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"You Always See Something New At A Baseball Game," Reflections on Upcoming Chautauqua Class on Baseball Fandom & TCM Tips

Going to baseball day games at Yankee Stadium is not exactly becoming a habit, but on the Fourth of July I journeyed via swift air-conditioned NYC

Transit Authority buses to see the Yankees lose for the second time in three Thursdays. (I took my June 27 birthday off to enjoy a fine meal at Amor

Cubano, a fine restaurant in Spanish Harlem.) 


What I had never seen before was that after the first pitch of the July 4th game, a routine 6-3 grounder to short, Cincinnati manager David Bell protested that Yankee shortstop Anthony Volpe had started the play on the first base side of second base (a no-no since the infield shift was banned a few years ago). The protest was turned down and the Reds lost their right to challenge calls for the rest of the game. 


As it turned out. they didn't need it as they led all the way in an 8-4 victory and a 3-game sweep of the slumping Yankess who for the time being are in second place behind my Orioles - lots of baseball to play, I remind myself.


I saw another rare occurrence later in the game.  With a 5-2 lead in the bottom of the 5th, Manager Bell brought the infield in with a Yankee on

third base and one out.  "The baseball book" - which the late Earl Weaver scorned and most of today's analytics people do, too - says you don't bring the infield in with a lead so early in the game. It can lead to a big inning if infielders are moved much closer to home plate.


Maybe if you have on your side sensational shortstop (and promising switch-hitter) Elly de la Cruz, you can tempt fate. Because he threw out a Yankee runner at home plate on a hot grounder and the Reds never were threatened again. 


Cincinnati is one of those teams that though under .500 still has playoff aspirations in the 12-team tournament coming up in October. They have a positive run-differential (meaning they have scored more runs than they have given up.) Pitching and defense will tell the story and they are youthful and athletic. 


If you haven't noticed, the Astros, Cardinals, and Red Sox already have soared over .500 after bad starts.  It will make the trading deadline of July 30 very interesting (and nerve-wracking for fans and unsettling for players who will have to change employers and residences with little say in the matter).


Here's a word of caution on that deadline. It will be a big media story throughout July, but rarely does a trade make a huge difference in the outcome of a pennant race.  I still believe knowing your own farm system and rewarding those who can help the parent club is the best way to build a winner.

Let's call it IBP - Improvement By Promotion, OK? 


Yet like everything in baseball, there are no guarantees.  The Orioles thought that Jackson Holliday could make the jump to MLB as a 20-year-old,

but they had to send him back to the minors.  He's doing OK but not sensationally. He is learning a new position, second base, because it seems that Gunnar Henderson will monopolize shortstop for the foreseeable future.


Fortunately, the tandem of veteran Jorge Mateo and rising young star Jordan Westburg has handled second base very well for the Orioles with another veteran Ramon Urias now and then filling in. It is hard for even the Prince of Paranoia to criticize the decisions of GM Mike Elias (so far). 


He surprised a lot of people by bringing back both Mateo and Urias in 2024 and they have both contributed, especially speedy and savvy Mateo who alas will never be a consistent hitter but he can turn a game around with his legs.  I am also enjoying whal it seems will be the last Oriole season of Anthony Santander, who like Mateo was signed as a teenager - Anthony out of Venezuela by Cleveland and Mateo out of the Dominican Republic by the Yankees.   


I love it when players persevere to become key contributors. And I recently read that Anthony and Jorge, who incidentally the Padres also gave up on, have become chess-playing buddies in the clubhouse!  


Baltimore obviously needs a more consistent relief corps and another reliable starter, but so do most contenders. Meanwhile, Oriole rookie southpaw Cade Povich - a native of Omaha, Nebraska and not related to Shirley or Maury Povich - has been a godsend.  I repeat again - it is so easy to root for someone you've developed from day one after the draft . . . and rescued from the waiver wire and other areas of the baseball scrap heap. 


For example, 34-year-old Venezuelan starter Albert Suarez who has stepped up to become a fairly reliable member of the rotation after several years playing in Korea and Japan.  I love that manager Brandon Hyde is challenging his starters  to work deep into games because - this is not original but it is so accurate - THE BEST BULLPEN IS A STARTER THAT GOES 7 INNINGS.   


This will probably be my last post until after I return from teaching my almost-annual class in Baseball and American Culture at the Chautauqua Institution in the southwestern corner of New York State near Jamestown NY which is now the home with the National Comedy Center.


My theme this year is "Baseball Fandom" and I've been delving into a bevy of different sources.  New Oriole owner David Rubenstein is certainly

making his mark as the Delirious Fan Owner - DFO another acronym I've just coined. 


Rubenstein has splashed with Dr. Splash in the outfield bleachers at Camden Yards - Splash is a fanatic fan bringing back memories of Wild Bill Hagy in Section 34 of Memorial Stadium, the last time Orioles had a genuine contender over 40 years ago.  Rubenstein has also danced on the dugout with the Bird mascot during the 7th Inning Stretch.  (I just hope in the off-season he will ante up the shekels for both Santander and staff ace Corbin Burnes, but the Prince of Paranoia will wait until after the season to deal with that anxiety.) 


In addition to discussing in my class the writings of Rogers Angell and Kahn, Wilfred Sheed, and sharing the lyrical excerpts from Richard Greenberg's play "Take Me Out", I want to show the wild taxicab ride that Harold Lloyd takes Babe Ruth to Yankee Stadium in the 1928 classic "Speedy". 

(For more info on my class, running July 15-19 from 330-5P in the heart of the campus in 201B Hultquist - google Chautauqua Institution Special Studies Week 4 Classes.) 


And now we've come full circle because here's the info about the bus ride I took to the Stadium:  M4 or M5 bus to Broadway/157th St.  Cross street to west side and walk a curved half-block to Morgan Place stop of Bx6.  It takes you past the old Polo Grounds site, across the bridge over the Harlem River into the Bronx and the famous address of River Ave and E 161 Street.  Bus runs about every 12-15 minutes and is nicely air-conditioned too.


Here are some TCM Tips for much of the rest of July:

M Jul 8 230P - "Sapphire" (1959) rarely shown.  Basil Dearden directs a searing murder mystery about a British woman who had been "passing" as white.  

M July 8  8P "Scarface" (1932) Howard Hawks directs Paul Muni/Ann Dvorak in a pioneering gangster movie - too mannered for me but classic.

M July 8  1030P "The Roaring Twenties" (1939) Raoul Walsh directs Jimmy Cagney, Bogart in supporting role, classic last line by Gladys George


And now the sports-related films:

F July 12 1015P  "Slap Shot" (1977)  George Roy Hill - "Butch Cassidy", "The Sting"  - directs Paul Newman as minor league hockey coach


Sa July 13 8P  "Elmer the Great" (1933) Mervyn Leroy directs Joe E Brown in Brown's favorite baseball movie - opening scene draws you in.

Sa July 13 8p "Eight Men Out" (1988)  John Sayles directs an earnest, well-acted though not very accurate Black Sox Scandal movie


Su July 14 two classic noirs back to back:

 8P "The Killers" (1946) based on Hemingway story - Robert Siodmak directs young Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner among others 

10P "Criss Cross" (1949) R. Siodmak directs Lancaster and Yvonne DeCarlo among others


Th July 18 8P  "36 Hours" (1964)  George Seaton directs James Garner as WW 2 POW with amnesia who Germans are brainwashing

1015P "Grand Prix" (1966) John Frankenheimer auto racing movie with James Garner and Eva Marie Saint who plays brainwasher in "36 Hrs"                    

Su July 21 8P "Chariots of Fire" (1981) deserved Oscar-winning film about British Olympic runners of early 20th century

1015P "Jim Thorpe-All American" (1951) Michael Curtiz directs Burt Lancaster in one of his better roles


M July 22 945P "Boys Town" (1938)  Spencer Tracy as Father Flanagan saving Mickey Rooney from delinquency


Tu July 23 8P "Slippery When Wet" (1958)  documentary on surfers in Oahu


Th July 25 8P "The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming" (1966)  Norman Jewison directs a hilarious satire from a more irreverent time

    of our history with Carl Reiner, Alan Arkin, and Eva Marie Saint (TCM's Star of Month, Thursday in July)


That's all for now.  And here's a different closing line.  THE ELECTION OUTCOME IS NOT FOREORDAINED.  MAKE SURE YOU ARE REGISTERED











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Mid-May Reflections on Orioles As I Await Big Columbia Baseball and Tennis Weekend + TCM Tips

I have long believed that you shouldn't make prognostications about a season until Memorial Day at the earliest. But, after all, this season started in Korea before winter was over and already the White Sox, Marlins, and Rockies are not likely to ever glimpse .500 all season. 


As an Oriole fan, I like their record, solidly more than 10 games over .500 and perhaps the best is yet to come. But they remain very streaky offensively and the pitching staff remains a work in progress. 


Temporarily at least, closer Craig Kimbrel has lost his spot because of inconsistent performances.  He did give a refreshingly original explanation for his wildness and his penchant for giving up big hits: "I lost my lanes," he said, making a comparison to bowling.


I know that the Dodgers' Mookie Betts is a great bowler but I have never heard him connect the two sports. In this past weekend's series win over the Diamondbacks, the defending National League champion,  Kimbrel's two appearances in non-closing roles were far better. We'll see if he returns to the pressure-packed closing role soon.


During the series against Arizona, Anthony Santander, the switch-hitting right fielder from Venezuela, began to show signs of offensive consistency. He hit a 8th inning tying HR in Sat's extra-inning win and blasted an opposite field double in the Sun loss to Dback ace Zac Gallen. (Slumping 2023 NL rookie of the year Corbin Carroll came to life in that victory stroking the ball all over the field and running wild on the bases - he even beat out a relatively routine grounder to shortstop when in a rare lapse Gunnar Henderson, last year's AL ROY, took too much time throwing to first base.)


Santander (pronounced with emphasis on the "der") is a quiet but imposing leader of the Orioles and he is so easy to root for. (I wrote this before I saw his YouTube Mother's Day greeting to his mother which made him even more endearing.)   


His emergence as a run producer and underrated outfielder has been a longtime in coming. He was signed as a teenager by Cleveland and after six years in the minors, many of them plagued by injuries, the Orioles under the previous Dan Duquette administration plucked him out of the Rule 5 Draft. He doesn't turn 30 until Oct 19.


He will be a free agent after the season and there has been no indication that the current adminstration under Mike Elias and Sig Mejdal want to re-sign him. When the duo was running Houston, they let even more talented Carlos Correa and George Springer walk. 


This may be my wistful thinking but perhaps new owner David Rubenstein will see Santander's value to the team and take an active role in keeping him around long-term. Certainly Rubenstein's first moves as an owner have been deservingly well-received.  He has spoken genuinely about his love of the Orioles from his earliest days as a native Baltimorean who remembers the team coming from the moribund shell of the St. Louis Browns before the 1954 season. 


He is very versed in media performance from his longtime work as a Bloomberg News talk show host. During the Friday game against Arizona, he even took a turn in the Dr. Splash Zone in the outfield seats, joining fans in watery celebration of big Baltimore hits. 


Budding ace Corbin Burnes will also be a free agent after the season but I'm willing to let his and Santander's contracts play out after a deep run into the post-season and ideally through a World Series parade. 


As for the AL East race this season with Boston perhaps a surprise third right now, it looks likely that the Yankees are here to stay especially if Gerrit Cole returns to form after his elbow injury. And Juan Soto has certainly made a difference in the Yankee lineup and the team's overall upbeat presence. 

He has to be an early favorite in the MVP race.


On the college baseball front, more than a few people have expressed surprise to me about Columbia's excellence in baseball that I highlighted last post. It is no sudden emergence but dates back to 2008, the third season with Brett Boretti at the helm when the Lions won their first of six championships in his reign.


The field is set for the double-elimination tourney that begins Fri May 17 at 11A with 2nd seed Princeton taking on 3rd seed Cornell. At 3P top-seeded

Columbia faces defending champion Penn who got in when to no surprise to yours truly, Harvard eliminated Yale last weekend.  (Nothing like an ancient rivalry of the super blue-bloods and misery loving company! Yale had to sweep the 3-game series and the Crimson won the second game, 3-2.)   


The winners on Friday play Sat at 3P and the losers fight for survival at 11A.  The Friday winners play at 3P.  On Sunday at 11 the survivor of the early Sat game plays the loser of the 3p game.  The winner of that elimination game plays the undefeated team at 3P. 


If the undefeated team loses, there is a winner take all match at noon on Mon Feb 20.   All games are at Satow Stadium Robertson Field just north of the football field NW of Bway/2018 Street.  On Mon May 27 at noon, ESPN will announce the 64 teams going to the tournament that winds up in the College World Series 8-game tournament in Omaha in mid-June.  And what does Omaha stand for? 





Always put the team first! 


Meanwhile Columbia tennis has earned its first entry into the Elite Eight of NCAA men's tennis.  The Lions will meet #1 seed Ohio State on Th May 16

at 12N on the campus of Oklahoma State in Stillwater Oklahoma.  Like baseball, Columbia tennis has built a winning culture for years, first under coach Bid Goswami and now under his successor Howard Endelman, a former star Columbia player. 


Other matches on Thurs will feature Kentucky v Texas Christian U followed by Tennessee v Texas and finally Virginia, trying for a three-peat v Wake

Forest.  Semifinals will be on May 18 and the final May 19. 


Here's TCM Tips on sports movies: 

Th May 16 9A  "The Set-up" (1949) one of the great boxing movies with Robert Ryan as a battered but proud pugilist


Sa May 18 930A "Rookie of the Year" (1955) directed by John Ford/with John Wayne, his son Patrick Wayne, Ward Bond, Vera Miles

  originally a Screen Directors Guild half-hour TV show - aging sportswriter finds a story in son of banned ballplayer playing the game

  Script co-written by W. R. Burnett (who wrote among other classics "Little Caesar" and "Asphalt Jungle")


Th May 23 4p "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" (1949) with Sinatra/Gene Kelly/Esther Williams as owner of an early 20th century team


That's all for now.  Always remember:  Take it easy but take it, and Stay positive, test negative.  

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