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Silicon Valley veteran doing Technical Community Management. Photographer with a strong interest in birds, wildlife and nature who is exploring the Western states and working to tell you the stories of the special places I've found.
Author and Blogger. They are not the same thing. Sports occasionally spoken here, especially hockey. Veteran of Sun, Apple, Palm, HP and now Infoblox, plus some you've never heard of. They didn't kill me, they made me better.
Person with opinions, and not afraid to share them. Debate team in high school and college; bet that's a surprise.
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Category Archives: Sports – Baseball
Magowan said on Friday, in announcing his retirement, that he wanted to spend more time with his grandchildren.
We interrupt the hockey talk for a minute to thank Peter Magowan for everything he’s done for the Bay Area Sports fan.
It’s easy to forget, or choose not to remember, just what his contribution to the Bay Area is. Before Magowan stepped in, we were staring at 100 loss seasons by a team playing in Candlestick park (a place that made the Cow Palace look attractive, and still does), at least until that team moved to Tampa.
Remember when the Tampa Bay Giants was a done deal? No, most of you probably don’t.
Magowan was a key player in stopping that. Magowan brought us Barry Bonds, back when Barry Bonds was merely a stupendous baseball player. He found a way to get a new ballpark built, and a gorgeous one, despite a lack of cooperation from the city, continuing hassles by the NIMBYs, and without public funding.
And now he’s going to retire, leaving the next cycle of the Giants to others. Unfortunately, most of the media seems too be forgetting what he’s done in favor of whacking him for his mistakes, and while I’m not minimizing those, it seems to me if anyone deserved a day where people just said “hey, thanks”, Magowan did.
So hey, Peter?
Thanks. Enjoy not having to deal with the local media any more. Enjoy your grandkids. you deserved it. And some of us recognize what you’ve done, and appreciate it more than you might think.
(p.s: to Anne, and Mark, and Ray, and Tim: when your time comes and your last columns are written and your cohorts take you off to lunch to say goodbye, I hope they all stand up and call out a toast in your honor, and then spend the rest of the afternoon making fun of all of the stupid columns you’ve written over the years, rather than reflecting on all of the good ones you’ve done. It’s only fair and balanced, ya know?
It’s not about ignoring the mistakes, it’s about putting it perspective. that all could have waited for a second column a little later, you know? But heck, that’s just not how things are done, right?)
If you were expecting emotion and sentiment think again. If you were expecting a Tony Gwynn-like farewell or a Cal Ripken-like embrace, sorry to disappoint.
The announcement came in typically, weirdly Bondsian fashion. Bonds was informed of the team decision by Peter Magowan during Thursday night’s game. Always the mercenary, he posted the news on his personal Web site Friday.
Within minutes of the posting, the scrambling Giants called a Friday-at-rush-hour press conference.
In the interview room there were three seats and three bottles of water and two participants: Peter Magowan and Brian Sabean. Bonds was not there for what should have been a sentimental moment but ended up being a clinical discussion of the surgical removal of No. 25.
And so ends the Bonds era, as it probably should. Not with a “final tour” and celebration, not with a stadium full of fans cheering one of the best players in baseball into the sunset, but with a press release and a press conference where the guest of honor(?) simply didn’t show, leaving his bosses to tap dance and try to spin Barry in as positive a light as they can — and finding it tough to do.
Is anyone really surprised? Because as good as Barry has been, and I’ll be the first to acknowledge it, he’s been a constant PR nightmare for the Giants and league, because he’s always believed that he deserves every accolade, and refused under any circumstance to reach out back to fans, to teammates, to the team or the league.
The top superstars have known they need to at least put on a show of reaching out to the fans — think Cal Ripken when he was more or less bodily assumed into heaven — but Barry? if jesus returned to earth to get his autograph, Barry would have him go though his agent. For the fans to want to connect to a player, the player has to at least put on the act that they don’t deserve all of the fanfare. Barry has always acted as if it was never enough; more than enough to put off many fans.
And so again, this leavetaking from the Giants won’t be a proper send off for Barry; he deserves more, he’s earned more — and yet we have to remember he orchestrated this. Something about Barry always seems to end up setting things up so he can walk away feeling bitter and disappointed about how it all ended.
And somewhere, deep inside, that seems to be how he wants it to be. He had everything going for him, steroids notwithstanding, to be the kind of player and person that owned the team and town and fans. Instead, we have this.
And if there are two things I would have guaranteed about this situation, it’s that (a) it was going to go down something like this, and (b) Barry will find a way to blame everyone else for it because we, his fans (and owners and teammates) don’t show him the proper respect, teh respect he earned.
Problem is, he only earned part of the respect he was due: the part on the field. His play is unquestionable. But he chose not to get involved with earning respect from others as a person, only as a player, and so he left a huge part of his legacy missing. He never seems to have figured out that the truly great players are both players AND people — just ask Tony Gwynn.
As someone who would fall into the “love watching him hit the ball, no asterisk (unless you put asterisks on a lot more entries), he is a scapegoat for a larger problem allowing other better-loved players to skate around the problem (but he earned that by being distant, whiny and pissy — but while I’d watch him play, I wouldn’t invite him to dinner” category of Bonds fan, I’m goin to miss watching him play, but not the rest of the mini-drama that comes along with Barry. That mini-drama that is always surrounding him, and never his fault.
And so it ends, not with a bang, but with a whine.
Frankly, as it should be. which is too bad, but it’s what Barry wanted. Why? maybe not even he knows. But he’d be a happier person if he figured it out, I think.
Congratulations to Barry Bonds — 756 is a historic moment.
Today is not a day for talking about the other aspects of this record. Today is a day for letting Barry enjoy what he’s accomplished. that other stuff has been talked about in the past, and will be decided by history, but today, it’s the act that matters.
No, he hasn’t always made himself the easiest person to like, but last night, when he was thanking the crowd and his teammates, you could see the walls he keeps around him come crumbling down; it’ll be interesting to see whether we get a different Barry in the future, now that this is behind him — or whether his detractors throw so enough stones that he simply walls off again. It’s not JUST Barry that is responsible for how he is, after all.
I’ll leave the asterisks to the future, and to those who don’t seem to have a problem describing the details of the bachelor party during the wedding reception — there’s a time and a place, and this ain’t it — I won’t ruin Barry’s party.
I did have one thought last night though — it sure would be fun to see Barry stick around and hit enough MORE home runs to make any talk of asterisks silly and irrelevant. It’d make certain pundits and writers apoplectic to see him do that, because it’d ruin a good rant on their part. I wonder how many that would be? 30? 50 more? 75?
And he could well do it; it might take moving to the AL and DHing, but gee, would that be so bad?
The stadium was partially sunlit and filling up and people were
drinking beer and happy and George was singing “I”m just 23, I don’t mind
dyin’”, and George is himself a baseball aficionado and one-time semipro player,
and I was thinking of the wonderful sun- and dust-drenched opening
“Church of Baseball” scene from
Bull Durham, and the last
big chords faded just as we got to our seats, and well anyhow, Carl owes
George an apology.
Tim Bray goes to a minor league game, and wonderfully captures why minor league baseball is so damn much fun. I’ve always wanted to get to Nat Bailey stadium, never have.
He makes one minor mistake — the Northwest League is short season Rookie, not A-ball. A-ball is the next level up (California league and Midwest league, high-A and low-A respectively. No, it doesn’t make any more sense than USDA beef ratings, sometimes you just have to let art flow over you). Below SS-R is full-season Rookie, in the Pioneer League, and below that are the camp leagues in Arizona and Florida.
SS-R teams are primarily staffed by kids drafted out of college, so they’re older, but just learning how to play the pro game. They tend to be good prospects but rough. It also needs to be remembered that of the 20-some players on a team at that level, 2-3 will see the major leagues, and the rest are, basically being paid to play catch with the real prospects (and may, or may not, be given a chance to prove they’re also prospects — but if you aren’t annointed, you have to force them to pay attention).
I love the Northwest league — it’s in many ways my ideal for the essence of baseball — it’s very much community baseball, small, intimate, the players are skilled (not necessarily true over in the Pioneer league, which is the “if we can fix this flaw, we might have something” league), and the players haven’t grown the thick skin or the attitude that happens when they hit the majors (to some degree, out of necessity). My favorite parks up there are Everett and Eugene, although I always loved the funkiness of the no-longer-in-the-league Medford (the strangest park was the no-longer-in-the-league Bend, which was little more than an American Legion field with delusions of grandeur, and who’s outfield faced the back of a K-mart).
In my years wandering the minors, I’ve made it to about 22 parks so far (Laurie’s a few parks ahead of me…) — from Tucson to Edmonton.
It’s a little late now, since the San Jose Giants are in the playoffs (game 2 today at 5, san jose muni), but maybe next year, we should schedule a night at the park for local geeks and bloggers — and Tim, if you’re ever down in San Jose, tickets are on me…
Some days, I’ve found, you really can go home again.
Saturday, I went to a baseball game. Not just any game — a Giants game as San Jose muni (see, San Jose already has a baseball team, and it’s not the A’s). That may not seem like a major thing, but it was, for me. Laurie and I used to be season ticket holders at San Jose, where we’d hang out for upwards of 40-50 games a season. Minor league baseball is different, especially A-ball. 3500 is a huge crowd, and the parks are small and intimate. Our season tickets were row one, over the home dugout, which means maybe (maybe) 50 feet from the foul line. So in a very real way, you aren’t watching the game, you’re in it (and if you stop paying attention, it’ll remind you of that — we had any number of baseballs come visiting, and one bat. I didn’t keep the bat, but I should have. I just tossed it back and told him to start using pine tar). Being in that size crowd and that close, by the way, you KNOW they hear you (Ian Lamplugh, phone home. I’ve lost your email and I want to know if you’re still in Victoria, because I owe you dinner for making it to the bigs, guy…)
But as Laurie and I got busier in our lives with work and hockey and other things, going to the games started feeling more like a chore than a joy. And I became increasingly disillusioned with baseball in general as I watched the caretakers of the major leagues continue to screw it up. And then the baby Giants had a couple of awful seasons, and then a couple of people who worked on the team needed to get a real life and real jobs (getting married does that to you), and… we ended up one year not renewing, but planning on going to a few games a year.
The problem, of course, is that once you break a habit, it tends to break in a big way. And I was pretty burnt out on baseball in general, so we never did. For a few years, we just didn’t think about it. For the last three, we did — but somehow, it turned into August. And, you know? after a while, it’s like “it’s been so long, what will they think if we start showing up again? Or will they even remember or care?” — and that sort of inhibits you.
But this year, laurie and I had agreed, it was time to start going again. There’s no way we’d survive season tickets, but we can get in half a dozen games, plus we’re going to head up to Sacto and amybe down to Fresno for games. Just to start the habit again. My god, I’m even watching baseball on TV again, where in the past years, I watched if laurie turned it on. And I’ve been at that point in the current project where I hate my job, I havte having no life, I hate having no time to myself, I hate working evenings and six and seven day weeks, and I hate computers (this is, FWIW, actually fairly normal for me, and it usually passes as we get closer to GM, but it’s not a development cycle without a lost weekend to exhaustion and a crisis of faith. My boss is used to it, mostly. One of these days, I probably won’t get over it, and then I’ll know it’s time for a new gig).
And Saturday laurie headed up to Seattle again, and the Giants had an afternoon game, and while I had work to do, it was time for some time out. So I wandered on down and bought a ticket, then grabbed dinner at Turkey Mikes BBQ off the left field line, then wandered off and found a place to sit and watch the game. I saw a few of the old regulars — but it was a busy night, and I kept missing them in the crowds. It was a pretty good game — Giants win, combined 1 hitter with the hit coming in the 9th inning (would have been my second no-hitter; good news it was a legitimate, solid hit, and the two errors were also legit). And in the last couple of innings, I started wandering more, just taking in the feel, the character. I finally did run into a couple of my old friends from the earlier days, too, and had nice chats.
One of them saw me walk by, and got the big round eyes and smiled (and to be honest, it felt nice to be recognized like that), and we sat and chatted to the end of the game — his first question was “where’s your needlepoint?” (which is a whole ‘nother story, but I was famous for showing up and doing needlepoint during the slow times. It drove some players crazy to see me pull it out…). And his daughter is married, and his son, who last time I saw him had just hit puberty, lost his baby fat and gotten his teenager-attitude, is now on scholarship at a good baseball school as a pitcher.
And it was almost as if I’d missed a homestand, not the better part of a decade. And we talked about that — it was a weird feeling; for all of the things at the park that were different (the people, the players, the staff, etc) — it felt as if nothing had changed. Kind of a time warp.
That place was, as my friend so noted, “Cheers”. and it’s why it keeps drawing us back to it. Like a comfortable pair of shoes, being there just makes things better.
I was made to promise that I would return (this season!) and show up earlier to talk more. And bring Laurie. And I will.
And in some ways, it’s too bad. The park is showing its age a bit, and the city (who owns it) is primarily interested in going “big league” with the A’s, so investing in the old Muni park is not only not a priority, it’s not really an option. Yet most folks don’t know (or care) about what they have already, only that they don’t have the 40,000 seat sterile, impersonal cavern of a major league park (where you can pay double for your beer and 10X for your ticket for seats in the next county). Eventually, I guess, either the stadium will fall apart or the A’s will move in town, and either way, it’ll go away. But taht’s no excuse for not enjoying it for now.
And so, I hope, I will. As should you, if you love the sport. It is not, by any means the best baseball you’ll see on a technical basis — but minor league ball as an experience blows away anything you can get in the majors. And it’s full of really fun, neat people —
who’ll remember your name, if you give them the chance.
I’ll have an order of garlic bread, and later, a churros.. for old times sake. And blue, shake your head. Your eyes are stuck again.