Results tagged ‘ Ken Burns ’

Vampires Eliminate Twins

It is 6-1 Yankees, one out in the top of the eighth, the bases are loaded and Kerry Wood has just left the mound to deafening silence. 

The Twins are 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position to this point, and Delmon Young with the eighth most RBI in the game this year on deck. 
Lefty specialist Boone Logan is in, and he’s tough, but then again he has yet to spend a full season in the major leagues.
And you are Jason Kubel.
What is the one thing you do not want to do in this last-chance situation for your Minnesota Twins? Swing on the first pitch.

Kubel popped up the only pitch Boone would need to throw all night. Young would follow him with just slightly more patience against David Robertson and pop up the third pitch and the Twins would be swept in a series in which, in seemingly just a blink of the eye ago, they were beating CC Sabathia in the opener.
There is nothing to suggest that more patience would have necessarily resulted in the five runs the Twins needed to tie, and Ron Gardenhire insisted afterward that both Kubel and Young got the pitches they wanted and just screwed them up. But that final gurgle of an eighth inning was emblematic of a team that just does not rise to the occasion and despite repeated exposure, does not understand the equation: the Yankees are the Vampires of baseball. If you have them down, and you do not succeed in putting the stake through their hearts, you will wind up with nothing left but a choice of your fave: Jacob or Edward.
In Game One in Minnesota on Wednesday, Ron Gardenhire managed as if it was Opening Day of the regular season. He is, incredibly, up 3-0 on Sabathia, but instead of managing as if he had Vampires to kill and pulling his starter Francisco Liriano at the moment he began to go south in the 6th, he waits and waits and waits. If he’d waited any longer to go get Liriano, an usher would have asked to see his ticket (inexplicably, before the game, ownership described a contract extension for the lovable Gardy “a no-brainer” – sometimes that means something different than the speaker thinks it does).
Note to Mr. Gardenhire, note to Mr. Washington or Mr. Maddon, note (perhaps) to National League managers (and note to morons like me who picked against them): The Yankees are not the most talented team in the American League, not even the most talented team in their own division. But they are the most Undead.
Sticking with your bleeding starters, and swinging at their first pitches, is not going to cut it against Vampires.
Now some snapshots of a less serious nature:
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To the left, the Twins’ immortal and should-be-Hall of Famer Tony Oliva, in uniform before the game. It struck me that almost nobody on the field would have known that Oliva was one of the reasons for the institution of the DH in 1973. Apart from the guesses at how it would affect A.L. offense, the main argument was that it could extend the careers of stars who could no longer acquit themselves in the field; people like Oliva, Cepeda, Killebrew, Kaline. To the right, one of the game’s class acts and a survivor of Olbermann interviews since 1995 or so – and another should-be-Hall of Famer, the current Twins’ DH, the great Jim Thome.
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Tonight’s seating line-up with me: my friends Ken Burns, whose work you know, and at the right, Jon Klein, formerly president of CNN and prior to that CBS News.
I tweeted this photo and was advised by a respondent that I was an elitist. Two points: the Yankees are 14-and-1 when I used the seats this year. More importantly: nearly all of the other 67 games so far, the tickets have gone to Make-A-Wish.
And to close, there are jokes to be made here but I’m not exactly sure what they are. But… cobwebs? Spiderwebs? In the screen behind the plate at Yankee Stadium? Should they save them until Halloween?
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Some Yankees/Red Sox, With Pictures

I am told that the meeting Saturday night in which Joe Girardi “decided” to start Phil Hughes against the Red Sox Sunday night, was not limited to uniformed personnel and General Manager Brian Cashman. At least one other person was involved, couldn’t confirm who it was. The reversal proved invaluable as Hughes offered his cleanest outing in weeks and he may have staunched the Yankee bleeding for the moment.

The question remains what and who the Yankees can rely on in the post-season. Anything past CC Sabathia is a guess; it would seem it would be wise to try to give Hughes a rest until the playoffs begin, and pin second-starter hopes on him, and then see what Andy Pettitte and A.J. Burnett and even Ivan Nova might give you.

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Lost in the Yankees’ walk-off (literally) victory; this was the Stadium farewell for Mike Lowell, drafted originally by New York so long ago that Buck Showalter was still the Yankee Manager (Round 20, 1995, they sent him to Oneonta of the NY-Penn League where he hit exactly one homer in 313 plate appearances). Lowell would get fifteen Yankee at bats in 1998 before going in a foolish trade to Florida for pitcher Ed Yarnall and two others. 
One of my favorite memories of the game is an afternoon in Fort Myers in 2009 when I spent the first four innings of a Boston exhibition game on the bench between Lowell and Wakefield (at that point they had 29 years of big league experience between them). Of course we talked everything but baseball. Lowell remains one of the game’s classiest acts, and when I told him the game just wouldn’t be the same without him, he reassured us “I’ll be around.” He could succeed in anything from coaching, to ownership, to announcing. 
Two other photos are offered. On the right, that’s a tv viewer of mine, the rookie Red Sox first baseman Lars Anderson. In the shot at the left is SNL’s Jason Sudeikis, further down the front row in seats belonging to Lorne Michaels. Having dropped enough names I’ll leave you with this most bizarre of stats: I got to see 16 Yankee games from the seats this season and the home team won fifteen of them.
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See you Tuesday and Wednesday as Ken Burns premieres his PBS Baseball documentary follow-up, “The Tenth Inning.”

A Little More On George

The most surprising part of my interview with Joe Torre tonight was his revelation – which he had first mentioned at his late afternoon news conference at Dodger Stadium – that he spoke to George Steinbrenner on July 4th to wish him a happy birthday. They had, evidently, a fairly long conversation, and that fact underscores a quality about Steinbrenner’s penultimate illness which lent it the makings of something akin to a Greek Tragedy.

Unlike most mental impairment diseases, whatever afflicted Steinbrenner from around the time he fainted at Otto Graham’s 2003 funeral, was utterly intermittent. He could be lucid and fiery at one moment, and almost incapacitated the next, and then back again. In Spring Training of 2009, as an example, I sat with David Cone during a Yankees’ exhibition game at the park in Tampa that had just been renamed in Steinbrenner’s honor. As we left the press box we found our exit path blocked, because Mr. Steinbrenner was leaving, by wheelchair. When Cone spied him, he sighed, and said “I have to try to say hello to him; he hasn’t recognized me the last few times.” 
The next thing I heard was “Of course I recognize you, David. Jesus! Could we have used you pitching out there today! The way they knocked our kids around. You look like you’re still in shape, will you pitch tomorrow? Good to see you!” And then, “Hey, Keith, good to see you too!” A month later I saw them carrying him, prostrate and blank-eyed, in and out of golf carts and elevators, for the opening of the new Yankee Stadium.
Back to Torre. He was fearless about suggesting the sad truth of Steinbrenner’s life: that he was never satisfied, and ultimately may not have been happy. Clearly there were moments of joy, but as Joe observed at his news conference, and as Ken Burns repeated on the show, even the triumphs were followed with the almost obsessive attempt to continue, or repeat, or exceed, usually beginning the moment the champagne stains had dried in the locker room.
Still, of course, the memories come flooding back. I recounted tonight how, during the near-riot in the infamous Phantom Tag Game in the American League Championship Series of 1999, our Fox game producers ordered me as field reporter onto the field and in front of our third base camera, and Fenway Park security just as quickly ordered me off the field and into the box: “You sit in that seat there, or I’ll eject you from the yahd.” I sat down, adrenalin pumping, and heard a voice to my left. “Hi Keith! Some night!” It was Steinbrenner. They had put me in – of all places – his box. He agreed to do an interview with me at game’s end (“if we live”) but warned me he wouldn’t say anything interesting. I asked him only one question and all he said was that Boston manager Jimy Williams had “incited the crowd” and thus made himself the story.
One more favorite encounter, one George never knew about. I was 22 and working as part of my future ESPN co-conspirator Charley Steiner’s three-man sports staff at the RKO Radio Network (Charley was the boss, I was the weekend sportscaster, and John “Chief” Martin – now ESPN’s crack radio honcho for MLB and NBA broadcasts, was the producer). The dreadful, dismal 1981 baseball strike was in its umpteenth day and news was drying up. Suddenly a story broke that a bunch of owners had reached a similar stage of hatred of the impasse and had decided to try to talk Commissioner Bowie Kuhn into a palace coup against the hardline owners who had forced the walkout. Nobody was even sure exactly who the owners were. All we knew was that the insurrectionaries were going to meet with Kuhn.
All Charley knew was that he wanted to be there and scoop everybody in the process. He called John and me in, to work the phones from late morning until we could tell him when and where the meeting was scheduled. Nothing worked. We called everybody we knew, and a lot of people we didn’t, and at one point I actually suggested to John that we might as well just start dialing any ten digit combinations at random and asking whoever answered if they knew anything about the meeting. 
Around 10 PM, I gave up and walked home from Times Square to my tiny apartment at 55th Street and 2nd Avenue. Since I had spent the day making these pointless calls, I hadn’t eaten, and thus my ramble took me just slightly off my normal route. I wound up at a pizza parlor on the Northwest corner of 55th and 3rd, instead of my usual Southeast corner. Thus, pizza box in hand, and my RKO Radio Network and Motorcycle Gang Black Vinyl Jacket on my back, I crossed the intersection onto the Northeast side, right past the venerable New York bar, P.J. Clarke’s.
Suddenly the side door to Clarke’s opened and out bounded who else but George Steinbrenner, headed to a limo parked on 55th. I was too far away and too generic in his estimation to get to him to ask him if he knew anything about the Kuhn meeting, and was silently damning both my luck and anonymity. Suddenly he wheeled around and yelled back to the still-open door. “Hey, Eddie!” A balding figure peeked out from the light of the doorway. It was Edward Bennett Williams, the famed attorney and then-owner of the Baltimore Orioles. “Eddie! When the hell are you and I and Chiles having that meeting with Bowie tomorrow?”
I slammed myself against the wall of Clarke’s so neither of them would see me, nor the big red words “RADIO NETWORK” on the back of my jacket. Williams answered calmly. “Bowie’s apartment, George, 10:30.” He even gave the address. Steinbrenner merrily waved good night and jumped into the limo. I ran to my apartment building, balancing the pizza box as I did, and phoned John at the office.
“The meeting is at Bowie Kuhn’s apartment,” I began, with fake calm. “10:30 tomorrow morning. I know Steinbrenner will be there, and Edward Bennett Williams, and Eddie Chiles from Texas.” John, who to my knowledge has not otherwise been both silent and awake since some time in the late 1950’s, was dumbfounded. Mixed with a series of original and appreciative expletives, he asked me how I could have possibly found out.
“Oh,” I replied with an air of sophistication I’m sure I didn’t come close to carrying off. “I ran into Steinbrenner at Clarke’s.”

Quick Plug

I dont generally do this, but if you want to pop over from the All-Star Game, Ill be joined by Joe Torre and Ken Burns to recall and reflect upon the life and death of George Steinbrenner – the two segments will begin about 40 minutes past the hour on Countdown.

The Ken Burns Cat Out Of The PBS Bag

PBS has officially announced details of Ken Burns’ update to his 1994 PBS “Baseball” documentary, including the (cough) interesting (ahem) line-up (cut to the second paragraph) of interviewees:

Ken Burns’ “The Tenth Inning,” the follow-up to his nine-part 1994 “Baseball” documentary, finally will air on PBS Sept. 28-29, the final weekend of the regular season for Major League Baseball.

Roger Angell, John Thorn, George Will, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Bob Costas return for “Tenth,” and are joined by new interviewees Keith Olbermann, Joe Torre, Pedro Martinez and Ichiro Suzuki.

If you have a long memory, you may recall that Ken and I did not see eye-to-eye on the original series, which was to me a great sadness because I had so enjoyed his “The Civil War” (I watch it at least annually, usually twice a year). I had no desire to make any public criticism of it but was kind of asked to by ESPN when USA Today came asking the network for one of it’s baseball historians to address the series.
Happily, that is a long time ago and Ken and I have since become good friends. He’s been a guest on tv with me several times and did me the honor of letting me see a rough cut of the “Tenth Inning” supplement. It’s exceptional, retains his distinctive style and pace despite the greater availability of video, it’s historically perfect, and as always with his series (Shelby Foote in “The Civil War,” the late Buck O’Neil in the original “Baseball,” and all of the principals in his epic of WWII, “The War”), it will make stars out of some of the interviewees. For my money, ESPN’s Howard Bryant might be the breakout guy of the new production. My MSNBC colleague Mike Barnicle is terrific too. The most fascinating thing for the fan: Pedro Martinez at his reflective best, candid and moving, and a few memorable clips from the first sit-down interview I’ve ever seen with Ichiro. It’s in Japanese, it’s worth it, and he’s thoughtful, proud, and funny.
Me? I’ll do but it was a bad hair day.
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