Month: October 2014 (Page 1 of 3)

Friday Vid

“Broken Hearted Savior” – Big Head Todd & The Monsters
1. Not Halloween music, but the band is called The Monsters so it will have to do.
2. Big Head Todd at Red Rocks? No pot was smoked that night.
3. Their drummer is wacky.
4. I’ve been putting together a list of albums you most likely owned if you were in college in the early-mid 90s. Sistery Sweetly, the album this comes from, has to be on that list.

R’s: The End

I was nine years old when the Royals made their first World Series. We had moved to Kansas City less than three months earlier. Just three weeks earlier my parents interrupted me listening to a Royals-Mariners game to tell me that they were getting a divorce. I was dealing with a lot of shit, as Kevin Costner might say.

When Willie Wilson struck out to end the World Series in game six, I burst into tears.

Make fun of me if you want, but I can not deny that I shed some tears late last night when the Royals fell to the San Francisco Giants 3–2 in game seven of the World Series.

Despite all the joy they had brought to us over the last month, I was a bit overwhelmed that the season had ended. Of course, I had been drinking, which may have had something to do with my emotional state. But there was also the realization of how close they came to pulling this off. A freaking infield single by an overweight man that has no speed ended up accounting for the winning run. He scored on an 0–2 pitch that broke Michael Morse’s bat. The Royals, who made every play through the first three rounds of the playoffs, were the victims of some fantastic plays by the Giants Wednesday. And, of course, Madison Bumgarner came in and threw five innings of two-hit ball to close out the game.

So god damn close. What if Bumgarner had not benefitted from a very favorable strike zone? What if the Royals batters had been able to lay off his high pitches after he got ahead in the count? What if Eric Hosmer doesn’t dive into first and beats the throw in the fourth inning? What if Joe Panik doesn’t make an incredible play on Hosmer’s grounder up the middle that kicks off the 4–6–3 double play? And the biggest what if, what if Alex Gordon keeps running with two outs in the ninth and forces the Giants to make two perfect throws to cut him down at the plate?

We’ll never know, which is both the beauty and the bitch of sports.

There were a lot of late nights over the last month. Until last night, they were always happy late nights. I’d tip-toe into bed at 1:00 or 1:30 or 1:45 and then lay there and stare at the ceiling for another hour (or two), still buzzing off a Royals win. Last night was the only sad one, which on balance seems like a pretty good thing.

This team made an amazing run. They shook off nearly three decades of history. They brought a city, and its ex-pats, together. They made it cool to be a Royals fan again. They made me proud to be a Royals fan again.

Will it happen again anytime soon? That’s where the pain comes from. Not from the loss itself, but from knowing how rare this opportunity was.

When KU losses in the NCAA tournament each year, I’m always bummed. If it happens early, and to a team they are more talented than, the loss is embarrassing and disappointing. I’m always in a funk for a day or two after. But the thing with KU basketball is there is always next year. I’ve been insanely lucky that, every year since I started college, KU has entered the season with realistic hopes of making the Final Four. Six times in those 25 years they’ve delivered.

The Royals? They might be really good next year. Or the year after. But that may not be good enough. They could win 93 games next year but still come up short in both the division and the Wild Card race. Or they could be on the wrong end of a dramatic comeback in the Wild Card game next time. These opportunities are rare. To come up one run short, because of a fucking infield single, and not knowing what the future holds….well, it just plain hurts.

More about game seven, and the last month of baseball, later.

R’s: Game Seven

I don’t think I’m getting much done today. It’s not yet 9:00 am as I write this and my hands are already jittery, my stomach an unsettled mess, and overall anxiety level is too high for this early.

Game Seven is supposed to be one of the best phrases in sports. But it’s doing a number on me today.

I would love a repeat of last night’s 10–0 Royals rout, where a 7-run second inning ended the game soon after it began. I would love a three-hour coronation rather than a four-hour nail biter where every pitch adds an exponential amount of pressure. I fear tonight is going to be a tense game that is not decided until deep into the night. And why not, that’s how this whole thing started, with three-straight extra inning games that kept me up to or past 1:00 am.

I should be chilled out. This wasn’t supposed to happen, right? Thus, isn’t this all gravy? Isn’t getting to the last game of the last series validation for this team? Won’t the memories of the last month outweigh any negatives that come from tonight? I keep telling myself all that but right now it’s not helping.

This has been such a fun month, and I’m trying to force my mind to think of it in those terms. I’m trying to hang on to the surprise and joys of the last four weeks. I’m trying to turn that stress and worry into excitement and anticipation. But that’s tough to do when there are no more tomorrow’s left.

I helped C. carry a project into school this morning. The Royals-rooting librarian stopped me and introduced me to the wife of M.’s teacher, who grew up in Kansas City. She unzipped her jacket to show off her Royals sweatshirt that she still had from back in 1985. A dad, who is a Cardinals fan, brushed past us and teasingly told us there was no loitering allowed at St. P’s and we needed to break it up.

That was three of us in Indianapolis. I can’t imagine what the water coolers and break rooms will be like in Kansas City today.

So, one more game. One last chance for the impossible dream to come true.[1] One more day for one of the best sports stories ever to play out. I can’t wait.

Apologies to fans of the 1967 Boston Red Sox for stealing that description.  ↩

R’s: How Quickly The Tide Can Turn

The ebbs and flows of the baseball postseason can be tough. Between the long series, travel days, the breaks between innings, and the gaps between pitches and at-bats, there is so much time for the emotion of the situation to ferment, turning into something more potent than reality.

For example, after Friday night’s Royals win, I think most Royals fans were ecstatic. The post-game show from the Power & Light district in KC sure made it appear that way. Fans were celebrating as if the series was over. Even for those of us who were more sober in our assessments of where the series was could not help but think ahead, knowing that the Royals were now just two wins away from a World Series title, and had four games to win those two.

That belief was even stronger at about 10:00 pm EDT Saturday night, when the Royals chased Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong and held a 4–1 lead midway through game four. It was impossible not to start counting outs until Kelvin Herrera would come in, knowing that when he entered the game, the Giants had no chance of coming back. Six outs to Herrera meant nine outs from winning the game and then just 27 outs away from clinching the series. The math seemed so easy.

The problem was what happened over those six outs before Herrera could come in. Everything fell apart. That 4–1 lead became a tie game, and soon turned into an 11–4 Giants rout.

In the back of my mind someone whispered something about counting unhatched chickens.

So tie series, no big deal, right?

Except Madison Bumgarner was on the hill for the Giants in game five. The guy who has been automatic in the postseason, the guy putting up some of the best numbers in the history of post-season baseball. Against a team that must always battle its offensive demons.

James Shields pitched his best game in over a month for the Royals. He was let down by three tough defensive plays that allowed two runs. Ned Yost made decisions that made no sense, which was kind of refreshing after a month of everything he tried working out. And the Royals went to the eighth inning down 2–0.

Which would have been an acceptable loss. Until Herrera put two on and Wade Davis gave up a shocking two-run double to Juan Perez that missed being a home run by about three inches. Those three inches didn’t matter as Perez came home a batter later to put the Giants up 5–0.

An understandable loss became a crushing one as the impenetrable bullpen let the game slip away. Twenty-six hours earlier we were thinking about a 3–1 series lead. Now we were tossing and turning in bed wondering if the bats can reignite with the return to Kansas City for game six, worried that the untouchable bullpen’s mystique may have been dashed, knowing the next loss means the season was over.

And now we get to stew about it for 36 hours.

Time to hit the antacid bottle.

History suggests teams that return home down 3–2 are in good shape. The last time the Royals were in the World Series they were in the same position and ended up winning. But after the last 13 innings, it’s hard to feel confident about their chances.

⦿ Sunday Links

You know the drill. Watching lots of baseball, reading lots about baseball, not many links to share, etc. etc. etc.

Thus, it’s kind of a requirement that I kick things off with an article about the crowd at Kauffman Stadium. You’ve read my thoughts on this. It’s nice that a national voice, who was actually in the stadium last week, agrees.

The Royals fans, and that sound, is what makes this series unique. It’s the one thing this Series has that no other Series has had. It’ll be loud at AT&T Park over the next three nights, but it won’t be like that. No stadium could be.

KC Can Make This A Real Fall Classic

Speaking of el beisból, a really nice feature on Fay Vincent, the former MLB commissioner. Although he was praised for how he handled the 1989 World Series that was interrupted by the Loma Prieta earthquake, he was never really respected for the other things he did in his brief term. This article lays out how he was an accidental commissioner, how he views his time in office, and what he’s been up to since.

Fay Vincent Gets The Last Word

Now onto the pop culture…

The AV Club runs this 11 questions feature regularly. Sometimes they’re interesting, sometimes rather boring. This one with John Hodgman is tremendous.

I remember one time when the Apple ads were just getting going and I saw Chuck D at the Apple store and I said, “I just wanted to let you know I saw you guys perform at Toad’s Place in New Haven in 1989 or ’90, and while I’m obviously not the target audience of Public Enemy, the music had a profound effect on me and made me look at the world differently.” And that is what I intended to say, what I wanted to say. But all I got to say was, “Uh, Mr. D?” And he said, “Hey! PC!” I thought, “The world is upside down.” And then he hugged me. I got hugged by Chuck D. I mean, it was one of the greatest days of my life.

Deranged millionaire John Hodgman answers our 11 questions

Another one from the AV Club. This one is Josh Modell’s accounting of going to a Pearl Jam concert. I listen to the PJ channel on SiriusXM quite a bit, and they play a ton of stuff from the current tour. To my ear, the band sounds like it has lost a few MPH off their fastball. But, in the vein of Springsteen, despite aging they still are dedicated to doing amazing shows that are different every night.

This is not a Pearl Jam concert review

Unfortunately this is just a blurb from Sheila E.’s new autobiography. But it kind of makes me want to read it. I’ll just snip the whole thing and give credit to finding it at Kottke.

I never did make it down to the studio to meet “the kid,” but a few months later, in April 1978, I was at Leopold’s record store in Berkeley browsing through records when I looked up to see a new poster. It featured a beautiful young man with brown skin, a perfect Afro, and stunning green eyes. The word Prince was written in bold letters at the top. That was the guy Tom was talking about!

I found his album For You in the rack and immediately looked at the credits: “Produced, arranged, composed, and performed by Prince.”

The staff at the store, whom I’d known for years, let me take the poster home. Before I’d even listened to his record, I’d taped the poster above my waterbed. Then I lowered the needle onto the album on my record player, sat on the floor, and listened to it in its entirety. Tom was right. I immediately heard that funky rhythm guitar part he’d been talking about. It wasn’t only on one song, but the whole album. I stared up at the poster and told him, “I’m gonna meet you one day.”

My favorite part might be that Sheila E. had a waterbed in 1978. Of course she did!

Friday Vid

“Oh Sheila” – Ready For The World

I’m sticking with this 1985 thing for another week. A week after hitting #1, this was #4 this week in October 1985.

There’s a lot to discuss.

Prince’s influence is all over this. So much so that even now people think he wrote the song.[1] While the band wrote it themselves, it sure sounds like something Prince would have cranked out and passed on to one protege or another. It’s not as funky as his stuff, but the drum sounds especially are straight out of Minneapolis.

Let your SoulGlo! The Jheri Curl was in full effect!

Two drummers!

Did it take like five minutes for them to choreograph their cheesy dance moves?

And for some reason, like fellow Michigander Madonna, the lead singer affected a British accent during the song’s open.

Plenty to make fun of, but a pretty solid song from the era when pop music was shifting from being dominated by 1970s rock influences to sounds typically found on the R&B charts and played on urban stations.

  1. Thus it was also assumed the song was about Sheila E. It was not.  ↩

All Even

Twenty-four hours can make a huge difference in the mood of a sports fan.

Wednesday morning I think most of us Royals were down. Not because the Royals dropped game one to the Giants. I bet a lot of us figured it would be a tough task to beat Madison Bumgarner. But James Shields getting rocked early wasn’t in the plan. The Royals returning to their early July flailing at everything mode of offense wasn’t in the plan.

And I was pretty damn nervous up until around 10:30 Eastern last night. The Royals missed chances to knock out Jake Peavy early and had suddenly seen ten straight batters retired, often on early swings. Even with the Royals bullpen involved, it felt like a game that could easily slip away.

But then it all clicked, at least for one inning.

Single. Walk. Single, run scored, and the Royals were up and the K was rocking.

Following a fly out, a crushed double that scored two by Salvador Perez and I was whooping and yelling.

Then Omar Infante jumped all over a fat pitch for a two-run homer to make it 7-2. Kids might have been woken with my yelling and clapping. They’re on fall break; I did not care.

Game, effectively, over.

Now, on a travel day, we’re feeling good about ourselves and the Royals’ chances over the next five games. Sure, Bumgarner looms in game five. And the Royals will lose Billy Butler’s bat because the archaic National League rules. But the Giants have to sit a bat, too. AT&T Park is a noted pitcher’s park1, which should be good for Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Vargas. And then there’s turmoil in the Giants’ bullpen thanks to Hunter Strickland’s2 ineffectiveness and general craziness and Tim Lincecum’s injury last night.

As we’ve already seen, things can swing quickly in these intense, post-season series. But I’m much happier at 1-1 than I would have been down 0-2 with 48 hours to stew over it.

I wanted to keep score for the entire series. Tuesday I was working on getting the girls to bed and ran down just in time to catch the first pitch. I left my scorebook upstairs, so marked the first inning in a notebook with the idea of adding it to my scorebook after the inning ended. The Giants’ 3-0 start made me scrap that idea.

But I kept score last night. Which I clearly have to do every game now.

IMG 3284

It gets a little messy in the midst of the Royals’ big sixth inning.

I must admit it was a little emotional watching the big crowds at Kauffman as Fox went live each night. I’ve said over-and-over one of my favorite things about the past two years has been hearing those loud, mid-season crowds on the radio feed when things have gone well. But seeing 40,000 people on their feet and roaring cemented how this is really happening. How after years of tiny crowds, often with significant chunks of fan rooting for the opponent, Kauffman was finally looking the way it looked when I first fell in love with baseball. Better, even, than back then thanks to all the changes that have been made over the years. For as big a ballpark as it is, with the new seats in the outfield and then the foul line stands completely packed, it has a much more intimate feel than the large, open, plastic-turfed ballpark the classic Royals teams played it.

Seeing it like this is a powerful reminder of how Kansas City was once one of the best baseball towns in the big leagues. It felt wonderful, but it hurt a little too. It hurt that it took so long for it to happen again. And it hurt not to be there. I’m jealous of those of you who have been able to go to games this post season.

Post season games always have a different roar. I’m not sure what it is, but there’s something about a line shot that could score a run in front of an amped, October crowd that sounds different than the same hit in June. After hearing those roars in the Bronx, Boston, St. Louis, Texas, and San Francisco during the HDTV era, it was wonderful to hear them echo through Jackson County, Missouri.

OK, one more. It’s great hearing Joe Buck call Billy Butler’s lined single, Perez’s rocket double, and Infante’s home run. Whether you like him or not, moments just feel bigger when the national voice of the sport is describing it to the world.

I wore one of my Royals jerseys out and about Wednesday. I got stopped by two people in five minutes at the mall who wanted to talk about the Royals. That’s never happened before. Good times.

  1. 25th toughest offensive environment in the big leagues this year, according to ESPN
  2. Dumbass. 

Here We Go

Well, here we go.

The series that was never supposed to happen is about to begin. The Royals will play for the World Series championship over the next four-to-seven games.

Wildest dreams, Cinderella story, “…tears in his eyes, I guess…”, etc., etc.

I’ve read a couple posts already this morning that spoke of how surreal this is. Even after a week of rehashing how they got here, it’s still hard to believe that any of this has happened, and is continuing to happen. Last night I watched a show on MLB Network that showed the highlights, game-by-game, of the Royals’ first eight games in the playoffs. There have been so many big plays in this run that I kind of forgot about a few. Examples: Jarod Dyson’s throw to third in game two of the ALDS and Tim Collins freezing Josh Hamilton with a wicked curveball to end the inning in the same game. In other post-seasons those would be unforgettable moments. In this crazy one, they’re footnotes to legendary catches by Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, and Alex Gordon and late-inning heroics by Gordon, Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, and Salvador Perez. Oh, and the absolute dominance of everyone in the bullpen, anchored by Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis, and Greg Holland.

And, my goodness, the roars of the Kauffman Stadium crowds in the 12th inning of the Wild Card game and then in the clinching game of the ALCS when Gordon hit his three-run triple and Hosmer crushed his opposite-field homer. Non-fans are probably sick of hearing this description, but you would feel 29 years of bad baseball being released in those roars.

As a fan, I’m worried about what’s next. It’s one thing to rip through the first three rounds. But the World Series, after six days off, is another thing. Will the magnitude of the moment make what happens over the next week different than what came before? Has the magic drifted away during the break?

The thing is, though, I don’t think the players are concerned with that at all. This team, time and again, has picked itself up and charged back. They’re young, inexperienced, and maybe too naive and/or dumb to feel the weight of the moment. I think they’ll be fine.

Me, on the other hand? I’m expecting a lot of tense late nights over the next week. The equivalent of a long NCAA tournament run packed into a single week, with only a travel day or two to break the tension. I’m hoping the weather stays nice so I can get outside and burn off some of this nervousness and adrenaline.

I do not mean to be greedy, but I would not mind four more wins from the Royals at all, no matter how they get them.

⦿ Sunday Links

As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve been a little off my game the last couple weeks. This crazy Royals run has messed with my internal rhythms. Not that I’m complaining. But this past week I’d say three-quarters of the stuff I read was about them and their run. So not much to choose from.

Of all the “The Royals Made the World Series” columns and articles I read, it should be no surprise that Joe Posnanski offered one of the best, and most touching.

He writes about what listening to the Royals on the radio meant to small communities across western Missouri and through most of Kansas. As I wrote a few weeks ago, I’ve been reminded of how listening to the Royals with my grandparents was a big part of my summer visits with them each year. So I know exactly what Joe is talking about.

I know many people from tiny Midwestern towns – Minneapolis, Clay Center, Abilene, just in Kansas – and most of them seem powerfully impacted by Royals baseball on the radio. I’m not sure it’s an emotion I can fully explain, but I guess it had something to do with connecting to a bigger city, connecting to the country at large, reaching beyond the sometimes claustrophobic city limits and the often suffocating boredom of nothing new ever happening.

This Team

This is shocking, and sure to be controversial. But at least one way of crunching the numbers shows that Ned Yost’s love of the bunt might actually be a good thing.

All That Ned Yost Bunting Has Helped the Royals

Another way the Royals (and youth soccer) has thrown me off my game has been the lack of time to follow the NFL. I usually watch part of the Sunday Night Game. And I’ve watched the Colts when they’ve played at night. But our Sundays are spent at the soccer fields so I can only follow scores. Again, I’m not complaining. And I’ll write about the Colts soon enough.

This lengthy profile of Colts owner Jim Irsay, the issues in his life, and some of the people around him who have also suffered is just terrible. Drug addiction is an awful thing.

The Shadow Life of Jim Irsay

Finally, more bad stuff from the NFL. This is an op-ed in the New York Times by Eric Kester, who was a ballboy for the Chicago Bears when he was a teenager. He details the frightening damage done to players he witnessed from the sidelines and locker room. And he points out a dilemma many of us have: how can we watch and love a game that destroys so many people who play it?

What I Saw as an N.F.L. Ball Boy

Friday Vid

“Take On Me” – a-ha

One of the most memorable videos ever, no?

Also the song that was #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts exactly 29 years ago. You know, the last time the Royals were in the World Series.

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