The end of the Michelin-man era. Ball players are noticeably leaner. Team focus is on speed, defense, skill positions — all the makings of a small-ball renaissance. The economy drives a renewed focus on farm systems and growing from within, as opposed to spending from without.
Prospects for my personal albatross, the White Sox, are poor this season, ideally a transition-on-the-fly — from Dye and Konerko and Thome to Beckham and Getz and Poreda. Which is disheartening, especially with the prospect of a flush Cubs team.
But I’m looking forward to a great year.
Good announcers make the difference. In short order, Harrelson and Stone have proven to be a delight.
Good announcing teams make bad games tolerable, good games treasures. During Thursday night’s 1-hitter by Buehrle, we listened to Hawk’s memories of Catfish Hunter and priceless banter about Mickey Tettleton and the immortal John Wockenfuss. Great stuff from my buddies for the next five months.
In today’s Chicago Sun Times, writer Joe Cowley reflects on a more sober White Sox clubhouse. In past years, the team was animated by characters more reminiscent of the players who populated the books of Mark Harris, “Bang the Drum Slowly” in particular (originally a “US Steel Hour” TV drama with Paul Newman as catcher Bruce Pearson, a role that De Niro played in the 1973 movie directed by John Hancock). Cowley writes:
No longer heard in the clubhouse is Juan Uribe calling Mark Buehrle ”Bailey” because that was the only way Uribe could pronounce his name. Or Uribe calling his teammates ”white people” because, for the most part, he didn’t know their names.
In Harris’ book, pitcher Henry Wiggen is the narrator. By virtue of his having written a previous book about his rookie season on the New York Mammoths (“The Southpaw,” also by Harris), his nickname is “Author.” Pearson, who can’t get most things right, calls him ‘Arthur.’
Which is to say that BTDS is a gem of a baseball novel (in a Ring Lardner/Mark Twain mode), the movie is underappreciated (Vincent Gardenia as Manager Dutch Schnell is particularly memorable), and it’s a primer for anyone interested in learning the intricacies of the card game TEGWAR — “The Exciting Game Without Any Rules.”
And that, crazy as he is, the Sox miss Uribe, his total lack of self-control, his ability to run sideways like a lizard (maybe even breathe through his eyelids like a lizard), his home-run minstrel-hands pose, and his voodoo whisper ‘Pro-fundo’ to the assembled in the dugout after each dinger.
AJ calling to brag about his resemblance to Wm. Howard Taft (via Chicago Tribune)
Octavio, among others members of the White Sox who visited the White House yesterday, was a bit star-struck. From today’s Tribune story:
“I saw the opportunity to ask for a hug,” Dotel, 35, said after the team returned to its Baltimore hotel. “He said, ‘Of course.’ That was really nice of him. He knows a lot about us. He noticed that we’ve been playing well lately. He’s a big fan. I can tell he really enjoyed [the visit].”
Ozzie was a no-show, so Obama didn’t get the opty to ask Ozzie to be ambassador to the Evil Latin American Empire (old name).
You can’t do much better than have the Prez wearing your hat and claiming that Harold Baines is his favorite player. USA Today mulls how the black hat with Gothic-script “SOX,” once a rap-star favorite, is now the international symbol for Obama’s USA.
The Sox, meanwhile, have been blocked by MLB from making caps with Obama logo, and t-shirt manufacturers have been stymied in attempts to create hybrids.
Sometimes, the best marketing/branding is no marketing/branding, when monkeying around dilute the authenticity of it. Grab a black slouch hat, tune in on Hawk and Stoney, and enjoy. It’s baseball time.
Paul Phipps, courtest MetroWest Daily News
The Massachusetts-based MetroWest Daily News tells the story of Paul Phipps, who, in 1946, defied Marine segregation and and caught for a black baseball squad.
Thinking about baseball and the impact of a new Administration. Both, hopefully, arbingers of a thaw.
In marking the death of John Updike, The Boston Globe republishes two terrific pieces. The first, a Bob Ryan column printed last September, is a reminiscence of a simpler time, September, 1960 to be exact, when a 28-year-old was among 10,000 odd persons who went to Fenway Park to watch Ted Williams play in his last game.
That 28-year-old was John Updike, and the upshot was “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu” published in the October 22, 1960 issue of the New Yorker and the second piece provided by the Globe.
The essay is by a young writer in full, brave and measured, delicious and affecting. Especially if you have any feeling for what goes on inside what Updike calls a “compromise between Man’s Euclidian determinations and Nature’s beguiling irregularities.”
Thanks to reader JC for awakening my nostalgia.
I’m late, but I want to make sure that the blog memorializes my favorite statement ever from Ozzie Guillen. Ten syllables — as close as he’ll ever get to haiku:
Now we have to fight like a cat —