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Thoughts On The First 10 Days of the Baseball Season + "Oliver Sacks: His Own Life" (corrected title) + TCM Tips

It sure is nice to have a full baseball season back, cross fingers that Covid can be fully controlled. The great thing about a 162-game season - or maybe only 154 (the way it used to be from 1903-1960)  -  is you can't win them all. 

 

And get ready folks - here comes another cliche:  The best teams always lose at least fifty and the worst ones win fifty. It's how you do in the other 60+ that determines what cream will rise to the top in October.

 

The ability to bounce back from losses - simply flush them out of the mind - is so essential to baseball which is like no other sport in the length of its schedule.  

 

Full credit to the Red Sox and the Braves who started 0-3 and 0-4. Now the Bosox have won six in a row (after games of Apr 11). They are the only team over .500 in the AL East. The Braves, too, have neared the .500 line after their opening losses.  

 

Get ready for another cliche (but like most cliches it is true):  A pennant is never won in April but you sure can dig an awfully big hole for yourself in April. The Oakland A's started 1-6, but they got a couple needed wins in Houston so they can still harbor hopes of contention.  

 

Until starting rotations are settled, no need to panic. If If If you have the able arms and don't ruin your bullpens too early in the season. 

 

The return of Alex Cora as Red Sox manager certainly steadied the team after the Orioles swept them in Fenway in the first series of the season. Cora was suspended for the 2020 season for his part as bench coach in the Houston sign-stealing scandal.

 

It is ridiculous to make projections on the basis of nine games except that the LA Dodgers have only two losses and look like they are primed to defend their crown.  

 

Don't know if the Red Sox are true contenders but they have certainly been impressive in sweeping the Tampa Bay Rays at home and returning the favor by sweeping the Orioles on the road.  

 

Slugger J.D. Martinez in the last year of his contract is off to a sizzling start and third baseman Rafael Devers's hitting is making people forget for the time being his defense.  If they get pitching, they'll be interesting to watch.

 

Ah, the Orioles or the Woerioles as I call them in my darkest moments.  I said in my last post that it would be a miracle if they won three games in a row all season because their pitching looked so weak.  So they sweep Boston and pitch fairly well in losing two out of three to the Yankees.  What do I know, huh?

 

They competed fairly well on the mound for most of the first two games in the rematch against Boston.  But usually reliable Cesar Valdez couldn't get the save on Sat night and they lost in extra-innings. They got blown out in the final game of the series, the one time the pitching looked totally outmatched. 

 

Speaking of extra innings, I will never get used to extra innings starting with a runner on second base. They might as well as have a Home Run Derby to decide a game. I'd rather have a tie than this artificial idea.

 

On the non-baseball front, I highly recommend the documentary "Oliver Sacks: His Own Life" directed by Ric Burns (Ken's equally talented brother).  Sacks' fame was secured when he wrote "Awakenings," his study of psychologically challenged people that became a movie starring Robin Williams. 

 

There is a very brief clip of Sacks meeting Williams in the editing room, but the strength of the film comes from its rendering in aching detail the story of Sacks' struggle from his earliest days to find meaning in his life and the world.

 

He was the son of two gifted English doctors of Jewish heritage who expected him to become a doctor. He did but he always was a loner.  He remained close to his mother even after she was horrified at his homosexuality.  I was very moved by the story of his arrival and adventures in America during the free-spirited 1960s.

 

Check your PBS schedules for when it might re-air.  It is also available via free streaming through May 7.  Google:  Oliver Sacks: His Own Life  

 

Here's some TCM tips for the next couple of weeks:

M Apr 12 8p "It's Always Fair Weather" (1955)  Gene Kelly, Cyd Charisse, Michael Kidd, co-director Stanley Donen.

Originally intended as "On The Town" reunion, this is choreographer Kidd's lfirst appearance on screen.

 

W Apr 14 4p "Ladies In Retirement" (1941) - Ida Lupino plays another noirish role with Elsa Lanchester and Evelyn Keyes.

 

Sa Apr 17 4p "Mildred Pierce" (1945) always worth re-seeing with Joan Crawford as mother and Ann Blyth as daughter you wouldn't want to have - Jack Carson and Zachary Scott are wonderful secondary characters

 

Sun Apr 18 6a "Mr Deeds Goes To Town" (1936) I always get moved by Gary Cooper's pain when he gets humiliated by the press.  It may be Capra-corn but I think it holds up.  Maybe you'll get pixillated. 

 

Sun Apr 18 "The Naked Spur" (1953) dir. Anthony Mann.  Jimmy Stewart hunts Robert Ryan with the underappreciated Janet Leigh. 

 

Tu Apr 20 6p "Pal Joey" (1957) - Sinatra as a louse with that great Rodgers-Hart score

 

W Apr 21 2p "Pete Kelly's Blues" (1955) - directed and starring Jack Webb - one of the better 1920s jazz-based films with Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald, Janet Leigh again (not one of her best roles) and Edmond O'Brien

 

Th Apr 22 starting at 8p - back-to-back-to-back  "The Producers", "Psycho", "The Public Enemy" where Cagney hits Mae Clarke with the grapefruit

 

F Apr 23 145p "Rasputin and the Empress" - early 1930s - featuring three Barrymores, John, Lionel, Ethel

 

Sa Apr 24 130p "The Sea Wolf" (1941) - dir. Curtiz, with Lupino-Garfield-Edward G Robinson at top of their game.

   based on a Jack London story so it was never made into a sit-com 

 

Su Apr 25 945p "Somebody Up There Likes Me" (1956) dir. Robert Wise one of the greats and oh-so-versatile.

Paul Newman plays Rocky Graziano. He didn't get top billing but he was on his way. Sal Mineo Joseph Buloff got greater billing. Steve McQueen in minor role and sportscaster-onetime NY Titans owner (pre-Jets) Harry Wismer plays himself.

 

That's all for now.  Remember to stay positive, test negative, and take it easy but take it! 


 

 

 

 

 

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Behold, It Is The Springtide of the Year! Thoughts on Baseball's Opening Day & Basketball's Sweet Sixteen

I've always loved the song in the Reform Jewish Haggadah that begins:  "Behold it is the springtide of the year/Over and past is winter's gloomy reign."  Well, it could snow in April as Andy Pettitte found out pitching through snowflakes on Yankee Stadium Opening Day over twenty years ago - I think it was 1999.

 

This still remains an amazingly hopeful time of year. Birds are chirping, buds are blooming, and Passover starts on Sat night March 27 along with the NCAA Division I men's basketball Sweet Sixteen earlier that day.  Then Opening Day for MLB on April's Fool Day.  

 

It's a fitting way to start a season for teams without a prayer of competing for a pennant. Let's start with my Orioles whose lack of veteran pitching, a left-side infield defense "anchored" by retreads Maikel Franco and Freddy Galvis, inconsistent offense, and no closer don't exactly inspire confidence.  

 

I will certainly root for individuals like Trey Mancini, back at his best position first base after a year missed to colon cancer; RHP Dean Kremer MLB's first dual Israeli-American citizen; outfielder Austin Hays who had a great spring training but alas always seems to get hurt; and switch-hitting outfielder Anthony Santander (accent on the last syllable please - "san-tan-DERE!").

 

Since Orioles need feel-good stories, young Venezuelan Santander has found a fan club in the United Kingdom. 

Joe Trezza posted a lovely piece Mar 24 on mlb.com about how a few thousand United Kingdom youths on a trip to the States two years ago adopted Santander while sitting in Camden Yards left field seats. 

 

I just hope the rumors that he could be traded at the late July deadline are false. No one is safe from the analytic-drenched Oriole brain trust.

 

There is hardly pennant hope in Anaheim (Angels), Cincinnati, Denver (Rockies), Detroit, Dallas (Texas Rangers), Kansas City, Phoenix (Diamondbacks), Pittsburgh, Seattle, and Toronto.  With the inability to pay Francisco Lindor, now a Met, Cleveland might also become a non-contender.  

 

The Cubs could also be slipping. I see the Brewers and Cardinals as co-favorites in NL Central.

 

On paper, the White Sox look like the stronger Chicago team. They still have to do it on the field with Tony LaRussa as the first manager ever enshrined in the Hall of Fame to return to the field.

 

LaRussa's rehiring occurred just after he was hit with a DUI charge for the second time in recent years. There is little doubt that his return is owner Jerry Reinsdorf making amends for dismissing him 35 years earlier.

 

Mel Brooks had it right - "it's good to be the King."

 

The Twins could challenge the White Sox in AL Central and Kansas City could stick around.

Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield is one of the unheralded players in the game.

 

The Royals may be developing some good pitching to throw to All-Star catcher Salvador Perez, who the other day signed up for another four years in Kansas City.  

 

In AL West, Houston lost free agent outfielder George Springer to Toronto and ace Justin Verlander is recovering from Tommy John surgery and may not be back until late in the season. But I think with Dusty Baker managing, the Astros will find a way to contend. 

 

Oakland under manager Bob Melvin might be a slight favorite in AL West because the Angels need pitching and Mike Trout to have an even better year than usual. Shohei Ohtani, the Japanese pitcher-first baseman, is healthy and will certainly be fun to watch on both the mound and at bat.

 

The Mariners as always talk a good game at the cutting edge of analytics. So far it hasn't translated into wins.

In their new billion dollar stadium, Rangers will still look upward.  Dallas is also planning on a capacity crowd for Opening Day which might lead to Covid nightmares.   

 

In AL East, Tampa Bay always manages to compete against the behemoth Yankees and the enigmatic Red Sox whose co-owner John Henry seems more involved in his international soccer interests than the Bosox.

 

Toronto has already lost closer Kirby Yates but I like their core for the future: Two sons of Hall of Famers, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Craig Biggio; infielder Bo Bichette; free agent pickup infielder Marcus Semien; and the wonderfully named first baseman Rowdy Tellez.  But who will pitch?!

 

The NL East could be very interesting.  The Braves, who fell one game short of the 2020 World Series, have to be favored.  They've added reliable starter Charlie Morton and have returning MVP Freddie Freeman. 

 

I'm not impressed by the Mets pitching after Jacob DeGrom or their defense.  Lindor must be signed for a good chunk of the future and Pete Alonso must bounce back from a miserable sophomore season.

 

I do hope that a full season is played. Unlike the powers that be who crave the TV-watching eyeballs in LA and NY,

I don't want to see a Dodgers-Yankees World Series. But since October is such a long way off, I'll try to enjoy the daily drama.

 

There is always a surprise in any season because MLB is such a marathon and the nature of the game is capricious.  So is life. And that is my biggest gripe with the analytics crowd. They are hell-bent at forcing certainty on a game that blessedly has defied simple categorization in its long and fascinating history. 

 

On the local scene, Manhattan College has resumed its home schedule at its new field at Van Cortlandt Park.  

They host Rider College from Trenton NJ for two doubleheaders before Easter Sunday - FSa Apr 2-3 starting at noon.  Only the famllies of players are invited to attend, but the games are free and in a public park so no stopping anyone from looking on.

 

The Jaspers play another twinbill against Iona on W Apr 7, first game 12N   Iona returns on Wed Apr 14.

The field is located not far from the northern terminus of the #1 train at 242 St and Broadway.

 

PSAL high school baseball is slated to resume on May 1 for a 10-game season with no playoffs. It will be only intra-borough competition and end in mid-June.  

 

To use a term from the days of Watergate, NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio's pronouncement that all high school sports will be played through August is now "inoperative."  

 

Now on to hoops, Loyola of Chicago has become perhaps the sentimental favorite after dismantling #1 seed Illinois to everyone's surprise including me.

  

One pithy phrase summed up Loyola's convincing win: NUN-AND-DONE - it paid homage to Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, 101, who has been rooting the Ramblers on and really knows the game. She is the team's long-serving chaplain.

 

The Sweet Sixteens this Sat and Mon & Sun and Tues should be exciting. The three #1 seeds left will be favored -  Michigan v. Gonzaga for one semi-final on Apr 3 and Baylor v perhaps #2 Houston for second semi.

 

I wouldn't count out anyone yet.  Michigan must beat Florida State (Su at 5p CBS) and then the winner of a matchup between explosive Alabama and red-hot UCLA (Su 715p TBS). 

 

After years of disappointment, Gonzaga may finally get its title but must beat Creighton (Sun 240p CBS) and then the winner of USC-Oregon (Su 945p TBS).  

 

Baylor, who dispatched my Wisconsin Badgers fairly easily, has to go through Villanova (Sa 515p CBS) and the winner of Arkansas-Oral Roberts (Sa 725p TBS).  ORU is the #15 seed that knocked out Ohio State and Florida.

 

Houston will have to beat Syracuse (Sa 955p TBS) before it can face the winner of Loyola-Oregon State (Sa 240p CBS) 

 

Columbia alums continue to BIRG (Bask In Reflected Glory) about Mike Smith whose point guard play for Michigan has been outstanding.  The Wolverines are the only Big Ten team left in the tourney.  

 

Nine got in but Iowa was blown out by Oregon; Ohio State, Purdue and Rutgers lost winnable games; Michigan State lost an overtime play-in game to UCLA (now in the Sweet Sixteen); Maryland couldn't match Alabama's offensive fire power. 

 

The Big Ten was probably overrated because lack of intersectional play in regular season masked their weaknesses in dealing with quicker teams. The intensity and defensive prowess in the Big Ten this year was still wonderful to watch.   

 

That's all for now.  In this age of the not-yet-conquered pandemic, please stay positve and test negative.  And always remember:  Take it easy but take it!    

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