Archive for September, 2011

September 30, 2011

#27) The top ten Yankees losses of all time

Ken Griffey, Jr. slides across home plate with the winning run vs. the Yankees

Son of a bitch, it happened again: the Red Sox blew it.

Of course, it would have been a lot worse if not for their recent World Series wins (not to mention the three Patriots Super Bowls, Bruins’ Stanley Cup and Celtics championship win in the last decade), but any time the Yankees are in the playoffs and the Red Sox are not, it’s a drag, especially when it could have easily been avoided.

But while their team is no longer a contender, at least the members of Red Sox Nation can live on the hope that this October will bring a great Yankees collapse.  After all, the biggest fall the hardest.  To help get in the mood, here are ten of the greatest games in baseball – all of which found the Yankees on the short end of the score.

October 10, 1926 (World Series game 7) at New York: Cardinals 3, Yankees 2

The 1926 Series was the only one to date to end with a runner being caught stealing.  Ironically, the would-be thief was Babe Ruth, who represented the tying run.  The game is also noted for Cards’ pitcher Grover Alexander’s clutch strike out of Tony Lazerri with the bases loaded in the seventh.

October 3, 1947 (World Series game 4) at Brooklyn: Dodgers 3, Yankees 2

Even die-hard Sox fans have to have a little sympathy for Bill Bevens, a Yankees pitcher who came one out away from throwing the first no-hitter in post-season history.  Bevens lost both the no-hitter and the game with one swing of the bat, as Dodgers third baseman Cookie Lavagetto doubled with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.  It was the Dodgers’ first hit of the game, and it drove in the tying and winning runs.

October 4, 1955 (World Series Game 7) at New York: Dodgers 2, Yankees 0

The Red Sox were not the first team to finally avenge years of torment at the hands of the Yankees.  After years of losing to their crosstown rivals, the Dodgers finally turned the tables in 1955, helped by a great catch by Sandy Amoros and shutout pitching by Johnny Podres.  Here’s a video of Jackie Robinson stealing home in the first game of the series.  (He had better luck than Babe Ruth).

October 13, 1960 (World Series game 7) at Pittsburgh: Pirates 10, Yankees 9 

It may sound funny to hear the words “World Series” and “Pittsburgh Pirates” used in the same sentence, but that’s what was happening in 1960.  The Pirates hung in there, battling the Yankees through six games.  In the decisive contest, the lead went back and forth between the two teams, entering the bottom of the ninth tied.  Leading off, Pirates second baseman Bill Mazeroski became the first of only two men (along with Joe Carter) in baseball history to end a World Series with a home run.

October 10, 1980 (A.L.C.S. game 3) at New York: Royals 4, Yankees 2

As with the Pirates, it may seem weird to think of the Kansas City Royals in the World Series, but they got there in 1980 by beating the Yankees in the American League Championship Series, then a best-of-five.  They had lost three consecutive times to the Yanks in the A.L.C.S. but finally turned the tables in 1980, winning the first two games at home and taking the third on George Brett’s three-run homer off Goose Gossage.   The names of Brett and Gossage would be linked again a few years later.

July 24 and August 18, 1983 (“Pine Tar” game) at New York: Royals 5, Yankees 4 

George Brett won a World Series, had over 3,000 hits, batted .390 in 1980 and even battled hemorrhoids, but this Hall of Famer is remembered by most people for only one thing.   While the sight of an enraged Brett charging out of the dugout may be legendary, however, not as well known is the back-story behind what would now probably be called one of baseball’s best viral videos.  With the Yankees leading 4-3 in the top of the ninth inning, Brett was batting with one on and two out.  He hit a 2-run homer off Goose Gossage to give Kansas City a 5-4 lead.  As Brett crossed home, Yankees manager Billy Martin asked to see the bat.  The umpires conferred and called Brett out, sparking his famous eruption.  Ultimately the home-run was reinstated on the grounds that Martin should have asked to see the bat before Brett got to the plate.  The game was rescheduled for almost a month later and picked up in the top of the ninth with two outs and the Royals up, 5-4.  Martin told the umpires that Brett hadn’t touched all of the bases, but he was over-ruled.  After the Yankees went down in order in the bottom of the 9th, the Pine Tar game was over, almost a month after it began.

October 8, 1995 (A.L.D.S. game 5) at Seattle: Mariners 6, Yankees 5 (11 innings)

Back in the post season for the first time in 14 years, the Yankees faced an unlikely opponent in the first year of the American League Division Series: the Seattle Mariners.  The Mariners had pretty much been a joke since starting play in 1977, but in 1995, after a big comeback, they beat the California Angels (later to become the Anaheim Angels and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) in a one-game playoff to reach the post-season.  After dropping two games at Yankees Stadium, the Mariners won two in the Kingdome, pushing the best-of-five series to a decisive contest.  With the Yankees leading 5-4 in the bottom of the 11th, Edgar Martinez of the Mariners hit a game-winning double, described here by announcer Dave Niehaus.  MLB listed this game as #15 on their list of the all-time best list; highlights of the game can be seen here.

November 4, 2001 (World Series game 7) at Arizona: Diamondbacks 3, Yankees 2

Even if the 2001 World Series had been a clunker, it would still have been memorable in giving Americans a much-needed escape after the recent terrorist attacks.  As it turned out, 2001’s World Series was a down-to-the-wire classic.  Even many non-Yankees fans (although not the author) were rooting for them as they battled the Diamondbacks, National League champs in only their fourth season ever.  Extra-inning comebacks in games 4 and 5 put the Yankees up, 3 games to 2 as the teams headed back into the desert to decide things.  With the Yankees leading 2-1 in game 7, the Diamondbacks rallied in the bottom of the ninth, winning a Series quicker than any other expansion team in history.

August 31, 2004 at New York: Indians 22, Yankees 0

This nail-biter represented the biggest margin of loss in Yankees history; according to ESPN (see above link) even Jeter left the clubhouse before reporters could come in.

October 20, 2004 (A.L.C.S. game 7) at New York: Red Sox 10, Yankees 3

Of all of the teams that had lost the first three games of a baseball playoff series, only two had even gone as far as game 6.  The Sox were the first to force a game 7 after dropping the first three, and it seemed perfectly logical that they would find a way to blow it after getting the Nation’s hopes up.  But on the strength of Derek Lowe’s pitching and Johnny Damon’s grand slam, the Sox completed their comeback with a 10-3 win, going on to beat the Cardinals in the World Series for their first championship since 1918.  It’s too bad that no World Series trophy will be raised in Boston in 2011, but there’s always next year–and the hope that by opening day in 2012, the Yankees will have added more great losses to this list.

September 30, 2011

#26) “Hello…VADGE!”

Recently we were talking to a friend of ours who had just gotten into a relationship.  She liked this guy she had started dating, but felt he was a little bit passive in some areas…such as the bedroom.  She would be flirty, she was saying.  Affectionate.  A little bit teasing.  And he didn’t seem to be picking up on the signals.

“Look,” said M., “Sometimes you just need to be direct.”  She pointed just below her waist and said, “Hello…vadge!“*

This line has become somewhat of an ongoing joke with us, but it actually, I’ve found, has some interesting implications beyond its blueness.  I’ve come to adapt this crude nickname for female genitalia to stand for anything good that I have that’s right under my nose but is going unappreciated as I bemoan the things that I don’t have.  (After all, I don’t want to catch myself behaving like Kayla of post #25).  “Hello…vadge!” has become a mantra that reminds me that through all of life’s ups and downs there are things for which to be thankful.  Just as I’ve caught myself asking, “Is that all you got me?” I also catch myself resenting not having the successes and freedom I ultimately desire, but ignoring the world before me, desperately pointing to its undercarriage and saying, “Hello….VADGE!”

Another side of this phrase is how it empowers the one who says it.  There are times in life when you just have to be direct.  Don’t ask, don’t get: that’s how the universe works.   Fortunately for our friend, she did ask, although I’m guessing probably not with the exact phrasing that was suggested.  Did she get?  Let’s just say that we haven’t heard her complain about that aspect of her relationship since then.

*I’ve used the spelling I’ve seen used by Sarah Silverman, Denis Leary and several others.  I’ve always been partial to the shorter “vag”, but I can understand why this spelling is more phonetically user-friendly, rhyming with “badge”, “Madge”, etc.

September 18, 2011

#25) “Is that all you got me?” (Learning from a 7-year old)

Four years ago, I had a young piano student named Kayla who provided me with two of the more memorable moments of my teaching career.  The first was the inspiration for my Maestro’s Musings blog “Still Their Son“.  The second was a little less warm and fuzzy, but perhaps more thought provoking.

For Christmas, I made T-shirts for several of my students, with a photo from a recent recital.  When I gave Kayla hers, she inspected it and then said, “Is this all you got me?”  I found the comment at least as funny as it was offensive; I’m not exactly known as the most polite person in the world myself, and while some people may have been more taken aback, I saw the “out of the mouths of babes” humor in it.  The Orange County force was strong in this one.

But the remark has stuck with me, not because of its humor or its rudeness; because of its relevance to me.   With the Law of Attraction being what it is, it’s no surprise that I’ve found music students who share my qualities, for better or worse.  One of them is the greed expressed by Kayla, which may have been understandable for a seven year old, but a little less so from a grown man.  When it comes to the various branches of Trail Head Enterprises, I’ve caught myself asking, “Is that all you got me?”

I’ll check in to see how many page views I’ve had on (107 so far today) and then immediately click “refresh” to see if there are any additional ones in the three seconds that have passed by.  (Nope, not this time.)  I’ll log onto Shutterstock and see if I’ve had any new photos downloaded.  Usually I haven’t, but on those occasions when I have, instead of enjoying it, I find myself clicking the dreaded “refresh” button again.  After all, sometimes buyers on that site buy in bulk, and with 25 downloads a day available to them in their subscriptions, it’s only natural to hope that several of them will be from my portfolio.

But of course, this type of impatience, while perhaps a byproduct of the information age, doesn’t yield long-term productivity.  In reflecting upon my first year in stock photography on my Nature Pic Mercenary blog, I noted that I need to enjoy photography for its own sake, not just because I can make some extra money at it.   In the bigger picture, being grateful for what I have is likely to attract more good things.  It’s a hard enough lesson for an adult to grasp, so I can only imagine what it was like for poor Kayla.  (Cool, I’m up to 123 now!)

September 18, 2011

#24) The Last Meals Project

Recently I came across the Last Meals Project, an online gallery by Jonathon Kambouris consisting of photos of death row inmates with their last meals super-imposed.  There’s a certain starkness to the work, and it’s hard not to look at these pictures and feel a sense of loss, for the lives the condemned took, and in some cases perhaps for the prisoner themselves.   In all probability, few tears will be shed over the loss of high-profile offenders such as Timothy McVeigh (mint ice cream) and Ted Bundy (steak, eggs and hash browns), but some of the lesser-known convicts undoubtedly had troubled lives.  Of course, had the victims of James Autry (burger, fries and Dr. Pepper) or Reginald Reeves (fried chicken and Coke) or any of the other killers shown here been my loved ones, I would have been happy to give the accused a knuckle sandwich as their last meal.  Nevertheless, the subjects of Kambouris’s project were human beings, regardless of what their crimes may have been.

The public knowledge of what a condemned killer ate for their last meal begs questions.  It’s natural to have at least some curiosity about why they may have picked what they did.   Sweets seem to be an obvious choice: besides McVeigh’s ice cream, other dessert items displayed here include an ice cream sandwich, Jolly Ranchers and chocolate chip cookies.  Comfort foods were also popular, such as Reeves’s chicken, and the oatmeal picked by Stanley “Tookie” Williams, executed in 2005 at San Quentin amid much public controversy.   There’s also a bleak minimalism to some of the food selections.  Aileen Wournous, portrayed by Charlize Theron in the film “Monster”, went out with a cup of coffee.  One prisoner had only a tortilla and water; another a single olive; another declined altogether.  (Since this blog was originally published, Troy Davis, convicted for the 1989 murder of an off-duty police officer, was executed in Georgia, and he also declined a last meal.)

There are some rather unusual items too.  One killer decided to have a jar of dill pickles for his last meal.  Another requested the Eucharist sacrament, and one asked for “justice, equality and world peace.”

Kambouris avoids explicitly commenting on the death penalty, acknowledging that pro or con arguments are “emotionally loaded”, although it’s not hard to detect a liberal slant in the information he presents.  If Kambouris’s goal was to give viewers pause and cause them to reflect upon the death penalty, regardless of any political affiliation, in my case, he certainly succeeded.

September 2, 2011

#23) Kyle 18

Yesterday I was listening to Jim Rome’s radio show, and he announced that “Kyle 18” was going to be the next guest.  I figured this might be some stage handle for a wrestler, but as Rome explained, it actually refers to the fact that it was the 18th show in a row on which a guest was named Kyle.  That, in and of itself, is an example of Rome’s offbeat appeal: as he explained, the streak started out organically, by chance if you will, but before long, they realized they had something going and made a point of getting a guest named Kyle as many times in a row as they could.  (Kyle 19 will be New York Jets running back Kyle Wilson.)

But back to Kyle 18.  Kyle Spicka, a semi-pro paintballer, is quite an interesting story.  As he explained on Jim Rome’s show, his journey to paintball stardom was not an easy one.  He grew up as an only child with a single mother, and he worked extra jobs during high school to pay for his paintball expenses, which he estimated at five hundred dollars per month.  He was also unusually short in high school and was prescribed human growth hormones.  Even as a professional paintball athlete, he still has to supplement his income with a job at Nordstroms(!).

It’s interesting to consider his dedication and willingness to sacrifice.  In sports, as in other areas, athletes with the most natural talent, who grow up in an ideal environment, sometimes lose out to those with more pure dedication.   Kyle “18” Spicka certainly had reasons to quit, but he didn’t.   It’s a theme that I see a lot in my work as a music instructor, in hiking, in creating a Web business and more: if you don’t want to do something, you’ll find a way not to, but if you do, things that may seem like obstacles to the outside observer won’t stop you.