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Monthly Archives: March 2013

I love baseball

As Opening Day nears, my ode to the greatest game in the world (originally published in April 2009)…

  1. I love how a baseball smells.
  2. I love how hot dogs and beer taste better at a ballpark.
  3. I love the crowd rising to its feet.
  4. I love watching how effortlessly big-league infielders can throw a ball across the diamond.
  5. I love the rhythm of a radio announcer calling a game on a July evening.
  6. I love the one-on-one duel between a pitcher and a hitter that occurs more than 200 times each game.
  7. I love double-plays.
  8. I love how baseball infuses February and March with a burst of energy.
  9.  I love Vin Scully: His stories about the old days, his anecdotes about each player who comes up to bat, and how he uses the crowd noise to add drama to the broadcast.
  10.  I love that Vin Scully has been the Voice of the Dodgers since 1950. I absolutely LOVE that.
  11. I love watching games with my wife and explaining to her the finer points of baseball. I love telling her old stories about the Dodgers. Even though all of it probably drives her nuts!
  12. I love the idea of taking my little girl to baseball games when she gets older, and teaching her the rules.
  13. I love hard sliders, Bugs Bunny change-ups and 95-mph fastballs.
  14. I love day games at Wrigley Field, the ivy on the walls and that magnificent, old-time scoreboard in center field.
  15. I love reading about the overpowering left arm of Sandy Koufax, and watching old highlights of him pitching.
  16. I love it when broadcasters refer to Tommy Lasorda as a “great ambassador for the game of baseball.”
  17. I love sacrifice flies and sacrifice bunts. They epitomize what “team sports” are all about.
  18.  I love the fact that Sandy Koufax retired at the top of his game, and never tried to make a lame-ass comeback. I love how Koufax has never sought the spotlight since he retired. No one in baseball has ever had more dignity than the Greatest Left-Hander of All-Time.
  19. I love my memories of playing stickball with my friends John and Matt when we were kids.
  20. I loved going to the Farley Park batting cage for hours on end with Matt. All that practice didn’t make me a big-leaguer, but I’ll never forget how much fun it was to put bat on ball again and again. “Just 10 more line drives,” we’d say.
  21. I loved playing sandlot games on Poodle Healy’s property in west Farley. Best days of my childhood were spent right there.
  22. I loved playing “one vs. one” baseball against John in the big open lot next to his house. John’s dad Terry was the pitcher/first baseman, and those games were intense. I always left that field tougher than when I came, thanks to Terry’s pointers and prodding.
  23. I loved eating sunflower seeds and joking with Eben during B-games my freshman year. Eben and I would play the A-game, then spend the next 90 minutes joking and laughing and spitting seeds.
  24.  I absolutely LOVED watching Farley Hawks semi-pro games when I was a kid. Still do, in fact.
  25. I loved watching Paul Scherrman, a former minor-leaguer, play for Farley. He was a terrific hitter and catcher well into his 40s, and I tried to do everything just like Sharm.
  26. I loved seeing Farley ace John Ackerman, another former minor-leaguer, blow 90+ fastballs past opponents. The man could hit, too.
  27. I loved it that Paul Scherrman trusted me to monitor the scoreboard and official scorebook at the Farley Tournament. When I was younger, he had me monitor the foul balls.
  28. I love all the games my Dad took me to when I was a kid. Chicago and Milwaukee, usually. We never had a lot of money, but somehow Dad always found a way to take us to those games. It was a great treat and really shaped me as a person.
  29. I love that I’ve been able to return the favor. I’ve taken my Dad and Mom to games in Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis since I graduated and got my own job.
  30. I love ol’ ball yards. They’re everywhere across the landscape of America. They’re rinky-dink, they’re outdated and they’re full of character. Three of my favorites in Iowa are Bernard, Westphalia and Placid.
  31. I love the fact that “Field of Dreams” was filmed in my hometown and my home county. No other piece of pop culture had as much impact on my life. I cry at the end of that movie every time.
  32. I loved seeing Kirk Gibson round those bases at Dodger Stadium after his dramatic World Series homer in 1988.
  33. I love the image of Orel Hershiser taking a knee after fanning another clueless A’s player to end the ’88 Series.
  34. I love and appreciate the fact that my favorite team won at at least one World Series in my lifetime.
  35. I love sneaking my flask into Sec Taylor Stadium in Des Moines. Nothing better than whiskey-and-diet coke while you’re watching the triple-A Iowa Cubs on a hot Friday night.
  36. I loved how my friends and I would pile into Dad’s Lumina and go to the Dyersville Tournament, the Cascade Tournament, the Holy Cross Tournament …
  37. I loved that summer when I played all those games. I was about 14 years old. Three different teams, 50 games or so. That was a lot back in those days. I had 75 hits that summer. Yes, I kept track.
  38. I love watching East Coast games on my dish at home in Ankeny, starting at 6 p.m.
  39. I love switching over to the Midwest games, starting at 7 p.m., then catching the end of the East Coast games before…
  40. … switching to the Dodgers game at 9:10 p.m. I REALLY LOVE watching the Dodgers on TV. It is my favorite hobby of all time.
  41. I love talking about the Dodgers with my uncle Hub. He’s been a Dodger fan since 1955, and he turned me into a Dodger fan in 1985.
  42. I love reading box scores in the newspaper. Some of my earliest memories involve this activity.
  43. I love the Dodger Thoughts blog on latimes.com.
  44. I love playing catch with my Dad. Did I mention that one already? It’s OK if I did, because I really like that one.
  45. I loved pitching when I was a kid. I thought I was Doc Gooden.
  46. I loved catching when I was a kid. I thought I was Paul Scherrman.
  47. I always struggled to hit, even when I put up good numbers. Hitting never came easily — but I loved it.
  48. I love all the great Dodgers that I’ve watched over the years: Piazza, Karros, Hershiser, Gibby, Sheff, Greenie, Beltre, Gagne, Fernando, Nomo, Tommy.
  49. I love all the great Dodgers that I’ve seen only in old highlight clips: Koufax, Big D, The Duke, The Nuke, Campy, Gil, Jack Roosevelt Robinson, Podres, Pee Wee, Garvey, Sutton, Cey, Lopes, Alston.
  50. I love what Jack Roosevelt Robinson did for baseball and for this country. He did more for civil rights than any other American, I would argue. You should read about his life.
  51. I love the Green Monster in Cascade, the concrete dugouts and box seats in Farley, the peacefulness of the Epworth field, the corn field in Bernard and the center-field bleachers in Dyersville.
  52. I loved watching Eric Gagne make professional hitters look like children with his change-up and slow curve.
  53. I love that there’s a new MLB Network.
  54. I love that you can watch games on your computer now.
  55. I love living in Iowa, where there are no MLB teams so you are free to cheer for whomever you choose.
  56. I love pine tar.
  57. I love bruises from getting hit by a pitch, especially when you can see the ball’s stitching.
  58. I love all the baseball trips my wife and I have done: Milwaukee, K.C., Minneapolis, Vero Beach, Los Angeles, Denver. … Did I forget any?
  59. I love how the best center fielders (Andruw Jones in his prime, Gary Pettis in his prime, Devon White in his prime), standing 300 feet away from home plate, can instantly identify where the ball is headed when it hits the bat.
  60. I love how those same center fielders can track down hard-hit line drives in the gap.
  61. I love that my wife can watch a game and not be totally bored.
  62. I love that my Dad is a baseball junkie, just like me.
  63. I love that my Mom understands the game and has always encouraged my baseball addiction.
  64. I love that baseball has a language of its own. Bloop hits. No runs, no hits, no errors. Uncorked a wild pitch. Around the horn. You can put it on the boooooooardddd …. YES!!!!!
  65. I love watching kids learn the game on a neighborhood empty lot.
  66. I love when my wife nags me not to watch the game … then gives in and lets me watch. She always gives in.
  67. I love talking on the phone about the game with my best friend Chad. He lives 2,000 miles away, but when we talk baseball, it feels like he’s in the same room.
  68. I love watching games in a sports bar with dozens of other baseball fans.
  69. I love baseball’s castles — Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, Ebbets Field, Dodger Stadium, Farley Park. 🙂
  70. I love how Hollywood has immortalized baseball through movies such as “Bull Durham,” “The Natural,” and “Field of Dreams.”
  71. I love how each team wins 60 games and loses 60 games every year, and the remaining 42 games determine champions.
  72. I love keeping a scorecard. My brother Steve, the best scorekeeper I know, taught me how to keep the book before I was 10 years old.
  73. I love how pitching is the great equalizer. A team can have the greatest hitters in the world, but without a decent pitcher, it won’t matter. Likewise, a team without any offensive punch can achieve glory with just one great pitcher (see 1988 Dodgers and Orel Hershiser).
  74. I love how I continue to learn things about baseball, even though I’ve been a student of the game since grade school. Example: There are times when I’m still not certain if a particular run is earned or unearned.
  75. I love sitting directly behind the plate and watching curveballs and sliders move violently downward and outward as they travel toward the plate.
  76. I loved watching Mark Grace hit the ball to the opposite field, Ryne Sandberg turn double-plays and Andre Dawson throw out base runners. I’ve always enjoyed watching the Cubs.
  77. I love to jeer Tony La Russa, Barry Bonds, Todd Helton and Mark McGwire.
  78. I used to love playing Strat-O-Matic when I was a boy. I practiced my impressions of announcers as I played the board game in my bedroom.
  79. I love ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight,” but not as much as most baseball fans love it.
  80. I love perfectly manicured grass ball fields. Next time you’re at an MLB game, sneak down to the left-field rail and be amazed at how perfect the outfield grass looks. God himself planted it and takes care of it.
  81. I love retractable-roof ball parks. What a great concept! Let the sun in when you can, but never miss a game because of weather. I’m not surprised that former Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley was the first person to come up with this ingenius idea.
  82.  I loved the hired pitchers Farley always found for tournaments (Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams being one of them). Those guys made a 10-1 first-round win over Balltown much more fun to watch.
  83. I love how competitive Cascade’s Pat Weber is. I don’t think any athlete alive wants to win as much as he does.
  84. I love my baseball books and memorabilia collection — which has dual residence at my house and at my folks’ house.
  85. I loved watching my brothers Tom and Steve play “rapid-fire” catch when I was a kid. Tom threw the ball about 100 mph but had no idea where it was going. Steve was adept at tracking down Tom’s wild pitches (Ozzie Smith would have blushed after seeing some of Steve’s diving catches).
  86. I love that for one short stretch of my short-lived career, I was “locked in” at the plate. My first season of Babe Ruth, I had seven hits in the first three games of the Farley Tournament. It felt good to play so well in front of big crowds in my hometown. … Full disclosure: I struck out three times in the championship game.
  87. I love the fact that the Dodgers have the prettiest uniforms in the major leagues. No team gets its uniforms as bright white as the Dodgers do. And they haven’t changed their uniform design since the late 1930s. Few teams can say that. Even when they have a bad season, the boys still look good in blue.
  88. I love baseball-reference.com. You MUST check out that Web site sometime. There’s nothing you can’t find there. I used to love the 24-pound Baseball Encyclopedia — now I just use baseball-reference.com.
  89. I love White Sox announcer Hawk Harrelson (the biggest homer in the business, but I don’t care), and I love White Sox color analyst Steve Stone (the biggest know-it-all in the business, but I don’t care). Can’t wait to hear them on the air together this season. It’ll be June 3rd, and Stoney will say something like, “Hawk, if the Sox want to win the pennant this year, they’ve just GOT to win this game.”
  90. I love how 55,000 strangers stand up and sing together during the 7th-inning stretch at Dodger Stadium.
  91. I love Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.” blaring out of the Dodger Stadium loud speakers after Dodger wins. The Bums stole the idea from the Lakers, but it’s such a great song that two teams can share it.
  92. I love the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. It’s the only place on the East Coast that I could call home.
  93. I love Opening Day. It feels like a national holiday to me. There are five games on ESPN and ESPN2 on Opening Day this year (April 6).
  94. I love the first day of the playoffs. Three games, all critical to the teams playing in them, back-to-back-to-back.
  95. I love Queens’ Night at the Dyersville Tournament. At least, the way I remember it. I’m sure it’s not as cool these days.
  96. I love base runners going from first to third on a single.
  97. I love that there’s a man inside the Fenway Park Green Monster, watching the game through a tiny hole and keeping the scoreboard updated.
  98. I love bars near ballparks. The Cubby Bear and Sluggers (Chicago), the Sports Column (Denver) and Johnny’s Hall of Fame and the High Life Lounge (Des Moines) come to mind.
  99. I love musician Terry Cashman, who has made a career out of baseball songs such as “Talkin’ Baseball (Willie, Mickey and the Duke)” and “Play by Play (I Saw It on the Radio).”
  100. I love going back to Farley and watching a game on TV or at the Farley Park with my Dad.
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Posted by on March 31, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

It’s there, and then it’s gone

POOF!!!

That’s the noise my checkbook makes every other Friday — after I pay the bills.

It’s frightening to think about how long it takes to earn a paycheck (two weeks) compared to how long it takes to spend it (two minutes).

But I wouldn’t trade places with anyone. 🙂

Rich folks will never have the awe-inspiring experience of seeing all their money vanish in an instant.

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Hey-hey! The Heat winning streak is over!

The 1971-72 Lakers’ NBA-record 33-game winning streak is safe. Whew.

Laker fans like me will sleep well tonight.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Those unpredictable Dodgers

I read ESPN Magazine’s baseball preview as I waited for Maisa to get her hair cut tonight.

The magazine picked the Dodgers to win the NL West, for what it’s worth.

What I found most interesting, though, was the magazine’s Unpredictability Index. The writers ranked every team in terms of predictability and volatility. A grade of zero meant “What you see is what you get” and a grade of two meant “Who knows?”

Teams like the Cardinals and Padres and Cubs were close to the zero grade. That means the writers are pretty certain that they know how many victories those teams will finish with.

The Dodgers, on the other hand, received the second-highest volatility grade — 1.81 or something like that.

That means the ESPN writers have a ton of questions about how the Dodgers will ultimately fare this year (health, chemistry, etc). The magazine projected the Dodgers’ win total to be between 83 and 98 — that’s a huge range when making predictions.

When you put a bunch of high-priced veterans and egos in the same clubhouse, the experts and prognosticators don’t know what to think

I, too, have a multitude of questions about this year’s team. Last year, I think I predicted the Bums would win about 83 games, and they finished with 85 or 86. This year, I’d like to think the Dodgers can win 95 or more games. But it seems like the 2013 train could get off the tracks pretty easily, and I could see that win total sliding back to 85.

I guess I’ll split the difference and predict the Dodgers will win 90.

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

An Easter basket

The Easter Bunny plans to give Maisa a youth basketball hoop this week. I spent last Friday morning doing the assembly in my garage.

It was cold, I’m not good at building things, and I did not have a helper. But somehow, I managed to get it done.

I’m looking forward to playing some basketball in the driveway with Maisa when it warms up next week and all summer. The rim is 5 1/2 feet tall and can be raised to 7 feet — so it’s perfect for her this year and the next couple of years.

Maisa and I were dribbling and passing the basketball in the driveway a couple of weeks ago. Suddenly she said, “Aww, I wish I had a basket to shoot at.” So hopefully she’ll be happy with what the Easter Bunny brings her.

🙂

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Not eggs-actly perfect weather for an egg hunt

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Posted by on March 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

I’m a little feisty about this

Hanley Ramirez, one of the Dodgers’ best players, is out 2 months after injuring his thumb in the World Baseball Classic — a silly exhibition tournament that means nothing to fans in the United States.

As if I needed another reason to loathe the WBC. What a waste.

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2013 in Uncategorized