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The Great Jucy Lucy Hunt

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN — The first thing I planned to do once I got into town and set my suitcase down on Saturday evening was to go get a Jucy Lucy. What is a Jucy Lucy, you ask? It’s a cheeseburger that has the cheese inside the meat patty in addition to on top. It’s a thing here in the Twin Cities.

A couple of places lay claim to inventing it, but my survey of locals told me that I needed to get it either at Matt’s Bar in South Minneapolis or The Blue Door Pub in St. Paul. I was closer to Matt’s so I decided to go there. Oh, and the reason I’m spelling it “Jucy” is because that’s how Matt’s spells it. I don’t know why. I just go with it and try not to insert myself into local politics as much as possible.

Getting my Jucy Lucy was a process. It started by me getting into the elevator in my hotel and encountering my friend Keith Law, of ESPN. If you know Keith you know that his passion for and knowledge of fine cuisine is just as great as it is of and for baseball. I have dined with Keith before and his judgment has never steered me wrong, so I was more than a little unsettled when our conversation went like this:

Me: Hey, Keith. Good to see you!

Keith: Good to see you too!

Me: Where are you headed?

Keith: To a restaurant called Saffron to meet some friends. How about you?

Me: To Matt’s Bar to get one of those Jucy Lucys.

Keith: [a beat or two of silence] . . . Those sound absolutely disgusting. Oh well, if you survive, let’s meet up tomorrow!

All I can say is (a) I am still alive; and (b) I didn’t see Keith anywhere yesterday, so maybe he was killed by the Sautéed Parisian Gnocchi with spring vegetables, soft herbs and black truffle-taleggio cheese fondue at Saffron. Maybe he shoulda gotten one of those cheese-stuffed burgers? Just a thought.

A short cab ride got me to Matt’s, which looked like this at 7PM on Saturday night:

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Those heads on the bottom were part of a long, long line out the door. A long, long line that did not budge for a good while. As I waited for it to move, a Twitter correspondent told me that, if I didn’t feel like waiting, I should walk about a mile to the southeast and go to Northbound Smokehouse and Brewpub instead. That sounded like a capital plan, so I did. I’m glad I did!

Northbound has some fantastic beer, one of which is called the Ground Rule Double IPA. Since it had a baseball name I decided that NBC was paying for it. And I decided to have two. Research, you see. As I sipped my beer, two “small world” incidents occurred in the space of ten minutes.

First, a woman with whom I struck up a conversation said “Oh, you write about baseball? I used to know a guy here in town years and years ago — sorta dated him for a while — who I think writes about baseball. A blogger maybe?” I was prepared for her to say “Aaron Gleeman,” but then I realized that “years and years ago” for a woman her age would’ve put Gleeman in Zubaz and Timberwolves jerseys in the fourth grade, so it couldn’t have been him. But she then said “Bonnes. John Bonnes.” Some of you may know John as “Twins Geek” from Twins Daily, and the podcast partner of Aaron’s on his “Gleeman and the Geek” podcast. Second person I talked to in town knows one of the two Twins bloggers I’ve ever met.

The second small world incident was more of a quirky thing. The bartender took my credit card and said “Craig Calcaterra? Weird. That was the name of my math professor at Metro State.” I know who this is, actually, as he is around my age, got his math PhD at about the same time I was coming out of law school and, because the Internet was new for most of us back in the mid 90s, he and I found each other while ego-surfing, thought it was quite funny and decided that, given our extremely different careers and skill sets, we were opposite poles of the quite small Craig Calcaterra Karass existing in the universe. I’ve never met him, but we used to do things like comment on each other’s websites and friend each other on Facebook in order to confuse people. Make fun of us if you must, but do appreciate that two Craig Calcaterras finding one another in the universe is somewhat less likely than a couple of John Smiths running into one another.

At that point my two ground rule doubles and the coincidences made it feel like the walls were going to fall in on me, so I booked it back to Matt’s. This time the line was not long and I got what I came for:

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Oh, baby. If you ever get one, though, heed the server’s warning about it being very hot. That cheese is molten and it’ll melt your face off, bro.

I washed it down with “The Ringer” from Fulton Beer. I guess I could’ve stretched it into a baseball thing and saying that it was somehow related to Fulton County Stadium, but eh. Besides, Matt’s Bar is a cash-only establishment, so I couldn’t use the company credit card anyway. And, really, some things you have to keep personal. Like the Jucy Lucy. Which, though I don’t think is anything I’d ever make a habit of due to me not wanting to die in my 40s, is something I shall always keep very close to my heart. Because that stuff was awesome, yo.

Your move, Keith.

Claire Smith becomes the first woman to win the BBWAA’s Spink Award

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ESPN
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The Baseball Writers Association of America has elected Claire Smith the winner of the 2017 J.G. Taylor Spink Award. She becomes the first woman to be given baseball writing’s highest honor. She will be honored with the award that is presented annually to a sportswriter “for meritorious contributions to baseball writing” during Hall of Fame inductions in Cooperstown on July 30.

Smith, 62, covered the New York Yankees for five years beginning in 1983 for the Hartford Courant before becoming a columnist with the New York Times. She later served as an editor and columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer from 1998-2007. She is now ESPN’s news editor of remote productions, responsible for the integration of news and analysis in live game broadcasts and the Baseball Tonight and Sports Center studio programs. She is a two-time Pulitzer Prize nominee and winner of three New York Times Publishers’ Awards.

Smith was named Sports Journalist of the Year from the National Association of Black Journalists in 1997, received the Mary Garber Pioneer Award from the Association of Women in Sports Media in 2000 and the Sam Lacy Award at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and Hall of Fame in 2010. She has served on the Baseball Hall of Fame Veterans Committee and was the chair of the New York chapter of the BBWAA in 1995 and 1996.

There will be Under Armour logos on the front of baseball uniforms

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Under Armour
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Yesterday’s announcement that Under Armour will be taking over the MLB uniform business brought with it an added bit of news: for the first time, beginning in 2020, baseball uniforms will feature the maker’s logo on the front of the jersey. From Paul Lukas of UniWatch:

While the Majestic logo has appeared on MLB sleeves, the Under Armour logo will be appearing on the upper-right chest area.

Lukas has a bunch of Photoshopped images of MLB players wearing uniforms with UA logos on it to give us a sense of how it will likely look.

It’s certainly weird and in some cases even a bit jarring. It would be my preference not to see baseball uniforms go this route as I think they’re aesthetically pleasing parts of the game in and of themselves. But it’s inevitable. If there is a chance for leagues and sponsors to make money and if it doesn’t cause them to lose fans (i.e. lose money) they will take it. You can say you’ll give up baseball if they put corporate logos — including paid advertisements, not just the logos of the companies which make the gear — but you’re lying to yourself about that. You and I will complain and grumble and then we’ll get used to it. At some point, after a couple of years, we’ll start talking about which ads look better and which ones look worse and applaud particularly savvy and pleasing looking logos.

As I wrote back in April when the NBA approved ads on uniforms, there may even be a bright side to all of this.

Sports teams have had it both ways for a long time. They’ve worked to make a buck off of anything that isn’t nailed down all the while pretending to be something greater than any other business. They play on our nostalgia and our loyalty in order to portray themselves as something akin to a public trust or institution, entitling themselves to perks no other businesses get and the avoidance of regulation. By turning players into walking billboards, perhaps the four major North American sports will inadvertently make some folks realize that they are just businesses and that they aren’t deserving of such special treatment.

I’m not holding my breath about that, but anything that takes away even a bit of the faux public trust luster that sports leagues and teams use to manipulate their fans is a good thing. Maybe it’ll make, say, the Yankees or the Dodgers look less venerable and sharp. But maybe it’ll remind people that they’re just business units of a $10 billion industry, not some fourth branch of government or whatever.