Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Yanks Get A's, Especially Colon; NBA & NHL Finals Hopes

If the world had worked out the way I'd hoped, yesterday, my son would not have asked me, "Dad, what's a complete game?" Because he'd know, because managers wouldn't treat pitchers like babies and would let a man who is cruising finish the job.

Alas, the world did NOT work out the way I'd hoped: Republicans have won elections, the Red Sox have won 2 World Series and didn't get caught cheating until years afterward, I have no children, and if I did, they'd have to ask, "Dad, what's a complete game?"

Yesterday, at Overstock.com Coliseum (formerly the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum), Yankee manager Joe Girardi let Bartolo Colon pitch a complete game, a 4-hit shutout, buoyed by a 1st-inning homer by Mark Teixeira (his 16th), and the Yankees beat the Oakland Athletics, 5-0.

I have, however, seen 2 sources call Colon's game a "gem." This is incorrect: While a 4-hit shutout is great, a "gem" is a no-hitter, not just a shutout.

Nevertheless, he gets a grade of A for the way he stopped the, well, the A's.

WP: Colon (3-3). LP: Trevor Cahill (6-3).

Even better, the Red Sox also lost, so the Yankees are once again tied for first, a game ahead of The Scum in the All-Important Loss Column. And 2 (1 1/2) ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays, 2 (3) ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays, and 5 (5) ahead of the Baltimore Orioles, who are no longer looking like Buck Showalter is working magic on them.

Yesterday was a Memorial Day matineee, and tomorrow is a getaway day matinee. Tonight, however, will be one of those on-the-coast 10:05 PM starts that we love so much. :rolleyes: Freddy Garcia vs. Brett Anderson.

Jeter hits 2981 19
Rivera saves 572 29
A-Rod homers 622 141
A-Rod hits 2723 277
Magic Number 109 (to eliminate Scum and Rays, 107 for Jays, 106 for O's... feels good to be able to post the Magic Number again!)

*

Jim Tressel resigned as head coach of The... Ohio State University football team. Apparently, something fishy was going on, and he knew about it, and he didn't report it, and the school's 2nd-greatest coach ever behind Woody Hayes, who restored their pride after years of being humiliated by arch-rival Michigan, is out, possibly as a result of a plea-bargain to avoid a particularly harsh punishment on OSU.

We all should've known something was up in January 2003 when, coming off a National Championship, the Maurice Clarett situation got out of control. But it was one of those times when a great story meant that a lot of us chose to look the other way.

Here's hoping the Dallas Mavericks beat the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, as they couldn't in 2006. I normally root against Dallas teams (actually, against Texas teams in general), but I like Mavs owner Mark Cuban (who, unlike John McCain and Sarah Palin, is, truly, a maverick), and LeBron James must be punished.

I also want to punish the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals. Like all New England teams, they can't win without cheating. Unlike the Red Sox, Patriots and UConn men, but like the Celtics and the UConn women, we haven't yet figured out HOW they're cheating, but we know they are.

True, the Bruins haven't won the Stanley Cup since 1972, but their opponents, the Vancouver Canucks, haven't won it ever, and they've been playing since 1970. The last team from their city to win it was the Vancouver Millionaires. In 1915. That's 96 years.

Maybe I should do "How Long It's Been" features for both teams.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Ambition Is Good, Naked Ambition Is Not

Ambition is good in sports. Or, to paraphrase Michael Douglas in The American President (even though I'm still in love with his wife), "Yes, my team tries to buy a championship every year. The question is, why doesn't YOURS, Bob?"

Ambition is good. Naked ambition is not.

During Saturday's game at Safeco Field, three people ran onto the field. The third came in the 8th inning, and he wasn't wearin' nothin' but a smile.

That's not the kind of streak I want to see at a ballgame. Both John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman on WCBS said they'd never seen a streaker at a ballgame before. Guys running onto the field, yes; naked, no.

To make matters worse, the Yankees lost. They tied it with a run in the 7th, following home runs by Robinson Cano (his 10th of the season) and Mark Teixeira (his 15th), both off the incredibly overrated (at least until he becomes a Yankee, if he does) "King" Felix Hernandez of the Mariners. But in the bottom of the 12th, Mariano Rivera (1-1) came in and couldn't hold the tie, making a winner out of Seattle righthanded reliever David Pauley (4-0). Mariners 5, Yankees 4.

Yesterday, however, was a different story. Just as I was beginning to worry that this would be yet another of those West Coast journeys that would turn into a Borg Roadtrip -- losing 7 of 9 -- the Yankees scored 5 runs in the top of the 3rd, bracketed by single runs in the 2nd and 4th, and beat the Mariners 7-1 to salvage the series finale. CC Sabathia (6-3) was fantastic, doing what aces to, holding the opponents down and going long to ease the fatigue of your bullpen, before Lance Pendleton allowed a leadoff single in the 9th and then got the next 3 outs. (No save. Jason Vargas was the starter and loser for Seattle, 3-3.)

The 2nd inning run came on a much-needed home run by Nick Swisher (his 3rd). The key hit in the 5-inning 3rd was a bases-loaded triple by Andruw Jones, who doesn't look washed-up anymore.

The Yankees get underway in Oakland in a few minutes, a Memorial Day matinee. Remember when Memorial Day meant a doubleheader? Anyway, Bartolo Colon starts for the Yankees, Trevor Cahill for the A's. Cahill's 6-2 with a 2.03 ERA this season, but he's 0-2 lifetime against the Yankees.

Today I caught a little of the Memorial Day parade in nearby South River, New Jersey. Some veterans were marching in their full dress uniforms. It's 88 degrees out there. Haven't they suffered enough? Especially the ones who served in hot climates like Vietnam, Nicaragua, Iraq and Afghanistan? (Oops, the Reagan acolytes don't want you to know about Nicaragua. I could have added Bosnia, but Sarajevo is actually at a higher north latitude than Boston, so it probably wasn't as consistently hot as those other places.)

Yesterday was the 16th Anniversary of Derek Jeter's major league debut. He is now just 20 hits away from 3,000. I spent the day down the Shore. Turns out that the Goo Goo Dolls (who I don't especially like) and Michelle Branch (who I do kind of like) are sharing a bill at the Tropicana on July 23.

Jeter's been playing for 16 years? The Goo Goo Dolls and Michelle Branch are playing at a casino?

I don't recall growing older... when did they?

Jeter hits 2980 20
Rivera saves 572 29
A-Rod homers 622 141
A-Rod hits 2723 277

Saturday, May 28, 2011

How to Be a Yankee Fan In Oakland

After leaving Seattle, the Yankees travel down the West Coast, moving on to face the Oakland Athletics, a.k.a. the A’s.

DISCLAIMER: I have never been to the Pacific Coast, so all of this information is secondhand at best, but much of it does come from the opposing teams' websites.

Before You Go. The San Francisco Bay Area has inconsistent weather. San Francisco is the one city I know of that has baseball weather in football season and football weather in baseball season. Or, as Mark Twain, who worked for a San Francisco newspaper during the Civil War, put it, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” And the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum – currently named the Overstock.com Coliseum, but I’ll use the original name throughout for simplicity’s sake – has been known to be chilly early in the season. But, this being May going into June, that shouldn’t be a problem.

The Oakland Tribune website is predicting partly cloudy with daytime highs in the low 60s and night lows around 50 for the entire series. The San Francisco Chronicle is agreeing with this.

Getting There. It’s 2,914 miles from Yankee Stadium to the Oakland Coliseum. This is the longest regular Yankee roadtrip there is, unless some future Commissioner decides to create a World League of Baseball and the Tokyo-based Yomiyuri Giants come in. In other words, if you’re going, you’re flying.

You think I’m kidding? Even if you get someone to go with you, and you take turns, one drives while the other one sleeps, and you pack 2 days’ worth of food, and you use the side of the Interstate as a toilet, and you don’t get pulled over for speeding, you’ll still need over 2 full days. Each way.

But, if you really, really want to, well, you’re too late for this series. But in the future... Get onto Interstate 80 West in New Jersey, and – though incredibly long, it’s also incredibly simple – you’ll stay on I-80 for almost its entire length, which is 2,900 miles from Ridgefield Park, just beyond the New Jersey end of the George Washington Bridge, to the San Francisco end of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

Getting off I-80, you’ll need Exit 8A for I-880, the Nimitz Freeway – the 1997-rebuilt version of the double-decked expressway that collapsed, killing 42 people, during the Loma Prieta Earthquake that struck during the 1989 World Series between the 2 Bay Area teams. From I-880, you’ll take Exit 37, turning left onto Zhone way, onto 66th Avenue, and a right turn onto Coliseum Way.

The complex includes the stadium that has been home to the A’s since 1968 and to the NFL’s Oakland Raiders from 1966 to 1981 and again since 1995; and the Oracle Arena, a somewhat-renovated version of the Oakland Coliseum Arena, home to the NBA’s Golden State Warriors on and off since 1966, and continuously since 1971 except for a one-year hiatus in San Jose while it was being renovated, 1996-97. Various defunct soccer teams played at the Coliseum, and the Bay Area’s former NHL team, the Oakland Seals/California Golden Seals, played there from 1967 to 1976.

Not counting rest stops, you should be in New Jersey for an hour and a half, Pennsylvania for 5:15, Ohio for 4 hours, Indiana for 2:30, Illinois for 2:45, Iowa for 5 hours, Nebraska for 7:45, Wyoming for 6:45, Utah for 3:15, Nevada for 6:45, and California for 3:15. That’s almost 49 hours, and with rest stops, and city traffic at each end, we’re talking 3 full days.

That’s still faster than Greyhound (87 hours, 15 minutes, changing buses twice, $531 round-trip) and Amtrak (79 hours, 15 minutes, $395 each way). But flights, usually changing in Chicago, will be a lot more expensive.

The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) subway line has a Coliseum/Oakland Airport stop, which can be accessed from nearly every city in the Bay Area. It takes about 20 minutes to ride either the Green (Fremont) or Blue (Dublin/Pleasanton) Line from downtown San Francisco to the Coliseum stop, and it will cost $3.80 each way – a lot more expensive than New York’s Subway, but very efficient. From downtown Oakland, it will take about 10 minutes on the Fremont Line, and cost $1.75, cheaper than New York's (because, in this case, you would be staying not just on the Oakland side of the Bay but wholly within the City of Oakland).

Tickets. The A’s have the worst attendance in the American League, just 17,612 per home game, only 400 or so ahead of the Florida Marlins for worst in the majors. You can walk up to the gate right before the first pitch and buy any seat you can afford.

If what you can afford is $88, you can get MVP Boxes in the infield. Field Infield goes for $65, Lower Box for $53, Plaza Club (lower level, bases to foul poles) for $42, second deck seats range from $40 to $26, and outfield Bleacher seats for $15. The upper deck is mostly tarped-over (because they know they can’t sell those seats anymore), although three sections of upper deck seats right behind home plate are sold as Value Deck for $15.

Going In. The official address of the Coliseum is 7000 Coliseum Way. If you’re driving in (either having come all the way across the country by car, or in a rental), there are 4 major lots, and going clockwise from the north of the stadium they are A, B, C and D, each corresponding with an entry gate at the stadium.

If you’re coming from the BART station, there will be a walkway over San Leandro Street, which may remind you of the walkway from the Willets Point station into the parking lot of Shea Stadium and its successor Citi Field. That will drop you off at the due east side of the Coliseum, dead center field.

The Coliseum faces east, away from San Francisco, and is 6 miles northwest of downtown Oakland. Safeco Field is 1250 First Avenue South.

From the outside, the Coliseum won’t look like much, mainly because it was mostly built below ground. Above ground, you’ll be seeing only the upper deck. From 1966 to 1995, the Coliseum consisted of three decks wrapping from the left field pole around the infield to the right field pole, and bleachers in between. But the price of getting the Raiders to come back was an expansion, with new bleachers, named Mount Davis in “honor” of Raiders owner Al Davis. This ruined a lot of the atmosphere at A’s games, and Mount Davis stands as a bold green reminder of the man who stole one of the locals’ teams away, and then, in order to bring it back, screwed up a stadium that was already looking more and more inadequate with the building of every new retro-style stadium.

Food. San Francisco, due to being a waterfront city and a transportation and freight hub, has a reputation as one of America’s best food cities. Oakland benefits from this.

Aramark Sports & Entertainment, the successor corporation to the Harry M. Stevens Company that invented ballpark concessions, provides food and beverage services for the Westside Club, Eastside Club, Luxury Suites, and all of the Coliseum’s Premium Seating areas. Traditional ballpark fare is also offered throughout the stadium by Aramark. Specialty items such as BBQ, pizza, and garlic fries can also be found at specific concession stands. (The Giants have been known for their garlic fries, the A’s less so.)

Team History Displays. The tarped-over outfield upper deck displays the A’s history – or, rather, those parts of it they want you to see. In the left field corner, they show 4 World Series that the A’s won in Philadelphia: 1910, 1911, 1913 and 1929; and the universally-retired Number 42 of Jackie Robinson. In the right field corner, they show the last of the 5 World Series won in Philly, 1930, and the 4 they’ve won in Oakland: 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1989.

At the left field corner of the bleachers are three retired numbers: 9, Reggie Jackson, right field, 1967-75 with a return at the end of his career in 1987; 24, Ricky Henderson, left field, on and off 4 times 1979-98; and 27, Jim “Catfish” Hunter, pitcher, 1965-74. At the right field corner of the bleachers are two more numbers: 34, Rollie Fingers, pitcher, 1968-76; and 43, Dennis Eckersley, pitcher, 1987-95. Previously, the A’s also had an A logo for Walter Haas, the Levi Strauss heir who bought the team from Charlie Finley in 1981, saving the franchise from being moved (at least for one generation) before dying in 1995, at which point his heirs sold the team.

Reggie and Catfish began their careers with the A’s in Kansas City; but, while the A’s put up banners honoring their Philadelphia titles, they have not retired any numbers from their Philadelphia days. (The Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society honors these figures with a museum at 6 North York Road in Hatboro, a few miles north of Philadelphia. It features plaques that used to be part of the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame display at Veterans Stadium. I’ve been there, and it’s well worth a visit.)

The Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame (BASHOF) is unusual in that its exhibits are spread over several locations, including the Coliseum. The ones honored there are: Reggie, Catfish, Fingers, A’s pitcher Dave Stewart, Billy Martin (the Yanks & A’s manager grew up in nearby Berkeley); Oakland-area natives Ernie Lombardi (Cincinnati Reds HOF catcher), Dick Bartell (New York Giants All-Star shortstop) Bill Rigney (Giants infielder, coach & manager), Frank Robinson, Curt Flood, Vada Pinson, Willie Stargell and Joe Morgan; and Raiders stars Jim Otto, George Blanda, Fred Biletnikoff, Art Shell, Willie Brown and Ken Stabler (the only one of these Raiders not yet elected to the Pro Football HOF, although he should be).

Don’t bother looking around the Coliseum for a display of the Raiders’ retired numbers: They don’t have any. In spite of their rich history, Al Davis has never ordered the retirement of a player’s number – not even the never-again-used (not by the Raiders or any other NFL player) Number 00 of Jim Otto. (Get it, “aught-oh”?) Whether he doesn’t want to share the spotlight with anyone, or he thinks that it would detract from the team-is-everything ethos he preaches, I don’t know. Still, it was almost sickening to see Stabler’s Number 12 being worn by Todd Marinovich.

Other A’s stars have been honored in the BASHOF, but their plaques are elsewhere: Eckersley and 1970s shortstop Bert Campaneris at San Francisco International Airport, and 1970s pitcher Vida Blue, who also pitched for the Giants, at their new home, AT&T Park, along with Giants HOFers Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal and Orlando Cepeda; and San Francisco Seals star-manager Lefty O’Doul.

For those of you who are Jets fans, the Oakland Coliseum was where the Jets lost the "Heidi Bowl" to the Raiders on November 17, 1968 -- but the Jets ended up beating the Raiders in that season's AFL Championship Game at Shea.

It's worth noting that Elvis Presley sang at the Coliseum Arena on November 10, 1970 and November 11, 1972.

Stuff. The A’s have Team Stores in a few locations in the Coliseum. Additional merchandise locations and novelty kiosks are open throughout the stadium during all home games.

Having a fascinating (if occasionally controversial) history even if you only count the Oakland years, the A’s have had several books written about them, although they don’t always put the team in a good light. The ones about the “Swingin’ A’s” of the 1970s invariably mention then-owner Charles O. Finley’s successes and excesses, including his cheapness and his pettiness. And players, including Reggie, often don’t come off well.

Michael Lewis’ Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, which came out in 2003, showcases the way general manager Billy Beane brought the A’s back in the 2000s, but it glosses over a glaring fact: The A’s have won a grand total of zero American League Championship Series games since George Bush was President. The father, not the son. If he’s been GM for 14 years (since 1998) and has never won a Pennant, how much of a “genius” can Beane be? Especially since he hasn’t been able to hold onto his players? (Put it this way: 2006 is the only season since 1990 in which the A’s have won a postseason series, and they then got swept in the ALCS by the Detroit Tigers. That was 5 years ago, and how many players are left from that team? One, 2nd baseman Mark Ellis, and he’s batting .206 at the moment.) Nevertheless, the book is sold at the Coliseum, and is being made into a movie starring Brad Pitt as Beane. Unfortunately, Angelina Jolie won’t be in it.

There is a DVD collection of the official World Series highlight films of 1972, ’73, ’74 and ’89, all won by the A’s (the 5 they won in Philadelphia came before there were official highlight films), but, as yet, there is Essential Games of the Oakland Athletics or Essential Games of the Oakland Coliseum DVD collection.

The Yankees and A's have played each other in 3 postseason series: The 1981 AL Championship Series and the 2000 and 2001 AL Division Series -- the Yanks winning all 3. Still, if you count the Philly titles (and you really shouldn't, but if you do), the A's have won 9 World Series, more than any AL team except the Yankees, and the only NL team with more is the St. Louis Cardinals (with whom the Philly edition of the A's split back-to-back World Series, the A's winning in 1930 and the Cards in '31.)

During the Game. Although the Raiders fans who show up for home games like to wear costumes ranging from biker gangs to sci-fi film villains – a guy in a Darth Vader mask was a regular in the Jimmy Carter years – and have been known to be the closest thing North American sports has to English-style football hooligans, you’ll probably be safe. Wearing Yankee gear to the game will probably not endanger your safety. True, A’s fans hate the Yankees, but you’ll probably get nothing more than a little bit of verbal abuse.

The A’s slogan this season is “Green Collar Baseball.” If that’s supposed to be like “blue collar,” it’s a poor rewording of it. But the A’s have usually had a blue-collar image, from Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s of Reggie, Catfish and Rollie Fingers in the Silly Seventies to the McGwire-Canseco Bash Brothers of the late Eighties and early Nineties, to the Giambi Brothers, “Big Three” pitchers, Billy Beane “Moneyball” era of 2000-06.

The A’s don’t have a special “Get Loud” device, nor a special song played after “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at the 7th Inning Stretch or after victories. And, aside from the late Edward McMichael, a.k.a. Tuba Man, there’s no really noticeable Mariner fans like New York cowbell men Freddy “Sez” Schuman and Milton Ousland (Yankees) and Eddie Boison (Mets).

Back in 1905, when the 2 Bay Area teams were the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Athletics, they played each other in the World Series, and Giants manager John McGraw dismissed the A’s as a “white elephant.” A’s manager-owner Connie Mack went with this and had white elephants stitched on their gray jerseys. Finley dumped the elephant as a symbol when he bought the Kansas City edition of the team in 1960, replacing him with a “Missouri mule” that he named Charlie O after himself. But in 1990 the elephant logo was brought back. In 1997, the A’s created a new mascot, a man in an elephant suit named Stomper.

After the Game. Oakland has a bit of a rough reputation, but, since the Coliseum is an island in a sea of parking, you won’t be in any neighborhood, much less a bad one. But if you do want to go out for a postgame meal or drinks, be advised that some sections of town are crime-ridden. And, in this case, wearing Yankee gear might not be a good idea. It’s probably best to stay within the area from the 12th Street/Oakland City Center BART station and Jack London Square, center of the city’s nightlife.

There are three bars in the Lower Nob Hill neighborhood of San Francisco that are worth mentioning. Aces, at 998 Sutter Street & Hyde Street in San Francisco’s Lower Nob Hill neighborhood, is said to have a Yankee sign out front and a Yankee Fan as the main bartender. It’s also the home port of NFL Giants fans in the Bay Area. R Bar, at 1176 Sutter & Polk Street, is the local Jets fan hangout. And Greens Sports Bar, at 2239 Polk at Green Street, is also said to be a Yankee-friendly bar.

Sidelights. The San Francisco Bay Area, including the East Bay (which includes Oakland) has a very rich sports history. Here are some of the highlights, aside from the Oakland Coliseum complex:

* Emeryville Park. Also known as Oaks Park, this was the home of the Pacific Coast League’s Oakland Oaks from 1913 until 1955. The Oaks won Pennants there in 1927, ’48, ’50 and ’54. Most notable of these was the 1948 Pennant, won by a group of players who had nearly all played in the majors and were considered old, and were known as the Nine Old Men (a name often given to the U.S. Supreme Court). These old men included former Yankee 1st baseman Nick Etten, the previous year’s World Series hero Cookie Lavagetto of the Brooklyn Dodgers (an Oakland native), Hall of Fame catcher Ernie Lombardi (another Oakland native), and one very young player, a 20-year-old 2nd baseman from Berkeley named Billy Martin. Their manager? Casey Stengel. Impressed by Casey’s feat, and by his managing of the minor-league Milwaukee Brewers to a Pennant, Yankee owners Dan Topping and Del Webb hired Casey to manage in 1949. Casey told Billy that if he ever got the chance to bring him east, he would, and he was as good as his word. Pixar Studios has built property on the site. 45th Street, San Pablo Avenue, Park Avenue and Watts Street, Emeryville, near the Amtrak station.

* Seals Stadium. Home of the PCL’s San Francisco Seals from 1931 to 1957, the Mission Reds from 1931 to 1937, and the Giants in 1958 and ’59, it was the first home professional field of the DiMaggio brothers: First Vince, then Joe, and finally Dom all played for the Seals in the 1930s. The Seals won Pennants there in 1931, ’35, ’43, ’44, ’45, ’46 and ’57 (their last season). It seated just 18,500, expanded to 22,900 for the Giants, and was never going to be more than a stopgap facility until the Giants’ larger park could be built. It was demolished in 1959, and the site now has a Safeway grocery store. Bryant Street, 16th Street, Potrero Avenue and Alameda Street, in the Mission District. Hard to reach by public transport.

* Candlestick Park. Home of the Giants from 1960 to 1999, the NFL 49ers since 1970, and the Raiders in the 1961 season, this may be the most-maligned sports facility in North American history. Its seaside location (Candlestick Point) has led to wind (a.k.a. The Hawk), cold, and even fog. It was open to the Bay until 1971, including the 1962 World Series between the Yankees and the Giants, and was then enclosed to expand it from 42,000 to 69,000 seats for the Niners. It also got artificial turf for the 1970 season, one of the first stadiums to have it – though, to the city’s credit, it was also the 1st NFL stadium and 2nd MLB stadium (after Comiskey Park in Chicago) to switch back to real grass.

The Giants only won 2 Pennants there, and never a World Series. But the 49ers won 5 Super Bowls while playing there, with 3 NFC Championships won as the home team. The NFL Giants did beat the 49ers in the 1990 NFC Championship Game, scoring no touchdowns but winning 15-13 thanks to 5 Matt Bahr field goals. The Beatles played their last “real concert” ever at The Stick Park on August 29, 1966 – only 25,000 people came out, a total probably driven down by the stadium’s reputation and John Lennon’s comments about religion on that tour.

The Giants got out, and the 49ers are looking to do the same, with a proposal for a stadium in nearby Santa Clara, to open for the 2015 season. In the meantime, they’re still playing at Candlestick. Best way by public transport isn’t a good one: The KT light rail at 4th & King Streets, at the CalTrain terminal, to 3rd & Gilman Streets, and then it’s almost a mile’s walk down Jagerson Avenue. So unless you’re driving/renting a car, or you’re a sports history buff who HAS to see the place, I wouldn’t suggest making time for it.

* Kezar Stadium. The 49ers played here from their 1946 founding until 1970, the Raiders spent their inaugural 1960 season here, and previous pro teams in the city also played at this facility at the southeastern corner of Golden Gate Park, a mere 10-minute walk from the fabled corner of Haight & Ashbury Streets. High school football, including the annual City Championship played on Thanksgiving Day, used to be held here as well. Bob St. Clair, who played there in high school, college (University of San Francisco) and the NFL in a Hall of Fame career with the 49ers, has compared it to Chicago’s Wrigley Field as a “neighborhood stadium.” After the 49ers left, it became a major concert venue.

The original 60,000-seat structure was built in 1925, and was torn down in 1989 (before the earthquake, so there’s no way to know what the quake would have done to it), and was replaced in 1990 with a 9,000-seat stadium, much more suitable for high school sports. The original Kezar, named for one of the city’s pioneering families, had a cameo in the Clint Eastwood film Dirty Harry. Frederick & Stanyan Streets. MUNI subway N train.

* Frank Youell Field. This was another stopgap facility, used by the Raiders from 1962 to 1965, a 22,000-seat stadium that was named after an Oakland undertaker – perhaps fitting, although the Raiders didn’t yet have that image. Interestingly from a New York perspective, the first game here was between the Raiders and the forerunners of the Jets, the New York Titans. It was demolished in 1969. A new field, for Laney College, was built on the site. Lake Merritt BART station.

* Cow Palace. The more familiar name of the Grand National Livestock Pavilion, this big barn just south of the City Line in Daly City has hosted just about everything, from livestock shows and rodeos to the 1956 and 1964 Republican National Conventions. (Yes, the Republicans came here, not the “hippie” Democrats, although they did hold their 1984 Convention downtown at the George Moscone Convention Center. The ’64 Convention is where New York’s Governor Nelson Rockefeller refused to be booed off the podium when he dared to speak out against the John Birch Society – the Tea Party idiots of their time – and when Senator Barry Goldwater was nominated, telling them, “I would remind you, my fellow Republicans, that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And I would remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” Personally, I think extremism in the defense of liberty is no defense of liberty.)

Built in 1941, it is one of the oldest former NBA and NHL sites, having hosted the NBA’s Warriors (then calling themselves the San Francisco Warriors) from 1962 to ’71, the NHL’s San Jose Sharks from 1991 to ’93 until their current arena could open, and several minor-league hockey teams. The 1960 NCAA Final Four was held here, culminating in Ohio State, led by Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek (with future coaching legend Bobby Knight as the 6th man) beating local heroes and defending National Champions California, led by Darrell Imhoff.

The Beatles played here on August 19, 1964 and August 31, 1965, and Elvis sang here on November 13, 1970 and November 28 & 29, 1976. It was the site of Neil Young’s 1978 concert that produced the live album Live Rust and the concert film Rust Never Sleeps, and the 1986 Conspiracy of Hope benefit with Joan Baez, Lou Reed, Sting and U2. The acoustics of the place, and the loss of such legendary venues as the Fillmore West and the Winterland Ballroom, make it the Bay Area’s holiest active rock and roll site. 2600 Geneva Avenue, in Daly City. 8X bus.

In addition to the preceding, Elvis sang at the Auditorium Arena (now the Kaiser Convention Center, near the Laney College campus in Oakland) on June 3, 1956 and again on October 27, 1957; and the San Francisco Civic Auditorium (now the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium) on October 26, 1957.

* HP Pavilion San Jose. Formerly the San Jose Arena, this building has hosted the NHL’s San Jose Sharks since 1993. If you’re a fan of the TV show The West Wing, this was the convention center where the ticket of Matt Santos and Leo McGarry was nominated. 525 W. Santa Clara Street, across from the Amtrak & CalTrain station.

* Stanford Stadium. The home field of Stanford University in Palo Alto, down the Peninsula from San Francisco. Originally built in 1921, it was home to many great quarterbacks, from early 49ers signal-caller Frankie Albert to Heisman winner Jim Plunkett to John Elway. It hosted Super Bowl XIX in 1985, won by the 49ers over the Miami Dolphins – one of only two Super Bowls that ended up having had a home team. (Sort of. The other was XIV, the Los Angeles Rams losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Rose Bowl.) It also hosted San Francisco’s games of the 1994 World Cup, and the soccer games of the 1984 Olympics, even though those Olympics were down the coast in Los Angeles. The original 85,000-seat structure was demolished and replaced with a new 50,000-seat stadium in 2006. Arboretum Road & Galvez Street.

* California Memorial Stadium. Home of Stanford’s arch-rivals, the University of California, at its main campus in Berkeley in the East Bay. (The school is generally known as “Cal” for sports, and “Berkeley” for most other purposes.) Its location in the Berkeley Hills makes it one of the nicest settings in college football, but it’s also, quite literally, on the Hayward Fault (a branch of the San Andreas Fault), so if “The Big One” had hit during a Cal home game, 72,000 people would have been screwed. With this in mind, the University is renovating the stadium, making it ready for 63,000 fans in 2012. In the meantime, Cal will share AT&T Park with the baseball Giants. The old stadium hosted one NFL game, and it was a very notable one: Due to a scheduling conflict with the A’s, the Raiders played a 1973 game there with the Miami Dolphins, and ended the Dolphins’ winning streak that included the entire 1972 season and Super Bowl VII. 76 Canyon Road, Berkeley. (Remember, it’s being renovated, so it could be messy.)

Oakland isn’t much of a museum city, especially compared with San Francisco across the Bay. But the Oakland Museum of California (10th & Oak, Lake Merritt BART) and the Chabot Space & Science Center (10000 Skyline Blvd., not accessible by BART) may be worth a look.

San Francisco, like New York, has a Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), at 151 3rd Street downtown. The California Palace of the Legion of Honor is probably the city’s most famous museum, in Lincoln Park at the northwestern corner of the city, near the Presidio and the Golden Gate Bridge. (Any of you who are Trekkies, the Presidio is a now-closed military base that, in the Star Trek Universe, is the seat of Starfleet Command and Starfleet Academy.) And don’t forget to take a ride on one of them cable cars I’ve been hearing so dang much about.

*

So, if you can afford it, go on out and join your fellow Yankee Fans in going coast-to-coast, and enjoy the Yanks-A’s rivalry, even if it’s not what it was back in the late 1920s and early ‘30s when it was Ruth & Gehrig vs. Cochrane, Foxx, Simmons & Grove.

Seattle Fans = Coffee Mugs; Get Well, Gary Carter

Last night was one of those games which proved the Number 1 on this list:

Top 5 Reasons the Internet Was Invented

5. Looking up all those people from high school you haven't heard from in 25 years... and remembering that there are some you missed, and some you didn't.

4. Trash-talking on message boards. It's not just for sports, you know.

3. I know what you're thinking, but women like it, too.

2. Having the world's largest library on your desk (actually, now, in your hand), and the librarian will never shush you.

1. So we no longer have to wait 2 mornings to see a late baseball score in a newspaper, we can get it immediately.

Last night's game, however, is one I could have gone without hearing about until tomorrow morning's Home News Tribune came in.

As they say in English soccer, "Three-nil, and we fucked it up." Good A.J. showed up for 4 innings, but Burnett then turned into Bad A.J., throwing too many pitches in the 5th, and the Seattle Mariners scored 2 in the inning. Boone Logan was not the answer in the 5th, and Luis Ayala let 2 runs score to make it 4-3 Seattle, which turned out to be the final score.

(Neither the tying run nor the winning run was, however, Logan's Run. See what I did there?)

WP: David Pauley (3-0). SV: Brandon League (13). LP: Ayala (1-1). This, after the aforementioned Home News Tribune did a feature on the aforementioned Ayala just a few hours before. Nasty foreshadowing, or a print version of Michael Kay's Curse? (The Curse of Kay is when Kay cites a statistic of stunning consistency, such as a batter hasn't struck out in a month or a new pitcher hasn't allowed a run to the opposing team in 2 years, and the stat gets reversed in that very at-bat.)

How about those Seattle fans? Almost asleep until one out to go, then all that Starbucks coffee kicked in and they acted like they just won the Pennant.

Like they'd know. The mugs! Coffee mugs!

Tonight, at 10:10 PM Eastern Time, Ivan Nova goes up against Felix Hernandez, who, like LeBron James, has been nicknamed "The King" without winning a damn thing. Is the guy who thought that nickname up the same guy who, 10 years ago, starting printing up those "SEATTLE MARINERS 2001 WORLD CHAMPIONS" T-shirts in June? (Hey, it worked for the Mets in '86... )

*

Speaking of whom, I want to get something serious out of the way before I turn to one of my favorite activities, taking the piss with the Mets.

Gary Carter has been diagnosed with 4 small brain tumors, and his doctors now say they are 90 percent sure the tumors are malignant.

While it appears he can be treated, brain cancer is a bastard, and frequently recurs. Carter, a.k.a. the Kid, the only nonpitcher in the Hall of Fame who has yet gotten there based partly on Met service, is 57, and if this diagnosis is accurate, even if he beats it the first time, his chances of making it to 65 are not good.

I wish otherwise, and hope he fully recovers.

Now... Like another Met legend who was so stricken, reliever Tug McGraw, Carter is a Met who can prove he does have a brain.

The current Mets, well, they put their fans through the wringer again last night. They started a 3-game series at Pity Field against the team that is their closest rivals and always should have been their biggest rivals, the Philadelphia Phillies, and trailed them 2-0, and came back to lead 3-2 in the 8th. But the Phils scored 1 in the 8th and 3 in the 9th, as Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez made an absolute mess of things. The Mets pulled a run back in the bottom of the 9th, leading some Met fans to invoke Tug's old line of "Ya Gotta Believe!" But, as is so often the case with the Mets, it was not to be. Phils 6, Mets 4.

The Yankees are now a game behind the Boston Red Sox, although even in the loss column. The Tampa Bay Rays are 1 1/2 back (1), the Toronto Blue Jays 4 (4), and the Baltimore Orioles 3 (4) -- the differences in the number of games played explains that, and explains why, even though they're not in first place, the Yankees still have the highest elimination number of any team: Any number of Yankee losses and wins by the first-place team adding up to 113, and the Yankees are ineligible for the AL East title. The Sox and Rays are at 112, the O's 110, the Jays 108. The Yankees are ahead in the Wild Card standings, but, as we saw in 1995, 1997, 2007 and last year, we don't want that, we want the Division Title.

In the NL East, the Phillies lead the Florida Marlins by 2 (1), the Atlanta Braves by 4 1/2 (5), the Mets by 8 1/2 (8), and the Washington Nationals by 9 1/2 (9).

Jeter 2977 23
Rivera 572 29
A-Rod 622 141
Magic Number N/A

*

Hours until the Red Bulls play again: 2, tonight, at the Vancouver Whitecaps, the first first-division soccer match between teams from the cities in 27 years, when the original Whitecaps faced the original New York Cosmos.

Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series begins: 10, starting Tuesday, June 7, at Yankee Stadium II. Under 2 weeks.

Days until the Red Bulls play another "derby": 14, on Saturday, June 11, against the team that should be considered their biggest rivals, the New England Revolution, at Red Bull Arena. Just 2 weeks. The next play the team that is usually considered their biggest rivals, D.C. United, on Saturday, July 9, at Red Bull Arena. And they next play their closest rivals, the Philadelphia Union, on Thursday night, October 20, at Red Bull Arena.

Days until Derek Jeter collects his 3,000th career hit: 29 (still estimated to come on June 26 -- his 37th birthday). Under a month.

Days until the next North London Derby: As yet unknown. The 2011-12 Premier League season begins on August 13, so it can't be any earlier than that. The schedule -- sorry, forgot to speak English there, the fixture list -- is usually released in the 2nd week in June.

Days until Rutgers plays football again: 108, on Thursday, September 1, home to North Carolina Central. Under 14 weeks.

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: 102, on Friday night, September 9, and the opponent and location are TBD. That would be 15 weeks.

Days until the Devils play another local rival: As yet unknown. The next season's schedule hasn't been released yet, save for the season-openers at the neutral but hockey-loving site of Helsinki, Finland, games that will include the Rangers. That will be on October 7. Figure the Devils' season opener will be the next day, which is 177 days from now. Figure they'll probably play a local rival, either the Rangers, the Islanders, or the Flyers soon thereafter, maybe a week after, so, tentatively, I'm going to say the number of days is: 140. That would be 19 weeks.

Days until the Rutgers-Army football game at Yankee Stadium: 168. Just 24 weeks.

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving clash: 180. Under 6 months.

Days until the last Nets game in New Jersey: 330 (estimated, as the 3rd Sunday in April 2012 is the 22nd). Less than 11 months, unless new owner Mikhail Prokhorov decides he'll stay in the Prudential Center, the great new arena he's already got.

Days until the 2012 Olympics begin in London: 426 (July 27).

Days until Alex Rodriguez collects his 3,000th career hit: 737 (estimated).

Days until Alex Rodriguez hits his 700th career home run: 859 (estimated).

Days until Super Bowl XLVIII at the Meadowlands: 981 (tentatively scheduled for February 2, 2014, although it could end up being moved back a week or 2).

Days until Alex Rodriguez hits his 756th career home run to surpass all-time leader Hank Aaron: 1,479 (estimated).

Days until Alex Rodriguez hits his 763rd career home run to become as close to a "real" all-time leader as we are likely to have: 1,593 (estimated).

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Answer to Fans Who Say, "Yankees Suck"

When you’re averaging only 18,020 fans per game – which means they’ve gone from 29th in Major League Baseball, ahead of only the Florida Marlins, to 28th, as the Oakland Athletics have dropped – it’s not a good idea to throw fans out of your stadium. Especially when he’s an original season-ticket holder, not to mention a holder of seven season tickets.

But that’s what happened to Melton Little, a lawyer from Palmetto, Florida and a charter STH of the Tampa Bay Rays, who, really, were acting like an expansion team here.

http://www.yardbarker.com/mlb/articles/huh_rays_fan_kicked_out_of_tropicana_field_for_wearing_yankees_suck_shirt/4791797

*

Now, I am old enough to remember when saying that something sucks, instead of saying it stinks, was definitely considered a profanity.

In his book Day By Day In New York Yankees History, Nathan Salant profiled the recently-completed World Championship season of 1978. He looked at the awful series the Yanks had that June at Fenway Park, and mentioned that the fans in Fenway’s bleachers were yelling at the Yankees’ biggest star, Mr. Reginald Martinez Jackson, yelling, “Reggie sucks!” Salant called this “One of the more printable mouthings, I might add.” Sounds like Sox fans haven’t changed much in 31 years. My guess is that the less printable mouthings may have involved a certain four-letter word starting with F, and I don’t mean “fair” or “foul.” Or even “free,” as in “free speech.”

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, my formative years as a sports fan, you couldn’t say, “You suck” or “(something) sucks” on television. I remember a couple of TV shows where the phrase “suck eggs” was used, but not “suck,” because, at the time, it would be assumed that it meant a certain sex act. Not that I was aware of such an act at the time. In spite of the voluminous vocabulary of the teenage population of 1980s East Brunswick, New Jersey, I don’t think I heard the term “cocksucker” until I saw Bull Durham for the first time. (Way to go, Crash.)

On October 14, 1982, in only its 3rd episode, Cheers aired an installment that starts with the Yankees beating the Red Sox 5-0 at Fenway in a game watched and the bar. A guy calling himself “Big Eddie” comes into the bar and winds them up for a few minutes. He recognizes Sam as a former Red Sox pitcher, and starts some good-natured banter. Sam's heard it all before ("What was it like, coming in with the bases loaded... and so were you?") and takes it in stride, but Carla (who, let's face it, was always in love with Sam) jumps on Eddie's back, grabs him by the ears, and starts slamming his head into the bar. (Refresh my memory: Which character was the alcoholic?) He threatens to sue unless Sam fires Carla, so Sam sends Carla to an anger-management class, and Eddie tests her, starting by saying, “Boston stinks.” Then, “This bar stinks.” It gets worse until Sam finally says, “What more do you want, Eddie?” He gives up, and, having insulted the Bruins, is met by a Bruin, who, we presume, gives Eddie his comeuppance outside. But the scriptwriters did not have him say “Boston sucks,” but “Boston stinks.” Which, to be honest, in some spots of the city, is much closer to the truth. (Oddly, the scriptwriter got one thing wrong: He has Eddie say the Yankees have won 23 World Series, one more than they actually had at the time.)

Big Eddie was played by Ron Karabatsos, who must’ve been cast because he looked like a typical loudmouth ethnic N’Yawkah. In fact, he was a cop in Union City, New Jersey and a pro wrestler calling himself the Golden Greek. He was also in the movies Prince of the City, Flashdance and Get Shorty. I can’t find any reference to whether he is still alive (he looked about 45 when the episode aired, which would make him close to 75 now), but I can confirm that he appeared in a movie as recently as 2004.

In September 1988, as the AL East race went into its home stretch with 5 teams still in it – the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Detroit Tigers, the Milwaukee Brewers and the Toronto Blue Jays – I was at a Saturday afternoon game in which the Yanks beat the Tigers. When it was over, I tried to get back into the Subway, but River Avenue was jammed with fans trying to get into the bars to see the NBC Game of the Week, which had the Red Sox. Everybody was chanting, “Boston sucks!” I remember thinking, “My God, this is what it’s like when the Sox aren’t even here? What’s it like when they are?” (The Sox ended up winning the Division. Three years later, I found out what a September Yanks-Sox game at The Stadium was like, although the Yanks weren’t in that race, but they did win.)

In 1990, CBS made a sitcom out of the John Hughes movie Uncle Buck, with Kevin Meaney taking the John Candy role. In the pilot, the little boy (Jacob Gelman, Macaulay Culkin in the movie) tells his uncle, “You suck!” As far as I know, this was the first time the phrase was used on mainstream TV. It hasn’t stopped. Shortly thereafter, the Saturday Night Live sketch Wayne’s World started, and continually used the word “sucked” to describe bad music, TV shows, movies, etc.

*

Did Melton Little deserve to get tossed from Tropicana Field for wearing a "Yankees Suck" T-shirt? No. He didn't even deserve this, although the sentiment is right:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0x-fkSYDtUY

Little says he bought the "Yankees Suck" T-shirt outside Fenway Park. Certainly believable. Just as you can get "Boston Sucks" and "Mets Suck" T-shirts on River Avenue across from Yankee Stadium. There's even one that mocks the Bahston Ahccent: "Bahston Sawks Cack." (Oddly, in England, "cack" doesn't mean "cock," it means "shit.")

There's also a T-shirt that says, on the front, "Okay, Sox fans, you were right, there never was a Curse," and on the back, "The Red Sox just sucked for 86 years!"

I do not own any of these T-shirts. Personally, I like the city of Boston. The reason people say, "Boston Sucks" instead of, "Red Sox Suck" is probably the awkwardness of the X-to-S sound. Yes, I want to say that the Red Sox stink and suck, but that's harder to say. Besides, it's usually not true: They're usually good.

To wit: In half of those seasons, 43 out of 86, the Sox were at least in the race until August. So they didn't suck in ALL 86 years.

Which brings to mind the opinion of Dan Shaughnessy, the great (if sometimes grating) sports columnist of the Boston Globe, who popularized (but did not originate) the idea of "The Curse of the Bambino." He's gone out of his way to say that, obviously, the Yankees don't suck, they're great. He still hates them, as any "good Red Sox fan" does, but he knows they don't suck.

That's the idea: Not that the Yankees suck (on anything), or that they stink, but that the fans who say so simply hate them.

During the first half of the Joe Torre Years, when the Yankees won 6 Pennants and 4 World Series in 8 years, when I heard "Yankees Suck," I said, "Yankees Suck Champagne."

Maybe that's it, the very simple response to anyone whose mouth or T-shirt says, “Yankees Suck”: Win a 27th World Series. Or a 1st (or 2nd, etc.) Then you can talk about who sucks.

Simple as that, baby.

Until you win as much as the Yankees have, don't tell me my team sucks. You wanna say you hate the Yankees? Fine. You wanna say you hate Yankee Fans? Fine.

But saying that the Yankees suck, when you can't match their field performance, or their box-office performance?

Whose team really sucks? Not mine.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How to Be a Yankee Fan In Seattle

The Yankees are traveling to the West Coast, beginning a 9-game stand against the Mariners, A's and Angels.

DISCLAIMER: I have never been to the Pacific Coast, so all of this information is secondhand at best, but much of it does come from the opposing teams' websites.

Before You Go. Seattle is notorious for rain, and according to the Seattle Times website, Friday and Saturday are supposed to have light rain. However, Safeco Field has a retractable roof, and it will probably be closed. Sunday is expected to be mostly cloudy, but no rainy, so the roof may be open. Outside temperatures should be around 60 in daylight, high 40s at night. You might want to bring a light jacket if you're going to be outside in Seattle after dark, even if it doesn't rain.

Getting There. It’s 2,856 miles from Yankee Stadium to Safeco Field. In other words, if you’re going, you’re flying.

You think I’m kidding? Even if you get someone to go with you, and you take turns, one drives while the other one sleeps, and you pack 2 days’ worth of food, and you use the side of the Interstate as a toilet, and you don’t get pulled over for speeding, you’ll still need over 2 full days to get there. One way.

But, if you really, really want to, well, you’re too late for this series. But in the future... Get onto Interstate 80 West in New Jersey, and stay on that until it merges with Interstate 90 west of Cleveland, then stay on 90 through Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, into Wisconsin, where it merges with Interstate 94. Although you could take I-90 almost all the way, I-94 is actually going to be faster. Stay on I-94 through Minnesota and North Dakota before re-merging with I-90 in Montana, taking it through Idaho and into Washington, getting off I-94 at Exit 2B.

Not counting rest stops, you should be in New Jersey for an hour and a half, Pennsylvania for 5:15, Ohio for 4 hours, Indiana for 2:30, Illinois for 2 hours, Wisconsin for 3:15, Minnesota for 4:30, North Dakota for 6 hours, Montana for a whopping 13 hours (or 3 times the time it takes to get from New York to Boston), Idaho for 1:15 and 6:45 in Washington. That’s 50 hours, and with rest stops, you’re talking 3 full days.

That’s still faster than Greyhound (70 hours, changing in Chicago, Minneapolis and Billings, $252 each way) and Amtrak (75 hours, 40 minutes, changing in Chicago, $377 each way). But flights, usually changing in Chicago, will be a lot more expensive.

In 2009, Seattle opened Link Light Rail, which includes SeaTac Station to get out of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and Stadium Station to get to Safeco and Qwest Fields.

Tickets. The Mariners are averaging just 19,151 fans per home game this season, and got 25,746 last season. So, even for a game against the Yankees, getting tickets shouldn’t be a problem.

Infield Lower Boxes will set you back $65, outfield Lower Boxes $44, Upper “View Boxes” $30, View Reserved $22, left field Bleachers $16, and center field Bleachers $8 – and you’ll be a lot closer than you would have been if you’d had similar seats at the Kingdome. Those might as well have been in Spokane.

Going In. The official address of Safeco Field is 1250 First Avenue South. First Avenue is the 3rd base side, the 1st base side is Atlantic Street/Edgar Martinez Drive, the left field side is Royal Brougham Way (Royal Brougham was the name of a Seattle sportswriter who championed the city as a site for major league sports, not a car or a booze), and the right field side is the railroad. With Safeco being at the southern edge of downtown, you’re likely to enter on the left field or 3rd base side.

Michael Kun and Howard Bloom, Red Sox fans and the authors of The Baseball Uncyclopedia, have said that Safeco is the best ballpark ever built, better (mainly because it’s more comfortable and convenient) than their beloved Fenway. It’s certainly a far cry better than its predecessor, the hideous concrete King County Domed Stadium, a.k.a. the Kingdome (1976-2000), but two things ruin the atmosphere: The roof hanging over right field makes it look less like a ballpark and more like an airplane hangar (the effect is worse in Houston, worse still in Milwaukee and worst of all in Phoenix), and being next to King Street Station, you’re going to hear almost as many train horns as you would hear planes in Flushing Meadow. But it’s still a pretty good ballpark.

Qwest Field, home of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks and MLS' Seattle Sounders, is just to the north of Safeco, across Royal Brougham Way, on the site of the Kingdome. It is regarded as the loudest outdoor facility in the NFL (especially now that the Washington Redskins have left compact RFK Stadium and moved to their far less atmospheric stadium in the suburbs), and it has one of the better soccer atmospheres in the U.S. as well. In case you're wondering, Safeco is an insurance company, and Qwest is a telecommunications outfit.

Food. As a waterfront city, and as the Northwest’s biggest transportation and freight hub, you might expect Seattle to be a good food city. Fortunately, Safeco lives up to this.

They have the usual ballpark fare, and stands for Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, Dippin’ Dots, and local favorites like Ivar’s Seafood & Chowder and Shiskaberry’s chocolate-dipped strawberries. There’s no Starbuck’s or Seattle’s Best Coffee stand, but the city’s coffee-soaked reputation is backed up with Grounds Crew Espresso.

Former Yankee 3rd baseman Mike Blowers, now a Mariners broadcaster, started a food-related team tradition in 2007. During an Interleague game against the Cincinnati Reds, a fan tried to catch a foul ball along the right-field line, but instead spilled his tray of fries along the track. While chatting on the air and seeing the mishap, Blowers' partner, Dave Sims, suggested that he should send a new tray of fries to the fan. Blowers agreed, and sent his intern to deliver a plate of fries to the man. However, on the next game, fans made signs and boards, asking Blowers for free fries as well. Coincidently, every time the fries were delivered, the Mariners seem to score or rally from a deficit, and thus the Rally Fries were created. This became so popular with the fans that signs were even seen when the Mariners were on the road, though Blowers doesn't award winners on the road. Sometimes, in the tradition of the game show Let’s Make a Deal, fans wear costumes to get Blowers’ attention. Silly? Sure, but it beats the Angels’ stupid Rally Monkey.

Team History Displays. The Mariners began play in 1977, and have never been to the World Series. There are only 3 teams in the 4 major North American sports that have waited longer to get to the Finals: The NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs (1967) and St. Louis Blues (1970), and the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks (have played in Atlanta since 1968 and haven’t reached the Finals since they were in St. Louis in 1961). If you count multiple cities, add the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals (1969/2005) and the NBA’s Sacramento Kings (have only played in Sacramento since 1985 but haven’t reached the Finals since they were in Rochester in 1951, beating the Knicks).

Nevertheless, the Mariners have won 3 American League Western Division titles, in 1995, 1997 and 2001, and also won the AL’s Wild Card in 2000. In ’95, they beat the Yankees in a remarkable AL Division Series before losing the AL Championship Series to the Cleveland Indians; in ’97, they lost the ALDS to the Indians, in 2000 they beat the Chicago White Sox and in ’01 they beat the Indians, in each case losing the ALCS to the Yankees. (Remember: 116 wins don’t mean a thing if you don’t get that ring!) The 3 Division Title banners hang in right field. There is no mention (as far as I know), anywhere in the stadium, of the Mariners’ Pacific Coast League predecessors, known as the Indians 1903-37, the Rainiers 1938-64 and again 1972-76, and the Angels 1965-68. Seattle won PCL Pennants in 1924, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1951 and 1955.

There’s a Mariners Hall of Fame display under the 3rd base stands. Members include Alvin Davis, Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez, and the late broadcaster Dave Niehaus. Although Gaylord Perry (who won his 300th game against the Yankees at the Kingdome in 1982), Goose Gossage, Rickey Henderson, manager Dick Williams and executive Pat Gillick have all been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, none have gotten in due to anything they did as Mariners.

The Mariners have not officially retired any numbers, aside from the universally-retired Number 42 for Jackie Robinson. But Martinez’s Number 11, Buhner’s 19, and Yankee player turned Mariner manager Lou Piniella’s 14 have not been given out since they left the team. Nor has Ken Griffey Jr.’s 24, except in Junior’s brief comeback to the club. But Randy Johnson’s 51 was given out to Ichiro Suzuki, for whom it will likely be retired someday.

Stuff. The main Team Store is located along the 3rd base side. Additional merchandise locations and novelty kiosks are open throughout the stadium during all home games.

Having never been to the World Series thus far, the Mariners don’t commemorate their history with many books, but there is an Essential Games of the Seattle Mariners DVD collection. It features only 4 games, as opposed to most of these (including the Yanks’ and Mets’) having 6: The 1995 AL West Playoff with the California Angels (as the Anaheim team was then officially known), forged when the Halos had an epic collapse and the M’s an equally amazing comeback; 1995 ALDS Game 5 (known to us as Donnie Baseball’s swan song), 2000 ALDS Game 3, and the 2001 AL West clincher against the Indians (not to be confused with the ’01 ALDS clincher).

During the Game. Wearing Yankee gear in Seattle, including inside Safeco Field, will not endanger your safety. Although Mariner fans hate the Yankees more than any other team, including their AL West opponents (the Angels, A’s and Texas Rangers), they are generally nonviolent. Laid-back, even: When Clay Bennett bought the NBA’s Seattle SuperSonics moved them to Oklahoma City, there was a lot of sadness, but not much of a protest, even though the Sonics had usually been good, and won the city’s last major championship (the 1979 NBA Title, their only title aside from the 1917 Stanley Cup won by the Seattle Metropolitans, the first time the Cup was won by a U.S. team, and that team folded in 1926).

The Mariners don’t have a lot to hold your attention during a game. Aside from the Rally Fries, there’s no special “Get Loud” device. No special song played after “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at the 7th Inning Stretch or after victories. And, aside from the late Edward McMichael, a.k.a. Tuba Man, there’s no really noticeable Mariner fans like New York cowbell men Freddy “Sez” Schuman and Milton Ousland (Yankees) and Eddie Boison (Mets).

Fitting in with the Pacific Northwest’s image, the team’s mascot is the Mariner Moose. You may remember a real moose walking through the streets of Cicely, Alaska in the opening sequence of the TV show Northern Exposure; that sequence was filmed in Roslyn, Washington, 82 miles down I-90 to the southeast of Safeco. You may also remember that, during the 1995 ALDS between the Yanks and M’s, the Moose was doing the artificial-turf equivalent of water-skiing behind an ATV, when he lost control and his rollerblades led him to crash into the outfield wall, breaking his ankle. He continued performing on crutches (though not doing the skating) through the rest of the Playoffs.

After the Game. SoDo (South of Downtown) is not an especially high-crime area, and, as I said, Mariner fans do not get violent. You might get a little bit of verbal if you're wearing Yankee gear, it won't get any worse than that.

Two bars are usually identified with Mariners and Seahawks games. Sluggers, formerly known as Sneakers (or “Sneaks” for short), is at 538 1st Avenue South, at the northwest corner of Qwest Field. A little further up, at 419 Occidental Avenue South, is F.X. McRory’s. Keep in mind, though, that these will be Mariner-friendly bars, not Yankee-friendly bars.

As for Yankee-friendly bars, while there are Yankee Fans everywhere, I couldn’t find anything specific on the Internet. I’ve been told that Goldie’s (2121 N. 45th Street), the Lucky 7 Saloon (12715 NE 124th Street in Kirkland) and Big Daddy’s Place (13420 NE 177th Place in Woodinville) are good for football Giants fans, but I cannot confirm any of these. And all are a fur piece from Safeco: Goldie’s is 6 miles north, the Lucky 7 is 18 miles northeast, and Big Daddy’s is 22 miles northeast.

Sidelights. Aside from the KeyArena and the Safeco/Qwest complex, Seattle doesn’t have a lot of sports sites worth mentioning. The PCL team played 2½ miles southeast of Safeco at 2700 Rainier Avenue South, first at Dugdale Field (1913-1932) and then at Sick’s Stadium (1938-68 and 1972-76). The Seattle Pilots, who lasted only one year, 1969, before being moved to Milwaukee to become the Brewers and are now chiefly remembered for ex-Yankee pitcher Jim Bouton’s diary of that season, Ball Four, also played at the ballpark (built by Rainiers’ owner Emil Sick), but the book gives awful details of the place’s inadequacy: As an 11,000-seat ballpark, it was fine for Triple-A ball in the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s; expanded to 25,420 seats for the Pilots, it was a lousy place to watch, and a worse one to play, baseball in anything like the modern era.

Elvis sang at Sick’s on September 1, 1957 (since it had more seats than any indoor facility in town); supposedly, a 15-year-old Seattle native named James “Jimi” Hendrix was there. A few days prior, Floyd Patterson defended the heavyweight title there by knocking out fellow 1956 Olympic Gold Medalist Pete Rademacher. Demolished in 1979 after the construction of the Kingdome (whose inadequacies were very different but no less glaring), the site of Sick’s Stadium is now occupied by a Lowe’s store. Mount Baker Link Station.

Erected for the 1962 World’s Fair (as seen in the Elvis Presley film It Happened At the World’s Fair), Seattle Center, north of the sports complex at 400 Broad Street, includes the city’s trademark, the 605-foot Space Needle ($18 admission but at least it’s open ‘til 11 PM with great views of the region’s natural splendor), plus the Pacific Science Center (think the Northwest’s version of the American Museum of Natural History and its Hayden Planetarium), the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame (not sure why Seattle was chosen as the Hall’s location, although the city is a major aerospace center), and the KeyArena, home of the WNBA’s Seattle Storm and formerly the SuperSonics. (The KeyArena was built on the site of the Sonics’ previous home, the Seattle Center Coliseum.) A high school football stadium is also on the site. Number 33 bus, although the nearest Link station is several blocks' walk away.

Aside from Seattle Center and its Space Needle, and the stadiums, Seattle’s best-known structure is the Pike Place Market. Think of it as their version of the South Street Seaport and Fulton Fish Market. (Or Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market, Baltimore’s Harborplace or Boston’s Quincy Market/Faneuil Hall.) Downtown, 85 Pike Street at Western Avenue.

Aside from the Pacific Science Center and the Science Fiction Museum, Seattle isn’t a big museum city, although the Seattle Art Museum, at 1300 1st Avenue at University Street, might be worth a visit.

Washington State Ferries offers service across Lake Washington to suburbs and islands, and to Victoria, the capital of the Canadian Province of British Columbia. It's a 2 hour, 45 minute, $137 round-trip voyage, and you will need a passport.

*

So, if you can afford it, go on out and join your fellow Yankee Fans in taking over the Mariners' ballpark. And if they bring up 1995, feel free to bring up 2000 and 2001.

Hey, Toronto: Exchange Rate THIS!

I was in Montreal on January 18, 2002, the date of the most favorable exchange rate the U.S. dollar has ever had with the Canadian dollar: US$1.00 = C$1.60.

Today, US$1.00 = C 98 cents.

Fortunately, the Yankees exchanged Monday's poor performance for back-to-back wins, to take 2 of 3 at home against Canada's team, the (Pesky) Toronto Blue Jays.

Last night, the Yankees got a home run from Russell Martin (his 9th), then fell behind 4-1 after 4 innings, but CC Sabathia (5-3) worked out of it, and did the bullpen a favor and pitched a complete game.

It was still 4-1 Jays going to the bottom of the 8th, but the Jays pulled starter Ricky Romero -- big mistake. A double by Robinson Cano and a single by Martin each drove in a run to make it 4-3.

In the bottom of the 9th, Jorge Posada pinch-hit against new Toronto pitcher Frank Francisco (1-2), and doubled to center. Chris Dickerson was sent in to pinch-run for him. Both good moves by Joe Girardi. Derek Jeter grounded out, moving Dickerson to 3rd. Down to their last out, the Yankees got a single from Curtis Granderson (the last of his 4 hits on the night) to send home Dickerson. Granderson stole 2nd, and Mark Teixeira singled him home.

Yankees 5, Blue Jays 4. A welcome walkoff win. And a pie in the face for Teix.

*

The Yanks took no chances this afternoon: A run in the 1st, an Andruw Jones homer in the 2nd, a Teix homer in the 3rd, and another Jones homer in the 6th, and the Yanks won, 7-3. WP: Freddy Garcia (3-4). LP: Jo-Jo Reyes (0-4), who dubiously tied the record of most consecutive decisions without a win: 28 straight losses, held by Anthony Young of the Mets in 1992-93. Reyes' last win game on June 13, 2008, in an Interleague game for Atlanta at Anaheim.

Mariano Rivera did something no human being, living or dead, has ever done. No, he didn't get a Met fan to admit that the DH is right. He pitched a scoreless 9th, his 1,000th appearance for the Yankees today. Although it was not a save situation, he becomes the first player to pitch 1,000 games for one team.

The Yankees have a travel day tomorrow, and head for the West Coast, first Seattle to play the Mariners, then Oakland to play the Athletics, then Anaheim to play the Angels. Coast trips have historically been trouble spots for the Yankees, and even though this hasn't really been the case since the Torre Years began, the Angels have often been a club that's had their number. Hopefully, they can take 2 of 3 against both the M's and the A's before walking into Gene Autry's baseball palace to face the Halos.

*

Rafael Soriano is out 6 to 8 weeks. That's the bad news. The good news... might be the same thing. He hasn't exactly been The Third Revelation. In fact, a few hitters have drunk his milkshake.

The weird thing is, I've never seen that movie. I just love that one scene.

*

Paul Splittorff, the high-kicking southpaw who was probably the source of the oft-disproven belief that "the Yankees can't hit lefthanders, especially in the postseason," was the Kansas City Royals' winningest pitcher and recently a broadcaster for them, has died of cancer at age 64. A tip of the cap to a nasty but worthy opponent, who drove the Yankees crazy in the 1976, '77, '78 and '80 American League Championship Series.

*

So the Yankees have dusted off Canada's Team. Or maybe "Canada's Team" is the Vancouver Canucks. They beat the San Jose Sharks to win the NHL Western Conference title, their first since 1994 when they lost the Stanley Cup Finals to... Let's not get into that.

The Canucks have played since 1970, and have never won the Cup. They also reached the Finals in 1982, losing to another New York Tri-State Area team. The Province of British Columbia hasn't won the Cup since 1925, the Victoria Cougars, the last Cup winner that was not the NHL Champion. And Vancouver hasn't won it since the 1915 Vancouver Millionaires, led by Frank Nighbor, Fred "Cyclone" Taylor and manager Frank Patrick, brother of Lester Patrick who was the first manager of the Rangers.

That's 96 years. And you thought the Rangers' 54-year drought was bad. Well, it was.

The last Canadian team to win their national sport's greatest trophy? The 1993 Montreal Canadiens, 18 years ago.

*

Tonight, on SNY: The Biggest Loser features Fred Wilpon trying to shed half of his dead weight.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Top 10 Bob Dylan Songs About Sports

Happy 70th Birthday to Robert Allen Zimmerman, a.k.a. Lucky Wilbury, a.k.a. Bob Dylan.

Top 10 Bob Dylan Songs About Sports

10. “Idiot Wind.” Seems to blow a lot on ESPN. And I’m not just talking about during Pardon the Interruption, when Tony Kornheiser (who is NOT a teenage girl) tells Michael Wilbon that, tonight, as usual, instead of a sports broadcast (on ESPN or otherwise), he’s going to watch American Idol. At which point Wilbon will say, "Tony, watch sports! Be a man!"

9. “Positively 4th Street.” You think you got next on the West 4th Street Courts in Greenwich Village? “You got a lot of nerve to say you got a helping hand to lend. You just want to be on the side that’s winning!”

8. “Highway 61 Revisited.” Okay, the Minnesota Twins didn’t “put some bleachers out in the sun and have it out on Highway 61” when they built Target Field, but U.S. Route 61 does go through nearby St. Paul, only a short drive away.

7. “License to Kill.” Apparently, Pedro Martinez thinks he’s the hero of this story.

6. “Rainy Day Women #s 12 & 35.” For Ricky Williams: “I would not feel so all alone: Everybody must get stoned!”

5. “Tangled Up In Blue.” The current state of the finances of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Or would that be tangled up in red? (Tape or ink.)

4. “Catfish.” The one Dylan song (that I know of) that is actually about sports, in honor of James Augustus Hunter, the first free agent: “Catfish, million-dollar man, nobody can throw a ball like Catfish can.” Dylan even has Catfish striking out his once and future teammate, Reggie Jackson.

3. ”Blowin’ In the Wind.” Or, the story of how the San Francisco Giants had to get out of Candlestick Park before they could win a World Series. This is something for the Wrigley-bound Chicago Cubs to consider.

2. “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.” All too often, including in the world of sports, some people won’t even think once. Which leads us to...

1. “Like a Rolling Stone.” Scottie Pippen, 1999. Alex Rodriguez, 2007. Kobe Bryant, 2008. Tiger Woods, 2009. Terrell Owens anytime. How does it feel to be on your own? (Cue Drew Rosenhaus: “Next question!”) That A-Rod and Kobe did win after that doesn’t make it any less of a good analogy.

While "When I Paint My Masterpiece" is a great song, it is not about the impressionistic sports-themed artwork of LeRoy Neiman.

Peskiness Is a Virtue

The Pesky Blue Jays of Toronto came into Yankee Stadium II last night, to start a 3-gamer before the Yankees' first West Coast trip of the season. And, just as the Yankees rode a single big inning to wipe out 8 not-so-good ones against The Other Team the day before, the Jays rode a 5-run 6th to wipe out what could have been a good Yankee win.

(Is there any such thing as a bad win? Well, somebody could get hurt during it.)

Jays 7, Yanks 3. WP: Carlos Villanueva (2-0). LP: Bartolo Colon (2-3).

Jose Bautista hit his League-leading 19th homer off Colon. That's 19 homers before Memorial Day, a pace for over 60. I think it's time to test him for steroids.

Not much good to take from this game. Hector Noesi pitched 3 innings of 1-run relief of Colon, his 2nd big-league appearance, giving him a career ERA of 1.29 and keeping his won-lost record at 1-0. Okay, that won't last, but strictly in terms of "Was he good?" his career record is 2-0. Alex Rodriguez got 2 hits, though neither was a home run, leaving him on 622. Brett Gardner also got 2 hits.

The Yankees remain tied for first with the Tampa Bay Rays, one game ahead in the loss column. The Red Sox are half a game back, one in the loss; the Jays now a game and a half back, two; the Baltimore Orioles 3 1/2 back, 3. The AL East race is as tight Mickey & Billy halfway through a night out on the town.

Jeter 2975 25
Rivera 572 29
A-Rod 622 141
Magic Number 116 (to eliminate Scum, 115 for the other 3 teams)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

We 8 the Mets

Fans of English soccer teams occasionally have shirts that say...

(TEAM NAME)
4
EVER

Or...

WE
8
(RIVAL TEAM NAME)

Today, we 8 Mets.

The Yankees trailed the Mets 3-1 going into the bottom of the 7th inning. But during that inning, it became necessary to call the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, because the Mets became radioactive and had a meltdown:

* Brett Gardner led off and singled to center.

* Chris Dickerson drew a walk, sending Gardner to 2nd.

* Mike Pelfrey, who'd been pitching pretty well for the Mets over 6, hit Francisco Cervelli with a pitch. I'm presuming this was unintentional. This loaded the bases with nobody out.

* Derek Jeter singled to center, driving in Gardner and Dickerson. 3-3 tie.

* Met manager Terry Collins pulled Pelfrey, bringing in Tim Byrdak. Tim who?

* Curtis Granderson bunted to 3rd, moving Cervelli to 3rd and Jeter to 2nd. That's the first out of the inning.

* Collins orders Byrdak to intentionally walk Mark Teixeira. This sets up a double play, potentially getting out of the inning with the score still tied. But it also brings to the plate Alex Rodriguez, who has more grand slams than any player not named Lou Gehrig.

* Collins replaces Byrdak with Pedro Beato.

* A-Rod grounds to 3rd, and Willie Harris can't make the play. Cervelli scores. 4-3 Yanks. Bases remain loaded. Still only 1 out.

* Robinson Cano singles to right. Jeter scores. 5-3 Yanks. Bases remain loaded. Still only one out.

* Jorge Posada takes a called 3rd strike. He disputes it, and one of the Mets' own broadcasters (I think it might have been Ron Darling) agreed that it was low. Strangely, it looked like a strike to me. 2 out.

* Collins pulls Beato for Pat Misch. That's the 4th Met pitcher of the game. And of the inning.

* Gardner bats for the 2nd time in the inning, and doubles to left. Teix and A-Rod score. Cano goes to 3rd. 7-3 Yanks.

* Dickerson bats for the 2nd time in the inning, and singles to left. Cano and Gardner score. 9-3 Yanks.

* Cervelli bats for the 2nd time in the inning, and reaches on fielding error by Harris. Dickerson goes to 2nd.

* The carnage finally ends when Jeter his a 2010-onward "typical Jeter" grounder to 2nd.

8 runs, 6 hits, 2 walks, 1 error, 1 hit batsman. 3 of the Yankees' hits in the inning came on the first pitch.

WP: Luis Ayala (1-0), in relief of Ivan Nova, who didn't pitch badly, but was not the Yankees' last pitcher before the 8-run explosion. No save. LP: Pelfrey (3-4).

So the Yankees take 2 of 3 from The Other Team, putting them back in their place.

The Pesky Blue Jays of Toronto come to town, as we return to AL and AL East normalcy. I hate Interleague play.

Jeter 2975 25
Rivera 572 29
A-Rod 622 141
Magic Number 117 (to eliminate Scum, 116 for Rays, 115 for Jays, 114 for O's)

One, Two, Three Four, Get the Met Fans Off the Floor!

The Mets took a 2-0 lead in the 1st last night, and I was thinking, oh, here we go, "Bad A.J." again.

Fortunately, A.J. Burnett settled down, and, to paraphrase a song...

My Yankees hit the ball from the yard. They're my team, and they're better than yours. Damn right, they're better than yours. They could teach you, but they'd have to charge.

Unless, of course, they ARE your team -- and, since you're reading this, they probably are. I just like saying that. (No, I don't know what team Kelis roots for, or even if she likes baseball. She is from New York, but, considering the song in question is called "Milkshake," she might lean toward the Mets and their Shake Shack.)

Here's the roll of the not one, not two, not three, but four home runs the Yankees hit last night:

Russell Martin hit his 8th home run of the season, 62nd of his career, in the 2nd.

Mark Teixeira hit his 12th home run of the season, 287th of his career, in the 3rd.

Curtis Granderson hit his 16th home run of the season, 141st of his career, in the 6th.

Alex Rodriguez hit his 9th home run of the season, 622nd of his career, also in the 6th.

Final: Yankees 7, Other Team 3. WP: Burnett (5-3). LP: Chris Capuano (3-5), who gave up all 4 Yankee dingers.

The series wraps up this afternoon, Ivan Nova vs. Mike Pelfrey.

Oh, by the way, the Yankees are back in first place. Amazingly, the Red Sox, after their 0-8 start, caught up to the Rays (who had a 1-8 start) yesterday before losing last night. The Yanks and Rays are now tied, but the Yanks lead by 1 game in the loss column. The Sox are half a game (1) back, the Blue Jays (who come to town tomorrow) 1 1/2 (2), and the Orioles 4 (4).

NY Yankees 24 20 -
Tampa Bay 25 21 -
Boston 24 21 0.5
Toronto 23 22 1.5
Baltimore 20 24 4.0

Jeter 2973 27
Rivera 572 30
A-Rod 622 141
Magic Number 118 (to eliminate Rays, 117 for Scum, 116 for Jays, 115 for O's)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

How Yankee Fans and Met fans Think

This is how a Met fan sees the two teams:

New York Mets, World Champions, 1888, 1889, 1890, 1899, 1900, 1904, 1905, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1916, 1917, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1933, 1936, 1937, 1941, 1947, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956, 1969, 1973, 1986, 2000.

(You see, all the Pennants won by the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers count with theirs, because of the continuous history of National League Baseball in New York City, and the World Series that the 3 teams lost don't count because the National League is superior to the American League, always has been, always will be.)

New York Yankees, no championships because they CHEAT!

*

This is how a Yankee Fan sees the two teams:

27 > 2. 7 > 2 from 1969 onward. 5 > 0 from 1987 onward. Any questions?

It's Not the End of the World

Losing to the Mets is not the end of the world, but it still sucks.

Mark Teixeira hit his 11th homer in the 3rd, but that was one of only 4 hits the Yankees got off knuckleballer R.A. Dickey (2-5). Freddy Garcia (2-4) pitched well, but a run in the 4th and a homer by Daniel Murphy in the 6th made the difference. Mets 2, Yankees 1. (Francisco "You Want a Piece of Me?" Rodriguez got his 15th save.)

As was the case during their recent 6-game losing streak, the Yankees wasted a lot of opportunities. In the immortal words of Yankee Fan Billy Crystal, "I hate when that happens!"

The Yankees scored 13 runs in Baltimore on Thursday night. Saving any 2 of those for last night would've meant the game. Saving and 1 of them would have meant at least extra innings.

A.J. Burnett goes against Chris Capuano at 7:10 tonight. We need hits and runs, and we need "Good A.J."

I hate the Mets. The world is not coming to an end today... but let's make the Mutts and their fans wish it had!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Top 5 Reasons Interleague Play Needs to Stop

You know how "fat chance" and "slim chance" mean the same thing? Well, I was originally going to title this post "Top 5 Reasons Why Interleague Play Needs to Stop," then decided to make it "Top 5 Reasons Why Interleague Play Needs to Go." Then I remembered that my first title was better, and then realized that both titles mean the same (George Carlin word)ing thing!

Anyway... Tonight, at Yankee Stadium II, which isn't, or shouldn't be, any friendlier to the fucking Mets than the original -- oops, I guess I used a George Carlin word there, but that's okay because, A, It's my blog and I can use whatever damn language I please; and B, I think it was Carlin who first made the fat/slim chance comparison...

The Yankees start Interleague play for the 2011 season, with 3 games against The Other Team, a.k.a. the Mess, a.k.a. the Mutts, or, as they are officially known, the Metropolitan Baseball Club of New York.

Or, as they'd be known if they were an English soccer team, "Metro BC." And the Yankees would be known as "Pinstriped Badasses United."

* Tonight, 7:05, on My9 (WWOR, formerly WOR, formerly the Mets' station), Freddy Garcia vs. Robert Alan Dickey and his wonderful knuckleball that has brought him a grand total of 34 victories, with 42 losses and a 94 career ERA+. Hey, he's only 36: By knuckleballers' standards, he's just gettin' warmed up. Garcia is 34 and has won 135 against just 90 losses with a 110 career ERA+.

* Tomorrow night, 7:10, on Fox, A.J. Burnett vs. Chris Capuano. He's a Met, but, in case you needed another reason to dislike him, he's from Springfield, Massachusetts, which makes him a citizen of Red Sox Nation. Time to deport him!

* Sunday afternoon, 1:05, on YES and TBS, Ivan Nova vs. Mike Pelfrey. (Cubs vs. Scum is the ESPN Sunday night game.)

Elsewhere in Interleague play this weekend:

* MARC series (Maryland Rail Commuter), Washington Nationals at Baltimore Orioles.

* Battle of Missouri and rematch of the 1985 World Series, St. Louis Cardinals at Kansas City Royals.

* Battle of the Bay and rematch of the 1989 World Series, Oakland Athletics at San Francisco Giants.

* Battle of Ohio, Cincinnati Reds at Cleveland Indians.

* Battle of Florida, Tampa Bay Rays at Florida Marlins (who will officially become the "Miami Marlins" next season when their new ballpark opens on the site of the demolished Orange Bowl).

* Rematch of the 1909 World Series, Detroit Tigers at Pittsburgh Pirates.

* Rematch of the 1918 World Series, Chicago Cubs at Boston Red Sox -- the Cubs' first trip to Fenway Park since then, believe it or not.

* Rematch of the 1959 World Series, Los Angeles Dodgers at Chicago White Sox.

* The Cliff Lee series, Texas Rangers at Philadelphia Phillies.

* Starbucks vs. Surfers, or perhaps a "Pearl Jam series," Seattle Mariners (where the band was formed) at San Diego Padres (Eddie Vedder's home town).

* Mondale vs. McCain, Minnesota Twins at Arizona Diamondbacks.

* Confederacy vs. Disneyland, Atlanta Braves at Whatever the Fuck They're Calling Themselves This Year Angels of Anaheim.

* And teams from foreign countries, Houston Astros (Texas) at Toronto Blue Jays (Canada).

* In the one intraleague matchup, the Colorado Rockies visit the Milwaukee Brewers, battle of the beer (Coors vs. Miller), although that would have been an Interleague matchup from 1993 to 1997.

*

Something has got to happen to make this annual snore-fest start appealing to me again. The novelty wore off many years ago. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm sick of the Subway Series and I'm sick of interleague play.
-– Bernadette Pasley, “Lady At the Bat” -- see link to the right


I agree completely. It's not only that, but, as Mike Baumann said on MLB.com -- which is only The Official Website of Major League Baseball...

The NL has not won the overall Interleague series since 2003. In the last six seasons, the AL has a winning percentage of .561. In American politics, there is a term for what occurs when a candidate wins 55 per cent or more of the vote. That word is "landslide."

So Interleague Play over the last six years can fairly be described by this sentence. "The AL won by a landslide."


Or, to put it another way: Over a 162-game season, a winning percentage of .561 will win you 91 games. That might be enough to get you into the Playoffs.

The Yankees' all-time record against the Mets is 49-34, or a percentage of .590. Over 162 games, that's 96 wins. That will almost always get you into the Playoffs.

So the Yankees' dominance of the Mets is indicative of the fact that the American League is vastly superior to the National League.

Met fans, a.k.a. the Flushing Heathen, place a great importance on the National League. They treat it almost as something holy. When their parents and grandparents, the fans of the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers, lost their teams in 1957 (and, let's be honest, while the Dodgers can be said to be stolen, Giant owner Horace Stoneham had a point when he said, "I feel bad for the kids, but I haven't seen too many of their fathers lately," so they weren't stolen, they were forfeited), these fans whined that there was no more National League baseball in New York.

Ignoring the fact that there was still MAJOR league baseball in New York -- something for which, at that point, fans in the following cities that now have MLB teams would have killed for at the time: Minneapolis, Houston, Atlanta, San Diego, Seattle, Toronto, Denver, Phoenix, Miami and Tampa. Not to mention Montreal, which got a team and then got screwed out of it; Louisville, which has been waiting to get MLB back since 1899; or Buffalo, which has been waiting since 1885!

And said major league team remaining in New York was... the champions of its league for the 3rd straight year and the 23rd time in the last 37 years! And, as it turned out, these fans were willing to trade it for... a team that lost 737 games in its first 7 years? And played the first 2 of them in a crumbling relic in a bad neighborhood, and then moved into a concrete football stadium with more planes going overhead than London during the Blitz?

Have I ever mentioned my belief that Met fans are idiots?

But they still hold the National League as something special, even holy. Why? It can't be their irrational hatred of the designated hitter, because the DH didn't arrive in the American League until 1973. It can't be that the NL is "real baseball," because there was a time in the Seventies when over half the NL's stadiums (7 out of 12) had artificial turf and all but 2 (10 out of 12) were in multipurpose stadiums that were better for football than baseball! (Oddly, the only remaining stadiums with turf are Tampa Bay and Toronto, and the only ones still shared with a pro football team are Oakland and Toronto, all in the AL.)

Anyway, here's the record: Only once has a team swept all 6 games in a season, the Yankees in 2003; the Yanks took 5 in 2009; the Yanks took 4 of 6 regular-season games in 2000 and '01 while the Mets did so in '04 and '08; the Yanks took 2 out of 3 in the first 2 seasons, 1997 and '98; and even splits occurred in 1999, 2002, '05, '06, '07 and '10. And, of course, the Yankees won 4 games to 1 in the 2000 World Series.

Now, as much as I hate the Mets, and always enjoy putting the Flushing Heathen in their place (2nd place, at least as far as the New York Tri-State Area is concerned), you would think that I would like Interleague play to continue indefinitely.

Wrong. I'll get to my reasons in a moment.

And you would think that, given the humiliations that the Yankees have put on the Mets over the years (the 2000 World Series, the Mets only getting the advantage twice in 14 seasons, the Yanks having the only regular-season sweep, winning Mayor's Trophy Games in the Sixties and Seventies while the Yankees were winning, you know, Pennants; and Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, David Cone and Joe Torre all winning more World Series rings as Yankees than as Mets), Met fans would paraphrase Samuel L. Jackson in Snakes On a Plane, and say, "Enough is enough! I have had it with these motherfucking losses in this motherfucking Interleague play!"

But, no, Met fans still look at these games like they're something special. They even use the term "Subway Series." No, you dumbasses, it's not a "Subway Series" unless it happens in the World Series. And there will never be another Subway Series unless A) it's Cubs vs. White Sox, an "El Series" or "Loop Series," and that hasn't happened since 1906, partly because, between them, they've won just 1 Pennant since JFK was elected; B) it's Giants vs. A's, a "BART Series," and even that may never happen against because the A's might move; or C) the Dodgers' financial woes become so bad that they actually have to right the now-ancient wrong and move back to Brooklyn where they belong.

Anyway... And this is not just for the sake of the Yankees, or the Mets, or either team's fans.

Top 5 Reasons Why Interleague Play Needs to Stop.

5. It messes up the schedule. For example, the Yankees only have 2 series per year against the AL Central teams, while having 2 series per year against the Mets and 1 against rotating divisions. Seriously, if you're a Yankee Fan, what would you rather do: Go see the Yankees play in Chicago against the White Sox, or sweat out 15 pounds of water on your way into the domes of Houston or Phoenix, 2 cities which don't have nearly as much to do as, oh, I don't know, Chicago? Or Cleveland? Or Minneapolis? Or Detroit, if you dare? Or even Kansas City? (Everything MIGHT be up to date in Kansas City these days.)

4. Too many matchups nobody cares about. The Marlins tarp over the upper deck at Dolphins Stadium (or whatever corporate name the damn thing is called this season) because they can’t sell out the 67,000 seats that are available in a baseball configuration. (They also can’t sell out the 38,000 seats said tarping-over now limits them to. In fact, they’re currently averaging 17,000, and the series they’re starting tonight against their trans-Florida rivals won’t help much, since the Rays are averaging only 18,000 fans a night, and it’s 252 miles between their stadiums.)

Even 2 of baseball’s classic teams, the Detroit Tigers and Pittsburgh Pirates, who play each other this weekend, won’t generate a lot of attendance. Seriously, maybe they can wear copies of the uniforms that they wore against each other in the 1909 World Series, but unless the Pirates' Honus Wagner and the Tigers' Ty Cobb come back from the Great Ballpark in the Sky (assuming Cobb somehow got to heaven), I don’t think PNC Park is going to have a full house of 38,000 this weekend.

3. The 2000 World Series. Face it, the only reason Interleague play existed at all was to make the 4 metropolitan areas that had 2 teams, 1 in each League, play each other: Yankees vs. Mets, Cubs vs. White Sox, Dodgers vs. Angels, Giants vs. A’s. (In each case, I’m listing the older team first; in each case, the older is also the more popular in that metro area.)

Yankees vs. Mets, and Giants vs. A's, have now happened in October, when it matters. Cubs vs. White Sox? Supposedly, their fans hate each other as much as Yanks & Mets fans, but there's a lot more overlap in the City of the Big Shoulders. Yankee Fans almost always root for the (football) Giants, Knicks, and either Rangers or Devils; Met fans, traditionally, almost always rooted for the Jets, Nets and Islanders, before the opening of the Meadowlands made some fans realign due to geography. There are not many Yankee/Jet fans, or Met/Giant fans (though there were some of the latter caused by the bandwagon year of 1986). I know some Met fans who also root for the Devils or Rangers, but very few Yankee Fans who also root for the Islanders. And with the Nets becoming a lame-duck team in 2004, throw the NBA loyalties out the window. But in Chicago? It doesn't matter what side of the baseball divide you fall on: You root for the Bears, the Bulls and the Blackhawks.

I don't know if there's any crossover in Southern Cal, and the moves of the Rams and Raiders changes that, and the distance between downtown L.A. and Orange County means more geographic solidity. But, let's face it, Dodger fans don't hate the Angels as much as they hate the San Francisco Giants. And Angel fans? They might hate the Dodgers, but the team they probably hate the most is not the A's up the coast, but... surprise, the Yankees.

Giants/49ers and A's/Raiders makes sense, but if they watch the other sports at all, they share the Warriors and the Sharks. Do Giants and A's fans hate each other? Not nearly as much. On the official 1989 World Series highlight film, there were a lot of people showing up at the Oakland Coliseum and Candlestick Park wearing stuff from both teams. One guy on the tape turned 2 jackets into a half-and-half, and another, wearing a half-and-half cap, held up a sign saying, "IF I GOTTA PICK -- GO A'S." If? If? Here's a way to decide: You hate the Dodgers? Then you root for the Giants; otherwise, you root for the A's.

2. Either have leagues, or don’t. In 2000, Commissioner Bud Selig eliminated the offices of the AL and NL Presidents. (Today, Jackie Autry, widow of Gene and former owner of the Angels, is the "honorary president" of the AL, while Bill Giles, Phillies co-owner and son of former NL President Warren Giles, for whom the NL trophy is named, is her NL counterpart. Their sole duty is to give the trophy to the Pennant-winning owner.) The 2000 season was also the first one in which the separate leagues' umpiring squads were dissolved and combined. (There are 22 active umpires who started out doing only NL games, 16 doing only the AL.) And since 2000, there are no "American League balls" and "National League balls" used in games, with the stamped signatures of the League Presidents, just "Major League Baseballs" with Selig's signature on them.

Apparently, the only reason there are still separate Leagues at all is that this is the way it has always been done. And we've seen what Seligula thinks about that. After all, he was the owner of the one team since 1892 to actually switch Leagues (the Milwaukee Brewers started in the AL in 1970 and moved to the NL in 1998).

So it stands to reason that, one day, Selig or his successor will do a radical realignment, so that MLB, like the NBA and the NHL, will have divisions based solely on geography and not on the ages of the teams. Though I've tried to lay it out, and while the Atlantic (Yanks, Mets, BoSox, Phils, O's & Nats) and Pacific (Dodgers, Angels, Padres, Giants, A's and Mariners) Divisions would work out all right, I'm convinced that, in order to make it work, there will have to be either expansion, contraction, or some team or other not just moving, but from one part of the country to another. (Heads up, Orlando, Charlotte and Salt Lake City!)

1. We already HAD Interleague play. It was called “the World Series.” There was something neat -- both as in "tidy" and as in "cool" -- to see two championship teams square off without having met in the regular season.

Interleague play had its time. And, like the color barrier, refusal to play games on Sundays or at night, artificial turf, non-retractable roofs, and uniforms with brightly-colored pullover jerseys and elastic waistbands, that time has come and gone.

In fact, last year should have been the last year for Interleague play. You know why? Because the World Series turned out to be between the San Francisco Giants and the Texas Rangers, and clinched at what's now called Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, with the Giants winning. This was the exact combination for the first-ever regular season Interleague game, on June 12, 1997. That would have been a fitting way to put an end to it.

Maybe the Yankees can put up the best possible argument for ending it: Sweeping the Mets. Nah, we tried that in 2003, and it didn't work. Oh well: Do it anyway!

Meet the Mets! Meet the Mets!
Step right up and beat the Mets!
Bring your kiddies, and bring your wife!
They'll beat the Mets to within an inch of their life!
Because the Mets are really dropping the ball!
They've got their backs up against the wall!
East Side, West Side
everyone's watching them go down!
'Cause they're the M-E-T-S, Mets
the New York clowns!