This is fall so far

With rain cancelling most of this past weekend’s activities I’m sadly a bit limited in the rank order of Fall Fabulous events thus far. Here, though, is our current list.

1. McDonald’s pumpkin and creme pie.

(large gap)

2. Hocus Pocus 2

(large gap)

3. Washington Commanders football.

Home runs always draw attention

With all eyes on Aaron Judge the past few days it was Albert Pujols, fourth man ever to reach 700 career home runs, who won the weekend.

Actually it was Mother Nature who was the real winner, bringing a late-summer storm to the South Bronx last night and cancelling the last three innings of a win for Judge’s Yankees. The most disappointing win over the Red Sox in their storied history.

Loser last night? ESPN executives, who no doubt cursed the storms that killed their product. Does God not want us playing games on Sunday nights?

I’ll let you be the Judge of that.

Magic happens only after you close your eyes

This past Tuesday night my beloved New York Yankees, team of my youth, trailed the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-4 heading into the ninth and final inning of their relatively meaningless South Bronx contest. I had long given up on the game, settling into an evening reading my new book, Baseball’s Best Ever, a collection of columns from legendary sportswriter Ira Berkow.

Tell Ira to add one more to the list.

Entering the bottom of the ninth with a 1% win probability (they really do track these things), the Bronx Bombers pulled off the 99% improbable and came away with a win over the aforementioned Pirates, the team whose only claim to fame right now seems to be that it does not own the worst record in baseball. (That distinction belongs to my hometown Nats.)

Leading off for the Yanks in the ninth was slugger Aaron Judge, likely the AL MVP, possible Triple Crown winner, and already owner of a historic season at the plate this year. Entering the game Judge had 59 home runs, a total eclipsed in American League history only by Roger Maris in 1961 and a fella named Ruth in 1927. On the fifth pitch Judge saw, he tied Ruth, sending a ball 430 feet into the left-centerfield stands.

But that made it only 8-5.

Note that contrary to every bit of 20th-century wisdom about the game, Judge bats first in the Yankee lineup. What would have been an insult to Ruth, Mantle, DiMaggio, etc. is accepted now as a big-brain, Moneyball-type move.

Batting in more traditional positions were the Yankees’ next three hitters, all of whom got on base to set up the dream scenario. This is the one you conjure in your backyard growing up. Down three runs with the bases loaded, into the batter’s box stepped Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton himself once had a 59-homer season, but that was five years ago when he played for Miami. Stanton’s performance in recent years has been a bit disappointing. During his time in New York he has received $135 million in salary and exactly one undeserved All-Star Game selection.

But that was all forgiven in a moment Tuesday night, as Stanton connected with a Wil Crowe offering for a walk-off grand slam. It was Stanton’s third career WOGS, an unusual distinction held by only three other players in major league history. And doing it when down by three runs? The historic Yankees have done that only four times total in more than a century’s worth of contests.

And they’d lost their last 113 games when entering the ninth inning trailing by four or more runs.

All of this after I’d already given up, and already published Wednesday’s post.

Lesson learned.

Credit where credit is due

As a rule, movie remakes are pretty terrible, and there was absolutely no reason to remake the 1940 classic version of Pinocchio. (Actually it’s already been remade like 40 times, but I don’t think I’ve bothered to see any of those ersatz editions.)

From what I understand it’s actually happening twice this year, once with a live-action version available now on Disney+, and once with a stop-motion animated feature that will release later this year. Bold moves.

Monday night I watched the live-action remake, a film featuring none other than Tom Hanks as the elderly Geppetto. Of course I thought it would be terrible, but as a matter of fact it was… okay. Not Top 365, but okay.

I’ll give credit where credit is due, and eat crow when crow should be eaten.

My favorite season is baseball

Yesterday afternoon I had the pleasure of fulfilling every father’s dream… taking my son to his first Major League Baseball game. O’Connell Trio made the journey to Nationals Park to see our hometown team (that would be the Washington Nationals) take on the visiting Marlins of Miami. Though the game was a loss for the Nats I couldn’t have imagined a finer experience. Prophecy fulfilled.

Of course my thoughts went to my own first MLB game, just a few years ago and a few miles up the road. It was August 25, 1990, and the scene was Yankee Stadium. I was eight years old, same age as my son now, though that’s about where the similarities end. Well, there was one other, but more on that later.

When I was a kid (that’s going to be a theme here) neither the Nationals nor the Marlins existed. There were no teams in Washington or the entire state of Florida. I saw the Yankees play the Brewers that afternoon, and no it wasn’t interleague play. Interleague play wasn’t a thing then; the Brewers played in the American League. One of seven teams in the AL East. (Six divisions of five teams each now.)

When I was a kid you showed paper tickets to get into the park. I’m not even sure how we got the things. Mailed away for them? Stood in a line? Took our chances with a scalper in the parking lot? Yesterday I had the “tickets” on my phone, on something called the Ballpark App, on which I could also buy team merchandise or anything from the concession stand. Anything. I think at my first game I had a hot dog. Yesterday Franklin ordered fried shrimp and my wife got a lobster roll. Yup. To be fair she also went old school with a lemonade, though while the lid still had the hole for a straw, getting a straw in 2022 is about as likely as Shoeless Joe Jackson getting a lobster roll. The no-straw thing was about my only complaint. Any other problem I had was easily solved using the Ballpark App. Just text your issue and an attendant will come to your seat. Or deliver what you ordered from the souvenir shop.

Just like the old days.

But there was a bit of continuity from my first game to Franklin’s, an amazing coincidence showing the seamless through-the-years transition of our national pastime.

Both games featured my favorite player of all time, Don Mattingly… sitting on the bench.

Yeah, for my first game in 1990 Mattingly was out with a back injury, the famously afflicted back that kept Mattingly from duplicating his ’80s dominance into the era in which I actually went to the games.

But it hasn’t kept him from managing.

And yesterday afternoon, there he was, again on the bench, manager for the Miami Marlins.

Just perfect.

Queen makes MAM today

Beautiful thing about having a podcast and a blog is that if you forget to mention something on one you can mention it on the other.

Today’s episode of Math and Musings celebrates the life and times of Queen Elizabeth II. Basically it’s a retelling of last Friday’s post.

But there’s one joke I forgot in both places, so let me amend that now.

There are scant few similarities between Queen Elizabeth and Hugh Hefner, founder and longtime editor of Playboy magazine. Sure, they were both born in 1926 and held their respective jobs wayyy longer than anyone thought they would, but let’s face it, they’re pretty different people.

Or maybe not.

As I mentioned last Friday, both of them lived really well.

Also, one might say each of them reached their advanced age because of a really great incentive to keep on living.

Chuckle.

And you know that old line, when a person dies and someone says, “He’s in a better place now”?

No one’s saying that about either of them.

My Nathan for You journey is now complete

I’m five years behind the times, but I’ve now seen every episode of Nathan for You, the Comedy Central gem from Canadian funnyman Nathan Fielder. Fielder is the star and the brainchild behind this summer’s HBO hit, The Rehearsal, which got me interested in exploring more of his output.

I’m glad I did, and though every episode of Nathan isn’t exactly Citizen Kane, it’s not meant to be. The final episode though? Damn if that isn’t Citizen Kane. Seriously, the series finale of Nathan for You is the most riveting 84 minutes of television I’ve ever seen. Very unlike the 31 that precede it, the 32nd and final episode is no gag reel. It’s drama on like a 19th-century Russian novel scale, punctuated with bits of humor as Fielder would demonstrate five years later on The Rehearsal. One can trace the evolution from one show to the other through the beauty of this quadruple-length episode. There is no cliche or hyperbole too inappropriate to describe its quality.

Why I missed all of this five to eight years ago when the show first aired?

One baby and zero cable subscriptions.

Let’s just say I’m in a better position now.

My bad

And of the two games I was watching this weekend it was my hometown Washington Commanders who came away with a victory, not the heavily favored Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.

My fault. I totally jinxed them with Friday’s episode of Math and Musings.

Yeah, I’m not even putting the hyperlink in. It’d just be too painful to hear now.

Well, Hail to the Commanders I guess.