It’s the World Series – Not “The Finals”
Let’s get this straight. Think of the Houston-Atlanta matchup as the World Series – an event unto itself -- not the end of a long and grueling tournament.
Think of the World Series when it stood alone as a treat, a dessert right after the regular season, in sunshine – bright or hazy – rather than a late-night marathon with people on the East Coast dozing off. (Me! It’s all about me!)
The recent games, as good as some of them were, have been bloated with post-season statistics, most of them irrelevant. For the next four to seven games, everything that happens should be compared to derring-do performed by players like Babe Ruth, Tris Speaker, Frankie Frisch, Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, Duke Snider and Mickey Mantle.
While we’re talking about wretched trends, have you noticed the commercials for gambling dens, gambling sites? I mean, how could you not?
At least, the commercials for Caesars gambling world are interesting, with a cool latter-day Caesar giving the people a spectacle.
The gambling commercials play into the weaknesses of thousands, millions, of people who come to life only when their money, their lives, are tied into the action – pitch by pitch, by dancing roulette balls or actual pitches thrown by Major League Baseball.
The commercials do not show the after-effects of people betting the rent money, the food money, school tuition money, and skulking around, unable to admit they have a gambling jones.
The last time I looked, Pete Rose is still banned from baseball for gambling on games (including ones in which he may have managed or played.) Rose, the dope, also stonewalled Commissioner Bart Giamatti, who seethed with anger and died of a heart attack a few days later.
Under Rob Manfred’s “leadership,” baseball is sanctimonious about gambling because it needs the TV commercial money because baseball is falling behind other sports.
(When I am watching Liverpool-Man City on the tube, I can tell my wife it will be over in two hours.)
Baseball is also falling behind other sports because it has become bloated with pitching changes and rituals like adjusting wristbands (and private parts), plus the ball is in play less and less. The new analytics dictate “strategy” involving shuttling pitchers in and out of games, batters swinging for “exit velocity.” However, a good sign is that the better teams – the ones we are seeing in October – seem to remember old-timey tactics –the occasional hit-and-run, the professional sacrifice fly, the stolen base.
My friend Jerry Rosenthal is enamored with the Atlanta Braves, for good reason. Jerry played two years in the old Milwaukee Braves farm system, with mentors like Dixie Walker, Andy Pafko and Jim Fanning, and he played against Bobby Cox in the minors, and decades later he chatted with Cox at the Mets’ ballpark. He says the Braves and Manager Brian Snitker have never stopped inculcating players with traditional skills and tactics.
“Snitker is a clone of Bobby!” Jerry wrote in an email. “He has the fine human qualities that a great manager must have! I think the whole process comes naturally to this ‘old salt’ who learned his trade by managing in the minor leagues for many years, just the way it was when I played!”
Jerry added: “If this series with the Dodgers doesn’t teach these new-age numbers savants that the game is played on the field, nothing will! The consistency of the Braves defense is remarkable! Everyone does their jobs in a workman-like fashion. No outsized egos in sight!
“The concept of ‘picking-up’ the guy who didn’t get it done is evident in the Braves’ approach! Put the ball in play, move that runner to third base, steal a base, etc.! I love it!”
The Astros have stayed mostly intact as fans haunted them with reminders of the sign-stealing scandal four years ago. I can’t help enjoying that team that was so much fun a few years ago, although I miss George Springer.
To get to the point, how does a neutral fan, like me, choose between the Braves or the Astros?
When I was working, I rooted for the cities of San Francisco and Oakland mainly for the ambience of the Bay Area, or Boston, for the October walks. But now, my standards are different.
The Dodgers have been gone from Brooklyn since after the 1957 season so during this year’s wild-card playoff I immediately rooted for the Giants because of one player, Wilmer Flores, known affectionately as Weeping Wilmer for the way his emotions flowed the night he heard rumors the Mets had traded him. (It was subsequently called off.)
This year, Wilmer was at the plate with two outs in the ninth, and Ron Darling (who made the TBS broadcasts so good) told the audience that Wilmer was a clutch hitter with the Mets. Just then, Wilmer was called out on strikes while trying to check his swing. After seeing the replays, I think Wilmer and the Giants were screwed, but we have moved on, haven't we.
I had no problem with Mookie Betts and the Dodgers, or the team representing the great city of Boston, and as a Mets fan I liked the Braves of Chipper Jones and Bobby Cox, and I like this team, with Freddie Freeman schmoozing with everybody who reaches first base, plus unglamorous old school manager Snitker.
But now we’re in the World Series; remember, it’s a separate entity, no matter how many "post-season" stats Fox shovels at us.
I find myself gravitating to Houston – that very contemporary American multi-cultural city -- because of the manager, Johnnie B. Baker, Jr.
Dusty was mentored by Henry Aaron and later was like a big brother to my late friend Bob Welch, a star pitcher with the Dodgers in the early 80s. Now he has been a good manager with five different clubs.
Baker was profiled by Tyler Kepner, the Mister October baseball columnist of the NYT, who pointed out that Baker now holds the record for most games (1987) won by a manager without winning a World Series. Baker, true to himself, acknowledges that he was aware of that “distinction” during the league series, and he will surely be asked about it during the World Series. He can handle it.
I’ve been around Dusty during part of his managing odyssey with the Giants, Cubs, Reds, Nationals and the Astros, and I also heard about him through my pal John McDermott, master photographer, now living in Italy, who knew him in the Bay Area.
“Dusty has a great family,” McDermott reports. “His son Darren plays on the baseball team at UC Berkeley” – a reference to the son-of-manager junior batboy who wandered too close to home plate during the 2002 World Series. “He has a wine company, Baker Family Wines: and an energy company, and is good company.”
John knows Dusty via a fellow Bay Area photographer, Terry Heffernan, a fishing buddy of the manager.
"Dusty is many things: smart, wise, emphatic, loyal, fierce, a giver, consistent, quick to smile, a lover of life… a true friend, the real deal!" Terry emailed me. He added:
"Its easy to talk about Johnnie B Baker Jr. If we all rolled like he does, our world would look very different!
"GO ASTROS… and hopefully Mr Baker will break the managerial Hall of Fame color barrier!"
I’m retired. I don’t have to profess neutrality. All due respect to Atlanta, I’m rooting for Houston, mainly because of Johnnie B. Baker, Jr.
10/25/2021 02:18:12 pm
Agree with it all, except for having any rooting interest, (although your point on Dusty well taken). Might as well be Texas Tech vs. Georgia State. And what does Rob Manfred do about presenting the piece of metal - the WS trophy - when he will need to be shrouded in security in either city after Cheater-gate and taking the All Star Game away from Atlanta. As for JB Smoove and his Caeser's Book commercials - they are very good, but what a slippery slope we are on. When fans in seats will be able to bet on each batter.....when 22,000 people cheer an Aaron Judge strikeout in YS because they bet on it......the apocalypse will have arrived.
10/26/2021 09:48:56 am
Marty: Very good point about gambling. Nothing like Madison Square Garden in the final minute when the score teeters on the point spread line. Project the desperation of people betting money their families need. Rob Manfred has put baseball in that line of work. GV
10/25/2021 02:41:19 pm
Call me a curmudgeon. I am seriously considering not watching, as I have been exhausted by weeks of "post-season" ballgames. More to the point, I detest Fox's coverage. Joe Buck blabs through game after game without ever telling those watching what pitch a pitcher just threw. Thai is, on those occasions when he remembers to mention that a pitch was just thrown. I don't think I am being a "homer" when I say that I have been spoiled by watching Gary, Keith, and Ron describe every pitch thrown, analyze plays in the field and criticize their own team's players when criticism is necessary. John Smoltz adds knowledge and intelligence to Fox's broadcast, but it is not enough to overcome Buck's peanut-butter-smooth vacuousness. His dad, Jack, had the announcing talent in that family.
10/26/2021 09:56:30 am
Alan: Oh, you are a curmudgeon -- your inner prosecutor emerging.
Alan D. Levine
10/26/2021 10:19:46 am
I enjoy listening to John Ciambi announcing for ESPN radio. He and my son went through elementary school together. Regarding Gary Cohen, his words should be engraved on a plaque affixed to CitiField: "All Mets fans are filled with hope...and dread."
10/26/2021 11:37:54 am
Alan: I once wrote a season-opener column with these words from Dante:
10/30/2021 10:40:42 am
10/30/2021 10:38:00 am
10/25/2021 02:55:25 pm
10/26/2021 10:00:17 am
Randy: Did you notice the photo of Dusty and Darren from my pal Terry Heffernan? Nothing against any other manager or player, but I realize my instinct was correct.
10/30/2021 09:30:53 am
The best assonance of any song: "Little old lady got mutilated late last night. . . ." Happy Hallowe'en.
10/25/2021 03:37:37 pm
When Jeff Kent was with Giants and Dusty was managing them, they came to town to play the Mets. I was still writing for the Voice then, and during the pregame scrum in the visiting dugout, the topic of Kent being traded often in his career was brought up. If, as Dusty was saying, he was such a good player, why had he bounced around so much, someone asked. "I don't know," said Dusty. "How many times has Elizabeth Taylor been married?" I was the only one who laughed, and from then on, I always had great conversations with him at the ballpark - often, mostly about music, about which he knows plenty.
10/26/2021 10:02:58 am
Billy: Thanks. The great Ira Berkow called last night and shared a story about sitting with Dusty in a pre-game dugout, and having a laugh about a public figure....GV
10/25/2021 04:04:28 pm
There is something refreshingly old fashion about being “Old Fashion”.
10/26/2021 10:07:34 am
Alan, and what a great discussion that is...particularly for your position of soccer goalkeeper. Remember Briana Scurry edging off the line to disrupt an opponent in the 1999 World Cup final? She was following the coaching of Tony DiCicco, himself a former keeper, to have dancing feet....Some people said/wrote that Scurry should have been carded for cheating, I said it was gamesmanship. Donna LoPiano, one of the best voices for sportsmanship and ethics, maintained it was cheating, and she was/is against it. Your thoughts?
10/26/2021 02:43:53 pm
Cheating and ethics should never be viewed as black or white. There is a huge gray area that creates controversy and disagreements.
10/25/2021 09:55:06 pm
10/26/2021 10:19:26 am
Caro Altenir: Wait, you thought of the Braves and Atlanta in connection with "água negra americana?" But you have a good point about enjoying both teams. After a season of watching the clueless Met "organization" and seeing Jacob deGrom fall apart before our eyes, I could use a World Series without angst. Catching up on Dusty gives me a starting point...but I love Freeman and Albies...and Travis D'Arnaud, earnest former Met who was hurt too often...So I understand your position (supine) on the sofa (the games are on TV in Brazil, I take it. Meu melhor para a familia. GV
10/26/2021 11:05:09 am
George: I loved your comment “água negra”. Hilarious. Then, let’s forget about Coca-Cola. Atlanta has the Tyler Perry Studios. The life of this man (Tyler Perry) is so inspirational. It’s an excellent motive to root for them. And, looking for some more dramatic way, I think Houston could bury the “sign-stealing” from the past. As they said, “May the best team win”.
10/26/2021 11:45:16 am
Altenir: decades ago, Esquire Magazine had a story about some Anerican who had run into trouble South of the Border (a common theme in song and film). Some kidnapper/criminal/vigilante mocks the American and refers to the tooth-rotting, weight-inducing soft drink, he calls it (in Spanish) Agua negra americana, as if Coca-Cola was the epitome of all USA evils. For some reason, it stuck. I'm sure some of my regular trips to the dentist result from Agua negra americana, as a joven. GV
10/26/2021 10:17:05 am
Hi George - I've been absent with comments but I do read your posts. I'm still stuck in the world of football/futbol (aka - soccer). It remains my obsession/escape. Thank you for the comments on gambling and the absolute hypocrisy. I like Dusty Baker but must root for the Braves due to a good friend's childhood loyalty and his relationship with his now deceased Boston/Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves rooting dad. Wishing you well. Michael
10/26/2021 10:29:15 am
Michael, great to hear from you. I totally understand your allegiance to Atletico/Tottenham...As soon as BB is over, I will slide into futbol -- US shaky qualifiers! -- but moderately. I understand loyalty to the past My pal Jerry sent me a long litany of Boston Braves from his (and my) early fanhood -- Sibby Sisti, Sam Jethroe, Johnny Sain, Connie Ryan, etc. Great names I see Taylor of the LA Dodgers tearing up the league series, and I think of Billy Cox of Brooklyn, also No. 3, with his ratty little glove and amazing picks at 3B. Best, GV
Alan D. Levine
10/26/2021 04:19:44 pm
Ah, us old folks' memories. Back in the late 70s or early 80s, sitting in the stands at a Spring Training game while visiting my in-laws in Florida, I heard two guys discussing the greatest one of them had ever seen. He told a story of being in Briggs Stadium in Detroit and seeing Dominic DiMaggio climb the chicken wire with one hand and catching the ball with the other.
10/26/2021 06:53:38 pm
Legend has it that former NY Giant Ernie Lombardi was called out after he safely went to second on a very deep fly ball at the Polo Grounds. The umpire silenced his protest by saying that Ernie must of left early.
Alan D. Levine
10/26/2021 07:20:09 pm
I see I left the word "catch" out of the second line.
10/26/2021 03:36:59 pm
My father was a high stakes gambler in the 1950s. He was a regular at a weekly poker game held in an apartment above The Stage Delicatessen rented by the players just to have a Friday night hangout. The film director Martin Ritt and the actor Leon Janney (famous as the Rheingold bartender in commercials during Mets games 1962-1963) were regulars as well. He gave up gambling in 1960 after a big loss on the Eagles/Packers NFL Championship Game. It always surprised me that despite his history, my dad was always against legalized gambling including lotteries. He called it "a tax on the poor." I agree.
10/29/2021 06:17:56 pm
Roy, your note on sports gambling, led to this gambling story. Tim Holland was a year ahead of me at Southside HS. He was a varsity basketball player and golfer. At lunch hour we sat in the gym balcony munching away, while he did the NYTimes crossword puzzle with a pen. My speed was the Herald Tribune and pencil. Here is a bit of the Late Simeon “Tim Holland’s story. From Wikipedia
Alan D. Levine
10/26/2021 03:54:47 pm
How was Martin Ritt earning a living in those days of the blacklist?
10/26/2021 04:16:53 pm
Leon Janney was blacklisted too. My Dad was very involved with many of McCarthy’s victims at the time. He loaned a lot of money and was proud to say that they all paid him back “eventually.”
10/26/2021 06:43:49 pm
One of the reasons that President Reagan's first wife Jane Wyman divorced him was that he gave information to the HUAC on many of his Hollywood contemporaries. He had become an FBI informer.
Mike From Whitestone
10/26/2021 08:56:43 pm
10/27/2021 11:48:04 pm
How could any baseball fan not want to chip in on this too early “Hot Stove League?”
10/28/2021 10:44:41 am
Ed: McMullen was one of the more personable and gregarious owners. He lived in NJ and had previously owner a tiny share of the NYY, producing his famous quote about Steinbrenner: "nothing is as limited as being a limited partner of George's." I am sure he could handle comments like the one about Mike Scott....I have to add, in the great Mets-Astros series in 1986, Scott (former Met) had the Mets totally intimidated. They feared a potential Game7 in Houston. To this day, they talk about the desperation of G6, knowing what fate was ahead in a G7. Oddly, I have never heard any Mets talk about Scott's reputation (and the players know all) for scuffing the ball.Most of them have their own tricks -- tools or pharmaceutical. The kid was spot-on. But the scuffer would have won G7....and there would have been no Mookie madness in G6 of the WS. GV
10/28/2021 12:33:40 pm
GV, on target as usual! I held my breath fearing game seven. People were lined up on NYC sidewalks watching the end of “six”in store windows, as Peggy was heading home from work.
Alan D. Levine
10/28/2021 11:20:41 am
My fantasy about McMullen was that he would somehow get around the Yankees' territorial rights and move the Astros to the Meadowlands, restoring two National League teams to the NYC area.
10/28/2021 06:20:45 pm
Comments are closed.
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.