December 2008

October 3, 1959

Check this out…it’s a photo that I found in an old book at my family’s store. It was taken by Ray Gora and ran in the Chicago Tribune on October 3, 1959:

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IRELAND — Day 4

Jona and I spent the last full day of our trip at the cliffs on the eastern coast of Ireland:

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The area (called Howth…rhymes with “both”) was so pretty that I’m gonna let the next 10 photos do the talking, although I will say quickly that the water you’re looking at is the Irish Sea:

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Toward the end of our trek, I sat on the edge of a cliff:

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Jona came over and joined me (her cousin Shane took the following photo) and we cheated death together:

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It really was a long way down. Here’s what it looked like from where we were sitting. The red arrow (to provide some perspective) is pointing to a person who somehow found a way to climb down there:

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It actually wasn’t that scary. But you know what is? Standing on the edge of the subway platform at 59th and Lexington during rush hour. Now THAT is something to think twice about.

Back in the adjacent village, the first few houses we passed were all spectacular:

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It was already dark at 5pm when Shane took us into a pub to get hydrated and warm. He and Jona are sitting in the corner in the photo below:

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Then we got a “take-away” order of fish and chips at this place…

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…and walked to the edge of the village…

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…where Seamus (Shane’s father) picked us up and drove us home.

In Ireland, there are all sorts of funny words for things…like, for example, the trunk of a car is called the “boot” and bathrooms are casually referred to as “toilets.” When it comes to food, chips are called “crisps” while french fries are inexplicably known as “chips.” That said, here’s what my fish (smoked cod) and “chips” looked like (after they were reheated and dumped on a plate):

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We finished off the meal with a few mince pies:

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After dinner, we watched several hilarious episodes of “Little Britain USA” and Jona spoke to one of her newly discovered half-brothers on the phone for the very first time.

IRELAND — Day 3

Day 3 of our trip was Christmas, aka “Rickey Henderson’s birthday” to those whose religion is baseball. (More on baseball in a bit.) There wasn’t anything to do in Dublin. Everything was closed. So Jona and I hung around the house all afternoon with her aunt and uncles and cousins and their kids (a few of whom aren’t pictured below):

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During the last hour of daylight, we walked over to Dublin Bay (less than half a kilometer away) and took a long, leisurely stroll along the promenade. The tide was way out, so it wasn’t as pretty as it normally is, but I still got a couple nice photos. Here’s the first…

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…and here I am with Jona (and her pink mohawk hat) in the second:

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Aww.

Back at the house, we ate a traditional Irish Christmas dinner:

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That’s right. We had turkey with gravy, mashed and roasted potatoes (or “spuds” as they’re called here), cranberry sauce, and stuffing. There were also a few vegetables that I avoided.

After dinner, Jona and I played a game of Scrabble (on a mini-travel set that we’d packed for the flight). We all watched a lot of TV, and Jona and I fell in love with a comedy duo that’s insanely popular here in the UK. It’s called “Little Britain.” Check them out on YouTube.)

That was pretty much it. Slow day. But I have a few baseball things to report.

Seamus (Jona’s aunt’s husband, whose name, as I mentioned in my Day 1 entry, is pronounced “SHAY-muss”) surprised me with his interest in baseball. Not only does he own The Ultimate Baseball Book

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…as well as three major league caps and a 1986 Mets mug…

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…but he’s related to a Hall of Famer; his great-grandfather was married to Ed Delahanty‘s aunt!

By the way, Seamus and his wife Joan had a funny exchange when he first put on the Sox cap. She thought it was perched too high up on his forehead, so she told him to “bring down the peak.”

“Don’t tell me how to wear me bloody cap!” he barked with a smile, then turned to me and said, “She’s a terrible woman.”

Seamus really DOES like the Mariners and reminisced about the days when Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., and Randy Johnson all played together on the team. Seamus gets a good amount of MLB games (and news) through his standard cable TV package, and he makes a point of watching the World Series every year. (He doesn’t understand why it’s called the “World” series when it only involves teams from North America.) His favorite player nowadays is Ichiro Suzuki, and he described a defensive play he once saw in which Ichiro “threw the ball nearly all the way to home base from the boundary.”

I’ve been keeping up with MLB news since I got here. First it was Teixiera, and now it’s…

GUSTAVO WATCH, PART 17

jinxed_from_ireland.jpgYou remember the sad story of Gustavo Chacin, right? To sum it up quickly:

1) He stole a baseball from me on 8/1/06 at Yankee Stadium.
2) I put the Hample Jinx on him as punishment.
3) His career went down the tubes as a result.

The latest Gustavo news is proof that the Jinx is always with him, even during the off-season when I’m an ocean away and distracted by other things. Just within the last few days, he was signed to a minor league (Ha!) contract by the worst team in baseball. That would be the Washington Nationals. Chacin has become such an inconsequential scrub that the move didn’t even make front page news on MLB.com.

  • Posted on December 26, 2008 at 7:02 am
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  • IRELAND — Day 2

    The day began with a traditional Irish breakfast:

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    Just had to get that in.

    Now…
    One of the strangest things about Ireland (which I realize isn’t strange to the people who live here) is that steering wheels are on the wrong (right) side of cars and cars drive on the wrong (left) side of the road. Here’s a photo of Seamus in his car…

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    …and here’s a photo taken from the road:

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    Freaky, no?

    Jona and I spent the late morning and early afternoon wandering around Dublin with Shane. (If you don’t who Shane is, or who Seamus is, read my Day 1 entry.) We got a good look at the famous spire

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    …and explored cobblestone streets…

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    …and checked out Dublin Castle (left to right: Shane, Jona, Zack):

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    We walked through several shopping districts and malls. My favorite (because of all the old books) was George’s Street Arcade:

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    Dublin is a beautiful city of temptation:

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    Grafton Street was packed with last-minute Christmas shoppers:

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    Shane led us away from the mayhem and into a quiet park called St. Stephen’s Green:

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    Then Shane and Jona grabbed lunch at a small restaurant, and even though I wasn’t hungry, I still ate because Shane said there probably wouldn’t be food at our next destination. So, what did I eat? Just a small, light meal–a cheese/bacon/potato “cake” with pasta and potato salad…and a vanilla/pear scone with butter:

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    (I can’t seem to figure out why I always gain weight when I travel.)

    Next stop: Jona’s aunt Marion’s house, located in the countryside 16 miles from Dublin. Jona had met Marion (her father’s sister) only once in her life, decades earlier, and didn’t remember her; this was the first t
    ime that Jona was meeting Marion’s husband and their two 20-something-year-old kids–her first cousins.

    The house itself was, to put it simply, other-worldly. Built in the year 1700 on an ancient burial ground, it’s believed to be haunted and known to be over 6,000 square feet. (That’s a VERY conservative estimate. I’ve never been in a bigger house.) There were more than 30 rooms. No one in the family had an exact count; they’ve only been living there a few months. And that’s not all. The house is surrounded by 20 acres, on which one can find a tennis court, an apple orchard, half a dozen (empty) horse stables, and a 4,000-foot castle (complete with a spiral/stone staircase) that was built in 1579. I’m telling you, the whole thing was straight out of a movie.

    It was already dark when we arrived, so here’s the best photograph I got of the castle:

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    Here’s what it looked like on the way to the stables…

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    …and here’s a collage of just a FEW rooms and staircases in the house:

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    It was the sickest thing I’ve ever seen. The collage above doesn’t even begin to do it justice. There were staircases that led to other staircases, hallways that led to hallways, walk-in closets the size of New York City studios, dens, studies, master bedrooms, guest rooms, a game room, a reading room, a laundry room, and a gigantic (now unused) “servants quarters” in the basement. I wanted to play hide-and-go-seek but a) there wasn’t time and b) I would’ve been too scared to be alone. Yes, most of the house was cozy and tastefully furnished, but still. It was so big that at one point, Marion’s husband (Jimmy) couldn’t find his son (Colum) so he pulled out his cell phone and called him.

    There was also an enormous eat-in kitchen, where Jona and Shane and I were served tea, followed by a chicken-and-vegetable-curry over rice…

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    …followed by an English dessert called trifle (with extraordinarily fresh whipped cream)…

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    …which was accompanied by a spicy/rich fruit cake (which I neglected to photograph) with more whipped cream. I was still stuffed from my unneeded lunch, but what was I supposed to do? I didn’t want to offend the hosts or the ghosts, so I ate.

    Jona’s parents separated when she was a newborn. Jona only met her father once after that, several years later, during a brief trip to Ireland, and he died of a massive/unexpected heart attack several years after that. Jona, as you might imagine, has almost no recollection of him so she’s been piecing together his mysterious past through a combination of his siblings’ stories and old photographs and his artwork. He was a painter–quite a successful one, evidently–and several of his pieces were scattered around the house. In the four-part photo below, you can see a portrait that a fellow artist painted of him along with three of his own pieces:

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    By 8pm it was time to move on to the NEXT destination. Marion, who insisted that Jona (and I) return in the summer, drove us all to the home of her brother Ciaran (pronounced “KEER-on”).

    In case you’re losing track of the family tree…Marion is Jona’s aunt…which means Ciaran is Jona’s uncle. Jona had never met him (or his wife Mary) before. So, in we went, for a couple hours of schmoozing.

    In the four-part photo below, starting on the top left and going clockwise, you’re looking at a) everyone sitting around in the living room, b) Jona in between Ciaran and another of her father’s paintings, c) Shane, Ciaran, Jona, me, and Mary, d) Jona being shown photographs of cousins and uncles and aunts and half-siblings that she’s never met:

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    At around 10pm, Marion drove us back to Dublin. It was Christmas eve. The streets were dead:

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    Seamus picked us up (to save us the 25-euro taxi ride) and drove us home. (On the wrong side of the road.)

    IRELAND — Day 1

    That’s right. I’m in Ireland. No baseball here. Sorry to disappoint. Why Ireland? Because my girlfriend Jona recently discovered that she has family here, and they’ve paid our way to come visit. It’s a long story, one that I won’t get into here (in part because it’s kind of personal), so I’ll just say that a few weeks ago Jona got an unexpected phone call from a distant aunt in Ireland and learned that she has two half-brothers and a half-sister from her late father’s second marriage. (Crazy, no?) So we’re here, staying with the aunt (Joan) and her husband (Seamus…pronounced “SHAY-muss”) approximately seven miles from the heart of Dublin. This is first time I’ve been to Ireland; Jona was here once before, a few decades ago, and doesn’t remember much.

    That’s the background.

    As for the trip itself, we flew out of Newark Airport at 7pm on Monday, December 22nd. Because of the time change–five hours later in Ireland–it was 7am the next morning when we landed. Joan and Seamus picked us up at the airport and drove us back to their place. Jona and I had a quick bite, then took a four-hour nap, then hung around the house, and finally headed out with Joan. It was 4pm, and it was already starting to get dark when I took the following photo of the house from across the street:

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    We got on a double-decker bus, rode into Dublin, and started walking:

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    Joan dropped us off at Trinity College where Jona met her uncle William for the first time ever. (William and her father were brothers.) He took us to Bewley’s Cafe–a spot where Jona’s father used to hang out–and filled her in some of the family’s history, including the fact that her father had another son…with an Indian woman…which meant Jona has a THIRD half-brother!

    William then took us to The Dawson Lounge (which bills itself as “Possibly the smallest pub in the world”) and walked us past the mayor’s house…

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    …and dropped us off in a bustling shopping district. Jona and I wandered into shops and malls…

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    …and then met up with her first cousin Shane (Joan’s son) whom she’d only met twice before. Shane treated us to drinks at another well-known pub called Kehoe’s. Here I am with Jona out in front:

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    Then we took a taxi home. It’s now 1:30am here. Jona just learned she has a fourth half-brother (named Jonah!) who was put up for adoption as a baby and is now believed to be living in America. (I just learned the Yankees got Teixiera. Ugh!) We’re exhausted, mentally and physically, and we have a big day tomorrow, although I’m not yet sure what it consists of. Our whole trip is gonna be less than a week. I’ll try to blog again tomorrow…

    At home, at work…

    Snowy day in New York City. Here I am, at home, doing some non-baseball work for the Argosy Book Store:

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    If it stops snowing (and if I get my new passport) by Monday, I’ll be heading off with the G.F. on a little trip…

    Two books you should read

    Last week I finished a book called A Few Seconds of Panic. Now I’m in the process of reading The Bad Guys Won. They’re both awesome, and I highly recommend them.

    The first was written by Stefan Fatsis, a 43-year-old sportswriter who somehow convinced the Denver Broncos to let him suit up and participate in training camp. I don’t even like football, but I a_few_seconds_of_panic.jpg
    loved this book because a) it’s about people, b) it provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at a world that I never would’ve gotten to see or even imagine, c) it’s funny as hell, d) the writing is excellent, e) it made me appreciate and loathe football all at once, and f) there’s lots of R-rated language (as you might expect from athletes). If you want to see what life is like in the NFL, you must the_bad_guys_won.jpg
    read this book. (In case you’re wondering why I read a book about football, it’s because I know Stefan from the Scrabble world. He’s the guy who wrote Word Freak, which I also recommend).

    The other book was written by Jeff Pearlman (the writer who exposed John Rocker in Sports Illustrated) and it’s about the 1986 New York Mets. I’m only 30-something pages in, but I’m already in love. I was nine years old when the Mets won the World Series, so I grew up worshiping Doc and Darryl and Keith and Mookie and Lenny and Wally and all those guys. I had no idea how much crazy/racy stuff they did off the field. It’s hilarious and eye-opening, to say the least. It’s like “Animal House” combined with my childhood heroes. So yeah, check out this book too if you get a chance.

    What are YOUR favorite sports/baseball books?

    Business card wallpaper

    I posted a new video on YouTube. It’s less than three minutes. It has nothing to do with baseball (but has lots to do with collecting). Check it out…

    Latest media news…

    Three things…

    1) Watch With Zack got a plug today from the Wall Street Journal, and you can read it here.

    2) I was interviewed yesterday by a guy at ESPN the Magazine for a story on fan interference. I have no idea when it’s coming out, so be on the lookout, and if I hear anything, I’ll let you know.

    3) The folks at BetterBaking.com (Ha!) just reviewed Watching Baseball Smarter. Here’s what they had to say.

    In other news, I plan to post another blog entry tomorrow with a brand new YouTube video. It has nothing to do with baseball. I just filmed it a couple hours ago inside my apartment. Nothing crazy. Just something a little different and hopefully interesting…so get ready for that.

    Facebook

    No, I still haven’t joined Facebook, but it was just brought to my attention that I have a fan club on it. Check it out:

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    BTW, in case you’re wondering, I have several reasons for not joining Facebook:

    1) I don’t feel the need to be on there. If any old friends (or future friends) want to get in touch, they can google me. I’m not hard to find. I have my own web site. I have this blog. I’m also on MySpace.

    2) Speaking of MySpace, I was the last person to join that site, and before that I was the last person to join Friendster. I’d poured my guts into my (now-deleted) Friendster profile. I updated it constantly, and I wrote amazing testimonials for all my friends, and then one day, everyone was like, “Friendster sucks. It’s all about MySpace.” And I was like, “Your what?” And they were like, “MySpace, retard.” And I was like, “I’m perfectly content being on Friendster, and I’ve spent all this time and effort maintaining my profile there, so whatever, you go have fun with your little MySpace friends.” But then of course it actually became embarrassing to be on Friendster, so I had no choice but to join MySpace. Then one day, when all seemed right with the world, people started telling me, “MySpace is for losers. You gotta be on Facebook, Son,” and I was like, “Ha, I’m not falling for this again.” So I’m holding out. I refuse to transfer my entire e-social existence to another networking site. There’s nothing wrong with MySpace. And besides, one of the coolest guys I know is still on there. Remember Brandon, the guy who helped me build the pyramid of baseballs? He’s in his mid-20′s (which is the coolest age to be) and lives in California (which is basically the coolest place to live) and he’s the videographer for the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus (which is the coolest job in the world), so yeah, if Brandon (who’s so cool that he makes me feel less cool) is on MySpace, then it’s good enough for me.

    3) Facebook makes everything public. Anyone you’re friends with, I’ve been told, can “write on your wall.” I have a lot of different friends; some worlds were not meant to mix.

    4) Facebook just seems annoying. I’m obviously not one to judge (as I’ve spent the bulk of my life chasing baseballs) but I really don’t feel the need to have a virtual pet, nor did I ever feel the need to play Scrabulous. I refuse to play online Scrabble. I used to play, back in college–back when I was officially ranked as the 479th best player in North America–and people always accused me of cheating when I pulled out eight-letter words they’d never heard of. Then they’d either start cheating or they’d quit. No thanks. I don’t need Facebook to entertain me.

    5) Many of the things I get invited to are…shall we say…not really ME. I’m talking about poetry readings, art gallery openings, holiday parties, birthday parties in bars (my GOD I hate bars), housewarmings, etc. The point is, lots of invitations are now being sent exclusively through Facebook–”Didn’t you get my invite? I posted the details on Facebook…”–so the fact that I’m not on there gives me a great excuse not to show up, and I *do* need an excuse since I’m terrible at saying no.

    6) The Koobface virus. (I mean, the hits just keep coming.)

    So, no Facebook for me.

    Okay, I’m done being angry. I think I’ll go draw a rainbow and adopt a bunny.

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