Friday, April 4, 2008
Past becomes a present to Dodgers fans
A surprise pregame ceremony that had past players assume their old positions at Dodger Stadium becomes long moments of 'Look at that.' The McCourts hit a home run with this one.
April 1 2008
No. 50 started with No. 4. He likely means Dodgers stadium here. 50 years ago the Dodgers moved to LA and in their 4th year they finally moved into their new home at Chaves Ravine: Dodger Stadium. But the way he writes it can mean a number of things, especially if you continue reading. Is he talking about Brent Cookson (#50) or Bell Brand (#4). After racking my brain to try and understand the logic I had read half the article and missed just about everything that actually happened...
He appeared from behind a blue outfield wall, walked carefully across the deep green grass, startled huge cheers from a stunned Dodger Stadium crowd. Here we go...
Then, halfway to second base, he stopped, and so did our hearts.
Duke Snider had returned to center field. At the moment I'd take him over Pierre.
Fifty years after they arrived, the Dodgers are returning to Los Angeles. But they never left. How can they be returning if they never left?
From the dark Coliseum to the sunny Chavez Ravine, the milestone is being celebrated as a cornerstone, the Dodgers reminding us who they are, reminding us who we are. Because out of the blue I had to be given an identity card from a Dodgers security gaurd last week to remember who I was.
At Monday's opening day, Los Angeles was 56,000 Dodgers lovers with peanuts in their throats and Cracker Jack in their memories. Was someone choking? Peanuts in the throat sounds kinda dangerous. You gotta be old to remember cracker jack sold at the park!
During a surprising pregame ceremony, the field breathed Dodgers history, exhaling the sweetness of old stars, the smoothness of recent heroes, the shout that was Fernando, the whisper that was Sandy. Shouting, Whispering, again... It seems like all dodger fans do is whisper.
Who ever thought the McCourts could be so McCool? McThis Mctype Mcof Mcwriting Mcis Mcbeyond Mcold.
"This was way beyond cool," said former pitcher Jerry Reuss, an honoree. "You take cool, then go a step beyond, then a step beyond. This was something for which they have not yet invented a word." Plaschke invented it: McCool.
This was a 15-minute production that began with Snider walking alone to center field wearing a Brooklyn jersey. It continued with 40 other mostly uniformed former Dodgers stars appearing one by one from different parts of the outfield fence to man their old positions.
From left field marched Don Newcombe, the Dodgers' last remaining living link to Jackie Robinson. What about Scullie?
From right field ran Steve Sax, the Dodgers' last world champion second baseman.
From left field walked Maury Wills, the Dodgers' inventor of the stolen base. Because before Wills no one had ever stolen a base before.
From right field sprinted Steve Finley, whose division-title-clinching grand slam is still rattling around out there somewhere. This is cheap crap. Why would Finley be there? He played all of 3 months with us!
On and on the parade went, each name more surprising than the next, each figure accompanied only by the solemn announcement of his name and the tinkling of music from a "Field of Dreams" medley.
"With just Duke walking out in the beginning, fans weren't sure what was happening," Reuss said. "Then when they saw players coming from everywhere, when they realized what it was, it became surreal." See, the quotes are good. It's just the fictional writing that is crap.
Here was Bill Russell, making his first appearance on this field since his managerial firing a decade ago, running out to huge overdue applause deserved by one who has played more Los Angeles Dodgers games than anyone.
There was Eric Karros, the classy link from the past to the present, running out to the sort of applause that was often missing in those years. The applause for Karros lasted 24 minutes, because that's how long it took him to run to first.
They cheered Jimmy Campanis, and you wondered if they weren't also cheering the memory of his father. cheese doodles.
They cheered Don Miles, and he played in only eight games for those 1958 Dodgers -- only eight games in his career -- and you wondered how they knew? They didn't. they likely didn't even recognize him.
"I can just imagine what it was like in the stands," Reuss said. "There were grandfathers probably telling their sons about players they remember, and then those sons turning to their sons and talking about different players."
It was long moments of "Look at that!" and "Is that him?" and "Wow." Old typical Plaschke... putting words in out mouths. No doubt there were fans ooing and aahhing, why can't he put in a few quotes from the fans then?
Then, finally, it was the closing stretch of royalty, beginning with Fernando Valenzuela stepping from the dugout, one of the only two players who did not wear a uniform, of course not, he would never wear anything old, right? This doesn't make sense. 1) Fernando likely has to call the game on the radio for the spanish version and he didn't want to change clothes multiple times today. Not that the other players didn't, but to say that Fernando didn't wear it because it was "old" is just a bad speculation.
His cheers rattled the building, echoing into the entrance of another man from the left-field bullpen, Tom Lasorda, and you knew he was wearing a uniform because he never takes it off. I gotta admit, Tommy looks funny in a Uni. Kinda like an Oompa Loompa.
By now, everyone was standing, folks hooting and stomping and struggling to keep their composure. Stomping? Yeah, I usually stomp when I feel like I'm about to cry.
"And here came Sandy," said Manager Joe Torre.
Indeed, here came the cleanup pitcher (Cleanup pitcher? dominant, overpowering, masterful would have all been good words there, but cleanup pitcher... not. ), the final memory, Sandy Koufax, the only other player not wearing a uniform, as if anyone cared.
Koufax has been on this field maybe once in the last 25 years, he's so private, yet he came today because the owners asked, and he understood.
Once he stepped to the mound, the cheers still reaching to the center field hills, the current Dodgers players filed out of the dugout to show their own special appreciation by greeting their ancestors.
"It gave me goose bumps," Matt Kemp said.
The original idea was for Koufax to then end the ceremony by throwing out the first pitch, but, typically Sandy, he didn't want to do it alone, so he was joined by Carl Erskine and Newcombe.
Nobody was swinging, of course, but on that pitch, a home run was hit by the McCourts, who have proved to be worthy caretakers of the Dodgers culture. I'm surprised Plaschke can get anything done when he has Frank McCourts penis in his mouth.
They have rediscovered what the Fox Corp. had lost. They are rebuilding the glorious memories that years of chaotic behavior had eroded. It was because of McCourt that we didn't sign Vlad right?
When it comes to Dodgers history, the owners get it, they really get it. first lets fire everyone! Then hire a bunch or ex gnats.
The only Dodgers legend who was available but missing from Monday's ceremony was the ever-humble Vin Scully, who preferred to watch it from his broadcast booth, speaking only to announce that ceremonial first pitch.
Appropriately, the mere sound of his voice over the loudspeaker may have elicited the biggest cheers of the day.
"This was about connecting the last 50 years to the next 50 years," Jamie McCourt said. "The players today, their time has never passed, it will never pass. For Dodgers fans, three hours of a game is a lifetime of memories, and we want to celebrate that."
The creative force behind the pregame ceremony was the Dodgers' new chief marketing officer, an eternally bubbly guy named Charles Steinberg who has other surprises planned.
"Today, we were hoping to inaugurate a season in which families can bond with each other over their love of the Dodgers," he said.
Mission accomplished. While Plaschke is a horrible writer and even worse in his delivery, the idea to present something to the fans like this is a great gesture. My family and I have a special bond that no matter what is going on we can always talk dodger baseball.
Even the opposing San Francisco Giants did their part Monday, showing up as perhaps the worst team to play here in 50 years, barely making a peep in a 5-0 loss to the Dodgers and Brad Penny. Good one! Finally Bill has said something right.
But this wasn't about the game. This was about the culture. Lets play the season and think about the culture... and win every game from here on out.
This was about a nameplate over a locker next to Penny's in the Dodgers clubhouse.
"Tom Lasorda," it reads.
Penny hangs out with Lasorda so much, he insisted the former manager have his own locker, and so he does.
He wants him close. We want all those living memories close, don't we?
On this most splendid of Dodgers birthdays, they never felt closer. Stomp, stomp, stomp...
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
L.A. Times' Bill Plaschke top columnist, once again
Story posted on April 1, 2008
Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times won the sports column writing category for the third time in four years, highlighting final judging results announced Tuesday in the 2007 Associated Press Sports Editors contest.
Plaschke has won the top columnist category back to back years and has placed in the top 10 eight of the past nine years. In the over-250,000 circulation division, Plaschke finished ahead of The Oregonian's John Canzano, followed by the Boston Globe's Dan Shaughnessy, the Kansas City Star's Jason Whitlock and the Washington Post's Mike Wise. In fact, Canzano was runner-up to Plaschke last year also.
"I'm feeling equally honored and humbled," Plaschke said. "I'm also feeling very lucky...
because every day I read columnists...
in all circulation categories who are good enough to win this award...
Sportswriters are at the forefront of the fight to keep newspapers relevant...
and I'm just proud to be one of them."
First-place columnists in other divisions were: Ted Miller of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (100,000-250,000), Peter Kerasotis of Florida Today (40,000-100,000) and Mark Edwards of the Decatur (Ala.) Daily (40,000 and under).
No newspaper had two first-place winners in any category. But Bill Reiter of the Kansas City Star, in the over 250,000 category, finished first in game story, third as part of a team in projects and third as part of a team in explanatory.
How it is possible that a man that likely would be a better Romantic fiction novelist gets voted as the best sports writer comulmnist is beyond me. We can literally look back at every column Plaschke has written and, after throwing up, see all the places he was dead wrong. I'm not talking about a misprint or a spelled word wrong, he specifically wrote the opposite of either what was going to happen, what should happen, or what he thought could be happening. Even after specific events his writing style targets such a minority (women) that even if they were reading the sports section, any woman would likely view such descriptions as homo-poetic.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
It's break-up season in Alaska. That doesn't mean I'm now on the market. Break-up is a time when the snow and ice starts to melt around town and makes for horrific traffic. Pot holes that were once covered in ice are now lakes of water ready to pounce on the unsuspecting motorist. Naturally my alternator went out on me and instead of taking it in to get fixed I decided to do it myself. Let me first say that I didn't get it done but not because I couldn't.
We have had a pretty consistent leaky faucet in our tub. It escaladed yesterday and I had to fix it. By the time I was done it was the 6th inning. So I thought I would tune into justin.tv or sopcast to watch the end of the game. Lets just say that it's good to know that Gamecast has updated their player. (Im watching the 86 playoff game between the yanks and sox on espn classic. I guess I never realized how bad those old uni's for the sox were. I have better looking pajamas!) Anyway, it was a dissappointing day/ night.
LOS ANGELES -- Juan Pierre signed to be the Dodgers' everyday center fielder two winters ago. So did Nomar Garciapaara, Jason Schmidt, and Luis Gonzales. What's your point? When Andruw Jones was signed this past winter, Pierre learned that he was no longer the center fielder. The rest of LA including the current players on the Dodgers shouted for joy!
On Sunday, Pierre might learn he's no longer an everyday player, too. On Sunday? Are you telling me that he had no idea that his job may be on the line after the last 3 seasons? That he didn't know that playing badly might qualify him to be the highest paid batboy ever?!?!
"If they're going by the spring, I'll probably be sitting on the bench," said Pierre, who despite hitting .169 said he hasn't been pressing. That's comforting. Despite putting up putrid numbers that Michael Jordan could have beat, Pierre decided to take it easy. And if were only looking at the spring numbers something is wrong with the Dodgers staff. His numbers for the last 3 years have been discussed here adnauseum, and to think that all he has to do is get on base to be a starter... he doesn't even have to play good defense, or hit for power, or drive in runs, or be a good clubhouse guy.... all he has to do is get on base!!! Thankyou Juan Pierre for not being able to do anything good at all.
"It is what it is. It's a tough situation for me. I can understand being dissappointed in your play... But it really sounds like he is dissappointed that he isn't starting. Which makes no sense at all. I go out and play hard every day. But you're no good. You do realise that playing hard has nothing to do with talent right? But when you sign a five-year contract and you think you'll be in one spot and they go out and sign somebody to play your position and I certainly didn't have a horrible year. Only the worst year ever!!! I come in and everything's changed, well, it's the cards I've been dealt." Good on you to fold that crappy hand Pierre. Way to make lemonade, not out of lemons, but out of LEFT FIELD! When the Dodgers signed Jones, they backed you and said you would be the starting LF'er. No questions asked. You played your way out of a starting job.
Manager Joe Torre all spring has put off deciding who will flank Jones in the outfield among Pierre and young outfielders Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp. Ethier leads the club in home runs with six and is batting .365. Kemp had three hits Saturday night and is batting .307. Both have stronger throwing arms than Pierre. That's not just it. Throwing arms? That was an obvious difference between Pierre and Kemp/ Ethier. Some of the even more obvious differences is SLG, RBI, RS, OBP... just pick a stat other than steals and Kemp and Ethier blow Pierre away. Does that not spell "bench" to you?!?!
"It's a tough situation they created and put me in," batting 176 is the Dodgers fault? Look at what Bill Plaschke has started. When my brother and I were kids growing up and we'd get in trouble, what was literally the first response out of our mouths? "It's not my fault!" said Pierre. "It's one thing to move to left field, but now I don't even know if I'm going to play. And I'm at a point in my career, my game isn't diminishing. I don't know if you have checked out your stats over the last 3 years but... that's the definition of dimishing. I'm not 38 or 39 (he's 30). I'm not an old man."
Pierre, who hit .293 last year with 64 stolen bases, spent most of this Spring batting leadoff. But in recent games, Torre has dropped him to the bottom of the batting order, while Ethier and Kemp have remained in the middle of the batting order and Rafael Furcal has led off. Looks like Torre is doing what any normal, thoughtful, smart, baseball understanding, person would do.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs. Ken, maybe you should start the approval thing.