September 2010 Archives

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Gosh, I can't imagine what life is like for all you non-Yankees fans, constantly cheering for runners-up, losers, and second-place teams. Looks like the Yankees have finished in first place again. Unfortunately, it's one of them races you don't want to win:

More than a quarter-million people in the South Bronx are living in poverty, making Rep. Jose Serrano's 16th Congressional District the poorest in the nation, according to the U.S. Census Bureau

The South Bronx had 256,544, or 38%, of its residents living below the poverty line, the new county-by-county Census stats show. The figures are worse for children, with 49% living in poverty.

New Yankee Stadium (and the gigantic dirt spot that was once Old Yankee Stadium) reside smack dab in the middle of the 16th Congressional District. It's a gigantic shrine to massive wealth and it comes complete with a chintzy Hard Rock Cafe and a fancy, upscale steakhouse where the grill cook brands every bone-in ribeye with the interlocking N-Y. So you can imagine what a strange contrast it is that the richest team in all American sports plays their games in the poorest place in the country.

Here's a solution for Rep. Serrano if he wants to push the number of people living in poverty down a bit: open up some cots and force the New York Yankees players, coaches, television guys, and the team's season ticket holders to shack up at the Stadium! Every night will be like a slumber party. We can all stay up and tell ghost stories and give each other makeovers and prank call cute boys. That should raise the total South Bronx population by enough that we'll drive the poverty level under 30%. Success! Suck on it, second poorest Congressional district in Detroit!

Or, you know, players like Curtis Granderson and CC Sabathia can continue to be super-charitable and help bring some of these young folks up with education and athletics. We should all be so charitable, especially to the children.

So join me now, and donate some dollars to the Food Bank of New York City. It's the least we can do to help out some folks in need.

UPDATE: (or as Matt_T suggests, act locally)

Vince Naimoli Signs Books In The Room From "No Exit"

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For the past couple years I've sat here watching the Raysaissance and guys like old GM Chuck LaMar and original owner Vince Naimoli try and glom some credit whereever they could. I've savaged LaMar and attacked Naimoli but nothing I've written has been so coldly effective as Lane DeGregory's story about Naimoli's recent book signing. I'd like to excerpt the entire thing in a blockquote but that's kinda frowned upon so please read it. I'll just pull out some of the super extra most depressing parts.

The headline calls Naimoli "out of the spotlight" showcasing DeGregory's complete mastery of understatement.

Alone.

In the back of Haslam's bookstore.

Reading his memoir.

"VINCE NAIMOLI," screamed the hardback's gold headline, in inch-high, all capital letters. Business, Baseball & Beyond, whispered the white subhead on the glossy cover. Last fall, Naimoli published 5,000 copies.

Someone had shoved a round wooden table into the aisle between shelves labeled Business and Baseball. Someone had poured cranberry juice into a cut-glass bowl, set out a tray of Pepperidge Farm cookies.

Twenty minutes after the signing was scheduled to begin, no one had even looked at one of Naimoli's books.

Oh god, I can't take the crushing sadness. The thing about the cranberry juice and the Pepperidge Farm cookies is so note perfect I feel like it got pulled from a Richard Ford novel. I need one of those lightboxes they give people with Seasonal Affective Disorder to get through the rest of this. Am I changing? Do I feel... bad for this old man? Oh, wait. Nope.

"When we do win our first World Series championship," he wrote in the book's ending, "I'll be bursting with pride. And curious: Will people remember how it all began? How I helped make their dream come true?"

Epic sigh. It all STARTED when you gave up control of the team a couple years ago and... you know what. I can't type this again. I just can't. You've broken me.

The man who once berated a lowly traffic cop with the classic "Don't you know who I am?" compares himself to Clint Eastwood in the book. This guy. Let's get back to the existential nothingness.

Naimoli said he was donating the proceeds from his $24.99 book to college scholarships.

Maybe that's why he stayed.

For more than an hour, he sat at that table, talking to store workers, answering customers' questions. Hardly anyone asked about him. A half-dozen people asked about the Rays.

Three hours before the first pitch, Naimoli had signed one book for a man named Lou. When a disheveled man walked up, rubbing his forehead, he looked hopeful. "I have a weird question," the man said. Naimoli nodded and smiled. "Isn't Ted Williams' body frozen somewhere?"

Oh, to be a fly in the New Age/Spirituality section when that drunken kook showed up. I feel like the ennui in that room was so thick that there's no way DeGregory can't be tainted by it now. I don't even want to meet her. I don't want to come in contact with anyone that was in that bookstore on that night or any night since.

Enjoy your $25 scholarship, Vince Naimoli protege. I think we can safely call this tome a tough sell.

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See that display case over to the right? Looks a bit empty, no? That's an exhibit case at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown dedicated to "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, the star hitter of the 1919 Black Sox. Sure, Jackson is still not enshrined officially in the Hall of Fame, but that didn't stop HOF officials from stockpiling some historic Shoeless Joe memorabilia, including a game-worn jersey and a mitt. Or so they thought.

Thanks to the hard work and sleuthing of Peter Nash at the blog Hauls of Shame, a 1919 Joe Jackson glove and jersey that used to sit in that display case have been found to be sheer and utter frauds. Both items were acquired by the Hall of Fame in a 175-item, eight-million-dollar purchase from New Jersey collector Barry Halper. The jersey appears to have been made by the wrong manufacturer and didn't even match the style of jersey that the White Sox wore that season. Also they found a Cheez Whiz stain on the sleeve and that stuff wasn't introduced until the 1950s.

As for the glove:

In addition, the report exposed conflicting public statements made by Halper as to his acquisition of the jersey and several other Jackson items, including the glove displayed at the Hall of Fame. In The Sporting News of February, 1985, Halper stated he'd purchased the materials "recently" in a cash transaction through the mail from Jackson's relatives. However, by the time of the MLB purchase in 1998, Halper had changed his story, stating that he'd acquired his Jackson items directly from Jackson's widow on a visit to her home in the 1950's.

Liar, liar, pants afire. Nash goes on to describe a coverup in Cooperstown involving stolen items like photographs, documents, and the hearts and souls of every Bert Blyleven fan. A 1905 photo of Christy Mathewson once in the possession of the HOF sold for $12,000 at auction in 2008.

It's a simmering scandal, no doubt, and one that Nash thinks the state of New York should investigate. Go read his piece and learn that it's not just Joe Jackson's exclusion that is the most despicable thing about Cooperstown.

(via Baseball Think Factory Newsblog)

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, hey friends, hey enemies, hey passerby.


We'll see you all tomorrow where the rubber meets the road. Same WoW channel.
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Something magical happened in Fall of 2008 for progressive dudes Barack Obama and David Price. Obama was on his way to a historic victory in the Presidential election and Price was a surprising young reliever for the American League champion Tampa Bay Rays. Their worlds collided the day after the Rays defeated the Red Sox in Game Seven of the ALCS when Price and some of his teammates campaigned for Obama, prompting Walkoff Walk to dub Price "the Barack Obama of baseball".

But both gentlemen have created a flap recently by criticizing their respective constituencies for their perceived uncaring attitudes. To wit, here's President Barack Obama speaking out against Democratic voter apathy in a Rolling Stone interview to be published on Friday:

"People need to shake off this lethargy. People need to buck up. Making change happen is hard and if people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren't serious in the first place. It is inexcusable for any Democrat or progressive right now to stand on the sidelines in this midterm election."

And here is David Price, commenting on his Twitter feed, about the low attendance at Tropicana Field for a game in which the Rays could have tied up a playoff spot:


We've already hollered at Joe Maddon for ignoring extenuating circumstances when criticizing the Rays fanbase for not showing up. And as for Obama, well, the American people just don't respond well to lecturing by smart folks. They're far too dumb. Both guys done goofed by calling out their base when they should have been encouraging them with positive support.

Because as the proverb goes, you can draw more flies with raw organic forest honey than with sherry vinegar. The average American voter, like the typical Tampa Bay Rays fan, has the memory capacity of a housefly, so you better treat 'em well right now. They don't seem to remember the good times you had in 2008.

Ken Burns' original nine-part documentary Baseball debuted in 1994, just as the strike had canceled the World Series and the future of the national pastime was in great doubt. Sixteen years later, Burns finished his update to the doc entitled The Tenth Inning, and it's finally premiering tonight on your local PBS station. Some pretty huge stories will be covered in this sequel-that's-not-a-sequel, including the Red Sox putting an end to nigh a century of misery, Mark McGwire's and Barry Bonds' pursuit of home run records and pharmaceuticals, and a movie about a dog that plays baseball.

But of course, there's a limit to how many stories Mr. Burns can cover in a few hours of panning photographs with twangy bluegrass music in the background. So many important and groundbreaking things have happened in the last sixteen years that it was inevitable that some stories would end up on the cutting room floor. Here then are the top ten events that Ken Burns (presumably) did not cover in The Tenth Inning:

10. In 2006, Albert Belle sentenced to 90 days in jail for stalking his ex-girlfriend by attaching a GPS tracking device to her car. Belle denies that he ever dated her and that she was, in fact, a hooker.

9. The Universal Pictures feature film Ed, which starred Matt LeBlanc as a talented pitcher and a chimp as a chimp, receives a whopping three nominations at the 1996 Razzie Awards including "Worst Screen Couple" for LeBlanc and his simian companion.

8. Intoxicated Chicago White Sox fan William Ligue and his white trash son jump out of the Comiskey Park stands in 2002 and pummel Royals first base coach Tom Gamboa, seemingly unprovoked.

7. Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa suffers a severe back injury in May 2004 when, while relaxing on a barcalounger in the visitors clubhouse at Petco Park, he sneezes violently and causes back spasms. He'll be placed on the DL and never regain his sweet swing or his natural skin color.

6. In 2007, this happened:


5. Former relief pitcher John Rocker walks off the set of ESPN's terrible morning show "Cold Pizza" when informed that they would ask him about his infamous January 2000 racist/sexist/homophobic comments to a Sports Illustrated reporter. Later that day, he strikes out Will Leitch in Bryant Park.

4. Walkoff Walk's very own Kris Liakos challenges Jose Canseco to a fight in May 2008. Later, Liakos challenges John Lackey, Chris Volstad, Gaby Sanchez, and Jeffrey Loria to a thirties-style boxing match.

3. Randy Johnson strikes a blow for ornithophobiacs everywhere in a 2001 spring training game when he does this:


2. In a move totally not related to nepotism in any way at all possibly in 1996, a 27-year-old Joe Buck is named as the lead play-by-play voice for Major League Baseball games on the FOX television network. He'll call World Series games, All Star games, Mark McGwire's record-breaking game, and, in 2008, admit that he doesn't enjoy baseball anymore. Nonetheless, Joe Buck, with his dry wit and shitty attitude, remains the lead play-by-play guy for MLB on FOX.

And the most important baseball story of the past sixteen years that will not be featured in Ken Burns' "The Tenth Inning" documentary, premiering tonight on your local PBS station:

1. Rinku and Dinesh's baseball yatra becomes a great success when they are signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in November of 2008. They'll later be interviewed by Kris Liakos, get into a tussle with Topps, and have their story turned into a major motion picture starring Sly Stallone and Tom Cruise. GAZAB!

Don Mattingly's Son Traded By Team Don Mattingly Manages

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Ever play on a little league team with the coach's kid? Ever play on a little league team with the coach's absolutely awful at baseball kid? Starting every game and hitting third while taking flyballs to the face and hopelessly flailing at every pitch. Nepotism is as old as humans living in groups and its worst manifestations are often in youth sports. Oh well, there's no real harm in boosting your kid's ego when those games are just supposed to be for fun.

But there's real consequence and real money involved in pro sports. Just ask Pete Rose! If he'd ever had the chance to start the abominable Pete Rose Jr. in a game you can be sure he'd have been betting on the other team. This weekend the Dodgers angled to take that potential quandary out of future manager Don Mattingly's hands by trading his light hitting son Preston to the Indians.

Preston Mattingly, the Dodgers' No. 1 draft pick in 2006, batted .218 with two homers and 17 RBIs at the Class-A level this season. He struck out 51 times in 165 at-bats.

The 23-year-old Mattingly bats and throws right-handed. His best season as a pro came in 2006, when he hit .290 with a home run and 29 RBIs for the Dodgers' rookie-level team in the Gulf Coast League.

Last night while the skipper slept the Dodgers also traded in his station wagon and sent his cuckoo wife to Russian Psychic School. I guess after a couple years of Joe Torre's Managerial Narcolepsy the club is trying to make Ol' Donnie as uncomfortable as possible so he stays on his toes. Either that or the McCourts have so soured on the idea of the family unit that they're trying to destroy everyone else's.



That's Giants star pitcher Tim Lincecum uttering a naughty missive against what he perceives to be juiced baseballs at Coors Field. If you read lips as well as I do, he's saying, "Fuckin' juiced ball bullshit". Language, son! Lincecum spun a gem against the Rockies on Friday night (8 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 9 K) but wasn't happy unless he had a baseball that he believed was properly stored in the humidor.

Ever since 2002, when the nerds figured out that baseballs can shrink and harden a mile high up in Denver, the Rockies have stored baseballs in a humidor. Dry, hard balls travel farther. You gotta moisten them up with some humidity to keep the playing field level for pitchin' folk. Perhaps Lincecum thinks that the Rockies are switching out the humid balls for dry ones when they come to bat and need a tidy rally. If so, Tim is accusing the Rockies of cheating.

In an interview with Giants beat writer Andrew Baggarly, Lincecum admitted to making the remarks:

Q: Is it typical for you to have three or four balls changed out in other venues?
A: I've done that myself a couple times in games, whether it's a rubbed up ball or a ball with a scuff in it. You just want to start out with a fresh ball. I guess I was just verbalizing the speculation.

Q: Can you tell the difference between a humidor ball and a non-humidor ball?
A: I don't know. Sometimes you get a ball that feels a little softer than others. Whether that's in the humidor or not ... that's all I've ever experienced is the humidor balls, or they're supposed to be humidor balls.

Whether or not Lincecum's comments were taken to heart by the higher-ups at MLB, they will nonetheless step up their enforcement and order the Rockies to keep the baseballs within sight of the umpires during the entire game. These new rules will take effect for the final week of the season, but with the Rockies four-and-a-half games out and hosting the desolate Dodgers and crappy Cardinals, the dampness of their baseballs might not matter anyway.

Ozzie Tweets Gibberish: Now In Spanish

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Opposition parties had a stronger than usual showing in yesterday's Venezuelan national elections. A coalition of parties won at least 59 of 165 legislative seats. Venezuela has a rich baseball tradition and a boatload of good major leaguers from its soil. Magglio Ordonez has already been caught up in the politics of his country helping to campaign for Hugo Chavez sponsored legislation. He was then roundly and annoyingly jeered by Venezuelans in Miami during the WBC for his stance.

But now the division's Speakiest Speakerpants, Ozzie Guillen, has chimed in on yesterday's results via tweet. And while he's clearly anti-Chavez, Google Translate isn't helping me too much with the finer points.

I got this one. I only sometimes need a translator for Ozzie's English.

And then here, Google tells me that Ozzie is congratulating his country on setting a good example for the rest of the world. Hard to argue with that, no matter which side you're on. Relatively peaceful, mutually agreed upon results in a highly contested democratic election. We don't even get that in the US anymore.

But on this one, Google tells me that Ozzie said "To work no more bottle cock." And I'm stumped. Is this a Venezuelan colloquialism? A negative review of a new poultry based soda? Letter to Penthouse? Someone help me out.



NOW I CAN DIE IN PEACE! The Yankees have defeated the Red Sox on a WALKOFF WALK and I get a chance to post the video we've been waiting MONTHS to revisit. Ladies and gentlefolks, I give you SHRIMP ON TREADMILL.

Juan Miranda drew the walkoff walk off Sox reliever Hideki Okajima, and I don't care if Jon Miller deemed this game's ending a let down. YOU'RE A LETDOWN YOU FAT BALD HOKEY HALL OF FAME ANNOUNCER.

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Did I say best photograph? I take that back. There's no way that's an actual photograph of an actual event; it looks more like the Texas Rangers hired a neoclassical artist to travel with the team and paint interesting scenes with a dab of Chiaroscuro and a side order of empathy for a tragic hero. Go to Big League Stew and see a higher resolution version if you disagree with me. It's simply the most perfect illustration of the human condition (of being stabbed with a toothpick).

That's Rangers ace Cliff Lee staring off into the ether after being hit by fragments of Jack Cust's shattered bat. Lee is being examined by coaches, teammates, trainers, umpires, and if you squint, I think you can see the San Diego Chicken in the background. Can you sense the remorse and regret in the faces of the men in that picture? This masterpiece has the feel of a modern-day Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David, except the role of a rueful Plato has been replaced by Mike Maddux, and hemlock has been replaced with shards of maple.

(photograph stolen from the AP wire, with no remorse)

The Uses Of Poetry: Today's Afternoon Games

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  • Cardinals at Pirates, In Progress: I just read somewhere that the Pirates are on the precipice of their 100th loss. The writer was pretty good, but not very Clooney. Why else should you watch this game? Um... Laz Diaz is umping at first base and it's always fun to hear people say Laz Diaz. So you know, that. And maybe the Pirates will win on a walkoff and the announcers will melt down again? I dunno. Watch it cause it's baseball and you're unemployed in Pittsburgh, St. Louis or Southern Illinois. Leave me alone.

  • Mariners at Blue Jays, In Progress: Watch this one because Felix is pitching (I, personally, am dropping the "King" thing) and Jose Bautista is going for his 5...DAMMIT I HATE WHEN I PUT UP THE AFTERNOON GAMES POST LATE. Jose Bautista just went Don Yardo for the 50th time this year. Move over Brady Anderson, idiots have a new stale steroids joke for the next 10 years!

  • Astros at Nationals, 4:35: The Astros are 55-0 since Jimy Williams took over and are starting a parakeet at second base. The Nationals send Chris Evert to the mound in search of her 20th win. The Nationals have taken 2 of the first 3 games in this 4 game series that could only be interesting to a 5 year old. Who wants to watch a Ric Flair video!?

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As bad as the Pittsburgh Pirates have been since their last winning season in 1992 (and yes, they've been stinkeroo, compiling eighteen straight sadsack years), they've only lost 100 games once in that streak. On October 6th, 2001, the Pirates lost their 100th contest in game #161 of the year, manager Lloyd McClendon's first season with the team. Since that year, the franchise has lost at least 95 games five separate times and reached 99 losses just last year.

Moral of the story: the Pirates fans are used to this losing thing. The current squadron sits at the bottom of the NL Central with a 53-98 record; with eleven games remaining, the 100th loss seems all but inevitable. Yet this is a team that came off a four game sweep at the hands of the Mets a week ago fifty games under .500 - that's a 48-98 record - and they have promptly assembled five consecutive wins. They can see that 100th loss just down the road yet they are stomping on the brakes with all their might and power.

The source of that power? A whopping eight home runs over that five game span, including two each by rookie Neil Walker, John Bowker, and Walkoff Walk favorite Andrew McCutchen. Of course, the five consecutive wins have come at home, where the Pirates actually have a decent 38-39 record. It's the road where this team is truly in danger of reaching that sad milestone. The Pirates have won only 15 out of 74 games away from PNC Park. That's barely 20%. I haven't seen such a terrible performance on the road since I hitched that ride with Jim Leyritz.

And taking a peek at the Bucs remaining schedule reveals a wicked seven-game road trip to end the season. Sure, neither the Cardinals or the Marlins are daunting opponents, but there's something about waking up in a strange hotel room that doesn't sit well with the young Pirates team.

Will the Pirates do the unthinkable and finish off 2010 winning fifteen of their final sixteen games? Well they're five wins into it so far, but statistically, this is wildly improbable. Either way, Pirates fans can take solace in the fact that their shitty, terrible, miserable team managed to beat the shitty, terrible, miserable Cubs ten out of fifteen times.

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It's not always news when a baseball player does a nicety for a beat writer who covers said player's team. But when Reds infielder Brandon Phillips ran into Cincinnati Enquirer beat guy (and Jordache jeans model) John Fay this week, Phillips' kindhearted gesture prompted Fay to blog about it:

So today on my way to the ballpark, I stopped at the Cuban place around the corner from the hotel and had a bowl of soup. When I went to pay, the waiter said it had been taken care of. Phillips was the only other person in the place.

I thanked him on my way out.

"You're welcome," he said.

We left it at that. Whether he'll talk to me or not, I don't know. But it was nice gesture.

Two questions come to mind: (a) what kind of soup was it? and (b) why aren't Fay and Phillips on speaking terms?

It goes back to spring training. We had a brief period where we were on good terms. But it blew up again when I asked him about not hustling. He doesn't talk to Mark Sheldon of mlb.com either.

Nice to rope Sheldon into the feud there. But yeah, in the world of sportswriting, 'Brandon Phillips' and 'hustle' go together like artisanal olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar: they just don't mix unless you shake them up really hard with a half-teaspoon of Dijon mustard in there for binding purposes.

Earlier this season, Phillips was called out by several scribes (including Fay) for a lack of hustle while failing to properly leg out an extra base hit. That incident prompted me to issue a call to writers that they should be careful who they accuse of a "lack of hustle". Sure, Phillips may be a brash, brawl-inducing young guy, he's also a sensitive human being who can give a guy the silent treatment when he feels he's getting bad press.

So let this serve as a warning to all you lazy writers out there: overuse these hackneyed cliches against the wrong person and you just might end up with a steaming bowl of free black bean soup.

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No, it wasn't a save opportunity and no, by this point in the season, the Boston Red Sox no longer need a 'clutch' performance out of their star closer, but that photo above depicts Jonathan Papelbon at perhaps the sad nadir of his career. Called on to pitch the ninth inning with his team in a 5-1 hole against the resurgent Orioles last night, Paps allowed the following:

  • B. Roberts singled to shallow center
  • N. Markakis singled to left, B. Roberts to second
  • T. Wigginton singled, B. Roberts to third, N. Markakis to second, B. Roberts scored, N. Markakis to third, T. Wigginton to second on third baseman A. Beltre's fielding error
  • L. Scott singled to shallow left, N. Markakis scored, T. Wigginton to third
  • T. Wigginton scored, L. Scott to second on wild pitch
  • M. Wieters fouled out to third
  • A. Jones singled to shallow left, L. Scott to third
  • F. Pie grounded out to pitcher, L. Scott scored, A. Jones to second
  • R. Andino struck out swinging

Heck, I haven't seen that many singles since I visited your kid sister at her new job. Papelbon's ERA this year is verging on 4.00, his strikeout rate is down and his walk rate is up. One more blown save and he'll match the total of the two previous seasons combined. Fella's a ripe thirty years old, so maybe he doesn't like to be rushed in his old age.

Will the Red Sox bring him back next year, or ship him off for some spare parts and turn to young fireballer Daniel Bard as closer of the future? As a Yankees fan, I say keep Paps, so that should pretty much inform you how much confidence I'd have in that chucklehead. Rid thyself of the scourge and let young Bard shine!

Jason LaRue Is Retiring But He Can't Remember From What

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Think football players and boxers are the only athletes that need their brains posthumously scooped out and studied at Boston University? Think again (and feel lucky that you can). Cardinals catcher Jason LaRue is retiring from baseball after the latest of "the 'close to 20' concussions in his athletic career dating to high school football." Jeebus. If you dropped this guy's brain it would probably bounce 20 feet in the air like a Superball.

"If I was in a different situation, it wouldn't be anything like this," LaRue said. "But as a catcher you're so vulnerable to getting another (concussion). All it takes a foul ball to the head. Even as a backup that happened 3-5 times last year. It's not a question of if it would happen again, it's when. Nobody can guarantee anything. It'll probably be worse.

"When I heard all that, I told them, 'You've answered all the questions I need answered.'"

In an interesting twist, LaRue's latest bell ringing game via Johnny Cueto's cleats during the August brawl between the Reds and Cards. LaRue describes the concussion symptoms after being kicked "five or six times" as the worst of his life, but I'm not smart enough to know whether or not the effects of nearly two dozen head injuries is cumulative. In any case, none of this makes Cueto sound very good. Emphasis mine.

Cueto's spikes raked Chris Carpenter's back and found LaRue's face, leaving the Cardinals' backup catcher with a severe concussion that only recently began to abate.

Resulting trauma to the brain left LaRue unable to drive or even to cook for himself. Minimal activity created sensations that he likened to seasickness, as LaRue would develop excruciating headaches and nausea.

"I was going to retire on my own terms," LaRue says. "It's unfortunate that the blow that decided it came from someone kicking me in the head with spikes. I wouldn't say I would change things if you could rewrite history. They say things happen for certain reasons. In this case, I couldn't tell you why. Does it suck that my career is over because Johnny Cueto started kicking me in the head? Yes, it sucks.

Well what ever is going on inside LaRue's melon it certainly has improved his verbal clarity. That's a pretty succinct point he makes. And had he been a more prominent player forced into retirement by the injuries sustained, it's possible Cueto could have gone down in infamy with the likes of Bat Swingin' Juan Marichal and Kermit Washington. As it is now, LaRue will stagger off into the sunset to be greeted by the waiting arms of his three wives and 6 children*, all because Brandon Philips called the Cardinals little bitches. Ah, sports.

*numbers multiplied for seeing triple



The best part of this video of Braves outfielder Matt Diaz tripping a Phillies fan who rushed the field is the slovenly Citizens Bank Park security guard who tripped over his own feet in pursuit of the red runner. For shame, anonymous security guard! Get thyself to the gym and do some consarned cardio.

And the best joke I've seen about the incident goes to Ted Berg:


(video originally captured by ardent Braves fan and meme superstar Matt_T)

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Don't be fooled, that's actually Mariano Rivera pausing to admire the new George Steinbrenner monument that was unveiled at Yankee Stadium last night, not a midget. That thing is big, right? So big that even David Wells looked like a normal-sized person when he walked past. So big that it's one of two things in Yankee Stadium you can see from space, along with David Wells' gut. Heck, if you look to the left of Steinbrenner's massive visage and, if you squint, you can barely make out Mickey Mantle's face on his plaque.

During his tenure as owner of the team, George Steinbrenner continued the Yankees tradition of memorializing its legends with stately monuments beyond the outfield fence. Babe Ruth, Miller Huggins, and Lou Gehrig had their monuments dedicated in the 1930s and 40s; Steinbrenner presided over the unveiling of Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle's monuments in the 1990s.

Those five monuments were designed and built with the same dimensions, so for the enormous Steinbrenner plaque of doom to hang ominously above the rest seems somewhat odd. But Big Steinz paid the bills and snookered the city into building the shiny new ballpark that holds said monuments; I guess it's fitting for him to be honored with something big enough to entomb his entire extended family.

Is the massive size difference a tribute to Steinbrenner's gigantic ego? Or is it a way for George's sons Hank and Hal to prove to the rest of the world that they, too, can make brash, larger-than-life statements? Either way, Yogi Berra's inevitable monument is just going to have to settle for residing in the corner of Monument Park.

As promised, Joe Maddon's band of merry upstarts showed off their questionable sartorial taste prior to the start of their road trip to New York. Video evidence, courtesy of Marc Topkin's The Heater blog:


If I ever called this group a bunch of hipster doofuses, I apologize. Rather, they look more like a group of tween girls at a pajama party. One can only wonder how long it would take them to switch pants.

Bobby Valentine, Forever Lurking

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What value does a manager add or subtract from a team? That's a question that, as of now, is impossible to answer definitively. Perhaps a good manager can add five or ten wins to a well-assembled team while a bad manager might subtract the same amount. But outside of smartly managing a bullpen and inspiring his men to reach their full potential, what can a team's skipper actually do to help or hinder?

Maybe a manager's best ability is to deflect criticism of their team by acting like a complete megalomaniacal boob. Think Tony La Russa and his quixotic campaigns against Twitter. Think Joe Maddon and his stand against poor Rays fans. These guys are A++++ personalities with a great ability to play into the hands of the media and write headlines with their nutty actions. What better way to protect a slumping superstar than by doing something completely ridiculous! Maybe that's why Joe Girardi got braces.

That's where professional leader of men Bobby Valentine comes in. When a managerial job gets posted in baseball, or even sometimes while the current guy is still toasting his rear end on the hot seat, Bobby Valentine's name gets bandied about by ignominious bloggers desperate to see this delusional manic personality brought back into MLB (preferably not on their favorite team, ahem).

Bobby V has already lost out on the Orioles job to fellow TV analyst Buck Showalter. And although Valentine was considered for the Marlins job during the season, it turns out the team has come to its senses and won't even interview the guy after the season expires.

Perhaps the Mariners will consider him in the offseason to fill their managerial opening. Or perhaps the Cubs will throw big bucks at Bobby when Joe Girardi decides he'd rather work for the experienced Steinbrenners than the naive Rickettses. But the true potential for comedic value cannot be reached unless one series of events comes to pass: the Mets must fire Jerry Manuel (and, probably, Omar Minaya) and rehire Bobby Valentine to manage the team. I cannot endorse this enough. No human being in the world can possibly deflect criticism of Carlos Beltran quite like Bobby Valentine. No other media market in the world besides New York City can possibly provide the coverage that a man of Bobby Valentine's comedic stature desperately needs.

On a related note, I regret to inform our readers that my plans to visit and review Bobby Valentine's Sports Gallery Cafe in Stamford, CT yesterday failed miserably. Somewhat surprisingly, I wasn't the only one showing up at 1PM on a Sunday to watch an Eagles football game. The bar was packed to the gills so we were forced to walk across the street to a different place that served buffalo wings and jalapeno poppers.

Worry not: before my bi-weekly vacations to Stamford are expired, I promise you, dear reader, that I will visit Bobby V's and consume the original wrap sandwich, the Club Mex. I can do no less.

Weekend Questions

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Hey kids, SHAQ IS FLYING THROUGH THE AIR!

  • WHERE have I been all week? None of your business, I don't owe you anything. J/k luv u ;)

  • WILL Joe Torre manage again after leaving the Dodgers? Rob and I both say yes. Rob says the Mets and I say a Tealuxe franchise.

  • WHY can't we get any audio of Jack Clark saying "poopy"? The text is good, but not good enough.

  • WHY watch any baseball that doesn't involve an NL West team this weekend? The top three are still all bunched up and the Wild Card leading Phillies are in Washington to play the nobody Nats (who still managed to take 2 of 3 from ATL).

  • WHO doesn't already own a skeleton baseball vendor halloween mannequin? Jeez, get with it HSN.

  • ANY true believers in Boston going to have one eye on the series with Toronto and one on the Yankees/Orioles? If so, go see an opthamologist.

  • ANYONE out there seen Pavement on this money grubbing reunion tour? I'm hitting up the show tomorrow, but I'm NOT arriving early to see Jenny Lewis with her stupid boyfriend. I don't stay friends with exes.

See you next week. More stuff, I promise. Hang out here and shoot your comment wad all weekend. Bye now. SWC.

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Paul Konerko is putting together a damn fine season in Chicago. His tater tots are numerous, his on base percentage is enviable. Doing this all in the middle of a Ozzie's daily circus makes it that much more commendable.

"Paulie" is the de-facto captain of the White Sox and something of a demigod among Pale Hose supporters. Last night against the Twins, Paul Konerko added to his legend and secured himself in the hearts of the Broad Shouldered Boosters.

In the second inning of last night's loss to the unstoppable Gardenhire killing machine, Paul Konerko took a Carl Pavano offering high and tight. So tight, in fact, that it bonked directly off his considerable beak! Watch the video for yourself, if you dare.

Konerko hit the ground, clutching his Snookied face. Ozzie and the Sox trainer rushed out to tend to the slugging first basemen, searching the batter's box for stray chicklets and preparing to summon a pinch runner. If you watch at the :45 second mark of the above video, you'll see Sox trainer Herm Schneider literally dragging Konerko off the field. Except Paulie won't go.

Konerko argues his way back onto the field, stuffing his nose with gauze (presumably to prevent his few remaining brain cells from seeping out) and taking his rightful spot at first base. Konerko, naturally, homered in his very next at bat; giving people who cheer for A.J. Pierzynski on a nightly basis something worthwhile to yell about.

Konerko spent the rest of the night looking like a strange duck/donkey combination, his lips grotesquely swollen in a disturbing manner. In a now-lost season, one can only commend the gamerdom of the Sox captain while quietly wondering what the hell kind of lunatic doesn't spend the evening in the fetal position after taking an 89 mph two-seamer to the schnoz.

AP Photo via Daylife

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Statistics are hard, y'all. When baseball nerds decide that mere averages are not enough to judge a player's worth and start using algebra, it really throws the rest of us for a loop. Heck, I minored in mathematics in college and some of the newfangled sabermetric calculations make my brain melt.

But Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, is important, even if you (or I) don't quite understand where the numbers come from. To put it simply, WAR tries to figure out how many wins a player adds to his team through his hitting and fielding output. It makes adjustments for positional difficulty and the cost of replacing that player with a regular schmo.

Bill Baer at the Phillies blog Crashburn Alley, now hosted by ESPN as part of Rob Neyer's Sweet Spot network, takes an academic approach to explaining WAR, saying that while the equation itself is not perfect, the theory behind it is sound. He mentions Philies beat writer Dennis Deitch, who criticizes the WAR equation for not making any sense when it tells him that Mark Reynolds is more valuable than Ryan Howard.

The thing is, they're both right, and neither one is wrong. The equation for WAR is ideal for evaluating a player's worth, in that it deigns to tell us how a player performs at the plate, how a player performs in the field, and making two necessary adjustments (positional and replacement-level) to even the ratings. The WAR equation wants to make sure that a good fielding shortstop gets more credit than a subpar leftfielder. It also gives credit for more games played and innings played, and, in the case of Jeff Francoeur, takes credit away for playing too many dang innings.

But Deitch is correct when he claims WAR doesn't really pass the smell test. Ryan Howard is having such a massively better offensive year than Mark Reynolds that the difference in their respective defensive prowesses should not be swinging the WAR equation in favor of Reynolds. Yes, third base is harder to play than first base, so the positional adjustment should be there. But the problem with WAR is that there is no universally-accepted way to measure actual defense.

It's not the equation that is faulty, it's one of the variables. And that faulty variable is the defense.

Right now, the saber-y website Fangraphs uses something called Ultimate Zone Rating, or UZR, to calculate the fielding runs in the WAR equation. Meanwhile, the statty website Baseball-Reference uses Total Zone to figure out the fielding runs in their WAR equation. Which is why Mark Reynolds can simultaneously have 2.4 WAR and 1.2 WAR...there are two different ways of calculating his glovework!

Both UZR and Total Zone are intelligent, forward-thinking, and useful ways of evaluating individual defense but if they don't agree over a sample size of 140+ games, how can we trust the WAR equation to properly evaluate a single season for a player? The problem is that the zone ratings themselves use faulty source material: their numbers come from this map, used for any baseball field:

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That looks nothing like the baseball parks I've visited this year. More like the ones I visited in the 1980s, the cookie cutter fields in multipurpose stadiums that have gone the way of the dodo everywhere except St. Petersburg, I suppose. Plus the zones are all different shapes and sizes; how can it be effective when there's one the size of Prince Fielder and one the size of Chuck Knoblauch?

What these nerds need is to abandon zone ratings entirely and move towards a more concise way of evaluating fielders. And they may get it, soon, thanks to the same folks who brought PITCHf/x to the blogosphere. The company Sportvision has recently introduced FIELDf/x cameras to AT&T Park that can capture 15 images per second of the entire field and measure defensive events. This data can be extrapolated and manipulated to objectively determine how fielders approach a fly ball, or turn a double play, or just about anything.

Rob Neyer attended the recent PITCHf/x summit and had this to say:

Greg Rybarczyk -- the genius behind Hit Tracker -- introduced the idea for a new defensive metric: True Defensive Range (TDR).

Why on earth would anyone want another new defensive metric?

As Greg pointed out, all of our current "new" defensive metrics are "zone-based"; that is, they begin by separating the field into distinct zones, noting in which zone a play has been made, and then apportioning credit (or not) when a fielder makes a play (or doesn't) in that zone. I'm simplifying, of course, but essentially every reputable system now in use shares two significant defects: the "zones" don't fit neatly into today's highly variable outfield dimensions, and the systems don't have any way to account for the fielder's starting position.

Cameras are the future. You can watch Greg's presentation at the Sportvision site, but if you don't have a half hour to spare, here's what you should know: having multiple, smart cameras focused on the outfield during every major league game, we can objectively determine which fielders are making an awesome play, and which players are just making an average, can-o'-corn type play. FIELDf/x is the future.

Similarly, the cameras focused on the infield can tell us the same thing about the Derek Jeters and Chase Utleys of the world. Maybe some day, we'll even be able to objectively evaluate foul ball catches made by fans, with adjustments for fans holding babies or beer.

Unfortunately, the data is not universal yet. In fact, the smart folks who presented at the summit had access to just a few innings worth of defensive plays to work their mathematical magic on. But soon, the nerds who make sure baseball statistics keep progressing forward will get their mitts on this data, and they'll be able to give the WAR equation a sense of standardization.

Far Within Us #4: Today's Afternoon Games: NL Wild Card Edition

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  • Nats at Braves, 12:10: The Braves have a 1.5 game lead in the Wild Card and trail the Phillies in the East by two games. They can't seem to get out of their own way against the Nats. They've posted only a 7-7 record against Warshingtin (including last night's shutout at the hands of Livan Hernandez) and today face John Lannan, a guy who held them to two runs in a start last month. After this they move on to CitiField to face the Mets, another lousy team that Atlanta has barely mustered a .500 record against. A loss today would be a real stinkeroo.

  • Brewers at Astros, 2:05:


  • Padres at Rockies, 3:10: The first two games of this series have seen San Diego and Colorado both throw the thing in reverse. The Padres had eked out a split from the Giants (on the heels of a miserable few weeks) and Roxtember was blowing up to the tune of a 10 game winning streak. So of course The Rock N Roll Party Dads have taken the first two games of the series and are going for their first Coors sweep in nine years. Pretty remarkable for a team in the same division. With the Giants once again struggling to hit the ball, perhaps SD can shake off both its NL West competitors by week's end.
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Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, aka that guy who makes movies by zooming in on daguerreotypes with jangly bluegrass music playing in the background, is ready to debut the sequel (that's totally not a sequel, nope, because Ken Burns doesn't do sequels) to his 18-hour opus from 1994 Baseball. Later this month on PBS, the four-hour Baseball: The Tenth Inning will play over two nights and will cover the national pastime from 1994 until present day.

But we know for a fact that three massive sea changes have happened in the sixteen short years since Burns debuted Baseball. First, baseball players went on strike over labor issues. Second, baseball players hit a lot of home runs and did a lot of steroids (despite a lack of proof that those two things are connected, at all). Third, baseball players who are employed by a franchise based in Boston finally had success. Twice.

The opportunity for a documentary filmmaker to inject his or her personal opinions and views into their work is enormous; the best ones end up making a statement from a seemingly neutral ground and let the viewer make choices about what he or she has just seen. The worst ones come off seeming like bloated, opinionated goons. The potential to let his biases affect this new chapter in baseball's history probably made Ken Burns think twice about how he would present the movie. After all, Burns is a lifelong Red Sox fan, and we know how insufferable they can be.

But I can't blame Burns for including a little Red Sox victory lap in his film. The part of this sequel (that is not a sequel because Ken Burns totally doesn't do sequels, he's serious) that frightens me is the STEROIDS SEGMENT. In interviews about the film Burns correctly calls it a scandal, which anyone agrees is true no matter what side of the argument they fall.

When asked by USA Today's Stephen Borelli about how he handled Mark McGwire's and Sammy Sosa's magical "Summer of 1998" given the recent revelations about steroid usage, and if that season played a part in the game's resurgence among the American public, Burns said:

"Very much so. It's hard to take back your enthusiasm. You know, and that was what presented the challenge for us as filmmakers: Do we want to do this from the perspective of McGwire's desultory testimony in Congress or his now recent belated admissions or for Sosa's outrageous, unacceptable silence on this? No, you do it from the way you felt."

Right on, movie-making guy. "You do it from the way you felt." And while both fans and the media knew for a fact that some unsavory characters were trying to improve their lot in life with pills, we felt like giddy teenagers. At a Television Critics Association panel, Burns said this:

"If you do it from the convenient perspective of hindsight, then it has no meaning. How do you recapture some of that joy and, at the same time, be mindful that you're setting the traps for a tragedy of which we are all un-indicted co-conspirators?"

Ken Burns, pointing fingers at all of us. This should be a damn good documentary. Let's just hope he doesn't include that insufferable George Will again.

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The Rays have an attendance problem. This is not news. But Rays skip Overmanagin' Joe Maddon has decided that the team's attendance (or lack thereof) is something that he can use his Bachelor of Hipster Arts degree to solve. The first place Yankees visit the second place Rays tonight in the start of what could be a series that decides the division winner. Maddon is disappointed that said game, featuring a matchup of Cy Young Award contenders David Price and CC Sabathia, is not quite yet a sellout (yet):

"In a baseball sense, that would almost be unbelievable," Maddon said. "If you're truly a baseball person, and I think there's enough of those around the Tampa Bay area, that if you had this opportunity to go out and see it in person to not -- and we're pretty reasonable in regards to our pricing and parking and everything else -- that would be very disappointing actually.

That's the way to get it done, Joe! Call out your customers for being too cheap to buy your product! Who cares that the Tampa-St. Petersburg area lacks even the most basic public transit system and that the area is the nations's worst for commuters. Weeknight games are a chore when it takes the average Tampa resident over 40 minutes to travel to a game across the Bay in St. Pete.

So what if the unemployment rate in Tampa is over 13 percent, the fifth highest in the country, in a time of economic stress all over the country. It's a battle between two teams that both have a 97 percent chance of making the postseason!

Maddon claims that Tampa's problems are the same as those in other cities across the country but that shouldn't excuse the Rays fans from not showing up to "support their group". But the basic truth is this: 340,000 of the Rays potential customers live in Tampa while just 250,000 live in St. Petersburg, home of the Tropicana Dome. Driving twenty-three miles to the game may be simple on weekends, but in rush hour traffic, those 340,000 Tampa residents might think twice about spending $24 per ducat no matter how exciting the matchup is.

The Rays don't have a huge metropolitan area to draw from in the first place, so a lack of viable transportation methods to get to the park along with worse-than-average economic strife make the Tropicana Dome emptier than it should be. Joe Maddon should be encouraging fans to show up and cheerleading for his team, not making the fans feel bad about not being able to buy a ticket.

Weekend Questions

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Hey kids, we're getting Weekend At Bernie's wasted.

  • DO you know any Padres or Braves fans? If so, keep em away from sharp objects should either teamlose again tonight.

  • ARE you a Red Sox fan that refuses to give up hope? Well then forget about the Rays, but the Sox still have 6 games against the Yankees. New York has to take on first place Texas this weekend. They've won 4 our of 5 against them this season but still, it's a first place team. Go for the sweep, Rangers!

  • WHAT would the Red Sox have to do then? Basically go undefeated for the rest of the season starting tonight in Oakland. Buchholz/Cahill is your marquis matchup to be sure.

  • ANY of our readers going to Pete Rose Day in Cincinnati tomorrow? Please report back.

  • WILL FSU beat Oklahoma and end the nation's longest home winning streak? EEEEE! I'm cautiously giddy. That usually means the Noles will get blown out.

And what about you? Sitting there all smug in your Herman Miller Aeron Chair. I see you. But I just can't let go. Come back Monday all refreshed. Same WoW channel.

Payback For Tom Candiotti - 1992

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What you're seeing here, according to the YouTube user, is the pilot episode of a hidden camera TV show called Payback. And since there is as little information about this show as you're likely to find on IMDB, I'm gonna take Chuckzvideo's word for it. The portly bespectacled host sure has to press a lot of buttons to get the show started. They didn't have enough money to hire someone else to do that?

But hey, if you were trying to start up a blockbuster TV program why wouldn't you use the high powered celebwattage of The Candy Man? He had a pretty great 1991 split between Cleveland and Toronto and apparently that gave him license to wear tracksuits to interviews and be pathologically jealous of his poodle haired girlfriend.

When this A+ hoax is revealed, Tom's body language betrays a sense of immense relief almost as if he was about to use his knuckles to make a sandwich instead of throw a floater. YOU ALMOST GOT CANDIOTTIED, LADY.

Classic TV Friday on Walkoff Walk: The Original And Still The Best

It's been awhile since the last time we checked out the Twitter feeds of various MLBers and poked fun at them but don't think for a second that our favorite players have stopped dropping crazy tweets. More and more rookies have entered the Tweet-o-sphere and there's not much in the world nuttier than a rookie baseball player. So let's get right at it!

Our pal Meech got into it with Marlins rookie Logan Morrison the other day. Kudos to Morrison for having a great sense of humor and scrapping with the popular Phillies blogger:


Detroit Tigers rookies Will Rhymes and Robbie Weinhardt tussled over which guy had more followers. As of today, Will leads Robbie by 55 followers but the real competition between them can only be decided inside the clubhouse. The ladies out there know what I mean, amirite? Which one of them can eat more chicken wings in a single sitting? Sexy!


Reds pitcher Sam LeCure takes umbrage with the late John Denver, for some reason that is completely unclear. Maybe I'm not familiar enough with the John Denver songbook to remember that tune "Denver, Colorado Is a Dump". (UPDATE: I've been informed this is a Dumb & Dumber reference. Good to know.)


Breakout Rangers starting pitcher C.J. Wilson obviously doesn't like getting his ass handed to him at New Yankee Stadium and prefers the new pitcher-friendly open air park in Minneapolis. Odd, though: he has now gotten his ass handed to him twice at Target Field this season versus just once in the Bronx. What an odd sensation that must be, to have someone else present you with your own posterior.


Reigning NL Rookie of the Year and God-fearin' Marlins outfielder Chris Coghlan, who is recovering from a freak pie injury, is spending his ample free time hanging out with equally God-fearin' pop stars, the Jonas Brothers. Oh, to be a fly on the wall at that event! Or rather a mosquito laden with malaria so you could exterminate that entire gang.


Lots of Marlins folk are on the Twitters, including rookie sensation Mike Stanton. No MTV? No problem! Don't worry, Mike: you can always catch up on "Jersey Shore" by checking out Dan McQuade's animated GIFs!


Cleveland relief pitcher (re-Cleve-er for short) Jensen Lewis simply cannot get himself enough of that sweet, sweet P.F. Chang's Chinese-style food. In fact, he loves it so much that he needs to personally demolish every single P.F. Chang's location so the rest of us can't get our grubby mitts on his precious dumplings and other assorted deep-fried Pan-Asian cuisine:


Finally, our old friend Ozzie Guillen wished Chicago's Mayor Daley the best in his retirement and then expressed his own crazy idea about the future:


Heck, he's got my vote. And I don't even live in Chicago. Not that it matters, this is Chicago we're talking about.

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, 900 times a night.

Godspeed, speed freaks. We're back tomorrow with Classic TV Friday and other stuff. See you then. S.W.C.

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Breaking news via Maury Brown at Biz of Baseball: Major League Baseball's attendance numbers have dropped for the second year in a row! But before you start rending your garments and gnashing your teeth about the idea of Jerry Reinsdorf not being able to afford that gold-plated shofar he's been eyeing, fret not. The average attendance figures dropped by only 259 warm bodies per game, and most of it was the Mets' fault.

Fred Wilpon's sadsack team has drawn over 400,000 fewer fans over the first 64 games of 2010 as compared to the same period in 2009; we can only expect that differential to increase since the Mets have run themselves out of the playoff race. No more important games and no more bobblehead giveaways mean that the trains to Flushing will either be full of tennis fans or pleasure-seeking Philly folk.

Almost all of the teams who saw a decline in ticket sales are teams that are down in the dumps this year, except one notable exception: the Rays. The team that has flirted with the best record in baseball all season long has seen just 22,679 fans show up per game, down over 1,000 from last year's third place team. Still, this team should see an slight uptick in average attendance once the Yankees come to town next week.

Most of the good news on the list stems from the Twins' new ballpark. Minnesota drew an average of 11,000 extra fans per game to sold-out Target Field than they did to the final season of baseball at the Hankiedome. The novelty of outside baseball is a huge draw, but we all know that folks just want to see Jim Thome swat taters while chowing down on foodstuffs-on-sticks.

Pat yourself on the back if you attended the Walkoff Walk 2010 Field Trip to PNC Park in Pittsburgh: you helped the Pirates increase their average attendance by a whopping 3.3% over last year's figures! If the Pirates want to continue to put butts in seats, we HEIST folks think they should probably stop having George Thorogood postgame concerts and just get to the damn fireworks already.



That's superstar Sidney Crosby of the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins taking batting practice at PNC Park and doing his best Pedro Alvarez impression: Crosby, despite making the big bucks on the ice swatting at pucks, has the ability to clobber a baseball straight out of a baseball stadium. Sheesh, what a pretty swing! Put a first baseman's glove on this kid and sign him immediately, Mr. Huntington.

The Penguins strolled over to the park after promoting the NHL Winter Classic down the street at Heinz Field by shooting pucks through the uprights. No word if the team walked a few blocks north to visit their cousins at the National Aviary.

(we owe a six pack of icy Coke to Wyshinski and his crew over at Puck Daddy)

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In honor of the 1917 Chicago White Sox manager Clarence Henry "Pants" Rowland, whose team won the World Series despite being no-hit twice during the season, Rays manager Joe Maddon, whose team has been no-hit twice, perfect-gamed once, and one-hit thrice this year, has ordered his team to wear ugly pants on their next road trip. Get it? Pants! The team can choose from any of the John Daly-endorsed line of hideous pant products at Loudmouth Golf.

Tacky, yes, but not nearly as bad as the time Tommy Lasorda made the 1991 Dodgers wear pinky rings and comb their hair into a duck's ass...for the entire season.

Hank Aaron's Hero Let Him Down

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When it comes to talking about steroids, many Hall Of Fame players have shied away from making bold proclamations to either condemn or or exonerate the accused. But for years the public believed that juice was solely the domain of the slugger and was always waiting to hear what Home Run King Hank Aaron had to say. When America finally pulled its head out of its collective ass to realize that McGwire/Bonds/Sosa were probably on drugs, Aaron stayed out of it. Over the past year he's started to poke at the issue as so many of his generation are now poking at their dinner. It had been mostly insinuation until yesterday when Aaron actually put the names "Bonds" and "Clemens" in a quote about steroids.

"I'm just saddened by it," said Aaron, who held the all-time home run record until Bonds broke it in 2007. "I'm not a judge and I'm not a juror and I don't know who's guilty and who's what. I'm just saddened for baseball and saddened for Clemens and Bonds, both."

Aaron said he hasn't given any thought to whether Bonds' or Clemens' numbers should stand, be wiped away or accompanied by asterisk.

"I have too much to worry about to worry about Clemens and Bonds," he said.

It's a remark nearly not worth commenting on*. A remark so forlorn and hangdog that one really just wants to take Aaron out for ice cream and tell him to cheer up. Except that at the commemoration of the Bud Selig statue two weeks ago Aaron said the following

"Bud Selig is my hero," Aaron said. "He has taken baseball to a better place than where he found it."

So either he was just trying to be nice at the statue appearance (and if that's the case why even show up, you're Hank Aaron) or he is truly under the misapprehension that guys like Bonds and Clemens are isolated cases. Villains of poor moral fiber who snuck their dirty needles in the clubhouse past the watchful eye of the owners and their benevolent leader Bud. Phooey, dude. It's fine to be sad or angry or self-righteous or whatever about the steroid thing (if you want, I don't) but don't say it a few days after praising the man who was too busy counting money and ticket stubs to notice while it went down. We love Hank, but maybe his memory just aint what it used to be.

*especially in light of his other, very relevant, remarks on blacks in baseball from the same article.

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, shouldn't take it so hard

That wraps up this tidy Tuesday but please take a gander at the Beavers farewell post again to see a couple comments by a couple of Portland-area folks. See you tomorrow, same WoW channel.

Michael Kay Eats Like An Insolent Five-Year-Old

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I don't get to watch many games on the YES Network or listen to many Yankee games on the radio. My opinions on Yankee announcers are mostly formed by what gets filtered through Blogotown and what I'm told by my Yankee loving friends. For the most part it's negative, but vaguely negative. I know Suzyn Waldman cried that time and no one seems to like her. John Sterling has those corny home run calls and no one seems to like him. Michael Kay has a head like a butterball turkey, is pretty smug and no seems to like him. Fine.

But if you're like me and you want a more tangible reason to dislike someone (not saying I need it, but it's nice), then peep this New York Post article about Kay, his fiancee and his disgusting eating habits.

Yankee announcer Michael Kay is a real meathead.

And now that local TV anchor Jodi Applegate is about to marry him, she's desperately trying to figure out how to please a man wedded to only three foods: steak, bacon, and chicken parmesan.

That's all her fiancé ever wants to eat.

"He will eat a salad, but only if it's iceberg lettuce, and nothing else, no dressing. So it's basically frozen water served with a fork," says Applegate, a self-described foodie wannabe.

How's that for a lede? He is a meathead! Give the New York Post a moronic story about two local semi-celebs and they're pumping out Pulitzer quality stuff.

Steak, bacon and chicken parm? I hope when these two get married he gets his own bathroom, because when he's been in there for 25 minutes and then strolls out with the funny pages tucked under his arm it's gonna smell like a dead Arby's employee buried under a pile of fertilizer. It's gonna make Dr. Atkins' movements smell like a Glade Plug-In.

On their first date, they ordered a caprese salad to share -- but Kay took all the mozzarella and left her the tomatoes.

"I was immediately nervous. I thought, 'OK, is he just a quirky guy, or is he really OCD about what he eats?' So I threw a tomato on his plate to see if he freaked out. He just laughed, thank goodness," she recalled.

She also tried to make him classic French beef bourguignon, which she told him was beef stew. That's when she learned he won't eat soup.

What a terrible date! Why is she marrying this giant toddler? He took ALL THE MOZZARELLA? I take back my earlier comments about Kay being in the bathroom. He's probably been backed up since Joe Torre was still managing. This is not a responsible adult. This isn't a picky eater. This is someone with deep emotional and psychological issues. And if you can relate to any of this, then you are too. WHO DOESN'T EAT SOUP? He's a menace and a ticking timebomb that shouldn't be allowed the power of the immense audience he is granted.

What's not to like about chicken parm?" he said. "It combines chicken with mozzarella. Two great tastes together, like a Reese's peanut butter cup."

He's so besotted with the dish that he wouldn't give up the hunt for it even when he and his fiancée went on a 10-day trip to Italy last year.

"It was like being on a great chicken-parm search through Tuscany and Rome," Applegate said. "We couldn't find it on any menus. Apparently, it's an American thing.

Kay was also shocked that macaroni isn't actually cooked on a grill and that there are no hot dog vendors in the Colosseum. WHAT KIND OF COLOSSEUM IS THIS???

Run, Jodi Applegate, run. How much money could this dude actually be worth? Then again, no matter much it is you won't have to wait that long to inherit it all. Oh, what a play by coronary artery disease!

Minor league baseball in Portland, Oregon, it turns out, is no match for Major League Soccer. The San Diego Padres' Triple-A affiliate in the upper Northwest, the Portland Beavers, played their final game of the season and their final game ever at PGE Park yesterday, a 6-5 victory over the Las Vegas 51's. And now, like a delusional unemployed man with a taste for Listerine and turpentine, they are homeless.

The team had been playing at PGE Park, formerly Multnomah Stadium, since 1956. But since Portland was rewarded with an MLS team last year, the Portland Timbers, the ball field will be converted permanently to a soccer pitch and there will be no more baseball played there. So why couldn't the Beavers find another joint in Portland to continue to field a pro baseball team?

Two words: historical preservation. Portland, nor any city, really, is not in the position to go throwing cash money around to build a new ballpark for a Triple-A team, so the best option would have been to convert Memorial Coliseum, the old venue for the NBA's Trailblazers, into a baseball stadium. No dice. The Coliseum, which is barely 50 years old and now plays host to minor league hockey and skateboarding expositions, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places by a bunch of terrorist anti-baseball nerds. Look at this gorgeous example of modern architecture and tell me how you could allow it to be torn down or converted:

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So what if it looks like a suburban office complex or some run-of-the-mill airport terminal? The Davis Cup final was played there in 2007! Ralph Nader once had a political rally in that building! Local high schools hold their graduation ceremonies in that hollowed glass-and-steel structure! You can't play baseball there!

On a more serious note, the city of Portland is smart for not falling all over itself to throw money, free rent, and tax breaks at a baseball team and build an entirely new ballpark. This probably hinders any chance that MLB will ever expand to Portland but I'm sure all the Portland hipsters with their organic beets riding on their fixies can only shrug at the possibility anyway.

The Beavers will be okay: owner Merritt Paulson is looking to sell to a group of investors who want to relocate to Southern California, specifically Escondido. For now, the last memory they'll have is the exact same lady throwing out the exact same ball from both the first game ever at PGE Park and the last.

Labor Day Weekend Questions

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Hey kids, have some tomato wine.

  • WHAT do you think the venn diagram of people who go to Burning Man and people who read Walkoff Walk looks like? I think it looks like commenter Chief Wahoo.

  • IS this series with the Reds the Cardinals' last shot at saving their season?

  • WHAT is up with the Padres? They're in total freefall and their lead in the West is down to 3 games. We know one Padres fan, and he blames it all on Sports Illustrated. Of course he does.

  • HOW will the Red Sox and Rangers affect the AL Central this weekend? They've got series with the White Sox and Twins respectively. I couldn't be less interested in the Manny As A White Sock subplot. It's like caring about Gary Cherone fronting Van Halen... if you're one of the morons that cared about Van Halen in the first place.

  • WHAT is this crazy dame talking about? We need to leave politics out of sports, amirite guys!? /runs finger around collar.

Have a good long weekend, Friends of Frempkins. I've got rain to look at. See you Toozday. Same WoW channel.
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And it's not baseball.

The stars of director Ben Affleck's new shot-in-Boston heist drama will attend the Sept. 14 screening at Fenway Park. Making official something we've already reported, Warner Bros. yesterday announced that "The Town'' will premiere at the ballpark, and the all-star cast, including Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall, and Chris Cooper, will join Affleck for the special event in the outfield.

Warner Bros is probably going to erect a yooge movie screen in centerfield, on the hallowed ground where Red Sox legend Ryan Kalish has trod this season, and screen the film in front of a small crowd of Hollywood folk and local union guys. Coincidentally on the same night in New York, Jay-Z and Eminem will be blowing stuff up in their sold-out concert at Yankee Stadium. Advantage: rapping people.

Really though, it's pretty neat that they're debuting the film in Fenway since part of The Town was actually filmed there. Wait a minute...a heist drama in a baseball park? Ben Affleck stole our gig!

Finding A Long Gray Hair: Today's Afternoon Games

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  • Blue Jays at Yankees, 1:05: Steroid freak Ivan Nova drops the plunger on his 3rd major league start. The Blue Jays have won seven of twelve in the season series but the the Yankees are as hot as they've been all year having won 6 in a row put 1.5 games between themselves and the Rays. More playoff games from Yankee Stadium. Thrilling. Joe Buck's bony ass must slide right into the contours he's put in that announcer's chair. Juan Guzman gets the start for the Blue Jays.

  • Mets at Cubs, 2:20:

Hurricane Earl Bears Down On Massachusetts

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Tonight's White Sox/Red Sox game could get rained out, and Boston could see winds of up to 40MPH. That's enough to blow your hat backwards and knock over an ump. But all in all, this thing has weakened and won't hold a candle to Hurricane Fay.

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I'm sorry, did I miss something? Has the hot stove season started two months early? Did we skip right over the September races, the primary playoffs and the World Freakin Series? No? I didn't miss it all? Then why have I been paging through the tabloids and tabbing through the blogs and only seeing columns talking about Derek Jeter's contract for next year?

Yes, Derek Jeter's unprecedented 10-year contract with the Yankees expires at the end of the 2010 season. Yes, it would be very odd for either party to part ways with the other. Yes, giving Jeter anything over $10 million per annum would be overpaying for declining talent. No, Yankees fans don't care and fans of other teams should just be glad that baseball players get treated like human beings, unlike in football. These facts are true: we don't need to rehash them!

Enough! Enough of this pretentious prognostication about pennies and enough of this writing of history books before history is done telling its story! Can we baseball fans just sit back and enjoy division races and the possibility that a National League player might win the Triple Crown for the first time in a billion years? There are other great stories in baseball. A man threw a baseball 104 MPH the other day! Another man got fired for being a jerk!

So sit down for a second, dear reader, and witness the True Voice of Reason talk about what all this contract talk is doing to poor Derek Jeter:

"All the people doing the talking are shortsighted, very shortsighted," Suzyn Waldman said. "I don't think any of the talk, any of the stories, affect Derek at all. Everybody is jumping to conclusions because they need something to talk about."

"You're watching a career go full circle," Waldman said. "It's not over, trust me. Wait and watch how this season plays out. Stop looking at it game to game. Baseball is a game of attrition. Let's see where Derek's standing in October. Then shoot your mouth off."

Feel stupid now? Yankees broadcaster Suzyn Waldman just told us that Derek Jeter doesn't care what we think. You want to criticize him for swinging at too many pitches? Fine, Jeter doesn't care. You want to point out that he's on pace to make more outs that he's ever done before in a season? Fine, Jeter doesn't care. You want to cringe every time he comes up with a runner on first, fearing the GIDP? I do too, and it seems that the greatest shortstop in the history of the New York Yankees couldn't give a hoot.

This private business matter doesn't concern you or me or your Aunt Helen or some schmuck columnist for the New York Post. Sure, we can speculate and waste ink, but in the end, it's between Jeter, his agent, and a private corporation that doesn't need to answer to stockholders. As for us Yankees fans, Jeter has accumulated enough goodwill for fifteen years that I'm sure we can afford to lend him some of our own goodwill by sitting back and appreciating one of the hardest-working players I've ever seen.

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, Dink Floyd.

  • WHY did Oakland even bother showing up to their series with the Yankees? They got 1 hit today. Thanks for nothing.

  • DID everybody welcome new commenter "Bvthurtin"? Is that Russian? In any case I hope you said hello because he's never coming back. I think because his caps lock got stuck.

  • WHO'S pumped for the big Indians/Mariners series? Oh well. At least there's FISTER.

  • ARE there any meaningful games tonight? Sorta, there's this makeup game for the Phillies and Rockies. Don't look now but it could be a memorable Roxtember. They've won 7 of 8 and are 5.5 back of the Phils in the WC.

  • WHAT is the funniest thing you've heard about that mindbending Jan Brewer video? I'm going with this Seth Meyers tweet. Her potential reelection reminds me of the old adage: "Fool me... can't get fooled again."

Good night princes and princesses of Kingdom Shrimp. Your love makes me whole. Same WoW channel.

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Well I must admit that I am glad the Fire Rob Dibble movement has resulted in a happy ending. Rob Dibble will no longer broadcast Nationals games, effective immediately, and will be temporarily replaced by Ray Knight. The call came in from the team (and not the regional sports network, MASN, that is lucky enough to broadcast both the Nats AND the Orioles) in response to Dibble's taunting jabs at golden boy Stephen Strasburg.

Unfortunately, it seems that Dibble's off-color misogynistic remarks were not the tipping point in his dismissal. Perhaps those remarks woke the Nationals up and they realized that hiring a colorful commentator to call your teams games isn't really a good idea when the guy is not only shitting on your fans but your players, too. Whatever, I'm happy for the Nats fans who no longer have to watch their team lose on mute. But what joy can I really get out of the firing when Rob Dibble is still gainfully employed by XM Radio?

It's a sin that thousands of folks who listen to the MLB Network Radio coverage on Sirius/XM every morning are subject to Rob Dibble's pseudo-analysis and dumb jock attitude without a single conflicting viewpoint. This is not selling the game, it's selling baseless conflict and in-your-face opinions. I'm embarrassed as a baseball fan every time I tune the channel in.

Heck, the entire "talent" pool on MLB Network Radio is made up of failed general managers like Jim Bowden, failed managers like Kevin Kennedy, and the charisma-challenged Ripken brothers. There is such a dearth of actual smart baseball insight on this channel! I realize that the target audience for sports talk radio does not exactly coincide with the pool of candidates for Mensa, but my question is: why?

Why can't MLB Network Radio bring in a nerd or a geek or a dweeb to argue salient points with these flat earth believers? I'm not asking for an entire sabermetric hour; we don't want folks falling asleep behind the wheel and crashing into an embankment. But I've had XM for over six years and the only time I can bring myself to listen to the channel is at night, when they actually update live games in a tidy whiparound fashion.

This morning drive bullshit has got to go. Remember that corny feature on ESPN where dopey Sean Salisbury would argue with geeky John Clayton about football nonsense? It wasn't exactly the smartest thing on TV but it gave the viewer a chance to take a side. Dumb jock or pencil-necked geek. Where are the geeks on MLB Network Radio? Who among us wouldn't listen in if Rob Dibble welcomed Rob Neyer on the air as a guest?

So I implore you, higher-ups at MLB Network Radio: bring back Baseball Beat, the Charley Steiner show featuring phoners from beat guys. Bring back Joe Castellano. Even bring back nasal-voiced Buck Martinez! But most of all: either get rid of Rob Dibble or pair him up with someone smart enough to point out his hard-headed idiocy. Heck, a dead retarded squirrel could easily match wits with that schmuck.



Hey Volstad, congratulations on being the first jar of Hellman's Mayonnaise to make it to the majors. I'm sure everyone back home at the mathematical center of America is very proud. If you threw at me twice in the same game I'd smoosh your head between two graham crackers like the giant marshmallow that it is. Nyjer Morgan's crime was trying to steal a base... down by 11. Is it Stupid Old Man Baseball Code Opposite Day? Not only is that so backwards that only a Marlins fan could agree with it, but you're also a huge wimp. It's easy to be the enforcer when it's 9 on 1. You can reach me at tips@walkoffwalk.com and we'll fight.

Gaby Sanchez, not only does your name make you sound like an actress from The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants but you're also a cheapshot artist. Email me and we'll arrange a time for me to drop you faster than John Lackey. I'm serious.

Jeffrey Loria, I'm always up to fight you out of principal, and this is your team, so I figured I'd throw it out there. Be in touch.

Nyjer, you're our new Milton Bradley since he doesn't play baseball anymore. Stay righteous. Keep being singled out for having an actual personality, for acting like a human, and god forbid, running over A CATCHER. That's what they're there for! Walkoff Walk has your back. For real, I'll fight anybody.

Tree: Today's Afternoon Games

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  • White Sox at Indians, 12:05: Manny was with the White Sox but didn't play. He also didn't answer any questions from reporters in English. I think the latter the awesome but don't fully understand the former. It aint the All-Star break here, Ozzie. The White Sox won anyway on Man Of The People Aj Pierzynskijfdhih's 3 run tater tot. Manny was in the on deck circle, either ready to pinch hit or trying to get a tan. Chicago goes for the sweep today as Freddy "Blech" Garcia takes on Carlos Carrasco.

  • 2:20, Cardinals at Astros: IT'S THE IDIOT CURSE OF GLEN BECK. The Cardinals have lost the first two games of this series 3-0, and lost 4 overall since their manager and best player attended the annual meeting of the He Man Immigrant Haters. They're seven games behind Cincinnati and 4 games out in the Wild Card. Good. Today it's the horrible Jeff Suppan against Nelson Figueroa.

  • Pirates at Cubs, 2:20: It's my day off and RuPaul is on the Rachel Ray show in man clothes. He's really tall and has a mustache. Kinda looks like Ray Allen. Also, he's been famous for like 20 years now, hasn't he? Good for him, I like him. These two teams suck.

  • Phillies at Dodgers, 3:10: Since arriving in Philly, Ol' Roy Oswalt has been as good as anybody in the league. In his last few starts he's even been the best Roy on his team. Theres rubber involved in today's matchup, along with Philly's tenuous 1.5 game wild card lead over the Giants. Oswalt shut out the Dodgers in his last start against them. Clayton Kershaw goes for the Dodgers. He's striking out nearly 10 per 9IP but Philly's been better at avoiding the whiff this year. Should be a good one.
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See video of the big catch at MLB.com

Laugh all you want, but the dopey kid in the Sabathia shirsey sitting in the front row of the right field loge at Yankee Stadium last night has a really cool dad. During the decisive fourth inning of the Yankees-A's tilt last night, Mark Teixeira unloaded a massive moonshot towards our seats, Bob Iracane calmly stood up, pointed his glove towards the heavens, and easily snagged Teixeira's thirtieth tater tot of the year.

We've been sitting in these seats since Opening Day of last season and waiting for a home run to land in our laps every single game. In April of last year, Johnny Damon deposited a tater tot right into our row but some jamook sitting next to us lunged for it at the last second and knocked it out of my dad's hands. My bad, I was supposed to box out the drunken jamook.

There were no jamooks this time around, although I did throw some elbows at that bald guy on the right up there. Bob caught it with such grace and then rejoiced by pounding the UTZ sign. Meanwhile, the YES Network was busy showing eleventy different camera angles of the home run, and then shots of our group getting phone calls and text messages saying "OMG JUST SAW YOUSE ON TV" or "John and Suzy are talking about youse guys!"

No, Bob didn't give away the baseball; it was his first home run catch ever! He's charitably given away tons of batting practice baseballs to towheaded tykes in our section, and I'm sure that the next time a home run ball finds its way into our row, he'll save it for one of my sister's kids. Maybe if we're lucky he'll sign a baseball and we can auction it off to raise funds for our hosting fees.

After the catch, YES play-by-play guy Michael Kay and color man Tino Martinez debated the jersey my dad was wearing. Was the #24 on his back in honor of former Yankee first baseman Martinez? Kay guessed that because of my dad's advanced age and souvenir 61* cap, a giveaway from the 2001 season. Tino suggested it might be a Robinson Cano jersey. Both were wrong: Bob wears #24 because his favorite player frm his childhood was Willie Mays, although when my dad wore it playing softball while I was growing up I thought it was for Rickey Henderson. I'm just glad I had an opportunity to prove Michael Kay wrong.

Either way, it was a nifty catch of a huge home run by a current Yankee and it's one I'll always remember. Probably because my dad will never let me forget it.

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