21 April 2006

This and That...

Before I get to the in-depth, critical insight and analysis that I bring you, my beloved and loyal readers, a little site news- got a really nice mention in the most recent issue of The Boston Phoenix in their "Best of 2006" Editor's Poll. Myself, Empyreal Environs, Touching All the Bases, and Jose Melendez's Keys to the Game were named "Best Red Sox Internet Sites that Aren't Boston Dirt Dogs." This is true, too- I aren't Boston Dirt Dogs. Here's the link to the online version.

So this is exciting. I love when The Village Voice does this issue every year- always fun. The more random the category, the better, too, which The Phoenix seems to have caught on to. So yea, that's exciting- especially, of course, being mentioned in the same breath as Joanna, Chad and Jose's blogs, which are definitely the best of the best. That's really cool.

So great- now I have something moderately laudatory that I have to live up to. That's fucking bullshit, man. Total bullshit.

Also, on a coincidence/ bullshit theme, I was watching Penn & Teller's great new show on Showtime called Bullshit!!! last night, as the credits roll for the show's supervising producer, lo and behold, it's Tim Rogan!! The same, in fact, that used to be on the Unsolved Mysteries staff. All us Tim Rogans should meet up and have a pickup volleyball game or something.

I'm nearly done with Al Stump's biography of Ty Cobb, called simply Cobb. This is the book the abominable Robert Wuhl/ Tommy Lee Jones movie was based on. I remember seeing that movie when I was pretty young with an aunt of mine. During the "Cobb gets drunk and has an orgy" scene, I was directed to close my eyes. I squinted.

Terrible, terrible, terrible movie.

Strangely enough, no orgy scene as yet in the book, though there are allusions to his womanizing in some spots. Honestly, when it's mentioned, it strikes out as almost a relief in behavior from the bad stuff. That's how sociopathic the guy was. This, of course, isn't news- part of the allure of the book is trying to get a grapple on just how nutbar he was, and what exactly happened. In that, the book's been pretty good- Stump was Cobb's lifeline in the swan song of his life- carting him all over the US as he refused medical help for a myrian ailments, drinking heavily and throwing the bottles at people just to do it.

So obviously, I learned a few things about Cobb. I knew about his parents- his mother shot his beloved father in the head with a shotgun one night when he was curiously sneaking back into his own house. Rumors abound about one or both having extra-marital affairs, but since it was Mrs. Cobb, Professor Cobb and their maker watching on, she never came on charges. Apropos of nothing- Cobb's dad married his mom when she was 12 years old.

Anyway, this was a small part of a large psychotic personality of Cobb's. He was obsessed with convincing his intellectual father that baseball was a viable means of making a living- but his dad actually died right near his first call up with the Tigers. His dad never saw him play a single game of baseball. Cobb had a temper, too- but his first season in Detroit, his teammates raized him so bad that Cobb had a mental breakdown and spent the better part of the 1906 season- when Cobb was 19- in a sanitarium, recovering. His teammates did everything- on field, off the field, anywhere. They didn't like Cobb because he was much better than them, and they didn't like him because he was Cobb.

Among other things, Cobb claims to have killed a man with the butt of a pistol after, at the height of his fame, being mugged in Detroit. Stabbed in back by the muggers, Cobb claimed to have caught one of them, pinned him down, used the sight of the gun as a knife to slash his face, followed by bludgeoning him to death with the butt of his gun.

And speaking of his gun, Cobb carried a pistol with him everywhere, in large part because of the hazing he received early in his career. Cobb is a much "celebrated" racist- everyone knows that. But Cobb actually nearly killed a black watchman late at a hotel for informing him that he couldn't get on the elevator because it was broken. He nearly beat the man to death in the lobby.

Despite this brutishness, Cobb was also a very bright man as well. Cobb was the first millionaire professional athlete, not based in large part from player salaries either, though he was notoriously hard-assed in negotiations, and was baseball's highest paid player. Cobb made a fortune on real estate deals, car franchises, stock futures, and, most famously, by buying in heavily in the early nascent days of the Coca Cola company. He lived off the Coke money his entire life.

A lot has obviously been made of Cobb's infamous beating of a crippled man one day in New York- Claude Leuker. Leuker was so boisterous, and so vile, that after numerous requests from Cobb and the teammates that hated him to have the man removed after his merciless screaming of obscenities at Cobb, he stormed the crowd in a furious rage, stomping the man with his sharp spikes. Cobb claimed not to have noticed the man was crippled, but the story has it that someone informed Cobb pretty early in his beating.

Regardless, the most interesting part of the story was that it resulted in the first real germination of a player's Union. All the players involved were actually so incensed at Leuker' conduct that they refused to play, and a standoff resulted between players and league president Ban Johnson. The result was a Fraternity of Players, with Cobb as president. Cobb would be a vocal proponent of a bonding together of players and an eventual Union as far back as the 1910's, and most of this was because without a doubt, Cobb was the most powerful man in pro sports from about 1910 to around 1922- or whenever you consider Babe Ruth to have "taken over."

That's another key point- Ty Cobb virulently hated Babe Ruth, and it was largely rooted in jealousy and stolen thunder. Ty was the Woody to Babe's Buzz Lightyear, to put it in more "technical" terms. Ty always considered Ruth's brand of baseball inferior to his own- he preferred finesse and tactical warfare over brute, senseless beating- ironic, given his off the field practices, too.

The book lists Ty's friends in baseball as such- Tris Speaker, Walter Johnson, Mickey Cochrane. He was also friendly with Nap Lajoie, Christy Mathewson, Honus Wagner and eventually Ted Williams, but broke the friendship with Williams off after a fight over the merits of Rogers Hornsby, of all people.

Ty Cobb is also credited in the book as being one of the first players to swing multiple bats while on deck to make the one bat feel lighter. Bullshit or not, a fun fact.

Bought a few new records the other day, as I've fallen a bit behind on this recently. Here's what I picked up:

  1. Spoon- Gimme Fiction

  2. Goldfrapp- Supernature

  3. Prince- 3121

  4. Ghostface Killah- Fishscale

  5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs- Show Your Bones

I still haven't listened to the complete YYY's record or the Prince one. The latter, however, I bought based on hearing the single, and seeing him on SNL doing a pair of songs from the record, and they sounded fantastic. I'm an avowed Prince fanboy, so it wasn't much of a choice.

First off, Mike tipped me to the Ghostface being really good, and fuck is it ever. Definitely his best since Supreme Clientele, and maybe my favorite Ghostface record ever, actually. He really is the most amazing writer maybe in hip hop history- no one is as lyrically adept as Ghostface. Of course, numerous Raekwon appearances doesn't hurt either. The beats are all over the place- and there really isn't a weak track here which, as great as many Ghostface albums are, isn't something you can say on his other albums.

The Spoon record is really great too- this is their "eclectic" album, where we get a nice boulliabase of different styles. Somebody- not sure who- pointed out to me that they have a Pavement vibe. I don't really see it, except to say that maybe the guys in Spoon and the guys in Pavement would get along really well, and I'd bet that 75% of the guys in both bands have worked in a record store at some point in my life. The cover is great too- wouldn't it be great if this was the pan up on the mystery man from the Loverboy Get Lucky album cover? Ha. I'd dig that. I like a good album cover.

I'm a little late on the Goldfrapp bandwagon, but that's cool. It happens. They sound like Mazzy Star, Radiohead and Portishead mixed up with an ABBA chaser. I hate those record-review-y sentences, where you reference as many other artists as you can, but hey. I'm not Christgau, I gotta cop to cliche once in a while here. They're sort of like the Faint too, but not as good. The Faint is off the hook, as they say.

I heard the new Tool album is pretty decent, so I'll check that out, but most of all, I'm looking forward to the Gnarlz Barkely record, which is the collaboration between Cee-Lo Green and DJ Danger Mouse. Word is it's like precious words from Our Savior's lips. I like it. I also picked up this week, from iTunes, the Ultimate Warrior entrance music, and "I Am a Real American" 'by' Hulk Hogan.

Any suggestions? And don't say, "the new Springsteen" or whatever. Something I might not have heard of...

Tonight's game- 4/21 in Toronto- was an abortion, I'll say that. Josh Beckett losing it quicker than Bickel in Taxi Driver didn't help in the 8th inning; he went from cruising to gopherville. There was some debate as to whether he hit Aaron Hill intentionall or not (as retaliation for Gonzalez). I can't believe he'd be that stupid- a four run lead in the 8th, if you're going to do that (and he shouldn't- Sea Bass was hit by a freak lost curve), you wait until there are two outs or whatever. But anyway, he gave up 2 HR in the inning, and Mike Timlin allowed a bomb to Troy Glaus to tie the game. Right there, surrendering a 4-R lead in the 8th- the game was largely lost at that point. You can't do that on the road, especially when tomorrow's game is Lenny DiNardo vs. Roy Halladay.

All that being said, Jonathan Papelbon and Keith Foulke both pitched brilliantly, and Foulke in particular made an easy strike-three pitch with a full count and two outs in the 12th against Troy Glaus. The HP umpire Joe Kellogg called ball, and Francona then inexplicably brought in Seanez to give up the game winning 2B from Lyle Overbay.

Doing my umpire scouting all game, it seemed to me that Kellogg had a generous strike zone all game- for both sides- with a high, low and wide all night. He was consistent- and even rightly gave Foulke a strike on the exact pitch RIGHT before it. But on that 3-2 pitch, he just flat out blew an easy call. No excuse. It was terrible.

No sense in moaning about it, though. We should never have lost a 6-2 8th inning lead.

There was a lot to be excited about too, most notably Beckett's first 7 innings, Foulke throwing the ball really, really well, and, of course, Manny starting to come out of it with two mammoth opposite field HRs (one off a RHP, the other off a LHP). He looked fantastic in those ABs, too, for what it's worth. Finally, seeing the Yankees lose a heartbreaker on an awful final strike three call cushioned the blow too (that 3-2 pitch with the Yankees down by one, two out, and the bases loaded was absolutely ball four- but funny nonetheless).

Also, and I know it's early, but the minor league relief pitching depth means nothing if you don't eventually use it where needed. I'm looking at you, Mr. Seanez.

Let's hope for the Reverse Lock tomorrow.

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