Men With Brooms – World Series Wrap

World Series sweeps are hardly ever expected from the outset, and the one just completed by the Giants was no exception.  After all, in theory a least, the World Series pits the two best teams left in baseball against each other in a best-of-seven format.  Each team is likely a strong one and given what they must go through to even reach the Series, it would seem likely and reasonable to expect one of the teams to win at least one game before the other wins four, that the level of competition would mitigate against a sweep.  With the often volatile nature of a short series and the game itself, predicting which team will win a Series is hard enough, never mind going out on a limb and predicting a sweep. And yet, sweeps in the World Series happen far more often than we might think.  Of the 108 World Series played to date (with none held in 1904 or 1994), this year's was the 21st sweep.  That's roughly just under 20% of the time that a Series is swept, almost one in five, which seems surprisingly high to me.  I would have thought this figure might be more like one in seven, or even one in eight.  Yes, the dominant Yankees of the past have a lot to do with this, winning eight of these and losing three, but sweeps have occurred in every era and seem to be on the rise, with four occurring in the last nine Series played. Sometimes baseball can shock us with the truly unexpected from a player, such as Pedro Sandoval hitting three homers in this first three at-bats more [...]

The Ghost of John McGraw

Had the ghost of John McGraw been magically transported to Game Two of this World Series last night in San Francisco, he would have at first seen much that would have bewildered, outraged, maybe even frightened him, though he sure didn't scare easily in life.  A thousand questions and confounded thoughts would have flashed through the hard-headed old manager's mind in an instant. Jaysus, where am I?  My Jints are in white, playing at home, but what have they done with the Polo Grounds and Coogan's Bluff?  What in God's name is that huge ball glove doing there in the stands, and that giant Coke bottle? Why are the players allowed to have such long hair and wear beards? Christ almighty, what is this, the goddamn House of David against some gobshite Doukhobor outfit?  Are these impostors? Why, even the Giants' manager needs a shave, he looks like a dim-witted bum....  I can't believe they have that lunatic with the ridiculous fake beard as their mascot, we used to have a crippled midget. Sweet Mother of Jesus, what are those dark fellas and Caribbeans doin' on the field in uniform?  Don't tell me they allow them to play now....  both the third basemen and Detroit's first sacker are just as fat as Cupid Childs or Larry McLean were, some things never change. And the field, it's so level and bright, so tidy and manicured! There's no mud puddles or patches of weeds, I wish we could have played on one like it, we might have caught the ball better, won some more..... Would more [...]

Baseball and Preparation H

This site is devoted equally to both jazz and baseball, and though I have a number of music pieces on the go, baseball will take a front seat for the next little while as, a), it's World Series time and b), I'm really busy with gigs for the next week or two. Being busy is a nice problem to have and I'm not complaning, but it always seems to be the case that it never rains but it pours at this time of year for me, I always seem to be really busy at Series time and rarely get to see many of the games except in snippets or by way of highlights.   I keep telling myself that one of these years I'll plan ahead and book a bunch ot time off around the schedule of the baseball post-season and treat myself to a feast of watching and writing about the games.  As you've probably guessed already though, planning ahead is not exactly the strong suit of a jazz musician like me.  The only Series games I'll be able to watch entirely will be Sunday's Game Four and Monday's Game Five, assuming there is one, which seems pretty likely.  As a result, my blog comments will be short (yeah, right) and not too in-depth. I wasn't able to see much of Game One, by the time my gig was over the score was 5-0 Giants in the fifth, something of a shock.  When I commented in my last post that Verlander might struggle against the NL and that his teammates might have a tough time scoring against the Giants' pitching, it was just a vague hunch, I certainly didn't expect him to lay such a big egg, more [...]

WORLD SERIES SET AS CARDINALS GET A TASTE OF THEIR OWN MEDICINE – YUCK!

To many, the St. Louis Cardinals in this year's post-season looked to be repeating their celebrated, longshot run of last year.  This time around they snuck into the playoffs by an even thinner margin, winning the brand new second wild-card, then beating the favoured Braves in Atlanta in the one-game, loser-goes-home playoff.  When they shockingly beat the young and talented Nationals by scoring eight runs in the final three innings of Game Five, erasing a 6-0 deficit, it seemed like the "team of destiny, never say die" Cards were roaring back from where they left off last year. A funny thing happened on the way to that destiny though, the Cards met a team even less interested in saying "die" than them, namely the San Francisco Giants.  When the Giants gambled and lost in sending a struggling Tim Lincecum to the hill in Game Four of the NLCS, getting pasted to go down three games to one, I thought they were done, as did many.  It again put them in a position of having to win three straight games to take the series, which they had just done against Cincinnati in the NLDS, winning the three very impressively on the road.  But, it seemed too much to ask that they could pull this off again against the brimming Cardinals, who looked to be firing on all cylinders - pitching, hitting, defense, confidence.   The key was Game Five in St. Louis, if the Giants could manage to win it, they might have a chance, playing the final games back at home. They sent the veteran left-hander more [...]

YANKS TO CONSIDER CLAUDE RAINS AT THIRD BASE NEXT YEAR AS TIGERS SWEEP ‘EM

The above tongue-in-cheek headline refers to one of the veteran character actor's most famous movie roles, "The Invisible Man"; Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez, though the conspicuous centre of a benching controversy, was pretty much invisible in the ALCS (1 for 9) and his replacement Eric Chavez was, believe it or not, even worse (0 for 20.)  Yes, I realize Claude Rains has been dead for a long time now, but given the cold wind blowing around the Yanks' hot corner these days, I don't see that this would be a problem, do you?  Good old Claude would certainly come a lot cheaper than these other stiffs, not that the free spending Yankees care about such things. As their manager Joe Girardi pointed out after it was suddenly all over though, the Yanks' abysmal flop wasn't all about A-Rod, it's just that as prominent, overpaid and easy to dislike as he is, he became the focus.  But nobody on the Yankees was hitting, except (sort of) Raul Ibanez, Ichiro and Derek Jeter's replacement, Eduardo Nunez.  Robinson Cano, likely the best second baseman in the game, broke an 0 for 29 slide with a single in the ninth inning of Game Three but was back at the futility last night, going 0 for 4 and looking utterly lost up there. Curtis Granderson was a big, fat zero in this series (0 for 11) and was 3 for 30 with one home run and nine strikeouts in the post-season overall; this from the man who's hit more home runs combined the last two years than anyone else in the major leagues.  more [...]

Scat-ology

Although not all bad music is funny, few things are funnier than really awful  - as opposed to merely mundane - music. Provided, of course, that it was never meant to be taken seriously in the first place.  You know, musical bloopers, clams, kacks, orchestral train wrecks, blown lyrics and so on.  I've had a ringside seat on various bandstands for many of these over the years, which has no doubt warped my taste and judgement.  I suppose the key to whether really bad music is funny or not mainly has to do with how long it lasts, and if you can easily make it go away or escape it at will. In the spirit of this, if any of you are trawling on YouTube sometime and feel like some killer laughs, punch in Shooby Taylor and prepare to die, to enter a musical world of improbable and surreal horror.  Only your sides will hurt, he's ghastly, but mind-bendingly hilarious. Shooby Taylor was an obscure (to say the least) American scat singer who billed himself, God knows where, as "The Human Horn."  He was so hysterically awful that he didn't really have a career, yet he's achieved a sliver of posthumous immortality because his singing, though rank, is also undeniably unique. There's a kind of genius at work in its utter lack of talent.  Presumably, this is mostly because nobody else would ever have conceived of trying to sound anything remotely like this. If they had, their friends and neighbours would have assassinated them. What there was of Shooby's "career" was almost entirely more [...]

By the Time I Get To Phonics, I’ll Be Reading

As you readers out there are compos mentis and all - sane and normal types, no offense intended, you're likely not saddled with my baseball name obsession. So you're probably not aware that the Detroit Tigers lead all of baseball in weird and funny pitcher's names.  It's really quite something and I only just began to notice. I must be slipping. Their two best pitchers are Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer.  Verlander isn't really a funny name, but Scherzer brings a smile, reinforced by his general gawkiness, baggy uniform and goofy facial expression. He reminds me of Huntz Hall from the old Bowery Boys movies.  Not to mention that his last name sounds like "shiser", which is the German word for shit.  This is just for openers though. Two of their other starting pitchers are the unfortunately named Doug Fister (making him a founding member of my gay All-Star team) and Rick Porcello.  Porcello isn't really a funny name in itself, but I call him "Shrooms" because his name is like a combo of two mushrooms - the porcini and the portobello. For good measure they also have a starting pitcher named Sanchez, which isn't odd in itself. But his first name is Anibal, and to a man, the announcers pronounce it like Anna-Belle.  I can't help it, this breaks me up. The next thing you know Annette Funicello will be their pitching coach, with Frankie Avalon as their back-up catcher.  Hey, maybe they could get Cubby O'Brien as their bullpen coach... The bullpen is loaded, more [...]

B.P. – The Price Was Right

Tax season is never a fun time for musicians, or anyone else for that matter. But for me, this annual April bother is always tempered by the memories it brings of Bob Price, who was a very fine jazz bassist, a wonderful guy and an accountant to boot. He's been gone a while now and I always feel the pang of missing him in early spring, but it's also pleasant to remember him and how lucky we were to have a stalwart like him on the local scene. Bob did the lion's share of tax returns for Toronto's jazz players for decades; discovering and using his services was a kind of rite of passage for a local musician. If and when you began making a little money in music, you soon found out that self-employed tax issues were beyond your ken, so you'd ask around and invariably the answer was, "Go and see Bob Price, he's the guy, the best." Being a veteran player himself, Bob knew the ins and outs of a musician's life and the tax angles, so nothing surprised or ruffled him, he'd seen it all. God only knows what he had to deal with over the years and the various musician's tax messes he cleaned up, certainly a couple of mine for sure. No matter what the problem, how disorderly your record-keeping or how delinquent you'd been, Bob would sort it out with patience, humour, discretion and a slug or two from his trusty bottle of J & B, never too far from hand. Bob of course played for years in pianist Norm Amadio's trio, which worked all the time and was a kind of shambolic, floating, Marx more [...]