Monday, October 25, 2010

A-Mays-Ing Grace

Two Teams/Two Cities
The last out of a team's season happens in an instant, but lingers for days, weeks, even years for some. Admitting that your team will play no more games is difficult,  especially if your team happens to be the NY Yankees. Success does indeed breed a bitter discontent in baseball. You wonder what in the world Jeter will do with himself!

Well, Jeter has a fiance named Minka Kelly; you should not worry about him.

It happens that I have two teams in my life: the other one being the San Francisco Giants, with whom I have a long history. Here it is:

1955: My father took me to my first-ever baseball game by subway to the Polo Grounds (right) to see the NY Giants play the Milwaukee Braves. It took me decades to figure out why he chose the Giants over the Yankees or Dodgers. He didn't.  He had been a Boston Braves fan until 1953, when the team had moved west. He went to see his team.

I instantly fell in love with the Giants, based on aesthetics as much as anything else: the orange and black team colors, the way they looked on the off-white Jerseys, the old stadium itself. My father bought me a baseball signed by all of the Giants, 1954 World Champs: Willie Mays, Johnny Antonelli, Dusty Rhodes, etc.

Sadly, I no longer have that ball, but I have the memory of that ball and that day. I'm eternally grateful to my father for taking me, even though the team-bond I formed has caused some heartache over the years

The Giants could not win another World Series in the next 56 years , and I have wondered more than once, if my attendance was far more meaningful to them in some catastrophic way, than it was to me. Perhaps 2010 will be different.

1962: The Giants left New York after the '57 season along with some other team whose name I forget. I use to listen to the distant games on my radio, a huge wooden thing with tubes that created more warmth than the radiator in my bedroom. Russ Hodges announced the games played at Seals' Stadium (left), the Giants temporary home.

I naturally assumed that Hodges was at the games, but he was in a NY studio reading a ticker-tape, while a sound technician created the crowd noises and the crack of the bat. Hodges was famous for once having to invent the game action for about 17 minutes,  when the ticker malfunctioned one day. He was so good, his fake game would surpass most of what passes for announcing of real games today.

I remember exactly where I was in October '62 for the 7th Game at Candlestick against the Yanks: Bobby McDonald's house (Forest hills Gardens NY), where we played basketball most afternoons. Willie McCovey (right) stepped to the plate at Candlestick in the bottom of the 9th, two-out, two-on, score 1-0 Yanks. He hit what he later called "the hardest ball of my life" into Bobby Richardson's glove at 2nd. Series over.

Talk about lingering! That ball is still headed into right field for a 3-1 win in my heart, if not my mind.

1976: That season, I lived in San Francisco near Alamo Square. I attended what was supposed to be a rare Candlestick double-header with the Mets. It turned out to be about six different games after factoring in the weather over 8 hours: bright sunshine, cool evening breeze, fog from the Bay, and finally finger-numbing cold. San Francisco summer at its best, and worst.

1989: Yes, we waited 27 years for another chance, against the cross-Bay rival Oakland (Phil/KC) Athletics, who quickly took the opening two games at their undistinguished  home field. On Oct. 17, I rushed home from work to see the 3rd game only to have my wife, the DG,  meet me at the door (naturally, at 54 Highland Road) to tell me about the huge earthquake hitting the Bay area at that very moment.

It took 10 days to finally play that game, but the Giants, their fans, and their city were not thinking about baseball, and they quickly lost both games at Candlestick.

2001: I purchased a ticket for a seat right behind home plate, before flying out to attend a business meeting on the peninsula. I took the train right to the new Pac-Bell Stadium (now AT&T). The Gilroy Garlic Fries' concession was located directly behind home; the catcher, batter, umpire and fans smelled those fries for the entire game: probably everyone in the whole place did.  Yes, I did have them, and they were real and they were great: so great, in fact, I don't remember the score or care.

2002: Hanging on the chair beside my right shoulder is a 2002 World Series commemorative Giants cap. Honestly, I do not have too much to say about 2002, when the Giants were ahead in games 3-2 and  5-0  against yet another California team, the Angels, in Game 6.

They lost the game and the Series.

I had mixed feelings about those Barry Bonds' Giants. Enough has been said and written about Bonds; he is a polarizing player. I can only say that, if we have to make a choice between an egotistical cheater and a system of eternal Grand Juries, which can hound and torment any citizen for as long as they please, while leaking information at will, I'll take that flawed individual every time. The season for that court case never ends.

2010: Any team needing to win one game out of two, going into Philadelphia, no matter what the sport, is up against history and the culture of a city with THE most rabid fans anywhere. But, the Giants did it, taking the NLCS game-six 3-2. I had to listen to the games on radio again, due to a little boy executive spat between Fox and Cablevision. Even those dim-wits can't ruin baseball.

I remain calm, loyal and will be at peace, no matter what happens in the Series against the Rangers

My father bought four tickets that changed my life. He took me to that Giants' game and he took me to my first tennis match at Forest Hills. Both decisions have made a richer life. I still have a young boy's enthusiasm for his team, do or die, and I enjoy my tennis games more than ever.  The artistry and the small details of the games still appeal to me as much as the outcomes; grown men competing and at play.

I do not know what Cubs' and Indians' fans do to keep their hopes alive. Those are the only two teams who have waited longer to win a Series than the Giants. I do know that Giants' fans sustain themselves by treating a few wonderful seconds which occurred in 1951 (Bobby Thomson's homer) and 1954 (Mays's Catch, left) as if they too are still happening, a kind of A-Mays-ing Grace.

That's a pretty good thing to have, but maybe one win every 56 years would not hurt either.

© 2010 TWMcDermott

Ed Note: We dedicate this piece to the memory of our great friend, teammate, and opponent, Kurt Sanger,  and to Bradley White. Kurt and I used to gather every "little kid"in the neighborhood and play baseball against them: just the two of us. He died in 1989 just outside Candlestick Park. Bradley and I specialized in stoop-ball and our own invention "cup-ball," for which we crumpled up a wax-paper cup ball and used a piece of fencing for a bat. We each made up all players' names. This game was brilliantly played underneath beach cabanas. Bradley's family moved to SFO in the Fifties.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Gene Meyer's Ties: Dot Calm World


It is time to do something about our neglect of the necktie.

Some people may lament the current state of our political, financial, and educational worlds, but I find the lack of respect for ties equally alarming.

Many blame the tie's demise on the rise of the dot-com world and the casual look. Whatever the cause, I prefer the dot calm world of Gene Meyer's neckties above all others.

I draw your particular attention to the green tie with the large blue dot, second from the left. Despite the fact that green can be a very difficult color to blend, I wear this tie as often as any other: to parties with a navy blazer, or in summer with a tan poplin suit. It has never failed to get positive comments from people, no matter how many times I've worn it. People always seem to think it's "of the moment," even though it's at least ten years old.

Gene Meyer made this tie and the other ones in the photo as well. My wife, the DG (Darling Girl), and I discovered his work while we were in Milan in 1995. This was back in the days before I had become a blogging tycoon; I was an informal client-advisor to the best hotel company in the world. That company had just hit the jackpot by buying another hotel company and landing two gems, one on Fifty-Seventh Street in NYC and the other in Milan.

Lucky us: I had to make sure the hotel was fit for ultra-sensitive editors, photographers and their models. I assure you that it was.

I cannot provide a photo of that first tie, because it is hiding somewhere* (certain daughters like to borrow brightly colored ties to wear as belts; I 'll need to check on that); however, here is the tin from the shop, Nationali Cravaterie. I recall immediately liking Meyer's signature polka-dot linings.

The two ties shown in the top photo, on the left, were constructed with a vertical weave in the silk which gives them a smoother feel than diagonally woven ties. It also encourages stretching, but not so much as would happen with a knitted tie. Still, it's best to keep this type of design wound inside a round tin or wooden box.

Meyer used a different, fuller weave for the ties to the right here, which gives them a kind of spring to the touch. Also, they are more formal. I wear the silver/blue/green one at parties and celebrations, especially at holiday time, when the circles are sometimes taken for ornaments. The blue one is more appropriate for business.

Some of you may have seen Meyer's work and not known, at the restaurant Le Cirque in New York or its more modestly-priced cousin, Circo, across town. The waiters at both places wore Meyer ties in various circle designs. Perhaps they still do so, despite the fact that Meyer, apparently, has stopped designing ties altogether.

Reportedly Mr. Meyer is designing and selling carpets and rugs now in Florida. We wish him great success in this endeavor. In fact, we wish that he is so successful at it and makes so many great carpets and rugs that he wakes up one morning with a sudden urge to make ties again, a lot of ties, with dot linings.

The RareBurgher world will be waiting for them.

*Ed Note: Readers might have taken note that losing items of clothing is a recurring theme here. My DG has become used to hearing laments about who has taken this or where that could have gone when I placed it right there only three years ago. Experience says that the tie in question will turn up in a suitcase, inside a jacket pocket, or hanging in a  garment bag in the attic. We will keep you updated.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Beauty, But First, Some Beasts

1. Tangled up in boos: Some days, we just leave the music at home, because we can't deal with the tangle. Even when we put away the plug cords carefully after use, they are tangled by morning. This happens to you as well, we know, but you were afraid to tell anyone. It's okay: no worse really than having your socks always come out of the dryer inside-out.

Rejoice. According to Fast Company, you can find a tangle free cord at:

2. Wasteful Receipts: We received the paper receipt shown on the right as a booby-prize from CVS. As you can see, it's more than a yard of wasted paper. We got this receipt/coupon for buying a single newspaper! They give you these wads of paper every time, no matter what you buy. The cashier tried to give me a plastic bag to go with it! For a newspaper. That happens all the time too and most of them wind up attached to our nearby fence.

We suggest that the cashier should only release  plastic bags after patrons beg, and that they should ditch their idiotic coupon receipt policy in favor of the trees.

3. Thom Browne's School Daze: A few years back, a famous Fashion Editor, whom we will refer to as She Who Must Be Obeyed*, suggested to her friends who run Brooks Brothers that they attach themselves to the designer, Thom Browne. He did some very nice things there with his Black Fleece line; in fact, we wore one of his oxford cloth shirts today. Unfortunately, he has not had any positive influence on the rest of the store, which is the JCrew That Couldn't.

We mention this here, because Mr. Browne also started a trend, which we refer to as the Pee Wee Herman look. It tries to make men into boys.

Let's be very clear: when men put on boys' clothing or boys' sizes, they look ridiculous, and we don't care who you are, where you work, or how your parents treated you when your were a wee thing.

Pant-legs to the ankle, shorty-short suitcoats, and sleeves halfway to your elbows are unattractive, look like "costumes," and RareBurghers would never wear them. Period. In fact, we're mildly embarrassed to even mention it.

4. Found these on a single day within a hundred yards of each other. Don't do this to yourself. Please.

5. Spill Great After All These Years: We have been to the Abstract Expressionist show at MOMA twice already, and may go again. Here's a piece of a Pollock we saw today:

And, here's another picture....same day....

                     ....Soho sidewalk, Prince St., near Lafayette.

We mean no disrespect to Mr. Pollock, whose art we admire; we just wanted to point out that a RareBurgher notices life's details.

6. Perfection: And we leave you on a high note: Rothko. No.14 (Horizontals, White over Darks 1961)

* Ed Note: aficionados of John Mortimer's Rumpole series will recognize that we have borrowed this title, which Rumpole reserves for his spouse. The Fashion Editor in question might also be called She Who Must Be Okayed. Anyway, as with Pollock, we mean no offense. We like her; she has really good taste and Browne's more eccentric style cannot be blamed on her.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Greatest Game IV: Saving The Game For The Fans

The regular baseball season came to a close Sunday with exciting and/or excruciating Division and Wild Card races decided by a few outs. The SF Giants were deservedly triumphant (Disclosure: we love them), having been derided in most pre-season projections, while the Yankees were truly embarrassed in Boston, the scene of some of their major triumphs and embarrassments of the past. The Mets were just the Mets.

The Yanks' players and management are low-keying their losses to the Red Sox in the last two games, but, upstairs, George's offspring and GM Cashman must be fuming over how Boston manhandled their team. David Ortiz slighted them and then laughed about it, bunting for a hit with nobody on base and with a lead. When "Big Papi" bunts his way on base, then chuckles about it, and the next pitch doesn't send the Red Sox batter sprawling, that's embarrassing, folks. People named Thurman and Catfish are spinning.

You can be sure that the Minnesotans were watching and understanding what Joe G and the Yankee players apparently did not: The Bombers looked like tired Boomers. We see the possibility of a  long winter ahead and, if the Yankees do not make the Series, perhaps many new opportunities for Michigan Avenue shopping trips in the Girardi family's future.

MLB announced its attendance results as the season passed into the playoffs: down 1%. While that might not sound so bad, and MLB will surely put on a good face, it's bad. We still think that baseball is superior in every way to football and basketball, to name two spectator sports. With that in mind, we offer up our suggestions for spectator/audience improvements:

1. Enforce the Rule Book strike zone as written and discipline home plate umpires to follow it more closely than they currently do. Each night, pitchers, catchers, batters, managers, announcers and fans struggle to figure out where the strike zone is. Why? Each umpire gets to make it up as he goes along, every night, sometimes every inning or every batter. Take back the game from the home plate umpires.

2. There is no need for the batter to leave his box after every single pitch. There should be no need for pitching coaches and catchers to go to the mound so often. Umpires (again) here is where you can help; keep batters batting, keep pitchers pitching.

3. Put an end to the awful, obnoxious and loud music at games and inane chatter in the booths. Nobody needs this "music," nobody likes it. The only exception is Enter Sandman, Mariano's intro. Baseball, like love,  is actually better with the silences in between the action. Also, in the announcing booths, especially Fox and ESPN, it is okay to have more than 3 seconds in which nobody is talking. Tell your Directors and Producers to take a hike; your skills are enhanced by talking less and describing better, when you do. Announcers who use the word "unbelievable" should be heavily penalized, for example. Your only reason for being there is to make what happens on the field believable to the audience, especially the radio audience.

4. The best idea that the game's founders had, perhaps any game's founders have had, is the Home Run. Imagine the brilliance of making an out of bounds play the most exciting part of the game! MLB has tried to manufacture HR's by juicing the ball, looking the other way when players juiced themselves, and juicing the bats among other silly ideas. How about just making some of those mammoth outfields smaller? What were those Mets' owners thinking, when they built homer-stingy Citi (1.35 per game), while their crosstown betters found a subtle way to create even more HR's in their new palace? Fans love Home Runs: some more homers and fewer walks, please.

5.  Shorten the season. Go back to the 154-game regular season schedule, or even less. Absolutely get rid of November games. 

Bonus Suggestion: The term "Relief Pitcher" is supposed to mean that a pitcher enters the game to relieve the pitcher on the mound. Actually, the one who is relieved is more often the batter. Some teams have truly great "closers," relievers like Mariano Rivera of the Yankees who are very good at what they do, but that is the exception. The great majority of "relievers" are, in fact, really minor league pitchers who were not good enough to be starters in the majors. That call to the bullpen, which now too often comes in the 5th inning (starters are exhausted from searching for the strike zone) is a long distance call: Scranton, Pawtucket, Wichita. Get the Minors out of the Majors, or drastically reduce ticket and weenie prices.

Oh yes, one more style issue: ditch those ridiculous dark colored jerseys, which only look like softball uniforms.

Ed Note: For those of you who believe that baseball is an important component of American life and style like us, we refer you to our previous Greatest Game posts from August 2009 (link, above right), in which we expand on some of these themes. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Good, The Very Bad, The Ugly, And The Truly Wonderful

1.Sensitivity, Rhymes with Nativity
Earlier this week, in the hardware store, we saw the outdoor grill section being prepared for....Christmas lights. In September. This morning, upstairs in Costco, we saw tall rows of various Christmas/Holiday decorations and wrapping. October 1.
Must we do this? No. It is insulting and totally disrespectful to the various reasons for our celebrations. A RareBurgher would never buy this stuff now, and we would tell the manager to put it away. Retailers need the holidays more than ever, in order to reach their targets and pay the rents, but the best do it sensibly and with sensitivity.

2. October Classic
Major League Baseball, which may be a misnomer of major proportions, has scheduled the possible seventh game of the 2010 World Series for November 4. We worry about a lot of things beyond our control these days, but you might think that the geniuses who rule baseball just might be able to protect one single sacrosanct part of the game: October. Apparently, they cannot.
As it happens, we were present at the first November Series game in history in 2001 at The Stadium. Tino had homered to send it into extra innings and an extra month in that sad and unusual fall. We thought, at the time, that it would not be repeated ever again for many reasons. Jeter won the game with this swing. The world is an infinitely better place without November baseball.

3. Alls Wellies that Ends In Wellies
The northeast was hit with heavy rains and high winds this week, causing flooding, downed-trees, power outages and other inconveniences. But there was one wonderful thing about all of this wetness:
Women all around town in their Wellies! We bumped into a friend of ours in the grocery store this week and watched her leaving in her jeans, Wellies and Barbour. And, yes, she did get into her Land Rover, and, no, we did not think it looked like an "advert." We think she and all the girls looked great in every color, even pink, but we love the classic olive best. Wellies and rain are like baseball in October and Christmas at, well, Christmas time! Perfect.

4. Miracles Do Happen Even On TV
For many years TV audiences have been putting up with commercials that were many decibels louder than the regular shows, causing them to have to leave their own living rooms or reach for the remotes. Now, the Senate, yes that would be the mind-numbingly inept pre-Mid Term Election Senate of the US of A, is going to seek legislation to force TV stations to reduce the volume, according to the NY Post:

Could it be that we can all finally agree on something that is universally good for the country, good for Congress, good for your audio-health, which costs nothing and will make you feel much better? Please, let's not blow this opportunity; if we can do this, we really can do anything....


5. The Sartorialist
When we needed a photo to illustrate our "Wellies" report this week, we turned to our friends at The Sartorialist to see if they had any in stock. We had to go to press before they responded, but it reminded us of just what a great resource Glenn's photos can be for those who care about style:

Want to start the day with a smile on your face? Bookmark The Sartorialist, if you have not already done so. Here's a peek:

You're welcome.

Ed Note: What we've been reading/viewing/listening to:
-The Oslo detective novels of K.O.Dahl.... Superior.
- Clutch by Paul Sullivan
- The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell
    ....the Dutch in Japan, 1800, odd, but worth the effort.
- Prime Suspect 1&2, Netflix
- Lost In Translation, Netflix
- A Day In The Life, Jeff Beck live: