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Take Berk Out to the Ball Game.

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but you can help them pick up a new pastime or two. On account of Pups in the Park night at Nats Park, Berk got to take in his first MLB game Saturday night: Phillies over Nats, 5-4. FWIW, he seemed to quite enjoy the experience, most notably all the many other dogs around and the bag of peanuts in the seat in front of him. The folding chairs, not so much.

Buy the Ticket, Pitch the Game.

The two drank screwdrivers. Smoked marijuana. Talked through the night. Eventually, Ellis fell asleep. Possibly for an hour. Probably less. Around noon — maybe earlier — he took another dose of LSD. Meanwhile, Mitzi flipped through a newspaper. ‘Dock, you better get up,’ she said. ‘You gotta go pitch!’” For ESPN’s Outside the Lines,” Patrick Hruby and Joe Ciardello offer a lengthy contemplation of Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis, the only fellow in history to (ostensibly) throw a perfect game with a head full of acid.

I actually haven’t read this whole piece yet, but the presentation of this article is amazing. Here’s the same curtain.js script from its source — this time involving lorem ipsum and kittehs.

Banjos, Blood, and Baseball.

In the trailer bin of late:

  • A frog-without-fear does his best to defend Sector 2814 in another parody trailer for The Muppets, with Jason Segal, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, and a cast of many. (It’s the Muppets. I’m in.)

  • A shirtless barbarian takes to beheading like it’s his business, which I suppose it probably is, in this violent R-rated look at Khal Drogo Conan the Barbarian, with Jason Momoa, Ron Perlman, Rachel Nichols, Rose McGowan, and Steven Lang. (Hard to imagine this being better than the classic Oliver Stone-penned original. I presume this’ll be hagga.)

  • And the Oakland A’s get the Aaron Sorkin treatment in Bennet Miller’s adaptation of Michael Lewis’s Moneyball, with Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright, and Darryl Strawberry. (Looks…Sorkin-y. But definitely maybe.)

Awash in the Juice.

Breaking over the weekend, thanks to Selena Roberts and David Epstein of SI: Yankees star Alex Rodriguez — and 103 other MLB players! — tested positive for steroids in 2003. Given what we already knew about the sea of performance-enhancers in baseball, this isn’t really a huge surprise, and as I said of Barry Bonds, I’m not even sure juicing should be deemed a mortal sin anyway. Still, as pro-athletes go, A-Rod is almost as easy to dislike as Kobe, so I’ll fess up to a bit of schadenfreude in this case.

That feeling also extends to the rending of garments now happening among the “Baseball is America‘s game!” crowd in the wake of the A-Rod revelation. This notion that baseball has some special place in our hearts — a “unique paragon of American culture,” as Jayson Stark effusively puts it in this example — is a sentiment I’ve never shared and don’t particularly agree with. (Besides, the sport survived the 1919 Black Sox. It’ll survive the juice.) And, in my pantheon of annoying sports fans, the baseball purists are right up there next to the bandwagon jumpers. Take me out to the Ball Game…but please don’t sit me next to the stats obsessives or self-appointed diamond historians.

Rocket R-Test | Manny on the Run.

“‘I’ll be a kid in a candy store,’ Artest said. ‘I’ll be a kid in a store with a lot of candy. I’m going to dance with the stars.‘” T-Mac, Yao, and the Houston Rockets try to keep pace in a loaded West by trading for talented head case Ron Artest. (They gave up aging vet Bobby Jackson, new pick Donte Greene, a 2009 first-rounder, and cash.) Interesting…that’s a pretty solid trade for Houston. It’s not Boston’s Big 3, but even in a crowded conference Artest should be enough defensive help to finally get ‘em out of the first round. And so far he’s saying all the right things.

Also, I don’t really follow baseball until, I dunno, mid-October, but this even made my radar. The inimitable Manny Ramirez is gone from the BoSox. He’s now a Dodger (and, the Grant Hill of the MLB, Ken Griffey is now on the White Sox.) Alrighty then.

From Black Sox to Juiceball.

“‘Everyone involved in baseball over the past two decades — commissioners, club officials, the players’ association and players — shares to some extent the responsibility for the steroids era,’ Mitchell said in summation of his 20-month investigation. ‘There was a collective failure to recognize the problem as it emerged and to deal with it early on.‘” Former Senator (and go-to commission guy) George Mitchell’s report on Steroids in Baseball is released. And, while outing a number of star players as users (including Roger Clemens, Andy Pettite, Eric Gagne, David Justice, John Rocker, Gary Sheffield, and Mo Vaughn), Mitchell instead argues for change and collective responsibility rather than the initiation of a witchhunt. It does seem obvious, based on the list of names, that steroids were rife throughout the sport and can’t be limited to any one clubhouse (although there sure are a lot of Yankees named, aren’t there?) Well, here’s hoping they find a way to clean it all up. For my part, and as I’ve said several times now, major league baseball ranks somewhere down near hockey and golf in the list of sports I enjoy watching and following. Give me the NBA, or even the MLS, any day of the week (and the NFL twice on Sunday.)

756*.

It’s official: Notorious slugger and obvious juicer Barry Bonds passes Hammerin’ Hank Aaron as the all-time home run leader. Ho-hum. To be honest, I still haven’t figured out how I come down on the Bonds steroid thing (partly because I am at best only a casual fan of baseball, and thus don’t really care all that much. As I said here, I’d rather watch basketball, soccer, or football on any given night than I would MLB, even before the league gave us Dubya. Take that, George Will.) But, regarding Bonds: On one hand, he seems like a jerk, and it’s painfully obvious he’s a user. On the other, the Baseball Hall of Fame is filled with unlikable people, many people in pro baseball are clearly using, a case could be made against other kinds of enhancements (contacts, for example), and I highly doubt I could hit 756 home runs even if I were ingesting three times the steroids Bonds did. So, it’s a wash.

Off the Charts.

For any sports gambling aficionados (or stock market junkies) out there who happen to venture by the site, a very good friend of mine from college has just started MLBcharts.com (although he also covers the NBA, NHL, NCAA, and soccer therein.) Basically, he’s been applying stock market valuation principles to sports gambling, with positive results (for him, anyway — a few March Madness games notwithstanding, I’ve been watching his success from afar.) At any rate, go check it out!

Say it ain’t so, Joe…and Clyde, and Jerome…

(Like I needed to another reason to think less of A-Rod.) By way of my friend Mark, here’s an interesting list of campaign contributions made by sports figures since 1978. Some of the bigger Democratic donors include Hank Aaron, Andre Agassi, Michael Jordan, Robert Kraft, Alonzo Mourning, Bud Selig, Dean Smith, and David Stern. As for athletes buttressing the GOP, they include several football (Troy Aikman, Bobby Bowden, Mike Ditka, Peyton Manning, Roger Staubach) and racing (Mario Andretti, Brian and Bill France, Jeff Gordon, Dale Jarrett, Richard Petty) stars, along with Jerome Bettis, Clyde Drexler, Karl Malone, Lute Olson, Rafael Palmeiro, A-Rod, and Marge Schott.

His Revels are now ended.

“So, what do you do when you find out your effervescent childhood hero is a violent, potentially evil man? You can repudiate him, forgive him, or try to compartmentalize and love the ballplayer while deploring his actions.” Friend, colleague, and baseball fan Jeremy Derfner remembers Kirby Puckett for Slate.

No joy in Mudville (but plenty of juice).

On the day after the untimely death of Kirby Puckett, Sports Illustrated publishes a devastating case against Barry Bonds, chronic steroid user. Not a huge surprise, of course, but sad nonetheless.

Juiced.

“Who knew? We all knew: the trainers who looked the other way as they were treating a whole new class of injuries; the players who saw teammates inject themselves but kept the clubhouse code of silence; the journalists who ‘buried the lead’ and told jokes among themselves about the newly muscled; the GMs who wittingly acquired players on steroids; and, yes, owners and players, who openly applauded the home run boom and moved at glacial speed to address the problem that fueled the explosion.” ESPN Magazine surveys the ascent of baseball’s Steroid Era.

It’s so, Joe.

A hearty congrats to the Chicago White Sox on sweeping the Astros last night and reversing their own curse (but no more throwing games, ok?) Between this and the Red Sox last year, one has to wonder: Will next year be all about the Cubs?

Rove, Raffy, and the Right.

“‘He’s a friend,’ the president said…’He’s testified in public, and I believe him.’” In a roundtable with Texas journalists, Dubya backs Karl Rove and Rafael Palmeiro, as well as (somewhat half-heartedly) the teaching of “intelligent design.” A bit of a gullible sort, ain’t he?

A Good Republic Spoiled.

All the hand-wringing among Democrats about why liberals don’t go to NASCAR races or duck hunts misses the fact that Tom DeLay and Bill Frist don’t go to monster-truck night with the guys from Deliverance either. They hit the links at exclusive country clubs with rich donors and corporate lobbyists.Slate‘s Michael Crowley surveys the implications of the GOP’s predisposition for golf. In related news, apparently Republicans aren’t all that bad at baseball, either (which may help explain this.)

McCain v. Giambi.

In very primary-friendly fashion, John McCain announces a federal anti-steroids bill for all professional sports, to be administered by the US Anti-Doping Agency.

The Eyes Have It.

If the andro that helped McGwire hit 70 home runs in 1998 was an unnatural, game-altering enhancement, what about his high-powered contact lenses? ‘Natural’ vision is 20/20. McGwire’s custom-designed lenses improved his vision to 20/10, which means he could see at a distance of 20 feet what a person with normal, healthy vision could see at 10 feet. Think what a difference that makes in hitting a fastball. Imagine how many games those lenses altered.” Drop the juice for a sec — Slate‘s Will Saletan wonders aloud if optical enhancements also constitute cheating in baseball, football, and golf.

Wave the Bloody Sock.

Here is where I should describe for you my mixed emotions as a Sox diehard, how my very nature as a fan has been transformed, how much this means to me on countless levels both as a Red Sox obsessive and as a human being. But I won’t force you to endure that. Suffice it to say the ceremony was a thrill.” Friend Seth Stevenson achieves the closure he’s been waiting for all his life at the BoSox ring ceremony.

Bush League.

Amidst the quality (and all-natural to boot) college hoops, I haven’t been following the story very closely. But apparently, Congress was shocked to discover on Thursday that Mark McGwire probably used steroids and that MLB is drowning in juicers. Wow, you think? For his part, Bud Selig feigns equal amazement at the flagrant cheating that has characterized baseball for the past decade…but, really, should we expect any less from the leadership of the GOP pastime? Ho-hum.

The Juice is Loose.

What?!? Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi used steroids?! Man, I’ve been thinking all this time that they both just subscribed to a rigorous neck-thickening regimen. (Next thing you’ll be telling me there’s no WMDs in Iraq.) Well, I guess odds were that at least a few members of the medicated 44% in America would play baseball.

The Curse Reversed.

Well, we’re through the looking glass now, folks. After 86 years of trying, the Red Sox have won the Series! The sweep was a bit anti-climactic after the surprising Yankee-beating last week, but, still, an awesome feat nonetheless. Just think of all those terminally depressed Sox fans out there, who now have to find a new locus for their discontent. (By the way, Dubya, Massachusetts is coming for you next.)

Under a Blood Red Sky.

Once in a blue moon? Not even. As it turns out, Game 4 of the World Series will be played under a lunar eclipse. I think the Series will go more than four, but if it doesn’t…

Who’s Your Daddy?

So, how you like them apples? Against all odds, the Sox reverse the Curse and finally defeat the detestable Yanks 10-3. They shouldn’t throw up the “Mission Accomplished” banner prior to the Series, but still, this must bode well for Johnny Kerry

Red Sox Reprieve?

[I]t would be impossible to overstate the impact on any team of losing back-to-back extra-inning games after saves were blown in regulation time. To do it twice with the pennant in your hands is unprecedented.” 1918? Try 10/18. I still think the Sox are dead in the water after their lousy 0-3 start in the ALCS, but at least the past two games have made it interesting. Update: Verrrry interesting…I’ve got members of the BoSox Nation flying in from the West Coast just for tonight’s Game 7. One way or another, it should be a hot time in the old town tonight.

Final Round: Kerry (barely).

Well, to no one’s surprise, I think John Kerry won again. But, while I’d like to say that the Senator knocked this final debate in Tempe, Arizona out of the park, frankly, he didn’t. In the early going, I thought he seemed tired and slightly discombobulated, and, at times when a concise rebuttal could have scored some serious points, Kerry’s answers often seemed more wordy and circuitous than necessary. On the other hand, I thought this was Dubya’s best performance – he was still smirking and guffawing too much, still distorting the facts, still running from his record, and still demonizing his opponent like the best of ‘em, but at least he seemed in full possession of his faculties this time around (perhaps the wire was working tonight.) I did think that Kerry warmed up in the middle third, but he lost focus again during the final questions (Native American blessings? Idears?) That being said, given the relative lack of drama tonight and the playoff baseball on FOX, I highly doubt this final debate will end up altering the current campaign dynamic much.

So there you have it, folks. Barring an October Surprise in the next three weeks, it now all comes down to the ground game, and — given what we’ve been hearing regarding voter registration, given the white-hot contempt towards Dubya held by Dems and the ambivalence with which fiscal conservatives and many veterans view this administration, and given the usual tendency of undecideds to break towards the challenger — turnout is a factor which John Kerry should win handily (barring Diebold shenanigans.) It ain’t over yet, to be sure, but right now I’d say that, despite tonight’s missed opportunities, John Kerry and John Edwards have put themselves in a solid position to win with their cumulative debate performance. The election is too close to call, definitely, but at this point I feel pretty confident our nation will make the right decision on Nov 2.

Payton’s Place, Pippen to Pasture.

With the sports world focused on the baseball playoffs right now — I’m rooting for the BoSox as usual, but that’s more a tip-of-the-hat to my many friends among the Nation than it is a deeply-felt affection on my part — some news of the coming NBA season has nevertheless begun leaking out with the start of training camp. Despite rumblings to the contrary, Gary Payton showed up in Celtics Green on time and ready to give it a go, as did Vince Carter (still) in Toronto. Meanwhile, Scottie Pippen gave notice and the Knicks signed Tracy Murray, who’s a pretty one-dimensional 3-ball shooter when you get right down to it, and who probably won’t make much of a dent in the Power Rankings.

Pride of the Senators.

It’s official…MLB has returned to DC after 33 years. Bad news for Montreal and Baltimore, good news for Maryland-DC commuters, as this should cut down on the Beltway/Camden Yards traffic significantly.

The Republican Pastime (Redux).

He may not be able to stay awake during the Superbowl, but Dubya loves him some baseball…and, as it turns out, baseball owners love them some Dubya. “More than a dozen current and former owners and family members are among the president’s top re-election fundraisers…Seven are Bush ‘Rangers,’ each raising at least $200,000, and six are ‘Pioneers’ who have brought in $100,000 or more.
” In contrast, Kerry received a paltry $2000 each from Red Sox chairman Tom Werner and Padres owner John Moores. Hmmm…between this and the Tim Robbins Hall of Fame fiasco last year, I must say I’m feeling pretty proud to be an NBA fan right now. While baseball lines Dubya’s coffers, basketball puts up a Dem for president (albeit one who appears to have fallen off the radar at this critical political juncture.)

The A-Rod Write-Off.

Well, thank goodness the GOP Congress has finally done something to alleviate the financial burden of sports team ownership in this country. When I think of all the pain, misery, and degradation that Mark Cuban, George Steinbrenner, and other multi-millionaires have been subjected to by the tax code of late, my heart just sickens. Now hopefully Congress will turn their attention to eliminating the IRS entirely, and I’ll be able to sleep knowing that no corporate CEO or energy baron will ever again be unduly harrassed in this great nation.

Scorn of the Sox.

Dear Roger Clemens: Let me offer my hearty congratulations on starting the All-Star Game. Wow, that is really terrific. I’d like to note, however, that I hate you. Also: You are fat. They say you’ve got this hard-core training regimen, with calisthenics and whatnot. I’m not seeing it. You’re wicked fat.Slate‘s Seth Stevenson exercises (and exorcises) his contempt for the Rocket.

Omsbudsdog Emeritus

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