The Fates Drive Me To A Yardsale August 27, 2016Posted by Jim Berkin in Art, Baseball, Books.
Tags: Brunelleschi, Florence, Ghiberti
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The only reason I saw the neon green sign pointing towards a local sale was because I took a right turn and not a left, since a car was heading towards me and I didn’t feel like stopping and waiting. I figured I’d take the equidistant alternate route to get to my first errand stop, Home Depot.
That’s right… Home Depot, on a Saturday. All part of being the manly man I am.
Anyway, I saw the sign and figured why-the-hell-not, and drove the extra block to where I saw a driveway lined with assorted chazerei.
And then the actions of the fates became more clear.
I looked through the sole box of books sitting in the driveway and found a couple of big illustrated kid books about boats & sailing I earmarked for my nephew. I noticed the ENTIRE box of books centered around boating, the sea, or Captain Horatio Hornblower.
I asked the price, and the guy told me he had more books they were planning to sell next week, and he let me take a look. Turns out it was all his father-in-law’s stuff and they were selling it all off.
More books on the sea and boating. A box of Louis L’Amour novels.
But then a box of hardcover anthologies of old comics – Li’l Abner, Dick Tracy, Superman, etc. I chatted with the guy and told him he ought to look some of them up to see if they worth more than a couple of bucks. Then I found what looked like one of the old Collier series of Hemingway from the late 30s or whatever, as well as some old book of Civil War Songs published in 1889.
Nope, did NOT buy them for 25 cents a pop & flip them for thousands on ebay, I told the guy he ought to look up what they’re actually worth, and THAT little bit of charm got me some major discounting on the sailing books and two books on Renaissance Architecture I’m looking forward to, Brunellschi’s Dome and The Feud That Sparked The Renaissance, about Brunelleschi’s rivalry with Ghiberti. I loved visiting Florence some years ago. Maybe these two volumes will take me back there for a while, for fifty cents a pop.
And then, as my conversation with the guy went from Florence to art to history to where I’m from, we somehow found ourselves in baseball, and I got the entire biography of the yardsaler, who turned out to be a former pro baseball player who got bottled up in the Orioles organization of the early ’70s since they were overloaded with pitchers already. He had the bad luck to land in the farm system of a team with FOUR twenty game winners on their starting staff. Oy!
He recounted some stories from his minor league days, his later coaching days and so forth, but what stuck with me turned out to be something I’d almost expect from any former pro athlete.
He could recite all of his stats from more than 40 years ago.
His walk to strikeout ratio, his innings pitched, the then-future major leaguers he defeated in Class A and Class AA games in 1972, what the score was each time, you name it. I’m sure he could have told me the pitch sequence to every batter he faced if I’d asked.
We talked a bit about how the game had changed, especially for pitchers. He told me how be blew out his rotator cuff and back before they figured out how to fix Tommy John and how it basically ended his baseball career. It was an entertaining chat with another guy who misses playing actual hardball a lot more than I do, which is saying something.
And then Home Depot beckoned. The new a/c unit at Castle Wagstaff takes a different filter size than its predecessor. It will provide respite from the triple digit temps outside while I read my books on Florence and drink wine, perhaps. Maybe then I won’t miss playing baseball as much.
Random Thoughts On My Sports Betting Bibliography August 26, 2016Posted by Jim Berkin in Baseball, Football, Horse Racing.
Tags: Gambling, Sports Betting
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So one day while killing time between a dentist appointment and an eye doctor appointment, I wandered the nearby neighborhood and wound up in one of what’s probably one of the few used bookstores left in LA in the age of the internet. As much as finding specific old rare stuff online is easier, browsing through smelly old stacks of long-abandoned tomes always turns up stuff I’d NEVER heard of or would have even thought of. Web surfing doesn’t quite produce the same effect.
I rolled the reach-to-the-top-shelf store ladder over to explore the top shelf of old dusty sports books, and came across a pristine copy of Sports Betting by Jim Jasper, dated 1979. A quick skim of the thing fascinated me – not so much for the advice and system offered, but in that the 1979 world I’d stepped into involved a book suggesting I base my betting systems on the lines of BASIC he offered up for me to punch into my TRS-80 to determine whether or not Ron Guidry and the Yankees would defeat Scott Macgregor and the Orioles.
Turns out Jasper wrote two other books (at least) filled with suggested BASIC coded programs for tracking football & baseball bets throughout the year, as well as following horse tracks. I found them both at the LA Central library. I’m guessing they haven’t been loaned out in quite a while.
As out of date as they all were, Jasper’s basic theories and structures are fairly sound – he number crunches all the data he can to determine league averages in various categories, assigns some weighting in terms of home field and the like, and then bases his betting on how far above or below average particular matchups turn out to be, in both baseball and football.
In other words, a general method easily reproduced using whatever categories of comparative stats are readily available online.
Much of Jasper’s number crunching and data recording, especially when I got to the horse racing portions of the two BASIC books, reminded me of the olden days where handicappers would calculate their own speed figures and track biases. When I used to haunt the sports books in Vegas betting the tracks whenever I was there, I’d see the older guys with their notebooks filled with their own timesheets and speed figures. Old habits die hard, I guess. I have some older horse handicapping books that painstakingly go through how to do it, like Andrew Beyer’s Picking Winners or the more recent (1995) Dave Litfin’s Expert Handicapping, but since relative speed figures are now available in nearly any racing form, there’s not much point (at least to me) in doing my own calculations. And as far as comparing the value of speed figures on Brisnet sheets versus Equifax versys the Beyer speed numbers in the Daily Racing Form… well, if I’m comparing different speed numbers calculated the same way between horses in the same race, I don’t really see what difference it makes. I’m getting comparative ratios, aren’t I?
While I use websites like Statfox to see comparative football, baseball and basketball team stats, spread records and the like, I use Brisnet past performances for horse racing, because like Statfox, they’re available free online if you know where to look.
The best basic edjumacation in reading horse past performances I can recommend would be DRF’s Brad Free’s Handicapping 101, the first book I read on how to go through the racing form. It covered everything in plain language and served as a nice launch point for studying more complex material or systems offered up by others.
My own systems? Well, I’ve been toying with the idea of writing my own book about betting methods, whether in Vegas where I can bet the team sports legally, or back home where I can bet the track in person or online. But I think I’d want to string some sort of Wagstaff story around it. This post served as a way to empty my mind of all the things I’d probably try to work in and get them down in print. Maybe I’ll post more in the future about particular strategeries that work, maybe I’ll try to weave them into some hybrid how-to book down the line.
In the meantime, I wonder if I could dig out my old copy of Microsoft Quickbasic on floppy disc and use it to create a totally foolproof horse picking program….hmmmm…..
Tags: major league, New York Yankees, predictions, Sports
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Here are my fearless predictions for the upcoming baseball season which just kicked off with a Rangers/Astros game this evening. I kept forgetting that the Astros have migrated to the American League after 50+ years in the National. I miss those happenin’ 1970s psychadelic uniforms they wore well into the non-psychadelic ’80s. They’ve got a better look now, but they’re certainly at the bottom end of what’s generally considered to be this year’s possible contenders. The Houston team is a multiyear rebuilding project with a roster of mostly-unknowns and a new manager who is way younger than me. But more power to them all – I’d love to see a team build itself up from within with young players who then become stars together.
Kind of like the Yankees in the early to mid 1990s before they began an amazing run of post-season seasons that, as much as it pains me to say, is now over. My first prediction for 2013 baseball is that the Yankees will NOT be in contention for the first time since 1992 or so. It’s been interesting to watch various prognosticator shows on MLB or ESPN where the boys simply cannot bring themselves to count the Yankees out.
I can, and I’ve been a fan of that team for more than – Good GOD – 40 years.
Look how much talent the Angels had last year, and how despite all of it they could not recover from a horrible April by the end of the season, and sat on the sidelines in October. Now look at the injury-riddled aging Yankees, missing much of the meat of their line-up until mid May, with the Biogenesis shoe ready to drop on A-Rod and a possible money-saving salary-cap ducking contract voiding… the Yankees will struggle to get to .500 by June and will never recover in a hotly competitive AL East where it might only take 90 games to win, but I can’t see them getting there.
I can, however, see Baltimore getting there. Or maybe Tampa Bay. Or everyone’s favorite on paper, Toronto, who will probably do just fine, although I think they have last year’s Marlins and all their expensive signings looming over their shoulders. What I think will happen is that the Orioles will take the division, the Blue Jays will get one of the wild cards, and both the Yankees & Red Sox will battle not to be last.
The AL Central will be more fun because of who I think will be this year’s Cinderella team – The Kansas City Royals. Yeah, the Royals have sucked since the late ’80s, but they’ve put together a solid group of young players who had an amazingly impressive spring, and I think they are poised to be in 2013 what the Orioles were in 2012 and what the Nationals were in 2011 – the team-formerly-known-as-suck that’s clearly on the way up. I don’t think they’ll make the post season, but I think they’ll have wins in the high 80s and fall short of the Tigers, who I can see winning the division unless Justin Verlander breaks his schvantz with Kate Upton. The Royals will get back in the post-season in the next few years if they keep this up, though.
The AL West is an interesting mix – the Angels have a hitting line-up as good as the great slugging teams of all time, but beyond Jered Weaver very little pitching. The Rangers have lost a lot of talent but made some nice replacements and will certainly be competitive. And the A’s have some great pitching. All in all, I’d think the Angels & Rangers will be at the finish line, although I’m not sure which will win the division and which will be the other wild card.
Over in the NL East, it’s easy to pick the Washington Nationals – this time they’ve got more experience, they’ll have more Strasbourg, and they are loaded with good young talent. The Braves will compete as they always so, and fight with the Phillies for the wild card. The Marlins & Mets will fight for the cellar.
NL Central: I still like the Reds, who ought to go further in October this time. I think the Cardinals have run out of last-minute heroics and luck, and the Brewers will be the main challenge to the Reds, with a rejuvenated Pirates team playing spoiler, along the lines of the Royals in the AL. When the dust clears, I think the Reds take it.
NL West: The Dodgers went on a spending spree and put together a very impressive line-up, although they have some weak spots in their pitching staff and are vulnerable to injuries. Still, it’ll be them & their rival Giants fighting it out, and I think both of them will wind up in the post-season, with one winning the division and the other getting the wild card. The Diamondbacks will compete & play spoiler here.
I hope I’m wrong about the Yankees and that everything magically comes together, but I’m too much of a realist. I’m sure Pettite & Rivera will have wonderful farewell seasons. Having Gardner and Joba back ought to be a positive. Jeter ought to come back from his injury decently, but I worry about that after seeing him this spring. Texiera & Hughes remain injury prone and they’ll miss Granderson’s bat. I just don’t see it happening this year, and with most of that team aging, they’d better start beefing up the farm system the way they did in the early ’90s and patiently grow the core of a new Yankee team that could start its run in another 5-6 years or so. But I doubt it – it took nearly 10 years of suck & disappointment & (temporarily) taking the reins from Steinbrenner before the Yankees learned to patiently grow a team, and the successful run they had didn’t reinforce that lesson but probably undid it due to the way affluence breeds complacency. Bummer.
Welcome back, baseball… it’s been a long winter.
(Truly) Random Baseball Card Of The Day: 1989 Fleer Rick Sutcliffe October 13, 2012Posted by Jim Berkin in 1980s, Baseball, Baseball Cards, Books.
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For a moment, I wondered how it got there. Did someone drop it out of their car after visiting some yardsales? Did the wind, or magical cardboard messenger birds or some other mysterious force of nature carry it to that spot after lifting it out of someone’s collection put to the trash curb by mom?
It’s funny how I find interesting things in grocery store parking lots. Some years back, I headed back to my car and discovered a brand new pair of Ray-Bans sitting next to it.
On another occasion, I found a near-mint copy of the paperback photonovel of “The City On The Edge of Forever” from Star Trek after nearly running it over when I pulled into the space.
And yet another time, I found a brand new Ferrari that someone left behind. I hung around for a little while to see if they’d return to get it, but then I gave up, hotwired it, and drove it home. Finders keepers!
Today, the magical forces of fate brought me to Rick Sutcliffe. I guess if I really did believe in synchronicities like my alter-ego in Cut To Wagstaff, I’d have found some sort of significant thing about Sutcliffe in 1989 that would have determined my actions for the rest of the day & I would have found myself on some sort of off-the-wall mysterious adventure. But my life really doesn’t work that way. I put the cheap wine & TJ’s knock-off cereals into my car, drove home, played with the cat, and watched the Yankees tragedy unfold.
Sutcliffe certainly had an up and down career. There’s really no other way to describe a guy who wins the comeback player of the year award TWICE, once in each league, after winning Rookie of the Year and a Cy Young. Sutcliffe has been a mainstay at ESPN for the past several years, as well as MLB network.
I’m still not sure why a 23 year old card, beat up pretty badly, should be waiting for me while I ran some weekend errands. I had even made a small detour to a yardsale earlier – and it was being run by a couple of toy collectors cleaning out their stash. They had some old board games and tons of Barbies and Hot Wheels, all e-bay priced which made it nearly a total waste of time – I was saved by finding this compendium cookbook of chicken recipes for only a dollar.
But no baseball cards. I guess you have to troll Trader Joe’s parking lot for that, although the other day I coughed up serious thrift store bucks (meaning more than singles) to get the 40th Anniversary Topps Baseball Card picture book. Granted, having the actual cards is always better, but the book has been fun to browse through, and I can even see all the ones that got away.
Was This Really THIRTY FOUR YEARS AGO Today??? Oy Vey! October 2, 2012Posted by Jim Berkin in 1970s, Baseball.
Tags: 1978, Boston Red Sox, Bucky Dent, New York Yankees
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It just seems a lot more recent.
Even after the Sox finally got their century-long revenge against the Yankees in 2004.
We’re gonna get a 1 game playoff by design this year, between the wild cards in each league. I’m not crazy about the idea since the entire baseball season is based on winning series of games between teams. It ought to be a 3 game series with a shortened season, perhaps back to 154 games.
Someday they’ll figure it out & get their precious TV revenue, but in the meantime, an entire season for someone will come down to some random moment like Bucky Dent’s unlikely homerun in that October 2, 1978 playoff.
I thought it was great when I watched it live when I was a kid. Now…. I gotta admit, I think it ought to be a 3 game series.
As long as the Yanks win it, of course!
Here’s to October baseball!
Not-So-Random Baseball Card Of The Day: 1978 Ron Guidry September 13, 2012Posted by Jim Berkin in 1970s, Baseball, Baseball Cards.
Tags: New York Yankees
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In witnessing what’s looking more and more like the Great Yankee Collapse of September 2012 (The Mayans predicted it, right?), I keep thinking back to 1978, the great long march comeback from 14 1/2 games behind in July, the Red Sox implosion of August, and the amazing reliability of Ron Guidry that season to go out and win game after game.
Guidry’s career season of 1978 remains phenomenal. 25 wins, 3 losses. A great number of those wins came after Yankee losses. A lot of them ended Yankee losing streaks. He won 13 games in a row before losing one in July.
The guy was virtually unbeatable. I don’t think any pitcher has dominated the league as much since Guidry’s ’78 season, something that evoked the way Bob Gibson totally shut down his opposition in 1968, even forcing a rule change about pitcher’s mound height.
I got to see part of it in person when he 2-hit shutout the Red Sox about this time in ’78, after the Yankees had caught them and moved ahead in the standings. Got to sit a few rows right behind the dugout on the first base line, thanks to my friend’s Providence cop dad gonnections for primo tickets in the middle of a pennant race. The Sox battled back throughout September, forcing the legendary playoff game that led up to that fateful Bucky Dent-enforces-the-bambino’s-curse at-bat. You know the rest.
They never would have been there without Guidry. My favorite player from that late ’70s Yankee team. They gave him the Cy Young, but not the MVP he deserved. Jim Rice got that, sorta like when Scorcese finally won his Oscar but for the wrong movie.
And where is that kind of performance on the 2012 Yankees? Well, it’s either left on base during any number of failed non-rallies inbetween make-or-break home runs, or it’s on what’s been a large revolving door of a disabled list all season, one that’s catching up with them down the homestretch where they’ll be battling the Rays and the (WTF?) Orioles for a playoff berth. And even if they make the post-season, their season-long inability to win games without hitting a ton of homeruns will, I think, be the killer.
There’s no stopper on the mound. No go-to victory guy. Kuroda and Sabathia have both tried as the workhorses, but it’s falling short. I have a strong feeling that my October will be mostly football this year.
Random Baseball Card Of The Day: 1972 Sparky Lyle August 16, 2012Posted by Jim Berkin in 1970s, Baseball, Baseball Cards.
Tags: Red Sox, Yankees
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He’d been traded before the start of the 1972 season to the New York Yankees, in one of the more lopsided trades in modern times. Topps clearly went to press with the first half of the ’72 set before spring training, so Lyle gets a Red Sox card for the ’72 season. The Sox got Danny Cater and eventually Mario Guerrero, and the Yanks got a premier closer who’d be a reliable lights-out from the bullpen a few years down the line, after Steinbrenner bought the team and then bought every player in sight and Lyle became a major star of the pennant winning teams of 1976 & 1977.
He also won the Cy Young in 1977, rare for a reliever. Other than Therman Munson and Roy White, he’s pretty much the only member of the 1972 Yankees to be around for those late ’70s World Series runs.
He slowed down after ’77, and Steinbrenner being Steinbrenner got nervous and overcompensated in ’78 by obtaining both Rich Gossage and Rawly Eastwick as potential closers. Gossage eventually got the job, and Lyle would be traded after the ’78 season to the Texas Rangers for mostly a bunch of journeymen, but included in the package for the Yankees was the then-minor league pitcher Dave Righetti, who’d eventually become the Yankee closer in the mid to late ’80s after a run as a starter. I still remember listening to him via radio broadcast no-hit the Sox on July 4, 1983 at my Sox-fan-friend’s swimming pool. It was the first Yankee no hitter since Don Larsen’s perfect World Series game in 1956.
The ’72 Red Sox are often forgotten in the lore of the lovable-loser-Sox that existed prior to their karmic revenge of 2004. BoSox fans would lament Aaron Boone’s homer in 2003 that sank them, or Bucky Dent’s in ’78, or Bill Buckner’s error in ’86 (although I’d lay the blame squarely on manager John McNamara for blowing the ’86 series with a bunch of really stupid decisions, especially in Game 6), or Game 7 in 1975… but somehow, the 1972 disappointment gets lost in the shuffle.
In addition to the horrible Lyle trade, they also dealt Jim Lonborg & George Scott (and others) to Milwaukee for Tommy Harper & Marty Pattin (among others) and came out on the short end. And then a players’ strike shortened the season by its first week, prompting Commissioner Bowie Kuhn to wipe those games out, leaving an uneven schedule where teams didn’t all play the same number of games. So what happened? The Red Sox lost their division by 1/2 to the Tigers by playing in one less game.
I can still hear my dad’s voice in my head whenever I think about these kinds of things: “Those Red Sox STINK!”
Maybe. But not as much as a birthday cake after Sparky Lyle got through with it. Talk about a weird fetish. As a fan of the game, I miss guys like Lyle who’d be dependable for clubhouse pranksterism, but I don’t think I’d want to be on the same team with a guy who insisted on sneaking into the cubhouse & sitting bare-assed on the birthday cakes prepared for other players, or who one one occasion whipped out his schvantz and ran it down a table of cold cuts. Want more? Read his memoir, The Bronx Zoo.
Maybe THAT’S what the Red Sox needed! It was only 1/2 game, fer Chrissakes!
Random Baseball Card Of The Day: 1973 Wilbur Wood August 5, 2012Posted by Jim Berkin in 1970s, Baseball, Baseball Cards.
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Wilbur Wood was a knuckleball throwing pitching machine who’d regularly lead the league in games started and innings pitched, back in an era when a lot of hard-throwing starters like Nolan Ryan and the like would throw 200 pitches in a game. This was MAN baseball, back in the days before this current era of push-button managing, of “7th inning specialist” relievers and pitch count limits of 100-110, even for workhorse ironmen like CC Sabathia.
We are in an age of WIMPS, PEOPLE!!!!
Wood’s knuckleball gave him the endurance, for certain. Nowadays when a 20 game winning pitcher is more and more of a rarity, Wood managed to win AND lose 20 games in the same season, the last AL pitcher to do so, and after fellow knuckler Phil Niekro went 21-20 in ’79 for the Braves, it’s never happened and will never happen again, most likely.
He’d regularly start more than 40 games a season – 49 in ’73, the year he went 24-20. He pitched 379 innings that year.
Last year, Justin Verlander topped the majors with 251.
Even modern day knucklers like RA Dickey or the recently retired Tim Wakefield fall short of Wood’s sheer production. Wood once started both games of a double header, something I also doubt we’ll ever see again. In a way, he was the last remnant of the way baseball had been played decades earlier, even back to the “smallball” era of the early 1900s. He had a seventeen year career in the majors which is actually short by knuckleballer standards. If his knee hadn’t been shattered by a Ron LeFlore line drive, he may have lasted longer like other knucklers.
Well, at least Ron LeFlore was portrayed by Geordi LaForge once.
Knucklers are unpredictable and usually erratic – when they get into a groove, they are unhittable (the way Dickey has pretty much been all season, although he’s using the knuckler differently than others – he’s mixing speeds with it, managing location, and as one opposing coach put it “he’s PITCHING with the damn thing!” If others learn to do this, we may see an aspect of the game transformed). A lot of knucklers can go through cold spells, however, and wind up throwing easily hit meatballs. Hence, the 24-20 record. They’re fun to watch.
I also think that if any major league team ever tries to break the gender barrier & have a woman player out there in an attempt to sell tickets, that woman will be an American league knuckleball pitcher. She won’t have to bat & upper body strength won’t be a factor. Maybe it’ll be this kid someday.
Or maybe, the way things are going with fewer and fewer innings, lower pitch counts and inning by inning specialist nonsense, we’ll eventually have entire baseball teams made up of Bea Arthur doing musicals as Darth Maude.
I need a beer. Bah.
Random Baseball Card Of The Day: 1978 Lenny Randle July 28, 2012Posted by Jim Berkin in 1970s, Baseball, Baseball Cards.
So what do you think? Is the ball even in the baseman’s glove, or is Lenny at a loss to remember that the safety word is “Tim McCarver?”
And to think I rummaged through a shoebox of ’78 Topps cards looking for the likes of Ron Guidry or Jim Rice or Steve Garvey… and this is the one that leapt out at me.
I always wonder about cards like this – did someone high up the ladder at Topps dislike the guy? Did he give the photographers a bad time? Or did Randle want his card to look like this? With Lenny Randle, that just might be the case.
I remember Randle very well – a journeyman player who often bounced between the minors & majors as he made his way across several teams. He had an interesting personality, to say the least.
He punched out his manager, Frank Lucchesi, and broke his cheek. That got him a big ol’ suspension, but he returned to the game and went to another team.
I’ll always remember him for when Amos Otis bunted down the 3rd base line & Randle got down on all fours and actually blew the slow roller across the foul line. The umpires got together & awarded Otis first base.
Then when a friend of mine was studying abroad in Italy, he wrote to me about the baseball they had there – and by then, 1983, Randle was playing in Italy, the first American player to do so. He clearly outclassed the Italian players and hit .477.
Ah yes, where are they now dep’t – as you may have guessed, Randle runs sports camps for kids. And according to his bio, he’s going for a masters in special ed for physical education.
Good for him! He’s EARNING that sexy pat on the ass after all these years.
Random Baseball Card Of The Day: Frank Taveras (1975) July 23, 2012Posted by Jim Berkin in 1970s, Baseball, Baseball Cards.
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When I opened the lid, this card sat right on top of the various grouped-by-team assortments from the early ’60s to the late ’70s.
Tavares was known mostly as a base stealer, one of the guys along with Lou Brock and Davey Lopes that drove pitchers to distraction in the ’70s era of mostly power hitting. He led the NL with 70 steals one year, but slowed down as the ’70s went on and unfortunately was traded to the then lowly Mets early in ’79, which turned out to be a World Championship year for the Pirates.
But I love his expression on this card – he’s too cool for the room, all right – not just a ballplayer but the kind of man who reads Playboy, I suppose.
In fact, his projection of cool swagger on this card can’t help but remind of this other notable icon of the late 1970s:
Seriously – separated at birth?
Someone tell Les Nessman.
I dug deeper into the shoebox… I’d forgotten all the cards I have since they’ve been boxed up for so long. I also forgot about the phase I went through in the early ’90s when I added to the collection via some yardsale finds.
Anyone want a box of 200 Brady Andersons? Jeesh… what was I thinking?