Several Pirates players have been growing moustaches lately, but Ronny Cedeno cheated yesterday, giving himself an eye-black ’stache. It’s not clear if this was an early indication of Bryce Harper‘s influence on the diamond, or if Cedeno was simply trying to channel Bobby V. Either way, I don’t think Goose Gossage’s place atop MLB’s all-time fu manchu rankings is threatened. (Thanks to Jason Thomas for the screen shot.)
New ESPN column today. In fact, it’s going to be quite a week for Uni Watch over on Page 2. On the one hand, I’ll have new columns running for four consecutive days, which is unprecedented. But almost none of the content in those columns will be written by me, because they’ll be covering the World Cup, a topic I’m ill-equipped to discuss. Fortunately, I was able to secure the services of four extremely soccer-knowledgeable readers — Doug Mulliken, Michael Orr, Kent Green, and Patrick Runge — who’ve provided their own expert analyses of the Cup kits. Their commentary begins today with coverage of the teams in Groups A and B. Then we’ll have Groups C and D tomorrow, and so on. OK? OK.
Playography, revisited: Remember the Playograph, the animatronic scoreboard that I wrote about back in December? Shorpy has just posted two absolutely spectacular photos of a similar device called the Coleman Lifelike Scoreboard, including a shot of the guys operating the device from behind the scenes. How cool is that?! If only we could see video footage of how these things looked in action.
Love it or hate it, it’s been nearly 30 years now: Later this week I’m going to be interviewing the man who designed the Bengals’ tiger-striped helmet. I have lots of questions for him, but it occurs to me that you folks might have some interesting questions of your own. So if you have any queries you’d like me to pass along to him, send them this-a-way.
And he probably had a hangnail to boot: Not uni-related, but it’s worth noting that by far the most entertaining coverage of Oliver Perez’s new “injury” came from Newsday columnist Ken Davidoff. Unfortunately, newsday.com is no longer a free site, so I can’t link to Davidoff’s column. I can copy/paste, however, so here’s how Davidoff envisioned the Perez situation unfolding the other day:
(Scene: Jerry Manuel’s office. Friday afternoon.)
Manuel (writing his memoirs, speaking the words out loud): … and that’s why I decided to bat Alex Cora second.
(Enter Oliver Perez)
Manuel: Hey, Ollie! What’s going on?
Perez: Meineke Hearts.
Manuel: Exsqueeze me? You want me to take my car to Meineke?
Perez (focuses on the words written on his left hand): Sorry. I practiced this and everything, but you know how sometimes you can’t read your own handwriting? (Clears throat.) My … knee … hurts.
Manuel (darts up from his chair): Yes! That is outstand– I mean, sorry to hear that, Ollie. Which knee?
(Perez squints at his left hand, trying to determine the answer)
Manuel: Don’t worry, Ollie. I’ll just assume it’s the one that got surgery. Um … you did have surgery last year, right? That wasn’t just a cover story?
(Perez again squints at his left hand.)
Manuel: Never mind, never mind. I’ll call Omar, and we’ll get this done.
Joe Morgan Wayne Hagin: Mets outfielder Angel Pagan appeared on the team’s radio pregame show yesterday. He had attended Saturday night’s Cotto/Foreman fight at Yankee Stadium, so they asked him about that, and at one point he mentioned how it had been 36 years since the Ali/Norton heavyweight title fight at the old Yankee Stadium.
When Pagan came to bat in the bottom of the 1st inning, Mets radio play-by-play man Howie Rose mentioned the pregame boxing discussion. That led his sidekick Wayne Hagin to weigh in thusly: “He also knew his boxing history, knew it was 36 years ago when Ken Norton would fight Muhammad Ali at Yankee Stadium. He was on top of it.”
The problem is that the fight in question took place in 1976, which means it was thirty-four years ago. I don’t care that Pagan got this wrong (I just want him to hit the cut-off man and take a few pitches when Reyes gets on ahead of him). But couldn’t Hagin have invested 20 seconds’ worth of Google legwork into the situation instead of just blindly repeating Pagan’s misinformation? It didn’t exactly help matters that Hagin said this, as he says almost everything, with an air of knowing righteousness.
This small but telling error is classic Hagin, a guy who rarely seems to do his homework, always chimes in with the pitch-imperfect comment, and has basically become unlistenable. Since hitting town in 2008, he’s shown himself to be the broadcasting equivalent of a four-A ballplayer: His voice is a fairly serviceable instrument, but he doesn’t have the presence or sophistication to deploy it effectively. His sensibility — let’s call it suburban lite — is far too white-bread for New York and makes for a tragic mismatch with Rose, who’s a New Yorker to his core (and a much savvier announcer besides).
Hagin leans far too heavily on overheated decriptors and repetition. It’s never “a nice catch”; it’s always “an outstanding catch, I want to tell you, just a wonderful, wonderful play,” all delivered in that annoyingly righteous tone that sounds like a father imparting life lessons to a 12-year-old. By insisting that every play is exceptional, Hagin instead conveys the notion that none of them are.
He also gets himself in trouble when his mouth writes checks that his brain can’t cash. Example: Out of nowhere, he’ll drop the word “however” into a sentence, even though he’s not counterpointing anything. You can hear him realize this type of mistake as he’s making it, and then he ends up wandering down a blind rhetorical alley in an attempt to make the misplaced term make sense. This would be amusing if it weren’t such torture to listen to.
Similarly, go back to Hagin’s quote about Pagan, where he said that Pagan “knew it was 36 years ago when Ken Norton would fight Muhammad Ali.” What’s with the “would fight”? How about “fought”? No, it’s not a big thing by itself, but a few dozen of those mangled phrasings per game add up.
Hagin is the less important voice in the less important broadcasting booth of New York’s less important MLB team, so he’s pretty much flown under the radar of local media critics like Neil Best and Richard Sandomir. That needs to change. For those of us who love to hear baseball on the radio, Hagin has become a serious impediment to our enjoyment of the game.
Rose is a Uni Watch reader and booster, and he probably doesn’t like that I’m picking on his partner (sorry, Howie). I have nothing against Hagin personally, mind you — never met him, never communicated with him, and for all I know he’s a great guy. But he’s out of his depth here, and he needs to be held accountable. I’ll be doing lots of that in the weeks to come.
And they’ll no longer say a batter who’s hit by a pitch has been “drilled”: The Brevard County Manatees — a single-A team in the Brewers system — have responded to the Gulf oil disaster in an unusual manner: They’ve stopped calling batting practice “BP.” Former MLB pitcher Ismael Valdez could not be reached for comment.
In a vaguely related item, I’m not claiming I predicted the Gulf oil spill or anything, but back in 2000 I was writing for a now-defunct site called MarketingInfo.com, and I had a little something to say about a rebranding scheme that had just been unveiled by BP (then known as BP Amoco). If you’re curious, I’ve reprinted what I wrote at the time, verbatim, here.
Meanwhile, rumors that I’m trying to figure out how to blame the oil spill on Nike are almost completely unfounded.
(Composite BP/Sherwin-Williams/Oilers logo created by Uni Watch webmaster John Ekdahl, by the way.)
Culinary Corner: In my recent Scotland vacation report, I mentioned that I had enjoyed a sweet treat called tablet. I brought back a hunk of the stuff for my cat-sitter (along with some whisky) but neglected to bring any for myself — an oversight I quickly found myself regretting. So I figured I’d just cook my own homemade tablet. How hard could it be?
Not hard at all, as it turns out, although it’s a bit disconcerting to encounter a recipe whose primary ingredients are five-plus cups of sugar, a can of sweetened condensed milk (which is mostly sugar), and nearly a stick of butter. No wonder it tastes so good.
Anyway: The above-linked recipe is easy to follow. Here’s how the cooked tablet looked after I poured it into a pan and allowed it to set. It’s a little tricky to cut — it wants to break into shards, so you end up with lots of irregularly shaped pieces, but I kinda like that.
And how does it taste? Ridiculously sweet, but very, very good. Highly recommended. Next time I’ll try adding some flavorings, like coffee and/or chocolate. Or maybe I’ll just make a batch of coffee ice cream and use the tablet as an add-in. Actually, that sounds really good — full report to follow shortly.
Giveaway Reminder: Today’s the last day to enter the giveaway for the three PC-to-TV converters. For details, look here.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Jonathan Toews’s helmet broke during last night’s Flyers/’Hawks game. Instead of leaving the ice at the next whistle, he simply grabbed Patrick Sharp’s helmet, resulting in a jersey/helmet uni number mismatch (good work by Jeff Czuba). … Wayne Peltz, the assistant visitors’ clubhouse manager at the Jake, has an interesting hobby: He creates ballplayer portraits out of Lego. … Great contribution from Ricko, who writes: “To the best of my knowledge (and I was watching like a hawk at the time), this is the first color photo ever published of the Minnesota Vikings’ uniforms. It’s from a football preview edition of the Minneapolis Star & Tribune and was photographed at the team’s training camp in Bemidji (yes, their early camps were north of the Cities, not south in Mankato). At this point, Fran Tarkenton was a relatively unknown rookie. George Shaw (#14) had a been acquired in a trade with the Giants and was expected to be the quarterback. Anyway, note the original striped socks.” … Mets reliever Pedro Feliciano routinely wears either a braided Phiten necklace (often paired with a much thinner Phiten model, as seen in that photo) or a white shell necklace. But on Friday he came in from the bullpen wearing the braided necklace and the shell necklace. That was apparently too much, as the umps made him remove the shell accessory. … Hey, speaking of Bryce Harper (well, a few thousand words ago), anyone know what he writes on his underbrim? … Bruce Menard sent along a batch of vintage baseball-themed ads. … The NBA has unveiled next year’s All-Star Game logo. … Here’s an intriguing issue to ponder: Are sports boring? NYC-area readers can see this burning question debated at a forum taking place tomorrow night.