Posts Tagged ‘baseball’

One of the first fictional gay characters on US television was Jodie Dallas on the sitcom Soap, played by Billy Crystal from 1977 to 1981. The character’s development was limited by the folks in Standards and Practices, i.e., the censors, at ABC-TV. It WAS a very different time.

Billy spent the 1984-1985 season on Saturday Night, along with Christopher Guest and Martin Short. He did impressions based on actor Fernando Lamas and sports announcer Howard Cosell. He also did a wicked take on Muhammad Ali, which I saw him do with Ali present, probably on a special for the Champ’s 50th birthday special in 1992.

He appeared in movies that I saw such as Spinal Tap (1984) and The Princess Bride (1987) before his breakthrough role in When Harry Met Sally… (1989), featuring one of the most famous scenes in cinema history.

After he starred in City Slickers (1991), Crystal made his pitch as a legitimate artiste in the seriocomedy Mr. Saturday Night (1992), which he directed and co-wrote. It was an an uneven film, but it generated a Best Supporting Actor nod for David Paymer.

By this time, he was firm established in the mind of the public, performing in Comic Relief several times with Whoopi Goldberg and Robin Williams and playing Robert DeNiro’s shrink in Analyze This (1999).

Crystal also made game show appearances on The Hollywood Squares and The $20,000 Pyramid. “To this day, he holds the Pyramid franchise’s record for getting his contestant partner to the top of the pyramid in winner’s circle in the fastest time: 26 seconds.”

He hosted the Academy Awards nine times, beginning in 1990, when I thought he was quite funny, and most recently in 2012, when it was generally agreed that he was not.

Connecting with his well-established love of baseball, Crystal directed the made-for-TV movie 61* (2001), about Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle pursuing Babe Ruth’s season home run record. This earned him an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special. I learned that he attended Marshall University in Huntington, WV on a baseball scholarship, but never had a chance to play because the program was suspended during his first year.

He did quite a bit of voiceover work, including in Monsters Inc. (2001) and Monsters University (2013).

From watching the Tonys each year, I recall that “Crystal won the 2005 Tony Award for Best Special Theatrical Event for 700 Sundays, a two-act, one-man play, which he conceived and wrote about his parents and his childhood growing up on Long Island.”

I always figured that if I ever met Billy Crystal, I’d get along talking to my fellow Pisces about baseball.

Having no New York State team to root for in the World Series, it was easy to support the Houston Astros. The baseball team started off as the Houston Colt .45’s in 1962, the same year the New York Mets also joined the National League.

The current name, reflecting the city’s role as the control center of the U.S. space program, was adopted in 1965, when they moved into the Astrodome, the world’s first domed sports stadium. They now play their home games in what is now Minute Maid Park in 2000.

But while the Miracle Mets won the World Series in 1969 and 1986, and lost the Series three other times, the Astros had only gotten to the Series once before, losing to the Chicago White Sox in four straight games in 2005.

After that, the team got pretty bad, losing over 100 games out of 162 in 2011, 2012, and 2013, the latter the year they moved from the National League Central division to the America League West.

I had another reason for supporting the Houston Astros. Major League Baseball teams have minor league “farm” teams at various level. The short-season single A farm club for the Astros is the Tri-City Valley Cats, who play in nearby Troy, NY.

Five of the former Valley Cats played for Houston in 2017, and one, Enrique Hernandez has been with their Series opponent, the Los Angeles Dodgers, since 2015. One guy who played in Troy was Houston right fielder George Springer, the 2017 World Series Most Valuable Player.

Coolest of all, the Astros flew a teacher of English as a Second Language, a colleague and friend of my wife’s, from Albany to Houston to attend Games 3 and 4 of the World Series. She had tutored many of the Valley Cats players who came from other countries.

I didn’t ask her specifically who she worked with, but I wonder if one of her students had been second baseman Jose Altuve, who was born in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, played in Troy in 2009, and was named the American League MVP for the 2017 regular season.

The Houston Astros beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 4 games to 3.

Somehow, I missed the fact that the ballots for the 2018 Hall of Fame were distributed in November to the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA). They voted by mail to select from a ballot of recently retired players and were returned by December 31. The results will be announced on January 24.

The candidates can be found here – inductees will need 75% of the vote.

The ones I would have picked:

1 Barry Bonds (6th year of eligibility, out of 10; 53.8% of the votes last ballot)
2 Roger Clemens (6th year, 54.1%)

Still, by far, the best players on the ballot. One of the greatest position players (Bonds) and pitchers (Clemens) of all time. Performance-enhancing drugs were not really regulated until 2004, and their achievements before any allegations were stellar. They each received over 50% of the vote last time, with 75% needed, which is on the upswing.

3 Vladimir Guerrero (pictured, 2nd year, 71.8%) – the outfielder had career batting average of .318, with 449 home runs. If the ballot wasn’t so stuffed last time, he would have made it then

4 Chipper Jones (1st year) – the third baseman/outfielder spent his 19-year career with the Atlanta Braves and hit over .300, with 468 homers

5 Trevor Hoffman (3rd year, 74.0%) – painfully close for the guy with 601 saves

6 Jim Thome (1st year) – with 612 home runs, he is 8th on the all-time list

7 Larry Walker (8th year, 21.9%) – though having a .313 batting average, his 9.5 years playing his home games in Colorado, advantageous to a hitter, has made him a less attractive choice

8 Edgar Martinez (9th year, 58.6%) – voters have been resistant for voters to select a full-time designated hitter to the Hall, though they’ve picked Frank Thomas, who was a DH about 58% of the time

9 Jeff Kent (5th year, 16.7%) – solid infielder at three positions, solid hitter, and has the same birthday as mine

10 Mike Mussina (5th year, 51.8%) – solid pitcher for many years, not always the ace of the staff – he won 270 games at a point that winning 300, once the gold standard, is almost impossible to achieve with a five-man rotation

One could make a good case for Omar Vizquel, the slick-fielding infielder with over 2800 hits
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The National Football League playoffs start this weekend. My rooting interests this postseason, in order:
1. Buffalo Bills – only team that plays its home games in New York State
2. Pittsburgh Steelers – the favorite team of Chuck Miller
3. Philadelphia Eagles – my favorite bus driver’s favorite team
4. Carolina Panthers – where my parents moved to in 1974
5. Jacksonville Jaguars – they’ve been terrible for a decade, went from 3-13 in 2016 to 11-5 in 2017, and the city took a beating from Hurricane Irma in September 2017
6-11. whoever
12. New England Patriots

The family was going to the movies. I got out of the car and walked a little bit ahead, hoping unsuccessfully to to exchange an old Spectrum Theatre card to get into the entity run by Landmark. They stopped taking them at the end of 2016, alas!

But the Daughter said that I had to wait. She asked, “And do you know why?”

“No”

“Because” – and then she sang “We are family.”

I asked her how she knew it; she’d heard it from some school mates. Did she know who sang it? “Sly and the Family Stone?”

“Sister Sledge. But a good guess, actually.”

I’m reminded of the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team, who used the song as the team’s theme song that season. It went to #2 pop and #1 r&b on the Billboard charts. It also went to #1 in Canada, and it was Top 6 in the UK, Italy, New Zealand, and Switzerland.

The Pirates had stars such as Willie Stargell, Dave Parker and Bill Madlock. They got to the World Series but were down three games to one in a seven-game series. Then I did something uncharacteristic: I bet a couple dollars on the Pirates in Game 5, which they won. I did likewise for Game 6, in which they were likewise successful. But I chickened out on Game 7, when they won the Series.

From the Wikipedia:

“We Are Family” was the first song that Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards wrote for any other act than their own band Chic… Atlantic Records President Jerry L. Greenberg wanted the pair to write and produce for other acts on the label, which Rodgers and Edwards considered far too big and established, e.g., The Rolling Stones, Bette Midler… The pair suggested that they write and produce a song for the label’s least established act, and that if they got them a hit record, then they could take the challenge of writing for a bigger act.

There’s a We Are Family Foundation, which “amplifies the world’s most influential, creative young people who are positively affecting our planet to power their work and ideas forward.”

Listen to We Are Family here or here or here (12″ version)

The National Parks Service offers a Senior Pass for those who visit national parks, a lifetime card for those 62 and over. I have one, and I assuredly recommend it. But the government is raising the price from $10 to $80 as of August 28, 2017.

The NPS, unsurprisingly, is experiencing a backlog of Senior Pass orders. “If you need your pass in less than three months, consider purchasing your pass at the first site you visit,” which will also avoid the $10 processing fee.
***
I know I saw True West, the Sam Shepard play, fairly early after its 1980 debut. I think it was at Union College in Schenectady, but I can’t swear to that.

Shepard, unfortunately, died at the age of 73, a result of complications from ALS. And I got only sadder reading My Buddy by Patti Smith.

Critics for The New York Times on Sam Shepard’s Plays, Books, and Movies.

This quote was attributed to him: “Democracy’s a very fragile thing. You have to take care of democracy. As soon as you stop being responsible to it and allow it to turn into scare tactics, it’s no longer democracy, is it?”
***
There was a CBS lawyer drama called Doubt in February of 2017 on CBS. Two episodes aired and it was canceled, actually before I saw it. Now the remaining shows are being burned off over the summer, but only some are being broadcast. So if you happen to have On Demand, the listings will show for July 1, 8A, 8B, 15, 22A, 22B, 29. The B shows never aired, so if you had watched the episodes that were on TV on the 22nd and 29th, you’d see the beginning of the 29th ep, hear “Previously on ‘Doubt,” and wonder, “When did THAT happen?”
***
Were You There When They Crucified Our Lord? by Linda Bonney Olin is now live on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback editions, for those of you who don’t think Christianity is that weird. I should note that 1) Linda is the wife of my wife’s cousin Bill, and 2) I was one of the people who proofread the book.
***
Ever notice how people put info on social media and you want to know more? “A 3-9 putout” in a baseball game, or “If true, he should resign.” Which game, and how did it happen? If WHAT is true? WHO should resign? OK, I can guess who.

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