Why the HELL would you write… y’know… that?

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“I would never read that. That’s way too disturbing. But hey man, speaking of sexual abuse, have you seen Spotlight? Awesome movie.”

That was a good one. It came right after “Oh, you’re writing a novel! How exciting! What’s it about? …oh.”

I know. I get that a lot. I suppose I even understand. Eeeew. Pedophilia. Abuse of authority. Suicide. Paralyzing depression. Anger. Confusion. Prison. Drug abuse.  Continue reading “Why the HELL would you write… y’know… that?”

Target Practice

Readers: This piece is full of metaphor. Please don’t go shooting anyone. Thank you.

Where’s the bad guy?

Been going to the gun range once a month. Not in a flag-waving, Second-Amendment, don’t-tread-on-me way. Just a nice thing to do with friends, then we go out to dinner, talk about our kids, families, stuff that really matters. It’s a better Friday date night than a movie or a church potluck. Continue reading “Target Practice”

My Oh My, Read This Book

My Oh My: The Dave Niehaus Story
by Billy Mac, edited by J. Michael Kenyon

It was Burlington. Just off Hopper Road.

That’s where I got the news.

A dark November day, sloggy rain, cloggy traffic, and I needed one more coffee for the last hour on the road. I started the truck, took a sip, turned on the radio.

Where were you when you heard?

In that crush of grief, reflexes took over. I called my daughter at college.

“Hi Dad!”

“Uhhh…” I didn’t expect to go mute. I was a big strong man. “Dav-”

“Dad? What’s wrong?”

“Dave… Niehaus died.”

The rest of that conversation is buried in history. Seven years later she bought Billy Mac’s My Oh My: The Dave Niehaus Story and wrapped it up for my sixtieth birthday.

Continue reading “My Oh My, Read This Book”

The Magic of Looking the Other Way

Our man our hero Chuck Wendig has proposed writing on “The Danger of Undeserved Power.” Which of course is what this site and “Diamonds and Dirt” are all about.

While we’re busy thrashing about and challenging the obvious, an insidious poison still creeps through our land. While we puff our chests and claim vigilance, the evil of undeserved power struts by unchallenged.

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Safe in the pool? Maybe not.

The Parents.

To her, they weren’t My Parents. They were The Parents. Aloof, dismissive, self-absorbed, the dividing line was a fine one but oh so clear. They didn’t give two shits about her. She knew it. She’d given up wishing long ago. She tried her damnedest not to care either. Continue reading “The Magic of Looking the Other Way”

Christmas Solstice!

It’s Christmas Eve, and all through the land, who’s more excited than a baseball fan?

We’ve heard that before. But hey, it’s the season of hope.

See, it’s been 53 days since the final play of that amazing, heroic World Series that made a legend of Jose Altuve and a romantic icon of Carlos Correa. And it’s just 53 more days until pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training.

We’re halfway there. We’ve passed the lowest, darkest days, and the promise of warmth and light and summer breeze beckons. The game will always be there, waiting to come back and soothe us with the pop of leather and the crack of Louisville Ash and the first shouts of “Play Ball!”

Merry Chistmas to all. And to all, Happy Solstice!

Won’t be long now…

Dear Aly Raisman’s mom…

Dear Lynn Raisman,

That interview blew us away. Not just Aly demanding to know why USA Gym continues to let her down, but the face-to-face with you… Sixty Minutes in your kitchen, millions of Americans peering at you as TV guests in your home, and you were so matter-of-fact. There was no rage there, no clawing at the camera demanding blood for what that man did to your daughter.

Where did you bury it? What little lockbox in your brain was holding all those thoughts in there, just for safekeeping? You had to stay proper. It was an interview, and you had to be honest, but you were still the hostess. And you’re still… well… you’re Lynn Raisman. You’re that lady…

Sweet, sensational, viral. Mom and dad can’t keep still while Aly Raisman competes. photo: Today Show, NBC

Continue reading “Dear Aly Raisman’s mom…”

Mariners in the Playoffs!

Nope. Just nope.

Not those guys. But there are Ms in the postseason this year. Seriously. Once a Mariner, always a Mariner.

Sixteen — enough for a questionable starting rotation, a damn fine bullpen, and a full contingent in the field — went into the playoffs last week on seven different teams. Plus a couple honorable mentions:

Yep. That’s Ron.

Gotta start with Ron Fairly, whose 14-year color commentary career with the M’s broadcast team got him the nickname Ron Fairly Obvious as he bleated wisdom like “When ya strike out — nothing happens!”

But the Fairly truism that haunted the Yankees in Game Two of the division series was “Y’know, Dave… the best thing about a five-run lead? The grand slam can’t beat ya.” And you know Niehaus had to grind that out in his head for a minute.

Dave was too nice to ask Ron, “Hey genius, don’t you think, if you build up a five-run lead, then you let three guys get on base, then you give up a home run… You’re not done freaking choking?” Continue reading “Mariners in the Playoffs!”

Ex-Mariner of the Week: Luis Valbuena

Who the hell is this guy?

“I’ll take Twisted Webs for $1,000, Alex.”

“OK then… nobody ever gets this shit… well I’ll be damned, it’s a video daily double!”

“I’m all in. I’ll risk my whole fifteen grand. I love this stuff.”

“If you say so… Dumbass… He’s an ex-Mariner whose name is forever linked with J.J. ‘Thunderstruck’ PutzMike ‘All-fish-name team’ CarpJason ‘Basset Hound’ Vargas… and Franklin ‘Death to Flying Things’ Gutierrez…” Continue reading “Ex-Mariner of the Week: Luis Valbuena”

When the bottom drops out

“Baseball saved my life.”

The words on the page are a sucker punch to the senses, given the context.

We have this thing about sport being the savior. A mom swears it, no doubt, gymnastics kept her little girl from the wrong crowd. Football on the world’s dusty streets and ratty schoolyards keeps millions of kids out of trouble. And a 99-mph fastball steered Hideki Irabu clear of a violent end in the Japanese mafia.

Or so he believed. Hideki Irabu believed baseball saved his life.

Hideki Irabu is dead.

He came to the Yankees in 1997 as an international sensation. Freed from a Chiba Lotte team that lawyered up hard to keep him, he might have been wise to stay home.

But he was all-in. Hideki Irabu stormed the Big Apple, threw a pitch to Rudy Giuliani at City Hall, and struck out nine Tigers in his first outing.

The world needs men and women who go all-in. We’d be living and dying in caves if not for passion and drive, for Lombardi’s exhortation of “sacrifice, self denial, love, loyalty, fearlessness, humility, pursuit of excellence and perfectly disciplined will.” In business or war, religion or science, success comes to those that give a damn and give all of themselves with nothing held back.

It’s the same in sports.

In the long pull, with all that single-minded focus, the best ones think things through. They have a backup plan. And Hideki Irabu had no backup plan.

When his rookie year ended with a seven-plus ERA, he was lost. Inexplicable lapses plopped dark turds among the brilliant outings of the next two seasons. He was panned without mercy on Seinfeld. And when Yankee owner George Steinbrenner called him a fat pussy toad (“rhymes with fussy,” we were reminded without end by a pitiless press), Hideki Irabu was already fading from sublime to punchline.

Sometimes even the smartest among us don’t know the jagged edge we walk, the frailty of our safety net. We hop in a boat and toss the lifejacket on the floorboard, just in case. And when the shit hits the fan, the last thing we ever see is that lifejacket floating beyond our grasp as we slip beneath the waves. We make a plan, sort of, but we die anyway.

The most devoted and talented of us, with the pedal on the floor, never think of lifejackets. They shuck off all else to get the victory, the championship, the scholarship, the time standard, the draft pick. When there’s no sense of perspective, no grasp that an unlucky break will derail the whole thing, it’s a ticking time bomb in a young life.

A teenage swimmer gets wrapped around her coach’s finger because he’s the only strong male who’s ever given a crap about her. A high school quarterback buries his childhood abuse in the weight room and on the field. A huge mixed-race boy grows up bullied in Japan and takes his frustration all the way to New York City.

They throw themselves into their one-track ascent. They ignore the rotting bodies along the path, afraid to look down in case they see something of themselves in the stories of tragedy by the wayside. Inevitably something — an abusive coach, a snapping ligament, a mental breakdown — yanks the magic carpet away. And they’re in free fall, crashing on the rocks below.

In an iconic scene, 23-year-old Anamafi Moala’s life was snuffed out over San Francisco Bay when the 1989 earthquake jerked the concrete away beneath her. One moment her road stretched straight and true home. The next, Anamafi died suspended over the bay.

What of that huge mixed-race boy from Japan? The one whose unblinking vision had a Hall of Fame career in the crosshairs when his road was jerked away beneath him?

He wandered home to play two seasons with Hanshin in the Japan Central league. At age 40 he was back in the U.S., hanging on in his own Ross Eversoles moment, going 5-3 in ten starts with the Long Beach Armada.

Then Hideki Irabu hung himself.

On July 27, 2011, fourteen years after Mayor Giuliani presented the new Yankee a crystal Big Apple, a friend found him dangling from a rope in his bedroom. He was 42.

We paused to cry, then went on our way. We had new ballgames to watch, new heroes to cheer as they climbed that precipice.

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RIP Hideki Irabu. Sources:
Sports Illustrated 8/7/17 https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/08/01/hideki-irabu
Baseball Reference https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/i/irabuhi01.shtml
SFGate.com http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Out-of-the-Rubble-3312129.php
Time.com http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/07/29/hideki-irabu-a-one-time-baseball-sensation-meets-a-sad-end/

First Pitch!

First loves and true loves, heroes and legends, green grass and clover… let’s get this season started!

Oh yeah. Blue skies on a spring day and the season begins with the Yankees on the road, set to pound the home team… but Logan Morrison grinds out three RBIs for the hosts, Brad Miller goes 2 for 5 with a run scored, Danny Farquhar looks sharp in relief… and Tampa Bay wins?

On the other side of the country, just like old times, 40-year-old Fernando Rodney comes on in the ninth inning, gives up the go-ahead run, but watches from the bench and picks up the win as the… D-Backs walk off?

Huh? Say what? Continue reading “First Pitch!”