Some guys worry about their wives catching them looking at something naughty online.
I worry about my wife discovering what I was doing today...listening to the first Mariners exhibition game on the radio. Yes, baseball is building up to opening day--Seattle's first game is April 1st.
It's not that Gina doesn't love baseball. It's just that she feels it taking over my life every April, and continuing for seven months after that. She has a good cry, but then we have a festive opening day (or night) watching the initial game with fantastic hot dogs to match.
From November to March every year, if I start to tell her about a trade the Mariners made, she cups her hands over her ears and starts "la-la"-ing to make sure she doesn't hear me. Everything has its place, and baseball news in the offseason isn't her thing.
I'm not kidding about this, though: as the season moves on, she is more and more likely to drum up dinner plans with me and ask, "Hey, isn't there a game on tonight?"
Baseball is back next week, but it has already started for two American League West teams. So strange that the Mariners and Athletics have already played two games in Tokyo.
Though a lifelong fan, there was no way I could watch the opener as it happened on live television, because the game started at 3am Pacific U.S. time, as I get up around 6am every Wednesday for my weekly early day at the library (I start at 8). Gina and I later found out that a re-broadcast of the game would be on a 7:30pm, sixteen hours after it actually happened. I tried so hard not to find out who won the opener, because I wanted to see it without knowing the outcome beforehand--told everyone at work not to tell me who won, I avoided the radio sports channel, baseball websites, etc.
We made it to 7pm and started to watch "The Charlie Rose Show" on the Bloomberg Business network as we waited for 7:30 TV baseball broadcast. And with only 20 minutes to go, the business blurbs at the bottom of the screen read: "Seattle beats Oakland 3-1 to start baseball season in Tokyo." I had been able to avoid that info
for thirteen hours, but no more. Pretty weird to see the A's tie the game at 1-1 and then
be able to say, "well, that's the only run they're going to get!"
Just a couple of weeks ago, the Seattle Mariners were playing great baseball, just a game or two off the pace.
They've fallen completely flat since then. They've now lost seven in-a-row--the last two games to Texas, 5-0 and 4-0. Pathetic offense--the worst in all of baseball. Couldn't bunch two or three hits together to save their life. The team has not scored a run in
26 consecutive innings.
So when one of the radio broadcasters in Seattle wondered what music should be played at the stadium when the Mariners hit a rare home run, I thought of this one from the 1970s: Remember when Bernadette Peters sang a tune on Saturday Night Live called
"Making Love Alone"?
This will be brief, as I'm recovering from cataract surgery (my left eye this time) on Wednesday. Thankfully, it went well.
A couple of weeks ago, in Boston, both the Red Sox and Mariners were dealing with an intense sun field, and Seattle lost a 2-1 game when Ichiro Suzuki said he couldn't see a fly ball to right. The ball bounced off his thigh for a triple, and two batters latter, the Sox got a walk-off, game winning hit from Carl Crawford.
But things even out, as the Mariners beat the Angels in Seattle Thursday when Torii Hunter lost a fly ball in the sun and what would have normally been a catch and the third out of the inning became a ball that dropped near Hunter, and the Mariners won in the ninth inning, 2-1. Outfielders had been battling the sun for at least half the game.
The weird thing about all of this is to say that the Mariners won because of the extreme
sunshine in Seattle.
With some of football's endless hype being pushed off the table (although news about the possibility of a lockout will long be there), it's finally time for the Grand Old Game.
Major League Baseball starts today for some teams, with the Mariners starting on Friday. Whether or not Seattle will be playing real baseball this year remains to be seen. A fresh baseball season really rejuvenates me--who knows, maybe I'll get that bagger's job at the supermarket soon.
Got to hear the new Baseball Project, Vol. 2: High and Inside (Yep Roc Records), and it's probably even better than the first volume. Members of bands like Dream Syndicate,
the Young Fresh Fellows and R.E.M. (that would be Steve Wynn, Linda Pitmon, Scott McCaughey and Peter Buck) have put together another great set of rockin' tunes that is far more listenable than your average baseball novelty. C'mon now, do you really want to hear a version of Terry Cashman's "Talkin' Baseball" more than once a year?
Volume 2 highlights include the bittersweet "1976," when the Tigers' late Mark Fidrych captured the imagination of even casual baseball fans; "Please Don't Call Them Twinkies" (the Minnesota Twins); "Fair Weather Fans" (where you wonder which team should be on the receiving end of your passion if you've moved around the country); and the crazed "Ichiro Goes to the Moon."
In the course of a (Dusty) baker's dozen cuts, Baseball Project, Vol. 2 gets into danger and mortality, which gives the package a lot of depth. I'm talking about Tony Conigliaro getting plunked in the eye and Ray Chapman losing his life in a similar situation--that one is told from the viewpoint of the pitcher who delivered the fatal blow in "Here Lies Carl Mays."
"Chin Music" may be the most fun and lyrically reckless of all the tracks--depicting those close shaves when batters take a pitch high and inside. It's got my favorite lyric on
Baseball Project, Vol. 2, one terrific album: "Ryne Duren wore coke bottle glasses/
his best pitches looked like intentional passes."
Alright...I'm so looking forward to baseball season.
But who do I complain to about both teams wearing their dark tops in the same game?
When one team decides to wear their dark shirts, the other team should have to wear
white (or gray). Otherwise, you've got a clash of two positive colors with little negative space; sometimes the uniforms are nearly identical. I hate that--looks like a bunch of kids on a playground instead of big leaguers.
Somehow, in the midst of yet another wretched baseball season in Seattle, there's always a glimpse of what looks like a bright future. Accomplished and developing players still come up with something enjoyable to experience almost every night. Maybe I'm just hopelessly hooked on baseball, because this glimmer of excitement pertains to a last place team.
Wednesday was really special as the Mariners' ace, Felix Hernandez, became the third youngest pitcher since 1952 to record 1,000 career strikeouts. It's been a blast to watch him all year. Though just 10-10, his ERA (earned run average) is something like
2.40, and he continues to be among the most feared hurlers in the game, as he blew past both the Yankees and the Red Sox (Wednesday) in two of his best and nastiest starts. What a pitcher.
Mariners third baseman Jose Lopez was asked afterward if he realized during the game that Hernandez had achieved that remarkable feat of quickly getting to 1,000 strikeouts. "Oh yeah," said Lopez. "I count them."
Baseball is back at last, with the Red Sox opening the 2010 season against the Yankees today. Tomorrow, it's the Mariners' season opener in Oakland. Our family tradition is to make first class hot dogs with all the trimmings for our special Mariners dinner on opening day (night, in this case). Don't forget that jar of pepperocini peppers!
I did a little baseball set on my show yesterday, airing Count Basie's (with Taps Miller singing) "Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?" and others. This coming Saturday (the 10th), it's KAOS' Spring Membership Drive, so I would invite anyone who appreciates the rarity known as free form radio to phone us with a pledge (360/867-5267) between 10am and noon (Pacific Time/U.S.) this Saturday--or contribute anytime at www.kaosradio.org
Just like free form radio, record stores are having a difficult time surviving, too. Record Store Day is April 17th, so my 16th Anniversary Retroactive Show that day will be following the live performances and specials going on in Olympia's music stores.
Sixteen years! That might be too old to fit the desires of certain Catholic priests,
but it's a nice, long run for Retroactive. I'm going to be saying "We've got our driver's license!" a lot on April 17th and I'll be playing all sorts of car songs, many of them on vinyl.