It’s Friday! That means Ten Big stories in 10 little bites. We hit Tim Miles and Tiger Woods, Braylon Heard and Joe Torre, Mariano Rivera and Field of Dreams. But first, the first-place team in the AL Central.
Ten years ago, the Kansas City Royals made an unlikely playoff run, holding first place as late as Aug. 29. I barely noticed. The Royals meant nothing more to me than the Houston Astros or Milwaukee Brewers or Toronto Blue Jays.
I had no affection for the club three hours down I-29. None.
I missed the classic Royals-Yankees playoff games of the 70s. I missed George Brett’s assault on .400 in 1980. I just missed Game 7 in 1985.
By the time I was old enough to cheer for a baseball team, the Royals were declining. Our family made annual trips to K.C. for a game — and a day at Worlds of Fun. But we planned those trips around the opponent — I always wanted to see the A’s.
In about 2005, when Kansas City lost 19 games in a row, I started paying attention. For sick, twisted reasons. The Royals were so bad, I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. I got hooked on Joe Posnanski, who wrote epic, hilarious columns about Royals’ losing streaks. I listened to Kansas City sports radio as they tore apart every managerial blunder.
I found entertainment in the Royals’ futility. I’m not proud of it, but it’s true.
And then Alex Gordon revived his career. And then Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer emerged. And for some reason, the Royals became a great story to follow. Could they really take this flaming pile of sewage and fix it? Could they really win?
I found myself reading every Rany on the Royals post. I became obsessed by the James Shields trade.
The past week, I find myself checking box scores every day, monitoring the closer conundrum and Gordon’s OBP and Ervin Santana’s velocity. What is WRONG with me? I didn’t intend for this to happen.
But I’m envisioning a summer day trip to Kauffman with my 3-year-old. I’m picturing Gordon leading off a playoff game in Boston or New York. I’ve invested so much time in the Royals’ misery, I want to see the payoff.
It’s April 12, the Royals are 6-3 and I find myself downright excited about it.
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>> Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods rub elbows several times a year. And yet, according to Jack, they’ve never had a conversation longer than two minutes. Fascinating.
>> On Wednesday night, I presented a Masters Twitter poll. “You are invited to tour Augusta National. As an extra perk, you can play 1 hole. Only 1. Take your pick.”
The overwhelming reader choice was No. 13, with 12 and 16 also receiving several votes.
I had a very hard time choosing between 13 and 15. But I lean toward 13. Here’s my complete ranking: 13, 15, 11, 16, 12, 10, 2, 18, 9, 3, 14, 5, 8, 17, 7, 6, 1, 4
>> Dan Wetzel on the 14-year-old who shot 73 yesterday.
>> A hacker’s tale of playing Augusta National — in high tops.
>> “Get in the hole” doesn’t fly at Augusta.
>> Once Vince Marrow goes to work for Kentucky, his priority is making Kentucky better. If that means utilizing an old relationship (Braylon Heard) to score an impact transfer, it’s fair game. The potential problem is if Marrow was working Heard before he decided to transfer. If he was telling Heard he deserved more carries. If he was telling him, “You know, Braylon, you should come with me.” There’s no proof to suggest Marrow tampered or acted deviously. But it’s hard not to be skeptical.
>> One thing I really like about Nebraska’s new court design: the state at half court. As a kid who put red masking tape all over the basement carpet to emulate the Devaney Center floor paint, I salute the blast from the past.
One thing I don’t like about the new court design: the area inside the 3-point arc. I don’t like the darker wood inside the arc or the plain free-throw lane. Give me a more traditional look, with red paint in the lane.
But all things considered, I’ll take it. Maybe it’ll inspire another 10-year-old to break out the masking tape.
>> “The Daily Show” goes after the NCAA. Hilarious, as expected.
>> Joe Torre, Bud Selig and other dignitaries gathered Thursday at Werner Park for the unveiling of Bob Gibson’s statue. My favorite anecdote came from Torre.
On May 19, 1961, Torre was a 20-year-old minor league catcher in the Milwaukee Braves farm system. That afternoon, the Braves called up Torre to the majors. One problem: “They couldn’t find me.”
Torre, making his first visit to Omaha, had found his way to the Aksarben racetrack. When he lost all his money and returned to the hotel, he learned he’d been promoted.
He caught a plane late that night, missed a connection and wound up getting to Cincinnati too late for Saturday’s game. Sunday, though, he caught a doubleheader.
He went 3-for-8 that day and never played another minor-league game.
>> The author of an excellent new Jackie Robinson book is delivering a lecture Monday at Creighton.
>> Cool story about Mariano Rivera, who’s added a twist to his farewell tour.
>> Peter King excerpted this old movie review to illustrate Roger Ebert’s writing talent. I thought you might enjoy it:
Movies are often so timid these days, so afraid to take flights of the imagination, that there is something grand and brave about a movie where a voice tells a farmer to build a baseball diamond so that Shoeless Joe Jackson can materialize out of the cornfield and hit a few fly balls. This is the kind of movie Frank Capra might have directed and James Stewart might have starred in — a movie about dreams. It is important not to tell too much about the plot. (I’m grateful I knew nothing about the movie when I went to see it, but the ads give away the Shoeless Joe angle.)
Let it be said that Annie supports her husband’s vision, and that he finds it necessary to travel east to Boston so that he can enlist the support of a famous writer (James Earl Jones) who has disappeared from sight, and north to Minnesota to talk to what remains of a doctor (Burt Lancaster) who never got the chance to play with the pros. The movie sensibly never tries to make the slightest explanation for the strange events that happen after the diamond is constructed.
There is, of course, the usual business about how the bank thinks the farmer has gone haywire and wants to foreclose on his mortgage (the Capra and Stewart movies always had evil bankers in them). But there is not a corny, stupid payoff at the end. Instead, the movie depends on a poetic vision to make its point …
There is a speech in this movie about baseball that is so simple and true that it is heartbreaking. And the whole attitude toward the players reflects that attitude. Why do they come back from the great beyond and play in this cornfield? Not to make any kind of vast, earth-shattering statement, but simply to hit a few and field a few, and remind us of a good and innocent time.
It is very tricky to act in a movie like this; there is always the danger of seeming ridiculous. Costner and Madigan create such a grounded, believable married couple that one of the themes of the movie is the way love means sharing your loved one’s dreams. Jones and Lancaster create small, sharp character portraits — two older men who have taken the paths life offered them, but never forgotten what baseball represented to them in their youth.
‘Field of Dreams’ will not appeal to grinches and grouches and realists. It is a delicate movie, a fragile construction of one goofy fantasy after another. But it has the courage to be about exactly what it promises. ‘If you build it, he will come.’ And he does.
>> Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend.