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I’ve been doing a lot of complaining and being sorta thorny lately, so I thought I’d make a point of doing nothing but waxing enthusiastic, being positive, for a while at least. No more angst, no more self-therapy. Best way for me to do that is to write about what I know best - semi-obscure music and musicians. We’re gonna start today, with a brief treatise on the wonders of one Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste, best known for drumming with the New Orleans funk band the Meters from the mid 1960’s to around 1977-8.

The Meters were never very big from a sales standpoint, but from the very start they were recognized as musician’s musicians, playing on tons of tracks recorded for producers Marshall Sehorn and/or Allen Toussaint in the Crescent City and released on a variety of labels. They were essentially the New Orleans equivalent of the Stax house band, even sharing the same instrumentation, with organ (Art Neville), bass (George Porter, Jr.), guitar (Leo Nocentelli), and of course drums (our man Zigaboo). They backed several artists, most importantly Lee Dorsey, who had several hits with these guys’ backing, the biggest probably "Working in a Coal Mine" (this whole piece is from memory - research? ha!). Somewhere along the line the fellas started recording their own material under the name “The Meters” formally, for the tiny one-time doo wop label Josie. They did mostly instrumental material, always in a loosely funky style with tinges of the second line rhythms of their base of operations.
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I don’t wanna go into too much boring detail on the Meters, but here I go anyway. They had a couple semi-hits beginning in 1969, "Cissy Strut" being the biggest, and a tune that was a staple of every band I ever had a hand in selecting material for, albeit with a few “improvements” thrown in (key changes). In the early 1970’s, they were signed to Warner Brothers’ Reprise label (the big time!) and released five LP’s of varying quality. The thing is, on these, as fabulous as a lot of the tracks are, the drum sound in particular was scrubbed studio clean, deadening the live-wire looseness and excitement somewhat. Still some fine fine stuff, with vocals more prominently featured (Art’s brother Cyril was a great singer!), but not quite the same. A bit more corporate sounding, even bordering on (yikes!) disco or straight ahead rock on a tune or two. But one LP in particular is worth seeking out, 1974’s "Rejuvenation", which contains perhaps my favorite track from these years, "Just Kissed My Baby", with a minor slide guitar contribution from Little Feat’s Lowell George. The Meters were a huge influence on Feat, particularly the "Dixie Chicken" era. They also got some pub by appearing on Robert Palmer’s semi-hit remake of Lee Dorsey’s "Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley", touring with the Rolling Stones, and doing tons of other studio work and hobnobbing, with the likes of Paul McCartney, Labelle ("Lady Marmalade"), and others. They were the cool kids among the cool kids for a minute or two in the 70’s, but that never translated into financial reward to any great degree.

But back to the topic at hand. Zigaboo’s drumming is, for me, as great as the art of hitting things with sticks gets. The track I’ve selected, the appropriately titled “Live Wire”, from around 1969-70, demonstrates this as well as any other, maybe with a bit more virtuosity than most of the others recorded at this time and for this Josie label, using a live sounding studio as opposed to the antiseptic sounding Reprise stuff. You can hear the snares rattling when Modeliste thumps the bass drum. The hi-hat and cymbal sounds are in your face and feel like they’re gonna hurt you. Check out the press-rolls on the snare at the end of each time through the changes. The flat out funkiness going on between the bass and snare. Not that there aren’t “mistakes”. The head over heels momentum, casual looseness, bristling joy and energy are gonna lead to that. But make no mistake. This is a drummer’s drummer, a guy that still does “master classes” from his now Oakland home, a guy that’s been featured on the cover of Modern Drummer magazine. The man’s a monster player.

I’ll link to a few other Meters tracks that I love here, in addition to those above - note that all links will open a new tab. “Chicken Strut” is positively goofy, and even scraped the R&B charts in 1970. I’ll never forget blasting this one as I was driving south through Willamsport, PA to visit family for Christmas one year. My car broke down and the nice dude that stopped to help was mystified by this cacophony of chicken squawks and funky drums as he refused to accept even a few dollars for his troubles. "Look a Py Py" was another minor chart scraper, and the title tune of their second Josie LP, a pristine copy of which I was once the proud owner. The key change here is what led me to try it on “Cissy Strut”, to the confusion of several pick up band and open mic night bassists over the years. "Liver Splash" is real nice, leaving even more space than usual for the drums to be the star, as bassist Porter, Jr. leaves gigantic holes in all the right places. The bass work on all this stuff isn’t to be discounted in making it so great. This is not a rhythm section with some dude noodling over the top. It’s four guys each playing just enough to make the gumbo delicious. Musical team play, with the guys locked in and loaded to the gills with second line funkosity.

You’ll notice that there’s a sameness to these tracks. All instrumentals, all with a certain formula. Spare bass lines, funky drumming, ethereal organ and rope-a-dope guitar, all pieces in a puzzle that’s prettier than each component, though the drums and bass do carry a big load. This stuff has been sampled to death by any number of rap acts, and covered by any number of artists ranging from Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Music people know how great this stuff is, but sadly it never made these guys much cash. Art Neville (organ) went on to form the Neville Brothers, who enjoyed some success, but the Meters themselves were always a secret love of the rich and famous kinda band. Even the Rolling Stones’ efforts and a big label record contract couldn’t put ‘em over the top.
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But the music lives on, as does a latter day incarnation called the Funky Meters, not to be confused with the Original Meters, with whom Zigaboo continues to play occasionally. Sorta like the several competing versions of the Byrds that were battling one another for years for the right to make a few hundred dollars in mid level clubs or, nowadays, casinos. The music biz is the pits! But don’t be fooled. There’s only one real deal, and it’s this Josie material recorded in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s by Art, George, Leo and Zigaboo. The Reprise stuff is great too, just not as consistently so, and again, the production takes some of the piss and vinegar out of the funky audacity. Lots and lots of Meters stuff on YouTube, thankfully. One of the benefits of this day and age. Back when I was discovering this stuff, it was tough to find without poring through record collector magazines. Take advantage of it, won’t you? Funkify your life with some Meters music! It’s good for what ails ya. I promise!

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Today in Baseball History 10/20

1900 - The St. Louis Cardinals withhold the final month’s pay of all but five players, including John McGraw and Wilbert Robinson, citing late hours, dissipation, and gambling as reasons for the poor showing of the team, which finished tied for fifth place in the National League.

1901 - Seven St. Louis Cardinals, including half the pitching staff and the three top hitters - Jesse Burkett, Emmet Heidrick and Bobby Wallace - jump to the new St. Louis Browns American League team.

1924 - Kansas City Monarchs manager Jose Mendez takes the mound to spin a three-hit, 5-0 shutout over the Hilldale Daisies to win the final game of the first Negro League World Series.

1947 - Radio rights for the World Series sell for $475,000 for three years. Every franchise but Pittsburgh has sold 1948 TV rights. The New York Giants get $400,000 for radio-TV rights from Chesterfield.

1993 - Calling balls and strikes during Game 4 at Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium, Charlie Williams becomes the first black umpire to work home plate during a World Series. The game becomes memorable as the Blue Jays win the 15-14 marathon which takes a record four hours and 14 minutes to complete. The 29 runs scored are also a Series record.

1999 - Boston eye doctor Carmen Puliafito offers free surgery for Major League umpires during the postseason after umpires blow three calls against the Red Sox during the ALCS. Puliafito, who chairs the ophthalmology department at the Tufts University School of Medicine, suspects some umpires are secretly nearsighted. “That’s the only explanation I have for these three horrible calls.”

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I doubt this post, or the others I have nebulously planned for this week, will engender much in terms of comments. Anything goes though, so if you wanna talk baseball or anything else, that’s fine. Not finding anything O’s related for the history items lately. Believe me, I’d be including ‘em if I was. Thanks for reading, and remember: Abraham Linclon didn’t die in vain, he died in Washington DC.

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In the wake of the Baltimore Orioles being swept by KC in the ALCS, there are several common themes to local reaction. A lot of it is the somewhat understandable feeling that the Royals were too enthusiastic in their celebrations, comments and wardrobe choices as the series progressed to its disappointing conclusion. I’m not sure any of that stuff warrants the level of local butt-hurtness it’s gotten, but I get it. Lifelong, parochial and extremely hard core fans can be unforgiving of things like this, and I myself don’t find it likable or endearing. For me however, it’s just not quite offensive enough to be bandying words like “punks” around. They won, in a way that’s never been done before, ever. They were overzealous and not particularly bright in their celebratory actions. Big whoop. Get over it already. It’s fine to be disappointed, maybe not to be painting the Royals as the embodiment of all that is wrong with the universe.

Another theme is that the Royals were lucky. That one I can also understand. These were all close games, and the O’s were just a key hit or two away from winning each game. But we did get beat, their pitchers did shut us down in key situations, and if you’re objective about it, a lot of our hits and runs weren’t without an element of luck as well. The way I see it, the team that deserved to win won, plain and simple. Don’t like it, but it’s true. They earned each win, and the AL championship. It’d be nice if more Baltimore fans could just accept and admit that, even if they find the antics of the Royals players offensive.

But the one theme that I’ll never understand is this: “I can’t/won’t watch any more baseball this year.” What?!? Maybe it’s just me, but I find this reaction curious. If you’re an O’s fan, aren’t you by definition a baseball fan? You’re seriously not gonna pay any attention at all to the remainder of this 2014 baseball season, just because your (our - I’m a huge O’s fan too remember) team is out of it? What did these people do during the 14 years of futility? Stop watching baseball around mid-June, when we were mathematically eliminated from the postseason? I simply can’t wrap my mind around this one. I can see being less enthused or maybe not having a team for whom to root anymore, but c’mon! It’s baseball, folks!

A lot of these same people that will refuse to allow themselves to enjoy another inning of the greatest game ever invented, the World Series for Chrissakes, are the same ones that will seek out Arizona Fall League games in the dead of winter, just to catch a glimpse of some O’s prospect for an at bat or two. They’ll obsess over our spring training contests as if they’re meaningful as games. I’m one of these people! I mean, I’m not putting much importance on spring games or even stats, but I’ll take all the baseball I can get, any time of year.

The only scenario I can envision in which I might not watch every pitch of the World Series would be if the teams involved were so despicable, so utterly devoid of even one thing to like, that I’d have trouble picking a team for whom to root. A Dodgers/Red Sox or Yankees/Cardinals series for instance. But even then, I’d find myself peeking. Probably just to root against the team I despise slightly more. This year isn’t like that at all!

I actually like both the Giants and the Royals. Yes, even the Royals. If the Giants hadn’t won the Series a few times in recent years, I’d be rooting for them for sure. I’m a San Fran native after all. But, as a guy who loves seeing new blood, loves the scrappy underdog, loves a compelling storyline, it’s the Kansas City Royals for me this year. Somehow I’m not that upset over their shenanigans in the ALCS. Don’t like ‘em, wish they could have been as classy as us, but it’s sports. Lots of less than nice or classy people playing games with balls as adults. Personally, I find Manny Machado’s suspension-inducing actions far more objectionable than the emotionally charged celebratory actions of guys caught up in moments. Really big moments, those of winning something for the first time in decades, in a way that’s never before been done. It’s difficult to cause permanent brain injury with words or shirts. So yeah, it’s the Royals for me. As I’ve mentioned before, it’ll make us look better if they sweep their way to a World Championship.

How can a baseball fan not watch the World Series, especially this World Series, with two teams that, if not for KC’s Baltimore-perceived “arrogance”, are both extremely likable? No Yankees, no Red Sox. No Dodgers or Angels or Cards. Two little guy kinds of teams, neither with overwhelmingly large payrolls making their presence in the Fall Classic a fait accompli, and neither with big name, big contract mercenaries. This’ll be one of the better Series in recent memory from my perspective. Only the Orioles being in it could make it any better.

It comes down to the question of whether one is truly a baseball fan or just a fan of whatever local team is playing whatever sport. My contention is that maybe you’re not really as big a fan of the game as you think you are if you’re seriously gonna go out of your way to avoid watching this year’s Fall Classic. For me, baseball is always the main attraction, not so much the teams playing it, though rooting for one’s home or adopted team adds a lot. It’s the most magical of all sport, untimed, played within dimensions that stretch to infinity, evocative of both childhood and all that was once good about this fair land of ours, or at least our illusions of that. To throw away a chance to see a little more of this fabulous game simply because your own team hasn’t moved on to the final round strikes me as silly at best, and sorta sore loser-ish at worst.

But what do I know? I’m not a Baltimore son. I don’t even much care for this region, truth be told. Western NY is my tacit home, but I’m fairly rootless when you get right down to it. I love and follow the Orioles because when I started watching ‘em they were the lovable underdog team, the sad sack, the punching bag for teams for whom I had already developed healthy aversions. I came to love ‘em to a much greater degree when Buck came on board and we started actually winning. I began to really love a few players, Hardy and Jones mainly. But I don’t live or die for Baltimore teams or anything else Baltimore just because I live here. It wouldn’t bother me if every crab in the local area suddenly became inedible due to water pollution or something. Wait… I’m just not a Baltimore uber alles kinda guy, and never will be. But I do love baseball. I did before I loved the O’s, and if Baltimore should someday fall into the sea under the weight of shooting victims or gigantic bags of heroin, I’ll still love baseball. I’ll just have to find another team for whom to root. I know who it won’t be. The Royals are not on that list.

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Today in Baseball History 10/19

1913 - The New York Giants and Chicago White Sox, fortified with other players, start their world tour in Cincinnati. After a 31-game tour to Seattle, they will head for the Philippines, Australia, China and Japan.

1923 - Citing the unsavory characters associated with the sport, American League president Ban Johnson persuades AL owners to prohibit boxing matches in their parks. The National League declines to go along with it.

1949 - In one of the best trades in franchise history, the White Sox obtain future Hall of Famer Nellie Fox from the A’s in exchange for catcher Joe Tipton. The hard-nosed second baseman will lead the league in hits four times and will win the 1959 American League MVP during his 14-year tenure with the team.

1978 - The Chicago White Sox fire interim skipper Larry Doby, the second black manager in major league history. The Sox name 35 year old veteran shortstop Don Kessinger as player-manager.

2006 - Nicole Sherry becomes the second woman to be named the head groundskeeper of a major league team when the Orioles ask her to lead the crew taking care of Camden Yards. The Wilmington, Delaware native joins Heather Nabozny, who has been in the same position with the Tigers since 1999.

2007 - The Kansas City Royals hire Trey Hillman as their new manager, replacing Buddy Bell. Hillman, a veteran minor league manager, has been the skipper of the Nippon Ham Fighters since 2003 and has never managed in the major leagues.

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I’m posting this one on a Sunday, because I know my point of view here will be highly unpopular. The fewer people read it the better. I’ve been arguing these points with people ever since the ALCS concluded, and I know I’ll never convince anyone. I know exactly one person that isn’t irrationally upset (in my opinion) with the Royals right now, and she’s not an O’s fan. I’ve spoken with dozens of folks that won’t watch any more baseball this year, every last one of ‘em O’s fans. I really do feel there’s something going on here that’s slightly unsavory. Because if you’re really a baseball fan, you don’t stop watching when your team is only the second or third best one in a given year. In my opinion.

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Hey! We survived yesterday! Even got a real nice bunch of comments completely unrelated to the topic, which was awesome. Thanks! Today we take a brief (ha!) plunge back into music, with one of my favorite soul tracks of the 1960’s.

Wilson Pickett. What can one say about this guy that hasn’t already been said? The big bad wolf of soul, sort of a scary guy in some ways if you delve into his life and times. His voice was even scarier, threatening at any moment to explode in an ecstatic and otherworldly crescendo of ferociousness. No more apt appellation, ever, than “The Wicked Pickett”. All the dangerously attractive facets of the dark side come bubbling up through his scaldingly menacing voice. From the second he burst upon the pop music scene in 1962 as lead vocalist on the Falcons’ “I Found a Love”, he was a force to be reckoned with, and when you did? You were gonna lose.

Pickett was fairly typical of soul singers of that era in terms of background, a rural Alabama native that eventually escaped a rather violent home life to settle in Detroit at the age of 14. There he took to singing in gospel groups, primarily the Violinaires, who toured the country with all the big acts of that genre. Seeing the success of folks like Sam Cooke, who had crossed over to secular music and larger wads of big bills, the Wicked One joined the Falcons, and the rest was diabolically listenable music history.
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It should be noted that during these early years Pickett worked with a remarkable array of soon to be movers and shakers in the world of what would eventually be labeled as soul music, including the likes of Eddie Floyd, the Primettes (soon to be the Supremes), Don Covay, and most portentously, Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler, who “gave” one of Pickett’s songs (“If You Need Me”) to Solomon Burke. Burke’s version sold like crazy, pissing off ol’ Wilson. Wexler would loom large in Pickett’s legend just a few years later however, bringing the irrepressible and occasionally irksome intoner into the Atlantic fold in 1964.

But it wasn’t until May of 1965, at Memphis’s Stax Records’ studios, that Pickett teamed with a now legendary group of musicians to write and record the two-sided gem that would change the course of soul music forever. “In the Midnight Hour” was the A-side, and a huge huge seller. But more than that, this was a piece of music that would demonstrate a rhythmic sense new to this group of session musicians, then to the world. Everyone knows these guys. Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn, Al Jackson, Jr., Booker T. Jones (actually not not part of this session), and what would later be dubbed the Memphis Horns, and they outdid themselves here, made their name to a greater degree than they ever had as Booker T. and the MG’s, at least among musicians.
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Here’s what happened: “Midnight Hour” initially wasn’t quite working in the studio as the fellas set about to record the song, co-written by Pickett and Cropper. Producer Wexler made a suggestion, did a dance move actually, visually expressing an emphasis on the “two”. The fellas got it. As laid down by drummer Jackson, Jr. and the rest, it was a transcendent, loping, less is more, never ahead of itself, irresistibly tension filled beat that became emblematic of dozens of Stax and Atlantic (and other) hits for years to come. Listen to any soul record before this, and it’s not quite the same. This was more rockin’, great for dancing, subtly hypnotic. Today it doesn’t sound all that revolutionary, but I’m here to tell you it was. I played and sang this tune hundreds of times, and getting a drummer especially to do what Jackson, Jr. does here is near impossible. Less is more, and don’t speed up. Be the beat.

But enough of this exhausting exposition. I’m not here to revise the history of soul music, rather to focus on the B-side of “Midnight Hour”, a thoroughly magnificent song, also co-written by Pickett and Cropper. “I’m Not Tired” is as perfect a soul tune, hell, any genre tune, as has ever been pulled from the ether. It has everything! Beautifully simple but effective chord changes, a wonderful little “head” (introductory, then repeated, horn motif), typical of so many great Stax tunes but somehow more perfect here, insanely great vocals of course, rhythmic perfection still in that behind the beat, less is more manner, and some astonishingly great guitar work from Cropper.

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The whole is so much greater than the sum of its parts here, but I’ve always been amazed by the guitar playing. It makes the tune for me, which would still be great even with lesser creativity and acumen in this regard. So subtle, so melodic, such perfect tone. It’s rhythm guitar, busting from its shackles to take the forefront occasionally, at just the right moments. The little arpeggios scattered throughout the verses… holy shit! Listen to the guitar right after “whatever you tell me…”, around 22 seconds in. Pure musical bliss! Play this song a few times through, listening for the guitar alone. It doesn’t get much better than that. You can have all the Stevie Rays and Eric Claptons in the world. Give me Steve Cropper on my desert island. Nobody, and I mean nobody, plays with this level of subtlety and service to the song anymore, and that’s a damn shame.

Can you tell how much I love this tune? I hope you will too. I mean, there are soul tunes I love just as much, but more for the vocals usually. Not that I don’t love Wilson Pickett, but guys like Otis Clay, Clay Hammond, ZZ Hill, OV Wright, Johnny Taylor and James Carr are more to my liking as singers. But this track is that rare and perfect confluence of great players, great song, great production, and great vocals, with each instrumental part a piece of the truly sublime musical puzzle. But enough with the puffery and pretense. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Wilson Pickett’s “I’m Not Tired”:



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Today in Baseball History 10/18

1913 - In Cincinnati, the Giants and White Sox begin a five-month world-wide barnstorming trip that will include stops in Australia, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. The teams recruit top players from both leagues, including Tris Speaker, Buck Weaver, Christy Mathewson as well as Sam Crawford, but former Olympian Jim Thorpe is the main attraction during the global tour.

1950 - Connie Mack, at age 87, retires as manager of the Philadelphia Athletics after 50 years, and Jimmy Dykes is named to replace him. Mack, together with Ben Shibe, founded the Athletics in 1901.

1960 - Five days after losing to the Pirates in Game 7 of the World Series, the Yankees fire Casey Stengel, instituting a mandatory retirement age of 65. A few days after his dismissal, the ‘Old Perfesser’ quips, “I’ll never make the mistake of being seventy again”.

1967 - The American League owners grant Charlie Finley permission to move the A’s to Oakland. To avoid a long legal battle, the AL awards a new franchise to Kansas City to replace the team it is losing as well as an ill-advised new team to an under-financed group in Seattle.

1972 - With runners on second and third base in Game 3 of the World Series, Johnny Bench strikes out looking with a full count when he is fooled by a trick play. The Cincinnati slugger believes he is going to be given an intentional walk after the A’s manager visits the mound and catcher Gene Tenance returns to plate signaling for a wide ball 4, but the A’s backstop quickly crouches behind home to catch a called strike three from Rollie Fingers.

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That’s it for today kids and kidettes. Wanted to keep it relatively brief after yesterday’s epic length cacophony of angst, and naturally I’ve failed in that regard. A nice pretty tune to wash away all bad feeling, everywhere, forever.

Comments are wide open here, so no need to talk about the music, though I’d love to hear what you think. What’s one of your all time favorite tracks? You can paste links or whatever you want here, within reason. Songs, video, links, whatever. Always curious as to what others find sublime musically. But baseball’s always on the docket too. Not a lover of the hot stove stuff, but I’m willing to opine on that kinda thing if need be. Thanks for being!

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This is gonna be a rant. Yep. A big ol’ butt-hurt rant. Don’t care how petty or mean it makes me appear, just gotta get this off my chest publicly once and for all. The names will be omitted for no apparent reason. I certainly don’t particularly care to protect anyone, and the folks involved aren’t necessarily innocent, myself included. But you know who I am. Or do you? Let’s get the bile a spewin’, huh?

I’ve been, since early 2013, a participant in the comment sections of the MASN blogs. At first it was mainly Roch Kubatko’s School of Roch, where I got to know, virtually, several fine folks, but at the same time came to genuinely despise a select few. But I could pretty much avoid and ignore my way through, especially since the main idiot posts only during working hours. Our tax dollars at work! Eventually I grew weary of the anarchic nature of things and scaled back my participation there.

I decided to go next door, to the under-appreciated and equally fine blog hosted by Steve Melewski, whose writing and depth of knowledge on the Orioles is unmatched, not that Roch isn’t great too. They do different things, with Steve often focusing more on the farm system and Roch covering the day to day things in a more typical, if pun-laden, beat reporter sort of way. The comment section at Steve’s place was pretty quiet when I started posting there. It was a nice cozy place, with a much more interactive host and fewer people saying ridiculously uninformed or offensive things. There are rules there, and they are enforced in a more hands on manner. I liked it a lot and made a point of posting every day. I sorta felt bad for Steve that his place seemed not to get the attention I felt it deserved, at least from a comment count standpoint. I set out to make it a more popular place.

Posting every day was just the first step. I knew a few people that had, like myself, become weary of the mayhem and occasional flat out offensive idiocy on Roch’s blog, and I went out of my way to bring them in to a place that was calmer, friendlier, and had rules of conduct. It worked. By the middle of this past season, Steve’s game blogs were getting several hundred, even a thousand or more comments at times. I wasn’t always enamored of the “Hi, how ya doing?” or “What did you have for dinner?” sorts of comments that became voluminous, but it at least was still friendly, even if the baseball content sorta suffered. I got pretty busy and wasn’t able to keep up after a while, losing track of who was who and half of the rather bizarre inside happenings. People referring to one another as “my dear Trips”? What the fuck?
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But it was still pretty great, and I was overjoyed to have played a minuscule role in increasing Steve’s comment count, and especially his readership. He deserves it! I even put together an informal night at the yard for the folks on the MASN blogs, with an emphasis on those that were now regulars at Steve’s place - many of whom were semi-refugees from the increasingly crazy, crowded and chaotic School of Roch. It was a fabulous night! Got to meet and chat with Steve, and a good time was had by all. Turned out to be the night we clinched the AL East! But already there was trouble in paradise, at least for me.

That trouble appeared in the form of a single poster, taking shots at me for no apparent reason, completely out of the blue. I’d seen this guy’s posts before and had never had an issue with him, not one. Why he decided he needed to repeatedly paint me as a bully, someone he’d “never lower (him)self” to say such awful things as apparently he thought I was saying is anyone’s guess. I have a theory, but more on that later. Anyway, this guy did a few other things that led me to believe he had some bizarre personal vendetta against me, so he went immediately onto my shit list. I responded to him exactly one time, saying something like “Hey, I know you seem to hate me for some unknown reason, but let’s just agree to ignore one another, OK? That means no more mean-spirited snark.” Didn’t work. Kept comin’ at me.

As all this was happening, one of my best blog acquaintances, someone I considered a pretty good friend, someone I got to know and meet in real life, started getting chummy with this clown that had taken it upon himself to call me out repeatedly in a pretty mean and sneaky way. See, he rarely if ever responded to me directly, always in sidelong ways, in response to others. He’s a smart and knowledgeable guy. He seemed to have a plan, and that plan involved pissing me off. Anyway, this longtime friend continued to get real friendly with this instigator, above and beyond just blog interaction, despite my continued warnings that, hey, this is not a nice person, doesn’t it bother you at all that he’s doing all these mean things to a friend of yours? And it wasn’t just me. A few others have told me they had run ins with this guy back then. But nothing seemed to work. This friend kept right on seeing past this dude’s faults, kept ignoring my warnings. He kept comin’ at me.
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Things spiraled out of control quickly from there. Email after email, conversation after conversation. I’d keep hearing defenses like, “well, he’s nice to me” or “he was drunk when he said or did that”. It began to really bother me though, and with some other stresses in my world, not that that’s any excuse, I eventually lost it and got severely pissed off that a presumed friend would keep doing this, keep being so publicly buddy buddy with someone that obviously despised me. It escalated to the point that I could no longer be this person’s friend if they were gonna keep going down this path. Petulant? Yes. Petty? Maybe. But where I come from, the last thing one does when they know a friend’s being attacked and provoked is to go ahead and become best buddies with the instigator. I guess I wasn’t as important to this once friend as I had thought. That felt good. It did get ugly near the end, and we both said extremely mean and hurtful things. That’s the ONLY thing I regret in all this.

It’s now been a long time since I’ve posted or read comments in Steve’s place, for the sole reason that I could no longer watch as these two now besties continued to interact as if nobody’d been harmed, not a single misstep had been taken by anyone involved. And not just baseball talk either. Before I finally stopped reading, it was now much much weirder. The instigator making sure that everyone in the room knew where and with whom he was having dinner, when he was taking this person on their next fun outing. Sickening really. I was done. It hurt. Sounds ridiculous, but it did. Still does.

So now I’m not even comfortable participating in a place I felt I had a small role in popularizing. All the people that came over from Roch’s place knew nothing of what happened, at least not from me. All they know is that I’m no longer there. I begin posting on Roch’s side again more frequently, but for some reason, few are responding, especially those that are now part of the Steve crowd. I directly ask a few people, folks I’ve gotten to know, meet, and like a lot, “how are you?” or “what games will you be at?” No response. At all. I begin to wonder, what’s going on here? Has my once friend said things to these people? Have I suddenly become such a total asshole that I’m not worthy even of acknowledgment? Curious. I know that the once friend is pretty well connected to an inner circle of people that communicate behind the scenes. Could they be portraying me as some kind of monster? Not there’s not a kernel of truth there. I’m not shy about expressing my opinions, and things did get ugly at the end, from both sides. But there’s more to the story, a story I’ve been able to communicate only to a very select few until now. In fact, or at least in my view, it was simply me not being big enough to deal with a friend punching me in the emotional solar plexus by so publicly and vehemently befriending someone on my shit list. It’s just a messed up and extremely sad situation, one I neither asked for nor initiated.
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Because y’know what? If the instigator had simply not been an asshole to me, in several and repeated ways, I’d have had no problems at all. None. Even an apology of some sort from the instigator may have helped, but no. He started responding to my posts in a nice guy sorta way (not without coercion, I’m sure), which really just made it worse, like he’d never been a jerk in the first place and now it was up to me to make nice or be seen as the bad guy. Master of manipulation. Well, more power to ‘em. Ruined what was once my favorite place to participate in baseball commentary. Had I stayed? Opted not to make with what could ultimately be seen or at least portrayed as an ultimatum? I’d have been just as uncomfortable posting amidst their incessant smarmy interaction, and would have left anyway. Nope, I had to stand up for myself, retain some personal dignity. I’ve taken too much shit in my life, and continue to do so. Picked what proved to be an unwinnable battle, and lost, to my still surprise. So I did what I saw as taking the high road. Just disappear, saying as little as possible about the matter (one reference to friends maybe not being who you thought they were - that was IT) and leaving everyone, including the dynamic and incessantly chatty duo, free to enjoy Steve’s blog.

In the past few days, as the O’s season was coming to a close, sadly, I decided to take a look at how things were going in the comments, rather than just reading Steve’s always informative posts. I did not like what I saw. The instigator has all but taken over the room, his comments comprising what looks to be a huge proportion of everything said, and all day long. And there’s the old friend, doing the usual, not particularly baseball-y thing. Lots of pictures and always always with the happy friendly stuff with everyone. Networking networking. Very very nice person. Part of why I’m persona non grata, not the instigator, who ironically adopted that moniker briefly while I was still there. That’s not a warning sign at all. The instigator has cleaned up his act, isn’t attacking anyone anymore, but still has this rather greasy self-superior demeanor. I just love this guy! On the other hand, I’m truly happy to see that Steve’s place has remained popular and looks to stay that way. Maybe one day, if my favorite duo decides to keep their shit to Facebook (the Walmart of social media), I’ll feel comfortable enough to return. Doesn’t seem likely. In fact, they’re spreading their wings to all the MASN blogs. Or maybe a miracle occurs and the instigator shows his true colors to a degree noticeable to even the once friend, confirming my suspicions from the start.

So yeah, it’s been a weird weird summer on the blogs for me. I’m now the forgottenest man in town as far as MASN blog commenters go. Most have no idea what’s happened, or if they do, it’s not with the benefit of any input from me. The instigator got what he wanted, in every way. I’m cynical and mentally gassed enough to think that maybe this was his plan all along. Maybe he saw me and my friendship with his now best blog buddy as a threat. Maybe he planned all along for things to have developed as they have. Well, it worked. Hope they’re all very pleased with themselves.
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On the other hand, maybe it’s all in my alleged mind. It’s not like this summer hasn’t been a tsunami of stress for me. Maybe I had no right whatsoever to be pissed off by someone that took shots at me on a blog. Maybe the instigator’s running to Roch behind the scenes, rather than confronting me directly for what he hilariously perceived as plagiarism in my Today in Baseball History posts, was just the most honorable and defensive of all that is truthful and beautiful thing that could ever be done. He’s a writer after all! Can’t have people spreading baseball facts around, facts that are published word for word the same on hundreds of web sites, in his purview! Maybe my inability to remain friendly with the once friend is a flaw in my makeup. All I know is that my decision to move on, from the instigator (who continues to find me, even on Orioles Buzz, a presumed sanctuary from all but the most dogged seeker of the arcane), from this once friend, from the blog where they apparently continue to monopolize conversation 24/7, from both of the main MASN blogs once it became clear that nobody else was talking to me either, was a decision I’m happy I made. These online communities are fun places when they aren’t polluted by the kind of crap I’ve endured. When they aren’t fun anymore, why bother? I have enough stress in my life without my few hours of down time being spent wondering about this ridiculous stuff.

That’s it. I feel better now. Nobody’s gonna know or care what in the fuck I’m talking about here, nor should they. This is the classic self-therapeutic post, and constitutes the last time I’ll ever even touch on this whole bizarre and unfortunate set of circumstances. Maybe a few will know now why I’m not on the MASN blogs (aside from an occasional post on Orioles Buzz), but I have the distinct feeling that that’s not anything anyone gives a crap about either. It was fun while it lasted. Not anymore. How a situation so trivial and so rooted in one personal dispute between two people as regards dumb blog alliances could have exploded into this is truly baffling and just plain sad. I’ll take full responsibility for my role in it. Others never will. Life goes on. Differently, but on. Apologies for all this, to you, the reader, not to the duo in question. Things’ll be less unstable and neurotic tomorrow.

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Today in Baseball History 10/17

1926 - “Ruth, by Losing 36 Baseballs, Breaks Up Game in Montreal.” The barnstorming Babe Ruth and his buddy Urban Shocker are the Yankee ringers infiltrating an exhibition game north of the border. The AP reports: “Babe Ruth stopped a perfectly good ball game here today when, knocking thirty-six balls out of the grounds, he forced the game to be called shortly after the start of the 9th inning because the management had no more spheres. Ruth enjoyed a Roman holiday to the delight of 3,000 fans, who braved a chilling wind to see the home-run hero’s mighty bat give Guybourg a 4-3 victory over Beaurivage. Ruth’s performance included two home runs. He also played shortstop, first base, pitched and umpired.”

1974 - The Oakland Athletics defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 3-2, to win their third straight World Series. Joe Rudi’s 7th-inning home run provides the winning margin. The Athletics join the New York Yankees as the only franchises in major league history to win three straight titles.

1982 - In Game 5 played at County Stadium, Robin Yount becomes the first player in World Series history to have two four-hit games. In addition to today’s 4-for-4 performance, the Brewers’ third baseman collected four hits in 6 at-bats in the opening game of the Fall Classic, helping Milwaukee to beat the Cardinals, 10-0.

1987 - The Minnesota Twins overpower St. Louis, 10-1, in the opening game of the World Series, the first World Series game played indoors.

1989 - Minutes before Game 3 of the World Series between Oakland and the San Francisco Giants, an earthquake hits the San Francisco Bay area. The game is postponed and the Series will only resume 11 days later.

1996 - The Atlanta Braves have the biggest blowout in postseason history, beating the St. Louis Cardinals, 15-0, in Game 7 of the NLCS to complete a comeback from a 3-1 deficit. The Cardinals become the only club to blow a 3-1 edge three times in the postseason.

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Comment, don’t comment, whatever. There are just a few blog people talking to me anymore anyway. Only flame-retardant bridges remain. Still getting the page hits though. I guess it’s entertaining to watch a guy’s psyche turn to shredded wheat :=}

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I hate to say it, but you had to see this coming, at least after our Orioles lost the first two games of the ALCS at home. The Kansas City Royals, beginning when they came back from a four run deficit to beat the A’s in the wild card game, have been on fire, not to mention a special favorite of the arbiters of baseball physics. Not that they were “lucky” to win this thing. They earned it. Great pitching, particularly from their bullpen, great defense, over and over and over again, and yes, even some pretty good hitting, doing just enough to squeak by us in close games. We didn’t lose this series, nor any single game therein. They won it, fair and square.

You gotta be proud of our guys though. They may have hit a wall, run into a buzz-saw of a team, but they never stopped, were always a hit or two away from glory. My predictions for the ALCS weren’t especially accurate, but I did get one right: Ryan Flaherty did exactly what I thought he would. He’ll continue to be the focus of ire for a certain contingent of O’s fans, but he’s at least given me a bit more ammunition with which to prove those folks wrong. Nobody epitomizes the 2014 Orioles to a greater extent than Flaherty. Rarely if ever given his due, always in the shadow of some newer and shinier guy, a team player in every way, able to play virtually anywhere on the field, and having to depend on injuries or suspensions to get a chance to prove his mettle. The quintessence of the Oriole ethos, and he came up big in the postseason.

Now that it’s over, the post mortem nitpickery will begin in earnest. People blaming the umpires, the weather, Adam Jones, Buck Showalter, Darren O’Day, Brian Matusz, claiming the Royals were lucky… We have an entire winter of that to endure now, not to mention the always riveting “who do we re-sign?” speculation. Maybe we can at the very least get past the ridiculous level of Baltimore butt-hurtness at things like Jerrod Dyson’s not so wise or friendly comments, or Jeremy Guthrie’s equally unwise choice of post-game presser wardrobe.

Me? I didn’t like either of those things, or especially the fact that they had things to celebrate, but let’s face it: it’s sports, and these guys are young, excitable, and have come of age in an NFL dominated culture, one in which taunting the enemy is de rigueur. One might think that Guthrie, an older guy and a Stanford grad, might have known better, but seriously, are we gonna really spend this much time obsessing over something as ultimately meaningless as all that? As KC’s “arrogance” or their “excessive” celebrating? At some point it begins to reek of sour grapes. Sure, we’re classier than that (although I’d point to our X-ing out successive Cy Young winner pictures as being in a similar category as some of what KC’s done), but that doesn’t mean they have to be. You wanna prevent that kinda shit? Beat ‘em. We didn’t.
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But enough of that. I’m not gonna do it today, but at some point in the near future I’ll do a post with some of my favorite memories of this astonishingly great Oriole season. The thing to focus on now, if you can stand to think about baseball at all, is how much joy this Orioles TEAM has brought us this year, against significant odds and despite great obstacles. Injuries and shocking, disappointing and untimely suspensions. Little guys stepping up. Pitchers that improved beyond anyone’s expectations in most cases. So many wins! So many great moments! So much baseball bliss! It was one hell of a ride.

Speaking solely for myself, an O’s fan that came on board during the midst of the long stretch of futility, the Sam Perlozzo, Lee Mazzilli, Brandon Fahey, Hayden Penn, Lou Montanez years, this has been, by far, the greatest baseball season of my life. I’ve been lucky enough to see it all, up close and personal, if that term is applicable to an upper deck view. The wobbly ebb and flow of years past was more like a sea level, slightly rocky plateau early in this year, leading to a magical launching pad from the All-Star break forward. Just not quite enough rocket fuel to get us to the promised land. If you take a step back and objectively analyze this thing, it’s hard to be anything but joyful and extremely thankful for what Buck and our fellas have given us this year, and likely will for years to come.

What’s made this year even better has been meeting so many great people from the MASN blogs. Dozens of nice people willing to go out of their way to visit me in my upper deck home, some even bearing gifts! The best gift of all however has been the conversation and good fellowship. It’s helped me get through what has been one of the most harrowing times in my life personally, as my father’s dementia has worsened drastically and in a way that’s been extremely difficult to deal with. It’s hard to even believe that he started this past season still able to work at the yard. Now? He’s as likely to be screaming his lungs out at me for making his wife disappear when I’m doing hands on care, or finding other piercingly troublesome ways to puncture my sanity. Add to that a minor issue with a one time blog buddy which hit me pretty hard, and you have a guy (me) that at times was this close to checking myself into a mental health facility. The little and large pieces of human kindness scattered throughout this magical season have helped keep me above water, even if they’ve dwindled to a trickle of what they once were, largely due (I hope) to my decision to distance myself from the blogs so as not to put my instability on further public display.
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I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the single most inspirational and overwhelmingly joyful night of the year, bar none. August 2nd, the night that medical miracle and heart transplant recipient Scott Fahs got to throw out the first pitch at an O’s game. What started as an informal event, bringing together participants from Roch Kubatko’s fine School of Roch blog for a night of baseball and a chance to meet one another, grew into an insanely gratifying and heartwarming occasion, galvanizing and inspiring many that had befriended Scott on the blog. I wrote about it here, but I can’t summarize this season without mentioning it once more. Every single person in attendance that night was moved, and the efforts put in by others to make this a perfect night of fellowship and good cheer buoyed my spirits greatly. By far the best night I’ve ever spent at the yard, and the O’s didn’t even win. I put together a far less organized get together later in the year, the night we clinched the AL East as it turned out, but that one paled in comparison to what was first and foremost a night for our friend Scott. Still get chills thinking about watching him fire that pitch in to Kevin Gausman!
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Yes folks, it’s been a year for the ages, for the Orioles and for yours truly. One of the best summers of my life. Special thanks to Mac, Bob, Baron, Dan, Scott!, Steve and Amy and family, Marc, Ken, Jackie, Mike, Mr. Calabash, Todd, Yvette, Linda, Bern, CW, Fb, AN, OG, Kevin, Chappy, Roscoe, OCJ, Hooverball, another Steve, even Erin, and all the others I’m forgetting, not to mention those with whom I’ve interacted only virtually. And of course Roch and Steve Melewski, who’ve made meeting all these lovely and knowledgeable people possible. You’ve all made this year better, made life more bearable. I can’t thank each and every one of you enough for your kindness and support through an at once difficult and epically joyous summer of O’s magic.

Back to baseball, the season’s not yet over, and I’m still and always a baseball fan. Unlike a few others, I’ll be watching the World Series with rapt attention. Guess who I’ll be rooting for, and hard? Yep. The Kansas City Royals. I couldn’t give fuck one about their perceived arrogance or any of that excessive celebration crap. They’ll be the underdog. A small market team of scrappy guys that play baseball really really well. They’ll be facing a team that’s had far far too much recent postseason success. They beat us, so them winning it all will make us look better ultimately. For me there’s no contest in terms of rooting interest, despite the Giants being my boyhood team, the team I’ve spent the bulk of my life rooting for, albeit in a far less obsessive way than with the O’s. The Giants have two titles already over the last few years. Time for someone new to win it all.
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And nothing would please me more than to see the Royals trounce one of my all time least favorite teams in the Series, the ever so perfect and beloved by all St. Louis Cardinals, even though I’m rooting for the Giants in the NLCS. Love the uniforms, despise the unctuous perfection of this team that you’re not even supposed to hate because they’re so spiffy in every way. Perfect organization, perfect fans, perfect ballpark, perfect talent evaluation at all levels, plus an unbelievable level of luck. Yes, I’ll play the luck card here, just because I despise the Cards so. I’d LOVE for the Royals to open a regally resplendent can of whup-ass on them Cards. Sweep them lesser birds right back to the mean streets of St. Louis, or the pristine and racially stable surrounding areas. At least KC has the Negro League Baseball Museum and is an important jazz city. Go Royals!!! Feels icky even to type that, but hey, if it can’t be us…

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Today in Baseball History

1910 - Ban Johnson, American League president, declares Tigers outfielder Ty Cobb the league’s batting champion after questioning Nap Lajoie’s “suspicious” eight-hit performance in a doubleheader against the St. Louis Browns on the season’s last day.

1923 - Soon after Babe Ruth receives his World Series winner’s share of $6,160.46, insurance agent Harry Heilmann, who beat Ruth for the batting title by 10 points, sells him a $50,000 life insurance policy. Beneficiaries are Mrs. Ruth and adopted daughter Dorothy.

1962 - With the tying and winning runs in scoring position, Willie McCovey of the San Francisco Giants hits a hard line drive at second baseman Bobby Richardson for the final out and the New York Yankees win Game 7, 1-0, for their 20th World Series title.

1971 - In the World Series, Brooks Robinson drives in Frank Robinson in the 10th inning of Game 6 to give Baltimore a Series-tying 3 - 2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. Dave McNally gets the victory in relief and Bob Miller is the loser. Pittsburgh’s Roberto Clemente does all he can to win the game single-handed. Stranded after his 1st-inning triple to the wall in left center, his 3rd-inning solo shot puts Pittsburgh up, 2 - 0. He’s retired on long flies in the 5th and 8th innings while Pittsburgh fritters away its modest lead. He comes up in the 10th inning with Dave Cash having just stolen second base. Baltimore manager Earl Weaver walks Clemente intentionally, preferring to face Willie Stargell, and Al Oliver, who flies out to center. All of Clemente’s offensive contributions notwithstanding, the reason the game reaches extra innings is his defensive gem in the bottom of the 9th, a no-look, one-hop strike from Memorial Stadium’s right field corner, 310 feet away, to catcher Manny Sanguillen, preventing the runner at first, running on contact on Don Buford’s two-out double, from even attempting to score. By extending the game, Clemente’s throw will force Baltimore’s best player, Frank Robinson, to win this game with his legs, challenging the arm of centerfielder Vic Davalillo on two consecutive plays. In doing so, Robinson tears his left hamstring and aggravates an already damaged right Achilles tendon; he will be but a shadow of himself in the decisive 7th game.

1983 - Eddie Murray hits two home runs and Scott McGregor pitches a five-hitter to give the Baltimore Orioles a 5 - 0 victory, its fourth straight over the Philadelphia Phillies, to give the Orioles the World Series championship in five games. Baltimore catcher Rick Dempsey, who hit .385 with four doubles and a home run, is named the Series MVP.

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In case you’re wondering about any relation between today’s title and mentions of personal mental instability, worry not. I’m OK for the most part. Not easy, and bound to get worse before it gets better, but I’ll still be here each day, writing about something. Probably won’t be too much baseball as the main agenda, but there’ll always be Today in Baseball History at least. In truth, I’m sorta relieved that the O’s portion of the season is over. I’d have loved nothing more than to see ‘em win it all, that should go without saying, but frankly, following it so closely was a constant reminder of places I choose not to go, a few people I’ve chosen not to deal with any longer.

Yep, unstable. It’ll be easier now to focus on the elephant in the room of my life, which is making sure dad gets what he needs going forward, against some pretty implacable obstacles. No telling when or if that gets satisfactorily achieved, but I need to keep plugging away at it. It’s the right thing to do, and nobody else is gonna do it. Bear with me! And keep in touch, huh? I miss y’all. Would it kill ya to leave a comment? Adieu adieu, O’s friends and others. It’s been nothing less than magical, and will be once more!

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As some of you may know, I haven’t been reading blog comments for a while now, at least on the MASN sites, but after the O’s lost yet again to the Royals last night, I couldn’t help but skim through a few on Roch Kubatko’s School of Roch blog. Also scanned Twitter, where I follow a large number of O’s fans of varying degrees of knowledge. Listened to some radio call in stuff as well. Hoo boy… People doing all of the usual things that drive me nuts, as expected. Jones is “pathetic”. They were “lucky”. Buck should have done this or that. Folks already expecting the worst from 2015 because Cruz and Miller haven’t been signed to long term deals yet. Yikes!

More and more I’m of the opinion that far too many sports fans are not all that bright, or even if they are, they’re blinded by a repellent, to me anyway, brand of homerism. We got beat folks. It’s that simple. Again. By a team that deserved to win each game. They outplayed us in every area, but most significantly, they outpitched us in each game.

It wasn’t hard to see this coming. As I’ve already said in other posts, they’re a team built for this time of year, with speed, great defense, and a lights out bullpen. Unless you jump on their starter, and hard, you’re toast. We sorta did that in the first two games, but our bullpen couldn’t get it done. Their guys were better than ours in that key area in those two games, and once they got a lead in game three it was, once again, pretty much over. I don’t like it, but it’s true. It doesn’t make you any less a fan of the O’s to admit it, to tip your cap to the Royals. They did what they needed to do to win each of these games.

It’s sour grapes or maybe worse to think about it as them being lucky. Not even sure what to call it when you turn on Adam Jones. Perhaps some underlying ugly proclivities bubbling up, as they always do whenever he does anything even mildly objectionable. Makes me ashamed to be an O’s fan when I see, over and over again, people trotting out the same old complaints, but with that extra edge of not so subtle quasi-racism, about a guy that’s been so huge a part of this team’s resurgence. To be fair, it isn’t the majority of fans, simply a very vocal minority that feels the need to remind us of Adam’s faults in a caustic and unforgiving way, never popping up when he’s done something great. These are people I don’t care to know, don’t care to be in the same room with. I wish they didn’t exist, but sadly, they do. Even in this day and age. Very sad.

If you need to put the blame on us rather than give credit to what has clearly been the superior team in this series, why not look at the bottom of our order? How many times have Hundley and Schoop come up with runners on only to fail? We have holes where they do not, at least in this series, in which Moustakis has come up big a few times. We have more guys hitting near the Mendoza line than is optimum, but even that’s not the issue. There really isn’t an issue. We are what we are is what it comes down to. We’re a free swinging team that depends on the home run. This time of year, and especially in a huge ballpark, that becomes a weakness, not a strength. It’s not rocket science.

The bottom line is that the better team, right now, in this weather, in this ballpark for what will likely be the final game(s), is the Kansas City Royals. There’s no shame in admitting that. Again, you’re no less a fan if you do. And y’know what? I’m OK with that. We gave it our best shot and came up short. Sure, it’s not over technically, but the chances of us winning four straight are slim to none. It’s OK to admit that too.

Because this has been a truly astounding season all things considered. We not only won the AL East handily, but we swept the Detroit Tigers, no cupcake of a team, in the ALDS. This is what we as fans should be savoring, not wringing our hands over every minute detail in this ill fated ALCS. And we did it while enduring everything from season ending injuries to key players to bizarre and upsetting suspensions handed down to a few of these same key players. Manny Machado, Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, players presumed to be essential to our success, all sidelined for significant chunks of a season that miraculously still turned out far far better than anyone could have expected even had they all played all year. Somehow we still got it done, to a degree anyway.

We all know how we did it. It was little guys stepping up, helping us soar past our competition in the division and then past the Tigers in the ALCS. Steve Pearce, Caleb Joseph, Ryan Flaherty, even Jonathan Schoop and Nick Hundley. All these guys and more contributed to what has been a historic season no matter how disappointing it feels right now. This was one of the most remarkable things about this year, the next man up, we’re a TEAM mentality. It’s easy to love, easy to identify with, but at the same time, prone to failure at any point. Not to be forgotten as well were the improvements made to almost each and every one of our pitchers under the tutelage of new pitching and bullpen coaches Dave Wallace and Dom Chiti. We were, and still are, one hell of a good to almost great team, and probably will be again. Let’s try not to forget all this in a tropical storm of ALCS loss inspired angst and outright stupidity.

Yep, it’s been a special special year. And it’s not over yet. With Miguel Gonzalez on the mound and our backs to the wall, maybe we can steal a win today. Maybe we can even scrap and claw our way to another win, to bring our guys back home for at least one more game. I hope we can, but I’m not counting on it. I’d love nothing more than for our fans to at least be able to cheer for this team of unlikely and free swinging almost heroes one last time, maybe two. These guys deserve everything they’ve earned. Falling short in the ALCS isn’t something to be ashamed of. If and when they come back home, let’s give ‘em the biggest ovation of the year, huh? It’ll do a lot to erase the bad feelings I’ve gotten reading and hearing fan reaction to this game three loss. I need to know we’re better than that collectively. Let’s not let the vocal minority of, frankly, idiots, be the lingering impression after this most magical of years since 1997, maybe since 1983. This isn’t life or death, people. It’s baseball, and our guys have given us a great great year. Remember that before you lose your freakin’ minds.

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Today in Baseball History

1892 - On the last day the season, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Bumpus Jones, in his first major league appearance, throws a no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates. This will turn out to be the latest date in the season that a no-hitter is ever pitched in the major leagues. After that, Jones will pitch only one more season, in 1893, leading to a 2-4 career record with 10 strikeouts and a 7.99 ERA in 41 2/3 innings of labor.

1917 - A letter signed by 24 members of the World Series Champion Chicago White Sox and manager Pants Rowland contains complaints concerning not receiving their full winner share after beating the New York Giants. The written request, which will be discovered as a tattered document more than 40 years later among boxes stored at the Hall of Fame library, may explain the ‘Black Sox’ motivation for fixing the Fall Classic the two years later.

1925 - The Pirates become the first team to win a World Series after being down three games to one when the Bucs beat Washington and Walter Johnson in Game 7, 9-7. Kiki Cuyler’s bases-loaded double in the eighth inning proves to be the difference.

1964 - The Boyer brothers both hit home runs in Game 7 of the World Series, Ken for the Cardinals, and Clete for the Yankees. Both siblings accomplish the feat in their last at bat of the Fall Classic, won by the Cards.

1969 - During the third inning of Game 4 of the Fall Classic, Earl Weaver becomes the first manager to be thrown out of a World Series game in 34 years. The ‘Earl of Baltimore’, who had previously been warned by umpire Shag Crawford, is quickly ejected after he protested a strike call from the bench.

1970 - For the third time, the Baltimore Orioles overcome a 3-0 deficit to bury the Cincinnati Reds, 9-3, and win the World Series in five games. Brooks Robinson easily wins the World Series MVP Award for his hitting and unbelievable fielding. Robinson bats .429 (9/21) and drives in six runs. The Orioles’ third baseman becomes the first player to be named the MVP in the Fall Classic, an All-star game (1966), and for his league (AL-1964).

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This is where I generally say something stupid. Others have taken the onus off of me in that regard, so I’ll just say adieu. And what the fuck, GO O’s!!!

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Don’t really wanna be writing about baseball. Don’t even wanna be thinking about it until the games begin again. But I do have a few opinions, and no other topic ideas have bubbled up from my subconscious, so here we are.

We - the Orioles - are in a bind. We’ve all seen what’s happened. The Royals have proven to be a formidable team, much more so than most anticipated, myself included. In fairness though, KC was the last team I wanted to face in the postseason. It’s not difficult to look at their strengths and weaknesses, compare them to ours, and come to the conclusion that they’d be a real tough opponent when playing in colder weather. Their speed was everyone’s concern, and their bullpen. It’s the latter that’s killed us, along with some uncharacteristic performances by our own bullpen, a few guys at least. Hasn’t been fun. Not for more than a few fleeting moments.

I think the most depressing and distressing aspect of all is just how ineffective our pitching has been, with a few exceptions, notably Andrew Miller, Kevin Gausman and Brad Brach. Add Tommy Hunter if you want to. The starters haven’t been able to last even five innings, twice in a row. Did that happen all year? If it did, it was a rarity. I’m usually the last guy to second guess Buck Showalter, but I hated the decision to start Bud Norris in game two. I’d have gone with Miguel Gonzalez, the forgottenest man in town it seems. As I feared, Bud put us behind the eight ball immediately, throwing far far too many pitches to boot, insuring a second game of extensive work by our ‘pen, the one that had been touched up the night before.

It was never gonna be good, depending on Norris to hold the Royals at bay. Some might try to argue that some of the hits were lucky or of the broken bat variety, but when push came to shove, he was unable to do what needed to be done in a high pressure situation. Runners that got on base scored. Bud Norris simply didn’t step up. I saw it coming. Many of the folks I talked to before that game saw it coming. How did Buck not see it? I guess he was counting on the same kind of game Bud pitched against the Tigers in the ALDS, and I can understand that I suppose. Felt like Buck was pressing his luck to me, but what do I know?

I know that we’re down 0-2. And I know that Miguel Gonzalez has had success in the postseason and is notably cool under pressure. That he hasn’t been firmly slotted for the start in one of these next, possibly final few games is alarming to me, even given Buck’s propensity for not announcing these things sooner than necessary. Maybe there’s something going on that we don’t know about. Otherwise, I’ll be forced to second guess Buck yet again should Tillman or anyone else get the game four start. We have the horses, and they have the track records to do what needs to be done. Let’s use ‘em!
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The thing is, even if we do the right thing and start Miguel in game four, there’s no guarantee that our bullpen will be any better than they’ve been, which is awful, frankly, with the exceptions noted above. I can’t begin to fully understand why. I only have the typical knee-jerk sorts of ideas. Britton’s had a life changing event with his wife giving birth on another coast, so that could be a factor. O’Day’s been showing warning signs since late in the regular season. Matusz? Well, he’s Matusz. You can’t bring him in unless it’s mop up time, not in the postseason. But they’ve all been good enough for long enough stretches that you can’t fault Buck for using ‘em, with the possible exception of Matusz. They just haven’t done their jobs, and have cost us two games. Their ‘pen is better than ours, or has been so far, plain and simple.

Another distressing aspect of these two games is that we have been able to score runs. We’ve clawed our way back into games after being down, twice now, only to see their ‘pen outduel ours in an unusually direct way. And aside from Adam Jones’ bomb in game two, we’ve done it without the home run. That’s a testament to our own scrappy, we won’t stop ethos. It’s kept the games from being blowouts, but at the same time it’s put our bullpen failures into even higher relief. And we’ve been unable to even once take a lead. We’re a couple of big hits away from being up 2-0 in this thing if you think about it. That’s encouraging until you realize that with the way our ‘pen has been, the leads may not have lasted very long, and we’d have had to scrap back once again.

It makes for a higher level of frustration than might otherwise be, these games that we can tie but can’t win or even take a lead in. We keep being teased by the prospect of winning, only to see our hopes dashed in the late innings. On an individual game basis, it makes the losses worse than being blown out might be. Defeat being snatched from the jaws of victory kinda thing. It offers hope, the fact that we’re scoring all these runs, but when you lose anyway, what good is it? Is unrewarded hope better than no hope at all?

What do we do now is the question. Can we somehow take at least two of three in KC’s gigantic ballpark? My undying optimism is on life support now. I have not a single clue what will happen in these remaining games. What it looks like to me is that they’re better constructed than we are to win right now, and they’re on a roll. I’d be less surprised by them sweeping us than I would be by our coming back and winning this thing. It’s the only logical way to see it. I wish it weren’t the case, but it is.

Look at their lineup. They seem not to have anyone that hit less than .260 or so during the regular season offering easy outs like we do. Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakis are destroying us singlehandedly. Moustakis! The one guy you’d think would be a pitcher’s dream. Crushing it in the postseason. Yes, they’re on a roll, at exactly the right time, and with that freakin’ bullpen of doom to shut us down should we scrap back into any game. It just doesn’t look good if you take a look at things objectively. We need some shutdown starts, and we need ‘em right now! I’m afraid we’ll be toast if we don’t get ‘em.
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But y’know what? This is baseball after all. Anything can happen. This extra weather-induced off day could conceivably slow their roll. Wei-Yin Chen could do what he’s done often this year, which is to shut the bad guys down and go deep into games. Our one game at a time attitude could pay dividends. We all know that losing streaks aren’t typical of these 2014 Buck Showalter Adam Jones Orioles. Chen, then (hopefully) Gonzalez could get us right back in this thing. Our bullpen could egress to their norm rather than continue to regress. We’re up against it, so an all hands on deck mentality should prevail. If we need to pitch Miller for 3-4 inning, we should do it. And for the love of bacon and barbecue, let’s figure out a way to get Delmon Young some at bats, huh? It’s crunch time, and our secret weapon has languished far too long on the bench. Sadly, it’s hard to justify putting him in left field with De Aza doing so well, not to mention his iffy defense in a spacious park. It’ll take some creativity to get Delmon his chances to do what he always does in the postseason, no matter what team he’s playing for.

It’s not over yet. If we can get it back to 2-2 or even head back home down 2-3, the chance for a semi-miraculous and magical comeback becomes tangible. Hell, we could even take this thing in six as I predicted, though seven would be acceptable. Wouldn’t that be awesome? Imagine the jubilation should that happen! Everyone will forget how devastating these first two games have been, how shockingly bad O’Day, Britton and Matusz have been, how deeply disturbing it was to be down 0-2. It IS baseball, and redemption can occur around any corner. How sweet would it be to have won this ALCS, beating the hottest team on the planet, the darlings of the national media? We’ll have passed yet another test, just like we’ve done since the All-Star break. We’ll have already beaten what could be the most dangerous remaining team. The Cards or Giants will seem like jalopies after these runaway train Royals. But first we gotta get there.

Just win two more games this year. Well, four really, but two’s a start. That’s all we gotta do. Tall order, yes, but not impossible. Unlikely? Probably. But that’ll just make the celebration so much sweeter if we can pull it off and take this thing. Nobody will be able to say we didn’t earn it. We’ll become the media darlings, the team of destiny, having overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles all year. We’ve done it before and we can do it again. If we can somehow make these first two ALCS games merely a cruel, suspense-inducing plot twist in the still unfolding story of the 2014 Orioles, it’ll be more than magical. It’ll be one of the greatest baseball stories ever told. I for one can’t wait to see what happens, confidence or logic be damned. No sense in giving up now. It’s not over until the fat lady bombs Pearl Harbor.

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Today in Baseball History

1908 - Before the smallest crowd in World Series history, the host Detroit Tigers are tamed on three hits by Orval Overall, who strikes out 10 in a 2-0 triumph. The Chicago Cubs win the World Series in five games. Upset over seating arrangements at the World Series, sports reporters form a professional group that will become the Baseball Writers Association of America. The 6,210 fans, witnessing the fifth and final World Series game at Detroit’s Bennett Park, have no idea it will be the last time the Cubs will win a World Championship in the next 100+ years.

1972 - Catcher Gene Tenace becomes the first player ever to hit home runs in each of his first two at-bats in the World Series, leading the Oakland Athletics to a 3-2 opening-game victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

1983 - At Veterans Stadium, Jim Palmer pitches two innings of scoreless relief and gets the win as the Orioles beat the Phillies in Game 3 of the World Series, 3-2. The Hall of Famer becomes the only pitcher in baseball history to win a Fall Classic game in the three different decades.

1985 - Ozzie Smith provides one of the most memorable moments in Cardinals history by hitting a dramatic homer to win Game 5 of the NLCS. The round-tripper was the first left handed home run of the Wizard’s career.

2003 - Holding a 3-0 lead and needing only five more outs to go the World Series for the first time since 1945, the Cubs give up eight runs, on five hits, three walks and an error to the Marlins. The team appears to come apart after a fan, later identified as Steve Bartman, sitting along the left-field line at Wrigley Field, tries to catch a foul ball that was about to be caught by Chicago outfielder Moises Alou for the second out of the inning.  

2006 - Silas Simmons, the oldest former professional baseball player of all time, celebrates his 111th birthday. The 17th-oldest person in the country, born the same year as Babe Ruth, is joined by former players of the Negro Leagues and receives a 1913 Homestead Grays jersey with No. 111 stitched beneath his name from Steve Henderson of the Devil Rays at his home in the Westminster Suncoast retirement community in St. Petersburg.
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I hope I wasn’t too negative or long-winded for comfort here. I have hope in my heart, it’s my brain I’m having trouble convincing. Y’all know me. Few more positive and optimistic O’s fans around than I. It pains me not to be sure we’re gonna do this. But I can’t be intellectually dishonest. There’s a real good chance we’ll come up short. Not doing the post mortem until it’s really over though. And it’s not. Go O’s!!!

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Gonna be a quick one this time. For some reason, I woke up today (yesterday as you read this), after a languorous and extended period of overdue sleep, with this song in my head. Why it boiled up into the forefront my alleged brain activity this fine sunny day is anyone’s guess. Maybe it fits well with all the rantiness of late, and my general suspicion that humans are a failed species, as likely to wound their neighbor as to help him, often without knowledge that it’s occurring. Or maybe it fits something more specific. Who knows? Who cares? Anyway, on with the shenanigans and lofty sidelong dismissals of the unworthy!

XTC has long been among my favorite musical entities, particularly the songwriting of one Andy Partridge. I did one of my more detailed and thoroughly researched (ha! more like fact-checked) pieces on them here. At their best they sound a lot like the Beatles, but with more musical complexity at times, a richer harmonic palette, that make ‘em stand out as superior, in my mind (scary place!), to most if not all pop music made over the past several decades. There are some great lyrics scattered throughout their catalog, but for me it’s the music itself that shines most brightly. It always is.

Which brings me to a semi-rant. I’m a music guy, not really a poetry or lyric guy. I can appreciate and savor the latter, but music is music, first and foremost. If it ain’t got a decent melody and well crafted production, I’m not gonna care if the words are the key to enlightenment or a lottery win guarantee. Enlightenment for me is carried on the wings of purely musical bliss, the words along for the ride to the stratosphere, for later dissembling. I’m always distrustful of folks for whom lyrics are of primary or even more than cursory importance. It’s MUSIC, not poetry. Do these people not have ears?
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Don’t get me wrong, lyrics can be important, and at times can lift a song from above average to for the ages status. But separate the music from the words in most of these cases and the music is much more important to the finished product. Take a few of the greatest pop songs of the last 50 years, namely the Beach Boys’ (Brian Wilson’s to be more accurate) “God Only Knows” and the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life”. Both incredible, in a for the ages way, musically and lyrically. Now imagine reading the lyrics as plain text. Not even close to the same impact. Flipping it around, if you were to listen to the music for either piece, with the words filtered out yet the melody still in place, with nonsense syllables maybe, there would still be a lot of there there.

The best music succeeds as music first, with the lyrics merely an ancillary component. Music is visceral, hits you directly in a part of your being that words cannot touch, can lift you from despair or stun you with sheer beauty in the space of a few seconds. Lyrics or poetry require more from whatever side of your brain does math and solves riddles and susses out what that idiot on the radio was trying to say. With music, you don’t have to think. You feel.

I should also note that words or lyrics are a separate thing from vocal performance. I love a ton of artists that rarely if ever sing great lyrics. Lately it’s been Sheryl Crow. I mean, the lyrics aren’t bad, and are occasionally pretty darned good, but it’s her voice that grabs me. That and the purely musical quality of the songs, very few of them, truth be told. Maybe 4-5 out of her entire catalog make the grade, again, for me. A great vocal performance can be great even if the words are silly or abhorrent. Marvin Gaye’s “Hitch Hike” leaps to mind here, though I’m not sure that qualifies as a truly “great” vocal to the degree that some of his other efforts do. The point is, I’ll fall in love with a vocal performance long before the meaning of the words, if any, begins to seep into my brain.
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Yikes, that sorta went sideways there. Back to the song at hand, XTC’s “The Ugly Underneath”, from their 1992 album “Nonsuch”. It’s by no means the best song on the album, nor the best lyric. But there’s something there, something that’s lodged itself into a corner of my mind. It’s almost a throwaway tune, with just a couple verses and the usual three musical sections, verse, chorus and bridge, the latter in this case barely qualifying as such. It’s somewhat overproduced too, with a few too many keyboard parts jockeying for ear attention, especially after the first verse/chorus/bridge runthrough. It’s the contrast between the angular, snarky, harshly sung verses and the smooth as silk, highly soothing melodically, simplified Bach-esque chorus that make this song work, not to mention the “wash down with a glass of lemonade” resolution of both in the “bridge”, jaunting off in its own direction while at the same time setting up a return to the verse once more. It all mostly works, until the layers of keyboards begin to overwhelm. The boys seemed to sorta give up after the second verse/chorus/bridge too, letting the last minute or so become a pretty but sorta paint by numbers instrumental coda. But when it’s good it’s really good, the bass and layers of vocals in particular making for some fine ear candy. I like it a lot! Hope you will too. Be sure to listen to the rest of the album if you do. It’s one of their best.

Anyway, here it is in all its semi-glory, XTC’s (Andy Partridge’s) “The Ugly Underneath”:



That wasn’t so bad, was it? I got to vent a bit about how music beats lyrics in any battle royale involving the two, and you got to not click on the tune, because I know you didn’t. Why would you? Who am I to foist ancient and obscure music upon anyone, even the 2-3 lovely people that deign to show their virtual faces here? And so it goes…

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Today in Baseball History

1862 - In a game against the Unions of Morrisania, Jim Creighton of the Excelsiors hits a sixth-inning home run after doubling in each of first four times to the plate. When he crosses home, the 21-year old superstar complains of having broken his belt, that turns out to be a suspected fatal ruptured inguinal hernia caused by the torque created by his all upper-body hard swing with the bat.

1960 - Bill Mazeroski of the Pittsburgh Pirates hits one of the most dramatic home runs in World Series history. Maz’s leadoff home run in the bottom of the 9th inning against Ralph Terry of the New York Yankees gives Pittsburgh a stunning 10-9 win in Game 7.

1965 - Mudcat Grant does it all himself, hitting a three-run home run and pitching a 5-1 win at Minnesota to knot the World Series with the Dodgers after six games.

1970 - In the World Series, the Baltimore Orioles win their third straight over the Cincinnati Reds, 9-3, with winning pitcher Dave McNally slugging a grand slam. Frank Robinson and Don Buford also hit home runs and third baseman Brooks Robinson continues his excellence on defense as he makes two spectacular grabs in the field.

1971 - The Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates play the first night game in World Series history.

1979 - In the World Series, the Baltimore Orioles score six runs in the 8th inning en route to a 9-6 win, taking a 3-1 Series advantage over the Pittsburgh Pirates. Pinch-hit doubles by John Lowenstein and Terry Crowley drive in four runs.

1985 - St. Louis outfielder Vince Coleman becomes entangled in Busch Stadium’s automatic tarpaulin when he is stretching prior to the Cardinals’ 12-2 rout of LA in Game 4 of the NLCS. The freak accident, which traps his left leg for about thirty seconds, will end the season for the 23-year old rookie.

1989 - In a nationwide polling of sportswriters and broadcasters, Orioles’ skipper Frank Robinson is named the Associated Press Manager of the Year, easily outdistancing the runner-up, Don Zimmer of the Cubs. The Hall of Famer guided a young group of players in one of the greatest comeback seasons in history of the game, finishing the campaign 32.5 games better than the club’s last-place finish the previous year.

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Yep, always baseball stuff here, even on days like this when I’d rather not think it about until it starts. And that would be tonight I guess, even though I’m writing this the day before. Can the O’s take two of three in KC to bring the ALCS and all its puff and pageantry back to our yard? Maybe even sweep ‘em there? I sure as hell don’t know, but we’ve rarely gone on long losing streaks this year. I’d say the chances are slightly better than 50/50 that we get another home game. That’d be swell, huh? I know I won’t stop. Watching that is. Until there’s nothing more to see.

Comment away on any or all of the above, or something else entirely. Your anonymity will be nicely preserved if you do. Thanks!

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I decided not to talk about the nuts and bolts baseball stuff much at all here today. Plenty of that elsewhere, and I’m not really qualified anyway, not that it’s stopped me in the past. Rather, I’ll offer up some general perceptions gathered from the upper deck view of a guy that’s been at all 81+ home games this year and has watched nearly all the others. I’ll admit to not watching a few games once we’d clinched and it became essentially “Fall Training”. Simply some things I’d either like to see change or that I’d prefer not to exist at all, despite the state of things in this day and age and place. It’ll get rant-y. Bear with me!

First of all, it’s more clear than ever that baseball has fallen from grace as our “national pastime”. Hasn’t been true for a long long time now, and there’s no putting things back to the way they once were. Ever. What drove this home for me was a few things, but primarily scanning the radio dial an the way home tonight, trying in vain to find a station carrying the Giants/Cards game. Nothing. Lots of college football and sports talk, lots of infomercial type programs, lots of political talk, always from a right wing wacko perspective, and even some weird music stations. Who in the fuck listens to AM radio for music anymore? Not a single station carrying the National League playoffs that I could pick up. Keep in mind that this is at night, when stations from far far away can be tuned in. The scan thingie in my car stopped at what must have been at least 50-60 dial positions. Not one covering baseball, aside from our WBAL postgame. Very very sad.

Contrast this with how ubiquitous NFL football has become. You almost can’t avoid it. People all over the country, even worldwide, will watch or listen to our behemoth corporate sports entity, football, regardless of who’s playing or if the teams are any good. Football is tied into the fabric of the holiday season to such an extent that it’s hard to imagine a time when it was not. Baseball is relegated to summer, when people are doing other things, enjoying other pursuits, reveling in the wonders that feed our senses and sensibilities. Football is an economic necessity. Baseball is a necessary evil to big media broadcasters, shunted ever further down the ladder of cable channels year after year. The days of coming home from school or work and tuning in all postseason baseball games, not just the local team’s, on any local station, be it TV or radio, are long gone. That’s a damn shame and further proof that this country, this world, is going down a very wrong, possibly inherently evil path. I’m thoroughly disgusted by this irreversible trend.
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Which ties tangentially into my next point. Seeing the circus created by “national” coverage of the ALCS especially, the parking lots full of sound and video trucks and related ephemera, the bullpen statue grove partially walled off for TV coverage purposes, even the beer selection being limited by the whims of advertisers, made me sick. The buses that carry employees to and from the lots to the yard were forced to do their loading and unloading in different places by this usurping of our own little piece of perfection by their callous, unknowing, uncaring, unstoppable force of money grubbing forward momentum. Big media craves only one thing: cash. They learn how to make more of it only one way, by doing what’s worked before, possibly enhanced by some highly detailed and expensive focus group type malarkey. Zero creativity, zero new ideas. Just the same old crop of under-informed talking heads taking their positions, smack dab in the middle of our own little slice of heaven, amidst the machinery and mayhem of modern day event-mongering. Disgusted by this as well.

It’s as if we were invaded by an army of businessmen, intent on inflicting the highest possible level of glitz and corporate pageantry upon our poor little ballpark, with zero concern for tradition or the comfort or routine of those that make it tick, not to mention anything aside from cash. Natty Boh? Can’t have that. Gotta suckle on the corporate teat of the fine folks at Budweiser (Anheuser-Busch InBev to be exact), who, in case you’re not aware, are a huge conglomerate owned by some mega-corporation based in two different foreign countries as best I can tell, Belgium and Brazil. It’s a financial boondoggle that happens to make beer, and they have the power to bully their way right past anyone in their way. But hey, some of the ads are entertaining, so nobody cares. America sure doesn’t. Just give us the cash. And the beer. Oh, and I guess a little baseball on a peripheral cable network in between the ads is OK. We still get the cash, right? Disgusted.

What’s saddest of all about this big media invading your city trend is that it does some collateral damage that’s barely noticeable. First of all it makes postseason baseball damn near unwatchable, or unlistenable at least. Commentators with nary a clue as to the details of the teams they’re forced to cover. The same old guys trotted out year after year until they die or get tired of building new vaults for their cash. Poor Cal Ripken, Jr., Baltimore’s once almost unassailable and pure iron man, reduced to saying things like he did about Beltre being the best third baseman he’s ever seen. Why? Because he can’t be seen as being biased. Why? Because that might bother people that drink Bud in other media markets. Why is that important to anyone? I think you know the answer to that one. Yes, cash. Cal likes it too. Disgusted.
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The result of all this big media inertia and willingness to follow the cash in only the most proven and demonstrable to financial guru ways, is that baseball suffers. It suffers because the people talking about it don’t know what in the fuck they’re talking about much of the time. Any new idea or creativity that gets added to the mix can only be of a technical, wow ‘em with pretty pictures and graphics nature. Hiring people that might be able to inject a little intelligence or fun into the mix? Why, we haven’t focus grouped that! We do what’s always worked. Hey, it may not work quite as well as it did decades ago, but who cares?

Because baseball’s a stupid game, with far too few commercial breaks anyway. Can’t get away with that ad/kickoff/ad/timeout/ad/injury/ad/replay/ad bonanza in a stupid, untimed anachronism like baseball. But hey, we’re stuck with it, so let’s put it on the Oprah network or maybe Animal Planet 8 and see what we can do. Old people still buy them blue pills, right? They like baseball. Not worth making something so heinously unsuited to 60% advertising any better. Let’s just suck the remaining cash out of it until it dies with all them folks that can still stand to watch that mess. Maybe we can get that rumored Kardashian network to pick it up next year. The blue pill guys love them!

Man, this is getting extra rant-y! I’m having fun now! Just a few more, the first a reflection on the crowd behavior I’ve witnessed throughout this postseason as well as in 2012. Some of this actually occurs during the regular season as well, but it’s more defensible as necessary then. What I’m referring to is the incessant goosing of the crowd to get ‘em fired up and loud, to get ‘em “into the game”. Well, first of all, in the postseason, it’s completely unnecessary. Anyone that’s attended any of these O’s playoff games knows just how loud and insanely enthusiastic the crowds have been. Do we really need the sound effects and the video board to incite us into cheering our guys? What I noticed most often was that spontaneous and creative cheers, off the beaten path of what the sound effects and video library has to offer, get killed by the artificial incitement. Then when said incitement stops, the crowd becomes confused and silent for a moment until another spontaneous cheer begins.
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I have no problem with a little of this during the regular season, but man is it unnecessary and even a bit deflating when there’s a full house of baseball aficionados ready and willing to cheer for just about anything, even the goddamn crab shuffle or lucky row contest bullshit. Stop already with so much of this! We’re smart fans, us oldsters and our still malleable progeny. We know when to cheer and can make up better ones than anything on the hard drives you’re using. And while you’re at it, STOP with the goddamn “YMCA” during pitching changes! There are few things quite so alarming and off-putting as watching the almost elderly do that silly pointy thing that comes in between the spelling it out with your arms part. That song has no relevance to baseball anyway! In fact, it’s “deeper meaning”, isn’t what I think most might think it is, not that anyone’s thought about it. I can deal with the current pop tunes. I can’t deal with completely awful disco era horrors of the airwaves being used to “get the crowd moving”. Play some James Brown if you wanna go down that road! I swear that would work. Or maybe lots more Taylor Swift. She’s beloved by young and old, for reasons of varying unsavoriness. Be creative!

One last item on the curmudgeonly complaint docket for today, and this is, again, something controllable by the fine folks behind the scenes at our sacred and hallowed Camden Yards ground. Get your shit together with the scoreboards. There was a whole month it seemed, toward the end of the season, when the little strip at the bottom that shows the K’s or the warming reliever’s name wasn’t working at all. Nothing! That can’t happen. I’d also like to see more replays, far more often. Close plays are almost never shown, even when a manager’s challenge might be in the offing. Why not? Hire the people necessary to do that right. Also, I’d love to see the big board, which is really two separate screens, one bigger than the other, improved. Why must there be two gigantic static ads on either side of the lower one? It’s not like there’s not ample room to put those ads elsewhere. And do they really matter at all? Who buys those? Do they even work? Quick, who are those two sponsors? I haven’t a clue, and I’ve been staring at ‘em for years now. This is one of the few areas in which I think modernization and size matters. Improve the whole array of multimedia presentation at the yard! People will love it!
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Enough of that. Now for a few words on this here ALCS. We’re down 0-2 to the Royals. It’s gonna be a tall order to come back from that deficit going on the road to their yard for the next three games. Not impossible, but unlikely. At this point, I’d be happy if we can just get one more game at home. I’ll be even happier if we can WIN one of these games at home. Don’t want this incredible and historic season, even as it stands now, to end with two tough losses in our yard. The fans deserve better and so does this team. We’ve been in each game, just unable to get over the hump, unable to take a single lead. But we’ve never quit, never stopped. In a game played by humans, with a round ball and a sorta cylindrical bat, funny things can and will happen. Teams can get on a roll and steamroll ya, as the Royals have to an extent. We’ve not pitched well, or is it that they’re just that scrappy, that imbued with “momentum”, their pitchers just that good? Who knows?

But we’ll have a few more games in which we can still make a run at the now seemingly impossible. Hey, it’s even possible that we take the series in six games, as I’ve predicted all along. I’d not bet on that right now, but you never know. This anachronism of a once national pastime is just that weird and wacky, just that ripe with the possibility of redemption around any corner. If we can find a way to scrap back from the position we’re in now, it’ll be one for the ages, to an even greater extent than previous optimistic expectations. In truth, we’ve already accomplished so much more than what I or many others expected this year that anything from here on out is gravy. And y’all know how I feel about gravy. It’s good. Let’s just wait and see how much more our guys in orange and black have left to pour. However much, it’ll be delicious!

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Today in Baseball History

1907 - Chicago Cubs pitcher Three Finger Brown shuts down the Detroit Tigers, 2-0, to win the World Series. Chicago steals four bases for a total of 18 in the five-game Series, winning four, and the other ending in a tie.

1918 - Outfielder Alex Burr is killed in France, becoming the third major leaguer to die in World War I. Eddie Grant and Bun Troy are the others. World War II casualties will be Elmer Gedeon and Harry O’Neill. Bob Neighbors will be listed as missing in action in the Korean War to complete the casualty list.

1967 - Lou Brock becomes the third player in major league history to accomplish a trio of thefts in a World Series contest. The three stolen bases during the Cardinals’ 7-2 victory over Boston in Game 7 gives the speedy St. Louis left fielder a total of seven for the series, establishing a new Fall Classic mark.

1972 - After clinching the pennant with a 2-1 victory in Game 5 of the ALCS, Blue Moon Odom and Vida Blue give new meaning to the term the Swingin’ A’s when the starting pitcher and the game’s closer begin to brawl in the clubhouse. Odom, who left after five innings having allowed a run on two hits, takes exception to the universal choke sign made by Vida Blue, when the reliever used the gesture to answer his own question, “How come you starters can’t finish what you begin”.

1983 - At Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium, the Orioles even the series at a game apiece as they defeat the Phillies, 4-1. In a battle between rookie pitchers, Mike Boddicker throws a three-hitter besting Charles Hudson as John Lowenstein paces the Birds’ offense with three hits, including a fifth inning home run.

2003 - Thirty-five years after creating a controversy with his rendition of the song, Jose Feliciano sings the Star-Spangled Banner at the Marlins’ NLCS game against the Cubs at Pro Player Stadium. The singer’s nontraditional gospelized version of the national anthem sung before the start of Game 5 of the 1968 World Series at Tiger Stadium caused such a flap that some radio stations stopped playing his records on the air.

2012 - The Nationals, twice within a strike of reaching the NLCS, suffer the worst collapse ever in a winner-take-all baseball postseason game when they are stunned by the visiting Cardinals. After his team takes a 6-0 advantage in the third inning and clings to a two-run lead with two outs in the ninth, Washington’s closer Drew Storen gives up four runs in the final frame resulting in the eventual devastating 9-5 loss at Nationals Park.

I know that not many people read this crap. Maybe 20-60 hits a day on average, slightly more now that I’m posting every day. In many ways it’s a personal journal, in another, a way of practicing something I enjoy. I can’t not write.
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Perhaps a few of you have noticed that I’m no longer participating on the MASN blogs hosted by the talented and personable O’s reporters Roch Kubatko and Steve Melewski, among the best in town, or anywhere for my money. Many reasons for that, none of which I’ll go into here. Suffice it to say that it simply stopped being fun, in fact adding stress to my life, one that’s been stressful enough for months and months now, sneakily so, with some family medical issues and interrelated matters really taking a toll on me. It’s a mess that promises to get worse, not better, so rather than melt down even further in a public way, I’ve opted to keep my increasingly unstable and bizarre behavior sequestered within these virtual walls. Believe me, it’s best for everyone.

I’m thankful for the few that continue to find me here, and I’m truly sorry to not be interacting anymore with the many with whom I’ve enjoyed doing so for almost two years now. Maybe when things get better, when I become less completely erratic and dysfunctional, I’ll be back on the blogs. No telling when or if that might be, but for the foreseeable future if you wanna see what ol’ claude’s up to, this is the only place you’ll find me. There’s a reason my avatar is a stressed out, upside down and tormented cat. Now more than ever. Adieu!

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Y’know what I needed tonight? Something, anything, to go right. Just a normal, stress free night at the park, like each and every game this year pretty much, with the exception of only a few Friday student nights. It was not to be. The game itself was fairly exciting at times, but we never led, and unusual things insisted upon happening, over and over and over again. Tillman gets touched up. Britton can’t buy a strike or an out, despite their desperately trying to give us one. Then O’Day miraculously cleans up that mess, only to give up the go ahead runs. Matusz reminds us that he’s Matusz.

They hit three homers, yet their speed was nearly completely negated by the weather and our defense. We scratched out some runs, due mostly to my series pick to click Ryan Flaherty and their own defensive ineptitude, but it wasn’t to be, as others simply couldn’t get us over the hump. Seemed like it was mostly Schoop. A few players had good games, and we had plenty of opportunities, but ultimately our strength became our weakness and their weakness became their strength. Game over. Unusual things.

But the game wasn’t really the problem. What was? Humans. The ones, a few of ‘em anyway, that attended this game up where I was. So many idiots. An entire lower section of folks that waited until the edge of your seat latter innings, when the game was still in the balance and almost seemed winnable, to start screaming profanities at one another and becoming unruly. Perfect! I was actually pretty impressed with the energy of the crowd as a whole, early on at least, but once we reached the Britton meltdown inning, people were tired, drunk, cranky and irritable. I quickly matched ‘em on all but the drunk part.

Four ejections within a few moments, then a few more warnings, making maybe a few dozen overall. A substitute supervisor that was omnipresent all night, only out of the immediate vicinity at the few moments he was needed. That’s unacceptable. All night long the guy’s micromanaging a crew that KNOWS what to do and does it, pissing every last one of us off. When there’s an actual issue for which he’s needed? Nowhere to be found. It’s a miracle that punches weren’t thrown by the time he arrived. Both times. Unacceptable.
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So yeah, I left this game even more stressed out than when I arrived. There was a brief period when the Camden Yards mojo worked its way into my psyche and things felt great. I did manage to cheer myself hoarse and dish out more than the usual number of high fives. But it never lasted long, always punctured by the meddling idiocy of a guy that has no business doing what he does. There’s a reason he’s where he is in the pecking order.

That’s all I got folks. No flowery high falutin’ depiction of the crowd experience, no uplifting optimism to counter the dejection of a home loss, nothing inspiring or artful in the least. Just complaints. It’s my life. It’s what I do lately. There’s no escape, even in my happy place on this damp and dreary night. Not good. Not good at all. Sorry, but that’s the way it was. Shows no sign of ever ending either.

I guess I shouldn’t be so completely negative. I don’t think the series is over by any means. We’ll almost certainly win a few games, and could well still win this thing. I said we’d win in six and I’ll stick to that. I really need a few games that don’t completely suck though, at home preferably. Because right now the conclusion I’m reaching is that sports fans as a whole, far too many of ‘em anyway, are jerks, plain and simple. People screaming truly vile profanities at one another at the top of their pickled lungs, from across an entire section, with small children in between, isn’t the picture of humanity I’d like to carry with me into the already looming holiday stress season. I get enough of that already, with more to come for sure. But these games, and my experience at ‘em? It can only get better from here! I sure hope so anyway. Can’t take another one like this…

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Today in Baseball History

1900 - The American League announces that in 1901, it intends to put a team in Baltimore, MD led by John McGraw, and one in Washington, DC.

1909 - At Bennett Park, Honus Wagner becomes the first player to steal three bases in a World Series contest. The Pirates third baseman’s thievery enables Pittsburgh to beat Detroit, 8-6, in Game 3 of the Fall Classic.

1911 - Ty Cobb (Tigers -AL) and Frank Schulte (Cubs -NL) receive cars for being chosen the first-ever Most Valuable Player in their respective leagues. Known as the Chalmers Award, the new honor is sponsored by Chalmers Automotive, a Detroit based automobile company.

1965 - In Game 5, a 7-0 victory over the Twins at Dodger Stadium, Willie Davis becomes the second player to steal three bases in a World Series game. The L.A. center fielder joins Pirates shortstop Honus Wagner, who accomplished the feat on the same date 56 years ago against Detroit in Game 3 of the 1909 Fall Classic.

1971 - Brooks Robinson of the Baltimore Orioles sets a World Series record by reaching base five consecutive times against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Robinson’s barrage helps Baltimore to an 11-3 win in Game 2 of the World Series.

2002 - Former Yankee and Diamondback skipper Buck Showalter is hired by the Rangers to be the team’s manager. The Cubs, Mets, Devil Rays and Brewers had also expressed an interest in the ESPN commentator.

2012 - The Orioles even the ALDS against the Yankees with a 2-1 win, meaning that all four Division Series will go the distance this year. J.J. Hardy drives in the winning run with a double, scoring Manny Machado in the 13th inning in the longest postseason game in Orioles history.

Thanks for reading. Be nice to somebody, huh? Not just that surface niceness either. That’s easy. Dig deep, consider the consequences of your actions, and REALLY be nice. There’s more to it than politeness, believe me.

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I began working at Oriole Park at Camden Yards midway through 2013. The whys and hows aren’t germane here, suffice it to say that I fell in love with my “job” almost immediately. How could one not? It’s still one of the best ballparks in all of sports, the blueprint from which an entire generation of newer, smaller, more cozy and picturesque parks were built throughout the nation. The warehouse alone! And it’s not just there for show. It houses the offices and staffs of virtually all facets of the O’s organization. It’s where I punch in!

When I first started doing that punching in thing, I was brand new of course, and subject to being put in a different place on a game by game basis. This was good and bad, as I learned a lot about how different areas work and discovered various nooks and crannies throughout the yard, but also found that I didn’t wanna be anywhere but in the seating bowl, doing the usher thing. I worked various gates, ushered in several areas on all three levels, and got to know lots of the fine folks that have been working there for years, some for many decades. That’s one of the coolest aspects of the job, meeting and getting to know some of these folks. I eventually found a home ushering in the upper deck, and I couldn’t love it more. One of the main reasons is the people with whom I work, particularly my boss, who’s been there forever. We’re a great crew in an area that can get pretty… let’s just say overrun with the young and “allegedly impaired”.

It’s a diverse workforce for sure, in every conceivable way. Young, old, black, white, male, female, fanatical O’s lovers and people that don’t even like baseball much. Most do it as a second job, for fun, though some of the older folks probably just do it as a way of keeping active, and nobody does it for the money, which, lemme tell ya, ain’t great. But everybody wants to be there and gets along, knows their role, fits in, and keeps the place running like a well oiled machine. It’s pretty amazing when you think about the logistics of getting close to 50,000 people in and out of a confined place, while babysitting ‘em as they ingest oceans of beer. But even on the worst nights (student nights!), it gets pulled off without a hitch.
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Maybe a few hitches here and there… Student nights (Fridays) can be a challenge. College kids pounding beers for hours can lead to ejections. Lots of ‘em. In the hundreds on the worst nights, just in my area alone. But that’s gotten better as the team’s gotten better. It’s harder to be obnoxious when there’s excitement happening on the field. Gives ‘em something to focus on other than tossing half full beer cans around or having relations in the top rows. Yes, it can be an adventure at times. I can’t even talk about a few of the things I’ve seen.

But y’know what? Even if every Friday student night were awful, it’d still be worth it, because I get to be there, watching every home game, all 81 of ‘em, all year long and until the postseason ends. I’m often asked, how much of the game can you watch while doing your thing? A lot. All of it actually. The only things that keep me from paying attention to the on field action are either a late arriving crowd or people being rowdy enough that I gotta toss ‘em. Hate both of those. However, as an usher, all I really need to do is make sure that you, the fan, are having the best baseball experience possible, and that’s pretty easy. I get y’all seated, make sure you’re not bothering anyone else, answer any and all questions, and basically stand around and watch the game. It’s freakin’ awesome!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to complain about a few things that’ll drive any usher nuts however. Pet peeves if you will. First of all, there’s the guy that “knows where he’s going”. It’s always a guy, often leading a troop of friends or family. They’ll purposely avoid us, making no eye contact, not even responding to friendly questions like “you need help finding your seat?” Invariably these idiots end up going the wrong way and sheepishly passing right by you again on the way to their actual seat. That pisses us off, because we know why you do it. You’re being cheap. You feel like we’re gonna guilt you into tipping by doing something heinous like (gasp!) wiping the bird shit off your seat.
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Here’s the thing though. In the upper deck, we don’t much care about tips. I mean, some folks do, but nobody’s gonna point and laugh at you if you don’t tip. But, if we do have to do something for you, even answer a question or point you to the better beer, would it kill you to shell out a few bucks? You’re paying 8-12 bucks for a beer for chrissakes, and you can’t spare a dollar for the guy or gal that’s your conduit to having the best time possible? We can move you to better seats, help you find that hot dog with the mac and cheese and crab parts on it, tell that annoying guy in front of you to sit down, any number of little things like that. You tip, and those things get done even more attentively. But again, you don’t have to. Be a cheap bastard if you want. We seriously don’t care. But please, for the love of bacon, don’t be the “I know where I’m going” guy.

Other than that it’s just plain idiocy and “allegedly impaired”-ness that drives us nuts. That means we gotta miss part of the game making you miss the whole rest of the game if you’re really assiduous in your idiocy. You’re gonna get a warning. Or two. Heed it, or you’re gone. Don’t jump over the rails. Don’t throw half full cans of beer over the rail, or anything at all for that matter. Don’t toss peanut or seed shells all over the people around you. Don’t scream profanities if there are kids nearby, or really at all. It’s supposed to be a family friendly atmosphere. Act like you would with your family. Or maybe not. Just don’t be an asshole I guess is the best way to say it. Amazing how many can’t do that.

I’ll share one fun story before I wrap this up, a cautionary tale of sorts, but really a keystone cops kinda incident that illustrates just the sort of assholery we have to deal with at times. Guy jumps over rail, guy gets warned. Guy’s heavily “allegedly impaired”, and with a group that’s all in the same state. Plus they’re hopped up on testosterone and youth. Bad bad combination, lemme tell ya. Anyway, he jumps the rail again, gets warned again, then gets belligerent about it. That’s an ejection, so the boss is summoned. Boss calls the guy down from his seat, and he comes down the stairs, then starts RUNNING! He thinks he’s gonna get away! Hilarious! Of course, several of us were stationed along his escape route, and as my boss is chasing this idiot, we’re able to slow his wobbly jog to presumed freedom. Sure enough, my boss catches up to him and renders him cooperatively immobile. Probably shouldn’t say exactly how.
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But that’s not the end of it. His buddies, still sitting, decide it’s time to go, and also decide to make a statement, an allegedly impaired protest on behalf of mindless besotted youth everywhere. One of ‘em throws a half full beer from outside the tunnel entrance, all the way over the rail to club level, where I later learned it came within inches of landing on a kid. Another chase ensues, and where do we find this group of Rhodes scholars? Within mere yards of that tunnel (brilliant!), and cavorting amidst a snowstorm of absconded popcorn, one of them big ass bags, swiped from one of the food vendor’s carts. Unbelievable! The whole group of ‘em, still belligerent, making an absolute mess with stolen popcorn. Needless to say, they were quickly dispatched to the exterior of the park, Baltimore’s problem to solve now. Don’t be like that, OK? Seriously. That kid on club level could have been hurt for real because of these morons.

I hope I haven’t gotten carried away with the fun negative stuff. Those are the stories we all love to talk about after the fact, and they’re even sorta fun as they’re happening, but the vast majority of games are trouble free, or very nearly so. We try to make sure those incidents are as rare as possible, and only have to react to ‘em when we haven’t been good enough at nipping the issue in the bud earlier. Very few fans will ever see this kinda thing. That’s what we’re there for, and we’re good at what we do.

It’s all about the fan. Every last Orioles employee is there to make sure that your day or night at the yard is as pleasant and trouble free as possible. We can answer almost any question you throw at us. We can help you! Let us. Don’t be “I know where I’m going” guy. Because you don’t, and we will laugh at you for that. Not so you can see it though. Later.

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Today in Baseball History

1904 - Pilgrims right-hander Bill Dinneen, starting on the last day of the season on one-days rest, beats Highlander hurler Jack Chesbro when the 41-game winner uncorks a ninth-inning wild pitch, snapping a 2-2 tie to give the team their second consecutive AL pennant. Boston’s Big Bill finishes the campaign completing every game he started during the season, throwing 337.2 consecutive innings without being relieved during his streak of 37 consecutive complete games.

1920 - The Cleveland Indians beat the Brooklyn Robins, 8-1, in Game 5 of the World Series. For Cleveland, Elmer Smith hits the first Series grand slam and Jim Bagby, the winner, hits the first Series home run by a pitcher. Indian Bill Wambsganss becomes the only player in World Series history to complete an unassisted triple play as he makes a leaping catch, steps on second base and then tags the runner arriving from first base.

1923 - In the first postseason game ever played at Yankee Stadium, veteran Giants’ outfielder Casey Stengel breaks a 4-4 deadlock in the top of the ninth inning with an inside-the-park home run off Joe Bush. The contest is the first World Series game to be broadcast nationally.

1924 - The Washington Senators win their only World Series championship by defeating the New York Giants, 4-3, in 12 innings. The winning run scores when a ball hit by Earl McNeely hits a pebble and bounces over third baseman Fred Lindstrom’s head.

1926 - One day after picking up his second complete-game victory of the Series, 39-year-old Grover Alexander saves Game 7 and the World Series for the St. Louis Cardinals, fanning Tony Lazzeri with the bases loaded in the 7th inning, then proceeding to no-hit New York the rest of the way. The Series conclude with a Babe Ruth being thrown out trying to steal after being walked.

1970 - In the first World Series game to be played on artificial turf, Boog Powell, Ellie Hendricks and Brooks Robinson homer to power the Orioles past the Reds, 4-3. Baltimore’s offensive output in Game 1 of the Fall Classic overcomes Cincinnati’s 3-0 early lead at Riverfront Stadium.

1973 - During oral arguments being heard by the Supreme Court, Potter Stewart is handed a note with the startling news that Vice President Agnew had just resigned. The note also informs the glum Republican Justice, a big Reds fan, that the Mets are ahead of Cincinnati in the NLCS, 2-0.

1979 - In the World Series, Baltimore scores five runs off Bruce Kison in the 1st inning of Game 1, then hangs on to defeat the Pirates, 5-4.

1996 - The Baltimore Orioles’ 5-3 win over the New York Yankees in Game 2 evens the ALCS at one game apiece. Rafael Palmeiro’s 7th-inning home run is the key blow.

2005 - Rafael Palmeiro is spared perjury charges when a Congressional subcommittee decides to not prosecute him following its investigation. The former Orioles’ first baseman/DH had piqued the legislators’ interest when he tested positive for steroids four months after pointing his finger at the committee during a Capitol Hill hearing, emphatically denying that he had used performance enhancing substances.

That’s all for today folks. It may be a few days of just TiBH, as always lifted from Baseball Reference and nationalpastime.com, rather than much original content. I got games to work! Go O’s!!!

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It’s almost impossible to put into words the reasons for my ever growing disdain for the baseball Cardinals. Most people love ‘em, whether they’re fans of the team or not. They do everything right, top to bottom, organizationally and on the field, with a smaller payroll than the big market bullies. Their fans are almost universally praised for their class and knowledge of the game. Their uniforms are awesome. I get it. It makes me wanna retch.

Like many of my likes and dislikes, this is an irrational one in many ways. I suppose at the root of my Cards hatred is the fact that they’re seemingly in the postseason each and every year. I’m frankly just sick of seeing ‘em. Not the uniforms, those I like. It’s their year after year steadiness, their dogged better than adequacy, their canny ability to so consistently either judge talent at all levels or just plain get lucky. I don’t dispute that they’re well run, that they deserve their success, any of that kinda thing. I don’t have to like it though, and in fact it’s this very competence in all facets of the game, on the field and off, that drives me freakin’ nuts.

Because you can’t hate ‘em for any of the traditional reasons. They’re NOT a big market bully. You can’t find fault with ‘em on any purely baseball grounds. As I said, it’s really difficult to put a finger on the reasons for my dislike of this team. And I’ve tried. I could point to things like their being slow to welcome African Americans to their ballpark way back when, or how annoying some of their fans can be, but really that’s just extra ammunition rather than at the root of my ire. It really comes down to my being tired of seeing ‘em every year in the postseason.
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I’m an underdog guy. A big part of my disdain for the Yankees and Sox is their ubiquitousness in the postseason as well. There’s plenty of other stuff to hate about those teams, but believe it or not, my Cardinal dislike rivals that of even those teams. I know, it makes no sense. Maybe it’s the sheer frequency of their appearances in the postseason. I mean, at least the Yankees and Sox are poorly run to the extent that they miss the playoffs every once in a while. The Cards are always there. Always. I freakin’ hate that!

I’m always happiest when teams with sad sack stories, histories rife with failure, long suffering fan bases, get into the playoffs. This year that’s us and the Royals, an even better underdog story than ours. If I weren’t so O’s obsessed I’d be on that bandwagon for sure. If the Cubs ever win it all I may not be able to contain myself. Unless they’re playing us (the Orioles) that is. I simply hate the big guy teams, the ones for whom the postseason has become a birthright, whose fans have this sense of entitlement, this bored expectation to be there each year.

Remember how dead that Detroit crowd was in game three? That’s what I’m talking about. Entitled. Ho hum for the Tigers to be there. Better things to do, better uses for their voices than cheering too loudly. The little guy teams, the ones for whom it’s truly special to make the playoffs, have crowds that are much different. It’s an event. It rallies the entire city, as we’ve seen here. It gets LOUD! You saw this with the Braves years ago too, not even selling out home playoff games. Baseball is so much better when the crowd’s alive and roaring, and too often that’s missing with the entitled perennial contender teams.
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And that’s the Cardinals in a nutshell. An entitled fan base that may still be loud, and mostly comprised of very very nice and knowledgeable people who recycle and are nice to their grandmas, but they’re still entitled. And always there in the postseason. Aaaaagh! Enough already! Be bad, you unholy, inhuman, automaton of a team! Humans make mistakes! You’re not human!

Despite this unabashed antipathy for the St. Louis baseball club, and despite the Giants being my boyhood team, a part of me relishes the chance for my O’s (hey, I work for ‘em, I’m allowed!) to play the Cardinals in the World Series. It’s the same reason I was hoping the Dodgers might make it through. Nothing would be more satisfying than to destroy ‘em personally, rendering even the national media less likely to say things like “well, they didn’t play the best team” or “the O’s didn’t so much win as the other team blew it”. Getting tired of that after the thoroughly horrendous coverage on TBS of the ALDS.

Oh, and another thing. It’s not envy. I brought up my Cards disdain on a blog the other day and the immediate response was “sounds like envy to me”, of course from one of those ever so lovely “best fans in baseball”. I responded to that by saying “Maybe a few years ago.”  - not really true, but I was being nice. Their response? “Whatever.” So yeah, these are entitled, self-righteous, not particularly humble nor socially nice people, at least some of ‘em.

One last little note for those that might share my unpopular feelings on this topic. There’s a great Twitter account called “Baseball’s best fans" or something close to that. Their thing is to gather and retweet ridiculous, ugly, offensive, embarrassing, and otherwise unflattering tweets by unusually hard core Cards fans. I love this account! I’d quote a few if I weren’t so lazy, but rest assured that if you think like me on this matter, you’re gonna love it, almost as much as I love this little piece. It’s worth signing up for Twitter just for that one account. Follow me while you’re at it though, huh? I must tweet at least 4-5 times a week.
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That’s it kids. Stay tuned for something completely different tomorrow. Not that I know what it is yet. I’ll be even more pressed for time over the weekend with the O’s games they’re forcing me to work, so… Could be just the TiBH stuff for a day or two, but we’ll see. Speaking of which….

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Today in Baseball History

1907 - In Game 2 of the World Series, Tigers third baseman Bill Coughlin tags out Jimmy Slagle, using the hidden ball trick. The Cubs center fielder is the first victim ever to be deceived about the location of the ball during the Fall Classic

1910 - Nap Lajoie, in a batting race with Ty Cobb, collects eight hits for Cleveland in a season-ending doubleheader with the St. Louis Browns. The hits are somewhat tainted, however, as St. Louis third baseman Red Corriden plays back while Lajoie bunts safely six times.

1919 - Chicago White Sox starter Lefty Williams gets just one man out in the 1st inning and the Cincinnati Reds go on to a 10-5 victory. Cincinnati wins the best-of-nine World Series in eight games. A year after the Series ends, the White Sox will become the “Black Sox”, and eight players will be barred from baseball for taking part in throwing the Series.

1920 - Several hours before the start of Game 4 of the World Series, Brooklyn’s Rube Marquard, a Cleveland native, is arrested when he tries to sell a ticket to an undercover cop for $350. He will be found guilty and fined a dollar and court costs ($3.80).

1949 - During the ninth inning of the Dodgers’ 10-8 loss to the Yankees in Game 5, the Ebbets Field lights are turned on, making it the first time a World Series game has been played under artificial lights. The first scheduled Fall Classic night game will not take place until 1971, when the Pirates host Baltimore for Game 4 at Three Rivers Stadium.

1966 - In the World Series, Dave McNally of the Baltimore Orioles wraps up a brilliant pitching display, and a World Championship, with a four-hit 1-0 victory. Frank Robinson’s home run off Don Drysdale gives Baltimore a surprising sweep of the defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers. The 33 consecutive scoreless innings pitched by Baltimore sets a World Series record.

1971 - The Orioles win the opener of the World Series over the Pirates, 5-3. Dave McNally tosses a three-hitter and Merv Rettenmund adds a three-run home run.

1996 - Jeffrey Maier. Need I say more?

Stay tuned, sports friends. Probably no insanely detailed next segment of my ridiculous life story until after the baseball season ends. It’ll likely be baseball pieces from here on out, though on busy days it may just be the TiBH piracy. Oh, shout out to Baseball Reference and nationalpastime.com for the items. I’d hate to wind up incarcerated for game 7. Adieu!

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Just a few more days until we get more Orioles baseball, this time the ALCS, facing the scrappy, speedy, on a roll Kansas City Royals. If it weren’t for the fact that the O’s are in this thing, I’d be rooting hard for this KC team. They’ve endured a longer playoff drought than even we did until 2012, and there’s a lot to like about ‘em. I’ve an inborn inclination to root for the underdog, which is why I’m salivating at the prospect of playing either the loathsome Cards (long story - look for a diatribe on that soon) or the lovable Giants (team of my childhood) in the World Series, should we (ha! we will) get that far. Perennial contenders who need to get blowed up real good. But first we gotta dethrone, depose, and otherwise embarrass the Royals. Like us, they have flaws. Will their flaws prove to be of greater significance than ours when it comes to the bottom line, the winning the games part? I’ll attempt to make some sense of this today, but I’ll be honest - I haven’t done a ton of research. Going with my gut and accumulated “knowledge” here, so take anything I say below with a large boulder of salt.

What impresses everyone about the Royals, and rightly so, is a few things, chief among them team speed. They led MLB in steals if memory serves, while the O’s were dead last. Then there’s their bullpen, which is almost as great as ours statistically. They seem to be built for their cavernous ballpark, with hitters that can slap balls down the lines or into the gaps. Remember that Aoki cat and what he did to us? Cain? Gordon? They may not have big name hitters or gaudy home run stats, but they know how to use what they do have, and there are plenty of guys in that lineup that can do damage in a multitude of ways. Keeping ‘em off the basepaths will be key.

Once they get on base, it will get dicey. They’re gonna run, and run often. They’ll hit and run, run and hit, hell, it wouldn’t surprise me to see multiple squeeze plays or even attempts to steal home in this series. They have the small ball thing down to a tee. I think they bunted twice in one inning recently! It’s a whole different style of play than what we typically employ, and will be a challenge to our battery each and every game. Here’s where Buck Showalter’s insistence that our pitchers be quick to the plate may pay dividends, as well as Caleb Joseph’s surprising arm and overall defensive skills. We have what it takes, theoretically, to put the brakes on their speed.

The pitching is what scares me about the Royals more than any aspect of their offense. Their starters are nothing to sneeze at, similar to ours in that none of ‘em have “ace” stats or status, they just quietly, methodically get the job done. Add to that their well above average bullpen, and it could mean that runs will be at a premium. No more waiting it out and getting to tee off on Joba Chamberlain or Joakim Soria. We’re gonna have to have smart at bats and do the most with the few mistakes we see. What makes you feel good though is that we match up with their pitching quite well. In any given game, our starter is just as likely to pitch a shutout as theirs, maybe more. We have a few guys that seemingly can hit anyone. 330’ Cruz homer off Price anyone? Those may be the kinds of unlikely hits that win us this series as our pitchers go toe to toe for the full nine innings with theirs.

I think the defensive side of things is pretty even here. Both teams are unlikely to be booting balls or making bad throws. They may enjoy a slight advantage when it comes to outfield play in their yard, due to speed and familiarity with their own park, but nobody’s gonna beat our infield. I’ll be interested to see how often Young or Cruz get starts in left field. Not sure I wanna see more of either than is necessary, especially on the road. De Aza and maybe even Lough should get plenty of defensive time in this series.

This promises to be a competitive, low scoring set of games. It is baseball, so one never knows, but on paper it looks to be a lot of 4-3, 3-2 types of games, with edge of your seat drama in the late innings as the bullpens square off. At the same time however, I wouldn’t be surprised if one or more of our hitters find themselves locked in, peppering the walls, lines and gaps with barreled up liners. Could it be Jones, who’s overdue for one of his hot stretches? Cruz, continuing his current .500 clip throughout the postseason games to this point? Pearce? Hardy? Someone less likely like Flaherty or even the ice cold Joseph? It’ll be fun to see which player(s) step up big in this series.

I guess I’ll make a few semi-predictions. May as well, right? Who’s gonna remember this? I’m gonna say that De Aza has a big series, not just hitting but on the basepaths and perhaps even in the field. I think Nick will have a solid, if unspectacular, series. I really do think Jones will get hot before all is said and done. But it’s Ryan Flaherty that I’m confident will have himself a game or two and become the Rick Dempsey of this series, though likely not to MVP levels. I’m calling at least one dong from him, several appearances on the bases, and his usual exemplary play at third base.

As for pitching, Tillman’s gonna be huge in this series, what with his ability to shut down the running game. I see two wins for him. Miller will dominate as per usual when called upon, as will Britton. I don’t see Ubaldo getting a chance in this series, or even being on the roster. They’d be at third base moments after the first walk! It’ll be the usual guys, doing the usual things, at the high level they’ve shown since mid year. And they’ll be helped by not having to face a single hitter as dangerous as Cabrera or those Martinez dudes we just faced. The Royals hitting is scrappy and gritty, but they’re not gonna rip you to shreds usually with one swing of the bat. I like our pitching in that scenario, the one in which it’s gonna take 2-3 hits to score a run, especially if we can rein in the running game.

I’m gonna keep prognosticating here, and say it’ll go six games or less. Maybe much less. Oh, and we’ll win, naturally. We being the Orioles, the team of destiny despite the love being showered upon the media darling Royals by some. Let them have that kind of attention, much as we had it in 2012. All we care about is winning. It’s what we do. We did it a bit more than they did this year. In fact, we’ve now done it more than any other team in baseball this year. We are the better team by several measures, and we have Buck. It may not even be close now that I take that into account fully. Ned Yost? I can but laugh! He’s no Buck, not by a long shot, and his lovable, scrappy KC team may not know what hit ‘em once we get started! Go (expletive deleted) O’s!!!


Late addition: I just read where, in a poll of some sort (SportsNation), done on a state by state basis, only Maryland, Virginia, and it looks like Delaware, are rooting for the Orioles. For some reason I like that :=}

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Today in Baseball History

1904 - Jimmy Barrett becomes the first major leaguer to play 162 games in a season, 57 years before the schedule is expanded from 154 contests to 162. The Tigers outfielder accomplished the unusual feat because Detroit played in ten tie games during the season.

1919 - Ed Cicotte pitches Game 7 of the World Series, and the Chicago White Sox play like they mean it. Joe Jackson and Happy Felsch drive in two runs each for a 4-1 win to cut the Cincinnati Reds’ lead to four games to three in the best-of-nine Series.

1956 - Don Larsen of the New York Yankees pitches the only perfect game in World Series history for a 2-0 triumph over the Brooklyn Dodgers. Sal Maglie, the opposing pitcher, gives up five hits.

1966 - The Orioles managed only three hits off Claude Osteen, but Paul Blair’s fifth inning 430-foot home run proves to be the difference as Baltimore beats the Dodgers in Game 3 of the World Series, 1-0. Wally Bunker throws a six-hitter to get the victory in the first Fall Classic game ever played in Baltimore.

1972 - In Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, Bert Campaneris of the Oakland Athletics throws his bat at Detroit Tigers pitcher Lerrin LaGrow after being hit by a pitch. Both players are ejected and Campaneris is suspended for the rest of the series.

2012 - Taiwanese rookie Wei-Yin Chen pitches into the 7th inning against veteran Andy Pettitte to lead the Orioles to a 3-2 win in Game 2 of the ALDS, evening the series. Chris Davis drives in two runs with a two-out, bases-loaded single in the 3rd, then Mark Reynolds provides the winning margin with an RBI in the 6th.

That’s all for today kids. Just two more days until Baltimore baseball bliss once more. Soak up as much as your sensory organs can stand! Savor it! You never know when this is gonna happen again.

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This is gonna be a rougher one. Part one was pretty great, the childhood in Geneseo, a town similar to TV’s Mayberry in many ways. What happened right after that wasn’t great at all, and really threw me for a loop. I think I still have issues that stem from this period, though it wasn’t all bad. In fact, what I did to keep myself sane during this time put me on a path that was a whole lot of fun in many ways, though not particularly wise in the long run, at least from a financial perspective. So let’s dig in, shall we? Those that don’t care (the vast majority I would think) can simply skip down to the baseball history stuff. I started doing this sort of on a dare, and I’d feel like I was shirking responsibility now if I didn’t at least plug away at the task of relating my bizarre life story. So here we go…

To recap, my grade school years (1-6) were all in little ol’ lovable, kid heaven, Geneseo, NY. Loved almost every single second of that time. However, as my 6th grade year was progressing, things between my parents weren’t so great. Lots of arguments, and I can recall one incident that threatened to become physical.  I was largely oblivious to all this, and ultimately dumbfounded when I learned that a divorce was in the offing. To this day I have no real take on why or how my folks relationship became unsustainable. It just did.

So, as the school year wound down, it came to pass that my mom was gonna be moving us kids to a little one story house in suburban Rochester, far enough away from Geneseo as to make it a clean break. My dad was gonna be in this apartment still in Geneseo, getting us three kids for the weekends. Not good. In retrospect, I think that made it harder to adjust to the realities of our soon to be suburban milieu. Not a clean break so much as a really slow pull of the band-aid. Both locales became surreal, Geneseo becoming a place we used to love, but with now just a taste of it available, and with attention to dad rather than our friends more of a concern. Henrietta, the Rochester suburb, becoming a place that we were slower to get used to due to not being there for weekend activities or friend making. It was the worst of both worlds, all the while feeling a dizzying array of emotions in the aftermath of a divorce whose cause was never really made clear. It sucked, it really really did, for a few years there.
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One little side note, since this is gonna be epic in length anyhow: On the final day of 6th grade, with my favorite teacher just having told me “be a leader, I expect big things from you” as his last words, dad and I headed west to the bay area, for the funeral of his mother. I think I’d met her twice that I could remember. This was a stressful and rather surreal trip. Driving across country in dad’s VW bug, never stopping to sleep, only to eat, dad hopped up on speed of some sort, not really talking about anything. Not even sure why it was me doing this trip. I seem to recall my brothers and mom going to Cape Cod at this same time. I may well have been showing solidarity to dad, who for many years I saw as the victim in all this. Not sure why, really. But he was my lifeline to lots of stuff I held dear, even at that young age. Baseball, music, all those hippie friends of theirs that were always at the Geneseo house and seemed so “cool”.

Anyway, we make the journey west, stay with my dad’s sister, and I get to hang out with my cousins, whom I hadn’t seen in years. It was fun, at least when the realities of why we were there didn’t come creeping in. My cousin and I played a lot of catch, told each other jokes, just did lots of kid stuff, though he had a couple years on me. What’s weird as I look back is that I wasn’t taken to the funeral, staying behind with one cousin I think it was, while everyone else attended what I can only imagine must have been a stressful and bizarre service, what with my dad and his dad not ever really having been close, especially since the move east. I think I mostly just treaded water, got through one day at a time, filling each with as much familiar, fun, kid stuff as I could. The high point of this trip was getting to go to my first big league ball game, a day fabulous enough to sweep aside all other aspects of what was a long strange trip. Saw Mays, McCovey, Marichal, got Garry Maddox’s autograph. It was a magical sunshiny day, forever emblazoned on my neurons. We got home, I got bundled off to mom’s new house in Henrietta, and a new life for which I had little to no enthusiasm began.

That new life really really sucked, for a few years at least. I hated where we lived, in one of those tract homes in a development comprised of winding, cutely named streets, in which it was far too easy to get lost. I HATE feeling lost. It was new to me, having gotten to know every nook and cranny of Geneseo so well. The nearest store was barely within walking or even biking distance, and it was a single 7-11, with lots of hills to climb on the way. There were kids of similar age in the neighborhood, but they weren’t all that welcoming or friendly, and I was pissed off to begin with about having to start from scratch with that. I maintained friendships for a while with Geneseo people, but even that became difficult and fraught with logistical and “growing apart” issues. My 6th grade “girlfriend” ended up moving away, and that sorta sealed it for me. It was time to embrace or otherwise come to terms with this new reality. It took a while.
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At first I sorta withdrew into my own little world, spending lots more time than ever listening to music, reading Rolling Stone and similar magazines, trying to find more adult ways to forge a path forward, away from kid-dom. My voice had changed during that summer of surreal separation, but I was still a scrawny runt of a kid with an awful, long, stringy haircut, thinking adult thoughts, feeling adult emotions, but stuck in a body that wasn’t ever really gonna get much bigger. My interest in sports waned, and I really did seal myself away from lots of things, most importantly the family members with whom I was living. Not real sure why. Maybe I was feeling like others didn’t get how important dad was, but I basically stopped talking to my brothers at all, and not a whole lot with mom either.

The weekends with dad were no less bizarre. I’d get his bedroom while my brothers had to share another room, always a source of frustration for them and a pain in the ass for me. I never asked for that, and to this day I think there are lingering “he always got special treatment” issues on their end, for which I can’t blame ‘em. Dad would do some weird shit too. His bedroom had a big pile of Penthouse magazines in it. I was 12-14. You do the math. He’d take us to see movies, always odd choices. “10” I recall being especially uncomfortable seeing with dad and two younger brothers. I guess he was trying to, in his strange way, teach us that all women weren’t like mom. It wasn’t all weird though. We’d do these big crazy 8’s card tournaments, with scoreboards and stats and everything, and we all enjoyed that. As a whole though, life was in disarray, and would be for a couple more years, never fully settling into normalcy.

But eventually I was able to make friends. Real friends rather than the kids I’d tried to hang with in 7th and most of 8th grades. People with whom I had things in common, mainly music and a certain left wing slant on the world. By 9th grade I was pretty comfy. I’d come out of my shell socially, had grown a little physically, and was feeling better. I had friends among the nerdy smart kids in my honors classes, better friends that shared more of my interests in other classes, even jock friends and a few popular girl friends. Life was fun again, at least at school, and was beginning to be elsewhere as well, as I started doing more and more socializing after school and on weekends, newly freed by that time by my dad’s move west to stay with his sister in the aftermath of losing his job.
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That’s a whole separate facet of these years. The timeline of my dad’s comings and goings during these years is impossible to recall. I think he lived in like six different places total, some close, some far away. All throughout my teenage years, mom and dad would have these little periods of “are they getting back together?”. Dad stayed at the Henrietta house for at least a few extended periods, still trying to find work in his field, without much success. He even did a little local sports talk radio and some work on TV, a source of never-ending humor for my friends at the time. But anyway, it was always weird, never clear what exactly was happening with the folks, if anything. It would get weirder yet.

The main thing, the important thing, the thing that would give me my greatest joy in life, to this day, that happened during these years was my deciding I wanted to play guitar. I must have been reading a lot of album covers or music reviews or something, because I didn’t just want to play guitar, but a very specific style. I guess I’d heard some acoustic blues on the college radio station my dad ran, and his recording blues legend Son House a few years earlier for said station was a fun experience, if a bit scary, so I knew what I wanted to sound like from the get go. Within a year I went from being a typical teen with typical, if a bit wider ranging, taste in music, to an obsessed blues and “folk” music fan. Someday I’ll do a piece on why I always use quotes around “folk”.

So dad picks me up a cheapo guitar from family friend Buzzo’s music shop on Geneseo’s Main street, and I take to it big time. A few months of learning the basic chords from a book and the first Bob Dylan LP, a part of the always voluminous and esoteric record collection on hand throughout my childhood and teenage years, then hours and hours, even more months and months, of learning to play alternating bass fingerpicking acoustic guitar, trying to sound like Mississippi John Hurt or Mance Lipscomb, whose records dad had by then foisted on me. My right hand thumb swelled up so big that I had to get it lanced! I had discovered a whole new world, and one that nobody else in my world had any knowledge of except dad.
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Yep, good ol’ dad. He was often far away, in more ways than one during these years, but when he was there, he made a point of sharing his knowledge and love of all sorts of music, way beyond the kinds of things that were popular at the time. Being a teen with some typical teen friends, I never let go of loving some crappy music, but more and more I was becoming a connoisseur of blues especially, and later, ragtime, jazz, bluegrass, reggae, just about anything. I started reading up on this stuff, devouring blues history books, again courtesy of dad. Weird magazines and instrument catalogs, more books, more records, more hours of playing. Before long I was asking for the complete collection of Blind Blake material, on Biograph Records (5 LP’s), for Christmas. The great thing about my family? I got it. Somehow they were able to get it mail order, and man was I happy! No kid getting a new bike was more jubilant than I that fine winter morning. I got even more serious about the guitar, got even more music thrown at me by dad, like Chet Atkins, Merle Travis, Leo Kottke and John Fahey records, basically anything that had fingerpicking guitar.

Entangled throughout all this musical studiousness, all this finding my bearings socially, all this weirdness familially, was discovering weed. I guess it was early 9th grade. I recall that it took me 2-3 attempts before I ever got stoned. And man did I like it! Took to it like a fish to water. Getting to know the folks through whom it was available only helped my social standing, and I was soon a fairly regular user, joining mom and dad, neither of whom had ever stopped. They weren’t overjoyed, but as long as I kept my grades up, and I did, they were OK with it. There were even instances where I’d smoke with them, like when dad took me to Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue, or when he’d wake me on a weekend night to watch Monty Python together. To call back a previous point, I don’t think I earned any love from my brothers for getting this kind of special treatment, which extended to little things like being the only one to have my own little plastic GE stereo set.

So yeah, I was a weed guy from maybe age 14-15, ramping up in usage with time. It was a good thing! It enabled me to spend even MORE hours alone in my room with my by now professional quality guitar (Guild D-25). I was able to hear things like never before, feel things in the music that had not revealed themselves previously. I saw it as an educational aid, I really did. In fact, a few years later, senior year I think it was, I purposely got stoned before taking a whole day of Regents exams. Aced ‘em all, the Social Studies one being memorable for inspiring me to to write a long essay about Scott Joplin and ragtime’s unlikely inclusion on the classical music charts. That teacher actually called me at home to ask if he could do something with that essay, the result of which I never learned.
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By the later years of high school, I had climbed the social ladder to a place approximating where I’d been in Geneseo. I knew everyone, from all social stratas, was well liked, if thought of as a little odd (nickname? Space), and was barely home on weekends. I had a core group of friends with whom I’d hang on Friday nights, drinking beer and playing pool in my one friend’s basement while listening to the piles of records everyone would bring. This little routine became quite popular, with hangers on and would be friends forever trying to become part of this little scene we had going. The coolest of the cool, even older kids and people that were in college already, became part of the group. We’d do some crazy shit, with cars and empties, none of which I can really go into in much detail without knowing statutes of limitations.

Around 10th grade I began dating a bit, but was more interested in the music, the drugs, the social scene as a whole at this time. It was a different era, and my friends and I were surely different! Proms? Dances? Basketball games? All not cool. We wouldn’t be seen dead at any of those, the lone exception being my one friend’s basketball games occasionally. He was 6’10” by 8th grade, and reluctantly this guy did what was expected of him, which was playing center on the team like his older brothers all had. He could have been good, but like us, he was more interested in the other things. Managed to get a scholarship to Manhattan though. A lot like how I skated through the academics, even some college courses, without much effort or interest.

So it was, after a few really uncomfortable and socially harrowing years, a whirlwind of fun and friends by the time I was maybe 15-16, and right through until graduation. I should give thanks to my English teacher (and more, not telling that one) for a few years, Ms. Nelson, for my even graduating. I hadn’t attended gym class for a few years by that time, not to mention frequently not being present for other classes. I’d wander in for the tests, ace ‘em, then go on about my business. Ms. Nelson made sure I’d be graduating, tenth in my class as it turned out. But by this time I knew what I wanted to do, and it didn’t involve academia. I’d gone through the motions of applying to colleges, and even had a full ride to UC Berkeley, which I ignored, to the eternal disappointment of both parents, and at various points here and there for decades to come, myself.
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I wanted to play music. It was what gave me the most joy in life, and I was getting fairly good at it. My best friend was a fantastic drummer, still is, and was already making money doing it, occasionally a lot. He was into jazz fusion mainly, but his tastes were as wide ranging as my own, and we’d go to the blues clubs and open mic nights, networking with folks that would loom large in both our lives for the next several years. I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here, because it wasn’t until after school was over that I started playing in public regularly, but I was getting some nice attention, and in a style NOBODY else played. I could sound like the records and even add my own touches to some things. Purely instrumental at that point. Too shy to sing, not really looking to anyway. By the time junior year was over, I was big into arranging everything from ragtime to Bach to Irish fiddle tunes to Beatles songs for solo fingerpicking guitar. I remember playing for my English class late that senior year, at Ms. Nelson’s impossible to refuse request. Nobody there even knew I played. It was fun, but a little bittersweet, as I knew this would be my last year of formal schooling, maybe forever. I graduated a happy guy with lots of friends, and with a future beginning to take shape, in the bars and clubs in and around Rochester.

I’m sure this all sounds rather disjointed, and there’s reason for that. I have trouble recalling sequences of events, placing specific incidents in context. The main themes were distancing myself from family, aside from maybe dad when he was around, doing the bare minimum in school to get by with still good grades, taking the advanced classes that they sprang on me each year, and mostly, immersing myself in the whole world of music that lies beneath the surface and around the edges of what’s popular. At 15-16 I could talk your ear off about ragtime pioneers, early blues greats from the 1920’s, some jazz history, some bluegrass and related “folk” type musics, even some jazz fusion by way of my friends. Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke were as much a part of my musical world as Blind Blake and Charley Patton. In many ways the latter part of this period was a blur of music, weed, social interaction with several groups of disparate people, and least of all, life at home. I was ready to be independent.

But that would be delayed for a year, as I ended up taking a factory job out of economic necessity, still living at home but paying rent now, and continuing my informal musical apprenticeship. Loved that job, by the way. Inspecting BB guns, and getting paid well. Rate based pay. I inspect a lotta guns, I get paid more. I got paid a lot. College was ostensibly on hold, in an effort to mollify the folks, but I was just marking time until I could get out on my own. As it turned out, one final dose of parental weirdness, this one a doozy, made that move an easy one.
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At some point towards the end of my time in Henrietta, my mom and dad had rekindled something I guess. Dad had finally found steady work in his field at a community college in Maryland, and the plan became for them to move there, to buy a house, the whole nine yards. I’d had enough by then of the constant ebb and flow and “what the fuck are they doing now?” of their relationship. It clearly wasn’t gonna end well (it almost immediately didn’t), and that knowledge was the final straw that motivated me to look for a little apartment in the city, put the Henrietta years behind me, and enter the fray as a musician, even if part time at first, in a determined effort to carve out a life as such. It was an exciting time.

There are so many details I haven’t covered here, so many things misremembered probably, so many clues to future foibles. For example, I never mentioned that my mom had worked as an art teacher in the same district we all went to school in upon moving to Henrietta. That added some weirdness to the first few years there, as classmates knew and liked my mom, but maybe not me so much. There was the time I smashed up mom’s car on the way home from my Friday night thing. Made weirder by the fact that the parked car I clipped belonged to a family whose son was in my mom’s class. There was the not being able to really have friends over due to mom still smoking weed and not wanting that to get out at all now due to her job. Just lots and lots of atypical things, a few too alarming to convey here. Things most people my age weren’t dealing with. And over the top of it all was the ever-bizarre, “what are they doing NOW?” mom and dad stuff. I mean, it might have been easier if they’d each gone their separate ways and stayed there rather than constantly finding ways to almost, sorta, not quite, but finally yes, maybe, get back together. I couldn’t keep track! Dad was a huge influence on me at this time, what with the music and all, but mom was always there, working hard, paying the bills and buying the food. We all learned to be self-sufficient though. I was making my own meals and doing my own laundry and working part time jobs from like age 14. Car by 16, maybe 17, a nice 1970 Ford Torino ($500) that I destroyed a few years later by never adding oil. Threw a rod on the way to work at that BB gun factory.

Overall it was pretty great by the last couple years however. Just took some time to get my bearings. What it all did though was to turn my attentions simultaneously inward, with the music and the weed and the inner world that that all opens up, and outward, as family became anathema, something to be avoided, escaped from, not thought about too deeply. Mostly I was happy I guess, especially with the music and social stuff, but I was also escaping, maybe burning bridges with my sole means of support. But who thinks they need support at that age? I just wanted out, and eventually got there.

In the next installment, which may come sooner than later because it’s almost all great stuff, I’ll cover the years I spent playing music for a living for the most part. It’ll be over soon, I promise! And for goodness sake, why are you reading this?

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Today in Baseball History 10/7
 
1904 - Jack Chesbro gets his 41st win of the season when the Highlanders beat Boston in New York, 3-2, Happy Jack’s win-total is considered to be the modern era major league mark for the most victories in a season.

1905 - Fred Odwell hits his ninth and final home run of the season, making the Reds’ outfielder the NL’s home run champion. ‘Fritz’ hit just one last year as a rookie, and after leading the majors this season, will never hit another round-tripper again.

1919 - Dickie Kerr of the Chicago White Sox overcomes errors by Swede Risberg and Happy Felsch to win Game Six of the World Series, 5-4, over the Cincinnati Reds. Buck Weaver and Shoeless Joe Jackson combine for seven hits, and Chick Gandil, another one of the eight “Black Sox,” singles in the winning run in the 10th inning. Kerr wins his second game as the Sox now trail the best-of-nine Series by a 4-2 margin.

1969 - The Cardinals trade Curt Flood along with Byron Browne, Joe Hoerner and Tim McCarver to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for Dick Allen, Jerry Johnson, and Cookie Rojas. When Flood refuses to report to Philadelphia, St. Louis will send Willie Montanez and a minor leaguer to complete the trade, but the outfielder’s courageous challenge to the reserve clause will have a dramatic impact on the game.

2001 - On the last day of the season, Rickey Henderson bloops a double down the right field line off Rockies’ hurler John Thomson to become the 25th major leaguer to collect 3000 hits. Tony Gwynn, who is playing in his last major league game and is also a member of the 3000 hit club, meets the Padre outfielder at home plate in front of a sellout crowd Qualcomm Park.

Absolutely nothing O’s related today, that I could unearth anyway. If you have something, I’m all ears.

Hey, I know this one was a complete bore. Tomorrow might be better. Something shorter for sure. Adieu!

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Well sports friends, there it is. I’d been waiting for an Oriole starter to pitch the game of his life this postseason, and here it was, on a cold, windy day in Detroit. Detroit, a city not enjoying much of anything this day, their football team having lost to the Buffalo Bills just as the baseball portion of the day began. Oh the indignity! Add to that the ironic sadness of seeing the majority of advertisers for this game turn out to be overseas manufacturers of automobiles, and you have a reason to feel like Detroit’s sorta toast, on many many levels.

Enough of that malarkey though. The O’s get the SWEEP!!! The win today goes to Bud Norris, and oh what a game he pitched! Only two hits allowed over six and a third innings, and very little drama along the way. Just two walks (one of which should have been a K) and a wild pitch (on another K) marring what was yet another tough as nails performance. He, along with Wei-Yin Chen and Zach Britton, may have been the pitchers most affected, in a thoroughly positive way, by the additions of Dave Wallace and Dom Chiti to the O’s coaching staff this winter. Bud was great today! Not gonna use that canine adjective. Played out.
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I wasn’t too confident in Bud going into this season, truth be told. I remembered too many games last year in which he’d be up to 100 pitches by the fifth inning, generally having given up at least a few runs. But whatever Wallace and Chiti did with him during spring training and beyond has proven to have been a godsend. For the first time in his career, Bud had a winning record, a respectably low ERA, and just plain pitched better, by any standard, including the eye test. Today was the day he got to shine on a national stage for the first time, and shine he did. I was convinced earlier this year, but what he did in this ALDS clinching game solidified, amplified, made permanent my newfound love for Bud Norris.

Not that there weren’t helpers… I mean, you can’t win without scoring a run or two, and that was provided courtesy of Nelson Cruz’s right field line hugging, improbable home run in the sixth off of David Price, who pitched really well all things considered. You could pretty much feel that the game was over as soon as that ball landed just fair, just over the 330 sign painted on the right field wall. Oh, Adam Jones had gotten on just before that on a seeing eye single. Looked like a low and away slider. Yep. Sometimes he gets hits on those! So yeah, a two run homer by Nelson, off the very end of the bat, that almost nobody thought was gone, including Cruz, who carried his bat almost the full distance to first base. But it got out, and I think most O’s fans knew at that moment that the ALDS was ours. It was.
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It was over at that point. Because we have a bullpen that, with minor exceptions, is unhittable. Bud came back for another inning and a third, virtually untouched, then gave way to the man that national pundits will soon be forced to say was the smartest pickup made by any team at the trade deadline: Andrew Miller. The lanky lefty whiffleball artist proceeded to make Tiger hitters look silly for an inning and two thirds, and then it was closing time.

Zach Britton. If he’s not the best closer in baseball, he’s damn close. He’s been touched up just a few times this year, otherwise his ERA might well be in negative numbers. His hard sinker can make any hitter look foolish. Today? Well, his stuff was great. Unfortunately for him, he drew the meat of the Tiger order for his inning, and the most irritating pair of Martinez’s I can ever recall managed to go down and get a couple pitches that wound up being doubles, allowing one run to score. As predicted, the cold heavy air and large ballpark turned out to be to a factor. To OUR advantage! Britton found himself in a runner on second, one out situation, with one run already in.
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Here’s where our erstwhile skipper, the all-knowing, all-seeing Buck Showalter, got to do some good old fashioned managing, opting to intentionally walk Nick Castellanos, who had hit a homer in the second game, to get to a guy fresh out of AAA, and in waaay over his head when it comes to a pitcher like Zach. Setting up the double play. There were mixed reactions to that amongst the people with whom I was watching the game. A few couldn’t even look, as that overmatched AAA guy, Hernán Pérez, proceeded to do exactly what Buck KNEW would happen. Which was to ground into an easy, never in doubt, game ending, Detroit season ending, ALDS clinching double play, fittingly, Flaherty to Schoop to Pearce.

And there was much rejoicing. In Birdland and its many remote field offices worldwide. Sure, it would have been nice to see Zach get through the ninth inning cleanly, mercilessly shutting down them Martinez cats, but I sorta like that there was a hint of the dramatic there at the end, a chance for Buck to get a little input in, in a game that pretty much managed itself to that point.

I wasn’t nervous in the least, even after the two doubles. Let’s face it, the Tigers have three good hitters and a bunch of other guys that mostly aren’t. Once the Martinez portion of their lineup had been spent, what the heck were they gonna do then? Bryan Holaday? Hernán Pérez? These are not legendary players, and weren’t gonna become so facing Zach Britton. We beat an inferior team, a team that barely deserved to even be in the same ballpark as us, physically or metaphorically. We beat ‘em good, in various ever so entertaining ways. A combined semi-pitcher’s duel/eighth-inning blowout in game one, an exciting and almost improbable (if not for the idiocy of Ausmus putting Joba and Joakim in harm’s way AGAIN) comeback win, and finally a real honest to goodness pitcher’s duel.
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This last one was especially satisfying I think. We got to insure, personally, that the second of the two big trade deadline winners went down, by beating their shiny acquisition, David Price. Bud Norris outpitched David Price. Wrap your minds around that, O’s fans. So now Detroit’s Price joins Oakland’s John Lester in the category “guys that went to contenders, only for it to fail to matter”. Bud Norris assures himself of a place in O’s history as the first guy to win a postseason series clinching game since Mike Mussina in 1997.

This is insane, incredible, unbelievable, any number of other adjectives that fail to adequately do justice to what we’ve just witnessed. These Buck Showalter O’s are the real deal. We now know that the only thing that had been missing the last few years was quality starting pitching. A few other things have helped as well, bullpen improvements like Miller, Cruz of course, and the usual cast of underdog characters like Pearce, Joseph, Flaherty, Schoop, even Young, Lough and De Aza. And of course what remains of our core, namely Jones, Markakis and Hardy. But it’s been the improved starting staff that’s made the difference, has put us over the top. All the credit in the world must go to Dave Wallace and Dom Chiti for helping each and every Oriole pitcher, top to bottom, find ways to get better. We’ve seen it since midseason. It’s no longer a coincidence. It’s real! And my goodness it feels good!
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So now we get to sit back and, again, enjoy the taste of winning. There will be plenty of time for Buck to plot and plan, weigh his options, scout the other guys, read the stats, do all the many splendored things he does daily to make this team better. Again we’ll be ready for action come the ALCS, and again we’ll be well rested. You gotta love our chances against any remaining team in either league, under any circumstances, under any playing conditions. We are resilient. We wont stop. We pitch well, we can hit, and we play great defense. That’s pretty much all you need. When you add Buck to all that? I wouldn’t bet against us.

We’re going all the way folks. I’m calling it right now, and I’m not a prediction kinda guy. Circumstances have forced my hand here however. There’s simply no logical reason to believe that the Orioles will lose a series again in 2014. Anyone would be crazy to think that! I may be many things to many people, but I ain’t crazy. We got this, Birdland. Go (expletive deleted) O’s!!! Aaaaaaaagh!!!

I posted this last night when I got home from watching the game, originally planning to write something else for tomorrow, which I guess is today now, for a while at least. Sheer laziness has caused me to reconsider. So, what I’m gonna do here is simply staple Today in Baseball History down yonder and say to hell with it. I’ll think of something off-puttingly obscure or abhorrent about which to write for Tuesday. So without further ado…

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Today in Baseball History

1923 - The first unassisted triple play in National League history occurs when Braves’ shortstop Ernie Padgett catches Phillies first baseman Walter Holke’s line drive, doubles up James Tierney at second, and then tags Cliff Lee for the third out.

1933 - After pulling on umpire Charlie Moran’s bow tie and letting it snap back, Senator outfielder Heinie Manush is ejected from Game 4 of the Fall Classic.

1945 - In an effort to promote his nearby Billy Goat Tavern, William Sianis buys tickets to Game 4 of the Fall Classic for himself and Murphy, his pet goat. The bar owner becomes so upset when the Wrigley Field ushers ask his guest to leave, the Greek immigrant places a curse on the team, preventing the Cubs from ever winning a World Series again.

1966 - Jim Palmer becomes the youngest player to pitch a shutout in the World Series when the 20-year old Oriole right-hander blanks Sandy Koufax and the Dodgers, 6-0. Also notable in this game is Willie Davis establishing a World Series record by committing three errors.

1983 - In the second game of the ALCS, Oriole hurler Mike Boddicker throws a five-hitter and strikes out a playoff record 14 batters, beating the White Sox, 4-0.

2001 - At Camden Yards in front of a full house including Orioles notables Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer and Earl Weaver as well as Commissioner Bud Selig and former President Bill Clinton, Cal Ripken plays his 3,001st and final game.

2012 - The Orioles eliminate the Rangers, 5-1, in the AL’s first win-or-go-home wild-card playoff game. The victory sends the surprising Baltimore team into the playoffs for the first time in 15 years, a best-of-five division series against New York.

Thanks for reading and hey, why not leave a comment? Seriously, why not? Gets lonesome in here.