Monday, April 30, 2007

Roman Greenberg's Boxing Shorts on the Block recently announced that it had purchased the boxing shorts of heavyweight hopeful Roman Greenberg for a considerable sum, in an attempt to assist the up-and-coming fighter in his pursuit of the world heavyweight title. The online backgammon company is essentially sponsoring Greenberg, so that he can afford to train and hone his already considerable boxing skills. will then auction off Greenberg’s boxing shorts for $100,000 after an upcoming (yet still unscheduled as of this date) Greenberg fight against one of the WBO’s top 5 boxers this year. The proceeds raised from the auction will go to a charity designed to benefit Arab and Jewish youth in distress.

Greenberg, who is 25-0 with 17 knockouts, is a 24-year-old who Angelo Dundee says has “the fastest hands for a heavyweight since Muhammad Ali.” Born in Russia and Jewish, Greenberg is 6’3” and weighs 234 lbs. and features an orthodox style.

His latest victory was an impressive decision against American boxer Michael Simms on March 23rd at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Greenberg won in ten rounds on points, using his superior speed to batter Simms throughout the contest. Prior to defeating Simms, Greenberg beat Kendrick Releford, Julius Francis and Steve Pannell.

Greenberg is the current IBO Intercontinental heavyweight champion. His manager is Jim Evans, who also handles Light Welterweight Gareth “The Gladiator” Couch (9-0-0). Greenberg lives and trains in the UK.

Greenberg is not only a great fighter, but he’s smart, well-spoken and comes from a very talented family. He speaks four languages – Hebrew, Russian, German and English. His brother was the Junior Chess Champion of Israel in 2004.

Greenberg is proud to be Jewish and wears the Star of David on his trunks.
“Through the Star of David, I represent Israel and myself,” Greenberg said. “All through history, Jews have always had to fight for their freedom and for their lives. When I come out wearing the Star of David, it shows the whole world that the Jews are still here and that they are successful.”

As of March 27, 2007, Greenberg was ranked 41st in the International Boxing Organization’s heavyweight computerized rankings. Of those ranked ahead of him, only #34 Alexander Dimitrenko is younger.

Experts have said these things about Greenberg:
“He’s at his best when he’s moving his legs, creating angles and confusing opponents.”
“He’s cerebral with lightning reflexes, incredibly quick hands and a solid jab.”
“He has plenty of flashy moves and can escape from a corner and counter as well as anyone in the division.”

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Yo, Meathead!

Okay, a month has gone by in the baseball season! Can you believe it’s been almost a whole month? And while things are maybe not quite how I’d like them, some things are EXACTLY the way I’d want them to be!

Like the Yankees being in last place, for example. It seems like a stretch to have thought that the mighty New York Yankees, with a payroll equal to that of several small-market teams put together, could actually be in last place in the AL East after almost four full weeks of play. Yes, they’re even percentage points worse than the Devil Rays at the moment! Why, only last week, they were hanging tough with the boys from Boston—and then the Red Sox swept the Yankees in Boston last weekend. Since then, New York lost a pair to Tampa Bay and another game to Toronto, boosting their division rivals while taking a fall themselves for their longest losing streak in two years. Can’t wait to see what the Yankees–Red Sox rivalry holds this coming weekend when the teams play in New York.

Now, I rarely get off too much on other people’s misery—but I wonder what George Steinbrenner is thinking now! Both the Boss’s bark and bite have greatly diminished in the last few years, and so far, nary a peep has been heard from him. I’m sure ol’ George has fantasies about wrapping his hands around the necks of GM Brian Cashman or Manager Joe Torre.

Of course, I expect this to change. I’d be totally shocked (albeit psyched!) if the Yanks’ freefall continued. There’s too much high-priced talent (read “Pay-Rod”) for this team to collapse. Also, please note that one six-game losing streak means nothing. The last time the Yankees had such a streak, they still finished first and still made the playoffs. But hey, a guy can dream! If I have this much ill will toward the Yankees and I’m not rooting for any of their division rivals, I can only imagine how Red Sox fans must feel! But Boston fans better keep their shirts on! This race is far from over, and something tells me that neither the Red Sox nor the Yankees will be around when that World Series trophy is being hoisted in October.

Some other surprises around the league:

Cleveland is in first place in the AL Central. Don’t know if anyone thought the Indians would be any good this season. Meanwhile, the Twins, just two games over .500, are in fourth place.

Once again in the AL West, only one team is over .500—but now it’s the Angels, not the A’s. Yes, the A’s had a rough week, while Anaheim could do no wrong. I have a feeling that the front office of the Texas Rangers thought that team would be better. At 8–13 near the end of April, the Rangers better get into crisis mode or this season will be lost before mid-May!

No real surprises in the NL East, unless you count the fact that Philadelphia has climbed out of the cellar and is in fourth place. The Phillies actually have been on a little tear, but they still have a way to go before they can compete with the Mets and the Braves.

The NL Central remains a stunner—the Brewers are still in first place! And the Pirates have climbed into second place! While the Cubs are still last, St. Louis is now in third, Cinci is fourth at two games under .500, and poor Houston, on a six-game skid, has slipped to fifth. This division has the potential to keep fans’ attention for the rest of the season.

I’m sure San Francisco fans are grinning behind their hands at me for predicting that the Giants will falter with nothing to spur on their season besides the Great Home Run Chase by their poster boy for steroids. After an eight-game winning streak, the Giants have surpassed the Dodgers, Padres, and Diamondbacks for first place. But I’m not ready to eat my words yet! Give the Giants some more time and they will fall right back on to the trash heap where Barry Bonds belongs.

SEASONINGS: In the NBA, I want to give credit to the Warriors, Nuggets, and Bulls for each taking at least one game (the Bulls are up 2–0) in their playoff series and making them interesting and fun. Can’t say the same, unfortunately, for the Magic and Wizards, who have not yet won a game—in fact, Orlando is on the verge of being swept by the Pistons. I would give credit to the Lakers for taking one from the Suns, but I think they get way too much credit anyway—especially Kobe. It’s already a common belief that without Shaq, Bryant will never win another thing. Steve Nash and his club will not be stopped by Los Angeles!

Lastly, I’m sure no one would ever have thought they’d hear me say this, but times have changed since the 1990s—let’s go, Bulls!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

John Daly's Beer Commercial Pulled by CBS

Golfer John Daly has taped a commercial for Maxfli golf balls in which he sings in a bar while people are drinking beer and later grabs a beer while he's driving a golf cart. But, CBS won’t ever broadcast the commercial, stating that it violates network policy by showing irresponsible consumption of alcohol.

I have never understood the phrase “Drink Responsibly.” What exactly does that mean? When you put drinking into the proper perspective, isn’t it basically an irresponsible act from the get-go? I know they say wine can be good for you, but hard booze and beer are full of things that can in no way be considered responsible. That’s like saying “Play Russian Roulette Responsibly” or “Eat Lard Responsibly.”

CBS implied that the commercial was offensive because the people featured in it were just having too good a time. "It did not meet the standards of the CBS network," spokeswoman LeslieAnn Wade said Tuesday. “Any implied or direct reference to excessive consumption of alcohol would not meet network guidelines."
The commercial has aired on the Golf Channel, but it has been criticized for showing Daly reaching for a beer while driving a golf cart, which some consider dangerous. Some have also questioned why Maxfli is juxtaposing Daly (who has a checkered history) with alcohol. The marketing director for Maxfli golf balls said, "We looked at John Daly as someone who lights up a room, not someone with a troubled past."

John Daly has always been the Babe Ruth; the Dennis Rodman; the Hollywood Henderson and the Mike Tyson of golf. Unpredictable, unrestrained and unrepentant, the greatest thing about Daly (other than his monstrous drives) is his attitude about life. When the man dies (and don’t expect him to live to be 100) his headstone will probably say something like, “He drank. He smoked. He partied. He stroked. And he never gave a damn about what people thought of him.”
I personally admire the guy for all his wives, his gambling losses, his triumphant wins and disappointing losses. Critics are always saying that if he didn’t party so much he’d be a top echelon superstar golfer. My reply to that is, “So what?” Why is it so important for people to live up to their potential? Why can’t folks just be free to enjoy their lives? If they want to underachieve than that’s their own business, as far as I’m concerned. Some people don’t crave money, success and fame.
In two thousand years, when historians look back on our society, the only names they’ll be talking about will be Jesus Christ, Albert Einstein, maybe Gandhi and/or Martin Luther King. Oh, and Scott Baio. (How could I have left out Charles in Charge?)
So, who gives a s--- if John Daly has a few beers, a couple wives, smokes Camels like a chimney and isn’t a legendary golfer? Not me. And certainly not Daly himself. So, have another beer John. And tell the uptight suits at CBS to plant a big smooch right on that large derriere of yours!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Oden Goes for the Pros

Greg Oden is through with school. He’s fleeing Ohio State University for greener pastures at the professional level. The 7-foot freshman said yesterday he will leave Ohio State after leading the Buckeyes to the national championship game and enter the NBA draft, where he figures to be one of the top two picks along with Texas freshman forward Kevin Durant.
And how can you blame him? The kind of money Oden will be making next season in the NBA will be unprecedented for a rookie. He played like a man among boys this season and looks like a seasoned NBA all-star already. For him to stay in college would have been a waste of talent, quite honestly.
Some of the people associated with Ohio State’s basketball program have made disparaging remarks about Oden leaving the school. I think that’s ridiculous. I can’t believe that anyone else in the world with half a brain would pass up the treasures and rewards that await Oden on the pro level.
Ohio State was a good training ground for Oden. The Buckeyes have a first-class program, with the best accommodations, facilities and hoochies (see photo) in the NCAA. But, the NBA is like heaven compared to college. Oden can now look forward to first-class flights and hotels, awesome food and drink, huge arenas every other night and best of all, better-looking, not to mention freakier, groupies!
Freshman teammates Mike Conley Jr. and Daequan Cook also said they will make themselves available for the draft. Unlike Oden, they have opted not to hire an agent for now--meaning they will retain the option of returning to school in the fall.
"This is a very tough decision for me," Oden said in a statement released by Ohio State. "I love OSU and love being a Buckeye, but I also have a great opportunity to take my game to the next level and compete with the best players in the world. I've discussed this with family, friends and coach [Thad] Matta, and I feel the time is right."
None of the players was available for comment. Conley is expected to be an honorary head coach for today's Scarlet vs. Gray spring football game. Oden is out of town to attend his aunt's wedding.
At a news conference yesterday afternoon, Matta said the departure of the three players, though expected, would leave a hole in the program. Matta said he was proud of their accomplishments and hoped that the success of players such as Oden, coupled with the team's trip to the national championship game, will lure talented recruits.
"Honestly, it's been kind of a goal of mine to have a player selected as high as Greg is going to be," Matta said. "This is a situation where we've got to handle it and continue to build."
All three players were key figures this past season for the Buckeyes, who went 35-4 to set a mark for victories and won the Big Ten's regular-season and tournament titles before advancing to their first national championship game since 1962, where they lost to two-time champion Florida 84-75 this month.
After getting a late start at Ohio State because of a wrist injury, Oden, 19, lived up to his billing as a two-time national high school player of the year, leading the Buckeyes in scoring (15.7) and rebounding (9.6) per game and topping the Big Ten in shooting percentage (.616).
His best game may have been his last one, when he scored 25 points and had 12 rebounds while dominating the inside against Al Horford and Joakim Noah of Florida.
Oden had surgery on his right (shooting) wrist to reattach ligaments last June 16. He worked out with the team while wearing a cast that eventually became an elastic brace. After missing the first seven games, he came in and--despite shooting free throws and most of his other shots left-handed--had an immediate impact.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Bay Area Sports is Sick Right Now!

There’s a sickness in the Bay Area right now and it’s called playoff fever. The only remedy for it is elimination, something that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen any time soon. Both the San Jose Sharks and the Golden State Warriors are in the postseason and are looking good.

The Sharks start a second round series against the Detroit Red Wings, a team they’ve won three of four games from this year. The Warriors are in the playoffs for the first time in well over a decade, and are probably the hottest team in the entire NBA right now.

The Sharks are skating well, playing like a complete squad and focused on getting to the Stanley Cup Finals. With a great mix of veterans, rookies and role players, the Teal Team looks poised and ready to roll.

Team leader Joe Thornton had six assists in the first-round series against the Nashville Predators, and the team has benefited greatly by adding players like Bill Guerin and Craig Rivet late in the season. Team Captain Patrick Marleau is a scoring machine and a clutch playoff performer.

When the big fish start their series against the Red Wings tomorrow night, they’ll have to be very conscious of the fact that Detroit finished only six points ahead of them during the regular season. In the past, the Sharks might have had a reason to be intimidated by a perennial powerhouse like the Red Wings. Not this time. San Jose can beat this team and they know it.

Thirty miles to the North, the Golden State Warriors have made an amazing turnaround and are the talk of both the Bay and the NBA. Sage Coach Don Nelson, the cagey old codger with more basketball experience than the late Red Auerbach, is leading this team to the promised playoff land playing super smart “small ball.”

Tonight’s Game 2 against the Dallas Mavericks should be a real test for both teams, because the Mavs now realize that they’re entering a knockdown drag out series that should go the distance.

Point Guard Baron Davis is leading this team and if the Warriors hope to get to the next round, other players will have to contribute, especially if Dallas MVP front-runner Dirk Nowitzki starts playing at his usually high level. Jason Richardson, Monta Ellis, Stephen Jackson, Al Harrington and Mickael Pietrus all have the ability to step it up. If they do, Dallas is in big trouble. This could be one of the greatest Cinderella stories in the history of sports. It could also be a short, sad story. We’ll know a lot more after tonight.

With both teams in it to win it, the playoffs are the talk of the sports scene here in the Bay Area. It’s the very best professional hockey and basketball has to offer. If both the Sharks and Warriors get further into the postseason, you can be certain that the electricity in this area will be sizzling. On top of it all, the SF Giants are on a winning streak and the Oakland A’s are in first place. Maybe there’s even hope for the 49ers and/or Raiders to get considerably better by adding some young talent to their rosters during this weekend’s NFL Draft. There are a lot of positive things going on around here and if you’re into Bay Area sports at all – it’s a damn good time to be a fan.

Bulldog Relays a Hit in Iowa

You blew it, Jazzy: Jasmine had hoped her chic Doggles would carry her to victory in the Most Beautiful Bulldog Contest at the 28th Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa. But if there's something the judges can't abide, it's drool bubbles.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Yo, Meathead!

It’s barely three weeks into the baseball season, and I know that means it’s still REALLY early—but some things just seem all topsy-turvy from the way you might have expected them. Some of the standings right now sure are weird—especially in the NL Central.

Yep, things look downright backward here. The Brewers are in first place. No, no, it’s not a misprint. Meanwhile, last place goes to the current World Series champs, the Cardinals. I wonder how long this will last. Is it possible that Tony LaRussa’s arrest for drunk driving this spring has given St. Louis a bit of a post-championship hangover? The Reds are hovering around .500, and surprise, surprise, the Pirates are hanging close by. Two things do look pretty normal in this division—the Astros are in second place, and the Cubbies are tied with St. Louis for last.

In other madness, did anyone expect the Diamondbacks to be good this year? Yet they seem to be steamrolling along so far, vying with the Dodgers for first place in the NL West. I see Arizona has faltered just a bit after coming out of the gate red-hot, but that’s to be expected. Can the team recover, or was the terrific start just a fluke?

I have to be a bit tickled by all those who thought the Giants were going to have a great year. They may still shake their funk, but I don’t think their early struggles have really been a surprise. I expect that the only drama around San Francisco will be whether or not Barry “Steroid Boy” Bonds ever breaks Hank Aaron’s home run record—though the apathy from around the rest of the league demonstrates that the city of San Francisco is the only place that cares. If and when the record is broken, Giants fans will realize they have no postseason hopes to cheer about.

However, the most amusing record to me right now has to belong to the Phillies. When Jimmy Rollins had the chutzpah during the winter to say that the Phils were the team to beat in the NL East, you could just see the radar sensors go up for both Willie Randolph and Bobby Cox. Now at 4–10, Philadelphia has the worst record in the NL, and rumors are already flying that manager Charlie Manuel’s head is getting closer to the chopping block—for goodness’ sake, it’s not even May! But the Mets and Braves continue to pile up wins—after winning their last three by outscoring their opponents 28–6, New York has retaken first place—and meet in yet another emotional series this weekend to establish the early-season pecking order.

In the AL, I never would have thought that the A’s would be the only team in the West with a winning record. They deserve credit for staving off the hot Yankees to win the past weekend series in dramatic fashion on Marco Scutaro’s ninth-inning, two-out, three-run homer. And what has happened to the Angels? Tied for last with Texas, the Angels are slumping—I guess the fact that the A’s won 4 of 6 from them in the first three weeks of the season has something to do with it.

No real surprises in the Central, though I thought the White Sox would be a little better than .500. In the East, give strokes to Toronto and Baltimore for staying within a game and a half of the Yanks and Red Sox. Do you think this is finally the year that the Blue Jays can make some noise after the All-Star break, or will Boston and New York dominate as usual? I am no Red Sox fan, but I am always happier when they are on top of the Yankees—it keeps those New York fans humble. (Not that Boston fans can’t use a little humbling sometimes, too….)

So goes April, and there are enough storylines to keep almost everyone happy—except for Kansas City fans. The summer hasn’t even started yet…!

SEASONINGS: I guess I should at least mention something about the approaching NBA playoffs, even though they hold little interest for me. I’d like to give congrats to a few teams in the Western Conference that stepped up and had good seasons when either no one expected it or they had been bad for a long time. Utah, Houston, Denver, and Golden State all deserve a round of applause—especially the Warriors, who haven’t made the playoffs since the last time Don Nelson was the coach, 13 years ago! In the East, hats off to Toronto, Washington, and Orlando. Grant Hill will finally make the playoffs with the Magic, but as the eighth seed, I don’t give them much hope against Hill’s former team, the Pistons.

Lastly, even though it seems as if hockey has been pushed under the rug this year, I want to send a special congratulations to the New York Rangers for sweeping the higher-seeded Atlanta Thrashers out of the first round of the playoffs. It was the Rangers’ first playoff series victory in 10 years—heck, the Thrashers weren’t even part of the NHL back then!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Bullfighting is Bulls---!

A 14-year-old matador who left Spain to escape his home country's ban on young bullfighters was nearly gored to death in a Mexican ring, his lung punctured by a 900-pound bull. The matador was not willing to talk about the incident and the bull was unavailable for comment.
Jairo Miguel, who has been bullfighting professionally in Mexico for about the past two years, was fighting at the Aguascalientes Monumental Bull Ring on Sunday when a bull named Hidrocalido rushed him at top speed and lifted him in the air, appearing to carry him several yards with one horn firmly lodged in his thorax. The expression on the young matador’s face was one of surprise and distaste. “How dare the bull fight back!” he must have been thinking.
"I'm dying, dad, I'm dying," government news agency Notimex quoted Jairo as saying immediately after the goring. “But, I did save money on my car insurance by calling Geico,” he said.
Jairo's father, Antonio Sanchez Caceres, is also a well-known bullfighter who came with him to Mexico from Spain and was reportedly at the ring on Sunday when his son was injured. The parents could not immediately be reached for comment.
The slightly built, baby-faced Jairo was billed as the youngest matador in the world when he came to Mexico almost two years ago at age 12, apparently to escape Spain's ban on bullfighters younger than 16. He once told reporters he had cried prior to a fight.
In his two years in the Mexican ring, Jairo has scored some victories that earned him the right to cut off the defeated bulls' ears. One time he won and was presented with a set of fresh Rocky Mountain Oysters. But he has also been trampled and knocked around.
In Spain, an aspiring "torero" must be at least 16 to begin training with small bulls but is not allowed to kill a bull in the ring before he or she is 18, said an official from the Royal Bullfighting Federation of Spain. Unless, of course, they can get a permission slip from their parents, which means they can get a bullfighting learner’s permit at age 15.
But in Mexico, some start as young as 12 or 13, and there appears to be a rush toward ever-younger fighters who have become a growing attraction in Latin America. In Mexico, young bullfighters are also known as “Pocos Estupidos Supremos” which, when translated into English, means “Little Human Pinatas.”
Dr. Carlos Hernandez Sanchez said Jairo was the youngest goring victim he had ever treated. But he does not think he was too young to be in the ring.
"These are injuries that happen. He's a great bullfighter," Hernandez Sanchez said. “His depth perception sucks, however.”
Dr. Luis Romero, the surgeon who operated on Jairo at Aguascalientes' Guadalupe Clinic, said the bull's horn brushed his aorta and came about an inch from his heart.
"He was lucky, if you can call somebody who has been gored by a bull lucky," he said. “if it had gored him in the juevos, now that would be unlucky.”
If the four-inch gash had been one inch closer to the heart, "this surely would have been a catastrophe where it would have been very difficult to control" the bleeding.
Jairo was connected to a respirator on Monday but doctors were confident they could restore much of his lung function and expected him to recover.
Jairo's injury revived a debate in Mexico about young bullfighters.
Inaki Negrete, of the Mexican Association of Fighting Bull Breeders, said the responsibility for young bullfighters rests largely with their families, who are often the ones who encourage their sons to go into bullfighting in the first place.
"Normally, it's the parents of these children — and they are children — who put them into bullfighting schools," Negrete said. "It depends on individual judgment."
Maria Lopes of the International Movement Against Bullfights said both parents and governments that allow children to bullfight should be held responsible.
"Children, many from poor families, are seduced into the world of bullfighting by promises of fame, glory and above all, money," she said.
"What happened to Jairo Miguel is lamentable, but it is the result of laws that allow children to participate in bull fights," Lopes said in a written statement.
Jairo was not even the youngest matador to gain notoriety in Mexico. In 2005, Rafita Mirabal, then age 8, started in the ring, also in Aguascalientes, a bullfighting-crazed city 260 miles northwest of Mexico City.
"Rafita," as he was known, began facing down younger, smaller bulls and calves, but the animals still outweighed him by hundreds of pounds.
The trend appears to have taken off in the late 1990s, when famed Spanish bullfighter Julian Lopez Escobar, "El Juli," made his debut in Mexico in 1997 at age 14.
"Rafita Mirabal is too little in my view," said Negrete. While the animals he fights are younger, they can still break bones.
"It's very dangerous," Negrete said.
Bullfighting is fairly popular in Mexico, but is far from a national sport. Sunday's accident occurred at the popular San Marcos Fair, where bullfights are one of the main attractions.
Isn’t it time that this inhumane “sport” be eliminated worldwide? I put bullfighting in the same boat with cock fighting and pit bull fighting. The old days when an animal or human being had to be harmed or die to have fun should be a thing of the distant past. The Romans had the lions and the Christians, the Aztecs did human sacrifices and the KKK opted for lynchings. All of these rituals no longer exist. Well, almost all of them. So, I believe it’s safe to say that bullfighting should be the next to go.
We’re supposedly a more humane, more compassionate society today. We’re supposed to be able to see the errors of our pasts and correct them. We still haven’t figured that out when it comes to war. But, maybe we can make a baby step in the right direction and outlaw bullfighting!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Art of Baseball

What are baseball bats, baseballs and bases doing in an art gallery and shouldn’t Sandy Koufax be on the sports pages instead of hanging on a wall? Well, it must be time for the 10th Annual Art of Baseball exhibition at the George Krevsky Gallery located at 77 Geary Street in San Francisco. This year’s show, Spring Training started on March 15th and continues through Saturday, April 28th. Forty artists from across the country have been invited to create their interpretation of our National Pastime. Paintings, drawings, prints, and sculpture, on the theme of baseball, line the walls of a gallery normally showing Modernist art by such well-known artists as Thomas Hart Benton and Milton Avery.

Immortals like Honus Wagner, Satchel Paige, and Roberto Clemente can be seen, as well as Pacific Coast League favorites and sandlot players playing for the love of the game. Among the highlights of this year’s show are Carl Hugo Beetz’ canvas painted in 1938 of a White Sox exhibition game and Benjamin Blackburn’s contemporary wood sculpture of Honus Wagner’s famous Tobacco card. Artworks based on historical images of the 1934 Boston Red Sox, and the San Francisco Seals vs. the Oakland Oaks, were created by Bay Area printmaker Stacey Carter, Jennifer Ettinger’s homage to Satchel Paige and Tina Hoggatt’s porcelain enamel paintings on steel are all featured. Ebbets Field, now only a memory, Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, the DiMaggio brothers, and a young Ted Williams all create an atmosphere that will touch the hearts of art enthusiasts and sports fans alike.

Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00 am to 5:30 pm and visuals can be seen on the website at

Friday, April 13, 2007

Yo, Meathead!

Ah, now I really feel like it’s baseball season! I went to the A’s home opener—a longstanding tradition by now—and went back the next night to see two against the White Sox. What a great time! Both nights were perfect, weatherwise—at least, as perfect as it gets at the Coliseum (yeah, yeah, McAfee, but who calls it that?) in April. I have been subjected to all sorts of crazy weather on Opening Day here—rain, wind, cold—but this time, the weather was mild and clear, and the chill only became apparent around the sixth inning.

The first night, Monday, we had a little picnic in the parking lot beforehand: crackers and cheese, homemade guacamole and chips, salami and bread, and some nice red wine. (My season-ticket partner is also a professional winemaker, and he often brings exceptional stuff to the games.) For the game itself, I sat with my wife out in right field, and she was so happy to be there, starting another year! It was nice to sit close wrapped in our A’s blanket. Yes, everything was great that night—except the score. Rich Harden was good, but Jose Contreras was just a little better, and the A’s bullpen couldn’t keep it close in the late innings as the A’s lost 4–1.

The next night, my friend and I barbecued a marinated pork loin and had a salad to join with the leftover cheese and crackers. Inside, Chad Gaudin gave up just one run and stayed into the sixth before Alan Embree, Justin Duchsherer, and Huston Street came in and pitched shutout ball in front of a crowd that was smaller by about 20,000 than the previous night. Once again, Chicago’s starter was just a little bit better, as Jon Garland gave up three hits and no runs through seven. The Athletics had the American League’s worst batting average with runners in scoring position at that point, and in the fifth, they couldn’t score after Travis Buck hit a leadoff triple. They looked doomed to lose 1–0 until the ninth. Milton Bradley and Mike Piazza led off with singles, but then Sox closer Bobby Jenks struck out Eric Chavez and retired Nick Swisher on a fly to left. Next up, Todd Walker, pinch hitting for Bobby Crosby, tied the game with a single. Mark Ellis, who was one of the batters that could not bring Buck home in the fifth, then knocked a drive off the left-field fence and the A’s won 2–1. A terrific, exciting finish!

Nevertheless, if the A’s want to have a good year, they better get the bats going. The Sox won the next game, a Wednesday matinee, 6–3 to win the series—the first time the White Sox have won a series in Oakland in almost seven years! Right now, the A’s are next-to-last in the AL in runs scored and RBI. Jason Kendall (.154), Shannon Stewart (.195), and Bobby Crosby (.190) have yet to start earning their pay offensively. Meanwhile, the pitching is ridiculous. Of all the starters, the only one with a winning record (Joe Blanton, 1–0) also has the highest ERA (3.97). After that, it’s Gaudin, 0–0, 2.53 ERA; Joe Kennedy, 0–1, 1.64 ERA; Rich Harden, 1–1, 1.38 ERA; and poor Danny Haren, who is 0–2, but sports a 0.64 ERA. Who can make sense of such numbers when the bats are so quiet?

But A’s fans must be used to this. Over the last several seasons, the team has always made a slow start—sometimes dropping to 10 games under .500—before roaring back after the All-Star break. Why can’t they just start strong for once? I don’t know, but it usually makes for some important games in September!

Now the Yanks come into town for a weekend series. Glad to see New York struggling along at .500, even though A-Rod is hitting up a storm. It’s also nice to see the Blue Jays coming on strong early, making the Yanks look over their shoulders for two teams instead of just concentrating on the Red Sox. I don’t expect the Yanks to be at .500 for very long, unfortunately. At this early juncture, there is no team that looks exceptionally dominant in the AL.

In the NL, I’ve got my eye on the Mets, even though the Braves (curses!) are currently in first place. I know the guys in Atlanta are bitter about losing their first division title in over a decade last year, but my guess is that the Mets will get better before they get worse (barring injuries, of course)! The other NL team off to a hot start is the Diamondbacks, but how long can Arizona keep it up?

Yep, another season is underway! How will it all play out?

SEASONINGS: I have to admit that as a Miami Dolphins fan and a New York Giants fan, I’m not too sad to see Drew Bledsoe retire after 14 years. With the Patriots, Bills, and Cowboys, Bledsoe did his darnedest every year to bust a hole in one of my team’s postseason hopes. However, I have to say that as much as Bledsoe was a drain to my teams, he was a great player and a true gamer, and I feel sorry that he didn’t get a ring as a starter somewhere. It seemed as if he was ignominiously pushed out of New England after he injured his chest in the 2001 season and was replaced by Tom Brady. Bledsoe was at least able to help the team make the Super Bowl that year by beating the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game when Brady was hurt. Then Brady got all the accolades and awards when he was named Super Bowl MVP for leading the Pats over the Rams—and Bledsoe was outta there. Of course, Brady was the one to go with, but that doesn’t mean I can’t feel bad about how it ended for Bledsoe in Foxboro. Although Bledsoe continued his career, he was never quite the same as before his chest injury. Bledsoe ends his career fifth all-time in completions, seventh in yards passing, and thirteenth in TD passes. Nice going, Drew—that was quite a career!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

My Interview with Jim Landis

The other day I had the pleasure of interviewing Jim Landis, a former MLB player who played from 1957 to 1967, primarily with the Chicago White Sox. He was known as an incredible centerfielder and five consecutive Gold Gloves from 1960 to 1964. He was an all-star in 1962 and also played in the 1959 World Series for the Chisox, batting .292 with 7 hits in a losing cause vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 1961, he had a career year, knocking in 80 runs while batting .283. He finished in the top 5 in stolen bases for the American League a total of 5 times.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Check out This Great Game's Weekly Comebacker

The baseball Web site I have with my very talented partner and fellow baseball historian Eric Gouldsberry, This Great Game, is running at full speed with the start of the baseball season. Eric is doing what’s called The Weekly Comebacker, a recap of the previous week, complete with interesting anecdotes and personal observations. If you’re even a semi-serious baseball fan, it’s a must see!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Capturing Baseball History

I’m rolling along with my interviews for The Society of Baseball Research (SABR). I found a list of the 25 oldest living MLB players and I’ve already interviewed Rollie Stiles (#1: Age: 100) and Herman Franks (#15: Age: 93). On Monday, I’ll be talking to Nick Strincevich (#25: Age: 92). I’m on a mission to interview these players before they pass on to the big baseball diamond in the sky. Capturing their recollections is my goal. Also on my radar: Lonnie Frey (#4: Age: 96), even though when I called him last week he told me to get lost; Tony Malinosky (#3: Age: 97); Clarence Ace Parker (#8: Age: 94); and Ralph Hodgin (#23: Age: 92).

Yo, Meathead!

Well, baseball is finally here—it’s been a long, painful winter since Peyton Manning and Co. kicked Chicago’s tail, and I certainly have not been able to watch the product currently known as the NBA. Now there’s a whole summer to concentrate solely on baseball before the fall, and football again.

Of course, it’s early—only the first week!—so don’t expect any predictions from me! I’m going to focus mostly on trends, notes and anecdotes in this initial part of the season, and we’ll see how things shape up!

In the National League, it’s interesting to note that the Mets swept the Cardinals convincingly, with an overall series score of 25–2 in favor of the Metropolitans. The Mets starters looked sharp, including John Maine, who’s working in the third spot right now. I know it’s only the first week, but the Mets were shocked when they found themselves out after the NLCS last year, so they seem to be bearing down early, even though they looked awful in spring training. It is worth noting also that the Braves, smarting from their first year without a division crown in over a decade, are also 3–0, and hoping to prove something to the NL East champs when they play three in Atlanta this weekend. The Phillies, who boasted during the preseason that they were the team to beat in the NL East, were swept by the Braves and look lost so far.

Also, I am watching with trepidation as Barry “Steroid Boy” Bonds inches closer to Hank Aaron’s once-immortal home run record. The fans in San Francisco seem to be supporting him, which just goes to show that the people don’t really care much anymore about things like honor and honesty where the game is concerned, as long as they get to be there while Bonds works his way ever closer to the record he sold his soul to chase. The Giants’ other Barry, Zito, isn’t living up to his huge contract just yet. In his first game as a pitcher for the Giants, Zito was only average and the Giants got shellacked 7–0 by the Padres on Opening Day.

In the American League, I hope the Yankees are shaking in their boots! Yeah, I know they’re 1–1 (and losing to Baltimore) as I speak, and I know the Red Sox are only 2–2, but the Yanks looked pretty silly against the Rays on Thursday night. They had three errors, three wild pitches, and a passed ball, with Derek Jeter making two of the errors. Also, A-Rod failed in the clutch again (starting an all-too-recognizable trend?) by popping up with the bases loaded to end the eighth. The Yanks left 10 men on base. Meanwhile, new Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka looked terrific in his major league debut, striking out 10 and getting the win over Kansas City on Thursday, 4–1.

Nice to see Mike Piazza get a game-winning home run last night against the Angels for his first dinger as a DH for the A’s. It would be great to see Oakland have a strong start for a change, rather than going 10 games under .500 as usual, and then fighting back after the All-Star break. Rich Harden is on so far as the A’s ace—can he stay healthy for a full season, which he hasn’t done the past couple of years?

Thursday, April 5, 2007

The Oldest Living Major Leaguer

I have a really big baseball interview today. I’ll be talking to a gentleman named Rolland Mays Stiles. He is the oldest living major league baseball player, 100 years old last year! There have been over 18,000 MLB baseball players in the history of the game and only 12 have lived to be 100. Stiles is one of only 5 players still alive who either played with or against Babe Ruth. Stiles played from 1930 to 1933 as a pitcher for the St. Louis Browns. I can’t wait!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

What I would do if I owned the SF Giants

The San Francisco Giants are doing a promotion asking fans the question: “What if they really were your SF Giants?” The ad says “Submit your ideas now for My SF Giants and you could be one of the lucky fans to have their once-in-a-lifetime wishes fulfilled at AT&T Park!” They want people to go on their web site ( and write a few paragraphs on this topic. Here’s what I came up with:

First off, I’d fire General Manager Brian Sabean. His off-season moves were atrocious, especially signing Pitcher Barry Zito for seven years. Do you know what the chances are of a MLB pitcher lasting seven years? So many things can happen – arm troubles, head troubles, control problems – that to sign a pitcher for that length of time is just plain dumb. Not to mention the money the Giants gave him. Why didn’t the team try to get some good young players? The ones the team has now will be eligible to join AARB in a couple of years!

Secondly, I would reduce the concession prices at AT&T Park. Seven bucks for a warm, flat beer is a tragedy and a disgrace. A family of four can’t afford to go to games anymore, because the Giants want an arm and a leg for peanuts, popcorn and polish dogs. Only rich yuppies and corporate CEO’s can pay the tab required to go to a game at AT&T.

The last thing I’d do is get rid of that ridiculous mascot, Lou Seal. Bring back the Crazy Crab. At least the Crab was creative and fun. The bloated seal they have now looks like a muskrat on steroids and his antics are unoriginal and tired. If mascots don’t keep the crowd interested, they are simply annoying.

That’s what I’d do if they were my SF Giants, for starters.