The terrible stuff is all over the news but baseball, as always, is a welcome diversion.
It was on television and good old the radio this weekend. Pick your team; mine is the Mets.
I make no apologies for the hours I spent following Good Old Howie Rose on the radio for two days and the Three Amigos on the tube on Sunday.
The Mets presented their first exhibition Saturday, with Rose back in the booth after shutting down last season because of illness. He sounded himself in his haimish Queens tones (so familiar to my central Queens ear.)
Rose and his radio sidekick, Wayne Randazzo, noted that spring training was delayed to mid-March as the hard heads of Major League Baseball nearly throttled their thing, but now MLB is going after all that good, clean gambling money, while clubs are playing catchup – opening days in less than three weeks.
As the Mets played the Washington Nationals in West Palm Beach, Rose and Randazzo discussed the big change in rules this year – the National League has gone the way of the designated hitter after 49 years of the gimmick solely in the American League.
(The New York Times has an interview with Ron Blomberg, the first DH for the Yankees back in 1973. Blomberg likes it, and why not? It is his claim to fame.)
Somewhat to my surprise, Rose, 69, said it was time for “traditionalists” to accept the DH. Most pitchers can’t hit, anyway, and even those who can are in danger of being injured by putting their hands and wrists and elbows in the way of a wayward pitch. The deGrom Argument.
Jacob deGrom has been my best reason for keeping the tradition, based on the good hitting pitchers over the decades – Don Newcombe of my Brooklyn Dodgers, Bob Gibson, Don Drysdale, Tom Glavine, Madison Bumgarner. (Shohei Otani, the slugging pitcher, is not just from Japan; he is from some other planet entirely.)
However, deGrom is also the best argument for getting elite pitchers out of harm’s way. He was an infielder in college and is a lithe fielder on the mound, and he can also bunt and swing for power. He kept getting hurt last year, ending his season way too early, possibly because of the stresses of hitting a fastball with a wooden bat.
Who wants to see Jacob deGrom’s career end early? Howie Rose was spot-on, in the opening innings of the first radio exhibition of the spring. This traditionalist gives up.
I picked up the Mets’ Sunday game on television, from their camp in Port St. Lucie – Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling, warming up for their 17th season together – so savvy, so entertaining. Their show showed a clip of Lindsey Nelson doing an intro for the Mets’ historic first camp in 1962, and praised the earlier Three Amigos, Nelson and Bob Murphy and Ralph Kiner.
The current Amigos let us know winter was truly over by discussing the free agents who have moved around for salaries that seem unbelievable to me. They also discussed the legacy-killing act of Robinson Cano, who is back from a second drug suspension, the knucklehead.
The Amigos also talked about how clubs have to prepare fast. Hernandez, that great first baseman, noted that Francisco Lindor has a bad habit of underarming his throws on slowly-hit grounders. They speculated whether Michael Conforto could still be signed for this season --- a really good point, since he seemed a victim of the Mets' organizational anarchy last year. And Cohen, who flew to San Diego to fulfill his winter gig with Seton Hall basketball, raved about the stunning double victory by fellow jersey school, St. Peter’s.
True confession: just like the ball players, I am not ready to go nine, so I dozed in mid-game and caught the last segment on the radio with Good Old Howie Rose.
He was talking about the deterioration of most of the Mets’ hitters last year, as the old-time batting coach, Chili Davis, got fired, replaced by two minor-league coaches, who, according to Rose, were undercut by analytics types going where they don't belong – buzzing in the ears of major-league hitters. That won’t happen again, Rose said, and I hope he’s right.
In the final innings, Rose noted that the new manager, Buck Showalter, re-arranged the batting order of the anonymous late-inning subs, and imitated Bob Murphy, who used to explain the machinations of Casey Stengel or Bobby Valentine by enunciating, “I’m….sure…he…has…his... reasons.”
“Come on, April 7,” Rose urged, referring to Opening Day, when the March of the Subs will no longer happen.
He observed the fans, making their getaways into the choke point on the dreaded Peacock Blvd. Randazzo said he knows a short cut, albeit illegal, through a nearby gas station – the late-inning preoccupations of spring training.
All seems normal. Welcome back, baseball.
* -- Homage to the Terry Cashman standard.
And for all radio baseball fans:
3/20/2022 08:21:25 pm
Mr. Vecsey, I hope that you will try my Mets podcast "National League Town" which is co-hosted by Greg Prince of "Faith & Fear In Flushing". https://www.podpage.com/national-league-town/
3/21/2022 08:22:39 am
Mr. Hysen: Thank you....I know Greg's enlightening work on the Mets.
3/20/2022 09:25:52 pm
3/21/2022 08:27:16 am
Michael, nice to hear from you. As I recall, you spend a lot of energy on Atletico and Tottenham -- good weekend. Be well, GV
3/24/2022 06:35:17 am
P.S. It was great reading your NYTimes article yesterday; re: 60 years since the Mets…
3/20/2022 09:42:35 pm
3/21/2022 08:32:06 am
Randy, I love your story about young Stan Musial wandering into the wrong coal-town front door late one evening -- very dangerous in that part of the world. But he lived to tell the tale, and as I recall, your family saw the nice young man in church and around town. Not a surprise your grandmother loved the Cardinals -- they were the westernmost team in those days and also they were on 50K-watt stations that reached the south and into the Ozarks and Appalachians. When I lived in Louisville, the Reds were on a lot of local stations in KY and WV Southwest Virginia. -- young feller named Al Michaels calling the games. GV
Edwin W. Martin Jr
3/21/2022 01:01:42 pm
Memories. In Tuscaloosa, Al. Mid 50s, early 60 we had a wide range of radio options, country or “white gospel.”
3/21/2022 03:55:44 pm
3/21/2022 07:36:02 pm
Alan D Levine
3/20/2022 10:54:18 pm
Make that two people, Randolph. I love listening to Howie Rose.
3/21/2022 06:50:40 am
3/21/2022 08:51:14 am
To Alan, from the picturesque hilltop Jamaica High School, in Queens, and Randolph, originally from the picturesque coal town of Williamson, W. Va: I have just posted the Terry Cashman song about radio baseball. Randy, I know some of John Hartford's work, including this one. He died at 63...and left the haunting "Gentle on My Mind" (which Glen Campbell aced) and my other favorite "In Tall Buildings." about a country boy who works in the city,. Thanks for this link....GV
3/21/2022 08:47:03 am
George: It’s showtime. Dreams could come true. Who will be the best? Who will hit the most home runs? Who will get the Cy Young Award? The Rookie of the Year? Who will win the Subway Series? How many times will we hear John Sterling shouting, “YANKEES WIN! Thuh-h-h-h-h Yankees! Win!”? Then, let's play ball and eat hotdogs.
Edwin W. Martin Jr
3/21/2022 01:03:08 pm
3/21/2022 08:57:38 am
You got it , Irmão.
3/21/2022 01:12:41 pm
We moved to PGH, in 1957.
3/21/2022 05:35:41 pm
We are crazy for hot dogs here in Southern Brazil. Curitiba is an immigrant city (German, Ukrainian, Polish, and Italian). Our hot dog differs from the American hot dog. Here they put inside the bread, sausage, pea, boiled egg, corn, cheese, tomato, potato straw, farofa (it only exists in Brazil. I think you had seen it in Anthony Bourdain Show about the state of Bahia), mustard, mayonnaise, and ketchup.
3/21/2022 05:59:47 pm
sounds better than any American hot dog, which I avoid.
3/21/2022 09:17:10 am
It looks to this objective Tigers' fan that for one of those rare interludes, the Mets are being run better than the Yankees, and is an opportunity for them to grab the primary attention of local baseball fans.
3/21/2022 09:29:40 am
Hey, Darrell, nice to hear from you. I know better than to even think that. The Mets have been a mess for years....I vaguely recall some agent working as GM....My friend Omar Minaya recruited a lot of talent and is a baseball man...I think Eppler is also. But we never make optimistic claims. (Joe Foy! Jim Fregosi! Jason Bay!) Let me know how Javier Baez works out. But they still have Cano for distraction. Same Old Mets (our franchise chant/groan) GV
Alan D Levine
3/21/2022 10:06:15 am
To quote Gary Cohen: "Mets fans are always filled with hope...and dread."
3/21/2022 11:17:29 am
He was there in1969....a kid on the field, I think . GV
3/21/2022 11:50:51 am
I am a native Manhattanitte who grew up above the George Washington Bridge at 802 West 190th Street. New York was a three-team town then and most of my friends were either Yankee or Giant fans.
3/21/2022 12:01:51 pm
3/21/2022 04:09:03 pm
edwin w...i just posted a bit about having my transistor radio.
3/21/2022 07:56:09 pm
Bruce,, that is true. I have so many memories of 50K stations coming in clear at night --The Grand Ole Opry on WSM reaching Long Island.
3/21/2022 08:12:18 pm
3/24/2022 04:03:02 pm
GV, when you mentioned Montreal it reminds me of my Dad, studied Spanish and German in 1918-20 in Bryant HS, (later Stuyvesant?). He kept up with bakers where he worked, became a partner. When he was in his 80s he decided to learn French. Went to a night school class in Baldwin HS, then he and classmates hired the teacher and began weekly meetings at each others homes. I was able to take him to France, with me, were he made favorites explaining he was a “student.”
3/21/2022 08:48:33 pm
Bruce and George,
3/21/2022 10:03:59 pm
3/23/2022 08:01:02 am
3/23/2022 10:15:05 am
Dear Mr. Frederick: Thank you for the lovely note. I am honored you found my Little Therapy Website , my outlet for the past 10 years. I love your memories of your first game -- guy I know is doing a book about people's first game (mine, Dixie Walker home run, 1946.) Baseball's pace is great for the connection of generations -- although I will say the new "every fan a star" generation has gotten noisier and more profane. I understand the Arky Vaughan context. I would have said "Dixie Walker" -- in 1946. Then came Jackie Robinson. Best., GV
3/23/2022 08:26:38 am
3/23/2022 10:17:25 am
Randy, I am no Wendell Berry, or Nikki Giovanni (whom I am reading right now)....but I value your friendship, and hope to keep typing. GV
3/23/2022 07:43:51 pm
For those of you who missed George’s Times article today, the link is below. It is a wonderful article.
Alan D Levine
3/23/2022 10:33:39 pm
George--I don't know how I missed your piece this morning. I just read it. I loved it and I loved the 66 comments it drew. All those fans recounting childhood memories of family and ballgames. For all its self-induced wounds, it's still the most wonderful game, for a multitude of reasons.
3/24/2022 08:29:37 am
George, what a great piece in yesterday's Times. I deposited my initial comments on the NYT site. As a youngin' I was there at the Polo Grounds, then later at Shea, and now at Citi. As you observe so astutely, it all changes, but somehow the magic and the madness remain. Which is why the Metsies are so endearing across time and generations. LGM.
3/24/2022 03:21:02 pm
Thank you all. I'm honored by your comments and the ones in the NYT. GV
3/24/2022 01:03:47 pm
What are the odds the NL will follow the AL's model so that the first DH will be Jewish? One can dream . . .
3/24/2022 03:19:03 pm
Josh: Hard to find a lantzman to DH in NHL -- maybe Joc Pederson now with Giants? Somehow, I don't think it's going to happen.
3/24/2022 04:43:49 pm
3/24/2022 09:25:25 pm
3/27/2022 06:35:02 pm
much thanks for posting this special article..we should never miss seeing any of georges words.ahron
3/25/2022 07:49:00 am
3/26/2022 01:02:06 am
3/26/2022 01:05:45 am
Political pressure and economic reality forced a new team in New York to be created in 1962. It was to be called the Mets, named after the Metropolitans, a 19th century New York team, and based, temporarily, in the rusty, vacated Polo Grounds, hard by the Harlem River.
3/26/2022 01:08:40 am
Most New York newspapers assigned beat writers from the good old days — Dick Young of The Daily News was one — but The Times went the other route and dispatched Robert Lipsyte, not long out of Columbia University, literate and observant with no allegiance to standard sportswriting styles.
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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.