The World According to Keitho

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Archive for June, 2011

Timing

Posted by keithosaunders on June 30, 2011

So much in life is not what you do, but when you are there.  So much of it is timing.  Think of a hitter at the plate.  He’s got a fraction of a second to decide if the pitch is hittable or not.  Once he decides to swing he has another fraction in which to execute, otherwise the timing is off and he’ll miss.

That’s life.  It’s all about decision and timing.  There have been times in my life where I have been extremely lucky — I would say most of it.  I came to New York, and within a month I was touring Europe with a sax player and his quartet.  I gigged at the Vanguard when I had only been in town for three years. 

I met my wife because I happened to be playing a $30 gig from 11PM-3AM on Saturdays.  I worked there for two years.  I’ve been married for 20 years and have three incredible kids. 

I met my best friend because I happened to go to a Mets-Cubs doubleheader by myslef in late July of 1986.  I was sitting in the upper deck and between games we struck up a conversation.

There are times when it looks as if the stars are about to align and your dream seems attainable, only to have the window slam shut.  Sometimes you don’t even realize it closed until it’s too late. 

But there’s always tomorrow, next month, or next year.  The Brooklyn Dodgers can attest to that.  That’s the thing about timing.  The more you swing and miss, the better you can gauge your next swing.

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The 1986 Mets — amazingly unlikeable

Posted by keithosaunders on June 26, 2011

When the Mets won the World Series in 1986 I, along with the rest of the city, was enthralled.  It did not quite compare to the unbridled joy I felt in 1981, when the Dodgers finally beat the Yankees, but it was close.  To this day the two game sixes, versus the Astros in the NLCS, and of course, the Redsox in the Series, are among the most dramatic, and improbable games I have ever seen. 

We in New York thought that the Mets of the ’80s would be good for at least another two or three Series victories, but of course it was not to be.  Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry were taken down by drug and alcohol addiction, Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez were soon to be on the downside of their careers, and a series of bad trades, and unfortunate signings (can you say Kevin McReynolds?)  did the team in. 

Recently I watched a documentary called The Rise and Fall of the 1986 Mets.  As the title implies, it deals largely with the demons of that team — the drugs, fighting, and carousing.  They interviewed Strawberry, Gooden, Carter, among others.  Glaringly absent was Keith Hernandez, who any Met fan knows, was the leader of that team.  I can imagine that the Mets, who employ Keith as an announcer, nixed his involvement in a show that was going to be decidedly negative.

While it was a poorly produced documentary that had an agenda, it did bring up some valid points about this team.  The Mets of the mid-80s should have won more, or at the very least, been in position to win more.  

To hear Strawberry talk about what his routine was like. is eye-opening to say the least.  According to Straw, he would be out until the wee hours of the morning, drinking, snorting, hanging out with celebrities, and making the most of being the toast of the town.  He would arrive at the ballpark and pop six greenies before batting practice, washing them down with coffee, since that seemed to strengthen their effect.  After batting practice he would pop three more greenies right before the game.  Repeat and rinse for a 162 game season.  Gee, I wonder why his and Doc’s career fizzled so soon?

The worst was the story that Straw told of the plane trip coming back to New York from Houston after winning the pennant.  The entire team was smashed on champagne, and they began ripping up the seats from the plane, even managing to dislodge one.  They received a bill for $20,000 dollars, which Davey Johnson ripped up.  And you wonder why he was a considered a player’s manager…

The thing that bothered me about all of this is the way Straw looks back on all of this.  While he says he regrets his actions, and acknowledges the harm they did to his career, you can hear in his voice a kind of pride he took in those wild times.  To me it’s not funny to hear about vandalism.  I can understand being young, wanting to party, and sow wild oats, but when you put it in the context of the wasted potential, it’s merely sad. 

What a waste.  That team may have one day been mentioned in the same breath as the A’s of the early 70s, or the Big Red Machine.  Instead, they are a blip on baseball’s radar.  At best they are a testament to the gogo 80s; a shitty decade if there ever was one.

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Notes from the east coast

Posted by keithosaunders on June 23, 2011

I’m a ghost wandering the streets of New York City, my ex-home town of 26 years.  It was here that I lived, worked, drank, went to Mets games, and developed into the bitter lump of clay that you see before you.  I know this city like the back of my hand — not just Manhattan, but its five boroughs, as well as Westchester and New Jersey.  Well…I don’t know Jersey all that well, but nobody does. 

The contract between pedestrians and drivers is perfect here.  Unlike the Bay Area, where the pedestrians arrogantly flaunt their dominance, the New York foot traffic has a healthy respect for 4,000 pound vehicles.  Yet they are not cowed — if they think they can make it across the street without getting mowed down, they will cross, regardless of the color of the light.   I think that’s great — more power to them.  As long as they don’t cause an accident, I’m happy for them.  This is a far cry from the Bay Area, where pedestrians brazenly step into the cross walk with no regard for the drivers. 

The subway stations added digital signs which tell you how many minutes until the next train’s arrival.  I remember the old days when I would nervously pace the station wondering if I was going to be late to my gig, as I awaited the next train.  There was that desperate feeling as you leaned over the tracks, vainly willing the train to arrive; that silent cream of frustration as yet another express passes. 

I’ll be here for another six weeks at least — a hostage situation if there ever was one.  New York is a great city, but it’s not my city, and I’m going to miss my routine.  Not to mention the fact that I’m away from my piano, which means my chops will slowly atrophy.

It’s fitting that as I write this from my friend’s house in the Bronx we are watching the Giants play the Twins on one TV, and the Mets versus the Athletics on an ajacent TV.  My worlds continue to collide.

My daughter Lucy in Washington Square Park

 

Taco truck on 6th Avenue in the Village

 

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Tour de Bronx

Posted by keithosaunders on June 21, 2011

While I’m in New York City I’m staying at my friend Jeff’s house in the Bronx.  Some of my longtime readers may remember Jeff as an occasional guest poster.  He is a fellow sports fan and music aficionado.  It is a testament to our friendship that Jeff, the greatest Yankee fan of all time, could be best friends with the greatest Yankee hater of all time.  Believe me, I got the better part of the bargain.

The Bronx gets a bad rap.  When people think of the Bronx they think of an overhead shot of burning buildings in the South Bronx taken from the Goodyear Blimp during the 1977 World Series, with Howard Cosell’s overly dramatic intonation, “The Bronx is burning!”  Back then it was a dangerous place, but much of greater New York City was as well.  The city was broke, crime was rampant, and the real estate and stock market boom of the 80s was yet to arrive.

Today I helped Jeff run an errand to a part of the Bronx that Jeff was unfamiliar with.  We ended up taking a circuitous route, but this was right in my wheelhouse.  I love seeing different sections of New York, particularly in the outer boroughs.  It’s in these neighborhoods —  not chic, glossy, yupped out Manhattan —  where you can still get a whiff of old New York.

We set out from Jeff’s neighborhood, a verdant, tree-lined section of Pelham filled with old three-story red brick houses.  There are lots of flowering bushes, and by summertime the trees begin to form a shade canopy over the streets.

Pelham is in the East Bronx and we headed north and west via the Mosholu Parkway, cut over to Bedford Ave, and made a hard left onto the Grand Concourse and headed downtown.  The Concourse was designed and constructed in the late 1800s with the idea of providing access from Manhattan to the parkland in the northern Bronx.  It was lined with fashionable, deco-style apartments, most of which still exist today, although some are in ill repair.  I took a photo of one that I found particularly striking; a triangular building that reminded me of the Flat Iron building on 23rd street in Manhattan.

 

We passed 176th street, a mere ten blocks north of Yankee Stadium, and turned east onto Mount Eden Rd.  Here are some of the apartment buildings.

 

 

 

 

 

After a few more blocks we approached Crotona Park.  The Bronx is home to most parkland per capita in New York City.  Pelham Park, in the Northeast, is even larger than Central Park.  I was amazed to see this green oasis in the middle of a dense, urban area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a few more blocks I noticed a stand-alone, one-story house which was surrounded by pre-war apartment buildings.  Jeff then recalled that back in the ’70s Jimmy Carter had visited the Bronx, and decrying the urban blight, pushed for the construction of several affordable homes.  Sure enough we soon came to a block that had several of these homes. 

 

We reached our destination on 176th st, ran the errand, and turned north and east to go home.  We found ourselves on Boston Rd, which at this point, runs under the 2 train, which is part of the IRT subway line that runs express in Manhattan under 7th Ave, and continues into Brooklyn, ending in Flatbush.  For my final picture here is a shot under the el — a classic New York street scene if there ever was one.  

 

Now get out there and visit the Bronx!

 

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A surly time in New York City

Posted by keithosaunders on June 17, 2011

I’m back in New York for a seven week stretch while my kids go to camp, and if there’s one word to describe my mood it’s surly.  I’ve been here for just over 48 hours and already I’ve almost made a right turn on a red light, (illegal in NYC) gotten into a shouting match with a gas station attendant, who chided me for not knowing the correct method of swiping my credit card, and suffered sticker shock from crossing the Throgs Neck bridge.  ($6.50 one way)

I’ve played two gigs on the Island with a singer and his quartet — a band I worked with for four years before moving — and was amazed that the east bound traffic has actually gotten worse in the 10 months since I last traversed that hellish thoroughfare called the Long Island Expressway.  In fact, between driving to those gigs, and taking my oldest boy on various college tours, I have been to Westchester, Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and tomorrow, New Jersey.  Almost every road, except for the ones going north towards Westchester, is jammed up.  Brooklyn is a joke — even when the traffic is light, the lights are metered in such a way that you have to stop every other minute.  I do appreciate the more aggressive New York driving style, however.  I am amazed and impressed that even on the congested roads of Manhattan and Brooklyn, people manage to drive as fast as possible, and for the most part, avoid getting into accidents.

I passed my the new Nets arena, which is under construction on Flatbush Ave in downtown Brooklyn, and it appears to be roughly a quarter completed.  All I could think of was that I wouldn’t want to be within five miles of that place on game night.  The traffic will be backed up to the Upper West Side. 

Oh yes…I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the aggravation that goes with seeing the Yankees sweep the AL champion Texas Rangers, while the Mets, in a bid to go over .500 for the first time since the first week of the season, blew Thursday night’s game against the Atlanta Braves in excruciating, Metsian fasion — a blown save by their closer, Franky Rodriguez, and a 10th inning balk with a man on third by reliever, D.J. Carrasco. 

Yep, I’m back. .

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More Weiners, less hysteria

Posted by keithosaunders on June 12, 2011

If people think that Congressman Anthony Weiner should resign because he sent lewd photos over Twitter, they should have their head examined.  What does that have to do with his ability to do his job?  While it’s not the smartest thing for a politician to do, it is naive to think that they don’t have foibles.  Heck, foible-schmoible, he didn’t even cheat.

What’s worse?  He could be an alcoholic, a drug abuser, or a wife beater.  He could have started an illegal war.  Why is the fact that Bush invaded Iraq with no evidence not a scandal? 

It so happens that often times Republican politicians are implicated in these sex scandals.  Who can forget the wide-stance guy, or the Appalachian trail guy.  And there’s always Arnold “cup the balls”  Schwarzenegger.  The only difference I see is that at least the Democrats aren’t preaching bullshit politics, such as family values and abstinence.  When one of your boiler plate hypocrite Republicans gets caught canoodling around, he really looks silly.

To sum up:  We’re all sexual creatures.  Those of us not “doing it” are thinking about “doing it.”  For me, the bigger story is the arrogance of the politician that thinks, in this instantaneous digital age, he can get away with it.  I suppose it takes that same arrogance to consider running for office.

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A bush league of his own

Posted by keithosaunders on June 7, 2011

Tom Hanks said it best:  There’s no crying in baseball.  Tell that to Brian Sabean, GM of the San Francisco Giants.  In the wake of losing his All Star catcher, Buster Posey, due to a collision at home plate with the Marlin’s Scott Cousins, Sabean has lobbied for rules changes, and threatened retaliation.  

The play came in the 12th inning of a 6-6 tie.  Emilio Bonifacio hit a shallow fly ball which was caught for the second out.  Cousins tagged from third, while Posey stood directly in front of the plate, waiting for the throw from right fielder, Nate Schierholtz.  Cousins lowered his shoulder and barreled into Posey at full speed as Posey failed to field the throw.  It was a brutal, yet clean hit.

Sabean, in a subsequent radio interview on KNBR, called the hit malicious saying, “If I never hear from Cousins again or he never plays another game in the big leagues, I think we’ll all be happy.”  He left little doubt that the Giants are planning on seeking revenge on Cousins.

Cousins, for his part, felt terrible about the injury.  Immediately after the collision you can see him standing over Posey, clearly concerned and shaken up by the incident.  He has called Posey several times to apologize.

What would Sabean and Posey have had Cousins do?  If he slides and is out, Cousins would be branded as soft.  He is probably the 25th man on the Marlins roster — he can’t afford to play it safe. 

Not only that, several baseball people have stated that Posey used poor technique while blocking the plate.  Here’s Johnny Bench:

 When I heard about the injury, I was anxious to see how this happened. Buster put himself in such a bad position. First of all, my catchers don’t sit in front of home plate. They stand away from home plate and work back to the plate. But we (catchers) are just fair game. You’ve got a guy running around third base at 210 to 220 pounds with 3 percent body fat and with sprinter’s speed. I teach my kids to stay away from the plate when you don’t have the ball so the runner actually sees home plate and his thought is, slide. But Buster is laying in front of home plate, and it’s like having a disabled car in the middle of a four-lane highway. You’re just going to get smacked. Show them the plate. You can always catch the ball and step, or step and catch the ball, as long as you’ve got the runner on the ground. And if you have the runner on the ground, there’s less chance of any severe collision.

The idea that baseball should change its rules over this incident is insane.  I’ve been watching the game for over 40 years, and in that span I can only think of one catcher whose career ended due to a home plate collision — Ray Fosse.  That was a real travesty, however, as he was bowled over by Pete Rose in the 1970 All Star game. 

So calm down and leave the rules alone. 

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Crankee in Oakland

Posted by keithosaunders on June 3, 2011

During my many years living in New York City I went to dozens of Yankees games.  I was a Mets fan, so I ended up going to Shea Stadium more often than Yankee Stadium.  Around about 2000, when the Yankees, or as a fellow Mets fan friend of mine refers to them — the Crankees —  current dynasty was in full swing and it became an event to attend a game, I pretty much stopped going.   Every once in a while I would go with my best friend Jeff, who is a lifelong, and a true blue Yankee fan, but for the most part I couldn’t take the touristy atmosphere, and I hated the forced patriotism of being subjected to God Bless America during the 7th inning stretch.

I almost never saw the Yankees lose.  Even when they were bad, in the late ’80s through the early ’90s, they almost always won when I was in attendance.  I wish I had kept track of the games — I would bet I have a lifetime .800 Yankee winning percentage.

If that stat is true, then my percentage currently stands at .802.  On Wednesday I made my 2011 debut at the Oakland Alameda Coliseum, taking in an Athletics – Crankees game with a drummer friend if mine.  We sat in the upper deck behind home plate, right next to the big green tarp which covers up the seats that they cannot sell.  I’m enclosing a photo of it so that you can experience the joy that is the A’s tarp.

Somehow we were sold seats right in the middle of a kids section.  We were sitting amongst hundreds of high school students who were enjoying a field trip.  They were nice enough, but as you can imagine, they spent most of the game shuttling back and forth between their seats and the snack bar.  And here’s something:  None of them are baseball fans.  They paid little or no attention to the game.  Often times, after a key out, or good defensive play, my friend and I would be the only people in the entire section clapping.  This does not bode well for the future of the game, at least fan-wise.

I was so looking forward to finally getting to be in the majority of the Yankee haters, but being in the kids section more or less negated that factor.  I was thrilled when the A’s, on the strength of a Josh Willingham home run, took a 2-1 lead in the 2nd inning.  It was not to hold up, however.  And who should ruin my afternoon but Nick f**ing Swisher, an ex-A, who hit a three run dinger off of A’s starter, Gio Gonzalez. 

At some point I looked down into the lower level to see hundreds, who knows, maybe thousands of Yankee fans.  What the hell are they doing here, 3,000 miles from the Bronx?  People really do like to root for a winner, don’t they?  Witness the legion of newly minted Heat fans. 

As for the game, that was all she wrote.  The A’s offense, punchless as it is, could only muster a two out Coco Crisp triple.  Then I was subjected to that fat blowhard, Joba Chamberlin in the 8th, and the artistry of Mariano Rivera in the 9th.  Blinc, blank, blunk.  

Ballgame.    

Posted in baseball | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Damn Heat

Posted by keithosaunders on June 1, 2011

What has annoyed me the most about the Miami Heat post-season, is the way they celebrated after the Boston series.  To look at the histrionics — the hugging, the carrying on, Lebron crying — you would have thought they had won it all, instead of a second round series against an aging, injury-rattled team.  I mean, act like you’ve been there before.

But that’s just it.  This team, outside of Dwayne Wade and Udonis Haslem, hasn’t been there before.  They are a made-for-TV, thrown together bunch, that just happens to have three of the best players in the game.  With each passing game their aura of inevitibility grows stronger, and I am having a hard time envisioning a scenario in which this series goes more than five games. 

It is possible, albeit just barely, to shut down Lebron or Wade, but then what do you do with Bosh?  After an up and down season, he has been close to unstoppable all playoffs long.  You forget what a powerful presence he is in the paint — there have been no easy shots in the lane for Heat opponents, and he has been able to control the offensive boards, as well as score at will.

I have to admit that the more the Heat win, the more my disdain grows to Yankee proportions.  It wasn’t just that Lebron decided to leave Cleveland.  It was the dog and pony show that accompanied it.  It was as if we, the NBA fans, were supposed to applaud the triumvirate of Bosh, James, and Wade, simply for deigning to play on the same court. 

There is something karmically wrong with this team.  I have a problem with a team being put together in a single offseason to instantly win a championship.  The Pistons of the early 90s played together for years before finally beating the Celtics and winning the title.  The Bulls, even with the mighty Jordan, had to pay their dues at the hands of said Pistons.  The Spurs of recent history had a core that played together for years, but they didn’t magically emerge from a hyped up cloud of free agent signings.

There’s only been one game; anything can happen.  Dallas is plenty good, but they will need more from their supporting cast — Jason Terry and Tyson Chandler, I’m looking at youse —  if they hope to make this a series. 

In the meantime, here’s hoping we will at least get a competitive six game series.  If there is any justice, the Heat will lose and the Cavaliers, with the 2nd and 4th pick in the draft, will become good and  take next year’s title. 

 Right.  a bridge to sell me?

 

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