Monthly archives: February 2008
The First MLB Game I Ever Went to... Wrigley Field edition
Once again proving that I'm open to differing viewpoints at the Juice Blog, I have let another Cub fan write a piece about the team I generally loathe. Throw-in that this person often condemns my political stances and you would think I must be a masochist for allowing him prime real-estate to share his memories at my site. Well his idea of reminiscing about the first MLB game he had attended was a great idea that I would like to become a regular feature here. Of course, being one of those smartest and most provocative people in the Toaster comment section was another reason I looked forward to what he had to offer.
J.G.Pyke is a doctor of education and works in faculty development for a large public university in the southeast. He has been reading this website since its previous incarnation, wherever that was hosted and whatever it was called. His right-leaning/libertarian rants earn him the ire of many Juice Blog readers, but he would gladly share a couple of pints with anyone here and have a fine time, indeed.
By J.G. Pyke
The first MLB game I ever went to...a parlor game we all can play
Mine was August 1979 at Wrigley Field. The Padres were in town, and marijuana smoke filled the air. The one-two punch of it being the 70s and also being in Chicago ensured that moustaches were everywhere, from Rollie Fingers on the field to the fat guys in the next row...
Growing up in the south suburbs of Chicago, my earliest baseball memories are watching the Cubs on WGN. I'd come home after school and watch some day baseball, which somehow escaped my mom's edict of "no daytime TV." I was a third generation Cubs fan, and my dad absorbed Cubs knowledge like a sponge--and was happy to exude it, too. They have broken his heart so many times that he ostensibly follows the Sox a little more nowadays, but I know he secretly keeps the Cubs as his #1 team. Watching sports with my dad was always filled with lessons, from learning new, semi-profane puns (e.g., "Brick Jackhouse") to full blown tapestries of obscenity that still hang over Lake Michigan (to paraphrase Shep).
So when my cousin Kevin from San Diego came to visit us in the summer of '79, I was truly delighted when my dad took off work on a Friday to drive my brothers, cousin, and I to see the Cubs play the Padres. It was a bright, sunny day, not too hot, and we had no idea what we were in for. My dad had been a fan of the "Bleacher Bums" play, which was still an obscure concept except to those in Chicago, so he bought us bleacher tickets. They weren't the coveted item back then as they are now: they were the cheap seats, where the "real fans" sat. Now it seems quite the opposite. (Gimme upper deck reserved any day.)
We all brought our gloves, of course, and we sat in left field. My cousin Kevin was pretty excited, too, because I think he had never been to a Padres game. He told us about his favorite players: Rollie Fingers, Dave Winfield, and Gaylord Perry. We told him about ours: Dave Kingman, Bill Buckner, Ivan DeJesus. I had liked the Reuschel brothers, too, who always seemed to get into a bench-clearing brawl with the Pirates--but this Cubs team, sadly, was down to only one Reuschel by 1979.
The Cubs were having a pretty decent year. They were nine games above .500; Kingman was on fire; and Bruce Sutter and his split-finger fastball (or as neighborhood wag Bill Larson called it, the "flip-finger fasball") were a sensation. I remember learning about saves that day, my dad remarking that "Sutter could get 40 saves this year!" The way he said it, it sounded like an unattainable milestone.
I also learned about what the flags meant (divisional standings), and I can still remember exactly what the scoreboard sounded like when the numbers were changed.
That year, Buckner was probably the biggest star on the team, if not Dave Kingman. Kong was having a career year (.288/.343/.613, won the HR crown with 48 that year), so sitting in LF was a treat for us. We watched the players warm up before the game. A few jogged by and signed autographs for fans who dropped balls down to them on the field. Guys like Dennis Lamp and even Gaylord Perry were happy to oblige.
The Cubs' uniforms back then looked more or less like they do now, but the Padres had those brown ones with the yellow sleeves. Many players on both teams looked pretty shaggy, what, with all the afros, facial hair, and general 1979-ness about them. The folks in the bleachers fared no better in this regard.
The most memorable of the bleacher denizens was a trio that sat right in front of us. They began drinking Old Style early and often (I counted over 30 empty paper cups late in the game). One of these guys was the most vocal, as we would soon find out. A small, heavy-drinking shirtless guy in bluejeans, requisite moustache, raspy voice from smoking too much, and a Cubs hat. They drank and laughed and drank some more. Just before the game started, they lit up a joint, making no effort to conceal it. Flagrant is an understatement. But being the 70s, it was fine. My cousin and older brother inhaled noisily and comically through their noses in an exaggerated effort to catch some sidestream smoke wafting our way.
The whole day was an extremely visceral experience, and I can somewhat relate to those who dismiss Wrigley as a party. Being a child, this was all new to me, and I remember the sights, sounds, and smells more than the game itself. But I do remember a few things about the game. The Padres took an early lead and led most of the game. I also remember Kingman going 0-fer and getting harangued mercilessly by the drunk guys in front of us, especially the shirtless guy. "Hey, Kingman! You're a woman! You're a p*ssy!" And then he would give Kingman the finger, with conviction. Every time between innings, Kingman was greeted thusly.
Finally, at one point, a well-meaning young woman, a hippie-ish 20-something, came over and spoke softly to the drunks. "You know, you really shouldn't say things like that. You might make him feel bad." They tried to keep a straight face but her cause was lost.
The best heckling that day, however, was reserved for the Padres LF, Jerry Turner. It was merely a chant, a sing-songy ditty, that repeated v-e-r-y slowly and hypnotically: "Turrrrrn-er ooooooo-ver. Turrrrrn-er ooooooo-ver." We joined in, having absolutely no idea what it meant. My dad laughed his ass off, though, and remembers that chant vividly to this day.
As the Cubs started to mount a rally late in the game, the Cubs RF Mike Vail was caught stealing at 2B. All of Wrigley immediately erupted into the obligatory, "Bull sh*t! Bull sh*t!" chant. Again, to a 9-year-old, this was highly "adult" stuff I was participating in. My older brother and I expressed exasperation that "Dilone would have beat that out." That had been a running joke for us that summer (and we still say it sometimes now), that the speedy Miguel Dilone possessed superhuman speed. He had swiped 50 bags for the A's the year before, and we were convinced that any grounder that resulted in a Cub being thrown out at first base could be answered with the same mantra, "Dilone would have beat that out." Dilone did get a chance to pinch run in the game. It didn't amount to anything, but at least we got to see him play.
Most exciting of all, though, was watching the Cubs score 3 in the 7th and 5 in the 8th to go ahead 9-5. Turner did hit a solo dinger in the 8th, which was the last time the Padres scored. For those of us in LF, we almost felt culpable for that HR, like we had egged on Turner to shut us up with his bat. Sutter came into the game in the 9th and got the save (30). We left Wrigley elated from a Cubs win. Final score, 9-6.
After sweeping the Pads that weekend, the Cubs finished the season by going 13-28 and ending up besting only the hated Mets in the final standings. Sutter never got his 40th save that year (37, best in MLB that year and one shy of John Hiller's record of 38), but he did go on to do some great things elsewhere, or so I hear. I mean, besides giving up home runs to Ryne Sandberg. (Go Cubs!)
I have been to many games at Wrigley since then. I have seen better teams, and better games--and many of them have dissolved somewhere into my memory banks. But I will always remember my first Cubs game.
Scott's Note: If you have a longer-form piece on this subject or a different one on baseball, feel free to email me with the idea. If I think it fits the style of writing that goes on here, I would love to post it at the Juice Blog. Thanks.
Standup Dates Announced
I haven't done this in awhile, so I thought I would list the cities I will be performing at over the next couple of months. These are all headlining dates, except for the one in Indy.
February 28-1 Bloomington, MN Joke Joint Comedy Club (right next to Mall of America)
March 13-15 St. Louis area Comedy Forum (specifically St. Peters, MO)
March 19-22 Indy Crackers in Broad Ripple (feature date)
April 23-26 Kansas City area Famous Johnny's Overland Park, KS
May 1-3 Detroit area Chaplins Clinton Township, MI
May 8-10 Chicago area Comedy Comedy Aurora, IL (Walter Payton's Roundhouse)
If any of these dates work with your schedule, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will see about getting you discounted tickets.
Obama Beats Chelsea's Mama
I have been reticent to put my support behind Barack Obama, as I've had little idea what he stood for. I called him the ultimate waiter, because he persistently promised he would bring change. Well after his resounding defeat of Hilary Clinton in Wisconsin, he finally gave a speech to his supporters in Houston which was clear what his vision of an Obama Presidency would be all about. It included a lot of things that I believe would be good for the country, but it was an amazing litany of liberal projects that I just don't see how they would be paid for. Maybe the money was there in 2000, when our economy was booming from 8 years of a Bill Clinton White House and Republican Congress, but not in the Republican-driven recession we live in today.
Obama is a young, vibrant presence at a campaign rally, especially compared to John McCain when he's at a similar type event. I'm just really concerned that Obama's momentum will peak by mid-summer. The speech he gave tonight will rally conservatives around McCain, as Obama promised a program for almost every liberal cause, without outlining how he would pay for it. McCain doesn't have a good understanding of the economy, but his hawkish behavior on getting rid of the type of programs Obama is promising would play well with a large part of the electorate. My guess is tonight's speech will raise a lot of money for McCain's campaign.
Even though the surge in Iraq that McCain trumpets has been a major improvement over the Rumsfeld/Cheney run fiasco that preceded it, I think the War is a losing issue for him. During the Republican primaries McCain has been insulated from facing any type of opposition views against the war, except for the occasional Ron Paul blast. This will begin to change in the general election. His comment that if we need to be in Iraq for 100 years we will was a massive gaffe that he will need to get past for him to win the general. If he can somehow figure out a way of doing this, I think it will be a competitive campaign. Here's why.
Obama was helped greatly by starting off in Iowa. He was a Senator from the neighboring state, so he was already a known figure to citizens on the Mississippi River towns on the Eastern border of Iowa. The caucus system that Iowa uses gives a bigger voice to the strong believers in their candidate, as you can't just walk into a voting booth and then walk-out. While I'm a fan of the caucus system, as it rewards the well-informed voter, its flaw is that it that it also rewards the most rabid extremists of each party. By getting off to such a good start in the Iowa caucus, he demonstrated to Black voters in places like South Carolina that he could get a majority of votes even in a state that resembles the crowd at an Eagles concert.
Before Democrats make him a lock for the White House, here are a couple of things that could cause Obama a few stumbling blocks.
* The Democratic primaries are made up of voters who are more liberal than the general population.
* Obama has been beating a woman, Hillary Clinton, who has always had high negatives.
* When John Edwards left the race, White men had the choice of voting for a woman or a Black man. In a general election, it will be interesting to see if McCain doesn't get a fair portion of these Reagan Democrats.
* While Obama seems to have the potential of getting a large voting block of new, young voters, McCain's experience and skin tone might bring a large segment of seniors to go his way. Remember that all past voting patterns show age trumps youth when it comes to showing up.
* Obama has never faced a challenger who would really go after him. Alan Keyes was a joke and had no chance in a state like Illinois that is strongly Democratic. Democratic Presidential candidates weren't going to go after him very strongly, as they were afraid it might create charges of racism. Republicans know they aren't going to get Black votes going up against Obama, so they will trot out as many Willie Horton images as they can.
Barack Obama is an amazing story. I think on many levels he could be not only a great leader in bringing important changes to the United States, but to the world. A President named Barack Hussein Obama would have an impact on Muslim nations and their attitudes toward America. After 8 years of a President who thumbed his nose at building relationships with foreign governments, Bush's successor being a man of color would be impactful for much of the world that isn't White.
I have never voted for a Republican for President and I am excited about some of the possibilities that a Obama Presidency would bring. I'm just concerned from the speech he gave tonight that he doesn't have the fiscal restraint that is needed most right now. I believe in many of the programs that Barack Obama wants to institute, but when you have a government bleeding red ink, it is fiscally irresponsible to be promising these kind of changes when loose change is all you have in your coin purse.
It is time for Hillary Clinton to get out of the race. Even if she was to win Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, the best that could provide would be a split convention where superdelegates would be the final decider. This would not only be bad for the Democratic party, but for the country as a whole. Hillary Clinton ran about as perfect of a campaign as she could, but she couldn't compete with the charisma that connects Obama to more liberal voters. Despite how she has been demonized by many Republicans, on most issues she's been a political moderate, which doesn't play well in primaries and especially in caucuses.
It has become popular in the media to say that Bill Clinton was hurting her chances. I couldn't disagree more. He played the part of attack dog, so she wouldn't have to come off as the negative campaigner. Despite what she says, Hillary doesn't have a much stronger resume than Obama, unless you count Bill's record as hers. Look, Hillary Clinton is a really smart, capable person who I think would make an excellent President. Having said this, the only reason she ever became a Senator or a front-runner for the White House was being married to Bill. Most people that were voting for her were doing it believing that they were getting her husband to be a major architect for her decision-making in the Oval Office. While he might have had a couple bad moments on the campaign road, it was Bill Clinton that made Hillary's chances of becoming President a possibility.
Pitchers and Catchers are Back!
This is the kind of joy we should all feel about baseball starting up again. Those that are curious should know that this was my daughter at her initial game at US Cellular.
What's On Your TIVO?
Considering that I'm on the road performing standup around 150 nights per year, it is difficult for me to get a real attachment to any specific television show. Because of my peculiar lifestyle, I have owned a TIVO since it first came on the market. It's great to be able to pause or rewind certain scenes, or fast forward through commercials, I rarely watch TV when I'm on the road. The only real-time television I watch at home is news and sports programming.
There are few things that are more potentially embarassing than revealing what is in your DVR. I'm pretty comfortable in releasing most of what is in my TIVO, as I mainly watch documentaries. Now the making of Deep Purple's Machine Head album on VH-1 Classic might not seem too intellectual, but I have just as many episodes of Frontline, American Experience, and NOVA to balance the pop culture stuff out. I have previously discussed here how I really like Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and Bobby Flay's Throwdown. While on the surface the only thing they share is a discussion of food, I think they also explore creativity and passion for life. I feel no shame about these type of shows. Below are a few shows that I can't be as confident in claiming any type of intellectual integrity to, as these shows in my DVR just feed my base desires.
Rock of Love- This show was tag-teamed with Scott Baio is 45 and Single last year. The Baio show started off stronger, but has lost its steam, with this year's Scott Baio is 46 and Pregnant being pretty worthless. Poison is one of the worst bands in rock history, so I had a negative bias going into watching lead singer Bret Michaels try to meet his soulmate. After watching the initial episode, I said I was done with it, but something deep inside me that I don't want to even know what it is brought me back for week 2. Since then I haven't been able to turn away from this skankfest, as the
whores contestants are willing to do anything to become his queen. Considering that the honor provides for a life of staying at home while our boy Bret is out on the road bangin' County Fair Queens, I'm not sure why it is such an illustrious throne, but I'm guessing they've probably sat on worse.
Besides the complete lack of class these women demonstrate, Bret Micheals does a couple things I love to watch, as well. First, it is fascinating to watch the different bandanas that seem to be connected to the weave sitting on his head. I also enjoy how the only song that seems to be played on the show is Every Rose Has It's Thorn. On a special date during season 1, Bret worte a new song for a private date which just happened to have the same melody as Every Rose Has It's Thorn. How inspired! Finally at the end of the show Bret hands out backstage passes to the contestants who will continue on to fight another day for his love, asking them "Will you stay and rock my world." It is so f-ing corny that I have a hard time not breaking out my own version on people, just for the ironic charm of it. Season 2 of the show hasn't been as good as season 1, but I still can't stop watching. What's next? I'm hoping for Jani Lane's Be My Cherry Pie reality show. Yum.
Celebrity Rehab- Another VH-1 pseudo-reality program, this show puts a bunch of D-list celebs in a rehab clinic and exposes them for the addicts they really are. The only thing that they seem to have a bigger addiction for than drugs and alcohol is publicity, so watching them act like attention starved 12 year-olds is kind of fun. Breakout stars have been Taxi's Jeff Conway, who puts in an academy award performance as a 1st-class F-up. Dishonorable Mention goes to Daniel Baldwin, who could not behave more sincere when he is offering up one after another bullshit takes on life. There is one part of the show that keeps it from careening into a complete farce and that is their therapist, Dr. Drew Pinsky. He is the best TV doctor I've ever seen, as he can keep a level head despite how much the whole situation around him is 3-Ring Circus.
The L Word- When this showtime original series hit the airwaves, I gave it a few watches and couldn't get past that it was a pretentious left-wing lesbian soap opera. I hadn't watched it the past couple of years, but have picked back up on it this year for one reason----it has the hottest lesbian sex ever. I don't know when it happened, but the show has given up the pretext that it should have artistic screenplay notions. Now the show works like an episode of Zalman King's Red Shoe Diaries, with the script just moving the story along to get to the naughty bits. The beautiful element of the DVR enables you to fast forward to the sensuous lesbian love trysts that litter each show. I watch these scenes and wonder how a man could ever compete with the seductive sapphic charms of the L Word's main players..
American Idol- I was a later convert to this show, but I guess I can keep my American citizenship as I now watch the show each season. I was initially a bigger fan of the bad singers, but that has run its course for me, as it has become a generic formula. Smartly, Simon Cowell has pulled off from slamming each bad singer with the ferocity of Greg Giraldo at a Comedy Central roast, as it had moved from being funny to being cruel. I actually skipped watching the early rounds this year, but I'm on board for the rest of the season now that the real talent is competing. It looks like a lot stronger, more diverse field than last year, which lacked a good rock or country voice. This is another great show to TIVO, as zipping through a 2-hour Idol presentation in 40 minutes is a lot more time effective method.
So there they are. Not particularly proud, but this piece is about honesty as much as anything else.
Seeking Baseball Writers with a Contrarian Viewpoint
The amount of time I have to give to the Juice Blog I suspect will become less in the near future, so I'm looking for Toaster readers who have ideas for baseball pieces that feature the type of edginess you would expect here. I'm not looking for a partner at this point, but I guess it could develop into that if I can find the right person to grow the site. I see this as an opportunity for some of the best muckrackers who comment here to get more recognition for their talents. This is specific to baseball, as I don't feel I need to add more pop culture content to the site.
If you are interested, email me at email@example.com with your subject matter. I will get back with you telling you if I think the idea is a good fit for the Juice Blog. I'm looking forward to your submissions!
No Place for Anonymity
I was happy to see that one of the best sports blogs, FireJoeMorgan, has lifted the veil by exposing who its main writers at the site are. I am a real purist on the subject of how writers should be transparent at their sites. If you are going to rip either the rich and famous or the 4th estate, it is only fair that the reader should have some background on why the blogger might come up with their particular spin. Transparency is for pussies. Maybe I should produce a bumper sticker with that line.
It disgusts me that so many of the sleaze merchant gossip sites on the web are written by anonymous snipers. It isn't much better when I read baseball bloggers who torch someone, but aren't willing to come out of the blogger protection program. As someone who gets reviewed in almost everything I do, I know how rough it can be to have someone tell you that you suck. Having said this, I can accept it if my critic leaves their actual name and doesn't have a duplicitous reason for their hatred of my work. I expect even more if the critic has their own site. If you are out in the open about who you are, it makes it harder to slam someone, as you might face a little shrapnel yourself. Having to take some responsibility for your words makes for fairer criticism. I know some will argue that if you aren't getting paid for blogging, you shouldn't have to out yourself. Bullshit.
The blogosphere continues to cut into the power that mainstream media possesses, as it has brought new voices to the conversation. It will be an overall negative, though, if these bloggers don't have to have any accountability.
So I welcome FireJoeMorgan bloggers more honest approach. From what I can tell from my research on them, they are TV writers who went to Harvard. What are the odds of that happening? In the Hollywood comedy writing scene, I don't know...let's say a 75 percent chance. From my time reading what they offer up at FJM and their day job credits, they are really talented guys. It actually makes me want to read them more.
Societal Critic at Large: Scott Long
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Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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