The World According to Keitho

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Posts Tagged ‘Oakland Athletics’

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 »

Old fogey Keitho rebuts interleague comment

Posted by keithosaunders on July 4, 2011

A couple of days ago I posted about my antipathy of interleague play.  I received this comment from Chris:

An absolutely awful analysis of interleague play IMHO. You fail to cite the reasons why you dislike interleague play in detail when the majority of baseball fans like myself love it. Sure NY fans like myself love playing the enemy in our home park which is great for bragging rights but you fail to take in to account that this is just a game. Stop being so serious, baseball is entertainment. MLB players love interleague play as well. Although free agency has destroyed some of the luster and the high number of teams hurts the competitive feel, on any given day I rather watch my Mets play the Angels for the first time in like 4 years than watch us play the dreadful Nationals every year. Interleague baseball is good publicity, good for business which in turn is great for baseball. The NY Mets sold out the three games series against the Yankees at Citi Field which was only the 4 sellout for them this year. It was great to watch them score all those runs against the Tigers and play by AL rules allowing the DH. Interleague is far from being a problem in baseball its actually alot closer to being a cure. THe real problems with baseball start with parity. NO payroll limits allows teams like the rED SOX AND YANKEES compete every year on payrolls hovering around 200 million. Baseball needs a salary cap. No way can small market teams can realistically compete for the WS. Baseball is a sport of greed and the lack of a salary cap kills the fun. I am so sick and tired of seeing the same teams in the playoffs year after year. The rich also seem to get richer. So instead of worrying so much about interleague play how about we get to the root of the problem.

Back in the 1970s, with the addition of division play, the schedules —  at least in the National League where there were 12 teams —  had symmetry.  The teams played their divisional opponents 18 times, and the teams in the other division 12 times.  This way, if you missed Willie Stargel and the Pirates the first time around in May, the chances were you could catch him in August.  You became intimately familiar with the teams in your league, and there were certain teams that you looked forward to seeing.  This year the A’s played the Redsox twice in Oakland.   If you were a Redsox fan living in Oakland and missed them in that midweek series in May, then you were out of luck for 2011. 

In the old days, a National league fan such as myself was pretty much unfamiliar with the Junior Circuit.  This lent the A.L. teams an air of mystery.  Consequently, by the time the Series rolled around you were pumped to see whatever team made it.  It was a true novelty to see the Redsox and Reds square off in 1975, or the Athletics and Mets in 1973.  If the A’s and Mets were to meet in this year’s series, it would be no great novelty, although it would be great for me since I’m a Mets fan who is transplanted in the East Bay, 10 miles from Oakland. 

The Yankees and Mets played the subway Series in 2000, which was great for New York, even if it was not so great for the Mets fan. (don’t get me started on that bum, Clemens)  How much greater would it have been had these teams not already played a half-dozen or so interleague series.  Incidentally, the 2000 Series, up to that point, was the lowest rated World Series of all time. 

If the country at large didn’t think the Mets-Yankees World Series was anything special, why would they care that much about regular season games.  On the contrary, I know some out-of-state fans that are resentful of having New York baseball shoved down their throats every Sunday of interleague play.  The same goes for the Freeway or Bay Bridge series.  I watched Dodgers-Angels last night and believe me, the adrenalin was not flowing. 

Finally, the All Star game used to be one of the great mid-season events.  I would look forward to it for weeks, wondering how Steve Carlton would face Jim Rice, or if Dave Parker could hit Ron Guidry.  Now….who cares?  Apparently not many, as baseball had to come up with gimmicks such as home run derby and Series home field implications in attempts to gin up interest.

I’m pretty certain that the crux of Chris and my disagreement has a lot to do with a generation gap.  I am nostalgic for the way baseball was played in my youth, and Chris made some valid points about the benefits of  interleague play.  I stand by my opinion — I want my National League baseball during the regular season.  If I want to see the American League there is always the Oakland As.

Posted in baseball | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

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

 

Posted in New York City | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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 »

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

Posted in baseball | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »