Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Deadline Deal

The deal went down like this:

“It’s gonna be a nice night for a ballgame,” said Carlos from Gerard Avenue. “I’ve got tickets and I’m really looking forward to it.”

“You go almost every night,” snapped Jon from Highbridge. “Why are you so geared up about tonight?”

“A-Rod’s gonna do it,” Carlos smiled. “And I scored leftfield tickets from the guy who deals MetroCards on the Grand Concourse. I got two monthlies and seats in Box 350 for a c-note.”

“Do you think you’re gonna catch the ball?” Jon laughed.

“Why not?” Carlos shrugged. “I’ve got as good a shot as anyone.”

“And then you’ll sell it?” Jon asked.

“No way,” Carlos shot back. “I’m giving it to Alex no matter what anyone offers. I just want to shake his hand and tell him to keep hitting home runs for us. Alex belongs in the Bronx and I want to make sure he stays forever.”

Done deal.

Monday, July 30, 2007


A victory for the homeless ended in defeat, but the East Harlem Little Leaguers showed plenty of fight.

Playing without a home field didn’t stop them from winning the New York City championship. And it couldn’t stop them from advancing to the New York State championship where they lost in extra innings yesterday.

This city can’t kill baseball no matter how hard it tries. The game is alive in East Harlem because kids refuse to be defeated by an endless line of political schemes.

The Little Leaguers lost their home on East 112th Street because the Mayor of this city thinks luxury buildings are more important than baseball fields.

This Mayor – just like the Mayor before him – knows nothing about this city. New York is not about buildings. It’s about the people that live in the buildings. They are from everywhere and speak every language and represent every idea of what our society should be.

But too many New Yorkers are beaten down by politicians that can’t see beyond the next dollar being slipped under the table. The blackouts and service cuts and brutal cops and peeling paint have taken their toll.

But now everyone has been lifted by some ball players in East Harlem who remain undefeated, but still homeless.

Tough To Beat

The Yankees were tough to beat yesterday. That’s what they need to be every day and every night for the rest of the year. This brawl of a season must finish with grinding at bats and Mariano Rivera’s exploding fastball.

“We know what we need to do,” Derek Jeter said. “Everyone understands that each game is important.”

Yesterday seemed even more important after dropping the previous two games in Baltimore. They jumped out to an early lead, but the Orioles kept scratching back. Even a five-run eighth inning couldn’t put the game away. Rivera had to end it with a disappearing fastball.

It was one more tough win for a team that needs to be tough to beat.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Bronx Business

Jose takes care of business on a 50-foot stretch of River Avenue just outside Yankee Stadium.

“I’ve worked more than 10 years to build it up,” he says. “Everyone knows they can come to me if they need tickets. I had to fight for this spot and no one is taking it away.”

New York State is trying. There is a new law deregulating resale-ticket prices, which, at face-value, sounds like a good deal for a guy like Jose.

“No way,” he says. “It’s good for the computer geeks. Those StubHub guys made out on this, but I didn't.”

StubHub.com is a powerful resale Web site that can now charge anything they want for tickets. The new law also prohibits the Yankees from taking action against those who resell tickets online.

StubHub.com says they are “a solution to the street scalper.”

“Solution?” Jose laughs. “They’re the problem. I deal with people face-to-face and offer a fair deal. I sell maybe 30 or 40 tickets a game. They sell thousands. They’ve got tons of under-the-table deals to lock up tickets. Give ‘em time and they’ll have ‘em all. The Yankees sell a ticket for $17 and they turn around and rip somebody off for $60.”

The new law also says that Jose must run his business 1,500 feet from Yankee Stadium. “Yeah, right,” he says. “That just means I’ll get nabbed by the cops a few more times a year. If they can force me out it means more tickets for StubHub. The rich always get richer.”

Squeezing guys like Jose makes the Bronx poorer. “If there are tickets left in the third inning he always gives me one,” says Harry from Walton Avenue. “He’s a good guy and I’d hate to see him forced out because I wouldn’t be able to see very many games.”

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Fun Bunch

Maybe there was no other way to tap the true greatness in Alex Rodriguez. Maybe he just needed to remember how baseball felt when he was a kid in order to survive the pressures of being the biggest bat in the biggest lineup in the biggest baseball city in the world.

After drilling his 499th career home run to put last night’s game away, Rodriguez was drilled on the helmet by Robinson Cano and hugged by Melky Cabrera. They celebrated the moment the same way they’re playing these days: Hard and fast with big smiles.

“I have a good time with those two kids,” Rodriguez said. “They are excited about playing the game and they make me laugh a lot.”

They are kids with Dominican roots just like Rodriguez. But they didn’t come out of Westminster Christian High in Miami with a “can’t-miss” tag on their back and they aren’t regarded as the greatest player of their generation and they don’t have the biggest contract in the game. Rodriguez has always been determined to live up to expectations, but he seems even more determined to just be a ballplayer this year.

“The game is fun right now,” Rodriguez smiled.

And that’s the only thing baseball was ever meant to be.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tax The Poor

There’s an old rule in the Bronx: Don’t look past today because there may be no tomorrow.

Javier cast that aside as he glanced across 161st Street from River Avenue.

“I worry about the new Stadium,” he said as dust rose from the construction site. “The big guy (George Steinbrenner) has been good to us with cheap tickets in the Bleachers and the Tier, but I don’t know if he'll be able to do that when this place opens.

“Taxes keep going up,” he continued. “Major League Baseball is no different than anyone else in this country. They come into the Bronx and pick our pockets so guys like that Wal-Mart thug in Kansas City (Royals’ owner David Glass) and that newspaper baron in Pittsburgh (Pirates’ CEO Kevin McClatchy) can fill theirs.

“I saw the fans in Pittsburgh are finally forcing him out,” Javier went on. “Good, that city deserves better.”

The Bronx deserves better, too. But no one in Major League Baseball’s Park Avenue offices seems to see a problem with dropping a huge tax bill on the poorest borough in New York City and one of the poorest urban areas in the country.

“They’re carrying on an American tradition,” Javier laughed. “Tax the poor to feed the rich. Our only chance is The Boss. He knows what this baseball team means to us and he’s never let us down. I just hope he can keep it up.”

Otherwise, there may be no baseball tomorrows for plenty of people in the Bronx.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Will To Understand

Not enough people have the will to understand. That’s why so little changed from 1947 to 1974 and it’s why even less has changed since.

That lack of understanding will make sure nothing changes tomorrow either.

Understanding isn’t easy. It takes effort to find out what’s really going on in this country. It’s easier for The New York Times columnist Murray Chass to say:

“Many of his supporters believe the opposition to (Barry) Bonds’s assault on (Hank) Aaron’s record is race based, but if they haven’t noticed, this is a case of one black man breaking another black man’s record.

“Aaron has not turned white in the 33 years he has held the record. How, then, can anyone attribute anti-Bonds sentiment to race?

“The color of his skin has nothing to do with the public perception of Bonds; it’s what he put on or under his skin.”

It’s not nearly that simple. To say the color of a person’s skin has nothing to do with how they a perceived in this society is to ignore everything from racial profiling to poverty to Hurricane Katrina to the war against immigrants to Sean Bell to Amadou Diallo.

This isn’t the case of one black man breaking another black man’s record. It’s the case of Bonds trying to break the same record in the same society. Racism cuts this country just as deeply today as it did in 1974. Bonds and Aaron are the same man traveling the same roads that are lined with the same angry mobs.

No one has the will to understand Bonds’s struggles anymore than they had the will to understand Aaron’s. It’s the same all around. No one has the will to understand people who look for work on the streets or people who are thrown out of their homes or people that can’t go to a doctor when they are sick or people who die in wars or people who are profiled or beaten or gunned down in their own neighborhoods.

It’s easier to say they are: illegal or they are lazy or they are dangerous or they are just bad people who do bad things.

It’s never about race.

Beating that line doesn’t change the facts. It only guarantees that nothing will ever change.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Sweet Sunday

It was a long weekend with long innings and longer games. Lousy Friday was followed by Great Saturday which was topped by Sweet Sunday.

In just three days, Shelley Duncan became the talk of the Bronx because of his big swings, big home runs and even bigger smile.

“How could anyone not love this kid?” Javier said after Sunday’s win. “His energy makes me feel like I could play again. On the (subway) platform last night I caught myself taking swings. Big swings. Swings just like the kid takes. Some people started laughing at me, but it was fun.”

Duncan agrees. “Everything about this game is fun,” he said.

Duncan packed a lot into his first few days in New York. Three home runs have made him the city’s newest folk hero. He took a different route than Phil Hughes whose legend grew from the day he was signed until he nearly threw a no-hitter in his second start.

Duncan toughed his way through six minor-league seasons before showing up – Roy Hobbs like – to help save the season.

“You never know how long things will last,” Javier said, “but this is going to be fun so I hope it lasts forever.”

A kid like Duncan will make you believe just about anything.

Sweet, indeed.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Next Time

You can’t win every game, but kids always have hope.

“I thought A-Rod was going to hit a home run to tie,” Raymond said. “When he got the base hit I thought Matsui would win it. And then I thought it would be Melky or Robbie.”

Baseball is a hard game. Being 12 years old in the Bronx can be even harder.

“I don’t know if I’ll get to come again this year,” Raymond said. “I wanted to see A-Rod hit one out. I listen to the games on the radio and sometimes you can hear it. Thwack! I want to hear that for myself next time.”

There needs to be more next times for kids like Raymond. More summer days and more baseball games. The Yankees do their share. They provide great access to weekday afternoon games. They have kept the prices of Tier and Bleacher seats manageable for working people and they have always done right by longtime, season-ticket holders.

Doing right by people isn’t something New York City politicians seem too concerned with these days. They continue to let housing prices spin out of control and they allow utility companies to rack up record profits while our infrastructure crumbles and blows up.

Landlords and Consolidated Edison executives settle into the box seats behind the dugout while kids like Raymond hope for one more chance at a game from the Tier. One more chance to see A-Rod and hear a ball jump off his bat.

“My mom says we might be able to get tickets in August,” Raymond says. “I hope so.”

Raymond’s mom has other things to worry about, too. They’ve broken the rent controls on their apartment and the Con Ed bill comes whether the lights turn on or not.

It’s time for this city’s leaders to start thinking about the needs of the people before there are no more next times for any of us.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Quick Turnaround

The air hangs like a wet towel over the South Bronx, but nothing can hold this neighborhood down. “It’s a great day for a ballgame,” Javier says. “Let’s play two!”

A round of boos rolls down the counter at the Crown Diner.

“Why don’t you come up with something original,” someone says.

“What?” Javier shoots. “You think Ernie Banks was the first to say that? Who do you think told Ernie?”

More boos.

Javier laughs and grabs his coffee and sack of donuts. “Gotta work fast today,” he says. “Quick turnaround for a day game.”

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Fight Club

I was on the corner of East 149th and the Grand Concourse when two MTA track workers came up for a smoke.

“Did the Yankees win?” one of them asked.

“Yeah, 3-2 in 10 innings.”

“All right,” the other said. “Gotta light?”

It was a casual exchange about a game that was anything but casual. The Stadium had plenty of buzz like it always does when two great pitchers are going. Andy Pettitte is a favorite around here and Roy Halladay is one of the best in the game.

They both struggled early, but you can always count on tough guys fighting their way through. And you can count on tough teams finding a way to win games like that.

It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t easy, but the Yankees tied it in the ninth and won it in the 10th. The deciding blow was a ball slashed to left by Robinson Cano.

“The ball club is showing a lot of fight,” one of the track workers said. “They’re fun to watch. I’ve got tickets for Sunday and I can’t wait.”

Some don’t have to. The Fight Club is open tonight. Roger Clemens against Shaun Marcum. First pitch at 7:05 pm.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007


There is a growing gap between those who play baseball and those who watch. It’s no different than any other gap in this country: Some of it is fueled by racial and cultural differences, but most of it is economic.

“A ballplayer has to be kept hungry to become a big leaguer,” Joe DiMaggio once said. “That’s why no boy from a rich family has ever made the big leagues.”

That still holds true for the most part. There are a few players from wealthier backgrounds and some from the middle-class, but most Major Leaguers grew up poor. Some in the United States and Canada, more in places like the Dominican Republic and Venezuela and Panama and Nicaragua and Columbia and Mexico.

Poor people know the game in a way rich people can never understand. That’s were the gap starts.

Poor kids play baseball in parking lots in the Bronx and rocky fields in the Dominican. They play with scrap bats and cardboard gloves and old rubber balls. Baseball isn’t something their parents sign them up for. It’s what they are and what they do. It’s their way up and sometimes their way out.

Too many people who can afford the best ballpark seats these days don’t get it. They never played baseball like that and simply don’t understand the game.

The gap really widens because too many of them think they know everything. That’s how it always seems to go in this country. No attempt at understanding leads to one more social gap in an America littered with social gaps.

Monday, July 16, 2007


Disappointment comes with the job just like sweat and pain and dirt in their pants. Ballplayers have to get used to it.

But not too used to it.

Sometimes their only weapon is attitude. To survive in this game they had better have one helluva an attitude. People may come along and say they have a “bad attitude” or that they need an “attitude adjustment.” Most of them will carry tape recorders and microphones and have never played much baseball.

The great ones don’t listen.

They listen to their manager and their coaches and their teammates. They’re always told to keep the attitude.

That was about all Robinson Cano – with one hit since the All-Star break – had when he led off the fifth inning yesterday. The Yankees were in a 3-0 hole and Edwin Jackson had allowed only two hits in the game.

Cano quickly fell behind 0-2. Jackson tried to get him to chase. Nope. He hung tough, fouled off seven pitches, worked the count to 2-2 and finally blooped the eleventh pitch of the at-bat into centerfield for a single.

Only players with an attitude can do that. Those without would have been back in the dugout after three pitches.

That hit started a four-run rally that led to a victory. It was an important victory because they are all important. The Yankees – like Cano – are carrying one helluva an attitude these days.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Right Opinion

Gary Sheffield has the right to his opinion. And the nature of opinion says that he isn’t wrong.

Of course, every time Sheffield has an opinion it gets shouted down. There are people in this country that believe certain rights are only for certain people. When Sheffield expressed his views in GQ earlier this year, Major League Baseball’s Richard Levin cut him down by saying, “Consider the source.”

Sheffield was vilified and called everything from a loudmouth to a racist. Sheffield is not a racist. But if bringing light to racial issues that continue to cripple this country is being a loudmouth, then I guess he is that. Jackie Robinson was a loudmouth, too. And so was Martin Luther King Jr.

In an interview for HBO’s Real Sports, which airs on Tuesday, Sheffield was asked to express his opinions again. He explained that black players “… had an issue with Joe Torre. They weren’t treated like everybody else. I got called out in a couple of meetings that I thought were unfair.”

Sheffield also explained that he did not think Torre was racist, only that he treated black and white players differently.

“Derek Jeter used to come to me,” Sheffield said in the interview. “And basically he used to try to tell me what Joe Torre is all about: ‘He’s a good man, he’s this, he’s that,’ But like I told Derek, ‘That’s you. It’s one thing that they treat you a certain way. You don’t feel what other people feel.’”

No on can feel what other people feel, which is why opinions are never wrong.

In the interview, Sheffield detailed an incident when the Florida Marlins sent him to a psychologist to deal with his “behavior problems.”

“The first thing they said to me was, ‘You need to be more like Ken Griffey Jr.,’” Sheffield said. “‘See how he laughs and has fun? I bet he sleeps good at night.’ I got up and walked out.”

Someone recently told me that people wouldn’t boo if Griffey was moving in on the all-time home run record instead of Barry Bonds. But Griffey isn’t Bonds and Bonds isn’t Griffey and Sheffield isn’t either of them.

No one has the right to tell people who they should be or how they should feel or what they should say.

In my neighborhood, Gary Sheffield has the right to his opinion. And there are plenty of people around here saying that he isn’t wrong.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Back To Work

The 2 train carries Carl Stevens to the only job he’s ever known.

“I’ve been taking the same ride for 42 years,” he says. “They call us ‘Building Maintenance Engineers’ now. They used to call us ‘maintenance guys’ or just ‘hey, clean that up.’

“They’ve gotten pretty formal and even make us wear uniforms,” he continues. “I don’t have to wear the whole thing. They say I got ‘grandfathered’ and can wear my Yankees hat because I always have.”

Stevens is one more New Yorker who is always ready for a fight. “They wanted me to wear this brown hat with a big ‘Maintenance’ patch on it. I said ‘Everyone in this building and in this neighborhood knows what I do. Besides, what I really am is: A Yankee.’

“I think they just wanted me to shut up so they let me wear my hat,” he smiles. “I never go anywhere without it.”

He wore it last night when the Yankees took care of the Devil Rays. “It was a good way to get back to work after the (All-Star) break,” Stevens says. “The hitting was good and Andy (Pettitte) was okay and that catch by Melky (Cabrera) was great. I really like watching that kid play. He makes me smile.

“This team has lots of fight and they’re gonna make a run,” he continues. “I’ll bet my hat on it.”

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Streets

The streets know. They can tell where a person has been and where they’re going.

Jon Gonzalez from 183rd Street is going to school. He rides the 1 train and transfers to the 2 downtown. It feels like a million miles from Washington Heights.

“My mom says it’s a good school,” he explains. “I’m going this summer to get ahead.”

The train rattles through Times Square and Penn Station and past 14th Street and Christopher, Houston, Canal and Franklin.

“It ain’t so bad,” Gonzalez shrugs. “A-Rod went to a good high school (Westminster Christian High in Miami) and that’s what I want to do: be a ballplayer.”

He slings his backpack around. It’s blue and “A-Rod 13” is stitched in white.

“Where’d you buy it?” someone asks.

“My mom made it,” Gonzales says. “The school said I needed a bag like this for my books so she just sewed it up.”

He opens the bag and slips a ticket from inside a book cover. “April 19,” he says. “I didn’t go to school that day. It was Thursday. A-Rod hit a home run and we won. I got home late and my mom was mad.

“I said, ‘Someday I’ll hit a home run and bring you the ball.’ She was still mad. ‘You coulda been lost or dead in the street,’ she said.

“I told her, ‘I know where home is.’”

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Hammer

Hank Aaron is being used. So what else is new?

Society has used Aaron from the day he was born and baseball has used him from the day he was old enough to swing a bat.

Now people use him as a weapon to attack Barry Bonds.

Aaron is not interested in being there when Bonds breaks his home run record. Bonds respects that, but no one else seems to.

Everywhere you turn people are slithering up to Aaron and his 755 like they’ve been behind him all along. I’m sure this bizarre twist is not lost on Aaron, but is seems to have sailed over the rest of our heads.

Barry Bonds 2007 is the same as Hank Aaron 1974. They’ve traveled the same road littered with same hate mail and the same catcalls and the same newspaper columns and the same sleazy Commissioner.

Aaron’s feelings have been stolen and twisted and his accomplishments are being used to run down another man. They are trying to turn Hank Aaron 2007 into Babe Ruth 1974.

Things never change. So what else is new?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Hard Look

Barry Bonds asked a fair question: “Why are you booing me?”

We owe him an answer beyond the hateful notes, slanted stories, nasty signs and endless boos that echo across this country. An honest look has to acknowledge that race has played a role in our perception of Bonds and his quest to break the all-time home run record.

FACT: Bonds is black.

FACT: Nearly a quarter of black Americans live below the poverty line, which is more than double the rate of all Americans.

FACT: The current unemployment rate for blacks is double that of whites.

FACT: Blacks comprise 13 percent of the population, but are 30 percent of the people arrested and 42 percent of the people in jail.

FACT: More than 13 percent of black males have lost the right to vote because of felony disenfranchisement laws.

Baseball is played alongside these facts. We all live alongside these facts. It’s time to face them.

Race has plenty to do with how Bonds is treated. It has plenty to do with what happened in New Orleans. It also has plenty to do with poverty. And it has plenty to do with what happens every day on the streets of San Francisco and St. Louis and Atlanta and Chicago and Philadelphia and New York and every other city and town in this country.

Too many Americans think they are above it all. “I’m not a racist,” they shrug.

Individually that may be true, but our racist society rolls on and on and on.

The boos keep coming, too.

“I feel disappointed in some of those fans who were influenced by a [media] judgment and have not [taken] the opportunity to know me,” Bonds said yesterday. “People in San Francisco know me. The fans here know me. Fans outside the city only get to see me for three days [at a time]. To judge me based on a third party, that’s what disappoints me, when actually I’ve done nothing wrong to you.”

FACT: It’s time for this country and this game to take a hard look at itself.

Monday, July 9, 2007


It doesn’t matter, all the money and the hype and the fame. Baseball is about the game. It always has been.

That’s why the question took me by surprise:

“Why,” a friend asked me, “would Sandy Alomar Jr. keep hanging around the Minor Leagues for one last call up?”

The answer is simple:

There is nothing better than being a ballplayer and there is nothing worst than life after being a ballplayer. Some handle it better than others, but no one handles it well.

Alomar would rather handle the aches and pains of being a 41-year-old catcher than life after foul tips. He will play the same for the New York Mets as did for the New Orleans Zephyrs because the game is always the thing.

He will probably end up coaching and eventually managing in the Major Leagues, but that’s all for another time.

Today he’s still a ballplayer and there’s nothing better than that.

Good Ol’ Day

Old-Timers’ Day was about everything.

It was about hot coffee and salted peanuts for breakfast outside the players’ gate. It was about as far in the past as anyone could remember and as far in the future as anyone could imagine.

It was about Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford and Brian Doyle taking pictures with his cell phone. It was about Darryl Strawberry and Jim Leyritz and Paul O’Neill reaching the seats in batting practice.

It was a day that could be whatever you wanted it to be.

For my wife it was about Don Larsen. Her grandfather sat along the third-base line for game five of the 1956 World Series. Larsen once signed a ball for him that he treasured to the end.

For me it was about the crush of media around Reggie Jackson after batting practice. He will always be the straw that stirs the drink around here.

It was about thinking of the day when Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez and Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams will be introduced to another packed Stadium.

And it was a day to think back on a cold March morning when the talk at the Crown Diner turned to Phil Hughes.

“You don’t want to rush the kid,” Javier said. “Phil Hughes’ day will come and Phil Hughes’ Day will come. They’ll be about 30 years apart.”

Maybe someday Hughes will jog out and wave his cap just like Ford and Larsen and Goose Gossage.

Old-Timers’ Day is always about everything you want it to be.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Arrive Early And Stay Late

Most everyone in the Bronx plans for Old-Timers’ Day, but some take it more seriously than others.

“I’ll be here early,” Henry tells me.

“How early?”

“At 10 a.m. to see the players come in.”

First will be the guys from 1977. There will probably be some from 1947, too. And 1957 and 1967 and 1987 and even Paul O’Neill from 1997.

The 2007 Yankees will also come early, including some of O’Neill’s teammates from 1997 like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte.

The day belongs to all Yankees. It is always long and hot and one of the best days of the year. Henry will be the last to leave.

“I just like to see the players,” he says.

Sun Day

Baseball is better under the sun. At least it was yesterday when the ball jumped deep into the right-centerfield bleachers off Hideki Matsui’s bat.

It was a day to soak up a win and talk baseball around the players’ gate and then watch a kid in a blue T-shirt, black shorts and white sneakers slam ball after ball off the wall in Parking Lot 5 at the corner of River Avenue and East 157th Street.

He kept challenging the pitcher to throw one down the middle. It didn’t really matter where the pitches were located because he hit everything. When he finally got something that was really to his liking he drilled it over the fence toward Gerard Avenue.

He thrust his arms in air as the aluminum bat clanked on the asphalt.


Thursday, July 5, 2007

Searching For An Honest Crook

The lights blazed on the blog. The door was busted off the hinges even though it was never locked. The floor was littered with upended furniture and broken glass. Books and magazines and newspapers were strewn about.

The blog changed forms and languages and even flicked a few times, but it never went out. Several people helped me put things back on the shelves and in the cabinets. We righted the tables and swept the floor and fixed the door.

It took about five minutes to set this up back in December and I never figured anyone would try to break in and rip it apart.

Baseball is fun, right?

I still don’t know much about security so the door is open if they want to come back and destroy more books and turn over more tables.

My grandfather did get a chuckle out of the whole thing. “A virtual robbery,” he laughed. “You really can’t find an honest crook these days.”

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Break In News

My grandparents don’t have a lock on their door. They don’t believe in having things they don’t need.

They are safe in their neighborhood because there isn’t anyone they don’t know. It takes my grandfather 20 minutes to go to the newsstand in the morning because he stops and talks to everyone.

“Besides,” he always says. “They are all welcome to anything we have.”

Security has never been a top priority in my family so it was quite a shock when someone, apparently, broke into this blog today.

I’m not sure how you break into a blog, but the Blogger Help Center tells me it happens. No one really knows what you might see around here in the next day or so. Blog, no blog. Comments, no comments, maybe obscene comments. Anyway, it promises to be a wild ride.

My grandfather is never going to believe this.

Baseball Without Justice

The 4 train stopped dead around Bleecker Street yesterday afternoon.

“The train ahead of us has suffered a one-two punch,” the conductor explained. “There is a suspicious package and a person with a weapon who is threatening other passengers. We will continue once the NYPD clears this up.”

The woman standing beside me offered some perspective. “At least we’re not on that train.”

Yeah, the wait wasn’t bad at all. We made 161st Street-Yankee Stadium in plenty of time. The angry, weapon-wielding person and the suspicious package didn’t make it. Every once in awhile the NYPD does this neighborhood a favor.

Even they know that anger and hate have no place in baseball. Too many people these days don’t understand that. Perhaps it’s because they simply don’t understand the game. Maybe they didn’t play enough when they were kids or maybe they were forced to play too much.

The joy and hope and decency of baseball was either never instilled or it was ripped out by the roots. It’s sad no matter what the case.

Perspective on that comes from Jimmie Crutchfield who played 16 seasons in the Negro Leagues for teams like the Birmingham Black Barons, the Pittsburgh Crawfords and the Chicago American Giants.

Crutchfield once told John Schulian in the Chicago Sun-Times: “We had ball games to worry about. We didn’t have time to hate people.”

The story was titled: Baseball Without Justice.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Hit Me With Your Best Shot

“If you don’t have the guts to discuss it on the street then you shouldn’t write it online.”
– Javier, Bronx Philosopher

I once wrote that those were words to blog by. They are also words to comment by.

Blogs can be interesting, useful and entertaining. They can also be dumping grounds for angry, profanity-laced, racist tirades by those who choose to remain anonymous.

I’m not sure exactly what I wanted this blog to be initially, but I certainly never envisioned it as an open forum for those people to spew hate and bring nothing to the conversation.

I realize that I’m an easy target.

I believe in a free, open, just society that starts with quality healthcare, housing, education, transportation and nutrition for everyone. I believe in social and economic justice. I believe that everyone should have the right to marry. I believe that killing is wrong. I believe that no human being is illegal. I believe that Barry Bonds is treated unfairly. I believe Gary Sheffield is correct. I believe Jason Giambi is being singled out by people who have corrupted this game. I believe that teaching kids to play baseball should be a priority.

I believe in the New York that has always been my home. I believe in Syracuse and Buffalo and Watertown and Albany and Binghamton. I believe in the Bronx and Queens and Manhattan and Brooklyn and Staten Island. I believe in Highbridge and Washington Heights and Harlem and every other neighborhood that makes up this great city of immigrants.

I believe that together we can change this city and this state and this country and the whole world, too.

Some call me a communist dreamer and others a bleeding-heart liberal. I decided a long time ago that I don’t really care what anyone calls me.

I talk about my beliefs on the Grand Concourse and Broadway and at Yankee Stadium and on the 2 train and on this blog, which has open comments and a listed email. So if you have something to say: Hit me with your best shot, but leave Derek Jeter out of it because he has accomplished more than the rest of us combined.