Friday, November 27, 2009

A Great Centerfielder Interviewed: Jim Landis

Jim Landis was signed by the Chicago White Sox as an amateur free agent in 1952 and played for 8 years before being traded to Kansas City Athletics on January 20, 1965 where he played for one year. He then moved to the Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros, Detroit Tigers, and finally the Boston Red Sox . He was a member of the American League 1962 All-Star team, a 5 time Gold Glove Award winner from 1960 to 1964 and played in the 1959 World Series. Landis played his final major league game with the Houston Astros on June 28, 1967.

Jim Landis, 75, now lives in Napa, California with his wife Sandy (Foster).

His First MLB game in ’57: “I was a scared rabbit. Half the time I didn’t even realize I was on the field. That’s how nervous I was. All I can remember was facing Herb Score, who was throwing 100 miles per hour up there. My first impression was I better get my lunch pail out if I’m going to be facing guys like this all the time. I figured I better get a job doing something else. I was so nervous it was unbelievable. It was a problem for a while. That was an issue for me, because being in the big leagues was like a dream, but I couldn’t wake up. I was sent out to Indianapolis, because I was playing so bad that first year.”
My relationship with Manager Al Lopez: “Let’s put it this way, there are two sides to everything. He was one of the best managers for understanding how to handle people. He was like my psychiatrist. He knew when to pat players on the back and when kick ‘em in the butt. Those were one of his best assets, I believe. He knew how to handle each player very well. On the other hand, he wasn’t always a great judge of talent, in my opinion. If he didn’t like a certain style of player, he’d bench ‘em and leave ‘em there.”
Three Hall of Famers on his White Sox Teams: “Luis Aparacio, Nellie Fox and Early Wynn were amazing just to be around. Aparacio was our team’s leader, Nellie was one of the best all-around players I ever saw and I was happy that Wynn was on my team, because he was literally unhittable most of the time.”

Toughest Pitchers He Ever Faced: “Wow, there were so many great pitchers in the major leagues back then, different than it is today. We could go up against the last place team and we’d face three good pitchers on that team. We only had 18 teams, so it was more compact. As far as the great ones, like Whitey Ford, he had to battle your fanny off every time you faced that guy. He never gave in and he was just a darn good pitcher. Others I recall are guys you won’t remember who were decent starters for so-so teams, like Dick Donovan (Cleveland), Hank Aguirre (Detroit), Bill Monbouquette (Boston) and Camilo Pascual (Minnesota).”

Performance Enhancing Drugs Back Then: “One day at the park I was tired and a couple of guys gave me some speed. They called them greens or blues--I don’t know what it was. But, it didn’t do anything except that night I couldn’t sleep a lick. I laid there tossing and turning and waiting for the sun to come up staring at the wall. And then I had a game the next day. I was beat that afternoon and I told myself right there that I would never take those silly pills ever again.”

Landis vs. the Outfield Wall: “I was never afraid of the wall and I think in some ways it was an asset. I remember running into that wall in Chicago and it was solid concrete. It was so bad, you know. I recall one time I ran into the wall so hard I was drowsy for the rest of the game. I was stumbling around and I don’t know how I ever kept in that game. I didn’t come around until that evening. If I had been afraid of that wall, I wouldn’t have been able to make some of the plays I made, I believe.”

Beaned in the 1959 World Series: “Podres of the Dodgers hit me pretty good and years later I saw Podres at an event and he told me that he was throwing at me that day. “I have to admit,” Podres told me. “We were trying to shake you guys up a little bit and they told me to brush you off.” Well he brushed me off a little too close. Pitchers throw at you and it’s part of the game. Most of the time they would hit me in the legs or on my back. I never got injured by a bean ball. I was very fortunate in that way.”

Won 5 Golden Gloves in a Row: “I’m very proud of that accomplishment. I always got a quick jump on the ball and it made my life in centerfield a lot easier. I anticipated well and I studied the hitters, trying to figure out where they might be hitting that ball. That helped a lot. You learn as you play more and you get better. I was very proud to play vs. Mickey Mantle, but he lost a few steps in the field when he hurt his knee. When he was healthy, he was the best-fielding centerfielder I ever saw. He was my idol, really. I don’t know how Mick played that huge centerfield, that cavern at Yankee Stadium. The monuments never bothered me that much, but it was a big outfield. Left center was plus 400 feet and it had this drainage out there where the ground dropped off a little for drainage. I lost my balance twice over that drainage area in one game. It was dangerous and that’s where Mickey blew out his knee. ”

Saturday, November 21, 2009

If You Want To Keep a Secret? Dont' Tell Star!

Star Jones lost a lot of weight, but she still has one of the biggest mouths in the entertainment business. Other than Joan Rivers, Star is a real blabber. If you wanted to communicate to your employees or co-workers using a high-tech mass notification system, all you'd have to do is tell it to Star Jones and get her to promise you won't tell anyone else. The more she promises, the quicker the information will be distributed to the appropriate parties.


When they asked me to blog about clamps, I didn't think about hardware, I thought about Jerry Rice, the greatest wide receiver in the history of football. Rice was amazing for so many years. The man could probably don a uniform and take on the game once more and perform a a high level. His speed was elusive, his hands were stronger than industrial clamps and Rice re-set the standard each & every time he took the field. I have always admired Rice but I prefer stuffing if there's a choice. (Thanksgiving humor...sorry!)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Looking for An Apartment? It May Not Be a Mansion, But Who Cares?

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My Interview with Bob Locker

Bob Locker pitched in the pros from 1965 to 1975 for the Chicago White Sox, Seattle Pilots/Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics and Chicago Cubs. At age 27, Locker made his debut for the Chisox, tossing two innings and giving up three runs. He settled down and made 10 appearances that season following that initial appearance and ended his rookie year with a respectable 3.15 ERA. In 1969, Locker was traded to the expansion Seattle Pilots, posting a 2.18 ERA for a team that finished last in the division. In 1970, Locker’s contract was purchased by the Oakland A’s. In 1972, he was a key member of the World Series champs, when he posted a 6-1 record with a 2.65 ERA. Locker frequently came into in the seventh or eighth inning to setup closer Rollie Fingers. Locker appeared in the AL Championship that year, giving up two runs in three innings. On October 21, Locker made his first and only appearance in the World Series, relieving Vida Blue in the sixth game of Game Six. He gave up a single to Tony Perez but got the final out of the inning. A month later, Locker was traded to the Chicago Cubs for outfielder Billy North. Locker concluded his career with the Cubs, sitting out the 1974 season to undergo surgery to remove chips from his pitching elbow. In 1975, Locker made 22 appearances and posted an ERA near 5.00, thereby ending his baseball career. Locker and his wife currently live in Lafayette, California and he spends much of his free time fishing and hunting. He’s a graduate of Iowa State University and a member of the school’s Hall of Fame.

The Seattle Pilots: “I was traded from the White Sox to the Pilots for Gary Bell in June, 1969. Seattle certainly wasn’t the end of my career, but I spent a lot of time in Chicago trying to find my out pitch and I guess they got tired of waiting. The White Sox traded me after a couple of weeks pitching poorly, which turned out to be a mistake, because 2-3 bad weeks isn’t an entire career and they should have been more patient with me, in my opinion. I was upset and didn’t want to go to Seattle, but they don’t give you much of a choice—they trade you and you go. In Seattle, I found my out pitch, my sinker, and as a result I had a 2.18 ERA and gave up only eight runs in 30 appearances for the Pilots. Seattle lacked one thing--talent. It was a group containing many different personalities, let’s put it that way. Joe Schultz was the manager for the Pilots, and he was not a baseball strategist, but he was a very good manager because he knew his job, which was to get 24 guys on the same page. And with a bunch of players picked up from here and there, we were in third place going into the final one or two months of the season. I think we looked up at one point and said what are we doing here? So, we didn’t play to our capabilities after that. We had some real offbeat folks up there in Seattle, so I fit right in. Mike Marshal was a genius, especially about pitching, but he was basically a loner. Jim Bouton was scribbling stuff down in this notebook all the time, but I never thought twice about it. (Bouton wrote Ball Four, considered to be the best baseball book ever written.) He caught a lot of heat about it when his book came out and I heard Mickey Mantle never spoke to Bouton again. People felt like Bouton gave away inside secrets, but all he really wrote about was what actually happened. There was a lot of that type of behavior--chasing skirts and drinking to excess, simple rough housing most of the time--but I stayed clear of all that mischief. I’d rather fish or hunt than sit in a bar or in a nightclub any day.”

A Young Manager in His Formative Years: “Tony LaRussa sat on the bench with the A’s in the ‘70’s when we were playing together in Oakland and he absorbed all the information about the game that he could. The best managers are either catchers or guys who really aren’t talented but can figure out how to make the best of their situation, and Tony was one of those guys. He’s the best manager in baseball right now, because he’s the guy who understands the game well enough off--handling pitchers, utilizing each player’s best abilities and manipulating the mental side of the game to his team’s advantage.”

Charlie Finley: “Finley was a real character and a lot of people, maybe most of them, didn’t care for the man. But, I respected him because he did what he believed in and stood by it while everyone else called him a crazy coot and a bunch of other things I can’t repeat. Many of his players didn’t like Charlie or trusted him, but at least they recognized that he would do whatever he could to put a winning team on the field. Those A’s teams in the early ‘70’s are some of the best ever.”

Catfish Hunter: “An all-around prince—a real classy fellow. Everything you’d want on your team. Great pitcher, fielder, pretty decent hitter for a pitcher; he never said a bad word about anyone; a consummate competitor; the great competitor, and a great fisher and hunter—so he was my favorite guy on that team. When he got sick later in life, it was just terrible.”

Vida Blue’s Rookie Season: “1971 was his phenomenal year and I remember it very vividly. It was probably the most awesome performance by any pitcher I’ve ever seen. To watch what he was throwing up there was amazing. There are certain secrets to pitching—they’re guys who throw to the corners like Catfish did; guys like Drysdale or Ryan who can ride the ball and defy the rules of gravity or throw a curveball that falls off the table. But, Vida’s fastball was so unique; with it running in all four different directions. It would go anywhere except right out over the plate. It was a pleasure to watch. Vida attracted huge crowds on the road and there was a buzz throughout the stadium every time he pitched.”

Dick Williams: “Dick was the best manager I ever had, but I don’t think he liked me. If you asked him, he would say something not too kind about me, I imagine. I was a free spirit, or whatever you’d call it and Dick just didn’t dig my vibe. But, I respected him more than any manager I ever saw. He called me an “odd ball” and stuff like that. I pitched well for him in 1972 (6-1, 2.65 ERA) and he wouldn’t pitch me in the World Series except on a limited basis, but I can understand that. He had Vida Blue in the pen that Series and he used him in almost every one of those games, and his starters played well, so it just worked out that way--that was fine. It wasn’t personal. I was basically a setup guy for Rollie Fingers, who was a pretty decent closer (laughs.)But Williams wasn’t enamored with me, I imagine, because they traded me to the Chicago Cubs for Billy North one month later.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Los Cabos Es Muy Excellente!I've said it many tempos before.

Los Cabos Es Muy Excellente!I've said it many tempos before. I know the score and going to Los Cabos and taking advantage of these amazing los cabos vacation packages deal are just incredible! Es mucho bueno--book a trip to Los Cabos today to enjoy the sun, the fun, the beaches, the clubs, the tequila, the watersports, the fishing for Marlin and Dorado--it all happens in Los Cabos--so get there. Do what you need to do and do it, mi amigos! It's important to unwind and Los Cabos is the most primo-est spot in el mundo!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Wisdom of Wally Westlake

I interviewed Wally at his home in Sacramento last year.
Wally Westlake was a utility player who had a 10-year career from 1947 to 1956. He played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies all of the National League and the Cleveland Indians and Baltimore Orioles both of the American League. He played third base and outfield. He was elected to the National League All-Star team in 1951. Westlake is a graduate of Christian Brothers High School (Sacramento, California.) He currently lives in Sacramento.

Quitters Apply:
“There were quite a few pitfalls in my baseball career before I made it to the major leagues. I was originally signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers at age 19 in 1940. They sent me to Dayton, Ohio, Mid-Atlantic League, Class D. They were paying me around $120 a month, and my first thought was, what on earth am I going to do with all that money? Well, I didn’t play well. Every curve ball fell off the table and I was a day late on every fastball, so it was not a real confidence builder, to be certain. They called me into the office one day, and gave me a pink slip and my bus ticket home. They told me I should go home, forget about baseball, because I’d never have the skills to be a professional ballplayer. So, that night I’m leaving for the bus, and on the way there, I swing by the ballpark; the lights are on and the game is on. Forgive me, but the tears and the snot was flowing and I asked myself right there--you think I am going to quit? Not yet. The worst thing that scared me was the idea of facing my dad. I couldn’t face him as a failure. Fear of failure is one of the greatest motivators in the world, believe me. So, they let me stay and pretty quick I started playing better. And before I knew it, I was moving up through the minors at a pretty good clip.”

Casey Took a Swing at Helping Wally:
“I had some great teachers along the way, like Casey Stengel during my career in the minor leagues. He was a very strong force in my career starting in 1946. He saved my butt. Called for me one day early in the season and said, “You got talent and you can catch and run well enough to play centerfield, but there’s a lot more to it than just that. I am going to teach you how to play at the major league level.” And he did. For six months, he rode my biscuit, let me tell you. “Mister, you got your head where the sun don’t shine,” he told me. He was tough, but he made the game fun. He taught me how to read the pitchers, how to anticipate in the field, so that I was in position to make the tricky catches. He turned it around for me. I was 25 years old at that point and I was running out of time. Today, if you’re 25 and still in the minors, they give up on you. So, every chance I get, I’m proud to say thank you to Charles Dillon Stengel.”

His peculiar place in history: “It turns out that I’m the first white player who ever got hit by a pitch from a black player. It was a kid named Bankhead, a rookie pitching in middle relief for the Brooklyn Dodgers, making his debut and pitching in front of a packed house at Ebbets Field in late August, 1947. He was the first black pitcher to play in the majors. Everyone kind of hesitated when he hit me, there was almost like a hush. It was like what’s gonna happen next? But nothing happened and the game went on. It didn’t matter to me one way or another. I didn’t care if he was blue, green or purple out there on the mound, because he’s trying to get me out and I’m trying to whack his butt, regardless of who he is. But, my name gets mentioned quite a bit with that piece of fairly meaningless baseball history.”

Jackie Robinson: “I look back at all the crap Jackie went through that first season and I have nothing but utmost respect for the man. They did some unspeakable things to Robinson, and he should have kicked some asses, which he was more than capable of doing. A real man has to turn his other cheek, but your average individual would have blown his temper and punched a few bigots. You talk about guts, he had it. I don’t know how he did it. Jackie sat there and took it that first year and then Branch Rickey turned him loose that second year. Those bigots got some comeback that second season, that’s for sure.”

His first year in the Bigs: “We were basically terrible. That Pittsburgh team in ’47 had two stars—Hank Greenberg and Ralph Kiner and that was it. Greenberg was in his later years by that time (age 36) but he still hit 25 home runs that season. And Kiner hit 51 homers, and batted .313. But the rest of the team is fairly forgettable. The Pirates in ‘47made a lot of errors (149) and the team ERA was close to 5.00. The pitching staff threw 44 complete games, because the bullpen was awful. The starters had to finish games. We ended up 62-92 in last place, 32 games behind Brooklyn. It was a long season to start a career in the majors, that’s for sure, but I loved every minute of it.”

Friday, November 06, 2009

The Dawgs of My Life

We get attached to our pets to the point of being ridiculous. Many years ago, a fellow employee of mine called into work sick because her cat was ill. As a non-pet owner at that stage in my life, I laughed my ass off at this person and razzed her for treating an animal like a human being. Now, I feel bad for ridiculing this woman. I have two pets now and I can completely relate. The pet person I was striving to avoid being for so many years is now ME.

Pets and their people have a long history together. From the beginning of mankind, the very first couple had a pet—a snake. Adam wasn’t 100% onboard, but his wife insisted and you know how that goes.

How do pets and people work so well together? It’s not rocket science. You live with these creatures and they become part of your family. Most of the pets you own treat you better than your own relatives. They don’t borrow money or require interventions or ask you to drive them to the airport in the middle of commute traffic on a Friday. Your pets maintain a fairly predictable simple relationship with you. You feed them, they appreciate it and worship you (with dogs) or begrudgingly tolerate you (with cats).

We have a little Chihuahua mix and his name is Ratdog. Some people think I named him after Bob Weir’s band, but I named him Ratdog because he looks like a large white rodent. He actually looks more like an opossum. For a while I thought of naming him Pogo, but no one would understand the connection, so Ratdog it is.

His first owner, a friend of mine who has been dead for six years now (a victim to meth) tried to give him to the Humane Society but I stepped in and saved him from the doggy gallows. Ratdog is deaf and yips and yaps all the time at vibrations, like garbage trucks, motorcycles or the wind.

Ratdog doesn’t have corneas or something in his eyes and he’s basically an albino. He would have been a perfect purse dog for Edgar Winter (bad joke). When you take his picture it looks like he has perpetual red-eye.

Ratdog was evidently starved at one point during his life. Consequently, he’s more food-centric than any animal I’ve ever seen. Have you ever witnessed hyenas eat on Animal Planet? Ratdog consumes things most pooches won’t even sniff – like garlic, tangerines, head cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, skate, prawn tails and live snails. He especially loves the “pope’s nose” of a roast chicken. He eats bones completely. As of last year, he stopped eating foie gras, for the ducks at the park.

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.

He’s older now, probably more than 100 years in canine time. But he still loves his walks, although he has his limits. When we walk past our gate after the first leg of our standard half hour walk, Ratdog stops and plants his dirty little discolored paws in the sidewalk. His walk is over and he’s not going another step. He looks so pleased when I retreat back to home, opening the gate and ending our walk short.

For some reason, Ratdog is also very popular, especially with the ladies. One female friend of mine actually tried to buy him from us for $500! She was writing the check. 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 my other dog Shelly.

What is the attraction? Maybe because he really is 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 right after a bath. He’s got “death breath” 24/7 and no matter how many times you brush his teeth, they’re always a shade of light brown.

Last year, my wife and I made a 5-minute movie for a short-film contest here in San Francisco. It was called “Our Last 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, my spouse 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. You can see the film on, but if you covet five minutes of your life, pass. It’s the Heaven’s Gate of short dog films.

PART TWO: The “P” Word: Our other dog, Shelly.

Good Sponsors for Linksys Routers

Abe Lincoln isn't available, but if he were alive, Honest Abe would be a clear choice to be a sponsor for Linksys. Linksys makes a very high quality router. I have a Linksys router and I love it! I own a Wireless-G Broadband Router and once I got it set up properly, it works like a champion! Who would be a good sponsor for Linksys? How about Linkin Park? They could get the young interest in the product? It would be a natural. Man, how do I think of these amazing things? I surprise myself!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Dark Circles

When I was asked to blog about dark circles, I thought initially about crop circles. But, it's not the same thing--dark circles are a HUGE DANGER that can attack anyone at anytime. We're referring to the dark circles that will appear most likely under your eyes. It will make you look 20 years faster instantly when you get these horrid dark circles. Don't let it happen--get a product that can alleviate these terrible dark circles. It's a human problem, so deal with it on THIS!