The 2012 season will be Chipper Jones’ last, signifying for me a quaint full circle of baseball life. From a goofy-grinned rook to an over-the-hill vet, I had the pleasure of witnessing it all, and I can’t help but tip my cap to the future Hall of Famer for all he’s done throughout his career, on and off the field.
With that, here is what immediately enters my mind whenever his name comes up:
The 1995 Season
Infuriated by a silent October in ’94, I vehemently quit on Major League Baseball. I will have nothing to do with those crooked chumps! Who do they think they are taking away my Fall Classic!?!? Troglodytes the whole lot of ’em!
Yeah, but… see, there’s this guy named Chipper. He’s with the Braves. He’s gonna be a superstar.
And he was. 23 bombs. 86 RBIs. And one cool stroke, from both sides of the plate. By the second half of the ’95 season, all had been forgiven and I was hoarding baseball cards of a man with a goofy name.
The 2008 Season and Media Guide Photo
Now a lot of stuff happened between 1995 and 2008, but I want to focus on the monster season Chipper had. I recall arguing here with my lugubrious and oft-crotchety colleague, Mr. Allen Krause, whether or not Chipper could realistically hit .400. He made a good run at it, but had to settle for .364, and in the process provided one of the worst media guide photos of all time:
All-Star Weekend 2009
I had the good fortune of attending the ASG in St. Louis and taking in all the awesome that comes with such an extravaganza. As you can imagine, heavy drinking was involved, and on the evening of July 13, at a seedy bar deep in the heart of Soulard, I was an accomplice to my friend losing a $100 bar bet on whether or not Chipper played any significant time at any other position than third base during his career. I found out it only takes a few vodka bombs to forget that Chipper spent a some years manning left field for the Bravos. I think my pal has forgiven me for that absentmindedness. Now if only we could remember how we ended up in Sauget smelling like frosting, covered in glitter.
Yes, I’d say Chipper had a brilliant career, even if the last few years have looked more like an AH-64 Apache helicopter crash after attempting to push its limit. What’s THAT look like? Glad ya asked!
When I was 7 years old I watched Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. That one game had a huge impact on me, my imagination and why I eventually became the baseball-lovin-monster I am today.
It was the first time I’d ever witnessed “a miracle”, the first time I really understood you need 27 outs to win a baseball game and the first time I realized that there is no substitute for hard work.
Years later, as a teenager, I recall hearing Gary Carter tell his version of what took place in Flushing that night, that during his at-bat that started the astonishing go-ahead rally his only thought to himself was “Don’t make the last out.”
That resonated with me.
Don’t make the last out.
Don’t ever give up.
Don’t give any effort but your best.
Rest in peace, Number 8.
Fall and the playoffs also mean the imminent death of another baseball season. Fittingly, the news outside of baseball also seems fixated on endings and death the last couple weeks. Of course there’s the Michael Jackson doctor trial which seems to inspire the same kind of media circus that Jackson himself used to bring out. But there are two other endings that I find more interesting.
The first is the death of Anwar Al-Awlaki in Yemen. The dude was definitely a bad guy and behind, or at least the inspiration behind, some of the more nefarious plots against the US in the past couple years. But he was also an American citizen which makes his assassination problematic at best. Does his death make us safer? Probably. Should we be assassinating US citizens? That’s a little less certain.
Obviously a lot of US citizens, a majority most likely, don’t agree with Al-Awlaki’s rants against the US and exhortations to do us harm. But there were also a fair amount of people who didn’t like Martin Luther King’s message and thought his ideas just as dangerous as those of Al-Awlaki. But the US government didn’t assassinate him. No, I’m not saying that the two men are similar or that their messages bear any resemblance but I am saying that assassination is a slippery slope during the best of times. When it becomes an easily employable tool in the context of a nebulous concept like the “War on Terror,” how long before it becomes a similarly employed tool within other nebulous concepts like the “War on Drugs?” Again, I’m not saying this will happen, I’m just saying it needs to be considered.
Considered in the same way that Trinity College in Dublin should have considered their options before e-executing one of their faculty. Ok, sure, Professor Conan T. Barbarian may not have been a real professor or even a real person but did he deserve so inglorious an end as to simply be deleted from a server somewhere? Precedents, people. They matter.
In a year as dynamic as US American voters are shortsighted, finding just the right words to succinctly summarize all the goings on of MMX isn’t really as hard as I thought it might be. Sure, ‘Merican culture still clings to the absurd Canadian import or two and the global economy continues its tailspin while our government continues its fight in two unwinnable wars, but not all is gloom and doom, my friends.
In fact, personally speaking, 2010 was quite fantastic! I quit smoking, I got in the best shape of my life thus far, and I got to hang with my fanciful and oft repugnant colleague (and subsequent dear friend), Mr. Allen Krause, not once, but TWICE! First was the June baseball rendezvous in DC where we participated in a very special Strasmas celebration, then came an equally exciting Michigan Christmas, where I spent the holiday weekend with Mr. Krause and his family.
All told, it was the best of times, it was the… no. It was just the best of times.
Hell, we even got treated to a non-powerhouse World Series, where the Giants defeat over the Rangers inspired small markets all over North America to think about one thing and one thing only: pitching, pitching, pitching. And, of course, no RSBS review of 2010 could go without mentioning the inception of our very own Podcast, one that continues to kick butt on a sometimes semi-weekly basis.
That’s right. Red State Blue State knows no bounds… and neither do the following top five Allen Krause penned gems of 2010:
2nd Honorable Mention:
We All Lose
Now and forever, September 11 will never be the same. I know that. You know that. Mr. Krause knows that. But through his strong dislike for all things pink in baseball and, of course, bigotry, Mr. Krause was able to both enlighten and entertain on this hallowed day. His message? Simple: “Hate kills.”
RSBS Presents: Chili
Personal note: If you want to coax Mr. Krause into doing… well, anything… tempt him with chili. Just know that it better be good chili if you want to be successful. Mr. Krause ain’t no slacker when it comes to this US American staple, which he proves with this eloquent presentation full of chili flavor. Plus, whenever a writer is able to use “scatalogy”, “concoction” and “awe-inspiring” in the same paragraph, he deserves a reward of some kind.
2nd Runner Up:
Understated to the End
Losing our heroes is never easy. And when Sparky Anderson died, my thoughts immediately went out to Tiger nation, and more specifically, Mr. Krause. Of course, I knew it was only a matter of time before a bit of literary magic would grace the pages of RSBS, and with his ode to ole Sparky finely tuned to an equally understated former president, Mr. Krause did not disappoint.
1st Runner Up:
Catastrophe in Multiple Forms
While compassionate might not be the first adjective (or the five hundred and first) adjective that comes to mind when I think of Mr. Krause, I can say that if he shows any, it is definitely genuine. Such is the case here, where his sentient empathy crosses paths with lots of bloody nipples and Austin Collie’s head.
And the Winner is…:
RSBS Presents: A Baseball Fan’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse
There are two types of people in this world: those who are ready for the baseball zombies, and those who ain’t. Read this and you will be more than ready. Skip it and your brains are as good as gone by the chomp-slathering undead jaws of Pete Incaviglia and Todd Van Poppel. ‘Cuz the zombies are real. They are coming. And they all fear Mr. Allen Krause.
Another year down, another horizon to chase. Big things are happening, and we’re glad that YOU, dear reader, are a part of it.
Stay tuned for Part II tomorrow. Until then, don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right!
And so in this Podcast…
The hot stove is so hot that we had to add more fuel to the sizzlin’ fire! Jeff, Allen and Johanna are joined by Second City’s Mark Piebenga and Red Sox loyalist Troy Jagodowski to get down and dirty on all the offseason drama. Discussion topics include but are not limited to: what Theo Epstein was smokin’ when he re-signed Varitek, the end of Troy Tulowitski, the continued morphing of the Hall of Fame, the A-Gon deal and much, much more… all to make you laugh that milk right through your nose!
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Subscribe to the RSBS Podcast by clicking *HERE*
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*Special thanks to our PodMaster Keith Carmack. You can check out Keith’s wicked podcast and his subsequent film projects at Undercard Films. The dude has mad skillz, so you might wanna pay attention. Do it! Now!
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Recorded Saturday, December 4, 2010
While lambasting the Chicago Cubs and their myriad follies has become as synonymous with my persona as injecting gratuitous images of beautiful women into everyday baseball-politico essays, let it be known:
I am not an animal.
Which is why I reach out and put my hand on the collective shoulders of Cubs fans everywhere who are mourning the loss of the late, great Ron Santo.
Many things can be said about Mr. Santo — some good, some bad, some somewhere in between. But no one can deny this:
Ron Santo was the Chicago Cubs.
And no one loved them more than he.
From Cardinals Nation and the rest of the RSBS crew, we tip our caps to you, Number 10.
May you rest in peace,
Despite my slight leftwards tendencies, one of my favorite presidents is the first George Bush. He wasn’t a flashy guy. He simply knew what job he had to do and then got it done. Unfortunately for him, parts of his legacy wound up being attributed to Clinton but the smoldering wreck currently being dealt with in Mesopotamia shows just how impressive his foresight was. Bush was an understated guy and it was that understatement that eventually cost him his job.
If I had to pick one guy in baseball who reminded me of George H. W. Bush, that guy would be Sparky Anderson. Sure, he was a great manager and the first one to manage a team to a World Series title in both leagues. Ultimately it was Anderson’s understatement that made him a success but that same quality led to his undoing.
For better or for worse, Sparky Anderson always found a way to keep the focus elsewhere. When you’re dealing with the kind of egos Sparky had to deal with, though, that type of personal understatement is a necessity. Joe Morgan, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench. The name, The Big Red Machine, says it all. He found a way to keep those personalities in check. But when he followed up the big wins with mere second place finishes, it wasn’t enough for the Reds and his understatedness made him a perfect scapegoat. It’s like 1991 for Bush. Sure, he may have guided the US through the Gulf War but what have you done for us lately?
Although things didn’t end quite the same way with the Tigers, Anderson’s understatement was still his undoing. When he left the Tigers in 1995, Sparky had to feel more than a little disappointed that no one came calling. And for a guy who did as much for baseball as Anderson, it’s a reflection on his humility that he refused to step foot in the Hall of Fame until 2000 when he was inducted.
Understatement seems to be the trait that follows Anderson throughout his career and his life. Even in death he requested that no funeral or memorial be held. I guess for me, though, Sparky is one of those guys who, despite his natural avoidance of the spotlight, still defined baseball as I was growing up. He’s a guy who knew what job he had to do and then got it done.