MY AMAZING CAREER: THE UNNATURAL – Garry Armstrong

I’ve written numerous pieces about my love of baseball. I’ve shared memories of the teams I’ve followed as a diehard fan.

From the Brooklyn’s Boys of Summer in the ’40s and ’50s to Casey’s inept, Amazin’ Mets in the early ’60s.

1969 The Amazing Mets!

To the sons of Teddy Ballgame who, in 2004, broke generations of hearts before smashing the curse of the Bambino and 87 years of futility. I’ve told you about meeting many baseball legends including Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Ted Williams.

Our kitchen wall includes tributes to my personal baseball hero, Edwin Donald “Duke” Snider. I met “The Duke” back when he played briefly with the Mets. It was one of the most memorable days of my life.

2004 Red Sox Series Win

Like many New York youngsters of a certain era, I was in the middle of the argument about who was the best center fielder — Willie, Mickey, or The Duke.  We were blessed by having three major league teams in Gotham back in those days. On any given day or night you could listen to Hall of Fame voices like Vin Scully, Mel Allen, Red Barber, or Russ Hodges describing the fortunes of the Dodgers, Giants, and Yankees.

On the streets of Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens – and, later, Long Island, ragtag teams of boys — identified by their block — played softball, stickball and, if lucky, baseball.  The games began after school and continued, in my case, until the familiar chorus of “Garry, your mother is callin’ you. You gotta go home —now!”

Duke Snider

Sulking, I’d drop the bat, pick up my glove and slowly, slowly walk home. I never heard the guys laughing as I left. In retrospect, I guess they were always laughing as I left the games.

Why?

I was “that kid.”

The last one picked to play on the street team. The kid they played in deep right field and prayed no ball was hit to him. I mimicked Duke Snider’s sweet left-handed batting stance. I set up in the batter’s box just like Duke so I could rip the ball to right field.

I never ripped or hit — and rarely made any contact — with the ball. I looked good. I had style.

In the field, I couldn’t catch routine fly balls or cleanly field hits and hold the runner to one base. I still had Duke Snider’s style, though. I jogged, swinging my arms up and down — in Duke’s regal manner. I was sure I had class even if I couldn’t hit or field.

My misfortune continued as a teenager when I played with the church baseball team. The Luther League.

The coaches probably felt compelled to play me because we were one of only three families of color at our church. Not to play me probably would’ve caused unrest as the predominantly German Church was trying to be progressive in the mid-1950s. No one ever said this, but, deep down, I knew

I was something of an albatross.

The Black kid with no athletic ability. I wanted to be good but I wasn’t. I was sure I’d find my niche as I grew older. I also labored under the illusion that I would gain five or six inches of height, miraculously, one night in my teenage dreams of glory.  My Dad stood six feet plus, My two younger brothers already were taller than me. I always really believed I’d gain those inches when I turned 20. It had to happen. I believed.

By the early ’70s, I was a rising TV news reporter in Boston. My celebrity may have been rising but not my height.  My USMC ID card read 5 feet 5 and a half inches. I’d been the shortest kid as a Marine recruit at the Parris Island Training base back in 1959. (That’s another story.)

In the early 1970’s Boston, only a handful of minority TV News Reporters existed. I was “it” on Channel 7.

When it came to the celebrity/media softball games, I could only hope to shed my athletic ineptitude. I think it was assumed — oblivious to my past — that I would be an asset to Channel 7’s team. I looked fast, had that classic Duke Snider swing and had an elegant gait. It didn’t take long for the truth to emerge.

The color of my skin didn’t guarantee athletic prowess.  Still, there was some hype to my appearance on the baseball field on Boston Common. Adding to my dilemma, the minority reporters on the other teams were good players. They had achieved their bonafides. I was the new “phenom.”

It was awful. The first game I played seemed to last an eternity. I was the leadoff hitter. Big mistake.

I did manage a weak single in 3 or 4 at bats. I botched most of the balls hit to me in right field. I blamed it on the glare from the lights.  They believed me and gave me “attaboys”.  The rest of my Boston baseball/softball career was, in the words of Sir Charles Barkley, “terr’ble.”  I remember some of my Channel 7 colleagues shaking their heads when I showed up for games. One of them, a legendary cameraman, used to giggle and laugh “Oh, Geerey … no … no.”

One of my early show-cased appearances on Channel 7 featured me in a Walter Mitty-like series. One of the Mittyish assignments had me working out, in full uniform, with the Boston Red Sox. I believe a young Pudge Fisk was catching as I dug in with my Duke Snider stance. The Towering figure on the mound supposedly tossing easy “BP” stuff to me was former fireballing right-hander, Bob Veale.

Veale was now a Sox pitching coach. I figured he’d take it easy on me. As I leveled my Duke Snider stance, I glanced out to the mound. Big Bob Veale seemed 8 feet tall. He had an evil grin on his face.

Baseball season!

The first pitch was by me and in Fisk’s glove before I could begin my swing. Pudge giggled louder. Veale’s grin grew bigger. Remember, cameras were rolling on me for this ballyhooed TV feature.

I think I ticked the second pitch which only incensed Mr. Bob Veale. He reared back and fired what Dennis Eckersley now calls “Hot, high cheese”  to me. I swung, probably 5 seconds after the ball was caught by Pudge Fisk who was now laughing.

At Fenway

Most of the Sox players were smiling or laughing quietly except for Johnny Pesky who offered me solace. Pesky and I would be friends until he passed away. For some reason, he took a liking to me even though I clearly had no athletic skills.  Class act — Johnny Pesky.

It remained for Teddy Ballgame to put everything in perspective. We were chatting about stuff. I’d hit it off with Ted Williams who rarely bonded with the media. I suspect Mr. Pesky was my liaison.

Johnny Pesky

Williams asked me to show him my swing. I did. He tossed a few pitches to me. I missed all of them. Teddy Ballgame tapped me on the shoulder, smiling, “Garry. You need to see the ball before you hit it or try to hit it.  Forget it, Pal”.

I still have fantasies about being a 70-something “Roy Hobbs.”

SHOW ME THE MONEY! – Garry Armstrong

I’m just back from running an errand. I had the car radio on the local sports radio station, the flagship station for the Boston Red Sox radio network. The regular season starts next week and I’m excited as you would expect of a guy who’s grown up with baseball as a passion.

From my youth in the ’40s and ’50s, following the fortunes of Brooklyn’s Boys of Summer to the early ’60s, tracking the daily misfortunes of Casey’s Amazin’ Mets to the present, hyperventilating over the sons of Teddy Ballgame playing at Fenway Park, the so-called cathedral of baseball.

This is the time of year when we scour pre-season predictions of all the major league teams. We look at stats and projections for all the players.

Politics and other breaking news is set aside to focus on how OUR team will fare. During ancient times, preceding 24/7 online coverage, we studied the magazines that featured baseball experts, looking through their crystal balls, telling us who would be good and who would be lousy. I spent more time on these magazines than on my homework.

Hell, baseball was more important than history, science, geography, math, and science combined.

Cuba Gooding: “Show me the money!”

Ironically, decades later, I’d use my weak math skills to understand crucial baseball stuff, namely contracts. Contracts garner today’s headlines because of the money shelled out to today’s biggest baseball stars.

As I write, Mike Trout is at the top of the world, Ma, agreeing to a multi-year 400-million-dollar contract with the Los Angeles Angels. I wonder if Gene Autry, the original Angels owner, is scratching his head at the big Melody Ranch In The Sky.

Trout’s record-shattering contract tops last week’s record-shattering deal by Bryce Harper with the Philadelphia Phillies. Harper’s “It’s not about the money — I love baseball” proclamation covers the multi-year 300 million dollar bonanza for the former Washington Nats star.

Sports media yakkers and writers have been foaming at their collective mouths over Red Sox star and last year’s A.L MVP, Mookie Betts who stands to be new man atop the world when he hits Free Agency in 2 years. Mookie is staying mum, saying “he just wants to play baseball.” Right.

So, I’m listening to talk radio, expecting a little yak about the dough, then moving onto assessing the upcoming season.

Red Sox Nation wonders about last year’s astounding 119 wins –including regular and postseason momentum, including the World Series championship. That was a once-in-a-generation season. Hard to top. I and many other fans are already worried.

We don’t have a decent bullpen, let alone a postseason-caliber roster of relievers. We bid adieu to ace closer Craig Kimbrel who wanted BIG money as one of baseball’s top closers.  We also bid “vaya con dios” to Joe Kelly, the master curve ball artist who presumably could’ve replaced Kimbrel. Kelly went west for big money with the Dodgers.

I’m listening to the radio gas baggers, waiting for some chat about the Red Sox plans for the bullpen, not to mention how the rest of the team looks. They’ve looked pretty bad in Spring Training even though we know Grapefruit League games don’t matter. They are exercises intended to get the team ready for the regular season. Still, you’d like to see the pitchers evolve from rusty to sharp. You’d like them to at least look ready for the real games coming up in just a few weeks, wouldn’t you?

Bosox pitchers have looked like hamburger helpers in the Grapefruit League. The rest of the team looks very iffy, save a few hitters who’ve been slugging like they’re hitting grapefruit instead of horsehide.

The pennant at Fenway

The Talkers also slide over to politics and whether the Sox should pay the traditional championship visit to the White House this year. A number of players have made it clear Donzo is not their kind of guy and have sent regrets to the Oval Office.

I timed half an hour of money talk — and Donzo’s affability — by the yakkers, and callers who seemed to be off their meds.

This isn’t “Field of Dreams” stuff. It’s an offshoot of Cuba Gooding’s famous line in “Jerry McGuire.” We laughed long and loud when Gooding’s baseball player screamed at Tom Cruise’s agent, “Show me the money!”

We’re not laughing now.

It doesn’t have to be a grand slam when a squeeze play will do – REBLOG – THE SHINBONE STAR

We are serious baseball fans. Garry has actually written a couple of pieces like this, but you need to “get” baseball to understand them. This is a great piece and if you are any kind of sports fan, you should recognize that “the big play” is sexy on TV. A huge homer makes the fans cheer and stomp while the TV crew gets all worked up.

There are a lot of ways to win — and lose. Whacking the ball over the wall is not a game.

A homer is just ONE play. A team needs a basket of strategies to make the game a winner — and a lot of winning games to take the season to a winning finish.

THE SHINBONE STAR

Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, was just sentenced again in federal court.

So let’s talk baseball.

While such a segue is admittedly strained, the all-American game has lessons to teach sensible citizens who hang our heads over a combined seven-and-a-half-year sentence for Manafort that could allow the 69-year-old to still walk out of prison rather than be carried out on a slab.

Baseball today is a different game than the one many of us grew up with. ESPN’s Sports Center highlights helped turn the sport into one big home run derby, which prevented newer fans from ever learning baseball’s nuances. The stolen base, the hit-and-run, the run-scoring double off the wall are all exciting plays that are mostly unappreciated by newer fans who are conditioned to only get excited when the ball is hit over the fence.

It’s a crime, really, and speaking of crime, that brings us back…

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THE CASE OF THE OVERPRICED CABLE PACKAGES – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — The Case of Overpriced Cable Packages

We’ve been overpaying for cable since cable was introduced. We don’t have a choice here. We don’t get any choice except Direct TV or Spectrum (Charter). We can’t use DirectTV because we are surrounded by trees and the signal can’t get through the woods.

The super high-speed stuff you get via telephone cable is unavailable. Not enough people for them to bother to connect and they are expensive too. Meanwhile, as more and more people are cutting cable, Spectrum keeps raising their prices. They provide the cheesiest version of any device we need — for which they charge the highest possible price … and now they’ve raised wi-fi rates, too.

We can’t do without wifi anymore. Too much is attached to the internet, but we had already cut down to the absolute minimum package we could get from Spectrum. I had to renegotiate last week because our “free” HBO wasn’t free anymore and they raised the price of wi-fi by $20 and removed a $10 discount they’d been giving us, which made it now $30 more — just for wi-fi.

We hemmed and hawed and ultimately got it down to what was supposed to be the same as last year’s price, but with an additional $7.50 for HBO.

The bill came in last night.

$154, which was a $25 increase from the last year. $35 was just for renting their junky equipment.

Meanwhile, YouTube — now a subset of Google — is offering a huge selection of channels for $40/month — INCLUDING Major League Baseball as well our local baseball channel. Which means that Garry can actually watch the Red Sox live and still watch every other game being played. It’s got three ESPN channels, Fox Sports, and so much more. It is a sports loaded package, but it has all the networks, TCM, Sundance, and a bunch of other channels I don’t even recognize. We already have Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Acorn from before.

I can add HBO to Netflix if we want it. The problem is that we only watch one show on HBO — John Oliver. Otherwise, we don’t watch HBO at all. Yes, they have movies, but so does everything else and Garry like old movies better. We already have more stuff to watch than we have time to see. So we’ll wait and decide. I love John Oliver. I’m just not sure I want to subscribe to the channel just for that show.

The bill did it for me. I can get everything — much more than Spectrum offers — for $40 a month. It will drop our bill by more than $50/month.

I don’t get it. From a business standpoint, it makes no sense.

All cable companies know people are dumping them right, left, and center. Instead of trying to get competitive, they raise prices. They can’t believe this is good business.

It’s counter-intuitive and it gave me that final push to just give up. I hate changing utilities. I’m trying to keep life simple … but I’m also trying to survive on a fixed income. If they want $154 this year, what will they want next year? $175? $200? It will never stop and by the time they realize that instead of raising prices, they should be lowering them, they won’t have customers.

So Monday, they will come to collect the DVR boxes. By the end of next week, I will have just the telephone and wi-fi. I’m sure somehow they will find a way to raise the prices on those too, but I can’t fix everything.

YouTubeTV is a big package. That it includes MLB and our local NESN channel. This along means substantial savings for us because last year I had to buy MLB and we were blocked from seeing the Sox play live because our cable package didn’t include NESN.

Now we get both. For $40/month.

So that’s it for cable. By next week, it will be all streaming.

The case of the overpriced cable package had to be dealt with. Spectrum didn’t leave me a choice.

BRANDING THE AMERICAN PASTIME – Marilyn Armstrong

In just about a month, baseball’s “spring training” begins for 2019. It’s earlier than usual this year. Garry explained that the Red Sox were playing the Yankees in London, so the season was starting early.

What? They are doing what and where? So, in honor of the upcoming season, a little remembrance of baseball seasons past.


“It’s an exciting afternoon here at Petco,” the announcer says. The Padres are playing the Mets. At Petco Park. The mental image this formed in my head were utterly un-baseball, totally non-sporting. This whole branding thing is out of hand.

I looked up from the computer, wondering if we needed more dog food and biscuits. We’re forever running short.

Petco Park, San Diego,, CA

But next, the announcer points out the pitcher has been, so far, throwing a no-hitter. Never, in Padre history has any pitcher thrown a no-hitter, so this should have been riveting baseball. Except the announcers couldn’t seem to focus on the game and instead, were busy talking all kinds of nonsense while showing clips of everything but the game in progress. Ultimately, I suppose it didn’t matter since the pitcher gave up three hits but still, they might have at least given the kid his time in the sun.

Finally, they pointed out the right-hander “… has a great, boring fastball.”

padre player uniformThis made me wonder if they should be playing any kind of game at Petco, especially if the pitcher’s fastball is boring. I understand they are actually saying something technical about the pitch. Nonetheless, words matter.

Boring has multiple meanings, the most common being dull. So how boring was that fastball? And doesn’t Petco Park sound like a dog park to you?

Someone once told me I was “branding” my photographs by signing them. No, I’m not. I sign my art because I’m proud of it. Branding would be if I sold my blog to Costco, after which this was no longer Serendipity, but Costco Web Thoughts — but I still did the writing and photography while they paid to put their corporate name on my work.

That would be branding.

Garry points out the Padres not only have a crappy team and awful branding — Petco really doesn’t work as a stadium name — but they wear ugly uniforms. From Garry, that is complete condemnation.

Whatever else is wrong with the Red Sox, at least they have not turned Fenway into Burger King Stadium. Or Walmart Watcharama. And, to the best of my knowledge, the pitchers throw highly entertaining fastballs.

ZIPPITTY DOO DAH – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Saturday – ZIP


Garry has a sweatshirt from the 2013 World Series Red Sox victory. It zips up the front.  Last week, it stopped zipping.

I got it to work again, but I think it is on its final legs as a viable zipper. I suggested to Garry that maybe he should wear it open and not zip it. Meanwhile, I improved his mental position in this world by getting him a new 2018 Red Sox World Series Champion sweatshirt — which doesn’t even have a zipper. It’s a pullover.

The good news? The zipper will never wear out.

The bad news? He wears hearing apparatus and eyeglass and he has to remove everything before he puts on the sweatshirt. It looks really good on him and I’d show you a picture, but I forgot to take one. Next time, okay?

Zippers are great until they aren’t and the price you get charged for replacing a zipper often exceeds the price of the clothing in which you are replacing it.

They should use better zippers. Or reinvent zippers so they last longer and zip more smoothly. I mean, really, they are upgrading EVERYTHING else, whether we like it or not. How about fixing zippers?

Also, maybe pave the roads?

AND THE GAME WENT ON AND ON AND ON – Marilyn Armstrong

Adorable Yet Endless


Garry retired to the bedroom after the 10th inning. Not that he was giving up on the game. He just wanted to watch it in bed. I’m more comfortable sitting up, so I stayed in the living room.

Sometime after midnight, the dogs got restless. I was sitting on their bed. Mind you, they have another entire sofa and right now, all three of them are in a coma on it. At night, though, they like to spread out. They give us the evil eye. Mental arrows: ” Pass the late night treats and go to your OWN beds!” Woof.

Game three of the World Series. A pitcher’s battle. It’s the ninth inning and the score is Angels – 1 and Red Sox – 0. Everyone has played brilliantly. I’m willing to give this one to the Dodgers, but in the top of the ninth, the Sox got a singleton homer and at the bottom of the inning, the score was 1-1. There are no”ties” in baseball (or for that matter, basketball or football either). Only hockey allows tied games. And in this case, this being the World Series, they were going to play forever if necessary.

They ran out of baseballs twice. Or was it three times? Four times? That actually meant hundreds of balls were all over the park.


“Game 3 was the longest postseason game in MLB history at seven hours, 20 minutes. It surpassed the previous record of six hours, 23 minutes, which was set in Game 2 of the 2014 NLDS between the Giants and Nationals in Washington (San Francisco won that game, 2-1, in 18 innings).

• Game 3 was only the eighth game of any kind (regular season or postseason) since at least 1908 to exceed seven hours in length. The last was on Aug. 24, 2013, between the Phillies and D-backs, which lasted seven hours, six minutes (Arizona won, 12-7, in 18 innings).

• In terms of longest World Series games, Game 3 eclipsed Game 3 of the 2005 World Series in total length — that game between the White Sox and Astros was five hours, 41 minutes, ending in a 7-5 Chicago victory in 14 innings at Minute Maid Park. The White Sox went on to sweep the Astros for their first World Series title in 88 years.

Friday’s Game 3 between the Red Sox and Dodgers also set a new record for longest World Series game in terms of innings, at 18. The aforementioned Game 3 in 2005, as well as Game 1 in 2015 (Royals 5, Mets 4) and Game 2 in 1916 between the same two franchises that are playing in this year’s Fall Classic (Dodgers 2, Red Sox 1) held the previous mark at 14 innings.

• To put the time it took to play Game 3 in perspective, consider this note from STATS: The entire 1939 World Series finished in less time, wrapping up in a tidy seven hours, five minutes. The Yankees swept the Reds in that one, with none of the four games lasting longer than two hours, four minutes.”

2018 World Series Game 3 Statistics – MLB NEWS


We started watching around 8:30 in the evening. At three in the morning, I came out of the bathroom and the game was still tied at 2 to 2. I asked Garry what would happen if the game went on so long it bumped into the next day’s game?

“Interesting question,” he said. I had a mental image of the game that never ended. Thousands of baseballs later, the exhausted teams, no longer able to throw, run, or bat would just lay in their places on the field and sleep on the grass.

BOSTON, MA – October 24: Boston Red Sox’s Andrew Benintendi catches a fly ball hit by Los Angeles Dodgers’ Brian Dozier during the fifth inning of Game Two of Major League baseball’s World Series at Fenway Park on October 24, 2018, in Boston, Massachusetts. (Staff photo by Christopher Evans)

Regardless, both teams used everybody. Every player, every pitcher. Everyone looked tired and beat up. How will they play today? No one can run. They will all limp from base to base.

It was an adorable game in a baseball kind of way. When somewhere around the 14th or 15th inning, Cora used his last batter — which meant there was no one else he could use who was actually a batter — you had to figure something was bound to happen.

I was coming back out of the bathroom (again) during which time the Dodgers had hit a homer.

The game was over. Finally. Garry flipped off the light and I murmured “I thought it would never end!” By then, I didn’t care who won. I was just glad it was finished. I’m sure the players, announcers, even the crew agreed.