Monthly Archives: August 2007

Lightning In a Bottle – by Martin Pierce

I generally don’t do theater reviews, but seeing as how this one was in Seattle, and it’s about the 2001 Seattle Mariners, and I got invited to see it, I figured I would.

The story takes place in the fictional Jet City Diner, owned by Joe, the seasoned Mariners fan, and staffed by his angry twenty-four year old son Jesse (Justin Emerick), and Sandy (Jaime Saginor), the waitress looking to launch her photography career, while serving as arbiter for the father-and-son’s disputes on life and baseball.

While the overall work equates to that of a high-A minor league baseball game, it does manage to pull off some pretty good moments.

Jesse looks at baseball through stats and numbers while he views his own life with odds-defying abandon. His perpetual joining and leaving of rock bands while not heeding the advice of his girlfriend Brie and going to school or becoming more invested in the diner creates what becomes a moment of personal growth that shapes the second half of the play.

Camille (Natalie Jones), the grad student who left New York for the UW, is the highlight of the cast — her abilities are highlighted not only by being the lone Yankee fan, but because she displays the widest range of emotions on the set. The budding romance between her and – what else – the computer programming “nerd” Zach (Martin Pierce, the play’s writer) is cute and shows some signs of earning its mettle during the 9/11 attacks, when Camille’s father and brother go missing during the collapse of the Twin Towers.

What surprised me most is that the play relied on baseball as little as it did. While a platoon corps of local radio hosts provide a narrative that recalls the Opening Day win against the A’s, the blowup against the Indians, and the run to 116 wins and the playoffs, the interaction between the story and season lack the grace of a well executed hit-and-run.

2001 was a historical year for the Mariners to say the least, and for those of us who lived through it a pretty magical one. While it certainly wasn’t ’95, it was an amazing year that sadly didn’t get captured as eloquently as it should have, given that it was marketed as a baseball-related play. Compared to Jonathan Mahler’s The Bronx is Burning, the weave between baseball and the rest of life is much looser.

While Lightning In a Bottle isn’t a big league home run, it is an enjoyable work that successfully uses the common bond of baseball to tell the story of several people’s lives. Locals will find it an easy play to like, with its jokes about the Viaduct and other Seattle-isms, while everyone will appreciate it’s charm and ability to surprise with some well timed fundamentals.

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Vote for the Moose.

A quick word from our friends at the Mascot Hall of Fame.

The 2007 Ballot for Induction has been announced, and you can go to the MHoF website to vote for your furry favorite of the six professional and six collegiate nominees.

As a Mariners fan, I highly encourage you to vote for the Mariner Moose.

Voting runs until September 6.

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Three Nights in August by Buzz Bissinger

With the playoff race heating up, this week we look at a book that came out in 2005 but is more appropriate than ever – Buzz Bissinger’s Three Nights in August.

For a team in the playoff hunt, August is when the pressure really starts to turn on. The heat of the dog days of summer offer no relief from the pressure of the teams that are competing for one of the four playoff spots in each league while days fall off the calendar. As fans we get a sense of the pressure that players and mangers face – but what if you could actually be at the center of it?

Putlizer Prize winning writer Buzz Bissinger takes you inside the storm of the playoff race by sitting you next to Tony LaRussa as he guides the St. Louis Cardinals through the 2003 season, focusing on an August series with the rival Cubs as they both race capture the NL Central crown.

This is the kind of book you want your friends and baseball buddies to read because you know it will make your appreciation for the game that much deeper and your conversations about what happens on and off the field that much better. Before I finished I felt like ordering it for the guys I play baseball with to help all of us better understand the strategy and thought process that occurs in the mind of one baseball’s greatest managers.

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A Great Day in Cooperstown by Jim Reisler

If you’ve been to the Hall of Fame, you know what a magical place it is. Set in the small village of Cooperstown, New York, going there almost transports you back into time.

But the Hall wasn’t always there, you know.

In his new book – A Great Day In Cooperstown, Jim Reisler takes you inside the history of the baseball Hall of Fame.

It was June 12, 1939 when the game’s greatest players and throngs of fans, dignitaries and media celebrated the opening of this new building. Originally pitched as “an interesting museum with funny, old uniforms,” the Hall not only became a shrine to the game’s greats and a house for some of baseball’s most important artifacts – it became the central point for the great myth of baseball – that it was invented by a man named Abner Doubleday in a sleepy village town of Cooperstown.

If you are planning a trip to the Hall, A Great Day in Cooperstown makes a great travel companion and will make you that much more knowledgable and appreciative of the site. If you’ve already been to the Hall – it will take you back there with vivid words and photographs that chronicle it’s grand opening.

What do you think about A Great Day in Cooperstown? Join the discussion and post your comments!

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The Card – by Michael O’Keeffe and Teri Thompson

Art has the Mona Lisa – jewelry, the Hope Diamond. But in baseball cards, the Holy Grail is a 98 year old piece of cardboard, barely 2 and a half inches long and just under 2 inches wide. It’s known simply as “The Card” – a 1909 T206 Honus Wagner.

And just how valuable is it? It jsold in February for $2.35 million dollars.

The card is rich with history – but as Michael O’Keeffe and Teri Thompson explore in their new book, The Card, it’s also rife with scandal and controversy.

With doubts about authenticity and whether it’s been doctored, the card that has made some folks a lot of money and became the face of an industry has a dark side that O’Keeffe and Thompson do a thorough job exploring.

Having been an avid card collector when I was growing up – the book instantly took me back to my childhood — not just the fact that I collected cards, but the thrill of opening a new pack, the anticipation of a new series of cards coming out, and the wheeling and dealing trying to get my favorite player – Andy Van Slyke of the Pirates, or pretty much any Mariner.

It was also the beginning of the time when cards really started to be worth something. There were several card stores in my neighborhood – each filled with display cases of cards new and old and each priced with varying numbers of digits – some of which you looked at to see the price on the sticker as much as the card it was attached to.

The Card chronicles this rise of the baseball card market that erupted in the late 1980s and into the 1990s. As O’Keeffe and Thompson explain in great depth – baseball cards stopped being promotional attachments to products as they were with tobacco in the late 1800s and early 1900s, or truly collectible pieces that connected kids (and adults) to their baseball heroes. Their truly became a marketplace for cards – complete with price guides, grading and evaluating organizations, trade shows, and auctions handled by some of the country’s largest auction houses.

But like any business, there is opportunity for corruption and improprieties — and while O’Keeffe and Thompson don’t hold a smoking gun to the issues they bring light to, they do cast enough doubt on the integrity of the leaders and “authorities” of the baseball card industry that would really make you think twice about your rationale for getting into it.

I admit that I occasionally get the itch to pick up a pack of baseball cards every once in a while – but I have yet to scratch that itch. Maybe I don’t want to start a new hobby…or habit…or maybe I just want to leave that part of my life alone. I haven’t looked at my cards in a long time – although I know where they all are. Either way, after reading The Card, it reinforced my lack of desire of to get back into collecting baseball card collecting. While I wouldn’t steer a kid away from baseball cards – I would hope that they wouldn’t get into it for a perceived financial investment, but rather from a genuine interest in the game.

If you’re into baseball cards and memorabilia – you’ll appreciate this in-depth look at a complex and controversial side of the game. History, economics, and conspiracy theories converge to educate you on the collectibles business. The section on the relationship -read financial value – of the card companies and the Players Association was particularly eye-opening when you consider how lucrative it has been for both sides.

 

Overall The Card is a real gem – just like it’s namesake. Luckily for you though – there are plenty of this one to go around…and it won’t run you a seven digit number.

What do you think about The Card? Join the discussion and post your comments!

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