Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sheriff Flatbill

George Sherrill recorded his 26th save tonight against the Chicago Cubs, but not before loading the bases with no outs. He then struck out the side. I haven't seen an Oriole pitcher accomplish such a feat in ten years. Fans call him "the Sheriff" and the flat bill on his cap makes him look like a Maryland state trooper.

Down 7-1, the Cubs roared back in the late innings and nearly notched their 25th comeback, but tonight the pesky Birds hung tough. I've never heard Wrigley Field so alive with excitement in the later innings. It sounded like Yankee Stadium with the crowd on their feat and trying to intimidate the opposition. They had won 14 straight games at home. The crowd cheering FU-KU-DO-ME and clapping to incite their Japanese lead-off man was impressive.

Is it the year of the Cubbie bear? I remember living in the Chicago area in the early eighties and even then, the 1969 collapse was still fresh on Cubs fan's minds. Those who had lived through the loss of a 14 game lead on August 15th were still in pain. My first and extremely painful baseball memory came six weeks later when the Amazin' Mets dropped my O's in the World Series.

With the team they have this year and the fans behind them, Lou Pinella might just end the longest world series drought in baseball. The Cubs are now 32-9 at home. If they are there in October, I'd like to see them win it--for those kids I knew back in Wilmette--who had their summer ruined in 1969.

Friday, June 20, 2008


After a second straight victory over the Astros, Dave Trembley referred to Kevin Millar's newly died yellow hair as a Crayola crayon. Millar had the game winning hit in the 10th which I was able to witness after wrapping up a session with my Los Cabos rosary beads. The Orioles are fun to watch this year--and I don't care if they win or they lose--they don't beat themselves and they don't use steroids. They swept the Tejada-led Astros. They are building a promising future game by game. Millar is the glue and he already looks like the manager he may one day become. He keeps it loose and he takes direction from Trembley. Kevin personifies the Orioles--he make the most of everything he has in the toolkit--including his personality. For the first time in a decade, it's fun to be an O's fan.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Beating the Pirates

Last weekend's entertaining series against the Pirates brought back memories. The Orioles came back in every game and almost swept the three game set. Yet no amount of victories against Pittsburgh will erase what happened in 1971 and 1979. I remember watching Roberto Clemente rise to the occasion after the Bucs went down 2-0 in 1971. The series featured the first-ever World Series night game. His blazing speed and rifle arm elevated him to another level. His two home runs came in close games. After the series, Clemente died in a plane crash traveling to his native Nicaragua to show support for survivors of an earthquake. He may have been one of the greatest to ever play the game.

In 1979, the "We Are Family" Pirates stunned the Orioles after being down 3-1. Willie Stargell who had one hit in 1971, came through with 7 RBIs in 1979 and was the difference maker. It was especially difficult for me because I had moved from Baltimore to Chicago in September of 1979. I followed the Birds all summer because this, as Campbell McGrath wrote, "is the magic summer of 1979 and fate is on the side of Baltimore." It looked that way for a long time. The stage was set in game seven when Eddie Murray came to the plate with the bases loaded and two out and the Orioles behind, 2-1. The crowd chanted, "Eddie, Eddie" just the way McGrath describes it in Capitalist Poem #25. Murray drilled a long fly ball to right with the bases loaded but Dave Parker had him played perfectly and nearly slipped as he caught the ball. The series was over.

Today, the Orioles and the Pirates are in similar positions. Two small market teams with low payrolls trying to compete against powerhouse teams in major markets like the Cubs, Mets, Red Sox and Yankees. The Birds and the Bucs both have winning traditions to be proud of and hopefully promising futures.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Great Scott

Luke Scott clubbed two home runs yesterday in a losing cause. He gave the Orioles the lead late in the game which nearly led to a sweep of the Blue Jays in Toronto. I was washing the car with my daughter, listening to the game on the radio, and missed the second round tripper. Washing cars and listening to baseball games defined my youth in Baltimore. Scott studies opposing pitchers and keeps a notebook of the types of pitches they throw to him in different counts. He also reads the Bible on a regular basis. We obtained Luke in the Tejada trade and it strikes me that he has a different approach than Miguel. He has aligned himself with God versus performance-enhancing substances.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The 2008 Election and Ball Four

Jim Bouton's classic book, Ball Four, about his life as a knuckleball pitcher includes a vignette that applies to the upcoming election. The story takes place in the Polo Grounds with two kids chasing after a home run ball. One boy wanted the ball, while the other had to have it. The Republicans have operated like the kid that had to have the ball and have pulled out every stop to get it. My sense is that they will do so again and Obama will not have a chance unless he is willing to scrap like there is no tomorrow. There is hope. He does play basketball.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Twin Killing

Adam Jones delivered the decisive blow this afternoon--a rising liner into the left field bleachers to break a tie late--against the Minnesota Twins who are a very difficult team to beat in the racquetball court they play in. Erik Bedard for Adam Jones, George Sherrill and others looks like a pretty good deal today. Jones is slowly beginning to emerge. He's beginning to remind me of the first time I saw Bernie Williams play at Yankee Stadium in the early nineties. It was his first year in the big leagues and Williams wore spectacles. I watched him race from right center to deep left to catch a ball headed for the gap. He had a couple of hits and stole a base. On the #4 train downtown, I surmised that it was going to be a long tough road for the other teams in the American East. Adam Jones has the potential to be that kind of superstar. The youthfulness in his face resembles Darryl Strawberry, whose home run swing in the early years looked as if he was using a whiffle bat. Jones hits line drive home runs, and he has a long way to go, but he can win games with his bat and his glove.

Sheriff Sherrill has collected 20 saves thus far--and is capable of closing the door in close ones. His flat-billed hat is state-trooper like.

I heard a rumor today that "Baltimore" was going on the away jersey. There is a God.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

It's Only Rock-and-Roll

This is a letter I sent to Baltimore Examiner editor Gary Gately about the Stones IMAX Movie, "Shine-a-Light."

Hey Gary:

I've been waiting until I saw Shine-a-Light to send you a note. Rafael told me you were a Stones fan and I read your review while in New Orleans a few weeks ago.

Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, and Exile in succession represent for me some of the greatest rock-and-roll music ever created: Sympathy, Stray Cat Blues, Factory Girl, Street Fighting Man, Parachute Woman, Love in Vain, Monkey Man, Rambler, Shelter, Sway, Sister Morphine, Wild Horses, Loving Cup, Rip This Joint, Ventilator Blues...I remember sitting in front of my parent's Fischer stereo with the cloth speakers reading liner notes and lyrics. The Stones--and mostly the song Love in Vain--helped me through their divorce.

I enjoyed the movie as much as any Stones fan would.

I'll admit I was dreading the live performance of "Faraway Eyes" and was pleasantly surprised. I really enjoyed the interplay between Mick and Keith with Richards singing "worth a dime" and Mick, "worth a damn."

"As Tears Go By" was also a highlight for its irony given Jagger's advancing years--it also evokes Lewis Carroll for me. He seemed like he was angrily biting the words--but what a beautiful song--Keith playing the twelve string. No need for Jagger's apology up front--this is a song they sang while wearing Dylanesque turtlenecks. I like making the connections with Dickens and Carroll in their songs.

For me, "Champagne and Reefer" stole the show. The stoic majesty of Buddy Guy reigned over the song. He stood at the still point of the blues universe, with "the boys" flouncing madly around him as he completed a musical journey from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago to London to a stage at the Beacon Theater in New York. And then Keith gives him his guitar.

Throughout, the cameras were too close and the venue was perhaps too small for such an endeavor. It was like HD Zoom. There was never much perspective. Did we need to see what resembled a dessicated Lifesaver in Keith's hair? I like attending Stones concerts in person, where the vantage point is varied. The First Mariner show a couple years back in Baltimore was illuminating as I had seats in front of the small stage. I'm not sure a film can adequately capture their combined intensity--no matter how close to the action.

I also kept thinking about the movie "Gimme Shelter" and the youthful harlotry of Jagger--so utterly unbelievable and fantastic. Unfortunately during this new movie, and I know this is blasphemy, the image of Jagger as Carol Channing came to mind. The Stones have gathered crags, not necessarily moss, and that's okay. The spectacle in all it's glory was what was missing like Keith at the Hampton Coliseum in 1981, guzzling a fifth of Jack Daniels, and unable to get to the microphone for the verses of "Little T&A" --just the chorus.

My all-time favorite Stones song is "Hand of Fate," on Black-and-Blue, and I almost asked Mick to play it when he walked past me in London a few years back. He was on the phone.

Hope to catch a coffee with you sometime.


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