Monday, August 31, 2009

The HoG25: The 25 Best Books Of The Last 25 Years (Part Two)

Yesterday we gave you a baker's dozen of books we've enjoyed reading. What follows is the remaining 12 from our esteemed list.

Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins (1984)

Bankmeister: When it comes to the art of mixing story lines, Tom Robbins has an unmatchable talent. He’s also great at conjuring up bizarre characters, interesting plot devices, and intriguing passages of a sexual nature. One could argue that any successful novel has a protagonist with a conflict and wrestles with that conflict in hope of resolution. King Alobar is one of several protagonists in Perfume, and he might be the primary one in this story, but that aspect is of little importance. What Alobar seeks is eternal life, which, on the surface seems silly of course. That’s impossible; no one has ever achieved it.

That’s the glory of Robbins, though. Forget the impossibility. Never mind the fact that it can’t be done. Let’s go after the thing anyway. And if we can mix in a boat load of sex, and perhaps some drugs, along the way, let’s do it. That’s the beauty of Robbins and why this novel must be ranked with Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and Still Life with Woodpecker.

No novelist in the last quarter century has so successfully tackled the imaginary, the unpossible, and wrapped it up real-life trinkets, sparkled it with such profound creativity, for an end product that brings reader joy on a level as high as Robbins did with Perfume. The Bohemian king and the favorite of all of his wives begin the tale, and only an author with Robbins’ imagination could plant Alobar later in the story with said wife, but this time in the form of her child reincarnation. Mix in a lesbian waitress, stops in New Orleans and Paris, and don’t forget the heavy dose of Robbins’ successful absurdities, i.e. beets and perfume, and you’ve got a tale with limitless energy easily worth reading twice. Robbins’ contributions to novel experimentation are solidified in Perfume, thus warranting placement in the top 25.

D-Day by Stephen Ambrose (1994)

Old No. 7: June 6, 1944 was arguably the most important day in American history since the end of the Civil War. Ambrose is an absolute lion of an historian and wrote this definitive account of the Normandy invasion (as well as Band of Brothers, The Victors and Citizen Soldiers). If you appreciate, as I do, the fact that we do not speak German in this country, you might want to peruse this book at some point in your life.

Ambrose, who taught for many years at the University of New Orleans, was instrumental in opening the National World War II Museum in the Warehouse District of that city. I would similarly pressure my fellow Americans to check out that institution the next time you're otherwise wasted in New Orleans. The planning, secrecy, bravery, vigilance and luck that went into the Allies' success on D-Day was nothing short of remarkable, and Ambrose chronicles it all with effective prose. He doesn't get as bloodthirsty and macho as, say, Tom Clancy when detailing American military might.

Neuromancer by William Gibson (1984)

Cecil: Neuromancer is a sci-fi book, yes, but a hugely influential one, which is why it’s on this list. In it, Gibson basically invented the ‘Cyberpunk’ genre, which has influenced modern culture in ways that he probably never could have dreamed up back in 1984. Or, well, maybe he could have.

All technology, grime and shadowy forces of oppression, Neuromancer tells the story of a computer hacker named Case, and…you know, the plot is far too convoluted to even begin to explain. Suffice to say that Gibson approached the notions of corporate domination of government, virtual reality and artificial intelligence long before anyone besides Philip K. Dick.

Without this book and the two that follow it in the Spawn series, there’s no Matrix (which is a concept lifted entirely from this novel) and no full-length movie treatments of Dick novels like Total Recall. Keanu Reeves might never have seen the screen after Bill & Ted if it wasn’t for William Gibson.

Now that I write that, I’m not sure I like this book so much anymore.

Where I’m Calling From by Raymond Carver (1988)

Bankmeister: Raymond Carver is one of the primary figures associated with the rebirth of the short story. He favored it because of its brevity, that it could be created and enjoyed in one sitting, and it is rumored that he did significant portions of his writing in his car in the driveway of his home, one of the few places he could successfully sneak off to and work. The importance of Carver is not in new-fangled twists, bells and whistles, or the imaginary, but instead real life, the struggles, the mystery, and the danger of one’s existence.

It’s possible that Cathedral, published four years earlier than Calling, is his most important work, in that in that collection, Carver first tackles many real-life elements, and the self-titled story is likely his most famous. Calling, however, does the same and is more inclusive of his body of works and it came out months before his death at the age of 50. Carver was interested in a theme of American ruggedness, and Calling enveloped an array of identities with its characters to explore it. Their potential for success with their endeavors, and their frequent failures with them give Carver’s stories an occasional sense of melancholy, the minimalism, with which he is frequently associated.

Regardless of his categorical positioning, his characters, their struggles, the emotion and the true-to-life relationships they form and disband in Calling test some of the same motifs explored in the works of Cormac McCarthy, but they don’t need the geographic landscape, the outlaws, or the bandits. They can, and do, unroll in the living rooms, the treatment centers, the vehicles in Carver’s plots. If Carver’s work was minimalist, and I don’t claim to argue that label, then so be it. But above anything, it’s real, powerful good, and belongs on the bookshelf of every American home.

The Smartest Guys In The Room by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind (2003)

Old No. 7: You've no doubt heard of the collapse of Enron, it was the largest bankruptcy in world history. It also forced the Houston Astros to change the name of their stupid little ballpark. What you may have missed is the whole story of Enron, the depth of corruption and incompetence within its corporate culture, and how little we've learned since then--much of our current economic disaster is a replay of Enron mistakes.

McLean and Elkind worked for Fortune Magazine, covering Enron and the energy industry. McLean started questioning in print the business practices of Enron and its (in her view) overpriced stock in 2001. She was met with vicious resistance by Enron administration and investors who were getting rich off of this house of cards.

McLean was, of course, right in the end. Enron was a criminal enterprise that ended up fleecing thousands of shareholders and employees. It stands as a symbol of corporate greed and ethical misconduct. If you don't mind reading books where you know the ending before you begin, give it a whirl. Or, for those with shorter attention spans, the documentary based on this book is available for streaming on Netflix.

Maus by Art Speigelman (1986)

Cecil: A graphic novel about the Holocaust is a hard enough conceptual nut by itself—but a graphic novel about the Holocaust featuring Jews as mice, Nazis as cats and pigs as Poles might seem, on the surface, to be a terribly trivializing, poorly thought venture.

It isn’t. To the contrary, Maus is one of the most arresting works of art—any kind of art—I’ve ever seen.

Longtime New Yorker cover cartoonist Art Spiegelman employed the experiences of his father, a survivor of Auschwitz, as the basis for the story. The narrative itself is a complex blend of that tale and the actual strained relationship the two shared decades later, in the context of a series of interviews that Spiegelman conducted with the man late in his life.

The juxtaposition of the two in present day, dealing with a lifetime of relationship baggage—Spiegelman blamed him for his mother’s suicide—while simultaneously re-living the horror of the Nazi genocide through senior’s grim recollections, makes for a truly stunning work. If you don’t like comics, if you have no time for the graphic novel, if historical reminiscence isn’t your thing, I don’t believe that it really matters—Maus is such a powerful, unique, heartbreaking piece of literature that it transcends genre.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (1996)

Bankmeister: The topics that Jon Krakauer takes on in his writing are far from easy. He has, in just over a decade, written about a disastrous attempt to climb Mt. Everest, Mormonism, and the story of Chris McCandless, the subject of Into the Wild. He is rumored to be releasing a story about former Arizona Cardinal Pat Tillman’s experiences in Afghanistan next month, but for now, we’ll just acknowledge the difficulty in his investigative-reporting subjects.

McCandless, or Alexander Supertramp, gave up on civilization, gave away his belongings, and gave his life to a trek to Alaska, an attempt to live in the wilderness, away from the clichéd-but-true hustle and bustle of modern life. Krakauer wrote a 9000-word article about the youth’s disappearance into the wilderness, but beyond the publication of the January 1993 edition of Outside Magazine, he was still largely infatuated with the boy’s story, and therefore invested a year and change into researching it. Into the Wild is the end result and it is a read no less intriguing, no less intense than any bit of history, piece of fiction you will ever devour.

The author tracks McCandless’ hometown friends, college colleagues, and folks he met along the way to Alaska, and pastes in postcards, diary entries and other tidbits of the journey, as well as personal anecdotes from his own younger days, memories he found to be largely tied thematically to some of the experiences of McCandless. Yes, the movie was fantastic, and of course, the Eddie Vedder soundtrack was great, too, but the point of origin for tracking Alexander Supertramp begins with Jon Krakauer and his excellent debut in post-magazine literary journalism.

Team Of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin (2005)

Old No. 7: If you followed the 2008 presidential election with any level of interest, you surely have heard of Team of Rivals. Barack Obama is a serious Abraham Lincoln junkie, and he used this book as a blueprint for his postelection cabinet selections. After vanquishing Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and Bill Richardson in the Democratic primaries, Obama hired all of them in his administration.

I've always like Doris Kearns Goodwin. She appears on Meet The Press several times a year, always wearing the same weird blazer adorned with chains and buckles. She's a huge Red Sox fan, and I'll even forgive her appearance in the shitty Babe Ruth curse documentary based on the work of Dan Shaughnessy. Doris rules.

Sure, she was accused of plagiarism in 2002, and plagiarism is really bad. It's like the literary equivalent of performance-enhancing drugs. But Goodwin came out and said that she never knowingly ripped off another writer, and if any lifted passages were found in her system they were surely the result of a tainted over-the-counter supplement. If we can honor the achievements of Rafael Palmeiro in this series we're damn sure giving Doris The Cheater her due as well.

Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky (2002)

Cecil: How entertaining can a book about salt actually be, you ask? Well, even George Bush, noted incurious slab of human posterboard, said that he read it—and the thing doesn’t even have pictures.

It’s all thanks to author Mark Kurlansky’s gift at taking an unusual, unnoticed subject—Basques and codfish are the focus of two of his other works—and spinning them into fascinating excursions. Salt details the manner in which culture was shaped by the quest for, as Kurlansky puts it, “the only rock we eat.”

He explains, for instance, that the confused roadways of mainland Europe, all loopy and turny, are like that largely because early humans followed deer trails to sources of natural salt, and those trails morphed into pathways, and then, eventually, actual thoroughfares. He goes into great detail about the nature of the stuff itself, how the purely white Morton’s on your table is hardly representative of the whole, the fundamentally important role it plays in our biology—really, just a great read.

Kurlansky is about my favorite non-fiction writer out there. His style is loose but informative, he has respect for his subjects and he always comes at you with something new. I have a compendium of food writing that he edited, and it’s pure, uncut word crack—contemporary descriptions of feasting in the 14th Century next to excerpts from Chehkov. He’s good, and Salt is probably his best.

Better Than Sex: Confessions of a Political Junkie (Gonzo Papers, Vol. 4) by Hunter S. Thompson (1994)

Bankmeister: I am not interested in politics. I vote, every time I am allowed, with an opinion formed mostly on what others tell me. I do not care for the Republican Party, and I will most likely disagree with any morsel of conservative political ideology. It therefore makes great sense, to me, that, when one of the greatest writers in the last century, takes a mad leap into the 1992 presidential campaign, that I will devour the book that comes out of it.

There is very little formula to this book, which is one of 1000 reasons why it is superb. It is full of text, yes. But it also has a ton of faxes, photos, icons, quotes, charts, and other crumbs of complete hilarity. This book almost changed my mind about politics. Almost.

What it most certainly did was reassure me that anything was possible, that any entity, despise it as you may, can be tracked, with varying degree, and journalled about, for all to read. I have no idea how many times I laughed aloud while reading this as a 19-year-old largely uninformed voter, but it renewed my faith in the possibility of policing a government, showed me what journalistic balls were all about, and made every ounce of the big-brother-is-watching sentiment in my brain shrivel like a marshmallow in a campfire.

In one sense, comparing this publication to Thompson’s other works is a bit silly, but on the other hand, it’s not. It fits right in with all of the other genius thoughts he penned in his time of in-print producing, and should be heralded as a must read for the most apathetic, the most-involved voter-eligible American alive. Nothing shy of tremendous.

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell (2000)

Old No. 7: Gladwell is the Tim Duncan of authors. Year after year he produces astounding work, both in his writing for The New Yorker and in his books. Tipping Point was the first of these, and it's since been joined by Blink, published in 2005, and last year's Outliers. His sustained excellence is delivered with excessive humility and utter lack of ego. The guy's sold a ton of books and is a freakishly talented scribe. If he wanted to be a complete asshole he could get away with it, yet he comes off as a likeable fellow.

If I can convince you to perform only one future act, HoG reader, it would be to read something from Gladwell. You can pick up Tipping Point used on Amazon for like a dollar. Do it. You'll feel smarter instantly, and you'll dazzle friends and acquaintances with your newfound depth of knowledge. You'll see patterns emerge from seemingly random everyday occurances. You'll be a better sports fan, a better citizen, a better human being.

Some have dismissed Gladwell's work as lightweight deconstruction of serious study. He does take on big issues in science, sociology, politics, marketing and academia and break them down into easily digestible nuggets for idiots like me. I'd like to know what's wrong with that, you ball-licking East Coast haters. The only problem with Gladwell is that he doesn't write nearly enough. If he published or posted as often as Posnanski I'd probably just quit my job.

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Monday Miscellany: Who'll Suck Most?; or Maybe They Should Just Play Each Other 16 Times

Right quick, both House of Georges teams have yet to win a game in the first pre-season to follow franchise overhauls. Crystal ball says it'll be a long season. Linkless highlights after the jump.

Thus far this pre-season, the Denver Broncos have seen their number one receiver suspended, Kyle Orton booed, witnessed him throw a hearty number of picks, and seen Chris Simms, son of a giant pussy, get hurt. They also saw Jay Cutler come into their home (last night) and light up team Orange and Gold.

The Kansas City Chiefs, on the other hand, have seen their number one receiver demoted, repremoted, their number one quarterback sprain his MCL, which of course comes one week after a two-week-long quarterback controversy, and their offense, basically, fail to do much of anything. This last bit resulted in Chan Gailey, offensive coordinator, being relieved of his duties this morning.

So, at a collective 0-6, what do these teams have going for them?

The answer: good kickers.

Yee. Haw.
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Baseball In The Daytime: 31 August 2009

It's always nice to find a little day baseball on a Monday. Especially when you're taking Mondays off to watch your kid. In between the feces and the pureed butternut squash, perhaps there will be some time to sneak in a liter of Jack Daniel's and a furious bout of masturbation a pleasant little interlude of baseball.

So load up the strollers, pacifiers and Huggies and join us after the jump...

Tampa @ Detroit, 11:05 Mountain The Bay-Rays have to look at their opponents today with a serious case of jealousy. While Tampa needs to play virtually perfect ball for six months to have any shot at competing with the Yanks and Red Sox in their division, Detroit can coast for long stretches of the season. At no point have I looked at the Tigers this year and thought "Damn, that's a great team." Yet they've led the AL Central since the end of April and held off limp charges from the Twins and the White Sox without breaking a sweat. Life just ain't fair for the Bay-Rays. They go with Big Game James Shields as they attempt to even this four-game series, while Detroit sends Jarrod Washburn to the mound. Washburn has been lackluster since his acquisition from the Mariners, but it's not like this team's October dreams are pinned to Jarrod Washburn.

Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati Let's play another round of The Name Game! I tell you that your starting pitchers today at Great American Ballpark are McCutchen and Wells. You wonder, why is Andrew McCutchen pitching? Ain't he normally a centerfielder with rad hair? Why yes, I say, he is, but the pitching McCutchen is actually Daniel, making his big-league debut today. I know, they look exactly alike. We'll need a program to tell them apart this afternoon.

As for the Reds' starter today, you might wonder of which Wells do I speak? Did Cincy acquire Randy off waivers from the Cubs? Did big fat David emerge from retirement? Has someone seen a Casper? No, no and no. Our lucky Wells is the well(s)-travelled Kip, now with his eighth team in ten years. I'll bet he's got some nice luggage. Stow that Samsonite in the overhead bin and Play Ball!
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Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Follow-Up: The Best Damn Thing Ever Written Period

If the Internets weren't spotted with great writers from which I could quote, I'm not sure what I'd do. Take Big Daddy Drew, for example. Love the guy. Never really got into his Peter King stuff over at Kissing Suzy Kolber, but most everything else he does rocks. His bits at Deadspin are no exception.

Take the "Why Your Football Team Sucks" series that's currently underway. Awesome. Yesterday's Green Bay Packers installment was phenomenal. I literally lost track of how many times I laughed out loud. When I was done, I considered writing to him to tell him about how much I hate the Denver Broncos. It turns out I was too late.

Some excerpts:

"I don't think I've ever seen an organization go from model franchise to baffling train wreck so quickly. Have you ever seen a new coach wear out his welcome faster than Josh McDaniels? Usually, it takes at least one regular season game before the fans start drunkenly calling for your big stupid head."

"The team just now suspended charming wife beater Brandon Marshall for the rest of the preseason for conduct detrimental to the team. Which leaves the Broncos a receiving corps of Eddie Royal and the cast of "Fame". It's a refreshing change from the days when the team brought in criminals like Maurice Clarett."

"During their late 90's Super Bowl title runs, the Broncos came to epitomize pretty much all of the annoying qualities of the Niners during their dynasty. Arrogant coach branded as some kind of genius/mastermind/guru/giant throbbing brain in a glass jar? Check. EXCESSIVE, ILLEGAL CUT BLOCKING? Check. Flagrant salary cap violations? Check. Lame end zone celebration? Check. (The Mile High Salute? Really?)"

"Sharpe won't visit his kids because he hates their mothers, but if he was a better dad, he'd feed them too much gravy and kill them. Awesome."

"The irony of John Elway's horseteeth and Shannon Sharpe's horseteeth together on a team with a Horse for a mascot, Terrell Davis' knees and braces, Barrelman, Fans shouting INCOMPLETE in unison...Fuck the Broncos, and fuck Colorado."

Hell. Fuck. Yeah. That's just what my Friday needed: A gigantic post of the shit I've always said in somebody else's handwriting.
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Baseball In The Daytime: 28 August 2009

It's almost time to go back to school, kids. You have one more chance to get to Wrigley and soak in the day baseball before another year of soul-crushing education begins. Or, you could just ditch. So then there's no time crunch at all.

After the jump, get friendly with our single game that's not under the lights...

NY Mets @ Chicago Cubs, 12:20 Mountain Mets Baseball, Don't Misch It! That's my slogan. Don't like it? Get bent. The Mets have had about a kajillion injuries this year, and you can throw Johan Santana and Oliver Perez on the pile--both starters were shut down last week with season-ending wounds. So your Metropolitan arm today is Patrick Misch. If you want details on Mr. Misch, I got nothin. He's an enigma, a ghost. He could give up ten earned in the first frame, he could blank the Cubs.

Flying the home colors today is Ted Lilly, who needs no introduction. Everybody knows what you get from Ted Lilly. Rub up your balls with Mississippi Mud, and Play Ball!
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Friday Fix: Marshall, Marshall, Marshall

Remember that song "I Love L.A." by Randy Newman?

I'd love to write my own version entitled "I Love B-Marsh." I'd make a video, too. It'd include clips like this one. If ever I think there're clowns on my football team, I look west, and remember what the circus really looks like.

Happy Friday.
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Thursday, August 27, 2009

The HoG25: The 25 Best Books Of The Past 25 Years (Part One)

We're back again, with another batch of nonsense to disagree about. In this series, the Iron Triangle of the House of Georges has ranked our favorite quarterbacks (Parts 1 & 2), movies (Parts 1 & 2), and hitters (Parts 1 & 2) of the previous quarter century. Today we tackle books.

We can't really rank these tomes, however, since none of us have read anyone else's titles. I suppose we're a bit peculiar about our literature here in the House. So here's a dozen or so books that kick ass--should you ever feel the need to read something longer than a HoG post consider these your bona fide suggestions. We'll be back tomorrow with a dozen more.

Fargo Rock City by Chuck Klosterman (2001)

Old No. 7: I'm not at all ashamed to admit that Bill Simmons turned me on to Chuck Klosterman. The Sports Guy did the same thing with Malcolm Gladwell, whose books and magazine work are in my opinion the best of this entire decade. Although Simmons is somewhat reviled in Blogifornia, we in this medium need to recognize him for what he is--the Godfather of sports comedy blogging.

Simmons' book on the 2004 Red Sox was not good, though. It's not on this list, and I suspect that his upcoming basketball screed won't make future lists either. Simmons has devolved into a bit of a repetitive hack, a flaw that is merely annoying when read regularly online yet fatal when you're locked on an airplane with hundreds of his pages.

But this ain't about Bill Simmons. It's about Chuck Klosterman, nerdy metal cheerleader.

Klosterman's impetus for this book was that he's completely obsessed with 80s hair metal and felt the genre needed serious archival documentation. Fargo Rock City is that effort, and it's filled with grandiose claims about the historical relevance of Ratt and Vince Neil. It also has personal anecdotes from Klosterman himself about how he grew up smoking brown weed and jerking off to Lita Ford posters. Great stuff, go get it RIGHT NOW.

The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip through Buck O’Neil’s America by Joe Posnanski (2007)

Bankmeister: This book is important for more reasons than I could hope to capture here inside the humble House of Georges. For starters, the obvious: the Negro Leagues of baseball. Having read this book and visited the museum, it’s clear to me now just how fantastic some of those guys were, how unfortunate it was for those awesome athletes to be intentionally overlooked in terms of playing in Major League Baseball, and most importantly, this book helped illustrate the pain that results from hatred and bigotry. Below the surface, this book is also about baseball and what it means to our country. This book is phenomenal because the man who wrote it is one of the greatest writers of our lifetime. This book is amazing because of all the venues it covers. But most of all, this book is incredible because of the way it embraces what every human being should be like.

Now that’s a tricky notion to boast, I understand. I appreciated all of the fascinating pieces of trivia, history, all of the anecdotes. I loved the learning. I loved the fact that the motif of jazz was so successfully piped into the writing, but what I took from this book was this: Buck O’Neil was the kind of human being that, if you’re not striving to be somewhat like him, you’re basically failing. The way O’Neil spoke, oftentimes in what appeared to the author as poetic was blunt, concise, and beautiful. The gift he had for making someone feel good, for exceeding the expectations of others, regardless of the personal toil, for appreciating women, and for those who “could really play” will never be matched, all neatly assembled in one person. It’s impossible.

The Soul of Baseball is one of those books that make you want to sacrifice sleep. You start off thinking about knocking out 20 pages, and 70 pages later you want to just keep going. It’s that good, and a must-own for anyone who appreciates good people, good writing, and good baseball.

The Starr Report by Kenneth Starr (1998)

Cecil: No one thinks The Starr Report is a good book. It is basically a transcript, for one thing, and it came into existence thanks to a crazed partisan campaign to destroy Bill Clinton’s presidency. Ken Starr is a dickbag of Brobdingnagian proportion and the people who enabled him the worst kind of venal, anti-democratic ideologues. I did notice a woman reading it on the train once, and far as I know, that’s the only time I’ve ever even seen a copy in person.

So how did it manage to get on this list? Because unlike the many fine novels and non-fiction works and glorified funnybooks that we’ve listed here, The Starr Report made a meaningful impact upon American society—not a good one, no, but meaningful nonetheless. Prosecutor Ken Starr became synonymous with the Right’s crusade to rid themselves of a man that they (curiously, in my view) saw as a kind of Arkansan Mephistopheles. His name flew across the evening news and over water coolers nationwide. His report, full of semen stains and Linda Tripp, became acceptable pornography for the kind of lumpen conservatives who gloated over the political demise of Bill. Like it or not, it changed the face of American political discourse.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain (2000)

Old No. 7: My mother-in-law bought me this book for Christmas one year, because she knows I like to cook. I doubt she knew that within its pages were descriptions of doing drugs, fucking waitresses and petty theft. It's not a cookbook, more of a memoir of a life toiling in the trenches of the restaurant industry.

I related, because I too put in my time in the biz--on and off for more than 10 years. I was not a classically trained French chef like Bourdain, nor did I spend most of my time in the kitchen. Mostly I tended bar and waited tables, although I did have stints on the line of a Mexican joint and prepping at a brewpub. Bourdain has mostly disdain for front-of-house pansies such as myself, which is fine--cooking is much, much harder than refilling Sweet & Lows and reciting side dish choices.

Still, if you've worked in a restaurant at any position for any amount of time, you will devour this book. You know the hours, you know the grind, you know the asshole customers and owners, you get it. And if you haven't toiled in the industry, fuck off. Seriously--there's no place for you in the House of Georges.

Bourdain is now a big TV star, of course, which is ironic because he was so critical in Kitchen Confidential of the Emeril Lagasses and Bobby Flays of the world. I suppose one wanted to label Bourdain a hypocrite or sellout one could, but to be fair it's not like he's doing Applebee's commercials.

I Sailed with Magellan by Stuart Dybek (2003)

Bankmeister: Stuart Dybek, with as little as he’s written, might be my favorite living fiction writer. It seems that you’re either a short-story kind of person, or you’re not. If you think you’re not, give Dybek a shot and see if he doesn’t change your mind. I’ve read Magellan and Coast of Chicago, two short-story collections that, well, take place in Dybek’s native South Side of the Windy City, and they both rock, but if Coast is his Frank Thomas, Magellan is easily his Albert Pujols. Short-story collections can be tricky. You can take a chance and have completely different themes going on from story to story, or you can tie the themes, and occasionally the characters, together and almost give the thing a novelesque feel, which is what Dybek does with Magellan.

Adolescence, music, sports, and sex are the primary motifs Dybek tackles in his collection, they are spot on, stimulating, and a ton of fun. The adventures his characters tangle in in Magellan are purely American, full of conflict, and twisted with emotion, like this excerpt from ‘Breasts’ where he writes about pigeons:

They fly in a dimension perilous with hawks and the ack-ack fire of boys armed with rocks, slingshots, and pellet guns. Fog and blizzards disorient them, storms blow them down, and yet instinct brings them home on a single wing, with flight feathers broken, missing a leg or the jewel of an eye.
Dybek’s selection of stories in Magellan is masterful, craftily selected in a way that keeps the reader moving, learning, and entertained. Never before, and perhaps never again have I so thoroughly enjoyed reading the work of someone of whom I’d never heard, but I plowed through Magellan like he was Shakespeare, Thomas Wolfe, and Ezra Pound all rolled into one.

Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut (1990)

Cecil: Hocus Pocus was…uh…er…

OK, I’m going to be totally honest, here. I barely remember Hocus Pocus. I think it has something to do with convicts imprisoning a right wing radio talk show host and being far more civilized than he, but that’s about all I have, and I know there was a lot more to it. I have it on here for two reasons: it was written in the past 25 years, and it was written by Kurt Vonnegut.

Somehow, some way, I had to get a Vonnegut novel in here. The problem, of course, is that the vast majority of his work pre-dates our 25 year limit. I would have loved to have written about Cat’s Cradle, for instance, and the lies of Bokonon within, about Ice-Nine and wampeters. I’d have given my eyeteeth, whatever those are, to chat up Slaughterhouse-Five, about which so much has been said or written that anything I’d have had to say would be utterly superfluous, but still. Most of all I’d have enjoyed chewing the fat over Breakfast of Champions, one of my of time favorites, a truly heart-rending work of modernist fiction that says more with less than possibly any book I’ve ever encountered. It wasn’t one of his favorites, interestingly enough. Maybe it was a little too close to home.

But none of those were in the kitty. So I’ve got Hocus Pocus. Read it, it’s a good book, as I recall.

I’d also like to add the final words typed by Vonnegut, in the last book he wrote:
When the last living thing
Has died on account of us,
How poetical it would be
If Earth could say,
In a voice floating up
From the floor
Of the Grand Canyon,
"It is done.
People did not like it here."

The 9/11 Commission Report by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (2004)

Old No. 7: For the record, I drafted this boring government memo before Cecil picked The Starr Report. Why, when trying to separate 25 great books from literally millions and millions of choices, do we end up with multiple federal transcripts?

One reason is we're complete nerds who never get laid. Another much more important one is that this is our history, people. Everyone always complains about media bias and how much of the real information is filtered out and how much meaningless crap is left behind--true, true, true. But come on, if you work at it just a little bit you can get to the dirt and find out (literally) where the bodies are buried.

Instead of listening to whackjob talk radio or hanging out on loony-tunes message boards or taking as gospel what your cuckoo neighbor tells you, read this report. I guarantee you will find hundreds of incredibly fascinating facts that you'd never heard before. We were attacked, yo, they were hijacking airplanes and knocking down buildings and it was the most panicky insane fuck-nuts thing any of us will ever see. Don't just consign it to the press to dig this stuff up for you, get first-hand accounts yourself.

Is it all there, and is what's there all true? Of course not. There are surely thousands of omissions, cover-ups and political agendas within these pages. The Warren Commission issued one of the most widely disregarded pieces of fluff in history, and this report may someday be equally discredited. Until then, though, try and get a direct feed on our most impactful recent history.

The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy (1994)

Bankmeister: Cormac McCarthy might be the most important American writer of the past century. The American West is one of the most important themes in American culture in the last 200 years, and various themes have been explored within it, but no one has successfully tackled the Southwest with such accuracy and with many of the same implications that authors and movie producers attempted regarding the West. McCarthy’s Border Trilogy (All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, and Cities of the Plain) explore a barrenness similar to T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” one in which worlds mesh in an unpreventable fashion, one with harsh realities, choices, and yes, that good, old-fashioned loss of innocence.

The Crossing is an important book because its prequel takes place in New Mexico, and the conflict experienced by its characters are important to that story itself, but also to what will happen in Cities. McCarthy takes a unique approach with Crossing and all but abandons the characters from Horses, giving us new faces, new conflict, and different-but-similar themes. They are then fantastically folded into one another in Cities, but the contrast of Crossing from Horses is wonderful; that McCarthy was bold enough to attempt the trilogy in the fashion he did, praiseworthy. He was also not afraid of using Spanish, or leaving quotation marks and other punctuation out of his dialogue, which only added to the mystique of his prose, the idea of loss that he illustrates so well:
One of them boys that left out of here with the horses had a rifle in his boot.
I seen it. I aint blind.
Boyd turned the horse and they set out back west along the road. The dog fell in and trotted at the horses offside in the horses shadow.
You want to quit? Billy said.
I never said nothin about quittin.
It aint like home down here.
I never said it was.
You don’t want to use common sense. We come too far down here to go back dead.

There is no place in this country like the Southwest. The earth, the people, the culture, the history, the access to so much more of the world. The fading from civilized America, the trickling into a mysterious other world, the danger in becoming an adult, the quickness with which life can be over are but a few of the many things McCarthy works with in Crossing, and he does so with a realistic engagement unique to anything else ever attempted.

The Sandman by Neil Gaiman (1989-1996)

Cecil: Another graphic novel from Cecil—I really do read other books, but I’m pretty sure none of you wanted to hear about the Whiskey Rebellion, the New York City Draft Riots of 1863 or the problem of Copperhead political representation in the North during the Civil War. If you did, apologies. Instead, you get Neil Gaiman’s modern day comic epic, The Sandman. There’s no great overarching point, here, no real commentary on modern culture, no lit-crit deconstruction of the “superhero” archetype like Watchmen made famous (a book I’ve never even read, to my recollection—take away 4 geek points from my tally), just an engrossing, old-school comic book epic.

The hero, of sorts, is the actual embodiment of sleep and dreams, a supernatural being named Morpheus. The plot travels hither and yon across time and space, but the major point—spread over several books and one-off adventures—is that Morpheus ends up being forced to take over Hell when the Devil gets bored and retires to a beach in Australia. The strength of Sandman is in creator Neil Gaiman’s writing: measured, exact prose that belongs less in a comic and more in a novel or screenplay (though I do believe that Gaiman did both). Morpheus is entirely approachable as a character for being so resolutely non-human, and the various sub-plots along the way are satisfying and clever. Aficianados of the genre will put this one higher up than I do—personally, I have it behind both Jimmy Corrigan and Maus—but if they’re angry, they can send me examples of their fan fiction in which I die in a variety of disgusting ways.

Liar's Poker by Michael Lewis (1989)

Old No. 7: I had to get Michael Lewis up here, it's quite possible he's the best writer working today. Sure, there may be a novelist who's more creative, or a humorist who'll make you laugh harder, but Lewis is, for my money, the finest pound-for-pound wordsmith on the block.

In the wide world of sports, Lewis is best known for penning Moneyball. Do you hear me Joe Morgan? BILLY BEANE DID NOT WRITE MONEYBALL. Lewis' background is in finance and financial journalism, how did he end up producing the most revolutionary piece of baseball literature this decade? Well, he's a fan, for one. Beyond that, his background in finance and financial journalism leads him to find trends in marketplaces and those exploiting the inefficiencies therein. Moneyball was set to become a Brad Pitt movie, which is just about the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard, but the project has apparently been shelved by people with brains.

Another Lewis sports book, The Blind Side, was made into a movie. An awful one, apparently. Feel free to skip it, but read the text if you like football and stories about poor people.

Liar's Poker was Lewis' first published book and it deals with his time as a trader for Salomon Brothers in New York and London. Reading this account of the tail end of the Wall Street 80s now, after our most recent financial implosion, is jaw-dropping. How such brilliant people can repeat the same mistakes out of greed and short-sightedness makes me think we're all doomed.

Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut (1987)

Bankmeister: This might be my favorite Vonnegut novel ever. Granted, I haven’t come close to reading them all, but this was the one that sold me on Vonnegut as one of the best writers of our lifetime. I’ve enjoyed most everything by him that I’ve read, but that speaks solely to the writing itself. In Bluebeard, it’s the idea that he tackled that I love just as much, if not more, than the writing itself. Vonnegut, like any good writer, takes on themes of importance, but unlike many writers, he loads his stories up with good clean fun, and Bluebeard is no exception.

The protagonist is an older guy, one that has seen perhaps most of what he cared to see in his life, and now, he’s ready to be left alone, to enjoy the little time on Earth he has left. On the surface, it seems too simple to be complex, but Vonnegut takes three of life’s greatest pleasures – painting, romance, and the idea of food and cooking – and mixes them in a perfect blend via the world’s greatest medium: writing. A master of all tools of the trade, Vonnegut is perhaps best at creating excellent characters, and those in this story are no exception. Take Edith Taft Fairbanks, for example, the woman “who would be my second wife…a magical tamer of almost any sort of animal, an overwhelmingly loving and uncritical nurturer of anything and everything that looked half alive.” Bluebeard is full of great characters, poignant plot elements, a unique setting, and hysterical dialogue. I’m not sure why Cat’s Cradle, Breakfast of Champions , and Slaughterhouse-Five are heralded as Vonnegut’s greatest work. The simplicity, the joys of life, and secretly not-so-secret ways of cramming history and art into just over 300 pages was matched by none in the last 25 years. But I am sure that never in a million years will a reading audience wonder with such fervor about just what’s in a potato barn again.

Sons & Brothers by Richard D. Mahoney (1999)

Cecil: Longtime readers of this blog will recognize that I am a whacked-out conspiracy loon when it comes to the subject of Kennedy’s assassination.

Even if its own conclusions are somewhat more guarded than mine own, this book provides a good deal of backstory to validate the idea that it wasn’t—as basically everyone knows but will ever be officially admitted—just Lee Harvey Oswald, who wasn’t then just randomly murdered by Jack Ruby. Sons & Brothers is the work of one Richard Mahoney, whose father was a friend of Bobby Kennedy and an appointee of John F.’s, and who takes the long view of what became of America’s dominant political family.

For one thing, he doesn’t shirk from the spectre of Joe Kennedy, the Machiavellian opportunist who grew rich before the Depression and even richer during, a man who actively campaigned to appease Hitler (and who, like the scion of 20th Century America’s other great political clan, Prescott Bush, did business Nazi Germany), who bought John F.’s election with help from the Daley Machine and who had deep roots with organized crime. It’s Mahoney’s conviction that the sins of the father were at least part of the demise of the sons—although he gives plenty of credence to suggestions that Cubans on both sides of the water had reason enough to be involved, and doesn’t slam the door on the possibility of domestic involvement, specifically from the wealthy cadre of Texas oilmen who hated democracy as much as they hated taxes and black people (read: H.R. Hunt and his sons, along with Clint Murchison, longtime owner of the Dallas Cowboys).

It’s a hell of a read, and a must for anyone who is still amazed that a sitting President of the United States was murdered only 46 years previous—with no credible, official explanation of what occurred.

The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract by Bill James (2001)

Old No. 7: For such a God-awful franchise, the Kansas City Royals have sure blessed the world with a ton of great baseball writers among their fan base. There's Joe Posnanski, a Cleveland native who has adopted KC as his hometown while writing for the Star. There's Rob Neyer, arguably the most prolific baseball blogger in history. There's Rany Jazayerli, rabble-rouser supreme. And there is, of course, Bill James, the Dean of statistical analysis for our nation's pastime.

James lives in Lawrence, Kansas and has been a Royals fan most of his life, although he now serves as a consultant for the Boston Red Sox. Since his hiring in 2003 by stat-geek owner John Henry and stat-geek GM Theo Epstein, the Sox have captured two World Series championships. Meanwhile the Royals, whose management has shown an open disdain for statistical analysis and the kind of open-minded thinking James champions, have gone 451-647 (.410) since James took the job with Boston.

Prior to his official career within baseball, however, James cooked up stats and wrote books about them. He invented the concept of Win Shares, which compresses all the numbers that a player manufactures into what that player does to help his team win games. He created the Pythagorean Expectation, a metric commonly used today to see which teams are playing above, below or right at their expected won-lost levels based on run differential. Stuff like range factor, secondary average and replacement level, again all commonplace now, were born in the fertile mind of Bill James back when the average baseball writer and fan saw nothing past a player's batting average, win total or number of errors.

He started writing his Baseball Abstract in the 70s but ceased its annual publication in 1988 because its sheer mass kicked his ass. James did put out a Historical Baseball Abstract in 1985 that ranked the greatest players in history based on Win Shares, and in 2001 he updated that with the New Historical Baseball Abstract.

This book has but two weaknesses. The first is bulk, it runs over 1000 pages and weighs more than a dead cat. The second is that it's out of date--its final season was 2000, so comparing today's stars with the all-time Goliaths of baseball is problematic. But as a modern take on the history of the game it has no equal. For a math dweeb, James is a really smooth writer and very, very funny. My favorite aspect of his style is that he carries little vitriol and almost no snark--he rips bad players and bad managers and bad baseball but he holds no grudges.

The Bill James Abstract has sat on my bedside table for years. I'm nowhere close to reading every word in it, but at any point I can rip off a chunk of the 1930s or the best defensive right fielders or the flukiest power-hitting seasons or a complete list of baseball's submarine pitchers. Or I can chuck it at burglars, knocks them out cold every time.
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Baseball in the Daytime: It's (Almost) All Right

One of these days, you'll come to the House of Georges and find something new and different. I'm not sure when or who will've written it, so until then, you're stuck with our tired old schpeel. I had an idea for breaking the rut, but I keep putting it off because it involves a lot of work. Let's just say it has something to do with ol' George of the Pink here. But we'll get to him in a minute. Meantime, it's day baseball on a Thursday, which, for several weeks now, has meant that there's a sixer on the line. Hop past the leap and see if that pans out again.

Rangers @ Yankees, 12:05 Central: Two .500+, fourish E.R.A. right-handers kick off day baseball today. It's Dustin Nippert and A.J. Burnett at Yankee Stadium. New York continues to play some pretty good August baseball, now with a six-game A.L. East lead over Boston, while Texas keeps chugging after the Angels of Los Angeles. Both starters, Nippert against the Rays and Burnett against Boston, got smoked in their last outings. They'll look to rebound this afternoon. DirecTV helps you watch: 721, 722. XM doesn't mind if you listen: 176.

Mets @ Marlins, 12:10: Dualing righties highlight our second match as well as Tim Redding and Anibal Sanchez take the Land Shark hill. These fellas aren't having success either in the record or the E.R.A. column, and now's the time to turn that around for Florida, who's seven back of N.L. East-leading Philadelphia. The Mets are all but done for. See DirecTV for bad Met evidence: 723, 724. Listen in on the XMs on 183.

Reds @ Brewers, 1:05: Don't look now, but starting lefties are looking scarce for this afternoon. Our third tilt features Justin Lehr, and fresh-off-the-DL Dave Bush. These two clubs are fighting for middle-of-the-N.L. Central-pack bragging rights, and things don't look good for Cincinnati. They're 18 1/2 back, while Milwaukee's deadlocked with Houston. DirecTV 727, XM 184 are your locks.

Astros @ Cardinals, 1:15: Hey, look: Brian Moehler and Chris Carpenter are slated to take the mound today at Busch Stadium. They have one thing in common: They don't throw with their left hands. Moheler gets the nod for a Houston club that had some late-summer success after a poor spring/early summer, but they've dropped three straight, and are a dozen back of the Red Birds. All's Carpenter's done is throw up a 14-3, 2.16 campaign so far. His 111:23 strikeout-to-walk ratio is also less than impressive. Your hot N.L. Central action's on DTV 725, 726, or you can listen to the sizzle on XM 185.

Nationals @ Cubs, 1:20: Would you believe it? J.D. Martin and Randy Wells are your ninth and 10th consecutive right-handed starters for this afternoon's baseball affairs. The Cubs are tinkering with dropping below .500 at a time when they really can't afford it. Meanwhile, Washington has closed the worst-in-baseball chase with Kansas City to three games. Martin's been mediocre for a bad team; Wells has been impressive for a mediocre team. DirecTV lets you decide, assuming you'll tune in to 307, 728, or 729. XM's unbiased; they'll have it all on 186.

Dodgers @ Rockies, 2:10: Wow. Thanks a fucking lot, Jorge De La Rosa. You screwed our all non-southpaw rotation up by being the odd man out. His 12-8 lefty ass takes on Vicente Padilla (8-6) to wrap things up today in easily the most standings-important contest of the afternoon. Just as everything was in line for a siege, Colorado went out and let L.A. take 'em 6-1 yesterday at Coors Field, but fear not: The Rocks still have a Wildcard edge over the Giants by three games. I can't believe that De La Rosa's gotten enough run support -- he has a 4.76 E.R.A. -- to have won a dozen games. I also can't believe that Padilla's making a start for the Dodgers, what with all he did for Texas this year. Thankless bastards. Anyway, 213, 730, 731 are your DirecTV channels. If you're listening, XM appreciates you tuning to 187.

Another Thursday six-pack in the books, kids. Let's root for those Rockies to stab those Dodgers out of first, as well as any racist fans of N.L. L.A. baseball.
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Historically Speaking: Skirt Check

It's a fun-filled Thursday morning here inside the House of Georges. Click on past the jump for a couple of facts watered down with splashes of speculation.

* The year was 1889 when George LaBlanche defeated Jack "Nonpareil" Dempsey for the first loss of Dempsey's career. The Irish-born middleweight boxing champion, born John Edward Kelly, would lose but three times in 65 fights before dying of tuberculosis a month before his 34th birthday. His name is frequently confused with that of the heavyweight champion Dempsey, who, known as the Manassa (CO) Mauler, went 66-6 with 51 knockouts and five straight title defenses in the early 1920s. LaBlanche's 1889 victory over Dempsey was later overturned as the Canadian's "pivot punch" was deemed illegal.

* In 1921, the Acme Packing Company, most notably famous for repeatedly selling its products to Wile E. Coyote, purchased a pro football team. A.C.P.'s owner J.E. Clair honored his plant workers by naming the club -- the Packers -- after them. Though rumored, it was never determined if Acme attempted to sell the franchise to Coyote.

* Today in 1976 the United States Tennis Association decided to prohibit Renee Richards from competition in the U.S. Open. This decision was made not because Richards used performance-enhancing drugs or gambled on tennis, but because Richards was born Richard Raskind, but became Renee Richards, if you know what I mean, in 1975. Richards disputed the ban, and the following year, the New York Supreme Court ruled in his her favor.

* Same day, following year, the Texas Rangers played a game of baseball at Yankees Stadium, edging out New York, 8-2. During the contest, Toby Harrah and Bump Willis hit back-to-back inside-the-park home runs in the seventh inning.

* 'Twas 1982, when Oakland A R.N.H. Henderson stole four bases in a game against the Brewers of Milwaukee. The four swipes put his season total at 122, breaking Lou Brock's former record of 118. Henderson would end the year with 130, but never really come close to that number ever again. In fact, after '82, he didn't do much of anything except toy with 30 home runs a couple of times.

And your Sports Illustrated quote of the day came from the mouth of... Minnesota Viking third-string quarterback Steve Bono, who, in 1985, was asked his thoughts on one day replacing Tommy Kramer (starter) and Wade Wilson (backup). His response: "If I'm fortunate, in five or six years, I'll be the one being booed. He was only five years shy and one team north of being correct.
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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wednesday Whatnot: The Great Debate

About four months ago, the House of Georges celebrated two years of existence. It was no big deal. We didn't send out invites, hire a clown, or bake any cakes. The date was more so a note upon which the three of us -- aptly named the Iron Triangle -- could sit back and think, Have we really been cranking out these posts for 24 months? The ones we stress and argue over? The ones hardly anyone reads? Yes, indeed, we had. A funny thing happened a few months in, however, and I'd like to share it with you now. Right here. Today. It can be summed up in one succinct word: obsession.

What I mean is, I really, really liked what we were doing. I loved posting. I pored with hunger pangs of verbiage over every word my colleagues wrote. I digressed, frantically trying to devour every word published on the blogosphere. I petitioned other established bloggers for link exchanges. I fumbled hopelessly with teaching myself codes and HTML. I procrastinated on every graduate-school assignment I had. I barely saw my fiancee, and I neglected my then senior citizen dog. I wanted to expand, build a network of blogs, and my first idea...

...had something to do with Andy Dufresne from "The Shawshank Redemption." It had quite a bit to do with dedication, and a lot to do with Pete Rose. I called it Letters to Bud. Dufresne wanted a library for the prison in the movie. He wrote to politicians once a week for some two to five years until they just quit ignoring him, and they unloaded money for building and books for shelving upon him, and the Shawshank Library was a dream no more.

I wanted the lifetime ban from baseball cast upon Rose -- to which he agreed -- by Major League Baseball Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti lifted. Let's just say I got my signals a little crossed. For starters, I dove into this vanity side project thinking of it as a team effort. I made phone calls. I sent e-mails. I texted. I thought we were in like the proverbial, only when I pronounced that we were "going streaking" straight to the 31st floor of Park Avenue in New York, I looked behind me and I was the only naked dude inquiring about KFC's hours of operation. The other miswiring was that I incorrectly remembered that Dufresne wrote a letter a day to see his goal through. Mind you, I not only posted these letters on the aforelinked GoreNets, I actually printed a hard copy, signed it with my real name, stamped an envelope, and sent those little scrolls to my pen pal Bud.

And mind you, I got married, moved into a new house, and honeymooned a mere two months prior. Weird thing is, the wife was on board with the thing. My in-laws were like, "Go, son. You write your letters." Or something. People started asking me when I'd get to work what today's letter was about. And the thing took off. I had a head of steam about me with the gig. Cecil said I was nuts but to go for it. Old No. 7 envisioned Selig interns and a famous press conference, all resulting in a House of Georges hookers-and-cocaine party. So I ran with it. For 44 days.

I truly was in over my head thinking that I could keep it and the House of Georges contributions rolling, and work, and sleep, and be a husband. And drink heavily. I was drinking fairly heavily then, so the ol' early-bird-knocks-out-the-posts mantra, uh, didn't exist. It was fun, though. I don't regret it one bit. If I can say two things about it, they are that I tried, and I was sincere. But then I started getting into the Dowd report. I was researching old USA Today articles. I was purchasing literature on the guy. My wife was still on board, but she didn't care for the fact that I was basically filling the trash can with toner cartridges like boogers into a morning Kleenex, and them things ain't cheap. I hit a point where I was studying too much to have time to post, and the wheels came off.

Since then, Rose's name has come up inside the House of Georges a time or two. I stumble across something, I'll link to it, or write about it. My feelings about the ban haven't changed, and to be honest, it kind of took me by surprise the other day when I discovered that the 20-year anniversary of the ban was approaching. I couldn't believe it. I thought, What if I'd kept the Letters to Bud going out? Would it have made a difference? And then some chatter arose about the whole deal. Hank Aaron came out and endorsed Rose. Folks scooted to the edge of their seats. Bloggers came out of their moms' basements (in their underwear) to see if there was anything in the papers. The SportsTalk Radios buzzed. Finally, Selig came out of his wormhole like the cops at a high school party:

"Go on home, you damn kids," nobody quoted him saying. "Take your damn Hamm's and your hip-hop with you, and stay the hell offa my lawn."

And things fizzled.

I was informed this morning, however, about this blog, which I've never read before today, and about this post, which Craig Calcaterra wrote on Monday. It's sort of about Mike Schmidt coming out and saying, in not so many words, that "20 years is enough punishment. Let's lift the ban." But mostly about the author of the post disagreeing with that sentiment by saying, "The headline to Schmidt's piece asks if 20 years is enough. My answer: no, not really."

Now mind you, I'd never read this Calcaterra cat prior to today, and mind you, I never will again. For my money, he's a gosh-darned buffoon. The post, however, was heavily commented upon, and so today, he offered this post, which revisits his post from two days ago, and offers new(ish) insight, provided by none other than our own Old No. 7. In a nutshell, Seven, in his assessment of our recent Hitters feature, took, as he is prone to do, every opportunity to belittle Rose, and make him look like a child molester. Kinda. Calcaterra, buffoon that he is, loved it, and linked to our feature. Picture, if you will, buck-toothed Mike Shanhan, on the sidelines, proclaiming to a horse-faced John Elway, "I'm so proud of you." Oh glorious day.

So if my colleage and his new best pal are the Dark Side in the battle of the Rose Force, I've got myself and my homey Joe Posnanski bringing up Team Good. Some excerpts from the piece:

"Here it is, 20 years after he agreed to a lifetime suspension for gambling on baseball (and, he would finally admit, his own team), and the debate about him is as raw as it ever was. Screaming. Insults. Good journalists such as ESPN's Buster Olney will call Rose 'nothing less than a lowlife,' and excellent writers such as Fox's Mark Kriegel will call him a 'skell' -- which seems awfully harsh. It isn't like Rose mugged people. As far as I know, he hasn't killed anybody or kidnapped anybody or betrayed his nation or bilked senior citizens out of their social security. He bet on his team. He lied about it."

"While writing my book The Machine about the 1975 Cincinnati Reds, excerpted in this week's Sports Illustrated, I was astonished that virtually every player on that team shared a story about the time that Rose said a few kind words when they were in a slump, or the time Rose picked up their check when they weren't making any money, or the time Rose invited them to his house for dinner. Will McEnaney remembers Rose giving him shoes. Gary Nolan remembers Rose believing in him when he was hurting. Joe Morgan remembers Rose pushing him and inspiring him into becoming the Hall of Fame player he became. Ken Griffey remembers Rose being a guy who treated him with respect from the start."

"So how do we get beyond all that and discuss one of the most talked about baseball questions of the last two decades: Should Pete Rose be in the Hall of Fame? I think the question needs the word 'should,' not 'will,' in it, because honestly I don't think he will get in. For Rose to get inducted into the Hall of Fame, two basic things would have to happen:...One, he would need to be reinstated somehow...Two -- even if he WAS reinstated, he would need 75 percent approval from either the Baseball Writers Association of America or the Veteran's Committee (made up of living Hall of Famers)."

From here Posnanski cites but a few of the hundreds of things that have been said against Rose, reasons for keeping the ban in place, reasons for making sure that you, the American public, the lover of baseball, the model of good-versus-evil for any and all children to learn from, understand that Rose committed baseball's cardinal sin.

"And so it goes ... this has been repeated so many times that people have simply come to accept it as undeniable fact. Betting on baseball is the cardinal sin.

Only ... it isn't. Or anyway, nobody REALLY BELIEVES what Pete Rose did is baseball's cardinal sin. If we are using 'cardinal sin' to mean the worst possible thing a baseball player can do or, to be more precise, 'the sin that condemns a person's soul to eternal Hell,' well, I can think of about 200 things you can do on a baseball field worse than gamble on a game."

"But the real point is this: Even under the gambling umbrella, what Pete Rose did is not even CLOSE to baseball's cardinal sin. I would think that taking a large sum of money from gamblers and then purposely playing lousy enough that your team will lose the World Series, yes, THAT might be called baseball's cardinal sin. Nobody suggests Pete Rose did that. Betting on your team to lose and then going 0-for-5 in a playoff game and committing an error with the winning run on third, yes, THAT might be baseball's cardinal sin. Nobody suggests Pete Rose did that either. Purposely performing poorly on the field during a regular season game in order to cash in on bets, yes, even that might be baseball's cardinal sin. Nobody suggest Pete Rose did that either.

Seems to me the cardinal sin would be to AFFECT THE OUTCOME OF GAMES in order to profit on it -- either by gambling yourself or taking money from gamblers.

What Pete Rose DID do -- or at least what we KNOW he did -- is bet on the Cincinnati Reds to win while he was manager of the team. Did he do more? Maybe. But this is what we know and the Dowd Report is clear in saying "No evidence was discovered that Rose bet against the Cincinnati Reds." In 20 years of digging and pinching you would think that if Rose indeed bet against the Reds at any point it would have come out. All you can know is what you know. I think it's probably fair to say that Rose bet on his team to win."

He mentions a series of polls that were up on his blog a few months ago, results from which he deduces that "many of us are good at being against the CONCEPT of gambling on baseball, but not so sure of ourselves when it comes to the particulars."

And finally:

"And there's something about forgiveness in here too. One thing you hear people say is that Pete Rose hasn't EARNED our forgiveness. It's hard to argue the point. Over the last 20 years, he has been brash and dishonest and indiscreet and arrogant. But there's something else. Pete Rose made a lot of people happy playing baseball. He inspired a lot of people to try harder. He cracked more hits than anyone who ever played the game. And anyway, I didn't think forgiveness was supposed to be earned. I thought forgiveness was supposed to be given. I thought that was the whole point."

I'm not about to get on a number-14 soap box here. I've done that once before. I was up there for 44 days, and I, too, think about the notion of foregiveness.
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Baseball in the Daytime: Hump Day Thievery

I am, for the second time this week, stepping in for Old No. 7 in the day-baseball rotation so's that he may complete this week's installment of The HoG 25. On Monday, when I was ungratefully accused of "stealing beats," we had a pair of National League games. Today, it's an American League two-fer.

Now, in order to keep the theme alive, I should attempt to analyze a few things that Old No. 7 has already communicated to me, things that I imagine he would touch on were he in the BitD seat this morning. The first is the ManChild (Editor's Note: Fuck you, Sean Kemp. Fuck you right in the face.) Seth Smith. He, along with other Rockies, i.e. Ryan Spilborghs, and Troy Tulowitzki have come up huge in the past four days. And their pitching continues to look good, too. But, really, it's always been about SethfuckingSmith. Look at his numbers. Well, not all of them. Don't look at batting average. That's for retards. Oh Pee Ess. Now that's the shizzle: he's at .904. Nice, nice. He's slugging .511, has 11 jacks, has only struck out five more times than he's walked, and his BB number, by the way, isn't bad: 37 in 237 ABs. Eleven doubles and three triples, with 35 RsBI? Not too shabby.

Anyway, the Rockies are now two games back of Los Angeles, and it just so happens that their next two contests are at Coors Field, against Los Dodgers de Humberto. If I were Seven, I'd now insert seven other paragraphs that nobody reads. Instead, I'll take us into the jump by saying it'd be rad if Colorado could go into September with the N.L. West lead.

Cleveland @ Kansas City, 1:10 Central: Well, the Royals won a game last night, and stopped a five-game skid, so that was nice, not to mention Zack Greinke's new franchise-record 15 strikeouts. So KC and the Tribe will play a rubber match today at the K. Lefty Aubrey Huff and righty Luke Hochevar are your hurlers. Both are .500. Both could use better E.R.A.s. I heard an interesting tidbit last night, when the Royals were still 47-77: The KC bullpen has given up less than four runs 47 times this year; they've given up four or more in 77 games. Nutty. Anyway, catch today's action live at the Truman Sports Complex, on DirecTV 721, or on XM 176.

Detroit @ Los Anaheim, 2:35: It's righty-on-lefty action again, this time in the form of Edwin Jackson for the visitors, Joe Saunders for the home team. Both are plus-.500 as starters for first-place teams. The Tigers and the Angels have both won six of their last 10, and look to keep distancing themselves from clubs like Texas, Chicago, and Minnesota. DirecTV has this one on 722, 723. XM says 177's a good frequency.

That's your A.L. two-fer for today. Buy your neighbor some peanuts and Cracker Jack, and enjoy the game.
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Monday, August 24, 2009

Baseball in the Daytime: Dualing Reacharounds

It's the last week of August which means baseball games that take place in the daytime will be coming to a close, which is sad, really. Day baseball is glorious, and when it involves mostly bad teams wrapping up four-game series, well, it's even gloriouser. Today there are two reacharounds on tap, and surprisingly, they're both rubber matches. Enjoy them while you can because September means pennant races, prime-time baseball, and less focus on bad baseball, ideally. Normally Old No. 7 is your reacharound expert, but he's a bit tied up this morning, what with all of the Sunday reaching around in which he usually engages. I could write more sentences, and try to use the word "which" a few more times, but let's skip that notion, and get to today's slate, post-jump.

Philadelphia @ New York, 12:10 Central: A lefty by the name of Cliff Lee seeks win number 12 on the season today in New York. He'll do battle with righty Bobby Parnell of New York, who, like his Los Mets counterparts, is not very good. New York could settle the series with a win today, which would not really help their case -- 15 1/2 back -- that much. Philly, however, could use the extra cushion as Atlanta's a half-game notch over the six mark behind them. Catch all the thrills nonetheless on DirecTV 721 if you're watchin', XM 183 if you're blind.

Milwaukee @ Washington, 3:35: Our second contest pits two righties against one another. It's Yovani Garllardo for the Brew Crew, Collin Balester for the Nats. Much like our first contest, the visiting starter's looking to tally his dozenth win of the season, while he who toes the slab for the home team, is, uh, not good. Milwaukee's hopes of a wildcard race have faded quickly. They've dropped to fourth in the N.L. Central and are nearly 11 games behind St. Louis. Washington, on the other hand, really wants Bryce Harper. Catch this tilt, if you must, on DirecTV 722 or 723, or have a listen on XM, same station as Philly-New York.

That's all the reacharound one man can handle for a Monday afternoon. Enjoy.
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Historically Speaking: 20 Years Since Rose's Ban

What you'll find after the jump are some sports tidbits. How is that different than any other installment of this feature? Why, it's not.

* We're talking 1908, this date, Tommy Burns, and Bill Squires. The two climbed into the ring for a heavyweight title fight, a rematch, in Sydney. Thirteen rounds later, Burns had knocked out Squires, his 10th straight title defense since taking the belt from Marvin Hart two years prior. In their first fight, which took place two months prior in Paris, Burns downed Squires in eight.

* Bill Veeck, one-time owner of the Philadelphia Phillies, Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Browns, and Chicago White Sox, had a wooden leg that he sometimes used as an ashtray, which, if you smoke three-four packs of cigarettes a day, probably comes in handy. Veeck, nonetheless, was famous for his publicity stunts, including one that took place on this day in 1951. He called it "Fans Managers' Night," in which 1000 fans behind the Browns' dugout were given cards with either 'yes' or 'no' written on them, and they could vote on decisions made by the St. Louis coaching staff. Whether they had an impact or not, the Browns defeated Philadelphia 5-3.

* Today in 1972, Gordie Howe and Jean Beliveau were inducted into Hockey's Hall of Fame. After 20 seasons in a Montreal Canadiens sweater, Beliveau retired with 507 goals, 712 assists, and a staggering 10 Stanley Cup championships. He also went to 13 All-Star games, won an Art Ross, a Conn Smythe, and two Hart Memorials. Howe tallied 801 goals, 1,049 assists, and nearly 1700 PIMs. He won four Cups with Detroit, played in 23 All-Star games, won six Hart Memorials, and six Art Rosses. For most of the 1950s, he led the league in games played, and frequently led, or was second, in goals and assists.

* Kansas City Royal catcher John Wathan stole his 31st base today in 1982, which broke the record for steals by a catcher set by Ray Schalk in 1916. Wathan wrapped up the season with 36 swipes.

It was on this day in 1989 that Major League Baseball Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti suspended Pete Rose from baseball for life. The fat piece of shit offered these words in doing so:

"The banishment for life of Pete Rose from baseball is the sad end of a
sorry episode. One of the game's greatest players has engaged in a variety of
acts which have stained the game, and he must now live with the consequences of
those acts. By choosing not to come to a hearing before me, and by choosing not
to proffer any testimony or evidence contrary to the evidence and information
contained in the report of the Special Counsel to the Commissioner, Mr. Rose has
accepted baseball's ultimate sanction, lifetime ineligibility."

And your Sports Illustrated quote of the day came from the mouth of...

...Major League Baseball manager Joe Torre, who, in 1996, was skipping the New York Yankees and had an infant daughter. Torre was asked if nighttime feedings disturb his sleep, to which he replied, "I'm 55 years old. I get up three times a night to go to the bathroom. the baby is on my schedule."
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