Tuesday, July 04, 2006
I did a set the other night at Rooster T. Feathers in Sunnyvale and had a really great time. I brought a bunch of audience to the show with me (thanks for your support, folks!) so I got a good slot late in the evening when everyone had hopefully exceeded their 2-drink minimums, so that was good. It was a fun crowd and they were into it and that was definitely nice. A bad open mic/showcase is a waste of time because you can’t try out new jokes, which is the whole purpose of performing at these kinds of gigs. Heather Woodhull, the owner of Roosters who used to perform standup herself, treats the comics pretty decently, which is highly unusual in this business. A lot of club owners make a career out of discouraging young comics and treating them like guano. But, Heather is very supportive, even with some if the newer comics who are just getting their feet wet.
I did some new jokes. I opened with a joke about Starr Jones being kicked off The View, but I guess it was a little too harsh and I got some dirty looks from some of the women in the crowd. That didn’t slow me down for even a mili-second, however, because I went right to my next bit about medical marijuana, and that killed. From there I was rolling and I thought, all in all, I did pretty well. The best comic I saw that night was a guy from San Francisco named Mike Cappozzola. His material was fresh, his delivery was polished and his timing was impeccable. He closed the show with a headliner’s flourish. Turns out the guy is also a cartoonist, a photographer and works as the Promotions Director for the Quake, 960 AM, Progressive Talk Radio. Also: Special thanks to my wonderful girlfriend who came to see me perform at Rooster’s the other night. I know how much she hates going to these things, because she was a comic herself for many years, and she’s been through all the b%%&!t before, but she comes out to support me and I love her for that. (thanks, baby!) For her sake, I will get funny!
For great comedy and a really fun night out, Rooster T. Feathers in Sunnyvale is the place to go in the South Bay. Tell the Owner Heather Woodhull that I sent you -- and who knows -- maybe she'll let me host the show one of these days. Their web site is: www.roostertfeathers.com.
Here are the picks I made before the 2006 baseball season began. I think I'm actually doing pretty well. 3 of the teams I picked currently lead their divisions (Mets, Cards & A's), while the others are all within striking distance. Even the Angels, who are five games out right now, are capable of making a run at any time. Check out my picks, exactly the way they appeared on my web site: www.thisgreatgame.com, in late May '06:
My take on 2006
By Ed Attanasio, thisgreatgame.com
Before I make my predictions for 2006, let me go into the five basic reasons why these picks might stink. These are the five factors that can make every single one of my preseason selections meaningless:
1.) Bad Attitudes: If a star player doesn’t like his contract because his completely obnoxious agent gets in his ear and convinces him that he’s underpaid and then the star player pulls baseball’s version of a T.O. – well, that can cause a shift in a team’s attitude faster than you can say “trade me.” Things like sulking, whining to the press, complaining and a general “me-me” approach to life all fall into this category. Can you say Dick Allen, Reggie Jackson or Lenny Randle?
2.) Bad Injuries: Any injury is bad, but to succeed you have to avoid the season-ending ones. A crucial injury to a starting player can hurt a team faster than you can say, “J.D. Drew.” Things like sprained eyebrows, broken fingernails, bad sunburns and cottonmouth do not fall into this category. “Sorry, Kevin Brown. We either need a note from your doctor, or you’ll have to suit up for PE just like the rest of the class.”
3.) Bad Distractions: Strawberry, Gooden, Albert Belle and even Albie Piersall all had one thing in common – they were bad distractions. Mark “The Bird” Fidrych, Satchel Paige, Rick Dempsey, Kristi Benson and yes – even little Eddie Gaedel – would be considered good distractions. Team play and practical clubhouse jokes = good. Cocaine and wife beating = bad. Bad distractions can sideline a team faster than you can say, “Hey Dave Stewart – that’s a man!” Things like wild sex parties, strippers turned wives, wives turned strippers and “Hey, I’m not gay!” press conferences all fall into this category.
4.) Bad Moves: General Managers who haven’t purchased “Trades for Dummies” should hit Barnes & Noble before the season starts, because no doubt there will be some doozies again this year. Making a dumb trade or free agent move will hamper a team faster than you can say, “Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio”. Things like trading away top prospects for old suspects and paying top dollar for free agents who deserve to be free for the rest of their lives both fit comfortably within this category.
5.) Bad Managers: How hard can it be if Yogi did it well? Face it, a Sparky Anderson, Dick Williams or Connie Mack comes along once in a lifetime, and they’re aren’t many of those still around, except for maybe Joe Torre or Tony LaRussa. And there must not be many good ones coming along in the near future either -- otherwise why would a team pay big bucks to recycle Jim Leyland? A bad manager that can’t create team chemistry will down a team faster than you can say, “Ted Turner.” Things like leaving relievers in too long; staying with slumping stars too long and sitting in the dugout and taking naps that are too long come to mind. Ever heard of guys like Patsy Donovan or Bill Killefer? No, and you know why? Because no one remembers bad managers!
So, here are my picks and my reasons why:
Chisox: Thome, they are the best in the whole shebang. The highlight of their off-season was a wonderfully touching drama called, “Keeping Konerko.” It’s a ratings smash! They lost pitcher Orlando Hernandez, but instead of crying, promptly went out and got Javier Vazquez, who’s probably a better hurler right now anyway. They will miss Aaron Rowand’s glove in the outfield, but with gritty team-first players like Iguchi, Dye, Crede and Pierzynski, the Chisox should do more than make up for it. This team is well-coached, well-stocked and well; they’ve got AL-that and more.
Yankees: The cast of Desperate Housewives has more chemistry, but who cares – they have so many horses on this club they might just win 90 by accident. Their lineup is strong from Damon to Posada, with a deep bullpen and solid starting rotation, featuring old reliables Randy Johnson and Mike Mussina. If Steinbrenner can stay out of their way long enough for them to get on a roll, the Bronx Billionaires could be there at the very end.
A’s: Billy Beane is moneyballing it once again all the way to the playoffs with a bunch of smart players who take a lot of pitches and have great on-base percentages. While incorporating newer players into the lineup (Nick Swisher, Bobby Crosby); throwing in an incredible array of young arms to complement Barry Zito (Rich Harden, Dan Haren and Joe Blanton) and taking chances on others who may still possess some skills (Esteban Loaiza and Frank Thomas) the East Bay Boys will overcome their opponents with live arms and solid fundamental baseball.
Angels: The team that doesn’t want anyone to know it’s in Anaheim is no longer a Mickey Mouse operation. Say halo to our little friends down Disneyland way, because they’ve got a lineup that is neither Goofy nor Cinderella-ish. They’re just good. With young up-and-comers like third baseman Chone Figgins, first baseman Casey Kotchman and rookie catcher Jeff Mathis, the Angels are doing the right thing by bringing up rookies to mix in with their veteran talent like Vladmir Guerrero, Garret Anderson and Bartolo Colon. Getting Jeff Weaver, a late free-agent pickup from the Dodgers, will help the starting rotation for the simple fact that he throws a lot of innings and has never been hurt. And when his younger brother Jared hits the bigs – watch out -- scribes will be waxing nostalgic about the great daze of Dizzy and Daffy Dean.
A.L. Champs: CHISOX
Dodgers: Nomar excuses this time around. The Blue Crew pulled the trigger and went out and got a GM (Ned Colletti) who isn’t afraid to go for the fences. They picked up Nomar Garciaparra, who should have no problem switching to first base; Rafael Furcal, who signed a monster contract and will lead off; Bill Mueller, the consistent third baseman with one of the wisest bats in the game, and wily old veteran Kenny Lofton, who always seems to pop up on good teams and make them better. Add names like the dependable Jeff Kent, and the fragile J.D. Drew to a hurling corps consisting of Lowe, Perez, Gagne, Gagne and Gagne, and you’ve got a team with a ton of potential – to both succeed as well as fail. I’m betting they succeed.
Giants: Will Barry shine? You bet. Will the steroid issue affect his play? No way. The man is in his prime and will once again shine as the premier hitter in the game, right now and for all time. If I wax poetic about Barry Bonds, it’s because he is a specimen we will not see ever again. If his remaining cast of characters doesn’t get distracted witnessing Barry’s heroics this season, they will get into the playoffs and perhaps beyond. Pitchers Schmidt, Morris and Cain won’t have folks reminiscing about Spahn, Sain and pray for rain, but they could come close. There are questions in the bullpen, most of them surrounding the health or Armando Benitez. The infield is solid with Omar Vizquel at short, Pedro Feliz at third, veteran Ray Durham at second and promising sophomore Lance Niekro at first.
Mets: Mets’ fans have waited way too long to be back on top. They’re tired of hearing about the Yankees and the Red Sox. And this off-season, they acted like it. Picking up a celebrity list of free agents, the Mets are ready to strut down Broadway in late October once more. The Metros added one new big name – Carlos Delgado, and a couple other solid ones like LoDuca and Nady, who has real power potential. Third baseman David Wright has the stuff that’s named after him while fleet shortstop Jose Reyes should raise some eyebrows with his glove and feet. Throw in a proven starting rotation lead by Pedro Martinez and backed up by Tom Glavine and Victor Zambrano, and closer Billy Wagner to mop it up and shut it down. Will the Mets win? Piecing it together will be tougher than completing Sunday’s New York Times crossword puzzle, but if it happens, they could go all the way for the first time since Buckner let the big one roll through his legs.
Cardinals: I like Tony LaRussa for two reasons. One, he saves a lot of animals’ lives, especially cats. Anyone who would do that can’t be all bad. Also, he’s a smart manager. He will squeeze more talent out of a team than most managers. And with a pitching rotation that starts with Carpenter, Mulder and Suppan; a super-deep bullpen lead by Jason Isringhausen; and a powerful lineup featuring names like Pujols, Edmonds and Rolen, you’ve got a post season combination – a winning team playing their first year in a new stadium.
N.L. Champs: METS
World Series Champs for 2006 (drum roll please). REPEAT! CHISOX in Six.
This is a short story I wrote recently. I hope you like it.
I’m 15 and it’s the middle of a doldrums-filled summer. It’s a sweaty hot day, a real record breaker. It feels like I have a melting fruit rollup covering my face. I’m convinced that flies are nesting in my hair. Soon they will start to breed.
Here I am, with nothing to do, just sitting on an old couch with a broken spring in it. I can tell it’s busted by the squeaking sound it makes every time I breathe. All I can think of is this sharp rusty spring poised and coiled -- just inches away and preparing to bore its way into my left butt cheek the next time I blink.
That was the day I called him for the first time. I could tell you I was watching Bugs Bunny cartoons, reading my dad’s Playboys, eating a bologna sandwich with Miracle Whip and drinking Kool-Aid, but that would be a lie because I can remember little more about that day other than what happened next. Besides, I hate Miracle Whip.
So, I pick up the phone and just start dialing. Calling no one in particular, and without any agenda in mind, I embark on another crank call. It’s something I like to do with my best friend and cohort in crime, Kelly, mostly when I’m bored – I call people up and antagonize them. Sometimes I’m Dr. Jerkinoff from the local hospital, inquiring about an upcoming sperm donation. Other times I enjoy doing the classics -- all the basic, tried and true stuff – like calling liquor stores and asking them if they have Sir Walter Raleigh in a bottle, or calling bowling alleys and inquiring as to the size of their balls. I pick them out from my mind’s rolodex – just another one of the unoriginal, somewhat juvenile gags I’ve been able to stockpile over the years.
It’s a random number, but for some reason it immediately sticks in my head, like a really bad song you just can’t seem to forget the lyrics to. Like Muskrat Love or Put the Lime in the Coconut.
Someone picks up. He sounds old. 40-ish. Like someone’s uncle. The initial image in my head is Ward Cleaver.
I haven’t said a word and he sounds as though he’s already pissed.
“You tell me first.”
“No, you tell me.”
Oh my God, I’m thinking. I’m playing the “I know you are but what am I” game with a grown adult.
“Forget it. Screw you.”
Then, he explodes. This crazed man on the other end of the phone calls me 7-10 things I’d heard my Dad say when he forgot I was in the room; 4-5 I had heard the older kids talk about, and a couple I had never heard before, but decided were definitely worth finding out the definitions for, and soon.
Suddenly I realize I’m in a state of shock. My first instinct is to come back with something witty, sharp. But, I’m tongue-tied. This guy succeeded in doing something all my teachers and schoolyard nemeses had attempted to do without luck for so many years – he had shut me up. And he wasn’t even close to being finished.
“What’s the matter, punk? Can’t talk? How ‘bout I kick your ass? Meet me at the Dairy Queen on Van Nuys and Reseda in an hour!”
“I’ll be there, butt hole,” I reply in a frightened falsetto and hang up. I don’t know what location he’s referring to. I don’t even know the city. I guess he figures I live close by, for some reason.
And that was the end of it – or so I thought.
Until next fall, when I decide to call my anonymous friend again. The number comes back to me, without even thinking, and the phone starts to ring.
“Hello?” I inquire.
“Oh, you again, eh?”
Wow, I’m thinking. He remembers me. This guy must not have many friends.
“Yeah. That’s right.”
“You never showed up at the Dairy Queen.”
“Because, I was afraid…”
“That’s what I thought, you little…” he interrupted.
I abruptly cut him off.
“I was afraid of going to jail for kicking some old man’s ass!”
And, that, of course, set him off again. This time his diatribe was longer, more vulgar and venomous, but just as entertaining. I can hear this guy going absolutely berserk, frothing at the mouth like a rabid dog and banging the phone against his head whenever he’s finishing one insult and about to begin another.
I hang up the phone, scared and confused by this dynamo of hate, but at least somewhat satisfied that I had not frozen up and wimped out like the last call. This time I got in one good line, I tell myself.
Over the next decade or so, I call my buddy a lot. Every holiday, when I’m home from school I make sure to ring him up. And he’s always just as pissed at me and just as ready to fight.
He calls me punk. I call him butt head. He calls me nimrod. What’s a nimrod, anyway?
The calls always travel the same path. He rants and raves, and almost invariably finishes up by challenging me to fisticuffs. It never changes. He always wants to meet me at the identical Dairy Queen on the same corner. And, of course, I never show up. I hadn’t even bothered to look up the names of the streets or even what city he lived in.
After awhile, I found myself wondering what my angry pal looked like. I thought about what he might do for a living or in his spare time. Did he have any hobbies, was he married or divorced? Why was he so mad? What had happened in his life to make him explode the way he did? Why did he hate me so much?
Usually when you make a prank phone call, there’s a certain level of anonymity. It’s a lot like cutting someone off while driving or throwing eggs at someone’s house. If you do it right, they’ll never know who did it, and you’re off the hook for any accountability. That’s what was on my mind when I called him one night over the Thanksgiving break during my senior year.
And the line was disconnected.
My heart sank. Why am I so bummed? I wonder.
All kinds of thoughts race through my mind. What happened? Did someone finally take him up on his offer of fisticuffs? Did he die in his sleep? I knew so little about him that I couldn’t even fathom why his phone number no longer worked. I decide dial it again just to be certain, but it was true. There was no forwarding number.
My antagonistic, confrontational phone friend was gone. All of the questions I had would never be answered. I had made his life miserable over the phone during almost my entire adolescence, and I really didn’t miss him as much as I did the chance of listening to him implode just one last time. I knew right then, sitting there with the phone in my hand listening to a dial tone that my life would be a little different forever.
I have found a great web site that will publish your work. Your friends can look at your stuff on their site and read your stories, which are broken down into genres (fiction, comedy, non-fiction, poetry, etc.) and some of the stories on there are really well-written and entertaining. If you want to read the stuff other people have posted, or post your own pieces, the web site is called: www.soulscribe.com. Every writer who wants more exposure should definitely check it out.
SABR 36 in Seattle, held June 28-July 1, was heaven on earth for baseball fans from all over the world. With over 500 members in attendance, it was the most successful convention the organization has ever hosted west of the Mississippi. The Society of American Baseball Research, for those who don’t know, is a group of about 7,000 baseball nuts, or “seam heads” as many people call them, who study the game from every perspective and angle known to man. There are basically two factions within SABR – those who are into the stats and analyze them; and those who are into the history of the game, studying it and chronicling it. I would put myself in the latter category. I hate math – I always got D’s in arithmetic in school and eventually developed a phobia for numbers. On the other hand, ever since I got an “A” in fifth-grade history for my incredible version of a Mesopotamian ziggurat made out of sugar cubes – I have been hooked on studying and interpreting the past. What inspired me to join SABR four years ago was the book by Lawrence Ritter titled, “The Glory of Our Times” in which he interviewed retired baseball players from the 1910’s. When I read their stories, I became enamored with both their history and the way it revolved around the game I love. Upon joining SABR, I immediately jumped onboard the organization's Oral History Committee. Since then I have interviewed over 30 retired players. I love to hear their stories and history. I don’t ask them about specific games and, of course, I try to stay away from stats. I want to know the juicy stuff – who liked to imbibe; their relations with umpires; altering the field or their equipment to gain an advantage; fights they got into on and possibly off the field, stealing signs, bench jockeying – things like that. And most of the time I get candid answers. Overall, SABR 36 was a great experience – just getting to meet fellow baseball fanatics and talking baseball is always a treat. There were so many fascinating people there – I actually met a descendant of Abner Doubleday as well as Bill Rigney's daughter. I can’t wait to attend SABR 37 next year in St. Louis.
Some of the highlights of SABR 36 included:
SAFECO field tour: All I can say is “Wow!” What an awesome park. We got to go in the dugout and other places fans don’t have access to. (See photo) I would recommend this tour to anyone!
Seattle Pilots Reunion: Jim Bouton, Mike Marshall, Jim Pagliaroni and Steve Hovley all played with the Seattle Pilots in 1969 – the only year of their existence. Their anecdotes were funny and the re-telling of great old stories held everyone’s attention for nearly 2 hours!
PCL Reunion: Eddie Basinski, Dick Fitzgerald, Ed Mickelson, Wes Stock and Edo Vanni talked about their remembrances of their experiences playing in the Pacific Coast League. Whether they played for the Portland Beavers, the Seattle Rainiers or the Vancouver Mounties, these guys had great stories about baseball in the PCL, long before MLB invaded the area in 1958.
Research Presentations: From subjects like “Can Additional On-base percentage Be Worth Three Times More Than Additional Slugging Average?” to “The Tragic Tale of Tony Horton”, the research presentations were many and varied. My two personal favorites were “Rube Kroh: The Unsung Hero of ‘Merkle’s Boner’” by Richard Danko and “Do Players Outperform in Their Free-Agent Year?” by Phil Birnbaum.
Meeting Jim Bouton: Jim Bouton, Author of “Ball Four”, was accessible and highly approachable during the whole convention. (Unlike Mike Marshall who refused to sign autographs and seemed putt-offish.) At one point, I told Bouton that his book had changed my life and in my frat days in college I was known as the “cake decorator” (inside joke). He smiled as well as grimaced. “Thanks a lot. I’m meeting some friends for dinner and now I have a great visual to go with it.”
“Just don’t order cake, Jim and you’ll be all right,” I replied.
Judging Presentations: I volunteered as a judge, but there was so much work and effort put into each presentation that I found I was giving everyone perfect scores. So, I didn’t turn in any of my evaluation forms when I realized I was having difficulty being objective. I hope I’m not in trouble.
Oral History Committee Meeting: We were originally supposed to interview Jim Pagliaroni, but he couldn’t guarantee us that he would be there, so in a pinch we got Johnny O’Brien, a former All-American college basketball player and utility player for the Pirates and Braves in the 50’s. His stories were incredibly entertaining. We had wanted to get his twin brother Eddie to come too, but he was out of town. Maybe that was a good thing, too – we hear he’s still unhappy about the things Bouton wrote about him in Ball Four. (He was a coach with the Pilots in 1969 and he and Bouton didn’t get along.)
For more information about SABR, which is a great organization that I highly receommend joining, visit their web site at: www.sabr.org.
(Please note: Rod Nelson from SABR informed me that I could not have met a descendant of Abner Doubleday's at the convention, because none was present, but the person I did meet was probably Alexander Joy Cartwright IV, the great grandson of the true inventor of baseball. Thanks, Rod.)