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


“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?”

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.


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!”

Last week in pedophilia

It started with Milo, and it wasn’t a good week for Milo. Milo Yiannopoulos nailed a pedophilia news  hat trick. The media juggernaut who calls Donald Trump “Daddy,”adored by fans at Breitbart, pulled a fabulous 1-2-3 punch as he screwed the pooch, martyred himself, and ended up even richer.

It may disappoint him to hear this, but this post is not about Milo. (facebook)

First, Milo said some really stupid stuff about men loving boys, and he got the media all stirred up.

Next, Milo quit his job “because they stuck by me when nobody else did,” which makes you wonder why he didn’t stick with them now… Continue reading “Last week in pedophilia”

Springtime Mariners nametags

Yeah, come on, it’s spring. All things are possible. This is the year, man, it’s gonna happen…

Twenty guys?

Exactly half the forty-man Spring Training roster has never dirtied their cleats in a Mariner big-league uniform. Here’s a list of every guy looking to make his future with your Seattle Mariners this year. Even some of our twenty returnees will have you (and their teammates) scratching your head going, “wait, who?” Continue reading “Springtime Mariners nametags”

Change is done, change is comin’…

Oh baby, Jerry DiPoto. Look what you done.

“Jerry DiPoto is a nut job…” …but he means that in the most nicest way…

Dude in the video likes Vogelbach. Playin’ in the Dirt is not sold. But there’s some solid analysis here.

Fifty-four men took the field in a Mariner uniform in 2016. Just twenty of them, exactly half of the current forty-man roster, are in camp in Spring 2017 as part of the big-league squad. Continue reading “Change is done, change is comin’…”

Ex-Mariner of the Year

Pitchers and Catchers report today!

In celebration, and you know we celebrate this day every year, Playin’ in the Dirt tips a cap to one amazing man. A man who you just have to believe is most glad for a mind-boggling trade.

Second-year pitcher Mike Montgomery had appeared in 32 games for the Ms in 2016, posting a 2.34 ERA and looking strong. On July 20, he went to the Cubs. Three months later, he was in the playoffs. Continue reading “Ex-Mariner of the Year”

Not today, Satan

Just decided to dink around a little bit here. My man Chuck Wendig, a supreme writer and blogger and e-mentor, does a Flash Fiction Challenge every Friday. I rarely take part. This week was intriguing, though. Pick a three-word title from a list of his readers’ suggestions. My suggestion didn’t make his list, which didn’t piss me off. I chose the closest one to it. And I included my title in the text. Your challenge is to find it. Good luck.

There is such blindness that goes along with sexual abuse, and that’s one of a million enabling factors. So this thousand-word essay attacks just one of those blind spots. Trust me, it’s fiction. But it addresses a theme that’s rife in both Diamonds and Dirt and the upcoming sequel Tenth Inning.

For those books, I still need a publisher. But for now, here’s that essay…

Not today, Satan

Son of a bitch. Another mob. These people are relentless. They need pitchforks, torches, buckets of tar. I’ll be your metaphorical Frankenstein again today, day after day. Someday you’ll go away.

Hey, I’m getting paid for this. For once I know who the good guys are, and it’s not that crew of pathetic vindictive punks. Continue reading “Not today, Satan”

Leann’s Brown Eyes

No sign of spring yet in our town.

The eyes got me.

They weren’t the first thing we saw. The first thing was a grocery cart, packed with stuff. And a figure hunched alone on a stool, wrapped in layers. And the cardboard sign that turns so many people away.

“Would you give me $5 or a blanket?” is all it said. But the images swirled, angry faces, righteous people. How often has every one of us claimed there shouldn’t be any begging, there’s plenty of help available, dammit there’s free food everywhere you look and what sucker would give these beggars any money when they just buy booze or go off to the casino.

But we needed to talk, a couple old well-fed dudes volunteering for the government, doing the annual Point-in-time Count with a clipboard and a backpack full of fresh socks and granola bars. Continue reading “Leann’s Brown Eyes”

The shrink who said I’d never write

Yeah, that’s the guy.

He was joking, of course.

And I took it that way. Just to be clear about that part. In fact we got a good laugh about it.

But the joking came after a lecture to a packed room full of writers about childhood trauma’s effect on our adult creative abilities. His premise, based on research, was that writing and other artistic pursuits help to maintain sanity for adults who experienced trauma as children. Continue reading “The shrink who said I’d never write”