Thursday, August 31, 2006

Pluto is the victim of bad PR

Poor Pluto. Maybe if you had just called once in a while. How hard is it to pick up the phone? Would hosting an open house every so often have killed you? We never really got to know you, Pluto -- so downgrading you wasn't that big a deal. We're sure you're nice. Probably a lot of fun at parties. It's just that you never wanted to hang with the rest of the Universe. You acted so distant all the time. You're obviously a loner. Sorry it has to be this way, Pluto. Can we still be friends? Being a moon isn't the end of the world, you know! (Caption: Is this Pluto and its big brother Neptune or an ad for a bocce ball tournament?)

The Boston Dead Sox

(Photo caption: It's okay Theo, but if I were you, I'd start updating my resume!)

Poor beantown. Everyone on the slumping Boston Red Sox (2-12 last 14 games) is injured, and those who are still playing are putting out performances that are hurtful to the eyes. David Ortiz has heart problems, Manny Ramirez is a head case, and the entire squad is jumping off the Bosox bandwagon faster than you can say "El Foldo." The Red Sox have the second highest payroll in the AL, but are sixth out of 14 teams in winning percentage. Their payroll is twice that of Minnestota's, yet the Red Sox trail the Twins by six games in the wild-card race. Every day it just seems to get uglier. Yesterday they put overweight and out-of-shape pitcher David Wells on the trading block; fans and the media are starting to get all over superboy GM Theo Epstein for some questionable moves before the season began; they made a big deal out of getting catcher Javy Lopez from Baltimore and he is hitting a dismal .214 for them; and they're being heavily criticized for picking up rag-armed castoff pitchers from out-of-contention teams (Jason Johnson from Cleveland and Kyle Snyder from Kansas City) who played poorly and are now gone. Could this be the curse of Babe Ruth revisited? Babe had a sick sense of humor which means he would have enjoyed this. Are the Red Sox dead? Is there a mortician in the house?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Pedestrians are an Endangered Species in SF

(I've been saying since I moved here that pedestrians in this city are an endangered species. Drivers in this town don't look for people walking on the street. Last month, a man was walking along Chestnut Street here in the Marina District, and a hit-and-run driver killed him while he was legally crossing at a crosswalk. Last week, I almost got hit by a pizza delivery person who didn't even slow down at a 4-way stop. And now, we have this maniac hitting people on purpose. I'm lucky that one of the victims wasn't me, because I walk along these same streets a lot. All I can say is if you walk the streets of SF, please be careful.)

This appeared on AOL this morning.

SAN FRANCISCO (Aug. 30) - The driver in a bloody hit-and-run spree that killed one man and injured more than a dozen people was mentally unstable and feeling stress from a recent arranged marriage, according to relatives.
Omeed A. Popal, 29, was taken into custody Tuesday following a rampage that terrorized pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists. Authorities believe it began more than an hour earlier when his black Honda Pilot fatally struck a man in the East Bay area.
"He drove on sidewalks, streets, hit people on crosswalks. It runs the gamut," said police spokesman Sgt. Neville Gittens.
Popal was arrested on suspicion of 14 counts of attempted murder and a charge of willful flight after causing serious injury or death, Gittens said.
Witnesses said the driver did not slow down.
He then crossed the bay into San Francisco, where he injured at least 14 people in various locations around the city before police boxed him in with their cruisers around 1 p.m. near the Presidio.
The victims were taken to three area hospitals. One was in critical condition at San Francisco General, where Mayor Gavin Newsom met with victims and their families.
"These are the things, these are so senseless. They're utterly inexplicable. They're impossible to rationalize," Newsom said afterward. "The fact that this individual felt compelled for whatever reason to be determined to do what he did is beyond imagination."
Some of the injured were pedestrians and some were motorists. Victims' ages ranged from 18 to 84, authorities said.
Neighbors said Popal was living with his parents in Fremont, home to the nation's largest Afghan community.
No weapons were found on the suspect, though the car had not been searched, Gittens said. There was no information on whether drugs or alcohol were involved, and it was unclear how fast he was driving, he said.
"It was very chaotic," he said. "Fortunately, we were able to take him into custody."

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Caught with his paws in the cookie jar!

Lately, I've noticed that we've been coming up short on the dog food. Now I know why! Ratdog has figured out how to go directly to the source. That little thief. No wonder he's been gaining weight. From now on, the dog food is under lock and key.

My Interview with Ernie Broglio

Ernie Broglio

Ernie Broglio played eight years in the big leagues, staring with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1959 at age 23. He went 7-12 that year – not bad for a rookie – and became a fixture in the team’s rotation for the next four years, winning 70 games and losing 55 overall for the Cardinals. His finest year was 1960, when Broglio went 21-9 with a 2.74 ERA, 2nd best in the National league, behind only Mike McCormick of San Francisco. He finished third in Cy Young voting that year (behind only Law and Spahn) and 4th in strikeouts behind a trio of LA Dodgers (Koufax, Drysdale and Stan Williams). In 1964, after going 3-5 for the Cards, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs with Doug Clemens and Bobby Shantz for Lou Brock, Jack Spring and Paul Toth. But, day baseball and the cramped quarters of Wrigley Field didn’t suit Ernie, and his career went into a tailspin. After 2.5 years and a 14-31 record, Broglio retired from the Cubs at the age of 30.
I contacted Ernie through a mutual friend and we hit it off instantly. Sitting in his den, one of the first things I noticed was Ernie’s picture on the cover of Sports Illustrated – from his moment in the sun – his 15 minutes of fame in 1960. Broglio’s career stats are pretty unspectacular, and he’ll always be known for the one-sided trade with Lou Brock. But, Ernie has gained a lot of notoriety for that trade, now considered one of the most lopsided in baseball history. What I didn’t know until talking with him, however, was that both Ernie and the Cardinals knew he was damaged goods when they shipped him off to the Windy City that fateful day in ’64.

Talking about the day of the big trade:
“Well, I was in Houston and Johnny Keane (Cardinals’ manager) brought all three of us in and said you guys have been traded and you’re going to Chicago and I thought, great okay fine, day baseball, but when I got there I ended up not really liking day baseball. So, nothing else could really be said, so I said, when do we have to be there? Because I never really had any rapport with Johnny Keane, so in some instances I was glad. The Cardinals were in seventh place at the time I was traded – Lou Brock brought them the pennant and the World Series that year.”

“Trades are made to better your team In some instances it works out and in other instances it doesn’t. It just so happens with this trade it worked out for them.”

“I knew I had arm problems. Nowadays, they’d have you go in and get checked out by a doctor before making a trade, but that wasn’t how things were done back then. The Cardinals knew. They were keeping it quiet. In 1961, I took 20 cortisone shots in my shoulder – before every other start. They thought they were getting away with something.
What was told to me originally was that Ray Wasburn was supposed to be traded for Lou Brock, but I got in the doghouse with Johnny Keane and so I got traded.”

The Broglio and Keane feud: “I don’t really know how it got started. Something happened when he was a coach. I came into the dugout after getting taken out of a game, and I was mad at myself. I kicked some bats and one of them landed right on Keane’s leg and he didn’t care for that much, I guess. Because after that we just never seemed to see eye to eye.”

Talking about the early years: “I signed out of high school. I had every Major League team after me, and three Coast League teams. And in those days, there were only sixteen major league teams. And Oakland, San Francisco, and Sacramento and the Coast League were after me. And it was funny because the Boston Red Sox were really hot after me, and they were going to send me to Montgomery, Alabama. And I looked on a map and couldn’t find it and I said, “No, I’m not gonna go there!” So, I decided to sign with Oakland because Pumpsie Green, who I went to high school with, was there. He was the first black ball player to play for the Boston Red Sox. And we all ended up with the Oakland Oaks organization. And then in ’54, Charley Dressen was our manager, and he sent me down to get some seasoning with Modesto and I was 9 and 3 down there. And then they brought me back up; I think I ended up 5 and 8 for the year. And then the following year Lefty O’Doul was our manager, and I stayed with the ball club for about a month when he sent me to Stockton and I won 20 games there. Roy Partee was our manager down there. Auggie Guland was an important guy in those days. He was from El Cerritos, and he was instrumental in getting me signed with the Oaks.”

Talking about Charlie Dressen: “Oh, he was tough. But, I mean, I’m 17 years old! Then I signed with the Oaks, I turned 18 in August, and I signed in July. So, I was eighteen when Charlie came there. And he kinda took me under the wing. “Cause I got in a little trouble down in Modesto. I got out in the water, sunbathing and got almost a second-degree sunburn. I had bubbles all over. I slept in a bathtub for about three days. So, Charlie sends a message down to me saying the next time it happens, it’ll be a thousand dollar fine. I’m thing -- $1,000? I didn’t know what a thousand dollars looked like, all I knew was it had a bunch of numbers, you know, a bunch of zeroes, behind a “1”, and I said, “oh boy, I’d better watch out for that!” And then he brings me in and says, “Don’t ever do that again.” He sent a clear message down to me to make sure that I never done it again.”

Why the Cardinals labeled him “Not tough enough:”: “ Cardinals coach Harry Walker didn’t think I was tough enough as a pitcher. He would yell at me and try to fire me up, and I would say hey, that’s not my nature. I’ll take care of stuff when I get out there. Because I’d always walk to and from the mound with my head down, you know? Evidently, Harry didn’t think I had the tenacity to be a major league pitcher. My ability was there, they knew that, but I guess some people show their emotions more. Like Bob Gibson or Larry Jackson -- they were real battlers. I’m just not made up that way.”

Stan Musial: “ I first met him in Japan. Just a neat guy. He’s one of the few I still communicate with. He is so gracious to me. If I’m in a golf tournament and I need something signed, he always signs it and then asks me if there’s anything else I need.
I’ve got nothing but good things to say about him. When they won the World Series and I was, of course, with the Cubs, I got a call from Stan’s restaurant. When they won it, I was sitting home having champagne with them.”

On Chicago Cubs fans: They were all right, but much different than St. Louis fans. They were so used to losing all the time they handpicked certain players and booed the living heck out of them for not having a good year. And they kind of got on me.

Talking about his life-long attachment to Brock: “One incident, many years later, they had an old-timers game there in St. Louis and they brought Lou Brock and I in, and it was a full house. And they introduced Lou Brock first, you know and he got a standing ovation. And they were still standing and booing me when I was introduced. I have to be the only guy in the world to get a standing/booing ovation!”

Monday, August 28, 2006

The New Zoo Review

I’ve been to a lot of zoos in my life, including the famous San Diego Zoo and the Central Park Zoo in New York City, and I truly believe that the San Francisco Zoo is right up there with the best. Back in the late 80’s when I first visited it, I couldn’t honestly say that. It was antiquated, with those old animal warehouse-type buildings and all of the animals were inside these rather uncomfortable-looking cages, or out in these environments that looked like bad sections of the Tenderloin. But, since then, the SF Zoo has gone through a complete remodel, and the results are so wonderful and animal-friendly, that the place just has a whole new attitude about it. They’re calling it the “New San Francisco Zoo”, and for good reason. It’s like a modern zoo in so many ways, with great habitats for all of the animals, new exhibits and new species of rare and not-so-common beasts.

The SF Zoo is more than 72 years old, and was started by a man named Herbert Fleishhacker, a San Francisco banker who believed that every major city needs a zoo. One of the zoo’s most famous animals during the zoo’s formative years was Monarch the Grizzly Bear, who lived in captivity for 16 years. He sired two cubs, and was the darling of the City by the Bay for a long time.

The zoo’s first major exhibits were built in the 1930’s at a cost of $3.5 million. You can’t even build a Costco for that anymore! Those early structures included the Monkey House, a lion exhibit, Elephant House, a sea lion pool, an aviary and bear grottos. These spacious enclosures were among the first bar-less exhibits in the nation.

In 1984, the SF Zoo got its first Pandas from China, and starting in 1993, the place went through a series of major renovations. It is estimated that the Pandas bring an additional 300,000 visitors to the zoo each year. Every time I go to see them, they’re sleeping. How can they be so tired? They only mate one day a year!

In May of 2004, the spacious new African Savanna exhibit opened, featuring giraffes, zebras, kudus, ostriches and other African wildlife roaming together in an amazing 3-acre habitat. This mixed-species exhibit is more culturally diverse than the Mission District! What’s great about it is that you can get really close to the animals. Just last week I had a wonderful conversation with a zebra. He got mad at me when I told him wearing stripes made him look fat!

The Lipman Family Lemur Forest opened in the summer of 2002, and features five different species of Lemurs in a large outdoor setting. Who even knew there were five species of Lemurs? They also built the Leaping Lemur Café, with a great outdoor dining area featuring a lot of food that is actually surprisingly quite good for a zoo. Zoo food is notoriously bad, and this is at least edible faire, including pasta and pizza. When they put in the Lemur Forest, the zoo also took the opportunity to re-locate the entrance to the zoo so that it now faces the ocean, and constructed the Friend and Taube Family Entry Village, with an expensive gift shop, restrooms, and membership and information booths. I guess if you donate enough cash, you can have zoo buildings and exhibits named after you. If I ever have that kind of money to donate, I want to sponsor the “Ed Attanasio Sea Slug Savanna.”

The SF Zoo has also expanded their Children’s Zoo, Dentzel Carousel, the Connie and Bob Lurie Education Center (Bob Lurie used to own the SF Giants) and the Koret Area Resource Center.

The new zoo is getting great reviews, and one reason for this is that they’ve taken a “conservation through interaction” approach. They believe that if people can see these animals in their wild habitats, that they’ll see the value in them. Education and conservation go hand in hand, and that is what the SF Zoo is preaching right now, which I think is excellent.

I would particularly recommend going when you can see them feeding the lions or the penguins. The lions get better meat than you’ll find in your standard Quarter Pounder with Cheese and the Penguins gobble down fish faster than hungry tourists at Fisherman’s Wharf.

Visit the new San Francisco Zoo soon. It’s a lot of fun! We bought one of their membership cards, which is actually worth it if you plan on visiting the place more than once and/or plan on bringing friends or relatives from out-of-town there. I have one uncle who looks like a big gorilla, and every time we take him there, he bonds with the primates. I just wish he wouldn’t scratch himself so openly!

For more information about the SF Zoo, visit:

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Little League WS Final: Go Georgia!! My Prediction: USA Wins 4-1!

The Little League World Series Final is later today, and frankly I'm more excited about this game than I am about any MLB or NFL game this weekend or in the immediate future. The LLWS is a blast to watch, and this year's tournament has been a classic! When you realize that these kids have been playing in this thing for the last 10 weeks (pretty much their entire summer), and that the whole shabang started out with 7,000 teams, it's an amazing test of durability and fortitude for these two teams to have made it this far. I think it's going to be tough for the U.S. team from Columbus, Georgia to overtake the kids from Japan, but if anyone can do it, they can. The Japanese team really impressed me by beating a very good squad from Mexico. But, I am hopeful, and that's why I'm predicting a U.S. victory.

This appeared on the AP wire yesterday evening:

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) -- Clutch hitting and timely defense -- the Little Leaguers from Columbus, Ga., sure are well-schooled in the art of playing winning baseball.
Good pitching and colorful home-run trots are the hallmarks of the undefeated team from Kawaguchi City, Japan.
Should be interesting when the two teams meet for the Little League World Series championship.
Go Matsumoto homered and got starter Seigo Yada out of a sixth-inning jam with some sharp relief pitching in Japan's 3-0 win on Saturday night over Mexico to capture the international championship.
Earlier, Brady Hamilton drove in two runs and J.T. Phillips struck out eight to help Columbus defeat Beaverton, Ore., 7-3 to win the U.S. title.
The kids from Georgia and Japan will play for the title Sunday.
Hamilton broke a 3-3 tie by flaring a pitch from starter Jace Fry just out of the shortstop's reach to score Phillips from second in the fifth inning. Columbus got some breathing room with three more runs in the sixth.
Cody Walker tracked a popup in foul territory and stumbled to the ground on his back just after catching it for the final out. Jubilant teammates started piling on top of him as parents cheered and snapped pictures.
"It's a dream come true," 12-year-old outfielder Ryan Lang said.
After receiving their championship banner, the Columbus boys raced to the Beaverton dugout and invited their opponents to accompany them on the honorary victory lap around Lamade Stadium.
But only Columbus gets to play in the title game Sunday.
"I said after the semifinals that everything is gravy," happy Columbus manager Randy Morris said.
The Columbus Northern league team looked like it'd be an easy winner at first against Beaverton's Murrayhill league team. The Georgia fans chanted, "Here we go Southwest, here we go!" as their team returned to the dugout after a three-run first inning.
Momentum changed in the fourth.
Beaverton's Austin Perry had an RBI single to cut the lead to 3-1 before Trevor Nix homered to left. The 13-year-old pumped his fist after watching the ball land over the fence for a two-run shot that tied the game.
Beaverton's fortunes changed quickly when Columbus returned to the plate in the fifth and Hamilton's looping single over shortstop Derek Keller drove in the go-ahead run.
"You couldn't place that ball any better," said Derek's father, Beaverton manager Jeff Keller.
Columbus put the game away in the sixth. Josh Lester's RBI single highlighted a three-run inning and made the score 7-3.
Lester also made a nice stab of a liner by Beaverton's Sam Albert to help douse a scoring threat in the first inning, one of several nice defensive plays in the game. With runners at first and second, Albert hit a shot up the middle. But Lester quickly took a couple of steps to his left, made the catch and fell to one knee.
Keller said he thinks his son will get over the loss quickly.
"Football starts in three days," the manager said. "When he gets under center and starts throwing the ball around, I think he'll be OK."
In the nightcap, Yada started for Japan and dominated until the sixth, when Mexico managed three straight singles to load the bases with nobody out.
In came Matsumoto to close the door. The lanky, 5-foot-10 reliever with the long delivery and nice fastball struck out the first two batters he faced, then ended the game by getting a weak groundout to first.
Mexico starter Josue Barron was good early, striking out six and retiring the side through the first three innings. Fans waving the green, white and yellow flag of Mexico shouted "Josue, Josue, Josue" often drowning out the rhythmic clapping of Japanese fans.
Japan's sluggers got to Barron in the fourth. Leadoff hitter Yada sent a 1-0 pitch over the left-field wall. Two batters later, Matsumoto hit the first pitch he saw from Barron into a grassy patch just before the hedges beyond the center field fence for a two-run blast.
After each shot, while rounding the bases, the hitters would nearly lean to the ground on one knee and pump an arm in front of them. After Yada reached the plate on his homer, he was greeted by awaiting teammates who did the same move.

(Blog edit: Well, it's the day after the game now, and I wasn't too far off with my prediction! The kids from Georgia beat the Tokyo tots 2-1. What a great game. I almost missed it because they moved the game time at the last minute, but I was channel surfing while eating lunch and I found it. This is only the third time that the U.S, has won it back-to-back. Hats off to the Little Leaguers, all of them. It was a great LLWS!)

Saturday, August 26, 2006

There Gone Be Some Malice in Dat Palace!

If you have never seen a mixed martial arts cage fighting event like this, you are missing out. Sure, it’s violent! But, no more than trying to walk in San Francisco and not getting hit by a taxi cab or a pizza delivery car! Malice at the Palace is taking place on Saturday night, September 9th at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, and will feature some of the top fighters in the sport, including Urijah Faber, Nam Phan, Jake Shields, Spence, Gunderson, Ebersole Murphy, Metcalf, Sims, Guillena, Coronel, Marks, Wray, Solis, Baca, Dietz, Cordosa, Humphries, McMillian, Crispim and Werneck. There will also be a special appearance by super cage fighter Chuck Liddell, although he's not fighting. (I only put the last names of the lesser-known fighters in here, but I made sure to put all of them in there to avoid one fighter getting pissed and kicking my ass!) Tickets range in price from $45 for working stiffs like you and I, all the way up to $250 for high-rollin' play-ahs!

This type of fighting only became legal in California earlier this year, with the first mixed martial arts cage fight in the state having taken place in San Jose’s HP Pavilion. To view the TV commercial for the Malice at the Palace, visit: This is no-holds-barred mano vs. mano fighting – the real s—t! Not like some boxing matches where guys waltz around the ring like ballroom dancers and hug each other for 12 rounds. This is like the old Roman days in the Coliseum, except that the losers don’t get fed to the lions. (That’s not legal yet, but just wait!) Hope to see you there!

Friday, August 25, 2006

My Interview with Jesse Gonder


Jesse Gonder died on November 14, 2004 in Oakland, California at the age of 68. Although his role in MLB was basically that of a journeyman catcher, Gonder found relative success in 1963 and ‘64 as the starting backstop for that hapless new gang of lovable dolts known as the New York Mets. After having started the ’63 season with the Cincinnati Reds, Gonder was shipped off to the Mets, where he hit .302. In 1964, he batted .270 in 131 games. Having begun his career with the New York Yankees in 1960, Gonder became one of the first players to play for both the Yankees and the Mets during his major league career. More notably, Gonder built a reputation over the years for being outspoken at a time when most African-American athletes were reluctant to do so.After he retired from the game, Gonder became a bus driver for Golden Gate Transit in the Bay Area, remaining in that position for over 20 years before retiring in the mid-1990s.

A great baseball high school: “I graduated from McClymonds in 1955. That team went undefeated the last three years I was there. We had a group of guys here in Oakland that could play ball. Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson, Curtis Flood….myself. I went to school with all of them. A guy named Curt Roberts was there before us, as was Charlie Beamon. We were all good athletes. And Frank was the first one to sign and he went to the big leagues. And after he signed professional, we all figured we had a pretty good chance of going. We had one guy, a scout, named Bob Madic. He ended up being the General Manager for the Toronto Blue Jays. He signed us all into the Reds’ organization. He cleaned up financially, too. We saw small bonuses, but from what I heard, he made quite a bit for signing us.”

Racism: “Back in those days, being black, if you couldn’t accept being humiliated, or insulted, I should say -- if you couldn’t accept being called ‘nigger’ or ‘watermelon eater’, ‘Amos ‘n Andy”, any racial insult that they could possibly throw at you – then you couldn’t make it.”
“I had some good times, but with what I had to go through in baseball, it really wasn’t that much fun. Once I got into the game and I found out how political it was, I realized what was gonna hold me back. It ceased being fun, it really did. There was really nothing fun about it.”
“In Cincinnati, we were the first team to integrate spring training. We stayed at the same motel with the white players in 1962.”

“Only the guys with the thick skin made it. Maybe we weren’t the best athletes, but we had thicker skin. We knew what we had to do to survive. There was really nothing fun about it. Everywhere you ran into racism. Everywhere. In a lot of the places we couldn’t even go in and eat with the white players. We had to sit out on the bus, while they brought us hamburgers and things like that, you know, after they had eaten.”

“Jerry Jacobs, a white player from McClymonds High, signed with the Reds a year before I did. Jerry signed a year before me, and then the next year when I signed, we all left here together from the 6th Street railroad station to go to Douglas, Georgia – that’s where Cincinnati had their spring training. We all grew up together; we all went to school together in West Oakland. And everything was fine until we got to Chicago. And once we got to Chicago and headed South, Jerry Jacobs and I got on the train. I saw all the black people sitting in one place, so I just went and sat with them. It never occurred to me what was going on; I just went and sat with the black people. Jerry came and sat with us too. And the porter came back there and told him, “You can’t sit here. You have to go and sit with the whites. And that was our first taste of racism like that.”

The Great Yankees: “They told me, “Casey wants you.” And I said, “What? “ And they said, “You’re going to New York.” And I said, “No, I’m not. I don’t belong to the Yankees.” And they said, “You do now. They just bought you.” That night, I’m in Yankee Stadium, google-eyed. I guess that was the biggest thrill I got out of baseball at the time, you know? I’m there with Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. Then, we go on a road trip, we go to Boston. They had already clinched the pennant.”

Mickey Mantle: “Mickey drank a lot. We were talking in Atlantic City at a memorabilia show one day (in the 80’s.) And he told me, “If I had known I was going to live this long, I wouldn’t have drank so much.” And I told him, “Mickey, the liquor is probably what’s kept you alive.” And he thought that was funny.”

Casey Stengel: “ESPN wanted to interview me, Johnny Blanchard and Clete Boyer for SportsCentury about Casey a few years back. Clete declined to be interviewed. He said, “I don’t have anything to say about the so-and-so.” ‘Cause Casey was not a good players’ manager, period. He was a media man. He was an ambassador. Blanchard told the guy from ESPN. “Casey did this to me. He told me when I first came up that I could really hit. And I said, “Yeah, skip – I can hit pretty good.” So, Casey asked me, “Can you catch?” And I said, “Yeah, Casey, I can catch pretty good, too.” So, Casey said, “Well, if you can really catch, then, catch that 12 o’ clock plane to Denver. Blanchard had been optioned to Denver.”

Thursday, August 24, 2006

One of My Favorite Restaurants in SF is L'Osteria del Forno

L’Osteria del Forno

There is an Italian restaurant in North Beach (what other kind are there?) that is really wonderful, and I am inspired enough by the great food, atmosphere and service to write a review about the place. Its name is L’Osteria del Forno, located on Columbus Street right in the heart of North Beach’s Little Italy section. I have been to many restaurants in North Beach, and while some are average and a few are quite poor, this place is outstanding. I would send any of my friends there without hesitation, because every time I have eaten there, it has been a spectacular experience. The restaurant is tiny, with maybe a dozen tables inside and a couple outside. It has an open kitchen that looks cramped and crowded, but that doesn’t stop the chefs there from putting out some of the tastiest authentic Italian cuisine I’ve ever eaten. They have a brick-lined oven at L’Osteria del Forno where they bake the kind of pizzas and focaccia bread that causes a foodie like myself to drool like Pavlov’s dogs. The pizza crust is not thick or doughy. It is almost cracker-like in its consistency with a texture that can only be described as indescribable. I hate chewy pizza and this is anything but. At $10 to $19 apiece, these magnificent discs of delectability come with toppings that complement them perfectly. They are simple and not stacked to the ceiling with a bunch of stuff that shouldn’t go on pizzas, like Canadian bacon, pineapple, pine nuts, and hamburger meat (Gag!) The other day I told somebody on the street, obviously an out-of-towner, about the place and how good their pizza was and he asked me, "Is it as good as Round Table?" I just walked away! Try the Tre Formaggi with imported gorgonzola, ricotta and mozzarella cheeses. Or the Porcini topped with sautéed imported porcini mushrooms, ricotta, mozzarella and olive oil. You can also add extra toppings for two dollars each, but why would you want to? Leave the pizza making to the experts. You don’t get under the sink and help your plumber when he comes over to fix the pipes, do you? Let these professionals do their job and order these wondrous creations of love the way they were designed to be eaten. If you aren’t in the mood for a pizza, try the focaccine at L’Osteria del Forno. They bake the bread for these classic Italian sandwiches themselves, and they are simply divine. For six or seven dollars each, these masterpieces blow away burgers and deli sandwiches in a major way. I always order the Arrosto, which features the restaurant’s thinly sliced roast of the day (usually ham, beef or chicken) with tomatoes and lettuce, and that’s it. If I see another bean sprout, cucumber slice or green bell pepper on a sandwich, I think I’m going to lose it. Or maybe try the Boscaiolo focaccine sandwich with smoked prosciutto, porcini mushrooms, fresh mozzarella and lettuce. These aren’t just sandwiches, they’re statements! If pizza and sandwiches aren’t on your wish list, the pastas and specials at L’Osteria del Forno are superb as well. I’ve had the Ravioli di Zucca, which is a pumpkin-filled ravioli served with clarified butter and sage, and the Gnocchi di Patate, potato dumplings served with organic tomatoes, butter and basil. These dishes don’t come drowning in red sauce like you’ll find in many supposedly authentic Italian restaurants. Entrees and specials range in price from nine to 20 dollars, and they’re worth every penny. There are a lot of tourist trap restaurants in North Beach that claim to be the real thing. Don’t get sucked in by their checkered table cloths and chronically rude waiters. Real food made with love the way it’s made in Italy itself is what’s important – and L’Osteria del Forno is the real thing!

L’Osteria del Forno
519 Columbus Avenue (Between Green & Union Streets in North Beach)
(415) 982-1124
Reservations not accepted
Open for lunch and dinner every day but Tuesday
Credit cards not accepted

I give this place 4.75 burps (out of five)
To find out more about L'Osteria del Forno and check out their menu, visit their Web site at:

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

My Interview with Charlie Silvera

(Photo: This is a picture of Charlie Silvera (far right) with his three childhood friends from San Francisco who all signed with and played for the Yankees in the 40's and 50's. They are (from left) Jerry Coleman, Boobby Brown and Frank Crosetti.)


Charlie Silvera was born in San Francisco in 1924, grew up in the Mission District, and attended St. Ignatius High School before signing with the Yankees for a $2,500 bonus in 1942. He would go on to languish for eight full seasons as a backup to Yogi Berra. Although he received six World Series championship rings along the way, Silvera must always wonder what he could have done had Berra not been the starter for all those great Yankee teams of the 40’s and 50’s. Silvera went on to coach and scout for a variety of MLB clubs and currently resides in the beautiful hills of Millbrae in Northern California and works as a scout for the Cubs.

Relationship with Berra:
“In 1948, I was called up late in the season because Nairhas got hurt. Yogi had been playing the outfield that season, so they brought him in, made him the number one catcher, and I became his backup. Yogi had natural talent, and Bill Dickey refined him. In 1950, I didn’t get to bat until June 17th. We were the best of friends. We ran around together, we got along great.”

Yogi-isms: “A lot of them were obviously made up, mostly by reporters, but a lot of them he said on his own. A few of them happened when I was in his company and they never got recorded. One time, we were going to go, on an off-day, to a dinner to speak. The Yankee PR guy came by and asked Yogi, do you want to go to this affair, you know, you have an off day. Charlie’s gonna go. So Yogi said – what are they gonna give us? And I told him, well, I think they’re gonna give us a .20 Gauge Remington. And, Yogi, said, Great! I’ve always wanted a camera!”

Billy Martin and Carousing: “They got rid of Billy because they thought he was a bad influence on Mantle – all Mantle did was win the Triple Crown. They also blamed Billy for the incident at the Copa. I’d have been there, but we left early. I had left. Mantle and Billy, they roomed together, they had their fun. But, the older guys kind of policed the younger guys, you know, I was considered a veteran by then. I roomed with Collins, and we would police the younger kids, if they got out of line, we told them – you’re messing with our money, and you don’t do that. If they persisted, we’d tell them, you better get rid of this guy, because he’s not a Yankee.”

“We made a pact. One day, late in both our careers, Billy and I were sitting on the Yankee bench, neither of us were playing, and Billy told me that if he ever got a job managing the Oakland Oaks, you’ll be my coach. And I told him, “If I ever manage the Seals, you’ll be my coach.” And by God, when he got the job managing with Minnesota, he called us. Billy was a blue collar fan’s type of guy. The fans loved him because he fought millionaires, but that was the worst thing to do. You don’t fight millionaires. You don’t fight owners. But, he would get a little upset at times. When I could see he was going to get into something, I’d say, listen, I can’t run and I can’t fight, so be careful tonight. And we’d go somewhere, and someone would get in front of him and he’d want to fight ‘em. He never backed down from anybody. Everybody knew he wasn’t afraid of anybody.”

DiMaggio: “Joe alienated a lot of people because he wouldn’t kiss their ass, especially people from the old neighborhood. But, that was Joe.”

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Big Little Leaguer or Little Big Leaguer?

I don't know what to say about this kid. Check his birth certificate every day, because if he's 13 years old, I'm Barry Bonds! He's 6'8" and weighs 265!! His name is Aaron Durley and he's playing for Saudi Arabia in the Little League World Series. What do they feed their children out there.....oil!?! I saw him on TV the other day and he towers over the other kids to the point where it's hilarious. He has such a huge strike zone, it reminds me of when Michael Jordan played minor league baseball. All the opposing pitchers have to do is throw it up there. It shouldn't be too hard to hit that strike zone. The only way to stop this kid from beating you is by tying him down, kind of like the Lilliputians did to Gulliver in Gulliver's Travels. He walked twice the other day, which astounds me. The opposing pitcher must have been intimidated by his size. If this "kid" gets ahold of one, someone could get killed out there. I've heard people use the term, "a man among boys" before, but it has never been more fitting than it is with Aaron Durley! I love the Little League World Series, because it's as pure as the game gets, without the mega-salaries, egos and prima donnas.

I saw this on

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. - Aaron Durley towers over the competition at the Little League
The 13-year-old first baseman for Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, stands an imposing 6-foot-8 and weighs 256 pounds.
"I was standing next to him and I was up to his elbows," Scott Kingery, a 12-year-old, 4-foot-9 Phoenix shortstop, said after meeting Durley.
At the secluded dorms where teams stay during the tournament, Durley has become as much of an attraction as the pool, the pingpong table and the video arcade.
The soft-spoken Durley doesn't mind the attention. He even lets opponents snap pictures with him during down time.
But Durley, who played at the series last year, too — when he was a mere 6-foot-4 — is crystal-clear about his top priority in South Williamsport.
"I'm more confident this year, ready to do what I need to do," Durley said after a practice. "Hit the ball out."
Fittingly, his favorite major leaguer is David "Big Papi" Ortiz, the Boston Red Sox slugger.
Durley, batting fifth, didn't hit a homer, but he walked twice, singled and scored a run Sunday when his Arabian American squad from Dhahran defeated Saipan, 9-1. Saudi Arabia (2-0) stands a good chance of advancing out of pool play after failing to win a game last year.

Monday, August 21, 2006

My Interview with Gus Triandos

I have had a very interesting relationship with Gus Triandos. Ever see that movie "Cobb?" That's really the closest thing I can compare it to. Gus and I have gotten together at least half a dozen times in the past few years so that I could interview him for SABR ( and also for the baseball Web site I created with my talented partner Eric Gouldsberry ( Gus and I usually meet at an Olive Garden restaurant in San Jose and start drinking the vino around 11:30 am. (any earlier than that and you're an alcoholic, in my book). By 1 pm both of us are well on our way toward being sloshed. And that's when the interviews always get better! Gus has told me a lot of things that I have never revealed to anyone. He said I can publish them after he's gone, but for now they stay with me. Overall, Gus Triandos is just a really sweet guy with a big heart. He is, however, a little bitter when he looks back on his career in baseball.


Gus Triandos was a very decent catcher during the 50’s and 60’s. He hit 167 career homers, and although he was not fleet of foot (he stole one base and holds the record for most consecutive games played without being thrown out: 1,206), Triandos had a great arm and was known as one of the top-fielding backstops in the league throughout his years with five major league teams. He now lives in San Jose, California and runs a postal company. He was wearing a neck brace the morning I met him, the result of a recent car accident. Gus was a part of a lot of baseball history. A 2-time all-star, he caught Jim Bunning’s perfect game in 1964, used the big oversized mitt to catch knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm during his no-hitter in 1958 and was the opposing catcher when Ted Williams hit a home run in his final plate appearance in 1960.

A long shot to make the bigs:
“Sad fact was, I had a tough time getting signed. I wasn’t that sought after. Hell, I wouldn’t even be signed today. No way I’d be signed now. They had D, C B, A, AA, AAA teams – they had a jillion ballplayers out there and I think that it, I don’t know. They just wanted to sign bodies back then. But, even when I was playing minor league ball, every scout that ever came through town and the local sportswriters would ask him and they’d say I didn’t have a chance. But, it never pissed me off, because I thought I didn’t have a chance. My feet were so bad I knew I wouldn’t last. The best thing that happened to me was going into the Army. Those military issue boots straightened my feet out. Don’t ask me how, but they did.”

High school: “My senior year, we had 11 guys sign professional contracts. Mission High was the baseball school, Polytechnic was the football school and Lowell was the basketball school in San Francisco at that time. The only one who really made it for any time in the majors was me.”

All-star appearances: “I played in two all-star games. I hit a 2-run double in one of them, off Elroy Face, in 1958. I probably would have been the MVP had we won.”

The 1957 all-star game: “That prick Stengel didn’t even put me in that game. Was that in St. Louis? Yeah. Didn’t even put me in. That Stengel really hated my guts.
And then the next year it was in Baltimore. That’s when they let the players pick the all-stars for the first time. And I got in because I was elected by the players. And Casey still didn’t want to play me, but he had no choice.”

Players he liked/disliked: “I never got to where I disliked a guy. There were a couple I ended up disliking, but shit, life’s too short. I stayed away from them. You see them now, and you never get a chance to talk. Maybe for a minute at some dinner or event or something. But, there were very few people -- players and managers -- that after it was all over, I disliked…Stengel was one of them. I wasn’t his type of ball player. You know, I couldn’t run. I couldn’t hit to the opposite field. And for some reason he just didn’t like me and it was patently obvious. The greatest thing that ever happened to me was him disliking me. He also made the right pick. He decided that he liked Elston Howard better than me. And that was a helluva pick.”

The baseball life: “Gave me a helluva life for 12 years. I really enjoyed myself. It was kind of a psychological thing, you know. Like you have a little bit of a low opinion of yourself. And then you get to where you can do something well and get a little recognition. It was good. I wouldn’t have a chance to do it now. In this day and age, I don’t think I could get signed. When those 11 guys from my high school got drafted, I never thought I’d be the one to make it to the majors. I wouldn’t trade what I did in baseball for anything, but there was a lot of stuff that was irritating too. But, overall – most of it was on the plus side.”

“I had a lot of liabilities. I couldn’t run. I was a good catcher and all that other happy horseshit. The one thing I could do well for at least the first half of my career in the majors was I could throw. It was one of the few things I had. Most good base stealers stole off the pitchers. But, offensively, I could be pitched to. I’m just thankful I was able to do what I did. I don’t look at the game now the same way I did then. I can’t watch it anymore. I haven’t been to a MLB game in more than 15 years.”

Umpires: “You almost have to be an asshole to be an umpire. You have to take so much shit. You start the season out real good friends with them by the end of the season guys were salivating, hell, saying they hated each other’s guts. The only reason the umps liked me is I didn’t show ‘em up, and I never argued with them. Stayed off them so that the fans wouldn’t get on them.”

Appearing on the TV show, “Home Run Derby”: “That was one of the most embarrassing things. I got bounced out the first time. Dick Stuart and I embarrassed the whole f-ing thing. They did it the middle of winter, when guys hadn’t been to Spring Training, we were both so out of shape.”

Steroids: “What, do they think people are stupid? When this guy goes from 175-180 to 210 and nobody says anything? Of course, I always thought they had ‘em, but I didn’t give a shit. I still don’t.”

Players today: “The way things are now, the kind of money these guys are making, it’s messed everything up. In our era, there was more integrity and more love for the game. Look at these fucking guys, they buy 2-3 million dollar homes; some of them have six or seven kids with five different women? It’s crazy.”

Playing in the Astrodome: “The Astrodome was a theater, it was an architectural wonder at the time. Then, they figured out they couldn’t grow grass in there.”

HOFer’s: “Any Hall of Famer who thinks he’s so wonderful because he did all these great things in baseball is full of crap. He was able to do it because he was blessed by God with natural ability. He didn’t necessarily have to work that hard to be a star. I’ve seen .220 hitters work a lot harder than a lot of Hall of Famers. There were some good ones, but there are also a lot of bad guys who are Hall of Famers. That’s why I never really idolized Hall of Famers, because I thought they were blessed.”

Sunday, August 20, 2006

My Interview with Ernie Fazio


Ernie Fazio was one of major league baseball’s very first bonus babies. He played two seasons for the fledgling Houston Colt .45’s, whom he signed with in 1962. He was the very first player signed by the team, just minutes before Rusty Staub. In 1963, he played semi-regularly for Houston, appearing in 102 games at second base, but batted only .184. In 1965, Fazio was traded to Charlie Finley and the Kansas City A’s, as the player to be named later in a trade that sent Jim Gentile to the Houston Astros for Jesse Hickman. Finley took Ernie under his wing, mainly because he liked his style of play, but 1966 would be Fazio’s last year in the major leagues, due to a life-threatening virus he suffered during spring training. Later he would work for Finley in the Oakland A’s front office for several years in the early 70’s. I met Ernie, now 62, in Hayward, where he works as a manager for a major sanitation company. He is a fun guy to be around, and loves to talk baseball. He is currently very involved in a lawsuit vs. MLB – an attempt to get pension money retroactively for the over 1,000 retired players who played in the big leagues for less than four years and received nothing. Baseball says that “the pension and benefit program for retirees would not exist if not for the efforts of Ernie Fazio.” Ernie has a daughter who is a senior at UCLA and a star on the women’s soccer team.

“I signed out of Santa Clara University in 1962 with the Houston Colt .45’s for $100,000. My parents got ten grand. The people in Houston told me they would help me meet a girl down there, so that I could get married and save on income taxes. That was part of their pitch to me. They would set me up.”

“I really had a great time in Houston. I got to meet some of the astronauts, including John Glenn. I still have my original Colt .45 uniform. Collectors call me up all the time and want to buy it.”

“I hurt my arm that first year and they sent me down to Oklahoma City in the Pacific Coast League. I still have the record in that league for home runs by a second baseman (25). We won the PCL title, and I was healthy and all ready to go back up to the big club. I told them, I’m ready to play now. They said, “You’re not going up, you’re going home.” They had decided to go with Joe Morgan. We’re still good friends, Joe and I.”

“My problem was that when I got to Houston they tried to change my batting style.
They wanted me to become a slap hitter, to punch the ball, like Nellie Fox.”

“Then I went to the Kansas City A’s in 1966 to play for Charlie Finley. I loved that man. He always took care of his players – invested money for them; put down payments on houses for them, that type of stuff. I used to ride the mule for him all the time. I didn’t mind. I said to myself, “They’re worse things to do.”

“I got to hang out quite a bit with Joe DiMaggio during his time with the A’s. I asked him how he stayed in such great shape, because you know he smoked cigarettes, and he said, “I run.” He ran all the time to keep those legs in shape. He didn’t like the public. When we would play in these charity golf functions, he’d always skip the dinners afterwards. He just didn’t want to be bothered by people always coming up to him.”

“That stadium the Colt .45’s played in was so damn hot and humid and there were so many mosquitoes out there every day, they were like hordes of locusts. Johnny Temple used to eat lots of honey to keep the bugs away. It seemed to work, I don’t know.”

“After I left the A’s, I played in the minors in Hawaii. My roommate was Bo Belinsky. We had a great time, two single guys in Honolulu. Bo was a great guy to hang out with. He had his choice of any woman he wanted. And that’s all I can really say about that.”

“Bo introduced me to Jim Acho, an attorney, who got me involved in the pension case against major league baseball. The issue is that, in the old days, players who played for less than four years didn’t qualify for the pension. Back then, those were the rules. Now, if you play one day, you get medical benefits for life. If you are with a ball club for more than 45 days, you qualify for some pension money. There are over a thousand players out there who didn’t get a dime because they played less than four years.”

“My all-time team? I thought Sandy Koufax was incredible, even though I batted .333 against him. He would be my left-handed pitcher. Bob Gibson or Juan Marichal would be my right-hander, and Dennis Eckersley would be in the pen. The rest of my team – C: Bench; 3B: Colavito; SS: Banks; 2B: Mazeroski; 1B: Stan Musial. OF: Mays, DiMaggio and Clemente.”

Saturday, August 19, 2006

My interview with Gus Zernial

For my web site:, and also as a member of the Oral History Committee for the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) at:, I have interviewed over 40 retired baseball players. Here's a very interesting interview I did a while back with Gus Zernial, who is one of the greatest baseball players nobody's ever heard of:


Gus Zernial’s greatest achievement in major league baseball was probably when he led the American League in home runs in 1951. He was a power-hitting outfielder who never played for a first division team, but he hit 237 career homers and batted .265. His nickname was Ozark Ike, based on a popular comic strip at the time. From 1951 to 1957, only Mickey Mantle hit more round trippers in the AL. In 1951, Zernial hit 33 home runs, and in 1953, he had his best power year with 42. He played for the A’s in Philadelphia and Kansas City; then with the White Sox and Detroit. Although he was a great hitter, his fielding was far from spectacular. Twice during his career he broke his collarbone chasing down fly balls.

Norma Jean and Ozark Ike: While with the White Sox in 1949, a young starlet by the name of Marilyn Monroe came to the ballpark to do a pictorial for a National Enquire-type magazine. Gus remembered that she was “such a nice girl.” “She asked a bunch of questions about baseball…she was really interested in the game.” Zernial said that he was perplexed later when they made her look less than wholesome in many of her films. When DiMaggio started dating Monroe years later, they asked Joltin’ Joe about Marilyn and Gus, and the Yankee Clipper made a disparaging remark about Zernial, something to the effect that “Marilyn would never date a bush leaguer like Zernial”. For some reason known to only Joe, DiMag held a grudge against Zernial until the day he died.

Hit 33 HR’s in 1951, but didn’t even get in the all-star game that year:
“There was a guy around at that time named Ted Williams, and although I always finished second, he pretty much beat me out in the all-star voting every time. Casey Stengel was the manager of the all-stars every year, because the Yankees won the American League every year, but he never chose me. Casey never selected me for the all-star team, and I was always up in the voting. But, he had people he wanted to put in there, and I can understand that. Casey had his own players that he liked to select. For instance, Jackie Jensen was someone he liked to pick, even though he didn’t do real well in the voting that year. And he chose Jackie. And in 1953, when Ted had to go back in the service for awhile, of course, I won the voting that year. I started the all-star game, and Casey was still there. I think he would have prevented me from playing in the all-star game that year if he could have. He was so anxious to get Minnie Minoso in there that he barely let me get two at bats. But, I singled in that game – it was the first base hit of the game. But, that’s Casey. Managers will always have their favorites and they still do.”

Striking out a lot: “Today they strike out 110 times only halfway through the season. I averaged about 70 strikeouts a year. In 1951, we didn’t have a good team. We had good players, but we didn’t have a good ball club. And I think in some of those games I was just trying to hit a home run late in the game when we were trailing. That’s no excuse for the strikeouts, but we’d be behind and I’d go up and try to hit it out, you know?”

Association with Appling: “Luke Appling took me by the hand, showed me around the league, took me to into a few bars, showed me the ropes, so to speak. No, he was a great, great guy. Luke and I become good friends, he did it all with me. I’m really happy to say I played with some really great players. Played with Appling, Kaline – guys like that.
I had some HOF years, but I certainly didn’t have a HOF career. In 1954 when I got hurt, that was the end for me. Hurt my shoulder in 1954.”

Booed by the Philadelphia A’s fans when he hurt his shoulder:
“Yeah – Philadelphia, they’ll boo ya. There are certainly some boo birds there.
Announcer told fans I’d broken my shoulder. Took me down this tunnel and I could hear them booing me all the way down to the clubhouse.”

Racism in the game: “I think when Jackie Robinson first came up, I think some of the players resented it, and some didn’t. But, I never had any trouble with it, at all. Told my brothers, “Hey, the black players are just the same as us.” They resented that situation. I said, “Hey, that’s part of the game.”

All the stadiums are history now: “Every home ball park I played in is now gone. There’s nothing left. Chicago. Chicago’s stadium is gone. Same with Philadelphia, Detroit and Kansas City. All those stadiums are gone. Tiger Stadium is actually still there, but they don’t play there anymore. Detroit used to have a nice downtown, but it’s not as nice now.”

He's a Brainiac: Perfect Scores on the SAT & ACT!

I only took the SAT and I remember I thought I was doing well with an 1100. This kid is a real rarity, because most students are really good at either math or reading, not both. I wonder now that he’s a celebrity – are the bullies at school still picking on him or do they let him slide? If he goes to a school like MIT, he can be the bully and beat the crap out of the other smart kids! The nerd babes are going to be all over this stud! He’ll probably make the centerfold of Super Brainiac Magazine. He should really piss his parents off and tell them he wants to go to a local junior college so that he can continue to hang out with his chess buddies who only got 1,300’s!

This was on yesterday:

WICHITA, Kan. (Aug. 18) - A teenager has achieved a rare feat: perfect scores on both the American College Testing exam and the SAT.
Jakub Voboril, 17, a senior at Bishop Carroll High School, learned last month that he had scored a 36 on his ACT, which he took in June. His perfect score, one of only two in Kansas on the June test, came after he scored 32 and 34 on his first two tries.
"Part of me said, 'That's good enough. You can stop there,"' he said. "But I decided to take it one more time to see what happened."
He took the SAT the same week. Those results - a perfect 2400 - came in shortly after he got his ACT scores.
Voboril comes from good genes: his two older sisters were high school valedictorians. He hasn't settled on a college or major, but has considered math, philosophy and law, possibly at the University of Notre Dame or Princeton.
He said he didn't have an answer for how he scored so well.
"It's weird, because before I took it, I checked out a couple books from the library. I expected there to be this big secret that all the smart all had to read, but there wasn’t.
Obviously, you have to pay attention in classes, take classes that are going to teach you what you need to know - that sort of thing."
No statistics are available on how many students have aced both tests, but it's a safe bet Voboril doesn't have a lot of company.
"Suffice it to say, it's a very, very small number," said Brian O'Reilly, a spokesman for the College Board, which administers the SAT.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Is Owen Wilson a Marriage Crasher?

Please Note: You'll start to see a lot of celebrity-bashing articles on this blog from time to time, because I'm writing for a Web site that has hired me to do them.

I get so tired of hearing about stars and starlets hooking up on movie sets. If I was married to a hot-looking actress, there is absolutely no way I would let my wife alone for a second with some of the lecherous lead actors who have no respect for marriage and will steal your wife in the blink of an eye. Julia Roberts made a career of it; Meg Ryan pretty much ruined her career with all the bad publicity she got for hooking up with Russell Crowe on the set of some movie no one even remembers anymore. And now Owen Wilson has swept Kate Hudson off her feet. Wilson & Hudson (sounds like a law firm) have been working together on the set of the new movie, “Me and Dupree,” with Matt Dillon, and I guess when they went off to do publicity for the film, Owen and Kate started sharing hotel rooms together and obviously the sparks started to fly. As soon as Hudson got home she informed her hubby of 5.5 years, Black Crowes lead singer Chris Robinson, that it was over. If I were Robinson, I would be livid and looking for Wilson with a Louisville Slugger in hand. I remember hearing Hudson and Robinson on some radio show a few months back talking about how they’re able to make their marriage work with commitment and trust. Ha! What a crock! Hudson better watch herself. Meg Ryan’s career evaporated when fans stopped seeing her as “America’s Cutey/Girl Next Door” and started looking at her as “Tawdry Home wrecker.” We’ll have to see how this plays out, but from what I’ve heard and read so far, all I can say is shame on you, Owen. Aren’t there enough single women out there for you to prey on?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Big Tough Country Singer Accused of Killing a Tame Bear in a Pen!?! Troy Lee Gentry is Our Human Douche Bag of the Month!

(Suggested photo caption: "Is that 'Lil Cubby I hear groanin'? I thought I killed that bear!")

What IS WRONG with people? Is this guy the biggest wimp you’ve ever heard of or what? Killing a tame bear in a pen? Why would anyone want to do something so cruel? I’m totally against hunting and always have been, even although I love to fish. I think people who stalk and kill defenseless animals are gutless and stupid. But, at least when they go out into the wild and track down a wild animal, there’s a little bit of sport involved. But, to kill a tame bear in a pen is so inhumane and just generally unfair it sickens me. I’m not a big country music fan, so I have never heard this clown’s music. If I was a real rabble rouser, I’d probably go down to Tower Records and tell people to boycott his CD’s, but I’m way too busy. So, I’m blogging my friends to let them know that this guy is a human douche bag!

Here’s the story as it appeared on AOL yesterday:

DULUTH, Minn. (Aug. 16) - Troy Lee Gentry, of the country singing duo Montgomery Gentry, has been accused of killing a tame black bear that federal officials say he tagged as killed in the wild.
Gentry, 39, of Franklin, Tenn., and Lee Marvin Greenly, 46, of Sandstone, appeared Tuesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Raymond Erickson in connection with a sealed indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Minneapolis. Authorities allege that Gentry purchased the bear from Greenly, a wildlife photographer and hunting guide, then killed it with a bow and arrow in an enclosed pen on Greenly's property in October 2004. The government alleges that Gentry and Greenly tagged the bear with a Minnesota hunting license and registered the animal with the state Department of Natural Resources as a wild kill. Gentry allegedly paid about $4,650 for the bear, named Cubby. The bear's death was videotaped, and the tape later edited so Gentry appeared to shoot the animal in a "fair chase" hunting situation, the government alleges. If convicted, both Gentry and Greenly face a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison and a $20,000 fine. Gentry's manager, Johnny Dorris, said Wednesday that Gentry, an outdoorsman and hunter, expects to be exonerated. Gentry "relied on the knowledge and expertise of a local guide to obtain the proper permit," Dorris said in a written statement. "Troy felt what he did was legal and in full compliance of the law and was surprised to hear of the indictment." Greenly did not return a phone message seeking comment. Montgomery Gentry, along with co-singer Eddie Montgomery, are known for hits such as "My Town" and "If You Ever Stop Loving Me."
And his newest hit, “Cubby’s Revenge.”

One thing I should say here is that Gentry is, of course, innocent until proven guilty. At least that’s supposed to be the way our justice system works. (I'm sure if he has enough $$ to get a high-priced lawyer, some judge will have mercy on him and I predict he'll get a suspended sentence and a small fine. If he was black and poor he'd get the full five years, no doubt!)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Bye Bye Bruno Kirby. You Were a Great Character Actor & You Will Be Missed!

Man, I was so, so sorry to read this. Bruno Kirby was one of my favorite character actors ever. I will always remember him as the limo driver in “Spinal Tap” and as the uptight lieutenant in “Good Morning Vietnam.” He also played the young Clemenza in "Godfather II." He always gave a great performance and consistently brought so much to the roles he played. I just saw him recently on one of my favorite TV shows, “Entourage”, and I can’t believe he died so young. Goodbye, Bruno. I’ll miss you just like I’m sure a lot of other people will.

Here’s the wire story/obit on Bruno Kirby:

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Bruno Kirby, a veteran character actor who costarred in "When Harry Met Sally," "City Slickers" and many other films, has died at age 57, his wife said Tuesday. Kirby died Monday in Los Angeles from complications related to leukemia, according to a statement from his wife, Lynn Sellers. He had recently been diagnosed with the disease. "We are incredibly grateful for the outpouring of support we have received from Bruno's fans and colleagues who have admired and respected his work over the past 30 years," his wife said. "Bruno's spirit will continue to live on not only in his rich body of film and television work but also through the lives of individuals he has touched throughout his life." Kirby was perhaps best known for his roles opposite Billy Crystal in 1989's "When Harry Met Sally" and 1991's "City Slickers." Other film credits included "Good Morning, Vietnam," "The Godfather: Part II" and "Donnie Brasco." More recently, he played Phil Rubenstein on the HBO series "Entourage."

It's a Love Haight Relationship!

Yesterday I met with Jeremy Bates, the owner and editor of the Haight-Ashbury Beat and he gave me my first writing assignment! The Haight Ashbury-Beat is a monthly community newspaper dedicated to news and features about the Haight Street section of SF. This means that I have now received a total of three writing gigs since I started this blog. I am also writing for a new Web site about SF and its many sites and attractions called “City Hike”, and I am in the process of working with Jerry Hart, the brother of Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, on a book called, “Grateful but Not Dead.” This blog has really helped me get my writing seen and if you’re reading this right now, thanks! Everything I write for the Beat will also appear on my blog, so stay tuned. This could get very interesting. For an online version of the Haight-Ashbury Beat, visit:

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

One of the last street performers in SF is Noah Tyler, aka "Dave"

His name is Noah Tyler, age 55, but everyone calls him Dave. He’s one of the last street musicians still left in San Francisco. I first encountered him when I was walking my dogs down by Fisherman’s Wharf on the weekends. It’s a nice stroll down through Aquatic Park, if you can stay clear of all the clueless tourists on bikes who seem to think people on foot are simply in the way.

So, I go down to where the cable cars turn around, and I started to notice this street musician entertaining the tourists while they waited in line for a cable car to board. I was immediately impressed with Dave (or Noah’s) style of playing. He knows a ton of songs and he’s got a great, really gravelly voice, kind of a mixture between Kris Kristofferson and Bruce Springsteen with possibly a little Bob Dylan thrown in. He also has a really acerbic sense of humor and is not afraid to say things to the tourists that are truthful and somewhat harsh, but he does it in a nice way so that people don’t get pissed off at him. So, after watching and listening to Noah for several weekends, I decided to interview him, and he is a fascinating guy.

Noah has been coming to San Francisco almost every summer since 1967. He arrives in mid-May and leaves around Halloween. That’s his migration pattern. The rest of the year he lives in what he describes as a small hut on the big island of Hawaii. During the winter he lives like a hermit and doesn’t interact with many people, so when he comes to SF that’s his time for socialization. “It’s not healthy to be alone all the time,” Tyler said. “You need to be around people once in awhile or you can go mad.”

Tyler plays at the cable car turnaround every Saturday and Sunday from around 9 am to 1 pm. Many people assume he’s homeless just because they see him playing music on the street, but he’s not. He has an apartment with his 23-year old wife (his second) in North Beach where he stays when he’s in town.

Many people would probably admire the way Tyler lives. He has never had a bank account, he doesn’t own a TV or a cell phone, and he tries to be as unencumbered with material possessions as he can. Tyler estimates that he knows how to play over 2,000 songs, and I believe him. Every time a tourist makes a request for a certain tune, he seems to know it. Tyler hasn’t always just played music on the street. In his 20’s and 30’s, he played for bands like INXS, Midnight Oil, Men at Work and others. He’s written songs for Willie Nelson and Toby Keith.

Every year when Tyler comes back to SF, his first reaction is “What has happened to these people? What has happened to us all?”

“Back in the late 60’s when I started this gig, people would laugh and dance around while I played and have a great time,” Tyler said. “Now they just stare at me while using their cell phones and their iPODs. Many of these folks are on stuff like Xanax and Prozac and totally out of it.”

Tyler said you can immediately tell the difference between tourists from overseas and people who live in the U.S. “The Europeans are always much nicer to me and have a better attitude” he said. “Americans are zombied out in a lot of ways. They are frightened for one thing. They are terrified of just about everything. We are a scared bunch of people in this country and it’s a sad way to be.”

There used to be over 50 street performers and musicians on the streets on SF, Tyler said. But, now there are fewer than a dozen and I asked Noah why. “The whole mentality has changed,” He said. “Kids nowadays with any musical talent just want to sit around in front of their computers and make CD’s. The art of street performing is dying, man!”

Tyler grew up in Hawaii as an orphan who was raised by an island family who adopted him. I asked Tyler if the local police ever hassled him for playing on the street. “No, the cops are cool,” he said. “This area here at Fisherman’s Wharf is federal, state and city property, so the cops really don’t want anything to do with us.”

Tyler wouldn’t tell me how much money he makes playing for the tourists, but he did tell me that he’s gotten a good share of $100 bills from people over the years. I’m not at all surprised. The guy can play. If you ever get a chance between now and Halloween, get down to Fisherman’s Wharf and go to where the cable cars turn around, and catch Noah’s act. It’s very entertaining and so is he.

Monday, August 14, 2006

My Top 5 Favorite Baseball Films

As you may or not know by reading my blog at this point, you probably have figured out that I am a huge baseball fan. I have a Web site called with my very talented partner Eric Gouldsberry, and I interview retired baseball players for SABR, the Society of Baseball Research. So, I thought it would be cool to rate my top 5 baseball movies. I am doing a top 5 on everything I find important, and baseball movies surely fit into that category, so here goes:

5.) Bull Durham: (1988) A funny, well-written movie produced by Ron Shelton, the king of sports films, this movie deals with things that have never been addressed before or since about life in the minor leagues. The love triangle between Susan Sarandon (Annie) as the baseball groupie with a soul; Tim Robbins (Nuke LaLoosh) as the clueless pitcher with a good arm and no brain; and Kevin Costner as the career minor league catcher named Crash Davis, is priceless.
4.) Eight Men Out: (1988) John Sayles is a great filmmaker and this movie truly captures the era and the story of the Chicago Black Sox throwing the 1919 World Series. Memorable performances by Jon Cusack as Buck Weaver, Charlie Sheen as Oscar “Hap” Felsch, John Mahoney as Kid Gleason, and David Strathain as Eddie Cicotte make this a special period piece that will always have a place in the history of great baseball movies.
3.) The Natural: (1984) Although this movie is more of a fable than a story with any truth to it, it is fun to watch and even though I always know how it will end, I still love it. People complain that it is too mythological and not realistic enough, but I don’t care. Robert Redford, playing Roy Hobbs, is a character based on real-life ballplayer Ed Waitkus, who was shot in 1949 by an obsessed fan named Ruth Ann Steinhagen. When Hobbs names his favorite bat “Wonderboy”, it’s a takeoff on Shoeless Joe Jackson’s renowned bat, “Caroliney”. Redford is perfect in the role of the washed-up underdog who makes an incredible comeback, and Michael Madsen as the cocky Bartholomew “Bump” Bailey is also great, as are Richard Farnsworth as coach Red Blow, and Wilford Brumley as embattled manager Pop Fisher.
2.) A League of Their Own: (1992) Penny Marshall’s creation about the Women’s All-American Baseball League of the 1940’s is a wonderfully balanced and poignant story about a group of women asked to entertain those at home on the baseball fields of small-town America while the boys are at war. Tom Hanks plays the washed-up drunk manager, Geena Davis is excellent as the best player in the league, and awesome performances by Lori Petty, Madonna, and Rosie O’Donnell make this film a must-see for fans and non-fans alike.
1.) Field of Dreams: (1989) This film has it all – reincarnated ballplayers, a ball field in Iowa that people are mysteriously drawn to; the story of one man’s search for truth and his pursuit of something pure -- is so unique that nothing else can compare to it. Once again, Kevin Costner (Ray Kinsella) is there to tell the story, along with great performances by Ray Liotta as Shoeless Joe Jackson, Burt Lancaster as Midnight Graham, and James Earl Jones as Terrence Mann -- all of whom make this a one-of-a-kind baseball movie. This film coined the phrase, “If you build it they will come,” which has been used and overused to describe so many things non-baseball that it’s become part of our culture.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

9th Annual Yuletide Yuckfest Announced Today

My annual comedy fundraiser for Toys for Tots is called the Yuletide Yuckfest and we’re announcing the date and the headlining comedian today. The date of this year’s Yuckfest is Sunday night December 3rd, 7 pm at Rooster T. Feathers comedy nightclub in Sunnyvale. Our headliner is a comic named Clinton Jackson, who is really funny and squeaky clean, which is good for a benefit like this. Admission to the show (which is our 9th annual, by the way), is $15 with an unwrapped toy or $20 without a toy.

As we get closer to the date, I’ll be adding a bunch more comedians to the lineup. As usual, Chubby’s All-Stars, considered the greatest carport band in the bay area, will be opening the show at 7 pm with great music. Here is some press on Clinton Jackson. Stayed tuned for more details on this great event. I hope to see you all at the Ninth Annual Yuletide Yuckfest!!

Born Clinton Page Jackson in Oakland California, Clinton is the youngest of three and the only son. An imaginative child inclined to perform, Clinton stood empty handed at "Show & Tell", told his jokes, and officially claimed his identity as comedian at the age of nine.
Clinton honed his craft in San Francisco's thriving comedy scene. As a stand-up, he has appeared on numerous national stand-up television shows. He recently taped his own half hour comedy special "Comedy Central Presents" which debuted in the spring of 2004. Clinton's CD titled "Clinton Jackson - 'Nuff Said" was released on Uproar Records.
On stage Clinton moves about as if he were in a boxing match delivering material that is not only hilarious to hear but brilliantly visual as well. He's clever and engaging with a unique point of view. He works clean on stage, earning him the respect of his peers and giving him a broad cross over appeal.
Following his acclaimed performance at HBO's prestigious Aspen Comedy Festival, Clinton moved to Los Angeles to pursue his other love - acting. He was then cast as science teacher "Mezz Crosby" appearing for two seasons on the WB's "Nick Freno". Clinton also guest starred in "Cybill" as well as "Dharma & Greg". True to form, Clinton has appeared in several shows on family friendly networks such as Nickelodeon, and most recently, the Disney Channel's "That's So Raven".
Clinton has also been cast in numerous commercial campaigns including Jeep, Circuit City, AC Delco, and Old Navy.
In addition to a career in acting, Clinton's dream is to achieve excellence and permanence in the art of stand-up comedy.
"Clinton Jackson is more a monologist than a joke machine; his good natured presence and knack for spinning a tale draw an audience into his confidence. He has an effortless, easygoing delivery and an actor's gift for mimicry. The man is clean, clever and engaging.”
Michael Snyder
The San Francisco Chronicle
To find out more about Clinton Jackson, visit his web site at:

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Talking Parrots & Life with Mark Bittner (Part II)

(I recently sat down with Mark Bittner, author and the subject of the award-winning documentary, "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill." Here is a part of that interview:)

ERA: Have you found that people recognize you now since “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill” came out and was such a success?

MB: Oh, yeah, it’s strange. On some days, no one will recognize me. And, then on other days it just happens all day long. For instance, two days ago, it happened several times. At one point we were at a stop sign and somebody ran over to the car and that was kind of funny.

ERA: Is it gratifying, annoying?

MB: It’s neither, really. I mean, in a certain sense it’s gratifying, because you want to touch people, of course you want it to reach out to people. But, you know, it’s small. Fame doesn’t mean anything to me. I’ve always thought that fame was like nonsense. And now I can see it even more so. But, even on the small level on which I encounter it, it IS nonsense. You know, people are nice and it’s never been a problem. I’m not inundated by it, but I can see where if I were, it could get very annoying. Because I’m used to just walking around thinking about stuff that I’m working on, and if people were interrupting me constantly throughout a day, that would just be hell.

ERA: I know that some people who saw the people criticized the couple who owned the property and made you move. Was there any animosity toward them on your part?

MB: No, and that’s been kind of terrible in a way, because when we first showed the film at a test screening, a lot of people acted negatively to them, so we added some extra voice over to make it clear that they were actually being good to me. And the book makes it very clear that I had no animosity toward them. But, if you just see the film and you’re not paying real close attention – I mean, I say in the film that they’ve been real good to me and I meant it, but some people just see it as they made me leave. You know, a film only shows so much, because you only have so much time to tell the story in a movie. The facts of the matter were complicated. The building was falling apart. I was ready to go. I didn’t want to keep doing what I was doing. I had been doing it for six years and I had never intended on being the parrot man my whole life. So, when they said we’re sorry, we have to do something because this building is falling apart, that was true and I was grateful to them, because I had always felt I was on a path of some sort and I wanted something to naturally end it. So, I was grateful to them rather than being upset with them.

ERA: In what other ways has the film changed your life?

MB: Well, in many ways both the book and the film have changed my life. My issue coming into this whole thing was how to make a living. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do to make a living. I’ve always wanted to devote myself wholeheartedly to something, but I couldn’t find what that was. And, so the parrots opened the door. It wasn’t like tending the parrots was my answer, which is the way some people look at it. It was more like they just opened the door. It gave me a story to tell, for one thing. I’d always liked writing, but for a variety of reasons I had always discounted writing as a way of making a living. But, now I finally had a story to tell, it was a unique story and I thought it should be told. And the book did well so that kind of thing is open to me now. I’ve traveled all over the world giving talks.

ERA: Was there a moment when you remember saying to yourself, “These parrots are going to open this door for me?”

MB: No, not really. It wasn’t like that. It was like when I was doing it I wasn’t sure why I was doing it. That was always a big puzzle to me. I felt at first like I was being diverted. Because I was very conscious of where I was going, always, even though it looks to a lot of people like I was aimless, it was never that. I was very focused, but when I first got involved with the parrots, I thought they were a diversion and a danger, in that sense. But, I couldn’t get away from them and as I got deeper and deeper into it, all of this good stuff started happening to me. So, I finally just gave up. And it turns out that they represented a door opening for me, but it was a gradual realization. I wrote a story about the parrots to a parrot magazine, and that gave me the idea of writing a book. Then, Judy came along wanting to make the film. At first, it was just going to be a hobby film. But, it just kept growing. It was like everything with this. There was never any goal. Things just kept growing. And then we recently got married.

ERA: Yeah, I wanted to ask you about that. Could you see that you were getting attached to her during the filming of the movie?

MB: No, not at all. In the beginning it was really all just work, work-related and being kind of polite around each other, because it was kind of a professional relationship at first. I just felt comfortable around her, even though I didn’t view her romantically at all.
After awhile, we just started spending more and more time together, and it really all just came together when she wanted to film a baby parrot being born and I had always wanted to see that. So, the babies were late that year. They usually came out around the first of September, but that year they were as many as three weeks late. So, we had to go to the same place every morning and hang out under this one nest that we knew about and sit around in her van, waiting for this baby to come out, and day after day they weren’t coming. So, we spent more and more time, just sitting around and talking and getting to know one another. I knew I liked her and I had hoped it was mutual.

(More to come…)

Friday, August 11, 2006


We have a little Chihuahua mix and his name is Ratdog. I named him Ratdog after Bob Weir’s band and also because he looks like a large white rodent. His owner, a friend of mine whose been dead for three years now, tried to give him to the Humane Society but I stepped in and saved him from the doggy gallows. He’s deaf and yips and yaps all the time at vibrations, like garbage trucks, motorcycles or the wind. He doesn’t have a cornea or something in his eyes and he’s basically an albino. When you take his picture it looks like he has perpetual red-eye. He eats stuff most pooches won’t touch – like garlic, tangerines, tomatoes, cucumbers and even onions. He loves to be cradled in your arms like an infant, but only by people he knows really well. If another dog tries to mess with him, Ratdog will bite the offending mutt without hesitation. He’s a tough little guy.

For some reason, he’s also very popular, especially with the ladies. One female friend of mine actually tried to buy him from us for $500! Can you believe it? My question is: Why are people so attracted to this ugly little mutt? What is it that makes him so darn endearing? Everybody who knows me is always asking about him – How’s Ratdog? What’s up with Ratdog? Why didn’t you bring Ratdog? They rarely ask me about our other dogs, Shelly and Kaido. They hardly ever bother to ask how Angelina and I are doing. No, they want the latest news about Ratdog and I have yet to fully understand why. Maybe it’s because he’s the ultimate underdog. His bark is so annoying it makes you want to scream. He’s not particularly attractive. He’s licked his front paws so many times over the years that they’re orange-colored. He’s always a tad stinky, even after a bath. He’s got bad breath 24/7 and no matter how many times you brush his teeth, they’re always a shade of light brown.

Last year, Angelina and I made a 5-minute movie for a short-film contest here in San Francisco. It was called “Our Dinner with Ratdog” and starred you-know-who. The finished product was terrible, it hurts us just to watch it now, but Ratdog was great. Doing the movie was a learning experience to say the least. When we did the film, half the crew was drunk, Angelina got into it with the director and the entire process cost me major bucks I didn’t have. But, Ratdog was awesome. He hit his mark every time and was a real trooper.

Now and then, I’ll give you a report on how Ratdog is doing. That way, my friends can stop asking me all the time. Maybe then they’ll actually inquire as to how we’re doing once in awhile!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Kaido has to Go!

It's absolutely breaking my heart, but Angelina and I decided today that we have to give one of our dogs, Kadio, up for adoption. The woman next door has been complaining that the dogs are barking when we're not home and it seems as though Kaido is the main culprit, so he has to go. Believe me, this dog is not a chronic barker, but because we live in snobby SF, even if they bark a little, people freak out!

Three dogs is also just way too many to have in Pacific Heights anyway, especially since we don't have a yard for them to play in. They sit in their crates all day when we're gone, so of course when they hear noises (something this neighborhood is full of) they are going to bark. That's what dogs do! So having them live like this is basically unfair to the animals. We still plan on keeping Shelly and Ratdog (I will move before I give them away!)

So, if you know someone who is looking for a really great dog, tell them about Kaido. He is the sweetest mutt in the world. He is loving and faithful and fun. He is great with children and is of course potty trained. We really don't know exactly what type of dog he is, but people have told us he's a flat coat retriever.

We really want to give him to a good family. Part of the deal would be that we could come and visit him once in awhile. I am crying while writing this. I know I must sound like a complete wimp, but giving away a dog or any animal you've grown attached to is always hard. It's going to be a tough couple of weeks, believe me. If you know anyone, please e-mail me at:

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Move Over, Birdman of Alcatraz! Meet Mark Bittner, The Passionate Parrotman of Telegraph Hill

“The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill” is a fascinating documentary about a flock of approximately 45 wild parrots that live and breed in the North Beach/Telegraph Hill area of San Francisco. It’s an award-winning film directed by well-known documentarian Judy Irving. For a long time, the movie made its way around the country as an underground sensation, popular with animal lovers, naturalists and people from all walks of life. Folks just seem to be drawn to this amazing story of human beings and animals living together and changing each other’s lives forever. The film is now available on DVD, and is doing quite well in both the rental as well as sales markets.

Every day around this time of year, I can see these wonderful birds through my office window. There is a tree directly across the street where they squawk and eat juniper berries. I love watching them for hours at a time and I’m always quite depressed when they fly off. They’re like neighbors – fun to look at and a little noisy every now and then.

The central character in the film is Mark Bittner, a 40-something free spirit who came to San Francisco from Vancouver, Washington in 1972 in hopes of becoming a successful singer and musician. Things didn’t pan out in SF for Mark the way he had hoped they would, and soon he found himself homeless and living on the streets of North Beach. After squatting in a few places and living on peoples’ roofs, he eventually was allowed to live rent-free in a cottage below the house of a yuppie couple who lived near the parrots of Telegraph Hill. He began to feed the birds several times a day. He learned who the different parrots were and gave them names. Bittner eventually had to move out of the place when the owners of the property decided to renovate it into a high-priced rental property. Suddenly, Mark found himself homeless again and separated from his family of wild parrots.

I recently got an opportunity to meet with Mark Bittner and ask him about the film, his book that preceded the movie, and his life since. We met in North Beach last week and chatted for almost an hour. The man is so cool and just a great guy. I know this sounds cliché, but I feel as though I’ve known him forever. I got a big brother vibe from the guy right off. The movie and his book have completely changed his life in so many ways. The interview will be appearing on my blog sometime this week in a condensed form, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, if you live in this city, especially in the areas of Telegraph Hill, North Beach, the Marina or Pacific Heights, keep your eyes peeled for these parrots. Their unique personalities are just as colorful as their plumage and markings. They are truly a special part of San Francisco and its culture. We’re an animal-loving city, and one can’t help but fall in love with these birds once you’ve seen them playing, eating, breeding and just being.

To learn more about Mark Bittner and “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill”, visit his web site at:

To be continued……