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"Sitting On A Bench On Broad-Way" (with apologies to Otis Redding): Thoughts On MLB Season So Far + Go see "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"

Spring has sprung in NYC in all its glory.  As I was marveling at the beautiful buds blooming all over my UWS neighborhood (Upper West Side) and sipping my morning coffee while sitting on a bench on an island on Broadway, I started to hum Otis Redding's classic tune, "Sitting On The Dock of the Bay". 


OK, my mind has odd synapses but you got a problem with that?!  You see, I was in Madison, Wisconsin on the foggy Sunday night of December 10, 1967 when word came that Otis Redding's plane crashed into Lake Monona three miles short of Four Lakes Airport. 


Otis was only 26, and seven of his bandmates perished with him. He had just recorded "Sitting On The Dock of the Bay" which according to many websites was the first posthumous #1 hit.  

It was a very sad day for American music and the best spirit of the 1960s.  RIP Otis - we will never forget you.


As for the baseball season so far, it's been pretty wonderfully wacky.  Unless you are fans of the Tigers and Orioles and Rockies and Diamondbacks and Marlins who are sinking fast as I predicted.


Believe me, I didn't want to be a prophet and don't want to be a prophet. But a new ownership in Baltimore can't come fast enough. Alas, until there is "cost certainty" on the business side of the franchise, all that's left is rooting for individuals.  


I hope southpaw John Means is morphing into an ace. He's already spawned a T-shirt, JOHN MEANS BUSINESS.  I like my idea of MEANS FINDS WAYS.  


I cross fingers that Trey Mancini doesn't think he needs the jump-start the offense all by himself.  Just great to see him recovered from colon cancer and ready to play every day.


I guess because the season is so long, there's always hope for a turnaround.  

The Oakland A's have proved that, starting 0-6 and 1-7 and then all of a sudden they have won 12 in a row.


With two more against the Orioles - and more next week in Oakland - they could be flying high by May. Don't think they are that good, but double-digit winning streaks cerrtainly mean something.  


Kudos to veteran manager Bob Melvin - to me somewhat of an Anthony Perkins-lookalike and always a calm presence  - who has steered the ship to far smoother waters. 


Returned Bosox manager Alex Cora also quickly turned around Boston.  After they lost three in a row at home to the Woerioles, they ran off nine in a row. Since then, it hasn't been so easy for them.  


Surprising Seattle has played everyone hard, including the Red Sox. Much too early to see any patterns in the season yet.  But nice to see Seattle and Kansas City playing so well.


One thing is clear - the Padres and the Dodgers are developing a fierce rivalry.  We'll see if the Padres can stay so intense against other teams.  In between their two series against the Dodgers they went home and got swept by the Brewers.    


The key point at this early time of season is staying near .500. And then get ready to surge in the warmer months.  Of course, easier said than done - like most things in life.


When the Yankees fell to five below .500, the angst in NYC was epidemic.  Suzyn Waldman, John Sterling's sidekick on Yankee radio broadcasts (and who hosts pre-game interviews),  has perceptively noted, "In NYC there are 162  one-game seasons." 


With the Yankees beating up on the Indians and soon the Woerioles, they could be at .500 by the time you read this.  (If you think I'm trying to jinx them, you're right.)


On the cultural scene, I went to see "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" in a real movie theatre last week, the venerable Paris Theatre just south of Central Park and the Plaza Hotel. "Venerable" meaning it was opened in late 1950s. 


The audience was sparse but to be expected on a weeknight with people wisely still cautious about going indoors to a theatre.  Free popcorn and soft drinks were available.


Chadwick Boseman's last performance is a don't-miss experience. His electricity opposite Viola Davis is mesmerizing.  Glynn Turman as the piano player in the band also shines as does the whole cast.  


Netflix now owns the Paris Theater and I hope it is streaming the movie all over the world.  The talkback at the end between the film's director George C. Wolfe and playwright Tony "Angels in America" Kushner is very stimulating. Not that I agree with everything they say.    


Do see the movie and discuss it and the talkback seriously.  If we can ever get beyond the cliche that "slavery is America's original sin," the works of the late August Wilson - who wrote the play on which the film is based - are an essential place to start.  


That's all for now. Always remember:  Take it easy but take it! 

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On the Impatience of New York Baseball Fans

Entry of May 20th

Suzyn Waldman, the Yankees radio color commentator, makes a very good point about the psyche of today’s New York baseball fans. “We play 162 one-game seasons in this town,” she says. The Yankees are hot now, winners of seven games in a row, most of them close games and thrilling come-from-behind wins at home. Yet boos still cascade from the stands whenever a Yankee reliever walks a batter.
I guess the memory is too fresh of the Yankee bullpen implosions early this season but it was just one or two games and not coincidentally, the reliability of the bullpen has improved during the winning streak. Yet there is no placating the demands of the Winnites who are not real fans in my opinion but have the outrageous sense of entitlement that has always made me loathe that kind of Yankee fan.

It is becoming just as bad on the other side of town. Winnites have been coming out in full throat ever since the Mets beat the Red Sox in the 1986 World Series. Logic and humility should remind Mets fans that Red Sox blunders played a big role in that victory (the Rich Gedman passed ball as much as the Bill Buckner error) but of course there is nothing logical when it comes to sports passion and addiction. It is fortunate that the Mets’ recent defensive mishaps that cost them the last three games happened on the road but believe me, the culprits will hear plenty of Bronx cheers when they return to Queens next week. Even the New York Times is making a comparison to today’s Mets and the original blunderers of 1962. What is alarming about the Mets is that it seems they have nobody in their farm system who can play good defensive baseball. We’ll know more after they go into Fenway Park this weekend and face off against the Red Sox and their increasing loud and obnoxious Winnite fans.

As for me, I say that the Bronx cheers should remain in the Bronx where the term originated in the 1920s, probably coined after hearing those first set of Winnite fans who expected Babe Ruth to lead the Yankees to victory every game and every year. It didn’t happen, folks (Ruth won only four World Series rings as a Yankee) and it should not have happened. Especially when you consider that Red Sox owner Harry Frazee presented the Yankees with not only Babe Ruth but also Herb Pennock, Joe Bush, Joe Dugan and others. And Yankee gm Ed Barrow gratefully allowed Frazee, for whom he was field manager in Boston, to use a desk in his office for his theater work. (Learn all this and more in Dan Levitt’s fine Barrow biography from U. of Nebraska Press.)

**Speaking of Suzyn Waldman, as far as I know, she is the only radio broadcaster not to do one inning or even half-inning of play-by-play. She is playing Tonto to the Lone Ranger of John Sterling and for you old-timers I’d rather hear the voice of Clayton Moore any time. Even Yankee fans have told me that Sterling’s home run calls are increasingly buffoonish and worse, not accurate. Oh for the days of the Phil Rizzuto home run call – “It’s gone . . . holy cow, he called it foul!”

**Coming tomorrow – Reflections on the 50th anniversary of Major League Baseball’s commitment to expand in some version. I know I said this yesterday but this time I mean it!

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