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February 15, 2005

Prospectus Matchups

Sharing the Love

by Jim Baker

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R.I.P. Nelson Briles

It was sad to see that Nellie Briles died at such a relatively young age (61). He was always one of the more personable people in baseball. One thing the Associated Press obituary failed to mention is that Briles used to write and perform songs about the game. His most famous entry was written during Hank Aaron's chase of Babe Ruth's career home run record and was all about how he didn't want to be the guy to give it up. It was called "Hey Hank, I Know You're Gonna Do It" and was released by Capitol Records. Briles got some national airtime on Game of the Week telecasts because of his songs. It might not have led directly to his eventual post-career gig as a broadcaster, but it certainly got him noticed.

Your friend, the internet

If you haven't visited retrosheet.org in a while, you should go over there and just poke around for fun. One of their fairly recent additions are game logs for 19th Century teams. They don't have box scores for these games posted yet, but they will someday. Because of retrosheet, it's possible to get an approximate fix on this pretty cool item currently for auction on eBay. It's an original scorecard from the St. Louis Browns. The seller captions it "1882 or 1883" but, thanks to Retrosheet, we know it's from '83 because the Browns did not beat Louisville 5-4 in '82. They did, however, do so twice at home by that score in '83: on May 24 and again on July 21. Since pitchers were prone to throw about half their team's innings at that time, it's impossible to tell the games apart by their pitchers. Tony Mullane threw both times for St. Louis while Guy Hecker did the same for Louisville.

What's great about this document is how familiar it looks. One glance and--in spite of the fact that it's 122 years old--you'll know immediately what it is. This in and of itself might not make it worth the $7,000 the seller is asking, but it's kind of cool to know that there are some things that stay fundamentally the same over the course of time.

Friendly ghost at your service

In light of the publication of Jose Canseco's new book, I got to thinking, "Hey, I'm a writer. I can make stuff up! Why don't I hook up with some player desperate to make a few bucks and together we'll concoct a bunch of nonsense, get a fat advance and split the proceeds. I'll even let him have a little more since he's the 'name' on the project and I'd just be the ghostwriter." Is this ethical? Hey man--don't lay your corporate ethics trip on me, man--I'm just trying to get over, you see what I'm saying? Yeah, fighting the power by bringing it all down around our heads, man. So, anyway, ex-players ready to grovel on the desperate side of the street, come on over! You know where to find me.

Weighing in on Canseco

"Look, I haven't read Jose's book, but I already know that putting his words next to Ball Four will be like comparing Olivier as Hamlet to Patrick Swayze in Road House."
--Martin Fennelly, Tampa Tribune columnist, comparing Canseco's book to Jim Bouton's Ball Four

We have to find a better analogy. There's no need to kick around The Swayzer to make this point.

Let's ask the more important question: could Olivier have carried off Swayze's role in Road House? I think we know the answer to that: no way! Let's forget for a moment that Olivier was something of a ham who could chew scenery like a goat. Was he versatile enough to handle the heavy lifting the role of Dalton required (fighting and brawling and philosophizing on same)? Nope. Not even in his prime, although Olivier, like all classically-trained Shakespearean actors, knew how to sword fight. There's a big difference between dueling in tights and simulating a bar brawl to the strains of Jeff Healey.

Furthermore, could Sir Larry have done the fine job Swayze did as straight man to Chris Farley in the classic Saturday Night Live sketch about the Chippendale's audition? Again, no. Could Olivier have handled the drag chores in To Wong Foo... the way Swayze did? Perhaps, but could he have been both feminine and macho at the same time the way Swayze was in the movie? Not on your life. Swayze can act, folks. Check out Donnie Darko. Olivier was always overrated.

The Giambi method

That distant sound you heard at the end of Jason Giambi's Press Conference of Monumental Apologetic Ambiguity was the applause of every politician in the United States of America. They were paying tribute to a speech so bereft of actual meaning that they, as one, were both jealous and awed. All of them would love to introduce that sort of deft avoidance into their own deliveries.

Valentine's Day counterbalance

The best thing I can say about Valentine's Day is that it's over. The second-best thing is that all that candy is now half-price. If you feel self-conscious about eating chocolate out of a big heart that you bought for yourself, just dump the contents into a manly aluminum lunch pail and toss the box away.

I don't care what anybody says to the contrary, though--Valentine's Day is for women. How do we prove that theory? Try an experiment. Let's take twenty couples. For half of them, we'll have the men forget Valentine's Day. For the other half, we'll have the women blow it off. Which "forgotten" control group will be more upset, do you think: the men or the women?

Right--we don't even have to file for the funding necessary to make that experiment happen. We already know what the results will be and what they will prove: It's a woman's holiday. Not that I'm complaining about that, mind you. Women deserve a holiday all their own. I'm wondering, though, how about a man's holiday for balance? Some might say that every day is a holiday for men because we've got it so good. Spare me that line of crap! I'm talking about a genuine, no-doubt-about-it, for-men-only holiday. I was thinking about this as I watched a man bring flowers to his wife yesterday. What about a holiday where men get six packs of beer delivered to where they work. Just to set it apart from an ordinary six-pack, it could even have a Mylar balloon tied to one of the bottles with a picture of a drunken frog vomiting into a dumpster and saying something like, "It tasted better on the way down." You know, something that men would think was funny.

What would we call this holiday?

How about St. Albert's Day, after one of the saints considered to be the patron of brewers? How about Seat-Up Day? How about I Get to Go to the City Dump and Shoot Rats Day? I don't know, you tell me.

And for those of you--men and women both--who had to spend Valentine's Day alone, don't sweat it. This holiday is just another perpetration by the Man to make you feel bad if you're not conspicuously consuming. Celebrate your aloneness! Join me in song:

I am alone
Good for me
Won't spend my money
On corporate candy
Until the day after
When it's half price
Then I'll buy tons
And get Type II diabetes
That'll show them

Second verse same as the first...

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