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White Sox and Giants Not Ready For Prime Time and Other Pre-Memorial Day Musings

Memorial Day this year comes on May 31. It's fine with me because the original Decoration Day was May 30 - to honor African-American dead in the Civil War - and by end of 19th century all Civil War dead.  Memorial Day didn't become a national holiday until 1971. 

 

How well I remember MLB's practice of doubleheaders on every May 30, July 4, and Labor Day.  Twin-bills are now ancient relics or at most seven-inning games under the new pandemic rules. 

 

The end of May remains a good first guidepost on how baseball's pennant races are developing.  The White Sox came into Yankee Stadium riding high in a weak AL Central division and got swept by the revived Yankees.

 

The first and last games were tight pitchers' battles but the Yankees prevailed, not even needing to go to the bastardized extra-inning format starting with the unearned runner on second base.  

 

This is an innovation I will never get used to.  Ditto the allowing of a baserunner to use an oven mitt to enhance his sliding into bases.  

 

The Yankees have been getting extraordinary starting pitching, solid defense, and just enough offense. As the last week in May begins, the Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, and Red Sox all have only 19 losses, the Yanks with one less win. 

 

At this juncture, they don't seem to miss Masahiro Tanaka who has returned to his former team the Rakuten Golden Eagles in the Japanese Pacific League.  

 

Thanks to info provided me by our Japanese correspondent Jun Ogawa, Tanaka is 2-3 in 6 starts with a 2.84 ERA.

He has an outstanding 5:31 walk:strikeout ratio, and has given up 4 HR and 32 H in 38 IN.  HIs team is only a 1/2 game behind the first place Nankai Hawks. 

 

The Yankees decision to gamble on the return to form of Corey Kluber, former Cy Young award-winner with Cleveland, is paying off.   He threw a no-hitter at Texas, one of seven so far in 2021.  

 

That's too many this early and a sad commentary on batters' inability to adjust to good pitching. If there is a blessing in disguise in all the no-hitters, it is that pitchers are at least going nine innings.  

 

I often think that pitchers today have been brainwashed into thinking that they can't go through a lineup three or God forbid four times. It becomes an unfortunate self-fulfilling prophecy.

 

The Orioles' only reliable pitcher, John Means, said after his no-hitter that just getting into the eighth inning for the first time in his career was a big thrill.  Means' inability to hold on to a five-run lead against the streaking Rays - 10 in a row as I post - started the O's latest descent into oblivion, 6 losses in a row as I post. 

 

In the National League West, the surprising Giants were riding high until the Dodgers came to town. Three losses later, the Giants find themselves in third behind both Padres and LA.

 

The only possible bright spot for SF is that they have an immediate rematch with the Dodgers in LA starting on

Thursday.  The White Sox don't meet the Yankees again until Th August 12 when they play the Field of Dreams game in Dyersville, Iowa.  After a day off they finish the weekend in Chicago.

 

I still maintain that baseball and any sports and art event must be experienced in person.  Two weeks ago,  

I paid my first visit to CitiField since the 2019 season. 

 

I saw a fine pitcher's battle for six innings between the Mets' Marcus Stroman and John "No-Hit" Means.  

It was the game where Albert Almora of the Mets almost made a great catch at the left center field wall but a collision with the fence knocked the ball free.   

 

Almora is still on the IL as are unfortunately virtually half of the Mets.  They remain in first place in the mediocre NL East but have played fewer games than any of their rivals.  The division is still wide open for every team.

 

Outfielder Kevin Pillar was the unacknowledged hero of that Met game.  With the Mets trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth, Pillar led off with a screaming first-pitch liner close to the left field foul pole. 

 

It was called a home run by the third base umpire and he circled the bases only to find out that after an umpires' conference it was called foul.  I don't think I have ever seen a player trot the bases on a phantom home run.

 

Pillar showed me a lot by digging in for the rest of the at-bat against soft-tossing Oriole closer Cesar Valdez. He singled to start the eventual two-run game-winning rally. 

 

A few days later, Pillar was hit in the face by a fastball by young Braves reliever Jacob Webb.  He suffered multiple nasal fractures and won't be back for a while.

 

If anyone can beat the doctor's estimates, it wil be Pillar.  He was more than gracious to pitcher Webb who was

visibly distraught at his misplaced pitch.

 

I also saw the Liberty home opener at the Barclay's Center.  After going 2-20 last season, the Liberty are off to 4-1 start in 2021.  The return of the justly heralded Sabrina Ionescu has been a big factor. The entire roster remake is also paying off in the early going.   

 

ONE WORD TO THE WISE:  Make sure you carry proof of vaccination with you on the card and/or your cell phone. 

 

Here are two tips for Memorial Day weekend viewing on TCM:

Sat May 29 12M/repeated Su 10A:  "Act of Violence" 1949 with Robert Ryan out to avenge a POW betrayal by

Van Heflin; and Mon May 31 3:15p  "The Steel Helmet" 1951  Sam Fuller's searing view of early Korean War

 

Always remember:  Stay positive, test negative & take it easy but take it!

 

 

  

 

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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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