Category Archives: sports

The Baseball Project offers contest

I talked a few times earlier this year about The Baseball Project, the collaboration of Scott McCaughey and Steve Wynn (check a Q&A with Wynn here).

What better time to discuss the band again than during the playoffs? To that end, the group is putting on a pretty cool contest: They want you to predict the World Series winner (and in how many games) for a chance to win a Baseball Project T-shirt and baseball and a copy of J.C. Bradbury’s The Baseball Economist.

E-mail with the subject “World Series Pick.” Go here for more.

The Baseball Project: Past Time

The news of the Baseball Project – a group led by Scott McCaughey and Steve Wynn – and its forthcoming album couldn’t have landed in my inbox at a more shockingly coincidental time.

I left The Arizona Republic after five-plus years to take a job with as an editorial producer, which I started last week (in New York). So for the past week I’ve been buried in baseball (not a bad thing) as I acclimate to the new gig.

And here comes McCaughey with another quirky side project (see also The Minus 5), mining the national pastime’s history for an entire album’s worth of material. The references throughout are so rich – Oscar Gamble’s afro, Pete Rose barreling into Ray Fosse, etc. – they could only come from seamheads.

It’s such a great idea I can’t understand why it hasn’t been done before. But here’s the catch (ha! get it?): The album clearly holds the game in high regard but in a sarcastic, grounded way – it’s the view from the hardened fan too far gone to give up on it. Yeah, we hate millionaire athletes and steroids and scandal. But you can’t quit the game. Not at this point.

Instead, McCaughey and Wynn show their love and appreciation for the characters and legends of baseball. They write a song devoted to Curt Flood, the pioneer of free agency, on Gratitude (For Curt Flood). Pay attention, young wealthy stars, and respect your elders: “I’m the one who paved the way / I laid my body in the road so you can walk on it today.”

Even on the lead single, Past Time, there seems to be a cynic’s touch at work: “So long ago / so long, pastime / are you past your prime?”

Jackie’s Lament is more social commentary than baseball fandom. (And if I have to tell you who Jackie is, well, you probably need to buy this album more than you think.)

And what would be the name of the last song on the album? The Closer, of course – a raw, fuzzy ode to the (underappreciated?) one-inning specialists of our day: “MVP / Strike 3 / my work is done again.”

Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails is due out July 8 on Yep Roc. If you pre-order from Yep Roc, you get a download of Blood Diamond, “a song about a Dodgers fan shooting a Giants fan.”

Stream the entire album.

Everything Flows (Cadence Weapon remix)

superextra.jpgI’ll admit it: I don’t know who Super Extra Bonus Party is. They described themselves in an e-mail as “Dublin-based noise-merchants.” Bonus points for being Irish (I am a Murphy, after all).

But what really caught my eye was the fact that one of their tracks, Everything Flows, was remixed by Cadence Weapon, a favorite in these parts.

The remix comes from the new Everything Flows EP, available digitally and on blue vinyl here, where you can also hear the original version of Everything Flows.

  • Super Extra Bonus Party | Everything Flows (Cadence Weapon remix)

Speaking of Cadence Weapon, he’s here (at the Rhythm Room) on March 17 with Born Ruffians, just a few weeks after CW drops his newest long-player Afterparty Babies (Anti).

Check out the first single off Afterparty Babies, if you haven’t already.

  • Cadence Weapon | In Search of the Youth Crew

Last time Cadence Weapon was here, he was rockin’ a Charles Barkley Suns jersey circa 1993. Looks like he’s gonna have to get a Shaquille O’Neal jersey now. I mean, WTF? I’m not sure this is a good idea for the Suns.

“The Bears are who we thought they were”

This is totally random and weekend-type material, but the guys at work and I have been getting a lot of mileage out of Dennis Green’s postgame tirade after the Cardinals’ epic meltdown on Monday night against the Bears. Quick recap: Cardinals up 23-3 in the second half. Bears win 24-23. Green goes bonkers in a brief postgame news conference. “Now, if you wanna crown ‘em, then crown their ass!” Priceless. I ripped the audio into an mp3. You know, in case anyone wants to make a remix out of this … anyone? Or maybe you just always wanted Denny Green on your iPod.

[mp3] Dennis Green | “Crown Their Ass”

Spoon: “I Turn My Camera On” (demo)

I swear sometimes when I go to record stores, I don’t find vinyl … it finds me. I’ve had pretty decent luck lately – or it just could be that I scour the same few shops so often that something is always bound to turn up.

Either way, it’s always great when a little labor pays off. Turning up a worthwhile 45 or LP after slogging through piles of dusty stacks makes the work worth the trouble. It’s even better when it’s 99 cents, like this Spoon I Turn My Camera On 7″ I found at the Zia in Tempe.

The A-side is the album version of the song; the B-side is a stripped-down demo. (I suppose that’s repetitive.) The demo, sans drums, is great because you can really get a feel for the origin of the song – how the rhythms develop, how the bass sounds, where the drums eventually will fit. Better yet, Britt Daniel and Co. rock a xylophone in the demo shot.

And don’t worry: A little analog static is on me.

Spoon | I Turn My Camera On (demo)

About that punch …

I’d be remiss if I didn’t add my two cents on the Cubs-White Sox scuffle from the weekend.

Quick recap: White Sox base runner A.J. Pierzynski bowls over Cubs catcher Michael Barrett on a (perfectly legal) play at the plate on Saturday. Pierzynski is safe and slaps the plate with his hand for good measure. He walks by Barrett, presumably to pick up his helmet, when Barrett grabs him and reportedly says, “I didn’t have the ball, bitch” – in other words, telling Pierzynski a slide into home plate would have sufficed.

Nevertheless, Barrett loses his mind and coldcocks Pierzynski pretty squarely (as detailed in the photo above) in the face. Benches empty, more punches thrown, etc.

In the aftermath, and having seen the highlights at least 40 times by now, there’s no defending Barrett in this, even as a lifelong Cubs fan. Pierzynski, tagging up from third base, never could have known Barrett didn’t have the ball – or at least wasn’t going to receive the throw by the time he was going to reach the plate.

However, I will say it was oddly cathartic (if not kind of surreal) to see it all go down. The Cubs have been underperforming this season and the frustration must be at a boiling point. Of course, that’s no excuse to throwing punches willy-nilly. Barrett deserves whatever suspension is coming his way. But damn, that was exhilarating. If it jump-starts the Cubs to some semblance of a winning streak, then maybe Barrett knew what he was doing.

It should be noted that Pierzynski is not very well-liked among some of his peers. Sporlitics has a rundown of why more than a few people probably took a little joy out of Barrett’s knuckle sandwich (via Deadspin).

Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins on KCRW, Part II

Thanks to everyone who commented on my mini-diatribe about Jenny Lewis. I love to hear others’ thoughts; for a while, I thought I might be the only one who didn’t particularly care for her too much. I’m trying to reconcile in my own head why I’m posting on someone whose music I’m merely midly interested in. Hmmmm …

Alas, here’s the second half of her KCRW performance. It includes a new song, which I’ve cleverly titled “New song.”

Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins, on KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic, 3/10/06:

6. New song
7. Rise Up With Fists
(I don’t believe in using more than one exclamation point, in case you were wondering.)
8. Born Secular
9. Cold Jordan
(I really like this rendition of a traditional song.)
10. It Wasn’t Me

Also …

I’m giving everyone one more day to get in on the Ian Love CD giveaway. Hop to it.

Um, I love Norway. This can only happen in a dream.

My boy Josh mentioned this and I’d be remiss if I didn’t devote some space to it … How the hell did this happen?

Michael Chow/The Arizona Republic

OK, four years for $30 million is a lot of scratch, not to mention Edgerrin James is getting $15 million of that in the first year. By no means am I a Cardinals fan, even though I’ve lived in Phoenix since about 1986; I maintain loyalty to the Bears. Still, this is the Cardinals’ biggest signing since they moved here in 1988. They had a ton of space under the salary cap, but they insisted they wouldn’t shop for top-line free agents. Um, right. Boldin, Fitzgerald, James. Pretty scary. But the o-line remains in question. James may be demanding a trade in a year after he collects his $15 mil up front.

Either way, Dodge and Eric are pissed.

Also in sports, Arizona State is in the market for a new men’s basketball coach after Rob Evans was let go. Apparently, Pitt’s Jamie Dixon is No. 1 on ASU’s wish list. Golden State coach Mike Montgomery (why did he leave Stanford for the NBA again?) also is a possibility. I’ll take either.

Let me say this: ASU men struggled under Rob Evans (one NCAA appearance in eight years and only one win over hated rival UA), but the man deserves credit for graduating players and cleaning up a point-shaving scandal and the rest of Bill Frieder’s mess. By all accounts, Evans is a stand-up guy, so just the mention of Bob Huggins’ name made me queasy. Though I doubt ASU will go that route. Other possibilities: Wichita State’s Mark Turgeon and Nevada’s Mark Fox, both of whom are in the tourney this week. Lon Kruger already has dismissed rumors he would leave UNLV to come coach his son, Kevin, who will be a senior guard next season.

There. Now don’t you feel better that you’re updated on the sports scene in Arizona?

Kirby Puckett: 1960-2006

This is not the way to start a baseball season. As you’ve probably heard by now, Minnesota Twins Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett died Monday, here in Phoenix, from complications of a stroke he suffered Sunday at his home in Scottsdale, Ariz.

As to be expected, sports publications everywhere will trip over themselves to write the Definitive Obituary, which all undoubtedly will hail his baseball achievements (perhaps to exaggerated lengths as we are wont to do in the wake of someone’s passing). I was never a Twins fan, but you had to like Puckett: 12 seasons, all with the Twins (rare these days); 10-time All-Star; six-time Gold Glover; .318 career hitter; two-time world champion. Glaucoma, which caused him to lose vision in his right eye, forced him into retirement in 1996.

In all the adulation, we shouldn’t forget “The Other Kirby” (via Can’t Stop the Bleeding). Puckett’s indiscretions – accusations of sexual assault and domestic abuse, adultery – remind me why we should be leery about idolizing pro athletes and entertainers. To put these people – mere human beings like you and me – on a pedestal is to set ourselves up for disappointment. Without going into a long diatribe, I think it will be interesting to see how Puckett’s death is portrayed. Fame shouldn’t count as a free pass from scrutiny.

The message from the person sponsoring Puckett’s page on Baseball Reference is a perfect example. How do we – fans – know that Puckett was “one of the finest gentlemen ever to don a Major League uniform”? We’re idealistic as sports fans. Athletes can do no wrong. Our perspective on reality becomes skewed because sports is just a diversion; grown men playing boys games – and getting paid millions to do it. I’ve questioned my own commitment to sports and I probably always will. It always comes back to one question: Why do I care?

Don’t get me wrong: Puckett’s death is sad, to be sure. It’s odd, as I noted to Chris yesterday. I remember thinking last baseball season that it was surreal to see players I grew up watching now as managers or coaches or broadcasters. Now for one of the greats of my youth to pass away just kinda blows me away. I think of my parents’ generation, reeling off names of players, some of whom I’ve never heard, as they give you this look like, “You’ll never know what you missed.” Now I wonder: Do kids who are 10, 11 years old or even in their teens have a clue who Kirby Puckett was? Or do they think of him as just some “old-timer.”

So maybe more than anything, Puckett’s death represents (to me) a mark in time, a passing of generations. The stories you read today will talk about his “pluckiness” or his “love of the game” or his “bubbly” personality. But if I stop and think about it, Kirby just represents a time for me of collecting baseball cards (never in the bicycle spokes, though), playing Little League and being a kid. It’s not exactly analogous to Paul Simon’s longing for Joe DiMaggio/youthful innocence. But I can better understand what Simon was trying to say.

(Our regularly scheduled program of music will continue shortly … )

Elbow b-side / Territorial Cup

Well, Chris and Dodge already set the bar high with their year-end best-of lists. So it got me thinking about mine, and there’s little doubt in my mind that Elbow’s Leaders of the Free World will end up somewhere at least in the top 10, if not in the top 5. They seem to be forgotten amid all the UK exports.

It’s a bit of misnomer to call this track a “b-side” — from a Forget Myself single — because it didn’t come off a vinyl pressing. Nevertheless, it’s a great song, with some thick guitars and a heavy drum beat. Although, if you’ve listened to Leaders, it might seem out of place; so it probably was best left on the cutting room floor.

Elbow | The Good Day

In sports news, today is the Territorial Cup, the fight for bragging rights in Arizona: Univ. of Arizona at Arizona State. I’d be more amped up about it if I actually thought my Sun Devils would win. That’s right: I’m conceding victory to UA (reverse psychology?). This year has been such a disappointment that it wouldn’t surprise me at all to top it off with a loss to the hated rivals.

A win guarantees ASU nothing more than a trip to the Insight Bowl on Dec. 27, just across the Valley in Phoenix. Needless to say, this isn’t the glamorous bowl I had in mind when ASU opened the season ranked in the top 15.

Still, the rivalry is fun and intense and maybe a little overlooked during rivalry week. Those punks from UA got our ‘A’ Mountain with red and blue paint. Both schools have an ‘A’ Mountain that is heavily guarded during the week of the game. I’ve been to games in both Tempe and Tucson, and the drinking, swearing and trash-talking is ruthless. If UA is losing, it’s a sure bet their fans will come back with this trusty line: “Wait til basketball season.”

Well, for what it’s worth, here’s an mp3 of the Maroon and Gold fight song.