Sunday, April 26, 2015

Reflections and Flashbacks

August 3, 2007.
First, an apology. I'm sure I've worn you all out with the constant pictures of Sean (and narcissistic selfies) from Cooperstown and Scranton and points between.

Thanks to those who, despite that, liked and commented. A pox on those who didn't...

Regardless, here is one more: past and present comes to life. At the top is a picture of Sean on the Tri-States Rock in Port Jervis, NY in 2007. He is posing as the "Statue of Limberty." Here he is three years later.

Sept. 4, 2010.
Finally, we reach today. He couldn't resist doing the pose again, hence the laughing face with the eyes closed.

Incidentally, here's another version, before the "Limberty" one.

Anyway, that's that.

In Scranton

Sean and I are turning towards the final stages of our third annual father-son trip.

Scranton, you say? Hell, I read where Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports Hardball Talk ranked the move from New York to Scranton as the worst demotion in baseball.

I get it, yet I sort of dig it here. We liked Lancaster last year, but remembered how much we liked Scranton from our 2013 trip. So we came back here.

The Spring Hill Suites is a great place. We have a nice view of PNC Field. There are places for trains, trolleys, coal mines and various Sean-friendly activities.

Plus we have our food bonanza of Waffle House, Krispy Kreme, and Wegman's has now become a Sean favorite.

It's not your idea of fun, perhaps. But it's ours.

I agonized over doing this trip, mostly due to the root of all evil (yes, money). But as I watched Sean smile, and listened to him rave about how much he loves traveling with me, I figured there really wasn't any question about this being the right thing to do.

Now I'm listening to him laugh hysterically over things he is watching on his iPad in our room.

We hit the pool a couple of times, and don't you know it takes being there for this kid to want to have a catch with his father?

We'll carry the memories home. I'll carry the last vestiges of my little boy being a little boy.

I'm holding on for dear life.

We still have most of today before real life takes back over.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Calling a Game with Sean

I had a guest analyst when I called a baseball game last Saturday: Sean Adams, who called the bottom of the second, bottom of the sixth, and top of the seventh with me.

I wrote about the experience, and posted the audio, over at HAN Radio, in my "From the Press Box" column.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Vin Calls Sandy

I've begged, pleaded, and implored people to listen to the most fabulous ten minutes in sports play-by-play history. Tonight, on the eve of Opening Day, I'm posting it again.

Sandy Koufax was perfect through eight innings against the Cubs on September 9, 1965. Only 29,000 fans were at Dodger Stadium on that night. Vin Scully was in the booth, calling the game on radio.

There is no video of the game. No full audio broadcast. Only the ninth inning. Why? Because not everything was recorded in those days, but "Vinny" asked the engineer to roll tape, as a potential souvenir for Koufax if he could get the three outs in the top of the ninth.

This is poetry. The mellifluous Scully, in his 16th year working for the Dodgers, at 37 years of age, went to work on calling the game in his usual style. There's no hype. There are no theatrics and histrionics. In fact, he chides Koufax at one point:
That’s only the second time tonight where I have had the feeling that Sandy threw instead of pitched, trying to get that little extra, and that time he tried so hard his hat fell off — he took an extremely long stride to the plate — and (Jeff) Torborg had to go up to get it.
There are other lines in this inning that simply give me chills.
The Dodgers defensively in this spine-tingling moment: Sandy Koufax and Jeff Torborg. The boys who will try and stop anything hit their way: Wes Parker, Dick Tracewski, Maury Wills and John Kennedy; the outfield of Lou Johnson, Willie Davis and Ron Fairly. And there’s 29,000 people in the ballpark and a million butterflies. Twenty nine thousand, one hundred and thirty-nine paid.
There had only been five perfect games in the "modern era" of baseball, and seven total prior to Sept. 9, 1965. Spine-tingling, indeed.
A lot of people in the ballpark now are starting to see the pitches with their hearts.
I would think that the mound at Dodger Stadium right now is the loneliest place in the world.
Finally, the coda:
Sandy into his windup, here’s the pitch: Swung on and missed, a perfect game!
Yes, we still believe in miracles. The Giants won the pennant. The ball still gets by Buckner. In the year that had been so improbable, the impossible happened. Holy cow, going going gone, and the waiting is over. All great calls (and many many more).

This is the one I tell students to listen to. It's just how you do it. It was transcribed on Salon in 1999.


 From left: Lou Gehrig, Joe Cronin, Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio, Charlie Gehringer, Jimmie Foxx, and Hank Greenberg. 

Check out that picture above. Look at them: Gehirg, Cronin, Dickey, DiMaggio, Gehringer, Foxx, Greenberg. Even non-baseball/sports fans know at least two of those names (Gehrig and Joe D., of course).

It was taken at the 1937 All-Star Game at Griffith Stadium in Washington. Look at that glorious NBC sign in the background. Incidentally, three radio networks broadcast that game (NBC, CBS, and Mutual).

You might not know that every one of those players are enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Yet they are. Those guys aren't scrubs. They're among the best to ever play the game of baseball. Naturally I've written tons about The Iron Horse, and a few words about DiMaggio as well. Bill Dickey, by the way, is vastly overlooked.

For you non-fans, Jimmie Foxx was the loose model for Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own.

You probably know this, if you've read anything here, but I love this great game. My god, we've screwed it up incredibly over the years. The race issues were deplorable. The sport struggled with growth and competition from the NFL through the 70s (and it continues today). We've added playoff teams, and dealt with drugs (steroids, greenies, cocaine, etc. Go on. Look it up.). We're worried about pace of play and bringing the inner city back.

We had Black Sox and a gambling Red (just put him in the Hall of Fame, please?).

We have the Babe. The one and only. The single greatest, most important athlete in the history of sports. Yes, I know, Jim Thorpe, Bo Jackson, and others might have been better true athletes, but given everything involved, there's Babe Ruth and everyone else.

We've sold our souls too many times. Baseball shouldn't open at night, but ESPN's money is too much to overlook.

Yet tomorrow, in the day, with the stands full and the records 0-0, the lines will be painted fresh. The grass will be gloriously green. I wish a band would play, and we could recreate some of the openings of seasons past, but a voice will intone the starting lineups, and they will gather on those freshly-painted baselines. The anthem will be sung. A ceremonial first pitch will be thrown. There might be a flyover or some other special effect.

Then, as there has been since 1869 (the generally-agreed upon "first year" of Major League Baseball), a batter will step up to home plate. A pitcher - 60 feet, six inches away - will author a first pitch.

And there will be baseball. To me, for its history, grandeur, strategy - everything - it is the greatest game of them all.

Football is the national passion. Baseball is the National Pastime.

Give me 714. Give me .406. Sixty-one. Fifty-six. I wish we could have 1918 back, but time marches on. A fan knows what these numbers are.

Give me the billy goat. The Bambino. Curses real or imagined.

Give me those uniform numbers that we all know: four. Three. Seven. Five. Forty-two.

Give me The Mick. Jeet. Gabby. Dizzy. Daffy. Dazzy. Pudge. Yaz. Three-Finger. Blue Moon. Vida. Catfish. Bucky. Stan the Man.

Give me Willie, Mickey, and The Duke. Tinker to Evers to Chance.

Give me The Called Shot. The Homer in The Gloamin'. The Shot Heard Round the World. The Miracle of Coogan's Bluff. Those last two are the same thing.

Give me Ebbets Field. Forbes Field. Crosley Field. Now give me Camden Yards and Fenway and Wrigley. The Big A. Chavez Ravine.

Give me the corner of E. 161st Street and River Ave. The most famous address in sports history.

Give me the Royal Rooters and the Bleacher Creatures.

Give me 27 rings.

Give me those great quotes, from music to movies to TV and beyond.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game. "Luckiest Man."
“That's baseball, and it's my game. Y' know, you take your worries to the game, and you leave 'em there. You yell like crazy for your guys. It's good for your lungs, gives you a lift, and nobody calls the cops. Pretty girls, lots of 'em.”
―Humphrey Bogart
Give me Vincent Edward Scully. The man known as Vin. The man who learned at the side of Walter Lanier Barber, the Old Redhead himself sitting in the catbird seat, while the bases were FOB (full of Brooklyn).

Give me a Ballantine Blast. Tell me "It's Miller Time" or "This Bud's for you."

Give me Cooperstown (maybe in a little over a week from now).

I love this game. It energizes me. Engulfs me. Fills my heart, yet breaks it. It enraptured me for sure when I saw my first pro game in 1972 and a guy named Murcer doubled off another guy named Palmer. One is a hall of famer. The other doesn't need to be.

It made me cry when in 1996, my boyhood team won their first title in 18 years, and I couldn't share it with the one person I wanted to share it with.

Most of all, selfishly, give me a microphone so that I can broadcast it.

This is the beginning of my year. This is when I feel refreshed.

This is when I know that this horrible winter is over.

It's Opening Day.

Play ball.