A DAY TO BELIEVE – WORLD SERIES GAME FOUR – 2017

Today ought to be the fourth game of the World Series. The actuality of this event will depend on the weather in New York and Boston. It is supposed to rain in both cities, so I suppose it’s a matter of exactly how much rain. It will have to be a real deluge before they will call a game of this magnitude … but players get seriously hurt on wet fields, so the possibility is up there.

Assuming the games go forth, those of us who have continued to believe throughout the long season are also pleasantly bemused.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sport- After suffering two crushing defeats at the hands of the defending AL champs, the Yankees send Masahiro Tanaka to the hill to stop the bleeding and help them get back into this series.

Both the Red Sox and the Yankees were two games to nothing when they got to this coast. That’s bad in a five-game playoff series. If you want to be realistic about it, it’s probably fatal and your team is about to be washed out to sea. Again.

Instead, both Sox and Yankees pulled game 3 out of the bag. We won.

Now the standings are two-to-one for both teams. Everyone, including us, had assumed the American League playoff would be the “real” series this year. Houston and Cleveland are powerhouse teams. They’ve got it all — pitching, hitting, fielding. As far as hitting goes, the Sox are wildly out-gunned. If David Price hadn’t come into the game yesterday and shut down Houston, there would be no game today. Ditto for the Yankees.

Ending in a huge 10-3 victory for the Red Sox!

Mind you, we aren’t so deep in the denial and belief bag that we are sure we are going to win the whole thing. In any case, we have to remind ourselves that only one team from each league team will go to the series — and only one will win in the end. Everyone else, no matter how terrific they were all season, goes home and dreams of summers to come.

But this is the time for belief. Maybe it won’t happen but it is nice to have this spark of hope and a little glow of wonderment. There hasn’t been a lot to believe in — or much we could see as wonderful this year — or last year, either.

We need this. Even if it’s just for a game or two.

THE BOYS OF AUTUMN, OCTOBER 2017 – by GARRY ARMSTRONG

THERE’S A LOT OF DENIAL IN BASEBALL … BUT OPTIMISM IS IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT


I am feeling melancholy. Melancholy, angry, frustrated and, as the whip cream atop my cake,  the rheumatism is beating my body like a drum.  I bet many of you feel the same way.

Yesterday, someone complained to Marilyn about the lack of good news. That’s part of my problem. So much bad news everywhere.You can’t escape it!!  People who complain about the lack of good or happy news on TV are too familiar to me. During my working years, strangers would confront me — face to face — and demand I put happy news on TV newscasts. They blamed me for their depression.

“How come you can’t put nice stories on the air, Garry…stories with happy endings?”.  The question dogged me for more than forty years in the biz. Yesterday’s complainant was bummed by the current lack of  happy news.  A network newscast devoted itself entirely to the Las Vegas tragedy.

Hey, how about a funny, quirky, “Charlie Kuralt” type of story? There must be some bizarre stuff out there not counting the White House occupant. Maybe.

Through the years, I’ve always turned to baseball in times of crisis. It’s my life long passion, beginning as a kid in 1940’s Brooklyn. However, I’ve also used baseball as my retreat from reality.  Many folks do the same thing. No prescription medications needed. No weed or booze required to shut out the bad stuff.

This year, baseball has come to the rescue again. Right on time.


It’s the post season!  Let the games begin!

The series that will eventually take one team — maybe our team — to the top of the world, Ma!  A World Series championship!!

It’s already underway.  The Yankees (“The Baby Bombers”) took the wild card and moved on to play the Cleveland Indians after defeating the upstart Minnesota Twins in the American League Wild Card one-game-takes-all, while in the National League, Arizona took the wild card 11 to 8. Tonight, the real play-off games begin for the American League and next up, the National League hits the field.

This current wild card format — a single game and an entire season goes down the drain for the loser — is grossly unfair.  Baseball isn’t a “one game takes all” kind of game. At least they should have a three-game series. As usual, it’s all about the money. TV revenue puts more dinero into the pockets of baseball owners.

Next up are the Division Series first round. In the American League,  the Yankees will play the Cleveland Indians while the Boston Red Sox face the Houston Astros. In the “Senior Circuit”, the Wild Card winner meets the Washington Nationals — while last year’s heroes, the Chicago Cubs, go to La-La land to play the Dodgers.

It’s kind of like the old “64 Thousand Dollar” quiz show except no one knows the answers (excluding the 1919 Chicago “Black” Sox). The league championship series will follow. Best of seven when the two league winners meet for the World Series. Hopefully, baseball’s new champion will be crowned before the snow begins.

The Boys of Summer are now the Boys of Autumn as the temperatures drop. It’s a time that evokes so many memories on my baseball time line through life.  A time line that began when Harry Truman was in the oval office, baseball played 154 regular season games and two (out of 16) teams went directly to the World Series.

Marilyn and I have a friend who’s also a die-hard baseball fan. Sophie or “Soph” as I affectionately call her just exchanged emails about post season predictions which included my remembrance of days as a young reporter and time spent with the legendary Casey Stengel. I’ve excerpted a bit from 1962 when the Ol’ Perfesser was managing the fledgling New York Metropolitans.


“Soph, Casey Stengel (And, Perry White) used to say “Judas Priest” a lot. I usta ask Casey how he put up with the “defense” of Marvelous Marv, Elio Chacon, Choo Choo Coleman and the other original “Amazin’ Mets.” Casey would look at me, tousle his full head of white hair, squint and say, “Judas Priest, young fella. You got a glove?”

One day, I brought my authentic Duke Snider mitt with me and showed it to Casey. He says, “Judas Priest, young fella, can ya hit a little?”.

I laughed. Casey cackled.”


On with my post season predictions.  The Yankees beat the Twins after our email exchange.  So, we are in the present.

  • My heart is with the Boston Red Sox, but my brain says otherwise.
  • I think the Indians will edge out the Yanks in the ALD series.
  • Houston will beat Boston in their ALD series.
  • The Indians will outlast Houston in the ALC series and repeat as American League Pennant champions.

My Swami brain is swirling faster than a three-card monte dealer.

The Cleveland Indians will beat the NL pennant winner (Washington? L.A.?) in the World Series.

Cleveland will win its first World Series in 69 years. The ghosts of Larry Doby, Bob Feller, Early Wynn, Al Rosen, Al Smith, Vic Wertz, Bobby Avila, Herb Score, Bob Lemon, Al “The Gay Senor” Lopez, etc. will celebrate on their field of dreams.

I predict Cleveland’s Cory Kluber will get the AL Cy Young award while his teammate Jose Ramirez ( 2nd-3rd baseman) will get the MVP. Mike Trout, still the best in baseball, will get votes but he couldn’t drag his team into the post season. Jose Altuve, Houston’s “Peewee Reese” slugger, will also get a lot of MVP votes as will Aaron Judge.

Aaron Judge is probably the new face of baseball.  Even if you’re a lifelong Yankees “hater,”  you have to love this young slugger who is the perfect face for the “Breakfast of Champions” picture. Judge’s 52 home runs as a rookie is mind-boggling!! Judge will be a no-brainer for “Rookie of the Year.”  The Red Sox newest hero, Andrew Beintendi will also get a few votes.

Manager of the year will be either Tito Francona or Paul Molitor.  Tito has the great team. Molitor managed the long shot Twins into the post season after losing 100 games last year.

I think the ALCS will be the real World Series. Houston and Cleveland are terrific teams.

LeBron James will proclaim Cleveland as the sports hub of the nation.

45 will disinvite WS MVP Jose Ramirez from the White House celebration.

Tito Francona will tell 45 what he can do with his golf trophy.

Take 2 and go to left …

GOOD NEWS STARTS WITH A BALL AND A BAT

Where have all “the positive” stories gone? Didn’t there used to be “positive stories” on the news?

Actually, the answer to that is “not really.” Even in the better-than-now old days, when the world was a little bit less insane, and calamities weren’t a daily (hourly?) event, news media focused their efforts on evil-doers.

Drugs. Murder. Fire. Car crashes. Plane crashes. Derailment. Financial disasters. Trials. Protests. Scandal. More scandal.

Garry worked in the news from 1962 until he retired in 2001. He didn’t do a lot of “positive” stories. He did a lot of murders, trials, drugs, fires, and blizzards. The theory of news stations is that death and destruction sells best. If you don’t have death and destruction, scandal and political protests can take up the slack. If, by some miracle, you run out of scandal … well … maybe you can add a feature about glorious autumn leaves or the new, improved zoo. Maybe there’s a hero somewhere getting an award.

That’s not just the way it is. That is the way it was and has been, as long as there has been “news.”


News isn’t good. It should be called “bad news” since it pretty much always is. Bad, that is.

They used to say “if it bleeds, it leads.” Carnage makes news sell better. If you can scare people to death, your ratings are sure to go up. We complain about the awful things going on politically and climatically, but news ratings are way up. The worse things get, the higher ratings go. Even people — like us — who used to avoid watching news find we watch at least a piece of it every night because we have to at least keep up with change.

The only other thing that sells news as well as murder is extremely bad weather. If, by some extraordinary luck, you get terrible weather that also results in deaths, bet your ass every news channel will be on it like ticks on a dog.

It is interesting to me that the same people who complain about how we don’t have any “good news” on the news, also complain that sports are a waste of time. Because essentially, sports are the good news portion of the news.

The point of sports is to have something entertaining and involving which doesn’t include politics, ranting commentaries, and piles of bodies. For example, you can get fully engrossed in baseball for decades or your whole life. The most tragedy you are likely to experience is a bad shoulder injury by a winning pitcher, a losing home team, or maybe a scandal. Even the scandals rarely involve death or destruction.

I have learned to enjoy sports. I don’t come from a sporting family, though I know back in the very old days, we listened to the Dodgers on the radio and rooted for them. We weren’t fanatics, but we were interested. For the past couple of years, the Red Sox and the Patriots have brought smiles to our faces even when the rest of the world was in a state of siege.

Say what you want about “overpaid athletes.” You try throwing a fastball 90 feet to get the batter out at the plate. It may be a game, but it isn’t an easy game. I bet you couldn’t play it no matter how much money they offered you. They pay these guys a lot of money the same way and for the same reasons we pay actors, singers, dancers, and other performers a lot of money. Entertainment matters. Why do you feel a great pitcher is less deserving of being well-paid than a movie or television star? You mean … pretending to be a detective on TV is so much more validating than playing quarterback on a football team? Because being a fake detective is inherently more enriching than throwing a ball?

We pay entertainers — including athletes — a lot of money because they do things we can’t do and which we enjoy seeing. Because we need something in our world that is interesting, involving, and fun. A place in our universe where we can go and just enjoy it. Whatever it is.

This doesn’t mean that we aren’t interested in the arts. Or books, movies, music, television and other events humans enjoy when they aren’t fully absorbed in horrors of politics and war. But sports is more than just entertainment. It gives us something to root for. These days, we need that. I need that. I absolutely need something I can be “for” which isn’t life and death.

Sports has been our saving grace of the past few years as what used to be reality turned surreal — and sometimes became meaningless.

The next time you watch the news, consider that there is good news. It’s sports.

SKIING MISADVENTURES – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Skiing with my ex husband, Larry, was not all fun and games. We had some hairy experiences on the slopes with him. And when I say ‘we’, I mean me and my two young children, David and Sarah. Larry tended to want to go out in questionable weather and take chances on advanced slopes. He often persuaded us all to go along with him.

There were three skiing ‘adventures’ that stick out in my mind. The first was in Park City, Utah. Our kids were about seven and twelve. Larry convinced us to do one more run as the weather was turning ugly. We were three-quarters of the way up the mountain on the open ski lift when the whiteout started.

A whiteout is snow that blows so hard and thick, that there’s almost no visibility. The ski lift stopped. Fortunately for us, it started again and got us to the chalet on the mountaintop. Others were not as lucky. The lifts stopped again and stranded people for hours out in the cold and the snow, dangling high above the slopes.

We, along with many others, were also stranded. But we were stranded inside the ski lodge with heat and hot cocoa. We were there for about two hours, until they could get a ski instructor up to rescue us. He would lead us all down the mountain to safety.

We had to line up and follow the instructor, single file, very slowly, down the mountain. You could barely see the person in front of you. We put our daughter in the middle of our group because she was wearing a shocking pink snowsuit that was like a beacon in the dark! She thought this was great fun! We made it down and lived to tell the tale.

Another time, the four of us were skiing in Italy. They are less safety-conscious on the slopes over there. There are no lights and no one sweeps the runs after closing to round-up strays, like they do in America. So we were skiing without a safety net there. Larry had taken us over to a second mountain, a distance away from the one where our car was parked. It started to get dark. We had to make it back to our mountain get to our car before dark. We had to cross-country ski, as quickly as possible, across one icy mountain to get to the other. It was like trying to ice skate on skis. We were exhausted and terrified. But we all kept our cool. Except Larry, who totally freaked out.

By the time we got to our mountain, the gondolas were already closed for the day. We had to ski down in the falling dusk. It was very, very close. We made it to our car just as night fell. This was the kind of situation where you know it’ll make a great story if you can just survive it!

The third story takes us to the top of a Black Diamond/Most Difficult ski run. With both kids. Larry insisted we could all handle it even though Sarah was just learning to ski. She was good, but she was still a beginner. Larry didn’t know that the slope had not been ‘groomed’, which took it to the Double Black/Super Difficult level.

Once we started down, we realized our mistake but were committed. There was no way back up, only down. The run consisted of numerous large moguls, which are big man-made bumps. They were mostly chopped up ice, which made them harder to maneuver over. David made it down with no trouble. He ended up anxiously waiting for us at the bottom for the next hour.

Larry, Sarah and I were struggling, to say the least. There were a handful of other hapless skiers struggling down with us. We were all falling constantly. But when Sarah fell, she would lose her skis and poles, which would slide farther down the mountain. A few good Samaritans helped us nurse Sarah through this ordeal. I stayed with Sarah while Larry and some others retrieved her equipment. They then had to walk back UP the mountain to Sarah to give it to her. I had to get her back in her skis and then rinse and repeat. It was a laborious process.

The post script to these stories is that neither of my children want to ski ever again. I have skied with my second husband, Tom. He is cautious and non adventurous like me. But we can’t convince the kids to come with us. No wonder!

BASEBALL, BRANDING, AND AMERICA’S PASTIME

Petco Statium – Photo: Phil Konstantin

“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. The whole branding thing is out of control.

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

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 and showing clips of everything except the game in progress. Ultimately, I suppose it didn’t matter since the pitcher gave up three hits in the seventh, but they could have at least given the kid his time in the sun.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

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

This made me wonder if they should be playing any kind of game at Petco, especially if the guy’s fastball is boring. I understand they are saying something technical about the pitch. Nonetheless, words matter. Boring has multiple meanings, the most common of which is “dull.”

So how boring was that fastball?

Does Petco Park sound like a dog park to you? It certainly sounds like one to me.

Someone once told me I’m “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’s 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 condemnation.

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

ME AND “THE NATURAL” (1984) – GARRY ARMSTRONG

“God, I LOVE baseball.”

It’s a line that comes up near the end of Robert Redford’s 1984 film, “The Natural.” Redford’s “Roy Hobbs” character is reflecting on the odd turns his life has taken, but he is still playing baseball, still chasing his dream. It’s a wistful, melancholy reflection because the protagonist has lost many productive years because of a bizarre and almost fatal incident.

As many of you know, I’m a life-long baseball fan with roots dating back to the late 1940’s and the Boys of Summer, the Brooklyn Dodgers.

I’ve always loved baseball!  It’s had an almost hypnotic grip on me. I fantasize about baseball the way some men day-dream about a tryst with a beautiful woman. There are only a handful of really good baseball movies. Hollywood, for some reason, hasn’t been able to get a grip on baseball. The short list of good baseball movies includes “The Natural”, “Bull Durham”, “Field of Dreams”, “Major League” (The original), “42”, “Cobb”, “A League of Their Own” and one or two I’ve forgotten.

“The Natural” and “Field of Dreams” top my list.  Some baseball purists, including a couple of Boston sports writers I know, claim those films are too hokey and sentimental. I disagree. Both films carry the lyricism of baseball. They are “print the legend” movies about America’s national pastime. Pro football is great but baseball is special, part of the fabric of our American dream.

My favorite memories, then and now, are of baseball games played during hot summer afternoons. They are languid, not long. Each at bat is drama unto itself. What will the pitcher throw? Can the batter hit the 100 mph fastball? It’s really a chess match between two teams, managers trying to out-scheme each other. I still stand and gasp when great defensive plays are made. This year’s Boston Red Sox have several gifted young players. Mookie Betts, Xander Bogerts, Jackie Bradley, Jr, and Andrew Benentendi are capable of highlight reel plays in the blur of a second. It’s a joy to watch them play.

Field of Dreams – the Ghostfield

The long-maligned Chicago Cubs were the talk of the Nation last year when they won their first World Series in over a century. Everyone felt good for the Cubbies and their fans. It didn’t really matter that your team was on the outside looking in. Real baseball fans have a special bond. Our political leaders might take note.

The New York Yankees have their own core of talented young players.  Mother of mercy, did I just say that?  Never in the wide, wide world of sports did I think I’d watch and appreciate the dreaded Yankees. Applaud “The Pinstripes”?  Family and old friends would gasp in disbelief. The “Baby Bombers” include Aaron Judge, a giant of a young slugger who is setting the baseball world on its ear. Judge, 6’7″ or 6′ 8″ is a muscled Paul Bunyon who appears on the verge of becoming a legend as a rookie. He’s already surpassed Joe DiMaggio’s record for home runs by a rookie and we’re just past the midway mark of the season.  Aaron Judge has the looks and personality of one of those old “Wheaties” Breakfast of Champions heroes. I tune into Yankee games just to catch Judge at bat. His home runs are routinely Ruthian.  You have to be a genuine baseball fan to appreciate Aaron Judge in a Yankee uniform. He appears to be (so far) this generation’s new superstar without the baggage of arrogance or rumors of drugs.

The new generation of Yankees and Red Sox promises to fire up their long rivalry, hopefully with appreciation rather than spiteful dislike.

The Yanks visit Fenway Park in a few days for a four-game series. It promises to be exciting and fun for all. It certainly will get me away from our national political angst.

All of which brings me back to “The Natural.” I’m 75 and still have boyish dreams. Yes, some are X-rated. Men are pigs. No argument. However, most of my dreams are about baseball. I’m Roy Hobbs who is a composite of Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and (for me), Duke Snider.

Robert Redford admits he copied Ted Williams’ batting stance, even his uniform number 9. Redford’s grace on the base paths and in the outfield remind me of my hero, Duke Snider. There’s a sense of grace to his movements, even the way he swings his shoulders as he runs. I shamelessly copied those movements when I played baseball as a not-very-gifted youth and adult.

If I could have one genie wish, it would be to morph as Roy Hobbs in his prime. I think now, more than ever, America needs Roy Hobbs to hit a walk off home run and send us home with unbounded happiness.

DOES EVERY SPORT HAVE ONE? – RICH PASCHALL

The Openly Gay Athlete, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

If you have read any stories about gay athletes in professional sports you would certainly know about it.  That’s because no matter how often it has been stated, any article that mentions a gay athlete will state that he is “gay” or even “openly gay,” as if telling you he is gay is not enough.  I guess if you tell the press you are gay, then you are pretty open about it, and you certainly can’t take it back.  Reporters follow around openly gay athletes just for the purpose of asking them what it is like to be openly gay and play ______ (fill in the sport here).  I wish just once the athlete would respond that it is the same as being “openly heterosexual.”

Perhaps they should ask the reporter what it is like to be “openly heterosexual” and asking the same stupid questions.  Of course, that would be stereotyping sports reporters as straight and we certainly do not want to jump to conclusions.  Maybe someday we will have an openly gay sports reporter, but I digress.

You can point to many sports and talk about the one gay athlete, and it is usually just one brave person who has spoken up.  Michael Sam created such a stir when he was drafted by the St. Louis Rams that an ESPN sports reporter actually reported on his shower habits in the preseason. Seriously, “google” it. It must still be in cyberspace. ESPN later apologized.

Jason Collins was the first openly gay basketball player in the NBA causing big “sports” news, and Brittney Griner is a lesbian professional basketball player.  Griner married another WNBA player in 2015.  All of this means these players will from now on be referred to as that “openly gay player.”

If people think these players are among the first gay players in the sport, they can think again.  Hall of Fame basketball player and current television analyst Charles Barkley was asked by sports host Dan Patrick if he ever played with a gay player and got this surprising response, “Yeah, of course I did. Everybody did. Everybody played with a gay teammate, Dan, and it’s no big deal.”  Maybe it is no big deal to most teammates but it sure seems to be a big deal to reporters.

Soccer has Robbie Rogers of the Los Angeles Galaxy.  Boxing has featherweight Orlando Cruz.  Professional wrestling has Darren Young but I always consider that as acting rather than a sport, and there are plenty of gays in acting. Ice skater Johnny Weir came out in 2011 after indicating for a long time that his sex life was a private matter.  In his case, no one was surprised when he came out.  He has since retired from the sport.

Some well-known athletes in other countries have come out and have not faced the constant barrage of gay questions.  Twenty two year old British diver Tom Daley, well-known to the British public most of his young life, famously came out at the age of 19.  While it caused a bit of stir at first, that a national diving champion came out on You Tube, the press seems to have moved on after a short period of curiosity.  Here they would have hounded the poor boy constantly.

Despite the media circus surrounding gay athletes, the major sports seem to want to prove that they are inclusive and welcoming to gay athletes.  Of course, it is hard to do that when athletes are reluctant to come forward. If everyone has had gay teammates as Charles Barkley suggests, then there must be many who are afraid to say anything, and work to keep their private life completely private.  Such was the case for professional baseball player, Billy Bean.

Major League Baseball, despite its long history, has only had two former players publicly state they are gay.  One was Glenn Burke who died in 1995 and the other is Billy Bean, now 53.  Bean regrets walking away from baseball after a couple of years with the Tigers and Dodgers, a year in Japan, and some time with the Padres, but he was tired of hiding who he was.  It wore him down as he explained in his book, Going the Other Way: Lessons from a Life In and Out of Major League Baseball.  He had no idea how to reach out for help dealing with his secret while he was a player.  He also had no idea that major league baseball would one day reach out to him.

In June of 2014 MLB summoned Bean to a meeting in New York City to ask him about his experiences and to talk about baseball.  Bean went and talked for hours as detailed by sports writer Ken Rosenthal in his FOX Sports column, How Billy Came Back to Baseball.  The sport that had trouble welcoming Jackie Robinson and other black players did not want to be seen as the sport afraid to welcome gay players, so they reached out to Bean.  Billy had, after all, written a book on his experiences and what he learned from them, and was also a speaker to LGBT groups.  In fact, Billy was speaking at a LGBT Sports Summit in Portland, Oregon when he got the call from Major League Baseball.

When Bean learned they had a role for him in baseball he did not seem to immediately embrace the idea.  “I’m not going to be your token gay person that you’re just going to put on a podium,” he kept telling them.  They got it.  Bean said if he had someone to reach out to when he was playing, he might not have quit.  So now, Bean will be that person.  He will be the Ambassador for Inclusion.  To honor the league’s workplace code of conduct, to provide education and outreach, to speak and to listen, Billy Bean will be there because no one was there for him.  If you ask him now, he will probably tell you “It Gets Better.

List of LGBT Sports people, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia