people on to the things that moved him. When Willie Morris appeared in episode five of Baseball, talking about listening to games on the radio, I asked Ken who he was, and that was my introduction to Morris and his classic memoir, North Toward Home. I found a copy immediately and the book made a lasting impression on me. Ken was an avid music fan and hipped me to Lester Young and Booker T and the M.G.’s. During our car ride north, I tried to get him to dig some rap records — I remember playing him “Passin’ Me By” by the Pharcyde — but he couldn’t get past the lack of melody. Then, he took out a cassette and played what he called the best version of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” It was Marvin Gaye, singing at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game, and Ken was right.

[Photo Credit: J. Parthum]

Comedy To-Night

Before we bring you the happy recap of today’s game, please sit back and take a look at this red ass delight, first brought to the masses by the good fellas over at Deadspin.

Somehow, this was left on the so-called cutting room floor.

It’s a good ‘un:

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