Saturday, September 29, 2012

Russell Martin, le Bête Magnifique Quebecois!

Last night, the Baltimore Orioles pounded the Boston Red Sox.  Thanks for nothing, ya dumb Chowdaheads.

So the Yankees really needed to beat those pesky Blue Jays in Toronto.

They got off to a good start, giving Hiroki Kuroda a 2-0 lead before he ever had to take the mound, and all with 2 outs, no less: Alex Rodriguez singled to center, Robinson Cano did the same, and Nick Swisher doubled him home.

Maybe Swish should text with Derek Jeter more often.  (The authors of the blog Bleeding Yankee Blue will get that joke -- see link to the right.)

The Yanks added another run in the 2nd.  Raul Ibanez led off with a single, Russell Martin drew a walk, Eric Chavez drew a walk.  You load the bases with nobody out, and you expect to get more than one run.  Well, Jeter grounded into a double play to score Ibanez, and then Ichiro Suzuki grounded out to end the inning.  3-0 Yankees, but it should have been much more.  Cody Rasmus hit one out to pull a run back for the Jays in the 5th, 3-1.

The top of the 6th turned out to be the key inning.  Robinson Cano led off, and Jays starter Brett Cecil -- accidentally, it appears -- hit him on the wrist.  X-rays showed no break, and he is expected to play today.  Swisher singled to left.  Looked like a good setup, but Curtis Granderson and Ibanez struck out.

It was then that Jays manager John Farrell pulled a move right out of Joe Girardi's binder: He replaced his pitcher after back-to-back strikeouts.  Out came Cecil, in went Jason Frasor.

The batter was Russell Martin.  He came into the game batting .208, having had an awful season in that regard -- but was one home run short of 20.  A native of Montreal, it's only natural that he would have an intense dislike of Toronto.  If any Yankee was going to come through last night, it would have been appropriate for him to be the one.

John Sterling: "Swung on, and there it goes, drilled to deep left! It is high! It is far! It is gone!"

Or, as he would have said if he spoke French like Martin and the good people of Montreal, "
Et là il va, a entraîné profondément pour partir ! C'est haut ! C'est éloigné ! Il est allé !"

Russell Martin, le Bête Magnifique Quebecois!

(That's "The Magnificent Beast from Quebec.")

6-1 Yankees.  It didn't stop there: Chavez walked, and singles be Jeter and Ichiro brought him home.  7-1.

Chavez would later hit his 15th home run of the season, but the rest isn't really worth reporting.  Final score: Yankees 11, Blue Jays 4.

WP: Kuroda (15-11).  LP: Chad Jenkins (0-3).

The Magic Number to clinch the AL East is down to 5.  There are 5 games left.  If the Yanks win 3 of 5, the Orioles will have to win 4 of 5.  "Control your own destiny."

The series is resuming even as I type, with Andy Pettitte starting against Ricky Romero.  The Orioles play the Sox at Camden Yards tonight.

If the Yankees win today, and the Texas Rangers beat the Whatever They're Calling Themselves This Season Angels of Anaheim (a 4:00 start, Eastern Time), the Yankees will clinch at least a Playoff spot, reaching their 51st postseason in 110 years of play.  (52 if you count being in 1st place when the Strike of '94 hit, leading to the cancellation of that year's postseason.)

Come on you Bombers!

*

Today marks the 58th Anniversary of Willie Mays making "The Catch." From that game, on September 29, 1954, only 6 players are still alive.  From the Giants: Mays, left fielder Monte Irvin, and shortstop Alvin Dark.  For the Indians: Third baseman Al Rosen, first baseman Bill Glynn, and pinch-runner Rudy Regalado.  (Giant right fielder Don Mueller and Indian right fielder Dave Philley – who did play for the Phillies for 3 years – both died within the last year.)

Friday, September 28, 2012

How to Be a Met Fan in Miami

The Mets close out yet another lost season in Miami, playing the Miami Marlins -- formerly the Florida Marlins.  The team that did what the Mets wouldn't, or couldn't do: Sign Jose Reyes.

DISCLAIMER: While I have been to Orlando and Tampa, I have never been to Miami; therefore, all of this information is secondhand. However, I have based it on information from local sources, including the Marlins’ own website, so it is presumably accurate and up-to-date.

Before You Go.  It's South Florida: Presume that it will be hot, and that it will be rainy. This is why the new ballpark has a retractable roof.  Most likely, it will be closed.  Check the Miami Herald website for their local forecast before you go.

Getting There. It’s 1,283 miles from Times Square in New York to downtown Miami.  Knowing this distance, your first reaction is going to be to fly down there. This is not a horrible idea, but you’ll still have to get from the airport to wherever your hotel is. If you’re trying to get from the airport to downtown, you’ll need to change buses – or change from a bus to Miami’s Tri-Rail rapid transit service. And it is possible, if you order quickly, to find nonstop flights, lasting 3 hours, for under $600 round-trip.

The train is not a very good idea, because you’ll have to leave Penn Station on Amtrak’s Silver Star at 11:02 AM and arrive in Miami at 6:05 the next day’s evening, a 31-hour ride. The return trip will leave at 8:20 AM and return to New York at 11:06 AM, “only” 27 hours – no, there’s no time-zone change involved. Round-trip, it’ll cost $434. And the station isn’t all that close, at 8303 NW 37th Avenue. Fortunately, there’s a Tri-Rail station there that will take you downtown.

How about Greyhound? There are 5 buses leaving Port Authority every day with connections to Miami, only one of them nonstop, the 10:45 PM to 7:30 AM (2 days later) version. The rest require you to change buses in Richmond and Orlando. (I don't know about changing buses in Orlando, but I have changed buses in Richmond, and I can tell you: It is not fun.) The ride, including the changeovers, takes about 33 hours. Round-trip fare is $318. The station is at 4111 NW 27th Street and, ironically, is right across 42nd Avenue from the airport. It’s worth the fact that it’ll cost twice as much to simply fly down. Plus, you might be reminded of the end of the movie Midnight Cowboy, and nobody wants to be reminded of that.

If you want to drive, it'll help to get someone to go down with you, and take turns driving. You’ll be going down Interstate 95 (or its New Jersey equivalent, the Turnpike) almost the whole way. It’ll be about 2 hours from the Lincoln Tunnel to the Delaware Memorial Bridge, 20 minutes in Delaware, and an hour and a half in Maryland, before crossing the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, at the southern tip of the District of Columbia, into Virginia. Then it will be 3 hours or so in Virginia, another 3 hours in North Carolina, about 3 hours and 15 minutes in South Carolina, a little under 2 hours in Georgia, and about 6 hours and 15 minutes in Florida before you reach downtown Miami. Given rest stops, preferably in one in each State from Maryland to Georgia and 2 in Florida, you’re talking about a 28-hour trip.

Tickets. The Marlins are averaging 27,347 fans per game – an increase of 9,000 per game last season, despite their awful season, due entirely to moving from the suburban stadium they shared with the Dolphins and into the new Marlins Park.  Although they opened strong as an expansion franchise in 1993 with 37,838, and were doing well in 1994 with 33,695 before the strike hit, only in their 1997 World Championship season, 29,190, and in, this season, have they since topped 24,000. Even in their World Championship season of 2003, they averaged just 16,290. Although Sun Life Stadium (the 7th name the facility has had in its 24 years of operation) has 75,192 seats for football and, during World Series play, topped out at 67,498, much of the upper deck was tarped off, and official baseball capacity was 38,560, turning what could be the largest stadium in the majors into one of the smallest.  And still, they couldn't sell it out.

Official capacity of Marlins Park is 36,742 -- and they're still 9,000 short of capacity.  So getting tickets will probably not be problem: Pretty much anything you can afford will be available.

Base Reserved seats go for $75 and $45.  Baseline Reserved are $35 and $30.  Bullpen Reserved, in the outfield, are $25 and $20.  In the upper deck, Vista Boxes are $25 and $20, and Vista Reserved are $20 and $13.

Going In. The official address of Marlins Park is 1390 NW 6th Street.  It's between 4th and 6th Streets, and 14th and 16th Avenues.  Three of these streets have specialized names for the stretches that border the park: 16th Avenue is Marlins Way; 4th Street is Bobby Maduro Drive, after the Cuban baseball executive who was forced to flee his native land during Fidel Castro's revolution and had the old Miami minor-league stadium named in his honor; and 6th Street is Felo Ramirez Drive, after the legendary baseball and boxing announcer who has been the main Spanish radio voice of the Marlins from day one in 1993, and is a winner of the Baseball Hall of Fame's Ford Frick Award for broadcasters.

Since 1984, Miami has had a rapid-transit rail service, Metrorail.  However, the ballpark isn't all that close to it.  You will need to take the Number 7 bus from downtown.

Due to South Florida’s climate – the city probably gets more rain than any other in the major leagues, including Seattle – the ballpark was built with a retractable roof, going from the 1st base side across to left field.

The park points southeast, but is west of downtown, so you can't really see Miami's skyline from inside.  Which is too bad, because Miami is undergoing a building boom, including the "Biscayne Wall" along the waterfront.  The seats are all a bright blue.

Food. With a great Hispanic, and especially Cuban, heritage, and also being in Southeastern Conference country (hello, tailgating), you would expect the baseball team in Miami to have great food at their stadium.  They certainly go heavy on the regional cuisine at Taste of Miami, behind Section 27: Cuban sandwiches, Pan con Lechon, Chicharron, Fish Ceviche, Cuban coffee and Mariquitas.  This is not to be confused with the Miami Mex taco stand at Section 4.

Burger 305 (named for the city's original Area Code) has several stands, and includes a "Miami Shrimp Burger." There's 3 Sir Pizza stands -- after all, what would Miami be without Italian senior citizens? There is a Kosher Korner at Section 1 -- after all, what would Miami be without Jewish senior citizens? Brother Jimmy's BBQ, introduced to New York sports at the new Yankee Stadium, is at Section 8.

Team History Displays. Not much. The Marlins hang outfield banners for their 1997 and 2003 World Championships, their only trips to the postseason. The only retired number they ever had was for Carl Barger, their team president, who organized the team for the start of the 1993 season and then died right before it. He was a friend of Joe DiMaggio, who lived in nearby Hollywood, Florida, and threw out the first ball at the Marlins’ first game. In Barger’s memory, and in connection with his friendship with the Yankee Clipper, Huizenga retired Number 5 for Barger, who never wore it – not even for fun.  But this year, it was unretired, and awarded to highly-rated prospect Logan Morrison.  So, now, the only retired number they recognize is the universally-retired Number 42 of Jackie Robinson.

The team did honor Barger with a plaque, but that's hardly the same thing, unless it's part of a team Hall of Fame display, which they don't have: Not a display, nor a team Hall of Fame.  Nor even an all-time team as chosen by the fans, although, with next year being the team's 20th Anniversary, that may come.

There are 2 players who played for the Marlins who are in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown: Miami native Andre Dawson, and former manager Tony Perez, both of whom currently work in the Marlin organization.  It should be noted, though, that Perez never played for the Marlins, and Dawson only did so for the last 2 years of his career, a grand total of 121 games.  They have as many broadcasters "in the Hall of Fame" as they do uniformed personnel: Felo Ramirez, and Dave Van Horne, who came down from the Montreal Expos when Jeffrey Loria essentially moved the Expos' organization, if not its players, in 2002.

Stuff. The Marlins have team stores in the stadium, but nothing out of the ordinary: Caps, jerseys, T-shirts, bats, gloves, stuffed Billy the Marlin dolls.

A few books have been written for the Marlins, and may be available in the team stores. Dan Schlossberg, Miami Herald columnist Dave Barr, Kevin Baxter and Marlin star Jeff Conine collaborated on Miracle Over Miami: How the 2003 Marlins Shocked the World. Jenny Reese wrote The History of the Florida Marlins, published in 2010.

One book you will almost certainly not see in the stores is Dave Rosenbaum’s book about how original owner Huizenga “went all in” to win the 1997 World Series, then broke the team up, going from 92-70 that season to 54-108 the next, having practically come out and told everyone that a 100-plus-loss next season was likely. The title of the book? If They Don’t Win It’s a Shame. (Yeah, tell that to the Giants, who they beat in the NLDS and who had never yet won a Series in San Francisco; and to the Indians, who blew a 9th-inning lead in Game 7 of the Series and still haven’t won a Series since 1948.)

Although the Marlins have won 2 World Series and have been around for nearly 20 years now, there is, as yet, no commemorative DVD of their World Series highlight films, and no The Essential Games of the Florida Marlins DVD.

During the Game. South Florida is loaded with people who came from elsewhere, including ex-New Yorkers. The stereotype is that, when a New Yorker gets old, if he has enough money to do so, he moves to Miami. Especially if he’s Jewish. Or Italian. As a result, you may see a lot of Met fans, few of whom switched to the Marlins. You may run into a few Yankee Fans who adopted the Marlins are their “second team” or their “National League team,” although how many of them kept that status after the 2003 World Series is debatable.  (Blast you, Jeff Weaver – Alex Gonzalez sure did.)

I don't know if your safety will be an issue. The new ballpark, on the site of the Orange Bowl, is in a questionable neighborhood.  However, if you leave your car at the hotel and take the bus in, the police presence will probably mean you're protected from the local criminal element.  As for the Marlin fans, you will almost certainly be fine. Miamians might fight if they’re at a Dolphins game -- or a University of Miami Hurricanes game, especially against the University of Florida or Florida State -- and provoked by visiting fans, but not at a Marlins game.

The Marlins’ mascot is Billy the Marlin, whose name was chosen by Huizenga because a Marlin is a “billfish” – and it has nothing to do with Billy Martin, in spite of the character’s large nose. Billy sometimes “water-skis” in behind a golf cart built to look like a boat. Any resemblance to Richie Cunningham driving the boat that allowed the Fonz to jump the shark on Happy Days is strictly coincidental.

Worse than a dopey mascot, the Marlins have cheerleaders. No, I’m not making this up: They are the one MLB team with cheerleaders. Or, as they would put it, a dance/cheer team. The Marlins Mermaids debuted in 2003.

As noted Phillies fan Bill Cosby would say, “Don’t ever say, ‘It can’t get any worse. It can always get worse!’” In 2008, the team debuted the Marlins Manatees, an all-male “dance/energy squad” who perform alongside the Mermaids. You want to blame the Yankees for having the grounds crew dance to “YMCA,” go ahead, that’s one “Yankee Tradition” I don’t like, anyway; but this, as noted Met fan Oscar Madison (Jack Klugman on The Odd Couple) would say, is as ridiculous as Aristophanes.

Marlins Park is 344 feet down the left field line, 386 to left-center, 420 to the furthest point, the left-center "Bermuda Trinagle," 418 to straightaway center, 392 to right-center, and 335 down the right field line.  Every bit as much as the Dolphins' stadium, this is a pitcher’s park.

There's funky (or tacky, depending on how you look at it) artwork all over the place, including the tropic-themed Home Run Sculpture in left field.  And then there's "The Clevelander." Something the Marlins captured during their 1997 World Series win over the Indians, maybe? Nope, it's something they call "South Beach Comes to the Ballpark!" They have a poolside bar and grill, restricted to fans age 21 and over.  In other words, it's the Arizona Diamondback's right-center-field pool kicked up a notch.  It's something that does not belong at a ballpark.

The Marlins do not have a regular song to play in the 7th inning stretch after "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." Nor do they have a postgame victory song.  It could be worse, they could play Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine.

After the Game.  As I said, the Marlins Park area is a bit rough.  My advice is to get back downtown as soon as possible, and either look for a nightspot there, or get across the Causeways to Miami Beach, or stay in your hotel and try their bar..

I checked for area bars where New Yorkers gather, and found one for each of the city’s NFL teams.  J.C. Wahoo’s Sports Bar and Grill is supposedly the home of the South Florida fan club of the Giants. But it’s at 3128 N. Federal Highway (yes, the same U.S. Route 1 that goes through The Bronx and New Jersey) between Northeast 31st and 32nd Streets, 40 miles north of downtown – further north than Fort Lauderdale, or even Pompano Beach, almost up to Boca Raton. It’s not even all that close to the Dolphins' stadium. The South Florida Jets Fan Club meets at Hammerjack’s, at 5325 S. University Drive in Davie, 24 miles north of downtown, although a plausible destination for when the Jets go down there.

Sidelights. Miami’s sports history is long, but aside from football, not all that involved.  Marlins Park is, as I said, on the stadium known as the Miami Orange Bowl.  It opened in 1937, and was known as Burdine Stadium until 1959.  It was best known for hosting the Orange Bowl game on (or close to) every New Year’s Day from 1938 to 1995, and the NFL's Miami Dolphins from their debut in 1966 until 1986.

It was home to the University of Miami football team from 1937 to 2007 (famed for its fake-smoke entrances out of the tunnel).  It was also the home of, if you count the All-America Football Conference of the 1940s, the first "major league" team in any of the former Confederate States: The 1946 Miami Seahawks.  But the black players on the Cleveland Browns would not accept being housed away from their white teammates in segregated Florida, and in that league, what the Browns wanted, the Browns got.  So the Seahawks (in no way connected the NFL's Seattle team of the same name) were moved to become the Baltimore Colts after just 1 season.

The Orange Bowl also hosted the Bert Bell Benefit Bowl, a game involving the 2nd-place teams in each of the NFL’s divisions from 1960 to 1969, a charity game, a glorified exhibition game.  Also known as the Playoff Bowl, it was considered so lame that Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi publicly called it “the only game I never want to win” – and he didn’t.  The stadium also hosted the Miami Toros of the North American Soccer League from 1972 to 1976.

And it hosted 5 Super Bowls, most notably (from a New York perspective) Super Bowl III, when the Jets beat the Colts in one of the greatest upsets in sports history, on January 12, 1969. Super Bowl XIII, in 1979, was the last Super Bowl to be held here; all subsequent South Florida Super Bowls, including the one the Giants won this past February, Super Bowl XLVI, have been held at the Dolphins’ stadium.

The Orange Bowl was where the Dolphins put together what remains the NFL’s only true undefeated season, in 1972. The Canton Bulldogs had gone undefeated and untied in 1922, but there was no NFL Championship Game in those days. The Chicago Bears lost NFL Championship Games after going undefeated and untied in the regular seasons of 1932 and ’42. And the Browns went undefeated and untied in the 1948 AAFC season, but that’s not the NFL. The Dolphins capped their perfect season by winning Super Bowl VII, and then Super Bowl VIII. And yet, despite having reached the Super Bowl 5 times, and Miami having hosted 10 of them, the Dolphins have never played in a Super Bowl in their home region. (They’ve done so in New Orleans, Houston, San Francisco, and twice in Los Angeles.)

They also haven’t been to one in 26 seasons, or all of their history in their new stadium. Curse of Joe Robbie, anyone? Which brings me to...

* Sun Life Stadium.  Better known by its original name, Joe Robbie Stadium, after the Dolphins' original owner (although legendary entertainer Danny Thomas also had a stake in the team in its first few years).  The Marlins reached the postseason here twice, in 1997 and 2003, and won the World Series both times.  In other words, they've never lost a postseason series.  Contrast that with the Dolphins: Only once, in their first 25 seasons in the Dolphin Tank, did they even reach the AFC Championship Game (January 1993, and they lost at home to the Bills).  But don't think that the stadium was better for the Marlins: It was a football stadium, with a baseball field wedged into it, and not really adequate for the horsehide game.  It is, however, still regarded as one of the better stadiums in the NFL, despite having been built before Camden Yards rewrote the rules of stadium construction.

Now that the Marlins are out, the official address of the stadium is 347 Don Shula Drive, for the number of games Shula was as an NFL head coach -- although that counts the postseason, and the games he won as boss of the Colts.  (But not Super Bowl III, which he lost as coach of the Colts.) It's between NW 199th and 203rd Streets (199th is renamed Dan Marino Blvd.), and NW 21st and 26th Avenues.  Take Metrorail toward Palmetto, and get off at the Martin Luther King Jr. station. (I doubt if a sports stadium in the Miami suburbs was a part of Dr. King’s dream, although stadiums and performing-arts venues with racially-integrated seating, particularly in the South, sure was.)

* Comfort Inn. This hotel, across 36th Street from the airport, was the site of the Playhouse, once considered one of South Florida’s finest banquet halls. It was here, on January 9, 1969, 3 days before the Super Bowl, at a dinner organized by the Miami Touchdown Club, that Joe Namath of the Jets was speaking, and some drunken Colts fan yelled out, “Hey, Namath! We’re gonna kick your ass on Sunday!” And Joe said, “Let me tell you something: We got a good team. And we’re gonna win. I guarantee it!” He was right. NW 36th Street between Curtiss Parkway and Deer Run. MetroRail toward Palmetto, to Allapattah Station, then transfer to the 36 Bus.

* Site of Miami Stadium. Also known as Bobby Maduro Stadium, this was the home of the original Miami Marlins, of the Florida State League. Seating 13,000, it was known for its Art Deco entrance and a roof that shielded nearly the entire seating area, to protect fans from the intense Miami weather. The FSL team that played here was known as the Sun Sox from 1949 to 1954, the Marlins from 1956 to 1960, the Marlins again 1962 to 1970, the Miami Orioles 1971 to 1981, and the Marlins again from 1982 to 1988.  It was the spring training home of the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1950 to 1957, the Dodgers in their first season in Los Angeles in 1958 (it can be said that “the Los Angeles Dodgers” played their first game here, not in California), and the Baltimore Orioles from 1959 to 1990.

It was demolished in 2001, and The Miami Stadium Apartments were built on the site. 2301 NW 10th Avenue, off 23rd Street. It’s just off I-95, and 8 blocks north and east from the Santa Clara MetroRail station.

* American Airlines Arena. The "Triple-A" has been the home of the NBA’s Miami Heat since 2000, including their 2006 and 2012 NBA Championship seasons.  601 Biscayne Blvd. (U.S. Routes 1 & 41), between NE 6th and 8th Streets, across Port Blvd. from the Bayside Marketplace shopping center (not exactly their version of the South Street Seaport) and the Miami outlets of Hooters, the Hard Rock Café and Bubba Gump Shrimp. The closest rapid-rail station is Overtown – ironically, the same stop for the previous sports arena…

* Site of Miami Arena. Home of the Heat from their 1988 debut until 1999 (the new arena opened on Millennium Eve, December 31, 1999), and the NHL’s Florida Panthers from their 1993 debut to 1998, this building was demolished in 2008. Only 20 years? When the Overtown race riot happened in January 1989, just before Super Bowl XXIII, area residents took great pains to protect this arena from damage (and the Miami area from the public-relations nightmare that would have occurred had there been a riot during Super Bowl week), and succeeded. Apparently, like the multipurpose stadiums of the 1960s and ‘70s, and the Meadowlands Arena and (soon?) the Nassau Coliseum, it served its purpose – getting teams to come in – and then quickly became inadequate. 701 Arena Blvd., between Miami Avenue, NW 1st Avenue, and 6th and 8th Streets. Overtown/Arena rail station.

* Bank Atlantic Center. The home of the Panthers since 1998, and there’s a reason the team is called “Florida” instead of “Miami”: The arena is 34 miles northwest of downtown Miami, and 14 miles west of downtown Fort Lauderdale, in a town called Sunrise. 1 Panther Parkway, at NW 136th . If you don’t have a car, you’d have to take the 195 Bus to Fort Lauderdale, and then the 22 Bus out to the BAC.

* Miami Beach Convention Center. Opened in 1957, it seats 15,000 people. The American Basketball Association’s Miami Floridians played here from 1968 to 1972. The 1968 Republican Convention, and both major parties’ Conventions in 1972, were held here. Why? Simple, they wanted to be away from downtown, putting water between themselves and wherever the hippies and another antiwar demonstrators were staying.

This building hosted the heavyweight title fights of 1961 (Floyd Patterson-Ingemar Johansson III, Floyd won) and 1964 (Cassius Clay-Sonny Liston I, Clay winning and then changing his name to Muhammad Ali).  Just 9 days before Ali forced his “total eclipse of the Sonny,” on February 16, 1964, the Beatles played their 2nd full-length U.S. concert here. (A photo exists of the Beatles visiting Ali at his Miami training center, and he knocks the 4 of them over like dominoes.) Elvis Presley gave a pair of concerts here on September 12, 1970.

Convention Center Drive between 17th Street and Dade Blvd. The Jackie Gleason Theater, where “The Great One” taped his 1960s version of The Jackie Gleason Show (including a revival of The Honeymooners) is next-door. This, and any other Miami Beach location, can be reached via the 103, 113 or 119 Bus, or car, over the MacArthur Causeway.

* Coconut Grove Convention Center. This former Pan Am hangar, attached to the Dinner Key Marina, has been used as a Naval Air Station, convention center, concert hall and sports arena (the Floridians played a few home games here). It’s also been known as the Dinner Key Auditorium. On March 1, 1969, The Doors gave a concert here, and lead singer Jim Morrison supposedly committed an indecent act there. (Yeah, he told the crowd, “I’m from Florida! I went to Florida State! Then I got smart and moved to California!”) Pan American Drive at 27th Avenue. Number 102 Bus to Number 48.

* Gusman Center for the Performing Arts. Formerly the Olympic Theater, Elvis sang here on August 3 and 4, 1956. 174 E. Flagler Street, downtown.

Several TV shows have been set in Miami. A restaurant called Jimbo’s Place was used to film scenes from Flipper and Miami Vice, and more recently CSI: Miami and Burn Notice. It’s at 4201 Rickenbacker Causeway in Key Biscayne, accessible by the Causeway (by car) and the 102 Bus (by public transportation). Greenwich Studios has been used to film Miami Vice, True Lies, There’s Something About Mary and The Birdcage. It’s at 16th Avenue between 121st and 123rd Streets, in North Miami, and often stands in for Miami Beach for the TV shows and movies for which it’s used. 93 Bus.

The penthouse used by the Kardashian Sisters to tape Kourtney & Khloe Take Miami is on Ocean Drive between 1st and 2nd Streets in Miami Beach, but I don’t think they use it anymore, especially since Kourtney and Kim have now “taken New York.”

If you’re a fan of The Golden Girls, you won’t find the house used for the exterior shots: It’s actually in Los Angeles.

*

You don't have to be old to be a New Yorker in Miami -- but it helps to be a sports fan. Who knows, the Mets might even get a little bit of revenge for those season-ending series of 2007 and '08.

Bad Night, But Still In the Driver's Seat

The Yankees blew a big chance to kick their Magic Number down from 6 to 5, by unleashing a stinker against those pesky Blue Jays in Toronto.

Or maybe, considering yesterday's discussion, instead of "unleashing," I should have said "uncorking."

Ivan Nova started, and he didn't have much.  The Jays scored 2 runs in the 3rd inning and 2 more in the 5th to knock him out of the box (12-8).  Not that it mattered, because the Yankees only got 5 hits off Brandon Morrow (9-7): 3 by Robinson Cano and 2 by Russell Martin (who pushed his batting average all the way up to .209).

So, here's where things stand in the American League Eastern Division, with 6 games to go:

* The Yankees are 90-66.

* The Baltimore Orioles are 89-67, trailing by 1 game with 6 to play.  The Yankees' number to eliminate them from the race is 6: Any number of Yankee wins and Oriole losses adding up to 6 will clinch the Division for the Yankees.

* The Tampa Bay Rays are 86-70, 4 games back.  The number to eliminate them is 3, although they are on an 8-game winning streak that has seriously helped their bid for at least a Wild Card berth.

* The Jays and the Boston Red Sox are both 69-87, 21 games out, and neither was ever a fact this season.  It was a 3-team race by the end of April, and, at least theoretically, it still is a 3-team race, and neither the Sox nor the Jays were one of those teams.

Essentially, the Yankees have to match the Orioles' performance over the last 6 games of the regular season: If the Yankees go 0-6, they can't win the Division unless the O's also go 0-6, because the O's going 1-5 would produce a tie for 1st place.  There will not be a Playoff in the event of a tie.  The 1st tiebreaker is head-to-head competition, and that's they split their 18 meetings this season, 9-9.  The 2nd tiebreaker is intradivisional record, and the Yankees are 36-30 vs. the other AL East teams thus far, while the O's are 39-27.  The Yanks going 0-6 and the O's going 1-5 would leave the Yanks at 36-36 while the O's would be 40-32, and the O's would win the Division.  Even if the O's also go 0-6, the Rays are still in the mix, but in these circumstances they would have to go 4-2.  If the Yankees go 1-5, they can't win the Division unless the O's also go 1-5.  And so on.

Looking at it the other way: If the Yanks go 6-0, it doesn't matter what the O's do.  If the Yanks go 5-1, the O's would have to go 6-0.  If the Yanks go 4-2, the O's would have to go 5-1.  And if the Yanks split the last 6, the O's would have to go 4-2.

The Yankees had a 10-game Division lead on July 18, and still led by 5 as late as August 19, but blew it.  Yet, with 6 games left, the Yankees are still in the driver's seat.  Or, if you really want to make the Cliche Meter ring, the Yankees control their own destiny.  Every time they win over the next 6 days, the O's can get no closer.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

How to Be a Met Fan in Atlanta - 2012 Edition

The Mets are about to continue the playing out of the string by going to go to Atlanta to face their old pals, the Braves.

Despite beating them in the first-ever National League Championship Series in 1969, the Mets and Braves were really only rivals for a brief time, roughly 1998 to 2001. In each of those seasons, the Braves won the NL Eastern Division and the Mets finished 2nd, just missing the Wild Card in '98, getting it before losing to the Braves in the NL Championship Series in '99, then catching a break in 2000 when the Braves lost to the St. Louis Cardinals, who then lost to the Mets. Who then, of course, lost the World Series to the Yankees.

Now that the Phillies have gotten good, the Mets are, for the first time in their history, really, seeing what a rivalry is.

DISCLAIMER: I have never been to Atlanta.  Much of this information is from the Braves' website. And, of course, with the series starting tomorrow, you won't have much of a chance to put any plan based on this entry into action. Sorry, but due to commitments in the real world, the delay couldn't be helped.

Before You Go. Being well south of New York, Atlanta is usually warmer than we are. In addition, Turner Field does not offer much protection from the sun.  The website of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (used to be 2 papers, now 1) is predicting low 80s for afternoons and mid-60s for evenings, with a 30 percent chance of rain on Saturday.  So dress for warm weather, even though we're in late September.  They don't call it "Hot-lanta" just for its nightlife.

Although Georgia, a.k.a. The Heart of the South, seceded from the Union in 1861, it was readmitted in 1870. You do not need a passport, and you don't need to change your U.S. dollars into Confederate money. Do keep in mind, though: They think you talk as funny as you think they do.

Getting There. It's 868 miles from Times Square in New York to Five Points, Atlanta's center of attention. Google Maps says the fastest way from New York to Atlanta by road is to take the Holland Tunnel to Interstate 78 to Harrisburg, then I-81 through the Appalachian Mountains, and then it gets complicated from there.

No, the best way to go, if you must drive, is to take the New Jersey Turnpike/I-95 all the way from New Jersey to Petersburg, Virginia. Exit 51 will put you on I-85 South, and that will take you right into Atlanta.

You'll be in New Jersey for about an hour and a half, Delaware for 20 minutes, Maryland for 2 hours, inside the Capital Beltway (Maryland, District of Columbia and Virginia) for half an hour if you're lucky (and don't make a rest stop there), Virginia for 3 hours, North Carolina for 4 hours, South Carolina for about an hour and 45 minutes, and Georgia outside I-285 (the beltway known as the Perimeter, the Atlanta Bypass or "the O around the A") for an hour and a half.

Throw in traffic in and around New York at one end, Washington in the middle, and Atlanta at the other end, and we're talking 16 hours. Throw in rest stops, preferably in Delaware, near Richmond, near Raleigh, and in South Carolina, and it'll be closer to 19 hours.  Still wanna drive? Didn't think so.

Take the bus? Greyhound has plenty of service between the two cities, if you don't mind paying $243. Yeah. Even with high gas prices, that's not better than driving. And, at 20 hours each way (including an hourlong stopover in Richmond, Virginia), it saves you no time. At least the station is downtown, at 232 Forsyth Street at Brotherton Street, by the Garnett station on the subway.

Take the train? Amtrak's New York-to-New Orleans train, the Crescent, leaves Penn Station at 2:15 PM and arrives at 8:13 AM the next morning. nd the round-trip fare is $516. Ye gods. It's as long as driving and riding the bus, and costs more than twice as much as the bus.  The station is at 1688 Peachtree Street NW at Deering Road, due north of downtown.  Take the 110 bus into downtown.

So unless you can con someone into sharing the driving and the gas costs, the best way to get from New York to Atlanta is by plane.  If you don’t mind making a stopover at Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, then, if you book now, US Airways can get you from Newark Liberty International Airport to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (named for 2 late Mayors of Atlanta) for $442 round-trip. True, that's almost as expensive as the train, but 4½ hours each way beats the hell out of 18.

The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) subway from Hartsfield to Five Points takes just half an hour. A single trip on any MARTA train is $2.50 -- a little higher than New York's $2.25. A 10-trip is no bargain at $25. The subway started running with tokens in 1979, and switched to farecards in 2006.

When you get to your hotel in Atlanta (and, let's face it, if you went all that way, you're not going down for a single 3-hour game and then going right back up the Eastern Seaboard), pick up a copy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It's a good paper with a very good sports section. The New York Times may also be available, but, chances are, the Daily News and the Post won't be.

Unfortunately, the MARTA subway does not get all that close to Turner Field. To make matters worse, the ballpark is separated from downtown Atlanta by the intersection of Interstates 20 and 75/85, so unless you've got a hotel within a 10-minute walk of the ballpark, you're not going to walk there. But, if you didn't drive down, or fly and then rent a car, the Number 55 bus goes from Five Points Station, the centerpoint of MARTA, to Turner Field.

Turner Field is at the intersection of Capitol Street SE and Love Street SE, but the official address is 755 Hank Aaron Drive SE.

Be advised that a lot of streets are named Peachtree, which can confuse the hell out of you, and the city uses diagonal directions on its streets and street signs, much like Washington, DC: NW, NE, SE and SW.

Tickets. The Braves rarely sell out, except for the World Series. Even during the 1999 NLCS, Met fans found it not so difficult to get tickets at the 50,097-seat Turner Field. So for a regular-season game, even for a team that just clinched a Wild Card berth, it should be a snap. The Braves are averaging 29,117 per game, less than 60 percent of capacity.

Since the opponent is New York, premium pricing will be used. The most expensive seats, the Henry Aaron Seats right behind home plate, go for $95. Field Reserved go for $60, Terrace Infield for $55, Field for $50, Terrace View for $40, Terrace Reserved for $39, Upper Box for $26, and Upper Pavilion seats, in the upper deck from first base to right field, are $13. For games against less-demanding teams, they're just $6. No, that's not a misprint: Six dollars.

Going In. You do not have to worry about wearing Mets, or any other team's, gear in Turner Field. Braves fans will generally not act like New York, Philadelphia or Boston fans and get snippy (or worse, rough) because of it.

Most fans will enter at the stadium's north entrance, N Gate. There's also E, SW and NW gates (East, Southwest and Northwest).

"The Ted" was named after broadcasting mogul and former Braves and NBA Atlanta Hawks owner Ted Turner. His real name is actually not Theodore, but Robert Edward Turner III – after Robert E. Lee. Since his father was already "Bob," he went with Edward, and, like a number of people named Edward, including the late Senator Kennedy of Massachusetts, his "Edward" became "Ted."

Outside The Ted are statues of Braves greats Henry "Hank" Aaron and Phil Niekro, and the greatest baseball player born in Georgia, Ty Cobb. Although Jackie Robinson was born in Georgia, he grew up outside Los Angeles, so while his Number 42 is posted with the Braves' retired numbers, there is no statue of him outside Turner Field.

Inside, expect the usual post-1992, post-Camden Yards concourses, lighting, and decorations (team-specific, of course).  While the park is south of downtown and open at its north end, don't expect to see a nice view of skyscrapers: The field points northeast, technically away from downtown, and the Atlanta skyline isn't all that impressive to someone from New York.  To someone from Chattanooga, maybe.

Food. Son, Ah say son, this bein' the South, y'all can expect good food and good hospitality. You want the usual ballpark fare, including hot dogs and beer? They got 'em and they got 'em good. You want Southern specialties such as fried chicken and barbecue? They got that, too.

As with most of these new parks, they have higher-end restaurants, too: The Braves Chophouse (a.k.a. "Top of the Chop") and, in yet another thing named after Aaron, the 755 Club. Not sure what the dress code is for a Southern ballpark’s high-end restaurant, but don’t look to the "You might be a redneck" jokes of Atlanta-suburbs native and major Braves fan Jeff Foxworthy for inspiration: If you have any doubt as to whether what you've got would be appropriate for the same kind of restaurant at Citi Field or Yankee Stadium II, don't go in.

If you don't mind their stance on social issues, the Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A has stands behind Sections 139, 202 and 333.  If you need a taste of good old N'Yawk, there's a Pasta Bar behind Section 47.

Team History Displays. As stated, there are statues of Cobb, Aaron and Niekro outside. In the parking lot north of the park, where Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium used to be, there is a chain-link fence about where the left-center-field fence was, and, at the approximate location of where it landed, then the Braves' bullpen, is the marker that used to be on the wall behind it, honoring Aaron's record-breaking 715th career home run, April 8, 1974.

On the facing of the left-field stands, the Braves have placed their retired numbers, with their pennants further along in left-center. Number 3, Dale Murphy, 1980s outfielder; Number 6, Bobby Cox, 1990s-2000s manager; Number 21, Warren Spahn, 1940s-50s pitcher; Number 29, John Smoltz, 1990s-2000s pitcher; Number 31, Greg Maddux, 1990s-2000s pitcher; Number 35, Phil Niekro, 1960s, '70s and '80s pitcher; Number 41, Eddie Mathews, 1950s-60s 3rd baseman and 1970s manager; Number 44, Hank Aaron, 1950s, '60s and '70s right fielder; and Number 47, Tom Glavine, 1990s-2000s pitcher (known to Met fans as "the Manchurian Brave"). Jackie Robinson's Number 42 is also displayed there.

The Number 25 of 1990s-2000s center fielder Andruw Jones (now with the Yankees) is not currently assigned, and I suspect it will be retired as well.  Larry Wayne Jones Jr., a.k.a. Chipper Jones, now in his final days as an active player, will probably have his Number 10 retired.

Inside Turner Field, the Ivan Allen Jr. Braves Museum and Hall of Fame (named for the man who was Mayor when the Braves arrived) contains various items from Braves history, including the club's tenures in Boston (1871-1952) and Milwaukee (1953-1965).

In addition to the preceding, the Hall's members include the following: Boston-era players Herman Long, Kid Nichols, Tommy Holmes and Johnny Sain; Milwaukee-era players Del Crandall, Lew Burdette and Ernie Johnson Sr. (father of basketball broadcaster Ernie Johnson Jr.); Atlanta players Ralph Garr and David Justice; team owners Bill Bartholomay and Ted Turner; team executives Bill Lucas (MLB's first black general manager) and Paul Snyder; and broadcasters Johnson, Skip Caray and Pete van Wieren.

Those pennants on the left-center-field façade can seem awfully impressive, until you remember that only 1 of them is for a World Championship, 1995. Then there’s 4 that are for Pennants where the Braves went on to lose the World Series: 1991, '92, '96 and '99. And the 11 Division Championships where the Braves did not go on to win the Pennant: 1969, '82, '93, '97, '98, 2000, '01, '02, '03, '04 and '05.

Strangely, while the Braves include the retired numbers of Spahn, who pitched for them in Boston and Milwaukee, and Mathews, who played only his last season as a Brave in Atlanta, they do not include the Pennants the team won in Boston (National Association 1872, '73, '74, '75; NL 1877, '78, '83, '91, '92, '93, '97, '98, 1914 & '48) or in Milwaukee (1957 & '58), or the 1914 (Boston) or 1957 (Milwaukee) World Series wins with those flags.

And, let’s not forget, while the fact that most of those flags came from 1991 to 2005, the relative dearth of them from 1966 (actually 1959 if you count Milwaukee) to 1990 shows that the Braves haven’t been nearly as successful a franchise as you might think. True, in Boston, they were the greatest American sports franchise of the 19th Century; and they were at least in the Pennant race in nearly all of their 13 seasons in Milwaukee; but from 1899 to 1990, 92 seasons, they won only 4 Pennants – as many as the Mets have in 51 years, and a rate about as bad as the Chicago White Sox (5 in their first 104 years), Cleveland Indians (5 in their first 110 and 3 in their first 94), and Philadelphia Phillies (5 in their first 125 and 4 in their first 110).

Stuff. You can get pretty much anything you want, from T-shirts with names and numbers of long-gone players to team-oriented DVDs, in the souvenir stands. But do yourself a favor and do not buy a foam Tomahawk. That’s a souvenir you just don't need.

There are quite a few good books about Hank Aaron, including his own memoir I Had a Hammer: The Hank Aaron Story, but it's 20 years old.  A more detailed one about the chase for 715, rather than Aaron's entire life, would be Tom Stanton's more recent Hank Aaron and the Home Run That Changed America.

van Wieren, who retired after the 2008 season and has been battling lymphoma ever since, recently published Of Mikes and Men: A Lifetime of Braves Baseball. After the 1995 World Championship, he collaborated with longtime New York baseball writer Bob Klapisch on a comprehensive history of the team: The World Champion Braves: An Illustrated History of America's Team 1871-1995. (During the team's run to the 1982 Playoffs, Turner tried to take the "America's Team" tag promoted by the Dallas Cowboys and use it to promote the Braves on TBS, which he then called his nationally-syndicated "superstation," making the Braves popular outside the South.)

Lang Whitaker, a writer for the NBA magazine SLAM!, has written In the Time of Bobby Cox: The Atlanta Braves, Their Manager, My Couch, Two Decades, and Me. And Glavine, Smoltz and Javy Lopez have written inside accounts of the Cox "dynasty."

If you want a look at the franchise's previous incarnations, there's John Klima's Bushville Wins! The Wild Saga of the 1957 Milwaukee Braves and the Screwballs, Sluggers, and Beer Swiggers Who Canned the New York Yankees and Changed Baseball. True, the success of the Braves and their big (for the time), automobile-accomodating ballpark led Walter O'Malley to lead the Dodgers out of first Ebbets Field and then, when he couldn't get a new stadium in Brooklyn, out of New York City entirely, and led him to con Horace Stoneham into doing the same with the Giants.

But that did also pave the way for the union of Dodger and Giant fans into the Met alliance. And the Braves did beat the Yankees -- in one out of two World Series, anyway.  But William Povletich's Milwaukee Braves: Heroes and Heartbreak tells not only what happened in their rise, but in their fall, and the causes of the move to Atlanta. (Hint: The Minnesota Twins arrived in 1961 and took away about half their population base.)

Sportswriter Harold Kaese wrote The Boston Braves after their 1948 Pennant season. Late in his life, Warren Spahn worked with Kaese' estate to add an update.

There is, as yet, no DVD of The Essential Games of the Atlanta Braves, or The Essential Games of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

During the Game. As you might guess, Braves fans conclude the National Anthem not with " …and the home of the brave" but " …and the home of the Braves!" It's not as dumb as the Baltimore "O! say does that… " but it’s bad enough. Fortunately, the Braves don't have a special song they use to follow "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in the 7th inning stretch. Nor do they have a true theme song.

What they do have is that annoying Tomahawk Chop and its song, the War Chant: "Oh, oh-whoa-oh-oh… whoa-oh-oh… oh-whoa-oh-oh…" It was brought to the Braves by outfielder Deion Sanders, who had played football at Florida State University before playing both baseball and football professionally.

Since FSU preceded the Braves into championship contention by a few years, this was a chance to latch onto something they thought was special, and, long after Deion's retirement from all sports and the 1996-97 move from Fulton County Stadium to Turner Field, the Chop and the Chant remain. If you’re a real Met fan, you’ll be very quickly reminded of how sick it used to make you feel.

The Braves have had a number of mascots over the years, including Chief Noc-a-Homa (knock a homer), a decidedly politically incorrect Native American whose tepee was located in Fulton County Stadium's left field stands, who would do a so-called Indian war dance after ever Braves home run. For a while, like some other MLB mascots, including Mr. Met's own Lady Met, the Chief got a girlfriend, Princess Win-a-Lotta. I swear, I am not making that up. I wish I was.

Anyway, having entertained fans since the Braves' 1966 arrival, Levi Walker Jr., who played the Chief, quit in 1986 after a salary dispute. Deciding this was as good a time as any to address the issue of whether the character was insulting to Native Americans, the Braves did not hire a new Chief.

Instead, the Braves adopted a new mascot, named Homer the Brave. You might recognize him: He has a baseball head, much like Mr. Met, only he has eyeblack and a Braves uniform and cap. Is he as good as Mr. Met? Anybody who thinks so must've broken into the Dukes of Hazzard's moonshine stash.

The Home Depot is based in Atlanta, and they sponsor a "mascot race": People dressed like tools.  A hammer, a saw, a paint brush and a power drill start from the warning track in right field and finish in front of the left field scoreboard.

Atlanta can be a rough city, and NFL Falcons, NBA Hawks and Georgia Tech college football games might be good places to keep your guard up. But Braves fans are not going to pick fights with you. As I said, they barely care enough to show up. And if you're looking for famous Braves fans in the stands, don't bother. Turner, while no longer the owner, might be there; his ex-wife Jane Fonda and former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn probably won’t be; and as for other celebrities, considering that Foxworthy is still hosting Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? in Los Angeles, he won't be attending too many games, even though he's probably, aside from the preceding, the most famous Braves fan.

After the Game. You should have no trouble with Braves fans on your way out, and you may even find a few of your fellow travelers ready to celebrate a Met win – or commiserate with you on a Met loss. But, if it's a night game, be sure to get on the Number 55 bus back to Five Points and then back to your hotel. Atlanta does have a bit of a crime problem; while you’ll probably be safe in the stadium parking lot and on the subway, you don’t want to wander the streets late at night.

A good way to have fun would seem to be to find a bar where New Yorkers hang out. Unfortunately, the best ones I could come up with were both outside the city: Mazzy's, at 2217 Roswell Road in Marietta, is 20 miles north of Atlanta. The Sportsline Bar and Grille, at 2100 Riverside Parkway in Lawrenceville, is 30 miles northeast of Atlanta. The former was listed on an out-of-town football fans' site as a Jets hangout, the latter for Giants fans. A Facebook page titled "Mets Fans Living In Atlanta" was no help. Your best bet may be to research hotel chains, to find out which ones New Yorkers tend to like, and meet up with fellow Metsophiles (or Metsochists) there.

Sidelights. When the Thrashers moved to become the new Winnipeg Jets a year ago, it marked the 2nd time in 31 years that Atlanta had lost an NHL team. They still have teams in MLB, the NFL and the NBA, plus a Division I-A college which has been successful in several sports, the annual Southeastern Conference Championships for both football and basketball, and an annual college football bowl game, the Chick-fil-A Bowl (formerly the Peach Bowl).

But that doesn’t make it a great sports town. All of their major league teams have tended to have trouble filling their buildings.

* Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. Home to the Southern Association's Atlanta Crackers in their last season, 1965; to the Braves from 1966 to 1996; and to the NFL Falcons from 1966 to 1991. It was in what's now the parking lot north of Turner Field.

* Georgia Dome, Philips Arena, site of The Omni. They're next-door to each other, at Martin Luther King Jr. Drive SW and Northside Drive NW (another confusing street name). The Georgia Dome has been home to the Falcons since 1992 and has hosted the SEC Championship Game. It hosted the NCAA Final Four in 2002 (Maryland beating Indiana) and 2007 (Florida beating Ohio State), and will again in 2013.

The Philips Arena has been home to the NBA's Hawks since 1999, and was the home of the NHL's Thrashers from 1999 to 2011. It was built on the site of the previous Atlanta arena, The Omni, which hosted the Hawks from 1972 to 1997, the NHL's Atlanta Flames from 1972 to 1980 (when they moved to Calgary), the 1977 NCAA Final Four (Queens native Al McGuire leading Marquette over Dean Smith’s North Carolina), and the 1988 Democratic Convention (Michael Dukakis was nominated for President, which didn't work out too well).

The CNN Center is adjacent to the arena. Dome-GWCC-Philips Arena stop on MARTA.

* Alexander Memorial Coliseum. The Georgia Institute of Technology (a.k.a. Georgia Tech) has played basketball here at "the Thrillerdome" since 1956, and recently completed a renovation.  This building, named for legendary football coach Bill Alexander, also hosted the Hawks from their 1968 arrival from St. Louis to The Omni's opening in 1972, and again from 1997 to 1999 while Philips was built on The Omni's site. 965 Fowler Street NW, Arts Center stop on MARTA.

* Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field. The oldest stadium in Division I-A college football? It sure doesn't look it, having been modernized several times since its 1913 opening. Dodd, who played at the University of Tennessee and coached at Georgia Tech (first as an assistant to Alexander, then as head coach), is one of only 3 people elected to the College Football Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach.

Georgia Tech's teams have two nicknames, the Yellow Jackets and the Ramblin' Wreck. There is a 1930 Ford Model A called the Ramblin' Wreck (don't let the name fool you, they love their college traditions in the South and this vee-hicle is kept in tip-top condition) that drives onto the field before every game, carrying the Tech cheerleaders, including Buzz the Yellow Jacket, with the team running behind it.

I would advise against going to Dodd/Grant when Tech plays their arch-rivals, the University of Georgia, as those games not only sell out, but have been known to involve fights. Other than that, it's a great atmosphere. 177 North Avenue NW (yeah, another one of those), North Avenue stop on MARTA.

A few steps away, over the North Avenue Bridge (over I-75/85) at 61 North Avenue NW, highlighted by a huge neon letter V, is The Varsity. No visit to The A-T-L is complete without a stop at The Varsity. Basically, it's a classic diner, but really good. Be careful, though: They want to keep it moving, much like the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld and its real-life counterpart The Original Soup Man, and also Pat’s Steaks in Philadelphia.

The place has a language all its own, and, when they ask, "What'll you have?", being a Met fan, you do not want to order what they call a Yankee Dog – or a Naked Dog, which, oddly, is the same exact thing: A hot dog whose only condiment is mustard (which hardly makes it "naked," but that's what they call it). Check out this link, and you'll get an idea of what to say and what not to say.

* Non-Sports Sites. There's the Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum, 800 Cherokee Avenue SE, which tells the true story of that fire you saw in Gone With the Wind. At the other end of the spectrum, giving all people their equal due, is the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site at 449 Auburn Avenue NE, which includes Dr. King's birthplace/boyhood home, the Ebenezer Baptist Church where he and his father Martin Sr. preached, and his tomb. The King Memorial stop on MARTA serves both the King Center and the Cyclorama.

The Carter Center, housing Jimmy Carter's Presidential Library and Museum and the Carter Center for Nonviolent Social Change, is at 453 Freedom Parkway. Bus 3 or 16 from Five Points stop on MARTA. There are also museums honoring GWTW author and Atlanta native Margaret Mitchell, Atlanta’s native drink Coca-Cola, and Atlanta’s native news network CNN. And there's the city's major shopping district, Underground Atlanta, in the Five Points area.

*

Atlanta is an acquired taste, especially for a Met fan. Is it worth going? Put it this way: At the rate both the Mets and the Braves are going, if your mission is to see the Mets "burn Atlanta" the way the Yankees of William Tecumseh Sherman did in 1864, you're out of luck. If it’s to see the Mets do it the way the Yankees of Joe Torre did in 1996 and 1999, and the Mets themselves came close to doing in 1999, you've got a chance, but not a great chance. But if your mission is simply to have a good time in an unfamiliar city, and to "cross one more ballpark off your list," then, by all means, go, stay safe, and have fun.

CC You In September -- And October

The race is coming down to the wire.  Yesterday afternoon, against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field in Minneapolis, the Yankees needed a good start from CC Sabathia and some hitting.

We got both.  The Big Fella went 8 innings, allowing 2 runs on 6 hits and just 1 walk, striking out 10.  And we gave him the support he needed -- and it was not at all clear that this would happen, as the Twins led 1-0 after 2.  Then came the top of the 3rd.

With 1 out, Chris Dickerson and Ichiro Suzuki singled, and Derek Jeter walked to load the basees.  Robinson Cano doubled home Dickerson and Ichiro.  Nick Swisher singled home Jeter.  Curtis Granderson cleared the bases with a triple.  Brian Duensing, who had replaced Twins starter Samuel Deduno (who left due to injury in the previous inning), uncorked a wild pitch, scoring Granderson.  6-1.

(Nothing but bottles of wine, including champagne, and wild pitches ever gets "uncorked." I'm still not sure how that term came to be used to describe throwing a wild pitch.)

Dickerson added a 2-run homer in the 6th, his 2nd round-tripper of the season.  CC slipped a little in the 7th, to forge the final score, before Cody Eppley closed it out in the 9th -- an inning that featured, if only as a defensive replacement, the return of Brett Gardner at long last, for the first time since April 17.

Yankees 8, Twins 2.  WP: Sabathia (14-6).  No save situation.  LP: Duensing (4-11).

The Yanks take 2 out of 3 from the Twins.  The Baltimore Orioles beat the Toronto Blue Jays last night, to keep pace.  The O's still trail the Yankees by a game and a half, by 2 games in the All-Important Loss Column.  The Yankees' Magic Number to clinch the AL East is 6.  They are also just 1 game behind the Texas Rangers for best record in the AL, and thus home-field advantage through both rounds of AL Playoffs.

The Detroit Tigers now lead the Chicago White Sox by a game in the AL Central.  The Tigers' MN is 7.  The Rangers' MN to clinch the AL West over the Oakland Athletics remains 5.  The Washington Nationals' MN to eliminate the Atlanta Braves and clinch the NL East is 4.  The Cincinnati Reds have clinched the NL Central, and the San Francisco Giants have clinched the NL West.

In the Wild Card races, the O's and A's still lead in the AL.  The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim trail the A's by 2, the Tampa Bay Rays by 3, and the White Sox by 6.  The Braves have clinched 1 NL Wild Card, and the St. Louis Cardinals lead for the other.  The Los Angeles Dodgers and the Milwaukee Brewers are both 3 1/2 games back, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Arizona Diamondbacks are 5 1/2 back.

Last night, the Mets beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 6-0, and eliminated the Pirates, who made a serious run at a Playoff berth for the first time in 20 years.  Time for a "How Long It's Been," I think.

Also in that game, David Wright collected the 1,419th hit of his career, surpassing Ed Kranepool to become the Mets' all-time leader.  He also got his 1,420th.

To put that in perspective: He could have twice as many hits, 2,840 -- and still have 456 fewer hits than the Yankees' all-time leader, Derek Jeter.

Tonight, the Yankees start a 4-game series in Toronto against those pesky Blue Jays.  Here are the projected starters:

Tonight, 7:07 PM: Ivan Nova vs. Brandon Morrow.  I'm confident.

Tomorrow, 7:07 PM: Hiroki Kuroda vs. Chad Jenkins -- the proverbial kid pitcher that the Yankees have never seen before.  Trap game? I don't think so: His last start was his first in the majors, and he was limited to 64 pitches.  I think we're going to unload on him.

Saturday, 1:07 PM: Andy Pettitte vs. a Toronto starter yet to be named.  I'm confident in this one, too.

Sunday, 1:07 PM: Phil Hughes vs. Henderson Alvarez.  Hughes has been up and down all season; if the Jays can win only 1 game in this series, this will probably be it.

That will close out the Toronto series, and the month of September.  October 1, 2 & 3 is the final regular-season series.  It's the Yankees hosting the Boston Red Sox, and whoever would have thought this series would only matter for one team?

All starts are scheduled for 7:05 PM.  No starters have been announced, but, based on who's been starting when, we can guess the following with some certainty:

Monday: Sabathia vs. Clay Buchholz.

Tuesday: Nova vs. Jon Lester.

Wednesday: Kuroda vs. Aaron Cook.

The Orioles have today off.  Tomorrow, they host the Red Sox for 3, before going to Tampa Bay for their last 3.

With a Magic Number of 6, theoretically, the Yankees can clinch in Toronto.  If we sweep, and the O's drop 2 out of 3, we clinch on Sunday.  If we take 3 out of 4, and the O's get swept, we clinch on Sunday.

Most likely, though, we will clinch the AL East against the Red Sox -- which would be sweet, regardless of where The Scum are in the standings.

Bring it on.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

If We Had to Have a Meltdown, Last Night Was the Night to Have It

"Joe, you gotta be kidding me. This bum? Again?"

Last night could have been a very good night for the Yankees. The Baltimore Orioles lost to those pesky Toronto Blue Jays, so no matter what happened in the Yankees' game against the Minnesota Twins, the Magic Number would drop to at least 7.

Phil Hughes pitched pretty well for 6 innings, and Nick Swisher hit a home run in the top of the 4th (his 24th of the season). The Twins pulled a run back in the bottom of the inning, but Russell Martin homered in the top of the 7th (his 19th). It was 3-1 Yankees and looking good.

Then came the meltdown. The 1st 2 batters in the bottom of the 7th were Ryan Doumit, who singled to center, and Chris Parmelee, who drew a walk, following up on his earlier double that got the Twins their 1st run. Hughes was in trouble, as the tying runs were on base and the go-ahead run was now at the plate.

He got Trevor Plouffe to pop up to 2nd, but Jamey Carroll beat out an infield single. Bases loaded, 1 out.

This might have been a good time for manager Joe Girardi to pull Hughes and bring in a reliever.

Instead, he goes against his usual policy, and trusts his starting pitcher, and leaves Hughes in to pitch to Pedro Florimon. And Hughes strikes him out.

Okay, he got the 2nd out. Maybe he can work out of this. Leave him in there to get the 3rd out.

Except that's not what Joe did. Whether he consulted that damn binder of his, or he simply had a hunch, I don't know, and I don't care. What matters is that he picked the wrong time to take Hughes out, and he picked the wrong pitcher to bring in: As Hank Williams would have said, "It's Boone Logan, I could cry."

Wild pitch, sending Doumit home and moving up the other runners. 3-2 Yankees.

Then he allowed a double to Denard Span. Not shocking: A, It was Span's 37th double of the season, and he's batting .289, so we're not talking about a bad hitter here, even though he's only got 3 homers; and B, It was Boone Logan, naturally. But it scored Parmelee and Carroll. 4-3 Twins.

You would think that, under these circumstances, Girardi would pull Logan immediately. You would think, but you'd be wrong. He left him in. Logan walked Ben Revere. (Not Paul Revere. Maybe Logan should have yelled, "The fastballs are coming! The fastballs are coming!" The results wouldn't have been any worse if the batters knew what was coming.)

Okay, now Girardi takes Logan out, right? Wrong. He only sends pitching coach Larry Rothschild out. Are you kidding me?

Logan allows a single to Joe Mauer. Great hitter, so no shame in that alone -- except it scored Span, making it 5-3 Twins, and that run would prove to be critical.

Wild pitch, double, walk, single. Turning a 3-1 lead into a 5-3 deficit.

Logan stinks. If this guy were righthanded, he wouldn't even be in the major leagues. But he's lefthanded, and so somebody is always going to think he has value. Unfortunately, for now, that somebody is Joe Girardi.

And in my hour of need, who goes and blows a lead? It's Boone Logan, naturally.

Look at that picture at the top: Even Derek Jeter seems to be saying, "Joe, you gotta be kidding me. This bum, again?"

Finally, Logan got the last out. Robinson Cano drew a 2-out walk in the 8th, but was stranded. Girardi brought Derek Lowe in to pitch the 8th. Oy vey, it's only a 2-run deficit, we could come back from this, and you're bringing in Derek "My Ability Was Once High But Now It's" Lowe? Actually, that worked out: Lowe pitched a scoreless inning.

Top of the 9th. Last chance. Curtis Granderson grounded out. Russell Martin struck out swinging. Andruw Jones, who lately has been as cold as Mitt Romney's heart, hit one out, his 14th homer of the season. 5-4 Twins. Tying run at the plate. But Jayson Nix strikes out. Game over.

WP: Casey Fien (2-1). SV: Glen Perkins (15). LP: Hughes (16-13), although it was more Logan's fault than anyone else's.

Still, the Orioles lost, so if we had to have a meltdown -- and it was as much Girardi's and Logan's as it was Hughes' -- then last night was the night to have it, rather than in the final series of the regular season, or in the Playoffs.

The Yankees remain a game and a half up with 8 to play (7 for the O's).

In other words, if the Yankees are only .500 the rest of the way, 4-4, the O's will have to go 5-2. So we're still very much in the driver's seat.

The Tampa Bay Rays beat the Boston Red Sox, 5-2, so they're 5 out. They're not yet eliminated from the Division race: Their elimination number is 4. Granted, they'd have to win all 8 of their remaining games, and the Yankees could still eliminate them by splitting theirs. But it's possible.

The Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers are now tied for the lead in the AL Central. The Texas Rangers' Magic Number to clinch the AL West over the Oakland Athletics remains 5. The Washington Nationals also have a MN of 5 to clinch the NL East, although the Atlanta Braves clinched at least a Wild Card berth last night -- with Freddie Freeman, who made the last out of last season's epic Braves collapse, hitting a walkoff homer to clinch it and beat the Miami Marlins. The Cincinnati Reds have already clinched the NL Central, the San Francisco Giants the NL West.

The Orioles lead the race for the AL Wild Card slots, and the A's have the 2nd slot. Trailing them are the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim by 2, the Rays by 3, and whoever loses the AL Central race (both the White Sox and Tigers currently trail the A's by 5).

The Braves have 1 NL Wild Card slot wrapped up, while the St. Louis Cardinals currently hold the other. The Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers are both 4 1/2 behind them, the Philadelphia Phillies and Arizona Diamondbacks 5 1/2, and the Pittsburgh Pirates 7 1/2. The San Diego Padres were eliminated from contention last night.

CoolStandings.com rates the Yankees' chances of at least making the Playoffs as 99.3 percent, and winning the Division at 88.6 percent. Based on remaining schedule, they've got Detroit as 52 percent to win the AL Central. The O's are 82.6 to win at least a Wild Card, the A's 80.9, the Tigers 52.0, the White Sox 48.1, the Angels 24.9 and the Rays 12.6. In the NL, they've got St. Louis at 96.4 (that's for the other Wild Card berth), Milwaukee 2.2, L.A. 0.9, Arizona 0.4, and Philadelphia and Pittsburgh at less than 0.1 percent.

The Yanks-Twins series wraps up this afternoon at Target Field, first pitch scheduled for 1:10 PM (12:10 local time). CC Sabathia starts for us, Samuel Deduno for them. No, I'd never heard of him, either. He's a righthander from the Dominican Republic. He's 30, but he's pitched a grand total of 20 games in the major leagues, 14 of them this season. He previously pitched for the Colorado Rockies in 2010 and the Padres last year. He's the proverbial "pitcher the Yankees have never seen before," but, seeing as how he's past 30, not under 25, I think we can avoid that particular trap. The Orioles play tonight.

Come on you Bombers!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

How Long It's Been: A Washington Baseball Team Reached the Postseason

Last Thursday, September 20, 2012, the Washington Nationals beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 4-1, at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.

The winning pitcher was Ross Detwiler. The losing pitcher was Chris Capuano. Mark Ellis hit a home run for the Dodgers' lone run. There were no homers for the Nats, but RBI doubles were hit by Ryan Zimmerman and Danny Espinosa. The attendance was 30,359 – hardly a sellout, but a good crowd by the standards of Washington baseball – and more than could have even fit in the ballpark the last time a Washington baseball team did what the Nats did that night: Clinch a spot in Major League Baseball's postseason.

Griffith Stadium seated just 27,410 people for baseball.  It was home to the "old Washington Senators," the team that became the Minnesota Twins in 1961, from 1911 to 1960; the "new Washington Senators," the team that became the Texas Rangers in 1972, in 1961 before they moved to District of Columbia Stadium (renamed Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in 1969); the NFL's Washington Redskins from 1937 to 1960, when they moved into DC/RFK Stadium; and every Washington NFL team prior to the 'Skins.

It was at Griffith Stadium that the Senators clinched Washington baseball's last postseason berth, its last 1st-place finish, and its last Pennant, on September 21, 1933, a 2-1 win over the St. Louis Browns.

The Washington runs were scored on doubles by Luke Sewell and Joe Cronin. The winning pitcher was Walter "Lefty" Stewart. It was kind of fitting that, even with "Big Train" Johnson retired, the Senators would win the Pennant with a Walter on the mound.  The losing pitcher was Irving "Bump" Hadley.

Names you might recognize from the Senators are future Hall-of-Famers Leon "Goose" Goslin, Sam Rice, Henry "Heinie" Manush, and their shortstop and manager, Cronin. There were no Hall-of-Famers on the Browns, who were, as they and the Senators both usually were, terrible. The most familiar name to Yankee Fans might be that of Hadley, the pitcher who, in 1937, would be pitching for the Yankees, and go well beyond his nickname, beaning another Hall of Fame player-manager, Mickey Cochrane of the Detroit Tigers, ending his playing career.

It is somewhat appropriate that the clincher was against the Browns: Since the Philadelphia Athletics (now in Oakland) had as many great seasons as horrible ones, it was the Senators and Browns that were best known for American League futility. George Washington was said to be "First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen." For most of the old Senators' existence, the line was, "Washington: First in war, first in peace, and last in the American League." While St. Louis, with its leather and brewing industries, was "First in shoes, first in booze, and last in the American League."

With the new Senators' arrival, and the Vietnam War overshadowing the Capital in the late 1960s, Washington became "Last in war, last in peace, and last in the American League." Then, in 1971, they were gone, and it took until 2005 for big-league ball to return.

September 21, 1933.  Almost exactly 79 years since Washington clinched a postseason berth. The Nats will almost certainly win the National League Eastern Division. They have a shot at their 1st Pennant in 79 years.  How long has that 79 years been?

*

Griffith Stadium is gone, demolished in 1965.  The Howard University Hospital now stands on the site. Howard was established as "the Black Harvard," the nation's finest institution of higher learning for African-Americans. D.C. was already an increasingly black city, but it was segregated up until the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Such an Act was impossible to imagine in the 1930s, with Congressional committees controlled by Southern Democrats, who used their seniority to line their pockets, help their friends, and maintain "white supremacy."

When the Republicans had control of Congress, they did the same thing, but their opposition to racial progress was based less on prejudice – but not entirely, as the Ku Klux Klan's peak years were in the GOP-controlled 1920s, and the KKK was quite strong in GOP-controlled Midwestern States like Ohio, Indiana and Illinois – and more on the fact that they were so conservative, they didn't think the federal government should do anything except protect national security (in other words, protect big business from Communism) and deliver the mail (and they probably thought the private sector could do even that better).

This is part of what brought on the Great Depression, which began with a stock market crash in 1929 and bottomed out earlier in 1933, just as the defeated Republican Herbert Hoover's term as President ran out, and the Democratic victor Franklin Delano Roosevelt came in.

"The only thing we have to fear is… fear itself!" FDR proclaimed in his Inaugural Address on March 4, 1933. Whether it was true or not, people began to believe it, because he seemed to believe it. And 1933 was a year of great activity in Washington, not just at the ballpark but in the halls of power, as FDR kicked his New Deal into gear.

But by September 1933, there was still no Social Security, no federal minimum wage, no National Labor Relations Board, no Federal Housing Administration. And Prohibition wouldn't end until the 21st Amendment to the Constitution, repealing the 18th Amendment, was ratified on December 5. In October 1929, Hoover had been cheered while attending the World Series by partisans enjoying the great economy that would end within days; in October 1930, he went back, and got hit with boos and a chant of "We want beer!" On Opening Day 1934, a baseball fan would once again be able to enjoy a beer at a ballgame.

He would not see black players, or dark-skinned Hispanic ones, or Asians. And he could not see a major league game south of Washington, Cincinnati or St. Louis, or west of St. Louis. Nor could he see one at a ballpark still in use in 2012, except for Fenway Park in Boston or Wrigley Field in Chicago, neither of which was considered all that special in 1933.

Nor could he see a major league game under a dome, or on artificial turf – the ideas would have been scientifically possible, but practically ludicrous, especially in the Depression. Nor, until May 1935, could he see a game at night, unless he wanted to try the minor leagues – or the Negro Leagues.

Negro League baseball might never have been better: Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard and Cool Papa Bell were all at or near their peak. Out West, the Pacific Coast League featured Joe DiMaggio of the San Francisco Seals (though just 18, he set a pro record that still stands with a 61-game hitting streak, foreshadowing the 56-game streak he would have in the majors), Harry "Cookie" Lavagetto of the Oakland Oaks, Dolph Camilli of the Sacramento Senators (later the Solons), and Louis "Bobo" Newsom of the Los Angeles Angels.

In addition to San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Baltimore, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Houston, Atlanta, Seattle, San Diego, Montreal, Dallas, Toronto, Denver, Miami, Phoenix and Tampa all featured minor league teams. They are all now in the majors.

The 16 major league teams were spread across just 10 cities: New York had 3; Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and St. Louis each had 2; Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Washington had 1.

The National Football League was about to begin its 14th season, and had just 10 teams surviving the Depression: The Boston Redskins (moved to Washington in 1937), the Brooklyn Dodgers (folded in 1944), the Chicago Bears, the Chicago Cardinals (moved to St. Louis in 1960 and  Arizona in 1988), the Cincinnati Reds (folded in 1934), the Green Bay Packers, the New York Giants, the Philadelphia Eagles (their debut season), the Pittsburgh Pirates (also their debut season, became the Steelers in 1940), and the Portsmouth Spartans (became the Detroit Lions the next season). The Giants and Bears would win their respective divisions, and the Bears would beat the Giants 23-21 at Wrigley Field in the 1st official NFL Championship Game.

The survival of the Eagles and the Steelers was assured because Pennsylvania finally legalized Sunday sports in 1933, but that was due less to the rise of pro football than it was to Connie Mack of the Athletics lobbying for it, since he desperately needed Sunday crowds. The labor movement was still working on making Saturday as well as Sunday a day of rest.

The National Hockey League had 8 teams. The Montreal Maroons would fold in 1938, and the New York Americans in 1942. The New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup, defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs in a reverse of the previous year’s final. There were also the Montreal Canadiens, the Boston Bruins, the Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings.

There was professional basketball, but the NBA was still years away. The only pro team from 1933 still continuously operating today is the Golden State Warriors – formerly the San Francisco Warriors, the Philadelphia Warriors, and the Philadelphia Sphas, sponsored by the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association. The Harlem Globetrotters existed, and, while the Sphas didn't do tricks like the Globies did, they were, competitively speaking, a Jewish equivalent to the all-black team that called Chicago home even if they had the New York-themed name. The Yankees were about to be dethroned as World Champions in baseball. The heavyweight champion of the world was the Italian giant Primo Carnera.

George Wright, a member of baseball's 1st openly professional team, the 1869-70 Cincinnati Red Stockings, was still alive. The leading active players in 1933, aside from those Senators mentioned, included 1920s holdovers Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mel Ott, Bill Terry, Gabby Hartnett, Hack Wilson, Lefty Grove, Mickey Cochrane, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Pie Traynor. They also included relatively new arrivals such as Red Ruffing, Lefty Gomez, Carl Hubbell, Luke Appling, Chuck Klein, Joe Medwick, Dizzy Dean, Wes Ferrell, Mel Harder and Hank Greenberg. Not one man who played in Major League Baseball 1933 is still alive in 2012.

Nor were the defining baseball players of my childhood yet born: Reggie Jackson, Thurman Munson, Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Carl Yastrzemski, Mike Schmidt and George Brett. Indeed, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Ernie Banks and Harmon Killebrew were not born yet, and Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays were toddlers. Yogi Berra was 8 years old and in grade school in St. Louis – although, years later, when asked how he liked school, he said, "Closed."

The World Cup had only been held once, in Uruguay in 1930. It has since been held twice each in Italy, France, Mexico and Germany; and once each in America, Brazil, Switzerland, Sweden, Chile, England, Argentina, Spain, Japan, Korea and South Africa.

The Olympic Games have since been held in America 5 times; 3 times each in Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada; twice each in Britain, Norway, Australia, Austria, France; and once each in Switzerland, Finland, Mexico, Russia, Bosnia, Korea, Spain, Greece and China.

As I said, FDR was President. Herbert Hoover was still alive – and, while he was already director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, J. Edgar Hoover (no relation) was not yet nationally known, which would change big-time over the next year. Calvin Coolidge had died earlier in the year. His widow, and those of Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson, were all still alive.

Harry Truman was a County Judge – although, in New York and New Jersey, we would call his position "Freeholder." Dwight D. Eisenhower was a Major in the U.S. Army – he ended up being "stuck" at that rank for 16 years – and was chief aide to General Douglas MacArthur, who was then the U.S. Army's Chief of Staff.  This position, which "Ike" would one day hold himself, is essentially what we would now call the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  MacArthur, eventually outranked by Eisenhower, would call him "the best clerk I ever had."

John F. Kennedy was a student at the Choate School in Wallingford, Connecticut. Lyndon Johnson was chief aide to Congressman Richard Kleberg. Richard Nixon was at Whittier College, Gerald Ford was at the University of Michigan, and Ronald Reagan was starting his radio announcing career. Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush were in grade school, and Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama were not born yet.

The Governor of New York was Herbert Lehman, the 1st Jewish Governor of the State, who had been Lieutenant Governor under FDR. The Mayor of New York City was John P. O'Brien, who had won a special election following the resignation of Jimmy Walker. He was about to be defeated for a full term for that office by the man Walker had defeated in 1929, Congressman Fiorello LaGuardia. The Governor of New Jersey was A. Harry Moore. In Washington, the city of the team in question, there was no elected Mayor or Governor – and there is still no Governor, as the District of Columbia is not a State.

Speaking of States, there were 48 of them, with Alaska and Hawaii still being Territories. There were then 20 Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, though the 21st, repealing the 18th and ending Prohibition, was on its way to ratification.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation had recently become law, but there hadn't been a Civil Rights Act since 1875. There was no guarantee of a 40-hour or a 5-day work week, nor the right to collectively bargain, nor a right against child labor or enforced school prayer, nor Social Security, nor Medicare, nor Medicaid, nor an Environmental Protection Agency. Segregation was legal pretty much everywhere, and as for gay rights or reproductive freedom, dream on.

Canada's Prime Minister was Richard B. Bennett. His country rebelled against him as much as America did against Hoover: Just as a horse hitched up to a car to pull it because the owner could no longer afford gasoline was called a Hoover Wagon in America, it was called a Bennett Buggy in Canada.

The monarch of the British Empire was King George V. The woman we now know as Queen Elizabeth II was a 7-year-old girl. North London club Arsenal won the Football League title, led by the great manager Herbert Chapman, defenders Eddie Hapgood and George Male, midfielders David Jack and Cliff Bastin, and forwards Bob John and Jack Lambert – not to be confused with the Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker of the same name. Liverpool-based Everton beat Manchester City in the FA Cup Final. Everton's Captain and leading player was forward William Ralph "Dixie" Dean – definitely not to be confused with Jay Hanna "Dizzy" Dean. Playing for Manchester City in that game was Matt Busby, who would later lead crosstown Manchester United to national and European glory.

The Pope was Pius XI. The current Pope, Benedict XVI, then Joseph Ratzinger, was 6 years old and living outside Munich, in Nazi Germany. The Nobel Peace Prize was about to be awarded to Sir Norman Angell, a British journalist, a Member of Parliament, an author and a peace activist. There were still living veterans of the American Civil War, the French Intervention in Mexico, the Italian War of Independence, and the Crimean War. There have since been 13 Presidents of the United States, 4 British Monarchs and 7 Popes.

In 1933, the 1st drive-in movie theater opened, in Camden, New Jersey. The big films of the year were King Kong, 42nd Street, Dinner at Eight, the Katherine Hepburn version of Little Women, and the Janet Gaynor version of State FairThe Private Life of Henry VIII became the 1st British film to win an Academy Award, and Charles Laughton's portrayal of the Tudor monarch, even more so than the familiar Hans Holbein portrait of the big fat much-married king, became the most familiar image of one of Europe's most legendary monarchs.

Greta Garbo also played a scandalous monarch, the 17th Century Swedish Queen Christina. Mae West milked the days before the Hays Code had any teeth for all they were worth, in She Done Him Wrong. A 19-year-old Austrian actress named Hedy Kiesler would shock audiences around the world with a nude scene in Ecstacy; a year later, the Hays Code began to be strictly enforced, and, while she never did another nude scene, she did stay famous, under the name Hedy Lamarr. (No, that's not "Hedley.")

Radio was the dominant form of home entertainment in the fall of 1933. Television was in its infancy, and most people hadn't even heard of it yet. Computers were still a pipe dream. Antibotics were still being developed; most people, if they got any kind of infection, were soon to die.

Major books of 1933 included The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett, Lost Horizon by James Hilton, God's Little Acre by Erskine Caldwell, Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (actually written by her lesbian lover Gertrude Stein), and the science-fiction epics The Shape of Things to Come by H.G. Wells and When Worlds Collide by Edwin Balmer and Philip Wylie. Ulysses by James Joyce was found in court to not be obscene, paving the way for its legal publication in America.

J.R.R. Tolkein hadn't yet published any of his Middle Earth stories, nor had C.S. Lewis published anything about Narnia. Ian Fleming was reporting for Reuters. The Lone Ranger made his debut on radio. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, both 19, had a story about a bald, telepathic villain published in Science Fiction magazine, titled The Reign of the Superman. He looked and acted nothing like the heroic Superman they would later created, more like his arch-enemy, Lex Luthor. Science fiction meant Buck Rogers in comic strips and on the radio, but Flash Gordon's debut in comics was still 4 months away.

No one had yet heard of Nick and Nora Charles, Nero Wolfe, Scarlett O'Hara, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain America, Captain Marvel, the Flash, the Green Hornet, the Green Lantern, the Flash, Philip Marlowe, Tom Joad, Bigger Thomas, Lazarus Long, Mike Hammer, Big Brother, Lew Archer, Joe Friday, Holden Caulfield, Hari Seldon or Dean Moriarty. 

Big hit songs of 1933 included "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" by Ted Weems (definitely not to be confused with the Green Day song of the same title), "Easter Parade" by Marilyn Miller & Clifton Webb, "Inka Dinka Doo" by Jimmy Durante, "It's Only a Paper Moon" by Paul Whiteman, "I've Got the World on a String" by Cab Calloway, "Shuffle Off to Buffalo" by Roy Smeck, "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" by Gertrude Niesen, "Sophisticated Lady" by Duke Ellington, "Temptation" by Bing Crosby, "We're In the Money" by Ginger Rogers, and the weather-related songs "Heat Wave" and "Stormy Weather" by Ethel Waters.

Billie Holiday was discovered. Perry Como got his 1st singing job. Frank Sinatra had recently graduated from A.J. Demarest High School in Hoboken, New Jersey -- since replaced by Hoboken High School. Bill Haley was 8 years old, Chuck Berry 7, and Little Richard was 9 months old. Neither Elvis Presley, nor Bob Dylan, nor any of The Beatles had been born yet.

Inflation has been such that what $1.00 bought then, $17.53 would buy today. A U.S. postage stamp cost 3 cents, and a subway ride in New York was 5 cents. There wouldn't be a subway in the city in question, Washington, D.C., until 1976. The average price of a gallon of gas was 16 cents, a cup of coffee 12 cents, a burger and a soda 5 cents each, a movie ticket 10 cents, a new car $445, and a new house $5,750. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed that day at 97.56. No, that's not a misprint: Ninety-seven point five-six. It bottomed out at 41.22 on July 8, 1932, from a pre-Crash high of 381.17 on September 3, 1929.

The tallest building in the world was the Empire State Building, but it was only 2 years old. Trains were still the main method of getting around from one city to another. While pilots such as Charles Lindbergh (against his will), Amelia Earhart and Wiley Post were among the most famous people in the world, most people were not yet ready to get in an airplane, even if they could afford the fare. When FDR flew from New York to the Democratic Convention in Chicago the year before, it was considered a daredevil stunt.

There were a few color movies, but most were still in black & white. Less than half of all American homes had telephones. There were "ship-to-shore" phones, connected by ham radio operators, but no car phones. Computers? Be serious. Alan Turing was still an undergraduate at King's College, Cambridge University. The parents of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Tim Berners-Lee were small children, although both parents of "TimBL," Mary Lee Woods and Conway Berners-Lee, would also work on early computers.

On September 21, 1933, the last time a Washington baseball team won a Pennant, FDR ordered the immediate purchase of "surplus foodstuffs and staples for distribution to the nation's needy" at a total cost of $75 million, to provide food and clothing for 3.5 million American families.

The aforementioned Wiley Post crashed and was seriously injured in Quincy, Illinois. Mabel Smith Douglass, who had founded the New Jersey College for Women (later brought into the Rutgers University system and renamed Douglass College for her), disappeared after venturing out in a rowboat on New York's Lake Placid. Her capsized boat was found later, but Mrs. Douglass's body was not found until nearly 30 years later.

A day after the day in question, Nazi Germany created the Reich Chamber of Cutlure: All "creators of culture" were required to register as members of one of the subdivisions of the organization, such as the Reich Film Chamber, the Reich Theatre Chamber, or those for literature, music, radio, the fine arts and even for the press, in order to continue to have the privilege of continuing their cultural work. Non-Aryans were excluded from membership.

Within days, Albert Einstein, having fled the Nazi regime, would arrive in Princeton, New Jersey, where he would work at Princeton University's Institute for Advanced Studies. A few days before, Leo Szilard got the idea for a controlled nuclear chain reaction.

In the fall of 1933, sportswriter Ring Lardner, and baseball legend "Turkey Mike" Donlin, and boxing contender William "Young" Stribling died (the last of these in a motorcycle crash). Actor David McCallum, and hockey coach Scotty Bowman, and basketball coach and broadcaster Hubie Brown were born.

September 21, 1933.  A Major League Baseball team based in Washington, D.C. clinched a berth in the postseason. Now, it has happened again, for the first time in 79 years.

Can they take it to the next level? It may depend on whether they let Stephen Strasburg pitch in the postseason.