Only Kids Can Make Bad Jokes Funny

Yesterday I was drying Hope off after bath time. She was complaining that the towel was too rough, so I told her the old joke about the guy and his talking dog. If you’re not familiar with it, here it is:

A guy has a talking dog and brings it to a talent scout. “This dog can talk!” he says. “Okay, Spike, what’s on the top of a house?” “Roof!” the dog replies. The agent grumbles. The guy then asks the dog “what does sandpaper feel like?” “Rough!” the dog answers. The talent agent tells the guy he has one more chance or he’ll throw the guy and his dog out in the street. “No, hang on,” the guy says. “This one will amaze you. ” He turns and asks the dog: “Who was the greatest home run hitter of all time?” “Ruth!” goes the dog. The talent scout boots them out of his office onto the street. And the dog turns to the guy and says “You think I should have said Hank Aaron?”

Hope clearly didn’t get the joke. But she laughed.

A few minutes later she asked if we could tell the joke together, with her supplying the dog’s answer. I said yes, so we told it to The Civee and Luke. The joke went normally, with her going “Roof” and “Rough.” But when I asked “Who was the greatest home run hitter of all time?”, she replied ” Derek Jeter.”

She may very well be funnier than I am.

Honoring the Yankee Flipper

This weekend, the family and I went to the Darby Creek Park outside of Columbus, a nice park with many trails and a small herd of bison. We noticed some construction at the park. It looked like they were building a new road and I spotted this sign:

The Jack McDowell? The former Cy Young award winner who flipped off a home crowd at Yankee Stadium after giving up nine runs in less than five innings? Personally, I think it’s about time. The city of Columbus has historical ties to the Yankees and this was one of the most memorable moments of the ’95 season.

It’s not like there’s another Jack McDowell out there, is there?

Mariano Will Be Back

Like most other news, I didn’t take the events of Thursday night well. The Yankees had lost two in a row to the Orioles and Mariano Rivera was carted off the field before the game with an injury that will end his season and could have ended his career.

Fortunately, even though rumors of retirement have been swirling around Rivera this season, the Yankees closer says that’s not how he wants to end his career and he’ll be back next year.

I remember every step of Rivera’s career- from his first game to his becoming the setup man a year later and eventually the team’s closer. He’s had some failures and he hasn’t been the perfect pitcher, but he’s been close. It’s possible the Yankees could have done everything they have since 1996 without him, but it’s hard to imagine.

He’s going to retire one day- but I’m glad he’ll be around next year.

The Marketing Era Is Over

I’ve been writing the Kingdom for the last six and a half years. Traffic for the blog is what you would expect for a blog about someone’s personal life. My promotional efforts for the blog have consisted of cross-posting entries to my Facebook wall and Twitter feed and sponsoring a page on

For the last three years (maybe longer), I sponsored the player page of Hideki Irabu. Cost me about $20 each year. According to my Google Analytics numbers, since early 2008, Baseball Reference has sent 271 visitors my way. I wasn’t sponsoring the page for the traffic, but rather to recognize a player that I had been a fan of. The message was simple, something that I had written on the blog about Irabu:

For two months in 1998, Irabu was the best starting pitcher on what would become the greatest team in baseball. King Tom still has two Hideki Irabu t-shirts.

Last week, I got an e-mail from Baseball Reference saying my sponsorship fee was going up to $80. I decided to pass. Today, I went to Irabu’s page and now they’re asking for $135 to sponsor the page for a year.  I can kind of understand the hike, Irabu’s name was unfortunately in the news last year.

I don’t begrudge Baseball Reference trying to make some money. Their site is great and I liked supporting them. But at the same time, it’s a lot of money to spend for less traffic than I got from over the past four years. I may sponsor a page in the future (there are plenty of players on the Yankees teams of the 90s that aren’t taken yet).

But for now, I’ll just rely on people Googling Hideki Irabu rather than getting here through his Baseball Reference page.

(Not Those) Yankees Win the World’s Series

For the past eight years, I’ve participated in the Ohio Old Time Strat-O-Matic League, an all-time, online simulated baseball league. Because we use players from throughout baseball history (their abilities normalized to allow for an even playing field), The Civee refers to it as the “Dead Players Baseball League.”

The OOSL doesn’t take up that much of my time, but it is a year-round commitment, considering there’s games to be played during the season and trades to be made in the off-season.

Earlier today, we wrapped up the 2011 season with game 9 (it is an old-timey league after all) of the World’s Series. My team (the New York Yankees, naturally) won the series, beating the Montreal Expos.

I’ve made the post-season a few other times, but never made it further than the League Championship Series. But even in years when I finished with a losing record, I still enjoyed participating.

It’s nice to have won it all. Despite her commentary on the league, The Civee is proud of me for winning. I may just take it easy this offseason. But then again, I do have trades to make.

Getting My Wires Crossed

I was pretty tired last night after dinner. The Civee and I were having a discussion about movies and filmmaking, and I said:

Well, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi weren’t directed by George Steinbrenner.

Obviously. Although, I could totally see Steinbrenner as an overanxious filmmaker.

Tony La Russa Finally Has Time To Make a New Baseball Game

Earlier this week, St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa stole one of George Costanza’s plays. After winning the World’s Series, he’s leaving on a high note and retiring. As much as I hated La Russa’s A’s teams in the late 80s and early 90s, he had a real good run as a manager.

While I wish him a good, happy retirement, I selfishly hope he goes back to doing something he was even better at than managing a baseball team: making baseball video games (or more accurately, getting paid to pitch baseball video games).

Two decades ago, the Tony La Russa Baseball series led a strong pack of baseball-themed games. The series pinnacle was Tony La Russa Baseball 3 and its spinoff, Old Time Baseball. Sadly, the days of good (or even decent) well-rounded baseball video games could be categorized under “Old Time.”

While there are a few game franchises (Baseball Mogul, Out of the Park) that excel at the team-building area of the game, and others feature state-of-the-art gameplay, there is no modern game that combines both.

To be fair, today’s front office simulators are much better than the La Russa series of games in terms of building and managing a team. But the drawback is you can’t play the actual games.

Today’s popular games (such as the MLB 2K series) are based around gameplay, using modern video and audio capabilities. While the games look great, often, the gameplay is horrible and the front-office area leaves much to be desired. I’d rather play the games from the 90s (lackluster graphics and all) than the games of today, but sadly, they won’t work on modern computers.

Which is why Tony La Russa needs to go back to making (or lending his name to) video games. The La Russa series combined front office and gameplay in a way that in the mid-90s, was very entertaining. You could draft a whole league in under 20 minutes and then start playing games. Gameplay went by pretty quickly. The only thing missing (and this goes for most games from that era) was a free agency/salary component.

Back in high school (and college) I spent a lot of time playing baseball games, the La Russa series included. Another series that excelled at the time was Sierra’s Front Page Sports Baseball. The gameplay graphics were odd (all the players looked the same in an effort to play in a quasi 3D environment). Still, you could customize every facet of your team. What other game would give you the option of letting your team wear alternate jerseys on Bastille Day?

While the graphics is great, the gameplay and team management of today’s baseball video games fall far short of the standards set by their predecessors. I wish Tony La Russa the best in his retirement. But Tony, if you ever find yourself bored, why not take up making video games again?

The Season Goes Pretty Quickly

I’m going to sound dim here, but I didn’t realize until today that it was the last full day of the baseball season.

Sure, I knew that the playoffs start Friday. And I heard on Yankees games a bunch of times this week the possible one-game playoff for the Wild Card could be held Thursday. But I never put it together that today was the last day of the regular season.

I’m used to having the last day of the season be on a Sunday, with playoffs starting Monday or Tuesday. This whole starting the division series on a Friday and ending the regular season in the middle of the week just seems unnatural.

It’s been a fun season for the Yankees, and I have to admit the close Wild Card races are definitely keeping things interested. I’m looking forward to the postseason, but I’m also wondering where the regular season went.

Rivera the Great

Out on the West Coast late last night, Mariano Rivera collected his 600th regular season save. He’s only the second pitcher to reach that mark, and with a handful more saves, he’ll be the games all-time leader in that particular category.

Now some (namely, cranky former Yankees closer Goose Gossage) have said that today’s closers don’t work as much as those closers who had to walk ten miles to the ballpark (barefoot, no less) and therefore, they claim, the modern save has no value. To a point, they’re right. Most modern relievers are coddled arms that rarely pitch more than an inning. And most of Rivera’s recent work has been of the one-inning variety. But Rivera is no ordinary closer (or pitcher, for that matter).

Over the past 17 years, he has a record of regular- and post-season success that is unmatched (Tom Verducci did a much better job of running down the numbers here than I could). True, Rivera didn’t play during the days of the Yankees bullpen Datsun, but he has a better record than any reliever (including Gossage) did back then.

Five and a half years ago, I wrote about Rivera’s first game with the Yankees. How, as a starter, he was horrible.  That was before he developed his signature cutter.  It’s hard to believe the odds that that pitcher would develop into one of the most reliable pitchers ever.  And it’s hard to believe that he’s been doing it for 17 years.

The Yankees’ Original Hideki

The summer of 1997 was one of the last in my life which I’d consider carefree. I was between my sophomore and junior years of college. Much like this summer, it was a hot and humid one.  I worked two jobs, one in a restaurant, and the other at King Classic’s lawfirm.  I went to a lot of Yankees games that summer (that year was the first we had the Sunday Plan) and I believe I caught most or part of every game I didn’t attend on TV or the radio.  Most days, I’d go to lunch with King Classic, and on the ride, we’d listen to whatever Yankees discussion was going on on WFAN.

That summer, the city was abuzz over Hideki Irabu, a Japanese pitcher hailed as that nation’s Roger Clemens.  Irabu’s NPB team had dealt him to the Padres, but Irabu would only play for one team- the Yankees.  He was acquired by the Yankees and expected to be the greatest pitcher ever.  Even though he was dominant in his first MLB start against Detroit, the proclaimed superstar stumbled, displaying a bad attitude and all-too hittable stuff.  Still, he had great marketing, selling out his first few starts and having a number of t-shirts on sale at the Stadium memorabilia stands (I still have two, although the Irabu poster I owned had to be thrown out due to water damage).

Irabu went back and forth from The Bronx to Columbus that summer, but actually made the Yankees’ starting rotation in 1998.

In the early months of ’98, Irabu was the teams’ most dependable starter. In a year where injuries threatened the team early on, he kept a sub-3.00 ERA through July, and didn’t get a loss until May 30.  It looked as if the Yankees had the pitcher they expected to get the year before. And unlike in ’97, where he seemed not to care, in 1998, he was pitching like he had something to prove.  Irabu even incited a bench-clearing brawl against the Blue Jays when he charged home plate after hitting Shannon Stewart with a pitch.

Starting in late ’98, Hideki turned back into a pumpkin and floundered throughout ’99 before being dealt away to Montreal, and then ending his career in Texas. Irabu attempted a comeback a few years ago, but it didn’t work out.

Irabu’s name was in the news today, and not for a good reason- the former Yankee was found dead in California.  You never like to read stories like that, especially when it turns out he left a family behind.

Sure, it’s a sad story, and I’m sorry for his family.  But ever since hearing the news earlier today, all I’ve been thinking about was a hot summer when my biggest concern was whether the Yankees would win that day.