Friday, September 30, 2011

America, heck yeah!

Here is an actual phone call conversation that I had at work yesterday. It works better if, in your head, you speak the “Him” lines in a slow, laboring, Southwest-country drawl.

Me: This is Mike …

Him: Yeah, you the main writer over there?

Me: Are you looking for the editor?

Him: Huh?

Me: The editor. Are you looking to speak with the editor?

Him: I don’t (grumbles) … What’s his name?

Me: Her name is Carolyn.

Him: Well you tell him, I wanna know what “Hispanic” means.

Me: I’m sorry?

Him: I wanna know what “Hispanic” means.

Me: No, I heard you. I mean, what are you talking about? Are you being serious right now?

Him: Welp, ya'll guys did an article here (flipping through papers; I imagine he is licking his fingers as he does so) on some kind of “Hispanic” breakfast, and I wanna know what “Hispanic” means.

Me: Alright, I’m not really liking the tone of this conversation or where it’s going. But I’ll bite—do you honestly not know what the term Hispanic means?

Him: (grumbles) I wanna know what “Hispanic” means.

Me: “Hispanic” in a nationally-recognized term for those of Spanish descent, whether they originate from Spain, Mexico, Latin America, Cuba, or whatever.

Him: Welp, just what I figured. The Mexicans want to hide their nationality.

Me: Wow. Okay, that’ll be enough for today.

Him: Let me ask you this, let me ask you this—what’s YOUR nationality, huh? What are YOU?

Me: What does it matter? What are you, racist?

Him: No, I’m an American!

Me: Okay, thank you. Please never call here again.

I’m certainly not naïve enough to think racism doesn’t still exist, but I gotta say—it takes a special kind of crazy to call up a weekly newspaper to complain about a feature story that no person in his right mind could find offensive. I mean, Racist A calling to complain about something like, “Local Hispanic leader rallies against immigration law” is one thing. Racist B calling to complain about, “Local Hispanics eat breakfast, talk about stuff,” is quite another. Both complaints are totally wrong, but the latter is mind-boggling. In my head, I imagine this man scrounged up change from underneath a couch cushion that wasn’t his, but placed near the street for trash pickup, and then located the only pay phone within a 50-mile radius to call and voice his complaint, and when he returned to his dilapidated shack that contains 12 parakeets, he proudly informed his wife, who wears an eye patch, how he had boldly expressed his Americanism over dinner, which was a bowl of Coca Puffs.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Classic card of the week

Benny Distefano, 1987 Topps

Benny Distefano—you are not going to believe this—is from Brooklyn. I know, crazy, right? Breathe that one in. I’ll give you a second.

(In the meantime, I have a theory about life that goes like this: Everyone is from Brooklyn. It’s a pretty self-explanatory theory, based on years of being married to an Italian from Brooklyn and, as a result, finding common ground with many, many others who are also from Brooklyn. It’s such a fail proof theory that there’s not even a question of whether or not someone’s from Brooklyn—only where in Brooklyn. Seriously, take anyone. Off the top of my head … Michael Jordan. From North Carolina, right? Nope—Brooklyn. How about … Mikhail Gorbachev? Brooklyn, originally. I could go on, but the point is that every single person who exists is from Brooklyn. It’s the great common denominator. Really, try it next time you meet someone. I think you’ll be surprised at the results.)

So far, we have discussed nothing about Benny Distefano’s baseball career. That’s alright though, because what I really want to know from the outset here is: what does Benny Distefano enjoy doing from a leisurely standpoint?

Benny’s leisure activities include dancing.

“My name is Benny Distefano. I am from Brooklyn. I like to dance.” That was the title and also the full content of a biographical essay Distefano wrote in second grade. It is also the phrase he speaks into the microphone each time before he dances at a public event, which is many times throughout the calendar year. And when that phrase is followed by the instantly recognizable bassline of Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” watch out—you’re in for a show.

I have to admit though—I have always had a problem with the use of “leisure.” To me, a leisure activity is not one that is merely separate from one’s full-time employ. It should imply a general sense of laid-backedness. I mean, dancing is hard freakin’ work. I don’t know, maybe it’s just the way I dance, which is violently erratic with inappropriate groin thrusts, but still. Distefano is listed here as a first baseman and outfielder. Even if his specialty is ballroom, I have to believe that’s less leisurely than his day job.

Let’s see how Benny’s BR Bullpen page describes him:

Benny Distefano was always the bridesmaid but never the bride.

I honestly don’t think I have ever witnessed a man described in this way. Definitely not in the context of a major league baseball player who simply never received adequate playing time. This does give me another movie idea, however: Two guys, both first baseman. Also, best friends. One guy is the starting first baseman and also getting married. Other guy is backup first baseman and not getting married, but is the bridesmaid, because it’s a reverse wedding. Also, the other guy is in love with the starting first baseman’s fiancé. And the starting first baseman is really in love with the best man, who is woman, obviously. Movie is called, “27 Dresses Outs.”

Anyway, what is Benny Distefano’s most significant achievement?

Significant Achievement
Benny Distefano is one of a very few players who tripled in their first major league at bat; moreover, he did it against someone who went to the same high school he did, Pete Falcone. He accomplished this feat on May 18th, 1984 when he subbed for an injured Amos Otis.

Indeed, Benny Distefano’s most significant achievement was the time he tripled in his first major league at-bat off a dude who went to the same high as he did, all because freakin’ Amos Otis was hurt. This was, amazingly, the second time that Amos Otis indirectly caused another person’s most significant personal achievement. In the late 1600s, Ferdinand Verbiest designed the first working steam-powered vehicle after his buddy, Amos Otis, fell off a horse.

Did you know?
Ferdinand Verbiest was from Brooklyn.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The fertile, magic garden of brilliance

Note: This column appears in the 9/29 issue of The Glendale Star and the 9/30 issue of the Peoria Times

I have done a lot of dumb things around the house. I don’t like to brag, but it’s kind of my thing.

I’ve put stuff together backwards. I once wiped down our stainless steel refrigerator with a damp paper towel almost immediately after my wife told me not to do exactly that. I have placed items on the ledge of our upstairs hallway, thinking to myself, “I really shouldn’t put this here,” and then knocked it off the ledge later after forgetting it was there.

I have spilled water on our laptop computer. I’ve hung pictures on the wall that have fallen down in the middle of the night and scared us half to death. Last year, while putting up Christmas lights and assuring my wife I’d be careful, I carried our ladder out of the garage, but it got caught in the hanging garage door string and caused the unhinged garage door to slam down with the force of a hundred stampeding horses, right in front of my face.

One time I dropped a giant glass container of olive oil on our kitchen floor. In fact, I would say that I have been on our kitchen floor, hands and knees, painstakingly looking for tiny, indistinguishable shards of glass at least six times in the past four years.

This is not to say I am completely inept. I have accomplished many things in and around the house that have gone unheralded due to their proper completion and lack of incident. One thing of my doing that has actually been a huge success is our vegetable garden.

When we moved here, I had the brilliant idea to put a horseshoe pit in our backyard. I had played horseshoes approximately four times in my life at that point, so this was a no-brainer. Then I realized that any potential horseshoe game would pose a risk to the integrity of our home’s exterior, so I had an even brillianter idea—one-sided horseshoes. You throw the horseshoe, go and get it, come back, and then throw it again. Party time!

One-sided horseshoes proved to be an unpopular and infrequently played game of leisure. So, last year I decided to make that square block of dirt and sand a vegetable garden. My wife, because of the summer heat and it being my concept, didn’t think it would work.

Amazingly, it has. It’s kind of like a magic garden. I actually cannot stop things from growing in there. The basil I had planted turned into a basil tree, and I needed to get rid of it to make room for my fall plantings. So last week I decided to make pesto.

I never make pesto the right way, and my wife doesn’t really like it, but that’s never stopped me before. I was having difficulty getting the basil leaves to churn in the blender, however. So I took the top off the blender to stuff the leaves down with a wooden spoon, at which point my other hand accidentally pushed the “chop” button and, well … yeah.

My wife, who was bathing our daughter upstairs when she heard the familiar noise of an inappropriate object being destroyed in an electronic device, yelled, “What happened?!” I did not answer.

Instead, I spent the next twenty minutes painstakingly looking for tiny, indistinguishable shards of wood to remove from my pesto sauce. I don’t like to brag, but it turned out okay.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Classic card of the week

Rob Maurer, 1991 Upper Deck

I don’t know anything about Rob Maurer, but dare I say he’s got a look in his eyes that reminds me of … I can’t even say it! Am I going crazy???!!!????!!!!????!!!!

Maurer is following in the footsteps of another hot-hitting first-baseman from Evansville, IN,

omg, omg, OMG!

the Yankees’ Don Mattingly.

Rob Maurer grew up in the same town, and played the same sport, and the same position within that sport, and made it to the same Major Leagues. Coincidence? More like the movie, “Single White Female,” if you ask me. Except it’s like, “Single White Female Part II: Married White Male: Footsteps to the Majors.” Wait, was Rob Maurer married? I don’t know. Probably. To Don Mattingly’s wife! What? This is crazy. I am scared. Is Mattingly okay? Has anyone heard from him lately? This reminds me of that movie, “The Talented Mr. Mattingly.”

“Don gave everybody in Evansville something to look up to,” Maurer said. “He gave everybody the idea they had a chance.”

“Follow Me Out Da ‘Hood” was the title of Don Mattingly’s 1991 rap album, and many did, including, obviously, Rob Maurer. For years, kids growing up in Evansville, Indiana would play stickball in the streets until the gunshots rang out, never believing they had a chance to play professional baseball like the kids from other American neighborhoods. But when Mattingly made it? Pfft. It was like, to use the timeless words of youth, “Dang, son! I can DO this.”

For a young child like Rob Maurer, who was born six years after Mattingly in the same room of the same hospital to the same
mother doctor, it was impossible to not be motivated by the success of his predecessor. But, as they say in the business (baseball), all that motivation is moot if you’re not exposing yourself to older men.

Maurer received plenty of exposure from scouts

Or, receiving exposure. That is nasty. Let’s move on.

Maurer was selected in the sixth round the same year, and his intense desire to excel sometimes led to frustration during his first two summers of professional baseball.

Intense desire almost always leads to frustration, whether in love or baseball, like that movie, “Love and Baseball,” starring Queen Latifa and Satchel Paige. Except, of course, in the case of Don Mattingly himself, whose intense desire to succeed led only to success, and also to back problems. ‘Tis much better, one might say, to curb that desire and just be like, “Whatev,” so that you may, as a result, attain that once desired success or, if doesn’t work out, not really care anyway.

Thus concludes today’s lesson.

Did you know?
Maurer's nickname, "Robbie Baseball," was deemed blasphemous by the 2002 MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Common decency, attentiveness not playground philosophies

Note: This column appears in the 9/22 issue of The Glendale Star and the 9/23 issue of the Peoria Times

One of the less-than-fortunate side effects of having a child of your own is being forced to deal with that most unpredictable and confounding of creatures—other people’s children.

I took our 2-year old daughter to the playground last week, where a bunch of kids—all of them older than her—were already playing. On a nearby bench sat three moms, watching the children with the intensity of a hawk that is blind and flies into things. I couldn’t help but overhear portions of their conversation, and let’s just say I was surprised the playground wasn’t surround by ancient Greek columns. She said what? Puh-lease!

Anyway, our daughter loves older kids. She wants to do everything they’re doing. She instantly began climbing the parts of the playground the older kids had traversed, and looked at me for approval. Then she attempted to break the ice with an excited, “Hi!” to one of the older girls, who promptly turned up her nose and looked the other way.

Now, I can tell the difference between shyness and something else, and this reaction was most certainly not the former. And this girl was plenty old enough for manners. I don’t know, maybe it’s the pathetic look on our daughter’s little face when someone can’t so much as return a greeting, but it offends me. Greatly.

Then she wanted to slide down one side of a dual slide. Two boys in the vicinity, however, who noticed her moving that way, instantly rushed to the top of the slide and started hanging off of it, not moving, so that she couldn’t go. Our daughter waited patiently behind them, hands folded. (By the way, these descriptions of her are not meant to illicit sympathy. She has played the role of aggressor many times. But she’ll always say “hi” before biting you in the face. We’ve taught her well.) It irked me to no end these boys wouldn’t let her go, so I said to the older of the two, “Hey, you guys mind sliding down so someone else can have a turn?”

The kid looked back at me like I had just ask him the Pythagorean Theorem, and for a second I interpreted his stare as resistance. Were it my own kid, I would have grabbed him by the shirt and tossed him down the slide. Instead I stared back and through gritted teeth said, “Slide. Down. The slide.” Which he did, on his stomach, and which of course our daughter had to mimic, almost landing on her head before I caught her.

Our time at the playground proceeded as such, with our daughter weaving through thick clouds of rudeness and obnoxiousness while I monitored it all since no one else seemed willing to do so. I do realize that kids are kids, and quite often a reflection of how they are raised, but I am wondering if there is a specific age where we are allowed to transfer that resentment from the parent to the child? Four? Six? I say three. Don’t get me wrong—I’ll still resent the parents, but it’s an easier thing to channel in direct interactions.

Of course, I know we’re not supposed to judge at all, but, I mean … have you ever been to the playground?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Classic card of the week

Dante Bichette, 1996 Upper Deck

Yo, yo, yo, Melly-Mel, wussup, wussup, wussup, it’s Dante … Bichette, foo! Whatchu think? Stop playin’ … Not much, just sitting here, trying to avoid BP, ya’ know, the ushe … Whatchu mean, ‘How’m I talkin’ right now?’ Ever heard of a cellular phone? Get with the times, bro. Whatchu on a landline or some shizz? Gettin’ wrapped around a curly cord? You crazy. This thing is as mobile as it gets. You should see it—it’s sleek as hell, yo. Only thing is, it’s got all types of invisible, dangerous laser rays popping out of it in all directions. Technology, ya’ know? That’s why I’m wearing my batting gloves and helmet, just to be safe. Anyway, wussup witchu? … THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT! I’m trying to get this day game over with, son! What time are we meeting? … Eight!? What are you like, a grandpa or something? Club don’t get bumpin’ till 10, at least. Besides, I gotta shower and fluff the mull. Takes time, bro. Make it nine. Compro-miz-ize. We’ll do din-din at the Tin-Tin, aiiiight? … True, true. Hey, you talk to Michelle yet? … What’d she say? … Uh, huh … Uh, huh … What!? First of all, I was wasted. Second of all, what are we married now? Geez, these broads. Listen, tell her that chick I was talkin’ to was my cousin or something. Then, tell her I’m sorry. Make it sound good though! Sincere, but like I don’t really care, ya’ know? Good. Then tell her I’mma hit a home run for her today. Or a single. Or a walk. At least a walk, tell her. Then tell her to wear that blue dress tonight, okay? … Oh, listen—remember when you talk to the chicks, it’s not Club Android anymore. Those dudes got arrested last week. It’s called The Android Club now. New owners. From Russia or something … Yeah, same cover. Man, you are cheap … Well I told you years ago you could be makin’ millions like your boy over here, but noooooo—you just had to follow in your dad’s footsteps. Sucka. Don’t hate on me … Whatever, bro … What? Who called? … Ted Williams? Weird. I’ll call him back whenever. Listen, I gotta go. Baylor’s on my case. Dude is such a hard-ass. Besides, these lasers are giving me a headache. So nine o’clock, aiiiiiiight? And remember—blue dress! Aiiight, peeeeeeeace.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Riding high

An edited version of this column appears in the 9/15 issue of The Glendale Star and the 9/16 issue of the Peoria Times

My wife’s cousin moved from New Jersey to Arizona and is staying with us. She is a smaller, female version of my father-in-law. From Italy to the States without even knowing the language, yet acclimating oneself immediately thanks to an unflagging work ethic, ambition, and dynamic and engaging personality, is a story they both share.

It never ceases to amaze us how easily and seamlessly each of them can strike up a friendship with a complete stranger, especially my wife’s cousin; my father-in-law has become at least mildly jaded by the Brooklyn degenerates he deals with on a daily basis. Having lived here for over four years now, we find it increasingly difficult to coerce our own neighbors to wave back. They, on the other hand, are constantly making connections on our own territory, which, for us, is both a marvel and an embarrassment.

In fact, my wife’s cousin had visited us for a few days a couple of years ago. In the span of an hour she met a man named Hercules (?) at the development pool, and then brought us home pizza, which she received at a discount after making some connection with the store owner, who I had never once witnessed smile.

Suffice it to say, she’s already hit the ground running, finding a job and closing in on a place of her own to stay, making friends and connections along the way. Last weekend, she decided to hit the ground biking instead, and still remained a magnet for interaction.

She borrowed my wife’s bike to go for a brisk morning ride around the neighborhood. As she was biking down the main road, a man, also biking, rode up next to her to strike up a conversation.

As a quick sidebar, that alone is astounding to me. To solicit a stranger for mere human interaction while both parties are moving at high speeds while also maintaining an awareness of passing motor vehicles is just so foreign to me. When someone I don’t know tries to strike up a conversation with me at a social function, while I am standing up straight, my first instinctual reaction is, “What is wrong with this person?” And I consider myself relatively friendly. I don't know.

So anyway, he engages her in the typical small talk that two people who have never met before have while they are riding bikes. Where you’re from, what you’re doing here, the weather, etc., etc. Turns out he’s from Trilogy, a 55-plus community contained within our development. The pleasant small talk continued. Then, before they part ways, he drops this doozy: “So, uhhh … you smoke weed?”

Indeed, my wife’s cousin, while riding her bike, was offered drugs by a retired Trilogy resident. After politely refusing, he assured her that, if she changes her mind, he’ll be “easy to find”—I assume this means if she gets a craving for marijuana, she can just start riding her bike around, and he will instantly emerge from a side street—and then, as a sign of friendship and an acknowledgement that what happens on this bike ride stays on this bike ride, gave her a fist bump before riding away. A fist bump!

Again, I have lived here for over four years and have yet to be offered a joint. She was here three days before finding a drug connection, who is like 60. I don’t know how she does it.

Interestingly enough, before my in-laws bought a home here, my father-in-law came to visit us and look at houses. We all went to the local wine bar one Sunday afternoon, where he struck up, of course, a conversation with a local Trilogy resident. They were still talking when my wife and I left, and eventually my father-in-law went MIA, frequent phone calls from my wife and I revealing only that he was “somewhere in Trilogy,” and “safe.” He eventually stumbled home very late in the evening, reprimanded by his daughter in an astounding role reversal. No one is really sure what happened that night—he doesn’t like to talk about it.

So, I don’t know what goes on in Trilogy. I do know, however, where we’ll be retiring in 22 years or so.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Classic card of the week

Jose Oquendo, 1991 Topps

Some baseball players are good at hitting home runs. Some baseball players are good at pitching. Some baseball players are good at playing defense. Some baseball players are good at stealing bases and running fast around the bases and stuff. Some baseball players are good at doing baseball-related things that are intangible and that transcend definition, like clapping and screaming, “Go get ‘em, Charlie!” Some baseball players—and this is the most important quality a baseball player can have—are good at getting to the ballpark before other baseball players.

Jose is regularly the first player at park for game.

Which game, you ask? Every game, I think. For baseball.

Ozzie Smith: Jogs onto field at 5:07 for 7:05 game

Jose Oquendo: Slept on the field from the previous night in full uniform, been taking grounders since 10:15 a.m. … Glad you could join us, Ozzenthal. Rolls eyes in direction of coaches

Ozzie Smith: Sorry I’m late, fellas. My kid got sick and we had to rush him to the hospital …

Jose Oquendo: Pfft.

That was unnecessary. What else, Wikipedia?

José Manuel Roberto Guillermo Oquendo Contreras

Trivia question: What did Jose Oquendo have more of: names, or positions that he played on the baseball field? If you answered “names,” because you know now that he has so many names because I just mentioned it but are unaware of how many positions he played because we haven’t gotten into that yet, then you are an idiot.

In 1987, Oquendo played every position, except catcher, and was nicknamed “The Secret Weapon” by manager Whitey Herzog.

What made Oquendo a weapon was that he played almost every position on the baseball field, which was an asset to a baseball team similar to the way a weapon is an asset to a person trying to kill something. By inserting Jose Oquendo at shortstop one day, and left field the next day, you literally kill your opponent’s chance to win the World Series. Fact. What made him a secret was that he played all of these positions while wearing a Ronald Reagan mask.

Also, a super-utilityman who is first at the ballpark every day and only 5’ 10” AND who was born on the Fourth of July??!! If his name were, say, David Beckstein instead of Jose Manuel Roberto Guillermo Oquendo Contreras, I would have come up with at least 1,925 links to articles detailing his scrappiness when I Googled his name earlier.

Oquendo is currently the third base coach for the Cardinals. Also, this:

On April 4, 2009, Oquendo appeared as a Cardinals pinch hitter in a preseason exhibition game against the Cardinals' triple A affiliate, the Memphis Redbirds. Oquendo fouled off several pitches before being walked. He was advanced to 3rd base on a hit and walk before an inning ending groundout.

With no one to coach him when he reached third base except himself, all the dimensions in the universe converged and reality was suspended. Everything in life that has happened since then has been a dream. Sorry.

Did you know?
Oquendo was fond of introducing himself to new teammates in this way: "Hello, my name is José Manuel Roberto Guillermo Oquendo Contreras. You killed my father. Prepare to die," which once caused Jack Clark, unfamiliar with the line and feeling threatened, as he had, allegedly, once killed a man in Reno, to kick Oquendo in the groin and run away.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

A part of this

Note: This column appears in the 9/8 issue of The Glendale Star and the 9/9 issue of the Peoria Times

Everyone has his September 11th story, and many of those stories are, to this country’s great misfortune, infinitely more dramatic and heartbreaking than my own. Nevertheless, 10 years passed is a decent time for all to reflect, and so I will.

I was working in customer service at a healthcare products company in New Jersey on September 11, 2001. After everything went down, it was decided that, because our company serviced virtually every nearby New York City hospital, it would be required for some employees to volunteer to work overnight, and field the expected flood of phone calls. After the confusion, fear, and helpless feelings brought on by the day’s events slightly faded, then morphed into an urging to be a part of this, to help out, I volunteered.

I worked throughout the night, only in that I was physically at work. No phone calls came, except one, requesting only body bags.

With nothing to do, virtually alone in my department, and already feeling overexposed to the images, breaking news, and immediate commentary of this historically awful event still unraveling, I had only my thoughts to work through. They raced around, unhinged, disorganized, at odds with each other in my head, and I needed to sort them out. The keyboard seemed as good a place as any to start.

I wrote down my feelings and emotions, and attempted to put 9/11 into some type of context. When I was finished, I was proud of it. So much so that I printed it out and, hours later that morning, handed it to a few incoming coworkers who I was close to, and, later, to my family.

Whether genuine or to humor me, people said they liked it. I felt—such embarrassing naïveté—that I had helped in some small way to add a sense of perspective. Move over, George Will—a 20-something customer service rep from New Jersey has something to say. It was an uniformed, juvenile take on things, and I shudder at the thought of what that paper read. I don’t remember everything. I have tried at times, like the event itself, to erase from my memory my take on it.

But I will never forget, like the event itself, the feeling I had upon finishing that piece. How therapeutic it felt, how rewarding, how exciting the anticipation of others reading it. I decided, pretty much then and there, to be a writer.

At that time, I was, for all intents and purposes, going nowhere, lost in a post-college haze of immaturity, reluctance to join the real world, and beneath it all, uncertainty and fear at what I would do in that real world, how I would contribute. September 11th violently awoke me out of a slumber of dependency and indifference, and—I don’t even think it was conscious—inspired me to get moving, and revealed to me how I would do just that.

September 11th inspired others to do heroic things, and sacrifice their very lives. To them, all just due attention be paid, always. Some of us were simply inspired to be who we were supposed to be all along. I don’t know why God allows such trivial positives to arise from the ashes of such colossal tragedy, but I don’t know a lot of things. This is the real world. There is simply too much to comprehend, which is why we have each other, and everything that each of us brings to this grand table.

When raiding a suspected cockfighting home with Steven Seagal and a tank goes wrong

If you've ever wondered what would happen if Steven Seagal and Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio combined forces to raid the home of a cockfighting -- totally Arizona's biggest problem right now -- suspect with a tank, wonder no more.

“If my deputies—or posse man Seagal for that matter—had done something so awful like shooting a family dog, then where are the photos to prove it?” -- Sheriff Joe Arpaio

He asked this question while discreetly placing several glossy, color documents into a shredder labeled, "Evidence?" Seriously though. Where are the photos? Where. Are. The. Photos. Everything has photos.

Hat tip to the great Don Dykstra.

*Alternate title: "Out of the way animals *gunshot* -- we're trying to save animals!"

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Classic card of the week

Jeff Juden, 1991 Upper Deck

Jeff Juden discussion begins … now!

Jeff was Houston’s first round draft selection in June, 1989 from Salem High School.

Wikipedia, would you like to expand on this?

He is in the discussion of being one of the best high school pitchers in Mass history.. pitcher at Salem High School.

No period to abbreviate Mass., two periods at end of sentence, followed by part of a phrase that belongs God knows where … just when I think I can’t love Wikipedia any more, I read another Wikipedia page. Anyhoo, the point is that Jeff Juden is in the discussion of “best high school pitchers in Massachusetts history,” and that is a discussion I would like to have, if it were up to me, every single day.

The Astros expected to take it slow with Jeff, but his performance for Osceola dictated an early promotion to Double-A.

Astros Exec. 1
: Tell me about Juden, Charlie, and remember that we as an organization are fully expecting to take it slow with him, as he is our No. 1 draft pick and prized pitching prospect.

Astros Exec. 2: Sit down, Orville. Listen—I know we’re expecting to take it slow with Juden. But have you seen him at Osceola?!

Exec. 1: No. That is why I am conferring with you.

Exec. 2: He’s throwing bee-bees over there, Orville! He can’t be contained! Last week he struck out all 27 batters in one game!

Exec. 1: It seems impossible that I have not heard about that until this very moment. Is that true?

Exec. 2: No, but you get my point. The truth is, his performance dictated a promotion. I’m sorry, Orville! I gotta wipe my hands clean of this (symbolically wipes hands) … there was nothing I could do!

Exec. 1: Well, technically, one thing you could have done was not allow him to be promoted by an abstract concept like “performance,” which has no authority to do such things, and let him continue to pitch well at Osceola because we EXPECTED TO TAKE IT SLOW WITH HIM!

Exec. 2: You’re overreacting, Orville. Take a chill pill, ‘Ville. Here, listen to this … (begins playing Naughty By Nature’s “Everything Gonna Be Alright” on nearby tape player, bobs his head … Orville begins bobbing his head)

His poor performance at Columbus was not due to being overmatched by batters, but rather from fatigue. Juden, who never threw more than 90 innings in high school, lost 5 mph off his fastball due to his amount of innings pitched.

Record scratches on tape player …


The Astros, taking all precautions

Except the ones they “expected” to take in the first place.

gave Jeff the last week of the season off

Read: “Allowed him to miss one last start”

to give him time to regain his arm strength.

Montage of time passing, seasons changing …

Jeff’s performance in the Florida State League was good enough to be voted the second best prospect.

Exec. 2: Bursts into Exec. 1’s office … Orville, did ya’ hear?

Exec. 1: Angrily at desk, without lifting head from paperwork … What?

Exec. 2: Juden’s performance in Florida was just named second best prospect!

Exec. 1: How does a performance get named as a prospect and not the individual?

Exec. 2: I don’t know! Same way a performance can promote a guy, I guess. Still!

Exec. 1: Alright, call the local paper. Tell ‘em we want a reporter down here stat for a Juden feature, and tell him to be careful with the name and context! You still got the tape?

Exec. 2: Pulls Naughty By Nature tape out of the breast pocket of his suit jacket ...

Exec. 1: Play that shizz!