A GRIP ON SPORTS
It is the Fourth of July. One of my favorite memories of this holiday comes from 1974, the year I graduated from high school. My parents took a long vacation that summer, left me in charge of the family business and our home became party central for a while. But on the Fourth the three main guys in my posse (though we didn't call it that then) decided to take it easy. Instead of singing Beach Boys songs with a couple dozen other idiots inside the house, the four of us pulled out lawn chairs, climbed on to the roof and watched the fireworks explode over Arcadia. From our vantage point that evening, the world looked nearly perfect and the future as wide open as sky above the basin. Read on.
• That story may not illustrate it, but baseball and the Fourth have always been intertwined in my memory banks (I have this nagging suspicion Vin Scully and the Dodgers were playing on a transistor radio on the roof next to us). As I floated back over the years, trying to recall the best baseball story to accompany the holiday, I kept coming back to 1976. The Bicentennial. The summer after my sophomore year of college. I spent the week leading up the Fourth in Fresno (Clovis, actually), visiting my then-girlfriend and her family. She took me to Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, where we hiked, I helped her mom paint a room of their house and each evening at dinner her dad grilled me like I was a Watergate burglary. Good times. But I was still playing summer ball, catching for UC Irvine's team in the Orange County Metro League. We had a doubleheader scheduled for the Fourth at Golden West College and I was the only catcher. So Saturday night, I said my goodbyes (I'm not sure, but I kind of remember Jody's dad with a smile on his face; it's the only time I saw him smile that whole time) and drove the four-and-a-half hours home in my Toyota station wagon, arriving around 2 a.m., just in time to go to work tying the Sunday papers for my dad. Kent and I got done around six, headed to Winchell's for our usual grease bars and then it was back to the house for me. As I was riding a sugar high and I had to be in Huntington Beach, about an hour away, by 11 for BP, I decided to just gather up my gear and head out. I crashed in the Golden West parking lot, knowing John Kremer or Steve Borowski, our two scheduled starting pitchers, would wake me up. They didn't want to have to pitch to one of the infielders did they?
• Now I remember that day as being hot, damn hot, but when I looked up the weather stats online recently, the temperature must have never been hotter than the mid-80s. Nothing special. What I am sure of, though, is we won both games, I had a hit or two, John and Steve threw well, Doug Mansolino, who was John's teammate at Huntington Beach High and whom he referred to as Muzzy, wasn't happy and neither was Johnny Moses, who I threw out trying to steal (John did a great job holding people close). But what I really remember from that day was the postgame, when a handful of us got together and sat around swapping lies and drinking cokes from a cooler. John and Muzzy told stories of playing at Huntington Beach, Steve's girlfriend chatted up Johnny Mo and I sat there trying to keep from fainting, my chin guards probably still attached to my lower legs. I can still remember how tired I was. I really don't know how I drove back to Sierra Madre that afternoon, though I'm sure I bought a cheap cigar – there was no way I could fall asleep while smoking a noxious stogie – and stuck my head out the window a lot heading up the 605. What I do remember is falling into bed as soon as I reached my parents' house, missing all the celebrations televised from throughout the country and sleeping until the evening of July 5th. I was out 16 hours straight. And that's my favorite Fourth of July baseball memory.
• Mariners: Because it is the Fourth, we are starting with our local major league franchise. And guess what? They lost. Yep, the M's didn't have a baserunner for six innings, Felix wasn't sharp and, after rallying to tie the game at 4, Charlie Furbush gave up his first run in weeks and Baltimore won, 5-4. Not a good day for the home nine. … But the future was celebrated – Marketing 101: If the present sucks, always point to the sure-to-be-better future – in the form of top draft pick Mike Zunino meeting with the media – and kissing his girlfriend (above). … Mike Carp is headed on a rehab assignment, where he is going to play nothing but first base. What does that say about Justin Smoak's future? … If the Mariners make a trade, who will go? Here's a guess.
• Indians: The local nine, minor league version, hit like the M's yesterday, being shut out 5-0 in Yakima. … Jess Brown gets you ready for the Indians' upcoming homestand by relaying the story of an Indians pitcher (Alec Asher, at right) who had Tommy John surgery – at 14.
• Washington State: The Cougars face BYU in their opener in late August. Here is a quick look at the other Cougars, and every other Pac-12 North opponent that first week. … Jon Wilner tries to explain the Pac-12 Network situation once again. … ASU's football program is going back to the wilderness.
• Sounders: A couple of groups behind us on the golf course yesterday was a guy wearing a Real Salt Lake jersey. As the Sounders face Real Salt Lake today in an MSL game, there was a member of our foursome that wasn't too happy. Upset enough, in fact, that it made me very glad the jersey wearer wasn't in the group ahead of us, if you get my drift. Soccer hooliganism, Spokane style. … With an entire half of the season ahead, it's too early to panic even if the Sounders are not among the MLS elite. However, it is time to quit whining.
• NFL: Can't finish today without mentioning the passing of Ben Davidson. Not only was he the face – an appropriately ugly one at that – of the Raiders for years, he was also Mr. Less Filling if I remember right.
• Despite the wind and two soaking summer downpours, the golf yesterday was exceptionally fun. But have you ever noticed how the wind seems to change direction during a round, ensuring that every drive is into a 40 mile per hour gale? Or is that only when I play? … Want to know how hard the wind blew in Spokane yesterday? A neighbor's tree blew over and took out a limb of one of our maples and a couple slats of the fence. Thank goodness I was on the golf course and my son had to clean up the mess. I knew golf was good for something. Until later …