Enjoying Aussie interaction: sports edition

Making only my second trip to the new Yankee Stadium, Marconi and I took Metro North from Poughkeepsie (halfway between Albany and NYC) to see the New York Yankees take on the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday, September 15, 2018. I’ve only known him since September 12, 1971, so not very long.

In the bottom of the 2nd, the two empty seats on the aisle nearest us were filled by this young couple from Australia, in the City for a couple weeks. She was wearing a borrowed Blue Jays top, while he was nominally a Yankees fan.

Soon after they arrived, the Yankees starting pitcher, the usually reliable CC Sabathia, had given up five runs in only 2 1/3 innings, including two solo home runs by right fielder Randal Grichuk. CC was taken out of the game.

Meanwhile, the Yankees had opportunities to score, twice with the bases loaded, and once with runs on second and third base, but failed to do so. This really deflated the home team crowd.

We, mostly I, since I was closer, answered some of the idiosyncrasies of the game, such as the foul ball rule and how the defensive positions are numbered.

Yankee shortstop Didi Gregorius hit a solo homer in the bottom of the 6th, and the female Aussie frowned. “You still have a big lead.” I also coaxed her into acknowledging that he had made a great basket catch over second base.

The Blue Jays lead grew to 8-1 in the top of the 7th when Tommy Kahnle from Albany County, NY, the fourth of seven Yankee pitchers, gave up three runs in only 2/3 of an inning. Toronto had the bases loaded and no outs, and the Aussie guy was savvy enough to know that the situation was still perilous for the Yankees even when the lead runner was thrown out at the plate.

In in the bottom of the 7th, designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton (I explained the DH) and Gregorious hit solo homers, and pinch hitter Miguel Andújar hit a grand slam. Suddenly Toronto was up by only 8-7, and the Aussie woman fretted. But that’s the way the game turned out.

The scoreboard displayed narratives of what the batters had done earlier in the game. But in the latter stages, it showed scorecard shorthand. F7 meant flying out to the left fielder. The Aussie guy was bemused to know that a forward K meant struck out swinging while a backward K meant struck out looking.

“How do you KNOW these things?” he asked. “I’ve been only going to games since I was eight.” “So 20 years.” HA! A splendid time was had by Aussies and at least these two Americans.

Oh, I was in Washington, DC at the beginning of September. I was starving one muggy evening, and I ended up at a tavern/restaurant. I sat at the bar, got a burger and a drink, and had a nice conversation with an Aussie woman currently working in the US. She mostly bemoaned the leadership of her home country and her current one as we watched US Open tennis on TV.

A is for the Houston Astros

Having no New York State team to root for in the World Series, it was easy to support the Houston Astros. The baseball team started off as the Houston Colt .45’s in 1962, the same year the New York Mets also joined the National League.

The current name, reflecting the city’s role as the control center of the U.S. space program, was adopted in 1965, when they moved into the Astrodome, the world’s first domed sports stadium. They now play their home games in what is now Minute Maid Park in 2000.

But while the Miracle Mets won the World Series in 1969 and 1986, and lost the Series three other times, the Astros had only gotten to the Series once before, losing to the Chicago White Sox in four straight games in 2005.

After that, the team got pretty bad, losing over 100 games out of 162 in 2011, 2012, and 2013, the latter the year they moved from the National League Central division to the America League West.

I had another reason for supporting the Astros. Major League Baseball teams have minor league “farm” teams at various level. The short-season single A farm club for the Astros is the Tri-City Valley Cats, who play in nearby Troy, NY.

Five of the former Valley Cats played for Houston in 2017, and one, Enrique Hernandez has been with their Series opponent, the Los Angeles Dodgers, since 2015. One guy who played in Troy was Houston right fielder George Springer, the 2017 World Series Most Valuable Player.

Coolest of all, the Astros flew a teacher of English as a Second Language, a colleague and friend of my wife’s, from Albany to Houston to attend Games 3 and 4 of the World Series. She had tutored many of the Valley Cats players who came from other countries.

I didn’t ask her specifically who she worked with, but I wonder if one of her students had been second baseman Jose Altuve, who was born in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, played in Troy in 2009, and was named the American League MVP for the 2017 regular season.

The Houstpn Astros beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 4 games to 3.

Baseball Hall of Fame 2018

Somehow, I missed the fact that the ballots for the 2018 Hall of Fame were distributed in November to the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA). They voted by mail to select from a ballot of recently retired players and were returned by December 31. The results will be announced on January 24.

The candidates can be found here – inductees will need 75% of the vote.

The ones I would have picked:

1 Barry Bonds (6th year of eligibility, out of 10; 53.8% of the votes last ballot)
2 Roger Clemens (6th year, 54.1%)

Still, by far, the best players on the ballot. One of the greatest position players (Bonds) and pitchers (Clemens) of all time. Performance-enhancing drugs were not really regulated until 2004, and their achievements before any allegations were stellar. They each received over 50% of the vote last time, with 75% needed, which is on the upswing.

3 Vladimir Guerrero (pictured, 2nd year, 71.8%) – the outfielder had career batting average of .318, with 449 home runs. If the ballot wasn’t so stuffed last time, he would have made it then

4 Chipper Jones (1st year) – the third baseman/outfielder spent his 19-year career with the Atlanta Braves and hit over .300, with 468 homers

5 Trevor Hoffman (3rd year, 74.0%) – painfully close for the guy with 601 saves

6 Jim Thome (1st year) – with 612 home runs, he is 8th on the all-time list

7 Larry Walker (8th year, 21.9%) – though having a .313 batting average, his 9.5 years playing his home games in Colorado, advantageous to a hitter, has made him a less attractive choice

8 Edgar Martinez (9th year, 58.6%) – voters have been resistant for voters to select a full-time designated hitter to the Hall, though they’ve picked Frank Thomas, who was a DH about 58% of the time

9 Jeff Kent (5th year, 16.7%) – solid infielder at three positions, solid hitter, and has the same birthday as mine

10 Mike Mussina (5th year, 51.8%) – solid pitcher for many years, not always the ace of the staff – he won 270 games at a point that winning 300, once the gold standard, is almost impossible to achieve with a five-man rotation

One could make a good case for Omar Vizquel, the slick-fielding infielder with over 2800 hits
***
The National Football League playoffs start this weekend. My rooting interests this postseason, in order:
1. Buffalo Bills – only team that plays its home games in New York State
2. Pittsburgh Steelers – the favorite team of Chuck Miller
3. Philadelphia Eagles – my favorite bus driver’s favorite team
4. Carolina Panthers – where my parents moved to in 1974
5. Jacksonville Jaguars – they’ve been terrible for a decade, went from 3-13 in 2016 to 11-5 in 2017, and the city took a beating from Hurricane Irma in September 2017
6-11. whoever
12. New England Patriots

April Rambling: Buy the niece’s new album, and end Daylight Saving Time

rjcoldfact
New album from Rebecca Jade & The Cold Fact the debut release from San Diego-based eclectic soul/funk band. RJ is my niece, my sister Leslie’s daughter.
From NBC San Diego: “Not everything on April Fool’s Day was a joke. Rebecca Jade & the Cold Fact released their self-titled debut and it’s no laughing matter. Channeling everyone from Candi Staton and Betty Davis to Morcheeba and Brightback Morning Light, these 12 tracks of soul and funk are stunners. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy.”

After watching this video, I’m even more convinced than I was before: Daylight Saving Time is a waste of time. Having tried to schedule a phone call from the UK at a point when the US is in DST and the UK has NOT yet moved to British Summer Time, I know of which the speaker is talking about.
Continue reading

Art, science, Bible, baseball

josephhenry
More from New York Erratic:

Who is your favorite visual artist? Favorite director?

I tend to be rather catholic about these things. Here’s the best way to recognize the artist of paintings, BTW.

My church has Tiffany windows, which I like; the one above is one of them. Gordon Parks is a favorite photographer. Always though Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings were interesting, if not always practical. Van Gogh I enjoy, but there are so many more; I love going to the house in the Hyde Collection in Glens Falls, NY because it’s so eclectic. Did one of those Facebook things where you should live, and it came up with French Polynesia, which reminded me that I like Gauguin too.

But I guess my favorite visual artist is Rodin, whose work I find sensual as all get out, even if it isn’t all his work.

I took this list of a list of the 50 greatest directors of all time. Of all the directors whose films I’ve seen more that three Continue reading

Dinosaurs, candy, kissing, travel

T-Rex-The-SliderGot a bunch of questions, great questions. Gracias. I’ve been thinking about them, some of them A LOT, but some are going to require longer answers than others, and I’ll have more time in the next week or two (I hope).

In the meanwhilst, here’s a few from New York Erratic:

Were you ever into fossils or dinosaurs? What is your favorite dinosaur?

Not in any kind of systematic way. I mean they were collectively cool, but I didn’t study them very thoroughly. I got frustrated that several of the ones I knew as a child Continue reading

“New” information that is hardly that

wilson_headerThere was this article in some news feed I was reading a while ago – oh, maybe this is it: 10 things from Grimms’ Fairy Tales you got wrong. I rather hate that title, and, if you’ve read Grimm, and I have, well, I didn’t get them wrong, Mister or Ms. Article Title Writer. A better one in this specific genre is 11 Fairytales You Loved As A Child That Are Actually Really Creepy, which does not assume how well the reader is informed on the topic.

It may be that people are not familiar with the late Tom Wilson (pictured), unless they are liner note readers, like I am, but The Greatest Music Producer You’ve Never Heard of Is… is annoying.

I rather like this article, BEATLE GEORGE HARRISON’S BRIEF JOURNEY INTO EXPERIMENTAL ELECTRONICS. It refers to the album Electronic Sounds and gives not only the information about it, but the actual album from Zapple Records. Yeah, I own it, but haven’t listened to it in a VERY long time. It IS obscure, but the title informs without gloating. BTW, either today (very late) or tomorrow would have been George’s 71st birthday.

I DO like articles that clear up common misconceptions. I suppose there are a lot of people who have misunderstood the context of the quote, “Nice guys finish last” from baseball manager Leo Durocher. Even the Baseball Almanac provides no insight.

Durocher, in this excerpt from his book Nice Guys Finish Last, explains:

The Nice Guys Finish Last line came about because of Eddie Stanky too. And wholly by accident. I’m not going to back away from it though. It has got me into Bartlett’s Quotations— page 1059, between John Betjeman and Wystan Hugh Auden—and will be remembered long after I have been forgotten.

This is the context:

It came about during batting practice at the Polo Grounds, while I was managing the Dodgers. I was sitting in the dugout with Frank Graham of the old Journal-American, and several other newspapermen, having one of those freewheeling bull sessions. Frankie pointed to Eddie Stanky in the batting cage and said, very quietly, “Leo, what makes you like this fellow so much? Why are you so crazy about this fellow?”

I started by quoting the famous Rickey statement: “He can’t hit, he can’t run, he can’t field, he can’t throw. He can’t do a …thing, Frank—but beat you.” He might not have as much ability as some of the other players, I said, but every day you got 100 percent from him and he was trying to give you 125 percent…. The Giants, led by Mel Ott, began to come out of their dugout to take their warm-up. Without missing a beat, I said, “Take a look at that Number Four there. A nicer guy never drew breath than that man there.” I called off his players’ names as they came marching up the steps behind him, “Walker Cooper, Mize, Marshall, Kerr, Gordon, Thomson. Take a look at them. All nice guys. They’ll finish last. Nice guys. Finish last.”

I appreciate when old information is clarified, but not in a way that I feel is condescending to the reader.

January Rambling: looking for good news

attemptedmurder Arthur’s article Why we think the news is worse than it is. This led to a thread that I wrote about finding good news amongst the bad which are here and here and here.

People I know personally, at least one an artist, seemed really irritated that a Norman Rockwell painting fetched a record price last month. This antipathy seemed to be tied to the notion of Rockwell as artistic pablum. Another view of the artist Continue reading

Baseball Hall of Fame 2014: my ballot

Now that Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre, who rank third, fourth and fifth, respectively, on the career list of managerial victories, have been “elected unanimously to the Hall of Fame [on December 9] by the expansion-era committee,” it’s time for me to think about the players, who will be voted on by the baseball writers, the results of which will be announced on January 8. “To be enshrined, players must be named on at least 75% of the Committee members’ ballots.”

Here are the players on the ballot. Last year, NO players were inducted – which was too bad – so now, with new players being retired for five years, there’s a real backlog. The sportswriters who vote can select up to 10 players, though most apparently do not.

These are my picks:

1. Jack Morris. It’s his 15th and final year on the ballot. He got 67.7% of the vote last year; put him in.

2. Lee Smith, who had more saves than anyone when he retired in an era when relievers often pitched more than one inning. 12th year on the ballot. He got 47.8% of the vote last year, but this year, I fear he’ll do worse. I’ve supported his selection for years.

3 and 4. Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. Both pitchers are worthy, and Maddux should be a lock with over 350 wins; Glavine had 305, and 300 has been the threshold for years, probably too high in the five-man rotation. It would be nice if they could go in with their longtime Atlanta manager Cox. Both 1st year on the ballot.

5. Frank Thomas. They didn’t call him The Big Hurt for nothing. He hit 500 home runs, yet also batted over .300 for his career; power hitters often sacrifice average for power.

6 and 7. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Now we come to the Steroid Era players. No one would argue that these aren’t the best position player and pitcher, respectively, on the ballot, and in fact two of the best players ever. The steroids weren’t specifically banned at the time they were allegedly taken them. Last year, I understood why Bonds only got 36.2% and Clemens, 37.6% of the votes; the writers didn’t want them to go into the hall on the first ballot. But they still belong, even cutting their numbers by 25%.

8. Mike Piazza. A good hitting catcher, who was never specifically accused of taking performance-enhancing drugs (PED), but everyone who bulked up in that period was suspected by some. There’s no reason to believe it so. Last year, in his first year of eligibility, he got 57.8% of the vote. Some writers who didn’t want him in in his first year might vote yes in his second.

9. Craig Biggio. Second basemen aren’t usually expected to be selected for power, but for defense. Yet thrice he won both the Gold Glove (for fielding) asnd the Silver Slugger (for hitting) in the same season.

10. Tim Raines. I’ve become convinced that being the second best leadoff hitter in his era, after Rickey Henderson, is worthy of the Hall. He had over 800 stolen bases in his career.

I had to leave off people I most definitely would have considered: Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, whose home run race in 1998 reengerized the baseball fan after the 1994 strike, both tainted by PED use; first baseman Jeff Bagwell, pitcher Mike Mussina, and pitcher Curt Schilling, who I dropped in favor of Raines. Probably three or four others I would have picked in another year.

I am a collector

Chuck Miller wrote a piece about collecting, which inspired this.

Stamps

My actual stamp collecting was only for a year or two, when I was eight or nine, but I have my great aunt’s book of stamps from around the globe. It’s an fascinating tome, mostly unfilled, but it tells an interesting story of the world from the period before World War II.

There were times, particularly in the 1980s and I was doing mail order Continue reading