Archive for baseball

Mark MaGwire and other liars

Posted in personal, political with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 13, 2010 by barryshapiro

So Mark McGwire finally comes clean about his steroid use. Ho hum. Like this is some big shock? Is there actually anyone on the planet who follows the sport of baseball who didn’t think McGwire used steroids when he was playing? Especially after his unbelievably lame 2005 testimony before Congress. What a clown. This guy has to be the dumbest guy in baseball. Makes Ricky Henderson look like a rocket scientist.

What really irks me is not that he used the stuff. And not the tired apology – hell haven’t we heard all this before (Giambi, Rodriguez, et al). One more of these clowns steps forward to apologize and I think they should go to jail for bad acting!!!!
But McGwire really gets my dander up. This lying sack of shit, and make no mistake – that’s exactly what he is – has the balls to go on national TV and tear up for the cameras and lie through his teeth. He’s either the stupidest schmuck on the planet or the sleaziest – maybe both. He thinks anyone is buying this bull? And don’t think for one minute he was being sincere. This bum hired none other than former White House Press Secretary and media consultant Ari Fleischer to script his way through the media circus. This is all for show and the timing is so obvious. The guy desperately wants back into baseball and he is going to be the Cardinals hitting coach and so the Cards made sure that he came clean for the media well before Spring Training so that they could minimize the distractions. And let’s not forget that the number of votes he got in the Hall of Fame balloting recently showed clearly that this bogus home run king will never ever make it into the Hall. So poor misunderstood Mark does a 2-day media whirl, cries for the cameras and Bob Costas and thinks that it will all blow over.

And with the help of idiots like Bud Selig, that joke of a Commissioner, press patsies like Tim Kurtchin on ESPN, Ari Fleischer and his consulting firm and the short-term memory of the baseball loving public, he may just be right. McGwire should be in jail.

Look, the steroid era in baseball is not over no matter what Selig announces to the media. The drugs will get more sophisticated and as long as there are millions at stake players will find ways to cheat. They’ve done it since the spitball was invented. If baseball and the players were smart, and they aren’t, they’d find a way to come to grips with reality. It may be too late for that. As ESPN’s Brian Kenny suggests, given what’s at stake and the advances in technology, why not come up with a smart approach to medical science. If a player is hurt why shouldn’t he be using HGH under supervision to speed up his recovery? It only makes sense. But because MLB and the pin heads at the Players Union stonewalled and denied for so long it will probably never happen.

But back to MaGwire. This guy is a liar. And he’s abusing the privilege now by continuing to lie and deny. Jose Canseco nailed his butt (in the bathroom stall and in his book) and the guy just can’t come clean. He doesn’t know what he took? Bullshit! He did it to stay healthy, not for performance? Bullshit!

And his manager and excuser Tony LaRussa should be investigated. He knew plenty, he lied and he demeaned others who told the truth and he’s still making excuses. He’s an ass and the fans of St. Louis, great fans that they are, deserve better. Look, you can wipe out the records at this point but I think that they should do something to declare Roger Maris as the all time home run record holder for a season and Aaron for a career. Those guys did the right thing. McGwire’s excuse that he only did it to stay healthy is even a bigger embarrassment. Injury is part of the game. Look at the careers of guys that were short circuited by injury who could have broken so many records. In fact, in 1961 when Maris hit his 61 to break Babe Ruth’s long-standing record, it was widely assumed that Mickey mantle would be the one to do it. Mantle was the Golden Boy and the famous slugger in centerfield. The home run race between the M&M Boys, as Mantle and Maris were known, captivated baseball fans around the country that year, just as did the MaGwire – Sosa race. But Mantle had a hip infection that shortened his season and that left the home run title to Maris alone. If Mickey had taken steroids or HGH who knows, perhaps he too would have passed the Babe. 

Why am I so pissed about this? For one thing I love baseball. I am not a purist. I am OK with the DH. I know that records are made to be broken. But there is more to it than that. We have evolved or devolved into a celebrity driven, media controlled, consumer society that has a very hard time telling truth from lies, remembering what someone said on TV last week that contradicts what they said today and is led by the nose by media personalities, be they political pundits or sports analysts. It’s all out of control and out of whack.

Sarah Palin may not know why we have a North and South Korea but she sure is qualified to be a commentator on Fox News. Meanwhile her running mate John McCain (not the 2012 running mate, the last one) says that he doesn’t really know what the vetting process was to select his Vice Presidential choice. Either he’s lying (and for the life of me I can’t figure out why) or he’s a stupid jerk. I mean it was the Vice President for Christ’s sake!!!!

And the circus just goes on and on. We keep dumbing down. Oprahfied. Tyrasized. Obama hasn’t been President for one year and yet no one seems to remember that the financial crisis that has enveloped us and is destroying our livelihoods started back when a guy named Bush was in office. People actually think that Obama was in office when all this shit happened. Bush? Who’s Bush? Short term memory is what it’s all about. We seem to have lost the ability to remember who lied to us last week. It’s going to get worse.

We need to stop and change course or we’re going to be living an existence beyond anything that Orwell could have imagined. Let’s start with mark MaGwire. That’s as good a place as any. Let’s make sure he gets booed every time he shows his millionaire puss at the ball park. Let’s write letters and blogs demanding that the Cardinals dump him. Let’s make him pay until he tells the truth. I think we’ll know it when we hear it. I haven’t heard it yet.

Down with all the liars.

By the way, I’m coming down on the side of Conan. NBC is the worst network on the dial and their management should be fired. Jeff Zucker is a moron. Jay Leno is a nice guy (I worked with the man once and I know this to be a fact) but his time is up. Not his fault – NBC blew it for him but he should wake up and smell the coffee. Go Conan!

Advertisements

Rays!

Posted in personal with tags , , , , , on October 20, 2008 by barryshapiro

I love baseball!
Congrats to the Tampa Bay Rays on going to their first World Series. Earlier this season I played a little hooky and caught an afternoon game at the Pit (also known as The Tropicana Dome) against the Yankees. Actually, I wasn’t interested in seeing the Rays as I knew their horrible history. They were playing my team and I was going to see Jeter and company. What I witnessed was the dismantling of the highest paid lineup in baseball by a young, spirited, fundamentally sound baseball team. I sensed that this was not your grandfather’s Devil Rays but a new breed of fish.

Since then I have followed the Rays closely. As my Yanks tanked and fell out of the race, I threw my support to these kids. Nothing makes me happier than watching them knock off the hated and venal Red Sox.  Now on to Philadelphia, a good team with some very exciting players. It should be a good series but I’m picking the Rays.

My Stadium Memories

Posted in personal with tags , , on September 21, 2008 by barryshapiro

Today is the last day baseball will be played in The House That Ruth Built and the nostalgia is creeping in. I am, and always have been, a rabid New York Yankees fan. As a boy, pictures of the Yankees of that era adorned my bedroom walls – Maris, Berra, Howard, Skowron, Richardson, Ford, Kubek, Boyer and my boyhood idol, The Mick. My dad was a lifelong New York Giant fan and when they followed the Dodgers to the west coast he lost interest in baseball. He couldn’t share my love of the Yankees and couldn’t bring himself to take me to the Stadium he so disliked, so there was another thing that divided us in the 60’s.

I do remember my dad taking me once to Yankee Stadium. I have hardly any memory of the game at all or who the opponent was. My only recollection of that day was that, before the game, my father left me standing by the curb in front of the Stadium so that he could go negotiate better seating with the scalpers. I was nervous and didn’t want to move as my father had instructed me not to leave that spot until he returned. As I looked around at what seemed like a zillion people walking in every direction all over the place, I heard a familiar voice. There, right in front of me, signing autographs and greeting fans was the Scooter, Phil Rizzuto. The great Scooter, former MVP shrotstop and familiar Yankee broadcaster. I would have asked for an autograph if I had thought of it but I don’t think I though of anything – I just stared at the legend before me until my dad came a grabbed me. What was amazing about it for me now was that prior to seeing the Scooter I was shaking in my shoes but the moment I saw him up close I was calm and not worried about anything. Years later I was walking down Irving Place in Manhattan, near Pete’s Tavern, and I saw Phil and his wife Cora standing on the street waiting for a car to pick them up. As a jaded New Yorker I would never bother a celebrity on the street but this was Rizzuto and I had to introduce myself and thank him for all the memories. Both he and Cora were gracious and engaging and we chatted for a few minutes and I was able to relate my childhood memory. Rizzuto chuckled and started talking about his favorite restaurant. I had the feeling that everywhere he went people would tell him their stories and by that time he had heard them all more than once.

I have many Stadium memories to cherish. Only now that I live in Florida do I fully realize what a privilege it was to be able to jump on the #4 Train at Grand Central, often on a whim, and take it to the Bronx, get out with the crowd at 161st Street, find a scalper and get a great seat on the right field side. I’ve sat behind the Yankee dugout, the visitors dugout, in the bleachers and well, just about everywhere – but some places were more memorable than others. Sitting way up in the upper deck in Section 1 on a hot August day with all the regulars, drinking beer and eating hot dogs was an awesome way to see a game.

And there was the time late in the season, when the Yankees were battling the powerful Toronto Blue Jays and came from behind for a victory on a huge home run into the upper deck in right by catcher Ron Hassey. The blast wound up in the first row in the arms of a fan sitting only 4 seats over from me. Watching the ball lift off of Hassey’s bat and sail toward us was an overwhelming sight and for a brief moment I thought I would catch my first ball ever. Just as my my hopes were dashed, the Yanks didn’t make it to the promised land that year. The Jays went on to the World Series but that homer is etched in my memory.

I sat in the cold with a friend, Adam Smellin, on opening day when one-handed Jim Abbott got the win. I experienced pure joy with my good buddy Andy Silverman and his young sons Zachary and Ethan with great seats behind the Yankee dugout. I ate hot dogs and ate pastrami at the food court with girls I brought on dates. I had beers at Stan’s across the street. I saw Guidry pitch Louisiana Lightening and I was there when the fans threw change at Reggie in right field – a backhanded plea for him to not leave as a free agent.

But my greatest memory goes back to the 60’s. I was that kid who loved the Yankees but mostly by watching them on WPIX in black and white or more often listening to them on the radio. I loved the voice of Mel Allen and Rizzuto and of course there was the Mick. In 61 I had followed the amazing home run chase of Mantle and Maris and I was crushed when the Mick was injured and had to drop out of the race.

Mantle’s health was always an issue and he had been out with bad knees for much of that particular season. Now here is where my memory goes a bit south because I can’t remember if it was 64 or 65 but it was one of those years. My family had moved to Livingston, New Jersey and I had befriended a neighborhood kid, also named Barry. Barry Packin’s dad was a lawyer as I recall, and his firm had a box at the stadium. Barry was going to the game and his dad let him take a friend and I was the lucky boy to be invited. It was sheer heaven. The box was just behind the Yankee dugout towards right field with a great view of the action at first base. We got there early enough to see BP and watch the players warm up. Much to the disappointment of the two Barrys, Mantle was not going to start. He had just come off the disabled list with bad knees but was not expected to play. Still, we watched in awe as Mick tossed a ball in front of the dugout with teammates before the game. Once the game began however, Micky retreated to the dugout unseen from our vantage point.

It was a tense game and the Yankees were behind late (the 8th inning as my memory serves). With men on base and two outs we started to hear the rumbling. The crowd started to roar and we were out of our seats. And then I saw him. First his head popping out from the dugout and then that huge neck and muscular shoulders. It was Mantle coming out to pinch hit. I couldn’t believe my luck… Mickey Mantle was coming to bat.

Mantle hit a colossal home run and the Yankees went on to win the game. I was dizzy. Barry and I screamed and slapped each other with excitement as Mantle round the bases. The crowd went crazy, though not the way they do these days. I knew I would remember it forever but the memory, as I was about to learn, was not yet complete.

You see, back in those days, after the game, the fans were actually allowed to walk onto the field and go out to Monument Park which was in the back of centerfield. Today in the renovated Stadium the monuments are off the field in an enclosed space. You can go out there before the games begin but it’s not the same as when you’re on the field. We walked across the grass to the outfield and touched the monuments, 460 feet from home late, dedicated to Ruth, Gehrig and Rupert and Huggins. Barry and I looked around and soaked in every moment. We reached down and torn a small clump of grass and put it in our pockets. All the way home I kept feeling the grass in my trousers. We christened the clumps of Mickey Mantle Grass and I knew I’d keep it forever.

Unfortunately, I was exhausted and forgot to take the grass out of my pocket when I got home. That next morning my mom grabbed those pants and put them in the wash and that was it for my cherished memento. But to be there, in centerfeld at Yankee Stadium, where DiMaggio played, where Mantle played and where someday Bernie Williams would restore prestige to the position of Yankee center fielder, for a little kid like me… that was everything.

Idols

Posted in political with tags , , , , on June 6, 2008 by barryshapiro

Tonight at Yankee Stadium, in the Bronx, Derek Jeter had a base hit and passed my boyhood idol, Mickey Mantle, as the 3rd most prolific hitter in Yankee history with 2,416 hits to his credit. This is no small task and Jeter, not only a terrific player but a fabulous product endorser as well, is a perfect guy to pass the torch of Yankee icon to. Next up in Jeter’s sights is none other than the Babe himself. It did get me to thinking about Mantle, who’s black and white photographs adorned my bedroom walls and who’s baseball card was my prized possession (until my mom tossed that shoebox into the trash – we’ll save that for another time!). In fact I had all the Yankees faces on my wall: Richardson, Skowron, Ford and Maris. But the place of honor was reserved for Mantle, he of the huge neck and forearms and the prodigious shots to the upper deck.

Mantle, as is well documented today, was a heavy drinker and carouser. He died from liver cancer after having a liver transplant, necessitated by years of alcoholic abuse. Perhaps his most famous quote was: “If I’d known I was gonna live this long, I’d have taken a lot better care of myself.”

In those days you didn’t read about that sort of thing in the sports pages. If he were playing today Mantle would be a prime candidate for a stint in rehab and a teary, apologetic turn on Oprah, the Today Show and the Budweiser Hot Seat. I can picture it now: The Mick sitting on the couch sobbing and pleading for fan forgiveness “I didn’t mean to run over that little Mexican feller outside the bar at 4 AM, really… I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to punch out the other feller at the Copa… Oh Oprah, I’m so ashamed…”  Nah… couldn’t happen! But those were the days when ballplayers made thousands, not millions a year and reporters actually were dependent on their relationships with the players to get stories. And they spent more time writing about the game than about the players’ salaries and foibles. Yesterday’s idols just would not be able to stand up under today’s scrutiny.

I like Jeter a lot. He plays the game the ‘right way’ and he seems to love what he does. I do not object one bit to the fact that he makes more money in a season than all the teachers in America make in a year combined (well, I may be exaggerating but it’s close). But I don’t see Jeter as an idol. In my day, we worshipped Mantle and Maris and Mays and Koufax and Drysdale from afar. We wanted to be those guys because we wanted to be that good. I felt about them as I did President Kennedy or Alan Shepard. They were my heroes. They were the truly American Idols. Nowadays it must be hard for kids to have any sort of hero worship at all, especially in sports where you have clowns like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and jerks like Raphael Palmeiro and Curt Schilling lying and/or preening on national TV in front of Congressional committees.

Maybe that’s why I like Jeter. No bad stuff, no DUI’s and tell-all sessions before Congress. Just good baseball and a few TV commercials. He doesn’t have to be an idol for anyone, just be a good guy.