Category Archives: Major League Baseball

Halcyon Days

Baseball’s always been my sport. I played it and its cousin, softball, obsessively back when I was a kid in Chicago. We played in alleys, mostly, meaning we all had to learn how to hit the ball straight up the middle. It was like playing football on a bowling lane or basketball in a hallway.

I played until I was about 38 years old when one Sunday while I was playing third base in a softball league game in suburban Lincolnwood, the batter hit a scorching bounder at me. The ball took a funny hop and, superannuated as I was, I was unable to react quickly enough and the ball smashed into my eye, shattering my glasses. It turned out the blow caused what the eye surgeon called a traumatic cataract, which had to be sliced out of me. The worst part of that procedure was when the nurse injected some drug or another directly into my eyeball, the memory of which to this day turns my legs into jelly.

Anyway, the start of baseball’s spring training and Opening Day (always capitalized) six weeks later have been landmarks in my yearly countdown to spring. I detest winter about as much as the cancerous tumors that popped up around my larynx in 2015, the same year my beloved Cubs began their long awaited renaissance, culminating in their first World Series championship since 19 goddamned 08.

The Heights.

That was in 2016, the same year chemoradiation therapy zapped the bejesus out of my tumors (I’d nicknamed them My Olive Pits), so it should have been an annum of bliss, Except five days later, the voters of this holy land decided to elect a lunkheaded clown to the presidency, killing my buzz and making me fret for the future.

The Pits.

Here it is, the first week of March and the Cubs and the 29 other Major League Baseball teams should have begun spring training games already. Only the MLB owners have decided to lock the players out because the Collective Bargaining Agreement between them and the Major League Baseball Players Association had expired last December. The owners are loath to share any more of the billions their sport rakes in with the guys who actually play the game than they have to. Sure, some ballplayers make ten, twenty, even thirty million dollars a year playing a game that I played every day, seemingly every hour of every day, back when I was 11. Of course, my skill level was a bit lower than theirs. If by bit, we mean several light years.

Spring training generally starts around Valentine’s Day and I take that date as the Beginning of the End of Winter. But, as I say, spring training hasn’t started yet. And the owners and the players, who been negotiating a new CBA, just gave each other the finger and have broken off talks. The first week of regular season games have already been cancelled. It’s doubtful there’ll even be any games come April. And if worse comes to worse, a couple of months or more of the 2022 season will be wiped out.

The idiots.

The owners, that is. Not only have I long been a staunch union guy (I’ve been a member of the Municipal Laborers Union, the National Writers Union, and the Newspaper Guild) but, even if I weren’t, I’d still side with the players because, for pity’s sake, I watch the games to see the players in action not to slobber over the owners counting their billions. As long as the game generates so much cash, the lion’s share of it ought to go to the people doing the hitting, pitching, and running around.

Not only that, but the majority of Major League players do not earn the aforementioned astronomical salaries. Under the expired CBA, incoming players earned $590,000 a year, a hefty payday to be sure but when you consider the fact that tens of millions of kids play baseball but only 750 or so grow up to play in the Bigs each year, that dough seems about right. Hell, maybe those lucky rookies ought to earn even more. The sport is awash in money. TV networks and regional sports programming operations are waving multi-billion-dollar checks at the owners, and a lot of those same owners call taxpayer-funded stadia home. Still, those owners want to break the players union because…, well, because that’s what the uber-rich do — fuck over as many people as they can, just for the sport of it.

Aw, I didn’t mean to get all that bitter here. My original intent was to post a little audio essay I call Halcyon Days. Click on the media bar up top and enjoy.

Hot Air

The Immaculate Fix

Get ready for another reading of William S. Burrough’s The Junky’s Christmas.

Burroughs

Burroughs

It’s become a holiday tradition in these parts, thanks to the combined efforts of The Burroughs Century and the Writers Guild at Bloomington. B-town scribes Tony Brewer, Arthur Cullipher, Ian Uriel Girdley, and Shayne Laughter will perform the piece in a live radio theater performance Wednesday, December 17th, 8:00pm, at Rachael’s Cafe. Trumpeter Kyle Quass and saxophonist Chris Rall will back them up.

Ian Girdley also will read from his new book, This poem Drank the Wine (sic).

Burroughs’ seasonal moral: Not all gifts are sugarplums and good can arise in the absolutely unlikeliest of places.

Whee, Me!

Malcolm Abrams and David Brent Johnson are the perpetrators of this:

From Bloom Magazine

Click on the image for the full story. Perhaps my fave part of the above is the exclamation point after my name. You’d think that would be more appropriate for a profile of, say, Vladimir Putin or Taylor Swift.

What’s the opposite of an exclamation point? An upside down exclamation point? Nah, Spanish already has claimed that. I dunno. Anyway, read.

Start The Presses!

Ledge Mule Press has issued its second book, Then Gone by Romayne Rubinas. With two tomes on its résumé, the Press can now be considered the real deal.

Book Cover

Hand-Printed & Hand-Bound

Poets, writers, and all-around Hoosier sophisticates Ross Gay, Chris Mattingly, and Dave Torneo run Ledge Mule. Then Gone was produced on a hand-fed Chandler & Price letterpress machine and was hand-bound by the three. The trio opted to produce only 200 copies of the book so it just may become a priceless collectors item one day.

Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait for the deaths of the principals involved before the thing pays off.

Ledge Mule’s first offering was a collection by poet David Watters entitled Hollow & Round. It came out earlier this year.

Catch Romayne reading her poems at The Back Door, Saturday, December 6th, at 7pm. She’ll appear with poets Kate Schneider and Shaina Clerget.

Queerball

How cool is this? American major pro sports’ first on-field/court/ice arbiter has come out. Major League Baseball umpire Dale Scott has been calling balls and strikes in the Big Show for some 29 years and just this month revealed publicly he’s gay. Scott’s been involved with a fellow named Mike Rausch since the year after he broke into MLB. Scott and Rausch got married last month.

Scott/Rausch

Scott (L) & Rausch

Even cooler, MLB big shots have known Scott was gay for years now. “…[T]his is not a surprise to Major League Baseball, the people I work for,” Scott told Outsports online yesterday. “It’s not a surprise to the umpire staff. Until Mike and I got married last November, he was my same-sex domestic partner and had his own MLB I.D. and was on my insurance policy.”

Yet another reason for me to love baseball.

You Want A Hero? Here.

There was a time in the deep murky mists of memory when the people of this holy land actually did good things just to, well, do good things.

For instance, in 1948 after the Soviet Union had imposed a blockade around the city of West Berlin, a US Army Air Corps pilot named nicknamed Hal regularly flew a C-54 transport plane (like the one pictured below) into Tempelhof Airport. His usual cargo — 10 tens of flour. Berliners, America had realized, needed to eat. Under the direction of General George C. Marshall, the Berlin airlift, known as Operation Vittles, flew thousands of tons of food into West Berlin.

Berlin Airlift

A Berlin Airlift Plane Landing At Tempelhof

Earlier that year, Hal had met a bunch of kids who watched as the stream of transport planes flew into Templehof. They’d asked him for some candy. All he had were a couple of sticks of gum. He tore those sticks in half and handed the four pieces to the kids who proceeded to tear off bits of the wrappers and pass the scraps around. The kids, having experienced the deprivations and horrors of war and occupation, simply sniffed the bits of wrapper. The looks of sheer glee and gratitude on their faces, Hal later said, were unlike any he’d ever seen.

So he started recruited his own crew members and, eventually, crews of other planes in his unit to donate their rations of candy and gum. The crews would makes little packages of the sweets and attach them to parachutes made of their handkerchiefs and, as they flew over the gang of kids, would drop the treats. It soon was raining candy at Tempelhof.

After a time, Hal had gotten scads of private citizens and candy manufacturers to donate some 21 tons of candy for his makeshift operation. The kids took to calling him the Candy Bomber.

Nobody splashed candy makers’ names all over those transport planes. No individuals screamed out to the world what fabulous souls they were for dumping tons of candy into waiting kids’ hands. They simply wanted to bring joy to the kids. Simultaneously, they were feeding a city of 2.5 million people.

Here’s your hero.

Halvorsen

Gail “Hal” Halvorsen In 1989

Thanks to Pencillista Col. John Tilford (Ret., US Army) for sending in the link to the following vid. In it, Halvorsen is honored for his candy drop. Sure, it’s hokey, mucky and gushy, but if you’re not crying by the time you’re finished watching, you’re probably dead.

Believe it or not, even I can be corny now and again.

Hot Air, Cold Day

Tough Crowd

Just a reminder, The Pencil has forwarded a communique to Kevin Culbertson, newly-named general manager of radio station WFHB, offering him an opportunity to introduce himself to Bloomington here.

Keep watching this space for further developments.

Meanwhile, the new Facebook group, Friends of WFHB, has garnered nearly 200 members as of this morning. WFHB volunteer member Maryll Jones has been running herself ragged administering the page as well as keeping certain group members from tearing each other limb from limb. Who’da thunk the selection of a GM would arouse such fire within the populace? Anyway, the discussion on the space is lively, if at times a little hair-raising.

Scene from "Frankenstein"

Passionate Radio Listeners

Along those lines, one disgruntled WFHB listener apparently sent an email to station Board members, threatening physical violence. The missive scared the bejesus out of the Board-ers. Jones has issued a Code of Conduct for Friends of WFHB members although it’s not known if the threatener is himself a member. (And, to be sure, it was a guy, wouldn’t you think?) In any case, the cops are snooping around to find out who sent the email.

Oh, one more thing. Personal to Maryll Jones: Pick up your guitar, woman!

Braves’ New (White) World

Worry not, Pencillistas, this is not really a sports story. It’s about racial politics and business in the Deep South.

That out of the way, it was learned yesterday that Major League Baseball’s Braves will be leaving their relatively shiny new home in downtown Atlanta for the greener…, check that, whiter pastures of Cobb County.

Historical Marker

The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, NBC Sports, and other Olympics sponsors built the Braves’ current home, Turner Field, for the 1996 Summer Olympics. It was called Centennial Olympic Stadium that year. The next year, the Braves moved in. So the team has been playing in Turner for a total of 16 years.

The Braves plan to move into their new digs for the 2017 baseball season. Turner Field cost $209 million to build. After the Olympics, Atlanta sunk another pile of dough into retrofitting the place to accommodate big league baseball and just shy of ten years later the Atlanta-Fulton County Recreation Authority dropped another huge wad of cash into renovations for the place, including what was hailed at the time as the world’s largest high definition video screen scoreboard.

The A-FCRA says it will demolish the stadium after the Braves leave. So, the joint will have had a useful life of fewer than 20 years. All for a pricetag well north of a half billion dollars, of which taxpayers footed a sweet $300 mill.

Turner Field

Ancient, Crumbling, Decaying, Nearly Empty Turner Field

 

A not-quite 20-year-old stadium is merely a young punk when compared to such geezers as Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles (51 years old this year) and the Coliseum in Oakland (47), as well as Methuselahs such as Wrigley Field (99) and Fenway Park (101). The Braves swear their current home is dilapidated and so old-fashioned that the team can hardly make a penny playing there.

Which is utter horseshit.

Let me go out on a limb here and tell you the real reason the Braves want out of their new-ish stadium. It stands in downtown Atlanta just off I-75 and near many of the city’s other public and cultural institutions. It’s also surrounded by black Atlanta.

In Georgia, that’s bad business.

Almost very other baseball stadium built since 1991 has been located in downtown areas (that’s 19 out of the 30 in use today). Sports franchises want to play games in downtown areas because, unlike the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, those areas now are vibrant, rejuvenated, exciting places to be.

Decades ago, whites shunned big city downtowns because they were scared to death of catching cooties from Negroes. In the ensuing years, America has witnessed a gradual acceptance of mixed-race couples, has embraced a black woman (Oprah) as pied piper for the housewife set, and has even elected a brown president.

What were once deserted downtown streets after 5:00pm everywhere from Chicago to Cleveland now are destinations for dining, entertainment, and shopping.

Oh sure, many, many, many black residents were pushed out of these downtowns and surrounding environs by gentrification, but even that process required white people to at least tolerate seeing black faces while the demographics changed. And in those cities where downtown gentrification is complete, middle- and upper-middle class blacks are welcome to live there.

The nation has changed a bit.

But not Atlanta.

For all it’s self-advertisements as a beacon of modernity of the South, Atlanta is still full of…, well, Georgians. And very few places are more Georgian than Cobb County. Which is where the Braves are moving.

The Braves released a chart revealing most of its season ticket-holding base lives in that most Georgian of locales. It’s a gang that isn’t terribly pleased about riding into downtown Atlanta to watch a baseball game. It is, remember, full of Negroes.

I have a new team to root against now.

%d bloggers like this: