Billy-Ball Daily: 2006-8-30

8/30/2006
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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The only spin here is on a curveball

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Top of the 1st
OH, WHAT A LUCKY MAN I AM
Today is not about complaining about my long, slow recovery.

Today we celebrate. Not my new knee (pronounced (“nu-nee”), today I celebrate my birthday. And I celebrate how incredibly lucky I am.

I celebrate my terrific family, Maxie, Elizabeth, and Jennifer all of whom are with me today in person. I celebrate all my wonderful friends and neighbors who have shown so much love and support to me, not just during my “knee thang,” but every day as they put up with my insanity. I celebrate all the wonderful members of my extended family (that’s Max’s family since at this point I’m an orphan) who show me so much love and support which I try to reciprocate in my curmudgeonly fashion (oh yeah, happy belated birthday Aunt Muriel).

I celebrate Billy-Ball which has changed my life…all for the better. It has brought thousands of new friends (that would be you folks) and numerous opportunities which I am trying not to screw up.

I celebrate baseball, still the best damn game ever created.

And that means that I celebrate the people that have made this wonderful sport so very special. Today, as I do every birthday I remember two people who made baseball what it is today.

Born on this date in 1918, Ted Williams may have been the greatest hitter in baseball history. Teddy Ballgame lived and breathed hitting. Like his head, Williams swing is frozen in our memories.

But while I have no complaints with how seriously Ted took the game, the man that represented what baseball means to me was Tug McGraw. Born on this date in 1944, Tug brought an infectious joy to the game that was appreciated by teammates, opponents, and most importantly, the fans.

Tug was not an “idiot” in the 2004 Red Sox mold, he was simply a screwball (you are what you throw). He saw the world the way very few do, Tug drove a 1954 Buick because as he said, “I like it because it plays old music.”

After the Phillies won the 1980 National League championship in the 10th inning of an 8-7 game filled with sensational plays, he said, “It was like riding through an art gallery on a motorcycle.” Tug’s favorite baseball moment was one that I was lucky enough to attend. I told Tug that I was in the stands when he started for the Mets and gave the Mets their first defeat of Sandy Koufax. Tug was elated to hear that I was there and in typical McGraw fashion recounted how he was this cocky kid who after that victory was quickly knocked out in his next start. Tug started some games but he was truly a reliever; he had the mentality, “Some days you tame the tiger. And some days the tiger has you for lunch.”

After the Mets clinched the pennant, McGraw was asked how he planned to spend his World Series share: “Ninety percent I’ll spend on good times, women and Irish whiskey (he loved his “Uncle John”, his nickname for John Jameson Irish Whiskey). The other 10 percent I’ll probably waste.”

But I guess what best summed up Tug’s mindset as a reliever, and why he just enjoyed life, was when he said, “Ten million years from now, when the sun burns out and the Earth is just a frozen snowball hurtling through space, nobody’s going to care whether or not I got this guy out.”

We lost Tug to a brain tumor in January of 2004, but his memory and joie de vivre live on. After you make your contribution to the Billy-Ball Laptop Fund, it certainly would be worth your while to make a charitable contribution to the Tug McGraw Foundation which was established by Tug in 2003 to raise funds to enhance the quality of life of children and adults with brain tumors and their families by stimulating and facilitating research that addresses the physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual impact of the disease. It can be found at www.tugmcgraw.com

So, on this day when I prepare to see my physical terrorist and I celebrate my birthday I think about Tug’s most important words, “Ya gotta believe!” and I realize what lucky man I am.

Top of the 2nd
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY GRADY
Last night was Dodgers manager Grady Little and his wife’s 35th wedding anniversary. I would imagine that Mrs. Little has spent many of those years waiting for Grady’s game to be finished. Last night was a long wait. Ramon Martinez homered leading off the 16th inning as Los Angeles beat Cincinnati, 6-5. A total of 461 pitches were thrown in a game that lasted 4 hours, 54 minutes, with the Dodgers using 20 players and the Reds 22.

The Dodgers have played 14 or more innings on five occasions this season, and this was the first time they won.

The loss dropped the reds out of the NL Wild Card lead for the first time since June 13. San Diego leads by a half-game over Cincinnati and Philadelphia. The Reds remain 3