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Four Cheers for Baseball in New York Area + In Memory of Roger Angell + Noir Alley Tips

As major league baseball passes the quarter-pole in the 2022 season, both the Yankees and the Mets have solid leads in their eastern divisions.  Neither success is that much of a surprise, but certainly a pleasant experience for fans of New York pro sports who have suffered greatly in recent years with the constant failures of the football Giants and Jets and the Knicks and the Nets.  


Expectation was high for the Nets but the Celtics wiped them out in four straight. I must say I almost enjoyed it because I don't like teams built from the top down with expensive free agents, especially one like self-absorbed Kyrie Irving who refused to get vaccinated and missed most of the season.   


Another positive development in Gotham this spring has been the emergence of a young and likable New York Rangers hockey team.  They knocked out the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round in a gripping seven-game series.  They have rallied to tie at two games apiece the Carolina Hurricanes with the pivotal fith game scheduled for tomorrow (Th night May 26).


I never learned to ice skate but as a fan of many sports, I say that there is nothing like the intensity of Stanley Cup hockey where there is no doubt that players are going all out to inscribe their name in undoubtedly sports' most captivating trophy.


I have never liked the term "warriors" to describe athletes who usually will have another season to try again, unlike real soldiers who may never come home.  But when you see the bloody faces of hockey players and their near-exhaustion, maybe warrior does fit them.


I saw my first major league game of the season at New Shea last Thursday afternoon May 19.  It was a dramatic encounter, won in the bottom of the 10th on a long Pete Alonso home run.  

It was very comforting to be in a crowd again - although with Covid-19 still a constant danger, I don't blame anyone for staying away. 


It was tonic for my soul to gaze upon the wonderful variety of fan affection for their heroes.  

I saw two Met fans sitting near the home dugout wearing Javier Baez jerseys, a homage to last season's rental who was only here for two months before signing a big free agent contract with the Tigers. (It is one of the season's early disappointments that the Tigers and their rival in the AL Central, Kansas City, are dong so poorly after signs of growth in 2021.)


I also saw a Cardinal fan wearing an Allen Craig jersey - a hero of many years ago who flamed out quickly.  An older woman sporting a gray ponytail and carrying a cane honored a more durable Cardinal hero with her jersey, Stan Musial.


I have not made a journey to Yankee Stadium yet but on the first Sunday in June, I will see them against the Tigers.  But I've been alerted that the game will start at 1135A as part of MLB's exclusive arrangement with NBC's Peacock streaming service. 


How many shekels baseball's moguls are receiving from its deals with "advanced media" is a highly-guarded secret.  It is obvious, though, that the inconvenience of early times to both fans and players was not a concern when MLB made this decision.


I mentioned Four Cheers in the title line for this blog so it is time to salute Columbia and Rutgers, two outstanding local baseball teams whose seasons are continuing.  My Lions pulled off a doubleheader sweep at Penn on Sunday May 22 to win their sixth Ivy League title

in the last fifteen years under the steady hand of coach Brett Boretti.  


I was a bit uneasy when they ran off 19 games in a row after losing their first series of the season to Penn at home. Baseball gods exist and you don't tempt with long streaks.  Sure enough, Dartmouth broke Columbia's streak in Hanover on the last weekend of the regular season. 


Then in the rubber match, the Big Green erased a 10-4 deficit in the eighth inning to win in the tenth inning.   It cost Columbia home field advantage against Penn for the best-of-three Ivy League Playoff.


After losing the first game at Penn, 13-4, this past Saturday May 21, the Lions shut down the powerful Quaker offense in the Sunday twinbill by the scores of 4-2 and 9-1. 


Nothing exemplifed the balance in their lineup than the 9-1 victory in which leadoff man Cole Hage drove in four runs and number nine hitter Austin Mowrey also drove in four. Coach Boretti's team now have an impressive 18-6 record in elimination games.


Down in New Brunswick, Rutgers set a school record with forty-one wins this season and they will have a number 2 seed in the upcoming Big Ten tournament in Omaha. Rain has delayed the opening of the tourney until Th May 26.  


Maryland will be the top seed in the 8-team tourney with the winner getting an automatic bid to the competition leading up to the College World Series also in Omaha starting on June 17.  Who said that northeastern baseball can't hold its own against any region of the country? 


The sad one note in this blog is the loss of Roger Angell at the age of 101 on Friday May 20.  Beginning in the early 1960s, Angell's thoughtful and beautiful essays on baseball in "The New Yorker" were must-readings for baseball fans who appreciated good writing.   


He occasionally guested on my WBAI-Pacifica "Seventh Inning Stretch" baseball shows in the 1980s.  I will never forget his inviting me to the memorial for baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti at Carnegie Hall in November 1989.  Harvard man Angell shared a profound love for the game along with the former Yale classics professor and university president. 


That's all for now.  Don't forget Noir Alley on TCM Sat after midnight and repeated at 10A on Sunday.  May 28-29's offering is "Bad Day At Black Rock" (1955) with Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, and Spencer Tracy.  


The film is usually labeled a Western but I'm sure host Eddie Muller will inform us about its Noir attributes. Coming up on June 4-5 is a truly classic Noir, "Out of the Past" (1947) with Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer.


Always remember: Take it easy but take it! 

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"Good and Crazy": Kaz Uehara's Nice Summation of the Red Sox Victory

Good and Crazy: Kaz Uehara’s Nice Summation of the Red Sox Triumph

There will be no Halloween Night climax to the 2013 Major League Baseball season.
The Red Sox scotched my fantasy last night with an efficient dispatching of the St. Louis Cardinals, 6-1, to win the World Series four games to two. Two three-run outbursts in the 3rd and 4th inning took all the drama out of the game as John Lackey pitched craftily until two out in the 7th inning.

Junichi Tazawa then induced a bases-loaded ground out from the heroic Allen Craig who came back from a serious foot injury to try to bring St. Louis another world title. Craig will be remembered forever for his base-running adventures in the 9th inning of Game 3 that led to the Cardinals winning the first World Series game ever on obstruction of a baserunner.

Revealingly, the Red Sox had such depth in their roster that the two Bosox victims on that play, catcher Jarrod Saltamacchia who threw off-line to third baseman Will Middlebrooks who became entangled with Craig leading to obstruction, never played again in the Series. The light-hitting but better defensive catcher David Ross replaced Saltamacchia and the 21-year-old Aruban phenom Xander Bogaerts replaced Middlebrooks and the Red Sox swept the next three games. Ross even belted the game-running RBI double in Game 5.

The late great Orioles skipper Earl Weaver used to laud his team's "deep depth". Clearly the 2013 Red Sox demonstrated that vital trait time and again. They won Games 4 and 5 without sparkplug Shane Victorino who returned to belt the bases-clearing double that cemented the Game 6 Series clincher.

As all of you must know by now, it was the first Fenway Park clinching of the World Series since 1918 and also marked Boston’s third World Series triumph in the last ten years. The Bosox turned around a dismal 2012 of 93 losses into a 97-win best record in the American League. Though behind by one game in both the League Championship Series and the World Series, they showed the resiliency of champions to win the last two playoffs in six games.

Not enough can be said about Boston closer Koji Uehara (whose name thanks to David Waldstein in the New York Times should be pronounced “Way-Ee-Hara”). I’ve noted before the amusing irony of the 38-year-old Uehara shaving his goatee and fearsome muttonchops before the Boston beards grew all around him. He might now look half his age but he was a star in Japan before the Orioles signed him.

The Birds must rue his not returning to Baltimore when he wanted to return after 2012 when the Texas Rangers let him go. We Oriole fans should remain thankful that when he was traded to Texas, we did receive in return the new home run king Chris Davis and useful power pitcher Tommy Hunter. So in the spirit of gratitude without being greedy, all hail to Koji for putting the finishing touches on the Red Sox triumphant 2013.

Uehara won the MVP in the ALCS for winning one game and saving the other three.
David Ortiz won the Series MVP for an astounding performance, 11 hits in 14 ABs and a mountain of intentional walks, making his presence in the lineup a constant worry to the overmatched Cardinals.

The best and simplest words to describe the 2013 Series experience came from Kaz Uehara, Koji’s little boy who when asked by Fox Sports’ Erin Andrews how he felt after the Series victory said simply, “Good.” And what would the celebration be like afterwards? “Crazy.”

Good and Crazy. Not bad words to sum up the season and the Series.

And now winter has come metaphorically and soon actually. Yet in approximately 105 days spring training begins!

Keep that consoling thought in mind while I remind you as always: Take it easy but take it!
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