Craig Calcaterra

Ernie Banks

The last days of Ernie Banks

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This is not a fun read, but it’s probably a necessary one.

It’s about the final years of Ernie Banks, written by Chicago journalist and would-be Ernie Banks autobiography ghost writer, Ron Rapoport. The two of them got together often in Banks’ last years, attempting to write a book but not getting too far.

Rapoport writes about Banks’ loneliness. And a complexity that, it seems, any public person is allowed to have except for Ernie Banks. Banks was denied this, partially by a persona that seemed so happy and carefree that it didn’t fit enter into his fans’ consciousness. Partially — mostly? — because the man himself was OK with allowing that part of his personality to dominate due to loneliness and unhappiness in his personal life.

It’s certainly a sad read, but it doesn’t describe a life terribly foreign from that of a great many people as they age. We all likely know someone who fit this general profile in their final years. And, as I said above, it’s probably a necessary read, as it’s another reminder that athletes — even the most famous athletes who we consider to be avatars of positivity — are human too. For all of the good and the bad that entails.

And now, more pro-choking Bryce Harper sentiment

Bryce Harper
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I’ll never cease to be amazed at how threatened and upset people get at young folks with talent who don’t play the kiss-the-media’s-butt game. But there are certainly a lot of them who were happy to see Bryce Harper choked yesterday.

The latest: Lee Judge of the Kansas City Star. Who, while devoting a few sentences to Jonathan Papelbon being kinda wrong too and saying that, ultimately, both are to blame, writes the following under the headline “Should Jonathan Papelbon have choked Bryce Harper?” he writes:

I don’t know Bryce Harper from Adam, but he certainly seems like a young man who needs an attitude adjustment. Unfortunately he was choked by the wrong guy in the wrong place . . . if you want to choke Bryce Harper — and I suspect if you played with him, you might — ask him to come up the tunnel and then choke him. You don’t do it in the dugout for everyone in the world to see; you keep that stuff private.

 

That first sentence is actually a milder version of his original story. There he wrote:

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 1.37.12 PM

Points off for the aggression and for the improper “needs [verb]” construction, which I thought only was prevalent in Ohio and Pennsylvania, but which apparently extends much farther west.

Don Cherry has opinions about Harper-Papelbon

Don Cherry
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One thing that makes me laugh harder than almost anything is when someone tells me to “stick to baseball.” No. Why should I? I’m a human being like anyone else and I got opinions, dang it. Sure, the farther I stray from my areas of expertise (e.g. baseball, the law, cats, bourbon, 1980s sitcoms and the facts supporting the incontrovertible proof that the moon landing was faked) the more likely I am to be wrong, but that’s a risk we all have in life.

So, no, I take no issue with noted hockey crazy person Don Cherry weighing in on the Bryce HarperJonathan Papelbon fight. He, like me, treads on thin ice in talking about sports he doesn’t know as well (note to Don: we call them clubhouses, not “dressing rooms”) but the man is entitled to his opinion, even if it’s dumb and wrong. That’s what the Constitution guarantees, and according to people who yell at me on the Internet, that applies even in Canada.

So, without further ado, Don Cherry’s wisdom on the Harper-Papelbon thing. He put it in nine separate tweets and that’s hard to follow, so I’ll clean it up for you (tweets here):

How anybody could blame Papelbon for confronting Harper boggles the mind. Alright, Papelbon shouldn’t have done what he did to Harper on the bench. He should have waited for him in the tunnel and choked him there . . .

. . . People who criticize Papelbon, rightly so for doing it openly, never played the game. Never, never, ever openly criticize your teammate no matter what he does. In the dressing room that’s ok, yes but what is said in the dressing room stays in the dressing room. Some people say they can understand how Harper just jogs down to first on a pop up. They say well, hey they have already played 152 games. The guy is getting 10 zillion dollars a year, at least he can hustle to first base.

The most remarkable thing about this entire controversy — apart from some people, like Cherry, thinking that there’s a right place and a wrong place to choke someone — is the belief by so many that Harper actually dogged it to first base on the play in question. Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post was at the game and he wrote quite clearly that Harper did not, in fact, dog it to first base in anything approaching an unusual or extraordinary way. If the ball had been dropped, Harper would have been safe. Which is all that is really required on such plays unless you worship at the altar of False Hustle.

But of course, we know this wasn’t about hustle anyway. This was Papelbon looking for a pretext to go after Harper based on his comments last week.

Anyway: good to see Don Cherry branching out. I worry sometimes that there isn’t enough work for ill-informed hot take artists in sports media, so him putting in the hard work to stretch himself like this is inspiring.