Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Several Oakland A's hospitalized for heat exhaustion, dehydration after playing in suits to honor Connie Mack

Above: Hideki Matsui dons a suit against the Phillies on Sunday. The suit was a way to honor legendary Philadelphia A's manager/owner Connie Mack. The entire Athletic team wore suits for the game.

South Philadelphia--The Oakland A's were in town this past weekend for a 3-game, Interleague series with the Phillies down at the ballpark. The team that left the City of Brotherly Love in 1954 for Kansas City, then onto Oakland in 1968, returned to the place where they captured nine of their fifteen pennants and five of their nine World Series titles. (Wow, the A's won four championships alone after leaving the city, while the Phillies have two titles in 129 years.)

Believe it or not there is still a Philadelphia Athletics fan club and a Philadelphia A's Historical Society. The 42-member historical society met the current A's team before Friday's game at Citizens Bank Park, getting autographs and giving history lessons to the surprisingly interested big league players.

"I cornered manager Bob Melvin and general manager Billy Beane," said Bill McDonnell, 87, the president of the A's historical society. "I told them all about Shibe Park and Connie Mack and Jimmie Foxx and the great games with the Phillies. And, I gave them an earful about Connie Mack's suits."

For many years, the famous manager/owner of the Philadelphia A's was Connie McGillicuddy (pictured at left), otherwise known as Connie Mack. He was an imposing yet gentle figure that warmly glared from the top of the dugout steps wearing, not a uniform, as was the norm in those times and today, but a suit. "Uniforms are for players," he once said in 1939. "I manage people and wear a suit. If I return to catching one day, then I'll wear a uniform."

Tom Landry, the legendary head coach of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys, was widely known for wearing suits on the sidelines instead of t-shirts or a star-clad parka. Most, however, don't realize that Mack played a huge part in Landry's wardrobe selection. "Connie Mack should be a model to us all. I manage people and wear a suit. If I return to playing one day, then I'll wear a uniform," said Landry in 1979. "Not a uniform but a Dallas baseball hat and Dallas windbreaker. Oh, you know what I mean."

Babe Ruth and the fearsome Yankees squared off numerous times against the Mack's A's. The suits had an effect on one of the game's greatest players. "I respected the hell out of Connie Mack," said Ruth in 1925. "But seeing a manager wearing a suit in the dugout always game me the creeps."

On Saturday morning, the entire Oakland Athletics organization visited the former residence of Connie Mack off of Lincoln Drive in northwest Philadelphia and also toured the site of where Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium once stood at 21st St and Lehigh Avenue, now the home of a church. The trip was organized in conjunction with the historical society and the Phillies Fan Club of Glenolden, PA.

After the emotional visits connecting the club to its storied roots, players, of their own volition, voted on the bus ride back to the Center City hotel to play Sunday afternoon's game of the Phillies series in suits and ties in honor of Connie Mack.

"The tour was very emotional for all of us. We called the league from the hotel and presented our idea and, surprisingly, it went through," said Billy Beane, the A's Moneyballing general manager. "Because we only see the Phillies in Interleague play, we didn't know when the next time we would play in Philadelphia. We feel this is a great way to honor a great man and manager/owner. I don't know why we didn't do this earlier."

On paper, at least, it must have really appeared to be a great way to pay tribute to the trend-setting Mack, but, in actuality, it was something quite different. The league and the team failed to take into account the stifling field temperature and the layers of heat-trapping, poor-ventilating material that a suit entails. At game time, 1 p.M. ET, the thermometer next to the A's dugout read 89 degrees.

"Yeah, it was awfully hot out there, but we were doing it for Mr. Mack," said A's right fielder Ryan Sweeney. "In the bottom of the fifth I was really feeling lightheaded. The stadium was spinning and that's all I really remember. I woke up at UPenn hospital in the morning."

"All I can remember was the humidity," said designated hitter/outfielder Hideki Matsui. "When we came into the dugout after being in the field we were told that we could not remove our jackets or ties. I went to refill my Gatorade cup dripping wet from the humidity and woke up in Pennsylvania Hospital."

Outfielder Coco Crisp, sporting a pinstripe suit and an elephant-dotted tie, passed out attempting to field a routine pop fly. "I saw the ball come off the bat, then some sweat dripped into my eyes and the next think I know I'm on a stretcher. It was all for Mack, though."

By the end of the game, eight Athletics were taken to area hospitals for heat exhaustion and severe dehydration. A member of the team's bullpen was forced to play right field for two innings because of the suit casualties.

Some players, however, said it wasn't the heat that bothered them, but that the limiting range of motion caused by the outfits was really the issue.

"I couldn't swing the bat properly," said Jemile Weeks, Oakland's second baseman and leadoff hitter. "I had to hold my arms in close to my body and shorten my stance considerably. It's an expensive suit, I didn't want to rip it. I didn't get on base the whole game but that might have been a good thing for the suit."

After the game, a 3-1 Phillies victory, the Athletics issued a statement where they adamantly blamed the suits for the loss and said that they could have simply placed a patch on their uniforms of Connie Mack wearing a suit. "We didn't honor Mr. Mack with how we played today, not at all," said Beane, the general manager, "but damn did we look good."

Above: A's pitcher Josh Outman wears a suit during a game against the Phillies. Outman lasted just two and two-thirds innings before collapsing on the mound from heat exhaustion. The suit was taken to an area dry cleaners.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

McKeon return has Marlins fanbase pumped; manager thrilled to ... have new ride

All fan 14 and over receive Jack McKeon Bobble head doll

Above: Florida Marlins new manager Jack McKeon (behind the stair lift) makes his return to the dugout on Monday night. The 80-year-old attempts to take in the action at home plate from the bench through the space between the backrest and the seat on his state-of-the-art new stair lift. The Marlins have laid 24 miles of stair lift track in and around Sun Life Stadium to make McKeons' return as enjoyable and seamless as possible. The manager can ride the diesel-powered device from the dugout to the mound, then to his home in Ft Lauderdale if he so chooses. The stair lift metal track on the infield grass is considered part of play under the stadium's ground rules. Below: McKeon shares a few laughs with fans and brags of the horsepower of his new lift.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Canucks under heat from fans after raising overhead scoreboard before game 7

Vancouver, B.C.--Wow, what could possibly be added to the list of trouble and heartache that the city is facing these days? First, the local hockey team makes a valiant, grueling run at Lord Stanley's Cup only to fall in the final game of a war-like series. Second, the loss, a 4-0 drubbing, sets off some of the worst rioting and looting the city--and all of Canada--has ever seen.

These are truly (temporary) dark days for the world-class city that hosted the planet during the infinitely successful Winter Olympics not quite a year and a half ago. However, there may be darker days ahead before the sun shines again off the Straight of Georgia. Hockey fans are again irate, loaded with questions and the Royal Mounted Canadian Police have been placed on high alert.

Yesterday, it was reported that the Vancouver Canucks front office, after extended clandestine meetings, requested that the Rogers Arena overhead scoreboard and and its accompanying jumbo video screen be raised up fifteen feet before last Wednesday's start of game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Yeah, so what? You're probably asking yourself why would the team do this and how could this possibly upset the nearly two million metro area residents and the Province's 4.5 million inhabitants? What does the height of a scoreboard have to do with anything?

With the exception of a few monster truck events and a few circus appearances, the scoreboard, which was updated in 2007, has been hanging at the same height since the facility opened in 1995. Why adjust it now?

The team raised the scoreboard using the elaborate cable-pulley system mounted in the rigid roof trusses to avoid damage to the flashing, blinking system in the "slight chance that the Bruins won game 7."

"One word," said Rogers Arena director of facilities management Gabe McNulty. "Chara!"

Zdeno Chara is the captain of the Boston Bruins, a player who stands 8 foot 9 inches without skates and 11 feet 4 inches with skates. The Canucks were so paranoid about Chara winning the game and, ultimately, raising the iconic Stanley Cup high above his head and smashing it into the scoreboard.

"If Boston and Chara won the cup, he would have raised the priceless, silver trophy high above his head and banged it into the $10 million scoreboard," said McNulty. "We had to take precautions against such a situation arising. It's just unfortunate that our wonderful, passionate fans found out about our plan."

"This is bogus, eh," said one fan, still wearing a bandanna over his face a week after the CBD riots ended. "I love the Canucks, but they were basically saying that the Bruins were going to win that game by raising the scoreboard. Totally bogus."

Rumors have also circulated that the NHL requested the scoreboard be raised so that the Cup itself was not damaged when Chara took hold of Mr Stanley.

"That is preposterous," said Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner. "We don't delve into how teams conduct specific features of their individual home arenas. And, it should also be noted, that we did not ask Chara to only lift the Cup up halfway. We did not tell him to 'cradle it at his waist or get on his knees before raising it.' I think I read that on a blog somewhere."

Back on the east coast it was a different story. During the packed Bruins victory parade on Saturday, Logan International Airport halted flights for one hour in the afternoon in anticipation of Chara raising the cup on the players' stage in the heart of Beantown. "He's a tall son-of-bitch and I'm not going to deny altering flight patterns because of him. This is passenger safety we're talking about. Flights coming in over downtown would have had to negotiate a silver cup piercing through the clouds in order to land at the airport. We wanted to avoid this at all costs," said Logan's director of flight routing Danny O'Leary Shaughnessy McBride.

Chara has kept a great sense of humor through "Height Gate" (named by an MIT mechanical engineering student), but just wants it all to be over. "I get it, I'm tall," said Chara. "I was very conscience of not hitting the scoreboard out in Vancouver and, today during the parade, I would have lowered the cup if I saw a plane coming in. I hate that I am causing all of this controversy."

Saturday, June 18, 2011

National Geographic photographer captures rare sight: large crowds gathering, caring for hockey

Vancouver, B.C.--George Gilchrist happened to be in the right place at the right time. Actually, this is often the case for the award-winning photographer for National Geographic magazine. Photographers, the talented ones it seems, tend to have this uncanny streak of luck in common with their skilled colleagues. Wherever the action is that's where, unbelievably, they are too.

Gilchrist,56, had just returned home from the West African desert where he was on location for two grueling months photographing (or at least waiting to photograph) the three-winged loon--a desert bird so rare that it has been spotted just once collecting water from a lonely, refreshing oasis. That is, until Mr Gilchrist arrived.

"I got my gear and my pack and headed into the desert like I owned that desert," said Gilchrist in his fading British accent and who now calls Tacoma, WA home. "When the going got tough I said, 'Good on ya.' And then I just kept going until I photographed the crap out of that rare bird. It's an elusive little bugger, but bread crumbs and peanut butter will do the trick."

The loon is commonly known as a water bird, but the three-winged breed is able to store copious amounts of H2O under the third wing, which allows the bird to bury itself deep beneath the scorching, shifting desert sands. Air pockets below form comfortable habitats for the fowl who then feed off of unsuspecting baby scorpions. The three-winged loon can remain submerged under the desert for months, which makes a photograph of the crafty, duck-looking aviator priceless.

Could there be a photo even more priceless?

For the past week, the camera-toting Gilchrist was seeking some much needed R and R in Vancouver, B.C., just a short distance north across the border from Washington state. Here, the eight-time Golden Photograph and Picture winner caught something even more rare than the three-winged loon.

"It was a beautiful afternoon last week and I was wandering the streets of downtown Vancouver looking for some good fish and chips and I noticed crowds beginning to gather in the CBD. I mean, these were large crowds," said the photographer. "I didn't really think anything of it at the time. I didn't know what was developing right before my very eyes."

Gilchrist casually, yet confidently, walked up to one member of the group and asked what was happening. After a derisive comment about living under a rock, the blue and green painted resident said the crowd was there to watch hockey.

"I phoned my editor straight away and told him that he would never believe what was happening in Vancouver. Large crowds were gathering to watch (you might want to sit down for this) hockey and displaying emotions that projected a deep caring for the outcome of the game. This was rare. I really have the craziest luck sometimes. I just began photographing like a madman."

The photos will be published in National Geographic magazine next month and could propel the Thames City, England native to the cover of the periodical in the next year.

"The rare hockey photos will definitely bump the story about the three-winged loons off the cover next month. I feel like we're always doing a story about the crazy loons and their weird sand-eating habits," said National Geographic senior editor Francine Horton. "The country, the continent and the world need to see these photos."

Friday, June 17, 2011

Guy who smashed Vancouver bank windows says he 'totally forgot about camera phones ... and the internet'

Above: During a widespread riot in British Columbia's largest city, a Vancouver resident uses a green hockey stick to shatter the floor-to-ceiling windows of a popular downtown bank after the Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. "As I was hacking away haphazardly," said the unidentified man, "I was like, 'Oh crap, there's a slight chance that someone is filming this right now.' Then, I was like, 'Dammit, the internet.' I totally forgot about the internet." In a move that hoped to bring leniency for his actions, the man went on to say that it was not his hockey stick. The entire nation of Canada has expressed horror over how one of their own citizens could abuse a hockey stick in such a manner.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Friends describe ugly-ass-throwback-Canuck's-jersey-wearing Steve as 'a total asshole sometimes'

Above: Steve wears the old black, yellow and maroon Canucks' jersey at a Stanley Cup Finals viewing gathering on West Georgia St. in Vancouver on Monday evening. Steve's friends say that him showing up in the putrid jersey is "so very Steve." "Look around," said one of Steve's closer friends. "Everyone has the new jersey with blue, green and white. He's a real a.h. sometimes, but I love the guy. He's a crazy, crazy bastard."

Monday, June 13, 2011

After Mavs win title, Cleveland declares end to championship drought

Dallas turns down invitation to partake in planned parade on Thursday. City says they will hold celebration anyway.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Kevorkian passes away, but not before helping Thrashers, entire city of Winnipeg

Royal Oak, MI--Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the man who assisted in the deaths of nearly 130 terminally ill patients, passed away last week due to "blood clot complications." However, before passing to the other side--a place he guided so many suffering souls toward-- he was able to complete one (or two) last minute "assist."

After eight years in prison and promising never again to help end a life, the doctor felt the suffering in this particular situation was too great to ignore the desperate cries for help. The doctor's involvement in this grim turn of events unfolded last week.

One by one calls were placed to the entire 23-man roster of the Atlanta Thrashers hockey club by the front office informing the players that their home city would no longer be the Georgia capital. The organization, founded as an expansion franchise in 1999, was saying goodbye to the Peach State and headed north of the border and relocating to Manitoba, Canada.

"It was like 3 o'clock in the morning," said team captain Andrew Ladd, recalling the night he learned of the move. "I answered the phone and a voice told me the team was moving to Winnipeg. Then they hung up before identifying themselves. In the morning, I thought it was just a dream. I was not dreaming, this is awful."

"Winnipeg? Winnipeg? Where the f*&% is Winnipeg? Is that a city, state or province?" asked Canadian-born left winger Eric Boulton, who has played for the organization for six years. "I'm from Canada, but I never heard of Winnipeg."

"I'm from Winnipeg and this is just about the worse news that anyone can ever get. I worked my butt off to get out of that hell hole. And, as Homer Simpson once said,'You know how I feel about hell holes.' I ... I don't know." defenseman Gary Thomas said.

Most members of the team just began sobbing uncontrollably when the news broke, others scoured their yards for trees with stout limbs that could support a couple hundred pounds.

"Isn't Winnipeg the place that snows so much that the police use black chalk to outline dead bodies?" added Thomas. "I thought I read an article about that one time. Also, I think it snows in July and August up there."

So distraught were the players about the future move from sunny, hot Atlanta to gray, frigid, snowy Winnipeg that one defenseman contacted a certain Michigan-based doctor. After learning that Kevorkian was spelled with a 'K,' the doctor's contact information was obtained and the process was put into motion. Soon after, the entire Thrashers team met in the locker room of Phillips Arena to carry out the gruesome deed. A note taped to the locker room door read: "We ain't movin' to Winnipeg. We ain't movin', period."

The attitude in Winnipeg mirrored that in Atlanta, as fans became sullen after hearing the news about the relocation. It was a stark contrast to the mood two days before when the City learned they would be getting their first traffic light. Elation turned to oozing hopelessness in less than 48 hours.

"The Thrashers? Really? They're f*&%ing awful. Oh, this sucks," said Winnipeg resident Harry Monroe, 42. "I was just about to play street hockey with some friends, now I only feel like playing Russian roulette. You'll have to excuse me, I have to go shovel the driveway."

The Thrashers spent eleven seasons in sprawling, auto-dependent Atlanta, where they qualified for the playoffs just once. In that season, 2006-07, they were swept from the first round in four games by the New York Rangers. This season they finished 13 points behind the number eight seed with just 34 wins.

"The Thrashers? Can we get the Braves instead ... and have them play hockey?" said another Winnipeg resident. "How about the Hawks or Fal ... nevermind."

"First, we get news that it's supposed to snow this week, then we hear that the 'Trashers' are coming," said Brian Tullimore, 55, a resident of Osborne Village. "I'm going ice fishing, it's what I do in June, July and August to take my mind of things."

The mayor of Winnipeg, sensing the absolute collective despair of his town, also called on Dr. Kevorkian, around the same time that the Thrashers had done so, to ease the City's excruciating pain. And, within 24 hours, all of the 630,000 residents of Manitoba's capital were gone.

"It's a shame that Winnipeg didn't learn about the locker room demise of the Thrashers before they performed their own demise. Many, many lives could have been saved," said one Atlanta police officer.

Before passing away, Kevorkian wrote a note justifying the deaths of a professional hockey team and hundreds of thousands of residents of a North American city: "I promised the courts that I would never again assist in ending a life no matter the level of pain being endured. However, this situation was very different. Each side--the Thrashers and the City of Winnipeg--were suffering from a great and terrible illness: the Thrashers having to move to Winnipeg and Winnipeg having to deal with the Thrashers. There were no other solutions to this situation. If you are reading this, I have passed on to the other side. Go Tigers!"

Saturday, June 4, 2011

NBA unsure why Mavericks' gear selling like hotcakes in northeastern Ohio

New York, NY--NBA league officials in Manhattan cannot explain why Dallas Mavericks' jerseys, sweatpants**, foam coolies, cups, barbecue grill covers, spatulas, lawn chairs, posters, t-shirts, jackets, hats, visors, windshield shade covers, frisbees, beach towels, key chains, mailboxes and automobile magnet flags--basically, anything with a Mavericks logo slapped on it--have been selling like wildfire over the past few days in and around Cleveland. "I don't get it," said Ralph Ventsini, head of apparel and merchandise supplies for the NBA, and who also tracks movement and sales nationwide. "We can't send enough Mavericks stuff to northeastern Ohio right now. I send it and it sells even before it leaves the truck. I thought they were Cavalier fans out there. One minute they are buying Sixers stuff, then Celtics gear and then Bulls gear. It's the most bizarre thing."

**Greater Clevelanders purchase more sweatpants per capita than any other city on the planet.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

19 Innings: Can NHL-style shootout eliminate extra-inning games?

Philadelphia, PA--The Phils and Cincinnati Reds battled for 19 innings (over six hours) last Wednesday night (and Thursday morning), the longest game of the MLB season. By the time the game concluded at 1:19 a.m., few fans remained and many of those still occupying the blue, plastic seats were counting sheep, not innings or runs. Could an NHL-like shootout--a series of goalie versus player one-on-one breakaways--be the answer to such comic book-long baseball games?

"I've long called for baseball games to be timed, but that will never happen," said Mike Beverly, a sports columnist for the New York Times. "So, how about if the game is tied after nine innings of play, then you move to a shootout. I wrote my plan for this nearly three years ago."

Beverly is referring to his article that appeared in the Times on May 2, 2008, where he explained his innovative MLB shootout concept. With a tie score and nine innings in the book, teams clear the field and a hockey net is positioned behind home plate for the catcher to defend.

The opposing team's pitcher is then given one attempt to throw the ball from the mound--directly or by bouncing in the dirt--past the catcher and into the net. When a ball enters the goal the team is given one run. Each team picks four pitchers to go against the opponent's catcher, and, like hockey, alternate turns. Home plate umpires stand at the side of the net and essentially become line judges.

"Do we really want 19-inning games?" asked Beverly rhetorically. "The answer is no. Emphatically, no. It totally screws up the manager's pitching options for days. Let's do the shootout and add some flare to baseball. Listen, I'm a baseball purist, but I think this would be great for the game."

Beverly also wrote that if the game was still tied after a shootout, then the same four pitchers from each team would be given a breakaway using a bat and a ball. The ball would have to remain on the ground as the pitcher runs from the mound towards the plate and the net using the bat like a field hockey stick. The opposing team's catcher still defends the goal.

"Would this mean that everyone on the bench would have to jump over the dugout railing to celebrate a win like hockey players jump over the boards?" said a smiling Roy Halladay.