baseball 2017

The pitchers and catchers for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim reported today. Pitchers and catchers for the Dodgers report tomorrow. The Super Bowl is over and we can start thinking about baseball.

baseballNot that my Southern California teams are giving me any big reasons to be delighted and to look forward to the season.

The Angels have a limited budget, and they did not even try to sign their former pitching ace, Jared Weaver. Are you kidding? Perhaps he was past his prime, but he was still solid in 2016. It’s not like he got a lot of run support.

The Dodgers have pitching galore, but have made only a few moves to improve their performance against left-handed pitching. The television situation is unchanged and Terry and I are unlikely to be able to see the Dodgers on TV this season.

But it’s baseball. It’s spring training. The Dodgers play their first spring training game on 25 February. The Angels first game is the same day.

Baseball being back atones for a multitude of unpleasantries on the national political stage, even if I am slightly irked with our local teams. It’s still baseball and they’re still my teams.

thank you, Vin

I can’t let the occasion of Vin Scully’s final game yesterday go by without taking time to think about how much Vin has meant to me.

Vin ScullyThe Dodgers arrived in Los Angeles in 1958. I was four at the start of the season and five when that first west coast season ended. My dad began listening to games right away, so I learned baseball from the youngest age. Here in Hemet we are about ninety miles from Los Angeles, but the games in those days were broadcast of KFI which was then a “fifty thousand watt clear channel station,” so we had no problems getting the games day or night. Even when we spent three years in Barstow, out in the high desert of San Bernardino county, the games came in clearly.

There were so many intense, exciting games. The one I most remember, however, was Vin’s call of the Sandy Koufax perfect game. That was September 9, 1965. I remember that evening well. The entire family was at home in our living room. The television was off and the radio was on. I remember the tension build as Vin Scully’s play-by-play made clear that something special was happening. I remember Vin noting the time on the scoreboard clock. I remember the excitement when the game ended. I think we were all holding our breath in the living room.

I spent many years away from Southern California and the Dodgers. And in spite having spent a number of years as a Giants fan during my Bay Area days (that’s another story) I migrated back to the Dodgers when we came back here in May of 2015.

Vin had reduced his workload to (mostly)  just home games, and a dispute over fees meant that more than half of Southern California television viewers could not see or hear Vin, except for the first three innings which were simulcast on radio. Fortunately an arrangement allowed the local station KTLA channel 5 to carry Vin’s last six games. That was a delight.

We will miss you, Vin. Enjoy your retirement.

photo credit: Floatjon. cropped. Creative Commons License 3.0.



Lon Simmons

I miss baseball broadcaster Lon Simmons. He retired some years ago and died in April 2015.

Lon SimmonsFor many years he was the partner of Giants broadcaster Ross Hodges. In the years I knew him he was partner to Oakland Athletics broadcaster Bill King. Sadly, a new ownership group failed to renew his contract. In the last few years of his career he was a part-time broadcaster for the Giants again. He retired when he realized he was no longer quick enough to keep up with the play-by-play.

What I loved most about him was his dry wit:

“If you’re keeping score, that was a 6-4-3 double play. Even if you’re not keeping score that was a 6-4-3 double play.”

I loved Lon Simmons.

a distraction

Earlier this summer I was watching a baseball game. I don’t remember who the teams were. They weren’t either of my local teams. The game was not terribly exciting and I noticed two attractive young women sitting behind home plate. They were just two or three rows back. These were certainly ultra-expensive seats – the ones where servers come and take your order for gourmet snacks.

baseballIn any case, these two women where talking to each other and seemingly not paying attention to the game at all. I could only see them when a left-handed batter was at the plate, but I became fascinated. When one of the women left her seat for a while, the other woman seemed to be looking at her smart phone rather than watching the game. When the first woman returned they resumed their conversation.

Obviously these ladies were not baseball fans. I am guessing that their tickets must have been gifts from a season ticket holder who couldn’t make that particular game.

They were definitely a distraction from the game, but an interesting insight into human nature.

it wasn’t always this way

The other day in the Sprouts grocery store parking lot I saw a car with a sign promoting a business called Passion 4 Pets in the back window. I thought it might involve dog boarding, so as Terry and I were heading over to our favorite sub shop later in the day, with Terry driving, I looked it up in the Google app on my iPhone. Not that we are planning any overnight trips anytime soon, but I was curious. Turns out the place does provide dog daycare and boarding.

No big deal, right? We do this all the time. But we forget how recent such capabilities are.

Terry and I got (back) together in 1991. I was in Silicon Valley and she was in Orange County. We spent a lot of time commuting on the weekends. One time when Terry was up visiting me, I played her the marvelous Dave Frishberg song “Dodger Blue” when ended with the words

quoteAnd Juan Marichal was a Dodger too,
Even he wore Dodger Blue,
Los Angeles Dodger Blue.

That had us both stumped because neither of us remembered the famous Giant pitcher and Dodger rival being a member of the Dodgers. So using my DOS-based personal computer I went to Prodigy, the consumer-oriented dial-up service owned by IBM which tried to emulate graphics in a pre-Windows environment. I did a search. It turns out that Marichal was a Dodger the last season of his career in 1975. (Looking him up on today I see that he started two games with the Dodgers and had a record of 0-1.)

I couldn’t email Terry to tell her this. The Internet was strictly for the government and educational institutions; there was no consumer internet email. Terry’s company email was strictly internal. My small company had no email, except for an internal kludge using a CRM (customer relationship management) system. I had dial-up CompuServe, but that was no help, as Terry was not on CompuServe. Same for my dial-up MCI Mail account. Ah, but I could send her a fax at work via my MCI Mail account.

So I did. Much to the befuddlement of Terry’s office manager.

The things we take for granted today.

baseball: the broadcaster matters

The fact that much of Southern California cannot see the Dodgers on television on account of the greed of the Dodger ownership group and Time-Warner Cable means that some fans get overly excited when a game is broadcast on ESPN or as a Fox Television Saturday game. I scratch my head at this excitement. Yes, you can see the team on the screen, but the broadcasters are the network guys, not the local announcers. To me, who is broadcasting the game is important.

baseballThe Giants have always done a fine job of employing broadcasters. I loved listening to Hank Greenwald on the radio. In 1997 Jon Miller became the lead radio broadcaster for the Giants. He is one of the very best. More recently, the Giants brought on a then young Dave Flemming and he is first class in his own right. On television, of course, Giants fans get to enjoy the marvelous team of Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper—Kruk and Kuip.

Here in Southern California we have, of course, the legendary Vin Scully. And despite the television issue, I can hear him on home games when he simulcasts the first three innings. When Vin is doing television Charley Steiner does the radio play-by-play. I’m finding that Charley grates on me, which is odd, because I enjoyed when he did post-season baseball for ESPN. On road games when the new guy, Joe Davis, is not in the TV booth Charley does television. For those games Rick Monday does the radio play-by-play. I really do enjoy listening to Rick.

Who is broadcasting the game does make a difference to me.

baseball returns

Dodgers pitchers and catchers report tomorrow. I’m ready to once again follow the team of my childhood. I’m not happy that I most likely won’t be able to watch the games on television due to the greed of the current Dodger ownership group. Only those who have Time-Warner Cable or Charter Cable will see the games, barring a business miracle very soon. We have Verizon Fios. We could have gotten Time-Warner, but when we moved here we were warned to go nowhere near them.

DodgersIt’s especially distressing given that this will be Vin Scully’s last year broadcasting Dodger games. Yes, we can hear him for the first three innings of home games on the radio, but fans deserve better.

I spent a number of years as a Giants fan. I warmed up to the Giants one year in the mid-1990’s when they were in contention and we were living in Mountain View. At our rental house there was plenty of yard work to do, and Hank Greenwald’s radio play-by-play was a great companion while trimming the hedge. Terry and I loved the television team of Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow when they emerged, and we were delighted when Jon Miller took over the radio duties in 1997.

But we are no longer in the Bay Area and hearkening back there only causes me emotional distress. So the Dodgers it is.

Given the Dodgers television situation, however, we’ll leave plenty of bandwidth for the Los Angels Angeles of Anaheim as well. Besides, that’s Terry’s team. Their pitchers and catchers reported today.

And so the season begins.