Saturday, May 31, 2008

It feels like the '80s all over again.

I'm a student at Northeastern. I'm writing this on an Apple IIe and uploading it to Compuserve on a 300bps modem. I walk, take the T or ride my bike everywhere because I don't own a car. Ronald Reagan is president. I do my banking at Bank of New England. Shopping can be done at Jordan Marsh, Filene's, Caldor, Bradlees or Lechemere.

And the Celtics are playing the Lakers in the NBA Finals.

Boston put all the talk about not being able to win on the road to sleep with last night's stirring comeback win. The New Three came up big. James Posey will never have to buy a beer in this town again, seeming to be everywhere on defense in the fourth quarter.

It's on to the Finals for the first time since 1987. See ya Thursday night.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Before we get into the New York trip, a few random things from around the universe:

- It's May 30 and the two Florida teams are in first place in their respective divisions. It's a great story. It's a shame, however, that attendance in Tampa and Miami haven't reflected the unexpected success of these two teams.

- Speaking of Florida, I actually heard some yahoo call WEEI and complain about the trade that sent Hanley Ramirez to the Marlins and brought the Sox Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell. Yes, Ramirez is one of the top players in the game and probably will be for the next decade. Would he look great playing short for the Sox? He sure would. But we got Mike Lowell and Josh Beckett!!! This is a classic case of a trade that was good for both teams.

- Two important figures from the days of the Original Star Trek series passed away this week. Joseph Pevney directed 14 episodes of Star Trek including two of the best in the opinion of most fans: "City on the Edge of Forever" and "The Trouble with Tribbles." Alexander Courage wrote the theme music for the series. According to his obituary on the Film Music Society Web site, "Courage's eight-note brass signature for the Enterprise may be the single best-known fanfare in the world." It was heard in all three seasons of the original series, all seven seasons of TNG and in all 10 feature films, plus the trailer for the new movie due next year. There are very few things that say "Star Trek" quite like those eight notes.

- I probably harp on this too much, but this is from the "money can't buy me love (or wins)" department. There are 10 teams with payrolls of $100 million or more (Yankees, Tigers, Mets, Red Sox, White Sox, Angels, Dodgers, Cubs, Mariners and Braves). Just about two months into the season, four are in playoff positions (Red Sox, White Sox, Angels, Cubs). Of the other six, four (Yankees, Tigers, Mariners and Dodgers) are sub-.500. The Yankees and Mariners are in last place in their divisions and Seattle is tied with the Rockies for the worst record in baseball. The Mets are at .500 and the Braves are four games over. It's not just about the money, at least when it comes to constructing a roster.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Vintage Base Ball Press Conference - Part 2:

After finding the entrance to Matthew's Salad House I stepped inside the warehouse. No one seemed to be around, so I waited a minute and one of the workers came along. I asked if he could tell me where I could find my contact, Dave Matthews (no, really). He said "Upstairs." I walked up three flights of stairs to what appeared to be a bunch of deserted offices. I walked down the hall and heard some voices and found two men sitting in a conference room. One said, "Can I help you?" I said that I was a friend of Jim Bouton's and I was looking for Dave Matthews (not the famous one). He said that they were in the middle of a meeting and if I could wait downstairs for 10 minutes, someone would be down to help me.

At this point I was beginning to think it would have been easier to go to Stop & Shop and buy the hot dogs myself. However, just about 10 minutes later one of the two guys from the conference room (not Dave Matthews) came down and took me to his office. He was very nice, called the Hebrew National sales rep for authorization, and took me through the warehouse to where the hot dogs were kept. A few minutes later I was on my way with 20 pounds of Hebrew National's finest.

By the way, do you know that 20 pounds of hot dogs get pretty heavy if you carry them for three blocks (the distance from my parking space to my office)?

Fast forward to Wednesday morning. It started out a beautiful sunny day and after a quick stop at Starbucks I hopped on the Mass Pike for the drive to Westfield. I get there a bit after 11, about an hour before the press conference is to begin. I see Jim and Chip Elitzer, put on a "vintage" cap and suspenders and meet up with some vintage ballplayers from the Westfield Wheelmen, Hartford Senators and Whatley Pioneers.

The press conference itself went very well. Jim talked about the upcoming games and the 19th century ballpark that he is propsing. It appeared that there was a good chance we had a developer lined up to build the ballpark, but it turned out the FAA owned part of the land and was required to get market value for it (about four times the original estimate of what it would take to acquire). There are a couple of other potential sites in Westfield for the ballpark, and Hartford and Stamford, CT are interested as well.

I think Westfield would be a great place for this, personally. Because the ballpark would be built in a 19th century style, it would cost about half of what a comparable "modern" minor league ballpark would cost (about $12-15 million vs. $25-30 million). It would even have poles, just like ballparks would have had back then. The ballpark would be home to a professional minor league team, vintage games when the pro team is on the road, and would be the permanent home of our World Championship. With the combination of this new ballpark and the Basketball Hall of Fame in nearby Springfield, the area could become a real sports vacation destination.

The press conference wrapped up and the attendees had eaten only half the hot dogs (60 out of 120). Since I had the cooler, I got to bring them home. Most of them are still sitting in my freezer, but I'm sure they'll disappear as the summer progresses.

All in all, it was a good time and I got a couple of memorable stories out of the experience. What else can you ask for?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

It all started on Friday nearly two weeks ago. We were finishing up dinner and the phone rang. Jim Bouton was on the line.

OK, I'm still getting over the fact that former All-Star player and author of maybe the most famous baseball book ever actually calls my house, but that's just me.

A few days prior to that, I had gotten an email from Jim saying that the Vintage Base Ball Federation was going to be having a press conference in Westfield, MA on May 21 to announce the second annual Vintage Base Ball playoffs and World Championship. I decided to take the day off and go out to Westfield City Hall for the press conference and let Jim know I was coming.

Jim asked me if I was anywhere near Charlestown, MA. I told him that I didn't live particularly close, but I didn't work too far away. Jim told me that one of our heritage sponsors, Hebrew National, was providing a case of hot dogs for the press conference and the local distributor was in Charlestown. Would I be able to go pick them up and save him a 5 hour round trip from the Berkshires?

Of course I said yes, I was glad to help. Jim gave me the name of the distributor, the address, and a contact name.

Monday morning comes and I load up my car with a cooler filled with ice packs and drive into work. I figured I would drive over on my lunch hour, grab the hot dogs and stick them in the office fridge until I went home. I also brought my GPS, since I'm not real familiar with Charlestown. Other than the occassional trip to see the USS Constitution and visits to an office the company I work for used to have there, I haven't spent much time there. And I almost always took the T, so my knowledge of the local roads is even less.

I called the distributor Monday morning and spoke to the receptionist, who told me to come by between 1 and 3. I left South Boston at 1 and drove over to Charlestown.

It was a really good thing I had my GPS, because I could have easily spent an hour driving around trying to find this place. Even with it, I managed to miss a turn on a rotary and had to retrace my steps a bit.

So I get to where I'm supposed to be and look for 521 Medford St. I see various addresses higher and lower, but can't find 521. I can't figure out what else to do, so I go into the first likely looking door and ask if they know where "Matthew's Salad House" is. A helpful fellow says that it's around the side of the building. I find a very faded sign pointing it out and go in.

It's getting late, and this is getting long. We'll have the exciting conclusion tomorrow night!

Monday, May 26, 2008

I know I haven't posted in a few days. It's been really busy. I'm writing this on my Touch on the way back from our trip to New York City, where we have been since Friday.

One thing I discovered is that Blogger doesn't seem to like the iPhone/iPod Touch version of Safari. I wasn't able to enter any text. If I had, I would have posted last night.

I have a lot to write about over the next few days. Last Wednesday we had a press conference for the 2008 Vintage Base Ball Playoffs and World Championship (can't use World Series anymore since MLB has armies of lawyers and we don't). Then I will write about our trip to NYC, which was great. More to come!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Liveblogging the 9th inning of tonight's Sox-Royals game. Jon Lester has yet to give up a hit.
Sox up 7-0.

Esteban German up first. Lester throws three balls then a 3-0 strike. Ball four follows that and German is on first.

Tony Pena up next. Hit's a high bouncing ball to Lowell, who throws across the diamond to Youk for the out. One down, German on second.

David DeJesus batting. First pitch is inside for a ball. 1-1 now. Just off the outside corner for a ball, 2-1. DeJesus swings and misses on a cut fastball, 2-2. Ground ball to Youk, which he scoops up and takes himself. Two out, German moves to third.

Alberto Callaspo up. 0-2 to the batter. One to go. Tried to get him to chase a high fastball, but he waits on it for ball 1. Lester pitches, Callaspo swings and misses. Strike 3! Game over. No-hitter for Lester!!!!!!

OK, a little backstory. We listened to the game on the way home from J's game, and caught a bit on TV when we stopped at a local pizza place for my dinner (the kids refused to leave while Big Papi was batting; I couldn't be more proud). When we got home we watched until the 5th and I put the kids to bed.

After they got to bed, I did a couple of things around the house, checked my email, sent a couple of tweets, and then turned the TV back on. I saw the last out of the top of the 8th and caught Orsillo saying something about a "historic night at Fenway".

I quickly figured out what was going on, watched the Sox go down in the bottom of the 8th and grabbed the laptop to record the 9th for posterity.

Lester becomes the first Red Sox lefty to throw a no-hitter since Mel Parnell in 1956. Congratulations, Jon Lester!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Spending a lot of money on payroll does not guarantee success, at least in the short run. It's kind of a baseball truism, but looking at this morning's standings gives a pretty dramatic read of things.

I know it's not even Memorial Day yet and things could change quite a bit before the end of the year, but as I was reading the Sunday Globe sports page I noticed this. Here are the records, place in the standings and total payroll of the top 3 and bottom 3 teams in total salaries (according to the USA Today database).

Top 3 payroll teams:
New York Yankees, last place in AL East, 20-23, $209,081,577
New York Mets, 3rd place in NL East, 21-19, $137,793,376
Detroit Tigers, last place in AL Central, 17-26, $137,685,196

The total record for all 3 teams is 58-68, a .460 winning percentage.

Bottom 3 payroll teams:
Florida Marlins, 1st place in NL East, 24-18, $21,811,500
Tampa Bay Rays, tied for 1st place in AL East, 25-18, $43,820,597
Oakland A's, 2nd place in AL West, 24-20, $47,967,126

The total record for these 3 teams is 73-56, a .566 winning percentage.

Now I don't expect these results to hold up over 162 games, but the discrepancy is pretty interesting, isn't it?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

8 things my kids don't get that were common when I was their age:
  • Paper encyclopedias
  • Over the air TV
  • Vinyl records
  • Getting together a bunch of kids to play a pickup game of baseball, touch football, street hockey, basketball, etc. (I find this one kind of sad).
  • Having to watch a TV show when it's actually scheduled.
  • Riding a bike without a helmet (this one's a good thing. Read this.)
  • Having to consider the expense before making a long distance call.
  • Being able to walk up to Fenway Park at game time and get a decent seat for a Red Sox game for a reasonable amount of money.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

- After a promising start in Detroit, the Sox had a rough time of it in Minnesota and Baltimore, going 4-6 on the 10 game road trip. What's up with Hideki Okajima and inherited runners? He's allowed 11 of 14 to score so far this year, compared to only 4 of 28 in all of 2007. He really needs to get back on track with this.

- Did you see the unstoppable awesomeness that is Manny Ramirez yesterday? Manny makes a great catch, high fives a guy in a Red Sox jersey in the stands, and then throws to Pedroia at first to double up Aubrey Huff. If that isn't the definition of "awesome", what is?

- If I gave you 10-1 odds on April 1 that both the Florida Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays would be in first place on the morning of May 15, would you have taken the bet?

- The Vintage Base Ball Federation northeast playoffs and World Championship are happening the weekends of July 18-20, July 25-27 and August 14-17 at Bullens Field in Westfield, MA. Go here for more information, and check out the new brochure. I'm heading out to Westfield for a kickoff press conference next Wednesday and I'll have a full report on the proceedings.

Monday, May 12, 2008

If you are a fan of Battlestar Galactica, the new or old version, check this out. And if you're not a fan, what are you waiting for? Go put the pilot movie and the series in your Netflix queue and get caught up!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A few things on a Saturday evening...

- This is post number 800 to my blog. Woo-hoo!

- You may have heard that Hanley Ramirez signed a six-year, $70 million contract with the Marlins. This comes shortly after Evan Longoria of the Rays signed a long-term deal with the team. Does it make sense for young players to give up years of free agency for the security of a long term deal? I would say yes. Is Ramirez's life going to be significantly different if he makes, say, $90 million instead of $70 million? Of course not. But if he gets injured tomorrow he's set for life.

- Saw Iron Man today with J. No spoilers here, but I agree with the majority opinion; it's a great super-hero movie. Robert Downey, Jr. is perfectly cast as Tony Stark, and Jeff Bridges seems to love playing the bald, bearded bad guy. Go check it out.

- Speaking of Iron Man, check this out. Marvel and DC's summer movie tentpoles discuss their similarities and differences. Thanks to The Hey for pointing it out.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

I watched the excellent PBS documentary about Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente. It was very well done and I recommend checking it out if you get a chance.

Clemente is one of those players I never saw play that I wish I had. He had a rifle arm, was a great hitter and played all out. It got me to thinking about other ballplayers that played before my time. If I had a time machine (preferably a DeLorean with a flux capacitor installed), which players would I go back and see?

Here's my list of 10, in no real order. I put a little explanation of my thought process after each one.

1. Babe Ruth: Well, duh. Who else would be first?

2. Jackie Robinson: I think I would want to see a road game, early in his career, just to get a sense of what he had to go through. It must have been unbearable, and the fact that he took it when he knew fighting back would have set back his cause is a part of what makes him such a hero to me.

3. Ted Williams: I saw him play in an old-timers game at Fenway, but that hardly counts. He's the greatest Red Sox player. Do I need another reason?

4. Dizzy Dean: Ol' Diz was such a fascinating character and a great pitcher.

5. Satchel Paige: He was as dominating a pitcher as there was in his prime.

6. Sandy Koufax: Perhaps the best pitcher ever over a short period of time.

7. Jim Bouton: He's on this list mostly because he's my friend and I would have loved to have seen him pitch in his early years with the Yankees when he was a 20 game winner for a World Series team.

8. Willie Mays: Another "duh".

9. Roberto Clemente: As explained above.

10. Hank Aaron: I saw him at the end of his career, but it would have been a lot of fun to see him play in his prime.

I could probably put 50 more players on this list, but I think that's a good top 10. Who's on your list?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

This was the second greatest game ever played at McCoy Stadium (after The Longest Game, of course). Former rookies-of-the-year, Mark "The Bird" Fidrych and Dave Righetti hooked up in a classic game won by the Pawsox over the Yankees top farm team at the time, the Columbus Clippers.

The number of people wedged into the ballpark was astonishing. There were people everywhere; around 9,000 in a ballpark that held less than 7,000. It was an amazing experience to be there that night.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

I had a fabulous night at Fenway yesterday with the kids.

It started out looking iffy. The weather was rainy and cold all day. I kept an eye on both the weather and all day to see if the game was going to be canceled, but I knew the Sox would want to get the game in if at all possible. Heck, the waited through a two-hour plus rain delay on Friday. So J. and I left the house, picked up R., who was at a birthday party, and headed for Boston.

Given that it was a night game and the kids had to get up for Sunday school the next morning, I decided to bite the bullet and park near the ballpark. So, $35 later I had a space in the Ipswich St. Garage across the street from Gate B. It was still drizzling a bit, so instead of going into the ballpark the three of us walked over to Uburger in Kenmore Square.

Allow me to go off on a bit of a tangent here. If you are looking for dinner before a ballgame near Fenway and don't care about drinking alcohol, Uburger is the place. It's fast food, but everything is totally fresh made. The three of us had burgers and fries, and everything was excellent. Try it sometime.

After dinner we headed back over to Fenway and got to our bleacher seats just as the first inning was starting. Beckett and James Shields hooked up in a rematch of last weeks game in Tampa, in which Shields pitched a complete game shutout. It was hard to believe this was the same guy. Shields only lasted 3.2 innings, giving up seven runs on 10 hits. The Sox offense finally woke up this weekend after a slump in which they only scored four runs in five games. Jason Varitek led the way with 3 RBI. Papi, Manny and J.D. Drew had two each. Manny also threw out my fellow Northeastern alum Carlos Pena trying to tag up and score. The crowd, including me, just went nuts on that one.

Beckett wasn't dominating, but was more than good enough to win with all the offensive support he got. He pitched eight innings in the 12-4 win.

It's been a long time since I sat out in the bleachers. We had a decent view. I actually find the bleachers to be a better spot than many of the right field seats, since you don't have to deal with poles and you are looking toward home plate. I was a regular out in the bleachers in my college years. Two big differences between then and now: first, it's a lot more crowded. Most nights the bleachers were only about half full. Second, tickets back then were $3. Today, $26.

The kids had a blast. We scored the game, cheered for the Sox, sung and danced to Sweet Caroline and ate the worlds most expensive Cracker Jack. A woman sitting behind us chatted with the kids and told J. that he had to "protect" her with his glove in case one of the Sox big power hitters blasted a home run our way.

The best part of the night may have been that we didn't see a drop of rain once we got into the ballpark. It was a bit chilly, but not windy so it wasn't hard to take.

We have two more games out there this season, and I think we're all looking forward to our next Fenway visit against the Cardinals next month.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Thanks to The Hey, I got to go to my first NBA playoff game last night. He managed to get a couple of tickets up in the balcony ($12! How can you beat that?)

I'm not going to do a recap of the game, except to say that the Celtics dominated Atlanta the way they should have all throughout this series. Smothering defense and good offense (six players in double figures) led to a 110-85 win for the Green.

We met at a cool sports pub on Portland St. near the Gahden called Porters. Good food (I had the Cubano sandwich), cold beer (Sam lager for me, but a good selection of others on tap) and a great pregame atmosphere made it a fun choice. I really liked that it's not as crazy as some of the better known places like The Fours..

After dinner we headed over to the Garden. Reebok was kind enough to hand out free Celtics T-shirts, which was a nice bonus. We headed to our seats and you could just feel the electric atmosphere in the building. After the two losses in Atlanta, you could tell the crowd was ready to get behind the Celtics. The fans were loud, excited and all over the Hawks, especially Mike Bibby. Every time Bibby touched the ball he was booed.

Things did go a bit over the top from time to time. The biggest one, I thought, was when the Hawks Al Horford was poked in the eye late in the game. As Horford tried to recover, the crowd chanted "You're a pussy".

Of course, Horford saw fit to taunt Paul Pierce earlier in the series so you reap what you sow.

The one drawback was the late start of last night's game. It didn't actually start until about 8:45 (Thanks, TNT!) That meant that it didn't end until after 11, and by the time I took the T back to Woodland station and drove home, it was about 12:30 in the morning. Fortunately, we had R's parent-teacher conference this morning, so I was able to get away with sleeping until 7 instead of 5:30 AM. I was still dragging a bit today, but it was well worth it.

Game 6 is tomorrow night back in Atlanta. Let's hope the Celtics can end this thing and move on to the next round. We have already let the Hawks hang around too long.

eXTReMe Tracker