Monday, March 31, 2008

Twins opening game 2008

Gomez* is having some fun! Livan 'El Principe' Hernandez is pitching in slow motion! Mauer has an RBI in his first at bat!'s only the third inning of the first game of a long long season, but, damn, it is so nice to have baseball back.

*Hey, Bert; it's Gomez, not Gonzales.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Base ball begins

Monday the The Twins play the Angels at the Dome. It's exciting because the opening game of the season is always exciting. But this year's game will have the odd thrill of seeing Torii Hunter in center field for the Angels. I do hope the Minnesota fans behave themselves. Don't throw hot dogs or plastic beer bottles like you did when Knoblauch returned in a Yankee uniform. That was bush.

We'll be there Tuesday, and then later in the week the Northfield HS choir will sing at a game. I believe they were lined up to do the national anthem, but got bumped and will sing "God Bless America" instead.

I have a question about that: Are we supposed to stand and remove our hats during "God Bless America?" I don't, but many people do. I always thought these gestures of respect and humility were reserved for the national anthem. Doing so for any other song diminishes the meaning of the true national anthem. So what's the deal?

At least they don't blast that jingoistic Lee Greenwood any more.

Livan 'El Principe' Hernandez will get the start. I hope he has at least one chance to show off his soccer skills.

Gomez will make a spectacular catch in center, steal a couple of bases, and get picked off first at a crucial point in the game.

Go, Twins!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Wouldn't it be great if...

...Kentucky had a major league baseball franchise called the Miners?

...the freakin' snow would just stop already?

...somebody would write a "food and place" post about Kansas City?

...Trader Joe's could sell cheap beer in its Minnesota stores?

...Jimmie John's would open a store in Northfield?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Livan and Jesse need our help

Only a couple weeks left of spring training. Two Twins players who have struggled a bit down there in Ft. Myers need our help.

Livan Hernandez: A veteran acquired in the off season, Livan is listed as the third starter (this from the Twins web site, which admittedly isn't always the best source).

So far as I know, Livan doesn’t have a nickname. His brother Orlando has a very cool nickname —El Duque. I think the nickname helped Orlando and the lack of a nickname held Livan back. A nickname is a powerful thing. It confers some sense of belonging, a touch of confidence, and sometimes a little pressure (that is, something to live up to).

Remember Carl “Big Train” Willis, who pitched for the Twins in the early 1990’s? He’s the pitching coach for the Indians now. That was a cool nickname. Gave Willis a little cachet. Walter Johnson was also sometimes called Big Train.

So, Livan needs a nickname. Here are several possibilities.

LivanLento Tren” Hernandez. It means ‘slow train.’ His out pitch is the slow curve (and he even has a slow fastball, if that’s not an oxymoron). A train, even a slow one, is powerful and relentless. The name would probably get shortened to Tren or Train, which wouldn’t be bad. And if he really went sour, we could start calling him Train Wreck.

Or how about LivanEl Teniente” Hernandez -- the Lieutenant.

Or “El Principe” -- the Prince. That has a nice Minnesota connection. And it could be a reference to his brother’s nickname; doesn’t a prince outrank a duke? Kind of like the Waner brothers: Paul Waner was known as Big Poison and Lloyd as Little Poison.

El Viajero –-The Traveler. Because he’s traveled from team to team (Minnesota is his sixth).

El Camarada -- The Comrade. That’s what Castro calls those loyal to the revolution, so this one would have to be seen as ironic (or maybe just dumb). But he is said to be a terrific teammate, a positive presence in the clubhouse.

Jesse Crain: Here is a snippet from a spring training update that appeared in the Star-Tribune this morning:
Righthander Jesse Crain, who was hit near the right knee by a line drive on Thursday, said it was still a little sore but he planned on trying some
baseball-related activities today.”
That is a tantalizing phrase – “baseball-related activities.” I don’t know what that means to Jesse Crain, and maybe he doesn't either. Here are some suggestions:

  • Eat a bag of peanuts while sitting in the left-field stands
  • Keep score (or just chart pitches)
  • Practice flippy-cup in the bullpen
  • Check out Pat Neshek’s blog
  • Drink a couple of lukewarm beers
  • Sit next to a pretty girl and obnoxiously try to impress her with your baseball knowledge
  • Join a fantasy league
  • Put peanut butter in Mike Redmond’s shin guards
  • Learn the French words to “Oh, Canada.”**

** Jesse, born in Toronto, was nicknamed The Crainadian by the boys at Pulling a Blyleven. But he went to high school in Colorado and college in Texas, so I’m betting that he still needs to work on the French lyrics. He did play for Canada in the World Baseball Classic a few years ago, so maybe he learned it there. In any case, it never hurts to practice.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Middle Vegan Relief

Pat Neshek, the young sidearm/submarine pitcher for the Twins, announced that he's adopted a vegan diet and a new workout regimen. He thinks it will give him more stamina over the long season.

I have been plumbing the depths my musty memory to come up with the name of the Minnesota North Star hockey player who stopped eating red meat. It was in 1982, I think (the year after the North Stars went to the Stanley Cup finals). I recall that he faded badly and his coaches and teammates were angry because they were sure his goofy no-meat diet was to blame. Who was that player?

Anyway, I hope Neshek's new diet is a smashing success and becomes the next big thing in major league clubhouses and training rooms. No syringes or underworld liaisons needed.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Barrett Deems

Rob Hardy posted a video of Joe Morello, which brought back pleasant memories.

As a teen, I idolized Joe Morello, Buddy Rich, Max Roach, Elvin Jones, Art Blakey. But I never met any of them. I did meet Barrett Deems, though. Barrett was billed as the fastest drummer on earth, although I think several jazz drummers from the 40s and 50s laid claim to that title.

Here are two clips of Barrett Deems. This one is from a movie entitled "Rhythm Inn" circa 1951:

Deems was showing off a little bit.

This one is from a Louis Armstrong tribute concert 30-some years later (1984):

The bass player is Arvell Shaw. Nice.

I met Deems near the end of his career. He was playing in a quintet lead by Jack Teagarden. Deems was 50 years old, which seemed ancient to me at the time. The group played a concert in my little home town mainly because Teagarden was there to visit the Conn band instrument company. He was a Conn spokesman and came to town now and then to pick up a new trombone and have his picture taken for Conn's advertising.

As it turned out, my mother knew the piano player, Don Ewell. She had sung with him when they were both members of an Army Air Corps big band during WWII. So we got to go backstage and meet the band. I cared only about meeting the drummer. He was about as bored as I was excited, but he was nice. Didn't get an autograph or a souvenir drum stick, but that's OK.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Another Buckthorn Assault

Story in the Star-Tribune this morning * about restoring the flora on some islands in Lake of the Isles. A photo accompanying the story showed a worker hauling away pieces of buckthorn to be burned. The story went on to say that the two islands, which were man-made as a result of dredging a swamp to make the lake, are being re-planted. Out go the "invasive" plants and in will come unspecified "desirable" plants.


First, there are no islands to 'restore' because they aren't real islands in the first place. They are sculpture.

And just what are these desirable plants? Mums and peonies? When this was a swamp, the native plants were probably some scrubby grasses, some random pin oaks, a few sumac bushes. Whatever. The point is that what was growing here 50 or 100 or 500 years ago is most likely not what the restorers will be planting come spring. Why not go all the way back to the ice age? Cover the whole business in a 50' deep sheet of ice and call it restoration. After all, the ice was here first!

Or...just leave the buckthorn. It's growing there quite nicely and (I contend) naturally right now, so by leaving it we are showing our reverence for the natural order, our reticence to intervene. (Which of course is pure poppycock because that's what humans do -- they alter the landscape.) And the buckthorn leaves and branches and berries could be harvested twice a year to be converted to biofuel. It's green!

Or...I'll bet buckthorn could be used for those plant sculptures -- what are they called? .... topiary! The islands could be filled with whimsical or historical references to Minneapolis. Prince in a cape. Killebrew and his home run swing. Hubert H. Humphrey stabbing the air with his finger. People riding bikes around the lake.

I'm sure the results of the park board's efforts will be lovely and pleasing. It's a pretty neighborhood on a nice lake in a decent city. Nothing wrong with that. But call it what it is: a construction project, not restoration or preservation or rehabilitation.

* The story has not yet appeared on the Star-Tribune web site, so there's no link from this post to the whole story. Sorry, not my fault.