In this era of distance and isolation, I’ve probably been on more text threads than I have at any other point in my life.
One of them is, not surprisingly, rather sports centric. And through the many twists and turns that begins as a basketball highlight and mutates into complaining about the Red Sox, poking fun at the NFL and then debating various eras of various contests, the thread turned to educating one friend about Rick Middleton, in which I happily participated.
He was sold right from the get-go of Middleton’s highlight reel, which begins with him chilling on the bench, hair swept back, mustache in full glory, casually sporting a black eye and waiting for his next shift. That video does have a few ridiculous moments packed into just over a minute of footage, but there was obviously more to his game. Continue reading
I didn’t really think about baseball cards for a long time. They were an early obsession, but between the ages of about 12 to 26, they weren’t much of a thought. Sometimes I looked at the boxes I had stored in the closet, sometimes I flipped through the assembled binders and looked reverently on random images of Andre Dawson or Scott Cooper I’d accumulated. But otherwise, it was a past hobby, replaced by CDs and whatever else.
There were little flickers of that old impulse through that dormant period, though. I picked up a Pedro Martinez card in a cereal box while I was in college somehow, and I’ve hung onto that ever since. And one day while I was combing through a flea market looking for records, I came across two cards for a dollar each that caught my eye — Carl Yastrzemski’s 1981 card, and this one, of Jim Rice in 1977.
He’s smiling and happy to be posing for the photographer in this shot, likely before the Red Sox played the Yankees in some brutal division tilt. He looks like an easy going guy. And he was the most quietly terrifying dude in the game at the time. Continue reading
Dave Parker, crushing it.
A few years ago at a place of business we shall leave nameless, I was feeling less than inspired. It was hard to see what, if any, impact I was really making beyond just getting through another day without throwing an inkjet printer three floors down into the lobby. It’s your run-of-the-mill office restlessness, but it was mine and it came at a point where it all felt like one cumbersome weight.
The saving grace here was that I wasn’t alone. I had three or four co-conspirators who were just as frustrated and annoyed by our rigid 8-to-5 life, and we came up with a series of inside jokes to help pass the time.
One of them featured the gentleman in this card, Dave Parker. By the time I learned about him, he was augmenting the Bash Brothers in Oakland, a still-viable designated hitter in his late 30s who could send 20 or more baseballs out of the park. We discovered some truly amazing pictures of Parker in his earlier days as a veritable baseball hurricane in Pittsburgh, winning MVP awards and sporting some terrifying face gear and occasionally lighting one up in the dugout. We printed up all of these and hung them up around the office.
I also had this card of him as a Milwaukee Brewer and I taped it to the monitor of my computer. When things got tough or our boss gave us yet another meaningless or impossible task, it was, “be strong like Dave Parker,” or “what would Dave Parker do?”
It’s March now. This is the time to start thinking about baseball and bitching about lineups and Spring Training scores, typically. But always, it seems like a good time to chill before crushing whatever problem is staring us in the face into oblivion.
What would Dave Parker do? He’d chill. Then he’d take care of business.
As you may or may not know, I write a weekly column over at SouthCoastToday.com (the Interweb arm of The Standard-Times out of New Bedford, Mass.), and while I don’t typically link to stuff from here to there (it’s only on baseball some of the time), it seemed appropriate in this case.
This week, I waxed poetic a bit on Pedro Martinez’s return to the Red Sox, And since I’ve dedicated so much time to the man and his 98-MPH fastball bursting out of a 5’10” frame, it seemed appropriate to share it here.
Enjoy. Also, subscription may apply, so there’s that.
Alex Gonzalez, in his element.
I’d like to take a moment, if I may, to sing the praises of defense and its superiority over the offensive side of baseball.
The best part of the game is when a favorite team is in the field. The pitcher controls the tempo as much as the opposing batter will allow and, if he puts it in play, it’s in the hands of the fielders. When those hands are as delicate as a field hockey club tied onto some brute first baseman’s forearm, watching the ball be kicked and muffed and dropped can be a frustrating experience. Typically, the guys who play at the major league level are sure-handed enough to have fewer errors than games played, at least.
But when a fielder transcends mere capability and approaches something else, something approaching art, there’s little as exciting in baseball. And reading about the ficticious Aparico Rodriguez and his zen-like student Henry Skrimshander in Chard Harbach’s The Art of Fielding let me with memories of Alex Gonzalez, who enjoyed a remarkable career (and may well again in the future), but truly found a place in my brain when he anchored the Red Sox’ infield in 2006. Continue reading