Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Sample Size Sunday Special
2004-03-07 18:26
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to

That's the Joint

A few years ago I used to spin records at my friend Steven's bistro "Plate 347," which was down on 2nd avenue between 21rst and 22nd street. I was never serious about being a DJ, but I had made a professional quality mix cd with a friend of mine in 2000, and I found that playing records once a week gave me some spending money and a chance to meet people. It was fun learning what records you could play when, and what particular records were sure-shots every week—think "Used Me" by Bill Withers or "Love and Happiness" by Al Green. But I never wanted to be a DJ. I'm just not that nocturnal a person to be perfectly honest. It was not my thing. I don't trust people that late at night who are that drunk: I need eye contact and daylight. So after a year or so, I stopped playing records at my friend Steven's restuarant.

In November of 2002, I started Bronx Banter and I suppose that's where I've been playing records ever since. Just in a different format. I hardly buy records at all anymore. The majority of new music that I've aquired in the past year has been burned from vinyl to cd by my friend Jared who works at a smart record shop on avenue A. Now I spend all my extra cash buying baseball books.

For me, there is a distinct connection between the ability to select records and the ability to excerpt newspaper articles and create a good post, a good blog, or website. Playing records and writing post have a similar appeal to me. I'm sifting through a lot of material and sharing what I think is most important with an audience in the hopes of making a connecting and stimulating their own interest and enthusiasm. I look at excerpting articles much like sampling old records. The idea is to grap the part of the article, or the song, that captures what the whole piece is all about to you. There is no right or wrong, just dope or wack (with lots of room in the middle).

With that in mind, I dug through my bookshelf on Friday night looking for a quote to leave you with for the weekend. A platter that matters, so to speak. I went right for David Falkner's "The Short Season." Here is the first thing that caught my attention:

For every outright critic of spring training, there are at least ten ardent defenders of the system—they shall appear in due course—but the Cooperstown files are revealing in yet another way. Much spring training writing tends to downright silliness. There is probably no other single body of prose in the English language in which writers seem quite so hard-pressed to come up with something, anything, than the collected newspaper accounts of spring training over the last half century. Something, anything, more often than not involves the search for yarns, lore and jokes—rather than baseball...Some stories are retold from generation to generation, with the roles of the main actors somehow getting switched.

I watched the Yankees visit the Red Sox in Florida today and while the drama remains the same, the actors have changed. This year, we get a Pokey and a Schilling, a Burks and a Sheffield and a Brown, and the return of Flash Gordon. Actually seeing Alex Rodriguez on the field gave me an undeniable jolt of excitement: How cool is this going to be? I feel lucky to be alive and Yankee fan.

Jose Contreras started for the Bombers and didn't have dick. The Sox clubbed him for four runs before he was done, and the home crowd was all pumped up. There might be a lot of hype written about the Yankees and the Red Sox, but then there is also the plain fact that the fans are juiced up each and every time these two teams play, even early in spring training. It matters to the people in the stands and you can feel that sitting at home, watching on television.

George Steinbrener and John Henry have gone back-and-forth jabbing at each other this winter, and according to many observers, the rivalry has never been hotter. The fans seem to be as rabid as ever before. The only people who seem to take it in some sort of stride are the players. Which is not to say that they are not competitive. I don't mean to suggest that at all. I don't think Pedro is going to take Jorge Podsada out for lunch anytime soon. But when you see Manny Ramirez on second base, he looks loose, and is aimably chatting it up with Jeter and Rodriguez. These guys may want to beat each other, but they don't seem to hate each other either. They understand that in the blink of an eye they could be teammates. (Which is what makes Rodriguez being a Yankee so perverse for Red Sox fans and delightful for Yankee fans.)

Last year there was a piece on the Yankees-Sox rivalry in SI—I'm guessing it was Verducci's —and Willie Randolph was talking about how he still didn't talk with Dwight Evans (who was a coach with Boston at the time). But during warm ups and later, during the game, there is as much friendly talk between members of the Yankees and Red Sox as I assume there is between any other two teams in the league, which is to say, a lot.

The teams will not be so cordial when the games matter of course. According to the Roundtable of writers who previewed the season here on Bronx Banter, if the Yankees are to get in a bench-clearing brawl this year, it will likely happen with the Red Sox. That said, the rivalry burns brightest for the fans. We own it. The player's are disposal and they know it. It's the stories that remain contant, and that's what keeps us coming back. Choose your own adventure.

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