Monthly Archives: June 2021

Jes’ Spitballin’

So…

…major league baseball has announced that beginning June 21 they will be enforcing the rule against pitchers applying foreign substances to the baseball.

Beginning?

This rule has been around for decades.

I drove to Louisville last week for the first time in about six months. I drove a modest 10mph above the posted speed limit and ducked as dozens of other drivers blew by.

The IRS has been so denuded of personnel and resources that they rarely pursue complicated tax returns. “Pursue” is a euphemism for “audit”, and “complicated” is a euphemism for “lucrative.” “Collecting taxes” is a euphemism for “go ahead and drive over that bridge – it’s fine.”

We’re told that there are enough gun laws already in existence, but they’re not enforced. Meanwhile, minimum wage grocery store cashiers are being popped for asking customers who chose to honor the shop with their trade are miffed for being asked to wear a mask. I remember times when I pissed customers off for not letting them wear Halloween masks while shopping in our liquor store. Go figure.

But this is about baseball.

The foreign substance that sparked the now-to-be-enforced rule was spit. Pitchers were spitting (whatever might currently reside in their mouths) onto the ball about to be launched. In theory, it made the ball slippery and unpredictable in its trajectory. Predictably, a bunch of hitters were beaned. Baseball deemed this a dangerous situation and banned the substances…in theory.

Now the rule is being shanghai-ed to alleviate a completely different complaint.

Spin rate.

Never heard of it?

Wanna take a guess?

No, it’s not a measurable when considering for whom you should vote. And no, it’s not referring to the setting on your washer/dryer. Spin rate is how fast a pitched ball rotates on its journey to the strike zone. A faster spin rate creates sharper curves and shorter time periods in which batters can question their career choices. Spin rates have increased lately and batting averages, and game attendance have plummeted.

Spider-tack (spelling here is a wild guess).

Spider-tack has replaced spit, resin, and Prince Albert in a can as the magic elixir du jour. A spot of spider-tack on the hat, glove, belt, or private parts, that can be transferred dexterously to the dexters of the pitching hand seems to magically transform waiver-wire hurlers into Cy Youngs, and permanently consign hitters to a dungeon well below the Mendoza line.

<<<<  sigh  >>>>

I dunno.

In a world where;

  • Presidents don’t pay taxes.
  • People refuse to protect themselves from disease.
  • Ubiquitous firearms have replaced loud voices and fists.
  • Obscene student loan debts have reduced the best and brightest to indentured servitude.
  • Voting is being made harder.
  • Lying is being made easier.

Maybe…just maybe…there are more important rules to fret about.

Pitchers, quit cheating…or don’t. It’s just a game. You know the right thing to do.

Batters, pull up your big boy pants and get better…or don’t. It’s just a game. You know the right thing to do.

The rest of us, pay attention! This is not a game, nor is it a reality show, nor is it a Road Runner/Coyote cartoon. If your democracy dies, it won’t come back to life. It’s dead.

It’s dead.

You know the right thing to do.

Quit cheating, get better, pay attention…don’t wait for someone to ask to examine your hat.

Do the next right thing.

A Great Blessing

There was so much right on so many levels tonight at the Opera House in Lexington.

Literally…

  • Every level of seating in the Opera House seemed to be populated fully as far as I could see.
  • The orchestra level was raised to stage level, effectively social-distancing the audience from the musicians and singers.

And figuratively…

  • The tickets were cyber-tix. I bought my tickets on-line, they were delivered on-line, and they were executed on-line. I had to show the bar code on my phone and the ticket-taker scanned my bar code and let me proceed. I fretted in anticipation when I learned of this arrangement. I envisioned a major patron jam of geezers fiddling fruitlessly with our phones while the orchestra initiated their warning warm-ups. I envisioned the major geezer obstacle being me, patron saint of the clumsy thumbs. Thankfully, Janie (Our Lady of Fer-Gods-Sake-Get-a-Hold-of-Yerself) schooled me this afternoon and I was prepared. Wonder of wonders, so was everyone else! Folks were admitted and seated with their self-respect intact, and the show started on time.
  • Dr. Everett McCorvey walked out on stage with Dr. Sandy Archer (president of OperaLex). Applause, relief, and release filled the venue. Everyone breathed…maybe for the first time in over a year. Dr. McCorvey’s organic ebullience on the stage was roared back at him at the same level by a Lexington audience in their historic performing venue; a venue that had “…been through some good times, been through some bad times, but my dear, I’m still here.” –Stephen Sondheim.

The show itself was lovely.

  • I confess I wept during the opening number; “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” But frankly, I would have wept if they had sang the phone book (remember those?). Hearing these powerful young voices singing live on stage…… It was a religious moment.
  • Seeing and hearing the growth of Houston Tyrrell and Jessica Bayne…a joy.
  • “Why We Build the Wall”, from HADESTOWN was, as it always has been for me, a breath-suspending experience. Nathaniel E. Thompson should be congratulated for attempting this signature moment and thanked for nailing it. Then, of course, the rest of us must go home a think about it…a lot.
  • Michael Preacely…”The Impossible Dream.” Encouraging, instructive, powerful, and melodic. This was great blessing.

Michael had the line that summed up the whole evening for me;

“The world will be better for this.”

I know I was.

The Road Best Not Taken

We all grow up to soundtracks. Mine included the Beatles, the Temptations, Neil Sedaka, and Wilson Pickett. Don’t judge. It also included Walter Cronkite and Huntley/Brinkley. It also included local voices like radio DJ’s Billy Love, Tom Kindall, and Little Bee. I suppose these and other voices were influential to varying degrees to a goofy teenager in Lexington who was (to quote every first year major league baseball player in history) just glad to be here.

But the soundtrack also included baseball announcers. First it was polished Claude Sullivan describing the Cincinnati Reds games as they it just might be more important than just a game (which of course they were). Then whiling away endless hours of rain delays with Waite Hoyt’s remembrances of his playing days. Al Michaels’ urgency and, occasionally Vin Scully’s erudite ramblings followed.

This had to be the greatest job in the world; major league baseball announcer. It was right up there with being a cowboy or an astronaut or a three-chord guitar-strummin’ British rocker. THAT’S what I wanna be!

Of course I’d never ridden a horse, or thrown a lasso, or shot a six-gun…and frankly, I still question the wisdom of throwing your now empty gun back at pursuers.

I was pretty sure I’d never achieve the required quantity of push-ups to earn my space suit, and I feared projectile hurling might defy my efforts at the anti-gravity waltz.

But play-by-play for America’s game? Oh yeah – that was for me.

But baseball is a fickle game. It only follows the script after the real game is played. You can’t impose a romantic and glorious story line on it with any confidence until the actual statistics are tabulated. To attempt to do so can lead to a humiliation that this sensitive soul simply cannot bear.

Listening earlier today to Barry Larkin and John Sadek gleefully extol the glory of Eugenio Suarez raising his batting average to a giddy .170 was embarrassing. I am a fan of all three of those fellows but…

Listening to Mr. Larkin start a comment; “Notice how the pitcher, with nobody on-base…” and at that precise moment watch the batter sting the pitch into right field for a single, forcing Larkin to amend his comment on the fly in mid-sentence…ouch.

It’s got to be frustrating at an alarming frequency.

I recall a moment early in Jeff Brantley’s announcing career. A young Edwin Encarnatión came to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning with the Reds trailing. Mr. Brantley launched into a rant about the ineptitude of Mr. Encarnatión. It was brutal. On the next pitch, Encarnatión smacked a game-winning home run. The crowd was ecstatic. The announcing booth was eerily serene. Encarnatión has gone on to a sterling power-hitting career. Brantley is my favorite current voice of the Reds. But at the time…uber-ouch.

But the moment that I first suspected that the mine-field that baseball announcing might not be for me occurred in the sixties during a Saturday Game-of-the-Week broadcast with Curt Gowdy and Tony Kubek. The Mets won the game on a walk-off hit by Choo-Choo Coleman. Tony Kubek interviewed Coleman in the dressing room after the game.

Kubek: “I’m here with the star of today’s game; Choo-Choo Coleman. Choo-Choo…that’s an interesting nickname. Do happen know how you got it?”

Coleman: “No.”

Kubek: “Back to you, Curt.”

My admiration for Tony Kubek soared.

I went back to work on those push-ups.

Le Golem

Movie night!

Decades of prowling every bookstore I come across has infected and inspired my cinematic inquisitiveness. From childhood meanderings through the bookmobile and the public library, to stubborn and tiresome adult plumbings of the depths and shadows of every pile of books I encounter, a ritual of curiosity has become part of my mental muscle memory. As access to more cinema from various countries and times has burgeoned, my treasure-hunting impulses are triggered.

Alas, most of the treasures I discover are merely curiosities. But then, I admit I treasure the curiosities.

Tonight’s curiosity is a made-for-French-TV film from 1967; Le Golem, directed by Jean Kerchbron. Kerchbron, who primarily directed for European TV, also adapted this script from the novel by Gustav Meyerinck.

A scholar unearths a clay figure, brings it to life, uses it for personal services, loses control of the beast, and mayhem ensues. Sounds a bit like Mickey Mouse in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, n’est-ce pas? At least, that’s how Mayerinck tells it. In Kerchbron’s flick we only see the monster a couple of times. It’s scary, it’s grim, but is it real? I’m thinkin’ not…but I’m not bettin’ the ranch.

This film was made about ten years before David Lynch’s ERASERHEAD and about forty years after Carl Theodor Dreyer’s PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC, but it reminds me of both. The performance of André Reybaz, our leading man could have been lifted directly from Dreyer’s film. The unresolved wonder of LE GOLEM could have segued into ERASERHEAD without missing a goggle.

What lured me to this film was the inclusion of Magali Noël in the cast. Ms. Noël played Gradisca in Fellini’s AMARCORD and Nick’s sister in the political thriller “Z”, two of my favorite films. She is over-the-top and lovely in this effort.

Though curiosities are not treasures, they may have moments that are gems. The moment that arrested me in LE GOLEM was a quiet thought;

“I think about the warm wind. When it comes, the ice crackles everywhere in the land. It gets muddy. But already flowering gardens germinate. When seasons change, something moves in the roots; both in good roots and in poisonous ones.”

This spring of new hope and optimism about the covid infection.

This spring of trepidation about democracy-threatening lies.

It’s a warm wind.

Something’s moving in the land; both in good roots and poisonous ones.

We’d best keep a’hold of whatever Golem we unearth.

N’est-ce pas?