Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hector's Big Weekend: Part One

In gambling terms, Hector is a mini-whale. Sure, he’s just as sick as any of them, but he has a larger wallet and isn’t afraid to risk a significant portion of his impressive bankroll on assorted card games, sporting events and whatever else can provide that adrenalin rush. One time he and another fool bet on who could eat more pieces of sushi and Hector started gagging after 90. Pretty impressive for a 5’2’’ 100-lb. guy, but he lost $10,000 when his friend ate 104 nigiri-zushi. Another time, Hector was convinced that he could run from Reno to Carson City in a business suit in the dead of winter. One of the assorted morons in his entourage of hangers ons, wanna bes and never wasses, bet him 20 grand and Hector won. It took him almost two days for him to run, jog, shuffle and finally limp the 40 miles. But in the process, two of Hector’s toes went black from frost bite and he lost them.

As a mini-whale, Hector traditionally makes single wagers with four zeroes attached. Mini-whales prefer to be big fish in small ponds, so they normally gravitate toward wagering at the smaller gambling establishments like those found in Reno or at many of the Indian casinos. Places with names like The Showboat or Thunder Valley. True whales make six figure bets and that’s why you’ll find them in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and at the big casinos in Monte Carlo and Antigua. I have known only one legitimate whale in my life, but that’s another story for another time.

Whales of any size get pampered and treated like rock stars at all of the top casinos and even most of the sketchy ones as well. The level of pampering depends on how much they wager and how much they’ve lost or won. Whales get anything they desire, either legal or otherwise and mini-whales get something a little less. Whales get top-shelf caviar, Cuban cigars, expensive wine, top scotch and prostitutes that look like A-Class models. Mini-whales get pate instead of caviar, domestic cigars, discount wine and hookers with a little street in their walk.

Mini-whales come in all shapes and sizes. One day in Reno I met an old gal named Dot. She chain smoked and wore enough rhinestones to tile a shower. Dot outlived three husbands and rumor was she outright killed one of them. With enough money to throw around ridiculously, Dot would drop 20 to 30 grand every time she hit the Sands. Her drinks (mostly Manhattans) were free; they gave her the old Wayne Newton suite and every once in a while they’d send an old former Chippendale dancer up to her room to check the plumbing. With that type of treatment, Dot happily lost a couple hundred thousand dollars at the Sands every year, smiling ear to ear and loving every minute of it.

Hector normally played at the Silver Legacy in Reno, but every once in a while he would venture to Vegas. He loved the place, but knew it would be his demise one day. “There’s just too much shit going on there, man,” Hector said it every time he left Sin City looking like a wrinkled old necktie and smelling like cheap cologne--the kind you can load on to mask all the other smells, but it never really works.
So, Hector’s regular spot was Reno, but on this particular weekend, a casino in Vegas had invited him to watch a big boxing match with everything included and at no charge, of course. It doesn’t matter who was fighting that night, because Don King was the promoter, which means the event was fixed anyway. If you want to see something more believable, watch wrestling or the Smurfs.

Hector loved betting on fights and getting in his own. As a little guy with a Napoleonic complex, he loved boxing and wasn’t afraid of knocking a few heads himself. The problem is, he went after guys twice his size and continually got his ass kicked. He led with his fists and felt everyone was eyeballing him and dissing him all the time. One time at a party, he smacked our host in the face for offering him a cocktail. What the hell, we asked him as we were being escorted out the door.
“He gave me a weird vibe,” Hector mumbled. Unbelievable, I thought. I decided right there and then to hang out with this guy a little less. He’s fun, but he could get me killed, I noted.

So, when Hector invited me to Vegas for the weekend, I thought more than twice before answering.

(To be continued….)

Friday, July 22, 2011

#13: Rocco “Razz” Randazzo
Catcher, Footville (Wisconsin) Bunions, Dairy Belt League

Randazzo was well-known for two things 1.) His colorful bench jockeying techniques and 2.) His inability to catch just about anything thrown in his general direction. In 1904, “Razz” made a tragic mistake when he called Junior “The Bull” Applebaum, a pitcher for the Egg Harbor Yolks, a word we can’t share here. As a result, Randazzo’s heckling days were over and from the embarrassment he never spoke again. For the next 30 years, he was known as “Mickey the Mime” performing for children’s parties and Bar Mitzvahs for the remainder of his life.

Baseball Icons Who Couldn't #1

#1: Cookie “Crumbs” Colla

Pitcher, Flea City, California Larvae, Western Coastal Scrub Brush Association
Colla loved baseball, but preferred eating cookies on the bench. The crumbs became a problem and birds started to flock toward the dugout. When he was asked to refrain, he could not, and eventually Colla was sent off to the lowly Will-o-Wisp Wombats, a team of castoffs that played in the Colorado Mite Bowl, where he was forgotten, until six years later, when he found a cookie recipe and started making his own. Soon, everyone was eating Cookie’s Cookies!

Monday, June 27, 2011

World's Ugliest Dog Contest 2011

My little Ratdog was a star and he finished second in the Mutt Division.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Not Lost in Translation, Part II

As I stared at the wild scene in the pool, I began to think about bad, bad things. Things I wanted to do to this rude Frenchman (I’m calling him Claude) to inform him in a rather direct way that I wasn’t fully appreciating his approach to living with other people, especially while on vacation. If we can’t play nice on vacation, a supposed form of relaxing and unwinding, how do we act when we’re home? I don’t want to even think about it. Is everyone in France rude to each other? How does that work? Do the rudest people in the country run things, within some kind of rudeness caste system? If your father is rude, does that make you a legacy? Is boorishness passed on from generation to generation?
Sometimes it is inconvenient when other people want to share the planet and Claude was one of those individuals. As I studied him, I saw him piss off 2-3 other vacationers within 30 minutes. He obviously didn’t believe in other peoples’ personal space (in the U.S. we want at least three feet minimum, but in Japan, for instance, it’s more like a few centimeters) and when you combine cheap wine, Greek cigarettes and a lack of dental care, Claude’s death breath was offending everyone and everything—including flies and passing seagulls.
So, as I was brainstorming, and I instantly thought of Caddyshack, one of my favorite comedies ever produced, a farce about golf at a big country club and all of the juvenile activities surrounding it. It stars Bill Murray, Ted Knight, Chevy Chase and Rodney Dangerfield. In the film, there are several memorable scenes, including the now legendary one involving a candy bar being thrown into a swimming pool, which was based on a real-life incident at Brian Doyle-Murray's high school. (He is Bill Murray’s brother and a great actor/writer in his own right.)
So, after a few Coronas and a shot of the cheapest tequila Mexico will produce, I started contemplating my next move. Was I mad enough to do it? Would it work or simply be a waste of time? Well, who cares—I enjoy the challenge of pulling a prank and when it works it’s an adrenaline rush. The fun is in the planning. So, I decided, let’s do it—what the heck?
So, I recalled that one of my vacation companions was a chronic snacker. I had been to Hawaii, Acapulco and other destinations over the years with this guy, and every time before departure, he would go to Costco and bring a big gym bag filled with snacks on vacation—nuts, pretzels, chips, candy and importantly—candy bars. So, I went to our room and delved into his stash. Luckily, there were a selection of candy bars there, all my favorites, including Snickers, Milky Way and Almond Joy. The latter wouldn’t be very good to sculpt into a believable floating turd, because Almond Joy’s come in two little sections and I wanted something large so that my French friend would notice it. Snickers were my first choice, because the peanuts inside offer an added level of reality. But Milky Way’s are good too, because they contain that stuff in the middle, what do they call it? Nougat? So, I went with both.
I took one Snickers and one Milky Way and because it was warm in our hotel room, they were equally pliable. I morphed them together with the skill of a seasoned sculptor, and when I was done, voila! It looked like a large, bumpy turd and it was so believable, I was simultaneously pleased and disgusted.
So, I nestled the pseudo-poo in a large hotel towel and walked it over to pool side, just several feet from my snarky French victim. I dropped it into the pool and waited for the screams, but after 15 minutes nothing. I hopped into the shallow end and looked around under the water to find my piece of art, but then I realized there was one major flaw in that great scene in Caddyshack. Candy bars don’t float. Damn! I thought. All this work to pull off a master stunt, and now suddenly physics gets in the way.
But, I never give up. I will push a prank until it succeeds or fails, but once I’m committed, I will always follow it through to the end. So, I dove down and without anyone seeing me, I retrieved the fake deuce and nudged it right next to Claude. He was drunk and completely oblivious, still busy insulting people, chain smoking and berating the help.
Now, with my poop properly positioned, I moved to the other end of the pool waiting for any response. Still nothing, then I heard Claude scream like a little girl. Sounding like a very shocked and irritated mademoiselle.
“Hasch!” He yelled and no one moved.
“Merde!” he shrieked more frantically now. Still no one in the crowded pool bar even looked up.
“Salope!” Still no response.
Wow, I thought, Claude just came up with three words for human waste, all within milliseconds. Could he possibly be related to Roget, the inventor of the Thesaurus?
Suddenly Claude bellowed out the money word. “S--t! Sh--t! Sh--t!” And that got some instant attention.
It’s the universal word that means the same thing in any country in the world. Within moments, people were fleeing the pool bar and retreating to dry ground as quickly as humanly possible. Some of these folks hadn’t moved this fast in many years, I believe. Right away, people were pointing and kids started crying. It reminded me of another movie called Piranha, where families stampede each other trying to get away from the killer fish. This was not a killer fish, just a carefully molded combination of candy bars, but it caused a huge scene at the pool and as a result, vacationers wouldn’t jump into that same pool until the next day.
Claude spent the rest of his vacation in the ocean, still chain smoking and insulting the beach waiters, but at least he was no longer bothering folks in the pool. I spent the next three days lounging in the pool, having a good time drinking free cheap booze and interacting with people from friendlier countries.
The incident was the main topic around the hotel right up until the day we left. I never took credit for it, but walked away satisfied knowing that it was mission achieved. Did it knock Claude down a notch? Will he act nicer in the future? Probably not. It’s not going to happen overnight, and it may not happen ever. But, at least on that particular day, two candy bars and one crazy prank-obsessed idiot reenacting scenes from his favorite films taught one boorish Frenchman a lesson—kind of.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Not Lost in Translation, Part I

Most of the time I feel like I’m living in one of my favorite movies. I watch 5-6 films every week, so I’ve seen maybe 10,000 movies in my life. The first one I saw was Pinocchio 50 years ago and last night I watched a documentary called I Like Killing Flies (it’s a must-see, rent it today.) So, I’ve seen a lot of movies and quote from many of my favorites all the time.
Sometimes it gets annoying, I’m sure. My wife will ask me something and I’ll say “Ya talking to me?”
The other day I walked by a construction site and yelled out at the building crew, “If you build it, they will come.” From their expressions, I got the feeling they weren’t Kevin Costner fans.
“Frankly, dear I don’t give a damn.” I told the cranky old lady down the street when she complained that my music was too loud.
“I coulda been a contender.” I told the M.C, after I finished last in a recent standup comedy competition.
Sometimes I combine them. My wife asked me how much we had in the checking account and I told her, “Love means never having to say show me the money.”
I’ll perplex a waiter with a strange order once in a while “I’ll take the liver with a box of chocolates, a dry martini, shaken, not stirred and a nice Chianti.”
Most of the time I’m big with the meaningless movie quotes, but every once in awhile a situation arises and allows me to reenact one of my more favorite film scenes.
This is a story of one of those moments.
First scene Fade In: I am on vacation in Cancun with a couple of friends. It’s 2003. These are the final years of me being single in my mid-40’s, because I am going to meet my wife within the next few months, although I obviously don’t know it yet.
It’s Mexico in August, so it’s mega-hot and full of tourists from all over the world. It’s the land of bar crawls, timeshare salesmen, people wearing thongs who shouldn’t, parasailing and shot girls pushing cheap tequila.
At our hotel, it looks like International Day at the House of Pancakes, with Americans being the definite minority. Pretty soon, we find ourselves partying with Brazilians, Peruvians, Australians, French, Spanish, even a few Ferengi and a random Bajoran. Since no one can speak the same language, people are communicating via hand gestures and buying each other rounds. Since it’s one of those all-inclusive resorts, the booze is free, but the gesture of acquiring alcohol for each other is universally well-received.
After a few days, we discover that the best spot is at one of the hotel’s in-pool bars. Drinking and standing in water is obviously a great attraction for people from all over the planet. These pool bars feature cement stools and each bar accommodates 8-10 damp revelers. As the day progresses, lime wedges, plastic cups and those little cocktail umbrellas start floating around the pool and accumulating in their filters, while bikini tops start falling off. No one is leaving to miss the fun, which means pretty much everyone must be urinating in the pool, but guess what—nobody cares!
After a few days imbibing in the various pool bars scattered all over the resort’s grounds, I begin to see particular trends in people’s behavior, depending on what part of the globe they hail from. As a rule, Africans are happy and laugh loudly at pretty much anything you say. Brazilians love life and it’s contagious. The Spaniards as a rule are very self-absorbed and somewhat aloof, but if you get them away from the pack, they’re very nice. Germans make you feel tolerated and the French fit nicely into their highly publicized stereotype—yes they’re rude, rude and more rude!
I had heard these things about the French before, but I chose not to believe them. It must just be one of those instances where a few bad apples give the whole country an unfair reputation for snarkiness. But in this situation, while on vacation many miles away from home, I can say--yes, indeed—it’s true. The French are snobby and their normal expression is one of disdain. Frowns and eye-rolling are their number one forms of exercise, when they’re not chain smoking or insulting people.
Well, back to the story. One afternoon I’m sucking down beers at the pool bar and this French guy (let’s call him Claude) is chatting up two pale cougars from Tennessee. The bar is packed and Claude is leaning all over me and keeps kicking me under the water. He turns back to me for a moment to ignore me. He has a scraggly beard that smells like stale cigarette smoke and there is a ripe scent surrounding him.
At one point, I go for a swim and then circle back to the bar. At this point, Claude has spread out and has basically claimed my seat.
“Uh, excuse me?” I inquire. “Hello?” I say to Claude’s back. “Hey! I was sitting there!”
Claude slowly turns around. “Wot iz it, you want?”
“I was sitting there.”
“Oh no, you left, you know?”
“Well, I’m back now.” I’m forcing a weak smile.
“I’m saving thiz spot for my friend, you know? You got up, you lose, you know?”
No, I don’t know and at this point, I’m really pissed. So, I just move my way back onto the stool.
Claude gives me a look and mutters something about me being just another pushy American. Get over it, I’m thinking.
So, he turns his back to me again and starts talking to the women from Tennessee. He’s chain smoking and sucking down free all-inclusive mixed drinks faster than the overworked bartender can pour them.
“Hey, bartender-faster, faster,” Claude barks. “I did not come here to wait for my booze!”
What a tool, I’m thinking. I’ve had enough of this clown at this point and I’m getting out of here. Why let this boorish individual taint my vacation for a millisecond?
But, before I can get up, Claude leans back and burns my arm with his cigarette.
At first, I can’t feel it, but then all of a sudden I start smelling singed hair. My arm is throbbing now.
“Hey, buddy, pal, friend, hello?” Claude is hoping I go away.
(Why do we address people in a familiar way when we’re actually upset with them? I should have said, “Hey asshole, douche bag, moron, hello?”)
“Wot izz it now?” Claude turns around with his signature eye-rolling frown.
“You burned me? Look!” Now there’s a huge welt on my upper arm.
“You made my cigarette all wet.” Claude says. “You ruined my cigarette!”
“What the…” Now, I even more shocked.
“Theze are very expensive Greek cigarettes,” Claude says. “But hopefully for you, I have more.” Evil smile.
I was speechless, which is rare.
Claude turns back to the two ladies and now my arm is really hurting.
So, I retreat, go back to the room and put some aloe and a band aid on the burn. I take a nap and then return to the pool. Unfortunately, Claude is still there, really drunk now and talking loudly to some Germans. I opt not to get in the pool, but in the interim I start watching Claude. He’s still yelling at the bartender, a poor local who is probably making $30 a day and now he’s spreading himself out all over the bar, bumping into people with his constant cigarette and not even saying “Ezcuss me.”
So, now I’m fuming and my mind is working. I’m trying not to let this guy get to me, but now he has. I want him to learn a lesson about basic manners, American-style.
Suddenly, I flash on a scene from one of my favorite Bill Murray movies.
(Stay tuned for Part #2)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Dodgers are Saved!!

Major League Baseball is taking the unusual step of wresting control of the Los Angeles Dodgers, a team recently paralyzed by its owners' bitter divorce. Thank God! A new day for the Dodgers started yesterday. Watch them now go on a long winning strike, unburdened by an owner who was running his team like a bad Denny’s franchise.
I’ve said for many years that you can fire your front office people, managers/coaches, and cut or trade all your players, but what happens when the team’s owner has to go? Examples over the years include the late Georgia Frontiere, (LA Rams); the late Marge Schott (Cincinnati Reds), Mark Cuban (Dallas Mavericks) and the late George Steinbrenner (NY Yankees.) All of the aforementioned owners ran into their own troubles all on their own—Schott was run out of baseball, Steinbrenner was suspended and Cuban has been fined more than just a few times for his boorish behavior and courtside antics.
Once among baseball's renowned franchises, the Dodgers have been consumed by infighting since Jamie McCourt filed for divorce after 30 years of marriage in October 2009; one week after her husband fired her as the team's chief executive. Frank McCourt accused Jamie of having an affair with her bodyguard-driver and performing poorly at work. It’s a sordid tale of adultery, selfishness and a prime example of the fact that just because some people are rich, it doesn’t logically mean they’re all that smart.
Selig told Frank McCourt he will appoint a trustee to oversee all aspects of the business and the day-to-day operations of the club. Frank McCourt, however, has retained Sullivan & Cromwell and was preparing to sue MLB, a baseball executive familiar with the situation told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because McCourt had not made any statements.
"I have taken this action because of my deep concerns regarding the finances and operations of the Dodgers and to protect the best interests of the club," Selig said Wednesday in a statement.
A person familiar with Selig's thinking said the commissioner may choose to force a sale. The person spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because Selig's statement did not mention that.
In December, Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon in Los Angeles invalidated a March 2004 postnuptial agreement giving Frank McCourt sole ownership of the team, allowing Jamie to seek one half of the franchise.
Selig's move came after The Los Angeles Times reported this week that Frank McCourt had arranged a $30 million loan from Fox, the team's television partner. Selig has not approved a $200 million loan from Fox to the club, which was first proposed by the Dodgers last summer, and the Times said the money was needed to make payroll.
"As the 50 percent owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, I welcome and support the commissioner's actions to provide the necessary transparency, guidance and direction for the franchise and for Dodgers fans everywhere," Jamie McCourt said in a statement.
Baseball officials could not recall another instance in modern times in which the commissioner's office seized control of a team from its owner. Before Tom Hicks sold the Rangers last year, Selig appointed MLB executive John McHale Jr. to monitor the Rangers but left Hicks in charge of the franchise.
Portions of this article courtesy of LA Times.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

His Knows His Schmidt!

Frederick Albert Schmidt (born February 9, 1916) is a former pitcher in Major League Baseball who played for three different teams between 1944 and 1947. He was born in Hartford, Connecticut. Listed at 6' 1", 185 lb., he batted and threw right-handed. Schmidt entered the majors in 1944 with the St. Louis Cardinals, playing for them one year before joining military service during World War II. In his rookie season, Schmidt went 7-3 with a 3.15 earned run average, two shutouts, and five saves to help his team to clinch the National League pennant. He also pitched 3.1 scoreless innings of relief in Game 3 of the 1944 World Series, won by the Cardinals over the St. Louis Browns in six games. After his discharge, Schmidt rejoined St. Louis in 1946 but he was not the same after that. He divided his playing time with the Cardinals, Phillies and Cubs in 1947, his last major league season. In a three-season career, Schmidt posted a 13-11 record with 98 strikeouts and a 3.75 ERA in 85 appearances, including 15 starts , three complete games, two shutouts, five saves, and 225.1 innings. Schmidt (95) is recognized as one of the oldest living major league ballplayers, and the oldest to have played for a World Series-winning team.

On the minors: I was pitching for a church team, a shop team, I was getting nice write-ups and the Cardinals sent me a letter in 1936. They asked if I would like to try out to be a ballplayer…just bring shoes and a glove at this field. And then the guy hung up when he says, “I’ll see ya.” I was working in a foundry, I was just a kid. I had to go to work because the depression was on and my folks were getting ready to lose their home and I had to get a job. I never went to high school. I graduated eighth grade and I had to hunt for a job to get my folks to get a couple of bucks coming in to hold on to the home. So I’m over there and there’s about 400 guys on this field. And they all want to be ballplayers because nobody was working. And naturally, with me getting these write-ups in the local papers, they said, “Schmitty, warm up and let’s see your fastball.” And I could hum them in there pretty good, I’ll tell ya, or they wouldn’t even look at you. And they said, after throwing two, “Where do you live?” I says, “So and so and my folks are there.” “Well, they gotta sign up for you.” And, I’ll tell you what, it was pitiful. They gave me $24 for staying out of work two days. Here’s what I got. Started in Class D in North Carolina for $75 a month. This is the way it used to be. Not only me going through this, a lot of other guys went through it. My first game pitching on the mound, I struck out 19 batters. And they said, “Oh my God, he’s another Dizzy Dean” and all that stuff, but I gradually crawled through the minor leagues of the Cardinals. From D to C to B to A and then finally got up to Rochester….You know how many minor leagues I played in? About 35…I always had four, 14, 15 wins and you move up a little bit and then you drop down again, oh my God. It was tough. I spent seven years in the minors with the Cardinals. Just going up here and there, here and there and going to spring training once in a while, coming back out. It was pitiful. There were only eight teams then in the National League. Oh my gosh, I’ll tell ya, I’ll tell ya. Oh, my God, when…you know, it was a funny…I’m gonna tell you a good story. When I was down in…they had in ’38, see ’37 is when I was…had them strikeouts and they thought the world of me and so they had all their best prospects. Down in ’38 they went ahead in Florida. And then they had the old Cardinal ball players showing us different things, how to slide and all that. So, I’m sitting with a new pair of baseball shoes on next to Pepper Martin. And he’s chewing tobacco and he spits on my new shoe. So I says, “Now what did you do that for?” He says, “Hey, kid, that’ll put a good shine on for me, you don’t have to worry about shining them anymore.” [laughs] Being a rookie, I had to keep my mouth shut…or you’re going to hell, you know? [laughs]

On Branch Rickey: Well, see I got married in 1940. And I was gradually making a better salary, you know, seeing since I was getting to be a better pitcher. But, yes, I got tired of it. I was thinking, gee, when am I going to get the, you know, get up there a little bit. And I wrote into Branch Rickey one time and I says, “Mr. Rickey, my mother says that if I can’t make more money than this I ought to go back to the factory job.” You know what he says to me? He said if that’s the way you feel, he says, well then go back to your factory job, knowing that I was dying to play baseball. See, that’s the answer I got from Rickey. Oh, he cheated more ballplayers out of a buck. He cheated men that were married in the minor leagues playing for starvation wages and had to pay their own hotel room when they were home, you know, at the home. You had to pay for all that, throw your wife in that and you were just about getting enough and then when the season’s over, you’d hurry up home and get a job someplace to get you through the winter. You didn’t make anything.

On playing during WW2 (and the 1944 Cardinals): So finally, after Rochester, I figured they wouldn’t have any baseball on account of the war but Roosevelt said we’re going to play baseball and we’re going to…for the people that are working, they have to have some enjoyment, so I says to the superintendent at this job, I says Mr. Briggs (?), I’m sorry but I’m going to leave to go play baseball. He says, “You’re taking a chance, they’re going to draft you.” I said, “That’s all right, then they’ll get me at my baseball.” We got through, I got through the summer, I got through the summer, made the World Series in ’44 and then just before Christmas I finally was drafted. There was a lot of them drafted, you know, but there was a lot of them that missed, too. I was the first reliever, but you didn’t need relief and then we had starting pitchers that went nine innings. Mort Cooper, Harry The Cat Brecheen, Ted Wilks, Red Munger and Max Lanier, those were the starting pitchers. They went nine innings. They didn’t go five. I was the number one reliever. See because (manager) Billy Southworth did pitch me. And now here’s something. Southworth says to me one day, “Schmitty, I know you was always the starting pitcher in your minor leagues.” He said, “Max Lanier’s elbow is sore, could you start tomorrow?” I says, well, I’ve only been going two or three innings. I says, sure, I’d be glad to. I went nine innings, I pitched a shutout. Against the Giants. So here comes all the writers into the clubhouse. Where the hell you been all the time? I says, out in the bullpen sitting there and waiting. So Southworth says, I’m the starting pitcher from now on. Five days later, Pittsburgh comes in, Preacher Roe’s pitching against me. I’m starting again. And Frankie Frisch is the manager. And I pitch another shutout. And I got two hits off of Preacher. Max Lanier’s elbow got well in a hurry, because you know what they do, they ship you to the minor leagues. They could do that then. They could send you to the minor leagues anytime they wanted to. I’ll tell you what. When you’ve played in St. Louis in the middle of the summer, a doubleheader on a Sunday, that was murder. 120 on the field. The ballplayers used to come in from the heat and they said they could give it back to the Indians as we hate to play here. We were always glad when we’d go to Chicago and get some air again so we can live and breathe again. Honest to God, because the Browns played there too, the ballpark was rough as hell. Marty Marion used to be picking up little pebbles here and there.

On the 1944 World Series: Ted Wilks started the third game, he’s going good and then about the third inning, I guess, they got about five straight hits so Southworth waves to me in the bullpen, “Get ready, get ready!” I threw about four or five pitches, he calls me in. See, I’m walking in…they didn’t run in those days. While I’m walking in, half the people in St. Louis are for the Browns and half are for the Cardinals. So when I start walking in, they says, you know my name is Schmidt, they say, “Rowse-Schmidt-Shmidt” (?) So I’m hearing all that stuff but I was used to it, that didn’t bother me no more. And you just warm up and then I did pitch that, and Southworth says load the bases and I threw a curve ball to Cooper. And I think he could have blocked it but it bounced against him and got away and a run scored from third base. But they had already had three off of Wilks. So anyway, then I pitched the rest…three and a third innings, no hitting. I did a good job. I batted once and then they brought in (Al) Jurisich to relieve me…but we did lose the game.

On Eddie Dyer, who replaced Southworth as St. Louis manager in 1946: We had about four guys sitting in the bullpen. See, with Eddie Dyer, he was the manager. He played favoritism, played favoritism too much. He had all these guys in the minor leagues that were down in Houston where Eddie managed. And he would favor them more than the other guys like me. So, you sit, I didn’t do much pitching in ’46. So I told (St. Louis owner Sam) Breadon during the wintertime at a hot stove meeting they had, “I’d like to be traded”. He said, “What do you want to be traded for? We’re a championship ball club.” I says, “I’m not pitching, I’m not getting a decent record to get a raise or anything.” “Oh, don’t worry about that,” he says. “We’ll get in there and we’ll be in the World Series, you’ll make some money.” I thought to myself, yeah, it’s not very much. So anyway, he says, “Get down to spring training with good feelings.” See? So I get down there in St. Petersburg, and there’s Eddie Dyer. He says, “Schmitty, what do you mean by telling them that I play favoritism too much?” I says, “Well, you do! You got all these guys that played for you at Houston in the minor leagues, I says, “I’m sitting out there…” He said, “You feel that way?” I said, “Yes! I want to leave, I want to get with somebody else.” He says, “I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll get you a lot of pitching.” Yeah, he gave me a lot of pitching. Three other guys and I sat out in the bullpen, Red Barrett and Howard Krist, we never did any pitching. He used to use his own, I ain’t going to mention the names. But the favoritism was there, see? inally, Harry Walker and I were finally traded to the Phillies. And Harry Walker went over there and he led the National League in hitting.

On Ben Chapman and Jackie Robinson: Oh, we were fighting the Civil War every day in the clubhouse. Oh, my God, you know what (the Southerners on the Cardinal roster) did? They threw a chunk of watermelon on the field and they threw a black cat on the field and that first night Harry Walker and I and Chapman had the meeting and he says, “Whatever you do, when you go to your car tonight, make sure you’re with a buddy in the parking lot.” He says, “We’re going to have trouble because of the night before, what when on and the colored people were in a ruffle.” What they did to Jackie…it was pitiful what that poor guy took. I don’t want to get in wrong with these Southern ballplayers because a lot of them are good boys but it was still there and they gave him a going over. Oh my God, what they called him was pitiful. I never talked to (Robinson) but he came over to our dugout after what went on the night before…Chapman was standing on the top step and he was holding a bat and they wanted to get Jackie over to smooth things over. And he says, “You know, Jackie? Good ballplayer but you’re still a nigger to me.” And I heard all this stuff….What could he do? Jackie was told not to say anything because they’re gonna call you everything in the book, they’re gonna slide into you, try to hurt ya, try to hurt ya. And they said, you can’t fight back, Jackie, if you do the fans are gonna get on ya, goodbye negro baseball. You gotta keep your mouth shut. And he took it for two years. What they did to him. The only trouble I ever had with a man in baseball was Ben Chapman. I never hit it off with him….He was the worst. I played ball down south with a lot of nice people, and my first wife was a southerner. But this guy here was a real rebel, Chapman. He had trouble wherever he played. He was a troublemaker. Now, we were in the Polo Grounds and we’re playing the Giants and these big Jewish guys, they had nice box seats right behind our dugout. And they were riding us a little bit, which they do, they call ya, ‘ay a bunch of bums,’ which you don’t care, as long as you don’t swear at ya. And…this big Jew reaches over (to Chapman), he says, “Hey! We spent $100,000 to get you out of the American League and we’d get you out of this league, too.” And Chapman crawled back in the dugout and I’m movin’ in the corner and pull my head down, I says, “Good, good” to myself. Good, you son of a bitch…. You want to knock him on his ass but you can’t because as soon as you said anything they shipped you to the minors. There was no protection. See, they gotta a union now, they got a little a bit of a protection.

On the Mexican League’s intrusion in 1946: Mexico was trying to start baseball down there. And some of them were jumping down there because these Mexicans were handing out big money to them. See, hear, come on down and play in Mexico and we’ll give you a lot more money. Three of the Cardinals jumped down there. Two of them jumped from the Giants jumped….And anyway, they finally got down there and there was a guy in a hotel in St. Louis, I don’t want to mention his name, but in comes these three Mexicans with a black suitcase and they say, “So and so, let’s go up to your room and…we got something to show you.” All right. Okay. I know what it’s all about. We went up to the room, they opened up the bag and dumped all this money on the bed and they said. This will be all yours, we have more if you come down to Mexico. The guy says to me, “What do you think, Schmitty?” I says, if you’re going, I’m going because I’m sure in hell ain’t making much. But, anyway, he told them wait ‘til I talk to the manager. I wanna let it lie for a couple of days. Finally, he was told…”Don’t go, you’re going to be a star one day.”

On the 1946 World Series: See, what happened, when we played the first two games in St. Louis in the World Series. Rudy York hit a home run in the first game. Harry Breechen came and won the second game. So we get on the train, we didn’t fly then, we took trains, you know. Train all the way to Boston and we pull into the hotel there, I forgot what the hell that name was, but anyway, right outside of Fenway Park. And these guys, couple of these guys that were groundskeepers, they were staying in this hotel and they were sitting there mingling with the ballplayers and talking about Ted Williams. You know what that Ted does? He goes out early in the morning just when it’s getting light and he shoots the damn pigeons out of the rafters. They’re up there, they’re (pooping) in the seats. See, so when he come up to the plate, he would be facing, we were in the third base dugout, but I was out in the bullpen but I could see what they were doing. When he’d come up, they would grab bats and they said, “Hey, Ted. They’re up there.” And he said, “Ah, go to hell, you…” But you know what? He was a big flop in the series. He let them down, oh my God.

On Enos Slaughter’s Mad Dash: I think he might have had a hit-and-run on with Harry. See, Dominic (DiMaggio) was playing the outfield but he hurt his ankle and he a new centerfielder in and he was kind of slow getting to the ball. Walker hit the ball over the, you know, it’s kind of past in the shortstop section. And it was going out there and this guy was slow getting to it and here goes Slaughter ‘round second, third base runs on Mike Gonzalez is holding him up, holding him up he went right by him like a freight train. And (Boston shortstop Johnny) Pesky turns around, the guy threw the ball…finally threw the ball to Pesky, nobody helped Pesky, they should have yelled, “Home, Home” or something, see? I guess Pesky figured he’s gotta be at third base, you know…well, here he’s going home and he’s sliding and Pesky tried to throw with a short arm, he didn’t have the full arm throw, and it…lousy throw up there and Slaughter slid in there to win the World Series for us.

On meeting another guy named Schmidt for the Phillies, Mike Schmidt: When we were (at a Phillies’ old-timer function), my wife says get that Schmitty over here. So I call, I says “Mike, come over here. My wife wants to have a picture taken with you.” So I stood by him and one of the old ballplayers says, “Hey, Mike. That guy could be your father.” Mike says, “Maybe he is my father!”

On his World Series rings: I had my ’44, my stepson, see I was married before then, I adopted the boy. And he used to wear this ’44 ring and I told my wife, I said, don’t let him wear that, somebody’s going to steal that. She says, “No, he can take care…” Well, he went deep-sea diving for coins down in Florida and he was told not to because his heart wasn’t that strong. Well, he went down and he passed away….Oh, young boy, maybe 18…And somebody took the ring off his finger and goodbye.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My 2011 MLB Picks!

Baseball season starts next week, so here are my fearless predictions. Read these again in late October for a good laugh, because last season I picked the Boston Red Sox to win it all, and they didn't get into the playoffs. I am picking the Red Sox again to win the World Series in 2011, but I haven't been right since 1989, when I picked the Oakland A's to capture the crown. Since then I'm oh-for-21 and still searching for winners!

My MLB 2011 Predictions

National League
NL West: Colorado Rockies
NL East: Philadelphia Phillies
NL Central: Milwaukee Brewers
Wild Card: Atlanta Braves
NL Champion: Philadelphia Phillies

American League
AL West: Angels of Los Angeles
AL East: Boston Red Sox
AL Central: Detroit Tigers
Wild Card: Tampa Bay Rays
AL Champion: Boston Red Sox
MLB Champs: Boston Red Sox

2011 Award Winners
National League
MVP: Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies
Cy Young: Ray Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies
Rookie of the Year: Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds
Comeback Player of the Year: Chipper Jones, Atlanta Braves
Slugger of the Year: Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies
Closer of the Year: Brian Wilson, San Francisco Giants

American League
MVP: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
Cy Young: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
Rookie of the Year: Jeremy Hellickson, Tampa Bay Rays
Comeback Player of the Year: Joe Nathan, Minnesota Twins
Slugger of the Year: Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox
Closer of the Year: Jose Valverde, Detroit Tigers

Why is She Crying?

I was driving in this crazed city the other day and it was raining yet again.
“Oh, she’s crying,” I said
A woman was crossing the street, tears rolling down her cheeks. Her eyes were red and puffy and she wasn’t trying to hide the fact.
“Poor thing,” I thought. I hate to see people crying, especially kids and women.
“If she’s crying, it means she’s alive,” my passenger in the car said.
“What does that mean? I asked.
“Well, if you’re crying, it means you’re real.”
“But, I wonder why she’s crying?”
“Probably some guy dumped her.”
“Why do you assume that?”
“Cause guys suck.”
“How can you be so sure?” I inquired.
“Because I’ve been there and those tears are saying, some jerk just dumped me!”
“What if she lost her job or someone died?”
“That isn’t the type of crying she’s doing. That’s breakup crying.”
“How can you be so certain? You don’t have much faith in the male race do you?”
“We always know when another one from the clan got dumped. And she just got dumped.”
“Maybe she got eliminated from American Idol,” I said. “Or maybe she’s a Cleveland Cavaliers fan? Or she feels bad for Charlie Sheen? Or she was a big supporter of Qaddafi? Who knows?”
“Maybe she’s clairvoyant and she overheard this conversation before we had it. That would make her cry. And why do we waste our time with these dumb conversations anyway?”
“It sure beats talking about our own lives, doesn’t it?”
We laughed and agreed to something…finally.
(Oh, I forgot my passenger’s name in this article—it’s Steve.)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Mutt is Going for the Gold!

Some people have called our Chihuahua mix Ratdog ugly, but others say he’s endearing. There is a very fine line between gorgeous and hideous. Just look at some super models without makeup. My publisher Susan suggested that I enter Ratdog in the World’s Ugliest Dog Contest, held every year during the Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma. This year is their 23rd annual and the first prize is $1,000, which comes with the coveted Ugly Trophy and a year-round modeling contract from House of Dog (which also comes with another $1,000!) It’s Ratdog’s chance to earn some money to pay us back for all the vet bills, treats, doggy toys and food—because although he weighs only 16 lbs. the dog can eat!

Last year, Princess Abby--a Chihuahua with a missing eye, mismatched ears, stooped over like a frightened cat and with a strange walk due to the fact that her back legs are longer than her front--won the 2010 contest out of a field of 25 dogs, the crème de la crème of the ugliest dogs from all over the world.

Ratdog is a rescue who came to us through a bizarre chain of events. His first owner, a friend of mine who has been dead for six years now, gave him to the Humane Society, where I randomly discovered him and saved him with just days before he was headed for the doggy gallows. Ratdog is deaf and yips and yaps all the time at vibrations, like garbage trucks, motorcycles or the wind.

Some people think I named him after the Grateful Dead Bob Weir’s band, but I named him Ratdog because he resembles 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.

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 gorging uncontrollably on Animal Planet? Ratdog consumes things most pooches won’t even sniff – like garlic, tangerines, bleu 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, out of respect for the ducks he encounters once in awhile 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 years. 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 me about our 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 before we had to pull all his teeth, they were 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 youtube.com, but if you covet five minutes of your life, pass. It’s the Heaven’s Gate of short dog films.

So, stay tuned, as this stinky little mutt hopes to cash in on his ugliness. Everyone--human or animal has that one thing to share with the world—and Ratdog has his looks, or lack of them!