Tag Archives: baseball

Jackie Robinson Day

The newest Ken Burns documentary is a two-part biography of Jackie Robinson, premiering tomorrow night on PBS. Despite his inclusion in Burns’s Baseball, Robinson’s impact breaking the color barrier in American professional sports extends even beyond the scope of what that eleven-part epic can accomplish.

Jackie_Robinson_Day_LogoWhile much of April belongs to Opening Week festivities, and all the pomp and circumstance that attends the return to Major League ballparks all around the country, we’ll also soon be reminded of the anniversary of Robinson’s historic debut at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. Since 2004, April 15 has been celebrated as Jackie Robinson Day throughout baseball, and it’s the only time that Robinson’s number 42 can be worn by an MLB player. And, in fact, every player will be wearing 42. Sure, it might be confusing if you’re keeping score, but the significance far outweighs any statistical record-keeping challenges. Continue reading Jackie Robinson Day

What’s the Big Flippin’ Deal?

mlbWhen Major League Baseball’s Spring Training rolls around every year, it reminds me that there are basically two kinds of people in this country: those who roll their eyes and think baseball season is never-ending; and those who wish baseball season lasted all year long. Count me among the latter. The offseason always seems interminable. The sights and sounds of baseball in the spring, as a harbinger of glorious summer days and brisk fall evenings at the ballpark, fill me with sheer joy.

Bryce Harper on the cover of The Mag, March 28 issue
Bryce Harper on the cover of The Mag, March 28 issue

Aside from the typical news briefing of rookie prospects, troublesome injuries, rotation depth, and early playoff prognosticating, what’s going on in baseball this March?

Well, an American team, the Tampa Bay Rays, played an exhibition game in Cuba yesterday, so that was cool. Hopefully it will serve as another step in improving relations between our countries, as well as garner attention for the economic and political situation that still suffocates the Cuban people. The Pittsburgh Pirates are planning on breaking out the old pillbox hats in some throwback games this year. Those were cute. And the reigning MVP of the National League, Bryce Harper, continues to voice his opinions on what many consider to be the stale, outdated unwritten rules of baseball. Continue reading What’s the Big Flippin’ Deal?

SPORTS! – January 2016

Comics, film, and music are all good and fun, but few things make us excessively fist-pump, scream obscenities at our inanimate television sets, or give us as much blinding pride as our favorite sports teams. These monthly editions of SPORTS! will give quick, digestible downloads of what is going on in the world of sports. Here we will cover the goings on in four major professional leagues: the NFL, MLB, NBA, and BPL. 

nflNational Football League
– MH

As a diehard Sacramento Kings fan, I’ve personally gone through just about all stages of grief as they pertain to relocating a professional sports team. Luckily for me and the rest of the Kings fanbase, the team was saved at the last minute by new investors willing to keep the team in Sacramento. It was one of the hardest times as a sports fan I’ve ever experienced, having been convinced multiple times the team I grew up cheering for would be moving to Seattle. That’s why I’ve been feel a sharp tinge of pain recently for the good people of St.Louis, MO who just recently had their Rams football team relocate to Los Angeles. And it’s not just the Rams. On Tuesday, the NFL voted 30-2 to relocate both the Rams AND the San Diego Chargers to Los Angeles. The two teams are expected to share a new stadium in Inglewood which is expected to be completed in 2019 and where the two teams will play in the interim has yet to be decided. The point of contention here is that Rams owner Stan Kroenke really did nothing to work with the city of St.Louis to keep the team there and his extremely public disdain for the city and the team’s fanbase has greatly infected the relocation story.

In more light-hearted yet no less disturbing news, throughout the 2015-2016 season, there have been a bevy of videos from various Buffalo Bills fans documenting the absurd goings-on at Bills tailgates. There are so many videos in fact, that sports news site Deadspin has a dedicated archive file for these stories called “Billspin.” It is extremely hilarious and extremely NSFW. If you’re ever planning on attending a Buffalo Bills game in the future, you’ve officially been warned.

Continue reading SPORTS! – January 2016

Contest: Make Me a Mixtape 2012

Help me cross the finish line in this year’s Giant Race and win this limited edition “K Pack” poster!

Last year’s mixtape contest turned out even better than I had hoped. Although I didn’t make it through the entire entrant-created playlist, I am happy to report that I didn’t have to skip over a single track. Cade I. took home the Brian Wilson bobblehead thanks to the timely finish-line fist-pumper “Danger Zone” and Anthony E.’s stupid Spongebob theme song suggestion never made it into the rotation. [Although: my iTunes recently fished out that Painty the Pirate song for a Genius playlist built around The Decemberists’ “We Both Go Down Together.” Clearly the mischievous Apple AI isn’t bound to my iPod’s circuitry.)

Entering is easy: submit a song for my half-marathon playlist. I start the race, hit shuffle, and go. If your song is playing when I cross the finish line in AT&T Park, you win. This year’s prize is the “K Pack” promo given away at the recent Frank Sinatra tribute night. The only other way to get your hands on this sexy 16 x 20 poster is by scouring eBay, and them’s dangerous waters, matey.

Send one song selection to mdigino@gmail.com and I’ll add it to the playlist. I’ll announce the winner (and winning finish-line song) on the evening of Sunday, September 16th.

Another look at the fineprint:

  • Songs should be energetic and appropriately charged for running. I reserve the right to skip any song that is making me want to stop moving. Or a song that might incite me to dropkick my shuffle in the direction of Alcatraz (so please pick something other than “Church on White,” Erik).
  • Songs need to be five minutes or less. Sorry, Rob, can’t accept that Digitalism remix this time around.
  • I’m taking the first 40 song requests, and after that the contest is locked.
  • I’ll definitely be padding out the playlist with some songs of my own choosing, but if one of my picks is the last thing I’m listening to, I’ll award the prize to the most recent reader-nominated song that comes up in the shuffle.
  • If your song choice is obscure and I don’t have it, and it can’t be tracked down via all the usual outlets (iTunes, emusic, etc.), you may have to send it to me. After securing all the appropriate permissions, of course.
  • If someone already recommended your pick, I’ll email you back for a second choice.
  • If the prize needs to be shipped, winner is responsible for shipping costs.

Good luck!

Melky Cabrera – A Fan’s Take

Prior to Wednesday’s news, I had spent the better part of two months admitting to anyone and everyone that I was wrong about Melky Cabrera. Coming into the 2012 season, I was far more ready to embrace Angel Pagan and an everyday Nate Schierholtz than a guy whose last tour of the National League was an abysmal turn with the Braves in 2010. Then came the hits, and the Melkmen, and the hits, and All-Star Game, and the team records, the hits and the Pennant Race.

When I heard the news, I skipped right over shock and depression and barreled directly into rage. In small part for making me feel like an idiot: I had been apologizing for my preseason Melky doubts almost as much as I was demanding Brandon Belt playing time. Most of the rage, however, stems from the fact that, as a Giants fan, I felt that our community had finally worked its way free from the specter of the steroids era. The 2010 World Series team erased past postseason failures along with past performance-enhancing scandals. The 756 plaque in right-center field is about as subdued as it gets for an organization that typically loves to throw a party.

I’ve heard the experts speak for years about how the guidelines and repercussions may not be strict enough. I saw last year’s NL MVP Ryan Braun become the first to successfully overturn a fifty-game suspension. Earlier this season we lost Mota to a second offense. I understand that PED abuse hasn’t gone away. But when it happens to the Giants, when it happens to a guy at the center of a playoff-caliber team, I knew we would have to deal with people like this guy who thinks that the Giants should forfeit position in the standings.

And this is where the real rage comes from.

Yes, Melky won the All Star Game MVP, and it’s an embarrassing image, now, to see him hoisting that trophy. But it wasn’t Melky, but a triple off the bat of another Giant, Pablo Sandoval, that broke the game open. And it wasn’t Melky, but Matt Cain, who stifled the bats of that vaunted AL lineup. And it isn’t Melky, but Buster Posey, the hottest hitter in the game since the All Star break, who is at the center of our pennant hopes down the stretch.

The East Coast Bias is a real thing, ladies and gentlemen, and these caustic reactions demanding All Star Game reversals and team penalties are further proof. Maybe Ryan Braun just had a better lawyer. Or he makes a better poster boy for American baseball. He won the MVP, beating out a more deserving (as much as I hate to admit it) west coast player, and somehow dodged a deluge of bad press. A notable new Giant gets caught, and writers want to invoke Serie A rules and send the entire squad to triple-A.

The most notable example of the aforementioned writer’s ignorance is when he suggests that the Giants’ pursuit of Hunter Pence could have been driven by the fact that the front office knew that Melky was taking testosterone and were arming themselves in case of a suspension. First of all, why would an organization that has made such strides to emerge from the Game of Shadows go right back to the thinnest ice on the pond?

Secondly, if you’re going to write on baseball, pay attention to baseball. All of it. Even the teams that start games when Ohioans are putting on their pajamas. The Giants pursued Hunter Pence last year before Melky was even an offseason possibility. Coming into this season, there was nothing solid about the Giants’ outfield, and it had remained a key point of trade pursuit since April. Did you really think Pagan, Blanco, and Schierholtz were foregone conclusions? Do you read any west coast press? What about statistics: other than Cabrera, which Giants outfielders were doing so well that trading for Pence seemed superfluous? Ever look at the standings, or what other west coast teams are doing in a pennant race? The Dodgers had just traded for Hanley Ramirez, and were rumored to be in the market for Pence before settling for Victorino. To think that these were not the primary factors in the deadline deal that brought Pence to the Bay is asinine.

I get it: guys like this get paid to piss people off. He even designates a section on his blog called “Hate Mail” to archive irate responses from readers (most of whom, I’ll admit, sound like morons). He stimulates discussion with controversy. And just to be sure he’s not simply trying to make a reasoned argument, but would rather have internet commentators react with frothing mouths, he serves up a statement like, Giants: “Steroid Central.” Disregard the fact that, since 2005, when MLB’s new policies on PED suspensions kicked in, the Rays, Mariners, and Mets have all had as many 50-game suspensions as the Giants (a whopping three apiece). Forget the Braun debacle. Ignore Clemens, Sosa, Giambi, and Palmeiro, and all the other high-profile Mitchell Report targets. I wonder if this, or any other writer with a similar agenda, has even been to AT&T Park and witnessed a crowd of fans in love with their team, savvy about baseball, and now, collectively disappointed and enraged by Melky Cabrera. Steroid Central? How dare you.

It’s always been tough being a Giants fan. It was tough on me as a kid when the A’s were the dominant team in the Bay Area. In the 90’s when we never cleared that playoff hump. During the Bonds era where everything was shrouded in suspicion and 2002 when it felt like we were the villains defeated in a Hollywood ending. Hard still in the internet era when more and more Californians ignore geography and history and adopt “favorite” teams all around the country; in 2010 we were the underdog cinematic heroes, but it hurt me a little to see so many locals buy into the east coast media promises of Phillies or Rangers dominance.

Damn you, Melky Cabrera, for making it hard all over again.

But it won’t make me stop loving this team, loving September baseball, or defending this town and its fanbase as the best in baseball. Now, let’s take care of the Padres this weekend. East coast writers, continue to glance over boxscores in the morning. We have no need of you.

The Most Perfect of Wednesdays

128 years of Giants baseball, and it hadn’t ever happened. Until tonight.

In more than a century of Major League Baseball, more than 300,000 starting pitchers have taken the mound. Only 21 had ever pitched a perfect game. Until tonight.

On Wednesday, June 13, 2012, Matt Cain became the 22nd player in MLB history to record a perfect game.

When the ball left Chris Snyder’s bat in the top of the 6th, the bar where I was watching the game let out a collective groan. That turned into a rolling cheer when Melky Cabrera leaped to catch the ball at the wall.

An inning later Jordan Schafer laced one to right-center that looked ticketed for a double. Gregor Blanco made the greatest catch of his career. And everyone in the bar remained on his or her feet until that final out.

I love Matt Cain. I love this team. Go Giants.

Giants Spring Training 2012

This is my favorite time of year. Camp opens; batters get stiff backs and pitchers are throwing balls over the backstop. College teams cough up twenty-five runs to assemblages of similarly anonymous minor league pros. Comcast cameras swinging around Scottsdale invariably pick up footage of J.T. Snow everywhere because the man is everywhere and he’s either grinning ear-to-ear, or smiling right around his face. I love Spring Training.

Last year this time I was able to write up my Top 5 Postseason Moments from 2010. I was still riding the high from the championship season and was far more interested in looking back and reliving Orange October than looking forward to the new campaign. This year, however, I’ve been plenty pensive about what needs to sort out in the desert before the season opens on April 6. Here’s where my head is during Cactus League play, in ceremonious Top 5 fashion. Continue reading Giants Spring Training 2012

Make Me a Mixtape

Hey Buddy: Win this Bearded Brian Bobblehead!

…and win this limited edition Brian Wilson bobblehead!

First off, let me thank Jimmy Chew for talking me into this year’s The Giant Race half marathon. And even after I said I’d run it, his incessant “have you registered yet?” reminders ensured that I got a bib number before it sold out.

Of course, it’s been a good long while since I’ve run any kind of marathon, full or half, and getting my legs up to speed has been a drag (especially since my old marathon training team has either moved to the east coast; given up running shoes for a bicycle; or just opted for the most sane alternative to running which is, simply, not running).

When training alone, scintillating conversation needs to be replaced with music. The iPod Shuffle figured to be a great running buddy: it’s lightweight, clips to my shorts, and holds two gigs of tunes. What really sold me was the way it could auto-fill itself from your iTunes library, guaranteeing an exciting randomized playlist and miles of “guess the artist” fun.

I went from thinking this was a clever little device, to thinking it was stupid, to thinking it was cleverly sadistic in the span of three runs. Granted, it’s been pulling from over 35,000 songs, but this miniature robot prankster somehow manages to jumble in as many forgotten spoken word tracks, bluegrass banjo disasters, and instrumental lullabies that it can find on my hard drive. Instead of having fun being surprised by a song and wondering, “who sings this again?” I yank out my earbuds wondering (sometimes audibly, which can be embarrassing if there are other runners about), “what the hell is this and why was it on my computer?”

Continue reading Make Me a Mixtape

Top 5 Postseason Moments of 2010

On the last day of the 2010 regular season, with all apologies to that scintillating infield of Will Clark, Robby Thompson, and Matt Williams, I realized that, no matter how this Orange October would resolve, this team was my favorite Giants team of all time.  This band of castoffs and misfits, this gritty homegrown pitching staff, this Buster Posey kid and thong-swinging Aubrey Huff, went on to create one of the single most intense stretches of anticipation, tension, and excitement in my life.  A stretch that ended, of course, in pure joy.

It’s been a long time coming. A lot of heartbreak and a lot of frustration. But a lot of exuberance too. Winning the World Series was not just about chasing away demons from so many failed seasons past. Throughout this entire postseason I had exultant flashbacks to teams, players, and even broadcasters from the past. So forgive me if I’m not quite ready to move on completely from that magical season.

On the eve of Opening Day, 2011, I need to take a minute and count down my

Top Five Postseason Moments of 2010

5. Tomahawk Whiffs

The Giants won the West. We were hosting the Wild Card winning Atlanta Braves for the first two of a five-game NLDS.  So why was the world ready to send the Braves off to another LCS before the first pitch had even been thrown? Why am I hearing on KNBR that our pitching measures up about equally, but the Braves have the edge in hitting?

This east coast bias monstrosity was just starting to build.  And in the opposite corner, an orange-and-black northern California heartbeat, freak-powered and boldly defiant.  You want to see pitching?

Tim Lincecum struck out fourteen Braves in Game One of the NLDS. Fourteen. Equal my ass. That one run?  All the Giants needed.  There’s a reason this kid won two straight Cy Young awards. And if the rest of the country hadn’t caught on yet, this was just the kind of call to attention they needed. Continue reading Top 5 Postseason Moments of 2010

The Sportsbook Dilemma

When I was a freshman in high school, my social studies teacher, Mr. Stiegler, recounted a story to our class about lifelong sports fandom triumphantly rewarded.  For years, including every pathetic campaign during the 1970’s, he placed a five-dollar bet on the 49ers to win the Super Bowl.  It was a symbolic gesture: he rooted for the team, and naturally wanted to see them win the title, even if in his heart he knew the gesture really only amounted to flushing an Abe Lincoln down the toilet every August.

When Bill Walsh, Joe Montana, and Dwight Clark stunned the country in 1982, Mr. Stiegler was five hundred dollars richer.

The story was inspiring.  My good friend and classmate Nelson Wong was likewise intrigued, so as soon as we turned twenty-one, one of us, sometimes both, would place five bucks on the San Francisco Giants to win the World Series.  On occasion the bet was a bit more (we were both in possession of five-dollar heartbreaks in 2002, but Pudge Rodriguez’s ’03 fistpump in my face cost me twenty bucks and a shot at two hundred), and the bet location often had a lot to say about the odds.  Most of my money was dropped in Tahoe, but the odds were generally better during Nelson’s formerly regular treks to Las Vegas. Continue reading The Sportsbook Dilemma