When I am asked who my all-time favorite baseball player is I do not hesitate when I answer. Same guy it’s been since 1989… Donald Arthur “Don” Mattingly. Donnie Baseball. Captain of those woeful Yankee teams in the late ’80s and early ’90s that introduced me to the game.
You never forget your first love.
Yes, I found great joy in watching Tino, Bernie, Jeter, Posada, and company. Even A-Rod had his moments toward the end. But no one ever topped Mattingly as the guy I proudly called “my favorite player.”
Last week “The Hit Man” became the Miami Marlins’ all-time winningest manager. Seriously. Longevity does help in these things, and Don’s been on the job since 2016. That’s kind of ancient by Marlins standards. Add his 446 wins as manager of the Dodgers (2011-2015) and, well, you’re looking at a manager who’s won a lot of games.
Still looks better in pinstripes though.
Nice thing about having your own website is that you can make up whatever schedule you want and take days off at random. It’s always new content on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays–except when I don’t feel like it. Like last Friday.
Since we last did speak there have been several developments in Major League Baseball, not all of which are related to Covid-19. For example, yesterday’s game involving the defending World Series champions (that would be my hometown Washington Nationals) provided a few storylines. First, the matchup was a local rivalry of sorts, with the Nats facing off against our neighbors from Baltimore. I’d say it was kind of like a high school game, with townspeople filling opposite sides of the stadium rooting for their respective teams. But this is the Covid era and ain’t nobody goin’ to the park.
The contest marked the 2020 debut of postseason hero Stephen Strasburg, who sailed through the first four innings before unraveling in the fifth. He left the game down 5-0, then the Nats scored two runs before, well, a volcano erupted in centerfield. Well, no, it was actually a sudden rainstorm, but my God it might as well have been a volcanic eruption it was so sudden and unexpected. (I live 19 miles away and there wasn’t a single drop of rain all afternoon.) Apparently the regular grounds crew was teleworking and couldn’t type the codes for the tarps in time, and before the folks they rounded up to roll the thing out couldn’t actually get the thing covering the field there was an ocean forming on what used to be basepaths. The game will be resumed Friday.
Then again, if we’re not allowed to go to the games, does it really matter where they are?
This past Christmas my wife got for me one of those little tear-off-a-page-every-day desk calendars. Each page has a sports fact or trivia question relevant to that particular day.
From March 12 until June 1 it sat untouched on my desk at work. June 1 was the day I stopped in to school to clean my room and pick up any materials I might need for the “summer.” (Which might last until 2027, apparently.) It was weird to say the least, of course, walking into that time warp, and among other things I considered immediately tearing off 75 pages from the calendar.
No, I thought, I’m going to make this a little more interesting. I’m going to tear off not one but two pages every day from now until I’m caught up.
Well, today I caught up.
And now I know that on August 5, 1974, a game between the Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers was interrupted in the eighth inning when a whippet (that’s a dog) named Ashley ran on the field to catch a Frisbee thrown by its owner. (Ashley’s owner, Alex Stein, later creates the Frisbee Dog World Championship–a.k.a. the Ashley Whippet International World Championship.)
And now you know too.
Over the weekend I finished reading John Feinstein’s latest book, The Back Roads to March: The Unsung, Unheralded, and Unknown Heroes of a College Basketball Season. The book has been out since early March (when the world was very different), but of course I rely on my local library to provide me with a copy (waitlist!) and dang it’s tough to get people to return library books these days.
Though it’s getting better every day, I’ll admit, we still live in a sports-starved world. I’m sure any book I read about college basketball these days would be fantastic. Just an average book that any of us could write.
And that’s what all of Feinstein’s books are, actually. Any of us could write them. It’s just that… he’s John Feinstein, and has a billion percent more access than any of us could dream. If one of us mortals went to a publisher and said, “I’d like to write a book about my experiences over a winter traveling around to a bunch of college basketball games,” he or she would say, “Who the hell are you?”
Well, John Feinstein has an answer to that question.
I’m John Feinstein.
[Publisher: (Sigh.) When can I have it?]
John Feinstein has written something like 40 books and I’ve probably read 30 or 35 of them. Actually most of the books are exactly the same, with passages recycled from one story to another. The Back Roads to March, a story of the 2018-19 college basketball season through mostly small-school lenses, is basically a retelling of The Last Amateurs (with a little of A March to Madness and A Season Inside, etc. mixed in). And yeah, I’m fine with that.
Because he’s John Feinstein.
And hey, I’ve gotta get my college basketball fix somehow.
Hard to believe today’s the last day of July. July 31st I believe, is today’s date. Or, if you prefer, March 153rd. Yeah, that sounds much more like today’s actual date.
The 2020 MLB “season” is unraveling before our eyes, like Peppermint Patty jumping up to block a Charlie Brown kick after he somehow got a toe on the ball before Lucy pulled it away.
That didn’t take long, did it?
With basketball beginning tomorrow and hockey on the horizon, one hopes we can keep all three going for the most awesome August of all time. It may be a pipe dream, but isn’t it pretty to think so?
Me: Hey, Google—what time is the Nationals’ game?
Google Home: The Nationals will play the Toronto Blue Jays at 6:05 tonight.
Me: I know. I just like hearing it.
“Washington Football Team.”
Couldn’t get the rights to a real nickname?
Actually, no, the name is brilliant. Seriously. Burgundy and gold star to whoever came up with that one. Outstanding.
It’s almost here.
Our foot is an inch from the ball and Lucy is still holding it.
One… more… day.
Gotta hand it to the folks at Hulu. The world gives their business a gift (let’s face it–Covid basically required everyone to order some kind of streaming service), and rather than rest on that fact have absolutely brought it while we’re all chained to our TVs. Not content (get it? con-tent?) to offer mere Netflix scraps, they’ve put forth overlooked gems. Yes, yes, I made a fuss over Brockmire, but for every Brockmire there are 10 things actually worth your investment.
Case in point: Palm Springs. It’s close enough to “original content” to call it that I suppose. Produced in the pre-Covid era (remember those days?), Palm Springs premiered at Sundance in January of this year. When it became clear a big theatre release wasn’t going to happen Hulu snatched it up. For something like $20 million. According to its own internals, Hulu claims the film set an opening weekend record by “netting more hours watched over its first three days than any other film” in the platform’s history. That’s a solid investment.
The movie? Just watch it. Better to go in fresh. Yes, I thought it’d be a cheap ripoff of Groundhog Day (and as a child of the ’90s that it sacrilege). It is not. Trust me. Just watch it.
Seriously, what else are you doing these days?