Thursday, May 25, 2006

Richie Renard Gets The 4-1-1 On 619

Few of us proud Americans can forget the scene where Gil Renard was taking his son Richie to the S.F. Giants game and, as the Stones’ “Start Me Up” blared through the van’s speakers and a bet-up bobblehead bobbled, Gil was telling his son how great Mick and the boys are.
Richie to Dad, “Jason Pelligrini’s dad says that Mick Jagger is gay.”
Gil (scoffing and snarling): “Jason Pelligrini’s dad takes it up the ass.”

Clearly, Gil Renard was not mentally stable – which accounts for why he fatally stabbed Primo in the sauna (so that Bobby Rayburn would no longer have to wear his Atlanta Braves #11 shirt under his Giants #33 shirt) and why, during that ballgame monsoon later in the season, Gil, dressed as the home-plate umpire, slashed the throat of #46 Jimmy Lanz.

Look … I would have Sharpie’d either an “11” or a “46” on my softball cleats, but then I said a prayer for Primo (Benicio Del Toro) and one for Jimmy Lanz (John Kruk) and then I hugged the Mrs. and confessed what she already knew:
“ ‘The Fan’ isn’t merely the biggest piece-o’-crap sports movie of all-time, but probably the biggest waste of celluloid in the history of the universe.”
Worst … movie … ever!
Of all-time.
Which is why we still fire up that DVD from time to time.
Just for kicks
If only Joel, Crow and Tom Servo could watch it with us.

As with “Cobra” (which got special props yesterday), the bobblehead was the best actor in the movie.

Without a doubt, the Reggie Bush #5 Saints jersey fallout – first with the ruling by the NFL competition committee to disallow Bush from wearing #5 and then Bush’s decision to have a big “2” and a “5” on his Saints shirt – definitely is remiscent of the movie conflict between Bobby Rayburn #33 and Primo #11 (with Krukker uttering his only line of the movie – “Now we ALL get to wear the number” when the Giants honored their slain-in-the-sauna outfielder with a #11 on the sleeve).

The Haystack already addressed the #25 issue as it pertained to the Phillies and Del Unser/Milt Thompson/Gregg Jefferies/Jim Thome/David Bell … but this Saints #5 issue is HUGE, vis-à-vis the “Non-Traditional Running Back Jersey Number Paradigm.”
On the federal level, the NFL’s ruling is as much about idealism as it about being prudent. In the NFL, there is only ONE #5 – and he plays QB in Philly.
Why else do ya think the league has shipped #5 Kerry Collins and #5 Jeff Garcia all over the landscape? It’s to confuse the consumer and snag #5 jersey sales in Carolina, New Orleans, the Meadowlands, Southern Cal, Northern Cal, Cleveland and Detroit.
A kid would be better off buying a Dieter Brock #5 L.A. Rams throwback or a Terry Hanratty #5 Steelers model.

Now, we all know that, back in the day, Paul Hornung continued his #5-wearin’ ways when he went from Notre Dame to the Packers. Actually, when we were kids, we all remember how the Chiefs had a running back wearing #1 (Mike Adamle) and a running back #14 (Ed Podolak).
Since we were kids, we weren’t sure whether we were more impacted by the jersey numbers worn by those white running backs or the fact that they were, in fact, white running backs.

The NFL put and end to all of that in the mid-‘70s (kooky numbers and white running backs). It was a necessary move … a ruling of great vision. The NFL didn’t want to become a freak show like The MLB with relief pitchers named Wild Thing wearing #99 or a catcher like Benito Santiago wearing #09. The NFL couldn’t afford the bad publicity of weirdos from other sports, center-icemen named Gretzky and Lemieux expressing individuality by wearing non-traditional numbers on their sweaters such as 99 and 66.

The NFL wants order and tradition. The days of Hall of Fame quarterbacks wearing #60 (Otto Graham) and #42 (Charley Connerly) and Hall of Fame running backs wearing #77 (Red Grange) and #3 (Bronko Nagurski) … finito!
Those guys, obviously, were anarchists.

Forcing Reggie Bush to abandon his #5 in favor of something in the #20 thru #49 genre sends the proper message to our children, which is what Tagliabue’s NFL is all about (despite what the 47 different guys scattered about wearing “BARBER #21” jerseys in the Giants Stadium parking lot might tell ya).

Besides, if the league HAD ruled in favor of Bush, we would’ve seen chaos ensue as a handful of players would have no doubt filed for some sort of retroactive reinstatement of their college single-digit identity.
All hell would’ve broken loose in Phoenix. Edgerrin James wore #5 at The U … Larry Fitzgerald wore #1 at Pitt … Anquan Boldin wore #4 at FSU …
It’s about “tradition,” lads.
Besides, would Edge As #5 really want to erase from our memories the Gary Hogeboom #5 days when his tightly-spiraling passes filled the endless desert sky?

From a Steeler standpoint, the “traditional RB number” matrix helped eliminate almost-certain fist-o-cuffs such as what would have ensued when Jerome Bettis and Chris Fuamatu-Ma’afala arrived in Pittsburgh at the same time (summer ’96). Thinking of those two behemoth RBs wrestling over the same # each wore in college (Bettis #6 at Notre Dame; Foo #6 at Utah), jeez … a more-peaceful mental image is of them arm-wrestling for the last pork chop in the dinning commons at mini-camp.

The NFL avoided the bloodshed.
And, it’s a good bet that Bush’s #25 jerseys will sell briskly (the eye-black decals with “619” … probably wiser to put those in a basket close to the register as an impulse buy).

If Bush feels a little skittish about #25 as the absolute solution to an identity crisis, perhaps he should order a Heath Shuler #5 retro Saints jersey to wear under his #25 Reebok-manufactured game shirt.

If nothing else, at least it’ll save me the trouble of stabbing to death Heath Shuler in the sauna …

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

10,000 Bobbleheads

When most Americans consider the concepts of "Sylvester Stallone" and "Philadelphia," the first association which springs to mind, naturally, are the “Rocky” movies.
Well ... not for everybody. There are those who remember that scene in “Cobra” when Lt. Cobretti (Sly) and Sgt. Gonzales (Reni Santori) are escorting their witness, Ingrid (Brigitte Nielsen), up the coast to safety. When the trio stops at a roadside stand, “Marion” (Stallone) picks up a knick-knack – a Phillies bobblhead doll, of all things -- and upon activating the bobblin' of the bobblehead with a slight tap, muses sarcastically to the peddler of said knick-knacks, “Big seller, huh?”

Very funny, Marion ... "big seller"? Y'mean like crappy movies like "Cobra"?

Why did Sly find it necessary to mock the Phillies?
It was at that time in our lives 20 years ago (the Stallone throwaway, "Cobra" fulfilling us in the gap between “Rocky IV” and “Rambo III”) when our paranoia reached the point where were scared to death that we might one day see a movie called “Stop! Or My Phillies Bobblehead Will Shoot.”

My inner-rage subsided through the years (through some intense Phillie paraphenalia de-paranoiaziation) and I eventually re-programmed my thinking to accept preceived threats in stride.
Which is why Tuesday night’s milestone defeat at the hands of the Mutts, surprisingly enough, pleased me.
It took 16 long innings, but the life-sized Phillie bobbleheads did it.
Loss No. 9,900 for the history books.

What this means is that Loss No. 10,000 is on the horizon.
It’s now something tangible … an event worth planning for.
And just look it the symmetry of this momentous occasion. Entering tonight’s contest at Shea, the Phillies have an all-time, won-loss record of 8,700-9,900. That dates back to the Phillies’ first season in 1883 … back when pitcher John Coleman had a 12-48 record for a team which finished 17-81. Back in the days when the Philly boobirds jeered second baseman Bob Ferguson for the 88 errors he committed at that position in ’83.

Anyone who saw Bobblehead Ferguson bobble n’ boot his way to those 88 errors surely died long before the advent of the Phillie bobblehead and the release date of movies which mock the Phillie bobblehead.
Even so, the modern-day Phillie fanatic is likely to take one look at Ferguson’s 88 errors 123 seasons ago and relate it to the present … and then say something like, “I’d still take Bob Ferguson over Juan Samuel.”
That’s a Phillie fan for ya. Although Samuel committed 116 errors in five full seasons (1984-88) at that position, EVERY ONE OF THOSE E-4’s cost the Phillies the game.
Look it up.

Now, with some basic math skills (and knowing such terms as “coefficient” and “exponential”), we can project the due-date of the historic 10,00th loss with some degree of certainty. Figuring that the 25-21 Phils are good for 60 more losses this season will put them at 9,960 to begin the ’07 season – which protracts out to the 40th loss occuring sometime during The Great June Swoon of ’07.

And, you’re goddamn right that me n’ the Mrs. will be there at The Cit when the odometer rolls over from 9,999 to 10,000.
My Phillie feminita got on board with the project sometime between Loss No. 8,674 and Loss No. 9,000 – so, I have confirmation that I’ve been keeping my eye on Loss No. 10,000 for more than a decade.
It’s that type of attention to detail to L’s which the public demanded from the Director of Phillie West Coast Special Ops (Shadow Company), circa ’74-’97.

The only bummer aspect of Loss No. 9,000 was that my little sugar plum wasn’t there to share it (she was away for two weeks in Colorado). Nevertheless, I documented the event … the transcript (honest to God) of what transpired on Saturday, July 22, 1995 is what follows:

9,000! Yahoo! Another fabulous, er … “phabulous” milestone for the losingest franchise in the history of the universe. I still love ‘em, though – even if they have betrayed me more than 1,500 times during this march toward 9,000.
Think about it, though: No fireworks spectacular after the 5-3, 11-inning loss tonight? What gives?
Say, you don’t ‘spose that I’m the only person alive who is aware of this phantastic milestone, do you? Don’t look for it on ESPN. I am the sports department, dammit.
Omar Olivares took the loss … but, Danny Jackson pitched well against his ol’ team for the second time in 9 days.
Pardon me – Mighty Paul Quantrill did NOT start tonight. Bobby Munoz made his 1995 debut. The results were mixed.

It’s confusing, isn’t it? Dare not you dismay. Afterall, remember how many folks made a big deal outta the Phils posting a 24-9 record without losing consecutive games? Well, who’s the sucker now? Edward The Bear wants to know.
The Phils On Pills haven’t won consecutive games during this 5-19 tailspin (or is it a nosedive?). There’s more snakes than ladders …

Well, that verbatim recapitulation was pretty vague. However, I think the Mrs. was attracted to me for the very fact that my letters were not cluttered with bogus, sugary, romantic tripe as the text remained cogent and on-point with “How Do We Phix The Phloppin’, Phadin’ Phils?”
The ’95 season, though, probably left me a little jaded – and it probably begins with the sad story of the always-injured Bobby Munoz.
Poor kid. He was one of the primary prospects acquired from the Yankees in the Terry Mulholland deal, yet, after showing plenty of promise in ’94 (7-5 / 2.67), he was never the same.
Historic Loss No. 9,000 (a no-decision for Munoz) was one of three games that Young Bob pitched in ’95. After that game, Munoz made 15 more starts in the next three seasons … and he went 1-10 with an 8.18 ERA.
He seemed like a nice, polite kid.

Unfortunately, in my letter to my missing loved one, I never told her how exactly the go-ahead runs were scored. Well, it all began in the 11th inning when St. Louis’ Roy Bunyan Cromer III (you Redbirds fans knew him as “Tripp”) beat out a grounder up the middle for a leadoff single.
Tripp eventually scored on a pinch-hit single by Gerald Perry before Jose Oquendo doubled home an insurance run.
After Munoz’s quality start and a combined four innings of shutout relief from two of my faves (1996 N.L. All-Star Ricky Bottalico and 1995 N.L. All-Star Heathcliff Slocumb), it all got away when a Phillie pitcher wearing #00 (Omar Olivares) was unable to retire a Card Named Tripp.
That’ll have ya chuckin’ yer Phillie bobblehead at the TV.
Even if the game’s only on radio.

For sure, a classic, 5-3 victory for Redbird skipper Mike Jorgensen, who’d had the job on an interim basis after Joe Torre was fired a little more than a month earlier.
Does anyone know what happened to Joe?
Maybe it was Joe’s fault that Danny Jackson, after posting a Cy Young Award-worthy record of 14-6 with the Phils in ’94, embraced his trade to the Cards (for Gregg Jefferies) by taking an 0-9 record, 7.83 ERA into the All-Star Break.
Looks as though summm-buddeee didn’t keep himself in shape during the strike.
Which was Torre’s fault.

#00 Omar Olivares pitched in only five games for the Phils, so he definitely wasn't the most-memorable member (though his uniform number was) of the Staff of ’95.
THE posterboy for that “in-shambles” pitching staff during this Phillies Phlashback is the guy who took the mound two days after Historic Loss No. 9,000 – a time when skipper Jim Fregosi (probably under odrers from somebody "upstairs") sent the recently-acquired Jim Deshaies to the mound for his Phillies debut.
Although he gave up 10 hits and six runs in that four-inning, no-decision stint against the Rockies, Deshaies REALLY hit his stride in his next outing five days later.
Against the Cubs, Deshaies didn’t make it out of the second inning, allowing six runs on five hits in an 8-0 loss at Wrigley.
DANG! I wonder if his ’94 stats with the Twins (6-12 / 7.39 … a league-leading 25 starts during the strike-shortened season and a league-leading 30 home runs allowed) could’ve been a foreshadowing of Jimmy’s precipitous fall-off from those late-‘80s golden years pitching in the Astrodome.
Deshaies was released by the Phils the day after the Wrigley nightmare.
Guess that ol’ “all-he-needs-is-a-change-of-scenery” trick didn’t work.

Two starts and a 20.25 ERA would've ruined a lesser man.

Maybe it’s a testament to the brilliant managerial mind of Fregosi that the team with a horrid-and-injured pitching staff (which had 26 different players take the mound that season) would finish with a 69-75 record … when 44-100 seemed more like what they were capable of.
Proof: Munoz, Tommy Greene (ace of the ’93 staff) and Dennis Springer compiled a total of 13 starts – and an 0-10 record.
Paul Quantrtill was “the ace” with his 11-12 record … Schilling started off 4-0, but ended up 7-5 after getting’ hisself all injured (again) … and Sid Fatnandez lost his first start as a Phillie (after going 0-4 with a 7.39 ERA in Baltimore), then went 6-0 during the final two months of the season.
Guess that ol’ “all-he-needs-is-a-change-of-scenery” philosophy was a stroke of genius.

Naturally, Fatnandez got hurt in ’96 (11 starts, a 3-6 record) and completely ruined the Phillies’ chances for the pennant, which ultimately got Fregosi fired.
Thanks a lot, El Sid.
And you, too, (injured) Curt Schilling (again).

Those ’95 Phils and Historic Loss No. 9,000 … ya gotta wonder if the ’07 Phillies will be as much fun on the way to Historic Loss No. 9,997, Historic Loss No. 9,998 and Historic Loss No. 9,999 as the warm-up for HISTORIC LOSS NO. 10,000.
Ya gotta wonder if 10,000 will have what 9,000 did – the rare 2-4-2-5-1 double play.
Indeed, when Slocumb struck out Bernard Gilkey with Allen Battle on third and Oquendo on first, catcher Lenny Webster threw down to second base as Oquendo was stealing … only Mickey Morandini made the quick return throw back to Webster as Battle was breaking from third … and the subsequent rundown had Webster chasing Battle back to third; Webster flipping the ball to Charlie Hayes, who ran Battle back toward the plate before tossing the ball to Slocumb who applied the tag for the putout.

That’s the type of magic we had in 1995. The organization which has, for years, battled the stigma of being “too white” achieved a rarity that night when three American-born black players – Webster, Hayes, Slocumb – teamed up for the 2-4-2-5-1 double play.
And, a fourth American-born black player, Tony Longmire, had the pinch-hit, RBI single which tied the game, 3-3, in the eighth.
Of course, it was the very-milky-skinned Andy Van Slump who scored that tying run.
Andy Van Slump gave Phillie fans 63 games of .243 excitement.
But, since another pale-face – Dave Hollins – was giving the Phillie Faithful only .229 worth of excitement, he was traded two days after Historic Loss No. 9,000 to the Red Sox for an extremely dark-skinned player -- the .185-Hittin’ Mark Whiten.

What great times.
What a fun Phillie Phlashback which will, inevitably, take us back to the future.
Just makes ya wonder how long the Phils will keep .272 career hitter Jimmy Rollins and his .242 average in the leadoff spot.

They can sort that out before No. 10,000.
Right, Cobretti?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Bonds On Barbaro

Like a lot of Americans, I, too, was swept up in the whirlwind of ambivalence during the past several days.
But, in the midst of the mayhem and madness of Bonds’ 714/715 odyssey, the tragedy of a racehorse that I don’t know named Barbaro and three (3) Game 7’s in The Association’s playoff quarterfinals, one bit of data that appeared at the bottom of the ESPN screen Sunday night really hit home in this household.
“Phillies IF Alex Gonzalez retires”

News like that, well … when it deals with the Alex Gonzalez who spent part of the weekend in the home-team clubhouse at The Cit and not the Alex Gonzalez who spent the entire weekend in the visitors clubhouse (as a Red Sock) at The Cit, it becomes difficult to reconcile the Gonzo factor.
Seems like only yesterday when the American-born Alex Gonzalez – who was referred to as “Alex S. Gonzalez” so as not to be confused with the Venezuelan-born Alex Gonzalez, although it seems to me that I saw that “Alex S.” reference provided only when the Alex Gonzalez who spent the first eight years of his career with the Blue Jays (’94-’01) was playing in a series against the Alex Gonzalez who spent the first eight years of his career playing for the Marlins (’98-’05) – was the starting shotstop for the Cubbies in that ’03 NLCS against Florida and its shortstop named Alex Gonzalez.
And, lo and behold, it was Alex S. Gonzalez who had the Windy City all abuzz during Games 1 and 2 at Wrigley when he had five hits in 9 ABs, which included three homers, a double and 6 RBI.
Three jacks and six ribbies for Alex Gonzalez in the Cubs’ dugout.
An 0-for-7 effort from Alex Gonzalez in the Marlins’ dugout.

As everyone remembers, moments after Cubs fan “Bartman” tampered with that foul ball which ruined everyone’s lives, Alex Gonzalez booted a certain double-play grounder during that 8-run 8th inning.
And then Alex Gonzalez went on to the World Series and performed well enough to, like the rest of his Marlins teammates, earn the right to the gaudiest of gaudy World Series rings.
So, what of Alex S. Gonzalez? Well, he singled in his final AB on Sat, hiking his season average from .086 to .111.

Now that The MLB is one Alex Gonzalez poorer, it’s time for me to sift through my emotions re: Barbaro.
For one thing, he’s only my third favourite Barbaro, right behind Barbaro Garbey, the Detroit Tigers’ prospect who, more than 20 years ago, was labelled “the next Roberto Clemente” by manager Sparky Anderson.
THAT Barbaro fizzled mighty quick, but at least he helped the ’84 Tigers to the World Series by going hitless in 12 World Series ABs.
Go, Barbaro, go!
I’m pretty sure that right about the time that Barbaro Garbey was going 0 for 12 in the World Series, safety Gary Barbaro was ending his association with the K.C. Chiefs – so that he could pursue a blockbuster career in the USFL for the New Jersey Generals.

Mighty damn confusing, keeping matters straight between Alex Gonzalez, Alex S. Gonzalez, Barbaro Garbey and Gary Barbaro.
In a lot of ways, I was thankful for Barbaro’s victory in the Kentucky Derby a few weeks ago, just so that I’d have a modern-day Barbaro to evoke those powerful Barbaro images of yesteryear, such as 0 for 12 and New Jersey General recollections.

Crazy though it may seem, I didn’t highlights of Bonds ratcheting up the HGH dosage to the 714 level until 18 hours after he hit the semi-milestone HR in Oakland.
Sorry … there’s other things to do than sit around and wonder: “If Bonds doesn’t homer soon, an Alex Gonzalez or and Alex S. Gonzalez could call it quits.”

The most-disappointing aspect of HR #714 is that Bonds, the People’s Home Run Hero, didn’t phone the handlers of the People’s Kentucky Derby Winner, Barbaro, and offer condolences.
The reason for this is fairly obvious, albeit a little sad. It’s because Bondsie is a little ticked off that the horse has yet to be destroyed, liquified and then Fed-Ex’ed to whichever BALCO Outlet Store which Bondsie shops at nowadays.
With an injectible-and-syringe-friendly Barbaro in liquid form, Bondsie could probably get the same boost that he got from the rhino semen which he may’ve ingested in its tasty, chewable tablet form.
What’s the harm here? It looks like the cycle of life to me. Bondsie gets his pureed Barbaro and beats all drug tests which have no means of detecting “LKDW” (Liquified Kentucky Derby Winner).

In many ways, Bondsie is likely sensing betrayal from Barbaro and the thoroughbred’s will to live – which probably explains why when Barbaro had those 23 screws inserted into his leg, Bondsie didn’t offer the big chunk of armour which protects his elbow during every AB.

We’ve come to learn that if Barbaro does make a recovery, he may have difficulty when it comes time to stud due to the strain that he’d put on his hind legs while “mating,” as it were.
Again, this is where the People’s Home Run Champion can assist the People’s Favourite Thoroughbred. Barbaro’s handlers could phone Bondsie and ask, “Hey, slugger, can you walk me through the technique that you most-recently used when you mounted a filly that you weren’t married to? C’mon, dude … this is for science!”

Damn you, Bare … and damn your anti-equine prejudices …

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Cole Hamels Smokes Camels

That is, if Cole Hamels, the rookie Phillie pitcher who made his MLB debut on Friday in Cincinnati, is actually a smoker.
And, if this wasn’t 2006, but more like 1956, we could have a print and TV advertising campaign wherein we could have proclaimed: “Cole Hamels smokes Camels. Shouldn’t you?”
Sounds good. I hear that they’re available in filtered and non-filtered …

In sizing up the rookie pitcher, I’ve profiled Cole Hamels as more of a Kool menthols guy.
That is … if he’s a smoker.
And, if he is … we can adopt his ‘56 slogan to meet ’06 standards.
“These are Cole’s Kools. Shouldn’t they be yours?”

Those were the days … back in the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s, every pitcher was a pitchman for the refreshment provided by lighting up a post-game smoke, which was usually performed in the presence of sportswriters who would gather ‘round after the game and call the ballplayer “Champ” or “Sport.”
“Heckuva game today, Champ. Ya had the ol’ heater really poppin’ the leather today.”
Of course, these expressions were never phrased in the form of a question, which was the style of the day.

Nowadays, the only throwback we have to that glorious bygone era is Jimmy Leyland, the Detroit manager who buzzes through a pack-and-a-half during any given Tigers game.
A half-century ago, everybody was a Jimmy Leyland … either puffing away on a Chesterfield in the smoking car of the train while nursing a glass of Ballantine beer or maybe lighting up a Lucky Strike in a movie theater.
During a matinee or a double feature, it didn’t matter.

As recently as way-back-in-the-1990s, you could see a player or manager working on a butt in the dugout – but, only if you knew how to detect a smoker who was “cupping.”
Jim Fregosi was the master of wedging that Marlboro between his thumb and forefinger as the cherry tip burned near the hand’s palm.

No MLB’ers cup any more.
But, they do dip – and don’t let those buckets of wholesome David’s Sunflower Seeds in every dugout fool ya. If you saw ESPN’s 377 replays of Bonds’ 713th homer off the facing of the McDonald’s sign at The Cit, you might’ve noticed that a few of the camera angles could not conceal the round object in Barroid’s right back pocket.

It wasn’t the Clear … it wasn’t the Cream … and it probably wasn’t a compact filled with uranium-enriched HGH or grade-A buffalo semen.
It was a circular tin of either Copenhagen or Skoal.
In some circles, it’s known as snuff – but, not in Joe Garagiola’s circle. Joe calls it “spit tobacco” when he’s on his anti-spit tobacco crusades.

Either way, it’s clear that with his five stellar shutout innings a few nights ago, Cole Hamels was “smokin’.”
Then, Lieber and Myers pitched lights out on Saturday and Sunday for the suddenly-rejuvenated Phils.
If we are forbidden by the anti-tobacco lobby from using a cigarette motif, perhaps we can rattle off headlines in our brain.
(Always the exclamation point! In fact, EVERY headline should have an exclamation point … maybe sometimes two or three!!!)

Whether we get to the bottom of Cole’s Kools or Hamels’ Camels probably isn’t of great importance. In fact, what’s messin’ with my head right now is the #35 that I saw Cole Hamels wearing during the highlights of his debut.
This coincides with the full-scale (sort of) investigation which was conducted within the walls of the Haystack matrix the other day. I explored the Numbers That Phillies Wear and the Number Of Fans Who Wear The Numbers That Phillies Wear.
What’s got my brain all twisted now – and, believe me, this one’s keepin’ me up nights – are the Phillies pre-Hamels who have worn #35.
The only names here on my worksheet are Nino Espinosa and Bobby Munoz.
I did this research w/o peeking at the answers in the back of the book.
It’s more challenging that way.

Y’see, if this was a Steeler situation, I could simply turn to pgs. 339-342 of the ’05 media guide and scan the complete listing of every jersey number and every Steeler who wore that number.
For example, the organization went 60 years with nobody wearing jersey #8 in between Everett Fisher and Joseph Yurcic in 1940 and Tommy Maddox in 2001.
We can only assume that Fisher and Yurcic didn’t wear #8 at the same time, but ya never know.
It was the 1940s, after all.
I’ve heard that back in the ‘40s, players were smoking Chesterfields on the sidelines.

The #35 paradigm intrigues me – and not just because #35 falls between the Phillie #34 that Andy Van Slump wore for the final 63 games of his career in 1995 and the Retired Phillie #36 which forever belongs to Hall of Famer Robin Roberts.
Time-frickin’-out!!! What kind of king-sized sacrilege is that, to connect Andy Van Slump to #34 when everybody knows that #34 forever belongs to The Sarge, Gary Matthews?
(Apologies to the current #34 occupant, Gavin Floyd)

The thing is: Nino Espinosa wasn’t a bad fella, although it was painful to give Richie Hebner a goodbye hug to acquire Nino and his ‘fro from the Mets.
More painful was the fact that it wasn’t until a few years ago that I learned about Nino Espinosa dying at age 34 in 1987.
What I’ve always known is that Nino’s real first name is “Arnulfo.”
Cole Hamels’ real first name is “Colbert,” ESPN reported – and just think how long it’s been since The MLB had a “Colbert” to embrace.
And, no … not Nate Colbert, quality Padre that he was.
This is about the life and times of Colbert Dale Harrah and Dudley Michael Hargrove when they were teammates for about a dozen perennial-.500 teams in Texas and Cleveland.
Toby and Grover …

Most definitely, Cole Hamels’ choice of #35 is fascinating because it’s so against-the-grain, so anti-Establishment. I mean, when you think of #35 in the general MLB sense, you’ll probably remember that Vida Blue was wearing in the ‘70s for the A’s and Manny Sanguillen was wearing it at the same time for the Pirates – just as two other players from that era, Phil Niekro and Randy Jones, have had their #35’s retired.
Nowadays (in the no-smoking-in-the-clubhouse era), the only #35’s which come to mind are Mike Mussina and Dontrelle Willis.

And now this kid … Cole Hamels.
I don’t know if he’s a phenom or a savior or whatever – mostly because it’s not worth obsessing over.
And mostly because I’ve never done the Fantasy League thing (back in the ol’ days of the ‘90s, it was called “Rotisserie Baseball”).
However, better than a Fantasy League tip-sheet profile is what Deadspin offered last Friday as a Cole Hamels scene-setter:

“Few things in sports are more reliably and depressingly predictable than the arc of a young Philadelphia prospect. Philly fans start salivating when they initially hear about a guy, start shaking uncontrollably a few weeks before his debut, are screaming at a fever pitch once he’s finally on the field, and are booing within the month. It’s a fun cycle. Usually they’re Rolen-ed out of town by the time they’re actually useful …”

“Rolen-ed out of town”
was a deeee-lish phrase-turn.
Normally, I’d find it difficult to argue with such a persepctive. After all, what my 23 years (1974-97) in the Phillie Phan West Coast Bureau taught me was that the Phillie fans who live in Philly neighborhoods are very active (sometimes hyperactive) in the lively art of “scapegoateering.”
This is to say that they speak fluent scapegoatese.
When they aren’t booing Rolen.
Who tried to ruin the franchise.

To the scapegoateers, Cole Hamels and his #35 represent the latest installment in betrayal from the Phillie front office. And, given that Cole Hamels is a southpaw, he might as well have chosen uniform #666.
Homegrown portsiders don’t have a very good track record with the Fightin’ Phils.
The scapegoateers need rewind only as far as I did when performing ther mental catalogization of Lefties Who Weren’t LEFTY.
Back in 1977 and ’78, Randy Lerch was their “Lefty Junior.” He was 6-foot-5 – and with a combined record of 21-14 during his first two years, this was the guy.
Of course, when Lerch committed the cardinal sin of being a belly-itcher and not a pitcher (posting a 4-14 record for a 90-72 team which won the World Series), he got his name put atop the scapegoateers’ shit list.

Lerch, though, was less-disappointing than the mid-‘80s, double-barreled action of lefties Don Carman and Bruce Ruffin. Carman was 9-4 with a 2.08 ERA during his first full season (’85). The following year, Carman was shuttled between the bullpen and starting duty and was 10-5 / 3.22 – which looked mighty handsome twinned with the Texas Longhorn rookie, Ruffin (9-4 / 2.46 in 21 starts).
True dat: Who amongst us doesn't remember where he was and what he was doing when Carman came within one out of that no-hitter in San Francisco before Bob Brenly’s two-out drive to the gap eluded Milt Thompson.
Damn that frickin’ Bob Brenly.

In 1987, the Carman-Ruffin duo combined to go 24-25 – and when the slippage continued, the boobirds were in full throat by the end of ’89.
Sorry, Ruffin … they weren’t yelling “Broooooooose!”
That season, Carman was 5-15 / 5.24 and Ruffin was 6-10 / 4.44 – and the Phils were not granted permission to print World Series tickets in mid-September.

The funny thing is that by the time Ruffin was regularly throwing warmup pitches to the backstop, the Fightin’s were grooming their next homegrown lefty – Pat Combs.
Combs, the Phils’ No. 1 pick in the ’88 draft, pulled a Carman ‘85/Ruffin ’86 when, as a September call-up in ’89, went 4-0 with a 2.09 ERA (which included a complete-game shutout).
If Pat Combs seemed like the anti-Carman and the anti-Ruffin, it had to hurt when, after a so-so 10-10 season in’90, Pat Combs ended up as a DL regular.
In ’91 and ’92, Combs pitched in 18 games and turned in a yummy 2-7 / 5.53.

The cool part about Lerch and Ruffin was that they wore the same number (#47) – and each, a decade apart, got shipped to Milwaukee for complete crap (Dick Davis and Dale Sveum, weeeeeeee!).
The hidden fact about Carman was that he was one of baseball’s all-time worst-hitting pitchers (a career .057 average).

So many high hopes for the Phillie southpaws ...

Yet, Cole Hamels might not be doomed. He can take some solace in the fact that Y2K has yielded a softer, gentler (almost “cuddlier”) Philly boobird – and the walking, talking, non-pitching proof of that is fan favorite Randy Wolf.
Despite being mighty mediocre, Wolf captured the imagination of those Phillie fanatics known as “The Wolf Pack” – those young cut-ups who used to get some SportsCenter facetime by donning Halloween wolf masks and wolfing it up in a lonely section of the upper deck at The Vet every time that Wolf pitched.
Good, clean fun.

In a big, ol' empty stadium.

Ya gotta give Wolfie some credit for escaping the death-grip of being jinxed forever by mega-fatso Bill Conlin (who can eat an entire box of Hot Pockets without microwaving them) described the pitcher as having “the best stuff since Whitey Ford” after Wolf went 5-0 to begin his career in ’99.
“Wolfie” Ford then went 1-9 the rest of the year.
He followed that up with a combined 32-29 record in ’00-’02.

Well, the Wolf Pack’s good deeds didn’t go unnoticed because Wolf was named to the All-Star team in ’03, which just so happened to be the final year of The Vet.
So, that's our Lerch-Carman-Ruffin-Combs-Wolf-Hamels paradigm-in-review. Remember, though: We've merely covered the Phillies’ homegrown southpaw pitchers.
At another time, we could discuss the homegrown right-handed flops of the past 10-plus years – illuminaries such as 1995 All-Star Tyler Green, Mike Grace, Carlton Loewer, Brandon Duckworth … possibly Gavin Floyd, if he doesn’t straighten up and fly right.

So, the ball is in your court, Cole Hamels.
Now the clock begins ticking on the Death Watch … to the time when Berman gets on Baseball Tonight and uses that raspy voice to blurt, “ … Cole ‘Green Eggs And’ Hamels …”
Unless he's already used that one for Bob Hamelin.
Or Mike Hampton.

Or any guy named “Hamilton” …

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Crunchin' Numbers With The Phils

It took a few days, but we can now stop hiding under the bed as we fear for our safety.
That’s because (slowly but surely) the Kobe Kontroversy MAY finally be a thing of the past.
It was intriguing to see how Ol’ #8 in a Game 7 could divide one nation, indivisible under God (so they say), into three groups:
1) The disappointed 2) The confused and 3) The angry.

Sadly, we’re not going to have Ol’ #8 to kick around any more.
That’s because #8 will be #24 for the Lakers next season, as per the recent announcement that Cordillera Cobes will be wearing #24 next season.
The #24 is, evidently, the number Cobes wore when he was at suburban-Philly’s Lower Merion High a decade ago.
It’s also the number that Lloyd “Sweet Pea” Daniels wore for 25 games with the Lakers back in ’94-’95, so do the math.

Here at the Haystack, we’re gonna let Cobes slide with the #24 switcheroo, mostly because the Lakers retired the #25 that my boyhood hero, Gail Goodrich, wore when I was growin’ up in the Southland, an hour’s drive from the Fabulous Forum.
No, I wasn’t the only kid in the Southland whose favorite NBA player was the sweet-strokin’ southpaw outta UCLA, but I was the only one who would, with some frequency, wear a Phillies cap to Dodger Stadium.
It’s true: You can actually wear a Phillies cap to a Dodger game, although you can’t wear a Dodger cap to a Phillies game (unless you want it tossed into a urinal).
At least, that’s what a few visits to The Vet taught me.
Now, the only time that I ever saw a game at The Cit – in the first Sunday game EVER at Citizens Bank Park wayyyy back in ’04 – I was intrigued to see how many Phillie fanatics opted for a game-day ritual of wearing a pinstriped shirt with “Phillies” across the front with a large “25” on the back with the name “THOME” above the numerals.
According to my data, my ballpark guesstimate was that 75 percent of those who elected to wear ballfield-style Phillie shirts that day had opted for a #25 THOME.

Well, here’s the punchline:
At some point during the ‘05/’06 offseason (likely at the very minute that it became official that Jim Thome had been traded to the White Sox), third baseman David Bell switched from the #4 that he’d worn for the Phils in ’03, ‘04 and ’05 and called first dibs on the newly-available #25.

As with Cobes, it made perfect sense from a sentimental standpoint. After all, when your name is DAVID MICHAEL BELL and you’re the son of DAVID GUS BELL (who the baseball world knew as “Buddy” when he was wearing #25 and winning six consecutive Gold Gloves as the third baseman for the early-‘80s Texas Rangers … yup, the same Buddy Bell who’ll be wearing #25 when he’s fired as manager of the K.C. Royals any day now) and you’re the grandson of DAVID RUSSELL BELL, JR. (who everybody called “Gus” when he was wearing #25 as an All-Star-caliber performer for those Cincinnati Redlegs teams of the ‘50s) … and when you’re approximately one-twenty-fifth as talented as your grandpa, Gus Bell, and your daddy, Buddy Bell, well … you need to “connect” in some manner.

None of this point-plotting on the historic timeline is helping us to determine the fallout from the David Bell-#4-to-#25 switcheroo.
First of all, how many Phillie fanatics have retired their #25 THOME shirts to the closet for good – that is, now that their “missing link” to the Phillies' world championships in ’03 and ’04 is back in the A.L.?
And, how many #25 BELL shirts can we expect to see (buttoned-up or unbuttoned, it probably doesn’t matter) worn with pride around The Cit?
My guess: “Zero-point-zero-zero (0.00).”

Y’see, David Bell sucks – so, don’t expect Sports Authority or Modell’s to go bankrupt burning unsellable #4 BELL shirts or #25 BELL shirts in the loading dock.
It’s merchandise that was never ordered.
And probably never produced.

For those diehards entangled in the lineage of the Gus-Buddy-David & #25 co-existence, please bear in mind that when David Bell was a Giant back in ’02 and when he was rounding third and preparing to run over Dusty Baker’s toddler (until J.T. Snow made the life-saving scoop) to score the 10th run in the 16-4 win over Anaheim in Game 5 of the ’02 World Series, David Bell was NOT wearing #25 on the back of his Giants uniform because, ummmm … “someone else” was wearing #25.
David was actually wearing #28 (which most of us have forgotten because, well … the safety of Dusty’s child was foremost on our minds at the time).

Therein lies the best aspect of being a fan – keepin’ the uniform/jersey numbers catalogued in the Rolodex of our brains, just so when something triggers a flashback, we have each and every player corresponding to the right number.
Whereas knowledge of numbers such as stats might help ya win a few bar bets, mastery of the uniform/jersey numbers is more useful when you see an on-field celebration on TV and you ask rhetorically, “Why the hell is Jeff Manto out there jumping around with those guys?” – or when you see the TV replay of a brawl from several years ago, you can ask, “Who’s that who has Sil Campusano in a headlock?”
Jeff Manto … now, there was a perfectly good waste of a Phillies #30 (a .056 average – 1 for 18 – as a Sept. ’93 call-up). Manto didn’t do the number proud as, say, oh, Dave Cash or Porfi Altamirano once did.
Or the way that Cory Lidle’s doin’ a bang-up job with #30 now (even if no one is bold enough to wear a #30 LIDLE shirt at The Cit nowadays).

The thing to avoid, I’ve come to learn, is allowing the numbers to clutter the mind. This was never a problem with #10 in Philly – which has been worn by only two people, Larry Bowa (1970-81 as a player … 2001-04 as a manager) and Darren Daulton (1983-97).
For Phillie fans, it becomes a loyalty issue as to whether they preferred the 16 seasons in which Bowa spent in #10 or the 15 seasons in which Daulton wore #10.
And that’s without factoring in Bowa’s 8½-year stint (’88-’96) wearing #2 as the Phillies’ third-base coach.

Matters are far more complex for John Vukovich, the player who broke into professional ball, like Bowa, as Phillie farmhand back in 1967.
Before he took his front-office job as Special Assistant to the G.M. before the 2005 season, Vook wore #18 as a Phillie coach in his 17 seasons from 1988 thru 2004 – the same number that he wore during the final three years (spent with the Phils) of his basically-unproductive MLB career (a .161 average stretched over 10 seasons).

However, if we check, it is noted Vook wore #30 during his rookie year (1970 … same as Bowa) with the Phils and that he wore #26 in ’71.
When he returned to the Phillies after two seasons in Milwaukee and one in Cincinnati (he was the Opening Day third baseman, but didn’t make it through May for the world champion Big Red Machine), it is on record that Vook wore #22 in ’76 and then #28 in ’77.

It’s difficult to determine how much trust we can put in After all, it lists EIGHT different uniform numbers worn by Phillie great Granny Hamner – #21 (in 1944), #33 (in 1945), #37 (in 1946), #35 (in 1947), #6 and #1 (in 1948), #33 and #17 (in 1949) and #2 (in 1950 thru 1959).
The Phillies’ media guide, on the other hand, lists Hamner’s SEVEN uniform numbers as 1, 2, 6, 17, 29, 33, and 37.
Wait … isn’t that the number sequence that those dopes on “Lost” need to key into the computer to get the clock to reset to 108 minutes?
Stop it!

The thing is, we might never uncover the truth about Granville Hamner, vis-à-vis whether he actually wore #21 (as claims) for those ’44 Philadelphia Blue Jays (as they were known for those two seasons during WWII) or if he ever wore #29, as the media guide claims, but doesn’t.

Such entanglements force us to rely on our memories and our imaginations (and, oftentime, baseball cards alphabetized in the baseball-card Monster Box downstairs). Sure, we could always e-mail Vook in the Phillies’ front office and get the skinny on his FIVE uniform numbers, but where’s the fun in that?
Besides, we can’t check with Granny because he passed away several days before the Phillies clinched the ’93 N.L. East flag.
Honestly ... do the Hamners really need us hounding them?

Sometimes, we have to resolve these matters on our own.

Which is how this "Phillies #25" crisis should be handled. There's no need for a dot-com to confirm our fondest recollections of Del Unser decked out in his #25 throughout the first year that we became a Phillie fan (back in ’74).
Or to recall that when Del was traded (in the Tug McGraw deal), Jerry Martin rented #25 for three seasons (’76 thru ’78).
That is, until Martin’s departure coincided with the return of Del Unser to deliver all those clutch pinch hits in ’79 and ’80 … feats which made us feel secure about #25.
That is … until we had a new #25 -- current hitting coach, Milt Thompson -- wearing that very same #25 while clutching up with many important baseknocks when he was platooning in LF with Inky for the ’93 NL champs.
Again, there were feelings of conflict (only in a good, non-threatening way) about whether we had a preference for Delbert as #25 or Milton as #25.

That is … until we endured 3½ seasons of (gulp!) Gregg Fricking Jefferies wearing the Big Two Five on his back and on his left sleeve.
No doubt about it ... if we took a joyride in a time machine back to 1995-98, we’d discover that nohhhhhh-buddd-deee was wearing a #25 JEFFERIES shirt while walking around The Vet.
Just as nohhhh-boddd-deee is walkin’ ‘round wearin’ a #25 BELL shirt nowadays at The Cit.
That is … nobody who is interested in keeping his/her shirt out of the urinal.

For the mere pleasure of rocking their world, I should order a personalized Phillies shirt and have it customized with a big #51 on the back with the name “SLOCUMB” stretching from shoulder blade to shoulder blade.
Such a gesture would be a little like that guy I saw during that First-Ever Sunday Game At The Cit wearing a #48 GROTEWOLD shirt.
Now, THAT was original.
Not that Jeff Grotewold was any good, really. I mean, other than three pinch-hit homers in a four-game span during the first week of June ’92, there’s not a lot to discuss.

If nothing else, I should venture back out to The Cit and update my files. To bring matters into sharper focus about what the kids are wearing nowadays, I'd probably need to mingle with the Phillie fanatic constituency. Probably lots of youngsters (and maybe some oldsters, too) are climbing aboard the bandwagon and wearing #6 HOWARD shirts.
Number Six is a fascinating concept in Phillie numberwear, largely because that single numeral is what was worn (in my Phillie lifetime) on back of the shirt of Johnny Oates, Ted Sizemore, Jose Cardenal, Keith Moreland, Bo Diaz, John Russell, The Infamous (and previously-mentioned) Sil Campusano, The Notorious Wally Backman, The Incompetent Bubby Brister (ooops, sorry Eagles fans!), The Gritty Gene Schall and, of course, Doug Glanville.
That’s an eclectic group … diverse w/o being wacky like Al Oliver wearing #0, Omar Olivares wearing #00, Wild Thing wearing #99 and Ugueth Urbina wearing #74.
For the record, Glanville was wearing his #6 when he won The First Sunday Game Ever At The Cit with a walk-off homer against Rocky Biddle.
It marked the first time in MLB history that a game ended with a player with an engineeering degree from Penn and the middle name of “Metunwa” had homered over the head of an outfielder named Terrmel Sledge.

Here in the modern day, Ryan Howard and his #6 provided quality symmetry for '06 -- although I never did understand why Jimmy Rollins switched from #11 that he wore as a rookie in '01 and then in '02, but then went with #6 in '03 ... before returning to #11 for '04, '05 and '06.
And, to think that he was acquired late in the '83 season (for the run to the World Series), Sixto Lezcano did not wear #6 ... not even #16 as SIXTO had worn for SIX seasons in Milwaukee.
Sixto wore #28.

So, the next time that I see new Phillies closer Tom Gordon trudging to the mound, I intend to file him in the memory bank ... making sure to group him with the unforgettable 45’s of yesterday, such as Tug McGraw and Terry Mulholland.
Here’s a twist, though: Mulholland wore #45 for all but one of his 19 seasons in a career spent with 10 different organizations from 1986 thru 2005.
The irony is that when the Phillies traded Mulholland to the Yankees less than four months after the ’93 World Series, Mulholland wore #46 for the Pinstripers because Danny Tartabull already had #45.
Three years later, Tartabull was wearing #45 when he was in the Opening Day lineup for the ’97 Phillies and their new bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed manager, Terry Francona.
The marriage between “new manager, new cleanup hitter” lasted all of 3 games (7 ABs). Tart fouled a ball off his foot or stepped on a broken bottle or got hit by a runaway wheelbarrow (I don’t remember which) and his year ended one week into a promisingly-counterproductive season.

It seems important that current possessors of certain numbers be aprised of good vibes (or demons) which may’ve occupied the digits in previous seasons.
For example, it seems unlikely that anyone bothered to tell Phillie rookie catcher Carlos Ruiz that the #51 he wore while making his MLB debut last Sat. vs. the Giants was the number that Heathcliff Slocumb was wearing when he was the winning pitcher in the ’95 All-Star Game.
That’s GOTTA be worth some major karma points.

If it seems insignificant, maybe I should be the one to show up at The Cit and counsel David Bell on his #25 obsession. I’d like to sit down with him … only I’d like to do it with a Sharpie in my hand. We could lay Dave’s Phillie uniform on the clubhouse floor and make some alterations.

Then, when he takes the field that night, The Cit crowd can cheer the alterations made to his shirt.
On the back, it’ll be “BELL .250.”

That's how we make sense out of THAT “25” ...

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Alexi Salamone Kicks Ass ...

... even though he doesn't have any legs with which to kick.

America has shamelessly spent the past few months milking to death the non-story which is The Jason McElwain Saga. The autistic team manager for the b-ball team at suburban Rochester's Greece Athena High was pimped as "The Feel-Good Story of '06." The kid, through no fault of his own, was prostituted out to newspapers, magazines, quality time with President Bush and face time at one of the Cleveland Cavaliers' final home games (when the teen held up a jersey with his name and number on it), a whirlwind of publicity which culminated recently with Earvin Johnson making an appearance at Greece Athena to announce that his production company will make a movie about "J-Mac."

They already made that movie, Earv. It was called "Charly" -- and it won Cliff Robertson an Oscar for Best Actor nearly 40 years ago.
Then, they made another movie like that, Earv. They called that one "Rain Man."
Jeez ... if we leave it to Magic, we'll have a remake of "Awakenings" (with DeNiro as the autistic high school b-baller) ...

Look ... it was pretty easy for everyone to take the bait in the J-Mac fairy tale, which was accurately chronicled as a fraud by the Haystack right from the get-go.
However, the Worldwide Leader known as "EspyTime Theater" finally got its (stuff) together in a feature-story sense and used its airwaves to provide REAL emotion about REAL accomplishments.
What we're talking about is a story which is not contrived or artificial.
And, the Alexi Salamone story is anything but.
It's a lip-quiverer and an eye-moistener.

The SportsCenter feature which was aired during the late-Sunday/early-Monday broadcast was revealing in the sense that ESPN actually appeared to do some legwork for a story about somebody with no legs. We, the viewer, learned that Alexi was born to parents who lived near the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl which, 20 years ago, became an infamous Ukranian landmark for the explosion and meltdown which left thousands dead and thousands, maybe millions, more mutilated from the radiation.
Alexi was one of the babies born (14 months after the disaster) with legs which were twisted and non-functioning. Eventually, Alexi's legs were amputated -- but only after he'd been turned over to an orphanage by parents who could not care for him.
During the interview, Alexi made it clear that it was less of an orphanage than an "alley."

And, if Alexi had not been adopted by the Salamones and brought to his new home in the greater-Buffalo suburb of Grand Island, he eventually would have made the transition from orphanage (read: alley) to an asylum (read: death trap).
Instead, Alexi Salamone was the leading scorer for the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team at the Paralympic Winter Games at Torino.
Essentially, Alexi kicked ass.

Somewhere in the Constitution (or the Bible, I can't remember which) it is written that it's taboo to "compare" or "rank" life's hardships (i.e. Alexi vs. J-Mac).
In this caase, we can make an exception.
Considering what Alexi has endured, it's like comparing an ascent up the Matterhorn to difficulty with math homework.
This is no contest.
As the litmus test, when we watched the J-Mac story in its initial form (read: after someone peddled it to ESPN), we were unmoved.
I mean, so F-ing what.
A kid suits up and scores 20 points in the final four minutes of a game which was already a blowout. Yet, because his story is so "heartwarming," the kid is back on the bench during the sectional playoff games.
This was not J-Mac's fault. His coach exploited him ("Hey, Freak Show! Get in the game and get yer freak on!").
Then, when the games mattered in the playoffs, J-Mac could not be trusted to contribute because he might've gotten in the way. He might've messed up and gone all spastic. Or, he might've taken playing time away from the "normal" kids.

In the movie, Charly wasn't so lovable when the drugs made him "highly functional" ... and smarter than everybody else. Charly was lovable when he was a stooge and a dolt and a goof and a retard.
Earvin Johnson's movie will re-emphasize this theme (or it'll show J-Mac slam-dunking home the winning points in the championship game against al-Qaeda).

Back in the real world, my Mrs. PF7 grew up not too far from Grand Island -- and she occasionally shares stories of riding the Wild Mouse at the Fantasy Island park.
Mrs. PF7 also has stories of her experiences nearly 10 years ago working with wheelchair basketball players ... and those guys have gut-wrenching stories of how they became paraplegics or amputees.
I joked with the Mrs. any time that I saw McElvain on TV in another mini-promo for "he's an inspiration to us all" how when those images appeared on TV, another Vietnam vet fell out of his wheelchair and then tossed that wheelchair at the TV.
"Hey, even though shrapnel from an explosion severed your spinal cord and made you a paraplegic who cannot rise from your chair to give J-Mac a standing ovation, at least you're not a quadriplegic -- and, therefore, your arms function so that you may clap for Jason's 20 points in four minutes which made us believe in ourselves again."

That J-Mac movie is gonna totally suck -- especially when we see those choppy, between-class hallway scenes where J-Mac and his movie girlfriend, J-Lo, talk about the Poly Sci. midterm.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Truth About 'Roid Rage

For the umpteenth Tuesday in a row, I missed "Bonds On Bonds" last night.
Only this time, I had a damn good reason (that is to say that I had an alternate excuse other than "If he ain't gonna talk about gettin' tail from women other than his wife, I'm not into his chemical dependency and emotional instability".
To put it another way: I couldn't watch the ultimate 'Roid Warrior because, ummmm ... I, myself, was 'roidin' on Tues. nite.

Seriously, I got my initiation by tumbling into the 'roid void for the first time -- and until you've experienced those mighty milligrams of magnificence zippin' through your bloodstream, it might be difficult to comprehend why exactly you're eating a bowl of Froot Loops, smokin' a Marlboro, wolfing down a Heineken and wearing an oversized foam-rubber No. 1 hand and giggling as you point that extended foam-rubber No. 1 finger at the TV and yelling, "No you DITT-INT! No you DITT-INT!" as a commercial for kitchen-cabinet refinishing is on the screen.

The rush isn't quite to the point to where you can actually hear colors and taste sounds, but it's damn close. Your once creaky middle-aged body is rejuvenated ... as if God Almighty himself ordered a nationwide recall and replaced your Cecil Fielder physique with a Prince Fielder model.
And, just like that, you're transformed into someone who, with little to no prodding, could be persuaded to grab a softball bat and find the nearest BALCO, errrr ... CVS Pharmacy and smash the front window (we call this "breaking"), walk inside (we call this "entering") and exit the store with armfuls of all things 'roid and 'roid-related.
We call this a textbook "smash n' grab."

How I reached this point was a blessing in disguise. While performing yardwork tasks the other day, I had a big-time run-in with some poison ivy. By the time a physician had examined me, he concluded that the welts, the red blotches and the oozing were the result of either an attack by a Portugese Man of War or a swarm of pissed-off scorpions, so he scribbled out a prescription for a cortico steroid.

Doc put me on the trolley to the prednisone.

From what Mrs. PF7 tells me, prednisone is prescribed to treat everything from asthma to Crohn's Disease to poison ivy to cervical or lumbar radiculopathy (which is exactly what I'm tellin' the Doc that I have when I need this script refilled).
With this new discovery, I'm no longer relying on playing this softball season with artificial assistance from syringes filled with Mometamax, Malaseb, OtiFoam and Otomax (each of them, a different type of ear medication for my SuperPup).
Now, with the uranium-enriched prednisone that I've been chopping up and sprinkling on my Cocoa Pebbles, this is going to be a softball season filled with a lot of six-run homers.

That's what the anti-inflammatory action does to your brain. It makes ya feel all spruced-up and nimble. Even if it isn't quite like when Brundle Fly was showing the earliest symptoms of Brundle Fly energy and mating stamina ("Be afraid ... be very afraid"), at the very least, I feel as though I can model myself after Bonds and get my hands all over three or four Kimberly Bells in one night and then come home to my wife and kids and play Daddy, like Barry does on his "Bare Cares" reality show which I never watch.

Perhaps a more appropriate way to illustrate the euphoria I'm experiencing is to envision that Wheaties commercial which you see from time to time ... y'know, the one where the setting is a slo-pitch softball game and the narration is provided by Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully as he offers his play-by-play of Kirk Gibson's walk-off homer in Game 1 of the '88 World Series.
You've seen it: That player from Joe's Paint drags himself off the bench, hobbles to the plate and digs in against the pitcher from Star Towing.
BAM! "Gimpy" from Joe's Paint launches that deep drive which clears the fence as Scully makes his historic call while Gimpy begins to peg-leg it around first base.

It makes ya proud to be an American.
It makes ya proud to be an American with such easy access to prednisone.

Pre-'roids, I WAS that pitcher from Star Towing, getting taken deep by some washout with a knee brace the size of a sofa cushion.
Now that I'm "higher than a kite in May," I'm the fence-bustin' slugger for Joe's Paint.
Feel my wrath, Star Towing.
Hop in your frickin' tow truck and drive back to Loserville.

Now, pardon me whilst I go outside and get myself all tangled up in more poison ivy. If I'm going to amp up the script on my 'roids, I've gotta at least look more like a junkie ...