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IF TOLSTOY HAD BEEN A SPORTSWRITER AND OTHER THOUGHTS AT THE START OF AUTUMN IN NEW YORK

What did Leo Tolstoy say about happy families all being happy in the same way and unhappy families being unhappy in different ways? Don’t think Leo ever followed a baseball team though I’ve have heard that the Russian baron Prokhorov who is buying the New Jersey Nets may rename them the Nyets.. Whether or not sports may be considered War and Peace, I’ve always thought Tolstoy’s sentiment could apply to baseball teams. All winning teams are happy in the same way while losing teams always find a different unhappy way to lose! Case in point the Orioles who have lost 10 in a row and a season of 100 losses seems almost inevitable now. There is no reliable pitching either at the beginning or at the end of the game and the hitting is spotty and the losing malaise lingers everywhere.

The Birds actually won a mid-September series at Yankee Stadium and gave a little hope of ending the season on an up note. Then they caved in five straight times to the Red Sox, losing the season series 16 games to 2. One of the two games they won was a remarkable 11-10 victory over the Red Sox in late June during which they actually trailed at one point by 9 runs. The next day they reverted to form blowing a 5-1 lead in the 9th inning and ultimately losing 6-5 in extra innings. They are once again the Woerioles, owned by Angelose-lose-lose, Peter and his two sons, and the best efforts of Andy MacPhail of the highly successful baseball MacPhail family have come up short again. They may have recently developed some players in their farm system but the losing atmosphere prevails and that is real hard to break. Maybe at last that minor-major league complex in Sarasota opening next spring will be the start of something at least respectable.

And now for something completely different and happier . . .
“Autumn in New York/Why is it so exciting?/Autumn in New York/It brings the thrill of first nighting.” Isn’t that one of the greatest lyrics and tunes ever? Words and music by Vernon Duke, born Vladimir Dukelsky in pre-Soviet Russia.
Pretty soon there will be Indian summer another not as great but still a pretty 1919 tune by Victor Herbert. It is a special time of year when the days grow short (another great tune “September Song” by Kurt Weill with words by Maxwell Anderson) but the baseball pennant races heat up and the autumnal madness of football takes over. And music is in the air. Because of a nagging cough all month haven’t heard much live music but did hear this afternoon a good reading from author/actress Karen Chilton’s new biography of pianist/movie star/life force Hazel Scott who at long last has had the story of her remarkable life (1920-1982) that was so much more than being briefly the wife of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. More on this story later this fall.

THOUGHTS ON THE PLAYOFFS:
As it should be, the four-game series beginning in Detroit tonight Monday Sept 28 should determine if the Twins can catch the Tigers who lead the mediocre AL Central division by two games with seven to play. Minnesota lost a chance to sweep three at home last weekend when the rarely-used Detroit lefty Nate Robertson accomplished what Tigers ace Justin Verlander couldn’t do the day before, beat the Twins in the indoor Metrodome that fortunately will be abandoned for a new outdoor stadium on the other side of downtown Minneapolis starting next April. It wasn’t Verlander’s fault that defensive replacement/rookie left fielder Don Kelly lost a routine fly ball as afternoon shadows crept into the tinted Dome roof. Verlander is an ace by any measure and is a sturdy Cy Young candidate as is the Yankees’ C. C. Sabathia, the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez and the sentimental favorite the Royals’ Zack Greinke who has the league’s best ERA.

I would think that Greinke is the strong favorite now after shutting down the Twins yesterday to bring his win total to 15. That is not a great number but the poorness of the Kansas City offense and defense and their general inability to know how to win shouldn’t be held against him.

Happily for a fine baseball town, the Royals have won its share of September games, actually winning two series from the Tigers and also beating the erstwhile contending White Sox and splitting four games with the Red Sox. Royals manager Trey Hillman, a former Yankee minor league manager who also managed in Japan, and his staff have been rehired for 2010 so perhaps there is some hope of at least respectability for a team whose town deserves better.

Most of September I’ve been bothered with upper respiratory congestion that explains why I haven’t posted more often. Also was busy putting the finishing touches for a new edition of my first book THE IMPERFECT DIAMOND: A HISTORY OF BASEBALL’S LABOR WARS that should be out in the spring from U of Nebraska Press that also published my Branch Rickey biography. As the playoffs open and the games hopefully become more gripping you will hear more often from me.
Be well, be fun, take it easy but take it. Ciao for now!



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