What I groove on

Archive for the tag “baseball”

Join Us in Protest

photoLike a tasty wedding cake except without all the damn complications, Groove Central LA showed up in the Los Angeles Times sports section (in an article by the great Chris Erskine) by making a headless Bobblehead (bobbleteers) protest baseball game in the front lawn.  As diplomatic as an artillery bombardment, this statement is

In action

In action

designed to show the thirsty greed of our Los Angeles Dodgers and the inherently evil Time Warner Cable who are depriving 70 % of Los Angeles from watching Dodger

Night game

Night game

games and missing out on perhaps Vin Scully’s last year. These are high crimes and misdemeanors and put all Dodger fans in liverish moods. Perhaps We fans have failed to persuade – so now it is time to demonize. Join us at the rally 3 pm at the Shortstop Bar in Echo Park this Sunday (June 1). Is not being

Vinny keeps his head

Vinny keeps his head

able to watch Dodger games akin to the burning of the library of Alexandria? Perhaps not, but it is a blight on the joyous side of our existence and must not continue.   Link to article: Join Us in Protest!

Groove.   Unknown-1

Tigers get the Win the Colonel goes for a Swim

KfcWe all have hopes, dreams, and goals…some loftier than others. Perhaps it is to be the first female President of the USA or to climb the 10 highest peaks in the world.  Or maybe to rule the Planet Mars with an iron fist covered in purple crushed velvet or to own a 1000 ft luxury yacht and force your crew to dress in clown costumes.  These all make sense to me – but my hope, my dream, my goal last Sunday, after a night of extended Christmas partying, was to go to KFC and get some chicken.  Clearly, I was a quart low.

As I was filling my pores with the Colonel’s best and wondering why we have similar facial hair, suddenly I was reminded of a dark sinister curse involving the Colonel.  Not the Red Sox Curse of the thBambino, not the Cubs Curse of the Billy Goat, but the Curse of the Japanese Hanshin Tigers baseball team by the deceased KFC founder and mascot, Colonel Harlan Sanders.

01colonelcurseThe Curse is said to be on the team because of the Colonel’s well placed anger from the grave (The Colonel called it a day in 1980) over the treatment of one of his storefront statues.  Following their teams’s victory in the 1985 Japan Championship Series (they’re only  championship ), the Colonel’s statue was thrown into the Dotonbori River by celebrating Hanshin Tiger fans.  The Tiger fans are known as the most fanatical and dedicated fans of 428628_10151356196460807_1699313501_nJapanese baseball.  They have a reputation for rough and sometimes violent behavior, which is very rare in Japanese sports yet oddly in keeping with the rough and violent behavior of Colonel Harlan Sanders, who twice lost jobs for brawling with colleagues and ended his legal career after he engaged in a courtroom donnybrook with his own client.  Koshien Stadium (where the Tigers th-1play) is the oldest ballpark in Japan; built in 1925 and the Tigers themselves were founded in 1935.  The stadium was once visited by the great Babe Ruth in 1934.

After the Tigers won their championship in 1985, fans celebrated by having people who looked like Tiger players jump into the Dotonbori Canal (an odd concept at best…hard to imagine Tigers_Fans_JumpBoston Red Sox fans jumping into the Charles River because they look like Big Papi or Dustin Pedroia.) According to legend, because none of the fans resembled star player Randy Bass (a white American first-baseman playing for the Tigers) fans grabbed a life sized statue of the Kentucky Fried Chicken mascot Colonel Sanders from a local KFC Randy-Bass-Colonel-Sandersstore and threw it into the river. (The only resemblance Bass had with the Colonel was that he had facial hair and was not Japanese.)  Since this attack on the plastic American icon the Tigers have not won another championship. They made it to the finals in 2003 only to lose to those spunky Fukuoka Daiei Hawks, but that didn’t stop some 5300 fans from jumping into the canal.  This celebration turned to tragedy when Tiger fan Masaya Shitababa drowned after being shoved into the river by revelers.

The Colonel was finally discovered  in the Dotonbori River in 2009 and hauled out of the mud – seeing the light of day for the colsanders200-afc2106f280c2519805d9f6a474481a2e506ce4b-s6-c30first time since 1985.  The right hand and lower body were found the next day, but the left hand and glasses are still missing, and thus the curse continues until all of the Colonel can be found.

Curses are a bitch, especially from the Colonel. He might make some fine artery clogging fried kfc1chicken, which is delightful when a hangover the size of a mastodon is sitting on your head, but you chuck the likes of him into a Japanese River and you can kiss your championship season goodbye for a long time.  So when you are in the shower singing the Hanshin Tiger’s fight song “Rokko Oroshi” (The Downward Wind of Mount Rokko)  “Powerful hits and skillful pitch achieved a thousand times” think of the Colonel and the importance of repressing 250px-Colonel_Sanders4your need to throw plastic replicas of founders of fried chicken chains who very vaguely resemble an American ballplayer into Japanese rivers.  Groove.

The “High Five” with very little connection to Billy, Wyatt, and Bat


Bat Masterson

A few interesting items about some rock stars of the Old West : Billy the Kid was born in New York City, Wyatt Earp died in Los Angeles and the great Bat Masterson (Indian Fighter, Buffalo Hunter, Gambler, Gunman, Fight Referee and Lawman) was the sports editor for the New York Morning Telegraph.

“There are those who argue that everything breaks even in this old dump of a world of ours.  I suppose these ginks who argue that way hold that because the rich man gets ice in the summer and the poor man gets ice in the winter, things are breaking even for both. Maybe so, but I’ll swear I can’t see it that way.”    These were the words typed in Bat’s typewriter when he was found slumped over dead from a heart attack in the New York Morning Telegraph newsroom.

What does this have to do with the “High Five?”  Very little, except that there is little doubt that Billy, Wyatt, mlb_burke_card_200and Bat never used the High Five after dispatching a deserving bad guy and putting him six feet under, because the High Five  was invented by the great Glenn Burke in 1977 ( Great? Batting avg .237,  Hr 2 ,  RBI 38 ).  Glenn was a Major League Baseball player for the Dodgers and Oakland A’s from 1976 to 1979 . Burke was the first and perhaps only Major League Baseball player known to have acknowledged his homosexuality to teammates and management and the first to do so publicly.  Burke’s association with the Dodgers was a difficult one.  According to Glenn’s 1995 autobiography “Out at Home,” Dodgers General Manager Al Campanis

Spunky Lasorda

Spunky Lasorda

offered to pay for a lavish wedding and honeymoon if Burke agreed to get married.  He declined.  Glenn also angered manager Tommy Lasorda by befriending the manager’s gay son Tom “Spunky” Lasorda Jr., who died in 1991 at the age of 33.


The original High Five

In 1977 Burke ran onto the field to congratulate his Dodger teammate Dusty Baker after Baker hit his 30th home run in the last game of the regular season.  Burke raised his hand over his head as Baker jogged home from 3rd base.  Not knowing what to do about the raise hand, Baker slapped it. They have been credited with inventing the High Five.  After retiring from baseball, Burke used the High Five with other gay residence of the Castro district of San Francisco, where it became a symbol of gay pride .

yearbookAn article published in Inside Sports magazine in 1982 made Burke’s gay life public knowledge.  After baseball, Burke turned to drugs and alcohol which destroyed him both financially and physically.  He was repeatedly arrested for alcohol and drug offenses and lived on the streets of San Francisco.  On May 30th,1995 he died of AIDS complications.  He was 42 years old.


Shark High Five

So now when you drop your little son Timmy off at soccer practice and he is greeted by Lance, his young coach, there are no longer awkward moments of overly hearty handshakes or prolonged hugs.  Just a gratifying “High Five” and you are OK with that and so is Timmy, Lance, and I am sure Glenn is OK with that too.   Groove.

“It’s Time for Dodger Baseball”

Sandy Koufax

Sandy Koufax

We know them and love them : Sandy (Koufax), Steve, (Garvey), Davey (Lopes), Ron (Cey), Bill (Russell), Don (Drysdale), but what about Pop (Corkhill), Oyster (Burns), Hub (Collins), Adonis (Terry) and Needles (Foutz).  We recognize the first group of names as the true blue Dodgers of our immediate past, but those other names are early descendants having played on the Brooklyn teams that had many names. The Dodgers were originally founded in 1883 as the Brooklyn Atlantics, taking the name of a defunct team that had played in Brooklyn

before them. Then came the Brooklyn Bridegrooms (because so many team members were getting



married), then the Grooms, the Superbas (which I will now call the Dodgers after I’ve had more than one cocktail), the Robins, The Trolley Dodgers, before finally becoming the Dodgers.

The Dodgers greatest rivals are the Hated Ones (or Giants) of San Francisco.  Both teams moved to California in 1958 and while the teams were based in New York, the Giants won 5 World Championships (like saying the Egyptians made fine pyramids, it’s ancient history…..who cares) and the Dodgers just one. Since moving to modern times (west coast) the Dodgers have won 5 World Championships (there is no doubt that number will increase in the near future) with the Giants struggling to win 2.   Life goes on and as the ink dries on this paper the Los Angeles Dodgers Photo DayDodgers have a 15 1/2 game lead on the lowly last place Giants with the San Diego Padres desperately trying not to dip into the basement while pondering still another uniform change (Can you say branding?).  The Dodgers have had the same uniform for 70 years.

As we all know, rooting for your baseball team can be a cruel and fickle maiden, but listening to thehome-vin-scully honeyed voice of Vin Scully, (calling the Dodger games since 1950 …. “He’s a left handed batter and we understand his father makes wind chimes out of used toothpicks”) and loving the Dodgers, and the game of baseball, we are all lucky to be part of this wonderful ride of 2013.  Go Dodgers!

Groove.  Los_Angeles_Dodgers4

Sandy – Baseball’s Reluctant Icon

” There are two times in my life when the hairs on my arms stood up : When I saw the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the first time I saw Sandy Koufax throw a fastball.”

As said by Al Campanis, future Dodger General Manager, who at the time was a Dodger scout  and gave Sandy a tryout.  The Dodgers signed him to a $6000 salary and a $14,000 signing bonus. Koufax said he planned to use the signing bonus for tuition when his baseball career failed. To make room for Sandy on the Dodgers, a left hander named Tom Lasorda was optioned to the Montreal Royals of the International League.  There are those who say the resentment from Lasorda remains to this day.

Koufax struggled in his first 6 years in the majors finishing his 1960 season with a 8-13 record. After the last game of the season he threw his glove and cleats into the trash (only to be retrieved by the clubhouse supervisor and returned to Sandy the following spring) and vowed to quit baseball and devote himself full time to an electronic business. Persuaded to give it one more year, a hitch was found in his delivery mechanics, and with that correction – the best 6 years of a pitching performance in Major League History was started.

His stats are unmatched in such a short period of greatness (2x World Series MVP, 4x World Series Champ, 3x Cy Young winner (all three were unanimous),  4 no hitters, 1 perfect game,  Major League Baseball all Century Team, Major League Baseball All- Time Team, the youngest man ever inducted to the Hall of Fame,  best post season ERA (an incredible o.95),  but I think Sandy Koufax the Man is much more interesting.       

Koufax is remembered for his decision to not pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur.  Derided by many, “the Great Jewish Hope” as Walter O’ Malley called him, inadvertently made himself a religious icon and a reluctant celebrity. (When Senator Joseph Lieberman became the first Jewish American to be named to a national political ticket in 2000, he was dubbed ” the Sandy Koufax of politics.”)  Just one year later, at the age of 30, he was gone from the game retiring at the peak of his career going 27-9 with a 1.73 era. Suffering from arthritis and concerned what continuing his baseball career might do to his body, he left on top.  Words of wisdom that we all should follow.  Sandy summed it up this way : ” I’ve got a lot of years to live after baseball and I would like to live them with complete use of my body.”

With Sandy’s retirement came the notion that he was a recluse. Because he chooses not to comment publicly on his life or to refute other’s impressions of it, he is labeled aloof.  Sometimes these perceptions are hardened by a mistake, like when his absence at the 1999 All-Star game in Boston, when the top 50 living players of the 20th Century met (including a final appearance of Ted Williams), Sandy’s absence was cited as more evidence of his reclusiveness.  In fact, he had never received an invitation. Often when he does show up at events and is asked about being a recluse,  he frequently responds: ” My friends don’t think I’m a recluse.”   He is someone who knows and values the difference between solitude and loneliness.  He is offended by the right things: lack of civility, honesty, and kindness and as Walter O’Malley says of him “He wants to see the best in everybody.”  The editors of Sports Illustrated named him their favorite athlete of the 20th Century with an article headlined  “The Incomparable and Mysterious Sandy Koufax.”  Fans were stunned to learn he hadn’t read the article. “I haven’t disappeared, I’m not lost, and I am not very mysterious.”  The only subject matter that doesn’t interest him is himself.  He is a genuine modest man who dismisses any talk of idolism with “The older I get, the better I used to be.”  Dusty Baker, known as El Lizard in certain circles, ex Dodger, and current manager of the Cincinnati Reds , says” He’s one of the coolest dudes I’ve ever met, ever.”

On a magical night at Dodger Stadium on Sept.9th, 1965 Sandy threw a perfect game. (“2 and 2 to Harvey Kuenn…” the line uttered by Vin Scully that is etched in many of our minds.) It was the first perfect game thrown by a left hander since 1880. The game also featured a quality performance by the opposing pitcher, Bob Hendley of the Chicago Cubs, who pitched a one hitter that night.  35 years after the game Bob Hendley received a package with a note that read ,”We had a moment, a night, and a career. I hope that life has been good to you. -Sandy .” Inside was a signed ball with the inscription “What a game.”  When Hendley showed the ball to his son Bart, he noticed it was signed by Warren Giles, the long dead National League president and that it was a ball from the era of the perfect game.  It was the game ball of that magical night at Dodger Stadium. “I’ve been offered a lot of money for that ball and a lot of folks ask what was it like to be the other guy that night?, I tell ’em it’s no disgrace to get beat by class.”

” Trying to hit him was like trying to drink coffee with a fork” -Willie Stargell

” Pitching is the art of instilling fear” – Sandy Koufax

” Koufax throws a radio ball, a pitch you hear, but don’t see.” – Gene Mauch

” Koufax – he’ll never amount to much ” -Tom Lasorda

Sandy (at age75)

Print The Legend

The strange  dusty road of Truth has many hairpin turns and hazy stretches. It collides with Myth at a billion miles per hour and leaves chunks of reality mixed in with lumps of fantasy. Yet truth is stranger than fiction. An example of that is that Richard Dawson, the host of Family Feud who recently passed away, married one of the contestants and that the descendants of the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s were contestants on the show in 1979 where they played for cash prizes and a pig. ( The Hatfields won).

Like in Western History there are some who believe that myth is more important than History. That myth transcends the truth, and like religion, is beyond fact. Truth is a much harder sell for we Americans don’t really study History we shop for it.  Stephen Jay Gould , paleontologist, Harvard instructor, and a great baseball guy said that “humans have a psychic need for an indigenous creation of myth. That we need to come up with an explicit point of origin rather than accept that most beginnings are gradual and complex. We need to identify heroes and sacred places while evolutionary stories provide no palpable particular thing as a symbol for reverence, worship, or patriotism.”

Many Baseball heads credit Abner Doubleday for “inventing Baseball” one day in a cow pasture  in 1839. Now Abner was a cool cat : a Union officer who is credited with firing the first cannon blast while defending Fort Sumter, which was the opening battle of the Civil War, and after the war he moved to San Francisco where he obtained the patent on the cable car , but he never claimed to have invented Baseball. The man who gave him posthumous credit for creating the sport was later judged ” criminally insane”on murder charges. There is clear evidence that our ” National pastime” evolved over decades from English games such as Rounders and Stool Ball. Now that cow pasture is where the Baseball Hall of Fame resides in Cooperstown , New York.

Rhode Island, which is not an island, got its name from a geographic mixup with Block Island, which Gio De Verrazzano thought  resembled the Greek Island of Rhodes. ” California” is believed to derive it’s name from Calafia, queen of the tall black Amazons, whom 16th century Spaniards conjured up as occupiers of the Golden State. And two continents, North & South America, bore the name of Amerigo Vespucci, who never set foot upon them and wrote fantasies about lands he never saw.

As they said in “The Man who Shot Liberty Valance” when ” The Legend becomes fact, print the Legend.”


Grooving at Dodger Stadium

Grooving at Dodger Stadium

My kids have always loved baseball probably because I do too. The look on their faces as we turn the corner and see the field at Dodger stadium is the same look as they had when they were young opening presents on Xmas morn. Though they have seen this field dozens of times – it is always the same: a look of wonderment, hope, and pure delight.

Recently at a night game my daughter Lily spotted a strange light emitting a soft yellow glow from the far reaches of the parking lot behind right field. As it turns out it comes from a lantern that was erected in 1965 inside a Japanese garden that was built by the O’ Malley family during the construction of Dodger Stadium in 1962. A Japanese sportswriter legend named  Sotaro Suzuki was invited to the grand opening of the stadium and he was so taken with its magnificence that he commissioned a stone lantern to commemorate the lasting connection between The Dodgers and the nation of Japan. One can visit this place and imagine Walter O’Malley meditating on the single bench clearing his large head with visions of the fleet-footed Maury Wills stealing bag after bag and reaching harmony and the ultimate serene mode of consciousness with the thought of Sandy Koufax’s curveball.

So next time you find yourself in the far reaches of parking lot six look to the Garden and remember that Tommy Lasorda was given the Order of the Rising Sun and bow to the Enlightenment that is Dodger Stadium.

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