I read, rather incessantly if the truth be told. For me it’s primarily a way of maintaining sanity. Something about disappearing into someone else’ story or an intriguing bit of non-fiction boosts my mood and settles my oft chaotically busy brain back into less stressed out functionality. Except, since late February I haven’t read much of anything. I have been too stressed out to settle down long enough for anything to grab my interest. It’s been miserable.
Finally, I picked up Dirk Hayhurst’s tale of minor league life, The Bullpen Gospels. I was so charmed by his turn of phrase and the compelling mix of humor and gut wrenching introspection, that I devoured it like a starving person in about two days, thus breaking up the longest “slump” of my “career.” One of the jacket quotes describes the book as Bull Durham meets Ball Four. On some levels this is true, especially on the humorous end of things. Never have kangaroo court proceedings been reported with such glee and the tales of out heckling rowdy opposing team fans are truly hilarious. But on the serious side of things, Hayhurst’s very much non-fiction back story and his personal stakes for failure are much darker and the introspection is more deliberate.
Ultimately, it’s the book’s juxtaposition of different elements that grabbed me. The silly with the serious. The drive for a major league baseball career with the motivation to have a lasting impact on the world. Beautifully related insider game tidbits peppered with references to Narnia, Charley and the Chocolate Factory, Conan the Barbarian and other wonderful oddities. I am a huge fan of that last part especially, as you might have guessed from the hodgepodge of strange side stuff I incorporate into this blog. Suffice to say, add The Bullpen Gospels to my list of recommended reads and many thanks to Dirk Hayhurst for helping me find my way back to my reading mechanics, as it were. Yes, of course he will read this, just like the Angels. Why do you ask? 😉
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After busting out of my biblio-slump, I began tearing my way once again through the stack of books to be read, and one of the first things that caught my interest also happened to have a blog tie-in. Jim Butcher’s “Curses,” a new short story in the Dresden Files series included in Ellen Datlow’s recently released urban fantasy anthology Naked City. In this story we find Harry Dresden, detective, warden and the only wizard in the Chicago phone book taking on the Cubs’ Billy Goat Curse. And the end result? A very fun read. I had no idea Butcher was a baseball fan and if he isn’t, he fakes it nicely. This is a lighter Dresden tale, as Butcher often chooses to share in these anthologies, and would be relatively easy for someone who hasn’t read the series up until now to pick up. And if you had the misfortune of watching the Sci-Fi Channel’s terrible TV series adaptation of these books, don’t worry, the books are a completely different animal.
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Speaking of books and baseball, there was a really cute news feature in one of the early July episodes of Angels Weekly showing Angels rookies Hank Conger and Mark Trumbo and recent rookie Peter Bourjos car pooling to the interleague games at Dodgers Stadium. The adorable part was how nonchalant and professional they were trying to be about having reporters videoing their ride, when it was obvious they could barely contain their glee over the very Big Leagues novelty of the whole thing.
The three young Angels shot the breeze on a number of subjects, eventually settling on upcoming movie releases that had piqued their interest. Conger, it turned out, could not wait for the new Harry Potter movie because he loves Harry Potter and has read all of the books, thus earning several Kristen approval points, not that they’re worth anything. 😉 Bourjos and Trumbo laughed at this revelation and exchanged “Here Hank goes again” looks before each asked the other if he had ever finished an entire book willingly. No, neither one had, and both clearly thought Conger was the odd duck on this subject. But their teasing was affectionate and the whole conversation reminded me of a funny story from my high school days…
One day before class during my sophomore year, I had just put down a book I was reading to joke around with a group of baseball players, a fairly typical day. The guys were teasing me about my reading habits, mainly that I had them. I was the stat girl for the varsity team and had gone through grade school and then some with most of these JV players. We were friends. The teasing was affectionate and I was giving it right back. “Did your parents brainwash you or something?” asked a guy I had known literally since preschool. “Yes, and once you get past the machine that holds your eyes open really wide, the drugs are actually kind of fun…” I responded, or something to that effect.
Old friend kept it up and I finally asked him if there was any book he would willingly read. He pretended to gag and loudly protested, of course not. And all of the baseball players predictably laughed. Yeah, the boy didth protest too much, especially to someone who knew about his extensive Darth Vader collection. Fortunatley, timing was on my side and I held aloft the recently released book to reveal the shiny new cover – Timothy Zahn’s Dark Force Rising, the second book in the very first Star Wars series to tackle the question of just what happened after the conclusion of the original movie trilogy. Old friend emitted what can only be described as a squeal of delight and practically dove over a row of desks to get a closer look. “Oh my god! It’s out! I didn’t know it was out yet! Is it good? The last one was so good…” and so on. And he wasn’t the only one. Bwa ha ha.
The moral of this story? Careful Bourjos and Trumbo. Reading isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and there’s nothing wrong with that. But someday you may just find that one book that has you diving over a desk and looking silly, LOL.
Because in the course of any season, regardless of how well your team is or is not doing, it’s going to happen. Several times. Well, if you’re me and it’s the Angels doing the sucking, you just keep right on watching. Call it misplaced optimism. Call it “fan”aticism carried to masochistic degree. Call it a factor of being raised on SoCal baseball where, truly, more so that for any other teams in the majors there is no lead so large that every now and then it can’t be overcome…or given up for that matter. Call it whatever you like, but if I’ve started watching the game, be it at the ballpark or on the television, even on delay, then I’m going to finish it — root, root, root for my guys or at least show solidarity by sitting tight through the evening death watch, as it were.
Fortunately, this evening I accidentally saw the end of the game. Not knowing the end of an east coast game while you’re waiting for your husband to come home to start said game on delay when you blog…and read everyone else’s blogs…and watch MLB tonight…and, and, and, you get the general idea…on the night your team decides to blow goats two days after pitching a no-hitter? It’s not possible. Seth knew the outcome before he got home too. I won’t give up on a train wreck once it’s started, but I also don’t believe that fandom demands seeking one out when I already know the gorey depths and bloody extent of the of the carnage.
So, what do you do when the game just plain sucks? Either in lieu of watching it or after it’s over?
Change the channel. Yep. Pick up that remote and put something else on. Depending on your personality, another game might be just the ticket, or it might drive you into greater fits of depression. Sometimes something completely different is a better idea. Watch a movie. Drool over Food Network. Catch up on some of the April and May episodes of favorite TV series you abandoned on the DVR once the baseball season started. One word of advice, though. Watching SportsCenter, Quick Pitch, or the like immediately after your team choked and hearing the talking heads not just speak ill of the dead, but trash talk the corpse during the autopsy isn’t therapy. It’s the sports fan equivalent of drunk dialing an ex-lover while you’re still raw from a recent break up. Sure, you think you’re going to achieve some measure of closure, but no. It’s a trap. …or so I’ve heard…
Go to the Movies. Get out of the house and lose yourself in someone else’s story for a few hours. After Joel Pinero’s Post Oakland Debacle, Debacle Part II: This Time it’s in Cleveland, we went to go see Captain Abs…er…America. *Sigh.* Is this geek girl heaven? No ma’am. It’s just the first preview for the Avengers movie in 2012. *Sigh again* Really, Captain America was fun, and it had a neat, knowing WWII recruitment poster come to life look to it, but it was worth it for that preview alone.
Sadly, sometimes stronger measures in this arena are required. Cheesy, cheesier, so bad it’s good, and occasionally even just plain bad movies have their uses. Yes, there was a game so bad a few weeks ago that we actually went to see Transformers III. Our rationalizations? Let someone else pay for the air conditioning for a few hours. Pretty explosions in 3-D are therapeutic. And, really, the game might look better in comparison. We were mostly right.
Curl Up with a Good Book. If you’re not a fan of the printed word, no worries. Some people juggle geese and all that. But if you are, this is an excellent strategy. Brain vacation! Cruise around in Crowley’s ill fated Bentley or Harry Dresden’s blue beetle. Visit Middle Earth or 221B Baker Street. Attend Woland’s Walpurgis Night Midnight Ball. And return to reality when your desire to punch walls over the game has receded to mere annoyance.
Ummm…it’s called alcohol. Feeling the need for something a bit more mind-numbing than my previous suggestions? The main benefit of this time honored coping strategy is that you don’t have to wait until after the game to begin self-medicating. Wine. Beer. Bourbon. Vodka. Be the reason the rum is gone. Heck, get fancy and do catastrophe themed shots like flaming drambuie. And it’s versatile too! If your team starts to rally, your spirit drenched activities can flip the switch from wake to celebratory revels faster than Peter Bourjos goes from first to home plate. And if you haven’t had the pleasure of watching the lad this season, that’s pretty damn fast.
Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge. Say no more. Personally, I think this should be a frequent go-to post game strategy regardless of the score. A great pick me up after a terrible game. A fantastic celebration after a good game. It’s the little black dress of cope-age.
Blog. Put fingers to key board and rant, whine and snark away. Oh, come on. You know you were going to do it anyway. Why not get all of the ranting out of the way during or immediately after the game when it has the most direct therapeutic value. If raw emotions – or perhaps having, ahem, combined this option with one of the others – adversely affect the quality of your prose, it’s not like you actually have to post it. Of course, that’s never stopped me before. 😉
And if none of this is effective, well, you know you’re going to get right back on that horse with the next game to cheer again. How can you not? Your cure is only a win away. And your relapse? Well, best not to talk about that. But you might as well keep this list handy, you know, just in case.
Taking the mound Wednesday morning for the Angels and Indians rubber match, Ervin Santana did his best to make absolutely certain no pre-game write-up will ever discuss his history of failure against Cleveland again. I’d say he was successful. Wouldn’t you? 😉
Santana’s first win against Cleveland was only MLB’s third no-hitter this season, the first of his own career, and the Angels first solo no-hitter since Mike Witt pitched his perfect game against the Rangers in 1984. (Witt and Mark Langston combined for a no-hitter against the Mariners in 1990). I tell you, there are serious perks to having the number three guy in your starting rotation be of such a high caliber that when he has his control, he could be the number two or even number one guy on a lot of team’s pitching staffs. The Angels may not have the Phillys Four Aces, but you’ve got to love two aces, two not quite aces and one ace in training. Won’t get you much at the poker table, it’s true, but in the AL, it could get you pretty far indeed.
Congratulations Ervin! Very well deserved! What a personal accomplishment and what an accomplishment for the team! And well we’re at it, let’s not forget the rest of the team who helped get Santana there – Santana certainly didn’t forget them in his always humble comments after the game. Special recognition should be given to Peter Bourjos, Torii Hunter, Howie Kendrick and Mike Trout for their bats. Torii, Howie, Bourjos and Mark Trumbo for their defense and Bobby Wilson for calling one heck of great game. The Angels have now won three series in a row and 11 of their last 14 series. And the Twins appear to have taken my Glamour List – The Baseball Edition #10 to heart, so today is a very good day indeed. 🙂
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I’ve mentioned once or twice in this blog that my husband and I sometimes refer to Santana as Hobbes. Well, stills from today’s no-hitter game footage, finally allow me to explain myself with a few helpful visual aids. Check this out.
Mild mannered, affable, everyday teammate with one of the sweetest, most endearing smiles in the majors:
With game face firmly in place:
Just remember, who kicked the most behind at Calvinball? That’s right. Not Calvin. Hobbes did. Coincidence? I think not!
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One more reason why I wish I had played hooky and stayed home to watch this game, out of a very, very long list? (Yeah right, like I’ve ever been that irresponsible in my entire life, sigh.) Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout playing together in the same outfield, with Bourjos in center and Trout in left, batting one behind the other in the same line-up. I managed to listen to the radio for Bourjos’ triple – man, that kid can fly! – immediately followed by Trout’s veteran quality battle with the pitcher culminating in a sacrifice fly to deep right center and a game tying RBI. And I got chills. Seriously. It was like the best teaser trailer for the Angels 2012 season ever. Ever.
We’re in the last few days of July and, aside from a few lumps and bumps, the Angels are doing pretty well – Monday’s game notwithstanding. Comfortably above .500. Four games out of first place in the AL West. Ten and two in their last 12 series. Not bad for a team most of the talking heads were predicting would be deeply entrenched in the third or even fourth place spot at this point in the season.
However, even with all of August and September still left to play, the distance between the Rangers and the Angels isn’t moving in the right direction anywhere near quickly enough or consistently enough for the comfort of Angels fans. Giant sweeping changes are unnecessary. As I said, the Angels are playing pretty good ball. But, having watched far more games than not this season, I can’t help but notice certain key things the Angels could be doing that they just aren’t doing. Clearly, they must not know it’s okay. This is the only reasonable explanation. 😉
So, for the Angels education – and for your entertainment – in the style of that paragon of good information and insightful advice, Glamour Magazine, (Come on ladies, you know there’s nothing like a fashion magazine for a little guilty pleasure, comic relief. Come on gents, you know most of you have snuck a curious peak at an S.O.’s or sister’s stash at one point or another.) I present:
the glamour list – baseball edition
10 Things That Really Are Okay, Encouraged Even:
Scoring runs before we have two outs on the board.
Scoring runs before the 7th inning stretch.
Hitting homeruns at home too.
Lengthy, unbroken winning streaks.
Keeping opposing team runners off the bases between the second and third outs.
Heck, while we’re at it, sitting the other team down 1, 2, 3.
Being aggressive on the base paths…without being aggressively stupid on the base paths.
Disappointing rookies…opposing team rookies that is. Really, it’s not unsportsmanlike if you hit their pitches, make it hard for them to catch the ball and, you know, not allow them walk-off first hits.
Taking over 1st place early and never letting it go.
Teams other than the Angels beating the Texas Rangers…Okay, so this one isn’t for the Angels so much as the rest of the AL but, really guys, it’s okay. Any. Day. Now.
Interleague has always been good for the Angels. This year the team won every Interleague series and finished by taking two from the Dodgers this weekend at the big A. Friday’s game was the Angels sole loss in this series, proof perhaps that a day of rest is not always in order. The team’s level of play across the board prompted me to comment on FaceBook “The Revolution may not be televised, but the Zombie Apocalypse just aired on Fox Sports West.” But they were back in fine form Saturday and Sunday, with a dominant performance against Clayton Kershaw on Saturday and a tightly contested duel between Ervin Santana and Chad Billingsley on Sunday.
Seth and I had tickets to Saturday’s game, good seats in the club section just on the foul side of the left field pole. It’s amazing what folks will part with cheap these days. 🙂 Anyway, the energy was high and the fan interaction was a lot of fun, one reason I love Freeway Series games. Our seats were in front of three suites – one with Dodgers fans sandwiched between two filled with Angels fans – and intermingled with mix of fans of both teams. The suite dwellers were the fun, loud side of thoroughly hammered and formed the loudest component of both teams cheering/mostly friendly trash talk sections. The funniest part was after a one-two-three inning for Weaver when the Angels were already well ahead. The Dodgers suite switched from yelling “Let’s Go Dodgers” to “Let’s Go Yankees” of all things in perfect unison. They earned a lot of laughter and claps of approval from the Angels crowd. Who doesn’t appreciate a good sport?
Jered Weaver and Clayton Kershaw warm up in the bullpens just before first pitch. This photo shows off the side by side terraced bullpens I spoke of earlier. Seth and I did take the camera to the game, but some absolute dork left the memory stick at home in her computer. She had long brown hair and freckles…oh, yeah…it was me. J So there aren’t as many from the game and these photos are not as good as some of our others. To get the good photos, you have to have enough memory to snap several shots of a play or an at bat.
Jered Weaver warms up before the game. Weaver pitched a dominant game, allowing only four hits and one run in eight innings. At first it didn’t look like he was going to get much run support, as usual. But in the end the guys gave him downright gaudy seven runs. Hey, I could get used to gaudy and I’ll bet our pitchers could too.
Garret Anderson throws out the first pitch. As part of the 50th Anniversary celebration Angels alumni will throw out every first pitch this season. Recent retiree Garret Anderson threw out the first pitch on Saturday and I was thrilled to be on hand to watch this Angels great, still the holder of eight different team batting titles, accept the honor. Fernando Valenzuela threw out the first pitch on Friday, a controversial choice among Angels fans because he only played for the Angels for one year. I, personally liked the idea of including Fernando because of what he meant to baseball in California and how his rising star helped show off the considerable talents of our own skipper, Mike Scioscia, when he was a young catcher trying to earn the everyday role. Besides, I think it was a nice touch on the part of the Angels front office to choose Angels alumni for this series who also had Dodger ties, underscoring the long, intertwined history between our two teams.
Hank Conger chats with Jordan Walden and the bullpen and Bullpen Coach Steve Soliz address the relievers before the game. One, I like these photos my husband took from our vantage just above and in front of the bullpen because you can see some of the personalities and bonding in our bullpen this season. But also, this series, and indeed for most of interleague, the bullpen flat out rocked and I wanted to take a minute to recognized their important contribution.
Jeff Mathis leads off of second base after knocking a double into left field. This series was marked by unexpected but extremely welcome contributions at the plate from unlikely sources. Russell Branyan knocked in the winning run plus on with a two-run no doubter on Sunday and on Saturday it was Jeff Mathis with a solid double putting him in position to score the Angels first run of the night. He also had a single and a nice sacrifice bunt (and a badly failed sacrifice bunt, but we’re only talking positive here.)
Vernon Wells crossing the plate and celebrating with Mark Trumbo and Erick Aybar after another timely homerun. I am really enjoying his bat right now!! I managed to catch Wells doing his point to the sky as he crosses the plate and I love the exchange between Wells and Trumbo. It looks like Trumbo is saying “Dude, what was that?! How far did that go?!”
Behold the power of the rally manicure! I fidget. When I’m writing, when I’m resting, when I’m watching the game from home, just whenever. Sometimes the end result is useful, like folded laundry or and organized bill file and sometimes it’s just really silly, like random nail art for work or, you know, the ballgame. But I got more compliments on the silly things Saturday that I figured I would post them for posterity and/or mockery…and hey, if I were the sort to be superstitious about such things, they did win didn’t they? 🙂
Doesn’t everyone love a win?! The Angels celebrate after the game.
And in news outside of baseball, this weekend further rocked because Seth and I got out on the bikes a lot. I have come a long way since Memorial Day weekend and was able to ride in the rough again…okay, it was mild rough, but still. We took this trail on Saturday and again this morning. Go go Gadget knee. 🙂
Today marks the beginning of the final stretch of Interleague play this season. Love it or hate it, you learn a lot about the baseball cultures and traditions of teams from the other league during Interleague and knowledge is never a wasted thing. To that end, before the Angels and Dodgers take the field at the Big A this evening for the second half of the Freeway Series, I thought I would use my bi-baseball-cultural heritage (Dodgers fan childhood, Angels fan adulthood) to answer a few questions and clear up a few misconceptions about our two team’s shared histories in Southern California for the benefit of both fan bases.
First things’ first:
This is not a Dodgers cap.
And I don’t just mean this statement in the Magritte sense. This really is not a Dodgers cap, nor is it an “Angels Dodgers-look-alike” cap as some have called it. This is a replica of the original Angels cap, featuring our original interlocked L and A logo and a halo stitched into the top, a reminder of an era when, for better or worse, baseball uniforms were often a little more literal than they are today. Remember the nautical motif on the 1970s era Pittsburg Pirates cap and on short-lived Seattle Pilots caps and stirrup socks?
So, is it an ugly cap? Well, everyone is entitled to their opinion of course. I tend to think it’s so ugly, it’s completely awesome! But then again, you may have glanced around my blog and noted my subtle little bias.
Wait a minute! The Angels’ original logo was an interlocked L and A? What have the Angels ever had to do with Los Angeles and why were they copying the Dodgers? I have heard variations on this one from both sides of the fan divide as well. The Angels have played at the Big A in Anaheim since the 1966 season…but, from 1961 until 1966 they played in Los Angeles. Yes, Los Angeles. The first year at Los Angeles’ Wrigley Field and for the next four years at – if you’re one of the folks who didn’t know this already, this is going to trip you out even more than the concept of a Wrigley Field in Los Angeles – at Dodger Stadium.
No, Angels fans, it wasn’t our field first. It was always the Dodgers’ field. We just sort of couched surfed there for four seasons until we became established in our career and were able find our own digs. And, really, can you get any more Los Angeles than that? There were occasional issues between the Dodgers and Angels in those years, but they were merely baseball variations on the sort of small slights and annoyances known to housemates of convenience the world over. Hey, I’ll bet the Angels were much better housemates than a former housemate of mine, who shall forever be remembered in my circle of friends as the girl who actually said, with real annoyance in her voice and not the slightest trace of humor, I might add, “But I paid you rent last month.”
Okay, so the Angels do have a tie to Los Angeles, but what about that logo? The interlocked L and A isn’t a copy of the Dodgers logo. It was intended as a nod to the minor league Los Angeles Angels who were the first team to use an interlocked L and A logo and played at Los Angeles Wrigley Field in several incarnations for decades before the Dodgers moved to California. I suppose that one could argue that the Dodgers copied the logo from the minor league Angels, but it’s a little more complicated than that. O’Malley had bought the minor league Angels and moved the team to Spokane when the Dodgers moved out west. If I am reading the meandering history of this particular minor league franchise correctly, the original Los Angeles Angels turned Spokane Indians went through several more incarnations and are now the Tucson Padres. Regardless, it was too cool a logo to remain unused, so I commend the Dodgers for keeping it alive.
Bet the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim doesn’t sound so silly now does it? …Okay, actually, it still does. Terribly so. Really. Which brings me to our final question:
Okay, so what about that crazy name, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim? Well, if you were to tell me, biased though I am, that this mouthful of a name is kind of stupid, I would be inclined to agree with you. After all, we don’t refer to the A’s as the Philadelphia Athletics of Oakland by way of Kansas City, now do we? Once the Angels moved out of Los Angeles, the California Angels was my favorite name, though I liked the Anaheim Angels well enough too. Throwing in the Los Angeles was silly in my opinion, and the reason given for doing it – associating the team with a larger market – was even sillier. As we just discussed, the Angels have a legitimate historic tie to Los Angeles, and I for one am going to wear my awesomely ugly haloed LA hat with pride, but legitimacy doesn’t make the current name any less silly.
This concludes our brief, and hopefully entertaining, Angels and Dodgers history lesson. The game is about to begin. So go forth to the ballpark or get thee to the pub and enjoy one another’s company in spirited rivalry, safe in the knowledge that your heckling can now be every bit as accurate and knowledgeable as it is biting and sarcastic. And may the best Angels team win!!! Hey, my baseball heritage may be “bi-partisan’ but my adult loyalties are anything but.
It’s a tragic, growing problem witnessed at ballparks across America. Starting pitchers in their prime, wasting away with dwindling win percentages due to lack of run support. Minimal run support may not seem like a problem in the beginning. It’s true, the average ace pitcher can survive on a mere run or two per game for several starts in a row, when necessary, and even seem to thrive. But make no mistake, a team’s chronic lack of run support will strike hard at the records of even the most unbeatable pitchers eventually.
Angels baseball players, don’t let this heartbreaking affliction continue to harm your favorite starting rotation. You might think the solution to such a huge problem is beyond your means but all it takes is a few quality at bats. You don’t have to hit homeruns, though we wouldn’t turn them down. Triples, doubles, even several singles a game with runners in scoring position will provide your starting pitcher with ample run support through good starts and bad.
That’s right, all it takes to return that wicked little smile to the face of a nasty pitcher in your clubhouse is a few more hits with runners in scoring position. And remember, when you give the gift of run support, you’re not only helping a deserving pitcher but you’re giving yourself the heartwarming satisfaction that only comes from knowing you made a difference…and from knowing you helped beat the visiting team into submission, of course.
So Angels, this evening, the rest of the week and on through the rest of the season, please open up your stance, swing from the heart (Stop hitting the ball anywhere near Coco Crisp!) and bring those runners home! Your pitchers are counting on you for support.
Angels fans are standing by.