Thursday, August 30, 2012
This is for my friend.
It was originally written in a language other than English. There are many translations. Some are more poetic than others. I present it here in its entirety, but I have taken the liberty of piecing together parts of the various translations. I truly believe that the original author would wish for it to be presented in the way most easily absorbed, and these pieces are, to my ear, the best toward that end.
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I had the gift of prophecy, an understanding of all of God’s secret plans, and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but did not love others, I would be nothing.
If I gave everything I have to the poor, and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice, but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.
Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
Prophecy, and speaking in unknown languages, and special knowledge, will become useless, but love will last forever.
Our knowledge now is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. For now, we see through a glass darkly, but then, face to face. Now, I know in part, but then, I shall know just as I also am known.
Three things will last forever — faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love.
Please visit my friend and say "Hi!". Be love.
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
"Teach a boy to throw a baseball, and he won't throw a rock." - Ty Cobb
Baseball players and managers are eminently quotable. If you don't gain something useful from what follows, it is only because of your totally irrational prejudice against sports. At worst, you will find a laugh or two. At best, the answer to one of life's mysteries may await.
Without any further blather from me, here are some of the best words ever uttered by baseball people.
"Ain't no man can avoid being born average, but there ain't no man got to be common."
"Age is a case of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it don't matter."
"How old would you be if you didn't know how old you was?"
"I never threw an illegal pitch. The trouble is, once in a while I toss one that ain't never been seen by this generation."
"Just take the ball and throw it where you want to. Throw strikes. Home plate don't move."
Talking about legendary speedy player, "Cool Papa" Bell - "One time he hit a line drive right past my ear. I turned around and saw the ball hit his ass sliding into second."
And, of course, his immortal rules for staying young...
"Work like you don't need the money. Love like you've never been hurt. Dance like nobody's watching."
1 - Avoid fried meats which angry up the blood.
2 - If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.
3 - Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move.
4 - Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society. The social ramble ain't restful.
5 - Avoid running at all times.
6 - Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you.
To a player not doing well in the early part of the season - "Don't worry, the fans don't start booing until July."
On the economics of smoking cigarettes - "Raleighs have gone from $6.50 to $9.00 a carton, but there's a three-quarter cent coupon on the back. You can get all kinds of things with them, blenders, everything. I saved up enough one time and got Al Bumbry."
"It's what you learn after you know it all that counts."
Why baseball is better than football - "You can't sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You've got to throw the ball over the damn plate and give the other man his chance. That's why baseball is the greatest game of them all."
"Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer."
"I've found that you don't need to wear a necktie if you can hit."
"Baseball players are smarter than football players. How often do you see a baseball team penalized for too many men on the field?"
"You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time."
On Claudell Washington - "He plays the outfield like he's trying to catch grenades."
"Hitting is better than sex."
"I don't mind getting beaten, but I hate to lose."
"When we lose and I strike out, a billion people in China don't care."
On trying to get out of a hitting slump - "So many ideas come to you and you want to try them all but you can't. You're like a mosquito in a nudist camp. You don't know where to start."
To a batter - "Son, what kind of pitch would you like to miss?"
"It ain't braggin' if you can back it up."
"It puzzles me how they know what corners are good for filling stations. Just how did they know gas and oil was under there?"
After being hit in the head by a batted ball, and returning from the hospital - "The doctors x-rayed my head and found nothing."
"Baseball is ninety percent mental. The other half is physical."
"He hits from both sides of the plate. He's amphibious."
On the attendance woes of his club - "If people don't want to come out to the ballpark, how are you going to stop them?"
"I'm not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did."
"It's like deja vu all over again."
On why a certain restaurant was no longer popular - "Nobody goes there anymore because it's too crowded."
When asked by a teammate what time it was - "You mean right now?"
"I only had a high school education and, believe me, I had to cheat to get that."
"I don't know why the players make such a big fuss about sitting in the first class section of the plane. Does that mean they'll get there faster?"
"Me carrying a briefcase is like a hotdog wearing earrings."
"The problem with being Comeback Player of the Year is it means you have to go somewhere before you can come back."
Asked if his preference was grass or Astroturf - "I dunno. I never smoked any Astroturf."
On big slugger Jimmy Foxx - "He has muscles in his hair."
"I've got a new invention. It's a revolving bowl for tired goldfish."
Bill "Spaceman" Lee
"The other day they asked me about mandatory drug testing. I said I believed in drug testing a long time ago. All through the sixties I tested everything."
Concerning an on-field fight - "If it had been me out there, I'd have bitten his ear off. I'd have Van Gogh'ed him."
"You should enter a ballpark the way you enter a church."
Amen, Brother Lee.
And, finally, THE most quotable man in the history of baseball, The Ol' Perfessor himself...
"Being with a woman all night never hurt no professional baseball player. It's staying up all night looking for a woman that does him in."
"Good pitching will always stop good hitting and vice-versa."
"If anyone wants me, tell them I'm being embalmed."
At the dedication ceremony for Casey Stengel Field - "I feel greatly honored to have a ballpark named after me, especially since I've been thrown out of so many."
Replying to a soldier who had written with criticism about how Stengel was managing the New York Yankees - "If you're so smart, let's see you get out of the Army."
"They say some of my stars drink whiskey, but I have found that ones who drink milkshakes don't win many ball games. Look at Bobby Richardson - he doesn't drink, he doesn't smoke, he doesn't chew, he doesn't stay out late, and he still can't hit .250."
"Managing is getting paid for home runs someone else hits."
When asked how good a hitter someone was - "That boy couldn't hit the ground if he fell out of an airplane."
A reporter asked him, at age 73, about his physical well-being - "My health is good enough about the shoulders."
To his Toledo Mudhens players - "Say, I've got a tip on the market for you fellows - buy Pennsylvania Railroad because by tomorrow night about a dozen of you bums will be riding on it."
Giving a player the news that he hadn't made the club - "Son, we'd like to keep you around this season but we're going to try and win a pennant."
"There comes a time in every man's life, and I've had plenty of them."
"The secret of managing is to keep the guys who hate you away from the guys who are undecided."
On the occasion of his being fired by the New York Yankees - "They told me my services were no longer desired because they wanted to put in a youth program... I'll never make the mistake of being seventy again."
To a player who questioned his truthfulness when Casey demonstrated how he had once made a certain play - "What do you think? I was born old?"
"We (the Mets) are a much improved ball club, now we lose in extra innings!"
"You have to go broke three times to learn how to make a living."
On the efficacy of superstitious ritual as it concerned Sandy Koufax - "You put the whammy on him, but when he's pitching, the whammy tends to go on vacation."
Here's hoping your whammy never goes on vacation.
Soon, with more better stuff.
Friday, August 24, 2012
As a public service for those planning a trip to the Boston area, I present this quick guide to The T, Boston's public transportation system.
The T was America's first subway system. The oldest part, dating from 1897, is the segment encompassing Park Street and Boylston on the Green Line. History literally comes alive on that stretch as descendants of the original 1897 rats can sometimes be glimpsed.
How The T Works
There are four main lines. They are color-coded. Here's a map!
The first thing you'll notice is that, even though I told you there are four color-coded lines, there are more than four colors on the map. Ignore the purple and the silver. The purple is commuter rail. Nobody within the city proper considers it part of The T. Its purpose is to keep people in the outlying suburbs from getting to work on time. The Silver Line likes to call itself rapid transit, but in reality it's just a stinkin' bus. You may find it useful if you wish to get to and from the airport, but that's mostly hearsay.
The next thing you should note is that some of the lines are split into multiple routes. The main reason for this is so that those people living along different parts of the Red Line can bitch about how the other train always arrives before the one they ride. For the Green Line, multiply by two and consider taking a cab.
Last, but certainly not least, note that Ashmont is listed as a transfer station from the Red Line to the Red Line. This is not a mistake. Should you wish to go beyond Ashmont, you will have to disembark from your subway car and get on a trolley.
The charming little trolley in question is the most pleasant ride on the system. This is to make up for the Braintree train having arrived first earlier in your journey.
What with Boston desperately trying to avoid becoming a world-class city, The T operates approximately 19.5 hours a day. Should you find yourself exiting a drinking establishment at the legally-mandated 2 o'clock closing time, you will be unable to get home via the subway. You will have to drive, instead. This is Boston's way of thinning out the population of college students. Likewise, if you've just been hired to work odd hours in some sort of service industry, you will be unable to get to your new job prior to 5:30 or so in the morning. This is because Boston hates you and doesn't wish to see you advance.
Etiquette On The T
Pants are optional.
If you feel the need to grope a fellow passenger, please do so in a discreet manner. Otherwise, we will have to hunt down an MBTA policeman. Since most of them are in squad cars driving around the streets, rather than in the subway, this will present a horrible inconvenience to all concerned.
We would appreciate it if you don't offer your seat to an elderly person or someone with an obvious physical disability. It makes the rest of us look bad.
It is OK to cut your toenails so long as the fragments don't fly into the sandwich being eaten by the person sitting next to you.
Smoking is forbidden. If you find that you've somehow fallen onto the third rail, however, we will try to make allowances.
If you're wearing a backpack, please try to hit as many of your fellow riders as possible with it. If you take it off, please put it on a seat so that someone else won't be able to sit there. This advice also applies to shopping bags and briefcases.
It is always appreciated when a baby stroller is positioned directly in front of the exit doors, so please try to do that if you have one. Also, everyone loves a screaming child, so please be sure to exacerbate all situations wherein you are transporting a crying infant by yelling at said child to shut the fuck up rather than using a soothing tone of voice.
Finally, if you are a man, it is your right to spread your legs as far apart as possible to accommodate your enormous testicles in a comfortable manner. If you can do so in a fashion that takes up a full seat on either side of you, that would be fine. Bonus points if you wear shorts and your testicles can actually be glimpsed by the rest of us.
The T provides multiple ways to pay your fare.
You can pay cash in certain situations, but this is frowned upon because The T employs many known felons and the temptation has proven overwhelming to them in the past. Therefore, in an effort to provide more fodder for landfills, you are encouraged to purchase either a Charlie Ticket or a Charlie Card. The difference between the two is that one will end up costing you more for each individual ride than the other. However, that inconvenience is made up for by the startling lack of service provided by the station agents who are supposed to be helpful in your decision of which one will best suit your need. When all else fails (I'd say it's even money) just hop the gate. Nobody cares.
(In case you're wondering why these things are called "Charlie" cards and tickets, it's because of an entirely illogical old song called Charlie On The MTA. The song was originally a campaign song for Progressive Party candidate for mayor, Walter A. O'Brien. A new "exit fare" had just been instituted, in order to raise revenues without having to upgrade existing equipment, and Charlie found himself stuck on the train because he didn't have the additional nickel to pay to get out.
Cute? Indubitably. However, as with most other things, progressives failed to consider the simplest answer in their rush to rail (excuse the pun) against the fare increase. To whit, a lyric from the fourth verse:
Charlie's wife goes down
To the Scollay Square station
Every day at quarter past two
And through the open window
She hands Charlie a sandwich
As the train comes rumblin' through.
If, instead of a sandwich, she had handed him a damn nickel, he could have come home immediately and that would have been the end of it.)
See Something, Say Something
In an effort to guard against possible terrorist attacks (of which there have never been any on The T, so it must be working) you are encouraged to "See Something, Say Something". What this means is that suspicious packages should be reported immediately to a T official (should you be able to locate one.) In theory, this will allow for the suspicious item to be removed, and safely disposed of, without any disruption in service due to inconveniences such as a bomb exploding and killing you. In practice, it means that your fellow passengers will curse you out because whatever line you report something on will then be shut down until the suspicious package is carefully checked out and found to be somebody's laundry.
As a final treat, here are some points of interest you may wish to explore on your journeys.
Station You're Most Likely To...
... Never Reach - Lechmere.
This is because not all trains marked "Lechmere" actually go there. The possibility always exists that you will be told to get off at Government Center, instead, and have to wait for another train marked "Lechmere", which may or may not end its run at North Station.
(By the way, despite the spelling, it is pronounced LEECH-meer, not leh-SHMEER. If you ask directions and don't pronounce it correctly, you will be mugged.)
... Wonder Where That Other Set Of Tracks Goes To - Boylston
There is a set of tracks at Boylston, visible from the outbound platform, leading down into some sort of secondary tunnel. No trains ever go on these tracks. It has been conjectured that those tracks may lead to Dante's fifth circle, but this is untrue. Boylston IS the fifth circle.
(OK, actually the tracks lead to a closed off section of line unused for around 80 years. Every so often, some wise guy suggests reopening that route for service, but it will never happen because it makes too much sense.)
... Get Caught In A Crowd Of Drunken Sports Fans - Kenmore and/or North Station
Homes to Fenway Park and TD Garden, respectively. If you're a tourist and somebody told you to go to "Fenway" on the Riverside line in order to get to Fenway Park, you've been had. Backtrack to your original point of departure, find that person, then punch him or her in the nose. After that, you can all go have some Chinese food at Orient Heights.
... Not Understand Why It's Called What It Is - Wonderland
Unless you know something about the history of that area, you will have no idea why the station is called Wonderland. There is nothing there bearing that name. There used to be, but I'm not going to tell you what it was. This station does, though, hold the distinction of having starred in a movie. That's more than you can say, so cut it some slack.
... Wonder Why There's A Station There - Bowdoin
It's about a one-minute walk from the Government Center stop on the same line and it's closed at night and on weekends. But, there it is! God only knows why.
(A close runner-up is Capen Street on the Mattapan-Ashmont trolley line.
It's located on a dead-end side street in Milton and is basically a personal station for the folks living on that street. It serves 58 passengers a day according to the latest ridership statistics. I know hookers who serve more riders a day.)
... Get Pissed When You Get Off The Train And Find That You Can't Reverse Direction Without Paying An Additional Fare - Copley
Arlington, too, as I recall. And Boylston, for that matter. Also Ashmont. Probably some others I'm forgetting at the moment. Heck, just be prepared to pay more at some point if you get lost.
(Returning to "Charlie" for a moment, they used to charge you an extra fare to leave the station when you got off at Braintree, but if you'd never been there before, it was a grand surprise. It was to me, anyway. Maybe they still charge an extra fare to leave that station; I don't know. Ever since the first time I went there, I've refused to go back out of general principles.)
... Choose The Wrong Direction Of Travel - Park Street
There are three platforms in the Red Line part of the station and four tracks in the Green Line part. There's a concourse that leads to the Orange Line at Downtown Crossing, and there are also an unusually large number of stairways that don't necessarily tell you in great detail where you're headed. I'd estimate your odds at no better than 50/50 on your first time there.
... Feel In Danger, But Will Probably Be Safe - Valley Road
In order to access this station, you need to travel a walkway from the street through a patch of woods and then go down a long double flight of stairs. Except for your possible attacker, it is quite likely you will be the only person on the platform during most hours. Once on the platform, and out of reach of the stairs, there is absolutely no way to get away from a possible attacker unless you hop a fence and dive into the Neponset River. However, the station is located in a quiet residential neighborhood with relatively little crime, so it's unlikely you will be attacked. There were NO crimes reported at Valley Road station in 2011.
(Of course, now that I've published this and given would-be attackers the lowdown, you should probably carry pepper spray just to be sure.)
(By the way, I now find that I owe an apology to Capen Street. According to statistics I've just seen, Valley Road has even fewer riders each day - 44. And that includes a couple of misguided muskrats that wandered into the station from out of the river.)
... Not Get Out Of Alive - Forest Hills
Well, all right, I suppose that's overstating things. However, Forest Hills easily leads in number of assaults reported per year. There were 52 assaults reported in 2011. That doesn't include 4 instances of unspecified sex offenses, nor does it include 30 robberies of one sort or another. You'll probably get out alive, but maybe without either your wallet or your dignity.
And now I'll tell you a secret. As much as I've made fun of The T, I love it. I grew up with the sound of the Mattapan-Ashmont trolley coming through my bedroom window at night - the bell rung by the driver at the Central Avenue grade crossing, the squeal of the steel wheels as it made the turns, the whir of the motors, the opening and closing of the doors. To my ears, it was a lullaby. The system has always gotten me where I needed to be. It has been my ride to work, and then back home; to Christmas shopping and Easter celebrations; to a thousand different entertainments; to relatives and their home-cooked dinners; to church and to hot dates. The cost has never been prohibitive (and has, in fact, been a bargain, all things considered.) For every time I've had a bad ride, I've had a hundred that were efficient. As much as I love some other subway systems of the world, I wouldn't trade The T for any of them. It may be an old and cranky system, but it's MY old and cranky system, damn it, and if you ever insult it the way I just did, I'll feel it my civic duty to punch you in the nose.
Enjoy the ride. If you want company, call me.
Soon, with more better sTuff.
Monday, August 20, 2012
Oh, OK, I suppose, "We're going to have to amputate your penis" might be worse. Also, "Man, we were so drunk! Remember that girl from last night? I think it was your mom!" However, those would be specialized situations not affecting the entire population. Back To School was for everybody.
[Most of us look happy, but it's a lie. Our parents told us to be sure to smile or else we wouldn't get any supper that evening.]
Now, I realize there will be some lunatic in the crowd who will opine, "But, I loved school! Those were the best years of my life! I couldn't wait for school to start again each September!"
Shut up, you pervert. We're here to commiserate, not indulge your twisted memories.
The reason "Back To School" was so miserable a thing to hear was because "School's Out!" was the most joyous phrase ever uttered.
(Cue Alice Cooper!)
OK, maybe not THE most joyous phrase ever uttered. "We're not going to have to amputate your penis after all" and "No, that was your mom", etc., but still, it ranks right up there. Was there ever a kid who didn't know when the date of liberation was due? I used to mark it on the calendar in red ink. When I woke up on the morning of that final day in the school year, the knowledge that it would be the last time, for more than two months, when I would have to pay attention to an alarm clock, gave me a day-long orgasm.
(Yes, even when I was five. After I was past puberty, it only got more intense. On the day I graduated high school, knowing that I would never again be compelled to sit in a classroom, I had to change my pants five times.)
I'll be realistic, but only for a moment. It's possible some of you found worth in your schooling. I, on the other hand, detested every stinking minute of it. The only thing I ever wanted to get out of school was me. It was unrelenting drudgery, with the occasional stunning embarrassment thrown in for good measure, and the only reason I endured it for as long as I did was because my otherwise wonderful parents were adamant about me getting my high school diploma. While they were intelligent and loving people overall, they had a warped view of what they thought that piece of paper would mean to my future. I think they envisioned it as the key to opening doors behind which I would be allowed to swim in rivers of cash.
Not quite. I can honestly say that having a high school diploma has never meant a damn thing in my life. There has never been a job I've held for which producing that diploma was integral to securing said position. And the things I actually learned in school? I have no doubt I would have learned them more readily, and with a better attitude, had I been taught them by my parents, my friends, and/or via my own reading and experimentation.
My Mom, bless her, taught me to read before I ever entered a classroom. I have no doubt that she and My Dad could have combined to teach me everything else I learned in grade school. And by the time I hit the latter years of my schooling, I was a voracious reader who often played hooky in order to go to the library.
It's true. While other kids were at the ballpark, or swimming, or stealing cars, I was at the library with my nose buried in a book. I learned more when I skipped school than I did when I attended. I'm now indulging in self-congratulatory hoo-hah, however, and my apologies for that. The original thrust of this piece (if you'll excuse the pelvic image) was to reminisce about how hideous it was to face the prospect of having to return to school each year. Let's get back on track.
I'd be sitting in our living room, watching TV, and suddenly an ad would come on screen touting a "Back To School Sale". My Mom can tell you that I would literally yell at the television to stop torturing me. I felt it entirely unfair that my reverie would be disturbed by thoughts of impending doom.
(Of course, the fact that the clothes being advertised were the most un-hip and disturbingly geeky items of apparel ever seen had something to do with it. The miniature cretins seen skipping and hopping into the schoolyard, idiotic grins spread wide on their fallow faces, did not make it easier to swallow. Also, My Dad was likely to see such an ad and feel obligated to buy something for me to wear that would completely mark me out as an outcast. He had marvelous taste in clothing for himself, but not so much for a kid. He liked to trick me out in full three-piece suits, a regimental tie with a Windsor knot, wingtip shoes, and perhaps even a handkerchief in the breast pocket, which is all well and good if you're the son of an English Earl, but not so much when you're the youngest one in your class and being picked on to begin with, even without the added ammunition of a Little Lord Fauntleroy suit.)
There are no doubt some women in the audience thinking, "Oh, but you were so cute!" Well, that's the point. Boys do not want to be cute. Boys want to be tough. "Cute" is for sissies. And even the sissies didn't want to be called sissies. If boys had their way, they'd go to school in a leather jacket, an eye patch, a good crusty scar in some noticeable place, fingerless gloves with studs on the knuckles, some sort of weaponry hanging from the belt, and sneakers. Even the nanciest of nancy boys would not choose wingtips, for goodness' sakes. I'm not saying that the grooming lessons My Dad gave me when I was young haven't stood me in good stead; they have. I know how to dress well. That I choose not to do so most of the time is also a direct result.
I could go on, but you all know the bottom line - school was dreadful. There was nothing that happened in school that wasn't better outside of school. Sports, for instance, were fun, but in school you always had some ogre of a gym teacher forcing you to climb ropes and do other uselessly silly shit like that, when all you wanted to do was run around or throw a ball through a hoop. Is either one more intrinsically valuable? No, of course not. But that bastard would make damned sure you climbed the rope before you got to shoot some hoops. Outside of school? Shoot hoops as much as you want and not a rope in sight. Same for every other activity. Nothing was better or more fun in school than outside of it.
(I will now go against just about everything I've said by naming a few teachers who were wonderful. On the off-chance that you are still alive, I will let you know that if you see your name on this list, I'll gladly remove it upon notification. Disavowing any knowledge of you having taught me is the least I can do to repay you for your kindness.
I think that's about it. I could name a couple more borderline cases, but why drag their names through the mud?)
One last thing. There are now an alarmingly large number of schools that resume classes in August. I realize that the summer vacation is a vestigial holdover from a more agrarian society where children worked the fields on farms, but still... I would have blown up my school before allowing myself to be dragged back to class prior to Labor Day.
Do you have some wonderful and happy memories of your school years that you'd like to share in the comments section?
Soon, with more bitter stuff.
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Softball season is over for me. I promised you no more softball posts. And, despite all evidence to the contrary, I'm a man of my word.
(The word, as you are about to find out, is "However...".)
However, while this isn't a softball post, it IS about sports. So, if you were expecting something besides sports, you probably have every reason to feel disappointed. If you wish to come here and beat me about the head and shoulders, I can't say that I'd blame you.
This post is about bowling.
Yes, I've chosen the one sporting subject that might be even less thrilling than softball. In your favor, though, it contains passages concerning me crying, bleeding, and otherwise suffering mental anguish, so there's that.
Oh! Did I forget to mention it's also a re-run? Yup.
Here, from the suldoggedly almost prehistoric time of 2006, is...
CANDLEPINS FOR CASH
I told you recently, and also a while back (#54), that I am technically a professional bowler. I also told you that I'd tell you all about it someday. Well, today is the day. Feel free to run from the room screaming.
Now, the first thing we have to do - if you're still here - is get our terms straight. When I say "bowling", I might not mean the same thing as when you say "bowling". I'm talking candlepins here.
Candlepins is to tenpins as baseball is to softball. Except, in this case, the easier game is the one that you can make a living at. Candlepins is a much tougher game than tenpins.
Why is candlepin bowling a tougher game than tenpin bowling? I'm glad you asked.
1 - The candlepins are thinner than tenpins, therefore harder to hit.
2 - The candlepin ball is approximately 2-1/2 pounds and fits snugly into the palm of your hand, while the big-ass tenpin ball is roughly the size of your head and can weigh as much as a small Buick. While it is entirely possible to hit the #2 pin in candlepins and have that be the only pin that goes down (I've seen it happen and I've done it) any ball on the #2 pin in tenpins can't help but take out at least half the rack.
3 - Tenpins is so easy, they only give you two balls in a frame and they clear the wood after every shot and if you don't get every pin down with those two balls it's considered a grievous opening for your opponent. In candlepins, you get three shots per box and all of the wood is live and...
Let's cut to the chase. Professional tenpin bowlers hold averages in the range of 220 to 230. Perfect games of 300 certainly aren't easy, but they're not exceedingly rare, either - just about every pro has bowled one. Pro candlepin bowlers, on the other hand, hold averages around 125. Heck, I could drop acid and bowl a 125 in tenpins with one eye closed. As a matter of fact... no, let's not go there. And - listen up, tenpin people - there has never been a perfect game in the entire history of candlepin bowling. Game, set, match.
Before we go on, if you've never seen candlepin bowling, here's what it looks like.
No, really, you should watch at least a little bit of it. I'll wait.
OK, back to my history.
At the peak of my game, I held a 111 average. What did this mean? It meant that I could finish in the money (or even win) a short tournament - say, 10 strings - if my game was really on and if the field wasn't overloaded with the best pros. And so I did, a couple of times.
To put it into terms that some of you - unfamiliar with candlepins - might understand more readily, let's pretend that it was a golf tournament; a short one - 18 holes. I'm a 2 handicap. I shoot a very good round for me - 3 under par - and I win.
Would this happen often? No. Could it happen? Yes. In my case, it did. It didn't happen often enough for me to do the pro tour (yes, there is one for candlepins) but I was good enough, when I was on, to be a danger to any pro that wasn't on his game.
I was good at the game right from the get go. I was a natural. It's still the only sport I never had to think about. Baseball, basketball, hockey - every one of those was something I had to really sweat at just to be decent. Bowling? I wound up and threw and the pins went down - at a much higher rate than any of my friends.
When I was very young, my Mom would often buy me a couple of strings of bowling as a reward for some minor inconvenience, such as accompanying her on a shopping trip downtown. I'd often get to bowl a couple of strings at the lanes which operated in the basement of South Station then. I was under 10 and shooting over 90 frequently.
As I grew older, I got stronger and better. My average climbed into the low 100's as I hit my teens. I had my own set of 4 balls. They were a beautiful green and white marbled pattern. God, I was proud of those. Only the pros had their own and mine were as good as any of them. My Mom and Dad got them for me as a birthday present, along with my own shoes and a bag. At that point, I started taking it really seriously.
I'd go to the Lucky Strike lanes in Dorchester and bowl 25 or 30 strings in a row, sweating off three or four pounds in water. I was a maniac. It was pick up a ball, set, fire, pick up a ball, set, fire, scribble a score as I pushed the reset button, pick up another of my balls and throw it behind my back into my other hand while I waited impatiently for the next rack. I'd soak through two shirts and God help anyone who was bowling in the alley next to mine, because I'd shoot daggers at them with my eyes if they didn't observe the proper etiquette and wait for me to roll before they made their approach. I always requested a lane with no one on either side of me. The proprietors knew me, and they knew this was best for their business overall, so they usually gave me one.
I had the most extreme kick out of my right leg that I've ever seen on any bowler. (As a visual aid, look here) On my slide and release, I'd get down so low and kick out my leg so far, that I would, over time, wear a hole on the right side of my right shoe as well as in the knee of my pants. I fired the ball with every ounce of strength I had in my body, on every shot. When I hit the pocket right, the pins just exploded. They'd all go down at once with a crashing sound that is still the most satisfying sound I've ever heard.
I'd throw 750 or 800 balls that way. Think of it - it added up to an actual ton of balls on some days. My long hair would be soaked, my shirt all wet, and when I woke up the next day, I sometimes wouldn't be able to lift my arm above my shoulder. I worked as hard at my game as any athlete I knew.
I bowled in leagues, of course. My favorite was at Wollaston Bowladrome on the beach in Quincy. There I bowled with a team including my friends Mike, Craig and Mark. We called ourselves the Reefer Rollers. There were some people who were under the impression that this was our team name because we drove refrigerated trucks. These people were not too smart and they must not have had very good senses of smell. We reeked of smoke. Before every match we toked up.
I've got to tell you - smoking weed did NOT hurt my game. If anything, it improved it. If you're familiar with the effects of pot, you know that your focus while high tends to narrow to the minutest details. When I was high, all I saw were the pins. Outside noises didn't exist. I was dialed-in. Every part of the experience became its own concentrated delight. I would never recommend smoking grass before a more strenuous athletic endeavor, or one that involves a more varied and complex set of actions, but it was a perfect fit for me and for bowling. I was so on it. If I knocked down nine with my first ball, leaving the 10 pin, I would just grab a ball, fire, and turn my back, knowing as soon as I released it that it was perfect. I'd just walk over and hit the reset button without even looking to see that I had made the shot. I knew I had. That trick sure pissed off a lot of other teams.
Mike was a good bowler, too, and we often entered roll-offs together. Roll-offs were the qualifiers for the TV shows that used to be more numerous, wherein you could win some decent cash. The granddaddy was the Channel 5 show, hosted for so many years by Jim Britt and then for even more years by Don Gillis. It was almost a religious practice for Boston bowlers to watch this show on Saturday mornings. There were also great shows hosted by Bob Fouracre and Bill O'Connell. The stars who appeared regularly - Tony Karem, Tom Olszta, Rosario Lechiara, Fran Onorato - were my idols. I never won a roll-off, nor did Mike, but we did get to bowl with some of these great pros and we came damned close once or twice. One of the biggest thrills of my "career" in roll-offs was going toe-to-toe with the great Charlie Jutras for five strings, at Sammy White's in Brighton, coming up six pins short in the end.
I bowled in Wollaston, at the Wonderbowl in Quincy, at Lucky Strike, at Sammy White's. Anywhere there was a bowling alley, I bowled. There used to be a gigantic bowling center underneath Symphony Hall in Boston. It had 55 lanes. I loved that place. I mentioned South Station earlier. There were places in Milton, Mattapan, Weymouth. I bowled my high single in Weymouth, a 156, which was part of my high triple of 424. Just about all of these houses are gone. For the most part, I can't even revisit the sites of whatever triumphs I had.
Here comes the sad part. Do you remember a baseball pitcher by the name of Steve Blass? Steve Blass just totally and inexplicably lost his ability to pitch a baseball with any degree of effectiveness. No explanation for it. He was a major leaguer one day and a bum the next. Same thing with me as a bowler. I lost it. I just totally lost it. Whatever I had, naturally, just went away one day. And, since I had never thought about what I was doing, I didn't know how to get it back. I tried. God, how I tried.
It happened suddenly. I just couldn't control the ball. I thought I was doing all of the same things I had always done, but now the ball was just flying off wildly. My average fell into the 80's. I was completely embarrassed and mentally fucked up beyond belief. I tried everything. I went to a different approach, I slid less, I tried to keep my arm completely rigid, I started from the left side of the lane, the right side, in the middle, I looked at the pins, I tried aiming from the marks on the alley, I tried throwing a curve, a hook, I tried dropping the ball slightly before my slide, slightly after I went in to it, I tried to not think at all, I tried to concentrate on every tiny little motion, I even tried bowling with my eyes shut, God help me, but NOTHING got it back.
It was maddening and tantalizing. I'd bowl well for three or four frames and get a glimmer of hope that I was recalling the muscle memory that I needed, and then I'd fall apart completely again. I don't think I can adequately explain to you the mental anguish I had, or the physical pain I put myself through. It sounds so damned silly, to be talking this way about something as unimportant as bowling, but there is nothing in the world quite so frustrating as having been able to do something better than anyone you knew and then finding yourself unable to do it even as well as when you were a rank beginner.
I bowled 20, 25, 30 strings at a time, same as I did when I was good, but now it was four or five hours of swearing, cursing, trying to figure out just what the hell had happened and never being able to do it. I finally gave up the game completely. Over the past 20 years now, I'd guess that I've been bowling no more than ten or twelve times.
I don't quite know how to end this piece without leaving you with the impression that I'm totally whack. Unless you've had that experience of losing something, and then trying with all your heart and soul to regain it, then you can't fully understand the emotional wreckage involved. It sounds crazy, and it was crazy while I was doing it, but it wasn't crazy, you know? No, maybe you don't. I can't say that I blame you.
I still have those green balls that my parents gave me. They're a bit worse for wear now - small chips in them and scars - but I haven't thrown them out or given them away. Someday, I'm going to try it again, one more time. Maybe I've been away from it long enough to just let my body take over and find that elusive muscle memory one more time. When I do try it, I'll let you know what happens.
That's the end of the original piece. And the reason I re-ran it? I'm going bowling tomorrow night. Big Jay Atton invited me. And I felt it only fair to let him know what he might be in for.
Soon, with more (or, I hope, fewer) psychotic episodes.
Monday, August 13, 2012
L to R: Between games one and two, we see Michaela (scorekeeper and all-around good sport), Pat Atton, Billy Botting's ass, a pensive Joel Kershner, and manager Jack Atton
Here’s some good news for you folks who would rather lick a pigeon than read another post about softball. You only need to read this one and your work is over for the year!
(And there’s a non-softball surprise, so if you really can’t stand to read about softball again, scroll down to the first photo.)
Titans – 12 BOMBERS – 2
Titans – 16 BOMBERS – 3
And that was that. We didn’t play up to our abilities. Not enough hitting, too many defensive lapses. No more ball for us until next April, maybe May.
I’ll be there.
Yes, Jack. I’ll be there.
I’m afraid I gave my manager a mistaken impression in the final inning of yesterday’s second game. We were down by thirteen runs and he was going to send up a pinch-hitter for me, which was reasonable. Why not get someone else into the game? However, I ended my season by being the sort of selfish teammate I sometimes harbor bad thoughts about. I said, "Jack, this is my final at-bat..."
I meant it to sound like it was going to be my final at-bat ever. And I wasn’t trying to be manipulative. I had told Jack, before the season began, that I was seriously considering hanging them up. I may even have said that I was DEFINITELY going to call it quits, but I’ve said the same thing so often, to so many people before, it probably sounded like my usual bullshit. And I guess what I’m saying now proves that what I said then was my usual bullshit. In any case, in the moment, I thought that it truly might be my last time at the plate. And I drew a base-on-balls, which would certainly be a fitting way to end MY career. But then, a couple of hours after the game, I did the team stats. You know what? That walk made all the difference in my current decision to come back. It left my on-base percentage above the team average. And that convinces me I still have value to offer.
Anyone, whether or not his name is Suldog, is valuable to his team if he can get on-base at well over a 50% clip. Add to that my willingness to play the dirtiest position available? I have no reason to quit and no reason to be ashamed of coming back.
So, I’m sorry about the selfishness, Jack. I owe you an apology for that. You were a better man than me yesterday. You deserved a turn swinging the lumber, too, but you didn’t bat yourself all day. Maybe some of the other guys didn’t realize that while it was happening, and I hope they’ve kept reading this far and know what sort of a stand-up guy you are. You can count on one thing, for sure, next year. I’ll be proud to play for a guy like you. If circumstances allow, I’ll do the same as this year in regards to taking care of some of the things off the field. In any case, we’ll talk soon, I hope.
OK, now that my yearly guilt expunging is out of the way, I’ll talk a slight bit about the games themselves. But only a slight bit, as I’m fairly sure nobody wants to hear too many details, least of all the guys who took part.
We never had a lead in either game. The Titans scored in the first inning of both and never gave them back to us. We gave them an unearned run immediately. We gave them a few more later on. We rallied a bit, here and there, but we were flat most of the day.
This is where I usually give a shout to some guys who performed well, but the guys who did well know it and the guys who didn’t do well don’t need me to remind them, by comparison, of their shortcomings. It’s a team game and the team lost. When we win it all someday, it will still be a team game.
There IS one thing I want to give a few guys thanks for, though, and it’s this: showing up. As far as I’m concerned, showing up is the most important thing a teammate can do. I mean, if you aren’t there, what help are you to your team? So, my special thanks go to Billy Botting and his brother, Jimmy; Drew Atton, and his cousin, Big Jay Atton. Those four guys showed up every week. That’s the kind of team spirit that I really appreciate.
(People have reasons for not making it to games. Some of them are very good reasons. I’m not saying that some guy who missed one week is a jerk. It’s just that I wanted the four guys who made it every week to know that someone noticed.)
Speaking of showing up…
Smith Field is not the easiest place to come see a game. And Sunday morning is even harder if you take public transportation. But two people showed who I never expected to see in the stands: Uncle Skip and Grandma Skip.
Skip is not MY uncle, but he may be yours. And GS is not MY grandma, nor is she old enough to be. That’s how you may know them, though, so there you go. And wherever you go, there you are. And they were at Smith Field.
I was my usual oblivious self. I saw them sitting in the stands, but I was playing and didn’t really SEE them. I wondered who the two folks were who had come out to see us play, but I didn’t imagine they were folks I should know and who came out to see ME. It wasn’t until the third inning or so, as I was going out to catch again, that I took a really good look and realized it was (not my uncle) Skip and his lovely wife.
I was flabbergasted (which is one of my favorite words, so I’m glad to have a chance to throw it in here.) They took the subway, then a bus, then walked. It was a hell of a lot more work than most of the guys who were on the field playing did to get there. As they realized I was realizing who they were, they laughed. Then I laughed. And it was pretty much the highlight of my day. I wish we had given them a better game to see.
I also wish I had been able to spend a little more time with them. We seemed to hit it off immediately; very nice people, funny, unfailingly kind in the face of the crummy softball we presented them with. I drove them back to their hotel, at least. And I hope they will accept my sincere thanks for such a fine surprise.
That’s all, I guess. If you want the statistics...
Final BOMBER stats for 2012
And here’s the team I’m proud to be a part of for 18 years. Here’s to ending the 19th season with a win.
Front: Ron Johnson, Fast Freddie Goodman, Suldog, Pat Atton, Steve Burke, Joel Kershner
Back: Joey Baszkiewicz, Drew Atton, Jimmy Botting, Big Jay Atton, Billy Botting, Tom Resor, Jack Atton
Back: Joey Baszkiewicz, Drew Atton, Jimmy Botting, Big Jay Atton, Billy Botting, Tom Resor, Jack Atton
Soon, with more better stuff.
Friday, August 10, 2012
Uncle Skip (who is not my uncle, but he may be yours) has touched down in Boston. He tells the why and wherefore of journeying to my neck of the woods over at his place, so you should go there and look around until you find it.
We had tentative plans to meet and perhaps share a brew or seven. Unfortunately, life has conspired against us.
You all remember Roddy The Wondercar, right?
(Here is where I would show you a photo of him, except Roddy is embarrassed enough at the moment and he doesn't need the added indignity of my hideous photographic skills making him even more ashamed.)
Anyway, Roddy appears to be somewhat shy around folks from out of town. You may recall what happened one time when Lime was in town...
"... and when I went out to our garage, I was shocked to see a large green puddle under Roddy The Wondercar.
My first thought was that having such an august personage as Lime sitting in him had made him so excited that he had had a huge green orgasm. However, upon further inspection, it appeared that he was just incontinent."
Knowing that he might be asked to ferry around (not my uncle) Skip and his lovely wife, Roddy made a desperate decision to forestall such an eventuality.
Actually, he just plain stalled. In the middle of the Massachusetts Turnpike.
Here's the e-mail I sent to Skip (who, in case you didn't know it, is not my uncle.)
I'm afraid it's going to have to be a no go. Roddy The Wondercar had a not-so-wonderful night. On the way back from a doubleheader, he broke down in the middle of the Massachusetts Turnpike.
On my way to the games, I saw the battery light come on. I didn't think much of it, as I've had issues with the control panel for a while (the odd light will flash on, say seatbelts while I'm buckled in already) and I hoped it was just the usual sort of aberration.
I stopped to grab a slice of pizza before hitting the park. When I came out, Roddy wouldn't start.
OK, the park was just two blocks, so I hoofed it there. I figured I could get a jump after the games, which turned out to be correct. One of the guys gave me a ride back to Roddy, cables at the ready. When I got in, though, I tried to turn it over and it started. It was weak, but I figured, "Fine, I'll be able to drive back to Watertown. I'll get a new battery tomorrow."
As I got to the Mass Pike, power started leaving the car. Every damn light on the control panel came on, one after another, then went out, came on - it was like some idiot pinball machine. This wasn't just the battery. The battery wasn't charging. I knew I'd be lucky to get to the garage where I usually have him serviced. And a toll booth loomed ahead. If I stopped for the toll, I was pretty sure I'd die right there and piss off a whole bunch of folks behind me.
I'll now break away from the e-mail to tell you about another time when I stalled near a tollbooth. It was in Hooksett, New Hampshire, and it was in the car previous to Roddy. MY WIFE and I had just pulled through the tolls when the car died. It was pissing down rain. I got out and raised the hood, but I know nothing about cars so unless there was a note from God under there saying "Jim - Reconnect that wire to the left", the situation wasn't going to change.
Breaking down is fun enough in itself, but standing in the pouring rain added some joy. Also, the three or four hundred folks who felt a need to beep their horns at me and give me the finger made it one of the more memorable moments of my life. I'll never understand that. It was as though I had deliberately placed my car there just to piss them off. Idiots.
Back to my e-mail to Skip.
So, there are these lanes where you can speed through if you have a transponder. I don't have a transponder, but I figured the only way I was going to make the two miles I needed was to speed on through and cop a plea later. I aimed for the speed lane.
No go. Roddy gave up the ghost about ten yards outside of the tolls.
Helpful hint for future catastrophes: If you're going to break down, between two lanes and just outside of a toll booth is a wonderful place to do so. Folks can get around you without feeling the need to flip you the bird, there's someone there in the toll booth to alert the state troopers, who in turn will push you to the side and call the tow of your choice. For a bummer, it was rather pleasant. I spent a half-hour chatting with a nice trooper while waiting for my tow, and the tow driver was a hoot.
Upshot is I got to bed at about half-past midnight, I took the bus to work, and Roddy gets a new alternator. Seeing as he's a '97, the part wasn't just sitting there, so...
That's a long way around to telling you I'm sorry, but it's just not going to happen tonight. Please accept my apologies.
If any of the rest of you are ever planning a trip to Boston, and you'd like to meet up with me, whatever you do, don't tell Roddy. Next time, he might jump off a bridge or something.
Soon, with better motor stuff.
Thursday, August 09, 2012
Monday, August 06, 2012
BOMBERS – 5 Mayhem – 4
Mayhem – 16 BOMBERS – 15
BOMBERS – 19 Mayhem – 12
They weren’t things of beauty, but we move on to the semi-finals to face the Titans.
Well, to be honest, the first game was a little bit beautiful. The guys from Mayhem might not have thought so, but that’s because the beautiful part of it came when we scored three in the bottom of the seventh for the come-from-behind win.
Trailing 4 – 2, Joey Baszkiewicz, who is pretty much the hottest hitter on the team right now, singled to lead off. Drew Atton reached on an error. After an out, another error produced a run that brought us within one. Jimmy Botting then came through with a clutch single to tie it up. Steve Burke, a great mid-season addition who has tightened up the outfield defense tremendously, was walked intentionally, loading the bases and setting up a double play possibility. With the outfield drawn in, Big Jay Atton (who allowed one earned run pitching) stroked a solid shot to right center for the walk-off game winner.
It should be noted that the poor Mayhem pitcher gave up ZERO earned runs in the game. So, all in all, 9 runs were scored, 8 of them unearned. Not beautiful, but, yes, beautiful for us.
Game two made up for that little bit of beauty by being a whole bunch of ugly.
We scored six in the top of the first, two in the third, and another four in the fourth. That gave us what we thought was a cruising-to-a-sweep 12 to 2 lead. Give Mayhem credit for hanging in there, though, as they plated five in the bottom of the fourth to make it 12 – 7. We added on three in the top of the fifth, 15 – 7. They chipped away some more in their half, 15 -11. And that’s what it stood at going into the bottom of the seventh and Mayhem’s possible final at-bats for the year. But they didn’t feel like going home just yet, so a single, a fielder’s choice, a walk, and another single made it 15 - 12, setting the stage for their lead-off hitter to blast one to right center for a game-tying three-run homer.
Big Jay Atton, who had thrown 13 and 1/3 innings in a broiling 90-degree sun, was relieved by his uncle, the veteran Jack Atton. No go. Mayhem completed the job with a couple of hits and we went back to the bench shell-shocked at having to actually play a third and deciding game.
I mentioned the heat. It was a scorcher. After I got home and stripped off my soaking wet uniform, I decided to weigh myself. I had lost 8 pounds in sweat. During the third game, I was seriously close to fainting behind the plate in the final inning. I didn’t want to cause any drama that might take any edge from my team, so I took a couple of deep breaths and gutted it out, but it was as close as I’ve come to that in a game, ever. Luckily, that final inning was short, as our defense got the job done in quick fashion.
OK, getting back to the start of that game, we’re still reeling from losing the second game and Mayhem jumps to a 3 – 0 lead on the strength of five walks and an error. The Bomber bats didn’t quit, though, and we got those three runs back, plus two more, on six consecutive singles, a fielder’s choice, and perhaps a little help from ill-advised throws. Mayhem grabs one back, but we add on five more to make it 10 - 4.
It remains 10 - 4 into the fourth. Mayhem hits us with the sticks again for four, to make it 10 - 8. We plate one in the fifth to make it 11 – 8. Mayhem, damn it all, comes through in the clutch again, four more runs to pull ahead, 12 – 11.
And here’s where I get to write about my lone bit of heroics in an otherwise dreadful (1 for 6, two walks) day at the plate. With one out, Joey Baszkiewicz and Fast Freddy Goodman single, putting men on first and third. I come up. I’ve been trying to put one on a line into right field all day because Mayhem was giving me some room over there. I’ve popped up to the first baseman, grounded out 4 to 3, and the one time I hit it on the screws it was right at the second baseman for another out. Did I get the line drive this time? No, but I put enough air under it to drop it two feet inside the right field foul line and I drive in the tying run. Fast Freddy goes to third. Drew Atton singles him home for the lead, 13 - 12.
These guys wouldn’t go away. Mayhem loads the bases with one out in the top of the sixth, but a fly to center, played nicely by Steve Burke to hold the runner at third without tagging, then another good defensive play by Big Jay ended the threat (he played 1B in the third game and went to his right for a grounder, flipping to second for a force.)
(It was such an odd day defensively. We’d commit some sort of ugly blunder, but then follow it up with something textbook and wonderful to behold. Shout out to two guys specifically in that regard. Jimmy Botting played shortstop rather than his usual 2B or OF, filling in for regular SS Joel Kershner. He was great. We don’t win without him. And Bennett made a couple of nice plays at 2B, filling in there [for the most part] for Jimmy. Between he and Drew Atton, the other 2B, along with Pat Atton and Jack Atton [my, we have a lot of Attons!] doing duty at 3B in place of Robbie Costello, well, this is a convoluted and highly unintelligible sentence, but it worked out well. Thanks, guys!)
We finally put those pains-in-the-ass away in our half of the sixth.
(I say “pains-in-the-ass” with respect. Mayhem earned it.)
We sent eleven men to the plate, scored six runs for a 19 – 12 lead, and then took care of business defensively. The big blow was a three-run homer by Tom Resor. Amazingly, with 39 runs scored yesterday, his was the only round-tripper. He’s having a season offensively that rivals the best in the 18-year history of the team. He upped his RBI total for the year to 42, already a tie for the team record with at least two more games to go (possibly as many as six more.) He’s mostly a quiet guy who settles things down with logic and calmness when some others of us might be a bit more off the point. He’s a real pleasure to have as a teammate.
So, next week we play the Titans. They’ve won the league title more than any other team and they’re the defending champs. They went undefeated during the regular season, including three wins over us. It will be a tall order to best them two-out-of-three and move on to the finals, but it can be done. And I don’t give a damn if we do it ugly or beautiful, just so long as we do it.
Soon, with more bomber stuff.
Friday, August 03, 2012
My good snide friend, IT, pointed out that what I did the other day over at the M Street Softball League website was not so much sportswriting as it was sports reporting. In recognition of that pedantry, I have bestowed today's entry with the appropriate sobriquet.
Be that as it may - and it better be - there is now another game recap over there for you to enjoy (or whatever other emotional reaction you find convenient and/or proper.) The game I covered last night was not as enjoyable as expected, but I think you might find the writing more enjoyable than that in the first entry. So there.
Soon, with more.