This week kicks off the quadrennial FIFA World Cup. Now, I love soccer – it’s really the only game I was ever really any good at – and I do like watching the game, but I don’t know that I can handle the orgy of soccer play that the World Cup represents. I mean, I get it – you wait 4 years for a championship and you get your binge on soccer for a month and a half. There’s 64 individual matches played from the first game to the championship.
Compare that to say the 11 NFL playoff games. Over 4 years, that would be 44 games. Can you imagine what a circus a once-every-4-years NFL playoff would be?
“March Madness” is 63 games and goes 3 weeks. Every year. THAT’S a binge. There’s also a bit more scoring in those games. But that’s not really the point. The World Cup is intense. You wait 4 years for your shot, 90 minutes separates you from either going home or advancing…and one goal could be that deciding factor.
There are 12 different stadia being used to play the matches – there are some pretty cool Google Street Views of the places. According to one site, a day in Rio for the Cup will cost you about $700 without including the tickets. Tickets for the final – about $5600. Now, figure you spend a week in Rio and get a ticket to the final, you’re into it about $10,000. Super Bowl tickets were about $2,500, plus hanging around, so I figure going to the World Cup final is probably a less expensive take comparatively…I mean, figuring it only happens once every 4 years and all.
Now, on an entirely different note – from world class soccer fetching some $5600 a ticket to very minor league baseball – we went out to our city’s new team’s inaugural homestand this weekend. Now we had a team called the “Tornadoes” a few years back, part of the Can-Am league, but they folded…perhaps imploded is probably a better way to describe what happened. At one point, Can-Am had 8 teams – they’re now down to 4…hardly a league. How hard up are they? Well, the Tornadoes still have a page on their site, even though the team hasn’t existed in 2 years.
At any rate, the new team in Worcester is the Bravehearts, part of the Futures League. Now, Cam-Am is/was just an inexpensive ticket and still not quite worth the price. Bad baseball, bu
t a kid friendly night out. Now, the Futures League is 10 teams in New England made up of college kids playing for exposure. It’s a pretty cool concept – I mean as an adjunct to the Cape Cod League (which is funded by MLB), you have to assume there’ll be SOME scouts about, and the teams are not unreasonably distant from the Cape.
I’m going to go on the assumption that it was because we went to the third game of the season, because 3 errors a side was pretty sloppy, but I’m happy to chalk up the sloppy play to college kids getting used to playing with each other. They’re not professionals, they don’t get paid, they’re playing for the game. That’s totally cool with me. With a name like “Bravehearts,” you’d like to think the logo would be pretty damn cool, all Mel Gibson like. Not so much – it’s like a heart surrounded by olive leaves or something. It’s kind of stupid. Now minor league ball is a haven for great logo art. This is a relatively new league without the kind of funding of, say MiLB, but the logos (with the exception of the Bravehearts) are pretty cool. My favorite is the “Martha’s Vineyard Sharks,” who just happen to be the league champions. Interestingly enough, the Brockton Rox – one of the other teams – was a member of the Can-Am league before they left for this new format.
Don Zimmer, the baseball lifer, Popeye-lookalike, baseball lifer died at the age of 83 on Wednesday in Dunedin, FL. Zimmer was famously married on a baseball diamond as a bonus baby in the minor leagues in 1951.There is a famous picture of Zim and his wife at home plate under a canopy of crossed bats held by his teammates.
He was was signed out of high school as a shortstop by the Dodgers’ organization in 1949. Later he was Pee Wee Reese’s backup at shortstop for the Brooklyn Dodgers’ only World Series championship team. He survived not one but two horrific beanings in the pre-batting helmet era.
In the summer of 1953, Zimmer was playing for St. Paul in the American Association and was a top prospect as a shortstop with both speed and power. But he nearly lost his life when he was beaned in a game in Columbus, Ohio. He sustained a fractured skull and fell into a coma for almost two weeks. Doctors drilled holes in the sides of his head to relieve pressure on his brain saving his life.
Amazingly, Zimmer came back and made his major league debut in 1954. He hit 15 home runs in 88 games for the Dodgers’ 1955 World Series championship team, but he endured a second severe beaning in 1956 against the Cincinnati Reds. It left his cheekbone shattered and his eyesight permanently damaged.
Zimmer returned to baseball and remained with the Dodgers through their 1959 World Series championship season in Los Angeles, played two seasons for the Cubs, even making an All-Star appearance in 1961, and then joined the expansion Mets as their third baseman in 1962. He retired after the 1965 season with a .235 career batting average and 91 homers.
Zimmer managed the San Diego Padres (1972-73), the Red Sox (1976-80), the Texas Rangers (1981-82) and the Cubs (1988-91). He was Yankees manager Joe Torre’s bench coach from 1996 to 2003, and then quit, maintaining he had been treated abusively by the Yankees’ owner, George Steinbrenner. He joined Tampa Bay the next season, providing tips to players and doing community-relations work in his advisory capacity until just recently when health reasons limited him severely.
Zimmer is best known in New England for having managed the 1978 Boston Red Sox, who were overtaken by the Yankees for a division title on Bucky BLEEPING Dent’s home run in a one game playoff. The Red Sox blew a fourteen game lead that summer highlighted by a sweep still known as the “Boston Massacre”. An injury to right fielder Dwight Evans, playing Butch Hobson at third base (49 errors!), pitching staff issues (the bane of Zimmer’s career as a manager was handling the pitching staff), and a hot Yankees team did in the Sox that year, but few remember that Zimmer managed to rouse the Red Sox from a deficit the last week of the season to win eight straight and tie the Yankees and force the one game playoff.
In Boston, his run-ins with the pitching staff were legendary. Red Sox pitcher Bill “the Spaceman” Lee likened Zimmer to a gerbil for his bulging cheeks. Zimmer and Lee had a number of clashes over the years. Lee and his gang of pitchers called themselves the Buffalo Heads and made their main goal to be making Zimmer--the straight-laced image of 1950s baseball--the butt of their long-haired 1970s radicals of baseball.
In the midwest, Zimmer will be remembered as the National League’s manager of the year in 1989 when he led the Chicago Cubs to a surprising division championship. Of course, the Cubbies found a way to lose in the playoffs that year. That team had Ryne Sandberg, Mark Grace, and Andre Dawson on offense and young Greg Maddux and Rick Sutcliffe leading the rotation with Mitch “wild thing” Williams in the bullpen. In an upset, they lost to an inferior San Francisco Giants team in five games in the NLCS.
The other Zimmer low-light while in New York was as a Yankees coach in the ALCS in October 2003, at age 72, he charged Boston’s star pitcher Pedro Martinez during an on-field melee. Zimmer swung and missed, and then was thrown to the Fenway Park turf by Martinez. Probably one of the most embarrassing moments of Zim’s career, he immediately and tearfully apologized for sullying the game.
The final Zim moment in the spotlight was in the 1999 playoffs. He was struck in the face by a ball fouled into the Yankees’ dugout by Chuck Knoblauch. The next game, he wore an Army helmet.
For me, I remember Don Zimmer as the manager of the Red Sox when I fell head over heels in love with baseball. Don Zimmer was the manager of the Red Sox in 1979 and 1980 when I was five and six years old, and he became my favorite. Not Jim Rice. Not Yaz. Not the Eck. Not Freddy Lynn. Not Carlton Fisk. Not Dick “the Dragon” Draco (OK, maybe he was my second favorite player...the Dragon, c’mon how cool is that to a five year old!). Not Bob Stanley or Bill Campbell. Not Tom Burgmeier (second or third favorite for sure). Not Tony Perez. Not Steve Renko. Not Win Remmerswaal (Dutch pitcher...I remember my Dad told me he wore wooden shoes and I would sit as close to the television as possible to see if his shoes were really made of wood).
Nope, my favorite player on my favorite team in my favorite sport was the manager with the grumpy look and giant jowls. I know it was a source of amusement for the family (I have a cousin who I remember greeted me many years later with “How’s your pal Zimmer doing?”), but I was rooting for the manager. (Yeah, guess I was an odd kid).
Anyway, I remember being six years old and DEVASTATED that the Red Sox fired Zim. I could not comprehend it. It was wrong, WRONG, W-R-O-N-G!!! (to my six year old mind).So the team didn’t do well, fire the players!
I remember my Dad telling me how Zimmer was hired by the Texas Rangers and I was ecstatic. I pulled out my Baseball Digest that had the addresses of all the baseball teams, a green crayon, and penned a congratulatory letter to Zim c / o the Texas Rangers. Humoring me, my parents actually stuck a stamp on the letter and mailed it.
Not long afterwards, an envelope arrived with the Texas Rangers logo on the return address. Someone in the Rangers offices must have received my letter and obliged to take an autographed Don Zimmer picture and mail it back to me. Of course, at the time I believed Zim had read my green crayon penned prose and was struck speechless by the support for him back in Boston. Unable to find the words to respond, he could only write his name in return.
Zim didn’t last long in Texas, but Ialways kept an eye on his continued career. Other sports, life, the universe, puberty and girls soon interfered with my love affair with baseball and my Don Zimmer infatuation, but in many ways I was still that goofy six year old pasting the picture of Zim and the envelope in a scrapbook at sixteen, at twenty-six, thirty-six, and today. That personal connection, even if it wasn’t personal (no, I never wrote and asked Zim if he ever saw my letter...it would be too crushing to my inner six year old), is what has me glued to the TV, shelling out cash, pounding the keyboard, rummaging around the internet, and just immersed into sports in such an unhealthy way to this day.
In 2004 Zimmer relented to writing a biography with Bill Madden titled the “The Zen of Zim”. A great quote (which was published the other day in the New York Times feature on Zim after his passing) sums him up perfectly: “All I’ve ever been is a simple baseball man, but it’s never ceased to amaze me how so many far more accomplished people I’ve met in this life wanted to be one, too. What a game, this baseball!”
Sometimes you forget why you love baseball and then the passing of a baseball legend like Don Zimmer happens and it all comes pouring back. For me, Don Zimmer is a large part of my love affair with baseball. I may not have been more accomplished than Zim, but damn he hit the nail on the head with the hammer there: I sure would have loved to be a simple baseball man.
Hello and welcome to another Wednesday of deep thoughts. I have been slammed at work and have been doing a bit of traveling to look at JUCO baseball opportunities for my son. I have not been too busy to enjoy the great weather we have had this month. I can't recall a May that has been as pleasant as it is has been in Austin this year. Of course we have had a few humid days in the 90s, but more in the 80s with cool evenings. If we can just get a bit of rain in the hill country, it will be perfect.
I caught a bit of sports radio on Tuesday and found myself nodding my head as I drove along. The guys were talking about the perception that the Spurs were an old team that played the game at a slow pace. If you caught any of the OKC vs San Antonio game this week, you were probably surprised how efficiently that the Spurs deposed of the Thunder. The Thunder tried every combination imaginable and it simply did not matter. The talking heads commented that the Spurs motion offense looked very similar to the offense that the Harlem Globetrotters used to run. That is a bit of a stretch, but his point was valid. San Antonio executes their offense and at times it does look like they are playing the Washington Generals. The beautiful thing about watching the Spurs is the lack of selfish play. There is no ego or look at me in this team…it truly is basketball played the way it was meant to be played. A comparison to the NFL’s Patriots would not be far off. They have it figured out in San Antonio; it is just a shame that more do not appreciate the greatness of this team. Oh well…maybe history will shine a brighter light on the Spurs than we currently see. Of course, I get the feeling that the Spurs really don’t care what everyone else thinks. They play for themselves and Pop…which is really pretty cool. Here is a very good tribute to the Spurs…it takes a few minutes, but is worth it.
I read that Mike Tyson made an appearance at the Albuquerque Isotopes game on Tuesday night. Okay, it was not Mike Tyson, but only a Tyson imitator. Apparently hot shot Cuban prospect Alex Guerrero said something to Miguel Olivo that Olivo took offense to. A brief skirmish began at the mound as pitchers were being changed. This was quickly broken up, but evidently cross words were continued in the dugout. Word is that Olivo took a huge bite out of Guerrero’s ear. This was not a small nibble, but a man sized chunk. Guerrero was to undergo plastic surgery late Tuesday. I wonder how the Dodger brass will resolve this. My money is on Guerrero. Olivo is a 35 year old journeyman catcher, while Guerrero signed a multi-million dollar deal in the offseason. Whatever the outcome, it is tough to imagine any circumstance where biting off an ear is acceptable. Reports are that police are investigating. No word if Olivo will be quarantined for 10 days…
So much for Tony LaRussa’s retirement from baseball…it was announced this week that LaRussa would take a position with the Arizona DBacks as Chief Baseball Officer. That may be his title today; but I doubt that Kevin Towers (GM) and Kurt Gibson (Mgr) are very comfortable with LaRussa looking over their shoulder. I am really surprised that Arizona has played so poorly this year. There is no doubt that injuries have had a play in their poor beginning, but with the payroll they have…I guess it figures that something had to change. It only seemed to be yesterday that Arizona was a team loaded with young talent. My guess is that it won’t take long for LaRussa to make his presence known. Any bets that he finishes the season on the field?
Word out of the NFL today is that former players have filed suit against the NFL claiming that the NFL gave them drugs to keep them on the field. Broken bones were allegedly kept from players. One player had elevated levels of protein in his urine that the team doctors “overlooked” when doing his yearly physical. When asked about the law suit, Roger Goodell said, ''Our attorneys have not seen the lawsuit and obviously I have been in meetings all day.'' Obviously Roger…
Some time back, I wrote about the magnificent football stadium that was built in Allen Texas. The stadium was state of the art…huge jumbotron with seating for 18,000. The total bill to build was $60 million. The Allen Eagles opened the stadium in August of 2012. This year, they will be playing their home games in Plano, Texas. The grand stadium has been closed due to deteriorating concrete that has been deemed unsafe for the public. The architect (PBK Architects) and construction company (Pogue Construction) have pledged to repair the stadium at no cost to the Allen School District. Of course, there is that small weekly amount of $5300 per game to rent the Plano field. I guess that $60 million just does not buy what it used to...
Carl Spackler reminded me recently of an old Johnny Monkey blog. Since the bad ass monkey has been MIA, I thought that it would be fun to remind us of our furry friend...wherever he is.
Hello my Gab friends. It has been awhile since I stopped by and I thought it was time to treat you to a few of my thoughts. Johnny Monkey has been compared to another and Johnny Monkey felt that it was time to "differentiate" an interesting man and a bad ass monkey. Here are a few items that you may find, "interesting"...
When Johnny Monkey eats at a restaurant, the waiters tip him.
Traffic lights turn green whenever he approaches the light.
Mimes can’t shut up around Johnny Monkey.
When there is a real emergency, 911 calls Johnny Monkey.
Wherever Johnny Monkey lives, the locals learn to speak his language.
When Johnny Monkey goes fishing, he does not need bait…the fish simply jump in his boat.
Johnny Monkey once made a bad man kick his own ass.
Life gives Johnny Monkey lemonade, never lemons.
Wilt Chamberlain read Johnny Monkey’s book about women.
After the most interesting man in the world left The Virgin Islands, it was just called The Islands. After Johnny Monkey left, they were called The Satisfied Islands.
At birth, Johnny Monkey slapped the doctor.
Pilots allow Johnny Monkey to talk on his cell phone.
Johnny Monkey is friends with Big Foot and the Loch Ness monster.
Johnny Monkey can french in any language.
Rubik’s cube was a gift to Rubik from Johnny Monkey.
When Johnny Monkey met an alien, the alien asked Johnny Monkey to probe him…
Don't forget to keep eating your vegetables...
Since this is graduation season, I wanted to finish this week's blog with a tribute to graduates and veterans. At the University of Texas graduation on May 17th Naval Adm.Wiliam H. McRaven was invited to address the graduates. I will post this video for your viewing and I hope you take a moment to listen. The words he laid on this graduating class are invaluable. McRaven's speaks about his Navy Seals training and how important it was in shaping his life. He brings new meaning to making lemonade when life hands you lemons. It is my hope that on this week leading to our Memorial Day holiday that you can take a moment to hear McRaven's word...they are powerful. Also, if you know a veteran...thank him for his service. It is because of the brave men and women that serve that we are able to enjoy the freedom we have.
I happened to see a video and follow up fun of the Lance Stephenson flop. SportsNation asked fans to put the "sleeping" Stephenson in different places. This is really funny, but the NBA was not as amused. Stephenson was fined $5000 for flopping. No word if he was fined for "sleeping" on the job!
Here is the live "flop" and nap...
Now that...is funny. Hope you enjoy as well!
That’s all I have today, but I will leave you with a bit of Jack Handey…
"Don't ever get your speedometer confused with your clock, like I did once, because the faster you go the later you think you are."
It makes me mad when people say I turned and ran like a scared rabbit. Maybe it was like an angry rabbit, who was going to fight in another fight, away from the first fight.
Thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave a few deep thoughts of your own…
Hello and welcome to another Wednesday of deep thoughts. Last Friday, we made our last trip to Edinburg to watch some Bronc baseball. One of the cool things about this season is watching my Mom and Dad connect with college baseball. It was a treat to have them join us for the Mother Day weekend series. Although we have been sorely lacking in rain; we managed to find the one of those dramatic thunderstorms that the southwest is famous for. Booming thunder with a spectacular lightening display rode with us the last 3 hours of our rides unbeaten string on Saturday in a game 3 to 1. The trio of Sam Street, Blake English and Alex Henson have a weekend ERA of 2.27, which is best in the WAC, second best in Texas and ninth best in the country. Blake English started the second game on Saturday and finished with a 2 to 0 complete game win. Alex Henson started the Sunday game, but gave way in the 5th inning for a procession of senior relief pitchers. It was 0 to 0 in the bottom of the 9th when senior Andy Fotuna hit his first career HR to send the crowd home happy.
The Broncs have one weekend series left at Northern Colorado next weekend…but my interest will no longer be what it once was. Last week, Blake told the coaches that he did not plan to come back to Pan Am next year. He assumed that he would be fulfilling his obligation this year before he moved on, but that is not how the coaches wanted to move forward. Since school is officially over, Sunday was Blake’s last game in a Pan Am uniform. I was proud to watch him support his teammates, even though he did not get any playing time. This year was a blast for Julie and I and I believe that this year was a valuable year for Blake’s maturity. Given the lack of depth at catcher, it was rather odd that Blake will not be traveling to Arizona for the conference tournament…but that decision was not his to make. Things work out for a reason and it is time to look to the future. Several JUCO coaches have been in touch with Blake about next year, so we will see what happens. It is great to have him home for a few weeks before he heads out to California for a summer of baseball.
Did you happen to see the bat flip that Puig had against Tim Hudson? I loved Hudson’s response when asked about the bat flip...: "He hit the piss out of it, so I probably would've flipped it too." I suppose that the bat flip is here to stay, so hopefully more pitchers will take Hudson’s stance about the flipping of the bat. Here is a guy in Japan that has taken the bat flip to a new level…
Most of you know that I love to watch the MLB channel. One of the analysts that I enjoy is Mitch Williams. After reading about Mitch’s antics while coaching a group of 12 year olds at the Ripken complex, I wonder if perhaps Mitch might be better off leaving coaching to someone with a more “professional” approach. Getting in an umps grill might be okay in the big leagues, it is not okay when coaching kids. I love you Mitch, but this is bad form…
Sports Illustrated used to do a section called "The Apocalypse" is upon us...(maybe they still do). This story sort of reminds me of that section. A former OU football player (Gabe Ikard) and his girlfriend enjoy attending the Oklahoma Thunder games using tickets that his girlfriend provides. The OU compliance office wanted to make sure that she was taking him to the game because she loved him the "right" way. The couple actually had to sign an autograph that they were dating for love and not because Ikard was a football player. To top it off, Ikard actually signed a professional contract with the Titans and is no longer an amateur player. It really is time for this nonsense to stop...
That’s all I have today, but I will leave you with a bit of Jack Handey…
"If you're a young Mafia gangster out on your first date, I bet it's real embarrassing if someone tries to kill you. "
"You know what's probably a good thing to hang on your porch in the summertime, to keep mosquitos away from you and your guests? Just a big bag full of blood."
Thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave a few deep thoughts of your own.
Had the opportunity this week thanks to the lovely Mrs. B. to revisit an old friend: the Fenway Park bleachers. As an early Father’s Day/late 40th Birthday present I was given two tickets to head out on Tuesday night to see the Red Sox take on the Tampa Bay Rays. My best buddy, G., and I were off to our old teenage stomping grounds on a Tuesday night (Oh my gosh, a work night...I can’t be out and about town in my advanced age!).
We retraced our old steps, driving up to the Quincy Adams train station to catch the Red Line train. Parking was a bit more costly than when we made the trek 22 years ago, but it was the same urine-stink parking garage of the days of yore. Riding the Red Line train through Quincy and into the city brought back memories of the hundreds of times I had done so before: the summer of construction on the line and getting out and riding the bus for three stops; the time my wife’s sister left her pocketbook on the train and we had to take a post-game trip to the end of the Green Line to pick it up and rush to get back on the last train out (and amazingly got it back with all the money, ID, and cards inside); all the silly conversations; the people watching; and even the time we took the boy to Fenway at nine months old (over a decade ago now) and he reached out from the carriage to grab the poor nice lady’s ass.
A quick switch to the Green Line at Park Street and we were on our way to Kenmore. A quick walk, crossing across the bridge over the Mass Pike, and we were passing the Cask’n’Flagon (too many other “real” bars in the area to grab a drink and not be in a tourist trap). A few steps more and we entered history. Suddenly we were strolling behind the Green Monster to reach Gate C in centerfield across the street from the music clubs. Of course, I had to stop off and enjoy one of these:
From there we were chomping away and then inside. From one quick stop for a couple of beers ($7.75 for a can of Miller Lite...now that is price gouging) and suddenly we emerged from the steel and concrete of the city to this:
It had been far too many years since the costs of the Larry Lucchino-John Henry-Tom Werner regime drove the little folks like me and G. from our home away from home in the Baseball Oasis.
A good deal of conversation took place through the warm-ups (starting pitcher John Lackey):
and through the first three innings. Let me add, it was cloudy, misting, and cold. It said the temperature was 42 degrees, but it had a cold wind blowing in from behind us in centerfield and the wind chill was no more than 30 degrees. Sitting in the cold was numbing. I felt bad for the kids in attendance as I had sat through my share of games in bad weather. My second trip to Fenway was a two and a half hour rain delay in 1985 (I only remember that lefty first baseman Mike Easler ripped a home run down the right field line around the Pesky Pole).
By the fourth inning (the place was half empty and slowly emptying) we were up and moving (too much beer to sit too long anyway!) and we began our trek around the stadium. We had to check out the improvements, the changes, the new food stands, the revamped areas and the extra seats crammed in.
We ended up here:
and just about everywhere in and out of the stadium. What we did not catch on the field we caught on the monitors. It was still cold but moving around kept us warm. We got to see the horrible drunk singing and dancing of the “Sweet Caroline” crowd. Of course, the end of game was inexorably slow as we were treated to the longest inning in the eighth and ninth innings.
The Red Sox had been locked in a one-one game through six innings before finally breaking out with the bottom of the order chipping in. With the Sox shut down by Erik Bedard (seriously!) it was nice to see rookie centerfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and young third baseman Will Middlebrooks contribute to the win. But former Cardinals closer Edward Mujica for the Red Sox and long-time set-up man Joel Peralta dragged the end of the game out as neither could find the plate.
Mujica struggled so much that closer Koji Uehara had to come in for a three pitch strikeout to close the game and grab a save. The final was seven to four, but Boston had the game in hand at the end. It was the dragging out of the bottom of the eighth and top of the ninth stretched the game to four hours, but by that point I was ready for extra innings. Get my money’s worth! Not to be with Koji shutting it down, but he certainly got the sparse crowd excited. Great energy from the closer.
Afterwards, it was a trek down to the Green Line (and another sausage on the way out!) and missing the underground stairs in the middle of the sidewalk of old. Another Green Line to Red Line to Quincy Adams and we were back on the road home. A great night of baseball and friendship...a great gift from the Lovely Mrs. B. Yeah, I was grumpy at work and I pity the fools that got in my way at work on Wednesday, but it was worth it.
To be back at Fenway was fun and magical. Great memories of the past and a look at the place today. Yeah, it is way over commercialized and expensive, but it is still Fenway Park. I was there and the ghosts of Tris Speaker, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Jimmy Foxx, Lefty Grove, Dom DiMaggio, Johnny Pesky, and Tony Conigliaro were all there as well with me. It was baseball on a cold, raw April night, but it was a great night I will treasure for a long time.