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

"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!
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Can Orioles Turn It Around In September? & Other Late-Season Thoughts

As play begins on Labor Day weekend, the Orioles find themselves tied for the second AL wild card with the resurgent Detroit Tigers. The Houston Astros are nipping on their heels and the born-again Yankees with a lot of new blood are only two lost games behind Baltimore and Detroit.

The Yankees are regularly winning series these days, including recently cooling off defending World Series champion Kansas City. The Orioles are in reverse, losing series that they won earlier in the season.

They are now a long shot to win the AL East trailing the Blue Jays by four games and the Red Sox by two. Right now Boston leads the battle to host the wild card game but of course a lot can happen in September.

There are a lot of explanations for why the Orioles, a team that peaked at 18 above .500 in early August, have slipped. Most prominent is the failure of any consistent starting pitching. A troubling shoulder injury to 15-game winner Chris Tillman has obviously hurt as well as the multiple injuries to key reliever Darren O'Day.

No one has stepped up to fill the starter void although Kevin Gausman did momentarily stop the bleeding in a great seven inning-shutout performance at Yankee Stadium on the last Sunday in August. I was fortunate to attend that game.

Steve Pearce got his first RBIs in his return to the O's - a solo HR and a huge two-out bases-loaded single. He also threw out the Yankees wunderkind catcher Gary Sanchez trying to go first to third on a single with nobody out in the fourth.

Manny Machado was way off third base in a defensive shift but managed to get back to the bag to receive Pearce's throw. Turned out to be a huge play. Pearce left the game after top of 7th but his balky elbow is evidently all right.

Mark Trumbo hit a long HR for the insurance runs in the eighth. Most important the defense sparkled for the first time in a while, Machado and Jonathan Schoop making unbelievable plays. Probably was no accident that good starting pitching with a fast working Gausman kept the defense on their toes.

Alas, losing the following series to Toronto at home stopped any possible momentum.
The first "meaningful games in September" begin tonight Fri Sep 2 against the Yankees at Camden Yards. Since negative thoughts can cause considerable damage, I will refrain from any such exercise. Am hoping for the best by winning every series for the next month - that's the message.

RANDOM THOUGHTS:
**How about Stephen Cardullo of the Colorado Rockies? He made his major league debut
last week in a makeup home doubleheader against the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers. He not only got his first MLB hit and first HR in game one, but he belted a grand-slam in the second game.

Not bad for a veteran of four seasons in independent leagues who made The Show at the advanced age of 29. That the Dodgers scored 8 runs in the last two innings to come-from-behind to win the second game put a damper on Cardullo's achievement, but to coin a phrase, they can't take that [debut performance] away for him.

**On the negative side, the Washington Nationals reigning MVP Bryce Harper still doesn't know the word "remorse." He was recently ejected from an extra-inning game for throwing his helmet at home plate after being called out on strikes. His team was already shorthanded in a game they eventually lost.

Afterwards Harper was still fuming at the plate umpire's call (which on replay didn't seem to me outrageously wrong). I guess when you are a megasports celebrity who hobnobbed with first pitch thrower/Olympic swimming champion Katie Ledecky before the game, you feel you can do anything without paying a price.

That's all for now - more on the dramatic pennant races coming up later this month.
Plus my report on the induction of revered baseball scout John Hagemann into the Hudson Valley Renegades Scouting Wall of Fame Friday night September 2.

Always remember - take it easy but take it!
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