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.
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.
I would embed the video, but, inexplicably, MLB does not support HTTPS embeds. ↩
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.
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.”
Just as our long, brutal winter ended in the northeast, major league baseball swiftly returned last week to usher in the new spring season. It couldn’t come soon enough.
Although I didn’t mention it on this site at the time, baseball—along with late-season bicycling—was a welcome distraction last fall as my life was basically falling apart. Baseball seemed like an unlikely source of solace at the time because I had essentially missed the entire 2014 regular season. As a cord cutter, it was impractical to watch a game on television. Also, watching baseball at home was, to me, not unlike drinking—it’s kind of fun but socially unacceptable unless you’re doing it with other people.
The unthinkable happened: I managed to miss an entire season of baseball
Even more unusual for me, I didn’t attend a single baseball game in 2014. I hadn’t gone an entire season without going to a baseball game since the Clinton administration. The closest I came to following the 2014 baseball season was catching a few occasional glimpses, such wood-cover notebooks for the hipster set that resemble baseball bats, better-than-perfect games, a film about the late Doc Ellis, and yes, Derek Jeter retiring. It was so bad that I was basically shocked to learn that the Washington Nationals were considered a favorite to win the World Series.
As I was sleeping on a friend’s couch in late September, I learned via Twitter that the As and Royals were playing perhaps the best one-game playoff in the history of the game. That excitement, that connection to other people, and that feeling of not-knowing the outcome are why I loved watching baseball in the first place. After that game, I was determined to watch as much baseball as possible to reconnect with friends and strangers alike. I had felt alone for the past two months and, even if I was always around my friends, they were around mostly to console me. With the baseball playoffs, however, it was an activity we could all share that wasn’t about my own emotional pain. In the end, I watched every almost game of the playoffs anyway I could: on a television screen at a friend’s place, on a projected image at a local bar, or through a streaming device using a VPN. By the time the World Series finished at the end of October, my life seemed to make a little more sense than it did before the that crazy game in Kansas City.
All I want is one more baseball game. “See you tomorrow night!” I need the distraction
For all the relief baseball brought me last year, I had basically missed spring training and was vaguely aware that baseball was starting this year. But last week, while I was in California for a wedding and some other business, my brother came through with an irresistible offer: he had tickets to Opening Day at Dodger’s Stadium.
I forgot how exciting it is to go to an Opening Day game. It had been close over ten years since I had been to one, most recently at the now-demolished Shea Stadium. It had been even longer, since 2001 or so, since I had seen an opening day game at Dodger Stadium: I remember Chan Ho Park pitching a shutout against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Last Monday was a truly exhilarating experience that included several highlights.
The Dodger Stadium Express bus didn’t exist more than five years ago, but it was a very popular way to get to the stadium that day. When we saw the long lines of people waiting board the bus, one guy in our crew called an Uber to take us to the stadium. It was a foolish decision because the driver couldn’t get us any closer than a mile from the stadium. We ended up getting out of the car and hiking up the hill. After the game, however, we waited patiently to board the bus, but it took close to an hour to travel down the hill to Union Station. The interminable trip however did not dampen our mood: most everyone remained festive recounting the game’s highlights and debating about the best option for post-game revelry. By the way, the duration and popularity of this shuttle bus service convinced me there are two places in Los Angeles that could really use direct rail service: LAX and Dodger Stadium. I hope to see it happen in my lifetime.
Two things happened around the same time. Pitcher Yimi Garcia entered the game in the seventh inning to relieve Clayton Kershaw, and new Dodger and veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins hit a three-run homer to break a 3-3 tie in the eighth inning that ultimately won the game for the Dodgers. First, we learned to pronounce Garcia’s first name—Yee-mee!— in the seventh. We later repurposed it for Rollins in the eighth—Yee-mee!
Getting reacquainted with Mexican slang and their colorful uses at a ballgame. Although this is hardly what I would call a “family blog,” I won’t get into any details here.
Watching the game in person was not only the best way to watch the game, it was probably also the only way for most people. For the second season, most fans can’t watch the Dodgers on TV because of a retransmission dispute between SportsNet LA and most area MVPDs, including DirecTV. My guess is that the game was available on TV for as many people in 2015 as it was when Dodger home games were available only on ON-TV in the 1980s.
It was not only a great way to start watching baseball again, it was the best way end this awful and depressing winter.
But by notching one more strikeout than Cain or Koufax, Kershaw bested them by one point. However, reading the description of each game, Kershaw seemed to dominate in more ways than Game Score can measure. Let’s see, here. Kershaw faced 28 batters, and one reached due to a Hanley Ramirez error. Kershaw punched-out fifteen of the remaining twenty-seven batters, which leaves twelve batters. Eight of those put the ball in play but failed to get the ball out of the infield. That leaves four batters who, according to the accounts I read, made soft contact, managing to only lift some lazy fly balls to the outfield. Let that sink in: there were only four lazy fly balls hit to the outfield! By comparison, in Matt Cain’s perfect game from 2012, there were seven balls hit to the outfield, and that seemed freakishly low at the time. In either case, it shows how dominating Cain and Kershaw were in these historic games, turning big league hitters into beer league players.
One was perfect, but one was better than perfect.
Hanley Ramirez seriously owes Kershaw a nice gift for blowing that play, like a sports car or a year of college tuition. ↩
On Friday, the Dodgers six-game winning streak came to an end. And it was a remarkable loss. As beat writer Ken Gurnick wrote:
this was a hideous loss of historic proportions, a 16–1 pulverization by the Phillies for the most lopsided home loss by a Dodgers team since 1947 in Brooklyn (19–2 to the Giants) and the largest margin of defeat since 2001 (20–1 to the Cubs).
An even more remarkable fact was that my brother and I were at the 2001 game versus the Cubs…in Chicago. It remains our only trip to Wrigley Field. As sons of an airline employee, we used to be able to fly for almost free. During the 2000 and 2001 baseball seasons, we flew to a few ballparks on overnight flights and often returning the same day on the last flight of the day to Southern California.
On May 4, 2001, we took a red-eye flight from LA to Chicago, arriving super early for a Dodgers-Cubs game. After breakfast and some brief window shopping, we headed to Wrigley field. Both teams, as I remember, were playing well and were probably in first place in their divisions. (They were.) But, as any serious baseball fan knows, your positions in the standings in early May means nothing because there’s still more than 130 games of baseball to play. We expected two overachieving teams to play a good game. We were wrong. Instead, we witnessed the Cubs pummell the Dodgers, 20–1. The Dodgers’ only run came off a Gary Sheffield double. Since we arrived at the ballpark early, we saw the Dodgers take batting practices, and he was hitting shots over the brick wall. No one else stood out in my mind, and that now seemed like a prescient analysis of what was to come.
Because we were dressed in Dodgers gear, we were heckled. Nonstop. A notable taunt was “Hey, Hollywood!” We deserved it. We were in enemy territory. Our team was getting killed. And because we had no sense of “springtime” in Chicago, we were underdressed, wearing shorts on a drizzly day that seemed much colder than the afternoon temperature of 57°.
My brother and I had a strict policy of not leaving a game early. However, we agreed that if the Cubs scored twenty runs, we’re outta here. But we came back only to see that the relief pitcher for the bottom of the eighth inning was utility infielder Chris Donnells, who threw three pitches to end an eighth-run eighth inning.
This morning, my brother reminded me of that game. It was bad. But it was also great and not only in how bad it was. Thanks, brother, for the reminder.
Since last night’s Mets-Dodgers game was rained out last night and because the Dodgers apparently have a long plane ride home tomorrow afternoon, those of us holding tickets to tonight’s game end up getting in to a single-admission double header.
I miss the old days when they would actually schedule double headers like these. Consequently, when these kinds of games end up happening, it really makes me happy.
The only downside is that it’s pretty windy today so it might be tough sitting out there for about six to seven hours. I guess that’s why we have gift shops for….