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Friday 22nd Sep 2017

1960 was really the first year I collected baseball cards. Prior to 1960, I had a few, mostly the former collection of Richie Israel who had outgrown his cards from the mid-50's, which he not only gave me, but which I now wish I still had.

And, my favorite cards are still, and will always be Topps 1959, but in 1960 I first started buying, starting with a pack in the spring of that year that yielded Jim Davenport atop the pack, dusted with the white powder of bubble gum. I still remember his card was #154 in the series (sigh, I remember from back then) and that though I had never watched a complete major league game then, at age seven, I was completely drawn into the universe the back of the card promised (though I remember the number, I don't remember anything from the back of Jimmy D's).

I continued to buy them here and there that year, and by the next year my brother Peter and I were addicted enough to get a complete set in 1961 and then for several more years, until it became uncool for a few years, though I continued to watch and go to games.

In that magical 1960 I think (sad I cannot remember this but I can remember Davenport's card number) I attended my first game, then a minor league affair with the local Sacramento Solons who played someone, though again I cannot recall against. But, I did know the Solons had Al Heist as a star, and Heist eventually wound up a Chicago Cub. Clay Dalrymple was the Solons backstop, and he went on to the Phillies, and his back-up, Cuno Barragan, not only moved on to play for the Cubs, but he augmented his income during the off-season as a teacher, and for a couple of days he was the substitute in my seventh grade math class.

In 1960 my very, very favorite baseball card belonged to the Reds pitcher, Mike Ceuller, which shows the pitcher in his follow through. The cards that year featured two pics (you can click on his name to see the card), one large and rectangular with a smaller pic, usually of a different pose. Except in Ceuller's case, both pictures were exactly the same.

But, there was something about the picture and the yellow and blue colors at the bottom of the card where his name and the Reds logo are located.

Funny thing about Ceuler is that his rookie card was in 1959, but after 1961, he did not have another card until 1965 when Ceuller resurfaced as a member of the Cards, then the Astros, and finally, in 1969 with the Orioles. In fact he was among the four O's hurlers who   won 20 games in 1971 (along with Jim Palmer, Pat Dobson, and Dave McNally).

Mr.Ceuller passed away last week, and his death precipitated the Proustian memories of 1960 and his card and when I truly fell in love with baseball.

I did, by the way, see one full game on TV in 1960. Remember that back then, for the most part baseball on television was restricted pretty much to the Saturday game with Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese on CBS, at least till the post season.

Somehow, on the final day of the 1960 World Series, my mother kept me home from school, and while she was performing her motherly chores, she parked me in front of the television, so the first game I really viewed, end-to-end, was game No. 7, when Hal Smith hit a pinch-hit three-run homer to tie and send the game to extra innings, and Bill Virdon made his great catch, and Bill Mazeroski pulled his walk-off.

From then on I was hooked.

Things started to crank in gear and get exciting a couple of weeks back when I traveled to Vegas for the NFBC first weekend. From there it was off to NYC for Tout, then home and a couple of days later Diane flew out to spend Passover with me. For that holiday I go to my friends Mark and Debbie Berenberg, a tradition that now dates back almost 35 years.

Of course in the throes of all this the baseball season begins, and in the bay area the Giants and Athletics usually wind up the spring season by playing a handful of games back home. So, Thursday night I got to score the match-up between the two local teams to get in scoring practice for the actual season when along with my mates we will cover all the games of the local teams, counting pitches and double switches and strikeouts and so on.

Well, there are two times of the year when it is really difficult to score. One is during September when there is roster expansion and players pop in and out. But, that is nothing compared to the spring when literally anyone can show up and play anywhere, any time.

Ideally the forty-man roster to check against, but, there is no official scorer for the game, and tracking of who goes in where is not so careful, at least on behalf of the ballclubs.

Since I was scoring the game, and MLB.com and the statistics base actually keep an eye on the stats, I had to try and get it as right as rain, however. Truth is, I was having a pretty good game, cruising along until the seventh inning when suddenly the wheels came off.

The Giants made five roster moves when they took the field, but no one from the Giants media side was clear who was going into which spot in the batting order. I made the substitutions as best as I could, and started scoring, catching up marking in the balls and strikes and outs until and thought I was ok till the bottom of the inning when it was discovered that Jeremy Affeldt was actually batting fifth, not first, and that leadoff was actually now Travis Ishikawa and that he was not batting fourth. Don't as about Ryan Rohlinger or even Eugenio Velez, whom no one save the Athletics brain trust noticed went in. And, forget about anyone announcing in the booth who was playing or batting in what spot.

Suddenly, it was the bottom of the eighth of a game that, due to a 23-MPH wind had all of us freezing and wishing the game was moving at a faster pace, and I had become so woefully behind that I lost track of the pitches of every kind. During the official season, should I get in such a bind, I always have a back-up to take over remotely watching the game on the tube. Although such a meltdown is rare, and generally reserved for computer and network malfunctions at the home park. Still, we stay put and report changes and anything we see to the back up.

But, no such luxury in pre-season, and as the game rocketed to an end while I was furiously trying to figure things out with my support bud, Hank Widmar, we both found ourselves cursing the pre-season and rosters and being grateful that there is no such volatility once the games begin in earnest.

Truth is I stayed behind for a good forty minutes after the game, translating the box and plays from David Feldman who was tracking for the Athletics, reading the plays, pitch-by-pitch, to Hank as he updated the boxes and caught up where the craziness had begun.

I remember the first time I scored a game I came home and Cathy asked me if it was hard. "The most difficult multi-tasking I have ever done" I replied, noting it was much harder than playing guitar and singing. That is because with one hand I am entering code, and with another manually writing the score, while watching the field the whole time to make sure I see everything.

I think I have even gotten pretty good at the scoring, paying attention in a focused way, learning even more deeply the subtleties and nuances of the game and its rules.

But, well, there is no way to prep for players going in without warning or tracking, let alone the meltdown that occurs post holocaust.

Thank goodness by Sunday all this madness will be completed and we can move forward with boxes and games, in earnest!

 

Sorry all for the late post, but, well, it has been a busy bunch of days in New York preparing for both defending my Tour Wars AL title, and then my first foray into the NFBC Classic event.

It was sort of a whirlwind thanks to Jet Blue, to start, who cancelled my flight from Oakland to JFK at 8:30 at night, via email, when my plane was lifting off at 8:00 a.m. the following morning. Lucky I had my handheld, and I am still wondering. I was told my flight to New York was cancelled because of weather, but I am unsure why my return flight, five days later, was also cancelled?

OK, enough of a diatribe, for once I got here, well, if you know New York and how alive it is, it is a pretty good tonic. This year Tout is partnering with the NFBC, so we are staying in the Chinatown--although that is a misnomer as Asian, a more comprehensive word, really describes it better--and it is great.

To the point there are Chinese and Thai and Japanese restaurants all over, as well as a burger joint which claims both The Times and The Post declared theirs the best in the New York Area. And The New Flushing Bakery had deadly pork and red bean buns which are a terrific breakfast munchie.

Thursday I went into Manhattan for lunch with Andy Regal at one of my favorite places, Virgils, where my favorite wings are spicily and smokily present (man, are they good). It was a nice day, with sun, so I sat at Times Square for a while watching the world go by, and then went to my favorite music store in the city, Rudy's Music on W. 48th and ogled Rickenbackers and pedals and vintage Teles, striking up fun conversations with my fellow oglers.

In the evening I hooked with Dean Peterson and his partner, Angie, and with JP, we went back into town and met Jed Latkin and his wife Amy at Five Napkin Burger for a killer burger, and some amazingly good sushi, onion rings, and more wings (what is it about wings?).

Yesterday (Friday) I met Cory Schwartz and Mike Siano for breakfast and finished some work at MLB.com until the afternoon when Mike and I toddled back to Flushing for the AL Tout Auction at Citi Field (it's nice).

Now it is the NFBC that looms, followed by the premiere of Fantasyland, and tomorrow are the Tout Mixed and NL auctions.

As with going to the AFL, this is just a fun time drafting. I am sure you all have similar experiences reconvening with your league mates at auction time each year.

Springtime is really about renewal. The weather days get longer and we can stretch out to the warm sun, just like the new blooming flowers. And, a new season of baseball looms, fresh and new. A time when even the Pirates and Royals are in the hunt.

How can you miss?

Funny how the universe tosses us stuff. In fact, a few weeks ago, I even wrote a column on how things do indeed happen in threes.

Well, two weeks ago there was the LABR 12-team mixed draft, and a week later the Bloomberg 12-team mixed, and as I strolled into the NFBC draft room yesterday morning at the Bellagio, in Las Vegas, I stumbled into the double play which featured a 12-team mixed.

So, I thought it would be fun to compare and contrast. Not that it means anything other than who values whom, when.

Rd 1. LABR Bloomberg NFBC
1. Hanley Ramirez Hanley Ramirez Albert Pujols
2. Albert Pujols Albert Pujols Hanley Ramirez
3. Ryan Braun Alex Rodriquez Alex Rodriguez
4. Alex Rodriguez Ryan Braun Ryan Braun
5. Matt Kemp Chase Utley Mark Teixeira
6. Chase Utley Mark Teixeira Joe Mauer
7. Miguel Cabrera Prince Fielder Carl Crawford
8. Tim Lincecum Matt Kemp Chase Utley
9. Mark Teixeira Evan Longoria Prince Fielder
10. Evan Longoria Joe Mauer Evan Longoria
11. Prince Fielder Carl Crawford Tim Lincecum
12. Kevin Youkilis Ian Kinsler Miguel Cabrera

 

Ok, so no surprises, but, it is interesting to see how differently we can concoct a team relative to what we are thrown. Which is largely the point, and why wedding ourselves to ADP is not a good idea. Sure, we can use ADP to judge who might be chosen at a given time, but, there is indeed the question of "what is left?" balanced against "what do I need?"

But, just for grins, let's also take a peak at round 23, the round which ostensibly completes a standard roster and see how that shakes out?

Rd. 23 LABR Bloomberg NFBC
1. Jame McDonald Cody Ross Ryan Thierot
2. Brett Gardner Josh Willingham Daisuke Matsuzaka
3. Matt Lindstrom Wade Davis Ryan Madson
4. Carlos Santana Chris Young (P) Carlos Gomez
5. Travis Snider Conor Jackson Austin Jackson
6. Dioner Navarro Carlos Santana Chris Perez
7. Bronson Arroyo Miguel Olivo Chris Young (OF)
8. Ryan Thierot Buster Posey Joba Chamberlain
9. Randy Wolf Lastings Milledge JJ Hardy
10. Ryan Rowand-Smith Cameron Maybin Gerald Laird
11. John Buck John Baker Garrett Atkins
12. Justin Masterson Elijah Dukes Josh Willingham

 Interesting, no?  Which means for the most part, leagues wind up at the same place at basically the same time. It is how the deck is shuffled that determines the winning hand. So, the trick is to try and get the deck stacked in your favor.

It is a lot of work. And, it is a lot of fun. Happy drafting this week.

As I noted in my LABR article of earlier in the week, when I bid $17 on Joe Nathan last Saturday, I had not seen that he tweaked his elbow, and was removed from the game just a few hours earlier. It was a whirlwind day, and I am not making excuses, but, this is a good lesson to at least check the latest news before you enter your draft or auction.

That aside, earlier in the day my freeze list for my Scoresheet was due and in that 24-team league Nathan also made my freezes. What was I to do as he has been arguably the best closer in the Bigs over the past five years, and Nathan helped me coax the best W/L record out of that same Scoresheet team last year. Not to mention he was on my winning Tout Wars team last season as well.

So, a $17 bid right out of the chute seemed like owners just being a little cautious with one of the early nominees (he went second).

In LABR I did pick up  Brian Fuentes later in the auction to spell Nathan, but I always prefer to get two closers if I can anyway in a deep league, partially as insurance, but mostly so I can build a surplus--for there is always someone scrounging for saves mid-season--and then trade when I have a solid enough stockpile.

The reality is generally one good closer and a couple of middle relievers who can earn -4-5 saves each is enough to keep you competitive in that category, so in LABR, I do need to find a couple of those guys, but despite the loss of those $17, I should be able to compensate because, well, my bets are covered and the season has not yet begun.

In Scoresheet obviously I wasted a freeze pick, but there will be a lot of closers available after the 192 frozen players, not to mention one can get by in that format with a couple of good middle relievers, I should be ok and able again to field a pretty good team despite the draft handicap.

The thing is, the season has not yet started and we all know there will be surprises all around, especially in mixed leagues, so if you find yourself in a similar position, remember that and whatever you do, don't panic.

Because the season has not yet started, so there is no reason to panic. Lots of games ahead, and lots of opportunities.

More important, even if your league is so deep that the possibility of picking up someone to fill the closer hole is remote, that also means there are enough points and numbers left that for now, you can live with the hit of freezing Nathan.

I have pretty much calculated that you can indeed be competitive making mistakes. Those errors might be in overspending on David Price last year, or spending on Erivn Santana or Alex Gordon (both of whom I paid for in LABR last year), but they don't necessarily spend the end of the season (I did not win, but I did finish a respectable sixth).

But, back to the original premise, the worst thing you can do during a draft, or over the course of the season is panic, for decisions made out of panic are generally bad ones, and well, that is the way to kiss your season goodbye. And worse, not have any fun.

Baseball is indeed a game of patience, and baseball is also a game where the unexpected certainly does happen. Of course, as the season progresses, and the strengths and limitations of your team(s) are revealed, there will be opportunities to compensate and get points back that are needed.

But taking action, and building or fleshing out your team has to be as concerted as your focus when you draft in the first place.

So, once again, remember. If you are stuck with a problematic player now, be he Nathan, or Gordon, or Russell Martin, take a deep breath, do your best to hedge your bets in the draft, and play your best game.

Because, once again, the entire season is indeed before us. And, well, its baseball. Anything can happen.

We all love the spring, don't we?

Chock full of anticipation, for just as we were kids and could not wait to see the new baseball cards, and then, mercifully for the season to begin, well, nothing changes.

That Pavlovian feeling morphed into wating for new Strat-O-Matic cards, to the new version of the Bill James Baseball Abstract and then The Bill Mazeroski Annual until the sophisticated books like The Forecaster and the STATS Notebook. This week, spring games even started, and suddenly it is time to bag all the mock drafts in which we have participated the last six weeks as the bullet hits the bone.

Today, I am winging my way to Phoenix for LABR 2010, as well as a quick shot at the Athletics and Angels (last year during the stopover I saw the debut of Brett Anderson).

Next week my Scoresheet League drafts on Saturday, and then on Monday, there is the Bloomberg League (in fact the league is soliciting six regular guy players, so see the piece on the Mastersblog on how to participate), and then comes the first NFBC weekend in Vegas.

The month culimates in New York with both Tout and the NFBC, and, while I am guessing your schedule is not quite so broad and travelled, you likely have a similar set up with drafts and dates that were penciled into your calendar, or entered to a mobile device and Outlook months ago.

And, like Christmas, or Hanukah, or your birthday when you were back in those baseball card days, the date seemed like it would never get here and pow, here it is.

Of course the travelling is fun, but hard on me. And, though I love playing in all those leagues, well, seeing my leaguemates and sharing some time with them is the best part by far.

Somehow I get to see these guys off and on in the month of March as we all zig zag the country and hook up here and there for various leagues, and the time is great, but short. And, I know I won't see most of them again till the fall when we all converge again on Phoenix for the BBHQ AFL soiree hosted by Ron Shandler. In fact, if any of the above rings true for you, well, you owe it to yourself to attend, for it is so much more relaxed, and, well, is the best time I have during the season watching games. And, well, I see a lot of games during the season.

It is a lot of fun, no? A whirlwind, but, a lot of fun. At least, I am guessing you are having as much fun this month as I am.

Earilier in the fall I wrote about the retirement of Randy Johnson, and then a few weeks ago, that of Frank Thomas. Well, on the same day that Thomas retired, Braves (and sometime Met hurler) Tom Glavine also called it a career after 22 seasons and 305 wins.

Meaning this year three players retired, all of whom should be first ballot Hall of Fame inductees in 2015, when they will likely be inducted. And, the last time three like players both retired, and joined the Hall together was the fabulous troika of George Brett, Robin Yount, and Nolan Ryan (in fact I attended that particular induction ceremony).

But, this year it hardly seemed fair to acknowledge Johnson and Thomas without mentioning Glavine.

Maybe because Glavine was so low-key, pitching in the rotation with first Greg Maddux, then John Smoltz, both of whom garnered more ink than the subtle lefty. And, both of whom, along with the other names on this list always seemed so much more dominant.

But, make no mistake, Glavine, did win 305 games, making him one of a select crowd alone. And, he won 20 games five times, and won two Cy Young awards (in 1991 and 1998). So, he was more than good, but, as a soft thrower who could actually pitch, Glavine was not a strikeout machine like say Ryan or Johnson, nor could he command the strike zone like Maddux.

He was kind of a throwback, mixing speeds and control, taking advantage of the batter's weakness or anxiety, and parlaying that into a career that probably never defined him as the best pitcher in baseball, but proved him to be so consistant for such a prolonged period, that he clearly deserves recognition.

Much like Don Sutton, who did get into the Hall a few years back, but carried that same knock, that he was never the best pitcher in baseball at any time he pitched. In there is an argument for that, but, the durability and dependability--for in those 22 years, and in particular the years between 1988 and 2007, Glavine started fewer than 30 games only three times, with 29 in 1989, 25 in 1994, and again 29 in 1995, amassing 4413 innings and 2605 whiffs over that span.

So, while there is something riveting about the dominance of Ryan, or the bat of Thomas, well, the quiet workmanlike way in which Glavine got it done is just as worthy of high recognition.

And, well, if things do see to happen in threes, and Glavine joins the groups above, there is also the chance that both his Braves brethern, Maddux and Smoltz make the Hall too.

Because good things do seem to happen in threes.

I cannot claim to be a Tiger Woods fan. I mean, I like him, but for what it is worth, I don't follow golf, and I don't play (at least anymore, and I have not for 35 years, but that is another story) it either. But, I also am ambivalent about Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretsky for the same reasons.

Certainly I recognize that all three of the troika above are, or, I guess were not only dominant in their relative sport, but players with a singular exceptional skill set that really redefined their sport. In baseball, as good as many players have been, only Babe Ruth really comes to mind as single-handedly rewriting everything.

In football, the other sport I follow, it is hard to think of players, although surely Brett Favre and Joes Namath and Montana could be included. But, I think more in terms of coaches like Paul Brown and Don Shula and Weeb Ewbank and Tom Landry as being the real innovators.

But, as usual, I digress.

I have sort of watched with amusement as sex revealed itself as Tiger's Aristotelean Tragic Flaw, and his resulting fall from grace since last Thanksgiving.

But, I am pretty much never shocked by our personal misdeeds. In a world with the beliefs that we share, where it is so easy to judge others while making excuses for our own transgressions, I tend to take the cynical approach espoused by Groucho Marx when he said he would not want to belong to a club that would have him for a member.

For, certainly it implies a lowering of standards in a funny self deprecating way, but, the idea also suggests a subtle air of superiority.

And so I have had a hard time with those so eager to jump on Tiger and his transgressions. To condemn his religious beliefs (in ignorance, I might add) as the source of his problems, for example, or to just be fascinated with Tiger's sexploits while simultaneously acting outraged at any form of transgression is just kind of two-faced to me.

My biggest issue with Tiger has been two fold. First, he was stupid. As in dumb and stupid for not realizing that eventually this would catch up with him. And, second, despite the temptation--and remember it was the great Oscar Wilde who said "I can resist anything except temptation--that Tiger did not realize his fans, let alone sponsors, let alone wife and family would not be at best disappointed in his behavior, and simply using that as a line in the sand suggest a lack of consciousness to me.

On the flip, I would be happy to guess that 80% of those criticizing Tiger's morality would not have such an easy time as they say extricating themselves from offers of pleasure from more beautiful women than one can imagine. And, well, let's face it, he is not only still a young man in many ways. At just 34, Tiger's life and exposure to public scrutiny is not that much different from say another guy who came into public scrutiny and disfavor, Michael Jackson.

In fairness neither of these guys led anything close to a normal childhood, let alone life, and while I am not trying to make excuses for either, the rules under which both grew into maturity were different from most of the rest of us, for better or worse. So, that adds another layer when judging, and one none of us can really appreciate.

That said, for some reason I watched Tiger's 14-minute talk (for it was not really a press conference) today, and, well, I totally respect what he did, and what he said.

For, he took responsibility for his actions, and for being the one who must correct the path of his life if he wishes to continue with success, let alone happiness.

Our culture is so anxious to expect this responsibility, save when they are involved (I get flushed when I think, for example, of the "party of personal responsibility" for as I see it, people who say this never taking any at all).

Of course, as noted above, there is indeed more than just saying the words: there following up on them, and in that instance, Tiger still has some work to do to regain his credibility. But, Tiger also took the toughest part seriously: he stood up in front of the world, alone, and said he did it and he will work to fix things.

I wish him well. I think he is halfway there.

By the way, I hate to take away from the sincerity and seriousness of Tiger's talk, but, did anyone notice when Tiger said he was concerned about being accused of using "performance enhancing" drugs?  I had to chuckle, thinking, "hmmm, does he mean HGH or Viagra?"

 

I am sure I have mentioned this before, but for some reason whenever I hear a reference to former White Sox slugger Frank Thomas, I think of Toni Fischer's 1959 hit The Big Hurt.

And, as it turns out, I happen to be in Chicago (it is Super Bowl week and that is where I spend it these days) where Thomas and his bat did the bulk of their damage in The Show, and where yesterday morning he officially retired from baseball.

Thomas is one of those guys who to me simply had a charmed everything, not that he did not work hard at it. He was born May 27, 1968, amazingly enough the same day as another potential HOF'er, Jeff Bagwell. He played baseball, but also was a tight end at Auburn at the same time Bo Jackson was a running back.

And, he debuted, auspiciously as a White Sox on August 2, 1990, and never looked back, hitting .330-7-30 over 62 games that first season, with an incredible .454 OBP, it was clear Thomas had an understanding of the major league strike zone and major league pitching that transcended the skill set of most players.

I thought at the time he came up that he was arguably the best pure hitter the majors had seen since Ted Williams. Proving the point, Thomas went .318-32-109 with  a .453 OBP and 1.006 OPS, leading the league with 138 walks his first full season, and prompting my regular argument that "for every Frank Thomas there are 100 Paul Konerkos, a line designed to emphasize how rare players like Thomas are as opposed the Konerkos who need a few seasons to adjust to the bigs.

Not so Thomas, who was as steady as they come, logging career .301-521-1704 totals over 19 seasons, numbers that will surely make him a first ballot Hall of Famer.

In 2006, when he resurrected his fading career in Oakland with a .270-39-114 season that bought him another year in Toronto, and enough dingers to pass the 500 mark.

And, I remember him, that year, crushing a ball off the center field wall in Oakland while I was scoring a game. As Thomas rounded first he tweaked something in his leg, and instead of advancing to second, he retreated to first and was promptly replaced by a pinch runner. As I was leaving the yard, Thomas sidled up next to me and I asked him how his leg was.

"OK," he said.

"Think you will wind up on the DL?" I asked.

"Naw," he said, "I felt a twinge and I did not want to stretch it and risk anything."

I nodded and looked at him and said, "All I can say is I have never seen anyone hit a single as high or as far or as hard."

"You think?" he asked.

I simply nodded and said no more, feeling pretty happy that the circumstances of life made it so I could even have an exchange with a guy like that.

Not bad. Congrats Frank, on such a wonderful career. For carrying it out with dignity, passion, and style. Because, since Teddy Ballgame, you were the best pure hitter I have seen. And, I have seen a few.

 

Pretty regularly, I get into music threads with my mates Peter Kreutzer, Steve Moyer, and Gene McCaffrey. We all share pretty broad taste in what we listen to, and enjoy advising one another accordingly.

For example, Peter started a thread a month back where he had rediscovered Lou Reed's Berlin, and in the process Darby Crash and The Germs were pulled in, along with Animal Collective and upon Steve's suggestion, Them Crooked Vultures (if you do not yet know them, they are Dave Grohl, Joshua Homme, and John Paul Jones and they are very good).

Over the course of the thread, Steve noted that the Compact Disc (ergo CD) was a thing of the past. Steve also said that the download world has trashed the CD, the way the CD trashed the Cassette, and the Cassette whacked the 8-track, and the 8-track bumped the vinyl. Although be it told, I never really abandoned the album for any format until the CD. Though I did own cassettes, and a handful of 8-tracks.

But, the album--and I mean vinyl when I use that term--translated nicely from the album format. You still got liner notes and pictures and lyrics and all the tactile things that go with listening to an album while perusing the cover and package. Other formats don't lend themselves so readily to translation, but CD to vinyl did work for me. And, apparently my mates.

Truth is, I had not really thought about letting go of my CDs (I have a lot). I still have my albums (again, a lot, and many are duplicated between the medium) and I won't let them go, either. But, generally, over the past 15 years, if I want something new, I buy the CD.

I do have a shuffle--actually now I have an iPhone, a toy I love as much as any I have ever had--so I carry my tunes with me, but I still liked to put CDs in the stacker of my car. Only, over the past few years, the stacker, which is in the trunk, is schizy. Sometimes it cannot read the disk, and sometimes I cannot get it open to retrieve the discs, let alone change them.

And, though my car is a '99, I have the stuff to play my iPhone through through the car stereo, which still boasts a pretty good system.

Well, a couple of weeks ago, the stacker shut down, as in the "CD not recognized" on the dashboard display. Later, I went into the trunk, and could not get the stacker open, either, which was a drag as it was not only full with six discs, but my Crooked Vultures was also among them, and though I could burn a copy, I wanted my disc back.

While I was imagining the car at some shop, costing a fortune to fix, I realized I did not really need to get it fixed. That I had everything in the stacker on my iPhone, and that anything else I wanted, I could copy over. Which meant I really did not have to do anything, save get the discs out of the stacker cartridge.

Which, a couple of days ago, for no reason any more explicable than when the cartridge decides not to surrender its contents back to me, I pushed the button and bingo, out popped the cartridge and my discs.

I put them back in the jewel cases, but, I decided that Steve was right. Anything I want can go on my iPhone.

Sigh. No more CDs for me.

I hope I will adjust.

 

I was 13 years old in the fall of 1966, a sophomore in high school (almost 14, by the way) when my new friend Barry Cassidy gave me a copy of The Catcher in the Rye. I was already a pretty voracious reader and, sigh, an honors English student, but at the time probably the most challenging novel I had read to date was Harper Lee's wonderful To Kill a Mockingbird. Otherwise, I was into dog stories (Big Red and The Call of the Wild, for example).

And, because of my Crohns Disease, and certainty that I was going to die (by then I had been sick for four years with no end in sight) I was very much interested in reading stories of death. Books on the Alamo and the Little Big Horn, for example were examined hardcore from both sides by me. I read about Santa Anna and Sams Houston and Austin, and William Barrett Travis, trying to get stories from all perspectives, as I did Custer, but also Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull.

I read these stories because, to be frank, since I was not feeling well, and as said with nothing out there promising cure wise, I figured I was going to die, and so I wanted to read about death so I could know what it was like when the time came.

In other words, I felt as maladjusted as any 13-year-old, and I was sick every day.

Well, JD Sallinger's book changed things to a large degree, save it took another three years to understand the nature of the Crohns. But, within the pages of the book and the odd journey of Holden Caulfield, I suddenly did not feel so alone. For a boy, just my brother Peter's age, was just as confused and frustrated about the paradoxes of life and what people said and did as I. For I knew the book was very popular, and I knew that whoever wrote it had to understand Holden's perspective in order to convey it.

And I knew that if it sold a lot of copies, more people were probably touched by it than just me.

So, it reassured me about life and suffering and understanding in a way nothing before had. It made me not feel so alone. And, I was grateful, not to mention captivated. In fact I re-read the book every six months for a handful of years, although by then the floodgates were open and I read everything I could get my hands on.

The reclusive Mr. Salinger passed away the other day, at the age of 91. He wrote, that we know of, a handful of short story collections. Nine Stories, and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters, and Franny and Zooey. Like all who were fascinated by Salinger, I read them all, but none nailed me like The Catcher in the Rye.

I think he did one interview--to the local high school newspaper--adding to what was legendary, making him even more of a cult hero, to those of us devoted to the words of Holden.

That same day, Historian and Human Rights Activist Howard Zinn also passed away, at the age of 87.

Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States, written from the perspective of those outside the mainstream, is a great and honest look at our culture, who we are, where we came from, and why we might be going where we are.

Almost the antithesis of Salinger's disdain for the public light, Zinn spoke and lectured endlessly about civil rights and human rights and dignity everywhere.

They were both great men and influences, and we are all lucky to have had their words. Neither minced his words, and though both could be sentimental, neither wallowed in it. They wrote what they saw. But, what was compelling was that they did it better than most everybody else.

Even better, they did it, as Holden Caulfield would say, "with none of that David Copperfield kind of crap."

Thanks guys. We will miss your presence.

 

 

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