Hey Dad...Want to Have a Catch?

If you know one thing about me, it's probably that I suck. At life in general, really. If you know two things about me, it's probably that I suck and that I cry like a baby whenever I watch Field of Dreams. And since it is one of five movies that it is acceptable for men to openly weep at, I'm okay with it (Hoosiers, Legends of the Fall, Stand By Me, and maybe Top Gun are the other movies.)

With that established, it is my pleasure to pass along to you an article from the AP, via ESPN.com, celebrating the 100th anniversary of Archibald "Moonlight" Graham's major league debut (and final game.)

Please note that Barry Bonds is the biggest jerk since Ty Cobb. He's going to hell. Seriously.

"His big league career lasted all of one game, a few fleeting moments in right field.
He stood out there on a summer afternoon so long ago, on a patch of grass since paved over in Brooklyn.
Yet many folks are certain Moonlight Graham was a made-up character from a movie, not a real-life ballplayer for the New York Giants.
" 'Field of Dreams' was before my time," said Willie Mays, the greatest Giant of them all. "That was a real thing? How come nobody told me?"
Yet the tale is true, at least most of it. Because on June 29, 1905 -- exactly 100 years ago on Wednesday -- Archibald Wright Graham made his lone appearance in the majors.
He never got to hit. Instead, he was left on deck. A late substitute in a lopsided 11-1 win, he played only two innings and there's no proof he ever touched the ball.
"Graham went to right field for New York" was his only mention in the local Evening Telegram's play-by-play account. And, just that fast, the 28-year-old rookie described in the sporting press as being "quick as a flash of moonlight" was gone.
No wonder it took quite a while for his story to get around -- and for author W.P. Kinsella to make Graham such a part of the poetry and romance that celebrate the lore and lure of baseball.
More than a decade after Graham died in 1965, the prize-winning author was leafing through the Baseball Encyclopedia that his father-in-law had given him for Christmas a few days earlier. Among the listings for every player and their lifetime stats, Kinsella came across something that stopped him.
"I found this entry for Moonlight Graham. How could anyone come up with that nickname? He played one game but did not get to bat. I was intrigued, and I made a note that I intended to write something about him," he said.
A few years later, he did. His 1982 novel "Shoeless Joe" was adapted into the 1989 film "Field of Dreams," and Moonlight was reborn.
Eventually, there was a band called Moonlight Graham, a couple of Web sites were dedicated to him and a scholarship fund established in his honor.
"I didn't anticipate this happening," Kinsella said in a telephone interview from his home in British Columbia.
In the movie, Graham mystically flickers onto the scoreboard at Fenway Park. Seeking one at-bat in the bigs, he asks: "Is there enough magic out there in the moonlight to make dreams come true?"
Veda Ponikvar knew Graham for almost a half-century in Chisholm, Minn. He arrived around 1912 after the town placed a newspaper ad for a school doctor, and Ponikvar said he never boasted about his ballplaying.
Or explained his enchanting nickname.
"I think it was because by the light of the moon, he practiced his game," she guessed. "But some people said it was because he moonlighted as a doctor."
No matter, she said, Burt Lancaster's kindly portrayal was perfect.
"I remember probably in the third grade when he inoculated me for scarlet fever," she said. "I still have the mark on my arm. Growing up, I thought it was the most horrible thing. Later on, I thought, 'Oh, Doc Graham, you're pretty precious. You left your mark.' "
Now in her mid-80s, she'll be at the Metrodome this Wednesday to throw out the first ball before Kansas City plays Minnesota on Moonlight Graham Day.
All because of sheer luck.
When Kinsella thumbed through the Baseball Encyclopedia, he could've easily turned to the pages for Twink Twining, Goat Cochran or Steamboat Struss. Of the more than 16,000 players in major league history, they're also among the 900-plus guys in the Elias Sports Bureau registry who got into only one game.
"I had no backup," Kinsella said. "My approach to fiction writing is that when I need facts, I invent them. So I would have invented a background for Moonlight Graham, but I'm sure nothing as wonderful as the truth.
"It was a gold mine."
OK, so what if he really didn't play on the last day of the 1922 season, as in the movie? Or that he batted left-handed, rather than righty in the film? Or that he got sent down after his one big league game and spent three more years in the minors?
Those blue hats he bought for his wife, Alecia? "Absolutely true," Ponikvar said. And the way he patted children to clear food stuck in their throats? "He did it to me," she said.
Oh, another fact: His younger brother, Frank Porter Graham, was a U.S. senator from North Carolina.
In all, it's a story that fans everywhere embraced. Well, most everyone.
"I didn't see 'Field of Dreams.' I don't watch movies about what I do," San Francisco slugger
Barry Bonds said.
On the other hand,
Los Angeles Angels star Darin Erstad estimated he's watched it 20 to 30 times.
"It's a special thing because it's a dream of a lot of kids out there, to have the opportunity to put on a big league uniform for just that one time. And that part of the movie really summed that up," he said.
"When you see guys who are career minor leaguers who get an opportunity to come up -- and even if they're not up for a long time -- they can always say that all that hard work they put in was worth it."
It was for Bob Hegman and Gary Hargis.
Hegman's one big league game came in August 1985, when he replaced George Brett in the Kansas City infield for the ninth inning.
"You wait so long, all your life for that moment. Just running on the field, it was surreal," said Hegman, now an advance scout for the Twins.
The Royals went on to win the World Series that year, and they remembered him. Sort of, anyway.
"Everybody asks, 'Did you get a ring? Did you get a ring?"' he said. "Heck, all I got was a $100 check. I wish I'd kept it and framed it, but I needed to eat."
Called up in September 1979, Hargis made his lone appearance as a pinch-runner for Pittsburgh on the next-to-last day of the season.
"You keep thinking, 'Just let me get in one game so my name can get into the book,' " he said. "When you do, it's just like the movie. Your eyes light up, you never want the night to end. You just want to play ball, like you did when you were a kid."
At least Kevin Morgan got to bat. After "floating to the plate," he popped up in 1997 for the
New York Mets.
"I definitely thought there would be more opportunities," said Morgan, the Mets' director of minor league operations, "but as it turned out, that was the only one."
Which is more than Mickey Harrington got in his one game with Philadelphia in 1963.
"I was expecting to at least get an at-bat," he said. "I was 6-foot-4, 205 pounds and it was disappointing to be used as a pinch-runner. I figured someone else would pick me up and I'd get another chance, but I never did."
Archie Graham never got to bat in the majors, either.
A pretty good hitter for three years in the minors, Giants manager John McGraw invited him to spring training in 1905, but Graham declined because he wanted to finish medical school. According to extensive work by Bill Moose for the Society for American Baseball Research, Graham finally joined the Giants on May 23.
Five weeks later, he made his debut at Brooklyn's Washington Park -- built before Ebbets Field, it's now a depot for the Con Edison power company.
In a game against the Superbas -- the forerunners of the Dodgers -- Graham replaced George Browne in right field for the bottom of the eighth inning. Nothing was hit his way.
Then he was left on deck in the ninth when pitcher Claude Elliott flied out. In the bottom half, Graham may have gotten a play.
Switch-hitter Charlie Malay singled -- presumably, he was batting lefty against the righty Elliott -- and perhaps he pulled it in Graham's direction. But there's simply no record of where the ball went.
"It's possible that maybe he touched it," Moose said. "No telling for sure.""



Hot Times, Summer in the City

It's 3:30 in the afternoon and I'm sitting around topless, reading the funnies, and celebrating my hangover when my cellular telephone rings. It's my friend Erin calling to see if I'm okay. Well, I'm a few pounds over weight and I'm developing a lazy eye, but other than that, I'm fine. No, not that, she says, turn on the news.

It seems that my neighborhood is exploding. And not in some sort of clever business/real estate marketing sense. It's literally exploding.

So far on the news, I have learned the following Things:
1)Little gas tanks are exploding from inside of this plant and landing in the surrounding neighborhoods. Sweet.
2)There are toxic fumes. Double sweet.
3)Traffic is going to suck. Damn it!
4)No injuries have been reported yet. Let's hope that doesn't change.

I'm not particularly nervous, since I do have some experience with flammable, toxic things falling out of the sky and landing somewhat within my proximity (Veteran:Detroit '84) however the last time it happened I had a gas mask and big concrete bunkers to hide in like a pussy. Now, I have a Honda and low self esteem.

Could this lead to Summer '05 in the StL being known as the Summer of The Fire?
Could anything even remotely good possibly come out of all this?



I Can't Wait To See What Darvin Ham Does In Tonight's Game

Admittedly, I am a basketball fan. I played a little in High School (and by play a little, I mean "I was only allowed to play when my team was up by forty points and the school that we were facing has a live goat at the end of their bench, however their mascot is not actually a goat") and I watch college basketball almost religiously. At one point in time I watched my fair share of the NBA, but that time has past. I would like to get back into watching the NBA, but I think that growing up in Illinois in the 80's-90's has left me rather jaded towards the professional circuit. Perhaps that is the one detriment to the Association that MJ left. When you watch The Greatest Player Who Ever Lived + Co. run off championships during your youth, Elden Campbell's heroics just don't seem to measure up.

That is why tonight, instead of watching the first Game Seven of the NBA Finals in eleven years, I'm going to the Cardinals-Pirates game. I just don't care about the Spurs and the Pistons. And, with all apologies to anyone from San An or the D, I don't know why anyone else would either. In fact, if Fox threw a new episode of The OC on tonight, I guarantee that the NBA Finals ratings would be cut in half.

How did it come to be that I, the average American (and by average, I'm assuming that the majority of Americans drink five nights a week, secretly wish they could fly, and are amazing in bed) has become so disenfranchised with the NBA that they'd rather watch a mid-season baseball game than the Game 7 of the NBA Finals? I don't know. And truth be told, I don't necessarily care, either.

What could be done to draw myself and the millions like me back into the fold? First and foremost, a new marketing strategy should be put in place, maybe something akin to turning old clips of when Larry "Grand-mama" Johnson and Steve Urkel hooked up to win a Chicago area streetball tourney (in perhaps the greatest episode of Family Matters ever) into a series of commercials ("I love this game!")
Once that is in place, trades should be made to create a group of teams made up entirely of all-stars, a group of teams made up of fundamentaly sound foreign players, a group of teams made up of head-cases, and a group of teams made up of ridiculously uncoordinated white guys (Mark Madsen, I'm looking at you.) Then let those leagues fight it out in a giant round-robin, double elimination Pinewood Derby style tourney. I think the winning team might just surprise you.
And then the Bulls should sign me as an unrestricted free agent, give me millions of dollars, and rig the 3 point contest at the All-Star game so that I win it.

Then I'll care.



Mmmmm....That's Good Solstice!

Yesterday was, calendar-wise, my favorite day of the year. The summer solstice. Longest day of the year. First day of summer. Call it what you like, there is no doubting it: June 21st is the coolest day of the fucking year.
For those of you who are lucky enough to live in the StL, or if you reside anywhere else on the 90th degree, noon yesterday was (and I'm sorry if I'm getting all Mr.Wizardy on you) the peak tanning moment of the year. So I got topless, lathered myself up in oil, and engaged in some lawn work/outdoor reading. That's when it hit me: It had been three years since I properly celebrated the solstice. Three long years.
Immediately, I sent out some e-mails, made a few calls, and went down to the market to get some supplies. It was official. The first BBQ of summer.
As far as I'm concerned, the summer Q is just like a sore dick. You can't beat it. Boys and girls sitting around the patio, enjoying burgers, beers, and each others company. Like a sweet little John Melloncamp ditty. Now that's American.
Per the usual, the celebration ended in everyone consuming way too many beers, making grand plans for the future, tossing out a few too many racial slurs (fucking wops), and being late for work in the morning. Good times.
Also, last night I decided that there are not enough lists in the world right now. Until I watch VH1 and Maxim Presents: VH1 and Maxim's The Top 100 Top 100 Lists of All Time, and/or E!'s True Hollywood Stories: VH1 and Maxim Presents: VH1 and Maxim's The Top 100 Top 100 Lists of All Time, I will continue to praise and celebrate lists, working towards that ultimate goal that one day everything which could ever be listed and/or categorized is.
Anyhoo...We were listening to some Skynyrd last night (and yes, I was drinking a Busch beer. And, yes, I am rapidly developing into a world class red-neck) when it dawned on me that the world needs at least a Top Ten Best Southern Rock Tunes of all time. I quickly started getting to work in my head, listing some bands and making mental notes. A few questions arose. Mainly, would In Memory of Elizabeth Reed really count as a southern rock song? I mean, yeah, it's by The Allman's and all, but it strikes me as more of a jam-band song. Whatever.
The list was definitely taking shape when I heard that first sweet fucking note. And that's when it hit me. If I wanted to make a list of Southern Rock Tunes, the only way it I'd be able to look myself in the mirror the next day is to make sure that The Ballad of Curtis Loew is number one on that list.
Since I already had a number one song, I stopped making the list and got another beer. Then I got a glass of wine. And you can probably guess where the night went from there (and if you guessed: drinking wine and eating your roomates cous-cous while watching a tape of the Illinois-Arizona game from this year's Elite Eight, you are a winner.)
Now I sit here tired, hungover, and poopy (literally, I'm crapping like every seven minutes today. Attractive, I know.) and I don't have a list to share with you.
And the scoreboard reads: Solstice 1, Al 0.



Cooler Heads?

Perhaps I was a bit too rash in my last post. Last night's game, following a three hour rain delay, turned into a rather civil affair, with both Chris Carpenter and David Wells tossing excellent ballgames. No intentional plunks. No purposeful brushbacks. Not even a whole lot of animosity out in the stands, either. That is, until the ninth.

The Lady Friend and I had, as all good fans should do at ballgames, snuck down into the 15th or so row of box seats around the eighth inning. In the ninth, we sat behind the Red Sox dugout and I engaged in some rather friendly banter with the bad guys. Again, I can't honestly hate Sox fans, especially the true ones. It's not their fault that their team turned into a bunch of pretentious, intolerable, media whoring assholes once they won a championship. Not their fault at all.

With one out left in the game, the clear majority of fans remaining at the game stood up. As did I. This is not a strange move by any means. In fact, I actually thought that this was standard protocol. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, you stand up: 1) if your team is winning you cheer for them to close it out or,2) if they are trailing you cheer for them to come from behind.

Or, if you are the asshole three rows behind me you instigate the following exchange:

Me: (Standing up) "Come on Albert! Base knock, brah!"
45 year old drunk Boston fan, actively embarrassing his two children with him while sitting three rows behind me: "Sit down!"
Me: "Why don't you stand up?"
Dude: "You're stupid"
Me: *giggle*
Dude: "You're a big man"
Me: *Actually laughing out loud*
Dude: "You're stupid. Way to impress the woman, you big man."
Me: "Come on Jim E! Keep it going, brah!"
Dude: "I'll get an usher! You better sit down! You're stupid! There, the games over! Are you happy? Are you proud, you big man?"
Me, smiling at him after the final out: "Yeah, I am kind of stupid"

Probably a thirty second exchange of not so pleasantries follows after the game in which the following information was established as fact:
1) I am a big man.
2)I am stupid.
3)That man's kid's therapy bills will be through the roof someday.

So, to sum up the evening:

So that's that. I'm catching a plane in a few hours to Charlotte, NC. Heading to the Appalachians tonight in order to partake in a little white water rafting. Saturday, I'll do a little boating with the boys on Lake Norman, and all the while I'll be canning beers, happy as can be.

If you find yourself bored today, I have a few sites to note:

Lata on, bitches.



Moose, Kings, Cruise, and My Burning Hatred of the Week

Thoughts to ponder while listening to the new Coldplay album:

Finally, the Lady Friend and I were watching last nights bean-ball fest between the Cardinals and Red Sox (whats the plural for Red Sox, anyway? Red Soxes? Red Soxen?) when it donned on me that I have never seen a bench clearing brawl in person. Immediatly, I hopped online and got us a pair of seats for tonight's game. Considering the fact that there is some unfinished business from last night, and that David Wells is throwing for the Sox, I'll set the over-under on the innings the benches clear at the 4th inning.

I sincerely hope that there is a fight and I really hope John Mabry knees Trot Nixon in the head and that So Taguchi breaks out some wicked awesome karate moves on Jason Varitek. I hope that the Birds literally beat up the Sox tonight for two reasons: One, I really hate the fucking Sox right now (I'll get to this in a minute.) Two, is there anything more embarrassing than having your team lose a brawl? (Also, could I ask any more rhetorical questions today?) Imagine being a huge Robin Ventura fan (sounds horrible already) and watching while a 40-something year old Nolan Ryan bloodied him with nuggies. Now that's embarrassing.

Now, back to my new found hatred of the Red Sox. For over half of a score (yes, I still keep time in scores), the Red Sox were my American League team. I wasn't happy that they beat the Cards last fall in The Series, but hey, that's life. Then the off-season started. Out of nowhere, poets arose throughout the North-East to rasp whimsically about the values of Red Sox baseball. Perhaps 3,792 TV specials were produced to celebrate their title. Millions of books were published. Johnny Damon and company do a Queer Eye special. Fever Pitch is released. The late Tupac Shakur drops a track celebrating the wonders of David Ortiz. It was getting out of control. The Red Sox, quite literally, were everywhere. I needed to take a break from this team, fast.

So for this season, I have decided to pledge allegiance to the California Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Exit on Katella Ave On the Five in Eastern Orange County for my American League team du jour. I'll watch a Boston game or two, but they were just a little too damn popular for me.

Then strange things started to happen. I saw how Sox fans were treating Edgar Renteria and it made me sad. How can you boo ER? That sweet little Columbian. He means you no harm. I was starting to get a little agitated towards the Sox fans.

Bill Simmons throw's a Matt Morris quote in on his website, not only taking it out of context, but adding his own sore-winner type vibe to it. I'm getting a little pissed now.

Then this yahoo at Boston.com not only insults Cardinal fans and the Midwest in general, but he calls out our beer. Now, know this...I'll defend drinking a bottle of Ice Cold Budweiser until I am dead and buried. And I am seriously ticked off towards New England.

Last night Matt Mantei comes in and drills Mark Grudzielanek, obviously a payback bean, so that's fine. He then strikes out Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds (looking, both) consecutively. He walks Reggie Sanders to make it look like he doesn't have too good of command before hitting Larry Walker in the leg. Do you really need to up the ante? Really?

And now I hope we pure and simply kill the mother fucking Boston Red Sox.

So, we go into tonight, with hot-head extrodinare D. Wells tossing on a ESPN televised game. You think nobody's getting knocked down tonight? Not a chance in hell.

Should be fun.

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"I'll be dead in the cold, cold ground before I recognize the state of Missouri."