Didds and Baseball
Wherein an English rugby prop discovers the Grand Old American Pastime.
As related in an e-mail to a Yank friend.
Got home late from work last night around midnight due to a pile of junk my latest client laughingly refers to as his "High Availability" I.T. solution and that I cynically refer to it as "the skip waiting to happen." (Dunno what you call 'em over there but a "skip" is an open topped metal container that you can pile waste into - you see 'em on building sites a lot. Maybe you call 'em dumpsters?)
Anyhow, although it was late and I'm tired I still have that "just left work" buzz, so I grabbed a beer (or four) from the fridge and channel hopped looking for something banal to wash over me for a while, while not totally leaving me brain dead or seemingly approaching the status of closet pervert. Late night TV here has hit upon these various sad programs that are basically extremely soft porn but dressed up to look like genuine
investigative documentaries... stuff like "Strippers and their Clients - the relationship" or "Working Girls Lives" which drone on about the psychology of female sex workers and the male punter, etc. while using every opportunity to show women stripping, lap dancing and generally acting in variously erotic ways, some more successfully than others.
Not that I ever watch these programs, of course.
Anyway, I flicked past a totally shite US made-for-TV movie on BBC1 about a heroin addict's reaction to life with AIDs having been made bankrupt following the collapse of the family business due to a horrific tragedy that killed off his entire family except him in a bizarre accident involving a nuclear submarine, a fridge and a can of Dr. Pepper, to find
BBC2 had some studio chat thing going on about the dichotomy between the established church and gay bishophood (it’s all the rage each side of the Atlantic, of course) and David Beckham's move to Real Madrid... or something. ITV was just crap because it is ITV ... I only watch it for the adverts these days... Channel 4 looked promising but the program ended as soon as I started to watch it and was followed by a Croatian film dubbed into Korean with French subtitles about a fly. Finally I tried Channel 5.
Now, Channel 5, I have to explain, is the last refuge of the desperate. When it was launched they had the great foresight of showing an England Rugby International when England were playing in Argentina. “Excellent start,” thinks I. But they used a football (i.e. soccer) pundit to introduce it and give the half time comment, which all began with him saying he didn't know the first thing about rugby and continued in a vein that displayed his immense ignorance perfectly while adding nothing to the experience. They
had tried to find somebody vaguely knowledgeable about the game, but obviously weren't offering enough cash because all they could find was Victor Obugu, who, reasonable prop that he was, will never win any awards for intelligent thinking and whose speech and delivery makes Stallone appear Olivier like in his acting. Their early inroads into sport having failed, they now tend to rely on soft porn films shown on Friday nights after the pubs have chucked out to attract any viewers. So you can see that I was truly stuck to
venture this far; the TV remote still has that satisfying click when you depress "5" while all the others sort of slush into their facia holes and mostly don't work through overuse.
You can imagine my delight, therefore, when I espied not some bimbo explaining to a traffic cop why she was lost while her blouse fell off or some Sardinian commentating in extremely broken English on a Korfball match, but a full blooded, totally kosher Yankees vs. Texas (Rangers?) baseball match courtesy of "ESPN Wednesday Night Baseball". Ed Wotsisname was commentating - the bloke who looks a hundred and eight years old and was once traded for a pitcher (?) 'cos the pitcher's team's boss was a TV station owner whose baseball commentator was ill and Ed's boss was a fan of another team that needed a pitcher. Or something like that. In fact he reminded me of an Australian Cricket commentator called Alan McGilvray that used to commentate for the BBC on the radio when the Aussies were touring in England. He looked about 108, too, although I don't think he ever got traded for a fast bowler. Australia have got hundreds of them.
Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the 5 innings I sat through until fatigue got the better of me. The Yankees had some huge fat left-armer pitching that wore 33 in honour of Babe Ruth ('cos the no. 3 has been retired, of course) although, frankly, my bet is Babe would probably still pitch better than this bloke. His main pitch seemed to be the one that breaks the batter's toes and flies off at 90 degrees so the runner on first base can steal to second while the catcher tries to find the ball, because the umpire hadn't noticed that the batter hopping around on one leg in agony might have been an indication that it was a dead pitch/ball and not a fumble - and that runner went on to score the Yankees’ first run. Great stuff - and I was delighted to realise that while even cricket and rugby have succumbed to the TV umpire/referee, that baseball has shunned this obvious piece of technology to resolve such simple disputes.
This truly is a game of tradition and hang the 20th century (let alone the 21st). Much was made of the fact that this was the very mound that Babe Ruth once pitched from and hit pitches that came from it... aside from the fact that in the millennia since Babe Ruth retired the in-field must have been relaid so many times that the earth that Babe's mound was made of is probably been long tipped into the foundation of I-95 or whatever runs through/past Manhattan.
Paul McCartney seemed to be enjoying himself, though.
The Yankees also had some Japanese bloke playing for them that looked totally inscrutable as well as also looking totally like Fu Manchu as played by Christopher Lee back in the 60s/70s. Totally inscrutable, that is, until he made a huge error in left field that let in the tie run.
As for Texas, their pitcher looked about 12 years old. I don’t remember much about them except I went for another beer, was away for all of 30 seconds and missed their home run. Bugger.
But, of course, the thing that made it all was the commentary team, who seemed to be shown as often as the players. Ed wotsis-face the living corpse sandwiched between a big fat bugger that never talked about the game in progress but everything that happened in 1936, and bloke with a black blazer and tie that didn't seem to have much to say at all - or maybe he just couldn't get much of a word in edgeways between fat-history-man and Ed.
Whatever. It was great. Really brought back memories of watching the Orioles on the TV in DC, and, more often, listening to the commentaries on whatever radio station it was. Definitely a game I enjoy, even if the nuances mean nothing. Any commentary team that is more interested in Willie May's mother's dog's previous owner's postman's ERA in the minor leagues than the game that is groaning along in front of them is fine by me - in fact it was very reminiscent of some of the more extreme commentary pieces
from the BBC's esteemed "Test Match Special" cricket commentary team.
It also ties in with a conversation I had last week with some rugger chums. We were discussing longevity in sportsmen and mentioning the likes of Steve Redgrave with five Olympic Golds (from five Olympic games)... and I told 'em all about Cal Ripken, Junior who not only holds the ironman record for consecutive baseball matches but that he did it mostly at shortstop - the most intense position on the field.
I could tell they didn't have a clue what I was on about.
Meanwhile, here in the UK we are having scorching weather - the bookies have stopped taking bets on a 100 degree day - and the UK has never recorded such a temperature. And the railways have ground to a halt because the tracks are buckling due to the wrong kind of heat.
The weather may change but the British railway system doesn't.
Here's to Ed-The-Dead, a long hot summer, and fat pitchers. Time standing still.