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Stay Busy

Perhaps because I am a stereotypical Cancer, an overly emotional, empathetic, and moody person, I was brought to tears reading the story of Jamie Jarrín, the Dodgers, Spanish-language announcer, whose wife died earlier this year.

When Vin Scully retired from broadcasting Dodgers games after the 2016 season, he was rightly celebrated perhaps the best announcer in the history of US sports. Part of his legend was his longevity: he has started calling Dodgers games in 1950. But what most people likely don’t know off-hand is that the Dodgers still have an announcer that has been calling games since 1959. If Jarrín keeps working for another six years, he will pass Scully as the Dodgers longest tenured announcer.

Jarrín had planned to broadcast only a few games this season as he wanted to spend most of his time with his wife. But after she suddenly died, he asked the Dodgers to return to full-time duties, including traveling with the team on their long and grueling road trips. Although that sounds stressful, especially to an eighty-three year old man, it is common knowledge that only time can heal emotional wounds, and that to overcome such grief, it is necessary to stay busy. I can imagine it would be much worse to be alone in the house he shared with his wife.

Support My Nephew’s Youth Baseball League

Donate to Youth Baseball

Although I don’t see him as often as I did just after he was born, I spent a lot of time with my nephew around the New Year. One of the things that we share is that he likes baseball.

My brother, my nephew and I sit in the Dodgers dugout during a January 2019 tour of Dodger Stadium.

My dad, my brother, my nephew, and I all toured Dodger Stadium one January afternoon, and after that he wanted to practice catching fly balls in the outfield.

Alex gets put in the outfield a lot, and he wants to get better. Here he practices catching a fly ball.

On more than one occasion, I practiced with him a bit for his league. Much like his Tío, he likes to hit to the opposite field.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see him play because, in what is certainly usual for Southern California, his game was rained out. Instead, we played a port of NES Baseball that came with his Nintendo Switch.

Old Meets New: The Nintendo Switch port of NES Baseball.

I found it funny that we were playing a game that…

  • is as old as his dad, and
  • I found downright primitive compared when it was around. RBI Baseball was a much better game.

Thankfully, it doesn’t always rain, and he’s been playing in a real league. My brother occasionally pings me with updates about some of his feats. He reported that Alex got an RBI and later scored run on his first at-bat of a game last month.

His youth league is raising funds for field repairs, building a snack bar, and keeping the league running. I peeked at the league’s most recent IRS Form 990, and I noted a couple of things:

  • This is an all-volunteer effort: no one gets paid,
  • It is expensive to run a baseball and softball league for 400 children. Expenses ran over $200,000 in 2015.

I donated $50, but if you can spare $10 or so, it would go a long way to helping these kids enjoy this game.

Baseball’s 4:3 Ratio

Baseball’s spring training season in Florida and Arizona got started with the preseason, exhibition games over the weekend so a lot of people are excited about baseball coming back. As it signals that winter will soon abate and that spring will soon be here.

Eric Chesterson posted a cool historical explainer on the evolution of baseball’s rules and the development of the four balls–to–three strikes ratio at the plate.

1889 was the year the league finally found the right balance. The threshold for a walk was lowered to four balls — and the three strike/four ball standard would remain in place up through the current day. Batting averages and run scoring immediately rebounded to previous levels.

When I was around six or seven years old and first learning the rules of baseball, probably at my dad’s side while watching a game on television, I remember forming an immediate opinion about the ratio of four balls–to–three strikes. To my young brain, it seemed fair, logical, or perhaps even moral that it should be harder to get a “free pass” than it was to strike out. Not much harder…just a little bit: four balls to three strikes.

I didn’t realize it had such a long complex history, but then again just about everything around has a long complex history. It’s just that we often do not know it.

Mikkeller to Open Brewery and Restaurant Inside New York Mets’ Citi Field

When Citi Field and Yankee Stadium 2.0 opened in 2009, there were inevitable and exhaustive comparisons between the two. The consensus was, at least among my friends, that the Mets park was much better than what the Yankees had built in that it felt more like a baseball stadium. It seemed that the Yankees didn’t build a baseball stadium as much as they openend an airport shopping mall with a baseball field in the middle of it, peppering it with a few hot dog stands. Also, Citi Field had better food offerings: a pair of Danny Meyer food stands, a beer garden, and vegetarian options.

Many People In Line At The Citi Field Shake Shack - Black & White Version; Flushing, New York

Although both stadiums were built almost exactly where the old parks stood, the two parks were built as centerpieces of urban redevelopment in the South Bronx and at Willets Point in Queens.

The Yankees opened a Hard Rock Cafe that is open year-round, even when the Yankees aren’t playing. I don’t know a single person that would plan a trip to go there.

Hard Rock Cafe Yankee Stadium

At Citi Field, however, there will be a much more compelling reason to schlep to Willets Point during the baseball offseason. Danish brewery Mikkeller is coming to Citi Field:

Mikkeller announced that it’s expanding, and will open its first East Coast Brewery this fall at Citi Field in Flushing, Queens. The forthcoming brewery “Mikkeller Brewing NYC” will be in a non-ticketed part of the stadium, and remain open year-round.

I think the Mets outdid the Yankees here, again. Mikkeller has a sterling reputation among beer nerds with their breweries in Copenhagen, Denmark and in San Diego, California and with two bars—also in California—in San Francisco and Los Angeles. This will be their first foothold in the US East Coast. And although the food options are “safe,” trafficking in established household names of contemporary cuisine, namely David Chang’s fried chicken and Pat LaFrieda’s burgers, it sure beats eating whatever passes for food at a Hard Rock Cafe these days.

Mikkeller NYC is due to open this fall, presumably shortly after the Mets have been eliminated from qualifying for the postseason.

Scully Appreciation Society

Before the home opener at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday, the team paid tribute to Vin Scully by replaying some of the most memorable calls of his 67-year tenure as the Dodger’s broadcast announcer. The fifteen-minute–long tribute included the players from those moments, including Sandy Koufax, three-quarters of the celebrated 1970s Dodgers infield, a video tribute from Kirk Gibson, and even Don Newcombe. The now eighty-nine year–old Newcombe who was Brooklyn’s starting pitcher at Scully’s first Dodger’s game assignment.1

As Scully gets closer to calling his final game this year, there will undoubtedly be more tributes such as these. But perhaps the best tribute to his career is the nearly–5000-word biographical article Greg King wrote for SABR.

As King notes, it is Scully—not Koufax or Kershaw— who is clearly the “greatest left hander” in Dodger history.

  1. I would embed the video, but, inexplicably, MLB does not support HTTPS embeds. 

To The Die-Hards

The baseball season enters its final stage today. Last year, I watched almost every single game of the postseason because I needed the distraction from trying to rebuild my life.

This year, baseball has been exciting for altogether different reasons.

  • I followed baseball’s regular championship season very closely, especially after the All-Star Break. Credit that the subscription is significantly discounted after the All Star Break.
  • I actually attended some games this year, including Opening Day in LA, resumed my annual tradition of going to Flushing for a Dodgers-Mets game, and travelled to Baltimore to join my friend as he visited his thirtieth major league park.
  • The Dodgers had an excellent season. However, the team’s flaws became evident as they faced the Mets, a team that apparently has forgotten how to lose.

Speaking of which, the Mets and the Royals are the last two teams standing. A lot of players will be enacting their childhood dreams tonight as they play in the World Series! It must an absolutely exciting experience for everyone involved, including the fans. Players, managers, coaches, and front-office personnel have spent their entire professional lives for this opportunity, and heaven knows that fans of the Mets and of the Royals have suffered through some pretty terrible teams over the last couple of decades. They’re all due.

But as is common with any winning team, the bandwagon starts to pick up hop-ons. It’s amusing to see many baseball fans, many of whom I’ve seen wear NY Yankees gear, suddenly trade in their slovenly navy-and-white, interlocking “NY” caps for a crisp blue-and-orange one, with a curvier set of letters on the front.

However, I’m excited for the many long-suffering fans who have the warmest seats on their team’s bandwagon. I usually avoid naming people on this site, but I think, in this case, they deserve to be recognized their loyalty. Hopefully, people Googling their names in the future will not be fans of the Yankees or Cardinals…or whoever wins this year’s series.

New York Nationals

  • Michele B. had a ticket package when I first met her, and she was the only one of Sarah’s friends who knew more about baseball than I did. She also initially approved of my going out with Sarah because I “liked the Mets.”
  • Julian C. was a grad-school colleague, and I attended several games with him at Shea Stadium from his family’s Saturday-game plan in the early 2000s. He knows more about baseball than anyone else I’ve ever met, save for the late Robert Sklar.
  • Jill G. and Jake L. are two new friends from the McCarren Park softball world. I can almost see the scars on their bodies from years of disappointing Mets teams. Jill could probably name you every player who has ever batted clean-up for the Mets. For example, she reminded me about Jose Valentin. Jake, on the other hand, is a bit more reserved. I suspect it’s a bit hard for him to conjure up memories of those terrible, terrible teams.
  • Steve L. recently finished his exhausting tour of thirty major league parks. He didn’t finish it in a year, but that’s because he mostly—if not only—went to Mets games. He’s getting married next spring, and if the Mets pull this off, I feel he’ll have the most unreal twelve months of his life. Only a kid and a paid residency at a BBQ joint would make the year better.
  • Eddie and Rich S. are twin brothers I met over a decade ago in McCarren Park playing softball. Eddie recently showed me photos of his Mets memorabilia collection, including his signed Benny Aghbayani jersey. Rich lives in Jersey now so he’s miserable enough to need those kind of tchotchkes.
  • Matt S. is someone I met in grad school and played softball with on our Cinema Studies intramural team. He was always a die-hard Mets fan, and I’m excited that he finally gets to forgive Carlos Beltran for striking out in 2006.
  • Eric S. and I have watched more Mets games together—both on TV and at the park—than any of my other friends. We even had a ticket package at old Shea Stadium in mid-2000s that got us some Opening Day games and a handful of Yankee games. We sometimes sold those at a nice markup.

Kansas City Americans

  • Jonathan M. told me a couple of years ago that he was a Royals fan. I thought he was joking.

As for me, I’m quietly rooting for the New York Nationals. I had followed the Dodgers since Opening Day and, although I had a feeling they would poop the bed in the playoffs, I wanted them to do well. At the same time, I have been a Mets sympathizer but only kinda. Since moving to New York so many years ago I vowed to root for the Mets, but the only times they’ve even made the playoffs since I’ve been here, they’ve faced—and then beaten—the Dodgers. But even now that the Mets have risen to the top of the National League, I’m staying off the bandwagon. I don’t have a right to claim a seat, and after all, I am not big on crowds.

Baseball Curses and Dejá Vu All Over Again

Back in 2004, there was an older version of this site. It was pretty much a blog like it is today, but it was running Moveable Type and I was posting to it a lot more often than I do today. Since 2009, I migrated the site to WordPress and, although I vowed to import all those old entries into the new CMS, I never did.

Eleven years ago this month, the Yankees held a commanding 3-0 lead over the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series. Game 3 was an absolute ass kicking at Fenway Park. The Red Sox were embarrassed at home by the Yankees, 19-8, and were in danger of being swept the next day.

At the time, I wrote the following on the old blog:

Saturday night’s Game 3 was tragic for the Bostons and their fans1. The Yankees pummeled them 19-8. The game lasted over four hours, partly because it was an American League playoff game and partly because the teams combined to score 27 runs. After losing that game, the Red Sox would have to win the next 4 games to advance to the World Series. Fat chance because, as we’ve all heard by now, only hockey teams have come back from an 0-3 deficit in a best o’ seven series.

Then I get into numerology to foretell the greatest comeback in postseason baseball history.

But it might not be all that bad for the Bostons. The Red Sox have retired the jersey numbers of four player’s numbers: 1 (Bobby Doerr), 9 (Ted Williams), 8 (Carl Yastrzemski), and 27 (Carlton Fisk). Those numbers are the same as the score of Saturday’s game, 19-8, and the combined runs for the game, 27. I think this bodes well for the B-towners.

By now, everyone knows the story. The Red Sox beat the Yankees four games in a row, including two epic extra-inning affairs in Game 4 and Game 5, to beat the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS.

Last night, the Mets took a commanding 3-0 lead against the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series. The Mets beat the Cubs at Wrigley Field, 5-2, in a game that seemed much more out of hand than that slim three-run margin would suggest. Around here, Mets fans and their bandwagon seat-mates are confident that the Mets will take the pennant and advance to the World Series.

Allow me to play devil’s advocate. Wouldn’t it be something if the Cubs took the series? After all, there’s a lot of similarities between the plight of the Chicago Nationals in 2015 and the Bostons in 20042. If that happens…

The Cubs would have broken their “curse” by going down 0-3 in a league championship series to a New York team and then won four games in a row to advance to the World Series.

It’s also hard to overlook that both cursed teams have the same general manager in Theo Epstein. Too bad Ramiro Mendoza wasn’t around to pitch last night for the Cubbies.

This afternoon, about two hours before the NLCS Game 4 takes place at Wrigley Field, this outcome seems unthinkable. But baseball is a strange game. The Cubs still have a chance to advance to the World Series, and if they win, it would be, as someone who passed away earlier this year reputedly said, “dejá vu all over again.”

Update: I did some post-facto “research,” and found that Phil Rogers at has also linked the 2004 Red Sox and the 2015 Cubs to Theo Epstein and a 0-3 deficit to a New York team. Also similar, Rogers refers to the Cubs by their location, calling them the “North Siders.” Cute.

  1. At the time, I apparently referred to baseball teams by their city names. It now seems strange that I ever did that. 
  2. There I go…naming baseball teams after their cities again. 

Remembering Iron Man Made Me Feel Like an Old Man

Late last night, I said to my friend who turned 40 years old late last year: “Hey, do you want to hear something that will make you feel old?”

“Cal Ripken broke Lou Gerhig’s streak twenty years ago today.”

Ripken 2,131

Cal Ripken Jr. playing in his record-breaking 2,131 consecutive game (AP Photo/Denis Paquin)

And, if that wasn’t enough, he went yard in that game to give the Orioles the lead.

Gardening Leave Bears Little Fruit

Pardon my silence over the last three weeks. I was asked to take an unpaid gardening leave for two weeks, and I stayed away from the computer as much as I could. And after my digital sabbatical was over, the beginning of the semester loomed on the horizon. Between the two, I stopped posting on this site.

I should have said something about it, but I was surprised as anyone that I would take such an extended leave from posting.

Before starting my leave, I planned to a bunch of awesome things, although tending to a garden was not one of them, including:

  • Visiting my friend Joe in Maine. He works there during the summer, and invited me to spend some time in the summer resort town of Northeast Harbor. Having never been before, it sounded like paradise.
  • Join my friend Steve in Baltimore as he watches a baseball game at a thirtieth different ballpark. Over the last three years, Steve leveraged all the spending his business generates into frequent flyer miles. Those miles allowed him to travel to a bunch of different cities to watch a baseball game at every current major league ballpark. His last stop was on August 17, at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore. He’s not sure whether he’s going to do the International League or the Pacific Coast League next…or whether he’ll ever attend another baseball game again.
  • Hit the beach. It’s only in the last few years that I’ve been going to the beaches around here, and it’s pretty easy to bike to many of the beaches around here.
  • Organize my living and working space. Since I switched to the other side of the Newtown Creek, I’ve been uninspired to unpack the boxes I used to carry and hold my possessions. Going on cleaning and organizing binges used to be an embarrassing indulgence.
  • Go to Block Island or somewhere similarly exotic. As well as bikes and trains work together, bikes and ferries work even better. I had considered doing something like riding my bike out to Montauk and then catching the ferry to Block Island. But I could never find a time to do that.

As is the case with most of my grand plans, I did very few of these. Yes, I did go to the beach once, and I did go to Baltimore to watch the Mets play at Citi Field South Camden Yards with Steve and a few friends. But I didn’t visit any new places, such as the northeastern coast of Maine or one of America’s “Last Great Places”. Instead, I did a few familiar bike rides.

  1. Biked to Peekskill. This was a Monday ride that turned into an opportunity to enjoy dollar-oysters at the Peekskill’s Brewery. It however started as a coin-toss ride. My friend Brian and I rode the Westchester and Putnam county trails to Carmel, then rode on NY-301 to the junction with US-9. There we flipped a coin. Heads: we turned right to Beacon; Tails: we turned left to Peekskill. Since neither of us had a coin, I asked Siri to do so. At first, it gave us a smart-ass response: “You’re never going to believe this, but the coin landed on its edge.” We flipped again, Siri said “tails,” and we headed south to Peekskill. I’m considering making this a formal club ride, calling it something like “Heads Beacon, Tails Peekskill.”
  2. Biked to Philadelphia. I am planning to write a dedicated post about this ride. In the meantime, suffice to say that I had planned to ride all the way to Baltimore, over two days, to meet my friend Steve for that game at his thirtieth major-league park. However, after riding 97 miles to Philadelphia in 95°F heat, I decided it would be better to ship my bike back to New York and take a bus to Baltimore. The ride did serve as a testing ground for my canonical route to Philadelphia.
  3. Biked to Amagansett. Like the aborted ride to Baltimore, this was supposed to a Babylon-to-Montauk ride. On the same day as this ride through the Hamptons, our house was hosting a BBQ—a DreBQ as we call it out here. Since I didn’t want to miss the party, I aimed to return to NYC on the 3:30 PM train out of Montauk, which would put me in NYC by 7:00 PM. A couple of mechanical issues delayed our group’s progress so I bailed in Amagansett to catch that Montauk train along its westbound route. Until we had those flats, after the first half of the ride, we were due to finish the whole 92-mile course in about six hours.

And since returning to work, I assembled syllabi for three classes:

  1. Media Technologies at CUNY Queens College
  2. Media Criticism, also at Queens College
  3. Latin American Film, a new class at Pratt Institute

With the long summer break and my own gardening leave behind me and the semester beginning today, I recognize that I didn’t completely “turn off” during the break or do something completely unfamiliar. But I did do things that I enjoy and do pretty well.

And, yes, I’ll resume posting to this site again.

Going Dutch

Last Thursday night, I was watching the LA feed of the Dodgers-Phillies game in Los Angeles. As is the case with all Dodgers home games, Vin Scully was calling the game. In the sixth inning, the Philadelphia pitcher Severino Gonzales was struggling with his control and walked Andre Eithier. After the walk, the Phillies catcher jumps out of his crouch and jogs to the pitching mound to calm his pitcher. Vin Scully colorfully narrated the mound visit, saying, “and Cameron Rupp goes out there like a Dutch uncle to talk to him.”

What on earth is a dutch uncle?

Many, many years ago, the renown film scholar Thomas Elsaesser, who is an Englishman with a post at the University of Amsterdam, visited NYU. At a large dinner held in his honor, he told me that the English have at least one-hundred expressions that are derogatory to the Dutch. He offered this pearl of wisdom after I jokingly asked Elsaesser whether we were each “going dutch” as we were presented the check, although I believe NYU ultimately paid for the dinner.

The many derogatory expressions makes sense considering England and the Netherlands are neighboring countries, separated by the North Sea, who fought a series of wars in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries over trade routes and imperialism. It’s no secret that the people in one nation generally take a degrading view towards their neighbors. Consider the American expression Canadian tuxedo and the countless things people in the southwest say about Mexicans.

To the English, a dutch uncle is someone who advises by admonishment. It is, as the Wikipedia entry succinctly puts it, the opposite of someone who is “avuncular or uncle-like.”

This, of course, begs the question of the other English-language expressions that demean the Dutch. Sjoerd Mullender, a programmer at Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica in Amsterdam has compiled a list of English-language expressions featuring the Dutch. As he points out, most of these phrases are “unfavourable” to the Dutch.

Some of these I already knew, such as…

  • dutch angle: In cinematography, framing at an unconventional, titled angle. I figured it was shorthand for a “weird” angle.
  • dutch courage: Newly found courage after a few drinks.
  • going dutch: Making everyone pay for their own meal. It is related to the term “dutch treat,” which Mullender notes is “not a treat at all.”
  • dutch oven: Something used for cooking. But I was most familiar with the definition Mullender describes as “a prank where one farts under a blanket while holding a victim there.”

But, of course, there are many others that are truly eyebrow-raising, such as…

  • dutch act: suicide
  • dutch generosity: stinginess
  • dutch headache: a hangover
  • dutch widow: a prostitute
  • dutch concert: A great noise and uproar, like that made by a party of drunken Dutchmen, some singing, others quarreling, speechifying, etc.

Read the whole list on Mullender’s website and try not to think about the even worse expressions the English have for the Irish. And vice-versa.