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Coping With No Baseball: Giamatti's Lyricism Always Helps + Farewell to Willie McCovey

November 4, 2018

Tags: Bart Giamatti, Boston Red Sox champions: Alex Cora, Nathan Eovaldi, J.D. Martinez, Steve Pearce, David Price; Max Muncy, Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Tim Corbin, Willie McCovey (corrected on debut day), Orlando Cepeda, Felipe Alou, Willie Mays, Les Keiter, Robin Roberts, Ralph Terry, Bobby Richardson, Ted Williams, Barney Greengrass

"You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops." So wrote the late Bart Giamatti, baseball commissioner and onetime Yale professor and university president, in his classic essay "The Green Fields of the Mind."

How consoling are these words as Daylight Savings Time has ended for most of the country and we are faced with increased darkness until the arrival of the winter solstice around December 21. I watch my share of basketball and football and hockey on TV but it is no substitute for the drama and excitement of baseball.

Of course, we have our baseball memories, near and far, to sustain us. There is no doubt that the Boston Red Sox are worthy World Series winners. They showed it was no fluke that they won the AL East with a team-record 108 victories.

They eliminated the Yankees and defending champion Astros to win the American League pennant, losing only one game in each series. They won a generally well-played often gripping World Series in five games over the Dodgers, a bridesmaid for the second year in a row.

Perhaps the mettle of this year's Bosox squad was best exemplified by its reaction to its only World Series loss, a record-breaking 18-inning seven-hour-plus 3-2 defeat on Max Muncy's home run off Nathan Eovaldi.

Immediately thereafter brilliant rookie manager Alex Cora called a rare team meeting in the clubhouse to congratulate the team's effort. The team applauded Eovaldi's great six-inning effort out of the bullpen when he was listed as the Game 4 starter.
Big run producer J.D. Martinez said it might have been a loss but it was a great experience to compete in such a historic game.

Journeyman outfielder/first baseman Steve Pearce was voted the Series MVP for his batting heroics in the last two games. His solo homer tied Game 4 in 8th inning and his bases-clearing double provided the insurance runs in the 9th.

Pearce's two-run blast in the first inning the next night set the tone for the clincher.
It was a huge blow off losing pitcher Clayton Kershaw because it is hard to overestimate what scoring first means in any game, especially after the Dodgers had lost a four-run late lead in the prior game.

David Price won the final game with seven solid innings. A case could be made for Price to have won a co-MVP award although there were only five voters to assure that there was only one winner.

It was nice to see Price get the post-season monkey off his back because he had failed repeatedly in recent years to come up big in the playoffs. But this year he also won Game 2 with six solid innings and relieved effectively in the extra-inning classic third game.

Vanderbilt University baseball coach Tim Corbin has to be especially proud of his progeny because in addition to developing Price in college, another Commodore rookie Walker Buehler also pitched outstanding ball for the Dodgers.

Before I close, I want to remember Willie McCovey who passed away late last month from multiple ailments at the age of 80. He was one of many players who came up too late to help my first team the New York Giants who left New York for San Francisco after the 1957 season.

Imagine how McCovey and his teammates Felipe Alou and Orlando Cepeda would have fared with the short left and right field fences at the Polo Grounds. Certainly Willie Mays would have broken Babe Ruth's 714 home run record if he hadn't been consigned to the winds of Candlestick Park. At least he experienced five seasons in New York.

McCovey's debut in San Francisco was memorable. I happened to be listening to Les Keiter's recreating of Giant games on WINS radio on July 30, 1959. All Willie did was belt two triples and two singles off another future Hall of Famer Phillies pitcher Robin Roberts.

McCovey may be most remembered for a ball that became an out, the scalding line drive off Yankee pitcher Ralph Terry at Bobby Richardson that ended the seventh game of the 1962 World Series with the tying and winning runs in scoring position.

I prefer he be remembered for the body of his work on his field, including 521 career home runs, tying him with Ted Williams. He was a class guy on and off the field. He was always was accessible to fans and became a revered ambassador for the Giants who wisely named the water area beyond the right field fence at San Francisco's ATT Park "McCovey Cove."

There is a famous 100-year-old deli on the Upper West Side of Manhattan called "Barney Greengrass The Sturgeon King." Though McCovey never ate there, he heard about the sturgeon and had it mail ordered to the West Coast.

There is a picture of Willie in Barney Greengrass's window. I think of Willie "Stretch" McCovey when I stop in at Barney's and always will.

That's all for now. Again remember to express your vote on November 6th if we want our democracy to recover its balance. And never forget: Take it easy but take it!





Pre-Labor Day Reflections on Orioles Baseball and "My Life On A Diet"

August 29, 2018

Tags: Orioles' first sweep of 2018, Trey Mancini, Josh Rogers, Bart Giamatti, Cyclones and Yankees, Renee Taylor's "My Life On A Diet"

The Orioles just completed a three-game sweep at home against the Toronto Blue Jays. It was nice payback for the two sweeps they endured at the hands of the Jays in Canada earlier this year.

The Orioles won convincingly 7-0, 12-5, and 10-5 with second-year slugger Trey Mancini finally get into a good groove. Southpaw Josh Rogers from New Albany, Indiana and the University of Louisville - one of three pitchers obtained from the Yankees in the Zach Britton trade - won the middle game in his MLB debut.

Rogers was supported by his parents, girl friend, and as many as two dozen fans from his home area. Rogers becomes the first Indiana native to make MLB this season. I am happy to add that at least seven from the New York metropolitan area have made The Show so far in 2018.

It was the first three-game sweep of the year for Baltimore who "improved" to 40-94, tying the 1962 Mets for wins with 26 games left to play. The Birds go to Kansas City on the Labor Day weekend, the only other team that has a chance for the number one amateur draft pick next June.

In September the Orioles have a chance to play spoiler against wild card contenders Oakland and Seattle and wind up the season with games against the Red Sox and Yankees followed by the season-ending visit to Camden Yards of the defending World Series champion Houston Astros.

As fall looms on the horizon, any baseball game becomes a special treat for yours truly. Late baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti put in very well when he wrote that just when you need baseball the most, it leaves us. So treasure all those games while they are still here - in the minor and independent leagues as well as The Show.

Of note for those in the NY area, both New York teams in the Short-Season Low A New York-Penn League, the Brooklyn Cyclones (Mets) and Staten Island Yankees - aka Pizza Rats on weekends - are still alive in the playoff hunt. The Cyclones host the Yankees Sa Sept 1 and M Sept 3 (Labor Day at 4p) and the Yankees host the Cyclones on Su Sep 2.

In closing, I want to give a plug for an interesting show I recently saw. You have just a couple more chances to see Renee Taylor's "My Life On A Diet." At 85 this actress/comedienne is a marvel, doing eight one-woman shows a week, 90 minutes without intermission, at St. Clement's Theatre in the church at 423 West 46th Street, between 9th and 10th Avenues.

Younger audiences will remember Renee as Fran Drescher's mother on the TV series "The Nanny". Movie buffs will remember her far earlier as Jerry Lewis's assistant
in the movie "The Errand Boy". She talks about these experiences as well as her early and sustained friendship with Barbra Streisand.

I remember her for her work as a manners correspondent on the NBC network show
"That Was The Week That Was" that aired in the early 1960s. She also memorably played Eva Braun opposite Dick Shawn's madcap Hitler impersonation in Mel Brooks' trailblazing film "The Producers".

Unfortunately Renee didn't discuss them in "My Life On A Diet" that was co-written by her late husband actor Joseph Bologna. I guess she could only cover so much of an event-filled and sometimes turbulent life.

I think audiences will like her tales about her life and work as a member of the Actors Studio with fellow students Marilyn Monroe and Marlon Brando.

"My Life On A Diet," which really isn't about dieting but about how Renee Wexler from the Bronx became a standout performer, runs only through Sunday afternoon Sept 2. I recommend it. Just take those stairs carefully!

That's all for now. Always remember: Take it easy but take it.



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