June 2010

The Prince of Queens

062610.02.jpgRoyalty stepped onto the pitching mound yesterday afternoon at Citi Field.

I’m sorry to say that I was not referring to our ace pitcher, Johan Santana.  His start yesterday was not, um, imperial in the least.

I instead refer to the ceremonial first pitch before yesterday’s game which was thrown by Prince Harry of Wales.  His Royal Highness is in town for several days and yesterday was the guest of the Wilpons.  Besides having the honor of throwing out the first pitch, he also received coaching from R. A. Dickey as well as a special Mets jersey (number 22 ) with “Wales” on the back.

Hearing from friends seated near us what was going to take place prior to the game, my daughter wondered if he would appear wearing a crown.  My husband and I laughed at that thought.  “Yes, and flowing red velvet robes.”

With my telephonto lens pointed at the dugout, I recognized his shock of red hair immediately.  I was delighted to announce to my daughter that, in fact, the Prince was going to be coming out momentarily, wearing a ratty looking Tshirt and faded grey pants!

062610.03crop.jpgI doubt any Mets fan were disappointed by any lack of fanfare or regal robes.

Far more regal than any jewel-encrusted crown was the METS HAT he had donned prior to taking the mound. 

 

Yada, Yada, Yada!

 
062310.01lr.jpgMy family and I have season tickets at Citi Field.  Not only do they afford an awesome view of the game, but they are right in front of the SNY TV booth. 

It’s always a thrill to catch a glimpse of sportscasters Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling, and Gary Cohen.  Sometimes one of them will even wave back to us during the Seventh Inning Stretch.

Tonight there was even more interest in what was going on behind us as Jerry Seinfeld was given a Father’s Day gift of joining Keith and Gary in broadcasting a portion of the game.

I was lucky enough to get this photo of Seinfeld talking to Cohen at the end of the second inning, moments before he donned his headset and began fulfilling a lifelong dream.

You can see and hear his “debut” on MLBTV.

Potato Dumpling Dumped

Cheese Chester copy.jpgWe’ve warned our children.  Teachers have cautioned students.  Heck, at the beginning of the school year, President Obama made the admonition in a nationally televised address to the nation’s school children:  be very, very careful what you choose to post on Facebook.

Apparently, one of the four “racing pierogies” of PNC Park in Pittsburgh–an imitation of the original racing sausages at Miller Park–has lost his job due to personal posts made on his Facebook Wall.

I don’t know whether this little potato dumpling just did not have enough spuds between his ears, but he unwisely wrote derogatory remarks about the team on his Facebook Wall.  The comments were seen by officials for the Pirates. 

He was subsequently fried…er, fired.

The former Pierogi will be losing minimal dough as he has already been offered a job as a hot dog for the Washington Wild Things.  

Mr. Met, you’ve been forewarned.

Hot in Cleveland

HotInCleveland copy.jpg

Hot in Baltimore, Hot on Houston Street, Hot at Home and hopefully,

Hot at Yankee Stadium!

A- VIARY Nice Sweep in Baltimore

Birdland copy.jpg“This is Birdland,” proclaimed the banners at Camden Yards, the billboards around the Inner Harbor, and graphics on the Orioles’ website.

The jazz lover in me loved the reference to the famous Manhattan jazz club, first located at Broadway and 52nd Street when it opened in 1949.  The club’s name is a reference to sax player Charlie Parker, or “Bird”, a regular performer at the club.

Prior to going to Camden Yards on Saturday, I knew that the 2010 Orioles–as well as Orioles teams of recent years–are a terrible team.  Seeing them in action is truly sobering and serves as a sad testamant to its woeful ownership.  While, as a Mets fan, I was most happy to take a sweep home courtesy of the Orioles, thank you very much, I couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for this pathetic team.

My husband found it very sad comparing the present-day team with glorious Orioles teams of yesteryear.

Not possessing his knowledge of the franchise’s history, I found it sad equating this group of underperforming players with the fine instrumentalists and singers that have enthralled fans of good music at the original Birdland as well as its present location on West 44th Street. 

The list of jazz All Stars who appeared at the club in its early years reads like a veritable Who’s Who of Jazz: 

Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bud Powell, Stan Getz, Lester Young, Erroll Garner, and many others. 

The current location has presented these fine jazz artists, among countless others: 

Oscar Peterson, Pat Metheny, Diana Krall, Roy Haynes, Michel Legrand, Dave Brubeck, Pat Martino, Tony Williams, Hank Jones, Michel Petrucciani, Maynard Ferguson, Freddie Hubbard, Marian McPartland, John Pizzarelli, Kurt Elling, Joe Lovano, McCoy Tyner, Michael Brecker, Clark Terry, Ron Carter, Jon Hendricks, George Shearing, James Moody, Yellowjackets, John Scofield, Phoebe Snow, Dave Holland, and Tito Puente, as well as the big bands of Chico O’Farrill, Duke Ellington, Toshiko Akiyoshi, and Maria Schneider. 

claxton512.jpgMany live recordings have been made at the club.  John Coltrane: Live from Birdland is probably the most famous, although many others artists–Count Basie and Stan Kenton and their respective Orchestras, Charlie Parker himself, to name a few–have released recordings from performances at the club.

I know that a team’s PR department is given the unenviable task of promoting this team regardless of its record.  I also realize that the reference to the illustrious jazz club is probably lost on all but a few of us.  But for those of us with even a casual knowledge of the club’s history and of the countless legends of the jazz world, living and dead, who have performed to great acclaim there, the association is laughable.

Not only is the comparison unfair to these hapless underachievers, but it is also a false comparison. 

Watching the Mets take hit after hit off of Kevin Millwood on Sunday and the apathetic way he returned to the mound following each one, I began to wonder if Camden Yards should’ve begun playing “Lullaby of Birdland” repeatedly between innings instead of “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”

Not only does one associate a lullaby with sleeping and lethargy, but how about these lyrics of George Shearing:

And there’s a weepy ol’ willow
He really knows how to cry
That’s how I cry in my pillow

mzi_ircbswjn_170x170-75.jpgSpeaking of the live recordings made at Birdland, maybe the Orioles’ present incarnation is more deserving of a blues selection to be played between innings.  Might I suggest the plodding, down-on-your-luck “Blues Backstage”, recorded live at Birdland by Count Basie and his Orchestra in 1961?

If the Orioles are ever able to turn things around and have a winning season, they could then revisit this album.  I think a hard-playing, run-scoring, defensively crisp Orioles team could find no more representative up-beat, hard-driven music than “Whirly-Bird” on this very same album.

Something tells me, though, that the boys of Baltimore have a few more sets to play before they make this chart part of their regular rep.

Photo of Birdland by William Claxton

Let’s Play TWO!

MetVendor copy.jpgI’m exhausted.

And I was not the one performing athletic feats all afternoon and evening.

Sitting through yesterday’s doubleheader at Citi Field–including witnessing a tripleplay and Jon Niese’s one-hitter–made me wonder if ballplayers have specific regimens or diets for a long day such as that.

While not nearly so athletic a feat, I am often asked to perform doubleheaders myself.

The Metropolitan Opera performs seven operas a week during its regular season, including a matinee and an evening performance on Saturdays.  Depending upon which operas are scheduled, I might be called upon to “play two” or not.

The advantage to doing so is that it gets two of the four shows per week dictated by my contract out of the way in one (long) day.  For that reason, many orchestra musicians, if given the choice, prefer to be scheduled for “double Saturdays”.

Unlike ballgames whose endtime is never known, it is relatively easy to determine the approximate running time of an opera, barring any lengthy technical problems onstage or a cancellation by a singer and the necessary time required to get a cover warmed up and into costume.

However, even though the total performance time of the sum of the two operas on a double Saturday is predetermined, the actual time commitment can vary widely depending upon the two operas scheduled and each of their running times.

Yesterday’s doubleheader prompted me to think of some of the more memorable doubleheaders I’ve played. 

  • One double–Verdi’s Otello and Falstaff–represented not only two operas by the same composer but works also both based on Shakespeare and featuring a libretto by Arrigo Boito.
  • A long day in 1997 when I performed as part of a TV telecast of Giordano’s Fedora, followed by Wagner’s Götterdämmerung in the evening.
  • And, probably the longest double I have ever played:  Wagner’s *Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (about six hours), followed by Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (about 4 1/2 hours. 3 1/4 hours.)  I definitely needed some Carmex after that day!
  •  

I’m sure certain games go by much faster than others for the players, depending upon how fast the pitcher works, how many men get on base, how much the weather is an annoyance or distraction, whether it’s a home or away game, or other factors I have not even thought of.

I know that, for me, some operas SEEM longer to me than others that are actually longer, simply because I enjoy playing some operas more than others. 

Clocking in at just over three hours, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly–the ultimate tear-jerker and rarely, in my experience cast well–always seems interminable to me.

Contrast that with the final opera in Wagner’s epic Ring Cycle:  Götterdämmerung.  The first act alone is two hours.  Add two more acts and two intermissions, and you’re looking at a performance that takes just under six hours.  And yet, any time I’ve played that opera, the time has seemed to FLY by. 

Go figure.

*An additional challenge in this opera is that the last act is the longest act at 2 hours and ten minutes.  In fact, the last act by itself is longer than all of La Bohème.

Great American Pastime Meets Great American Songbook

http://www.youtube-nocookie.com/v/PEM_63_P0CY&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0&color1=0xe1600f&color2=0xfebd01&border=1

 

I grew up in northeastern Oklahoma, far away from any Major League Baseball.  My mother was a fan however, and the Braves, via TBS, were often on the television in our home.  

I also have memories of my mother standing at the kitchen sink, washing the dinner dishes, with a small AM  radio placed strategically near the kitchen window.  Barely audible over the hum of poor reception and static caused by far-off summer lightning storms, one could strain to piece together portions of innings of Royals games, courtesy of some station in rural Salina, Kansas, that faded in and out when it could even be picked up at all.

Whenever our family took vacations to major cities, a baseball game was often squeezed in around the obligatory historical sights, art museums, and concert halls.

I also enjoyed playing softball as a kid.

So, although it did not play a major role in my early life, baseball was always around.

 

Then in 1995, I married a Mets fan.

 

Credit for anything I have learned about baseball’s history, its players and heroes, its strategies and rules–written and unwritten, not to mention the passion for the game now instilled in me, must be given to my husband.

His knowledge of all things baseball is encyclopedic.  His astounding memory enables him to conjure up stats, dates, and historical information in a manner that is uncanny and maybe even a little scary.

Therefore, it came as a total shock when I was able to illuminate him on something involving baseball.

***

My early Mets fandom coincided with some of Bob Murphy‘s last years as an announcer, but as a a long-time listener to Murphy, my husband, Garry, often regaled me with stories about the famed announcer.

A few years ago, a Mets game was postponed because of rain, just as it was tonight.  Looking forward then as he is tonight to an entire day of baseball the next day, Garry waxed nostalgic for the days when Bob Murphy would announce with similar enthusiasm that a postponed game would be made up the following day as part of a “Cole Porter affair”, Murphy’s term for a day-night doubleheader.

Garry then confessed that he had no idea why Murphy used that expression.

Although my dear husband has just as encyclopedic a knowledge of classical music and opera as he does of baseball, he does not have such familiarity with music of more popular genres.  Therefore, he did not recognize “day and night” as lyrics from “Night and Day” by Cole Porter, contributor to The Great American Songbook.

He now knows and never fails to give me credit for the insight. 

For your listening enjoyment, the YouTube video features Ella Fitzgerald’s rendition of the song.  Classic versions exist by Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra, among others.  It has also been covered by more contemporary artists, including The Temptations, Chicago, U2, and Rod Stewart. 

Fish Fry

Mr.MetFries.jpgIt’s been TEN YEARS since the Mets swept the Marlins at home. 

Maybe the long interim and the anticipation is what makes this Fish Dish SO delectable! 

It’s quite evident that, with their major-league best 22-9 record at home, these boys prefer la cuisine de la maison, i.e., “HOME COOKIN’!”

Bon Appé***!


FriedFishBroom.jpg 

You can’t MAKE me!


Ollieears.jpgWell, no, of course not, Ollie. 
You’re absolutely correct:  it DOES state in your contract that you must agree to the suggestion of going down to the minors.

But, see here, Ollie:  by your staying up here with the club, you’re not putting yourself in a position to improve. 

Yes, yes.  We know.  Nobody can MAKE you.  But, Ollie, didn’t nice Mr. Boras tell you that he thought it was a good idea?  And you know that he always has your very best interests in mind, don’t you?  Wasn’t he the one that got you this cush..[ahem] big contract in the first place?

Son, we’ll say it again:  there is absolutely no shame in accepting this assignment.  Other pitchers have been asked to do the same thing and, with time and effort, they’ve been able to solve their problems and make a successful return to the team. We want to help you with this, Ollie.  Really, we do.

Well, but you see, Ollie, you may THINK that there is no problem, but opposing hitters have a way of telling us that in fact you really DO have a problem. 

No, wait.  Please!  Not a problem that can’t be RECTIFIED.  Not a problem without a solution!

There, there.  Settle down.

Now, Ollie.  Let’s be reasonable, shall we?  We are committed to you and your successful return to the bigs 100%.  [You'd better believe we are, for what we're paying you.]

We are talking about a short period of time.  A brief part of your otherwise illustrious career.  And, hey, it’s not like you’re going to be slumming it while you’re there:  we’ve arranged first class travel and major league per diem for you while you’re there–just like you enjoy now. 

You’d be surprised how far that goes in upstate New York or in the Miami area!

 

Okay, Ollie.  We get it.

You don’t want to go to Buffalo.  You don’t want to go to Port St. Lucie.

But, you know what, Son?  We don’t always get what we WANT in life!

 

What’s that?

Your WHAT?! 

Just now? 

You’re kidding, right?

Your KNEE?

But…

 

I’m sorry, but I fail to see the humor in this, Perez.

 

Oh for God’s sake.  Will someone please get Ray Ramirez in here?! 

 

Which knee is it, Ollie?

 

No, Ollie, that was most certainly not meant to be a trick question.

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