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Monday, October 28, 2013
This commentary was to be about baseball, but with my Los Angeles Dodgers losing the National League playoffs in embarrassing fashion, I may have to go to my backup subject: the $15 hamburger.
I suppose I should feel some consolation with our own Salem Red Sox winning the Carolina League and their parent club, the Boston Red Sox, winning the American League Championship and earning the right to face the National League Champion St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.
But I have always bled Dodger blue.
My early addiction to baseball was fueled by the resonant golden voice of Vin Scully, ever present in all of Los Angeles whenever the Dodgers would play.
Fortunately, for you, there is not enough space here to list all the iconic calls made by Scully, but here is one I can recite from memory: “There’s a high bouncer over the mound, over second base, Mantilla’s up with it, throws low and wild . . . Hodges scores we go to Chicago!”
Baseball was perfect for a nerd like me. My early math was learned by calculating batting averages, all kept neatly in a notebook. I was probably the only kid in the world who idolized Alan Roth, the Dodger statistician. I even wrote him a letter asking him for some statistic compilation tips but, disappointingly, did not get a response. Statisticians are not accustomed to having groupies.
I also idolized Sandy Koufax. I saw him play many times, electrified by every pitch he threw. I watched the great infield of Garvey, Lopes, Russell and Cey turn every ground ball into routine outs. In the 1980s, my wife worked for a company with ties to the Dodgers. We were the recipients of several perks, including seats at the 1981 World Series game in which the New York Yankee relief pitcher, Goose Gossage, beaned Ron Cey. Ouch!
I lost interest in the Dodgers when the new, strictly business-oriented, owners traded the great catcher, Mike Piazza, to another team.
It upset me so much I moved far away from Los Angeles to the Eastern time zone. Well, that is somewhat of an exaggeration, as a career move was the main cause for my departure. Nevertheless, my blue Dodger blood stayed cryogenically cooled for many years.
Then, last year, an investment group involving Los Angeles Laker basketball legend Magic Johnson became the new owner of the Dodgers. Johnson’s stated objective: return the team to its former championship prominence. I immediately subscribed to mlbtv.com so I could watch my Dodgers again from anywhere at any time. Incredibly, when I tuned in for my first game, there it was, still: Vin Scully’s voice resonating from my computer, colorfully describing the action. I wonder if when I am 85 years old I will still be making Power Point presentations on the wonders of monolithic microwave circuits.
This year, the Dodgers had an all-star lineup, suggesting an upcoming season of championship potential. They faltered for the first few months, but I knew they would come back, and they did, in a big way. At one point, they won 42 out of 50 games, helped in large part by rookie sensation Yasiel Puig. Unfortunately, late in the year, Puig’s star lost much of its luster as competing teams exploited several chinks in the armor, his psyche perhaps being his most visible vulnerability. I am guessing in several years baseball fans will be wondering about whatever happened to that Cuban defector who came and went with the Dodgers.
On Sept. 29, an essay in The New York Times by Jonathan Mahler riled me for suggesting football, not baseball, is now the “national pastime.” But this is a strictly New York-being-the-center-of-the-world viewpoint. I bet his opinion would have been different had the Yankees or Mets been in contention this year. I agree with Scully when he famously said, “Football is to baseball as blackjack is to bridge.”
So, I will just have to root for the Red Sox in this year’s World Series, if only for their local affiliation. But, come next spring, I will be listening to Vin Scully once again bring my Dodgers back to life for me, making the disappointment of 2013 a distant memory.
In the meantime, have any of you noticed that many restaurants are now charging $15 for a hamburger, unless Kobe is part of their description, when the price becomes $20?
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