Friday, October 5, 2007

Grumps' Grumblings: 'Tis the season for us, jocks

ACTUALLY, I'd sworn on a stack of Baseball Digests I wouldn't bring up the subject. However, it's just too vital to every male, and even a segment of females, on this planet to bypass.
No, I'm not talking about the political ramifications surrounding The Hill (Ottawa) or The Capitol (Washington, D.C.) or even Britney Spears' questionable mothering skills, but the latest happenings in the Valley of the Jocks.
While The Missus was determined to fill her daily menu with Dr. Phil, Judge Judy, O'Reilly and even the late, late reruns of Audacious Bill. I was equally passionate in ruling the roost with the baseball playoff openers, the opening faceoffs to the NHL season along with the latest clips from the NFL and CFL. After all, it is October and the annual convergence of all things sporting.
So there I was on Wednesday sinking low in an easy chair with a pop by my side and tuning in to the Colorado Rockies and Phillies' contest from Philadelphia. And guess who was on the mound for the Rockies? None other than Boomer Francis, the 6-5, 205-pound sensation from North Delta, B.C.
Now, as everyone should know, Jeff Francis has other credentials than owning a winning 17-9 record during the National League season, for he's a one-time physics and astronomy major at UBC.
When looking up his scientific data in something called Symmetry, I found that Francis could actually discuss the Magnus Force, but in that same article Francis downplayed his being an intellectual and was quoted as saying, "I can't get any more crossword clues that anyone else."
Just as I was watching Francis' masterful performance, The Missus tapped me on the shoulder and said: "Listen, this game had better be over before Dr. Phil comes on."
That's when I whispered under my breath, "C'mon, Jeff, hold those Phillies in check and do it pronto." He did for a 4-2 opening playoff win.
Without thinking (is that your problem, too?) I thought I could alleviate any tension by mentioning the Red Sox and LA Angels would be playing next. It was met with a frown.
During the "intermission" between games, I retired to my office and uncovered a boxful of aging Baseball Digests that Mr. Bill had hoarded away in his stash of great literature.
So here's one from August 1971 with a picture of Vida Blue, followed by the words: Baseball's Most Exciting Young Pitcher and also turn lines to Mickey Mantle: "The Game I'll Never Forget" and on Page 86, writer Bob Du Vall asked the dramatic question of Whatever Became Of ... Del Crandall, Joe DeMaestri, Forrest (Smoky) Burgess, Vic Lombardi and Erv Dusak?
The minutes ticked away as I found an article on the 1969 World Series when the Amazin' New York Mets toppled the Baltimore Orioles and it brought back memories which I still savour to this day.
There I was, a young sportswriter for the late, great Toronto Telegram, rubbing shoulders with the Ol' Professor, Casey Stengel, and watching the likes of Tom Seaver, Tug McGraw, Ron Swoboda, Ron Taylor, Jerry Grote, Bud Harrelson, Ed Kranepool, Al Weis, Tommie Agee, Cleon Jones and managed, so magnificently, by Gil Hodges.
Those thoughts were jarred when I heard Bill O'Reilly's voice in the distance.
"Hey, turn on the Red Sox game, please!"
At least, I did catch the last few pitches of Josh Beckett's magnificent performance in shutting out the Angels 4-0 and anxiously awaited the Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Chicago Cubs opener from Phoenix. After all, Carlos Zambrano was on the mound for my Cubbies.
Well, in the sixth, Chicago manager Lou Piniella, for whatever strange reason, yanked the Z Man and replaced him with reliever Carlos Marmol. It was then that Arizona soared ahead 3-1.
No wonder I still have a case of indigestion from that opening loss, but there will be better days.
BASEBALL NAMES (From Uncle John's Bathroom Reader): Chicago Cubs -- There was no official nickname in the early 1900s (although they were informally called both the Colts and the Orphans). However, as I've mentioned before, in 1902, a "thrifty" sportswriter dubbed them "the Cubs" because it fit into a headline. The name stuck and the team officially adopted it a few years later.
REMEMBERING GIL HODGES (From Roger Kahn's Book, The Boys of Summer, devoted to the old Brooklyn Dodgers): "Hodges had the largest hands in baseball. He wore a glove at first base only because it was fashionable."
"Hodges has to be the strongest human in baseball."
"What about Ted Kluszewski?"
"If he's stronger than Hodges, then he ain't human."
Hodges, the one-time Dodger and Mets' manager, died at age 47 in April, 1972.

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