Totally Subjective Top 10 List of Baseball Movies: Number 7

Editor’s Note: In the spirit of counting down to the start of the Major League Baseball season over the next two weeks we here at Triple B will present our completely subjective ranking of the Top 10 Baseball Movies. Today we look at number 7 on the list.

Few people can argue that the game of baseball was forever changed when the sabermetrics element of the game was moved from the back rooms to the general manager’s office.

Like it or not the advanced analytics are here to stay and coming in at number 7 on the Triple B Top 10 Baseball Movies list is Moneyball which is the true story of how the Oakland Athletics front office used charts and graphs to build a team in a way that changed the game of baseball.

The number 7 movie on the Triple B totally subjective top 10 countdown of baseball movies is Moneyball starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill. Photo R. Anderson

The number 7 movie on the Triple B totally subjective top 10 countdown of baseball movies is Moneyball starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill.
Photo R. Anderson

In the movie starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill (who received an Oscar nomination for the role), viewers are transported into the mind of the Oakland Athletics front office as they took a different approach to finding players for their roster.

While a new concept when it was introduced by the Athletics in the 1980’s, almost every team today using sabermetrics in one degree or another to build their rosters each year.

Whether sabermetrics is good for baseball in the long run is still up for debate but it has certainly allowed many smaller market teams the ability to be competitive and stand toe to toe with the big spenders in baseball for the past few decades.

While the past few decades have certainly proven that sabermetrics is certainly not going away any time soon, for those wanting to see how it all began Moneyball is the way to go.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Totally Subjective Top 10 List of Baseball Movies: Number 8

Editor’s Note: In the spirit of counting down to the start of the Major League Baseball season over the next two weeks we here at Triple B will present our completely subjective ranking of the Top 10 Baseball Movies. Today we look at number 8 on the list.

Kevin Costner has made three baseball movies in his career. By the time the third leg of the Costner baseball triangle rolled around though it was clear that he did not have much left in the tank.

Still, it is hard to not count the complete Costner trilogy in a listing of baseball movies so coming in at number 8 on the Triple B Top 10 Baseball Movies list is For Love of the Game which allows Costner to move from behind the plate to the mound as a nearing the end of his career pitcher.

The number 8 movie on the Triple B totally subjective top 10 countdown of baseball movies is For Love of the Game starring Kevin Costner. Photo R. Anderson

The number 8 movie on the Triple B totally subjective top 10 countdown of baseball movies is For Love of the Game starring Kevin Costner.
Photo R. Anderson

The movie focuses on Costner as a 40 year-old pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. Throughout the course of pitching what could be the final game of his career Costner flashes back to various points of his career both on and off the field and thinks about the events that made him the person that he became.

The movie is helped by the presence of Vin Scully calling the on-field action as only Vin Scully can.

Like the number 9 movie on our countdown, Fever Pitch, this movie probably could also fall into the romantic category but as Fred Savage’s character in The Princess Bride comes to learn you likely won’t mind the “mushy stuff” as the movie draws to its conclusion.

The baseball action is strong for the most part and the flashbacks do not seem to water down the present day action.

Again, it is not Kevin Costner’s strongest baseball movie but it does deserve a place on the shelf next to the other two sides of the Costner baseball triangle. And of course like I said there is Vin Scully to listen to so one really can’t go wrong there.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Totally Subjective Top 10 List of Baseball Movies: Number 9

Editor’s Note: In the spirit of counting down to the start of the Major League Baseball season over the next two weeks we here at Triple B will present our completely subjective ranking of the Top 10 Baseball Movies.  Today we look at number 9 on the list.

Like Neil Diamond, one tends to either love or hate the Boston Red Sox. It probably is not too surprising then that Neil Diamond and the Red Sox are so intertwined with Red Sox fans belting out a Neil Diamond song during every home game.

While the Red Sox have a long history of winning, they also had a long year of “cursed” play where the diehard fans wondered if their beloved BoSox would ever hoist the World Series trophy again.

The number 9 movie on the Triple B totally subjective top 10 countdown of baseball movies is Fever Pitch starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore. Photo R. Anderson

The number 9 movie on the Triple B totally subjective top 10 countdown of baseball movies is Fever Pitch starring Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore.
Photo R. Anderson

As the defending World Series champions heading into the 2014 season, the Red Sox have certainly been on a bit of a winning streak lately.

Coming in at number 9 on the Triple B Top 10 Baseball Movies list is Fever Pitch which explores the fanatical side of Boston Red Sox fandom while also exploring interpersonal human relationships in the form of a baseball Rom Com, or romantic comedy.

At its surface the terms romantic comedy and baseball should not really be uttered in the same breath. But upon deeper inspection one can accept that baseball fans have long had a romance with the game that often starts when they catch their first game or pick up a ball and glove for the first time.

In Fever Pitch, the romance is between a Red Sox loving man, played by Jimmy Fallon, and the conflict that arises as he tries to choose between his love of his team and the pressure he feels to grow up.

The movie resonates with fans in different ways depending on where they see themselves along the spectrum.

For some people at a crossroads they can think about whether they need to give up their childhood love of the game and get a real job.

For others watching perhaps they long for a return to when they loved the game as much as the characters in the film.

Others may be somewhere in the middle finding balance between a so called normal life and support of the home team.

Regardless of where one stands in terms of their personal baseball journey, Fever Pitch offers a glimpse into a year of fandom related to one of the teams with the most rabid fan bases in all of baseball.

Of course, the movie also may or may not have helped break some of those dreaded Red Sox curses so it should be a must have for any member of Sox Nation.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Totally Subjective Top 10 List of Baseball Movies: Number 10

Editor’s Note: In the spirit of counting down to the start of the Major League Baseball season over the next two weeks we here at Triple B will present our completely subjective ranking of the Top 10 Baseball Movies. Today we look at number 10 on the list.

I have often said that baseball is a sport that is best experienced live and in the Ballpark since there are so many sights, sounds, smells and other sensory sensations that just can’t be captured on television.

But for people who may not have access to a Ballpark or live in an area where games are frequently rained out there are several cinematic options to transport the movie goer into the world of the bleachers.

Coming in at number 10 on the Triple B Top 10 Baseball Movies list is Bleacher Bums which explores the view from the bleachers and the relations

The number 10 movie on the Triple B totally subjective top 10 countdown of baseball movies is Bleacher Bums starring Wayne Knight and Brad Garrett. Photo R. Anderson

The number 10 movie on the Triple B totally subjective top 10 countdown of baseball movies is Bleacher Bums starring Wayne Knight and Brad Garrett.
Photo R. Anderson

hips that can build over the course of a season among fans with adjoining seats.

The movie follows a group of season ticket holders over the course of the season and captures the highs and lows that go along with being a diehard fan.

Fans of Seinfeld will be treated to Wayne Knight in the film but do try to resist shouting “Newman” whenever he is on screen as one will end up with a sore throat and miss a lot of the dialog.

While the actual baseball scenes in the movie offer a few errors the film connects on the interaction of fans and the conversations that often break out during the course of a game.

Through the years just as I think I have heard almost everything imaginable in a Ballpark something new is overheard from my seat and I am reminded of Bleacher Bums and how it captures the Ballpark conversations to a science.

I never will understand fans that heckle players and feel it is their right to do so because they purchased a ticket to the game but unfortunately that is a part of the Ballpark experience.

While I recommend going to the Ballpark in person as often as possible to hear actual conversation, on a rainy day or when the ballpark is too far away the number 10 movie on our totally subjective countdown can be a good fit.  Plus, you can always fast forward through the heckling scenes which is something I certainly wish could be done in real life.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Surprises can be Both Good and Bad

The other day I took my Jeep in for a routine oil change and alignment check.

While I try to be good about coming in every 3,000 miles or so I am occasionally tardy in my duties as a car owner and stretch things out to four or five thousand miles between oil changes.

This was one of those times where I was closer to the five thousand mark than three thousand but I figured the car was no worse for it.

Since the mechanic is within walking distance of my house I will often drop off the Jeep and walk home as opposed to sitting in the waiting room watching the History Channel, which always seems to be on when I am there.

A recent surprise flat tire got me thinking about some surprises I would actually like to see this year. Photo R. Anderson

A recent surprise flat tire got me thinking about some surprises I would actually like to see this year.
Photo R. Anderson

Don’t get me wrong, I love the History Channel but I figure there are so many more things that I can do in the comfort of my own home as opposed to spending time in the waiting room.

So as I was sitting at home on my couch watching the History Channel, the mechanic called to tell me that they would not be able to fix my flat tire since the bolt had gone through the side wall.

This news surprised me in many ways.

First, I had not been aware that I had a flat tire and secondly how exactly does a bolt manage to enter a tire at a 90 degree angle?

I mentioned to the mechanic that I was not aware of a flat tire and perhaps he had mixed up my chart with someone else’s. He assured me that one of my tires was punctured and it was time to look at the options.

After it was determined that the tire could not be repaired and would need to be replaced, I realized that my $20 oil change was going to be far more expensive than originally planned.

My first reaction at having to purchase an unplanned tire was of course one of anger since I never seem to get the full manufacturer’s suggested amount of miles out of a set of tires.

In fact the tire that was mortally wounded by the bolt only had around 6,000 miles on it which made it a tire teenager cut down in its prime.

While the surprise aspect of the additional tire purchase was certainly not what I had planned on, I was definitely happy to have the surprise of a punctured tire happen while I was sitting on my couch as opposed to driving down the highway and experiencing a blowout or other tire issue that would have caused more damage to the Jeep and/or me.

So, all in all learning about a flat tire in air conditioned comfort on a couch with someone else doing the repair was certainly a welcome surprise albeit an expensive one.

The surprise World Serie pairing that I want to see in October is the Tampa Bay Rays against the Washington Nationals. Photo R. Anderson

The surprise World Serie pairing that I want to see in October is the Tampa Bay Rays against the Washington Nationals.
Photo R. Anderson

The surprise flat got me thinking about other potential surprises that could arise with the pending starts of the Major League Baseball, NASCAR and Indy Racing League seasons over the next couple of weeks.

Of course if one knew what was going to happen in each of those areas ahead of time they would not be surprises but for the sake of argument here is one potential surprise and one dark horse surprise that I would love to see in each of those sports this season.

First up let’s look at the surprises for Major League Baseball.

With the Major League Baseball season just around the corner the biggest surprise I would like to see is the Tampa Bay Rays making a return trip to the World Series against the Washington Nationals.

While the Rays and Nationals are both loaded with talent this year they each face huge obstacles in their quest for October glory. The Rays have a slightly better chance at postseason play despite playing in the toughest division in baseball.

Were the Houston Astros to somehow win the American League West title this season it would likely be the surprise of the year if not the century. Photo R. Anderson

Were the Houston Astros to somehow win the American League West title this season it would likely be the surprise of the year if not the century.
Photo R. Anderson

But for the record the Major League Baseball surprise I most want to see this year is a Rays against Nationals World Series.

Of course my dark horse surprise, that has almost no chance in the world of happening, would be for the Houston Astros to win the American League West.

That surprise is probably at least a decade away from happening but anything can happen I suppose.

With the Major League Baseball surprises written down my sights soon turned to NASCAR.

The Daytona 500 kicks off the 36-race NASCAR season this weekend (more on that in Friday’s column).

As in the past few seasons the powers that be added some tweaks to the points and other rules that teams will need to quickly get up to speed on.

Danica Patrick would surprise many people including Richard Petty were she to win a NASCAR race this season. Photo R. Anderson

Danica Patrick would surprise many people including Richard Petty were she to win a NASCAR race this season.
Photo R. Anderson

Perhaps no other sport enjoys messing with the rules each year as much as NASCAR does so they are certainly consistent with their constant changes.

My NASCAR related surprise that I would like to see involves the driver of the #10 car Danica Patrick.

After becoming the first woman to win an IRL race, Danica became the first woman to start on the pole and lead laps in the Daytona 500 last year during her first full year in NASCAR’s highest level.

My Danica related surprise would be for her to silence her critics in the Petty family and elsewhere by winning a race this year.

There are 36 opportunities for her to accomplish that and I feel that she very well could make history once again and make The King Richard Petty eat that feather on his hat.

In a perfect world Jimmy Johnson would let someone else win the championship this season. Photo R. Anderson

In a perfect world Jimmy Johnson would let someone else win the championship this season.
Photo R. Anderson

As for the NASCAR related dark horse surprise I would most like to see, that would be for someone other than Jimmy Johnson to hoist the Champion’s trophy at the end of the year.

I mean come on Jimmy you have six of them already it is time to share with the rest of the class and take some time off before getting that record tying seventh championship that no amount of rules changes can prevent you from eventually winning.

Lastly let us look at the big surprises I am predicting for the IRL this year.

With the series returning once again to Houston for a two-race weekend in June I would like to have the surprise of seeing both races run without any career ending injuries such as the one that Dario Franchitti suffered last year.

Dario Franchitti's racing career ended on a racetrack constructed in a stadium parking lot. Hopefully no other drivers face the same fate when the Indy Racing Series returns to Houston this June. Photo R. Anderson

Dario Franchitti’s racing career ended on a racetrack constructed in a stadium parking lot. Hopefully no other drivers face the same fate when the Indy Racing Series returns to Houston this June.
Photo R. Anderson

Hopefully with more time to plan race organizers can make sure that the track will be in better shape so the drivers can race each other and not worry about whether the track is going to cause them to lose control or take them out of the championship picture, or end their careers.

As for my dark horse surprise I want to see this year in the Indy Series, that would be for Juan Pablo Montoya to win the IRL Championship for Roger Penske after coming over from a few years spent in NASCAR driving for Penske’s bitter rival Chip Ganassi.

So there you have it several surprises to look out for over the next six months or so in MLB, NASCAR and IRL competition.

Of course if any of those surprises do end up happening you can always say that you read about them here first.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some surprises to get ready for.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Presidents and Baseball are an American Tradition

Today is President’s Day, or Washington’s birthday as it is also known, here in the United States of America.

While originally the holiday was thought of as a way to recognize the two presidents with birthdays in February, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, President’s Day has grown to include a time to honor all of the men, and most likely some day women, who have served in the nation’s highest office.

Today we celebrate the birthday of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. Photo R. Anderson

Today we celebrate the birthday of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.
Photo R. Anderson

Through the years President’s Day has also become a time to buy furniture, appliances and cars at unheard of savings as many companies have sought to capitalize on people with the day off of work..  While the founding fathers wanted us to enjoy various freedoms, I doubt they had no interest financing on washers and dryers in mind. Then again maybe they did.

So for our purposes let us not focus on the retail aspects of the day but let us try to focus on the office of the President and what that entails.

To date, 44 men have served as President of the United States from Washington to Obama.  While there are often disagreements between the Legislative and Executive branches of government it is important to remember that by and large the system of government that we enjoy is for the most part stable and allows each of us to enjoy freedoms that we would not otherwise have under certain other governmental systems.

And of course there is still that whole area of no interest financing.  I really need to stop watching television on holiday weekends.

Campaign bumper sticker for the 1992 campaign of Bill Clinton.  Clinton defeated George Bush to become the 42nd President of the united States.

Campaign bumper sticker for the 1992 campaign of Bill Clinton. Clinton defeated George Bush to become the 42nd President of the United States.

I was fortunate enough to come face to face with two of the men who would go on to become president although I was only old enough to remember one of them

I have been told by my mother that my first encounter with a future President was during a rally for Jimmy Carter.

Of course at the time of that rally I would have been perhaps just turning 1 so needless to say I do not recall meeting him but I am sure it was a lovely time for all.

As for the encounter with a Commander in Chief that I do recall, in 1992 I met Bill Clinton at a campaign event in Orlando, FL. While the election was still months away, and Governor Clinton had not yet become President Clinton, there was still something cool about meeting someone on the campaign trail.

I am far from the most politically active of people and part of that was by choice.  I felt a reporter should be impartial and not let their political leanings show so I always tried to use that mantra as my guide.

Years later though, meeting candidate Clinton is still one of the more memorable moments of my journalistic career. I am sure that reporters that cover the Presidents on a daily basis lose some of the wow factor at some point but there always needs to be a respect for the office at some level.

So on this presidential holiday let us not focus on  the civics behind the position, or the red state versus blue state leanings.

Let us not even focus on the plethora of sales that will end tonight at midnight.

Instead, let us focus on one of the many perks of residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington D.C.; the ceremonial first pitch.

President William Howard Taft started a tradition in 1910 that has linked the Commander in Chief with the National Pastime ever since when he threw out the first pitch on Opening Day.

The first presidential first pitch occurred on April 14, 1910, at National Park in Washington, DC. during a game between the Washington Senators and the Philadelphia Athletics with Taft connecting on the pitch to Walter Johnson.

The Senators moved to Minnesota to become the Twins and the Athletics packed up and headed west to Oakland but the one constant for 103 years has been presidents and baseball.

From 1910 to 1971 the President traveled to the home ballpark of the Washington Senators to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day.

To put that streak into perspective it stretched from Taft to Richard Nixon.

While Presidents had thrown out first pitches at the World Series as well President Nixon became the first president to throw out an Opening Day pitch outside of Washington D.C. in 1972 when he threw out the pitch in Anaheim, California since there was no longer a team in Washington.

Various other ballparks were used for Opening Day after 1972 but Baltimore and Washington D.C. were the most widely used due to proximity to the White House.

While the first pitch did not occur until 1910 the link between Presidents and baseball actually goes back to post Civil War America when Andrew Johnson invited the first team of professional ballplayers to the White House.  Other teams were invited as well in the years to follow by other presidents.

Campaign buttons From George H.W. Bush's 1988 Presidential campaign. Bush, was a former college baseball player. Photo R. Anderson

Campaign buttons From George H.W. Bush’s 1988 Presidential campaign. Bush, was a former college baseball player and can often be seen at Minute Maid park watching the Astros play.
Photo R. Anderson

The Presidential links to baseball are not limited to first pitches alone however. Both President Bush 41 and President Bush 43 also have deep baseball roots.

George H.W. Bush was a baseball player in college at Yale and can often be seen behind home plate at Houston Astros games.

It is also a given that if both President Bush and his wife, Barbara, are seated together they will end up on the stadium kiss cam.

George W. Bush also has a baseball pedigree. Before becoming governor of Texas en route to the White House, the younger President Bush served as the owner of the Texas Rangers who, as one may or not know were once the expansion team that replaced the first version of the Washington Senators who left town to become the Minnesota Twins.  It is sort of a neat bow to tie  it all together.

So on this day that we honor our Presidents let us not forget that soon it will once again be Opening Day and when the President steps onto the mound to throw that first pitch he will be continuing a long standing tradition that honors both the past, present and future of both the Oval Office and the game of baseball itself.

Now if you’ll excuse me I think I need to practice my pitching just in case I am ever called on to throw out a first pitch. After all, no one wants to be the person that bounces it a few times on the way to the catcher.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Time for Chocolate Hearts and Baseball

Today, February 14th, marks the arrival of Valentine’s Day.

While it is often joked about that Valentine’s Day is a made up holiday by greeting card companies, candy companies and florists, there is actually a historical reason behind St. Valentine’s Day.

While the actual origin story varies depending on who is telling it, one common version is that the day is based on one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus, or Valentine to you and me.

The common legend goes that Valentine was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire.

While imprisoned, legend goes on to state that Valentine befriended the daughter of his jailer and before his execution he wrote “from your Valentine” as a farewell to her.

How much of that really happened, and how much was added throughout the centuries as the tale was told and told again, is certainly up for debate.

After all,  legends tend to grow the further out they are from the source material.  But as far as legends go I guess if one were so romantically inclined there are worse things to believe in.

So whether the origin totally occurred as written or not the celebrations were tweaked through the generations and flourished during the romantic period as one might expect until at long last we reached the 21st century version of St. Valentine’s Day.

Nothing says, "I love you" quite like a box of chocolates. Put those chocolates in a heart shaped box and she is putty in your hands. At least that is what the marketing people want us to believe.  photo R. Anderson

Nothing says, “I love you” quite like a box of chocolates. Put those chocolates in a heart shaped box and she is putty in your hands. At least that is what the marketing people want us to believe.
photo R. Anderson

Decades ago when I was a younger version of myself Valentine’s Day meant that we used construction paper and other means to make our  Valentine “mailbox” to stick at the end of our desks.

Once our mailboxes were completed we would go around and deliver valentine’s to each of our classmates.

After counting up the bounty one always hoped to not be like Charlie Brown, who was always valentine free, but to have a paper box brimming with tiny cardboard trinkets of affection.

As a rule I always made sure to have enough cards to go around for everyone in the class, but it seemed like not everyone followed that rule.

I am guessing the process still remains mostly the same as from when I was in school based on the amount of valentine’s cards I see at the stores each year, but who knows, maybe students just text each other  their well wishes now.

Once in a while I will still have a coworker or two that will give out Valentines but as a rule my days of handing out mass Valentine greetings ended with my last construction paper mailbox.

Aside from the greeting card and valentine printing businesses, this season also marks a busy time for businesses that sell flowers and chocolate as they tend to be part of the more grown up valentine experience.

Turn on the television or radio any time between mid-January to mid-February and one is bound to be bombarded with commercials for suggestions on what makes the perfect valentine’s gift for that special someone.

While the romantic aspects of Valentine’s Day are all well and good, the season also marks a time for professional baseball players to await messages of “Be Mine” and “I Choo Choo Choose You” as competition begins for one of those coveted spots on the 40 man Major League roster.

Much like those cardboard valentines of old, a spot on the roster says to the player that someone values them and in this case values them enough that they have a future with the club.

Of course, roster placement alone does not guarantee success and several factors are involved in the aspect of who stays and goes from a major league roster.

But, the fact remains that players on the roster tend to feel better about their future than players who are not on the roster.

With up to 75 players vying for 40 roster spots Spring Training uniforms tend to use numbers more often seen on the football field. Photo R. Anderson

With up to 75 players vying for 40 roster spots Spring Training uniforms tend to use numbers more often seen on the football field.
Photo R. Anderson

For most teams the roster is mostly set at the start of spring training with a few positions here and there up for grabs through head to head competition.

As for the Houston Astros, this year their roster is less wide open than it was this time last season.

While last season was an every position is up for grabs kind of year heading into Spring Training, there seems to be a bit more stability heading into Osceola County Stadium this spring.

The biggest competition for the Astros appears to be at first base where former start Brett Wallace will try once more to prove that he belongs on a Major League Baseball Opening Day roster.

Unlike previous years though Wallace will be trying to make the team as a non roster invitee having lost his coveted spot on the 40-man roster.

Across the other 29 Major League teams other players will be in similar positions of just trying to extend their careers for one more season.

So as you celebrate your Valentine’s Day, in whatever manner you see fit, think of the baseball players who at this very moment are hanging their virtual Valentine mailbox on their lockers at spring training facilities in Florida and Arizona.

And with Valentine’s day behind us stores are quick to remind us that Easter is just around the corner as the chocolate hearts have been replaced on the shelves by chocolate bunnies. In some cases the chocolate bunnies were already up next to the display of chocolate covered Valentine strawberries.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to finish my Easter shopping before the Chocolate bunnies are replaced by Fourth of July decorations.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Berkman and Oswalt to Retire as Astros

As the Houston Astros approach the 1oth anniversary of their last trip to the postseason two members of their 2005 World Series team have announced their retirement.

While Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman were each traded from the Astros years ago as the team entered a youth movement, both men will be given the chance to be Astros for at least one more day in a sign and retire ceremony on April 5.

Over the past few years it has been commonplace for teams to hold these ceremonial retirements as a way for players and teams to reunite and allow the player to officially retire as a member of the organization where they spent the bulk of their careers.

The ceremonies also give a chance for the fans of the players to say one final good bye to players that they used to root for. And as a special treat the Astros have announced that a commemorative item will be given out at the gate to recognize the event.

Over the years I attended many games that Oswalt and Berkman played in and of the two I was a bigger fan of Berkman’s.

Even after he was traded I would still cheer for Berkman when he would visit Minute Maid Park and bat for the opposing team. Of course there were fans that would boo him as well which I never really understood.

Lance Berkman, who spent last season with the Texas Rangers, will sign a one day contract to retire as a Houston Astro on April 5 along with former teammate Roy Oswalt. Photo R. Anderson

Lance Berkman, who spent last season with the Texas Rangers, will sign a one day contract to retire as a Houston Astro on April 5 along with former teammate Roy Oswalt.
Photo R. Anderson

If you like a player it should not matter what color his jersey is since he is still the same player you once cheered for under it and many players do not get the choice of where they are traded to.

Speaking of trades, I was actually at Minute Maid Park on the day that Lance was traded to the New York Yankees.

This was the start of the Astros trading away all of their players to get younger but for some reason it felt like Berkman would be safe. After all he was a hometown player who went to the local university and had played his whole career with the Astros.

But on that day as the texts started rolling in, and the whispers that he had been traded turned to screams of disbelief it was apparent that the Astros were entering a new era where no player, no matter how popular, was safe.

It was also the day when the college kids who spent every game dressed up in their puma suits in honor of Berkman’s nickname, the “Big Puma,” took them off for the last time and tried to make sense of what had happened.

I had envisioned Berkamn getting to be like Cal Ripken Jr. who grew up in Maryland and played his entire career with the Baltimore Orioles before retiring on his own terms.

Of course, Ripken was a first ballot Hall of Famer from a generation of players that we just won’t see repeated.

In fact Derek Jeter, who has spent his entire career with the New York Yankees, very well could be the last player to spend his entire career with a single organization.

Baseball is a changed game and even players with dedicated fans who dress up in puma suits are not spared the trade deadline ax.

Of course on April 5 those puma suits can be dusted off as the “Big Puma” comes home for one last time.

They will be honoring a player in Berkman who after graduating from Rice University, played a dozen seasons in Houston before spending the final three years of his career with the New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers.

Of course getting traded away from the Astros was not a completely bad thing as Berkman earned a World Series ring during his time in St. Louis but something tells me he would have preferred winning it with the home town team.

Berkman was voted to the All-Star Game six-times and hit .296 with 326 home runs and 1,090 RBIs over his 12 seasons with the Astros. He led the National League in doubles in 2001 and again in ’08, while also leading the NL in RBIs in ’02, when he finished third in NL MVP voting.

As for the all-time Astros records Berkman ranks first in slugging percentage (.549), second in home runs, third in RBIs, walks and runs scored, and fourth in games played.

Sharing the retirement stage with Berkamn will be Roy Oswalt who was the ace of the pitching staff for the Astros for many years and had the honor of being the de facto Opening Day starter for most of his years with the club.

I never really followed Oswalt in the same way that I followed Berkman and will admit that his being traded did not affect me in the same way. But, I am sure that for many Astros fans at the time there was a great sadness felt when the announcement of Oswalt being shipped to the Phillies was made.

Of course the Phillies was not Oswalt’s last stop of his career. After spending his first 10 big league seasons with the Astros, Oswalt spent  the last four years bouncing around with stints with the Phillies, Rangers and Rockies.

Roy Oswalt helped guide the Houston Astros to the World Series in 2005, earning National League Championship Series MVP honors after going 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in the six-game series victory over the Cardinals. That performance also earned Oswalt the gift of a bulldozer from then team owner Drayton McLane. Oswalt will make one more appearance at Minute Maid Park before calling it a career. Photo R. Anderson

Roy Oswalt helped guide the Houston Astros to the World Series in 2005, earning National League Championship Series MVP honors after going 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in the six-game series victory over the Cardinals. That performance also earned Oswalt the gift of a bulldozer from then team owner Drayton McLane. Oswalt will make one more appearance at Minute Maid Park before calling it a career.
Photo R. Anderson

Oswalt finished in the top five of the National League Cy Young Award voting during five of his 10 seasons with the Astros.

Oswalt recorded back-to-back 20-win seasons in 2004-05 and finished 143-82 with a 3.24 ERA during his time with the Astros.

As for that last trip to the postseason for the Astros,  Oswalt helped guide Houston to the World Series in 2005, earning National League Championship Series MVP honors after going 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in the six-game series victory over the Cardinals. That performance also earned Oswalt the gift of a bulldozer from then team owner Drayton McLane.

Oswalt finishes his career as the Astros’ all-time leader in win percentage (.636) and ranks second in both wins and strikeouts.

There is little doubt that the time for both men to retire has come. One could probably make the case that they should have retired at least a season or two ago as injuries turned both men into a shell of their former selves where performance at the plate and velocity on the mound just wasn’t what it used to be.

Of course it is hard to decide when to hang up the glove for good when playing baseball is all one has ever known.

As for their post baseball lives Oswalt is going to work for his agent as a vice president and Berkman has been mentioned as a possible successor to Rice Owls coach Wayne Graham.

In the meantime there is one more plate appearance at Minute Maid Park awaiting both men so that their careers can end where they began. Chances are there won’t be a dry puma eye in the house.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to get some tickets for the farewell to Berkman and Oswalt game.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Sometimes You Want to Watch What’s Familiar

Recently I have been rediscovering a lot of old television shows from my youth.

This is not to say that the television shows being made today are not as good as the ones back then as much as it is to say that there are not as many good shows to choose from.

Too much television today is dedicated to the so called reality shows where reality is a long way from what is depicted.

While reality shows may have once been based in reality they soon turned more towards the scripted side where the lines between what is real and what is scripted becomes blurred.

The scenarios in these “reality” shows become so absurd and predictable at times that the only thing missing is a laugh track and the announcer saying that it was filmed before a live studio audience.

I have often said that the only true reality shows on television are live sports broadcasts and episodes of COPS.

The trend of catching up on television shows from my youth was likely kicked off by rediscovering MacGyver. Photo R. Anderson

The trend of catching up on television shows from my youth was likely kicked off by rediscovering MacGyver.
Photo R. Anderson

With the return of baseball approaching my nights will once again be filled with the soothing background noise of nine innings of competition on the baseball diamond.

Granted there are many television networks that air replays of classic games but for me if it is not live I do not want to watch it.

This is the same philosophy I use in not watching tape delayed Olympic coverage. I like the Olympics and like keeping up with the medal count but if I am not able to see the action the moment it is happening I am not interested.

Once a sporting event is over I just do not want to watch it. I may watch clips of a key play if I missed a particular game but I just cannot watch a game once the outcome is already known.

So while sports is an in the moment sort of thing I have discovered that many of the television shows that younger me liked have withstood the test of time.

Some of those timeless shows that I have been rediscovering lately include The X-Files, JAG, and surprisingly enough the Dukes of Hazzard.

Of course the trend was kicked off about a year ago when I started watching old episodes of MacGyver which as noted before is one of my all-time favorite television shows if for no other reason than my mom is convinced that I am related to the star of the show.

The first two shows on the list spanned my college years and now a few decades later I have found that while some of the plots may be a little dated for the most part they still include well written scripts that are well acted out.

Despite premiering over 20 years ago the X-Files and their "truth is out there" plots have stood the test of time.  Photo R. Anderson

Despite premiering over 20 years ago the X-Files and their “truth is out there” plots have stood the test of time.
Photo R. Anderson

As for the Dukes of Hazzard, those storylines of the show from my elementary school days are slightly more dated with the excessive use of CB radios instead of the cell phones that would be used today.

Few can argue though that for the most part a car jumping a ravine and a multigenerational family dynamic in a small Georgia town is as fascinating today as it was back in 1979 when it first aired.

I am sure there are many reasons why these old shows offer comfort and entertainment so many years after leaving the airwaves and arriving on Digital Video Disc (DVD) but for me the reason is rather simple.

Watching the old shows gives me a chance to relive some old memories and think about how I used to rush through bath time to make sure I was sitting in front of the television set by the time the opening credits were rolling for the Dukes, or how I would rush home from Sunday night church to catch the latest case for Mulder and Scully.

Now that I think about it there was a lot of rushing involved the first time I watched the shows so maybe now I am able to watch them at a slower pace after rushing home from work.

I also do not want to paint the picture that all I did in my youth was watch television. While there was a lot of television watching there was also a lot of time spent playing pick-up games with the kids in the neighborhood after school and reading.

Like the X-Files Jag is an over 20-year-old series that is still worth watching all these years later. Photo R. Anderson

Like the X-Files Jag is an over 20-year-old series that is still worth watching all these years later.
Photo R. Anderson

I am sure that all of us have television shows from our past that trigger memories of simpler times or perhaps time spent watching with someone who may no longer be with us.

Whatever those shows are that spark those memories they are worth holding on to as long as we can.

As mentioned above there are still some good new shows on the air and new memories being made each night by families across the globe.

While the shows bringing those families together may vary the connection being felt and the memory imprints cross through cultural and generational lines.

While scripted shows from my youth seem to be holding strong I often wonder how many of the crop of reality shows will stand the test of time.

That is nothing against the families who gather together to watch American Idol or the myriad shows like it. I just wonder if 20 years from now watching this season’s Idol episodes will be as magical as watching Bo and Luke Duke driving a tank with a hidden moonshine still in it.

Speaking of moonshine, odds are without the Dukes on the air there would not be that popular show about those moonshine making moonshiners on the Discovery Channel. What is the name of that moonshiners making moonshine show anyway?

It is hard to say what show from my youth I will rediscover next. There are many more on the list that I enjoyed during various phases of my life that are probably worth traveling down memory lane for.

Of course there are also some shows that are best left in the decades from which they came so the trick is finding the balance and the show that is still as good today as it was back then.

In a world of reality television I will take the memories of well scripted television from the past any day.

Of course when that fails it is always fun to curl up with a good book and let the garden of my mind paint the pictures for me.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some more old shows to rediscover.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Torch Dimmed by Olympic Surroundings

Tonight marks the Opening Ceremony for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Throughout the years Opening Ceremonies are a time for nations from around the world to come together as one before spending the next two and a half weeks as bitter rivals where only three people in each event come away with the metallic prize that they all seek.

So while the next two weeks will be about hard fought competition and trying to secure one’s lifelong dream, tonight the athletes they can just be people enjoying the pomp and circumstance of the world stage.

The Opening Ceremony will feature music, dancing and the parade of Olympic teams from around the world.

The ceremony can also serve as a geography lesson for people watching who may have forgotten certain names of countries.

Another highlight of the ceremony of course is the lighting of the Olympic flame that will burn brightly over the festivities until the closing ceremony where the torch will be passed to the next host country.

The Los Angeles Coliseum has played host to several Summer Olympic games. Time will tell if the venues in Sochi, Russia age as well. Photo R. Anderson

The Los Angeles Coliseum has played host to several Summer Olympic games. Time will tell if the venues in Sochi, Russia age as well.
Photo R. Anderson

While tonight should be all about the beauty and the magic of the Olympics, stories leading up to tonight’s ceremony have painted less than ideal conditions for those in competition and the media there to cover it.

From stories of unfinished accommodations to cruel treatment of stray dogs, there has been no shortage of media tweets and posts about the conditions in Sochi.

There are even reports of phones being hacked and showers being monitored through hidden cameras.

Of course the entire Olympic infrastructure was basically built from scratch for around $20 billion making it by far the most expensive Olympics venue build ever. And anytime that large of a project is undertaken there are bound to be shortcuts taken so the fact that a few things did not get down in time or the way one had hoped should not be a complete surprise.

As for the hacking of phones and the unwanted surveillance goes, I suppose the Olympic Host Committee wanted to give visitors the complete Cold War experience to go along with the games.

Even the venues that were completed in time and to code will have a short life in many cases as almost all Olympic Games venues built for the two weeks in the global spotlight will never be used again following the extinguishing of the Olympic flame.

With so much cost and so little to show for it after the games I have always wondered why countries spend so much effort and money to be an Olympic host city.

Sure there is the pride of saying that one hosted the Olympics but where is that pride after the venues start to crumble from neglect and the citizens are left to wonder whether the money could have been spent in better ways.

While I doubt that this will ever become the case having the Olympics in a central place year after year with a single set of venues would certainly be more economical than reinventing the wheel every two years.

But as long as there is a clout associated with hosting the games countries will continue to compete to be selected as a host city to then spend their billions of dollars on venues in the hopes of at least breaking even when all of the fans flock to see the games.

While some venues and accommodations failed to be 100 percent ready for the games to their credit NBC will do their best over the next two weeks to highlight the positives of the Olympic Games despite all of the negatives that have come to light in recent days.

After all NBC spends a lot of money on the Olympics so they have a vested interest in making sure people tune in to support their advertisers.

There will be countless human interest stories and time delayed coverage of events sprinkled along the prime time viewing hours. And yes there will also be stories about the lack of shower curtains or the toxic water with the do not use to bathe warnings.

I am sure that many of the journalists covering the games did not think they would be reporting games in a war zone type situation. Maybe instead of sending Bob Costas to the games NBC should have sent veteran war correspondents Wolf Blitzer and Peter Arnett since they are likely more used to reporting from places with no shower curtains and other amenities.

When all is said and done the lack of shower curtains and other creature comforts will not affect the performance from the athletes or the media members covering them.

In fact there could even be some people who have never seen a shower curtain so the lack of one is not a big deal.

But the fact that the issues are being brought up begs the question regarding what exactly was bought with that $20 billion investment in the games. For the answer to that I am sure there is a NBC report detailing it all.

I will likely watch the opening ceremony tonight and then tune out the rest of the Olympics and just follow the medal count online since I am not a fan of watching time delayed sports where the outcome is already known.

As far as Russia goes, I am scheduled to be there in May so I hope they find some shower curtains by then so I don’t have to bring my own.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some Olympic sized Opening Ceremony snacks to make.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson