Start your season with a smile
Spring hasn’t officially sprung, but Spring Training has.
This baseball season is going to be different. We’ll still see masks on players who aren’t catchers. In addition to caps and gloves, we’ll see guys wearing contact-tracing devices. And it’s still unclear as to whether or how many fans will be allowed in the seats.
But at least we’ll have a season — and for that I’m grateful.
To celebrate (from a distance!), here are five bite-sized bits of baseball entertainment to get your season started with a smile:
5) For the ninth consecutive year, “Home Run King” Barry Bonds failed to get the votes he needed to make it into The Baseball Hall of Fame. If you’re curious how a guy who won seven National League MVP awards and hit 762 home runs keeps getting the shaft, I’d direct you to this Bill Simmons Sports Guy Cartoon — my favorite sports-related animation ever — which pretty much explains it.
4) On July 18, 2019, rookie MLB umpire Brennan Miller called Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner out on strikes in the second inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Gardner did not agree with the call and took his frustration out on the dugout, trying to murder it with his bat. What soon appeared online is my favorite sports gif of all time.
While Gardy is the star of the show, best supporting role is a tie between the two Aarons: Boone for giving it to the ump in defense of his guy and Hicks for his subtle smile upon hearing his teammate going mental behind him.
3) On June 12, 1970, Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis threw a no-hitter while high on acid. While I do not endorse playing sports on hallucinogenic drugs, you gotta admit what Ellis did is AMAZING. According to Sports Illustrated, he accomplished the feat while “unable to feel the ball or see his catcher.” Said Ellis, “I started having a crazy idea in the fourth inning that Richard Nixon was the home plate umpire, and once I thought I was pitching a baseball to Jimi Hendrix, who to me was holding a guitar and swinging it over the plate.”
And this brings us to my favorite sports-themed animated short film: No Mas Presents: Dock Ellis & The LSD No-No by James Blagden.
2) I grew up in New York City in the 1980’s and had the pleasure of hearing Bill White and Phil Rizzuto call Yankee games on local station WPIX.
Rizzuto, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994, was, according to his plaque, an “outstanding shortstop” who “overcame diminutive size… to anchor superb Yankees teams which won 10 pennants and 8 World Series during his 13 Major League seasons.”
White won seven consecutive Gold Gloves as a first baseman in a career spent mostly with the St. Louis Cardinals. After 18 years in the Yanks’ broadcast booth, he became the President of the National League.
Here are White and Scooter during a 1986 rain delay. I could listen to these two all day.
And coming in at Number One…
In 2008, one of the saddest broadcast breakups in history occurred when Mike Francesa and Chris Russo called it quits. For 19 years, “Mike & The Mad Dog” was sports radio in New York .
On WFAN weekdays from 1 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. (“Good afternoon, everybody!”), Mike was the deep-voiced droner and Dawg would get worked up into rabid rants, and together they just worked.
I keep my favorite segment on my phone. On long car trips, when my husband, my daughter, and I are ready to strangle each other, we play it and it immediately has us all rolling, even though we’ve heard it dozens of times.
So I leave you with “An Argument Over New Yankee Stadium,” a classic if there ever was one.
Happy Spring Training, all.