Tag Archives: Yankees

The baseball playoffs, with all these fresh teams, have me moderately excited. The Danish government puts out a brilliant ad to encourage more procreation. And the guy who got drunk and ran away in a mascot’s uniform

royals-celebration01jr_668x376

So it’s early October, which means the leaves are turning, the weather’s getting cooler, I’m irrationally optimistic about my New York Rangers season starting (tonight the season starts against the Stanley Cup champs! No seriously, the Blueshirts have a great chance to win the Cup this year, and I’m not the only one who thinks so), and I start to follow baseball for real.

I barely watch the sport all season because as I’ve said here before, baseball just doesn’t interest me much anymore. But in October, during the playoffs, I get into it.

And I gotta say, this year should be fascinating because there are so many new teams who haven’t had success in a long time competing for the World Series title.

You’ve got the Blue Jays, last in the playoffs when Bill Clinton was in his first year as Prez. The Cubs, who are only decent every decade or so. The Pirates, who were so bad for so long and only in the last two years have gotten good. The Astros, who have been terrible for awhile now and eliminated my Yankees Tuesday night. The Kansas City Royals, who built on last year’s miracle run to dominate this year, and have such a great comeback, feel-good story off 2014’s success (above photo).

And of course, the New York Metropolitans, who now have a rare chance to take over New York City for a few weeks, as they enter a series with the Dodgers. Not since the 2000 Subway Series have I seen New York this buzzed about the orange and blue; I heard three conversations Tuesday about the Mets in Manhattan, three more than you usually hear this time of year. (Also the Mets being in the playoffs gives me an excuse to put this great “Sportscenter” commercial starring Mr. Met into the blog. God I love Mr. Met.)

Even as a Yankees fan, I’m pulling for the Mets, because they’re a great story. But really, there are a ton of great stories in this year’s playoffs.

So even with my hectic life and the NHL starting and the Jets doing well, baseball, as it almost always does, will draw me in with compelling storylines. And with the Yankees out, I can just enjoy the games.

For what it’s worth (not much), I’m picking a Dodgers-Blue Jays World Series. But I think a Cubs-Royals or Mets-Blue Jays would be all kinds of fun, too.

Put me in coach, I’m ready to play, today

**Next up, we have very few rules on this blog, but one of them is: If a country puts out a public service announcement telling its citizens to have more sex, and telling them how to do it, that makes the blog.

Meet Denmark. Their birthrate is plummeting, and they’re trying everything they can to get their people to make more babies. And have more whoopie.

So they put out PSA’s like this, and I just laughed and laughed, especially at the grandma at the :35 mark.

The Charlotte Knights baseball mascot during the 2008 season.

**And finally, may I present Joe Gillespie, of North Carolina, one of my favorite stupid criminals I’ve seen in a while. Seems Joe’s a big fan of the Charlotte Knights, and specifically, their mascot, Homer the Dragon (why a team called the Knights has a dragon as a mascot, I cannot explain. But I digress).

After the team’s beer festival two weeks ago, Joe broke into an office at the ballpark and stole Homer’s costume.

He then fled the scene, wearing said costume. Police arrested him at home a short time later, and (shocking) was found to be in possession of marijuana.

I’m positively brimming with questions here: Did Gillespie drive home in that thing, or take the bus? Where did he keep his keys, or the bus fare? When the police arrested him, did he try to run away, because you know, you can’t really run that fast in those mascot unis. And did he smoke a joint while wearing the uniform so he could be (wait for it) Puff the Magic Dragon??? (Thanks, I’m here all week. Try the veal.)

Ah, Joe Gillespie. God bless you and your drunk self.

 

A weekend at Camden Yards, my favorite ballpark. Florida decides to execute more people. And juggling around Iceland

oriolepark

I might get thrown out of New York by my fellow Yankees fans for saying this, but this weekend I got to spend time at my favorite all-time baseball stadium.
And it ain’t in the Bronx.
My father, a few of his friends and I sauntered down I-95 to Baltimore last Friday, for some male bonding, delicious crab cakes, and the Yankees-Orioles game the next day at Camden Yards.

Ah, Camden Yards. I hadn’t been there since I went to a few games when I was at college in Delaware in the mid-1990s, when it had just opened. But the place hasn’t lost any of its charm, in my opinion.

From the atmosphere in and around the stadium, the sightlines from the seats, the gorgeous brick buildings behind the center field fence, everything at Camden Yards is just perfect. I’ve been to Wrigley and Fenway Park, but Camden Yards, to me, is the best place I’ve been.

I got to eat some of Boog Powell’s famous barbecue (as good as advertised), met some very friendly people, and enjoyed being a visiting fan in a hostile park (though the place was probably 40 percent filled with Yankees fans).

Camden Yards, of course, began the whole boom of teams building old-style stadiums, and there are a ton of beauties opened since the Orioles’ field, including PNC Park in Pittsburgh and Jacobs Field in Cleveland.

But to me, Camden Yards just has it all. Unfortunately for us, the home fans left very happy Saturday night, as my Yanks got pummeled, 11-3.

Still, even with the result, it was a fantastic weekend, just to be in a terrific locale like Camden Yards.
If you’re a baseball fan and have never been, put it on your Bucket List. It’s that good.

**Next, something you just don’t see every day. A man doing some awesome juggling while tooling around Iceland. This was mesmerizing to me…

**Finally, heard this rather disturbing story about the state I lived in for a while, the crazy but always entertaining state of Florida.

Governor Rick Scott, who is to leadership what Wile E. Coyote was to masculinity, has signed what’s called the “Timely Justice Act.” What this act does is reduce the amount of time a person convicted and sentenced to the death penalty can appeal the act.
Let me just hit you with a few chilling facts that will help you see what an incredibly stupid and cruel law this is.
In the last 40 years in Florida, 77 people have been executed. In that same time period, 24 death-row inmates have been exonerated and given either new trials or freed.
Twenty-four.

So that means that in 40 years, one out of every three individuals on death row have been wrongly sentenced to death.
And yet faced with those numbers,  Rick Scott wants to speed up the number of executions (his office laughingly declares that there won’t be a rise in executions because of this law).
People like me who oppose the death penalty always say that “what if an innocent person is killed by the state?”

In Florida, it may have already happened. And Rick Scott just wants to keep pulling that switch.

A memorable night at Yankee Stadium for my first playoff game. And the Mom who went on strike.

My voice is hoarse, my hands are sore and red from clapping, and I’m deliriously, indescribably happy.

I just had a sports experience unlike any I’ve ever had. I went to my first Yankees baseball playoff game thanks to the generosity of my friend Andrew, and if you haven’t seen any news or highlights today, well, it was kind of a dramatic finish.
Down 2-1 in the ninth to an outstanding Baltimore Orioels team, Raul Ibanez pinch-hit for $30 million man Alex Rodriguez and crushed a home run to right to tie the game.
Then in the 12th, with Ibanez due up again, I turned to the guy next to me in Section 433 and said “OK Raul, you kept us here before, now time to send us home .” (I swear to God and Tebow that I said that.)

And then he did. Ibanez crushed another homer, this time a game-winner, and I was one of 50,000 delirious Yankees fans, cheering and stomping and hugging strangers as the clock ticked toward midnight.

One of the things about being a sportswriter for a long time is that not only do you get jaded, but you’re really not allowed to cheer at games. You go, you sit in the press box, you describe the pandemonium beneath you, and get swept up in a great storyline, but you don’t really cheer.

As a “recovering” ex-sportswriter for the past year, I’ve learned how to root as a fan again at stadiums and arenas.  But nothing prepared me for the electricity of playoff baseball at Yankee Stadium, a place that I still think is too big and impersonal, but on Wednesday night felt special.

When Ibanez hit those homers, the stadium shook. Noise went to a new level. And I finally experienced what October baseball has been like for Yankees fans since 1996.
Walking down the hallways after the game, still giddy with excitement, Andrew, who’s seen dozens of Yankee playoff games, smiled and said to me “I’m so glad you got to experience this.”

Me, too.
Some other thoughts from a wild night in the Bronx, and stick with me because I may just be rambling here as my head is still pretty jumbled.

— Two funniest things I heard: 1, standing outside the stadium before the game, two 30-something guys walked by. One said to the other, “Old ladies, and gay guys, that’s who hits on me.”
And 2, when a (presumably drunk) guy with his shirt off ran up and down a nearby section, the snarky woman behind me yelled “There’s my future husband! Come up here and woo me, my prince!”

— Biggest difference between regular season fans and postseason fans that I noticed? Everybody Wednesday seemed into the actual game itself.

— I had so much fun watching the 10-year-old kid and his dad who sat next to me, as the son rooted and yelled and grimaced all night, while his Dad calmly explained things to him. At one point in extra innings I asked the Dad if the kid would have to go to school tomorrow.

“Depends on who wins,” he said with a smile. I hope that kid is playing hooky right now.

— Finally, hard to see how the Orioles come back from this loss. Just crushing, to be two outs away and have your closer blow it, for the second time in three games. They’ve had a hell of a season and I’ll always love Buck Showalter for resurrecting the Yanks in the 1990s, but I can’t see how they win this series.

**Finally today, a great story from the “Today” show about a Mom named Jessica Stilwell who was fed up with her kids’ lack of interest in household chores. So she went on strike, just to see what would happen.

It wasn’t pretty. But I salute you for trying, Mrs. Stilwell.

Love letters from Yogi Berra, six decades later. The bus traveling America, spreading kindness. And an NFL star helps kids play sports

On the 37th anniversary of the day of my birth (Jesus I’m getting old), three stories of good on Good News Friday…

Yogi Berra is an American legend, a man who is in his 90s but still brings a smile to faces everywhere he goes.
You would think every Yogi story to be told would’ve been told by now (my favorite Yogi-ism is “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.”), but this one seems to be new (and a hat tip to loyal blog reader Sanford for pointing this out to me).

A local TV station in New Jersey brings us the story of Yogi’s love letters to his wife Carmine, more than 60 years after they were written. A sweet man with a sweet heart…

**You never know what you’re going to see walking the streets of New York. While ambling around near Central Park the other day, I came across this bus parked on East 79th Street:

Intrigued, I went to the guy’s website, and found a great story. A man named Bob and his trusty canine companion, Bogart, are traveling across America urging each person they meet to commit 1 million acts of kindness in their life. He’s trying to start a kindness revolution, one person at a time, and preaching about an educational platform of being nice as well.

Of course it’s hokey. But I love it. More kindness ambassadors are needed in this world.

**Finally, I rarely say nice things about the Pittsburgh Steelers and their players, because they’re responsible for two of my more excruciating Jets losses in the last 10 years (if you’re a Jets fan, you don’t need me to name them.)

But I’ve got to get a slow clap going for one of their current stars, LaMarr Woodley, for a gesture he just made. Woodley, who played at Michigan and grew up in the state, learned that school budget cuts were going to force students to “pay to play” varsity sports.

So he stepped up and donated $60,000 to school districts in Saginaw (where Woodley’s from), ensuring there’d be enough money to cover the cost of sports.

A beautiful gesture by Woodley.

Friday grab-blog: The power of David Stern, the glory of Kevin Spacey, and the hell of John Sterling

NBArefs

So I think it’s pretty obvious to most fans who the most powerful man in sports is, but just in case it’s not, let me make yet another case for a vertically-challenged Jewish lawyer who works in New York.

His name is David Stern, and he’s the commissioner of the NBA.

David Stern could’ve made Mother Teresa attack someone with a knife. He could’ve gotten Noah to bring the animals on to the Ark one at a time. He could have convinced Thomas Edison: “You know what? People like it dark.”

Stern can do absolutely anything he wants, I am completely certain. His fingerprints are on every decision made by any commissioner in the last 25 years.

And in the last few weeks, Stern decided that there was no way in HIS green earth that disgraced referee Tim Donaghy was going to publish a book further tarnishing his officials’ integrity.

You remember Donaghy: He was the guy who was caught gambling on NBA games, and making calls that affected the point spread in games he bet on and was refereeing. He was disgraced, and he said he wasn’t working alone, and yet, after initial outrage (especially from Sacramento and Phoenix fans, who could finally say “A-HA, I knew we got screwed in the playoffs”) the tumult died down. No more refs were implicated, the fans moved on, and King Stern had his league back to normal.

Only now, Donaghy has written a book. And man, does he spill the beans. In excerpts published on the popular sports blog Deadspin, Donaghy dishes all sorts of explosive details. He talks about he and his fellow striped shirts making wagers on who can go the longest without calling a foul. He talks about noted homer referee Dick Bavetta intentionally trying to let the Lakers win Game 6 of the 2002 NBA Western Finals, and about how Steve Javie had a personal vendetta against Allen Iverson.

Could Donaghy be making all this up? Perhaps. But read that excerpt; this is a guy who has a ton of details in there, details that would be hard to make up.

This book was going to make huge waves in the media and with fans, and David Stern couldn’t have that. And so, curiously, Random House has decided not to publish the book after all.

The NBA says it never threatened a lawsuit. And sure, it’s possible that Random House, after reviewing the final draft, full of uncorroborated accusations, veiled threats, and other possibly-litigious material, decided on its own to yank the book.

But I’m not buying it. This is David Stern’s work. Of course I have no proof, but I have little doubt he and the league brought pressure to bear.

He’s just that powerful.

**Covered a high school volleyball game Thursday night. I really enjoy covering the sport, mostly. The points are fast and exciting, the players are the happiest athletes during their competition I’ve ever seen, and there’s great athleticism on display.

But man, the shrieking. The players shriek. The fans shriek. Everyone seems to shriek at a volleyball match. Admission should come with two Advil.

ali-holmes

***ESPN is now 3-for-4 in my book in its “30 for 30” documentary series, scoring another great one this week with “Muhammad and Larry,” a film about the 1980 Larry Holmes-Muhammad Ali fight. This was the fight that never should have happened, as a way past his prime Ali was just pulverized by the heavyweight champ, Holmes. Great behind the scenes footage from before the fight, and some great interviews from the present day with Holmes and Ali’s friends.

It’s on again Sunday, I think, at 3 p.m. on ESPN.

**Finally, a few thoughts on Thursday night’s World Series game, won by the Yankees (whoo-hoo!)

1. I’ll tell you what one circle of Hell is: Driving home in the car, the only radio broadcast of the game I could pick up was the WCBS 880 feed from New York, with John Sterling doing the play by play. Absolutely the worst announcer of any sport working today; even lots of Yankees fans don’t like him. He’s so pompous he makes James Lipton look humble, he constantly gets his facts wrong, and often blatantly misrepresents the action.

2. Why did FOX hire Ozzie Guillen to be a commentator? The man is pretty unintelligible.

3. It was fun booing Pedro Martinez one more time. As much as I hated the guy throughout his career, I think he’s the best pitcher of my lifetime. Better than Clemens. Better than Maddux.

Well, since I was talking about James Lipton earlier, I stumbled upon a few minutes of genius here, as the great Kevin Spacey perfectly impersonates some fantastic acting voices:

Why I love Gladys from “Ellen,” Cliff Lee makes me sad, and a Sarah Palin poll

So you know what I love? A good Accidental Celebrity.

I’m not talking about people who are nobodies who try to be celebrities, like those fools on reality TV shows, or that idiot Joe the Plumber from the 2008 election cycle.

I’m talking about people who, because they catch lightning in a bottle at one exact moment of the universe, become famous and get to show their talents. I don’t care if it’s a singer, a dancer, or just a funny person, I love it when fame is temporarily thrust upon someone who just gets it, and enjoys the moment.

Clara Peller, the old Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef” lady, she was an Accidental Celebrity. Susan Boyle, the fabulous singer who blew everyone away on that “Britain’s Got Talent” show, was an Accidental Celebrity. (I just watched that clip of her again, for about the 50th time. Every time I watch it … chills.).

My new favorite A.C. is Gladys Hardy. If you don’t know Gladys, she’s an 88-year-old woman from Austin, Texas, who has become semi-famous for calling in to the Ellen Degeneres show. The clip above was from her first visit; fast forward to the 3:50 mark if you want to hear her famous line that made Ellen completely lose it.

Gladys and Ellen talk all the time, I learned from Gladys’ website, where you can learn all kinds of fun things.

They’ve chatted about “American Idol,” the annoyance of getting gas, and other stuff. She sounds like a delightful 88-year-old woman, and clearly Ellen likes her, as they’ve chatted about 20 times. Gladys is funny, she’s wise, and she just seems like a wonderful woman.

Now, a little research on the old Internets shows me there’s some doubt if Gladys is real. Some think it’s a hoax, that she’s just some local comedian. I don’t buy it. Gladys sounds real to me, and if you need a laugh, check her out.

P.S. If she does turn out to be a fake, I don’t think it makes it any less funny. But it would sting a little.

lee-cliff091028

***Boy, that Cliff Lee sure shut the Yankee Stadium crowd up pretty quickly last night, huh?

Man, he was dealing out there on the mound for the Phillies. Total control of his pitches, the ball was darting all over the place like a 9-year-old in a suit he wanted to get out of, and the Yanks had no chance.

On the cold, wintry night, Lee reminded me of a guy who we’ll get to see again tonight, when he was in his prime: Mr. Pedro Martinez.

Two quick thoughts about Pedro’s start tonight, which could give us an electric atmosphere at the Stadium: 1. Can we get Don Zimmer to sit behind the dugout and heckle him? 2. Just for fun, can someone find Grady Little and get him to the game? Just to, you know, remind people of this (come on Sox fans, you can let it go. You’ve won 2 Series since then).

**Finally, more troubling news from CNN: Apparently 71 percent of Americans believe Sarah Palin is unqualified to be President.

I’m extraordinarily troubled that 29 percent believe she IS qualified. Twenty-nine percent. Sigh.