Monday, July 25, 2016

Yankees Trade Great Closer for a Failure and 3 Hunches

The Yankees beat the San Francisco Giants yesterday, taking 2 out of 3 from one of the best teams in baseball, but that pales in significance to the incredibly stupid trade they made today. I'll get to that later.

Carlos Beltran hit a home run in the 1st inning, his 21st of the season. Mark Teixeira hit one in the 2nd, his 9th. The Yankees picked up 3 more runs in the 6th inning.

That was all that Nathan Eovaldi needed, because he pitched maybe his best game of the season. He had to, since Joe Girardi said that he wasn't going to use any of No Runs DMC: Not Dellin Betances, not Andrew Miller, not Aroldis Chapman. He let Eovaldi pitch into the 7th inning, then sent in Chasen Shreve to, yes, pitch to only 1 batter, and then let Chad Green pitch the rest of the way.

Yankees 5, Giants 2. WP: Eovaldi (9-6). SV: Green (1). LP: Jeff Samardzija (9-6).


There are now 10 weeks left in the regular season. Here's how the American League Eastern Division stands, going into today's games: Team name, won-lost record, number of games behind, number of games behind in the loss column:

Baltimore Orioles 57-40, 0, 0
Boston Red Sox 55-41, 1, 1 1/2
Toronto Blue Jays 55-44, 3, 4
YANKEES 50-48, 7 1/2, 8
Tampa Bay Rays 38-60, 19 1/2, 20

The Yankees still have a chance to win the Division. It's not asking too much to be able to gain 1 game per week, so if there are more weeks remaining than you are games behind, you legitimately still have a chance to win the Division.

Nevertheless, the Wild Card seems more likely at this point. The Jays currently hold the 2nd Wild Card position. The Yankees are 4 1/2 games behind them, 4 in the loss column.


But the Yankees may have blow their chances at either the Division or the Wild Card with this stupid trade they made. They sent Aroldis Chapman to the Chicago Cubs, weakening their one real strength.

Now, we go back to what we had last year? Betances to pitch the 8th inning, and Miller to pitch the 9th. But who will pitch the 7th? The starting pitcher? Not as long as Girardi continues to let his damned binder manage for him! Who? Green? He was fine yesterday, but is he a long-term solution? Shreve? Don't make me laugh. Nick Goody? No goody. Richard Bleier? Forget it. Anthony Swarzak? I don't trust him yet. Somebody from the minors?

Luis Severino has been brought back up. Do we put him in the bullpen? Or move Eovaldi or Ivan Nova back there? No, because both Nate and Ivan have pitched well lately. Maybe Severino becomes the 7th inning guy, and the presumptive heir to the closer role?

Face it: Whoever the Yankees got from the Cubs had better be damn good, good enough to help us get through the 7th inning with a lead, because, as long as Girardi is managing, that's going to be an enormous hole in our staff.

So who did the Yankees get?

* Adam Warren. Yes, that Adam Warren, who has already failed as a Yankee relief pitcher. Maybe he's gotten better? No: His ERA this season is 5.91, his ERA+ is 68, and his WHIP is 1.429. That's right, boys and girls: Adam Warren has gotten worse. I don't want him pitching the 7th inning for the Yankees, or any other inning. Let him screw things up for some other team!

* Gleyber Torres, a 19-year-old Venezuelan shortstop. currently in A-ball-plus.

* Rashad Crawford, a 22-year-old outfielder currently in A-ball-plus. He and Torres are both at least 3 years away from being ready for the majors.

* And Billy McKinney, an outfielder about to turn 22, who is currently at Double-A, and missed the last quarter of last season with an injury. The odds of him ever becoming a major league contributor are slim.

Essentially, the Yankees traded the best closer in baseball for a proven failure and 3 hunches.

Even of all 3 eventually pay off, they've essentially thrown away a shot at the Playoffs this season.

Don't tell me they didn't have a shot: They did.

Now? It will require somebody to step up and be the 7th inning pitcher.

And we still haven't improved the offense. Maybe for 2019. But we have to get there first.

Brian Cashman, you blew it.

Cashman out. Girardi out. Bring Willie Randolph in as manager, and he'll let the starters pitch 7 innings. Bring Gene Michael back as general manager for the rest of the season, and let him make a trade for a good hitter and pick the next GM.

Otherwise, we're hoping against hope that the bats will pick up, and that the 7th inning won't be a nightmare for the rest of the season. Or that Girardi will burn the fucking binder, and use his eyes to manage.

It's going to be a long 10 weeks. Even if we make the Playoffs.

How to Be a Red Bulls Fan In Chicago -- 2016 Edition

This coming Sunday night, the New York Red Bulls, coming off yet another embarrassment of their alleged rivals New York City FC (4-1 at Red Bull Arena yesterday), head west (well, Midwest) to play away to the Chicago Fire.

Doesn't make a whole lot of sense, does it? Naming a team after the worst thing ever to happen to your city. Well, MLS also has the San Jose Earthquakes, and college sports has the Miami Hurricanes. But you don't see teams called the Detroit Riot, the Los Angeles Smog, or the New York Mets. (Wait a minute... )

Before You Go. This game will be played at the end of July. So ignore all the stories you've heard about Chicago being cold: You're going well into the suburbs to see the Red Bulls play the Fire, not to Soldier Field on the lakefrontjto see the Giants or Jets play the Bears. More likely than not, it's going to be hot, with no cold blast of air coming in off Lake Michigan producing "Bear Weather."

The Chicago Tribune is predicting temperatures to be in the high 80s during daylight, and the low 70s at night. Fortunately, they're not predicting rain for anytime during the weekend. The Chicago Sun-Times backs up its rivals' temperature predictions.

Wait until you cross into Illinois to change your clocks. Indiana is one of 2 States, Arizona being the other, where Daylight Savings Time is an issue; however, the State now uses it throughout. Once you approach the Chicago suburbs and edge cities such as Gary, you'll be moving from Eastern to Central Daylight Time.

Tickets. The Fire averaged 16,003 fans per home game last year. They also averaged 16,003 per home game last year. This suggests that 16,003 is the capacity of Toyota Park. But it's officially listed as 20,000. So either they average a sellout, or they average 80 percent of capacity. So getting tickets might be a problem, or it might not.

Fortunately, this being soccer, they set aside a section of seats for away fans. In their case, Section 134, in the southeast corner of the stadium. Tickets are $32.

Getting There. Chicago is 789 land miles from New York, and Toyota Park is 787 miles from Red Bull Arena. Knowing this, your first reaction is going to be to fly out there.

Unlike some other Midwestern cities, this is a good idea if you can afford it. If you buy tickets online, you can get them for as little as under $300 round-trip. O'Hare International Airport (named for Lt. Cmdr. Edward "Butch" O'Hare, the U.S. Navy's 1st flying ace who was nevertheless shot down over the Pacific in World War II), at the northwestern edge of the city, is United Airlines' headquarters, so nearly every flight they have from the New York area's airports to there is nonstop, so it’ll be 3 hours, tarmac to tarmac, and about 2 hours going back.

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Blue Line train will take you from O’Hare to the downtown elevated (or "L") tracks that run in "The Loop" (the borders of which are Randolph, Wells, Van Buren and Wabash Streets) in 45 minutes. From Midway Airport, the Orange Line train can get you to the Loop.  Both should take about 45 minutes.

Bus? Greyhound’s run between the 2 cities, launched 5 times per day, is relatively easy, but long, averaging about 18 hours, and is $300 round-trip -- but can drop to as low as $112 on Advanced Purchase. Only 1 of the 5 runs goes straight there without requiring you to change buses: The one leaving Port Authority Bus Terminal at 10:15 PM (Eastern) and arriving at Chicago at 2:30 PM (Central). This includes half-hour rest stops at Milesburg, Pennsylvania and Elkhart, Indiana, and an hour-and-a-half stopover in Cleveland.

The station is at 630 W. Harrison Street at Des Plaines Street. (If you’ve seen one of my favorite movies, Midnight Run, this is a new station, not the one seen in that 1988 film.) The closest CTA stop is Clinton on the Blue Line, around the corner, underneath the elevated Dwight D. Eisenhower Expressway.
Greyhound station, with Sears/Willis Tower behind it.
It doesn't look like much, but it's very efficient.

Train? Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited (formerly known as the Twentieth Century Limited when the old New York Central Railroad ran it from Grand Central Terminal to Chicago's LaSalle Street Station) leaves New York's Penn Station at 3:40 every afternoon, and arrives at Union Station at 225 South Canal Street at Adams Street in Chicago at 9:45 every morning. It’s $309 round-trip.
The closest CTA stop is Quincy/Wells, in the Loop, but that’s 6 blocks away – counting the Chicago River as a block; Union Station is, literally, out of the Loop.
If you do decide to walk from Union Station to the Loop, don't look up at the big black thing you pass. That’s the Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, which, until the new World Trade Center was topped off, was the tallest building in North America, which it had officially been since it opened in 1974. If there's one thing being in New York should have taught you, it’s this: "Don't look up at the tall buildings, or you'll look like a tourist."

But since you've come all this way, it makes sense to get a hotel, so take a cab from Union Station or Greyhound to the hotel – unless you're flying in, in which case you can take the CTA train to within a block of a good hotel. There are also hotels near the airports.

If you decide to drive, it’s far enough that it will help to get someone to go with you and split the duties, and to trade off driving and sleeping. The directions are rather simple, down to (almost but not quite literally) the last mile. You'll need to get into New Jersey, and take Interstate 80 West. You'll be on I-80 for the vast majority of the trip, through New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In Ohio, in the western suburbs of Cleveland, I-80 will merge with Interstate 90. From this point onward, you won’t need to think about I-80 until you head home; I-90 is now the key.

Note that the dividing line between Eastern and Central Time on I-80/90, the Indiana Toll Road, is between Exits 39 (in LaPorte County) and 31 (in Lake County).

If you get a hotel near the stadium, and are driving there rather than to the city, while still on I-90 in Indiana, take Exit 17 to Interstate 65 South, then take Exit 259 to Interstate 94 West. Take I-94 into Illinois, to Exit 74 to Interstate 294 North, the Tri-State Tollway. Take that to Exit 17, to U.S. 12 & 20 East, and then turn onto Illinois Route 43 North. This is Harlem Avenue. The stadium will be 4 miles ahead, on your left.

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and a half in New Jersey, 5 hours and 15 minutes in Pennsylvania, 4 hours in Ohio, 2 hours and 30 minutes in Indiana, and half an hour in Illinois before you reach your hotel. That’s 13 hours and 45 minutes. Counting rest stops, preferably halfway through Pennsylvania and just after you enter both Ohio and Indiana, and accounting for traffic in both New York and Chicago, it should be no more than 18 hours, which could save you time on both Greyhound and Amtrak, if not on flying.

Once In the City. A derivation of a Native American name, "Chikagu" was translated as "Place of the onion," as there were onion fields there before there was a white settlement. Some have suggested the translation is a little off, that it should be "Place of the skunk." Others have said, either way, it means "Place of the big stink."

Founded in 1831, so by Northeastern standards it's a young city, Chicago's long-ago nickname of "the Second City" is no longer true, as its population has dropped, and Los Angeles' has risen, to the point where L.A. has passed it, and Chicago is now the 3rd-largest city in America. But at 2.7 million within the city limits, and 9.5 million in the metropolitan area, it's still a huge city. And its legendary crime problem is still there, so whatever precautions you take when you're in New York, take them in Chicago as well.

The "Loop" is the connected part of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA)'s elevated railway (sometimes written as "El" or "L") downtown: Over Wells Street on the west, Van Buren Street on the south, Wabash Street on the east and State Street on the north. Inside the Loop, the east-west streets are Lake, Randolph, Washington, Madison, Monroe, Adams, Jackson and Van Buren; the north-south streets are Wells, LaSalle (Chicago's "Wall Street"), Clark, Dearborn, State and Wabash.

The city's street-address centerpoint is in the Loop, at State & Madison Streets. Madison separates North from South, while State separates East from West. The street grid is laid out so that every 800 on the house numbers is roughly 1 mile. As Wrigley is at 1060 West Addison Street, and on the 3600 block of North Sheffield Avenue, now you know it's a little more than a mile west of State, and 4 1/2 miles north of Madison.

The CTA's rapid-rail system is both underground (subway) and above-ground (elevated), although the El is better-known, standing as a Chicago icon alongside the Sears Tower, Wrigley Field, Michael Jordan, deep-dish pizza, and less savory things like municipal corruption, Mrs. O'Leary's cow and Al Capone. The single-ride fare is $2.25, a 1-day pass is $10, a 3-day pass (if you're going for an entire series) is $20, and a 7-day pass (if you're going for all 6 games) is $28.
(By the way, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 was more likely the result of Mr. O'Leary hosting a poker game in his barn, in which he, or one of his friends, dropped cigar ash, rather than Mrs. O'Leary's cow, knocking a lantern, onto some hay.)

Illinois' State sales tax is 6.25 percent, but in the City of Chicago it's 9.25 percent -- higher than New York's. So don't be shocked when you see prices: Like New York, Boston and Washington, Chicago is an expensive city.

Going In. The Fire play at Toyota Park -- not to be confused with Toyota Stadium, home of MLS' FC Dallas; or the Toyota Center, home of the NBA's Houston Rockets.

Unlike Wrigley Field, U.S. Cellular Field, Soldier Field and the United Center, the home of the Chicago Fire, Toyota Park, is not within the city limits. It is in the town of Bridgeview, Illinois, 15 miles southwest of downtown, near Midway Airport. To get there by public transport, you'd take the Orange Line from the Loop to Midway, then transfer to Bus 386, and get dropped off on Harlem Avenue, across the parking lot. Total ride time, plus the walk across the parking lot, is a little under an hour.

If you were driving from the city, you'd take Interstate 55, the Stevenson Expressway, south to Exit 283, and take IL-43/Harlem Avenue South. The stadium will be 3 miles ahead on your right. The official address is 7000 Harlem Avenue South. Figure 30-45 minutes, depending on game traffic. Parking is $15.
The stadium opened in the middle of the 2006 MLS season. That year, it hosted the MLS All-Star Game, in which the MLS All-Stars defeated London club Chelsea; and the U.S. Open Cup Final, in which the Fire beat the Los Angeles Galaxy. The Fire have also hosted Everton of Liverpool, AC Milan, Mexican clubs Club America and Chivas Guadalajara, and other international teams in friendlies. The U.S. soccer team has played here once, a 2008 win over Trinidad & Tobago.

The field is natural grass, and is aligned north-to-south. The Fire share it with their female counterparts, the Chicago Red Stars of the National Women's Soccer League. The stadium has also hosted rugby and music festivals.
Food. As one of America's greatest food cities, in Big Ten Country where tailgate parties are practically a sacrament, you would expect the Chicago stadiums and arenas to have lots of good options. According to

There are eleven concession stands around the stadium concourse. As is the growing trend around the country, the stadium serves up the usual American sporting event staples (hotdogs, popcorn, pizza, nachos, etc.) alongside the regional Chicago staples:

  • Stadium Fare (behind Sections 101 and 126, and the Miller Lite Party Deck)
  • Village Grill (behind Sections 106 and 134)
  • Burrito Grandes (behind Sections 108 and 132)
  • Fan Favorites (behind Section 112)
  • That’s Italian (behind Section 114)
  • Chicago Stop (behind Section 118)
  • Corner Kickin’ Chicken (behind Section 121)
  • Bobak’s Sausage (behind Section 123/124)
Section 8 recommendations? Give a try to Connie’s Pizza — said to be “vastly underrated in the great Chicago pizza debate” — or have a Chicago hot dog with all of the proper fixings — sweet relish, mustard, onion, tomato, cucumber, celery salt on a poppy seed bun and hold the ketchup. Check out Hot Time in Old Town‘s concession breakdown a look for a super in-depth rundown on stuffing your face at Toyota Park.
Team History Displays. The Fire won the MLS Cup in 1998 -- their 1st season of play -- and reached the Final in 2000 and 2003. They won the Supporters' Shield in 2003. They won the U.S. Open Cup in 1998 (meaning they won The Double), 2000, 2003 and 2006, and reached the Final in 2004 and 2011. So they do have some history. However, there appears to be no notation for these achievements in the fan-viewable areas of the stadium.

What they do have is the Ring of Fire, a team hall of fame on the east side of the stadium. Founded in 2003, it was the 1st of its kind in MLS. So far, all 8 members have been part of the 1998 MLS Cup & U.S. Open Cup Double: Midfielder Piotr Nowak, Number 10; forward Frank Klopa, 41; midfielder Luboš Kubík, 5; midfielder Chris Armas, 14 (a Bronx native); centreback C.J. Brown, 2; forward Ante Razov, 9, the club's all-time leading scorer; head coach Bob Bradley, the former Princeton University and U.S. national team coach (and father of current U.S. team star Michael Bradley); and the club's 1st general manager, Peter Wilt, also the 1st chairman of the Red Stars.
In addition, behind Sections 132 and 133, the stadium has an Illinois Soccer Hall of Fame.

Stuff. The Fire Fan Shop is located under the east stand of the stadium. The usual fan gear can be purchased there.

Despite being one of the more successful clubs in MLS, I could find no references to any books or DVD about the Chicago Fire.

During the Game. Chicago Fire fans do not have any particular hatred for Red Bulls fans. The Columbus Crew and Sporting Kansas City, yes, due to geography. The New England Revolution, FC Dallas and the Los Angeles Galaxy, yes, due to Playoff matchups. Team chairman Andrew Hauptmann, yes, due to an extended period of mediocrity. (The most popular hashtag among Fire fans is #HauptmannOut.) The Red Bulls, no. Despite the tendency of Chicago sports fans to enjoy beer and lots of it, your safety should not be an issue.

This game will be Pride Night, honoring Chicago's thriving gay community. While the New York Tri-State Area is among the leading cities in the world in the gay rights movement, some sensitivity should be shown. Certain sex-themed taunts should be left at home.

The Fire hold auditions for National Anthem singers, instead of having a regular. They have a mascot, and, in keeping with the Fire theme, he's a Dalmatian, and his name is Sparky.
Despite Chicago being the 3rd-largest city in America and one of the host cities for the 1994 World Cup, it didn't get a charter franchise in MLS. But when the Fire began play in 1998, they had the fan culture already in place, due to the multiethnic nature of the city. (This was a pattern that later expansion cities like Philadelphia and Seattle followed.)

The north end of Toyota Park, known as the Harlem End (even though Harlem Avenue is on the east side of the stadium), is the home of Section 8. This is where the most ardent Fire fans sat when they played their first few seasons, at Soldier Field, also in the north end zone. They kept the name after the move. "Section 8," as fans of the M*A*S*H character Corporal Max Klinger will remember, is the American military designation for being psychologically unfit for service; crazy.

(It just so happens that Section 8 was also the section of Ebbets Field in Brooklyn where the Dodger Sym-Phony Band sat. Along with the Royal Rooters in Boston baseball, a precursor to today's U.S. sports fan groups.)

The north end at Toyota Park, where standing and singing is not only allowed by encouraged, is Sections 116, 117, 118 and 119. The Section 8 fan group uses Section 117.
Section 8 fans in Section 117, including one holding the city flag.
Note that the women's team, the Red Stars,
named themselves for the stars on this flag.

A Hispanic fans' group called Sector Latino sits in Section 101, in the southwest corner. Other groups sit in the Valspar Fire Pit in the south end, Sections 135 to 139.
Their songs include "A Hot Time In the Old Town Tonight," which you've surely heard, but may not be aware was written about the Great Chicago Fire of October 1871. They do the old "Vamos... " song that we sing as "Vamos Metro": "Vamos, La Maquina Roja... " (The Red Machine.) They do "I Just Can't Get Enough," "Blitzkreig Bop" (surely, not a nod to the USFL team, the Chicago Blitz), "Seven Nation Army," and "You're going home in a Cook County Ambulance!"

After the Game. Fire fans do not have a reputation for bad behavior. On the other hand, Chicagoans do like to drink, so be on your guard. You probably won't have a problem, but don't try to create one.

There's a Circle K to the east of the stadium, at 7050 Harlem Avenue; and a Mexican restaurant, Taqueria Los Magueyes, across from it at 7101 Harlem Avenue. Other than that, there's not much within a short drive. You may have to go back to the city to get a decent postgame meal.

If you want to be around other New Yorkers, I found listings of 4 Chicago bars where New York Giants fans gather: Red Ivy, just south of Wrigley at 3519 N. Clark Street at Eddy Street; The Bad Dog Tavern, 4535 N. Lincoln Avenue at Wilson Avenue (Brown Line to Western); Racine Plumbing Bar and Grill, 2642 N. Lincoln Avenue at Kenmore; and Trinity, at 2721 N. Halsted Street at Diversey Parkway (Brown or Purple Line to Diversey for either Racine or Trinity).

And I found these 3 which show Jets games: Rebel Bar & Grill, also just south of Wrigley at 3462 N. Clark at Cornelia Avenue; Butch McGuire's, 20 W. Division Street at Dearborn Street (Red Line to Clark/Division); and Wabash Tap, at 1233 S. Wabash Avenue, at 12th Street. Red Line to Roosevelt.

If your visit to Chicago is during the European soccer season (which this is not), you can usually watch your favorite club at these locations:

* Arsenal and Manchester City: Globe Pub, 1934 W. Irving Park Rd. Brown Line to Irving Park.

* Liverpool, Everton, Celtic and Juventus: A.J. Hudson's, 3801 N. Ashland Ave. Bus 9 to Addison & Grace.

* Chelsea: Fado, 100 W. Grand Ave. Red Line to Grand.

* Manchester United: The PrivateBank Fire Pitch, 3626 N. Talman Ave. Blue Line to California Ave., then Bus 52 to Rockwell & Addison.

* Tottenham Hotspur: Atlantic Bar & Grill, 5062 N. Lincoln Ave. Brown Line to Western.

* Real Madrid: Linkin House, 2142 N. Clybourn Ave. Brown Line to Armitage.

* Barcelona: Bar Sixty Three Pub & Pizza, 6341 N. Broadway. Red Line to Loyola.

* AC Milan and Bayern Munich: Cleos Bar & Grill, 1935 W. Chicago Ave. Blue Line to Chicago Ave., then Bus 66 to Damen & Chicago.

If you're a fan of an Italian team or a German team not mentioned on this list, Cleos (apparently, no apostrophe) is your best bet. Otherwise, try A.J. Hudson's or Fado.

Sidelights. Chicago is one of the best sports cities, not just in America, but on the planet. Check out the following – but do it in daylight, as the city's reputation for crime, while significantly reduced from its 1980s peak, is still there.

* U.S. Cellular Field and site of Comiskey Park. Comiskey, the longtime home of the White Sox, 1910 to 1990, was at 324 W. 35th Street at Shields Avenue (a.k.a. Bill Veeck Drive), and is now a parking lot, with its infield painted in.

This was the home field of Big Ed Walsh (the pitcher supposedly helped design it to be a pitchers' park), Eddie Collins, Shoeless Joe Jackson and the rest of the "Black Sox" that won the 1917 World Series but were accused of throwing the 1919 edition, Luke Appling, the great double-play combination of Luis Aparicio and Nellie Fox of the '59 "Go-Go White Sox," Dick Allen, the 1977 "South Side Hit Men" of Richie Zisk and Oscar Gamble, and the 1983 Division Champions of Carlton Fisk, Ron Kittle, LaMarr Hoyt and Harold Baines.

The NFL's Chicago Cardinals played there from 1922 to 1959, and the franchise, now the Arizona Cardinals, won what remains their only NFL Championship Game (they didn't call 'em Super Bowls back then) there in 1947. The Chicago Sting of the old North American Soccer League played there from 1980 to 1982, and won the league title in 1981.

And in 1979, during what was supposed to be intermission between games of a White Sox vs. Tigers doubleheader, was Disco Demolition Night. Today, it's called a fiasco, but the sentiment was right: Disco really did suck. But the biggest music event there was the Beatles' concert on August 20, 1965.

Unlike the Cubs, owned by the Wrigley family that put their chewing-gum fortune into keeping Wrigley Field in good shape, the White Sox' owners rarely had money for upkeep, so, for reasons of safety and comfort, Comiskey Park probably should have been replaced in the 1970s. Instead, it took until 1988 and a serious threat of moving to Tampa Bay (following those of moving to Seattle for 1976 and Milwaukee for 1970) to get a bill through the Illinois legislature to build a replacement for the last active ballpark where Cy Young pitched.

That ballpark opened in 1991, across the street at 333 W. 35th Street. It also named Comiskey Park until naming rights were bought in 2003, and it became U.S. Cellular Field. Designed and built right before Baltimore's Camden Yards rewrote the rules of stadium and arena construction, it was derided as "soulless," "antiseptic" and a "mallpark." Renovations have made it a bit more intimate, and comparative success -- the 2005 World Championship and a few other postseason berths -- have tamed these criticisms somewhat. Red Line to Sox-35th.

* Wrigley Field. Opened in 1914 as Weeghman Park for the Chicago Whales of the Federal League, the Cubs moved in for the 1916 season and have been here for a century. William Wrigley Jr. bought the team and the ballpark in 1925 and renamed it Wrigley Field.

It's known for its brick wall surrounding the field, the ivy covering the bricks in the outfield, the trapezoidal bleachers, the big hand-operated scoreboard on top, and famously refusing to add lights until 1988, playing all day games. The Cubs have won 6 Pennants here, but the last was in 1945. The Bears played here from 1921 to 1970, winning 8 NFL Championships in the pre-Super Bowl era.

It is by far the oldest ballpark in the National League, and next to Fenway Park in Boston the 2nd-oldest in Major League Baseball. 1060 W. Addison Street. Red Line to Addison.

* Previous Chicago ballparks. The Cubs previously played at these parks:

State Street Grounds, also called 23rd Street Grounds, 1874-77, winning the NL's 1st Pennant in 1876, 23rd, State, and Federal Streets & Cermak Road (formerly 22nd Street), Red Line to Cermak-Chinatown.

Lakefront Park, also called Union Base-Ball Grounds and White-Stocking Park (the Cubs used the name "Chicago White Stockings" until 1900, and the AL entry then took the name), 1878-84, winning the 1880, '81 and '82 Pennants, Michigan Avenue & Randolph Street in the northwest corner of what’s now Millennium Park, with (appropriately) Wrigley Square built on the precise site. Randolph/Wabash or Madison/Wabash stops on the Loop.

West Side Park I, 1885-91, winning the 1885 and '86 Pennants. Congress, Loomis, Harrison & Throop Streets, now part of the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), Blue Line to Racine.

South Side Park, 1891-93, just east of where the Comiskey Parks were built.

West Side Park II, 1893-1915, winning the 1906 and 1910 Pennants and the 1907 and 1908 World Series, the only World Series the Cubs have ever won. At Taylor, Wood and Polk Streets and Wolcott Avenue, now the site of a medical campus that includes the Cook County Hospital, the basis for the TV show ER, Pink Line to Polk. (Yes, the CTA has a Pink Line.)

Prior to the original Comiskey Park, the White Sox played at a different building called South Side Park, at 39th Street (now Pershing Road), 38th Street, & Wentworth and Princeton Avenues, a few blocks south of the Comiskey Parks.

* United Center and site of Chicago Stadium. From 1929 to 1994, the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks played at Chicago Stadium, "the Madhouse on Madison," at 1800 W. Madison Street at Wood Street. The NBA’s Bulls played there from 1967 to 1994. The United Center opened across the street at 1901 W. Madison at Honore Street.

At the old Stadium, the Blackhawks won Stanley Cups in 1934, '38 and '61, and the Bulls won NBA Titles in 1991, '92 and '93. At the United Center, the Bulls won in 1996, ’97 and ’98 and the Blackhawks have won the 2010, '13 and '15 Cups. The city's 1st NBA team, the Chicago Stags, played there from 1946 to 1950, and reached the 1st NBA Finals there in 1947.

The Democrats had their Convention at Chicago Stadium in 1932, '40 and '44, nominating Franklin D. Roosevelt each time; the Republicans also had their Convention there in '32 and '44, nominating Herbert Hoover and Thomas E. Dewey, respectively. The Democrats held court (or rink) at the United Center in 1996, renominating Bill Clinton in their first Convention in Chicago since the disaster of 1968. And Elvis Presley gave concerts at the Stadium on June 16 and 17, 1972 -- giving the last of these as burglars were breaking into the Watergate complex in Washington.

Blue Line to Illinois Medical District (which can also be used to access the site of West Side Park II and ER), or Green or Pink Line to Ashland-Lake.

* Soldier Field. The original version of this legendary stadium opened in 1924, and for years was best known as the site of the Chicago College All-Star Game (a team of graduating seniors playing the defending NFL Champions) from 1934 to 1976.

It was the site of the 1927 heavyweight title fight between Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney, the famed "Long Count" fight, which may have had what remains the greatest attendance ever for a U.S. sporting event, with figures ranging from 104,000 to 130,000, depending on who you believe. It definitely was the site of the largest football crowd ever, 123,000 to see Notre Dame play USC a few weeks after the Long Count; in spite of various expansions, the universities of Michigan and Tennessee and Penn State still can't top this. The 1926 Army-Navy Game was played there, in front of over 100,000.

Games of the 1994 World Cup and the 1999 Women's World Cup were also held at the old Soldier Field. MLS' Chicago Fire made it their 1st home ground, and 13 matches of the U.S. soccer team have been played on the site, most recently a 2013 win over Panama. The U.S. has won 6 of these games, lost 4 and tied 3. An NHL Stadium Series game was played there earlier this year, with the Blackhawks beating the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-1.
The old Soldier Field during the 1994 World Cup

Amazingly, the Bears played at Wrigley from 1921 to 1970, with the occasional single-game exception. The story I heard is that Bears founder-owner-coach George Halas was a good friend of both the Wrigley and Veeck families, and felt loyalty to them, and that's why he stayed at Wrigley even though it had just 47,000 seats for football.

But I heard another story that Halas was a Republican and didn't like Chicago's Democratic Mayor, Richard J. Daley (whose son Richard M. later broke his father's record for longest-serving Mayor), and didn't want to pay the city Parks Department a lot of rent. (This is believable, because Halas was known to be cheap: Mike Ditka, who nonetheless loved his old boss, said, "Halas throws nickels around like manhole covers.") The real reason the Bears moved to Soldier Field in 1971 was Monday Night Football: Halas wanted the revenue, and Wrigley didn't have lights until 1988.

The 1st team named the Chicago Fire, in the World Football League, played at Soldier Field in 1974, changing their name to the Chicago Winds in 1975, before the league folded. The Chicago Blitz of the USFL played there in 1983 and 1984, before folding. The NASL's Chicago Sting played there from 1974 to 1979, and again in 1983 and 1984.

A 2002-03 renovation demolished all but the iconic (if not Ionic, they're in the Doric style) Greek-style columns that used to hang over the stadium, and are now visible only from the outside. It doesn't look like "Soldier Field" anymore: One critic called it The Eyesore on the Lake Shore. Capacity is now roughly what it was in the last few years prior to the renovation, 61,500. And while the Bears won 8 Championships while playing at Wrigley (8 more titles than the Cubs have won there), they've only won 1 more at Soldier Field, the 1985 title capped by Super Bowl XX. The Monsters of the Midway have been tremendous underachievers since leaving Wrigley, having been to only 1 of the last 30 Super Bowls (and losing it).
The old columns and the new stadium

1410 S. Museum Campus Drive, at McFetridge and Lake Shore Drives, a bit of a walk from the closest station, Roosevelt station on the Green, Orange and Red Lines.

* Site of Chicago Coliseum. There were 2 buildings with this name that you should know about. One hosted the 1896 Democratic National Convention, where William Jennings Bryan began the process of turning the Democratic Party from the conservative party it had been since before the Civil War into the modern liberal party it became, a struggle that went through the Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt years before it finally lived up to its promise under John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

It was here that Bryan gave the speech for which he is most remembered, calling for the free coinage of silver rather than sticking solely to the gold standard: "You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold."

Now a part of Jackson Park, at 63rd Street & Stony Island Avenue. 63rd Street Metra (commuter rail) station.

The other was home to every Republican Convention from 1904 to 1920. Here, they nominated Theodore Roosevelt in 1904, William Howard Taft in 1908 and 1912, Charles Evans Hughes in 1916 and Warren Harding in 1920. When TR was maneuvered out of the nomination to return to office at the 1912 Convention, he held his subsequent Progressive Party Convention was also held there.

It was also the original home of the Blackhawks, from 1926 to 1929 and briefly again in 1932. In 1935, roller derby was invented there. In 1961, an NBA expansion team, the Chicago Packers, played there, becoming the Zephyrs in 1962 and moving to become the Baltimore Bullets in 1963 (and the Washington Bullets in 1973, and the Washington Wizards in 1997).

The Coliseum hosted a few rock concerts before the Fire Department shut it down in 1971, and it was demolished in 1982. The Soka Gakkai USA Culture Center, a Buddhist institute, now occupies the site. East side of Wabash Avenue at 15th Street, with today's Coliseum Park across the street. Appropriately enough, the nearest CTA stop is at Roosevelt Avenue, on the Red, Yellow and Green Lines.

* Site of International Amphitheatre. Home to the Bulls in their first season, 1966-67, and to the World Hockey Association's Chicago Cougars from 1972 to 1975, this arena, built by the stockyards in 1934, was home to a lot of big pro wrestling cards. Elvis sang here on March 28, 1957. The Beatles played here on September 5, 1964 and August 12, 1966.

But it was best known as a site for political conventions. Both parties met there in 1952 (The Republicans nominating Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Democrats the man was then Governor of Illinois, Adlai Stevenson), the Democrats in 1956 (Stevenson again), the Republicans in 1960 (Richard Nixon), and, most infamously, the Democrats in 1968 (Hubert Humphrey), with all the protests. The main protests for that convention were in Grant Park and a few blocks away on Michigan Avenue in front of the Conrad Hilton Hotel, one of the convention headquarters (now the Chicago Hilton & Towers. 720 S. Michigan).

The Amphitheatre, torn down in 1999, was at 4220 S. Halsted Street, where an Aramark plant now stands. Red Line to 47th Street. This location is definitely not to be visited after dark; indeed, unless you’re really interested in political history, I'd say, if you have to drop one item from this list, this is the one.

* Northwestern University. Chicago's Big Ten school is just north of the city, in Evanston. Dyche Stadium/Ryan Field, and McGaw Hall/Welsh-Ryan Arena, are at 2705 Ashland Avenue between Central Street and Isabella Street. (Purple Line to Central.)

While Northwestern's athletic teams have traditionally been terrible, the school has a very important place in sports history: The 1st NCAA basketball tournament championship game was held there in 1939, at Patten Gymnasium, at 2145 Sheridan Road: Oregon defeated Ohio State. The original Patten Gym was torn down a year later, and the school's Technological Institute was built on the site. Sheridan Road, Noyes Street and Campus Drive. Purple Line to Noyes.

Welsh-Ryan, under the McGaw name, hosted the Final Four in 1956: Bill Russell and K.C. Jones, soon to be Boston Celtics stars, led the University of San Francisco past Iowa. These are the only 2 Final Fours ever to be held in the Chicago area, or in the State of Illinois.

* National Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame. Appropriately in Chicago's Little Italy, west of downtown, it includes a state uf Yankee legend Joe DiMaggio.  Other New York native or playing baseball players honored include Joe Torre, Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto, Billy Martin, Vic Raschi, Tony Lazzeri, Dave Righetti, Frank Crosetti, Roy Campanella, Sal Maglie, Mike Piazza, Bobby Valentine, John Franco, Carl Furillo, Frank Viola, Jim Fregosi, Ralph Branca, Rocky Colavito, broadcaster Joe Garagiola, and the last active player to have been a Brooklyn Dodger, Bob Aspromonte, and his brother Ken Aspromonte. 1431 W. Taylor Street at Loomis Street.  Pink Line to Polk.

* Museums. Chicago's got a bunch of good ones, as you would expect in a city of 3 million people. Their version of New York’s Museum of Natural History is the Field Museum, just north of Soldier Field. Adjacent is the Shedd Aquarium. On the other side of the Aquarium is their answer to the Hayden Planetarium, the Adler Planetarium. And they have a fantastic museum for which there is no real analogue in New York, though the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia is similar: The Museum of Science & Industry, at 57th Street & Cornell Drive, near the University of Chicago campus; 56th Street Metra station. The Art Institute of Chicago is their version of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, at 111 S. Michigan Avenue, just off the Loop.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. If you're a fan of that movie, as I am (see my 25th Anniversary retrospective, from June 2011), not only will you have taken in Wrigley Field, but you'll recognize the Art Institute as where Alan Ruck focused on Georges Seurat’s painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.

Other sites visited by Ferris, Cameron and Sloane were the Sears Tower, then the tallest building in the world, 1,454 feet, 233 S. Wacker Drive (yes, the name is Wacker), Quincy/Wells station in the Loop; and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, 335 S. La Salle Street, LaSalle/Van Buren station in the Loop. (That station is also where Steve Martin & John Candy finally reached Chicago in another John Hughes film, Planes, Trains and Automobiles). The Steuben Day Parade goes down Lincoln Avenue every September, on or close to the anniversary of Baron von Steuben's birth, not in the spring as in the film.

While the Bueller house was in Long Beach, California, the Frye house is in Highland Park, north of the city. Remember, it’s a private residence, and not open to the public, so I won't provide the address. And the restaurant, Chez Quis, did not and does not exist.

Nor did, nor does, Adam's Ribs, a barbecue joint made famous in a 1974 M*A*S*H episode of the same title. Today, there are 18 restaurants in America named Adam's Ribs, including two on Long Island, on Park Boulevard in Massapequa Park and on the Montauk Highway in Babylon; and another on Cookstown-Wrightstown Road outside South Jersey's Fort Dix and McGuire Air Force Base. But only one is anywhere near Chicago, in Buffalo Grove in the northwestern suburbs.

Not far from that, in the western suburbs, is Wheaton, home town of football legend Red Grange and the comedic Belushi Brothers, John and Jim. John and Dan Aykroyd used Wrigley Field in The Blues Brothers, and Jim played an obsessive Cubs fan in Taking Care of Business. Their father, an Albanian immigrant, ran a restaurant called The Olympia Cafe, which became half the basis for John's Saturday Night Live sketch of the same name, better known as the Cheeseburger Sketch: "No hamburger! Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger... No fries, chips!... No Coke, Pepsi!"

Don Novello, an SNL writer who played Father Guido Sarducci, said the other half of the inspiration was the Billy Goat Tavern, originally operated by Greek immigrant William "Billy Goat" Sianis, originator of the supposed Billy Goat Curse on the Cubs, across Madison Street from Chicago Stadium, from 1937 until 1963. At that point, Sianis moved to the lower deck of the double-decked Michigan Avenue, since it was near the headquarters of the city's three daily newspapers, the Tribune, the Sun-Times, and the now-defunct Daily News. Mike Royko, who wrote columns for each of these papers, made it his haunt and frequently mentioned it in his columns.

Novello and Bill Murray, Chicagoans, were regulars at the Billy Goat, but John Belushi later said he'd never set foot in the place, so while the others may have drawn inspiration from it, his came from his father's restaurant.

Sam Sianis, nephew of the original Billy, still serves up a fantastic cheeseburger (he was there when I visited in 1999), he deviates from the sketch: No Pepsi, Coke. It's open for breakfast, and serves regular breakfast food. It looks foreboding, being underneath the elevated part of Michigan Avenue, and a sign out front (and on their website) says, "Enter at your own risk." But another sign says, "Butt in anytime." 430 N. Michigan Avenue, lower deck, across from the Tribune Tower. Red Line to Grand. The original location near Chicago Stadium has effectively been replaced, at 1535 W. Madison Street.

The Tribune Tower is a work of art in itself. Its building, Tribune publisher "Colonel" Robert R. McCormick, had stones taken from various famous structures all over the world: The Palace of Westminster in London, the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, the Grand Canyon.  (He must've paid a lot of people off.) These can be seen at near ground level, but the building itself is so grand that it doesn't need it.

The building is also the headquarters of the TV and radio station that McCormick named for his paper: WGN, "The World's Greatest Newspaper," a line that has long since disappeared from the paper's masthead. 435 N. Michigan Avenue. Red Line to Grand.

The Wrigley Building is right across from it, at 400 N. Michigan. The block of North Michigan they're on is renamed Jack Brickhouse Way, and Brickhouse's statue is on the grounds of the Tribune Tower.

You may notice some other film landmarks. The Chicago Board of Trade Building was used as the Wayne Tower in Christopher Nolan’s Batman films. And Chicago stood in for Metropolis in the Superman-themed TV series Lois & Clark, with the Wrigley Building and the Tribune Tower as standout landmarks.

TV shows set in Chicago include The Untouchables, about Eliot Ness and his Depression-era crimebusters; Good Times, set in the infamous, now-demolished Cabrini-Green housing project; the related sitcoms Perfect Strangers and Family Matters (Great shows? Well, of course, they were, don't be ridiculous!); Married... with Children, Fox's longest-running non-cartoon (though the Bundy family was pretty darn cartoonish); the 1990s hospital dramas ER and Chicago HopeBoss, the current show with Kelsey Grammer as a corrupt Mayor; and The Bob Newhart Show, with Bob as psychiatrist Dr. Bob Hartley.

Nearly every one of these shows was actually filmed in Los Angeles, and the exterior shots were also mostly L.A. sites, so don't bother going to look for them. However, a statue of Newhart is at the Navy Pier, near its amusement rides, between Grand Avenue & Illinois Street at the lake.

No President has ever come from Chicago, and none has a Presidential Library anywhere near it -- Abraham Lincoln's is 200 miles away, in the State capital of Springfield -- although many have Presidential connections. Most notably, the 1st true Presidential Debate, between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, was held on September 26, 1960, at the old CBS Studio, home to WBBM, 780 on your AM dial and Channel 2 on your TV. 630 N. McClurg Street. The building is no longer there. Red Line to Grand, then an 8-minute walk.

In the early days of American politics, any temporary meeting structure was called a "Wigwam," which is a Native American word for a temporary dwelling. Chicago’s first Wigwam was at what is now 191 N. Upper Wacker Drive, right where the Chicago River splits into north and south branches. Abraham Lincoln was nominated there at their 1860 Convention. A modern office building is on the site today. Clark/Lake station in the Loop.

Another Wigwam stood at 205 East Randolph Street, in what was then called Lake Park, now Grant Park. The Democrats held their Convention there in 1892, nominating Grover Cleveland for the 3rd time. The Harris Theater is on the site today. Randolph/Wabash station in the Loop.

In 1864, the Democrats nominated General George B. McClellan at The Amphitheatre, 1100 South Michigan Avenue. A Best Western Hotel is on the site today. Red Line to Roosevelt. In 1868, the Republicans nominated Ulysses S. Grant at Crosby's Opera House, 1 West Washington Street. A modern office building is on the site today. Blue Line to Washington.

The Interstate Industrial Exposition Building, a.k.a. the Glass Palace, was where the Republicans met and nominated James Garfield in 1880, and both parties met in 1884, the Republicans nominating James G. Blaine and the Democrats nominating Cleveland for the 1st time. 111 South Michigan Avenue. The aforementioned Art Institute of Chicago is on the site today. Adams/Wabash station in the Loop. And in 1888, the Republicans met at the Auditorium Building, 430 South Michigan Avenue. It still stands. Harold Washington Library station, a.k.a. State-Van Buren station, in the Loop.


Every American should visit Chicago. And every American soccer fan should see a game at Toyota Park. Despite being a bit of a pain in the neck to get to from downtown, it provides the best MLS experience in the Midwest. And they won't treat Red Bull fans badly. Certainly, not as though you were arch-rivals.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Cold Bats, Girardi Blow It For Yanks Again

I'm going to have to retitle this blog "A Song of Ice and Fire Joe Girardi."

When you hold your opponents to 2 runs over the 1st 20 innings of a series, you should at least win the 1st 2 games, right?

The Yankees have done that in this series. And it hasn't worked out that way.

Ivan Nova started for the Yankees against the San Francisco Giants yesterday, and was fantastic. He went 7 innings, allowing 1 run on 6 hits and 2 walks, striking out 7. He should have been allowed to stay in the game.

But Girardi looked in his binder, and saw that the still-cruising Nova had thrown 96 pitches, and removed him.

At first, it looked like a good decision: Andrew Miller pitched a perfect 8th, Aroldis Chapman kept the Giants from scoring in the 9th and the 10th, and Dellin Betances -- despite a near-wild pitch on an intentional walk that only failed to lose the game because Angel Pagan, on 3rd base, didn't take enough of a lead and couldn't score -- pitched a scoreless 11th. At which point, it was still 1-1.

But when you're the Yankees, in Yankee Stadium with that short porch in right field, you should score more than 1 run in 11 innings. (That they scored only 3 runs in 21 innings in these 2 games is atrocious, even if they did win the 1st game.)

But aside from a Mark Teixeira single and a Mark Williamson error in right field that got Didi Gregorius home in the 4th inning, the Yankees got nothing. They loaded the bases with 1 out in the 11th, and got nothing. Credit the Giants' pitching, sure, but the Yankees should still do better than that.

Girardi brought Anthony Swarzak in to pitch the top of the 12th, and he allowed a leadoff double by Trevor Brown. After getting a groundout, he allowed a game-winning single to Mac Williamson (whose home run off Nova scored the Giants' 1st run).

The Yankees, of course, went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 12th. Giants 2, Yankees 1. WP: Santiago Casilla (2-3). SV: Hunter Strickland (2). LP: Swarzak (1-1).

I don't blame Swarzak. The Yankees should have gotten more than 1 run, more than 9 hits, in 11 innings, to prevent a 12th inning loss.

Blame this one on the cold bats, and blame it on Giardi and his damn binder. They combined to blow it, again.

The series concludes this afternoon. Nathan Eovaldi starts against Johnny Cueto. Girardi has already said he won't use Betances, Andrew Miller or Aroldis Chapman today, due to his recent bullpen fuckups. Of course, once Eovaldi reaches 95 pitches, Girardi will panic, and go to the bullpen. Who will it be? Chasen Shreve? Nick Goody? Thank God it won't be Boone Logan, but don't be surprised if the Yankees are close through 6 innings and get blown out thereafter.

Also, rumors are running rampant that Aroldis Chapman is going to be traded. Don't believe them: There is no one the Yankees could get that would equal the value of a lockdown closer. Brian Cashman is short-sighted, but he's not that stupid.

Mike Piazza is inducted into the Hall of Fame today. First time a known steroid user goes in. So I guess it's safe to let David Ortiz in? Fine, but what about Alex Rodriguez? Or Andy Pettitte, whose offense was trivial by comparison? Or Mike Mussina, who was totally clean?

Ken Griffey Jr. also goes in. As far as we know, he was clean.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Playoffs? If They Can Beat Baltimore & San Francisco, Yeah, I'm Gonna Talk to You About Playoffs!

When your favorite baseball team is surging and trying to get back into the Playoff race, the last thing it needs is to face another team that's surging and jockeying for Playoff position because they already have one of the best records in baseball.

Such was the case with the Yankees last night, as they welcomed the San Francisco Giants into Yankee Stadium II for a 3-game Interleague series. The Giants have won the World Series in the last 3 odd-numbered seasons (2010, 2012 and 2014), and they look like they're setting themselves up well for a 4th, having come into last night's game 57-38.

They were also starting Madison Bumgarner, MVP of the 2014 World Series, and who is, counting the postseason, is 50-25 over the last 2 1/2 seasons.

The Yankees started Masahiro Tanaka. For 6 innings, 'Hiro was better than MadBum. Tanaka pitched 6 innings, allowing no runs on 4 hits and 2 walks. And he was staked (or should that be "stoke"? "Stoken"?) to a 2-0 lead, thanks to a Starlin Castro double that drove home Brett Gardner in the 1st, and Carlos Beltran single that drove home Ronald Torreyes in the 2nd.

Tanaka threw only 83 pitches in those 6 innings, The right thing to do would have been to let him pitch the 7th. But Joe Girardi looked into his damn binder, and decided to take him out, and bring in Dellin Betances. And Betances was shaky, letting runners on, and throwing a wild pitch that made it 2-1.

And then Girardi brought Andrew Miller in for the 8th, and he was just as shaky, and let the Giants tie it up. The Giants are the kind of team that will make you pay for your mistakes.

Except Giant manager Bruce Bochy made a similar mistake. Bumgarner threw 115 pitches over 7 innings, and was only trailing 2-1, but Bochy took him out, replacing him with Josh Osich. Chase Headley took advantage of this, leading off the bottom of the 8th by beating out an infield single. (The 3rd baseman who was unable to throw him out was former Yankee Ramiro Pena.)

Osich was clearly not ready for this situation, because, next, he walked Mark Teixeira. And then Austin Romine hit a ground ball to the shortstop, Brandon Crawford. He had made errors that contributed to each of the Yankees' preceding runs. Now, he made a 3rd, making a bad throw that messed up a force play, possibly even a double play. That allowed Headley to score the go-ahead run.

Indeed, bringing in Osich may have been a mistake due to his being hurt: After the error, he was removed for Sergio Romo, who ended the Yankee rally.

Aroldis Chapman shut the Giants down in the 9th. Yankees 3, Giants 2. WP: Miller (6-1, even though he blew a lead). SV: Chapman (20). LP: Osich (1-2).

That's 5 out of 6. And, with the Boston Red Sox losing last night, the Baltimore Orioles jumped back into 1st place, leading the Sox by half a game (even in the loss column), the Toronto Blue Jays by 2 (3), and the Yankees by 6 1/2 (7).

Maybe Girardi was right: Maybe the Yankees are in "Playoff mode."

I can hear Jim Mora Sr.: "Playoffs? Don't talk about... Playoffs? You kiddin' me? Playoffs? I just hope we can win a game!" Well, now, the Yankees have shown they can win games. And against good teams, too: That 5 out of 6 includes 3 out of 4 against Baltimore and 1 against San Francisco.

So, yeah, I'm gonna talk to you about Playoffs.

The Yankees-Giants series continues today, 1st pitch at 4:05 PM (not 7:05 like I said yesterday). Ivan Nova, pitching much better lately, starts against Jeff Samardzija.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Yankees Back In Race, Take 3 of 4 from Birds; Dennis Green, 1949-2016

Everyone who said the Yankees had no chance at the Playoffs: Shame on you.

I have to admit: While I hoped they could take at least 3 out of these 4 games with the 1st-place Baltimore Orioles, I had a feeling that if they only lost 1, it would be the Thursday day-game-after-a-night-game. I was right.

Anyway, after taking the 1st 2, the Yankees needed Michael Pineda to snap out of it. Did he ever: 6 innings, no runs, earned or otherwise, 5 hits, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts. His best performance of the season.

He threw 113 pitches, so, naturally, Joe Girardi panicked and did't let a pitcher who was clearly still cruising pitch the 7th.

But can that decision really be faulted? Not this time, as Dellin Betances, Nick Goody and Chasen Shreve -- yes, Goody and Shreve -- each pitched a perfect inning.

Of course, to paraphrase the late, great Yogi Berra, Good pitching needs good hitting, and vice versa. In the 1st inning Carlos Beltran hit a sacrifice fly that scored Brett Gardner. In the 4th, Mark Teixeira hit a Teix Message, his 8th home run of the season. In the 6th, Teix drew a walk with the bases loaded. In the 7th, Gardner hit a sac fly that scored Ronald Torreyes. And in the 8th, Beltran went deep, his 20th dinger of the year.

One run at a time often isn't enough, but when you get the kind of pitching the Yankees got on Wednesday night, one run is all you need. Yankees 5, Orioles 0. WP: Pineda (4-9). No save. LP: Yovani Gallardo (3-2).

Yesterday's game was hot. Not CC Sabathia weather. And the O's were starting Chris Tillman, who looks headed for the American League's Cy Young Award.

CC allowed 2 runs in the 1st, and the way Britton was pitching, that was all the Birds needed. Starlin Castro had an RBI single in the 2nd, to give CC a run. He cruised after that, still trailing only 2-1, until the 7th, when he ran out of gas, and the O's tacked on 2 more.

Orioles 4, Yankees 1. WP: Tillman (14-2). SV: Zach Britton (30). LP: Sabathia (5-8).


So here's how things stand: It is now the Boston Red Sox who lead the AL East, by half a game over the Orioles (1 full game in the all-important loss column), a game and a half over the Toronto Blue Jays (but 3 in the loss column), 7 over the Yankees (8), and 17 over the Tampa Bay Rays (18).

The Rays seem to be proving that, despite all the players they lost, the one guy they simply could not afford to lose was manager Joe Maddon.

As for the Wild Card, the Yankees trail the Jays by 5 1/2 games for the 2nd spot in the AL, 5 in the loss column.

There are 67 games left to play. The next 3 will not be easy, as perhaps the best team in baseball, the San Francisco Giants, comes into Yankee Stadium II. Here's the projected pitching matchups:

Tonight, 7:05 PM: Masahiro Tanaka vs. Madison Bumgarner.

Tomorrow, 7:05 PM: Ivan Nova vs. Jeff Samardzija.

Sunday, 1:05 PM: Nathan Eovaldi vs. Johnny Cueto.


Dennis Green died today, of a heart attack at age 67. Born on February 17, 1949 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, he claimed to have been at what's now the Hersheypark Arena on March 2, 1962, when Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points for the Philadelphia Warriors against the Knicks. (It's possible: He would have just turned 13, and the arena is just 14 miles east of downtown Harrisburg.)

He went to the University of Iowa, and did well there both in the classroom and on the field. He was planning to be a high school teacher, but played the 1971 season for the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League. He was then hired as an assistant coach at the University of Dayton in Ohio, back at Iowa, and at Stanford University, then coached by Bill Walsh. When Walsh got the head job with the San Francisco 49ers, he took Denny with him as special teams coach.

After just 1 more year, Stanford took him back, as offensive coordinator. Northwestern University, in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois, was desperate: They had were in the process of forging what is still the longest losing streak in the history of NCAA Division I football. (It's been surpassed by Columbia and Prairie View A&M, but it's still the longest in the history of Division I-A, now the Football Bowl Subdivision or FBS.) It was so bad that somebody found a highway sign saying, "Interstate 94," and added below that, "Northwestern 0."

They were desperate enough that they hired Denny Green as only the 2nd African-American head coach in Division I-A history. (The 1st was Willie Jeffries at Wichita State in 1979. He didn't win there, but won titles at historically black schools South Carolina State and Howard University. He is still alive, age 81.) Denny couldn't stop the Wildcats from losing a 29th straight, to set a new record. But on September 25, 1982, he beat Northern Illinois to end the streak at 34 straight. They finished 3-8, and he was named Big Ten Coach of the Year.

In 1986, Walsh took him back to San Francisco, and he coached the receivers. That means he coached Jerry Rice and John Taylor. He won a ring in Super Bowl XXIII. In 1989, Stanford once again went up the Peninsula and took him from Candlestick Park back down to "The Farm," making him head coach. In 1991, he went 8-3, finishing 2nd in the Pac-10.

That made the NFL call him again. The Minnesota Vikings named him head coach, and in 10 years he reached the Playoffs 8 times, won 4 NFC Central Division Championships, and got them to the NFC Championship Game in 1998 and 2000.
Dennis and the 1998 Vikings' quarterback, Randall Cunningham

Unfortunately for him and Minnesota fans, in the former, the 15-1 Vikes lost to the Atlanta Falcons in overtime at the Metrodome when Gary Anderson, who hadn't missed a field goal all season long, missed one from 38 yards with 2 minutes left in regulation; and in the later, the Giants whupped them 41-0 at the Meadowlands.

He was fired at the end of the 2001 season. After 2 seasons as an ESPN analyst, the Arizona Cardinals hired him as head coach in 2004. His 1st 2 years with them were struggles, but the 2006 season began with the opening of the University of Phoenix Stadium, the drafting of Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Matt Leinart, and the signing of Pro Bowl running back Edgerrin James.

After beating the 49ers in the opening game, Denny must have though the early Northwestern days had returned: The Cards lost 8 straight, 3 maddeningly close: 16-14 to the St. Louis Rams, 23-20 to the Kansas City Chiefs, and 24-23 to the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football.

The Cards forced 6 turnovers, but blew a 20-point lead and lost the game, and Denny, a man who rarely lost his temper, did so in the postgame press conference, making himself a legend for people who might not have even remembered his name, but they remember this tirade:

The Bears are what we thought they were. They're what we thought they were. We played them in preseason. Who the hell takes a third game of the preseason like it's bullshit? Bullshit! We played them in the third game. Everybody played three quarters. The Bears are who we THOUGHT they were! That's why we took the damn field! Now if you want to crown them, then crown their ass! But they are who we thought they were! And we let 'em off the hook!

The Cardinals then lost 3 more games. But after the 8-game losing streak, they went 4-2, and recovered some pride. They finished 5-11, losing 5 games by a total of 18 points. They probably weren't that far from turning it around. But owner Billy Bidwill wasn't willing to trust Denny Green with the turnaround: He fired him, and replaced him with Ken Whisenhunt. In Whiz' 1st season, he got the Cards to 8-8. In his 2nd, he got them to their 1st NFL Championship Game of any kind since 1948 -- 68 years, 2 cities and 4 stadiums earlier.

In 2007, Westwood One hired Denny to be the analyst on their Thursday night NFL radio broadcasts. He held that job through the 2008 season, and then spent 3 years coaching in the United Football League.

Overall, his record as a college head coach was 26-63, though that was mainly due to things that went on at Northwestern well before he got there. In the NFL, he was 113-94.

He is survived by his wife Marie, and 4 children: Patti, Jeremy, Zach and Vanessa.

Denny Green, you were a better coach than you ever got credit for, and a better man, too. You were more than they thought you were.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Top 10 Myths About the 1970s

I previously did posts like this, in which I debunked some myths about the 1950s and the 1960s. It's time to do it for the 1970s.

The Baby Boomers, born from 1946 to 1964, but mostly in the late 1940s and early 1950s, have driven American pop culture from the 1960s onward. They moved the nostalgia waves for the Fabulous Fifties and the Sensational Sixties. The Seventies -- whether Silly or Sickening -- were never going to match up, because the kids who were teenagers then were vastly outnumbered by their big brothers and sisters.

Still, the 1970s have their own myths that need to be dispelled.

1. The Beginning of "The '70s" was the end of "The '60s," and the End of the Dream. On March 6, 1970, Sixties student activism blew up -- literally, as 2 members of the Weather Underground didn't exactly follow the directions in building a bomb in their apartment.

On April 10, 1970, Paul McCartney announced that the Beatles had broken up. The Supremes had already done so. Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel were about to do so.

Just 20 days after the Beatles' breakup was announced, President Richard Nixon, who had run on, among other things, a promise to end the war in Vietnam, announced what became known as the Cambodian Incursion, expanding the war (and, as it turned out, dooming Cambodia to what became known as the Killing Fields). Four days after that, on May 4, 1970, a date which lives in infamy, the Ohio National Guard fired on demonstrators at Kent State University near Cleveland, wounding 13, 4 of whom died.
Tin solders and Nixon's comin'. We're finally on our own.
This summer, I hear the drummin': Four dead in Ohio.
-- David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash & Neil Young

Four days after that, on the very day that the New York Knicks finally won their 1st NBA Championship (and 2 days before Bobby Orr scored his "Flying Goal" to win the Stanley Cup for the Boston Bruins), there was a "Hard Hat Demonstration" in New York: Conservative construction workers marching through the streets, holding up signs supporting Nixon and the war. It was a backlash against the antiwar activists, the hippies, the liberals, the civil-rights activists.
"Impeach the Red Mayor. Apparently, they thought
Mayor John Lindsay -- a Republican -- was a Communist.

People were now more interested in laughing at the establishment than in mocking it: NBC's Laugh-In lost its steam, and CBS had already canceled The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour the year before.

On September 18, 1970, Jimi Hendrix died from a combination of alcohol and barbiturates. When asked for a reaction, Janis Joplin said, "There but for the grace of God go I." Just 16 days later, she fulfilled her self-fulfilling prophecy, dying from the same thing.

When Jimi died, Jim Morrison of The Doors started asking, "Do you believe in omens?" When Janis died, he told people, "You're drinking with number three." On July 3, 1971, he fulfilled his self-fulfilling prophecy.

Just 30 days after Janis died, George Wallace was returned to the Governor's office by the voters of Alabama, and Ronald Reagan was re-elected Governor of California. The idea that Wallace could become President was in the backs of people's minds. The idea that Reagan could was a national joke. But both thus became legitimate possibilities: Neither Governor was a 1st-term fluke any longer.

The Spring of 1970 was the Winter of Discontent for "Sixties People." By the middle of Autumn, it seemed as though the dream was over. It was dead. It was murdered. Or perhaps its fatal wound was self-inflicted. And the "doctors" who could have saved its life, the activists themselves, were growing too weary to try. Peace, love and civil rights were out; international strife, domestic angst and social stagnation were in.

So the beginning of the Seventies was the end of the Sixties dream, right?

Except it didn't work out that way. How can I say that?

Let's start with Woodstock, August 15 to 18, 1969, the perceived culmination of the Sixties. You know how many people have said they were there? Millions. You know how many were actually there? Depending on whose figures you believe, anywhere from 400,000 to 850,000. The figure of 500,000 is generally accepted because of the song by Crosby, Stills & Nash, who were there: "By the time we got to Woodstock, we were half a million strong." You know who actually wrote that song? Joni Mitchell -- and she wasn't there.

Woodstock the film was released on March 26, 1970. That's how most people viewed the festival, without having to deal with the traffic, the rain, the mud, and the insufficient food, sanitary and medical provisions.

The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour filled CBS' Smos-Bros void. Dick Cavett continued to have "Sixties" figures on his show. He had John Lennon as a guest in 1971. Mike Douglas had John and Yoko Ono as guest-hosts with him for an entire week in February 1972. Even Johnny Carson had "Sixties" performers on The Tonight Show.
Mike Douglas, Yoko and John

But it was more than that. What did liberals want in the Sixties? Guess what: They got most of it by the halfway mark of the Seventies:

* An end to the Vietnam War. Nixon made the announcement on January 23, 1973. (Though he waited until after he got re-elected, and even re-inaugurated, to do it, so he doesn't get credit for it from me.)

* Gains for minorities. For blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, and especially women and gays, the Seventies were their "Sixties."

* More attention paid to the environment. Rachel Carson published Silent Spring in 1962, and was praised for it by President John F. Kennedy; and Claudia "Lady Bird" Johnson, wife of President Lyndon B. Johnson, was a big advocate for highway beautification and wildflowers -- as Neil Armstrong might have said, That's one small step for a woman, one nice stride for mankind. But not until 1970 did we get the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Not until 1971 and Marvin Gaye's "Mercy Mercy Me" did we get a hit song about the ecology, long after it became cool to have hit songs about racial equality, the cost of war, and even the dangers of drugs.

* Nixon gone. It took until August 9, 1974, and the catalyst was the Watergate break-in, a catalyst as stupid as the parking ticket that led to David Berkowitz' arrest as the Son of Sam/.44 Caliber Killer, but it happened: We didn't have Nixon to kick around anymore.

* More liberal movies and TV shows. Sure, the Sixties had Laugh-In and The Smothers Brothers on the small screen, and Easy Rider on the big screen. But... well, I'll get to that in my next point:

2. The Seventies Were a Cultural Wasteland. It's easy to say that it was all over in terms of music. But, guess what?

* The Beatles broke up, but all 4 former Beatles kept it going. True, by 1975, Paul McCartney was the only one still churning out regular hits, and most of them were, as John Lennon put it, "silly love songs." And, as Paul pointed out, "Some people want to build world out of silly love songs, and what's wrong with that?" But John's Plastic Ono Band, Paul's Band On the Run and George Harrison's All Things Must Pass were great albums, and Ringo Starr had a bunch of good singles.

* Bob Dylan didn't turn out another Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited or Blonde On Blonde, but, had just about anyone else churned out what he churned out in the Seventies -- including Blood On the Tracks and the simple yet incredible single "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" -- we'd have called that someone else a genius.

* Simon & Garfunkel may have broken up, but they left us with Bridge Over Troubled Water, and Paul did some fantastic work in the decade.

* The founding age of Motown was the Sixties, but the Seventies were its true Golden Age. Berry Gordy finally let Marvin Gaye do a What's Going On -- and he also did Let's Get It On. He finally let Stevie Wonder do a "Higher Ground," and he put together some of the most spectacular albums of the decade. The Temptations did "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone." Edwin Starr did "War."

* The Rolling Stones, The Who and Led Zeppelin broke out of the Beatles' shadow.

* The aforementioned Joni Mitchell, Elton John, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor and Carly Simon debuted early in the decade. Neil Diamond, Harry Chapin and Gordon Lightfoot, all of whom started in the late Sixties, found their voices.

* David Bowie went from a cult figure to a pop-culture phenomenon. Lou Reed went solo from the Velvet Underground and did his best work, including Transformer, an album produced by Bowie. Glam rock was born.

Then there was television. CBS debuted The Mary Tyler Moore Show (which was revolutionary in that it featured as its central character a 30-year-old woman who wasn't married, but was dating and then some) in 1970, All In the Family in 1971, M*A*S*H and Maude in 1972, and Good Times in 1974.

The other 2 major networks were a little behind the curve (ABC debuting The Mod Squad in 1968 was an exception), but CBS was innovative enough for all 3. ABC's sitcom version of Neil Simon's play The Odd Couple stepped into the void to satirize swinging city life.

Cop shows became more realistic as well. Someone watching Dragnet in the Fifties or Naked City in the Sixties (the title was the only thing naked on it) would get the impression that cases could be tied up in half an hour. But Seventies shows like Adam-12, Kojak, Barnaby Jones, Cannon, Police Woman and CHiPs showed that it wasn't so easy. Barney Miller and, in a very different way, The Dukes of Hazzard satirized police work. Actually, Barney Miller did for cops what M*A*S*H did for soldiers: They showed what life in those institutions was really like, and were praised for their realism as well as for their silliness.

Medical shows also showed how much harder it could be, including Marcus Welby, M.D., Medical Center and Emergency! Quincy, M.E. tied the police and medical genres together: Although it showed less blood than M*A*S*H, and no actual (or simulated) dead bodies, it showed a coroner and his allies, both in his department and in the Los Angeles Police Department, using their minds far more than their guns, and struggling until they finally solved the mystery. Having Jack Klugman play a thinking man's crimefighter was a stroke of genius, and proved he could be more than sloppy sportswriter Oscar Madison on The Odd Couple.

3. The Prevalence of Drugs. A few years back, Soul Asylum had a song titled "Summer of Drugs":

We were too young to be hippies.
Missed out on the love.
Turned to a teen in the late 70's
in the summer of drugs.

And every TV show and movie set in the Seventies seems to suggest that drugs were all over the place: Dazed and Confused, That '70s Show, Summer of Sam.

Saturday Night Live hit the airwaves on October 11, 1975, and the legend is that every one of "The Not Ready for Prime Time Players" was either high on marijuana or out of their minds on cocaine. Sadly, this was close enough to the truth to lead to the death of John Belushi. And, let's face it, today, Bill Murray looks like hell, and Chevy Chase turned out to be a rotten person.

But while drug use was on the rise in places where it already existed, such as the inner city and the entertainment industry, statistics show that it didn't spike everywhere. Yes, marijuana use greatly increased, but cocaine, heroin and other drugs did not do so at nearly the same rate.

And the TV shows of the Seventies showed a greater sensitivity to those who were the targets of the drug pushers, showing the pressures that young people, both in and out of the inner city, faced. It helped TV do some of its best work.

So, TV was better in the Seventies, right? As Lee Corso, then coaching at Florida State, would say, "Not so fast, my friend!"

4. Television Was Better Back Then. Yes, there were great shows. There were also massive turkeys:

* The Brady Bunch, 1969-74. I probably shouldn't include this ABC sitcom, because it did debut in the Sixties. But the style (especially the clothes and the hair) is so, so Seventies that I have to include it. I know that there are millions of people who love this show, but it was a piece of crap even by the standards of its own time. And that was before Cousin Oliver. And The Brady Bunch Hour, the "Bradys do a variety show" show that polluted late 1976 and early 1977 for 9 unctuous episodes.

* Me and the Chimp, 1972, a CBS sitcom involving a former "space monkey." (Chimpanzees don't have tails, so, while they are apes, they not monkeys.) Unlike such other Garry Marshall productions as The Odd Couple and Happy Days, this was no King Kong in either quality or ratings. It lasted 13 episodes.

* Holmes & Yoyo, 1976, an ABC cop sitcom in which one of the police partners was a robot. It was told to turn in its badge after 13 episodes, one of which had the robot detective spend much of his dialogue on his desire to become fully masculine, if you know what I mean.

* Donny & Marie, 1976-79, an ABC variety show featuring siblings Marie Osmond ("I'm a little bit country") and Donny Osmond ("I'm a little bit rock and roll"). It was fairly typical of variety shows, doing skits about current topics, including parodying current TV shows and movies, and showing the leads trying (and usually failing) to be hip. And, as bad '70s fashion goes, it wasn't so bad, although Donny will never live down his purple socks. But the kissing... Anyone not old enough to remember this show owes Angelina Jolie and her brother James Haven an apology.

* Carter Country, 1977-79, an ABC sitcom set in a rural part of Georgia, meant to capitalize on President Carter. It was centered on a small-town police department, and it emphasized the worst stereotypes of Southerners, both the white ones and the black ones. It benefited no one, least of all the man in the White House. (Then again, That's My Bush! was no better, whether you liked George W. or not.)

* All That Glitters, 1977, a syndicated sitcom created by Norman Lear in which gender roles were fully reversed -- including the present-day characters accepting the mythology of God being female and having created Eve first. It was supposed to be satire, yet it harped on the worst stereotypes of each gender, and was expelled from the Garden of Eden after just 13 episodes.

* Hee Haw Honeys, 1979 a spinoff of the popular country-themed variety show Hee Haw, based on the "Lulu's Truck Stop" sketch. Instead of emphasizing the best parts of Hee Haw, it modified the worst ones. It could have killed the career of its star, Kathie Lee Johnson. Somehow, she bounced back, met Regis Philbin, and married Frank Gifford, and the rest is history.

* Hello, Larry, 1979-80, NBC's sitcom for a post-M*A*S*H McLean Stevenson, about a divorced radio talk-show host with 2 live-in daughters. Stevenson was never made to be a top banana, and the show was so bad, its biggest laughs came later that night when Johnny Carson joked about the awful show in his monologue. Incredibly, the Peacock Network stuck with it for a 2nd season, but not a 3rd.

* Delta House, 1979, ABC's authorized spinoff of the recent 1960s-set college fraternity film Animal House. It flunked out after 13 episodes.

* Brothers and Sisters, 1979, NBC's attempt at capitalizing on the success of Animal House. It lasted 12 episodes.

* Co-Ed Fever, 1979, CBS' attempt at Animal House. This one was so bad, they canceled it after one episode. That's right: One solitary horrible episode.

* Makin' It, 1979, ABC's attempt at capitalizing on the disco craze, especially Saturday Night Fever. By the time the show debuted on February 1, 1979, disco had already begun to wane, if not yet "die," because people were already beginning to figure out that it sucked. (More on that in #5.) Setting the show not in New York City but in neighboring Passaic, New Jersey didn't help.

* Supertrain, 1979, NBC's truly ridiculous attempt to rip off ABC's The Love Boat, it was the most expensive TV series ever produced in America up to that point. It ran 9 episodes before NBC canceled the train. Let's face it: 1979 was not a good year to air a TV show that was a ripoff of something else.

Speaking of The Love Boat (1977-86), believe it or not, Charo was only on 10 episodes.

5. Disco Sucked. The truth about this myth is, well, a lot of it did. But some of it sounds pretty good in comparison to what we have now.

One major advantage that disco had was that it was inclusive. It was open to men and women, whites and blacks, Anglos and Latinos, straights and gays. All you had to do was be able to fool someone into thinking you were good-looking and able to dance. And, with all the booze and cocaine flying around in the discos, that wasn't that hard.

And at least going out to discos meant that you had to dress up. Unless you were going to a gay disco. Not that I would know...
Karen Lynn Gorney and John Travolta
in Saturday Night Fever, which premiered December 14, 1977

6. Punk Rock. We look back at the fashions of the 1970s -- the hair (regular and facial), the clothes, the shoes (platform and otherwise), and we laugh. Nobody laughed at the fashion of punk, though. It scared people. Especially the British variety of punk and its fashion.

But there's a reason that John Lydon, a.k.a. Johnny Rotten, named his 2nd band Public Image Limited: Because the image of his 1st band, the Sex Pistols, was far from reality.

Punk rock was invented in New York. Not in London, or in any other British city: New York City. And the first punk rockers didn't look anything like the traditional British punks that followed them. New York's The Ramones, The Dictators, and The Patti Smith Group (though Patti herself is from Chicago); San Francisco's the Dead Kennedys, Los Angeles' X... None of these looked like the British punks.
The Ramones: Dee Dee, Tommy, Johnny and Joey.
Now they wanna sniff some glue.

And while the Dead Kennedys were political in nature, and The Ramones recorded a song titled "Rocket to Russia," American punk really wasn't political. Sure, it began in the wake of Vietnam and Watergate, but it didn't have the political undertones of British punk, with the Sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen" and its refrain "There's no future in England's dreaming," and The Clash's "London Calling," among others.

It was Richard Hell, lead singer of Television, who pioneered the spiked-hair, torn-shirt, safety-pin look that would be appropriated by the Sex Pistols and many of the British bands that followed them.

The Sex Pistols lineup that everybody remembers wasn't even the one that made the group's one and only album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols. Johnny Rotten sang lead, Steve Jones played guitar, Paul Cook played drums, and the bass guitarist was... Glen Matlock. All were good. The band's 2 best-known songs, "Anarchy in the U.K." and "God Save the Queen," were both recorded by this lineup, and Matlock had a hand in writing them.

On February 15, 1977, Matlock quit the band because he was "sick of the bullshit." Or he was fired, because "he liked the Beatles." Knowing what happened to the group afterward, I believe Matlock's version.

He was replaced by John Simon Ritchie, a.k.a. Sid Vicious, who had next to no talent, but attitude to spare. He was responsible for a lot of the Pistols' image, but for nearly none of its product. Indeed, of the 12 songs on the group's one and only album, 10 were credited to "Cook/Jones/Matlock/Rotten." Only 2, "Holidays In the Sun" and "Bodies," were credited to "Cook/Jones/Rotten/Vicious."

Lydon/Rotten, Jones, Cook and Matlock are all still alive. Ritchie/Vicious, of course, is not: First he killed his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, at the Chelsea Hotel in New York (where Leonard Cohen, an unwitting forefather of punk, lived then and still lives now), then, while awaiting trial, died of a heroin overdose. He was 21.
The Sex Pistols: Sid Vicious, Steve Jones, Paul Cook and Johnny Rotten.
"No future for you" -- recorded 19 years before "No soup for you"

In the end, while the Pistols became the symbol of punk, like the Bee Gees (who started as a British folk-rock group) became the symbol of disco, they weren't even close to being the best of those bands. Most observers would have said The Clash were the best.

Its also worth nothing that most punk bands, even the British ones, didn't follow the Pistols' example. It's like assuming that all 1950s rockers had pompadours like Elvis Presley, all mid-1960s British rockers had long straight hair and black suits like the Ed Sullivan-era Beatles, all late-1960s rock acts had long, hippie-length hair, all black disco acts had giant Afros, and all white disco acts wore long hair and white suits. And, by the way, not all 1980s metal musicians were blond.

Like every other form of rock and roll, punk wasn't about the clothes or the hair, anyway. Tommy Ramone said it best:

In its initial form, a lot of (1960s) stuff was innovative and exciting. Unfortunately, what happens is that people who could not hold a candle to the likes of (Jimi) Hendrix started noodling away. Soon you had endless solos that went nowhere. By 1973, I knew that what was needed was some pure, stripped down, no bullshit rock 'n' roll.

In other words, it wasn't bad government, or a bad economy, but bad music that they were rebelling against.

Which led to not just punk, but Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, and Billy Joel's better stuff, and then The Police. Bruce, Billy and Sting peaked in the Eighties, but got their start and their 1st hits in the Seventies. They took a different route than punk, but were headed in the same direction, and arrived at a better destination. In other words, their bands not only lived, but remained friends.

7. The Mets Were More Popular Than the Yankees. For much of the decade, this was actually true -- but misleading.

In my piece about Sixties myths, I pointed out that the Mets' early success at the box office was based on the fact that they'd brought together the fans of the teams that moved from New York City to California after the 1957 season: The New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers. Their fans weren't really rooting for the Mets as a team, but as an extension of the New York National League ideal that they'd hung onto.

Finally, in 1969, it became clear that the Yankees' attendance was based not so much on all their Pennants, but on Mickey Mantle: Once he retired, their attendance dropped, and, for the first time, it was less than half the Mets' attendance -- i.e., half the combined attendance of the ex-Giant fans and the ex-Dodger fans going to Flushing Meadow. Of course, that was also the year the Mets stopping stinking and won the World Series.

The Mets were good, but not great, in 1970, 1971 and 1972. As were the Yankees. In August 1973, the Yankees had a shot at the American League Eastern Division title, while the Mets were last in the National League Eastern Division -- but still close enough to have a chance. Then the Mets got hot, and the Yankees went ice cold, and it was the Mets scraping into the Playoffs with an 82-79 record, the worst ever to make the postseason in Major League Baseball, while the Yankees were way off.

The Mets were good, but not great, in 1974, 1975 and 1976. The Yankees were still in the race in the last week in 1974 and the last 2 weeks in 1975. In 1976, they won the Pennant. In 1977, despite not being able to get within 3 games of 1st place most of the season, the Yankees went on a tear starting in early August, and won the whole thing; while the Mets collapsed, thanks in part to dumb trades (made to save money) by team president M. Donald Grant, and attendance at Shea Stadium also collapsed, to the point where it was nicknamed Grant's Tomb. While the Yankees' attendance soared with the renovated Yankee Stadium.
Here's the table for their average attendance per home game:

Year Yankees Mets
1970 14,036 < 32,896
1971 13,219 < 27,984
1972 12,550 < 27,361
1973 15,582 < 23,610
1974 15,717 < 21,262
1975 16,513 < 21.365
1976 25,155 > 17,912
1977 25,964 > 13,504
1978 28,838 > 12,592
1979 31,330 > 9,621

Note that the Mets' 1970 figure remained a New York baseball record until the Yankees broke it in 1998, with 36,484. As long as the Yankees were playing first in the pre-renovation Stadium in the South Bronx with a mediocre team, and then in Shea Stadium while Yankee Stadium was being renovated, they were going to trail the Mets in attendance. Once Yankee Stadium reopened, they were going to have better attendance no matter what the Mets did.
Indeed, since the old Yankee Stadium reopened in 1976, the only seasons in which the Mets have beaten the Yankees in attendance have been 1984 through 1992 -- when (except for the last season) the Mets were noticeably better than the Yankees, which they haven't been since. (No, not even this year. If the Mets played in this year's AL East, they'd get slaughtered.) The Mets aren't even doing better than the Yankees in attendance this year, in the wake of a Pennant: 38,569 to 35,152 (and if you believe the Mets are getting 35,000 people in the ballpark every home game, then I'd like to sell you the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge).

And 1977 was the year Grant forced Tom Seaver out. Just as the Yankees' attendance took a nosedive when Mantle retired, and that of the Baltimore Orioles a similar drop when Cal Ripken retired, without Seaver, there was really no reason to go to a Met game until they got good again in 1984.

The Mets' current best total ever, and one they will never break as long as they play in 41,000-seat Citi Field, is the 49,902 they got in 2008, the last season at Shea. The Yankees also set their franchise record that year, the last year at the old Yankee Stadium, with 53,070, also a figure that can't be topped at the new Yankee Stadium.

8. Seventies Sports Uniforms. There's a reason that the uniforms you occasionally see on "Throwback" nights aren't worn by those teams any longer. It's because they were hideous.

Dan Epstein, author of Big Hair and Plastic Grass (about baseball in the decade) and Stars and Strikes (specifically about 1976), argues that the baseball uniforms of the '70s were part of the decade's charm. Yeah, sure, they were -- if you're looking back from the 2010s and laughing about it.

But suppose you were a Cleveland Indians fan, and, on top of your team not being very good, you had to look at this on TV 81 times a year:
3rd baseman Buddy Bell

Or, imagine that you were a San Diego Padres fan:
The spitball was only the 2nd-most disgusting thing
about Gaylord Perry that season.

Or, imagine that you were a San Francisco Giants fan, already having to deal with the problems of going to a baseball game at Candlestick Park:
Willie McCovey is a legend, but that's a lot of orange.

Or imagine that you were an Atlanta Braves fan, and you had to watch the great Hank Aaron break the most hallowed record in sports while wearing a jersey the Babe wouldn't have been caught dead in:
Or, imagine that you were a Chicago White Sox fan, and you loved baseball, but you hated soccer, because (among other reasons) it was a bunch of guys running around in shorts outdoors. And then you see Bill Veeck having the ChiSox decked out in this:
Yes, Yankee Fans, that is Rich "Goose" Gossage.

At least the Philadelphia Phillies only wore this one time, but imagine that you had paid to see a game at Veterans Stadium (not exactly the palace it was promoted as being when it opened in 1971, though it was an improvement over the crumbling Connie Mack Stadium in the decaying North Philly ghetto), and you saw this:
Believe it or not, these pajamas are not
why Pete Rose was banned from baseball.

Or, imagine that you were watching the 1979 World Series. It was bad enough that Memorial Stadium in Baltimore had the worst lighting system in baseball (except for Wrigley Field, which still had no lights at all), making the light from the towers trail whenever the camera had to follow a long fly ball. And it was bad enough that Memorial Stadium had those awful yardlines and torn-up grass, which is what happens in September when you play baseball and football in the same stadium, on the same natural-grass field. And it was bad enough that the alternative, artificial turf, looked even worse at Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium.

But those uniforms! This is what the Orioles wore at home:
Catcher Rick Dempsey and pitcher Mike Flanagan

And while I had no problem with their wearing of 19th Century-style pillbox caps, or the stars that Willie Stargell awarded as if they were college football helmet decals, the Pirates would mix-and-match between plain white, white with gold pinstripes, lemon-yellow and black:
"We are Family!" Yeah, and your mother dresses you funny.

It wasn't just baseball. Ironically, the Super Bowl XLVIII winners, the Seattle Seahawks, looked better when they were expanded into existence in 1976. That was not the case for the other team that started that year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. "Bucco Bruce" was an oh-so-'70s logo, but he's not the worst of it. The worst of it was the "Creamsicle jerseys":
Doug Williams, later to win a Super Bowl
quarterbacking the Washington Redskins

The classic Philadelphia Eagles look is white or silver wings on a green helmet. But from 1969 to 1973, they wore green wings on white helmets. They looked like a high school team:
Roman Gabriel looked great in Los Angeles Rams blue & gold.
In these togs, not so much.

The NBA had some truly hideous togs: The Atlanta Hawks, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Knicks' experiment of "NEW YORK" below the numbers thankfully didn't last long:
Micheal Ray Richardson said,
"Anybody who tells me to wear this
must be on stronger drugs than I'm on."

Remember the Rangers' 1976-77 "shield jerseys"?
Phil Esposito thought the Sasson jeans commercial
two years later was an improvement. Maybe he was right.

The Vancouver Canucks haven't exactly been known for being well-dressed, but they bottomed out in the late 1970s:
Stan Smyl

9. The Jimmy Carter Malaise. Conservatives, desperate to keep up the image of Ronald Reagan as a great President in the wake of the successes of liberal Democrats Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and the failures of both George Bushes, are determined to show that Carter was "a failed President." They endlessly described first Clinton, and then Obama, as "another Jimmy Carter." They still do to this today, even though Carter hasn't been President for 35 years.

Part of the way they point this out is by using the word "malaise." The word is French, and it means "ill ease." In English, it's "A feeling of general bodily discomfort, fatigue or unpleasantness," or, more to this point, "An ambiguous feeling of mental or moral depression." A general feeling that things simply aren't right. And in the 2nd half of 1979, all through the 1980 campaign, and ever since, Carter's opponents -- including Senator Ted Kennedy, who opposed him in the Democratic Presidential Primaries -- used the word "malaise" to describe the feeling that the Carter Administration had given America.

You know who never used the word "malaise"? Jimmy Carter. Here's what he said in what became known as "The Malaise Speech," on July 15, 1979:

I want to talk to you right now about a fundamental threat to American democracy... 

I do not refer to the outward strength of America, a nation that is at peace tonight everywhere in the world, with unmatched economic power and military might. The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence.

It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation.
Carter in his Oval Office address, July 15, 1979

That sure sounds like a malaise. But the President didn't use the word then. Nor did the word appear in any of his public statements during his Administration. So who started using the word "malaise" to describe the situation then? Apparently, it was Hendrik Hertzberg, Carter's chief speechwriter, who wrote the "Crisis of Confidence Speech" (the "Malaise Speech"), in an interview the next day.

Yes, there was a malaise. But Carter sure as hell didn't cause it. It was brought about by a cumulative effect of things that happened under Presidents of both parties, including, to a degree, Carter himself:

* The assassination of Democratic President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.

* Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson's seeming abandonment of his Great Society principles to spend on the Vietnam War, and his apparent lies about it (which came to be known as "the credibility gap").

* The apparent failure of LBJ's "War On Poverty."

* The race riots of 1964 to 1969.

* The riot at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.

* Republican President Richard Nixon's failure (or, more accurately, his refusal) to end the Vietnam War in his 1st term (finally doing so at the start of his 2nd).

* Nixon's involvement in the Watergate break-in of June 17, 1972, and his ensuing cover-up thereof. Each of the preceding was cited to Carter by his chief pollster, Patrick Caddell, who gave Carter the phrase "crisis of confidence."

* Republican President Gerald Ford's pardon of Nixon, and his inability to reduce unemployment and inflation.

* The refusal (seen by conservatives) of every President since World War II, from Franklin Roosevelt to Carter (yes, all of them, including the Republicans Dwight D. Eisenhower, Nixon and Ford) to properly stand up to the Communist and terrorist menaces, anywhere in the world.

* Carter's "giveaway" of the Panama Canal to, you know, the country it was actually in, Panama. Never mind that it was Ford's idea. (It was one of the big reasons that Reagan ran against Ford in the 1976 Republican Primaries.)

* Carter's own inability to handle a 2nd round of inflation -- in each case, caused largely by Middle Eastern nations raising the price of oil. And all of this before the speech, as well as before the Iran Hostage Crisis that began on November 4, 1979, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan on December 27, 1979, and Carter's reaction to each: For the former, his dragged-out negotiations to get the hostages out and the failure of the "Desert One" rescue mission on April 25, 1980, which probably gave his re-election campaign a mortal wound; and for the latter, his boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics that were scheduled for Moscow, which did more to effectively depict the Soviets as an "Evil Empire" than anything Reagan ever said his life.

When Carter was inaugurated on January 20, 1977, the national unemployment rate was 7.5 percent. That's too high. It inched up to 7.6 percent in February. Then it began to drop. By January 1978, it was 6.4 percent. By January 1979, 5.9 percent. By May 1979, 5.6 percent -- the lowest it had been since August 1974, the month Nixon resigned. I should point out that the factors that would drive it up were already in place by that point. Indeed, unemployment is often a lagging indicator of how good (or bad) the economy is.) When Carter gave that speech in July 1979, it was 5.7 percent. Not great, but hardly cause for alarm.

But it jumped to 6.0 percent the next month, was 6.3 percent by January 1980, and then in the Spring, it shot up: 6.9 percent in April, 7.5 percent in May, 7.8 percent in July -- just in time for Reagan to accept the Republican nomination. It was around 7.5 percent for the rest of Carter's Presidency, including when he left office on January 20, 1981.

But how was it under Reagan? That's a story I'll get to when I do the 1980s version of this post. But it didn't get back below the 5.6 percent that it was in May 1979 until... April 1988.

However, it wasn't just the unemployment rate. Inflation was high. So were interest rates. And wages had begun to stagnate. The stagnancy and the inflation were combined into a single word: "Stagflation." That, as much as anything else, created the malaise.

And a generation of working people in their 30s and 40s, who had been activists as young people in the 1960s, were used to standing up to those in power and saying, "Enough! We will not put up with this crap anymore!" And they blamed the people in power -- except they didn't see big business as part of the problem, the way antiwar activists saw Boeing and McDonnell-Douglas building bombers and Dow making napalm as part of the roblem in Vietnam. No, these people looked to the government as the problem.

That's why so many of them sided with Ted Kennedy in the Winter and Spring of 1980. It wasn't so much a vote for the insurgent candidate (many people, as it turned out, had a problem with Ted's private life) as it was a protest vote against the incumbent or establishment candidate, as in for Henry Wallace against Harry Truman in 1948, for Gene McCarthy and then Robert Kennedy against Lyndon Johnson and then Hubert Humphrey in 1968, for Reagan against Ford in 1976, and later for Pat Robertson against George H.W. Bush in 1988, for Pat Buchanan against Daddy Bush in 1992, for Ralph Nader against Al Gore in 2000, for Barack Obama against Hillary Clinton in 2008 (the only one of these that went all the way), and for Bernie Sanders against Hillary this year.

A United Auto Workers official put it this way:

It's a different generation of workingmen. None of these guys came over from the old country, poor and starving, grateful for any job they could get. None of them have been through a depression. They've been exposed, at least through television, to all the youth movements of the last ten years...

They're just not going to swallow the same kind of treatment their fathers did... They want more than just a job for 30 years.

Compared to his successors, Carter did amazingly well at creating jobs. Under his Presidency, jobs increased by 2.58 million per year; Reagan, 2.01 million; Bush 41, 668 thousand (not million, thousand); Bill Clinton, 2.86 million; Bush 43, 160 thousand; Obama so far, 1.40 million.

Annual rate increase? Carter 3.06 percent, Reagan, 2.06 percent; Bush 41, 0.62 percent; Bill Clinton, 2.48 percent; Bush 43, 0.12 percent; Obama so far, 1.11 percent (keeping in mind that he inherited the Dubya meltdown of 2008). Jimmy Carter created jobs at a greater rate per year than any President since LBJ.

Want that in table form? Jobs per year, in millions:

Clinton 2.86
Carter 2.58
Reagan 2.01
Obama 1.40
Bush 41 0.67
Bush 43 0.16

Job growth per year:

Carter 3.06
Clinton 2.48
Reagan 2.06
Obama 1.11
Bush 41 0.62
Bush 43 0.12

You know conservatives: As their avatar, Reagan, said, "Facts are stupid things." He was trying to quote John Adams: "Facts are stubborn things."

Conservatives want you to believe that everything was just fine until noon on Inauguration Day when the Republican President went home; and then went to hell as soon as the Democratic President-elect says, "So help me, God." And that it works the other way: As soon as the Democratic President gives way to the Republican President-elect, everything became fine. (Never mind that Reagan himself, in his Inaugural Address, said that America's problems "will not go away in days, weeks, or months. But they will go away." (And then he preceded to tell the biggest lie any President had ever told to that point: "Government is not the solution to the problem. Government is the problem." (And then, he spent the next 8 years proving his point.)

Why, a conservative born after 1980, not old enough to really remember Reagan as the sitting President, and raised on the myth more than the man, would probably find it hard to believe that the U.S. hockey team that beat the Soviets at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, could have done so under President Carter, rather than under President Reagan. (Carter wasn't there for that game, but Vice President Walter Mondale, a Minnesotan and a hockey buff, was.)

Or maybe Reagan was just lucky, and Carter wasn't. As someone put it in the Summer of 1981, "If Carter had fired the air-traffic controllers, there would have been a crash the next day."

Reagan ushered in the "Decade of Greed." Which followed the 1970s, a.k.a....

10. "The Me Decade." Tom Wolfe, already a renowned journalist but not yet a novelist, coined the phrase in the cover story of the August 23, 1976 issue of New York magazine. He suggested that the economic boom of the Fifties and Sixties (there were some recessions in there, but nothing like what we got in 1973-76, 1980-83, 1990-93, 2001-04 and 2007-10), combined with the realization of "One man can make a difference" and the drug culture, rather than making Americans more community-oriented or human-race-oriented, made them more self-oriented.
Yes, the decade was excessive, and very self-indulgent: As rock historian Dave Marsh said about Led Zeppelin's biggest hit single, "Whole Lotta Love," which came out just as 1969 was turning over to 1970, "Hey, I didn't say the ape calls were inappropriate, only excessive." That may be the most Seventies statement ever.

The 1970s was the last decade before crack made cocaine cheap, and thus its effects were made so obvious to a wide audience. It was the last decade before anyone heard of AIDS, and thus it was the only decade where there seemed to be true "free love." Despite the deaths of Jimi, Janis and Jim near the beginning, the decade seemed to be the last time we had a true time of "Sex, drugs and rock & roll" with no consequences. (Of course, there was never such a time.)

Most of the beats of the late Fifties, the folkies of the early Sixties and the hippies of the late Sixties were now adults, and could now afford to indulge themselves in their pleasures the way their parents, the kids of the Great Depression of the Thirties and World War II in the Forties, did with their booze and their tobacco and their swingers' parties. And, having gone through Vietnam and marching for civil rights, they could now say to their parents, "Yes, we now have paid our dues, just like you paid yours. It's time we were allowed to party, man. And we are gonna boogie all night long!" Or, as KISS put it, "I... wanna rock and roll all night... and party every day!" (Redundant? Everyone acted like no one had to care. We did our bit for king and country, we played our brother's keeper, now it's time to have some fun for ourselves.)

But it was also the decade of the Concert for Bangladesh; the One-to-One Concert; Wattstax; the S.N.A.C.K. Benefit; and the M.U.S.E. "No Nukes" Concerts. These shows highlighted the issues of world hunger, mental health, inner-city issues, hunger at home, and nuclear proliferation. Just because a few self-indulgent people were carelessly having fun, it didn't mean that idealism had to stop. And it didn't.


I met a girl who sang the blues
and I asked her for some happy news.
But she just smiled and turned away.
I went down to the sacred store
where I'd heard the music years before
but the man there said the music wouldn't play.
And in the streets, the children screamed.
The lovers cried and the poets dreamed.
But not a word was spoken.
The church bells all were broken.
And the three men I admired most
the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost
they caught the last train for the Coast
the day the music died.

Don McLean was wrong. "The music" hadn't died. It had grown up. If the people you admired had "caught the last train for the Coast," it's because that's where they were needed. And they would come back. And they did.

Madison Square Garden hosted 2 Knicks titles in the early 1970s. It also hosted Muhammad Ali and John Lennon.

Time marches on. The good old days weren't as great as you thought they were. But neither were the bad days that followed as bad as you remembered.