Tag:Sammy Sosa
Posted on: September 28, 2010 1:29 am
 

Ken Burns at the top of his game

Given documentary filmmaker Ken Burns' talent for storytelling, were he to draw them up, each baseball season would ebb and flow in perfect cadence, with six divisional races each thundering toward its own unique and dramatic climax right up until the final day of the season.

Being that the game has a mind of its own and refuses to be tamed, we're left to settle for Burns' forays into documenting it for PBS.

Given his latest work -- The Tenth Inning, to be shown on your local PBS television station in two parts on Tuesday and Wednesday -- it's a pretty darned good trade-off.

Picking up where he left off in Baseball, which, with some 43 million viewers, was the most-watched series in PBS history, Burns and his co-producer (and co-director) Lynn Novick hit all the right notes in The Tenth Inning. From the dramatic opening showing a young Barry Bonds with an ominous hint of what's to come, Burns and Novick reel you in quickly and keep things moving at a nice, crisp pace that Greg Maddux would appreciate.

Particularly good is their treatment of the 1994-1995 players' strike and the resulting break in trust with the fans, the examination of the Latin American and Asian influx into the game (there's some great, if brief, Roberto Clemente footage, and some good stuff on Ichiro Suzuki) and the treatment of the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa home run chase in 1998.

You can't help but be moved by the excellent chapter on 9/11 and baseball in its aftermath. And as the documentary moves beyond that into Bonds chasing the single-season and all-time home run records, his gargantuan size is maybe even more striking in hindsight than it was at the time. From there, the handling of the game's steroids scandal is skillful.

Among the interviews woven throughout, those with Joe Torre and Pedro Martinez are especially good. So, too, are those from MSNBC's Keith Olbermann -- who tells a wonderful story of meeting a New York cop on the street on the day baseball resumed following 9/11 -- and Sacramento Bee columnist Marcos Breton.

There are so many small, perfect touches throughout that I won't get into all of them. But a couple of small examples -- and those of you who regularly read this space on the Internet know how I relate to all things music -- are from the soundtrack: As Burns and Co. are covering the Braves winning the World Series in '95, Georgia's Allman Brothers are playing in the background. And behind a segment on the Cleveland Indians of the '90s is music from Ohio-native Chrissie Hynde.

There are so many more examples like that, big and small. The Tenth Inning is beautifully done and, if you love baseball (or even are just OK with baseball but love American history), it's worth scheduling a couple of hours Tuesday night and a couple more Wednesday night to make sure you see this.

And if you can't, it's definitely worth DVRing for a look when you get a free night or two.

Believe me, you'll be thrilled that you did.

Likes: The 50th anniversary Monday of Ted Williams blasting a home run in his final at-bat before retiring, perhaps the most memorable final act in any Hall of Fame career -- and certainly the only one to be the subject of such beautiful prose as John Updike's Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu, the author's famous essay for the New Yorker. In commemoration of the 50th anniversary, the Library of America is presenting a cool little book reprinting Updike's original essay, plus an autobiographical preface and a terrific new afterward prepared by the author just months before his death. This is the essay in which Updike begins "Fenway Park in Boston is a lyric little bandbox of a place. ..." and, after describing Williams running around the bases with his head down and refusing to tip his cap to the crowd -- curtain calls wouldn't become customary until years later -- includes this sublime bit of writing: "... But immortality is nontransferable. The papers said that the other players, and even the umpires on the field, begged him to come out and acknowledge us in some way, but he refused. Gods do not answer letters." If you're interested in the book, you can find more details (including ordering information) here.

Dislikes: Really hate to see Atlanta's Martin Prado go down with what surely looked like an oblique injury in Monday's game against Florida. This week's battle for two playoff spots involving the Braves, San Diego and San Francisco is going to be riveting, and you really don't want to see teams depleted. Atlanta already lost Chipper Jones weeks ago. ... Meantime, will injuries to Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria (quad) and Minnesota's J.J. Hardy (ankle) this week turn into significant issues for October?

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Pretty girls from the smallest towns
"Get remembered like storms and droughts
"That old men talk about for years to come"

-- Drive-By Truckers, Birthday Boy

Posted on: June 16, 2009 11:45 pm
 

Cork wasn't alone in Sosa's 2003 diet

So Sammy Sosa tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003, according to the latest leak from Billboard's Hot 104 -- the anonymous list of players testing positive for PEDs during '03 that, in February, turned up Alex Rodriguez.

So maybe he was simply using the PED's "for batting practice -- just to put on a show for the fans. ... I like to make people happy and I do that in batting practice."

No, wait. That was what Sammy said in June, '03, after being caught using a corked bat during a Cubs-Tampa Bay game in what has turned out to be one of the most memorable moments Interleague Play has given us.

As years go, 2003 seems to be a particularly bad (and guilty) one for the man whose 66 home runs in 1998 never looked so small.

No telling what else will be uncovered about Sammy's Summer of '03. But I hope I'm on some deserted island when it happens, because the garbage just keeps rolling in with the tide where I'm at now.

Say it ain't So(sa)!

Truthfully, this falls into the "dog bites man" category of surprises. The summer of 1998 now looks like a failed romance with a girl so far out of your league that you feel stupid every time you look back. Mark McGwire doesn't want to talk about the past. And Sammy Sosa, with Monday's New York Times report, now is doomed by it.

Just another day at the ballpark.

A-Rod, Sosa ... drip, drip, drip.

Only 102 names left to be leaked.

 

Posted on: June 9, 2008 11:27 pm
 

Griffey's 600th means even more today

Think about this for a minute:

It took Ken Griffey Jr. a total of 1,722 at-bats to move from career homer No. 500 to career homer 600, which he slugged on Monday night in Florida.

It took Barry Bonds only 710 at-bats to cover the same distance from 500 to 600.

Each man hit No. 600 when he was 38.

Think there was a level playing field?

Granted, Griffey has had his share of injuries, which is why nearly four years elapsed between No. 500, struck on June 20, 2004, and 600. He missed the second half of the 2004 season with a torn hamstring, and he missed nearly a month of the 2006 season with a strained knee.

It took Bonds barely more than one year to move from 500 to 600 -- from April 17, 2001, to Aug. 9, 2002.

The years can be skewed. Say one player stays healthy and the other is injury-plagued -- well, of course it will take longer for the player battling the disabled list.

But at-bats are a pretty good barometer.

I knew Bonds moved along at a breakneck clip in the early 2000s. But when I contacted home run guru David Vincent, who tracks homers for the Society for American Baseball Research and is the country's premier expert on the subject, even I was stunned.

The fact that it took Griffey roughly 1,000 more at-bats than Bonds to move from 500 to 600 is staggering. Even suspecting what most of us suspect about Bonds and the Steroid Era.

A junkie (home runs, not human growth hormone) could spend hours poring over Vincent's fascinating spreadsheets.

A handful of other relative home run numbers gleaned from Vincent's numbers:

Of the six members of the 600-homer club, nobody was even remotely as quick as Bonds in moving from No. 500 to 600. It took Babe Ruth 1,120 at-bats to do so, Sammy Sosa 1,605, Hank Aaron 1,402 and Willie Mays 1,981.

Time-wise, it took Ruth barely more than two years (Aug. 11, 1929, to Aug. 21, 1931) to go from 500 to 600, Aaron a little less than three years (July 14, 1968, to April 27, 1971), Mays nearly four years on the nose (Sept. 13, 1965, to Sept. 22, 1969) and Sosa a little more than four years (April 4, 2003, to June 20, 2007).

Of course, Sosa was out of the game in 2006 -- partly for reasons beyond suspicious -- else he would have gotten there more quickly.

Bonds finished -- if he is indeed finished -- with 762 home runs in 9,847 at-bats.

Griffey currently is at 600 in 9,045 at-bats. And had he not lost an estimated 450 games to the disabled list from the time he arrived in Cincinnati in 2000 through 2005, his number today undoubtedly would be far higher than 600.

Probably not as high as 762.

But at least Griffey almost certainly can look himself in the mirror today and know he is the first clean guy to join the 600 club since Aaron in 1971.

In a statistics-driven game that is still wiping the steroids muck off of the record book, some things are more important than the raw numbers.

 
 
 
 
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