The Greatest Baseball Giveaway Promotion Ever
The best giveaway promotion I've experienced at the ballpark was probably a bat night at Met Stadium in the early 1970s, back when they'd give away real bats, but reading Dan Epstein's “Stars and Strikes: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of ‘76” (recommended), I came across another. It involved Bill Veeck, of course.
Veeck (as in Wreck) was a low-rent baseball owner, frowned upon by his contemporaries, and always trying any stunt to get folks to come out to see his (usually lousy) teams. He hired the clown prince of baseball, Max Patkin, as a coach. He put Eddie Gaedel, a midget, onto the St. Louis Browns roster and in one game sent him up to pinch hit (he walked). In 1976, the year in question, he had his Chicago White Sox play in shorts for a few games and brought back fan favorite Minnie Monoso, who was 51 years old and had last played in 1964, for eight at-bats.But there was more:
In addition to his endless procession of “Ethnic Night” celebrations, on-field beer-case-stacking contests, and giveaway promotions ... Veeck also installed a shower in Comiskey Park’s center field bleachers, and convinced boozed-up Sox broadcaster Harry Caray to lead the crowd in a sing-along of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch of every home game. The latter would become a time-honored Chicago tradition, while the former instantly entered Comiskey lore. “It had a utilitarian function,” Veeck would later say of the shower. “It gets hot out there and people like to cool off. But it also attracts a number of young girls in bathing suits, and a certain number of young men who like to look at girls in bathing suits."
Indeed. But that's not the promotion I'm talking about. I'm talking about the parenthetical hidden by the above ellipsis:
—like “Ragtime Night,” where he gave away 10,000 copies of E. L. Doctorow’s best-selling novel—
Is that the greatest thing ever? Giving away a book? A novel? A literary novel written by the left fielder in my starting nine of the literary world?
That just makes me happy. It also makes me sad that I can't imagine any circumstances where anything similar might happen today.
The Best Line in the 'Avengers 2' Trailer
“Avengers: Age of Ultron,” the sequel to the highest-grossing, non-James Cameron movie of all time, finally relased its trailer and ... what's the phrase? We've seen this movie before. There's the big baddie, a demand for subservience, crowds crying, our heroes in turmoil. Some of the inflection in James Spader's voice even reminds me of Heath Ledger's Joker: “You're all puppets. Tangled in ... strings.” Cf. “To them, you're a freak. Like me.”
But I liked one line. Here's the trailer:
And here's the line:
You want to protect the world, but you don't want it to change.
I like it because it's the argument I wanted Bane to make in “The Dark Knight Rises”: Stupid Batman, maintaining the status quo for Wall Street bankers. Beating up the street-corner guys but letting the system remain the same.
It's also a line that's true for most of us, I think. Most of us want something, something different, but we don't want things to change too much. Because who would we be in that new reality?
The rest of it? Eh. Broken shield, fallen hammer. But it's Joss Whedon so I have hope.
“Avengers 2” assembles on May 1, 2015.
Breaking Down the Walkoff, Series-Ending Home Runs of Baseball's Postseason
I should've posted this yesterday, before Game 1 of the World Series, but life intervenes, as the Kansas City Royals, losers of Game 1 to the San Francisco Giants 7-1, must certainly feel by now.
So Major League Baseball tweeted this pic the day after Ishikawa's homerun last Thursday that gave the Giants the pennant. It's a list of all the post-season, walkoff, series-ending home runs. But there's an error. Can you spot it?
OK, there isn't an error. I simply thought there was. I thought it was Ortiz. I assumed they were talking ALCS, when his walkoff homer in Game 4 simply kept the Sox alive, as did his walkoff single in Game 5. But Ortiz hit the walkoff in the ALDS against the Angels. Why didn't I remember that?
Probably because, as walkoff, series-ending homers go, it was fairly forgettable. He hit it in the bottom of the 10th in a 6-6 tie to give the Red Sox the series three games to zero. Even if he hadn't hit it, even if the Angels had somehow come back in that game, the Red Sox still had a good chance of winning it all.
Let's break down the rest of these, shall we? (I'll highlight in red what's wanted in each column to make the homerun more exciting):
|1960||Mazerowski||WS||7 of 7||9th||9-9||0||0||1-0|
|1976||Chambliss||ALCS||5 of 5||9th||6-6||0||0||0-0|
|1993||Carter||WS||6 of 7||9th||5-6||1||2||2-2|
|1999||Pratt||NLDS||4 of 5||10th||3-3||1||0||1-0|
|2003||Boone||ALCS||7 of 7||11th||5-5||0||0||0-0|
|2004||Ortiz||ALDS||3 of 5||10th||6-6||2||1||0-0|
|2005||Burke||NLDS||4 of 5||18th||6-6||1||0||2-0|
|2006||Ordonez||NLCS||4 of 7||9th||3-3||2||2||1-0|
|2014||Ishikawa||NLCS||5 of 7||9th||3-3||1||2||2-0|
What do we notice?
First, all of the die-or-die games involved the Yankees. They won two ALCSes that way and lost the big one in '60.
And isn't it amazing how many of these games were knotted up by divisibles of three? Three of them were 3-3, three were 6-6, one was 9-9. Only Carter's (5-6) and Boone's (5-5) weren't.
Carter's was the only one where his team was behind, too. For all the others, it was a tie game. He was also the only guy behind in the count: 2-2. Nobody else even had a strike on them.
But if Carter's homer is highlighted in red three times in the above chart—indicating a pretty high level of excitement—why don't I think of it that way? Why do I think of it as ... dull?
- It wasn't the final game of the Series; it was just Game 6 of 7.
- There was only one out.
- The Blue Jays were going to win it all anyway.
This last one is an intangible, not much talked about by statsheads, but it's huge to me. I was watching that game in '93, and once Mitch Williams started walking guys and giving up hits you knew it was over. His only out that inning was a fly ball to deep left by Devon White. The Blue Jays, back then, were the bad boys of baseball. They'd won it all in '92 and the Phillies seemed monumentally overmatched against them in '93. It's a wonder they won two games.
Who's the underdog? That's the intangible. That's why Aaron Boone's homer in '03 was more annoying than exciting. Sure, his team came from behind in the bottom of the 8th against one of the best pitchers in baseball history to tie it; but his team was the New York Effin' Yankees. In the previous seven years, they'd been to the World Series five times, and won it all four times. They're the definition of the overdog.
Chambliss' in '76? A little better since the Yankees hadn't been to the Series since '64 and hadn't won it all since '62. But that team was already annoying. They were Billy Martin's bulliles. No one outside of the Bronx liked them. Plus the Kansas City Royals had never even been. And there went their first shot.
That's why, of the above, Mazeroski's is still the ultimate walkoff homerun. It was the do-or-die game for both teams, and his team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, was the massive underdog. And it was in the World Series, not the ALCS or the NLDS.
But how does Mazeroski's shot rank with Bobby Thomson's “Shot Heard 'Round the World”? And why isn't that one included in the above?
Because it wasn't officially the post-season. It was a best-of-three playoffs that was considered part of the regular season. Cf. Twins-Tigers in 2009, Mariners-Angels in 1995.
But if you did count it, it would look like this:
|1951||Thomson||n/a||3 of 3||9th||2-4||1||2||0-1|
Do-or-die game, his team's behind (by 2!), he's behind in the count. Plus the Giants were underdogs. They'd been way behind in the standings all year, made a great run (with some telescopic help), and hadn't won the pennant in 14 years. Although, yes, just how much could the hapless Brooklyn Dodgers, Dem Bums, be “overdogs”? Not by much. Pennants in '47 and '49, but no titles. Ever. They were hardly the Yankees. And they'd integrated baseball.
It's close, though. Maz or Thomson? Who would you choose? My gut says Maz, since it was in the World Series and against the effin' Yankees. But that game was tied, while Thomson's team was two runs behind. Plus there's Russ Hodges' call—the greatest call of all time.
What would the ultimate walkoff, series-ending homer look like? It should be for some hapless team, like the Mariners, against some powerhouse, like the Yankees or Cardinals. Extra innings would be great but not necessary. Maybe something like this:
|2015||Busick||WS||7 of 7||9th||1-4||2||3||3-2|
Touch 'em all, Mr. B!
John Oliver Has Dogs Reenact U.S. Supreme Court Arguments
The Scalia dog is a no-brainer but I thought the Ginsburg was inspired.
Not only hilarious but a real public service in a country where two-thirds of its citizens can't number one member of the high court.
Google Reviews ... the U.S. Supreme Court?
I came across this last week during a Google search on SCOTUS and did a double-take:
Um ... 3.5 stars? Because? Well, because the justices have no idea about the Constitution! And they're a bunch of ring-wing religious nuts! No wait, it's because their [sic] not Christians!
America, sometimes you make me long for censorship.
The bigger question is why Google users even have the option of reviewing the U.S. Supreme Court.
Well, it turns out, they're not reviewing the U.S. Supreme Court. They're reviewing the U.S. Supreme Court building. At least, that's what they're supposed to be reviewing.
It's via Google+/Local. You see some sight, post your thoughts. But among the Google+ review policies is this: “Reviews aren’t meant to be a forum for general political or social commentary or personal rants.” Which means no one's policing this thing. They're just placing it all prominently next to any Google search on the topic. No biggee.
Here are a few other famous sights, ranked, along with “reviews.” Basically if it's a political institution, people aren't refraining from political talk:
- The Lincoln Memorial: 4.7 stars
- The Empire State Building: 4.5: “Also WTF with making people climb 6 stories to reach the observation deck.”
- The U.S. Capitol: 4.3: “Dear Congress. You suck. Re-elect NO ONE!”
- The White House: 4.2: “I don't think I will go back since the current administration is balls.”
- The Space Needle: 4.2
- Experience Music Project (Seattle): 4.1
- The Smith Tower (Seattle): 4.0
- The Wells Fargo building (Minneapolis): 3.2
One of my favorite parts of this supreme waste of time? Finding Google's tips for writing great reviews. Apparently you're supposed to be “informative and insightful,” and you should “write with style” and “keep it real.” Sadly, nothing on “avoiding being obvious.”
Movie Review: Kill the Messenger (2014)
Why is it flat? Why doesn’t it quite work?
“Kill the Messenger” was directed by Michael Cuesta (“L.I.E.”), and written by Peter Landesman (the underrated “Parkland”), and it tells the true story of Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner), a good investigative reporter for a small newspaper, the San Jose Mercury News, who stumbles upon a huge international story: that during the 1980s, in the middle of the “Just Say No” decade, the CIA ...
OK, what was the accusation again? Maybe that’s part of the problem. Even after seeing the movie, it’s still a bit murky.
Let me try. So while the Reagan administration was trading arms for hostages in order to illegally fund the Nicaraguan Contras, the CIA ... turned a blind eye toward Latin American drug suppliers who were funding the Contras? Abetted Latin American drug suppliers who were funding the Contras? Funneled cocaine into the U.S. in order to fund the Contras? I was never quite sure the extent of CIA involvement.
But at the least, blind eyes were involved. Vast hypocrisy was involved.
Too true to tell
The movie starts out not bad. Webb is doing a piece on drug forfeiture law—how property can be confiscated by the government without anyone being charged with a crime—when he gets a call from Coral Baca (an impossibly hot Paz Vega), whose boyfriend, Rafael Cornejo, is being prosecuted on drug charges. Her charge? “He sold drugs for the government.” She shows Webb a redacted court transcript and points him to Danilo Blandon (Yul Vazquez), a former drug supplier/Contra supporter, now DEA informant. But when Webb mentions Blandon to federal prosecutor Russell Dodson (Barry Pepper), the charges against Cornejo are quickly dropped—as Baca knew they would be. Webb has been used. But now he senses a bigger story in Blandon.
He follows him to the trial of L.A. crack kingpin Ricky Ross (Michael Kenneth Williams, doomed to play such roles), and convinces Ross’ attorney, Alan Fenster (Tim Blake Nelson), to delve into Blandon’s background during cross-examination. On the stand, Blandon admits that the U.S. government, or at least the CIA, was aware that he smuggled tons of cocaine into the country. This testimony leads Webb to drug kingpin Norwin Meneses (Andy Garcia) in prison in Nicaragua, who points him to Swiss banker Hansjorg Baier (Brett Rice), also in Nicaragua. Then Webb goes to D.C.
There, he gets the usual warnings away from the story from low-level bureaucrats and shadowy agents. The best exchange is probably this:
CIA official: We’d never threaten your children, Mr. Webb.
Webb [stunned pause]: What did you say?
That’s nice: the denial of the threat serving as the threat. But the big line of the movie comes from government official Fred Weil (Michael Sheen), who tells him the story won’t get out, adding, “Some stories are just too true to tell.”
So what happens? Webb returns to California, writes his story anyway, and it goes national. He’s slapped on the back by his contemporaries. Then his life falls apart.
All the Insider’s Men
A quarter of the way through the movie, I thought, “This would be so much better if it had been directed by Michael Mann.” Three quarters of the way through, I thought, “Oh, it was. It was just called ‘The Insider.’”
In “The Insider,” “60 Minutes” producer Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino), helps draw out a corporate vice-president, Jeffrey Wigand (Russell Crowe), to go on the record about a Big Tobacco scandal. But then CBS Corporate gets cold feet, Wigand is besmirched, and the news story becomes petty shit about Wigand. Bergman has to betray friends and associates in order to not betray Wigand. The two men win a battle that is everywhere else being lost.
In “Kill the Messenger,” Webb is both Bergman and Wigand, reporter and besmirched. He becomes the story. Because the L.A. Times is jealous it got scooped? Because the Washington Post, the newspaper of Woodward and Bernstein, is too close to the CIA? Both accusations are implied here. Webb’s editor gets cold feet. Corporate is called in. Lawyers are called in—to protect the paper, not Webb. He’s shuttled off to a smaller newspaper. Does his wife leave him? Does he leave her? All of this is murky, too.
What isn’t murky enough is our faith in Webb. The Mercury News doublechecks the story after the accusations, and Meneses denies he spoke to Webb while Baier can’t be found. But we saw Webb talking to Meneses, and we see Baier being kidnapped, so we know everyone else is wrong. Maybe if we’d been kept in the dark, too, or a little, it might’ve made the movie more interesting. We would’ve had something to wonder. Instead, Webb comes off as blandly forthright and heroic. He drinks a bit, smokes a little pot, had an affair in the past. But he’s a decent husband, a decent father. To be honest, it’s not a great performance by Jeremy Renner. It’s one of the few times I’ve found him dull.
I did like his reaction after the story was first printed. He didn’t act triumphant; he almost acted guilty. Because his family had been threatened if he ran with the story, and he ran with it anyway? As if his family didn’t matter? Not sure. But it added a touch of mystery to what was generally obvious.
Or familiar. I kept getting flashes of not only “The Insider” but “All the President’s Men.” Maybe this was inevitable. Or maybe the filmmakers were too enamored of these movies to properly make their own. But the courtroom scene with the CIA revelation from Blandon, with Webb the only reporter present? That’s like the courtroom scene with the CIA revelation from McCord, with Woodward the only reporter present. Or when Webb feels like he’s being followed into the parking garage? Compare with Woodward’s paranoia after the parking garage, or the nighttime golf-range scene in “The Insider.” Here it’s: “We got a call from corporate this morning.” There it’s: “Corporate has some questions.”
Too bad. Its subjects are worth contemplating: the War on Drugs; the national-security state; the back-biting, sensationalistic nature of the national media, which seems to hinder more than it helps. Early in the movie, Webb is asked for the secret to his reporting, and he responds, “I don’t know ... Don’t let the assholes win?” Here, they win. And they haven’t really stopped winning.
At least “Kill the Messenger,” set almost 20 years ago, about crimes almost 30 years old, opened my eyes to a contemporary danger: the NSA spy program. All along, I’ve basically given the scandal a post-9/11 shrug: “You’re one in 300 million. There’s safety in numbers. They won’t focus on you unless you need to be focused on.” Or—the movie made me realize—unless you’re Joe Wilson. Or Jeffrey Wigand. Or Woodward and Bernstein. Or Gary Webb.
Quote of the Day
“No. Because nobody has ever proved to me that the second guess would have worked.”
--Dick Howser, who managed the Kansas City Royals for six years, including their 1985 World Series champion year, before dying of brain cancer in 1987, when asked, in '85, if he ever second-guessed himself. As reported in Dave Anderson's New York Times column today. Anderson adds, “Has any major league manager, from Connie Mack and John McGraw to Casey Stengel and Joe Torre, ever dismissed the second-guessers’ criticism so simply and so sensibly?” I post this as someone who constantly second-guesses himself, as anyone who knows me knows.
The Second-Best Scene of David Ayer's 'Fury' is One of the Best Scenes of the Year
Here it is:
Bye-bye, John Wayne.
Patricia and I saw the movie last night. Review up soon.
No Reasoning with Conservative SCOTUS
I love the lede to (if not the import of) Adam Liptak's story today:
The Supreme Court on Saturday allowed Texas to use its strict voter identification law in the November election. The court’s order, issued just after 5 a.m., was unsigned and contained no reasoning.
The dissent, at least, was signed by Justice Ginsburg, and condemned the Court's conservative branch, as well as Texas, for actions that risk “denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters.” It's actually more like half a million, she says later in the dissent: 600,000, or 4.5 percent of all registered voters.
Texas' 2011 voter I.D. law went into effect after SCOTUS, in Shelby County v. Holder (2013), struck down Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which required states with a history of disenfranchisement to, as Liptak writes, ”obtain federal permission before changing voting procedure." Since then, the South has been all yee-ha about changing its voting procedures. But legitimately, you understand.
Their argument: voter fraud is so rampant (despite no evidence, and particularly not in-person at the polls) that voters should be required to show a photo I.D. at the polls. Sadly, 600,000 registered voters in Texas don't have a driver's license, gun license, passport or military I.D. But ... SOL. Most of these folks, of course, are minorities.
But it sounds reasonable, doesn't it? Until you realize that, for example, no one in Washington state has to show a photo I.D. to vote, since we're entirely an absentee ballot state now. We must be crawling with fraud.
To me, what Texas and many southern states are doing these days is Jim Crow dressed up. It's James Crow. Too bad the Court doesn't see it that way—or give a reason why they don't.
Conservative court backs James Crow laws in Texas. No reason necessary.
Quote of the Day
From my friend Chris Nelson, an RN getting his MPH and heading for the Ph.D., on the news today about Arizona and Wyoming:
When Massachusetts granted gay people equal marriage rights, I cried buckets. When Iowa did the same, I just gasped “Iowa?” When New York had four Republican state senators vote in favor of gay civil rights, I cried again. Then California got their rights back, and I cried. When Edith Windsor got to legally call herself “widowed,” I cried.
But then FIVE STATES at once were ordered to give equal marriage rights—including Utah and Oklahoma? I cheered. Nevada and Idaho? I was so happy to mock Butch Otter. Alaska??? Oh, yes, I laughed and cheered. And today, Arizona?
I ain't cryin' no more, I'm too thrilled!
And that, my friends, is what proves that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
Sometimes the right thing to do is recognized as the right thing to do, bigots be damned.
P.S. Jan Brewer must actually have had her poor shrunken head explode ... and Sarah Palin must have flipped her wig! Fab. U. Lous.
Chris Nelson last year in Copenhagen.