There He Goes!

Update:
On the Jeff Blair show earlier this week, they spent two hours with Jerry, talking about his career and retirement. There are guests, there are phone calls, there are memories, there are emotions. You can listen to it here.

Original Post:
I heard my first bit of Blue Jays baseball on the radio sometime in 1985. Don’t ask me what date it was or who was playing. I have no idea. All I know is that I found it the same way I seem to find most things, just by messing around. Oh, and that once I found it, I kept listening. I can think of three reasons for that.

  • The Jays were really good then.
  • Tom Cheek.
  • Jerry Howarth.

Tom has sadly been gone for 13 years (Has it really been that long?), and today comes word that after 36 seasons, Jerry is calling it a game.

I’ll be honest. For a while now I’ve been wondering how long he might keep going. In the past couple years he had missed a fair bit of time due to voice trouble, there was the cancer scare, and there was something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. He just didn’t seem like himself, making more and more uncharacteristic mistakes. It was to the point where Carin, who cares not much for baseball, asked me if he was ok.

But even a somewhat diminished Jerry Howarth was still one of the best in the game, and I’m sad to see him go. I don’t remember a time before him, and though I’m sure that Rogers will find a more than capable replacement (give the job to Mike Wilner assuming he wants it, guys), the future without him isn’t going to sound quite right for a very long time, if it ever does.

“I had every intention of continuing my career into the 2018 season but my health and stamina and continuing voice issues dictated otherwise,” said Howarth. “Who knew that I would spend more than half my life in Toronto with my wife, Mary, and our two sons, Ben and Joe, doing what I love to do most, reaching out to friends and fans alike across our great country to talk baseball?

“I am blessed and I am grateful. I thank everyone who has made this journey of mine so rewarding in every way.”

Baseball On Ice

Today in sports stuff that probably wouldn’t fly anymore: Baseball on a skating rink.

This silent footage (sorry, blind kids) is taken from 1924, but there is a much more detailed account of a game played in 1861, a time long before video or safety now that you mention it had been invented.

On February 4, 1861, 20 members of the Charter Oak and Atlantic Baseball Clubs organized a baseball game on a frozen pond in Brooklyn. According to both the New York Times and the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, the match was incredibly popular. Anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000 spectators stopped by to watch the game unfold, crowding along the boundaries of the makeshift baseball field and the high banks surrounding it.
The players were surprisingly proficient in skating, and the Eagle notes that only one or two tripped on the ice after failing to stop at a base or calculate where the silver ball was about to land. In lieu of physical bases, the ice was marked with a “reddish coloring” where players were expected to stop, though the official rules eventually mandated that players skate past the marks in order to avoid injury.

The game lasted the standard nine innings, and ended with the Atlantics winning by a score of 36-27.

Dammit, Forgot the spoiler alert there. Sorry.

Vladimir Putin, Voice Of Reason: December 2017-December 2017

Well, so much for my theory about Vladimir Putin trying to act like the sensible one where the Russian Olympic ban is concerned.

Russian President Vladimir Putin accused U.S. agencies of manipulating evidence from the main whistleblower on doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Putin said Thursday that former Moscow anti-doping laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov — who is under witness protection after fleeing to the United States last year — is “under the control” of the American agencies, including the FBI.

Rodchenkov being in the United States “is not a positive for us, it’s a negative. It means he’s under the control of American special services,” Putin said. “What are they doing with him there? Are they giving him some kind of substances so that he says what’s required?”

He went on to say that Rodchenkov should never have been given his position in the lab because he’s mentally unstable and under several criminal investigations back home, and that the IOC trusting him is nonsense.

Speaking of nonsense, he also claimed that all this doping business is designed to interfere with the upcoming Russian election.

Putin also reiterated previous claims that Russian doping scandals are an attempt to smear the government as he runs for re-election in March, a month after the Pyeongchang Olympics.
“The scandal is being created ahead of the domestic political calendar,” he said. “Whatever people say, I’m convinced, I just know this is the case.”

Well ok, he may be on to something there. I mean if anyone knows a thing or two about interfering in elections…

Hopefully The Crazy Talk Is Just Talk


In a move that surprised me if no one else, the International Olympic Committee stood up and actually made a reasonably good but difficult sporting decision yesterday, banning Russia from participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics. The ruling came after an investigation into allegations of a sophisticated doping scheme backed by the country’s government and also included various suspensions, lifetime bans and a $15 million fine.

Another surprise? Russia seems to be taking the whole thing rather well.

“They are so scared of us,” wrote Irina Rodnina, the former Olympic skating champion who is now a pro-Kremlin MP, on Twitter. Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of a pro-Kremlin ultra-nationalist party, called the decision “political and sporting racism”.
Konstantin Kosachev, chair of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of Russia’s parliament, said the decision was “part of the general western policy of holding Russia back” – a theme that was developed by other officials.
“They are always trying to put us down in everything – our way of life, our culture, our history and now our sport,” wrote Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry, in a Facebook post.
Zakharova lumped in the Olympics ban with “world war, the collapse of the Soviet Union and sanctions” as ills the west had supposedly imposed on Russia.
Sergei Alekseyev, the head of the Association of Sports Lawyers, told the Parliamentskaya Gazeta newspaper: “Basically, Russians have been discriminated against based on their nationality, which is no more and no less than genocide.”

Yup, everyone’s totally fine with it.

One person who is legitimately totally fine with it at least on the surface is Vladimir Putin, who says that he won’t stand in the way of any Russian athletes who want to compete as neutrals, something the ban allows for as long as certain conditions are met. I’m not sure how in a case like this you go about sorting out truly clean athletes from dirty ones, but for the moment I’m more interested in Putin.

We know what he said, but we also know that with him, as with many politicians, there is a tendency for their words to differ from reality, sometimes profoundly and with dire consequences. It only makes sense that he, the most prominent Russian on the world stage, would put on the reasonable face and leave the crazy talk for underlings to engage in. A lot of things in the diplomatic arena are probably easier that way. but what may not be so easy is sorting out the true position of the State on what these athletes do. the Russian government hasn’t exactly been shy about harshly dealing with folks who go against it, so I hope anyone who is serious about competing knows what they may be getting into in light of all of the apparent anger. I also hope I’m over-reacting by even thinking about writing that sentence. It would be nice to believe that sports aren’t important enough to ruin or lose lives over, but to believe that we also have to believe that authoritarian governments only care selectively about being undermined on a grand scale, and I’m not sure anyone believes that.

And A Huge Interception By The Local Constabulary

The Grey Cup is fantastic. It’s a big, fun, important Canadian event that many of us will stop what we’re doing to watch. But that’s not always the best idea. Sometimes you really should finish off whatever you’re up to before you settle in to enjoy the game. Like let’s say you’re in the midst of robbing the city and driving around in one of its trucks. That is not at all a good time to take a beer and football break.

“What do you know, Steve? You’ve never stolen anything. Who are you to tell us how to structure our day?”

Fine. You’ve got me there. But I have a feeling there might be a couple of guys who will encourage you to trust me on this one.

Police say officers were called about a break and enter at the Glanbrook Township Roads department at 2111 Binbrook Rd. around 7:30 p.m. The two men smashed out a window and stole tools from the stockroom, police said in a news release, and then took off in a stolen City of Hamilton truck.
Police then tracked down the vehicle at the Checkered Flag Bar and Grill in Mount Hope. Officers went inside and found the two men — one of whom had the keys to the truck inside his pocket, police say.
“They just went inside and watched the game,” said Const. Lorraine Edwards.

The pair has been charged with breaking and entering, possession of burglary tools and possession of stolen property worth over $5,000. It is not known whether the next set of bars they visited was showing the game.

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.”
Yawn.
Writes DeLeonibus in the eleventh paragraph: “Watson started last year as a defensive player. He works very hard and has good speed.”
Yawn.
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.’”
Wait.
What?
What?

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.”