My favorite part about the beginning of a new baseball season used to be box scores in the newspaper. Since the advent of the internet, that joy has dissipated a bit. But when technological progress closes a door, it also opens a window -- internet porn. But that's a story for another day. Today were talking about baseball. So what has technology done for my obsession with baseball? It has given me the Extra Innings package, which allows me to now watch all those games I used to have to read about -- for a reasonable price, of course (and they say money can't buy happiness).
Now my favorite thing about the beginning of a new baseball season is the veritable onslaught of games on TV. Day and night, games, games, games. This is especially important for me, as my chosen profession causes me to sit around the house all day, looking for reasons to further put off my writing. And nothing makes this procrastination process more enjoyable than watching baseball.
My favorite part about gaining access to all these games is the local broadcasts (mostly on FSN affiliates) themselves -- stiff local play-by-play announcers, former players I left for dead doing color commentary, cheesey promotional ads with production values just a cut above home movies. It's a wonderful thing.
See, I'm not looking for crisp, clean telecasts, filled with the very best baseball broadcasters available on TV. If I wanted that, I'd watch ESPN (okay, I do that too). I want more (meaning "less"). I'm looking for unabashed homers like Hawk Harrelson and Darrin Jackson on the White Sox telecasts. I want Bert Blyleven making bad jokes. Mark Grace acting goofy. Bob Walk's pitching tips. Dave Niehaus's home run call. Ted Robinson, if only for nostalgia's sake. I want to listen to Keith Hernandez provide analysis while I imagine his internal monologue from 'Seinfeld' -- "I'm Keith Hernandez."
There are some fantastic moments to be caught on these broadcasts -- whether they be on the field or in the booth -- and such is my devotion to them, I want to share them with you, Grant's loyal readers. I plan on writing a short column every now and then throughout the season to detail a few of these nuggets. I'll proabbly get bored with it all after a few weeks and quit, but for now it'll provide me with one more instrument of procrastination.
It'll be largely Bruce Jenkins-style, except instead of three dots, I'll use the double-dash. And I won't wax poetic about Eddie Matthews and other players from the 60's, or talk about slipping baseball cards between the spokes of my Schwinn.
After the first 3 days of the season I already have a little ammo, so here goes a trial run:
-- On the FSN Southwest broadcast today, they asked the following Aflac trivia question: "Which 2 pitchers began their career with 10 straight winning seasons?" With Andy pettitte on the mound for the Astros, one answer was pretty clear. The announcers pondered the possiblities for the second guy, and were about the reveal the answer when their female announcer on the filed interrupted to ask if she could give it a shot. They said okay, and she answered Babe Ruth. The answer appeared on the screen -- she was right. The play-by-play guy had just finished congratulating her when color man Larry Dierker chimed in, "Great Suzy, now why don't you go make us some pumpkin pie." The lady laughed but... Wow. I mean, I know they're in Texas, but... Wow. Dierker's lucky he was on FSNSW or somebody might have actually heard that.
-- Also from the Astros broadcast: I've heard a few people picking Houston as a darkhorse this season based on the top of their rotation, but they might want to take a closer look at Pettitte. Today, the announcers got all excited when he hit 87 MPH on the gun. "That's a great sign", said Dierker. He actually pitched well today, holding the Cards to one run, but the guy is definitely not 100%. At least, not yet.
--On the YES network, Mariano Rivera blew a second consecutive save opp to the Red Sox, this time getting cuffed around retty good -- 5 runs in 2/3 of an inning. He looked really bad, but the guys on the broadcast -- Michael kay, paul O'Neill and Jim Kaat -- were trying to minimize it, saying he had his normal stuff, just not his normal control or confidence. If that's the case, you could've fooled me. I saw a cutter that was 90-91 (instead of 94-95) and didn't move all that much. He walked the leadoff guy in the 9th in a one-run game (Game 4 of the ALCS, anyone?), and although he didn't get hit all that hard, the Sox weren't fooled much.
-- The yankee game also provided a great moment for all us A-Rod haters out there: After Rivera walked the leadoff guy and gave up two singles the sacks were packed with nobody out in a one-run game. Rivera then came back to strike out Trot Nixon, setting up a situation where a DP could end the game. Manny Ramirez was up, but Rivera jumped ahead 1-2, then jammed Manny, inducing a grounder to third. It was a perfect DP ball, but A-Rod booted it, losing any chance for the DP. He still had time for a force at the plate, but he kicked the ball again. He still had a chance to tag the runner headed to 3rd, who was about to pass by him, but reaching down for the ball, A-Rod fumbled it yet again. And I cheered.
-- Don't look now, but Mike Hampton suddenly looks like he did in Houston and New York. It started with the second half of last season when he dominated, and through 5 innings tonight he looks very good again.