Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Cleveland rocks!

I have a new favorite road trip destination -- Cleveland! My son and I picked the city on Lake Erie for our semi-annual bonding trip that included baseball, rock and roll and even a president.

And, of course, we had some adventures and even a nice encounter with some fellow Mets fans.

I like Cleveland. We had a nice visit back when the Indians played in the monsterously huge Cleveland Stadium, and I sat for a spell in the bleachers interviewing John Adams, the guy who bangs the huge drum. And Will and I returned in 1997, first for a game and later for the All-Star Game Home Run Derby, won shockingly by Tino Martinez.

And we toured the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the Baseball Truth gang after the opening game of our 2003 weekend was rained out. There was a massive upgrade since my prior Hall visit, and we'll get into that in the next post.

We started with the Cleveland Hard Rock Cafe, which is located in a mall-hotel complex just two blocks from Progressive Field, the unfortunate new name for Jacobs Field.
If you've seen one Hard Rock, you've kind of seen them all, which is not a bad thing. We took turns walking around the restaurant checking out all the sweet rock and roll memorabilia on the walls. We also added to my son's collection of Hard Rock t-shirts and pins.

After our pulled pork sandwiches, we headed over to the ballpark. It was "Beach Weekend," and the Indians had all sorts of music and activities, including truckloads of sand. We had more than an hour before the gates opened, so we walked on down to the Rock Hall to plot our visit for the next day.

The Indians have some neat plaza art, with an impressive Bob Feller statue, and large letters spelling out "Who's on First?"
The Jake is a nice ballpark. Built at the start of the new wave of design, the team passed on the retro look for a sleek, modern look with lots of exposed white steel. It's already 14 years old, but doesn't look it. The video display on scoreboard is just incredible, and blows away what the Reds had to offer the week before.
It was cap night -- never a bad thing -- and I was impressed that small programs were handed out for free. But they lack a scorecard, so I picked one up at a concession stand, and learned that the yearbooks were half-price. A sale at a ballpark?
The gift store was more than adequate, with a charity section selling game-used jerseys for $175, and autographed tags that looked like locker signs for between $25 and $75, depending on the player.
Of course, I opted for the lower-end of the souvenir spectrum, buying an Indians Statue of Liberty pin to get change for the penny squishing machine.
I didn't notice of there were any specialty foods, but we were still full from our meal at the Hard Rock.

Strolling around, I discovered the Indians' Heritage Park in centerfield. It's basically a collection of plaques commemorating the team's greatest moments and players. It was nice, but a drastic step down from the Reds' over-the-top Hall of Fame from the week before.

The lower level had this plaque for Ray Chapman, the only player killed in a game. There also was a section for what appeared to be the 100 greatest Indians, with autographs etched into polished black stone. Ex-Met Carlos Baerga gets some love there.

I also ran into Slider, dressed in his beach party attire. We could not figure out what Slider is supposed to be, which makes him a bad mascot. Then again, not everyone can be Mr. Met.
Speaking of the Mets, I was wearing my 1994 Indians Eddie Murray jersey for the occasion. My son and I settled into our seats behind home plate in the upper deck, and in the middle of the second inning a man and a woman came and sat in the seats next to us.
I saw him looking the out-of-town scoreboard and say to his wife, "Oh no, the Mets are already down 4-0," in a perfect accent. Instinctively, I turned and said, "I guess Brandon Knight is getting roughed up in his debut."
"What are you, an Indian fan who also roots for the Mets?"
"No, I'm a Mets fan who collects jerseys. Where in New York are you from?"
"No. Freaking. Way. Massapequa Park!"
OK, so there are 38,500 people at this game and I'm lucky enough to get to sit next to a Mets fan from two towns over. I lead a blessed life.
Turns out my new friend was in the middle of a ballpark tour with his wife, seeing the Pirates the night before, then heading to Detroit the next day and over to Toronto before heading home. And he, too, was at the second game of the Subway Series, where Johan Santana was denied and my streak extended.
Naturally, we had all kinds of fun talking about our resurgent team and how Cleveland was a nice city. I warned him about Detroit.
We noticed that the Indians fans were very polite. The Twins rocked Fausto Carmona for 9 runs in two and a third innings, and he walked off the mound to a smattering of polite applause. That's not quite the response he would have gotten at Shea.
But we also had praise for our hosts. "I haven't seen a single person in Yankees gear all night," the wife testified. "I saw three people in Pittsburgh last night wearing Yankees stuff."
I say anyone who rates crowd intelligence by the lack of Yankee logos is pretty darn astute. And I pointed out that I saw a guy with a David Wright t-shirt and Mets backpack, plus my son was wearing his inherited Mets batting practice jersey. That's a good ratio.

There was a beautiful sunset and clouds on an absolutely perfect evening. I'm loving both Costco and my new camera for allowing me to capture this.
Here's an aside for some Costco love. My old camera -- old in relative electronic terms -- died in Key West in April, and we bought a new one from Costco.
Well, sometime in the glory of the steak snapping in Cincy, either I dropped the camera or someone stepped on it in my backpack because the viewing screen was shattered. There was much sadness.
I know Costco changed its electronics return policy, which we have used liberally after a series of iPod deaths. I thought we had 30 days to return something. But when I brought my shattered camera to the store to check into buying a new one, I discovered that you actually have 90 days -- and I was on day 85.
So I was able -- encouraged, actually -- to return the broken camera and get a replacement. Since they don't sell the model of the broken one any more, I had to upgrade to a model that features a much better zoom feature.
And this why all of my gold fish are named "Costco." But I digress.

The Twins eventually spanked the Indians 12-4, which I could enjoy as a neutral observer. We did have some angst following the progress of the Mets game. The team had caught up with the Cardinals, then lost the lead again.
We hit a place in The Flats and found ESPN showing the Mets had tied it up again and were deep into extra innings by the time our ballpark pretzels and dipping sauces were served. They didn't blow the game until after we got back to the hotel and took advantage of La Quinta's free wifi to follow the progress.
That was a lot of excitment for Day One. I'll return with the rest of our adventures.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Tin soldiers and Mets Guy's coming...

I seem to be spending a lot of time in Ohio this summer.

After breaking the streak in Cincinnati last weekend, my son and I are headed to Cleveland to take in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and an Indians game.

Deezo’s a Cleveland guy, so I don’t he’ll object to his fair city taking up a big chunk of the Deezo Friday Five.

1) It’s my son’s first trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He’s been learning about classic rock, and I expect this to be a crash course.

There’s a special exhibit about The Doors, which had that huge revival when I was in high school. That must have frustrated bands at the time that were actually alive and functioning.

Some things seem to have changed since my last visit to the hall in 2003. Mainly the admission price at $22 a head! I’m glad I discovered this in advance and found a hotel package that throws in the tickets. Otherwise an exchange like this might have happened:

Me: $22? Are you kidding me? Well, at least I can see the Rush exhibit.
Poor ticket-seller: Sorry, sir. But Rush has not been inducted.
Me: What? $22 and no Rush? Fine. I’m sure the Twisted Sister display will be well worth the price.
PTS: If we had one, I’m sure it would be.
Me: No Twisted? Next thing you know you’ll tell me they never got around to inducting Kiss.
PTS: (blank stare)
Me: Aw, c’mon! It is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, right? Who do you guys have in there, Madonna?
PTS: Actually, she was inducted this year.

2) I swear it’s just a coincidence that the Hall has a baseball-themed exhibit right now. “Take Me Out: Baseball Rocks” “celebrates baseball as a pop-culture phenomenon through displays of sheet music, sports memorabilia, records and film. It also includes listening stations stocked with early recordings and will include displays on baseball-associated songs from “I Love Mickey,” Teresa Brewer’s 1956 Mickey Mantle tribute, to the Seattle Mariners/New York Mets anthem “Who Let the Dogs Out?” (Baha Men, 2000).”

We shared that thing with the Mariners?

3) It was about 95 degrees when I went to see the Mets and the Reds last Sunday, and my seat was right in the blazing sun. Luckily, I had some packets of sunscreen left in my backpack.

Now, had I been at the sinkhole called Yankee Stadium, I would have been either burned to a crisp or broke.

The Skanks took all kinds of heat for adding sunscreen to the list of things banned at the ballpark, allegedly telling fans they could cover themselves one last time at the turnstile, then throw away the rest.

Apparently the team feared the sunscreen would be used by terrorists, as if anything or anyone is more terrifying than anything or anyone in the Yankee Stadium bleachers.

Not to fear, the team was willing to sell you a one-ounce bottle of sunscreen for a whopping $5. That’s probably more expensive than Derek F. Jeter’s cologne — put the sunscreen probably smells better.

4) We’re seeing the Indians play the Twins at what is now called Progressive Field. Last time I was there we saw the 1997 All-Star Game Home Run Derby and the celebrity softball game, buying tickets from a scalper on the street for $5 over the $20 face value. That wouldn’t happen today.

It’s free cap day, so we’ll be bringing home some Wahoo wear. I’m torn about that. I have a friend who thinks Wahoo is a tremendous logo, but I can also see why some might find it offensive.

The Tribe’s new retro uniforms are pretty sweet. Then again, calling them “The Tribe” is probably as offensive as the logo. This is going to be a tricky weekend.

5 ) The awesome Uniwatch blog today published these old comics proving that Spider-Man is a Mets fan. Check out the classic panels on Shea!

Well of course he’s a Mets fan. “The Amazing” is a part of his name.

Plus, can you imagine being a superhero going to Yankee Stadium? You’d be so busy fighting crime in the stands — confiscating sunscreen and all — that you’d never get to watch the game.

Monday, July 21, 2008

It feels -- amazing!

So, yeah, Aaron Heilman and I are tight now. I'm a good luck charm for his team. We were hanging out before the game in Cincy.

I left some baggage behind in Cincinnati. But it wasn't easy.

One of the highlights of summer is the annual BaseballTruth.com Executive Game. The site, like the Expos, Pilots and Senators, has passed into history. But our tradition of gathering at a ballpark each summer lives on.

The board voted to go to Yankee Stadium this summer -- of course I objected -- but we couldn't get tickets. After a moderate amount of pleading, the rest of the group relented and we returned to Cincinnati to see the Mets and the Reds.

As you all know, the Streak of Shame has been following me like Jacob Marley's chains, growing over 17 years through nine cities.

I thought for sure it would have ended with the Shea homecoming last month, but it was not to be. Certainly it would end with my best friends in the Queen City. It just had to. Here is the report of our adventures.

We started at Scott's house with a cook-out and Wii bowling, then headed off to the yard despite the reluctance from the others to enter my Vue as long as the Mets flag was attached to the window. But when you're the designated driver you can get away with such things.

The Great American Ballpark isn't much to look at outside, but is filled with nice touches once you get closer.

There were a fair number of Mets fans there. And I have say that the Reds fans are a respectful lot. It's not like we are subtle in our affiliation. Other than my companions -- and a lame Yankee fan you'll read about later -- no one game me a hard time for proudly showing Mets colors.

Naturally, we had to pay a visit to the BaseballTruth.com brick. Scott wanted to make sure it looked its best!

The Reds do an exceptional job with their history. This is Frank Robinson batting, Ernie Lombardi catching and Scott making the out call.

The Reds inducted three players and an executive into their Hall of Fame before the game. Here's Johnny Bench, Will's hero, prior to the ceremony.

That's Barry Larking giving his acceptance speech, which was longer than if Mike Hargrove had batted against Steve Trachsel. People were still riled about it the next day. But it's nice that Barry feels the love for his Nike rep.

I like the boat in centerfield. The river is just over the wall, and the boat is a neat focal point. The smokestacks belch smoke and fireworks for all kinds of highlights, not just home runs.

Montgomery Inn ribs are a Cincinnati culinary delight. They don't sell ribs at the ballpark, but they do offer pulled pork sandwiches with chips and sauce on the side for dipping. And, of course, there was a fine selection of brats. The largest ones in the photo are the "Big Klu," named after the slugger. I didn't dare.

Ceremony and dinner completed, we settled in for the game.

I liked our chances. Oliver Perez had been throwing well, and the Reds were offering up Josh Fogg, which I thought was very nice of them.

David Wright scored on an error in the first, and the Reds followed when Ken Griffey Jr. drove in Fogg in the third. D-Wright took us back on top with a monster blast in the fourth, and the Reds tied it up in the bottom of the inning. Then the home team went ahead when Edwin Encarnacion walked then moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on a hit by David Ross.

In the seventh, the Mets had one out and bases loaded, with Wright and Carlos Beltran coming up. And best of all, the Reds had turned the game over to the bullpen, which my buddies said usually results in a win for the opposition.

Wright worked the count to 3-2, and took a called third strike.

Beltran worked the count to 3-2, and took a called third strike. I don't think he swung at a pitch the entire at-bat.

I buried my head in my hands because I knew specter of the streak was rising up. This is the kind of thing that happens when I am in the crowd. After 17 years, I know the signs.

Pedro Feliciano and Aaron Heilman proceeded to allow four runs, each one another heavy link in my chain. The guys stopped chanting "1991" because they knew how much this was hurting. I also decided to attend the Sunday game. I didn't want the streak hanging over my head through another off-season, and this was one more chance.

We traditionally pose for a photo with the scoreboard after Executive Games. My buddies were thrilled to see their team win. I was happy because there is nothing bad about getting together with good friends and watching baseball, especially when the Mets are involved.

And as much as I am used to Mets losing, this one hurt more than the others. The streak had become too oppressive. It was getting in the way, dominating the thoughts.

Like all good Queen City residents, Scott directed us to Skyline for is famous spaghetti topped with chili and cheese. Will had the "five way," which adds onions and beans. Skyline is to chili what White Castle is to hamburgers, but that's not a bad thing. It's just not what an outsider would expect.

The next morning I headed over to the ballpark for one more attempt at streak-busting. It was the third time I've seen the Mets on back-to-back days outside of spring training.

None of my buddies could attend, but I don't mind going to games by myself once in a while. As you know, I'm kind of quirky and like to explore every inch of a ballpark, and on days like this I don't have to worry about testing the patience of my companions.

Walking to the ballpark from the garage, I found a bagel store. I took this to be a good sign, and bought two poppy seed bagels to take into the ballpark. I was looking to karma. No more Cincinnati food. Bagels are New York.

Naturally, I looked for tributes to Tom Seaver to find inspiration for the streak-breaking attempt. This photo was on an interactive pitching display.

The Reds even do a nice job with their gift shop. The giant World Series trophy is a shirt rack.

The Reds haven't retired Pete Rose's number since he's not allowed to attend the ceremony. So the Rose Garden is a subtle tribute. This is placed where the Riverfront Stadium outfield used to be, and there is a white rose bush that marks the spot where Rose's record-breaking hit first bounced.

The Reds do a lot of things you wouldn't expect to see at a major-league stadium. This was a parade of youth baseball teams. They also had kids run out to the positions to greet the Reds, something you usually see in the minor leagues.

The Reds did a nice job with artwork around the stadium. These murals of the original team and the Big Red Machine are mosaics. But just about everywhere you look, there is something interesting.

I walked down to the dugout area where some of the Mets were soft-tossing. Aaron Hielman came over to talk to a friend and started signing autographs. I didn't have my Mets book with me, but offered up my program, which he signed in the notes section.

Hielman didn't mention the streak, and I didn't mention Yadier Molina. I decided having a Met player endorse my scorecard was a good thing and moved along after thanking him.

There was an exhibition of guys playing with early rules and uniforms that was interesting for a awhile. But I would rather have had more batting practice.

I don't think I've ever seen a Reds Seaver t-shirt like this one. The kid gets props, especially since he probably wasn't born when Tom was still playing.

I enjoyed watching Johan Santana stretch and play catch and the rest of the pitchers shag flies. But I had to deal with another stinking Yankee fan. I was leaning against the wall in right field when a woman in a Yankees World Series came up to me and started talking.

As you know, I don't converse with Yankee fans. But I was trying to be on my best behavior, lest I blow the fine karma that was brewing.

Yankee fan: "So, are you from New York?"

Me: "Yes, Massapequa Park. Where are you from?"

YF: "Middle Island."

Me: "Where in the middle of the island?"

YF: "No, Middle Island is the name of the town."

Me: "I've never heard of that." (Note, I now know it's out near Port Jefferson. Must be a hot bed of Yankee freaks.)

Then she dropped this bomb out of nowhere: "Must be hard being a Mets fan."

Me: "No, it's not."

YF: "Yankee fans have had a lot more to cheer about."

See, this is why I don't talk to these people. They're nothing but trouble and have bad t-shirts. There is no talking sense in to them. I decided she was sent to test and taunt me and wreck the karma. I politely pointed out Johan Santana when she asked to see him and walked away before she started expounding on the virtues of Kevin Maas.

I settled into my seat just beyond third base, noticing there were a fair number of Mets fans scattered around me. It's good to know who might have your back if things get ugly.

Jose Reyes started the game with a single, moved to second on a wild pitch, stole third and scored on a Carlos Beltran hit. That's going to raise some optimism.

But then Adam Dunn, the Reds' all-or-nothing slugger, had one of his "all" moments and crushed a ball into the bleachers.

But then the Mets added two runs in the second on a Ramon Castro blast, and even another when Reyes legged out a triple and scored on a Wright sac fly.

With the Mets up 4-1, I started wondering if this would finally be the day. But I also know what happens when I think that way.

And the Reds responded by tying the game with three runs in the bottom of the fourth, and going ahead with a Brandon Phillips shot in the sixth. Phillips killed the Mets with his bat and glove all series.

Will called to offer moral support. He was listening to the game while driving back to Chicago, and knew I must be distraught after the Mets gave away the lead.

He was correct.

This is the point that the Mets usually roll over and play dead. That six-hour drive home was going to seem even longer.

But Wright led off the seventh with a walk and stole second, coming home on a Carlos Delgado single. Tie game! That was a moment of cautious optimism, because I've seen our bullpen implode.

Duaner Sanchez shut down the Reds for two innings, but a series of Reds relievers did the same to the Mets. Carlos Beltran, he of the non-swing at-bats that ended the 2006 playoffs and killed the game the night before, got a hit, stole second -- then got nailed trying to steal third. Oh yeah, that's the kind of thing that happens during the streak.

The game went to extra innings -- a first for the streak. Never before had the Mets come so close. This was either going to be a burst of glory or devastating smack upside the head. At this moment, I would not have been surprised to see Derek F. Jeter himself step out of the Reds dugout on loan from the vile Yankees for day, imported just to deliver the fatal blow.

Seeing Robinson Cancel, our pudgy third-string catcher and pinch-hitter of last resort, come to the plate did not inspire confidence. But he lashed a double, surprising everyone -- probably including Cancel.

Man on second, no outs and the top of the order coming up. I know Tug said, "Ya gotta believe," and I was starting to.

I turned to a Mets fan sitting in the row behind me.

"You know, I haven't seen them win in 17 years."

"I've never seem them win outside of Shea," he replied. "And that's including games in Montreal."

Two long-suffering fans, both looking to end streaks? As this was all happening, the sky was getting darker and darker. I thought I heard distant thunder.

Jose Reyes dropped down a sac bunt to get Cancel to third, but instead used his speed and beat the throw. I was really believing now, and was jumping for joy when Encarnacion threw away a Argenis Reyes grounder allowing Cancel to score. Mets were up 6-5.

Cancel has already scored the go-ahead run, and Reyes here is on third before he added the insurance run with a mad dash home, barely beating a strong throw from Ken Griffey.

Wagner came in to shut the door, and as we know all too well, he is not always up to the task.

My heart was racing, and after the first two strikeouts I was walking in circles in the aisle. And when Jay Bruce swung at the breeze, I felt this enormous release.

What's this? Dejected Reds fans, the Mets celebrating -- a Mets victory after all these years! It was hard to believe I was able to take a photo between all the weeping, jumping, cell phone-answering and high-fiving.

The chain was cut, left for the cleaning crew among the peanut shells and Pepsi cups.

A jinx? Not me! I just saw the Mets come from behind to beat one of the best pitchers in the league and move into a tie for first place.

In fact, as one of the Crane Pool friends pointed out, I have a one-game winning streak!

Shamed no more

After 17 years and 11 games, the Mets won with me in the stands. What an afternoon! I'm numb, and that was before the 6.5-hour drive back to Michigan.

I'll have a full report of a weekend with the Mets, Reds and baseball buddies tomorrow. Meanwhile, take a look at the scoreboard. I haven't seen that result since I was 27.

Thank you to everyone who called, e-mailed and texted kind words all the way home. Greg called moments after Billy Wagner struck out jay Bruce and caught me giddy, weepy and probably incoherent.

It was just a baseball game, and yet, it was ... everything!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Streak extended, of course

The 7-2 on the scoreboard and the smiles on the faces on my Reds-loving buddies tell you that the Streak of Shame was extended on Saturday night. Now we're at 11 games over 17 years.

I'll have a full report when I return from Cincinnati.

But, there is good news. I was able to snag a ticket for today's game. The streak is in the hands of Big Mike Pelfrey!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Lucky seven reasons why the streak ends Saturday

And I’m feeling very good about this weekend. There are many factors in our favor. Here is a lucky seven list of reasons why the Mets should win:

1) They’re playing the Reds.

Over the life of the franchise, the Reds are 292-246 against the Mets, and 157-107 in Cincinnati. But Mets history shows that we tend to do well in big games, looking at the 1999 Wild Card tie-breaker game and the 1973 playoffs. Sure, it requires a little Buddy brawling or Edgardo Alfonzo heroics, but it happens. And this is a Big Game, though the team might not realize it.

2) The Reds owe me. Big time.

Yes, I’m talking about the Seaver trade. I realize that the trade isn’t their fault, and that the Mets were going to trade him to some one.

And, truth be told, the Reds have afforded Tom the proper respect. His jersey hangs in the team museum to accept proper tribute, and he’s enshrined in the Reds Hall of Fame. As he should be.

3) The game is our Eighth Annual BaseballTruth.com Executive Game.

The site has passed on, but the tradition continues. Each year, we gather at a ballpark to celebrate all things baseball, take care of site business and mock me for my blind loyalty. My All-Star ballots used to be held up to ridicule because I’d only vote for Mets. They all deserved it!

Anyway, we seem to bring luck to the home teams. The white jerseys have won five of the seven previous games.

The Reds and Tigers are the only losses. The Cubs pounded on the Reds on 1970s night last year, and the we saw the Tigers in Roger Clemens’ bid for win No. 300. He left with the lead, the Yankee infield kicked the ball around, leading to lots of extra innings and an eventual Tigers loss.
Plus, Steve, one of the executives, has seen the Reds twice this season — once at Shea — and they’ve lost both time. Maybe I’d spread the jinx curse to him.

4) The Mets are hot, hot, hot.

Well, all of them except Billy Wagner. But a nine-game winning streak bodes well. Will the three-day All-Star break kill the momentum or just give them time to reload?

5) The blue caps.

They’ve worn the blue caps throughout the streak. And Wagner wore the black and blue road cap in the All-Star debacle. No doubt they’re wearing the blue caps again tonight, and I’ll have mine for Saturday.

In fact, I’m going all superstitious for this game. They’ve lost with me wearing my black Robin Ventura road jersey, and my black Johan Santana home jersey and even my black Home Run Apple t-shirt. Clearly the color is involved.

So I’ll slip in wearing my new Mets Statue of Liberty t-shirt and the blue cap. Just to be sure.

6) They’re getting closer to winning.

The margin of victory for the opposition is going in the right direction. The Tigers beat them by eight runs last year, followed by two games with the Cubbies that were decided by six runs. The, the vile Yankees only topped them by a single run. Clearly, the momentum is headed our way.

7) The magic talisman has arrived.

My postal carrier was not thrilled by the glory she delivered this afternoon. I just happened to be outside when she arrived for the hand-off.

"You’ve got a heavy package."

"Yes! My brick!!!"

"It’s a brick?" she said, disbelieving.

"Yeah, it’s really cool."

She drove away and I skipped into the house to set it free. Cousin Tim, my benefactor, swears that the brick reverses the curse, and that touching it before the game will bring positive results.

Tim is never wrong. The brick seals the deal.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Treat her like a lady, please

Poppy seed bagels led to a strange experience this week — and will kick off a Deezo Friday Five that still leans heavily from my New York trip and the All-Star Game.

1) There was no way I was going to leave Long Island without a dozen real poppy seed bagels. They threw in three more knowing I was taking them back home — though at least that many disappeared somewhere along I-80 in Pennsylvania during snack time.

I’ve been rationing my bagels, defrosting one every other day.

This concerned the clerks in my regular bagel stop here in Michigan, who wondered why I was buying a cinnamon crunch bagel for my wife and nothing for myself.

I told her about my frozen stash, and the clerk seemed surprised that a New York bagel would be different than one in her shop, which actually is called Big Apple Bagels.

Another customer at the register jumped in: "They’re much bigger in New York," she said, and I joyfully recognized the accent.

"What part are you from?" I asked.

"Long Island," she replied.

"What part of the Island?" I asked.

"Mineola," she replied.

"Massapequa Park!" I offered. I didn’t realize there were other Islanders out here. "I was back home to see a game at Shea."

I was all ready to bond and discuss our favorite Billy Joel songs.

Then she broke out with this: "Did you go see a game at Yankee Stadium? It’s the final year."

"Hell no, I went to see a game at Shea, which also is in its final year."

"Are the Mets getting a new ball park, too? I don’t follow them. I like the Yankees."

She might have said something after that, but I was instantly mentally disengaged. I politely but quickly ended the conversation.

I don’t converse with Yankee fans.

2) I have mixed emotions about the sidewalk art for the All-Star Game.

You have to understand that I love all things related to the Statue of Liberty. My tolerant wife even allows me to display part of my collection on a tasteful shelf in the family room. And they’re pretty sweet, too, especially the one that dances when you put it near the stereo speakers.

So you’re thinking, "OK, baseball and Lady Liberty. How can anything be wrong with that?"

Something was bothering me and it took a while to figure it out.

Basically, they took the statues and covered them with logos. That works fine if you are dealing with an inanimate object, like the Liberty Bell for example.

But the Statue of Liberty depicts a person. Well, a person representing a concept, but you get the idea.

These painted statues treat her like an object, with logos where they shouldn’t be. It’s almost disrespectful.

How much cooler would it have been to treat her like a person — and paint jerseys on the statues? She could be wearing a special number for each team, saluting their best player.

Lady Liberty would look like she’s heading off to the game with the rest of the huddles masses yearning to breathe free instead of appearing like a giant paperweight.

Detroit had the right idea when the Tigers went to the World Series in 2006, putting a jersey on the Spirit of Detroit statue.

When Detroit does something better than you do, well, that’s not something you want to boast about.

3) Speaking of artwork, the church coed softball team I coach is in the playoffs and we kicked some butt in the first game. I almost kissed the Nitro after my sweet double.

This week we’re facing a challenge, going up against the best team in the league that, well, has yet to know the agony of defeat. Hopefully we can do some educating.

At least I think we’re playing them. Here’s what the league sent over. I’m not sure if this is the playoff bracket, abstract art or a map showing local bus routes.

4) Back to the All-Star Game. I have more issues.

I collect the programs from each game. Yes, I am obsessive. This was a fairly easy task, and I have them going back to the early 1970s.

MLB started getting difficult by producing multiple covers. First it was about five, saluting players including Mike Piazza with old-fashioned portraits. I grumbled, but I rounded them all up, as MLB knew I would.

This happened to varying degrees in recent years, with the number ebbing down through 2006.

But last year MLB went nuts and produced a program with the All-Star Game logo, then one for each team, showing a player headed to the game. Horrendous. There was no chance — none! — that I would even consider attempting getting 31 programs.

I was seriously irked because my streak of having every program since the 1970s was snapped. Now I have to add a disclaimer, saying I have one version of each program since the 1970s.

At least last year’s Met cover boy was Jose Reyes. This year we get Billy Wagner, who was our sole representative until David Wright was added this afternoon.

And there are at least two generic covers as well, one being called a limited stadium edition or some such nonsense.

I know MLB likes to take not just some of your disposable, but all of your disposable income. But sometimes I just wish it wasn’t so blatant about it.

5) I’m a good Long Islander. I like Billy Joel. People out here don’t get it, and that’s OK because they don’t get proper bagels, either.

Billy’s got some Yankee taint, but I chalk that up to pandering to raise some cash during his lawsuit period.

He’s making up for it by performing the last concerts at Shea Stadium next week. Here’s a clip of my favorite song from the Piano Man.

Yes, I know this is from Yankee Stadium. David Wright is going to be playing there, too, on Tuesday and we're not holding that against him.

Get well Bob Klapisch

I sure do like to vent about Bob Klapisch, but this is nasty.

His paper reports that Klapisch might have suffered permanent damage to his right eye after being struck by a one-hopper while pitching for a semi-professional baseball team in Morris County. He was pitching in relief for the Morris Mariners when a ground ball took an errant hop and caught him in the eye. The accident broke four orbital bones around that eye and may require doctors to reattach its retina.

I need Yankee lovers like Klapisch so I have something to get all worked up about. Otherwise I might have to start worrying about things that actually matter.

So let's wish Mr. Klapisch a speedy recovery. Maybe he'll run into Moises Alou at the hospital.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

If Bob Klapisch ran the All-Star Game

Brilliant blogger Greg Prince pointed out that Yankee-loving columnist Bob Klapisch is confused and thinks All-Star Games are held "Primarily if not exclusively for the benefit of the host team."

Klap’s gushing — you can read it here, if you dare -- would be vintage Klapisch if he had only worked in a handful of cheap shots directed at the Mets. You know he had some pent-up outrage over the Willie dismissal to insert, but probably would have needed to trim some of the Yankee adoration and just couldn’t bring himself to do it.

Klapisch seems to think that Yankee closer/cyborg Mariano Rivera should be allowed to start the game. I’ll let him say it, because I couldn’t make this stuff up.

"No, the real way to commemorate Yankee Stadium in what could be its final marquee event is to let Rivera start the game: Allow him to bask in the thunderous standing ovation, and let him know what it feels like to have a million flashbulbs go off in his face upon delivery of that first cut fastball.

"But Rivera would only throw one inning; that would be the stipulation. One inning, and he gets to stand on the mound and let the ovation cover him like a soft rain. It would be a reminder of better times in the Bronx, back when the Yankees really did rule the world. And, technically speaking, it wouldn't be an entirely foreign assignment for Rivera. He did begin his career with the Yankees as a starting pitcher."

Wow. And I think Klapisch showed restraint. Given his druthers, I bet Klapisch would make wholesale changes to this year’s All-Star Game.

It’s dangerous to try to get in the head of a Yankee-hack. But it’s safe to imagine that this might be Klapisch’s top 10 changes:

1) Why not simply invite the entire Yankee team, and have them play the American League All-Stars? Who cares about the National League anyway? Everybody knows the AL is better.

2) Derek Jeter should be allowed to keep taking swings until he finally gets a hit. Nobody is paying $10,000 a ticket to see St. Derek hit into a 6-4-3 double play.

Note the intanginbles.

3) Any ball hit within 15 feet of either side of Jeter shall be declared an out. Jeter won’t be able to hear the "ovation cover him like a soft rain" if fans are whispering "Derek has the range of a bloated roadkill raccoon."

4) The rest of the Yankee batters get four strikes before they are called out. Well, six in Jason Giambi’s case, just to be fair.

Joba getting another dose of "Yankee Magic" applied by a True Yankee.

5) The opposing team only gets two strikes. No need to make Joba work harder than necessary for an exhibition game.

6) No opposing batters will be allowed to take an extra base on any ball hit to Johnny Damon. No need to remind the crowd that weak-armed Damon couldn’t reach second base without the ball taking four bounces and rolling 20 feet.

7) All opposing players must wear No. 26 in tribute to the 26 world championships the Yankees have won. Did you know they’ve won 26 world championships? That’s right, 26. This will be mentioned over the loud speakers between each half-inning, which is only slightly more frequently than normal. I repeat, 26 world championships. But don't mention that they’ve lost the last two World Series in which they’ve appeared -- both times to expansion teams.

8) The opposing team is not allowed to field a first baseman, as a tribute to Lou Gehrig. No non-Yankee is worthy to stand on the same dirt as Lou Gehrig.

9) The basepaths are to be rearranged so that opposing players must run through Monument Park and pay homage to every plaque and monument between second and third base. That also gives Bobby Abreu time to pick up the ball, miss the cut off man and have the infielders scramble to recover it in time to tag the runner sometime before he gets to the Elston Howard plaque.

10) If somehow the Yankees are losing, they will be allowed to hit from a tee for the final three innings. If the Yankees were to lose the final marquee game in their stadium’s 33-year history, it would be an abomination!

That’s right, I said 33 years. There’s virtually nothing left form the original stadium after the 1974-75 renovation, a fact all these Yankee-hacks conveniently leave out when they go on and on about the sacred ground.

Meanwhile, I hope Rivera does get to close, and I hope David Wright is elected as the "final man" and Wright does to Rivera what he did in that glorious Subway Series game. Now that would be a fitting tribute to Yankee Stadium.