You win some, you lose some, and some get rained out—but you have to dress for all of ‘em.” —Satchell Paige

I remember the moment when I decided, quite deliberately, to care about baseball.

I was maybe twelve years old, I was at my grandparents’ house, and I was seized by a sudden need to avail myself of the bathroom. Then as now, I hate it when I have to do Number Two and there’s nothing to read. So I grabbed the only printed matter in the house that looked remotely appealing—the sports section of the Morristown (N.J.) Daily Record—and barricaded myself in the can.

The first story I came across—it was a single paragraph, near the sports agate, under the heading BASEBALL—concerned a relief pitcher with the porn-worthy name Rollie Fingers. Once an All-Star, the fading Fingers had blocked a proposed deal with the Cincinnati Reds because the club rules would have forced him to shave his trademark handlebar mustache. He chose retirement over the razor.

The Fingers handlebar.






The Fingers handlebar.

I don’t know what it was about that story the captured my attention—the ridiculous name, the ridiculous facial hair, or the ridiculous way he chose principle over filthy lucre; if someone offered you half a million bucks to shave your mustache, you’d do it, right?—but at that moment, in that bathroom, with my pants still around my ankles, I decided to follow baseball.

This was in the mid-eighties, which was when the Mets fielded a team for the ages. Gary “The Kid” Carter, Dwight “Doc” Gooden, Darryl “Straw Man” Strawberry, Lenny “Nails” Dykstra, and the rest of the Metropolitans wound up winning 106 games in 1986, a National League record, and won the World Series in dramatic fashion when a dribbling ground ball rolled between the legs of Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner.

Usually, when the lonely eyes of a sports nation turn to a particular team—in ’86, everybody in the tri-state area suddenly started donning blue and orange caps—it compels you to hop the turnstile and join the bandwagon, especially if you’re not already a fan of some other squadron.

But I didn’t like the Mets, and I really didn’t like the bandwagon-jumpers, so I chose instead to root-root-root for the Yankees. Don Mattingly, the slick-fielding first baseman with the sneaky power and the Tom Selleck ‘stache, became my hero, and I developed an intense and uncomfortable man-crush on Dave Winfield.

Donnie Baseball






Donnie Baseball

Unfortunately, the Yankees sucked. George Steinbrenner III, the power-mad principal owner and meddler-in-chief, killed the team every year by eschewing quality pitching for big, slow guys who hit home runs when the team was already up by six. This came to a head in 1989, when King George traded the young left-hander Al Leiter—who would go on to have a long and stellar career—to the rival Toronto Blue Jays for fat-assed outfielder Jessie Barfield, who played the exact same position as Winfield.

(Steinbrenner hated Winfield. With a passion. I mean, he loathed the guy. He went so far as to hire a sleazy second-rate mafioso, Howie Spira, to “get dirt” on Winfield, and wound up being banned for life from baseball—a sentence that was subsequently, and unfortunately, commuted).

For most of the Mattingly era, the Yankees were mediocre. Then, at last, in 1994, they were good. Really good. In first place for the first time since I started following them ten years before, and poised to blow past Cleveland and crush Montreal in the World Series. Ten years of waiting, but victory was all but assured!

And then…they called off the season. Sorry, folks! Thanks for playing!

This is like your girlfriend telling you she’ll have sex with you after the prom—and then they cancel the prom. What made it worse was, that was the summer I stayed in D.C., between my junior and senior years of college, and I was in the habit of watching baseball every night. Habit is the right word, because there were withdrawal symptoms when I was forced to quit cold turkey, including watching The Natural on TBS every day for two months.

Bud Selig, the feckless commissioner of baseball and slave to the interests of the moneyed owners, and his counterpart at the players union, Donald Fehr, were responsible for the strike. My hatred for them is such that, had Dick Cheney’s sometimes-torture-is-necessary argument involved Selig, Fehr, and waterboarding, I would have alacritously voted yea.

Satanic doubleheader






Satanic doubleheader

The four Yankees championships after the stoppage were nice and all, but because they didn’t include my favorite player, Mattingly, I could never fully embrace those teams—although I loved certain players on the roster, especially Paul O’Neill and Mariano Rivera, who both pre-dated the strike. Never again could I fall in love one hundred percent with a baseball team. The affection might be there, but the trust was gone forever.

“We’ll always have baseball,” is the line in Field of Dreams. Yeah—except for the summer when I needed it most.

What “saved” baseball for other disgruntled fans after the strike was the surge in home runs. In the summer of ‘98, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa slugged their way into the collective American heart, and all seemed forgiven. Sportscasters and beat writers returned to their conservative, santimonious opining best exemplified by the cloying Tim McCarver. And fans returned to the parks.

In the decades since Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s record, only a handful of players had even achieved the fifty-homer plateau. In ’98, two sluggers had sixty in their sights.

The ball is juiced—that was the explanation given at the time by Major League Baseball for the unprecedented spike in home runs. Something was juiced, as it turns out, but not the balls.

(Years after the fact, Congress was shocked, shocked to discover that there had been cheating in baseball. But if we’ve learned anything in our years as a republic, it’s that Congressmen are dopes.)

By turning a blind eye to it—the same way AIG executives turned a blind eye to the London office as long as the coffers kept filling up—Selig and Fehr exacerbated the steroid problem.

Let me explain. When I lived in Hoboken, the taxis would line up by the PATH station late at night, for guaranteed fares. Usually, people would form a line, this being the fairest and most efficient way for everyone to get a cab in turn. But there was always some dickbrain who would cut in line, running a block ahead to hail a cab. When too many people did this, it became futile to wait in line. You had to cut the line yourself, or you’d be there all night.

This is what happened with baseball and steroids. So many players were using performance-enhancing substances that eventually, everyone had to use them, or risk being left behind. And being left behind could cost millions of dollars in guaranteed contracts.

The Hoboken PATH station needed velvet ropes and a dispatcher to enforce the line, like they have at Penn Station and the Port Authority in New York. Baseball needed the authorities—Selig and Fehr—to do the same with the steroids policy. But Selig and Fehr were making too much money to blow the whistle. This was exploitation, pure and simple, knowingly exposing players to certain health risks in order to make a buck. To blame A-Rod—or Barry Bonds or Jason Giambi or any other transgressing player—for this is like blaming a toddler for eating too much Halloween candy.

In the end, I abandoned baseball for the same reason I left that other mainstay of my youth, the Catholic Church. While there was much appealing about both—elaborate ritual, cool uniforms, a long and storied history, veneration of that long and storied history at the expense of the present and future, a cast of colorful canonized ex-participants (including Ruth), fixation on the number nine, the prominence of Cardinals—in the end, any enjoyment derived from the participants was negated by my distrust of and dislike for the people in charge.

The love that began on a toilet has been flushed away forever.  (Although, if pressed, I will admit to some small sliver of delight that the Red Sox lost…)


111 Original Comments:

Comment by Zara Potts |Edit This
2009-10-13 09:58:59

You know Greg, I know next to nothing about sports but I love how passionate people are about the sports they follow.
I would like to feel that passion about something I think.
We really only have one sport in NZ that everybody gets excited about and that is Rugby. I like it well enough, but it bothers me that so many Kiwi’s wrap their identity around a sports team – so if the All Blacks (that’s our national team) win, then people feel good about themselves and if they lose, well then, lots of wives end up at the women’s refuge. Which is a horrible but undeniable fact.
I think here in NZ we take our sport far too seriously. But it always seems to me that in the US, you guys are much more playful about it. I may be totally off base with that last comment…
Anyway, I really liked this! And I LOVED Rollie Fingers’s mustache. It was so awful that it was fabulous.

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-13 11:07:03

Oh, there are sports fans that fanatical and violent in the US, too. We just have more sports, so the ugliness is diluted somewhat.

The All Blacks? Really?

Comment by Zara Potts |Edit This
2009-10-13 11:13:28

Yup. The All Blacks are our national team. The All Whites are our soccer team. All of our teams have to have the word black or white in them.

But my absolute favourite team of all is our badminton team which is called – The Black Cocks.

I’m not joking.

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Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-13 11:28:05

Are the Black Cocks any good, or do they suck?

[groan]

Comment by Zara Potts |Edit This
2009-10-13 11:38:29

They’ve gone a bit soft recently and their fans are finding that hard to swallow.

Comment by JB |Edit This
2009-10-13 11:51:08

The All-Blacks!

Did you guys see that Jackson Jive thing in the news lately? With Harry Connick Jr. on the panel? Whoa.

Zara, I am aware that NZ and Australia are different places, but are Down-Under folk really that oblivious to, like, minstrel acts and all that jazz? Maybe Simon oughta ring in too.

Naive and curious,
JB

Comment by Zara Potts |Edit This
2009-10-13 11:57:15

Oh I know! Wasn’t that a shocker? Aaaand this is where NZ distances itself as much as possible from Australia…(Sorry Simon)
Simon..Over to you to explain!

2009-10-13 12:16:35

Oh, man…

Welcome to the furore that just keeps on giving.

There’s some backstory involved here. Let me digress (sorry Greg. Thread hijack!) and explain it all.

Hey Hey It’s Saturday was (was being the important term here) once a popular variety show, with Red Faces being a segment on the show that was basically a not-very-good talent contest. Years and years after it got the final axe, someone in programming made the choice to do a couple of one-off shows (yes, I realise that doesn’t make much sense) to see if it was still popular/relevant/any good/worthy of more programming time (the short answer is, it isn’t. Except popular. The one-off shows drew a huge number of viewers).

So the resurrection came along, and bam. Right in the middle, a fucking minstrel show. Harry Connick Jr., a guest judge at the time, was not about to let that pass. He expressed his displeasure, it made headlines, everyone suddenly knew about it.

And the thing is, that segment would have been given the OK by producers, directors, hosts… everyone.

The various defences that people seem to be coming up with on comment boards around the country is ‘Man, Americans don’t get our humour’, ‘Harry Connick Jr.’s reaction is an example of political correctness gone mad’, and ‘Nah, it was all in good fun.’

The performers themselves have come out and said that they were very sorry. One has said, basically, ‘It can’t be racist! I’m Indian!’ And others have said ‘These guys are all doctors and surgeons! They can’t be racist!’ I’m not really sure how either claim works.

Basically, there’s a segment of Australian society that remains pretty ignorant about this stuff, and will happily yammer on about how everyone else is too sensitive. I, personally, call bullshit on that front. And, like many of us, I’m very ashamed about the whole thing. And made even more so by the people who try to dismiss a hugely complex and inflammatory issue by labeling any problems people might have with a nationally-broadcast blackface performance as ‘Political correctness gone mad.’

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-13 12:48:53

I had not heard about that…thanks for the lesson, Simon. I didn’t know Harry Connick Jr. had that much juice. Harry Connick Sr., maybe, but Harry Connick Jr.?

2009-10-13 13:14:45

Oh, man, Connick Jr. acquitted himself very well. He took the show to task, forced (well, maybe ‘forced’ is the wrong word) an on-air apology, and gave a brief lesson in racial etiquette.

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-13 12:47:59

Zara: I predict that the Black Cocks will rise triumphantly and come together.

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Comment by Don Mitchell |Edit This
2009-10-13 15:51:31

The All Blacks. I have an All Blacks story. When I was in college — oh, sorry, “at university” — the All Blacks came to the US. My uni’s football team included a few students who understood rugby basics, so they put together a team and played the All Blacks. I was there. It was something to see — pretty much like an NFL team playing a decent high school team. I didn’t understand much about rugby but anybody could see that we were getting our asses royally kicked.

It was said, though, that we won the party.

Comment by Zara Potts |Edit This
2009-10-13 16:15:42

That was back in the days when the All Blacks actually won something??
Gee. I remember when they were mighty. Now I’m sorry to say they’re just pale imitations of their former selves. I’m glad you got to see them when they were good!
(I’m going to get myself thrown out of NZ for saying that, you realise…)

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Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-13 16:56:50

If they are now pale, shouldn’t they be the Less Blacks?

Comment by D.R. Haney |Edit This
2009-10-13 20:56:04

Rimshot!

Comment by Dana |Edit This
2009-10-14 06:30:04

We were in Ireland last year when the All Blacks were playing. It was AWESOME. We don’t follow rugby, but decided to for the week. What a riot! We loved their little preening display pre-match. Pure theater.

Comment by Zara Potts |Edit This
2009-10-14 09:40:44

Ah! so you saw them do the mighty haka!
I have to say, I still get a little bit of chill up my spine when I see the All Blacks do the haka.
Brings a tear to my eye…and I start humming our national anthem.
I hope they won the match that you went to?

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Comment by Irene Zion |Edit This
2009-10-13 10:09:41

This is so cool. I’m standing at the pharmacy at CVS reading your post on my phone while holding a copy of your half-read “Totally Killer. ”
I so wanted someone to pass by, even someone I barely knew, to show them.
Alas no one came by so I can only tell you.
I love that you still say “number two. “

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-13 11:07:43

Still waiting for a call so I can show off my scary voice…

Comment by JB |Edit This
2009-10-13 10:14:06

Twelve-years-old seems late! I assume you didn’t play little league ball. Twelve was the age I officially retired from little league.

I think next year is a good time to come back. It’s a young man’s game now, and while you could still suspect just about anyone, young and veteran, of juicing, there is a considerable wave of non-juiced kids making a presence. Look at Tim Lincecum. He’s built like my little sister, and his stuff is wicked.

Now, if Bud Selig could just accidentally get wrapped in a sex scandal, or get struck by a Milwaukee County transit bus…

Cheers,
JB

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-13 11:09:36

I’ve tried. I can’t do it. It’s not just the cheaters — I don’t blame them. Fehr is gone, but Selig remains. And I’d need every baseball announcer now calling games to leave. Particularly McCarver and Joe Buck.

I did play ball, albeit badly. I was always aware of baseball, collected cards and stuff, but twelve was when I started to really pay attention.

The transit bus? That must be the one Selig threw the players under during the steroids controversy…

Comment by AgrarianDissent |Edit This
2009-10-13 16:45:19

You were at least a journeyman ballplayer, maybe better. Didn’t you jack a couple balls out of Sonny Vitale Field when you were 11 or 12? And you were good at Coach Tanfield’s “Polish Alley Bounce Ball” game and other baseball derivatives.

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Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-13 17:00:38

That’s only because I was 12, playing with the 10-year-olds. Although I was good at Polish Rocket Power Alley Bounce…

Comment by JB |Edit This
2009-10-14 01:35:04

You forgot Chip Caray! He’s the epitome of bad, screamy, off-in-the-head baseball announcing.

So, here’s what you do: mute the TV during the game, as Don DeLillo does.

Then, maybe turn on the radio broadcast, which is what we used to do.

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Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-14 05:03:55

The radio broadcasts here are even worse, alas.

We don’t get Chip as much out here, but yes, he is also lousy. Perhaps nepotism is not the best way to select broadcasters? When the Indians played in the Series a decade or so ago, Bob Costas and Bob Uecker called the game, and the former kept trying to bait the latter into his Major League “Juuuuussst a bit outside” routine. Best-called Series ever.

We took the kids to the park the other day, and some HS kids were playing ball. I enjoyed watching that, the rhythms of the game, all of it. The game itself is quite beautiful — the only big team one played without clocks.

Comment by TheAstuteMrWickySays |Edit This
2009-10-14 14:49:21

Confined neither by time nor distance…

2009-10-13 10:19:53

108 regular season wins (not 106) for the metsies in ‘86 and not a national league record — the 1906 cubs won 116. i believe the ‘86 mets tied the ‘75 reds for the most wins in a season by a nl team since divisional play began in 1969 or maybe even since the ‘06 cubs.

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-13 11:10:13

That’s how out of touch I am. A few years ago, I would have known that. (Although I do know that the Yankees have the record, so in your face, Mets.)

2009-10-13 11:33:29

I understand so little about baseball. Just about everything I know comes from a childhood love of that film Major League.

Although, when I was moving to the US, I realised I had no sports teams to follow (not that I spend a lot of time following sports anyway). I mentioned this, and was quickly recruited to root (tee hee) for the Redsox.

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-13 12:37:49

Five Great Lines From Major League:

“You may run like Mays, but you hit like shit.”

“You want me to take him out of here? Kick the shit out of him?”

“One hit? All we got is one goddamned hit?”
“You can’t say ‘goddamned’ on the air.”
“What’s the difference? No one’s listening anyway.”

“Are you saying Jesus Christ couldn’t hit a curve ball?”

“if you let me down now, I say Fuck you, Jobu.”

That’s off the top of my head.

The Red Sox? Dude, you’ve been misled.

2009-10-13 13:16:19

Heh. One of my favourite Cerrano lines:

“Shitburger?”

Damn, I have to watch that movie again now. It’s been far too long.

I know. Everyone keep dissing the Sox. But I’ve been recruited! I was tlaking to Duke and a friend of his about this while in LA – I’ve got the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Phoenix Suns, and the Sox.

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Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-13 15:44:00

I saw the guy who plays the manager do Buried Child on Broadway. He was phenomenal.

Also: those are all asshole teams. The fucking Steelers? No, no, no. You lived in SF. You should take the (baseball) Giants, the 49ers, and the Warriors.

Comment by D.R. Haney |Edit This
2009-10-13 21:05:29

I like Major League, but I love Bull Durham, which I consider a latter-day classic. It’s also a surprisingly smart movie, combining baseball with references to William Blake, Walt Whitman, Susan Sontag, and Edith Piaf, among others.

I believe the guy who played the manager is Trey Wilson, who died maybe six or seven years later. Oh, and I’m huge fan of Sam Shepard also.

Comment by D.R. Haney |Edit This
2009-10-13 21:06:20

Huh. Why didn’t the HTML code work on Major League?

Comment by Lenore |Edit This
2009-10-13 21:13:40

i’ve seen major league probably over 100 times. i love that movie. i have no idea why, but i love sports movies. and that’s one of the best.

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-14 00:14:56

Bull Durham is fantastic, yes, despite the presence of Kevin Costner.

Lenore, have you seen Slap Shot, the Paul Newman hockey movie? Easily one of the best and funniest sports movies of all time.

Comment by D.R. Haney |Edit This
2009-10-14 03:28:28

I love Slap Shot, too. My favorite moment: “I’m listening to the fucking song!”

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-14 05:04:47

Paul Newman said that he never swore much before doing that movie, but afterward, he dropped f-bombs till the day he died. “They brought their fucking TOYS with them!”

Comment by Dana |Edit This
2009-10-14 06:35:03

That’s awesome. I really miss his twinkly eyes. Must put Slap Shot in my Netflix queue.

LOVE Bull Durham (good call Greg, despite KC). Tons of great lines in that one too.

2009-10-14 13:54:53

Oh, poor KC. I actually maintain a childhood love of the guy. The Untouchables,/i>? Man. I can’t go past that movie. Such a strong film. I’m happy to admit, Costner has his flaws. And it would seem his day is done, but hey, he had some good moments in there.

Bull Durham, for instance. That was probably his finest hour, in my opinion.

2009-10-14 13:55:20

Ack! Damn it!

Comment by Dana |Edit This
2009-10-15 09:38:18

My husband likes a lot of Kevin Costner movies. I think he’s cute and not bad, but his monotone voice drives me nuts. And what I thought was a really cute little affectation – his titter in Bull Durham (as I recall it was a bit of a hitch and then an eruption of giggles), but then after several more movies I noticed that nom that’s just his real laugh. Somehow much less attractive.

Funny how we develop loyalties to actors and actresses, you

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-15 16:21:55

He has a certain presence, for sure. He just can’t do accents to save his life.

Comment by Richard Cox |Edit This
2009-10-13 12:00:59

This is well-written and well-reasoned. I almost never blame the players in professional sports for league-wide problems, even though they so often seem to be the targets of the fans. Especially the salary issue. Why shouldn’t the players make a lion’s share of the profit when there would be no profit at all without them? Who among us would turn down $10 million a year to play a game?

I played baseball as a kid but was never a fan of the professional game. In Texas MLB didn’t hold much allure because our teams weren’t very good. All our attention was turned toward the Dallas Cowboys. But if I had been a fan, I would have stopped when the World Series was canceled. That’s just absurd.

P.S. I with Simon: Major League is feel-good comedy gold.

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-13 12:42:16

Obviously, I’m with you both re: Major League. Although the rom-com stuff gets tedious after 15 or 16 viewings…

The players play their part, though. But not because of the money. I stopped watching sports entirely a few years ago, when I realized that the players I “liked” were, for the most part, people I…well, let’s just say I doubt I’d take to them in real life. Winfield, for example, one of my all-time faves, was in court on some paternity suit a few years ago, and…well, the details did not paint him out as the greatest of guys. And don’t get me started on a fave of my basketball players, Ron Artest…

G

PS
Texas has baseball teams?

Comment by Ben Loory |Edit This
2009-10-13 12:10:43

wow, the Daily Record!!! i forgot all about the daily record. what a shitty paper! they spelled my name wrong in it every single time it appeared. which, granted, wasn’t all that often. but still.

but… so… i don’t get it… you didn’t like bandwagon-jumpers, so you became a yankees fan??? that’s like listening to britney spears because you don’t like pop! even when they were shitty (kinda shitty (less than gargantuan hulking unbeatable ogres)) everyone in the world loved the yankees! it was like an oath you had to take in second grade to get your lunch tokens. they were like the dallas cowboys! or whatever the football equivalent was, who gives a shit.

rollie fingers was awesome. though i always preferred kent tekulve. wally backman hit .320 in 86. just saying. the info that is still at my fingertips. weird.

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-13 12:45:37

Dear Benn Lorrie:

I refuse to speak ill of that fine publication, as they had the decency to print my TK press release almost in its entirety. But I didn’t realize you were from NJ. Coolness. Where did you grow up?

Wally Backman…another example of my above response to Richard. Seemed like a nice guy at the time…but not such a nice guy, as it turned out.

The Sports Guy says that rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for the house in blackjack. But you have to understand, at the moment when I was choosing — and only at that moment — the Mets were the Yankees. They just were. Any other year and I might be drinking the Bobby Valentine Kool-Aid.

Comment by Ben Loory |Edit This
2009-10-13 14:26:46

i’m from dover. i used to deliver the daily record. which was kind of like indentured servitude, except you had to get up at 5 am.

what about you? for some reason i want to say madison. did we have this conversation before?

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Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-13 15:20:01

We didn’t, I don’t think, but I am in fact from Madison. Dover is the last stop on the same train, although I’ve never been there — in NJ, we tend not to go beyond a five-mile radius of the house…

Comment by Ben Loory |Edit This
2009-10-13 18:41:22

i always confuse madison with montclair. one of them has the montclair art museum, is all i know. geography is confusing.

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-14 00:15:18

Montclair has fewer Republicans.

Comment by D.R. Haney |Edit This
2009-10-13 21:10:22

Oh, you could tell Wally Backman was probably a SOB. He just had that way about him. But Lenny Dykstra was probably my favorite character among the ‘86 Mets — him and Roger McDowell. They seemed like they’d be really fun to hang out with.

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Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-14 00:16:17

Roger McDowell was the judge of the Kangaroo Court thing they used to do in the locker room. Plus, wasn’t he on Seinfeld?

Comment by D.R. Haney |Edit This
2009-10-14 03:26:58

Yeah, on the Keith Hernandez episode(s). McDowell was the team clown, always ready to help someone to a hot foot.

Man, I loved that team.

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-14 05:06:10

I understand why people loved them. I just didn’t. Mostly because I hated — HATED — Gary Carter. How could YOU, Duke, not have dug Strawberry? A huge crowd of people chanting your name at the top of their lungs…

Comment by D.R. Haney |Edit This
2009-10-15 08:05:00

He was being teased, and I was teased the same way for years afterward.

I always thought he looked like Dino from The Flintstones. Oh, and I HATED Gary Carter. Everyone on the Mets hated him. He was only popular, I’m sure, with grandmothers.

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-15 16:23:51

They didn’t chant that at Shea in the proper way? I thought the taunting jeer was a take-off of the hometown cheer. (This is used to great effect in the Simpsons episode we referenced earlier).

And Straw does look like Dino…

Comment by Matt |Edit This
2009-10-13 13:21:09

Ah, baseball.

My dad always had season tickets to the Padres, and used to take me to games when I was about 5 or so. And then he and my mother divorced, and he moved in with his new family, and that was it for me and team sports.

For a long time I described my interest in watching sporting events as equivalent to watching pornography: I’d so much rather be participating than observing that observing offered no pleasure at all.

This year, though, things have started to change. I went to my first Pads game in 24 years. The bastards didn’t even bother to hit the ball, yet, something was kindled. I found myself paying attention to games on the radio (even though the announcers drive me fuckin’ nuts), or stepping out to a sports bar to catch a bit of the game over a beer. Even though I know jack all about any of the current crop of players on any team, I’m finding that I enjoy catching what bits of the games I can. I’ll probably play closer attention next season.

(It’s also started carrying over onto football, too. If we had a basketball or hockey team, I’d probably be paying attention to them as well.)

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-13 13:56:10

There is a certain comfort in it, that’s for sure. Long as they don’t cancel the season again.

I went through a bad phase in my early 20s when I was watching way too much basketball. The Saturday night game when Patrick Ewing broke his wrist in Milwaukee? Yeah, I watched that. One of the regular announcers, John Andriase, took a few games off to go to his daughter’s wedding. I had a dream that I was at the wedding. That’s what I mean by “bad phase.” But sports is helpful at times like that…

Comment by Lenore |Edit This
2009-10-13 17:43:41

in the bathroom is as good a place as any to decide to develop an interest. i, myself, don’t poop, because of how ladylike i am. so i haven’t yet developed interests.

however, i do have an inherent dislike of anything resembling authority, so i understand that much. i think i’ll forever be a teenager, doing exactly the opposite of what people tell me to do. unless i suspect they are using reverse psychology, and then i will outsmart them. because my brain grew bigger every time my feminine nature prevented me from pooping.

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-14 00:17:00

I do all my best thinking there. And much of my reading.

Comment by D.R. Haney |Edit This
2009-10-13 21:26:43

I used to love baseball. I even subscribed to The Sporting News. I just didn’t have time to follow it with the same zeal, and gradually lost interest. But I think a lapsed interest can almost always be revived. Love doesn’t come about by accident.

Don Mattingly was briefly a hero for me as well. I was present at a Yankee game in which he broke a bat, and a piece of it went flying way across the field. Hard to explain, but it was kind of thrilling. And whatever Steinbrenner’s faults, he made for an excellent villain. New York couldn’t shut up about the guy. It seemed like he’d do something stupid or evil or both almost every day, even in the off-season, and the tabloids, with their screaming headlines, would fly off the newsstands.

But I was, obviously, a Mets fan, and even managed to shoehorn Game Six of the ‘86 World Series into Banned for Life. Many people despised the Mets for perceived arrogance, and I got into a row about them with my family during Thanksgiving dinner the year they won the Series. I had a tape recorder secretly running during that dinner, which struck me for some reason as a fun thing to do, and I’m sure I still have the tape somewhere.

Wow, and Rollie Fingers. Thanks for raising that name and a few others that haven’t crossed my mind in a while.

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-14 00:20:12

The Game Six inclusion in BFL is terrific…the same night Jason sees Peewee’s band for the first time. It really was one of those days in the tri-state area. Everyone knew about that.

In my case, the lapsed interest has been a slow fade. I watched the games after the strike, because the Yankees were good, but without the childlike enthusiasm that is that whole point of following sports. With each successive year I watched less and less, and a few years ago I tried to watch the Series and found myself getting physically ill after listening to Buck and McCarver for three hours. That was it. I was done.

2009-10-14 06:01:35

i still think of this as the happiest night of my life. (with apologies to wife and kids.) i was in syracuse — it was a saturday night and my band practiced early that night and settled in with an assortment of alcohol to watch the game. 2 red sox fans from massachusetts, 2 mets fans from long island and CT (me) and 1 guy (who grew up in iran) who didn’t care either way. i had savored every game that year as payback for all the teasing i had taken from red sox and yankee fans when i was growing up and the mets and all their bruce boisclairs were in last place every year it seemed. and there it was — the bottom of the 10th, 2 outs, no one on — there were even 2 strikes on gary carter, i think. the best team in baseball was going to lose — i couldn’t believe it. after the miraculous comeback, i kept hitting myself in the head, swearing and screaming “I DON’T BELIEVE IT!”. and when we went out to parties that night, you could spot the mets fans a mile away and you’d go up to them and hug and yell “AAAAAHHHH!” or whatever. and this was at the height of my cool punk stage where i hated almost everyone. and here i was acting like a frat boy. man, that was a good night.

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Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-14 06:11:10

I remember watching Larry Johnson nail the 3-point play to knock off Indiana in the NBA playoffs many moons ago. I was in Manhattan, and you could actually hear it happening across town. I can only imagine what that Game Six must have been like in NYC…I mean, I didn’t even like the Mets, and I still loved that game. How could anyone not?

Your wife-and-kids secret is safe with me…

Comment by Marni Grossman |Edit This
2009-10-13 23:07:23

Oh man. Best. Mustache. Ever.

Also, I love that you were forced to repeatedly watch “The Natural” to deal with your baseball withdrawal. This is why we adore you.

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-14 00:21:14

Thanks, Marni.

The withdrawal wasn’t just me. They really did run in on TBS, on a loop it seems like. That fall, when my housemates came back, we watched that flick every day.

Comment by Don Mitchell |Edit This
2009-10-14 00:57:57

Am I reading too fast or is it true that nobody’s mentioned “Bull Durham” as a baseball flick?

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Comment by Don Mitchell |Edit This
2009-10-14 02:13:25

Reading too fast. Christ. I’m too old for this, evidently.

Comment by D.R. Haney |Edit This
2009-10-14 03:22:18

Nope. Now, maybe if you were reading too slow…

2009-10-13 23:56:36

I have never seen a baseball game in my life, and those names only mean something to me because of that episode of the Simpsons with Homer’s softball team… The song at the end forever etched the names of famous baseball players into my mind.

I have no recollection of why I began to like my favourite football (read: real football, not stupid American or Australian football (no offensive to American or Australian people)) team because I was so young. Those things are lost to team and strangely have nothing to do with familial relations or geography.

I’ve always had a softspot for American sports teams that my favourite TV characters have supported… That’s kinda lame to admit, but it’s true.

2009-10-13 23:57:34

Good lord, I’m an idiot. I didn’t mean for the italics to run on that long…

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-14 00:12:29

The baseball episode of the Simpsons is one of the best of all time. “You there? Strawberry? Hit a home run!” “Aye, aye, Skip.” “Ha! I told him to do that!”

2009-10-14 02:16:09

It’s one of the many, many classics.

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Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-14 05:07:51

I rate it #2. Only the Mr. Burns “Citizen Kane” episode is better, IMO.

– Damnation! Find me some good players. Living players. Scour the professional ranks. The American League. The National League. The Negro Leagues.
– Sir, I…
–Do as I say!

2009-10-14 13:57:37

‘New York, huh? Lotta unsolved murders in New York.’

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-14 14:06:09

No, no, no. It’s this:

“Steve Sax…from New York City…I heard somebody got killed in New York City and they never found out who did it. But you wouldn’t know anything about THAT, now would you, Steve?”

At some point in that episode, I think when he originally makes the bet, Burns says, menacingly as usual, “I disagree.” I had this on a chime on my computer at college. Every hour on the :45 it would play Burns saying that. And it ALWAYS came at a funny, appropriate time. My friend would be like, “No, really, that girl I hooked up with was so hot,” and Burns would say, “I disagree!”

Ah, college…

2009-10-14 14:43:34

Damn it! I hate when I misquote. Especially from something as near and dear to my heart as The Simpsons once was.

Heh. I’ve been re-reading about that episode now. So many good moments.

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-14 17:43:58

Didn’t mean to be pedantic. Sorry about that. But I can hear that damned line in my head.

If your face, Strawberry.

2009-10-14 18:08:02

“You just don’t know when to shut up, do you, Sax?”

(oh please, oh please, let me have gotten that right).

No, I’m a stickler too. There was a year-long disagreement between a friend and I over a line from Seinfeld, whether it was correctly ‘If you’re one of us, you’ll eat the pie’ or ‘If you’re one of us, you’ll take a bite’. Later, I saw the episode in question, and had to admit that I was wrong.

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-15 01:37:59

I once spent about an hour arguing with a friend about which was the final track on The Queen Is Dead. We went to a record store — this was pre-Wikipedia — and saw that we were both wrong.

Pretty sure it’s “keep your mouth shut, do you, Saxy-boy,” but we’ll let it stand. ; )

2009-10-14 02:03:10

Some of my best family memories are of going to Mets games as a little kid.
I’ve always been this loyal Mets fan because of those family trips. And really the only reason we’re even Mets fans is because my dad is from Michigan and hates the Yankees because he’s the most loyal Tigers fan around. And even though I don’t personally follow it, nor would I ever watch it on my own, I find comfort when my brother and dad talk baseball. And for the record, when you talk sports with them, as well. It’s like being little again and not understanding what’s going on – it’s kind of comforting.

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-14 05:10:48

I enjoy talking baseball with them. In fact, I brush up before we go visit your dad — who watches every Yankee game but roots against them…although he admits to liking many players on the team…Jeter…Cano…etc.

It was fun when the Mets played the Yankees in the WS a few years back, Steph, and you were all, “Go Mets,” but couldn’t name a single player on the team save Piazza…

2009-10-14 03:48:36

“This is like your girlfriend telling you she’ll have sex with you after the prom—and then they cancel the prom.”
Best line ever….I think you may have just solved the mystery for legions of women everywhere of the whole guy/sports/sex connection!

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-14 05:14:16

Thanks, Robin.

Sportswatching is just a substitute for sex. It exists for that reason, and so men have something to talk about besides the stock market and some reason to gather that doesn’t involve shooting large birds with assault rifles.

Although I think that if you had given the fifteen-year-old me the choice between me losing my virginity and the Yankees winning the World Series, I would have gone for the latter.

2009-10-14 05:31:42

Your last comment deserves a cheer…..

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2009-10-14 03:51:55

bull durham is CLEARLY the best baseball movie of all time. and, no, it’s not a matter of opinion. i actually don’t think major league is very funny. and field of dreams layed it on so damn thick — it’s good if you can take it, but i just can’t. bad line (at least the was it was delivered) — “i’d only seen him years later when we was worn down by life.”

2009-10-14 03:56:00

HE was worn down by life. sheesh.

also, the waY it was delivered.

too early for me.

Comment by D.R. Haney |Edit This
2009-10-14 04:16:39

After I read this last night, I was curious to see what people are now saying about Bull Durham on the comment board at the egregious IMDb, and there were predictably people who hate it — “worst movie ever,” etc. I don’t see how anyone could arrive at such an opinion, but there’s no accounting for taste. I particularly like the movie as it’s winding down; the sense of melancholy the sets in when Crash Davis is cut from the team and consoled by Annie Savoy, who quotes Thomas Gray in voice-over: “Full many a flower is born to blush unseen/and waste its sweetness on the desert air.” I feel about Costner as does Greg, but I can overlook that in the case of Bull Durham.

2009-10-14 05:37:47

bull durham works for me on an emotional level — not merely as comedy. i, too, like the melancholy of the scene where it’s raining at the end of the season and the coach is reading in the dugout and annie walks home. when crash asks annie if she thinks he could make it to the big leagues as a manager, and she says, all choked up, “you’d be great.” costner is fantastic in this movie and i’m not quite sure why people hate him so much. (probably because i haven’t seen his worst movies, i guess.)

by the way, i read “banned” and am recommending it to my friends.

and greg — yes, i understand the distinction you point out, but in practice, people are going to include “major league” in a list of BASEBALL movies. they’re certainly not going to exclude it, pointing out that it was actually a comedy that used baseball as its subject. (well, except for ex-yankee fan, georgetown graduates.)

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Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-14 07:40:01

Costner IS really good in it. He’s good at what he does, but he has less range than Bill Buckner at first base. Obviously you have not been acquainted with “Waterworld,” or his “English” accent in “Robin Hood.”

I’d rank them: 1. Bull Durham, 2. The Natural, 3. Eight Men Out

G

Comment by D.R. Haney |Edit This
2009-10-14 18:35:50

I love Eight Men Out also. I think it’s a little clunky, but stories don’t get much sadder than Shoeless Joe Jackson’s.

Speaking of which, I’m sure you’ve seen Ken Burns’ baseball documentary. I can admit without shame that I cried throughout that thing. I was like, “Oh, poor Jackie Robinson! Those fucking fans killed him!” Sob.

I agree that Bull Durham was Costner’s shining moment. I used to like him, but he lost it at some point. It wasn’t a specific movie, as per Robin Hood. He just kind of lost his archetypal American quality, which made him seem a bit like a throwback to the days of John Ford or something.

Comment by D.R. Haney |Edit This
2009-10-14 18:48:09

Oh, and thanks, Lou, for reading and recommending my novel. I increasingly see it as a kind of Victorian orphan, singing for its supper on frosty streets, and every kindness shown it is greatly appreciated.

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-15 01:39:27

It’s the kind of orphan that is secretly the dauphin.

Comment by D.R. Haney |Edit This
2009-10-15 08:06:06

And you’re a prince.

Wait. That’s the same as a dauphin, huh? Well, you’re a prince anyway.

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-14 05:17:46

Lou (or Lieu):

Major League is a comedy that uses baseball as its subject.

Bull Durham is a baseball movie. There’s a difference.

And I don’t think anyone would argue with you that it’s not the best baseball movie of all time. Field of Dreams is too mawkish, and The Natural is too fantastical.

Oh, wait. I’m forgetting about John Goodman in The Babe

2009-10-14 04:57:27

Hey Greg:

I once had a Rollie Fingers baseball trading card. I valued that thing to no end. I always thought that guy looked so hella cool in his handlebar.

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-14 05:18:27

Yeah, he was awesome.

Have you ever tried the handlebar, Rich? I think you could pull it off.

Comment by Dana |Edit This
2009-10-14 06:52:48

Greg,
Firstly, I can’t believe I haven’t read your book yet. I’m off to order it right this second.

Secondly, I’m so sorry for your loss. I am a fairly recent convert (5 or 6 years?) to America’s pastime and now that my Tigers are out of the running (major chokeage) I am discombobulated. It’s weird to just completely disregard the sports section in the morning paper. I hope I never lose my love. I would entirely agree with your assessment of Buck and McCarver.

Great piece, and especially loved the closing 2 paragraphs!

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-14 07:36:39

Thanks, Dana. My book has only been out for two weeks, and I thank you for getting it (and in an order with such esteemed company, no less).

The Tigers. Oh, brother. Long as they have Leyland at the helm, they have a shot. One of these years. Would make my father-in-law so happy…

Glad you liked the last two grafs. I’m fond of the Cardinals line.

Comment by Dana |Edit This
2009-10-14 09:05:00

Oh wow! I thought it had been out for awhile. Glad to be in on the ground floor.

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Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-14 17:42:33

Nope, you’re one of the trendsetters and tastemakers. Were this a pyramid scheme, you’d be in a position to totally make money.

Thanks again.
G

Comment by Dana |Edit This
2009-10-14 06:57:33

Besides Greg’s book, I ordered Jonathon’s and D.R.’s too. Wee – can’t hardly wait!

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-14 07:37:08

Thanks. Lulu and BFL are both fantastic.

Comment by D.R. Haney |Edit This
2009-10-14 16:01:56

I appreciate it, Dana. And thanks as always to Greg for his kind remarks.

Comment by Reno |Edit This
2009-10-14 08:28:37

greg that was a cool post. sports are cool and i like it when folk write about them. unfortunately, i’m not a baseball fan. but i have a lot of respect for the sport (skill, strategy, etc). people LOVE baseball. you are one of them.

when i was a kid growing up in L.A i went to what seemed like 100s of b-balls games. i saw them all play. garvey. the penguin. rick monday. fernando v. reggie smith.

but i was a Reds. fan. pete rose was my idol and i used to bat like him – that fucking bat flat on my shoulder. ah, those were the days!

thanks for taking me back, bro. happy baseball and may you have many happy Number Twos.

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-14 08:51:12

Thanks, Reno. I’ve been enjoying your football posts (I watch more football than anything else these days). Keep ‘em coming!

G

PS
Did you see Ron Cey get smacked in the head that time? He was a Dodger then, right?

Comment by Aaron Dietz |Edit This
2009-10-14 17:36:40

I always wished they’d just make steroids acceptable. You sign your Major League contract. And if you want to do steroids, you sign something that says, “I know what they’ll do to me and I don’t care.”

I’m all for transparency.

But these days, I have a hard time cheering for a bunch of millionaires playing a game, anyway.

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-14 17:40:46

It would be like that old SNL sketch about the drug Olympics. “He’s…he’s ripped his arms off. Tough break for the Russian.”

In Babe Ruth’s day, the fences were 70 feet or so farther out. That seems to me more of a significant factor than whatever Roger Clemens might have been sticking in his ass.

Comment by jmb |Edit This
2009-10-14 18:55:19

As tragic as that mustache is you have to admire a time
when a ball club would say
“nope, you gotta shave it”
and a guy would reply
“pass. I’ll retire.”

I cannot imagine anything like that happening today.

Comment by Greg Olear |Edit This
2009-10-15 01:35:02

Certainly it would merit a full story, and maybe a Letterman appearance — not just a blurb near the box scores. Ah, principle. We hardly knew ye.

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GREG OLEAR is the Los Angeles Times bestselling author of the novels Totally Killer and Fathermucker and founding editor of The Weeklings.

One response to “And Some Get Rained Out”

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