Thursday, May 31, 2012

the last book I ever read (Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy, excerpt three)

from Jane Leavy's Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy:

In the hall outside the gym at Lafayette High School in Brooklyn, there is a display case heralding the names of the seventeen boys who became major leaguers--among them the Aspromonte brothers, Ken and Bob, Al Ferrara, Larry Yellen, John Franco, and Sandy Koufax. His pictures are long gone from the school library, empty frames in yellowing yearbooks. "Sandy's glove was here, too," longtime baseball coach Joe Gambuzza said. "But someone broke the showcase and took it."

The school, now called "Hell High," was unable to field a team for the 2002 season. Not enough interest. Not enough passing grades. The last generation of players trained and competed on Ben Sherman Field, named for the team doctor who, according to legend, set Koufax's broken finger, thereby enabling him to fulfill his unknown destiny. Players dress in dank, cinder-block bunker adjacent to the field where Gambuzza sat one spring afternoon, before he retired in 2001, in a three-legged chair dispensing the same paradoxical advice to two young pitchers given to Koufax fifty years ago. Don't throw so damn hard. Let 'em hit the ball.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

the last book I ever read (Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy, excerpt two)

from Jane Leavy's Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy:

Byron Browne walked to the plate for his first major league at-bat. He was twenty-two years old. Most of the summer he'd spent in Class A ball in Wenatchee, Washington, a prospect with minimal prospects. He'd been on the Triple A club for all of a week when he was called up. The night before, in Indianapolis, he hit two home runs off a long, tall pitcher named Dave DeBusschere, who also played a little basketball. Twenty-four hours later, he was facing Koufax, "a little-assed rookie trying to pick my jaw off the floor."

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

the last book I ever read (Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy, excerpt one)

from Jane Leavy's Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy:

The beauty of his delivery was a function of his mechanics and his mechanics were a function of obeying the laws of nature. Every pitch came over the top. He didn't drop down. He didn't come sidearm. He didn't fool around. His fluidity lulled minds and dulled reflexes. Let the body put you to sleep and let the arm get you out, he would say. No matter how many times a batter saw it, the ball's arrival at home plate always came as a shock. It was a humbling, disorienting sensation. In the immortal words of Willie Stargell, trying to hit Koufax was like "trying to drink coffee with a fork." Hitters talk all the time and invariably in the same words. The ball presented itself as an offering. It was right there. I was right on it. And, then, nope, good-bye, it was gone.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

the last book I ever read (Are You My Mother? excerpt four)

from Alison Bechdel's Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama:

Near the end of the book tour, I was talking with Mom.

Peggy Harris said something to Barbara about the book, about how terrible it was that you'd done this to your mother.


She had shared a few of these second- and third-hand reports from friends.

Y'know, at my readings, someone always asks, "What does your mother this of all this?"


Yeah, and I say, well, you're not happy about it, but at the same time you have a kind of aesthetic distance.

Wait, I just read something interesting about memoir. Hang on.

Are you there?

Uh huh.

It's by Dorothy Gallagher.

"The writer's business is to find the shape in unruly life and to serve her story. Not, you may note, to serve her family, or to serve the truth, but to serve the story."


Saturday, May 26, 2012

the last book I ever read (Are You My Mother? excerpt three) (how do I do this with a graphic memoir?)

from Alison Bechdel's Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama:

Get out of my sight. Get out of this kitchen! I don't want to see you!

I would leave for college six weeks after this incident.

I know now that children and parents engineer these sorts of conflicts to make their parting more bearable.
And it was no accident that our fight had been about a word.
Language was our field of contest, and however unconsciously, I had indeed been provoking my mother.

Friday, May 25, 2012

the last book I ever read (Are You My Mother? excerpt two) (how do you do this with a graphic memoir?)

from Alison Bechdel's Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama:

Why can't my life and my work be the same thing? My work is about my life!

Oy, vey. The thing is, you relate to your own mind like it's an it's an internalized parent or lover. Being attached to your work, your mind, the way you would be to another person--that cuts you off from the world.

Wait, I gotta write this down!

The irony of the fact that I'm writing a book about all this is not lost on me. Yet I don't seem to have a choice.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

the last book I ever read (Are You My Mother? excerpt one) (how do you do this with a graphic memoir?)

from Alison Bechdel's Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama:

I was suffering at this time from nearly unbearable spasms of professional envy,

I feel...annihilated.

of other cartoonists, of other gay and lesbian writers, of anyone who was at all like me or was doing anything remotely similar to what I was doing.

I'm not making enough money. The newspapers my strip runs in keep folding or merging.

People don't need cartoons about lesbians anymore! You can watch them on TV!

I'm spending more than half my time on this crazy book about my dad and I don't even know if it'll ever get published.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

the last book I ever read (Seasons in Hell, excerpt eight)

from Mike Shropshire's Seasons in Hell:

Two tables over, David Clyde, sitting alone, was reading about himself in the Boston Globe. A banner headline said: "Kid Sensation To Face Sox Tonight At Fenway." That was not the sports page but the regular front section. The story about John Dean's testimony in the Watergate hearings was positioned farther down on the page. Clyde looked at the headline without expression and took a deep drag off his Salem. The events of the previous two weeks were finally, I figured, about to make a cerebral impact. "Probably wishes now that he'd never left Westchester High. Fenway Park? Hostile crowd? The Green Monster? Carl Yastrzemski? Orlando Cepeda at DH? They're going to light him up like the Coconut Grove fire?"

In fact, the near sellout crowd at Fenway Park was not all that hostile. Everyone stood up and applauded when the Kid made the long and lonely march in from the bullpen in rightfield before he started pitching the bottom of the first inning.

They also stood and applauded--and cheered loudly--when Clyde finally left the game after seven innings. He'd given up one run when the Rangers' infield misplayed a grounder and another when Tommy Harper lofted a soft homer into the net atop the Green Monster. Clyde would take the loss, because the Rangers could muster only a solitary run in the way of support. For the night: Seven innings, two runs, seven hits, no walks and eight strikeouts. Not too shabby.

Afterward Yastrzemski told me, "In my second at bat, the kid threw as well as any pitcher I have faced in my career. The ball seemed to come out of nowhere. He struck me out and I wasn't surprised when he did."

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

the last book I ever read (Seasons in Hell, excerpt seven)

from Mike Shropshire's Seasons in Hell:

There's another theory, and this one is entirely mine, as to why baseball drifted from the mainstream of sports-fan attention. I blame Lyndon Johnson and Vietnam. Nobody can deny that with the advent of the Seventies, the American League had ceased to produce the box-office stars. The Mantles and the Berras were retiring and little of replacement value was coming along. Why? The leading teenage athletes were mostly turning to football and basketball. The baseball signing bonus was eschewed in favor of the college athletic scholarship and the draft deferment that came with it.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Tell Me When It's Over, Baseball #2: Ron Darling

I've now interviewed former New York Mets pitcher/current New York Mets broadcaster Ron Darling twice.

this is what we did with the second one.

the last book I ever read (Seasons in Hell, excerpt six)

from Mike Shropshire's Seasons in Hell:

The Hope of the Franchise said all of the right things, for print purposes, and was more quotable than most of his allegedly street-savvy big-league companions. My initial impression was that Clyde was totally tuned in to the fact that a person could pass through 1,000 lifetimes and not experience what he was shortly to encounter. Like the rest of the world, Clyde most certainly had his vulnerabilities, but stage fright wasn't among them.

His only special request from the Rangers, he said (after confirming that Bob Short's bonus check of 150 grand had cleared the bank), was to ask for uniform Number 32 . . . same as Sandy Koufax. In that initial interview, my only suspicions that David Clyde might be carrying a couple of loose connections were aroused when he said that (a) he was thinking about getting married and (b) his career ambition was to become a sportswriter.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

the last movies I ever saw for the past six months

on November 16th of last year I began a rather concerted effort to view movies from the New York Times Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made list.
these are the movies I've seen from that list in the past six months:

About Schmidt
Adam’s Rib
The Adventures of Robin Hood
The African Queen
All About Eve
All Quiet on the Western Front
All the King's Men
All the President's Men
America, America
American Graffiti
An American in Paris
Anatomy of a Murder
The Apartment
Apocalypse Now
Apollo 13
The Asphalt Jungle
Atlantic City
The Awful Truth
Baby Doll
Back to the Future
The Bad and the Beautiful
Bad Day at Black Rock
The Bank Dick
Being John Malkovich
Being There
The Bicycle Thief
The Big Red One
The Big Sky
The Big Sleep
Billy Liar
Biloxi Blues
Blazing Saddles
Blue Collar
Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice
Body Heat
Bonnie and Clyde
Boogie Nights
Born on the Fourth of July
Born Yesterday
Bound for Glory
The Breakfast Club
Breaking Away
The Bridge on the River Kwai
Brief Encounter
Bringing Up Baby
Broadcast News
The Buddy Holly Story
Bull Durham
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
The Caine Mutiny
California Suite
Captains Courageous
Carnal Knowledge
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Chicken Run
Claire's Knee
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Coal Miner's Daughter
The Color of Money
Cool Hand Luke
The Count of Monte Cristo
The Crying Game
Dangerous Liaisons
Dark Victory
David Copperfield
The Day of the Jackal
Days of Heaven
Days of Wine and Roses
Dead End
Dead Man Walking
Dead Ringers
The Deer Hunter
The Defiant Ones
Desperately Seeking Susan
Destry Rides Again
Dial M for Murder
Die Hard
The Dirty Dozen
Dirty Harry
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Do the Right Thing
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Doctor Zhivago
Double Indemnity
The Dresser
Duck Soup
East of Eden
8 ½
Eight Men Out
Elmer Gantry
The English Patient
The Entertainer
A Face in the Crowd
Father of the Bride
The Fly
A Foreign Affair
Friendly Persuasion
From Here to Eternity
The Fugitive
Full Metal Jacket
Funny Girl
Gimme Shelter
Going My Way
Gone With the Wind
The Graduate
Grand Hotel
The Grapes of Wrath
Green for Danger
The Grifters
Groundhog Day
The Gunfighter
Gunga Din
Harry and Tonto
Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse
The Heiress
High Noon
High Sierra
Hoop Dreams
The Hours
How to Marry a Millionaire
Ken Burns' America: Huey Long
The Hustler
I Remember Mama
In Cold Blood
In the Heat of the Night
Jerry Maguire
Judgment at Nuremberg
The Killing Fields
King Kong
Kiss of the Spider Woman
Kramer vs. Kramer
The Lady Eve
The Last Emperor
The Last Picture Show
The Lavender Hill Mob
Lawrence of Arabia
A League of Their Own
The Letter
The Life of Emile Zola
Life With Father
Little Big Man
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
Long Day's Journey into Night
The Long Voyage Home
The Lost Weekend
Love Affair
Love in the Afternoon
Lover Come Back
Lust for Life
Make Way for Tomorrow
Malcolm X
The Maltese Falcon
A Man for All Seasons
The Man Who Came to Dinner
The Man With the Golden Arm
The Manchurian Candidate
Married to the Mob
Mean Streets
Meet Me in St. Louis
Miracle on 34th Street
The Miracle Worker
The Misfits
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
Mr. Hulot's Holiday
Mister Roberts
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Mrs. Miniver
Mona Lisa
The More the Merrier
The Mortal Storm
Much Ado About Nothing
Mutiny on the Bounty
My Beautiful Laundrette
My Fair Lady
My Left Foot
My Life as a Dog
My Man Godfrey
National Lampoon's Animal House
Night Moves
The Night of the Hunter
Night of the Living Dead
A Night to Remember
Nobody's Fool
North by Northwest
Now, Voyager
The Nun's Story
Odd Man Out
On the Town
On the Waterfront
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
One, Two, Three
Only Angels Have Wings
Our Town
The Ox-Bow Incident
The Palm Beach Story
A Passage to India
Paths of Glory
The People Vs. Larry Flynt
The Philadelphia Story
Pillow Talk
The Pink Panther
Pretty Baby
The Pride of the Yankees
The Private Life of Henry VIII
The Producers
The Public Enemy
Pulp Fiction
Raging Bull
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Raising Arizona
Rear Window
Rebel Without a Cause
Red River
Repo Man
Reservoir Dogs
Reversal of Fortune
Ride the High Country
The Right Stuff
Risky Business
River's Edge
Roger & Me
Romeo and Juliet (1936)
Romeo and Juliet (1968)
Ruggles of Red Gap
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
Saving Private Ryan
Say Anything...
The Search
The Searchers
The Servant
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
The Seven Year Itch
Sex, Lies and Videotape
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
Sherman's March
The Shop Around the Corner
Singin' in the Rain
Sitting Pretty
Some Like It Hot
Splendor in the Grass
Stage Door
A Star Is Born
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
State Fair
Stolen Kisses
The Story of G.I. Joe
Straight Time
Strangers on a Train
A Streetcar Named Desire
Sweet Smell of Success
Swing Time
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three
Taxi Driver
The Tender Trap
Terms of Endearment
Thelma & Louise
They Were Expendable
They Won't Forget
The Thin Man
The Third Man
The Thirty-Nine Steps
Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould
This Is Spinal Tap
This Sporting Life
To Be or Not to Be
To Catch a Thief
Top Hat
The Train
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
Trouble in Paradise
The Trouble with Harry
True Grit
12 Angry Men
Twelve O'Clock High
2001: A Space Odyssey
Ulzana's Raid
The Usual Suspects
The Way We Were
West Side Story
White Heat
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
The Wild Bunch
Yankee Doodle Dandy
The Year of Living Dangerously
The Yearling
Young Frankenstein

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

the last book I ever read (Seasons in Hell, excerpt five)

from Mike Shropshire's Seasons in Hell:

Up in the pressbox, Bob Short presented me with an offer that I couldn't refuse. He invited me to fly over to Minnesota with him in his private jet, arriving in time to meet and interview David Clyde and hammer out a quick feature. After confirming that this private jet was equipped with a liquor cabinet, I agreed.

On the plane it occurred to me that I had perhaps never seen a man as happy as Bob Short appeared to be on that late afternoon westward journey. "This Clyde . . . you're getting to see . . . is a gift from God," Short was saying. "I mean, beyond what the baseball scouts say. Photogenic. Mature. Articulate. A natural for the media. I mean, he's like a fucking Eagle Scout."

Short's little jet landed in Minneapolis and then we drove over to the Leamington Hotel in a limo. Short also owned the hotel, and when we got there he sprinted directly to the front desk. "Walter," he demanded of the desk clerk. "My young friend David Clyde. Has he checked in yet?"

Walter smiled, nodded and answered, "Why, yes, Mr. Short. You'll find him in the bar."

Monday, May 14, 2012

the last book I ever read (Seasons in Hell, excerpt four)

from Mike Shropshire's Seasons in Hell:

David Clyde, the high school pitching phee-nom and Number One choice in the amateur draft, would be pressed into immediate service as a starting pitcher in the major leagues.

True, Clyde's statistical credentials were overwhelming. In his last two season, against a level of high school competition that was perhaps as good as any in the country, he'd compiled a 35-2 record and was 18-0 as a senior with fourteen shutouts and five no-hitters. A Phillies scout, Lou Fitzgerald, had said, "I watched Clyde pitch three innings and left. Why waste time? We're picking second."

By drafting David Clyde, the Rangers bypassed two players who would probably wind up in Cooperstown--Dave Winfield and Robin Yount. Between them, they would collect over 6,000 major-league base hits.

Three other players taken in the first round of the 1973 draft, John Stearns, Lee Mazzilli and Gary Roenicke, went on to long and productive big-league careers. Interestingly, the Rangers' third round pick, Len Barker, emerged as a quality big-league starter (with the Indians) who would pitch a perfect game against Toronto in 1981.

At the time, no scout in baseball disputed that the Rangers did the right thing by claiming Clyde as their top pick, but the idea of bringing the prize stud directly into The Show left Herzog shaking his head. "This ain't high school. Up here, he'll find the strike zone shrinking fast and he won't find any 130-pound kids swinging at the high one.

"Another thing," Herzog cautioned, "in high school Clyde has been used to great success. In this league there will come the time when he can't get anybody out and that can really pull a kid down."

Friday, May 11, 2012

the last book I ever read (Seasons in Hell, excerpt three)

from Mike Shropshire's Seasons in Hell:

The word "fan" apparently is derived from another word, "fanatic," and that can be aptly applied in Baltimore. Certain fans who frequent certain parks in certain cities bring a distinctive personality to the game. The American League champions of my "fan personality profile" was a dead heat--Baltimore and Boston. In these cities baseball was regarded as theatre. Fenway Park provided better seats, but the Oriole fans of the early seventies were getting to see what most critics would agree were better plays.

It should be remembered that Babe Ruth grew up as a pitcher in a Catholic reform school in Baltimore and didn't become a full-time slugger until he moved to New York, via Boston. The Baltimore baseball ethic historically has been based around pitching and defense and the Rangers would see those concepts exemplified on a grand scale while they were getting their tails kicked in this three-game weekend series against the Orioles.

Paul Blair, the best centerfielder that the big leagues would see in a decade, was flanked by Al Bumbry and Rich Coggins--a trio of antelopes that could not only flag down anything hit between the foul lines but was also particularly artful at snatching away homerun balls two or three feet over the fence.

With Mark Belanger and Brooks Robinson, the left side of the Baltimore infield was airtight, and Bobby Grich and Boog Powell were formidable at second and first, respectively. The Orioles did not have a sold defensive catcher. No. They had three: Earl Williams, Andy Etchebarren and Elrod Hendricks. Surveying the Orioles' lineup, it was beyond debate that the Rangers did not have a single player who could start for Baltimore.

The three starting pitchers that the Rangers would face in this series were Mike Cuellar, a future underwear model named Jim Palmer, and finally, lefthander Dave McNally, who, at that point, had won fifteen consecutive starts against the Texas-Washington franchise. Defense and pitching. Even the Baltimore PA announcer, Rex Barney, had been a star relief pitcher at Ebbets Field.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

the last book I ever read (Seasons in Hell, excerpt two)

from Mike Shropshire's Seasons in Hell:

The Rangers could claim one asset. By virtue of their record from the season before, worst in the league, Texas received the top selection in the upcoming amateur draft. All of the scouts unanimously anointed a high school pitcher in Houston, a left-hander, as the best prospect in the country and perhaps the best of the previous ten years or the best since Bob Feller or even, according to some, as--aw, what the hell?--the best of all time.

Whitey Herzog, pragmatist and skeptic, had traveled to Austin to watch David Clyde pitch in the high school state championships and was now firing a twenty-one gun salute too. According to the manager, Clyde clearly "had the gun" and the only missing ingredient was "developing a change-up and getting the fine tuning that separates the big leaguers from, well, the guys we've got now.

"Start him off in an all-rookie league, where he'll get used to being away from home with some guys his own age, then pull him all the way to AA or even AAA next year . . . and I think the kid will be primed for the majors by the time he's twenty. And after that," Whitey said (he'd just watch Secretariat win the Belmont Stakes by thirty-one lengths on TV), "we can bottle his sperm." Herzog was fostering visions of a time when managing the Rangers might not be the grotesque experience he was forced to endure.

That was Whitey's timetable. Bob "You Can Fool Some of the People Some of the Time and That's Good Enough for Me" Short was hatching a different and more accelerated schedule for David Clyde's professional advancement. This was showbiz, after all, and while there were plenty of big butts in North Texas, not nearly enough were located in the box seats at Arlington Stadium.

In David Clyde, Short figured he was bless with the most promising overnight gate attraction since Jo-Jo the Lizard Boy hit the State Fair of Texas.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

the last book I ever read (Seasons in Hell, excerpt one)

from Mike Shropshire's Seasons in Hell:

Dick Bosman was the starter in that 1973 opener and he pitched heroically for the Rangers that night until he yielded a key home run to Dick Allen that seemed to be still traveling on an upward trajectory when it passed over the centerfield fence. Yes . . . Allen had been the American League's MVP the season before, but one or two Dick Allens would lurk in the batting order of every team on the Rangers' schedule. Meanwhile, Wilbur Wood, the Sox's big knuckleballer, limited the Rangers to four anemic singles in the opener.

Wilbur Wood, by the way, was typical of most of the upper-tier pitchers in the American League of that era in that he would deceive the hitter rather than overpower him. Poor Rico Carty. He was totally baffled by Wood's dip-and-dive knuckleball pitches and swung the bat like a man attempting to fight off a swarm of killer bees.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

the last book I ever read (The Complete Game, excerpt seven)

from Ron Darling's The Complete Game: Reflections on Baseball and the Art of Pitching:

Just like that, we were done. More to the point, I was done. I knew the ball was gone as soon as Gonzalez hit it, but as it cleared the fence there was time for every doubt, every uncertainty to play itself out in my head. I had time to think, What the hell happened to my career? Where did it all go wrong? Why am I even in this game, in the bottom of the fourteenth inning? And then, as I started to walk off the field, the questions continued: What am I still doing here, in a New York Mets uniform? Why have I not been traded? Why are they embarrassing me like this? And why am I embarrassing myself?

I had no answers, just questions. I had always been a durable pitcher. I'd never been on the disabled list; I'd missed only those few starts that followed my thumb injury in that 1987 game against the Cardinals. I'd always been the guy who wanted the ball in a big game, but now I wasn't so sure. I'd allowed all this doubt and uncertainty to creep into my head, to where my rally cry was no longer "Give me the damn ball!"

Now it was more like "Me? Really?"

Monday, May 7, 2012

the last book I ever read (The Complete Game, excerpt six)

from Ron Darling's The Complete Game: Reflections on Baseball and the Art of Pitching:

Naturally, I wanted to pitch us to a win and move on in the tournament, but mostly I wanted to pitch well. In the back of my mind, I was already thinking this might be the last college game of my career, and more than anything else I wanted to keep my string of complete games intact. I'd started twenty-seven games for Yale--and I'd finished all of them. I wanted to make it twenty-eight for twenty-eight, which I thought would be a pretty cool record. I didn't know how I would do that against this touted St. John's lineup, but I liked my chances.

Also, I knew there'd be a payday coming my way once I declared myself eligible for the amateur draft--and I wanted to make sure I pitched well enough to earn a signing bonus rich enough to pay off my college loans. A baseball career was no sure thing, but a relatively modest signing bonus was certainly within reach, so these were my two personal goals going into this St. John's game: to finish what I started and to impress enough of the scouts in attendance so that I might set off on the next chapter in my life without any debt.

Friday, May 4, 2012

the last book I ever read (The Complete Game, excerpt five)

from Ron Darling's The Complete Game: Reflections on Baseball and the Art of Pitching:

Mets catcher Brian Schneider called for a fastball down and in, but to a left-handed hitter that's the danger zone. You're better off coming in belt-high or higher against a lefty. Generally, there's one exception to this rule, and I learned it from Mel Stottlemyre: when the batter happens to be a natural right-hander. In this case, the right arm is dominant, which means the bottom hand on the bat is stronger as it comes through the zone, in a powerful backhand motion, so when you assemble a book on a left-handed hitter you need to know how he throws as well. Normally, the stronger hand is on top and can only guide the bat through the hitting zone; when your bottom hand is your lead hand, you're better able to drive a ball that's up in the zone, so this is where the pitcher will do well to keep that ball down and in.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

the last book I ever read (The Complete Game, excerpt four)

from Ron Darling's The Complete Game: Reflections on Baseball and the Art of Pitching:

It was a beautiful night as I slipped through the gate to the parking area beyond the fence, and the Shea crowd was making noise, willing Roger to put the Cardinals away. Fifty thousand people can really make themselves heard when things are going their way, so I started to project the scenario for the rest of the night and the rest of the season in best-case terms. Just then, as I approached the overhang that protected my car, the crowd went suddenly quiet.

I knew that meant there'd been a long drive by an opposing hitter, so I held my breath for a moment and listened for a clue to what might happen next. But the silence held. For the longest time, it held. It was a killing hush, and it was finally broken by a sickening hissing sound. It was like a missile, whistling past, and when my eyes caught up to it I could see a baseball short-hopping into the door of my Mercedes. It was the strangest thing. It took me a beat or two to process it. Terry Pendleton had belted a two-run home run to the right of the home-run apple--he'd managed to tie the game, erase the lead I'd left behind, and dent my car all with one swing. It was almost surreal--so much so that I could never bring myself to fix that dent. I drove around with it for the next ten years, until I finally sold the car. It was a constant reminder of a distressing Shea Stadium moment that was tied inextricably to that jammed thumb on Vince Coleman's drag bunt in the sixth.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

the last book I ever read (The Complete Game, excerpt three)

from Ron Darling's The Complete Game: Reflections on Baseball and the Art of Pitching:

I matched zeros with John Tudor through nine innings. Tudor was lights-out that year--probably the only other NL pitcher with a legitimate claim on Doc's Cy Young Award. We won it 1-0 in the tenth on a Darryl Strawberry home run. (The ball hit the scoreboard clock--a signature Met moment.) Jesse Orosco got the win in relief, and it was the first time I experienced the full intensity of the professional game. I'd never seen my teammates so emotional, so invested. Ray Knight, our third baseman, actually had tears in his eyes in the clubhouse after the game. He was pumping his fists for sheer joy, that's how much the game meant to him, and it meant much the same to every guy in that room. It didn't matter how much money we all made. It didn't matter that we were having the time of our young lives, living in New York City, playing the game we loved. And it certainly didn't matter that we were meant to be hardened professionals. No, these games were important. Winning was important. This was how we were measured--and this game would be a huge yardstick for me. Guys came up to me afterward, congratulating me, treating me differently. In their eyes, I went from a kid pitcher still finding his way to a full-fledged team member, just on the back of that one start. It was a real, welcome-to-the-club moment for me personally, and I remember taking some small offense at that. (Not a lot, but some.) I mean, I'd won twelve games the previous season. I was on my way to winning sixteen. I'd thought I was already in the club, but this game put me on a whole other level with my teammates.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

the last book I ever read (The Complete Game, excerpt two)

from Ron Darling's The Complete Game: Reflections on Baseball and the Art of Pitching:

At some point during this massacre, I looked over to the Mets bullpen. It was a bush league move. I did it without thinking about it, but it was a sign of desperation and inexperience. I was dejected, beaten. My manager and my pitching coach must have seen me as half-expecting to be pulled from the game. I'm sure I had that bewildered, deer-in-the-headlights look. It was the first and only time in my career that I turned toward the bullpen like that, hoping someone would be throwing, getting ready to rescue me from a mess of my own making.

It may have been a quick, nothing glance toward the outfield, but Davey Johnson must have noticed it, and you can bet he read something into it, because he sprinted out to the mound. My first thought was, Gee, Davey doesn't run that well anymore.