Back from my west coast swing (no to be confused with my western swing). I had a great time visiting friends in Seattle, catching up with family and watching killer whales on San Juan Island, and packing my stay in Los Angeles with trips to museums — the Getty, MOCA, LACMA, the Norton Simon. Our trip was extended by a day when our Sunday morning flight was canceled due to bad weather in the New York area, but like most extra-inning affairs, the bonus portion wore me down a bit and threw off my entire schedule.
Hence the lack of a blog entry here in quite some time. The Yankees in particular have been busy beavers, bashing their way back to relevance and upgrading their team by acquiring Xavier Nady, Damaso Marte, and Ivan Rodriguez while jettisoning three-fifths of their Triple-A rotation, disappointing prospect/suspect Jose Tabata, and big-money relievers Kyle Farnsworth and LaTroy Hawkins. Typical Brian Cashman deadline no-brainer slam dunks. Why is it the Red Sox make so much damn noise with their non-moves while the Stealth Bomber just gets deals done with so little prior warning? Sermon for another day, but let’s just say nobody in New York plays the house organ the way some of those famous Boston writers do.
I’ll be weighing in on the Yankees’ deals and those of everybody else several times over the next two days at Baseball Prospectus, via the upcoming Hit List, a group roundtable at 2 PM Eastern (similar to the fabulous All-Star Game roundtable), and my own post-deadline wrap-up chat on Friday at 2 PM Eastern. I’ll also be appearing on the Rotowire Fantasy Sports Hour with Chris Liss, today at 2 PM Eastern on XM 144.
Anyway I had plenty of baseball for the trip while in L.A., attending last Saturday’s Dodgers-Nationals game and visiting a pair of public libraries for a pair of baseball exhibits. For the Dodger game, a friend who works A&R for a record company scored the company’s tickets, plush box seats at the edge of the infield on the first base side. With those prime ducats we also had access to the all-you-can-eat Stadium Club, and had barely stuffed our faces with Dodger Dogs and other meat products before Matt Kemp’s two-run homer and Nomar Garciaparra’s sacrifice fly put the home team up 3-0 in the first inning at former Dodger Odalis Perez’s expense. Nomar added a homer, new kid Casey Blake (acquired that morning from the Indians in a deal I’ll have harsh words for elsewhere) got two hits including a double, and Derek Lowe cracked two hits himself, one more than he allowed in eight sterling innings.
Did I mention the beer cups with the ridiculous flashing lights on the bottom? So giddy were we at our seats that we sprung for those to amplify the already-festive atmosphere. Compared to this opulent spread in such a beautiful, spacious ballpark, attending a ballgame at Yankee Stadium these days is like being beaten in the kidneys with a truncheon. I’ll show you the Bronx indeed. (That said, Score Bard Ken Arneson’s take on the House That Ruth Built is well worth your time.)
As for the exhibits, first up was “Play Ball! Images of Dodger Blue, 1958-1988″ at the Los Angeles Central Public Library. Spread over two rooms, it’s a collection of a few dozen photos, mainly from the archives of the now-defunct Los Angeles Herald Examiner, retracing all of the high notes (and a few low ones) in L.A. Dodger history. I found it impossible not to crack a shit-eating grin upon seeing famous shots of Fernando Valenzuela, Kirk Gibson and the Longest-Running Infield, but I also had a few groans for the sight of Chavez Ravine residents fighting eviction and Dodger infielders haplessly looking on while Willie Davis misplayed a ball in the 1966 World Series. The press release roll call of those pictured: “[T]he team’s arrival in 1957, Wally Moon and baseball at the L.A. Coliseum, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Walter O’Malley and the battle over Chavez Ravine, Roy Campanella, Vin Scully, Jaime Jarrin, Maury Wills, James Roark’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated photograph of Rick Monday’s rescue of the American Flag, Tommy John surgery, Andy Messersmith and the advent of free agency, Garvey-Lopes-Russell-Cey, Dusty Baker and the first ‘high five,’ Fernando Mania, Al Campanis, Orel Hershiser, Kirk Gibson, and more.” Can’t beat that if you’re a Dodger fan.
With two nights flopping in Pasadena, I also finally found time to pay a visit to The Baseball Reliquary to see their greatest hits exhibition, “The Tenth Inning”. The Reliquary is a celebration of baseball’s oddballs and outcasts and a confrontation with the game’s sometimes unseemly history, particularly its racism. Its Shrine of the Eternals honors the likes of Jim Abbott, Dick Allen, Moe Berg, Yogi Berra, Ila Borders, Jim Bouton, Jim Brosnan, Roberto Clemente, Rod Dedeaux, Dock Ellis, Mark Fidrych, Curt Flood, Josh Gibson, “Dummy” Hoy, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Bill James, Bill “Spaceman” Lee, Marvin Miller, Minnie Minoso, Satchel Paige, Jimmy Piersall, Pam Postema, Jackie Robinson, Lester Rodney, Valenzuela, Bill Veeck Jr., and Kenichi Zenimura.
I missed this year’s induction ceremony of Bill Buckner and the late Buck O’Neill and Emmett Ashford (good writeup here), but over the course of three rooms spread out on the library’s ground floor admired The Tenth Inning’s mini-exhibits devoted to Robinson, Berg, Fernando (including one of those exquisite orange crate paintings by Ben Sakoguchi, several of which were elsewhere in the exhibit. Somebody’s absolutely got to do a coffee-table book of these), Postema, Veeck (including one of his wooden legs), Louis Sockalexis (including a cool Hatch Show Print poster, one of five by the famous Nashville letterpress that the Reliquary has commissioned) and a whole lot more. Fine stuff, and well worth the trip if you’re anywhere in the area, though I should warn you that the current exhibit closes today. Don’t sleep.
Speaking of which, miles to go and all that. I’m sure we’ll have plenty more to discuss before the next two days are done, so check in with me over at BP if you want to talk some baseball.