Saturday, July 31, 2010

Top 10 Baseball Songs

Top 10 Baseball Songs

Nothing says summer like baseball. The hot summer nights, hot dogs, cold drinks, and cheering for your favorite team. Whether you are a Cubs fan who has waited a lifetime to see a championship or a spoiled Yankee fan, there is one thing that everyone can enjoy year round, music.

America’s love affair with baseball has always included music as well. There are some really good songs that are either about baseball, or mention it. So I have searched high and low trying to find my 10 favorite songs. I hope you enjoy these, and if there are others I may have missed please let me know. I am always looking for more great music.

Number 10

A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request by Steve Goodman

Two-time Grammy winner Steve Goodman grew up in Chicago. He is better known for writing songs like “City of New Orleans” or “You Never Even Call Me By My Name”, but Goodman penned this classic song about a dying Cub’s fan.

Number 9

Nolan Ryan (He’s a Hero to Us All) by Jerry Jeff Walker

Jerry Jeff is a Texas legend. Here he writes about yet another legend from the Lone Star State.

Number 8

Joltin Joe DiMaggio by Les Brown Orchestra

This is one I remember as a kid. Sure it came out in 1941, but it’s a classic baseball song and no list of mine would be without it.

Number 7

Say Hey by The Treniers

This is another classic I can remember listening to as a kid. Plus it’s about one of the most gifted players to ever grace the field.

Number 6

Catfish by Bob Dylan*

Dylan is a rock legend. Here he sings about Hall of Fame pitcher Catfish Hunter.

* I could only find a cover of this on YouTube

Number 5

Tessie by The Dropkick Murphys

This is an old song redone from a 1902 number in the musical The Silver Slipper. The newer version was released in 2004.

Number 4

Glory Days by Bruce Springstein

This song just screams summer to me. Plus now that I am older, I can understand the song much better. I have had those moments of remembering the glory days. And I too know a guy from high school that could throw that speed ball by you and make you look like a fool.

Number 3

Talkin’ Baseball by Terry Cashman*

This is by far my favorite song from when I was a kid. Written in 1981 it details the history of baseball from the 1950′s to 1980. It’s great to hear a lot of the names I only grew up reading about or seeing highlights of. Plus it’s such a catchy tune. After the song became such a hit, individual team songs were done but nothing tops the original.

* I couldn’t find the Talkin’ Baseball song on YouTube so I figured I would show you the next best thing – Talkin’ Softball from one of the greatest Simpson’s episodes.

Number 2

Cheap Seats by Alabama

One of my favorite all-time bands singing about minor league baseball. It doesn’t get much better than this. As I have gotten older and been able to travel more, I have a greater appreciation for minor league ball. In fact, I love it.

Number 1

Centerfield by John Fogerty

There isn’t another song that gets me more pumped up to see a baseball game than this one. It’s one of the few songs where if I hear the first few notes, I have to hear the whole song. Even as I sit here today listening to the song, I am wanting to get out and throw the ball around. Maybe I’ll head for the batting cages instead.

Songs in their own stratosphere

Take Me Out to the Ballgame – Without question this song belongs on any list about music and baseball. Hearing this at Wrigley also has some extra special meaning.

The Star Spangled Banner – I still get goose bumps when I hear this at a ballgame and nothing upsets me more when people don’t pause when it is playing. We owe everything to those who fight for our freedom, including being able to watch baseball.

These two songs belong on any list, but they are in their own category. Together they are the greatest combination of music for baseball and they belong on a list of their own.

So what are your favorites. I would love to hear what songs you enjoy. Drop me a line and let the discussion begin.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

INCEPTION: Wait.. What happened?


I’ve seen Inception four separate times in five days. That’s 9.4 hours, 38 dollars and 12% of five days. Obviously, I’m in love with the film. I can honestly say without a shadow of a doubt that it’s Christopher Nolan’s best film to date. Yes, better than The Dark Knight.

Now, I could talk about why the film was such a success for hours. I could write about how Hans Zimmer’s jarring score, Leonardo Dicapreo’s performance, Wally Pfister’s jaw dropping Cinematography, and Nolan’s suburb storytelling all come together to make this film something to be remembered. (Jordan’s review can be found here)

No, instead I will try my best to answer the most compelling question that Inception asks. What the hell happened in that final scene?


This article was written for the millions of people who have seen inception. Spoilers after the break.

Many people are asking the same question. What happened to the top? Well, I’m going to go ahead and just say that we can’t know that it fell over. Nolan didn’t show it, so it doesn’t matter. Now, thats not to say there isn’t an answer.

Quite a few people believe that the final scene of the film is apart of Cobb’s dream. That Cobb is still trapped in limbo. That he has accepted whatever world he is in is truth. Explaining why Cobb didn’t watch the top fall over, he didn’t care. He wanted to see his kids.

See, I disagree with this theory. I disagree because Cobb knows for another reason. Remember, what was the most obvious difference between reality and the dream world? I personally think that the biggest difference was the presence of Cobb’s wife, Mal. Simply put, If Mal was present he was in a dream. His own or otherwise. We also know that it doesn’t really matter if she dies. Cobb shoots Mal in the snow layer, before they enter limbo. She came back. It’s safe to assume that she could come back again, right?

It’s possible that it could be a dream, and she could still be there. After all, things in the ending were pretty odd. Where was the children’s grandmother? Why haven’t the children grown to be much older, why are they wearing the same clothes? It was almost as if time didn’t pass in the Cobb household.

So what happened here? Was Cobb dreaming or was he not dreaming? Why did Nolan choose to not show the top, and keep the ending open for interpretation?

The answer to the second question is simple. He didn’t keep the ending open.

It’s a trap!

Sorry, I had to do it.

After multiple viewings of Memento, Nolan doesn’t seem like the kind of director to keep the ending so ambiguous. He didn’t show the spinning top to tell the audience “This isn’t the answer. This is irrelevant now.” To me, what really matters is his wedding ring.

  • In every scene of a dream. Cobb is wearing his wedding ring.
  • In every scene of reality. Cobb is ringless.

In fact, at some point in just about every scene, there is a fairly obvious shot of Cobb’s hand.

Saito's test for Cobb - Ring Present

Layer 1 of inception - Ring Present.

Shortly after Ariadne's first encounter with Mal - No Ring

Moments before inception begins on the airplane - No Ring

Now, this for me is black and white. There are countless of other examples, kindly highlighted by various forums discussing the films meaning.

  • On the train before Saito wakes up. No Ring.
  • All of Mombasa. No Ring.
  • Yusuf’s basement, after dropping his totem. No Ring.
  • Paris workshop . No Ring.
  • Aridane’s first experience with Dream sharing. Wedding Ring.
  • First Class cabin scene. No Ring.
  • ALL of the inception. Wedding Ring.
  • Final scene of the film. No Ring.

Now, if we trust Cobb’s ring as his real totem, then Inception had a happy ending. All is well that ends well. That’s my interpretation, I’m sticking to it.

I believe that everything else in the film that suggests otherwise is a Red Herring. (Such as Cobb dropping his totem in the bathroom of Yusuf’s basement.)

As for the fact that the children didn’t age is easily disputed, in fact they are played by different actors. I could have sworn they were the same but it appears they were trying to suggest that time passed. Why else cast different sets of children.

Magnus Nolan...

So there you have it, thats what I think happened in Inception. Do you disagree? Do you think that’s almost too simple? Let’s hear it in the comments.

In case you missed it, Jordan’s review can be found here.

-Spencer Starnes for

Update: After this post exploded with popularity on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook and Reddit expect a follow up examining the chain of events that caused the spike in popularity in a couple days. I’m sure it will be interesting!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Movie Review: How to Train your Dragon (4D PLEX)

From Wikipedia.

4-D film (sometimes written 4D film) is a marketing term that describes an entertainment presentation system combining a 3-D film with physical effects in the theatre, which occur in synchronization with the film. Because the physical effects are expensive to set up, 4-D films are usually presented only at special venues such as theme parks and amusement parks. However, in South Korea, some movie theaters also have the ability to present a 4-D film and the film Avatar was one of 10 films that have received the treatment, starting with Journey to the Center of the Earth

Some theme parks and cinemas choose to name such venues 4-D (four dimensional), although they are not literally four-dimensiona. The idea of calling an experience with effects 4D is merely an extension of videos progressing from 2-D to the more immersible 3-D (neither game nor movie can be currently produced in true 3-D). Some of the effects simulated in 4-D films include rain, wind, strobe lights, and vibration. The use of water sprays and air jets is also common. A 4-D film is not shown in a motion simulator, although some seats in 4-D venues vibrate or may move a few inches during the presentation.

On July 22 CGV Say Department store opened up screen #1 as a 4D PLEX cinema. I saw that they were going to show How to Train Your Dragon in this 4D format. I had seen the film a few months ago and I loved it, so I decided to check out this version of 4D. The only other 4D film I had seen was SpongeBob SquarePants 4-D .

The film cost me 15,000 Won and I really felt that it was worth it.

I noticed that we were shot with some mist, the chairs moved and with the 3D, I really felt that I was flying with the dragons. I really started to think about how films had advanced from the earlier seats that shook you to the present 4D movements.

I thought that the film was great the first time and I thought that the 4D made the film better. The best review I received after the film was the 2 children I saw and they were smiling and they told me that they liked the film.

Is this the future of films or is this the latest fad that will soon fade into history? Please go to the CGV and decide for yourself.

Movie Review: Inception (IMAX)

I listed this film #3 on the films to see this summer. I stated this earlier about the film.

3. Inception- (July 21, 2010) (Imax) All that I really know about this film is that in involves, Christopher Nolan, Leonardo DiCaprio and Ken Watanabe. Just on this fact alone, it deserves, at least, one viewing.

I would like to add that the film deserves to be seen a few times and definitely in IMAX, if you get the opportunity.

The film has a simple idea, What if people can steal your dreams, you secrets and what would happen if this idea was real? It was a new idea and I must say that I found it very interesting and when the film was over, I could not believe that I had actually seen all of this film and after the 2nd time, I am still not sure that I have seen all of this film yet.

The films director was Christopher Nolan and after this film, he has made me think that, If he directs it; I will see it! With his direction he helped the main actors take this film to a new level of film. I was really that impressed with this film.

What I loved about the film was the ending. It was definitely different and I really enjoy it. I haven't really spoilers this film and try and see if spoiler free.

Grade: A+

Cobb: For this to work, we'd have to buy off the pilots...
Arthur: And we'd have to buy off the flight attendants...
Saito: I bought the airline.
[Everybody turns and stares at him. Saito just shrugs]
Saito: It seemed neater.
Movie Review: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010)

A few months ago, I stated in my Summer preview list, I wrote this..

7. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice- (July 21, 2010) So Disney is now making a live action film based on Mickey Mouses’ cartoon from the 1940 film, Fantasia? Has Hollywood truly run out of new ideas?

After watching this film, my guess was correct.

I really have no idea why they decided to try and make a classic Mickey Mouse cartoon into a summer movie. I kept waiting for a live action mickey or a 3D cartoon of him to enter this film and try and save it.

You will see a moment in the film when they actually try to recreate the classic cartoon and I just groaned out loud. I really could not believe that Disney would try and trash its legacy with a hope of a new film franchise.

After the film was over I waited to see if there was an extra part of the film and when you see what they tried to do, it left me very flat and shaking my head wondering why I wasted my time and $$ on this film?

Please pass on this film at all cost.

Grade F

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I am really curious about the reaction this week on SK. Starcraft is a huge game here so I wonder what the roll out will be here?

Friday, July 23, 2010

The 'Decision' dilemma

By ceding control to Team LeBron, ESPN raised ethical issues, damaged its credibility

By Don Ohlmeyer
ESPN Ombudsman

It was billed without irony as "The Decision." But for those who thought ESPN could agree to televise live LeBron James' announcement that he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers to join the Miami Heat -- ultimately served up with ample hype in the form of an awkward, uncomfortable, staged one-hour network special -- and still be free from public controversy, it might as well have been called "The Delusion."

As has been well documented, Team LeBron proposed the exclusive special to ESPN with the following conditions: (1) Veteran broadcaster Jim Gray, who has no current association with ESPN, would host the segment in which James announced his plans; (2) The network would yield the hour of advertising inventory to be sold by James' team with the proceeds directed to the Boys & Girls Club of America; (3) The network would produce the entire show and pay for all production costs. Notwithstanding the noteworthy audience for the July 8 special -- it peaked at more than 13 million viewers, giving ESPN its second-highest rating of the year --

I think ESPN made some major mistakes handling the entire affair. In fact, in many ways, the network's decisions in airing the James' special -- and its justification for making them -- are a metaphor for what ails the media today. Although past columns have paid scant attention to outside media opinions, in this instance their criticism of the network is germane because the media are part of this story -- ESPN made that so. And the critics' appraisal of ESPN's coverage seemed in sync with so much of what the ombudsman's mailbag offered. Examples:
    David Zurawik, Baltimore Sun: "ESPN led the way Thursday night in some of the most debased sports coverage I can remember seeing. The hype was shameless, the lack of perspective colossal."
    Leonard Shapiro, Washington Post: "The most troubling aspect of the whole ill-conceived mess was ESPN's willingness to hand over an hour of prime-time television to an egomaniacal athlete the network should be covering as a news story. … Does this not-so-subtle form of checkbook journalism pass the smell test anywhere else but in Bristol, Conn.?"
    David Barron, Houston Chronicle: "LeBron James hijacked ESPN, selling the network on an hour-long glorified infomercial preceded by three hours of breathless hype and numbing repetition."
    Richard Deitsch, Sports "The Decision is the worst thing ESPN has ever put its name to, and it will take a long time for some viewers to get over it."
    Tom Hoffarth, Los Angeles Daily News: "The truth is, how does anyone believe anything else ESPN reports about James from this point forward?"
No single issue resonated as the reason for the negative comments. Instead, it was the intersection of multiple miscues that elicited the vehement diatribes -- a fast-food menu of issues that boiled over into a cauldron of criticism. You could get heartburn from any one, or try them all. Some found ESPN guilty of violating a key ethical journalistic tenet -- paying for news. Others disdained the network's perceived pandering to a superstar, a trait causing them to ponder the network's biases.

Still others decried a simple announcement being manufactured into the suspense of a "second coming." The monstrous hype that led up to the special was a calculated and constructed spotlight that media far beyond ESPN helped feed. To many, the aggregate was an affront to humility, loyalty, moderation … and instead became a celebration of greed, ego and excess. Mixed in for good measure were reactions to what many saw as a carpetbagging, self-inflated athlete leaving an underdog city for the brighter lights of South Beach, and the revolutionary prospect of three of the best players in the world colluding to form an NBA super team.

These reactions can be traced to the mercurial perceptions of superstars, and the age-old charge that the media -- reflecting the fickle nature of the populace -- enjoy building up celebrities until that inevitable moment when they tear them down. Beyond James, it's a cautionary tale for ESPN. If the network wants to be considered the true worldwide leader in sports, it must accept the responsibility that comes with it. As the biggest player in the space, ESPN can establish and give credibility to a story.

With that clout, of course, comes the obligation to cover each story not just with journalistic integrity but with appropriate weight -- or risk that very same credibility. After talking to numerous people involved, it's clear that inside ESPN, there was a dichotomy of opinion -- almost a tale of two cultures -- as the network considered how to handle "The Decision." Those representing the business and studio production side recognized James' announcement as a real coup. It would have enormous audience appeal, flowing viewers through hours of network programming that night. It would feed into ESPN's reputation as the leader in sports television, the place to be for big events and big news. It would promote interest in pro basketball, one of the network's star programmatic attractions, and further a solid relationship with the NBA's biggest superstar.

That camp felt that some of Team LeBron's demands were problematic but that a workable solution could be found. For example, although ESPN agreed not to announce the telecast or its location until 24 hours beforehand, the network's reporters would be free to ferret out that information, as well as James' ultimate decision, without interference. Those reporters were unencumbered to report it as they normally would. Moreover, ESPN insisted it would have "total editorial control." There would be no restrictions on what ESPN's commentators could ask James, and Gray's role would be limited to "a few questions." Turning over the advertising inventory was justified because the proceeds were going to charity. ESPN did not consider the interview a case of "paying" directly for exclusive access, as James was not directly compensated.

All this, the argument went, coupled with a commitment to transparency would ensure that no violation of network integrity would exist. In the end, these execs saw this as a unique opportunity that any other media company would have embraced -- and that ultimately wasn't unlike the ESPNU or "SportsCenter" practice of carrying live and exclusive college commitment announcements by top high school football prospects. The other faction, made up mostly of those on the newsgathering side of the operation, saw it differently. Those in this group felt the James deal placed ESPN in an untenable position in which their journalistic credentials and integrity would be questioned.

For them, the network was paying to play and opening up the news organization to charges of compromised standards. It also put some news executives in the uncomfortable position of knowing details they couldn't share unless one of their reporters uncovered it of their own accord. For this group, the conflicts had to be eliminated. Its members felt the nature of the James/Gray portion of the show should be clearly identified to the audience as a separate event and not made to appear as a part of ESPN's editorial coverage. The public, they argued, should know that Gray -- handpicked by Team LeBron to handle the announcement -- might not approach his duties in a totally unbiased manner.

An alternative approach, in fact, appeared on ESPN's air just the day before. Carried live on "SportsCenter," the July 7 decision by Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to play for the Heat was presented as a straight, exclusive, newsworthy interview -- there was no hype and no inventory swap, and ESPN controlled the announcers. Wade and Bosh wanted to announce their plans while bypassing the circus of an uncontrolled news conference and the bedlam of confrontational questions. Celebrities and politicians have perfected this art, and sports stars are catching on. Unlike with James, neither ESPN nor the athletes were criticized.

Despite ESPN's intention, the network did not have "total editorial control" in the James announcement. Yes, ESPN reporters confirmed on their own when the announcement would take place and the network reported it. Yes, reporter Chris Broussard -- quoting what he considered very reliable sources -- reported early on the morning before "The Decision" that, barring the unforeseen, James was going to join the Heat. And yes, Michael Wilbon, an ESPN NBA analyst and co-host of "Pardon the Interruption," conducted a lengthy, straightforward interview with James after Gray had completed his questions. But even so, if the interviewee also brings along his own interviewer, you cannot protect the integrity of the broadcast. According to ESPN, the understanding with Gray was that he would ask James "a few questions" before LeBron announced his destination. That "few" turned into 16 questions. And on a live telecast, when an announcer who doesn't work for your network gets to questions 7, 8, 9, 10 … well, there's nothing the producers can do.

They can't kill his microphone; they can't come out and pull him out of his chair; they can't even fire him because he's not in their employ. ESPN's producers were stuck, and, at the key moment of the telecast, the program was out of their control. Editorial control also covers the length of a program. "The Decision" was much longer than it needed to be. But both Team LeBron and ESPN wanted a spectacle, not just news. James' announcement could have been accomplished adequately in less than five minutes, and a 20-minute follow-up interview could have exhausted the news value and informed the audience of the subtleties and consequences of the decision.

Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy weighed in before the special, artfully observing, "It's gotten ridiculous. It's almost like a parody of itself, this whole situation now. Come on, an hour long? It takes 15 seconds to say 'I've decided to stay in Cleveland.'" Even on ESPN's air, during last week's ESPY Awards, host Seth Meyers called the James special "boring" and said, "Did it really need to be an hour? Somebody time me. 'Miami.' How long did that take? A second." But if you let the subject sell an hour's worth of inventory, then the program needs to be an hour -- and that's an editorial acquiescence, not an editorial decision. No matter how convoluted the intellectual gymnastics, ESPN "paid" for exclusive access to a news story. For the network, there is quantifiable revenue associated with the Thursday 9-10 p.m. programming hour.

That revenue was forgone, yielded in exchange for the exclusive. Team LeBron sold those advertising units. The fact that it was in turn distributed to charity was immaterial, journalistically. James used ESPN's commercial spots in an effort to enhance his image as a responsible, caring charitable guy -- there's direct value to James in doing so, and he did it courtesy of the network, and with the sponsor's money. As to transparency, ESPN failed miserably where it mattered most. Although there was no attempt to hide the Gray involvement or the inventory arrangement leading up to the broadcast, the viewers were not explicitly told at the most appropriate moments that conflicts existed.

Before turning from the Bristol set to Gray, ESPN should have advised viewers that Gray had been selected by James' team to do the interview. At the top of the show, or leading into the first commercial break, the network had an obligation to make viewers clearly aware that the spots they would be watching had been sold by James, with the money targeted for charity. ESPN's disclosure requirement is to the viewers of that very show, not simply to other media (through promotional interviews or news releases) or to viewers of other programs. ESPN should never have traded inventory for access or allowed a subject to select his inquisitor, and if that meant losing the exclusive, so be it. When trust is questioned, missteps are magnified. The previous day, on a conference call with media critics, ESPN said that the announcement would not be arbitrarily delayed to magnify suspense or fill out the hour -- and that it would take place in the first 10 to 15 minutes of the program. But when the throw from the Bristol set -- totally in ESPN's control -- didn't happen until 9:22 p.m. and the announcement wasn't made until 9:28 p.m., the network lost the benefit of the doubt.

It wasn't interpreted as a minor mistake or misstatement. It was perceived to be intentional, and the network's candor and credibility were called into question by the mailbag and the media. Of course, James' reputation was tarnished, as well. He was seen as an integral part of the hype, a co-conspirator with ESPN. And although some of that criticism was understandable, it was stunning just how quickly perceptions of the two-time NBA MVP changed. Before July 8, James had been generally thought of by many NBA fans and the media as a solid citizen. No drugs, no fights, no guns, no major off-court issues. His public persona was that of a hardworking, team-oriented, extremely gifted superstar who -- though confident -- wasn't cocky and even occasionally exhibited an air of humility. His dalliance with free agency had been low key. Outside of an innocuous appearance on "Larry King Live," he seemed to stay out of the media spotlight.

There was no grand tour of the markets competing to sign James. He had the six teams, including the Cavs, quietly make presentations in Ohio over a three-day period. The process was wrapped up a week after NBA free agency began. There was no Brett Favre-like Hamlet routine, no "to be or not to be" media melodrama. Yet overnight he became, depending to whom you listened, a "narcissistic fool," "an egotistical self-promoter" and "an arrogant, selfish brat." Could a one-hour TV special -- albeit one that was poorly conceived and heavily criticized -- have that much impact? Part of the issue was that ESPN and Team LeBron's concept for "The Decision" was based on hype. It was created to make James' decision an extravaganza.

In that respect, it was immensely successful. It reached an enormous audience. And if your attitude is "I don't care how you talk about me, just talk about me," then mission accomplished. But James' decision was going to be attention-getting, regardless. When the best player in the league changes teams, that's big news. And James and his advisers should have realized the importance of letting fans from the rejected markets down gently, especially those in Cleveland. He should have done so with style, grace, humility and appreciation -- he could have largely avoided the PR land mines and moved on to Miami.

Maybe ESPN analyst and "Around the Horn" panelist Michael Smith understood Team LeBron's take better than the rest of us: "His brand is not about whether you like him or not, it's about paying attention to him. He did this because he can. He's the king, and he rubbed it in everybody's face. It's a different day and age." If that, indeed, was James' point of view, it further underscores the admonition of NBA commissioner David Stern, who was right on the money when he said of the special, "I would have advised him [LeBron] not to embark on what has become known as 'The Decision.' I think that the advice that he received on this was poor. His performance was fine. His honesty and his integrity shined through. But this decision was ill-conceived, badly produced and poorly executed." Added Stern, "Those who were interested in it were given our opinion prior to its airing."

James might have been better served by making a concise, well-rehearsed statement that articulated the angst-ridden process that led to the most important decision of his life. Gray's interview seemed to be an attempt to dance around that point without giving away the climactic moment. After watching James' performance on "The Decision" a number of times, I felt a tinge of sympathy. He seemed quite likable, but there were few moments in which he seemed to exhibit any real joy. He looked tense, uncomfortable, on edge, nervous, ill at ease. There was little bravado except for the flip "I'm taking my talents to South Beach," which felt like a line someone else gave LeBron that he was having difficulty delivering.

An SportsNation poll taken after the program showed 60 percent of the responders felt his involvement in "The Decision" had "permanently damaged" his image. Dan Le Batard, a frequent ESPN contributor, noted that "Fans changed their opinion on him. He traded being beloved for being hated except in Miami. … He turned it into a spectacle that seemed to unnecessarily kick Cleveland in the teeth."

Wondered columnist Bill Simmons, "Could James & Co. be so unaware that it would be perceived this way? Putting at risk the likability, respect and loyalty he'd built up over seven years?" Although professional athletes have come back from worse, James' true test won't come until the NBA season this fall. Can a young 25-year-old accustomed to constant adulation deal with the boobirds that might follow him around the country? How he performs and how well the Heat succeed as a team will be the true tests of whether "The Decision" has any long-lasting impact. Hype played an integral role in much of the negative reaction to "The Decision." It's a constant complaint in the mailbag.

Viewers resent having ESPN promotions shoved down their throats. On July 8, the network basically dedicated six straight hours to the James announcement -- nearly as much hoopla as surrounds football on Super Bowl Sunday. There were three hours of pre-event "SportsCenter" coverage followed by "The Decision" and topped off with another two hours of "SportsCenter" coverage to wrap -- all wound tightly around a simple declarative sentence. The telecasts were sprinkled with hyperbole, over-the-top lines such as "not ever in the history of American sports has an athlete generated such interest" … "with breathless anticipation … never before a free agency that compels and captivates."

That, coupled with the 16-question stage wait, added an air of reality show "who's going to be voted off the island" phoniness to "The Decision" that was hard to ignore. As the hours wore on, it was impossible not to ponder: Did the news value of James' decision really merit such prolonged speculation, dissection, explanation, argumentation and analysis? Competent television producers can create infinite hours out of whole cloth, and that was certainly the case here. But those "SportsCenter" fans looking for other sports coverage?

Too bad. An average hour of the network's showcase contains 45 minutes of programming to cover the entire day in the world of sports. These prized minutes normally are doled out meticulously, attempting to satisfy the interests of a broad-based sports audience at the same time as servicing the fanatic. As "The Decision" approached, "SportsCenter" made an abrupt adjustment. On Wednesday night's 6 and 11 p.m. editions of "SportsCenter," James' quest corralled almost a quarter of the show. On Thursday at 11 a.m., it monopolized almost half. And as the 6 p.m. show rolled around, it was "All LeBron, All The Time." In the two-hour "SportsCenter" that followed "The Decision," the non-NBA sports fan was virtually ignored, as were the 12 baseball games scheduled for that night, the World Cup semifinals and everything else in sports -- including golfer Paul Goydos' phenomenal 59. At 12:05 a.m., ESPN finally provided four minutes, 25 seconds of the other stuff.

No question this program had a larger audience than it normally would at this time of night, but that doesn't remove the sting for the regular "SportsCenter" viewers who came expecting to see highlights … and were fed a nonstop diet of LeBron. There are other choices for sports news, and if viewer habits are broken too often, they'll go elsewhere. As noted, the James coverage increased ESPN's ratings. Big numbers are a tremendous ego boost, and they generally translate to major dollars. But the rating for "The Decision" was relatively meaningless financially for the network. The big bucks attached to its average audience of almost 10 million viewers were transferred to charity through Team LeBron. The early "SportsCenter" coverage was up 50 percent in ratings, and the 11 p.m. show more than doubled the time slot average with 1.4 million still watching at the final bell. That's an excellent performance, but the difference in revenue is not going to change anyone's lifestyle. And any impact "The Decision" had on the network's overall 1.4 rating in prime time gets lost in the rounding of a multichannel 24-hour service with tens of thousands of hours of programming.

What's the long-term impact of "The Decision?" Clearly, the hype and excess surrounding James' choice was not ESPN's crime alone. Many of the same media participants that helped turn it into a quasi-national obsession were among some of the program's sternest critics. Many in Bristol tend to slough off media criticism, minimizing it because they feel ESPN wears an enormous bull's-eye -- the network is Goliath to an army of Davids who love to play Whac-A-Mole at ESPN's expense.

Maybe that's the case and maybe not, but there are certainly times when criticism is justified -- and this was one of them. Ratings are the drug of choice in the media world. The Nielsen numbers are a siren song and the justification for innumerable sins. But ESPN owes it to its audience to avoid the ratings trap. It should set the bar high, not lower it. The vast majority -- more than 200 million of ESPN's available viewers -- didn't watch. And of those who did, some certainly wondered, "What's the big deal with the criticism? It was interesting." Even among the dissatisfied viewers outraged by "The Decision," many will find something on ESPN tomorrow that they enjoy as much as they despised this.

But the vehemence of the rebukes is worrisome. Also troubling is the number of situations in the past year that allowed viewers to question their relationship with ESPN. All viewers, at one time or another, will hate a show, dislike an announcer, be disappointed by a scheduling decision, feel their team or athlete is being mistreated, etc. But an increasing amount of ombudsman mail contains an undercurrent that questions the network's honesty and integrity. "The Decision" raises important ethical issues. Values have shifted in the past few decades. What was once black or white is now clearly open to interpretation. Paying to play in a news environment is both dangerous and wrong.

ESPN likes to present itself as an unbiased news-and-information service, able to negotiate conflicting relationships with those it covers. But refusing to pay for interviews has been an accepted industry policy for decades. Some organizations do regularly violate it. The National Enquirer, The Star, TMZ and others make no bones about what they do. But that diminishes their reputations in public and professional circles and, rightly, causes consumers to question the validity of their information. "The Decision" wasn't a tip from a paid informant exposing a corporate cover-up, nor was it a whistle-blower revealing government wrongdoing. Nothing that idealistic.

This was the saga of an athlete offering to unveil a two-word career choice -- "South Beach" -- on national television and a network blinded by the lure of stunning ratings that thought it could dance around what should be a revered journalistic tenet. Disclosure is the honest way of dealing with the audience. For it to be effective, it should signal to viewers that other agendas might exist and it needs to occur at those moments that offer context about possible conflicts. Timely transparency is a service -- generic transparency is often used as a copout. Disclosure doesn't provide total absolution. To borrow some of the hyperbolic tone of "The Decision," consider that Bernie Madoff was transparent when he admitted operating the largest Ponzi scheme in history, but it was still stealing.

ESPN agreeing with Team LeBron to present "The Decision" also gives voice to mailbag criticism of the cozy relationship between the network and superstar athletes. The perception is that the network plays favorites, even in its news -- whether it's James, Favre, Ben Roethlisberger or Tiger Woods. Try as ESPN might to make decisions based on sound criteria, it will always be open to criticism. That is exacerbated when the network is seen to be in business with someone it's covering. In the aftermath of the special, Vince Doria, senior vice president and director of news, said that "This was a decision that the news gathering operation at ESPN was not in on from the start. That was done for the appropriate reason of trying to separate church and state, business decisions from the process of reporting the news.

The problem here was that the decision directly involved the presentation of news and ultimately had a damaging impact on our reputation as journalists. "You can't justify paying for news. There are no excuses here. The hope is that we learned something from this, that we won't repeat the error, and that we can restore any lost confidence in our ability to objectively report and present the news."

For his part, Norby Williamson, ESPN's executive vice president for studio and remote production, said the network noted "going in that the arrangement wasn't perfect and this is not how we would draw it up if we were starting a show from scratch. The fact is that we weren't starting from scratch, which clearly made it more challenging. There were parameters presented to us, and we discussed and contemplated them extensively before proceeding. "This was an extremely unique situation, given the enormity of the news and LeBron's status as one of the world's most recognizable athletes. Ultimately, we served sports fans by producing a show that featured an extensive and informative interview by Michael Wilbon, the primary reason why we accepted the proposal. As is the case with our other shows, we learned some things about how we could improve."

Just more than two years ago, ESPN's then-ombudsman Le Anne Schreiber wrote the following: "Clearly, ESPN's many layers of editors and producers are not all on the same page, not even about some basic principles that define the nature of a journalistic enterprise. Without a formal, written handbook of guidance and policy, there is not much chance they ever will be, and the price for that will be paid in avoidable suspensions, apologies and erosion of credibility." I asked Patrick Stiegman, vice president/executive editor and producer for, about these written policies. "We are in the process of codifying many of the standards and practices for our newsgathering organization," he said, "but one of the tenets of that exercise is that ESPN prohibits payment to a source for a story or news interview. Even while not formalized, that is the guideline under which we have operated."

Two years later, and they're still in the codifying process. Either this is a far more complex exercise than it appears, or ESPN is reluctant to fully embrace formalized editorial and operating standards. ESPN can brush off concerns raised about "The Decision," but it does so at its own peril. A major component of ESPN's appeal -- a value the network has cultivated for three decades -- is that the audience trusts what it's watching. Viewers want to believe the network is treating them respectfully, openly, fairly and honestly. If not, why should they bother watching? Every decision has the potential to affect or even destroy that bond, and every decision needs to be made with that in mind. One of the steps ESPN can take to protect and even strengthen that bond is to ensure that those newsgathering policies are written, distributed, read, understood and made part of standard operating procedure. Those are "The Decisions" that matter.

Until next time …

Monday, July 19, 2010

Written By: Harry Parmenter

Well, I didn't see it but I read about it.

The New York Yankees laid George Steinbrenner to rest with an emotional, come-from-behind victory fueled by Nick Swisher, the new Bobby Murcer.

It was Murcer who came through in a big way the night the Yankees laid Thurman Munson to rest after his untimely death. I will never forget that game. Murcer knocked it down the right field line to beat Baltimore the night of Munson's funeral with Howard Cosell calling the game for a national audience on Monday Night Baseball. Last night Swisher played the role, first with a dinger to tie the score, then a bingle to win the game v. Tampa Bay. History repeats itself.

Somewhere, The Boss is smiling.

Emotion Rules, in sports and life. The great moments are to be treasured, savored, marvelled (at).

George Steinbrenner dropped dead of a massive heart attack the day of the All-Star Game. The Voice of God, Bob Sheppard, died 48 hours earlier. Thank Goodness Yogi made the cut.

The Bronx Bombers -- led by Swisher and The Original Three: Jeter, Rivera and Posada -- came up big in their first game back after The Boss' death.

Easily the most impressive part of the whole story was the two-minute moment of silence in The Bronx to honor George, the man who rebuilt the Yankees and made them relevant again after the Burke-Tisch debacle.

It was pure poetry in the Bronx Thursday night. Against Tampa Bay, nonetheless.

Reminded me of one of the best concerts I ever attended in the early '80s.

The place: a Culver City bowling alley.

The bands: The Flamin' Groovies and The Plimsouls.

In those days you got two sets apiece for your five bucks.

As my brother and I walked in late, The Groovies were in the middle of absolutely crushing Paint It Black, a sound that still rings in my ears. Peter Case and the immortal Plimsouls followed, knocking it down with one monster after another: Makin' Up For Lost Time/Sorry/Now/Women/Zero Hour/A Million Miles Away, and many more.

Then the Groovies came back and just destroyed the place, shaking some serious action and finishing with one of the greatest songs ever written for nightcrawlers far and wide, Jumpin' In The Night. The guitar fadeout still reverberates in my brain.

Kind of like those who were there will never forget last night in the Bronx.

Being at a game that transcends winning and losing, when a group of athletes rises above like the Yankees did last night, like the Miracle at Lake Placid, like the Murcer-Munson game ... you never forget it.

These are pivotal moments for the participants; greatness begets greatness, inevitably.

I would now bet the house on the Yankees to repeat.

The black armband usually means nothing -- unless you are a Yankee and you are playing for The Boss.

The greatest owner in modern sports history is revered by his ballclub. Even A-Rod knows what it means.

Rest in peace, George, because your boys will be Jumpin' in The Night all the way to the title in October

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Yankees Honor The Boss, The Voice

By Lisa Olson

NEW YORK -- "Good evening ... ladies and gentlemen ... and welcome ... to Yankee Stadium."

It's not easy convincing thousands of New Yorkers to stand and remain silent for any stretch of time. But as Bob Sheppard's legendary, timeless greeting trailed into the thick Bronx air Friday night, that's exactly what the masses did for four long minutes, sweat dripping off the brow and down the back. There was a moving, sentimental video tribute to George Steinbrenner, and then came a thunder of claps, followed by dignified, curse-free cheers, and it sure didn't seem like just another normal start to the second half of the baseball season.

"The Shortstop ... number 2 ... Derek Jeter ... number 2."

Jeter slowly, purposefully strolled to a microphone near home plate. The cadence of his no-note, from-the-heart speech was simply sublime on this emotional night: clear, concise, correct. Hadn't that always been Sheppard's motto? Wouldn't Steinbrenner's chest puff like the bow to a ship if he could hear his captain's words?

"We gather here tonight to honor two men who were both shining stars in the Yankee universe," said Jeter, his eyes swelling. "Both men, Mr. George Steinbrenner and Mr. Bob Sheppard, cared deeply about their responsibilities to this organization and to our fans, and for that, will forever be remembered in baseball history and in our hearts.

"Simply put, Mr. Steinbrenner and Mr. Sheppard both left this organization in a much better place than when they first arrived. They've set the example for all employees of the New York Yankees to strive to follow.

"So now I ask everyone to join us in a moment of silence."

In every corner and cranny, from the $1,000 guarded seats to the upper decks of the new cathedral, grown men and women squeezed back tears along with Jeter. Children lucky enough to be in the house will remember this moment deep into their years. There wasn't a peep from the Bleacher Creatures, those merry band of revelers who made the unprecedented decision to halt their infamous "roll call" for this one, special night.

"Simply put, Mr. Steinbrenner and Mr. Sheppard both left this organization in a much better place than when they first arrived. They've set the example for all employees of the New York Yankees to strive to follow."
-- Derek Jeter
With flags flying at half mast, and with two long-stemmed roses wrapped in white and blue ribbon resting on home plate after they were gently laid in place by Mariano Rivera, Steinbrenner and Sheppard were honored before the Yankees' melodramatic 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays -- a game played, aptly, without a public address announcer. It was the start of a series that could offer a glimpse at all sorts of interesting playoff matchups, but for a long time it didn't feel like that.

It felt like the end of an era in which old-fashioned romance and ruthless capitalism were finely mixed.

For the first time since the 1973 season, Steinbrenner's name was not atop the team masthead. He died Tuesday at age 80, of a massive heart attack on the morning of the All-Star Game, one final upstaging of the sport he forever changed. Sheppard, the Yankees' mellifluous public address announcer for 56 years (and half a century for the New York football Giants, where he worked on a handshake agreement), died two days earlier, at age 99. The Boss and The Voice of God, linked forevermore.

There will be more tributes Saturday during the 64th annual Old-Timers' Day, when the 1950 champions will be honored. Hall-of-Famer Whitey Ford is set to attend and of course Yogi Berra will be there, dropping witty gems about the "OK season" (his words) he had as the Yankees marched to their 13th World Series title. Now and then Berra can be spotted wandering around the Yankee clubhouse, whispering advice to Alex Rodriguez or letting Jeter rub his bald head, for good luck. Berra is spry and alert, but he's also 85, and this week more than ever reminds Yankee fans how life can be unbearably fleeting.

"He said, 'Maybe see you at Old Timers' Day,' " Berra was saying on the day The Boss died, recalling their final phone call on the Fourth of July, Steinbrenner's birthday. Berra said Steinbrenner sounded lucid, though he did complain about not being able to rise from his wheelchair. It was a gentle conversation between two old friends. Their bitter feud had long ago been put to rest, a nudge to all of us that slights and harsh comments can't be repaired after death.

Reggie Jackson, never without words, was without them for days after learning Steinbrenner had died; one friend of Jackson's told me he has been especially distraught. Like many in Steinbrenner's orbit, their relationship was volatile, complicated and deep. Jackson, now a Yankees special advisor, is expected Saturday, joining Goose Gossage and Graig Nettles, Mel Stottlemyre and Bucky Dent, Joe Pepitone and Bill "Moose" Skowron. Along with Ford and Berra, Jerry Coleman, Don Johnson, Duane Pillette, Charlie Silvera and Hank Workman from the 1950 team will wear special throwback uniforms.

Curt Schilling once talked, somewhat sarcastically, about the ghosts that lingered in the cracks of the old Stadium. Upon its dismantling, Aura and Mystique simply pulled up their stirrups and moved to the new joint across the parking lot, for one last championship before Steinbrenner and Sheppard died. Love or hate the Yankees, there is no denying a certain slice of American history is as embedded here as it is at Gettysburg.

One night earlier, the Red Sox held a moment of silence for both Steinbrenner and Sheppard at Fenway. Locusts are expected to descend whenever thousands of Bostonians remove their hats and zip their lips to honor anything connected with the Yankees, but they are savvy baseball fans up north, and they understood Sheppard's honorable, never-to-be-replicated role, along with Steinbrenner's enormous contributions to both baseball's greatest rivalry and the Jimmy Fund.

Thursday, before most of baseball went back to work, Sheppard was eulogized in his beloved St. Christopher's Roman Catholic Church in Baldwin, Long Island, where he had attended mass daily and read gospel accounts from the pulpit about how to live a good, decent life. More than 800 mourners -- including members of the Yankees front office, NY politicians and coaches from all sides of the court, fields and diamond -- trekked to the island in the stifling, 95-degree heat for Sheppard's funeral.

Oddly, no current Yankee was present. There was a false report about a bus carrying players to the funeral getting stuck in traffic because of a fatal auto accident on the Meadowbrook Parkway, but a team spokesperson said no buses for players were chartered and acknowledged, as far as he knew, no current players attended the service. Before Friday's game, a perplexed Jeter defended all those who spent Thursday (a team off-day) relaxing with their families, or recuperating for the season's second half.

"To be honest with you, I didn't even know his funeral was (Thursday),'' said Jeter, who has insisted a tape recording of Sheppard introducing his home at-bats be played as long as he wears the pinstripes. "Having said that, I don't necessarily think you have to go to a funeral to honor someone. I think a lot of players have honored him. It's the reason why I've recorded his voice throughout the years. I'll continue to honor him every time I go to the plate for the rest of my career. "

Manager Joe Girardi, who was in tears much of the day, told reporters, "I think there (are) a lot of ways to show respect to an individual besides going to a funeral.You can show respect by telling your children about Bob Sheppard."

Whatever their reasons, they missed an uplifting celebration of a man who never uttered a harsh word about a single human being. Sheppard spoke in a succinct, distinct tone, painstakingly enunciated lineups, pinch-hitters, batters and pitching changes -- day in and day out, for more than 4,500 Yankee games -- because he believed every person should be addressed with dignity. But that wasn't just Sheppard's behind-the-microphone demeanor: I enjoyed many a pre-game sandwich with him in the old Stadium's press dining room, and often walked away thinking I'd never meet a kinder, more gentle man.

"George Steinbrenner, I think, was a little intimidated by Bob, probably the only person on the planet. Because George was always in search of perfection and Bob was perfect," said Brian Cashman, the general manager who began his career with the Yankees as an intern in 1986. From the hollows under his eyes, Cashman clearly hadn't slept all week. He looked as if he lost his grandfather and father, his mentor and tormentor -- and in some ways, he had.

Late in life, those close to Steinbrenner say he conspicuously tried to make amends for his earlier years, for some of his criminal behavior, his bullying and cruelty. His vast charity work and unreported acts of kindness are what many now chose to remember. He died, appropriately, as owner of the defending World Series champions.

They were standing en masse nine innings and four hours after the solemn tribute, those New York lungs lubed and loud. Twice the Yankees mounted comebacks, twice they tied the game. Was anyone really in doubt how this might end? With two outs in the ninth, as this emotional, dramatic evening reached fever pitch, Nick Swisher roped a line drive to right field, scoring Curtis Granderson from second base. It stretched the Yankees' American League East lead over Tampa to three games, but far more than that, it slapped an ecstatic, poignant seal on a night that began so somber.

Overseen by all its colorful ghosts and shining stars, Yankee tradition marches on.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Steinbrenner was dictator, and world champion

Late Yankees owner was bombastic, demanding, outrageous and charitableImage: Martin, Steinbrenner, Piniella
This Feb. 28, 1998 file photo shows New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner flanked by manager Billy Martin, left, and vice president and general manager Lou Piniella, right, at spring training in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

By Mike Celizic contributor
updated 8:18 a.m. PT, Tues., July 13, 2010

Mike Celizic
George Michael Steinbrenner III never set out to own the most famous franchise in American sports. All he wanted was the Cleveland Indians, and it was only when the deal he had in place to buy his hometown team fell apart that he looked around for another team to buy and found the New York Yankees.

"We plan absentee ownership as far as running the Yankees is concerned," the unknown shipping magnate from the suburbs of Cleveland said when the sale was announced. "We're not going to pretend we're something we aren't. I'll stick to building ships."

In the annals of statements that didn’t turn out to exactly true, that ranks up there with “Peace in our day,” and “I did not have sex with that woman.”

It was both fortunate and unfortunate for the Yankees and for baseball that he broke that promise almost as soon as it was made. Fortunate because Steinbrenner would return the Yankees to glory, to the financial betterment of every team in baseball. Unfortunate because he would drive salaries up to astronomical levels, making it all but impossible for the teams at the bottom of the income scale either to hold onto top players or to dream about winning the World Series.

But no matter how you view the massive footprint he left on a city and a game, one truth can’t be denied: George Steinbrenner was one of the most important and transformational figures in the history of the game.

Steinbrenner was characterized in many ways during his epic career as the owner of the Yankees. He was lauded, loathed and lampooned, respected and reviled, feared and fawned over. He was bombastic, cruel, demanding, outrageous, outspoken, and charitable, a man who could fire a secretary for messing up a sandwich order but who also gave extra World Series tickets to bus drivers and servicemen, a man who fired managers in a blizzard of public invective, then hired them back as team executives at more than their original salaries.

He was called The Boss, the Mad Shipbuilder, George III, Mount St. Steinbrenner and, by New York Daily News cartoonist Bill Gallo, General von Steingrabber. In the Yankee clubhouse he was Mr. Steinbrenner.

Steinbrenner was characterized in many ways during his epic career as the owner of the Yankees. He was lauded, loathed and lampooned, respected and reviled, feared and fawned over. He was bombastic, cruel, demanding, outrageous, outspoken, and charitable.

He was compared to many historical figures, most of them blood brothers of Attila the Hun. But the one person he should have been compared to, he never was. That would be Branch Rickey, the general manager with a social conscience who integrated baseball in 1947 when he brought Jackie Robinson up to the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Rickey’s decision to integrate America’s pastime changed the game as profoundly as Babe Ruth had when he took baseball out of its dead-ball era and introduced it to the home run. Steinbrenner’s decision to break the salary line had no less an effect. Rickey’s decision brought a flood of new talent into the game; Steinbrenner’s brought a flood of money.

“Portfolio” magazine has estimated that Steinbrenner’s Yankees generate $700 million in revenue each year for the 29 teams he doesn’t own. Part of that is in the form of the luxury tax he pays on his enormous payroll, far and away the highest in the game. Most of it is in the form of the revenue his team provides by filling nearly every ballpark it visits. And when his Yankees are in the playoffs, television ratings — and revenue — increase substantially.

Image: George Steinbrenner
Shannon Stapleton / Reuters
George Steinbrenner takes part in the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Yankee Stadium last August.

Steinbrenner always said that the Yankees owe it to their fans to contend for the World Series every year. The other 29 owners should add that the Bronx Bombers also owe the same to the game itself. When the Yankees are successful, everybody makes money.

And it’s all because of Steinbrenner, a fact that he knew — and broadcast.

He was also fiercely interested in sports and by winning. He got that — along with his business sense and his penchant for flogging his players and employees in public — from his father, who ran a shipping company on the Great Lakes.

Hank Steinbrenner was by all accounts an uncompromising and demanding sire. When little George, who took up the hurdles at the age of 12, finished first in a race, his father said little. When he finished second, the pater familias demanded to know how his son could let his opponent win.

It is little wonder that Steinbrenner once told an interviewer, “"Winning is the most important thing in my life, after breathing. Breathing first, winning next."

He went to Culver Military Academy, the same prep school his father had attended and the same one his own children would be shipped off to. He got his bachelor degree at Williams College and attended graduate school at Ohio State. For several years after, he tried to make his way as an assistant football coach, first at Northwestern and then at Purdue.

But in 1957, at the age of 27, he returned to Cleveland to work for his father’s shipping company, Kinsman Marine Transit. Six years later, he bought out his father, and four years after that merged with American Ship Building. Steinbrenner had gotten his start in business as a boy, raising chickens in the yard of the family home and selling their eggs to neighbors. One imagines the gratification he harvested when underperforming hens were served up for Sunday dinner.

He often acted as if he’d like to do the same with his underperforming ballplayers.

The urge to own a sports team was deeply rooted in his psyche. In 1961, when he was just 31 years old, he purchased the Cleveland entry in the American Basketball League, which formed as a rival to the NBA. He hired the first African-American head coach – John McLendon — in American professional sports and won the league’s first championship.

The team was financed on a shoestring. When he needed money to make the payroll, he would call his partners into a conference room, tell them how much money was needed, then write out his own check first and put it in the hat. When the others had followed and left the room, Steinbrenner extracted his own check and tore it up.

Rules didn’t always mean a lot to him. In 1971, even as he was trying to buy a baseball team, he made illegal donations to Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign and subsequently pled guilty to felony charges. Thanks to that conviction, he spent most of his first year as Yankee owner under suspension.

The Yankees were a pathetic team by the time Steinbrenner got them, their previous great run that began in 1949 ending in 1964, the year that CBS bought the team for just over $11 million. When the network sold the franchise to a partnership headed by Steinbrenner nine years later, the price had dropped to $10 million.

Steinbrenner never owned 100 percent of the team. Initially his share was 51 percent, which made him the controlling partner with his fellow owners answering to the name of “limited partners.” One of them was John J. McMullen, a New Jersey shipbuilder, who once famously remarked, “There’s nothing more limited than being a limited partner of George Steinbrenner."

McMullen eventually sold his share and bought the Houston Astros and then the NHL New Jersey Devils.

Steinbrenner came into baseball just as the players were getting baseball’s reserve clause, which bound a player to his team either for life or until the team traded him, thrown out. And he pioneered purchasing the new-fangled free-agents minted by the new system to resurrect the Yankees from their own ashes.

His first signing was reliever Sparky Lyle, followed by Catfish Hunter. That was good enough to win the AL pennant in 1976, but not good enough to avoid getting swept by Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine in the World Series. The following year, he added Reggie Jackson — signing him to a then unimaginable total of $3 million for five years — and won the first of two straight World Series. Jackson wasn’t the most popular guy in the Yankee clubhouse, and Billy Martin despised him, but it was in the Bronx that he cemented his place in the Hall of Fame along with his nickname, Mr. October.

In retrospect, most of Steinbrenner’s reputation was built in those first gloriously manic years. Lyle wrote a book about them with author Peter Golenbock and named it “The Bronx Zoo,” a name that stuck with the team long after the team stopped being a zoo.

But maybe Graig Nettles, the third baseman for that team, said it best when he quipped, “"When I was a little boy, I wanted to be a baseball player and join the circus. With the Yankees, I've accomplished both."

Those were the days when Steinbrenner re-hired Billy Martin four times and fired him five, when he consumed three managers in one year, when he fired Yogi Berra barely two weeks into a season, thereby chasing Berra away from the Yankees for two decades.

His heavy hands were all over the team in those days, and when he’d had his fill of bullying the hired help to their faces, he’d call selected beat writers and feed them inside stories about who was in trouble. The stories were plants, spun to Steinbrenner’s specifications, and he always insisted on not being identified by name. So countless stories appeared in the tabloids quoting “inside Yankee sources.”

One writer, the highly talented Mike McAlary, finally had his fill of serving as Steinbrenner’s P.R. department, so one day he wrote a story in The New York Post and attributed the information to “an unnamed Yankee owner.” He never got another scoop from Steinbrenner again.

Image: Steinbrenner, Martin
Kidwiler Collection / Diamond Images/Getty Images
George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin were a combustible combination. The owner fired his manager five times.

When he was particularly upset after watching a loss, he’s wander from his private box down a narrow corridor that passed behind the press box. He’d stop there, leaning on a railing and wait for the horde to gather around him to fill their notebooks with his musings on his overpaid and underperforming team.

No matter where he was, when his manager was debriefing the media after the games, a red phone on the manager’s desk would ring — the Bat Phone, some called it — and Billy Martin or Bob Lemon or Lou Piniella or Gene Michael or whoever was the future ex-manager of the moment would stop his comments, pick up the phone and start getting an earful, sometimes rolling his eyes dramatically for the benefit of the writers.

And they were all future ex-managers, and nothing they could do would keep them employed. That became obvious in 1980, when Dick Howser won 103 games — one of the best seasons in team history, and got fired for the crime of losing in the playoffs to Kansas City. (Steinbrenner said Howser had resigned to pursue a career in real estate, or some such nonsense, but everybody knew Howser had been canned.)

Steinbrenner never owned a home in New York, living in Tampa, where he’d moved his shipbuilding business and got involved with thoroughbred racing — he loved to say of ballplayers who didn’t measure up: “He spit the bit” — and other enterprises. In New York, he stayed in a hotel suite, but in those days it seemed that he was a constant presence in the ballpark, which the city had rebuilt at enormous cost in time for the string of titles in 1976.

Steinbrenner found ways to pay very little rent on the stadium, which the city owned, and made a piles of money by selling sponsorship rights to adidas. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the team endured an 18-year stretch without a World Series, he flirted with New Jersey politicians in an effort to get New York to build him a new stadium. After spending years claiming the Bronx was a poor location for a stadium, he changed his tune when the team returned to glory in the mid-1990s and began drawing four million fans a year, finally agreeing to build a new stadium himself next to the original stadium. The Bronx, it turned out, wasn’t such a bad site after all.

If Steinbrenner got the credit for building the first championship teams in 1977 and 78, he also deserved the discredit for what followed. The team made the World Series only once in the 1980s, losing in six games to the Dodgers in 1981. That was the time Steinbrenner showed up before a game with his hand bandaged and a story about how he fought two Yankee haters in an elevator. No one ever quite believed it. It was also the year he called his newest free-agent millionaire, Dave Winfield, Mr. May, and issued a public apology to the fans for not winning the Series.

The truth is Steinbrenner never had a clear idea of how to build a winning team. When a few selected free agents won twice, he decided that a whole team of them would be even better. That led to 13 years without a playoff appearance as Steinbrenner kept writing absurd checks for a string of Ed Whitsons and Steve Kemps. He also gutted the farm system, trading away top prospects and getting little in return.

The only victory he scored during those years was in 1989, when President Ronald Reagan wiped his criminal record clean with a presidential pardon.

The Yankees bottomed out in 1991, when they finished last. But a renaissance was on the way, thanks to baseball commissioner Fay Vincent, who banned Steinbrenner from baseball for life. His sin this time was paying $40,000 to a small-time gambler and professional low-life named Howie Spira to dig up dirt on Winfield, with whom Steinbrenner had become disenchanted. As is frequently the case with lifetime bans handed out to people not named Pete Rose, this one was over in just two years. But without that suspension, the Yankees may never had embarked on their great era of success beginning in 1995, when they made the playoffs for the first time since 1981.

While Steinbrenner was out of commission, Gene Michael rebuilt the farm system and started building a winning team built of carefully selected free agents, talent acquired in trades, and, beginning in the mid-90s, some home-grown talent.

Bernie Williams was the first one to come up, in 1991. Steinbrenner had tried to trade him before his suspension, but the front office held firm and he became a fixture in center field for the next 15 years. Mariano Rivera, initially a starting pitcher, was brought up and installed in the bullpen. Jorge Posada graduated from the farm system to take over as catcher. And in 1996, Derek Jeter, another home-grown talent, became the Yankee shortstop.

When Steinbrenner came back, his sole dramatic act was to fire manager Buck Showalter after he got to the playoffs in 1995 and hire Joe Torre, who was greeted by tabloid headlines calling him “Clueless Joe.”

Image: George Steinbrenner
Ezra Shaw / Getty Images
George Steinbrenner waves to the crowd during a parade to celebrate the Yankees' World Series victory in 1999.

The rest is history — four titles in five years from 1996-2000, and a new era of dominance. No longer front and center, Steinbrenner was active enough in the background to destroy the championship chemistry of his team beginning in 2002 with another string of expensive acquisitions, the most spectacularly unsuccessful of which were pitchers Kevin Brown and Randy Johnson.

But The Boss was slowly fading away. In 2003, he passed out at the funeral of his friend and former Cleveland Brown quarterback Otto Graham. His public appearances dwindled to almost none, and when he spoke in public, it was in clich├ęd generalities. Most of his statements were issued by his press agent, Howard Rubenstein.

By 2007, stories began to appear that the man who had been so much bigger than life probably had dementia.

His new stadium was still a year away from its 2009 opening, and it was by no means certain that Steinbrenner would be there to see the day. Even his enemies could be sad at that. He venerated the Yankee brand, expanding monument park and making his franchise the best and most famous in sports, a team that may not have won every year, but always contended, the team that was again what it had been before he bought it — the Damned Yankees.

Steinbrenner’s Yankees.

There are people he crushed along the way who won’t mourn his passing, but they’ll miss him. We’ll all miss him.

Since 1973, the Yankees have been my baseball team. I have seen them go to win the World Series and I have seen them finish in last place in the AL East. During tis time George has been a huge factor of the YANKEES RISE AND FAILURES OVER THESE MANY YEARS.

Now we dance a sad one to the man we simply called "The Boss"

RIP and this year win 2010 for "The Boss"

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

By GI Korea on July 13th, 2010 at at 4:36 am

Charles Hanley On the Findings of the Korean Truth & Reconciliation Commission

With the release of the findings by the Korean Truth & Reconciliation Commission that I posted on yesterday the lead No Gun Ri AP sensationalist Charles Hanley has written his own article on the findings. The article offers nothing new and is just an opportunity for Hanley to repeat his usual exaggerations such as this:

The commission was the first government authority to publicly confirm what long had only been whispered: The U.S.-allied South Korean military and police carried out a vast secretive slaughter of political detainees in mid-1950, to keep southern sympathizers from supporting the northerners. [Associated Press]

As I pointed out in my prior posting on this topic, the subject of political killings by the Rhee Syngman government is nothing new and well known. Hanley is simply playing his old game of making old news, new again. It has been well known for years that the ROK Army was responsible for executing thousands of political prisoners before and during the war. Of course the truth isn’t as simple as the South Korean government lining up and killing hapless political prisoners. In fact before the Korean War even started, South Korea was faced with a North Korean backed communist insurgency. The South Korean government led by autocratic President Syngman Rhee allowed the ROK military to brutally suppress the insurgency, which led to a number of communist guerrillas and civilians being killed. With the intermingling of guerrillas and civilians it is impossible to determine the real number of each that were killed.

Screen capture from The Korean War in Color of suspected North Korean sympathizers being executed.

To show how absurd Hanley’s claims of uncovering these exuections is I have a DVD of the execution of suspected communists and I didn’t even need to sift through declassified or formerly secret documents to find it like Hanley often claims he had to do.

Taebaek Mountains Movie Poster

In South Korea the tragedy of the communist guerrilla war has been well known for years with the publication of Cho Jeong-lae’s groundbreaking book “Taebaek Sanmaek” that in great detail describes the effects of the guerrilla war and the follow on Korean War on the civilians who lived in the small South Korean village of Beolgyo. The battle of ideology led to many indiscriminate killings by both the ROK government as well as by the communists. Cho’s book was eventually made into in my opinion the best Korean film ever made, “Taebaek Mountains” in 1994 starring Ahn Sung-kee and directed by award winning director Im Kwon-taek. Follow on Korean movies such as “Taeguki” clearly show how suspected South Korean communist sympathizers were executed by the ROK government. In other words, once again what Hanley claims to be “whispers” is in fact nothing new.

Here is another often repeated myth from Hanley in the article:

Declassified U.S. documents uncovered over the past decade do, indeed, show commanders issuing blanket orders to shoot civilians during that period.

Hanley often makes the claim about blanket orders to kill civilians, but of course never provides any context about the so called orders he is referring to. Once the documents are actually read a far different story than the one Hanley promotes is revealed. For proper context make sure to read my posting on the No Gun Ri Document Shell Game.

With the work of the Korean Truth & Reconciliation Commission complete I wonder if this will be the last we hear from Charles Hanley about all of this. I doubt it since his latest efforts to advance global warming alarmism has not gone too well.