The World According to Keitho

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Posts Tagged ‘Oakland A’s’

Speed

Posted by keithosaunders on October 16, 2011

I played an early morning gig the other day — like 8AM early.  How strange to wake up for a gig to find that it was still pitch black outside, not to mention leaving the gig in broad daylight — it’s the reverse of how it usually works. 

The gig was for a non-profit corporation that had a breakfast affair and wanted music.  As usual the band was talking sports before the gig.  With the playoffs ongoing, baseball was the subject of the day.   The drummer asked if we remembered that the AL had a designated runner for two years.  The sax player and I knew that this wasn’t the case — that it was an innovation that Charlie Finley, the A’s owner, wanted to implement.

A little while later the  drummer emailed this info:

1974. Herb Washington of the Oakland Athletics is known as the only “Designated Runner” in Baseball history. As a world class sprinter who broke various sprinting records while in College at Michigan State University he caught the attention of Oakland’s free spirited owner Charlie Finley. He was able to convince Washington to take the role of Designated Runner even though he had no Baseball prior experience. He spent the entire 1974 season and 1 month of the 1975 season with the A’s where he had zero at-bats or time playing the field in the 105 games he appeared in. With that said, Washington still accomplished to steal 31 bases, score 33 runs, and win a World Series ring in his short career. After being released by the A’s he remained in professional sports for 2 additional years as a competitive sprinter in Track & Field. 

Funny thing, though.  Later that night I was playing a gig with a bass player who is an avid sports fan and who has lived in the Bay Area for over 30 years.  He remembered Washington and he told me that, in fact, he was a terrible base runner.  He got picked off many times, got terrible leads, and made a myriad of mistakes on the bases.

Kind of funny, but it brings out the point that there actually is a skill to running, and that it is not merely speed that steals bases.  It serves to illustrate how great players like Lou Brock, Tim Raines, and of course, Rickey Henderson were.

One of the things I love about living in the Bay Area, after having been in New York for so long, is hearing the inside dope about the players and teams of yesteryear.  Even though a hard-core sports fan like myself is aware of those teams and players, there is nothing like getting the first-hand, inside dope.  I eat that stuff up!

Too bad the Tigers couldn’t pull out the ALCS.  Now we’ll have to suffer through another Series of Bush sitting next to jowly Nolan Ryan.  In the end the Tigers were a little too beat up, didn’t have the arms, and suffered from way too much Nelson Cruz.  

I’m still hopeful that Milwaukee can pull it out at home, but I am steeling myself for another Series of delicate-genuis LaRussa, with his revolving door of pitchers.  How does he get away with it?  I only hope we see a 16 inning game with LaRussa forced to pitch Nick Punto when he runs out of relievers.

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Posted in baseball, jazz | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The shtetl of college football

Posted by keithosaunders on September 7, 2011

With four weeks to go in the 2011 baseball season we face a September devoid of pennant races.  A coupe of weeks ago it was looking like I would be lucky enough to be residing in one of the few markets — San Francisco — involved in meaningful September baseball.  How wrong I was. 

The end of August saw the Giants three games behind the plucky Diamondbacks.  They were entering an easy part of the schedule, however which featured seven games against baseball’s worst team, the Houston Astros.  The Giants, however, spit the bit, losing four of the seven, while the Dbacks overcame a mini losing streak to rattle off nine straight. 

The Giants could not overcome the myriad of injuries they have suffered all season long.  Furthermore, the magic that journeymen players, Cody Ross, Aubrey Huff, and Pay Burrell delivered last year, did not carry over into the current season.  Their pitching had been brilliant, but now is showing the wear and tear of the stress that comes with having no margin for error.  Even their ace, Tim Lincecum, has looked mortal lately, blowing up during the last two games he has pitched.  

Currently the black and orange are riding a two game winning streak and are sitting six games out.  It’s not hard to imagine them putting together a streak of wins –they will be remain in the west all month — but in order for them to catch up, the Diamondbacks would have to play .350 ball the rest of the year, which seems unlikely given the fact that they will be playing the same mediocre teams as the Giants.

The NFL begins this week, and not a moment too soon.  Let’s hear it for labor settlements!  The trouble is, I’m stuck with the Raiders and 49ers, two teams that can ruin any given Sunday.  

This situation has, improbably, driven me to…college football.  Oy!

At least we have he 6th ranked Stanford Cardinals and their Heisman candidate, quarterback Andrew Luck.  Stanford started off in true early season NCAA form — with a 54 point slaughter of patsy , San Jose St.  This Saturday they will travel to Durham, North Carolina to play Duke, which should be a more competitive game — they’re only three touchdown favorites. 

But wait, there’s more.  I live in a little town in the East Bay called Albany, which is just a few blocks north of Berkeley, and that, as you know, is the home of a certain Cal Bears.  University of Berkeley, baby!  And they’re 1-0, coming off an impressive, if not sloppy victory over Fresno State.  

Having lived in the east for so long, where college football was an afterthought, it feels odd to live just a couple of miles from a bigtime college school.  I’m actually considering going to a game.  Cal doesn’t do that well attendance-wise, so scoring a ticket shouldn’t be difficult. 

In the meantime, tomorrow is Wednesday and the A’s are home.  This combination can only mean one thing:  $2.00 ballgame!  I am so there.  A’s – Royals give it!   

Posted in baseball, football | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

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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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.    

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Gumball unis

Posted by keithosaunders on May 5, 2011

The other day I was watching a game between the Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers.  It was a Monday afternoon game which the A’s eventually one in 10 innings on a walk off home run by Hideki Matsui.  What struck me about the game — aside from the great ending — was the alternate uniforms worn by each team.  The A’s have these retro ’70s bright yellow jerseys that they wear occasionally at home.  The Rangers wore a bright, royal blue top, as opposed to their travelling grays.

For some reason these colors  — the yellow and blue — looked great together.  Maybe it is because they are primary colors, and bright ones at that.  They looked like gum balls.

I was searching for a photo that showed both uniform in the same shot, but could not find one.  Instead, in keeping with the retro theme, I’ll give you a photo of Coco Crisp with his Oscar Gamble style ‘fro. 

Rangers starter Matt Harrison

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