Independence Day

I always say that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, but Independence Day has a lot going for it every year…might be a strong # 2.

Dave and Col always host a BBQ. In addition to it being July 4th, the 3rd is Moms birthday and the 4th is Marie’s. This year the BBQ was actually on the 3rd, but close enough. We always have a fun time with the family.

The morning of July 4 is the Annual Marlton Mayor’s Cup 5k run. This year I set a new personal best at 23:36. I was very excited. I had hopes that I would finish in the top 3 for my age group but there were a lot of good runners this year.marltonmayorscup2016_web Last year my time would’ve been good enough, but this year it wasn’t. I was still very happy with the time though. It’s funny, I don’t know what anybody else is thinking, but I definitively know that I take this as a serious competition. I was nervous at the beginning. And near the end when I was passed by an older looking guy I was sizing him up trying to determine if he was in my age group. Not wanting to take any chances I sprinted to the finish line. The last thing I want is to finish fourth by 1 second and miss out on a dollar store medal. It’s so stupid, but for some reason it matters in my head.

Nathans Hot Dog Eating ContestAt noon I watched the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest with Julia. Pam and Susie are disgusted by it. But we love it. It has become our little 4th of July tradition. It is such a spectacle and so ridiculous that we can’t help but being entertained. I had two favorite moments:

Then because of the holiday there was afternoon Yankees game. I love baseball, especially weekday afternoons. I listened to the game while I cleaned up the basement – something I have been trying to get to for a couple months. I don’t necessarily like organizing the basement, but when a project like that is complete I always feel such a sense of accomplishment. It’s a meaningless task, but I’m so satisfied that I got to delete it off my To Do List. The Yanks lost, but it was still a great day.

Pittsburgh

Me, Dave and Pops went to Pittsburgh. The main purpose of the trip was because I wanted to see PNC Park. I thought it would be a good, long weekend trip for me and Pam to do. Besides a game, there seemed to be lots of cool restaurants and shops in the city that I thought she might enjoy. She kept declining, so I asked Dave and Pops. It’s funny, from the time I made arrangements with them until now, there have been a number of women who have told me and Pam how much they like Pittsburgh. I don’t think Pam’s regrets not taking me up on the offer, but I think she would’ve enjoyed it.


On the Friday drive out we stopped at the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, PA. Yes, we had gone to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York earlier this year. This one wasn’t nearly as impressive. Not that I was expecting it to be – clearly New York is going to be able to (and, frankly, need to) do bigger and better. Though the museum here did a good job recreating the day, the memorial lay out was awkward. The path was unnecessarily windy and things were not identified. Because of that I am unsure whether they are even done working on it. It’s worth a side stop on a trip like this, but not worth going out of your way for.


Pittsburgh itself was great. Our hotel was right next to PNC Park. Everything was within walking distance. Friday night we had a great steak dinner at Eddie Merlot’s. On the way back we could see PNC all lit up during the game.IMG_20160415_205648304

We hung out at a cool bar the rest of that night. Saturday we walked all over the city including Mount Washington. We got lunch at Primanti Bros. Then we hung out at a bar to watch the Penguins playoff game. Our Pirates game was right across the street that night.

IMG_20160416_192016516_HDR

PNC Park really deserves the hype. But even better than the ballpark itself is the placement. The street it borders is closed to cars during games so everyone is walking around. There are tons of restaurants and bars so you can easily go out before or after the game. (Or, like we did, both.) All of this gives the game experience a lively atmosphere regardless of what actually happens in the ballpark.

Jeff Girgenti…ESPN Baseball Analyst

OK let me admit right from the beginning that “ESPN Baseball Analyst” is a bit of a stretch. And for those of you that need me to cut right to the end of the story, well, basically I was quoted in an article on ESPN.com. Here it is:

http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/64212/kudos-to-joe-torre-for-taking-a-stand-with-utley-suspension

So how did I get here?

It started Saturday during Game 2 of the NLDS game between the Mets and the Dodgers. In the 7th Inning Chase Utley made a dirty slide into Mets’ shortstop Ruben Tejada and broke his leg.

I’ve always appreciated Utley’s baseball abilities…even when he was with the Phillies. However he also always seemed like a punk to me. I understand that this is the kind of judgment people make of celebrities that we don’t really know. But maybe with Utley we have a better sense based on his World Series speech…

…or his All Star Game introduction…

…and there are probably more, but those are the first two that come to mind.

Anyway, even though some old timers want to call this a good, hardnosed play, I’m comfortable calling his slide dirty. You can’t be that far out of the base path AND start your slide that late. Though I will admit that I believe Utley’s intent was to break up the double play, not to break Tejada’s leg.

The next day the league even warranted that the slide deserved a suspension. Now as dirty as I thought the slide was, I didn’t think the league should pick this spot to start enforcing the rule. This kind of slide has gone on for years. Announce in the offseason that it will no longer be tolerated. Don’t impose a penalty during a playoff series.

Joe Sheehan is a Sports Illustrated writer that I follow on Twitter. He had the same point of view.

I replied to Joe:

Doing it now does bang home the point.

From the quote it seems as if I agree with the suspension even though I’m really just explaining its impact. Upon re-reading it, I didn’t like that so I actually deleted the tweet at some point later. It’s Twitter so nuance gets lost.

Apparently it was up long enough for David Schoenfield to read. He’s a writer at espn.com. And honestly I had no idea who this was. I had no idea that’s who Joe Sheehan was sub-tweeting at the time I replied. But he liked my quote and wrote about it. That’s how I became an ESPN Baseball Analyst!


So why do I care? …about an 8 word tweet that even I didn’t think was good enough not to delete?

I have no idea. But there’s something neat about it. I can’t quite figure it out. It’s not fame or celebrity…most of that kind of stuff annoys me. I think it’s just the fun of being able to say “Jeff Girgenti…ESPN Baseball Analyst”.

Tradition

(Bear with me…this whole article really has nothing to do about baseball, but there is a lot of stuff that happens around baseball that relates to what I want to write.)

Earlier this week Rob Neyer of Fox Sports wrote that it was the 12th anniversary of the release of Michael Lewis’s “Moneyball”. “Moneyball” is my favorite book of all time. (Side note: I’m not a big book reader, so there really aren’t a lot to choose from.) Neyer’s retrospective reminded me how much I like the book. Yes, “Moneyball” is about baseball, but baseball is just the delivery system for Lewis. Lewis writes about financial markets and economics. His purpose in “Moneyball” was to talk about recognizing inefficiencies in a market (e.g. on base percentage (for the record, this is a dramatic oversimplification)) and how to take advantage of them.

But I got something else out of “Moneyball” and the related exposure to Bill James, sabermetrics, etc. I realized that things I believed could be challenged and I could change my mind. So in this instance, I changed from thinking that RBI’s and pitcher Wins were important.

Yesterday The Hardball Times had a post about the 169th anniversary of the first baseball game to be played under a formal set of rules…and how that is mostly a myth. It’s a lie that is retold over and over, so people believe it. Worst than that is the myth that Abner Doubleday invented baseball.

Coincidentally I went to the Phillies game last night with Pops and Dave. (Squirrel!) Pops went on about how smart of a guy Doubleday was in laying out baseball. I didn’t correct him. He can be bothered by change or challenges to his beliefs. I understand that this is typical behavior to think that things were better in the past or that they should be the way they always have been.

I understand it, but it’s definitely not me. As I get older I’m somehow getting more progressive in my thinking. And I’m willing to challenge accepted norms more often. Craig Calcaterra does a great job in expressing this in a post about baseball cards (yes, more baseball).

Last night at the game, they asked for people to remove their hats before the national anthem as a sign of respect. I blurted out “why does removing your hat show respect?” These rules that continue for no reason other than tradition make no sense to me. Does removing my hat make me happy? Does it make me money? Does it negatively impact anyone else? Does it really accomplish anything at all? Then how can it be respectful or disrespectful? It’s not. It’s just a meaningless tradition at this point. (As I was researching the origins of this I found this quote I liked: “I always thought showing true respect for the flag and song itself was in having the right to choose whether to keep my hat on or off.”)

(OK, I think I’m done with all of the baseball-related stuff.)

These are the kinds of traditions that I find myself rejecting more and more often. Gay marriage? I don’t care…because it doesn’t negatively impact me. I have stopped saying “bless you” after people sneeze because I know it’s unnecessary. I don’t get bent out of shape thinking it’s the end of civilization when states legalize marijuana. When I got married it was important to me that Pam take my last name. Now, I would want that she keep hers. I have stopped standing during the Pledge of Allegiance after reading about the Bellamy Salute. The Pledge is creepy and feels like propaganda – and again, it’s unnecessary. Earlier this week I read that moral acceptance of polygamy has more than doubled from 7% in 2003 to 16% now. I paused, but then thought as long as it’s not a sheik acquiring wives or a religion preying on children…yeah, go for it. I’m OK if everyone is consenting adults entering into a polyamorous relationship. It doesn’t negatively impact me. All of these things are unnecessary traditions.

Religion seems like they have more of these unnecessary traditions than anything else. As I like to say…thank God I’m an atheist! I grew up an atheist (or for a time before I was willing to commit called myself an agnostic). I have never been religious and therefore never had a religion to challenge. But I wonder if I was indoctrinated to faith how accepting I would have been of all of the rules and how soon I would have rejected them.

So ditch your unnecessary traditions. The 2016 presidential campaigns have kicked off. At some point a candidate will be called a flip-flopper, and it will be considered a bad thing because politicians are never supposed to progress. I don’t see it that way. I don’t care that they changed. The change itself isn’t bad. You can change your mind on things. Maybe there is new research, or more science, or a better understanding after reading a persuasive argument. In that case it’s OK to abandon past beliefs. Looking at things with an open perspective is good for progress…just like I learned from Michael Lewis’s “Moneyball”.

Top Yankee Stadium memories

I went to my last game at the Stadium. In honor of the last season, I present a list. These are all games that I attended (not saw on TV). In chronological order:

My first Yankee Stadium game. I don’t want to get all Billy Crystal here, but “walking through the tunnel in Yankee Stadium and seeing the green grass and the Mick hit one out”. OK not the Mick part…but Mattingly doubled! And there really was something to seeing that grass in the middle of the city like that. It is almost shockingly green. This also started a tradition of late comeback wins by the Yanks that I was witness to.
The Yanks first playoff season since 1981. They were the first AL wild card team ever. This was Game 2 back when the format was 2-3 best of 5. I called Ticketmaster for playoff tickets the day they went on sale with no luck. Randomly I tried back a week later and they said had some available. Someone’s credit card probably got declined. I believe it was 4 (me, my brother Dave, Jim, Scott). We got there and it was already the first. I was still a Stadium novice and assumed the tickets were upper deck (hey, what did I know…both levels have the same section numbers). We went all the way to the top before being re-directed to the lower level by some fans who acted as if we were purposely rubbing their noses in the fact that we had good seats. We were in RF fair territory behind the fence (not the bleachers).
As you can see from the attached box score, this was a phenomenally entertaining game because each time one team scored, the other came right back. In the 6th Sierra and Mattingly hit back-to-back HRs. I was so happy to see Donnie in the playoffs and performing well after all of those frustrating years. In the 12th both teams put up 1 run. Griffey’s HR in the top of the 12th I thought would end it, but the Yanks came back again. (Griffey saved worse for the Yanks in Game 5.) In the 15th Leyritz hit the HR to win it. Up 2 games to none I was sure this was a back breaker for Seattle and the momentum would carry the Yanks to the ALCS, but the Mariners won the next 3 at home.
Other great memories from this game…a fan in the loge level with a teddy bear dressed in a Mariners uniform swinging from a noose…a Mariners hat (probably stolen off of a brave/stupid fan’s head) that a Yankees fan tried to torch with a lighter…it rained trash after Leyritz home run to the tune of New York, New York. Also, the greatest boxing match ever held at the stadium. One section over to our left, two fans, one drunk and one not had decided to slug it out over some disagreement. I can’t even remember if they were opposing team sides. They might have been both Yankees fans. So security drags the drunk guy away and he proceeds to refight his way back for a second round. So they bring in more security to drag him away again. All is well…until about 3 innings later….THE DRUNK GUY (who is probably more sober and pissed) RETURNS FOR ROUND 3! I have no idea how he got back in the stadium. Now comes a swat team of security to escort him to jail.
The first game I brought Pam to…and we got engaged in the middle of the 5th. We had crappy RF upper deck seats. We couldn’t the score board from our angle so I made her walk behind home plate with me after the 3rd so that she would be able to see the proposal message. She said yes and was so excited that she wanted to go home to tell her family (it must’ve been before cell phones). As you can see it was 6-1 Sox at this point so I agreed…the first time I ever left a game early. Yanks made a great comeback that I got to listen to in the car and watch when we stopped at Friday’s in Princeton for dinner on the way home. Definitely a bittersweet win missing out on being there. The moral of the story: never leave a baseball game early. Oh, and don’t get married (and if anyone forwards this to Pam, I just kidding around with the guys, Sweetiepie!)
This was the first season ticket package. Jim and I got 2 seats for for 10 or 12 weekday afternoon games. It was the smallest package available and we were still relatively poor. But we had to do it because last year the Yanks won the WS and we wanted guaranteed playoff tickets. (Over the next couple of years we added Jim’s brother Jeff, and guys I worked with at Mercadien, Tom, JB and JK, and got up to the 15 game package.) Somehow I managed to call out of work half a dozen times this season with no one ever realizing the correlation with the Yanks schedule. It all paid off because the Yanks made the playoffs.
Greg Maddux. Complete game shutout. 2:09. It was impressive.
Don Mattingly Day at Yankee stadium. all I really remember was that we got there kind of late and ran through the concourse to get to our seats in time for the ceremony. I think you (or your buddy Brynn(?)/Britt(?)) made a joke that we were drafting each other which apparently struck me as funny since I still remember it.
Hideki Irabu. 5-1/3, 9 runs. 4:22 (the longest 9 inning game in history (at least at the time)). It was not impressive.
Cone started and spit the bit in the 1st giving up 5. The Yanks scratch their way back in to it but still trailed 6-3 going to the bottom of the 6th.  In that inning, Raines, Jeter, and O’Neill hit back-to-back-to-back homers (yes 3) to take an 8-6 lead. I think that it was the loudest I ever heard the Stadium get. I recall sitting in the upper deck and so many people jumping up and down, having the feeling that the concrete below my feet was moving in waves underneath (I imagine like an earthquake would feel). (Who knew that the next spring a chunk of concrete would fall from the Stadium…coincidence?)
Fuck Rob Ducey
Jeff Girgenti did a very un-Sandy Koufax like thing and attended a playoff game on Yom Kippur (yankees win vs. Texas).
The Yanks defense implodes in the 12th to blow this one. Most memorable moment is Chuck Knoblauch’s failure to pick up the loose ball which allowed the tie-breaking run to score.
This was my only Yankee Stadium World Series game. Actually a boring game because the Yanks beat on the Padres early and often.
Yes, another Yankees loss is on the list. Here’s what was memorable…the 9th inning Save by Troy Percival. Tom had him in a fantasy league. After Percival closed the Yanks out, he gave a little fist pump and said, “at least I got a save tonight”. I wanted to throw him out of the upper deck. Again, I remind you that this is the reason I can’t do fantasy baseball.
14-8/14/99
Purposely not linking the box score because the game didn’t matter. What did matter was Old-Timers Day before the game. I had never seen Reggie in person as an active player, so this was really cool for me.
Bernie hits a walkoff game winning 10th inning HR to win it. What more can you ask for? When games like this and the Leyritz HR game end, you have 55,000 friends celebrating with you. The screaming, high-fives, and “LET’S GO YANK-KEES” chants continue from your seat, through the concourse, on to the outside, crossing the pedestrian bridge to the parking garage (which by the way would sway so much you would think it was ready to collapse), all the way until you’re in your car. Man, there is nothing like a packed house for a playoff game at the Stadium.
16-10/28/99
Wait, where’s the boxscore link? Oh, these were World Series Game 5 tickets that we had but the Yanks wrapped it up on 10/27/99. I remember the Yanks had won 11 straight WS games going into Game 4. That game was the first time I ever rooted against them. I wanted to be there the next night to see them wrap it up in person. It didn’t matter that it was the WS, I wanted the Yanks to lose. So much so that I did the Tomahawk Chop around the office that day. Tom disagreed with me and wanted the win. I knew we had no shot at a Game 5 when Scott emailed me and Jim and told us that he too had gotten tickets for Game 5. The jinx killed us and the Yanks won Game 4. I still regret never having seen a WS clincher at the Stadium.
This game was with Pops and my father- and brother-in-law. The 4 of us did a different ballpark each year for a few seasons (Yankee Stadium, the Vet, Camden Yards, Wrigley). The 3 of them were Phillies fans, so we always saw the Phils. They visited Yankee Stadium during interleague play for the first time since being swept in the 1950 WS. This day, it looked like the Phils were finally going to win one there, carrying a 6-1 lead into the 9th. The game seemed over, so the 3 wanted to leave. Remembering what I learned during the Engagement Game, I said no. The Yanks rally for 5 to tie it! In the 10th Brian Hunter hits a 2-run HR off of Mariano for the Phils to regain the lead (off of Mariano!). No way the Yanks could rally again, right? Well, still no way we’re leaving before it’s over. Yanks score 3 in the bottom of the inning and the Phils will have to wait for their first Yankee Stadium win.
3rd inning Alfonso Soriano draws a walk and a good portion of the crowd applauds. Soriano wasn’t very patient at the plate early in his career. He was probably 160 AB into his career at this point and had only 1 BB to his credit. I loved that so many fans were in tune to details like this and could respond accordingly.
After the 2001 season, the Yanks let Tino Martinez leave as a free agent because they signed Jason Giambi to play 1B. Tino was a key member of the ’96, ’98-’00 WS teams and a fan favorite. During 2003 interleague play, the Yanks had St. Louis on the schedule, Tino’s first games back to the Stadium. Tom and I went with our wives to this game as they were some of his biggest fans. Being that he left on good terms, the return reception he received was unbelievable. His first plate appearance was in the 2nd. The crowd went nuts. He had to step out of the batters box and tip his helmet to acknowledge us. Then he HR’ed…and the crowd continued to cheer. The Yanks piled on a 13-2 lead. With the game out of reach, Tony LaRussa put in backup catcher, Joe Girardi, another popular former Yankee. He got a great reception as well. In the 9th, Tino came up for the 4th time. He HR’ed again. Have you ever seen an opposing player have to acknowledge a crowd for a curtain call? It was unbelievable.
Only the second time I ever gave an ovation to an opposing player who wasn’t a former Yankee. I applauded Hank Blalock. This was the season he hit the game winning homer off of Eric Gagne in the All-Star Game. It was the first time the outcome of the ASG determined home field for the World Series. I figured that homer had given the Yanks home field in the WS, which it did. So I applauded in appreciation. (By the way, the other guy was the greatest hitter ever, Manny Ramirez.)
You can see by the box score, that this was a great game. What you can’t see is why Jeter left the game in the 12th inning. This is the “run full force into the stands and bust my face open catch” that he made. Yes, you’ve seen this on TV. It is probably as famous as his backhanded flip to get Jeremy Giambi or Willie Mays WS catch. This catch is the IF equivalent of Aaron Rowand running into the fence in Philly.
This is the 3rd of 4 straight losses to the Red Sox in the ALCS collapse. This game is marked by Curt Schilling pouring ketchup on his sock and A-Rod slapping a ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s hand. I got nothing else I can really stomach to say here.
For my last game at the Stadium. I wanted a close win because I wanted to see Mo one more time. Every time I hear “Enter Sandman” I get pumped because it’s Mariano time. It has become a Pavlovian for me. Hear the song and know I’m going to witness something special. The Yanks put some guys on in the 8th and I was pretty sure I didn’t want them to score. The 9th was Mo, but it wasn’t typical. The last 2 outs were a 9-5-6 FC (because Abreu dropped a ball) and a CS. Got the close win anyway.