(Originally published June 1st, 2011 on my old blog.)
Gil Scott-Heron died last Friday — which, in our no-attention-span, endless-news-cycle present, means that I'm way late to the funeral party. Everybody's already onto the next big piece of news, like the NBA finals, or that Facebook spam video thang wherein some woman "gives birth" to a grown man's head. A few folks, like Greg Tate of the Village Voice, have already penned some wonderful eulogies for a man who was one of the great poets and prophets of our time; countless others have hung two-paragraph obits upon such easily-digestible (if profoundly limiting) phrases like "godfather of rap" and "spoken-word artist." Why add one more voice to the chatter, this "late" in the game? Well, Gil Scott-Heron's music and message touched me deeply, and I've got a few things of my own to say about him.
But let's start with something someone else has already said. As Tate points out in his fine piece, "Gil knew he wasn't bigger than hip-hop—he knew he was just better. Like Jimi was better than heavy metal, Coltrane better than bebop, Malcolm better than the Nation of Islam, Marley better than the King James Bible. Better as in deeper—emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, politically, ancestrally, hell, probably even genetically."
Which is why it tastes like spoiled milk every time I read some obit that calls Gil Scott-Heron a "spoken-word artist"; yes, the man had a gift for words, and he often delivered them with a profoundly resonant speaking voice, but he was also an incredibly soulful singer, songwriter and keyboard player, not to mention an (Tate again) "oracle, troubadour, poet, gadfly, muckraker, and grassroots shit-talker." Yeah, he's the guy who did the brilliantly incisive "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" and "Whitey On The Moon," but to consign Gil Scott-Heron to the "spoken-word artist" box is like calling Curtis Mayfield a "soundtrack composer" — it was truly only one small facet of who he was and what he did.
To me, Gil's greatest gift — and perhaps ultimately his Achilles heel — was his humanity, his empathy for other human beings. For all his righteous anger, for all his intimidatingly sharp intellect, for all his deft wordplay, for all his loose-limbed funk grooves, an open heart was his most important tool. Songs like "Home is Where the Hatred Is," "The Bottle" and "Angel Dust" stared unflinchingly at addiction, just like "No Knock," "Winter in America" and "Johannesburg" faced down The Man, but they were anything but dispassionate journalistic missives. You knew that Gil gave a shit about what was going down, on an emotional level as well as intellectual, and that it hurt him severely to see other people hurting, being exploited, being oppressed.
But when you feel that much, when you care that deeply about the fate of your fellow man, when you make your art and your living by communicating those feelings and concerns to the rest of the world — and creating such nakedly emotional songs as "Save the Children," "Your Daddy Loves You" and "I Think I'll Call It Morning" — and you don't have a filter to shut off the hurt and despair...well, the process comes with an eventual price. Who can really blame him for his tragic, decades-long romance with the crack pipe? “Ten to fifteen minutes of this, I don’t have pain,” he said in last year's upsetting New Yorker profile, referring to his crack smoking. The pain he spoke of was from a spinal issue, but there had to be a great deal of psychic pain going on within him, as well.
Still, it's that same open-heartedness — as well as his clear-eyed anger — that has repeatedly drawn me back to Gil Scott-Heron's records over the years. I recall hearing his stuff for the first time in the late 70s, probably through one of my Mom's friends, and I seem to remember that 1984's "Re-Ron" — a typically scathing indictment of Ronald Reagan and those who wanted to re-elect him — got some decent airplay in Chicago at the time. But it wasn't until 1990, when I was a college grad trying to make sense of the world I'd graduated into, that I really started exploring his work, which thankfully started being reissued on CD in the early '90s. And in late 2000, when George W. Bush was handed the keys to the White House in the same way he'd been handed everything else in his life, I spent countless hours curled up with 1971's Pieces of a Man LP; though it was nearly three decades old, it was still the only album I could find at the time that fully articulated and validated my depression and anger, while simultaneously reminding me to live and love life to the fullest, as opposed to becoming fatally consumed by the despair I felt and the bad times that I knew were on the way.
Which is, unfortunately, much more than I can say about 2010's I'm New Here, his final studio album. A haunted, haphazard affair recorded after he was released from his second prison stint, the album lasts only 28 minutes and contains far more of Gil's parched-voiced reminiscences than actual new songs. While XL Recordings head honcho Richard Russell is to be commended for trying to get Gil back into the studio, the results are hard to listen to; though many buckets of critical jizz have been spilled over I'm New Here, Gil frankly sounds like a reluctant guest on his own album. “This is Richard’s CD,” he told the New Yorker. “My only knowledge when I got to the studio was how he seemed to have wanted this for a long time. You’re in a position to have somebody do something that they really want to do, and it was not something that would hurt me or damage me—why not? All the dreams you show up in are not your own.”
The Gil Scott-Heron who shows up in my dreams is the one of "Lady Day & John Coltrane," a song from Pieces of a Man that I have put on countless mix tapes for friends over the years. Quite possibly the best song ever written about the transcendent, transformative, healing and uplifting power of music, "Lady Day & John Coltrane" also manages to be remarkably healing and uplifting in its own right. It's a song that will stay with me for the rest of my life, both as a reminder of why I care so much about music, and as a reminder (and a means) to "let the sun shine through" and keep my heart open during those times when living all of my days in darkness seems an easier option. It's a complicated, maddening, fucked-up world we live in, and Gil saw that clearer than most; but he also communicated its beauty (and the beauty of existence) more effectively than most, and for that I will always be grateful.
Peace go with you, Brother. Thank you for helping to wash my troubles away.
Pardo Frederick Delliquadri, my grandfather on my mother's side, would have turned 101 today. My mentor, my pal, my hero, and the man who taught me to make the greatest tomato sauce you ever tasted, Grandpa Fred had a seemingly unlimited capacity for kindness and (as you can see here) silliness. He would often wake me up in the morning by lobbing sock balls at my bed; and his flair for changing the words of classic songs to something absurd and/or off-color is something I definitely inherited from him, along with his eyebrows.
A first-generation Italian-American, Grandpa Fred was born into a large family in Pueblo, Colorado. He went to the University of Colorado on a full scholarship, worked for the WPA in the late 30s, then got his Masters of Science in Social Work degree from the University of Nebraska. He served as a Lieutenant in the US Navy Reserve during World War II, overseeing port operations in Boston and Panama; after the war, he took on supervisory and directorial roles in the Departments of Public Welfare of Wyoming, Illinois and Wisconsin, all in divisions related to children.
From there, he served as the Dean of the schools of social work at the University of Wisconsin, Columbia University, the University of Hawaii, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and the University of Alabama. President Johnson appointed him as the Chief of the U.S. Children's Bureau at the Department of Health, Education and Welfare; he also served as the U.S. Representative to the Executive Board of UNICEF, and the U.S. Delegate to the Inter-American Children's Institute, and received many honors and awards for his work on behalf of children around the world. Not a bad trajectory at all for a kid who first went to work at the age of eight — shining shoes and selling papers on the streets of Pueblo — to help his struggling family survive.
My wife and I went to see Hidden Figures last night (which we both loved), and I kept thinking about Grandpa Fred through the entire film. Sometime back in the mid-70s, he took me and my sister to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and I think he loved the experience even more than I did; he knew the names and details of all the astronauts and their missions, and clearly felt so much pride in the fact that Americans had reached the moon during his lifetime. He was also deeply proud of the progress that America had made during his lifetime in the Civil Rights arena; in his quiet way, he made very clear to me the contempt he felt for his white neighbors and colleagues in Tuscaloosa who clung to their racism like it was some kind of life raft.
A staunch Democrat throughout his life, Grandpa Fred would have been less than excited about today's inauguration ceremonies. But what would have disturbed him far more than the current occupant of the White House is the cast of venal, cruel and incompetent characters who are using Trump's election as a mandate for undermining and reversing so much of the social progress that we've made since the Great Depression. As someone who cared so much about the well-being of this country's children — especially the disadvantaged ones — my grandfather would have been completely appalled by the nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education; and he would have been truly sickened by Paul Ryan's idea that we can somehow "Make America Great Again" by repealing the ACA and leaving millions and millions of American children (and their parents) without health coverage.
Likewise, the notion that white men have somehow been oppressed in recent years by "political correctness" and the extension of equal rights to women, gays and minorities wouldn't have washed with him, not one bit; nor would the scapegoating of immigrants and people of darker skin or non-Christian religions. After all, he and his brothers (and one sister) who served in WWII didn't fight fascism overseas just so it could make landfall here seven decades later.
What Grandpa Fred wouldn't have done, though, is waste time arguing about things like Bernie vs. Hillary on social media, posting snarky Trump memes, or wailing about how he was going to leave the country. No, he would have been about the business of helping our poor and disenfranchised fellow humans (especially the kids) who are going to suffer even more under the boot-heel of this administration. And I hereby pledge to do whatever I can to follow in his footsteps in that regard over these next four years.
I love you, Gramps. Happy Birthday, and thanks for the constant inspiration.
Ever since the Christmas of 1974, when my Uncle John introduced me to the weird and wild wonders of his EC Comics collection, one of my favorite holiday pastimes has involved chilling out with a stack of old horror comics while listening to Christmas music. I fully understand that it might not be everyone's cup of eggnog — and I'm not even that much of a comic book collector, myself — but there's something about paging through a particularly choice issue of such gory, twisted 1950s classics as Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror and The Haunt of Fear while listening to John Fahey's The New Possibility (or the Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Christmas Album) that really puts me blissfully in the Christmas groove.
This year, though, I've been spending less time with my EC reprints from the 1990s (most of which I've read at least two dozen times by now) and more time with issues of Ghosts, a DC title that I read semi-regularly back in the 1970s. Sub-titled "True Tales of the Weird and Supernatural," Ghosts wasn't as well-written (or as gruesomely rendered) as its EC forebears; but the artwork was usually quite solid (even borderline psychedelic at times), and the stories were usually good for a scare or two — at least for a young horror fiend like myself. I've really been enjoying giving them another look, not least because of all the ads they include for Topps baseball cards, X-ray specs, novelty t-shirts, and war games from the Helen of Toy Company (Tank Trap! Task Force! Woods Edge!), all of which I vividly remember drooling over during my childhood.
I have no memory, however, of "Eyes From Another World," a two-page story from the July 1975 issue that recalls the rash of UFO sightings that occurred in the US during the years immediately following World War II. Though it's kind of an unremarkable piece in itself, it does include brief accounts of UFO sightings by such celebrities as Sammy Davis, Jr, Muhammad Ali, Arthur Godfrey and Buddy Rich. And the panels with Sammy and Buddy's flying saucer encounters are just too good not to share with you here...
Pretty cool, huh? Certainly a lot cooler than AMF Voit's nylon baseball bat, which is advertised on the back of the issue. I'm really glad nobody ever gave me one of those for Christmas — I would have been immediately laughed out of my local little league.
Anyway, I'm gonna get back to my comics. May you all have a relaxing, fun and (if you so choose) funky holiday season. Catch you in 2017.
The holiday season is once again upon us, and along with it the scramble to find the perfect gifts for the ones we love.
Well, if you've got a baseball fan on your Xmas list, why not get them a hardcover first-edition of my book Stars and Strikes: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of 1976, autographed and personalized by the author himself?
That's right, folks — just send me $30 via PayPal (see link below), and I'll send you a copy of my critically-acclaimed journey into the heart of the Spirit of '76. The Big Red Machine, Billy Martin's Yankees, Mark "The Bird" Fidrych, Charlie Finley's fire sale, Oscar Gamble's haircut, Bill Veeck's wooden leg, the White Sox shorts, Phillies Fever, Ted Turner's Ostrich races, the first free agent re-entry draft — it's all here, along with Salem witches, Jimmy Carter, the nationwide Bicentennial celebration, the Ramones' first album, Frampton Comes Alive, Taxi Driver, Rocky and (of course) The Bad News Bears, along so many other crazy things that made 1976 such a memorable and important year, both for major league baseball and the USA as a whole.
The $30 covers shipping and handling (offer only applies to the continental US, so contact me for shipping rates if you're in Alaska, Hawaii or other countries); be sure to let me know your giftee's favorite 70s team or player when you're checking out via the PayPal link, and I will find a way to work that information into the signature.
I only have a limited amount of these hardcovers left, so act like Mickey "Mick the Quick" Rivers and snap 'em up while you can!
On a chilly Friday afternoon in February 1989, my friend Carl — whom I knew from WVKR, Vassar College's radio station — invited me to take a ride with him over the Mid-Hudson Bridge to New Paltz and do some record shopping. Carl said he knew of a little place near SUNY New Paltz that stocked a lot of cool Sixties records; and since "Peace, Love and Fuzztone," my WVKR show on Friday nights, was all about cool Sixties records, he was definitely speaking my language.
Twenty-seven years on, the name of that store has perhaps understandably slipped my mind, but I vividly remember what I bought there that day: An original pressing of Love's incredible Four Sail LP (which I'd never even seen before, and which in time would become my favorite Love LP), a really cool Big Beat compilation of US pop-psych called Baubles Vol 1 — Down to Middle Earth, and issue #6 of Kicks Magazine.
Truth be told, the third item was something of an afterthought. I'd seen earlier issues of Kicks around, but never picked one up — probably because I perceived the mag as being heavily Fifties-centric. Not that I had any problem with Fifties music, per se (I'd loved doo-wop, Buddy Holly, Little Richard and Elvis since I was 12); it's just that, having spent much of my college years on a heavy garage and psychedelia kick, the very idea of pre-LSD music seemed kinda quaint to me. Of course, being a Bo Diddley fan, I should have known better than to judge a book (or a 'zine) by its cover...
Actually, it was the cover of Kicks #6 that convinced me to give the mag a shot. I had no idea who Ronnie Dawson, Arch Hall Jr., Sonny Burgess, the Rockin' R's, the Rumblers or Sparkle Moore were; but I definitely knew who Bobby Fuller was — I'd already spent many hours teaching myself "I Fought The Law" on guitar — and I'd heard that he'd died under some pretty weird circumstances. "The Bobby Fuller Story"? Sign me up!
Carl and I made it back to Poughkeepsie just in time for my radio show, so I didn't get a chance to dig into my new magazine until the next day, which I spent serving as a volunteer "extra" on a friend's student film. Having lots of downtime between shots, I devoured Miriam Linna's amazingly deep dig into Fuller's life and music, laughed my ass off at "Mr. Corned Beef Rising," Billy Miller's phony interview with Jim Morrison (who, according to the mag, was still alive and running Jim Morrisberg's Deli), marveled at the fact that they had a column ("Fish Fry") wherein Handsome Dick Manitoba of the Dictators shared his favorite recipes, and generally tried to absorb all the incredible info packed into the issue's pages. Miriam and Billy were clearly tapped into something cooler than I'd ever imagined existed; this was no American Graffiti/Happy Days nostalgia-fest, but a window into an alternate universe where Esquerita was bigger than Little Richard, Arch Hall Jr. was an Academy Award-winning actor, and Andre Williams' greasy discography was far more compelling and life-affirming than anything Eighties MTV had to offer. I had to know more...
And I wasn't the only one, not by a long shot. When Billy died this past Sunday, leaving us behind after a brutal battle with multiple myeloma, kidney failure and diabetes, my Facebook feed was immediately filled with heartfelt tributes to the man, with many of my friends crediting him and his wife Miriam with changing their lives through the music that they tirelessly championed, sold and released via Kicks and their Norton Records mini-empire. Some of my friends knew him well on personal level, and I wish I could say the same thing — since, by all accounts, he was a truly dynamite cat. But even though I didn't really know him, even though our only real connection was via the U.S. postal service, I still feel compelled to testify to his awesomeness by remembering the mighty mark he made on my own musical tastes and listening habits.
I'd read an interview with Miriam and Billy in RE:Search's Incredibly Strange Music, Volume 1, where Billy mentioned the "Satisfaction Guaranteed Grab Bag" service that they offered through their Norton mail-order catalog — basically, you could tell them, "Here's fifty bucks — send me your craziest doo-wop 45s," or sleaziest instrumental 45s, or whatever, and they'd hook you up. So, in 1994, about a year after the interview was published, I included a letter with my latest Norton order (some Link Wray and surf music comps, if I recall correctly), asking if they still did the "grab bag" deal. "You bet," Billy wrote back to me. "Just let us know what you're in the mood for — we won't send you no crap!"
Off went a $100 check to Box 646 Cooper Station, NY, NY 10003, with instructions to send me a hundred bucks' worth of doo-wop and R&B 45s about drinking, eating and carrying on. A week or two later, I received a sweet stack o' wax that not only fit the bill to the proverbial T, but also blew my ever-lovin' mind and sent me down a Fifties R&B rabbit hole that I'm still enthusiastically exploring some two decades later. And I'm gonna "spin" some of 'em right now for you, in Billy's honor.
Amazing stuff, right? And Billy knew this kinda shit backwards and forwards, and made it one of his many life's missions to turn the rest of the world onto it. "Some people accuse us of being into nostalgia and being narrow-minded because we don't listen to the 'latest' music," he said in the Incredibly Strange Music interview, "but it's not nostalgia — I wish I'd heard all these obscure records when I was a little kid."
Indeed, the well from which he and Miriam drew this incredible music still seems almost bottomless... and amid the darkness and despair of this last week, this is the kind of stuff that's repeatedly lifted me out of my doldrums and made me feel alive and even happy again. I suspect it's because these records weren't made by superstars, but by real people — people who were struggling to make ends meet, who found their joy, release and meaning in the music they made. When Billy would rail against the likes of Sting and Duran Duran in the pages of Kicks, it wasn't just because he hated their music; it was because popular music as a whole had entirely lost touch with the magic that happens four or five kids from down the street walk into a cheap-ass recording studio and sing their hearts out into a single microphone.
My heart goes out to Miriam and all of Billy's family and close friends; I hope they can find some comfort in the fact that he brought so much joy and fun not just to their lives, but to people like me who barely knew him. Rest well, Billy; thanks again for all the kicks.
On Monday, August 8, I'll be doing my only Chicago-area book-signing for the paperback edition of Stars and Strikes: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of '76 , in conjunction with a rare 35mm showing of one of the biggest film hits of 1976 (not to mention the greatest baseball film ever made): The Bad News Bears.
This joyous event will take place at Chicago's legendary Music Box Theater, located at 3733 N. Southport Ave. in Chicago. I will be co-hosting the event with WGN radio's Nick Digilio, and copies of Stars and Strikes will be available for sale in the lobby via those fine folks at The Book Cellar, my favorite local indie bookstore. Tickets for the screening are $12, or $9 if you're already a member. The actual screening begins at 7 pm, and will be followed by a discussion of the film led by Nick and myself.
If you've already read Stars and Strikes, then you know how much this film means to me; the one-two punch of The Bad News Bears and the sudden emergence of spectacular Tigers rookie Mark "The Bird" Fidrych went a long way towards making ten-year-old Dan transfer his obsession with war comics and G.I. Joe dolls to all things baseball-related. If it wasn't for the Bears and the Bird, my life might have taken a much different path, and I almost certainly wouldn't have written Stars and Strikes or Big Hair and Plastic Grass many years down the road. So it's a huge honor to be able to present this wonderful film — whose slyly subversive script still holds up remarkably well 40 years later — on a big screen.
If you've never seen the film before, or it's been years since you've watched it, here — via a piece I wrote for Rolling Stone this spring — is a little reminder of why it remains the greatest baseball movie ever made.
There are no Cubs or White Sox games scheduled that night — so if you're in or near Chicago, I hope you'll come out and say hey. Buttermaker would have wanted it that way, man...
It's been said that a baseball game will always show you something that you've never seen before. The most memorable part of last night's Tigers-White Sox game at U.S. Cellular Field was certainly unique, though neither I nor any of the other 32,527 fans in attendance were actually able to witness it.
I refer, of course, to Chris Sale's pre-game uniform-slashing incident, in which the Sox ace — apparently troubled by the prospect of having to pitch in the evening's collared throwbacks from the second Bill Veeck era — did his best Jason Voorhees impression on the team's '76-style uniforms, resulting in a scratched start and a five-game suspension from the front office.
This, in itself, would have been enough weirdness for one evening at the ballpark. In all my years of loving, researching and writing about baseball, I've never even heard of a player throwing this kind of a tantrum over the uniform he was supposed to wear. Certainly, there were members of the 1963 Kansas City A's and the 1969 Seattle Pilots — to name two early adopters of colorful uniforms which flouted the bland "home whites/road grays" tradition — who were significantly less than happy about the fashion statements that their teams were making.
“There was a lot of grousing about the uniforms," wrote Pilots hurler Jim Bouton in Ball Four. "I guess because we’re the Pilots we have to have captain’s uniforms. They have stripes on the sleeve, scrambled eggs on the [bill] of the cap and blue socks with yellow stripes. Also there are blue and yellow stripes down the sides of the pants. We look like goddamn clowns.”
Still, Bouton and his Pilots teammates went ahead and wore their "captain's uniforms" (at least until until Bud Selig and his cronies stole the Pilots from Seattle and moved them to Milwaukee) without incident. Ditto for the 1976 White Sox, whose Veeck-designed uniforms — truly the most unique unis of baseball's most fashion-forward era — were being celebrated last night.
The '76 Sox wore uniforms featuring collared jerseys that were meant to be worn un-tucked; Veeck believed that this unusual look would give his players players more comfort and flexibility in the field. White Sox utility man Jack Brohamer (more on him in a sec) told me last year that the '76 uniforms "made it look like we were in jail," but the players still went along with the concept, even during the three games that August when Veeck asked them to take the field in short pants.
Obviously, as the author of Stars and Strikes: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of '76, I have a special fondness for those '76 White Sox uniforms; while I can completely understand someone else's aesthetic aversion to them, they are so iconic, so emblematic of the welcome whimsy that Bill Veeck brought to the game, that they practically transcend criticism at this point. They're like the visual equivalent of Peter Frampton's talk-box solo on "Show Me The Way" — goofy as all hell, yet also guaranteed to transport me back to one of the happiest summers of my life in a nanosecond.
Which is why, along with the fact that our beloved Detroit Tigers were in town, that my wife and I went with some friends to "The Cell" last night. Not only were the White Sox giving away '76 throwback jerseys to the first 20,000 fans who showed up — which unfortunately turned out to be sullied by the Xfinity logo on one of the sleeves — but the team was also going to take the field in the full '76 throwbacks, as well. Or so we thought...
We arrived in time to catch the tail-end of the Tigers' batting practice, and while I was a little disappointed to see that the Tigers were wearing their usual road uniforms instead of 1976 road throwbacks, I know that visiting teams don't always get on board with their opponents' promotions. I was further disappointed a few minutes later to learn via Twitter that Chris Sale had been scratched from his scheduled start; he is, after all, one of the best starting pitchers of the past few years, and you always want to see the top guys in the game do their thing, even if it means additional challenges for the team you're rooting for. But there's been a lot of talk in recent days about the White Sox trading Sale to a contending team, and it seemed like maybe this was the team's (albeit clumsy) excuse to keep him out of action and free of harm before they had the chance to deal him.
But then, when the White Sox finally took the field after a minor rain delay wearing their early 80s "Winning Ugly" throwbacks instead of the '76 ones, I felt kind of ripped off. Don't get me wrong — I am fond of those uniforms, as well, but that's really not what I'd paid to see. Figuring that this must have been some kind of screw-up on the part of the team, I tweeted out the following joke:
At least, I thought it was a joke. But an hour or so later, when I got a text from a friend saying, "I want one of the cut-up throwbacks! Can't believe Sale did that!," I checked social media and realized that Sale had indeed blown a fuse over uniforms — only, it was the '76 ones that he didn't want to wear...
There was a strange energy (or maybe lack thereof) to the game itself. No longer facing one of the game's best lefties, the Tigers should have been able to tee off against a succession of bullpen arms led by Matt Albers, the beefy journeyman reliever who'd already pitched the previous two nights, but it was not to be. Numerous scoring opportunities were squandered; and while Miguel Cabrera and Nick Castellanos did knock in two of the Tigers' three runs, Cabrera, Castellanos, Ian Kinsler and Victor Martinez went a combined 2-for-14. Only Cameron "Extra Cheese" Maybin seemed completely impervious to the evening's oppressive humidity, going 2-for-3 with a walk, two stolen bases and two runs scored. I love that guy; the Tigers would be in a far worse position right now without Kinsler and Maybin at the top of their lineup.
The game was also delayed by three thunderstorms, two of which (including the final one, which caused the 3-3 contest to be postponed until today) were the most insane I'd ever witnessed at a ballpark. We'd somehow lucked into buying field-level tickets that were actually under the mezzanine overhang, so we were able to watch the torrential downpours and sky-piercing lightning flashes in relative comfort, and (mostly) avoid the crowds that were slowly shuffling "zombie apocalypse" style through the packed concessions areas. We also spent a lot of time watching the jumbotron on the centerfield scoreboard, where they were flashing a lot of 1970s Sox pics and trivia, and at least one major gaffe:
Yeah, Jack Brohamer was the only White Sox player to hit a home run while wearing short pants. But it happened in 1976 — you know, the year that the White Sox were supposed to be paying tribute to, until Chris Sale freaked the fuck out? — not 1979. (The Sox didn't even wear shorts in 1979, fer chrissakes.) Well, at least they got Jack's name right; I found out later that my friend Michael was at the game, and his family put up a birthday message to him on the jumbotron in the eighth inning, but the Sox put the message up with the wrong middle name...
Speaking of screw-ups, an interesting, er, wrinkle to the Sale slash-fest emerged today in this article by Jon Heyman:
Wait, what? The throwbacks were made out of "heavy wool"?!? Either Heyman's reporting is inaccurate — today's throwback uniforms typically come in the same lightweight synthetic blends as the regulation unis — or the White Sox are absolutely insane. Why would you make throwback uniforms out of wool, especially when the originals that you're throwing back to were made out of lightweight poly?
But maybe that's just how it's all going at The Cell these days. There's been weird energy around the White Sox since the bizarre Adam LaRoche incident in spring training — which you'll also recall Sale unnecessarily losing his shit over — and they've seemed pretty unfocused since their 17-8 hot start in April. Maybe it is indeed time to fire Robin Ventura and/or Kenny Williams, and deal off Sale and anyone else they can get some choice prospects for, and just start over. And, at the very least, maybe it's time for Sale to reconsider his priorities. I'll leave the last word here to my friend and colleague, Cardboard Gods author Josh Wilker, who summed the whole fiasco up quite nicely, and invoked my favorite White Sox pitcher in the process:
Just FYI: My book Stars and Strikes: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of '76 (now out in paperback!) isn't just about what happened on the diamond — it also contains plenty of musical action from that crucial year, as well.
Fr'instance: 40 years ago this month, noted Yankees fan Johnny Ramone plays three-chord monte at Plaza Sound in New York City, where the Ramones are tracking their debut album. The self-titled LP requires only four days and $6,400 to wax; released in April, it will receive mixed reviews and chart no higher than #111 on the Billboard Hot 200, but will eventually be hailed as the most influential punk rock record of all time — and for good reason.
The man pictured above is Mike LaCoss, former hurler for the Reds, Astros, Royals and Giants from 1978-91. Last week, I had the pleasure of guesting on Trip To The Mound, a podcast Mike does with Roy Giovannoni for the iBaseball channel. I was "there" to talk about Stars and Strikes (now out in paperback!), but our wide-ranging talk wound up covering everything from sabermetrics to thrash metal — and I also got to pick Mike's brain a bit about his experiences with the Big Red Machine. Go HERE to listen to the whole thing...
Also, for those of you who can't get enough of my yakkin', I did two radio appearances last week with some old friends: Rich Kimball of WZON in Bangor, Maine, and Ray Steele of WIBC in Indianapolis. Both gents really know their baseball, and I am immensely grateful for their enormously supportive of my books through the years. Go HERE to listen to my chat with Rich, which includes some Lemmy- and Strat-O-Matic-related tangents; and go HERE to hear my chat with Ray, in which we talk about Mark Fidrych, Dick Allen, and whether or not you'd rather have Bill Veeck or Ted Turner as the owner of your favorite baseball team.