My Love For This Team Is A Burning Love. To The Second And Third Degree, To Be Specific

There’s nothing wrong with making a friendly wager on a sporting event. I’ve been known to bet a few bucks or a dinner here and there. And if fire didn’t scare the living shit out of me and if the things weren’t so god damned expensive, I could maaaaaaaaaaybe see myself making a loser burns the jersey bet like this couple made on last weekend’s Cowboys Packers game. I could also see myself perhaps getting a little buzzed up while watching said Cowboys Packers game because hey, why not? But what I absolutely, positively, 100% cannot see myself doing is lighting the poor sumbitch on fire and then putting it on.

A witness told Sebastian Daily, “He was set on fire after losing a bet on the Cowboys game … Skin was hanging off his arm and back.”
The man suffered third-degree burns on his right arm and right hand and second-degree burns to his back.
When the woman’s team won, her husband went outside to light his jersey on fire. He told deputies that he was drunk and tried to put the jersey on while it was burning.
Family members pulled the jersey off the man at the Vero Beach residence and rushed him to the Indian River Medical Center.

The Story Of One Of Journalism’s Worst Days Ever

I don’t mean to alarm any of you, but believe it or not, the media makes mistakes. In spite of the high standards they’re justifiably held to, reporters are, at the end of the day, just as human as the rest of us. Sometimes their mistakes are pretty funny and when the eventual correction is issued we all have a nice, hearty laugh. But what happens when things go terribly, profanely wrong? The kind of wrong that sees things fail on every conceivable level? Sometimes, it’s this.

The headline, INEXPERIENCE FACES GREEN WAVE SOCCER, suggests nothing beyond some sort of small-town newspaper sports preview story, and the byline (Nick DeLeonibus) is that of a name that rings unfamiliar to most. Upon closer inspection, you can ascertain that the piece appeared in the Gallatin (Tenn.) News Examiner in the winter of 1997.
“With March 11th quickly approaching,” it begins, “Gallatin soccer head coach Rufus Lassiter wants to take things day-by-day.”
The ensuing 10 paragraphs add little to explain why anyone would want to read. Even now, two decades after publication, much of the article reads as flatly as it surely did on the Friday it hit newsstands. Like many of its ilk, this is an article written primarily for the 20 or so members of the Gallatin High boys soccer team and their families. It exists so that, when they ultimately have children and grandchildren of their own, Daniel Sanders and Randall Carter and Michael McRae and the other Green Wave players can blow dust off the ol’ scrapbook and say, “See, I was once something…”
The information provided is standard local fare. Coming off a mediocre 7-7-2 season, the Green Wave of 1997 will likely struggle even more with the loss of seven seniors. Sanders and Carter will split time in goal, but at least Lassiter will have five veterans to turn to. There’s McRee, there’s Farrell, there’s Sparkman and Watson and, of course, there’s Bubba Dixon.

Writes DeLeonibus in the tenth paragraph: “Sparkman started last year and will be back on defense. He plays a very physical, tough-nosed brand of soccer.”
Writes DeLeonibus in the eleventh paragraph: “Watson started last year as a defensive player. He works very hard and has good speed.”
Writes DeLeonibus in the twelfth paragraph: “Dixon sucks donkey dicks and doesn’t wipe the shit off before practice. We like to keep him at the sweeper position so his sperm breath will stop people from penetrating to the goal. Speaking of penetrating, he prefers tall, red-headed guys. Told me to tell Kris he said ‘hello.’”

What follows is the story of how something like that came to be plastered all over thousands of copies of a local newspaper and the fallout that resulted. Lawsuits, redemption, stupidity, death and so much more. It’s a fascinating article, well worth it if you don’t mind a bit of profanity (let’s face it, you’re here so you don’t) and have some time to kill on a fine piece of writing.

The Pitch Is Inbound And It Misses For Bucket One

I take in most of my Blue Jays games on the radio, so I totally missed this Sportsnet postgame interview from the other night. Thank you, internet.

Sportsnet’s Hazel Mae was having a nice post game interview with Blue Jays’ Justin Smoak when Ryan Tepera attempt at drenching his teammate with a sports drink misses and goes all over Mae thus ending the interview.

Those are some pretty good mics to catch the SPLASH! so perfectly. Hopefully they still work.

And for the benefit of anyone who may not be up on their baseball, part of the reason this is so amusing is that Ryan Tepera is a pitcher. A pitcher who can generally locate a throw much better than this.

Swing And A Miss, His Luck Is Out

As a lad, I remember watching Danny Tartabull play baseball. He was pretty good at it as I recall, especially at the part where you hit the ball very well seemingly more often than you miss it.

But as good as he was at that, he was apparently much less good at paying his child support. He was so not good at that, in fact, that he was convicted and labeled a deadbeat dad back in 2011. He was given probation which it turns out he was not good at not violating, so in 2012 he was given some jail time as punishment.

So…uh…guess what else Danny Tartabull wasn’t good at. If you said showing up to serve his time, congratulations, you’ve been paying attention. Since he didn’t turn himself in, a warrant was issued for his arrest, which brings us back to things that Danny Tartabull is good at.

For nearly five years, Danny Tartabull, who I remind you was a pretty famous baseball player that somebody somewhere would almost certainly still be able to recognize today, managed to not get himself hauled in. Impressive.

But no matter how good one is at something, there inevitably comes a day when one is going to slip up. For Danny Tartabull, that day was July 24th, 2017. On that day, someone broke into his car. As one does when someone breaks into one’s car, he called the police. The police, as police do, ran his name through the system. Go on and guess what they found.

Tartabull was arrested and at last word was sitting in jail awaiting a meeting with a judge.

Not good Danny, not good.

Baseball On Acid

I have neither taken LSD or thrown a no-hitter, but I’ve watched enough people do each to know that doing both at the same time seems damn near impossible. But it was 47 years ago today that Dock Ellis of the Pittsburgh Pirates did exactly that in a game against the San Diego Padres. No matter how many times I hear the story I’m amazed by it, and I’m not sure why it’s taken me so many years to put it here.

Self-reportedly under the influence of LSD, Ellis threw a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres 2-0 on Friday, June 12, 1970 in the first game of a doubleheader at San Diego Stadium. The Pirates flew to San Diego on Thursday, June 11 for a series against the Padres. Ellis reported that he visited a friend in Los Angeles and used LSD “two or three times.” Thinking it was still Thursday, he took a hit of LSD on Friday at noon, and his friend’s girlfriend reminded him at 2:00 PM that he was scheduled to pitch that night. Ellis flew from Los Angeles to San Diego at 3:00 PM and arrived at San Diego Stadium at 4:30 PM; the game started at 6:05 PM.
Ellis threw the no-hitter despite being unable to feel the ball or see the batter or catcher clearly. Ellis said his catcher Jerry May wore reflective tape on his fingers which helped him to see May’s signals. Ellis walked eight batters and struck out six, and he was aided by excellent fielding plays from second baseman Bill Mazeroski and center fielder Matty Alou.
As Ellis recounted:
I can only remember bits and pieces of the game. I was psyched. I had a feeling of euphoria. I was zeroed in on the [catcher’s] glove, but I didn’t hit the glove too much. I remember hitting a couple of batters, and the bases were loaded two or three times. The ball was small sometimes, the ball was large sometimes, sometimes I saw the catcher, sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes, I tried to stare the hitter down and throw while I was looking at him. I chewed my gum until it turned to powder. I started having a crazy idea in the fourth inning that Richard Nixon was the home plate umpire, and once I thought I was pitching a baseball to Jimi Hendrix, who to me was holding a guitar and swinging it over the plate. They say I had about three to four fielding chances. I remember diving out of the way of a ball I thought was a line drive. I jumped, but the ball wasn’t hit hard and never reached me.
Ellis reported that he never used LSD during the season again, though he continued to use amphetamines. After the story was made public, he said he regretted taking LSD that day because it “robbed him of his greatest professional memory.”

Hey Hey! HO Ho! The Security Guy’s Putting On A Show!

So apparently exciting things do happen at San Diego Chargers games after all.

A man who is not being identified has handed over his security guard license, been fired and plead guilty to committing a lewd act in public after being caught on video running through a few plays on the field near a group of cheerleaders. I don’t have the video, but there’s a blurred version in the news report, if you must.

A video clip captured at a December Chargers-Raiders game went viral, after a fan posted it on Facebook – claiming the security guard was touching himself while on the job. 
The security guard was on the field before the game, pleasuring himself just feet away from cheerleaders.
Team 10 has learned the man was quietly investigated, charged and sentenced after pleading guilty to a lewd act in public.
The man, who was fired from his job at Elite Services, voluntarily surrendered his security guard license less than two weeks after the incident.

The man, who had no criminal record, was given three years probation as well as sexual counseling and does not have to register as a sex offender.

Given the public nature of the spectacle that sentence strikes me as a little light, but between that and the reluctance to name him in spite of a conviction I have to wonder if a deal was worked out in order to spare everyone involved any further embarrassment.

I’ll Trade You

I remember one night listening to a bit of Jays Talk after a game and somebody calling in to ask a question about possibly trading Kevin Gregg. You remember Kevin Gregg, right? He was the closer back in 2010 and somehow managed to save a pile of games even though he was kind of awful. Every time he came out to pitch, it was tense. Were you going to get competent Kevin or the guy who couldn’t find the strike zone with a compass and an atlas and never threw a pitch that even the worst hitter on Earth couldn’t send to fucking Mars? Anyway, this guy asks this question and I, out of frustration because being a Jays fan hasn’t always been as fun as it was the last couple of years, said “the hell are they going to get for him, a bag of chips and a squeegee?” I know that’s what I said because Carin laughed far more than I expected at it and to this day brings it up when she senses that somebody isn’t very good at sportsing.

I then remember her laughter turning to a bit of bemusement when I explained that trades like that actually do happen in real life and not just in Pissed Off Steve Land. Over the years, guys have been traded for food, clothes, equipment, money to build a fence…you name it. In fact, since we’re talking about it, here are 25 times it’s happened.

And here are a couple of examples:

Keith Comstock for a Bag of Balls
Year: 1983
Keith Comstock actually went on to piece together a long career for himself, which considering where he started was a big accomplishment. After starting in professional baseball in 1976, he spent 14 years in the minor leagues before making it up to the Majors and winning seven games out of the Mariners’ bullpen in 1990. Along the way, he was given the double indignity of not only being traded for a bag of baseballs (and $100), but having to deliver said baseballs to the minor league facility of his new team.

Lefty Grove for a Fence
Year: 1920
Ah, the good ole days when a baseball team could be so cash-poor that they didn’t even have a fence around their field. Such was the case for the Martinsburg Mountaineers of the Blue Ridge League, who lacked financial resources but had one major asset: Lefty Grove. When the minor league (at the time) Baltimore Orioles came clamoring for Grove’s services, Martinsburg saw an opportunity and took it. They sold their ace for $3,500, enough for them to finally get that dream fence around their field. The players probably appreciated it, considering to that point they had been forced to play the entire regular season on the road because of the condition of their home field.

Take Me Out AT The Ball game

During Tuesday night’s St. Louis Cardinals game, a woman in the stands was hit in the arm by a stray bullet said to have been fired from about a mile away. It’s a happening that’s both pretty rare and pretty nuts, but it’s not nearly as nuts as the time a similar thing happened in 1950 and killed a guy.

There is not, viewed through modern eyes, a single part of this story that fails to be straight up insane.

On July 4th, 1950, 54-year-old Bernard Doyle took 13-year-old neighbour Otto Flaig to see the New York Giants take on the Brooklyn Dodgers at the New York Polo Grounds.

For the benefit of any present day 13-year-olds who are reading this and just got really confused, I’ll stop at this point to answer some questions.

Alrighty. Now that we’ve got that cleared up, back to the story.

Robert Peebles, a 14-year-old who lived in an apartment building near the stadium, had several months earlier found a gun containing a single bullet in Central Park. He took it home and hid it, intending to fire it off on the 4th of July as either a form of patriotic celebration or an expression of his displeasure with the obstructed view of the Grounds from his rooftop. Which one it was depends on which source you ask, and I’m going to go with Sports Illustrated over Wikipedia on this one. So for our purposes, he was celebrating. That celebration took place at 12:30 P.M., as the game was about to start.

In that moment, the teams were running out onto the field. Doyle had turned to say something to Flaig when Peebles’ bullet connected with his skull, causing him to slouch over. The fans nearby heard a popping sound, “like a paper bag breaking.” Flaig asked the man if anything was wrong and got no response. He assumed Doyle had had a heart attack. When attendants came over and checked on him, they saw the entry wound and realized a bullet had been lodged in his brain. He had died instantly.

At that point, panic, shock and sadness ensued, the game was cancelled and a somber mood fell over the city as everyone took time to reflect on the senselessness of it all.

Just kidding.

What actually happened was a contest was held to see who among those present could give the lowest number of fucks, or at least that’s what I assume was going on based on what happened next.

“Standees fought over Doyle’s empty seat as medics carried the dead man away,” reported the New York Daily News. Even Flaig, Doyle’s compatriot, seemed more upset that the incident caused him to miss the game than that his neighbor had been killed before his eyes.
“Young Otto himself complained that the detectives’ questions were making him miss the ballfield action,” the Daily News story continued. “‘I’ve been dreaming about this game for a month,” he grumbled.'”

The folks on the field put up a strong entry by playing through all of this madness, but I’m pretty sure poor Bernie’s little buddy Otto is our winner.

Robert Peebles confessed to firing the shot when the police, who may have cared, figured out where it came from and searched his home. His punishment, because the law at the time did not allow for anyone under the age of 15 to be charged with homicide, consisted of a juvenile delinquency charge and a stay of less than two years at something called the New York State Training School for Boys.

What became of him after that is proving difficult to uncover, but it seems that the incident may have had more of a lasting impact on Otto Flaig than it appeared it was going to. He went into policing when he grew up and used his experience as a means to educate future generations.

As for the woman at the game on Tuesday, she’s got a lawyer and is doing ok. She, unlike the woman who was shot during a ticket office robbery at a Cardinals game in 1965, is almost certainly not going to be satisfied with free tickets for the whole family.

Ahh, the good old days.

I Got Him To Not Get It!

Tropicana Field is a weird place. Outfielders are constantly losing balls in the roof, I’ve seen more than one long delay caused by umpires trying to sort out what is and is not a home run based on which one of those damn rings the ball hit, and now, because of the way it’s designed and because the place is so empty most of the time, you’ve got fans calling off outfielders and causing them to drop routine fly balls, or at least so say the Tigers.

“Unfortunately, the source of confusion was coming from the stands,” said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus. “Someone in the stands was yelling, ‘I got it!’ That’s why Kinsler went out acting like he had it and then he heard someone say, ‘I got it!’ so he backed off.
“We had to change our signals. It was the Rays’ fans causing confusion.”
In an outdoor stadium, or one filled with fans, vocal interference from the stands isn’t a concern for outfielders.
Tropicana was largely empty on Wednesday (12,281 was the listed attendance), but the acoustics make it easy for strong-lunged fans to play havoc with outfielders.
The stadium is intimate for a dome, almost like an auditorium. When a ball bounces off the wall, it can be heard clearly on the other side of the park. The snap of the ball in a glove echoes crisply. Beer vendors in left field can be heard behind home plate.  
Outfielders have authority to call off infielders, and that’s what Kinsler thought was happening when he pursued a ball into the shallow outfield.

If this really did happen (I have a feeling it more than likely did), it brings up a few questions. Mainly, why has no one thought about doing it before now? In the short-term at least, it’s genius. Eventually word will get around and teams will try to plan for it, but in the meantime you’re going to potentially be able to directly influence a few games, possibly in some key situations.

From a rules perspective though, could something like this be considered fan interference? Fans yelling and heckling and trying to throw players off their game is part of the sports experience, but when does it cross the line from sports fans behaving like sports fans into becoming an unfair advantage? I don’t think I’ve ever seen it called in the majors, but at some levels of baseball there are verbal interference rules that address this very thing. For now it’s probably not worth looking at, but if it does start becoming a thing, could we need a special acceptable Trop yelling rule?

Happy 40th Anniversary, Blue Jays!

Yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of the day the Toronto Blue Jays played their first game. For trivia’s sake, they beat the Chicago White Sox 9-5, which is a much better start to anything than a lot of expansion teams get. It was also the game that brought us their first ever home run, video of which you can see above and audio of which I posted years ago.

Of course, everyone is putting up articles commemorating the occasion, as they should. Some of them are quite well written and very informative and you should absolutely find and read them if you’re interested in that sort of thing. But I’m going to point you at this one, because it dropped something on me that I’d never heard before.

That is the first ever Toronto Blue Jays theme song, and it’s…wow. Not sure I have words for that. It’s straight out of the 70s, I’ll say that much. And somebody clearly put a lot of work into it, dare I say more than went into the one Sportsnet’s been using for the last few years.

For the record, there’s nothing wrong with that tune at all, but there’s something to be said for the days when something’s theme song was about that thing, silly as it could be at times.

Happy anniversary, Jays. Here’s to many more. Shame you had to lose an awful game to the Rays last night, but I still love you.