We’ll miss you, Toy Cannon

A fantastic ballplayer, the Toy Cannon, died Thursday at age 78. When I fell in love with baseball and the Houston Astros, he was one of the guys I fell hardest for.

After we moved from West Virginia when I was a baby until I was 10, we lived 5 short miles from the Astrodome. I was barely in school when center fielder Jimmy Wynn and the Astros started ruling my sports world. In my mind the first true star-quality player the franchise had, Wynn played for the Colt .45s and Astros from 1963 to 1973, hitting 223 homers while playing 81 games a year in the cavernous Dome.

I was just 6 years old in 1967, but I remember Wynn’s great year, when he hit 37 homers and drove in 107 runs, even while hitting only .249 and leading the NL with 137 strikeouts for a team that finished a miserable 69-93. For a guy of less-than-menacing stature at 5-10 (but closer to 5-9) and 160 pounds, Wynn had great pop, earning his Toy Cannon nickname and ending up with 291 dingers in a career that later took him to the Dodgers, Braves, Yankees and Brewers. After he and Astros teammate Doug Rader became the first hitters to reach the upper deck of the Astrodome in 1970, their feats were memorialized with “Toy Cannon” and “Red Rooster” seats where their bombs landed.

A highlight of my brief sports writing career was meeting Wynn in my first job, at The Odessa American after I graduated from Texas A&M in 1983. In early February 1984, he was among the sports celebrities attending the annual Midland sports banquet that I covered. The other two biggies on hand that night were baseball Hall of Famer Vernon “Lefty” Gomez, who won 5 World Series with the Yankees (1932, 1936-39) and hulking former Oakland Raiders defensive end Ben Davidson, who, at 6-8, towered over 6-2 yours truly. Now that Wynn’s gone, all three have passed away.

The three of them were gracious enough to spend a few minutes letting this 22-year-old rookie journalist interview them separately before the event began. But I’ve got to admit, for me it was all about getting to talk to the Toy Cannon. Of course, I told him I’d grown up watching him play. At the time of that banquet 36 years ago, his 37 homers and 107 RBI in 1967, as well as his 223 HRs while playing in Houston, still stood as franchise records.

“I went through more managers than players,” he cracked of those “really tough years” when the team struggled mightily to break .500. “The only thing I really regret about my years with the Astros is we didn’t bring the people of Texas a championship ballclub.”

Wynn said he remembered his Houston friendships as among the most memorable aspects of his playing career — guys like Joe Morgan, Larry Dierker, Bob Watson and the late Don Wilson.

“All of us, whenever we went on the road, stuck together,” he said. “It was just like a beautiful family. We always ate together and had a few drinks together. Those friendships will be with me for a long time.”

At the time of the banquet, Wynn had been working community relations for the Astros for the past year. It was clear he was itching to get into coaching, and he would’ve been a hell of a good one. But he never did.

“I’m having a lot of fun in what I’m doing,” he told me, “but I would like to get back. I have so much knowledge to give to these young kids. It makes me feel like I’m throwing my life away. I hope to return to baseball soon.”

Hopefully it won’t be long before he’ll either be on or filling out one awesome lineup card in heaven. 

20 years later, still part of the team doing important work at The Dallas Morning News

The calendar, and my birth certificate, told me Friday was a notable day in my life: my 59th birthday. But today, Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, also marks a milestone: 20 years ago, I walked through the doors of The Dallas Morning News at 508 Young St. on my first day as an employee of this distinguished, long-respected newspaper.

We’re not at 508 Young anymore – we now carry out our crucial, 365-days-a-year mission as journalists at 1954 Commerce St. It’s on the other side of downtown from the old place, in the four-story former Dallas central library, renovated into a modern office space with a cool vibe that we’re all loving.

I remember how awed – and nervous – I was when I interviewed to join this staff. I’d been working at another great newspaper, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, for almost 13 years. But the DMN was different. In terms of circulation and reputation, it ranked among the top newspapers in the country. For journalists hired here, it wasn’t a stop along the way to something bigger and better – it was a place to spend the rest of a career.

We moved into our new digs at 1954 Commerce St., the old Dallas central library that had been abandoned for over three decades, in December 2017.

But in my 20 years, so very much has changed in our industry. There’ve been seismic shifts altering the way we produce and present news. But more significantly, often-crippling developments have brought complete disruptions to people’s lives, livelihoods, families and careers, and have caused hundreds of papers to stop the presses for the worst reason imaginable – shutting down forever.

The survival mode newspapers find themselves in is not something I saw coming when, the day after my 39th birthday, I eagerly and hopefully walked into the historic old DMN offices built in 1949 to start my new job as a copy editor on the Universal Desk.

During the past 15 years, I’ve watched countless friends and immensely talented colleagues leave the paper in emotional tatters after getting caught up in the industry’s ongoing painful realities, victims of reductions in force that have slashed our newsroom’s size by hundreds from the day I started. I’ve lost count how many times staffers have been laid off.

I’ve also watched, especially in more recent years, as others have left for new opportunities outside the newspaper business. In the environment of uncertainty in which we’ve been working, no one can begrudge them those choices, tough but often deemed necessary.

Nonetheless, the paper has kept producing consistently strong journalism across every section, covering communities all over North Texas as well as thoroughly reporting on state and national issues that affect residents locally, statewide and on the border. We’ve done this despite the increasing difficulties endured by the industry as advertising revenue and readership shrink exponentially.

In our lobby on Commerce Street, there’s a replica of the Rock of Truth that adorns the front of the old DMN building at 508 Young St. Since we couldn’t bring the real thing with us, it was a nice touch for publisher Jim Moroney, who has since retired, to have added to our new home.

We’ve had to evolve into a digital-first media outlet while ensuring that our print product remains viable for readers who prefer to get their news the old-fashioned way. As multiplatform editors, my closest colleagues and I work on both products, doing our best to maintain accuracy and readability of the stories reported and written by DMN staff writers and contributors.

In May, I’ll have been a graduate of Texas A&M for 37 years. In all that time, I’ve worked for only three newspapers: I spent just short of four as a sports writer at The Odessa American, nearly 13 as a sports and news copy and assigning editor/occasional writer at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and now 20 as a copy/multiplatform editor/sometimes writer at the DMN.

I’ve genuinely cherished my 20 years at The Dallas Morning News, the stories and projects I’ve been fortunate to have worked on, the responsibilities I’ve been entrusted with in interim roles in other newsroom departments, and, especially, the people I’ve done so much important work with. If there’s any profession where teamwork is more vital than in a newspaper newsroom, someone please show me.

Keep up the great work, team. 

Two brothers, one birthday 17 years apart, so much in common

Until this week, when Google told me, I didn’t know some of the famous folks who share my Feb. 28 birthday. (Aside: It’s out of control how many, and of what stripe and “talent,” classify as celebrities these days. Gamers, YouTubers, Influencers, TikTok stars. I’ll just sound old if I go down this path. Oh, wait, I guess I am. As of today, one more year till I turn 60 … sigh.)

Many of the “real” names I came across were entertainers: Gavin MacLeod, Charles Durning, Mercedes Ruehl, Bernadette Peters, Jason Aldean, Zero Mostel, Lindsay Lohan (OK, scratch that one). Then there’s mobster Bugsy Siegel, race car driver Mario Andretti, basketball coaching legend Dean Smith, and budding Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic.

But there’s another big name — big to me, anyway — who has a birthday today. I didn’t learn that he did until getting a life-changing call from a remarkable woman (who, sadly, has since passed away) in West Virginia on June 10, 2005. In fact, I didn’t even know he existed.

As I furiously scribbled a steady stream of information on a legal pad, the voice on the phone gave me his name: Crystal Edward Workman, born Feb. 28, 1944, the oldest of three children of Betty Louise Workman.

He, the voice told me with unshakable certainty, was my brother. All three were my siblings.

What a rugged fellow! And look at all that Colorado snow!

Within a month, after numerous hours of getting to know one another by phone and emails, a wonderful first visit in Colorado with Crys, our sister Terry and their families, and a DNA test for the three of us (in the early days of cheek swabs for that kind of detective work), we knew what we were all but certain to be true: Not only was their mother Betty mine, but their dad Bob was also my biological father, as a result of my being conceived a year after their divorce.

The story has sent me on an emotional journey for almost 15 years.

Crys and the oldest of his three amazing children, daughter Lewellyn (Lew).

On the day I was born, Feb. 28, 1961, what was Crys doing besides turning 17?

He was going to school as a junior at Ironton High School in southern Ohio, just across the Ohio River from our birthplace of Huntington, WV. Crys, Terry, our brother Robin and Betty had lived together in a small apartment in Ironton for several months the previous year while Betty was pregnant with me.

Ironton was where Betty and the kids landed after a domestic incident with Bob caused her to flee Huntington out of fear around the time she learned of her pregnancy. They’d been divorced a little over a year and, though we’ll never know the true circumstances that seemingly brought them back together for a time, now the breakup would be permanent. Bob would drown a homeless man in Tampa in July 1962.

Crys tells me times were tough those few months in Ironton, when Betty spent part of her pregnancy working as a waitress and singing with a trio at the Sandbar in the upscale Marting Hotel. He was a basketball player and wanted to play the season with the IHS varsity, always a successful program. So when Betty and her two youngest children moved back to Huntington that fall when she was about six months along with me, Crys stayed in Ironton and lived with the family of little Ellie Lawless, one of whose brothers, Butch, was a manager for the basketball team.

Crys and his mom Betty, my birth mother, in 1988. She died of lung cancer in 1992.

After basketball season ended in March, Crys moved home, ready for track season at Huntington East High. When he got back, he asked Betty:

“What happened to the baby?”

Betty told Crys, with little explanation, that she’d lost the baby. That was the end of it. He assumed the baby had died in childbirth. The subject never came up again. He never thought about it again. But I know Betty did. Constantly.

I remember my reaction to learning I had a brother with my birthday. I was stunned. How could it be that two siblings from the same family — one torn by alcoholism, divorce, a child placed for adoption — could be born 17 years apart to the day?

I excitedly told the lady who had found all the records leading me to my natural family that Feb. 28 was also my birthday. But in that long phone call, she was just getting started unloading her months’ worth of discoveries, so understandably, her reaction wasn’t the same.

There was so much for me to process in that call. The first news I received was the saddest — finding out that meeting Betty, my driving hope in starting the search for my past, would not be possible in this life, because she had died in December 1992.

When Crys and I spoke for the first time the following day, it was a two-hour visit between brothers that felt so easy, like we’d known each other all along, thanks to his calm and kind demeanor and his willing openness. Of course, I told him we had the same birthday, and, like me, he thought it was a crazy coincidence and really cool.

Crys with all three of his children: Daughter Lew and sons Brad and Tim, the youngest. Tim is a police detective in Lakewood, Colo.

But in the nearly 15 years since my siblings and I became a long-overdue-to-be-reunited family, I’ve learned that Crys and I have much more than a birthday as a bond. Although we’d never be mistaken for brothers based on looks (although we’ve both always been tall and lean), we’re much alike — more than even he may realize.

Crys is kind, compassionate, generous and one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. (I’d like to think I’m all of those except for the last one.) We share interests in sports, music (including classical) and other areas. We’re both generally quiet, introverted and pretty passive, and I believe those qualities are where we’re most like each other.

I’ve always considered myself lucky to have grown up with an awesome brother like Isaac, my adoptive bro whom I dearly love. I’ve been infinitely blessed to have added more love to my life in my birth siblings, whose acceptance I felt right away when I reached out to them, a sure sign of the brand of people they are — and, I believe, who our mother Betty was, and in his own way, our father Bob was.

Happy birthday, Crys. I’m thankful and thrilled to have you as a brother, lucky to share a birthday with you, and honored that we have so much in common. Thank you for loving me, believing in me and being proud to call me your Little Brother.  

A cool-looking dude and his cool set of wheels

A newspaper family reunion

Kay and I spent a wonderful three hours Sunday with dozens of family — the family I worked side by side with and loved at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram from April 1987 to February 2000, when I moved on to The Dallas Morning News. Bob Cox, a retired S-T reporter, organized a long-overdue reunion, where hugs, laughs, cherished newsroom memories, life updates and, I’m sure, tears filled a room in the historic downtown Flatiron Building and spilled to the patio outside.

The group pic above (which I’m not in) includes mostly folks who worked at the Arlington S-T and is only a fraction of the crowd that gathered on a beautiful afternoon. I’m still kicking myself for never pulling out my phone to take photos, but Ana Barrera Waggoner was gracious enough to snap the shot below of Kay and me.   We all had a glorious time, and I hope it’ll become an annual event. It’s something I think we all really needed.

Kay and I had a great time at the Star-Telegram reunion. And she knew many of the folks, too!

For all of us, the Star-Telegram was a truly special place. For many like me, it was the first “major metro” where we worked as journalists after starting out at smaller newspapers. Some were even fortunate to begin their careers at the S-T and stay there for decades. Not only does it have a rich history, thanks in no small part to colorful longtime publisher Amon G. Carter Sr. and its stature as, at one time, the paper with the largest circulation in Texas.

There’s just always been something about the paper and the charm of the city that have made it a draw for journalists. And we all shared a bond and a commitment to the mission of what we did every day, 365 days a year.

Because of the painful difficulties that have befallen the industry in recent years, most of the S-T family that came together Sunday has moved on to other jobs — many outside newspapers, some freelancing — while others have retired. A very small handful who attended are still toiling at the S-T, which has had a dickens of a time, with round after round of layoffs, buyouts and the announcement last week that parent company McClatchy has filed for bankruptcy.

Still, the paper’s minuscule staff fights to survive and continue providing news and coverage of the Fort Worth area to the community just as it has for well over 100 years — and as papers in cities all over the country remain dedicated to doing in the digital environment.

But Sunday was about reuniting with our old colleagues — our family — after years apart. And except for missing all the folks who weren’t able to make it, it was perfect.

Just what our Star-Telegram family needed. 

The Astros’ penalties, the Dusty hire, and playing with a forever-tarnished reputation

It’s been three weeks since my blog post ripping the Astros over the rule-breaking — the cheating — it was obvious they were guilty of. Little did I know that, three days after I posted on a Friday, MLB would announce the results of its sign-stealing investigation, along with major penalties. Ultimately, the all-consuming quest for championships would take down three managers and a GM, with more punishment still to come against the Red Sox.

Some argue that the Astros should’ve been hit harder, and that the players shouldn’t have gotten away with it all. There’s merit to that argument, but there’s also validity to MLB’s reasons for not going down the complicated path of figuring out which players should be suspended and for how long.

As for why MLB didn’t TKO the Astros with more — stripping their 2017 title or a 2020 postseason ban, for instance — consider what Rob Manfred *did* do, and what the organization has to look forward to in terms of cheating’s lasting impact. I’d have to say the loss of four top draft picks, a yearlong suspension of baseball’s top manager-GM duo (who then, of course, were fired by owner Jim Crane), the stain that’ll never be removed from the disgraced franchise’s image, and the bull’s-eye the team will wear not only this season but for years to come, will have the lesson-learned-the-hard-way effect MLB was going for.

Sure, the Astros still have one of the majors’ strongest rosters and a fairly loaded farm system, and will contend this year for a fourth straight AL West title and fourth AL Championship Series berth in a row. But make no mistake: These penalties were designed to make the franchise pay for its egregious mistakes — if that means slamming the brakes on a potential dynasty, so be it — and to send a message to other teams that breaking the rules won’t be tolerated.

ESPN baseball writer Bradford Doolittle, who’s fantastic, makes strong points in this piece about why MLB doled out sufficient penalties against the Astros.

https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/28547558/why-astros-penalties-harsh-enough-calls-much-more?fbclid=IwAR1piarhwe0TAo_wHLgOhrXMQuVMmcBNah-YmQnfSGUX14KYtc4D_M3Rddk

So the Astros have made their first attempt to move past this fiasco by hiring an old-school manager with a sterling reputation and a history of winning — although never the big one. At first, I wasn’t thrilled with Crane’s choice of Dusty Baker, simply because I thought he was too old and the game’s left him behind. I’ve always liked Baker and remember him well from my childhood and his Dodger days, playing in the Astrodome when Houston and Los Angeles were rivals in the National League West.

But after a couple of days, I realized how smart and calculated a move this was on Crane’s part, hiring a manager with Baker’s pedigree and personality. For this situation and this team and this moment, he’s the right hire.

And I see the Astros also hired a new GM today (Monday 2/3), a guy I’ve never heard of from the Rays named James Click — who was a history major at Yale. He comes from a strong organization, and considering fired Astros GM Jeff Luhnow got his start in baseball with a business background and majored in economics and engineering, I look for Click to slide smoothly into his Houston role.

Now that January has come and gone faster than any month in history (right?), spring training is upon us. And I’m sticking to my vow, still planning not to follow the Astros as closely as usual this season. That doesn’t mean I won’t check scores or standings; it just means I won’t obsess over trying to monitor every game like I usually do.

Like I said in the blog post, I’m not abandoning the Astros. Too much history, too much devotion to the only team that *really* matters to me, too much love. I’m still very upset this happened and am disappointed anyone associated with the team would even think about pulling a stupid stunt like this that would sully its hard-earned rep for doing things the right way.

I’m glad the organization apologized to its fans for this shameful episode. But unfortunately, that won’t change how opponents, rival teams’ fans, and the sports world in general view and treat the Astros from now on: like a hated team. They’ll get the love ’em or hate ’em treatment the Patriots and Yankees get.

No one used to hate the Astros. But they have only themselves to blame.

https://photos.google.com/share/AF1QipNK8zy6LoAQsC9EvzxKEAhnd15NqZeQ7zoRAWF1QQKqVNuJMxECqAATMI4OClDsTw/photo/AF1QipPjAtmlVMb5ZrztbNCUYj4pWxDSG5sxS8Xb2wAX?key=SmNVa1UyWkNOM2FkR3l5U00zQi1NRjlfekJtbTNB

(Above is my video from the end of the Astros’ 8-2 win over the Red Sox in Game 1 of the ALDS at Minute Maid Park in 2017.)

Much as it pains me to say it, the Astros must pay for their reckless pursuit of glory

Very soon, the Houston Astros will learn the price for their cheating.

For deciding — after over 50 years as a franchise that had largely done things the right way, the old-fashioned, hard-working way, the honest way — to break the rules to gain an extra edge.

For being so arrogant as to think they could get away with flouting Major League Baseball — not to mention the sport’s codes of ethics and integrity, whether written or understood  — to fulfill their blinding desire to win the team’s first championship, no matter the means.

For disrespecting opponents and the very game in their reckless pursuit of glory, and for cheating their own fans and violating their legions’ trust.

The Astros stand accused of straying far outside the usual bounds to pick up opposing teams’ pitching signs in their World Series-winning 2017 season — and possibly the past two years. Mike Fiers, who pitched for Houston that season but didn’t make a playoff roster, went public two months ago in a report in The Athletic, saying the team had used a camera in centerfield at Minute Maid Park to read catchers’ signs, which were then signaled from the dugout area to Astros hitters through the comical method of banging on a trash can. There’ve been rumors of other chicanery; we’ll just have to see what comes out.

Commissioner Rob Manfred is expected to announce penalties in the coming days after an investigation — one he calls MLB’s most intensive — that media reports say has pulled in 60 witnesses for interviews and includes poring through more than 75,000 emails.

https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/28439945/sources-mlb-decision-discipline-astros

Suspensions of general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch are almost a certainty, but recent reports indicate that players are likely to avoid punishment. Steep fines are a given, as well as forfeited draft picks. A postseason ban for 2020 seems unlikely, but a move that extreme could be on the table if Manfred and MLB want to make an example of the Astros.

The comeuppance will not be light. But it will be deserved.

****

I take this stance as someone who has been alive nearly one more year than the franchise’s 58-year existence — and who has loved this team as long as I’ve loved baseball.

I’ve kept quiet, but it’s gnawed at me for weeks. I’m very upset about this whole imbroglio.

Let me clarify: I’m very upset at the Astros.

It goes deeper than that: I’m angry at them.

I’m irate that they’ve brought embarrassment to their city, where I lived much of the first 10 years of my life before we moved just north to Conroe, still attending several games a year.

I’m disappointed that, as one of the best teams in baseball the past three seasons and winners of 100-plus games each of those years, they felt compelled to cheat. (Of course, who knows how many of those wins now need an asterisk?)

Filling out a lineup card stacked with names like Springer, Altuve, Bregman and Correa, you really needed to cook up a scheme to surreptitiously build an added advantage, on a home field where you already dominate?

Just. Play. The. Expletive. Game.

Being painfully honest, this really hurts. The team I’ve been a faithful fan of since early childhood — starting around age 5, which would’ve been 1966 — through the many losing years and the climb back from three straight 100-loss seasons, has let me down in a way no on-the-field failure ever has or ever could.

No other team’s highest of highs and toughest of losses can send my emotions soaring and plummeting like the Astros. That includes my alma mater, Texas A&M.

https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/astros-sign-stealing-scandal-what-to-know-about-cheating-allegations-and-mlbs-investigation/

For a franchise with a perpetually squeaky-clean image, with a history of wholesome players like Jimmy Wynn, Larry Dierker, Jose Altuve, Craig Reynolds, Billy Doran, Craig Biggio, Kevin Bass, Nolan Ryan, Lance Berkman, Jose Cruz, Terry Puhl and so many others, this is a black eye the Astros will now always sport.

They’ll never be able to cover it up, always to be viewed as cheaters. Not to mention as a team that takes on domestic abusers like reliever Roberto Osuna — then makes a mockery of a serious issue through denial when a front-office clown yells profanity-strewn remarks in support of the abuser to a group of women during a playoff celebration, one of whom happens to be a reporter.

I could give the Astros the benefit of the doubt, saying they thought what they were doing in stealing signs so “creatively” was within the rules — a case they no doubt made to investigators. But they had to know it was, at the very least, bending them.

Was a world championship worth the irreparable damage to the team’s reputation and the Patriots-like hatred that will follow them from now on?

Most fans will say yes. I say no.

****

I’m being overly dramatic, too sensitive, some kind of by-the-book baseball snob. That’s what some of you are thinking.

And I realize some — many, probably — will disagree with my premise and say what the Astros are alleged to have done — no, what they have done —  is no big deal. The most popular cop-outs I’ve read/heard since the accusations surfaced: “Everyone steals signs. It’s part of the game,” along with “Everyone cheats.”

Not like the Astros did. MLB’s rules forbidding the use of technology in this way are explicit. I’ve read posts on an Astros fan group on Facebook where there are still plenty of deniers and apologists. So many saying “haters gonna hate” and “they’re just jealous of our team’s success.”

Fans will believe what they want to believe and express their opinions freely on the unchecked monster of social media. But at some point, you have to accept the facts and realize no one’s making this up through some perceived bias toward your team. With the video evidence all over the Internet since the story broke, how can anyone deny that cheating took place?

This video, posted in November, is among numerous showing the despicable depths to which the Astros sank at Minute Maid Park during their 2017 World Series run.

There’s another crowd that’ll say, “But baseball’s changed. You know, the metrics, the analytics, the shift, all that data. This is just part of how technology is being used more and more.” 

I’ve always considered myself a baseball purist, yet I think I’ve evolved with our national pastime — if the label even still applies — in recent years. So I understand all that. That’s not what this is. Until something is within the rules, it’s against ’em.

Players and coaches have been known to unfairly rip sports writers because they assume they’ve “never played the game” and are clueless regarding the nuances in much of what they write about. I can’t claim to know everything about every sport I covered in my past life as a sports writer, but I learned a lot in those four years starting out in Odessa over three decades ago.

I played ball growing up and feel like I know the sport pretty darn well — enough to know that what the Astros did was wrong, and unacceptable behavior for a true champion.

And sure, I get it. Compared to some of baseball’s bigger scandals — Pete Rose betting on his team’s games, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and others using steroids — this infraction may seem like a misdemeanor in a sea of felonies. Until you break it down, pitch by tipped-off pitch.

Like the guys who shot themselves up with steroids all those years, what the Astros did screwed with games — extending innings that might’ve ended without the pitch knowledge they were gaining, and helping them score runs they might not have scored.

They altered game outcomes, teams’ records and division standings. It’s a domino effect no one can deny made a difference, possibly affecting every road team on the Astros’ schedule.

****

If MLB comes back with findings that support the allegations and announce major penalties, I need to see the Astros’ front office stand up in a genuinely contrite way, taking ownership of what the team did and not denying or foisting excuses off on fans.

This is about what you did, which goes above what teams “have always done” to get a competitive edge. You owe your fans an explanation — and a big-time apology.

Another incriminating video …

If the Astros appeal the decision and their penalties, it’ll only make them look petty and even more pretentious than many believe they’ve become in recent years. And like they don’t think the rules apply to them.

It’s time to step up to the plate and accept whatever punishment is handed out.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/nickdiunte/2019/11/29/houston-astros-sign-stealing-allegations-are-suspiciously-similar-to-another-iconic-baseball-moment/#23f222d04080

So many of the Astros’ good deeds off the field over the life of the franchise have helped brighten the lives of Houston-area residents. Winning the 2017 World Series in the aftermath of the devastating Hurricane Harvey provided an emotional lift that made it possible for many to get from one day to the next.

It’s doubtful MLB would take away that championship, but it’ll be forever tainted.

All the decades of good guys and goodwill won’t matter to the baseball world outside Texas — which, from now on, will see the Astros as a team that cheated its way to a title.

Not as winners.

For a city and this team’s adoring fans, that is a travesty.

****

As for me, I’m determined not to follow the Astros as obsessively this year as I always have. I need some time to come back around.

I don’t plan to be glued to GameDay online while I’m at work at night. Or to strain to hear their games through static trying to pick up that Houston station on my way home from work. Or to pay for TV packages to see more of their games. My actions won’t mean a thing to the team, but they’re part of my personal grievance over this unforgivable episode.

I’m not abandoning the Astros. I’ve been through too much with them to do that.

I’ve considered throwing my main allegiance behind another team for a while. Always been a fan of the Twins, because my late father grew up in St. Paul and so many of my beloved relatives were devoted fans. There are the Rangers, since we live in Arlington, I attend a few games a year (usually when the Astros are visiting) and have been an on-and-off fan since moving to the D-FW area in 1987. Or I could start following the Rockies more, seeing as the brother and sister from my birth family with whom I’ve bonded since finding them almost 15 years ago have lived in the Denver area for decades. 

For now, I’ll just back off on the Astros. I’m serious about this. I’m not even sure what it’ll take to win me back to full fandom. But I’m certain Kay will appreciate my being a bit more “available” between April and September.

What about October? We’ll see what happens.

How my new car helped me get Sirius about the greatness of the Beatles

When the Beatles were taking over the musical world from 1962 to 1970, with tours (ending in 1966) and marathon recording sessions, putting out over 200 songs and some of the highest-selling albums in history, I was a little boy (born in ’61). Sure, I knew some of their huge hits, and when I got a little older, my brother Isaac and I even had the White Album. I’ve still never seen the movies John, Paul, George and Ringo made (well, I vaguely remember watching the psychedelic Yellow Submarine on TV, if you want to count that).

But after three-plus weeks in my new Camry hybrid, listening to hours of the Beatles Channel on the free trial of Sirius XM and being introduced to a bunch of music I’d never heard, I have an even greater appreciation and love for their absolutely undeniable genius. The remarkable songwriting, vocal and instrumental gifts they gave us simply can’t be matched.

There’ll never be another group like them, and although they all went on to nice solo careers, it’s a shame they broke up before they could give us more of themselves as a quartet. No need to get into the reasons for the widely-chronicled breakup here.

One of the great songs I wasn’t familiar with before discovering it on the Beatles Channel.

I’ll also admit they did a lot of stuff, especially later (“Revolution No. 9”?), that was really “out there” (those drugs, man), and many didn’t go for their Eastern- and spiritually-influenced music. I think some of it’s kinda cool.

But the fact that they experimented with so many different approaches wasn’t necessarily a bad thing — I think it speaks more to their brilliance, plus they were trying to evolve with the times. And they still did a lot of fantastic music during those later years. The other day when I heard “The End,” I hadn’t realized that was actually the last piece they recorded together.

As we moved into the new decade, the Beatles Channel had a cool ongoing show hosted by a historian of the group, Kevin Howlett, called #MagicalHistoryTour. It featured every song the Beatles recorded, in chronological order. He gave such interesting snippets of history behind every song, about the recording sessions, how the songs came to be, the instrumentation, etc.

For instance, he talked about how, on an afternoon in June 1965, Paul McCartney belted out the final take of “I’m Down” in studio with the band. You’d think that would’ve wrecked his vocal cords for the day, but he managed to then record the amazing “Yesterday” that evening, both songs for the “Help!” album.

And then they were no more …

If you haven’t and you’re even remotely a fan of the Beatles’ music, you should check out out the Sirius channel (18). Not only does it feature their songs, it also plays recording session takes where they’re talking and carrying on, and has a lot of other audio of them including interviews, songs from their solo careers, and songs from ’50s and early ’60s rock ‘n’ roll performers who inspired them.

It also includes other celebs and musicians talking about their Beatles memories and favorite songs, and weekly Fab Four compilations submitted by listeners, like “Eight Songs a Week.”

A great live performance of “Hey Jude”

I’ve got a lot of personal Beatles favorites — and have gained a few new ones from listening to the channel — but I’m posting this remastered version of “Here, There And Everywhere,” one of the most beautiful melodies and love songs in musical history, from the “Revolver” album in 1966.

The original is Paul singing solo with backup harmonies from John, George and Ringo coming in later in the piece. This version from 2009 is different, and I love how the backup harmonies have been added throughout.

Enjoy … and long live the Beatles!