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PASSING: PETE HAMILL, 1935-2020

August 5, 2020 1 comment

Pete Hamill has passed.

Mr. Hamill was a contemporary and real life friend of departed journalists Jimmy Breslin and Jack Newfield.

Mr. Hamill wrote for the DAILY NEWS, N.Y. POST, NEW YORK and the VILLAGE VOICE.

Mr. Hamill, like Mr. Breslin and Mr. Newfield, began as a sportswriter and wrote occasionally about sports for his entire writing career.

Indeed, my first recollection of reading Mr. Hamill was an article in SPORT magazine about AFL star Cookie Gilchrist wherein Mr. Gilchrist related his thought that the A.F.L. and  Canadian Football league were friendlier to black players than the N.F.L.

This was at Merrick Avenue Elementary School in 1966!

Mr. Hamill’s A DRINKING LIFE is a pinspot accurate account of alcohol’s delights and drawbacks.

I have definitely read over 1100 hours of Mr. Hamill’s writing.

It wasn’t’ enough.

 

 

 

 

CORONAVIRUS 4.0 Quarantine Stella Uno

July 23, 2020 2 comments

*”Life is full of road games.

CORONAVIRUS 3.0 Quarantine Quintella

July 6, 2020 1 comment

*1  Computer screen is now dust free courtesy of daily cleaning by a static free microfiber cloth from Economy Hardware, 219  Mass. Ave, Boston.  $2.99 well spent.

*2  PORTNOY’S COMPLAINT by Philip Roth is a swell read.  Philip Roth has written 2 kinds of books; the great, AMERICAN PASTORAL and the very good.  PORTNOY’S  was published  in 1969 and sold over 400,000 copies in its first year of publication.

PORTNOY’S COMPLAINT was scandalous upon publication what with its meaty, very literally; descriptions of self-abuse and yearning for the carnal carnival of his girl friend Monkey.

Much of the scandalous aspect of the novel has diminished in the mist of the last 50 years but the narrative and the descriptions of Jewish life from the 1930s to the 1960s is funny and sociological.  Recommended.

*3  SuperCuts at 101 Summer St. in Downtown Crossing is now open.  Sam has been cutting my hair for 13 years, is on duty and as friendly and efficient as ever.  Taming my grown out cut is not for the faint hearted.  Sam has game.

*4  Raccoons are ever more frequent here in the Eat Fens.  Waddling along Edgerly Rd, climbing into dumpsters in back of the Morville House and scampering among the cattails in the Fens the masked marauders have more than adapted to urban environments.  Condominiums next?

*5  MLB is gearing up for a 60 game season.  I am relieved that the MLBPA and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred have made a deal that both seem to hate…and that is a good thing.   In a related story S.F. Giants manager, and former Red Sox outfielder Gabe Kapler is assuring ESPN’s Buster Olney that the 5’11” and at 268 highly theoretical pounds former Red Sox Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval is “healthy.”  Play ball!

CHANGE: Dorothy’s Costume Boutique, 1947-2020

June 26, 2020 3 comments

Dorothy’s Costume Boutique located at 190 Mass. Ave, NEVER Massachusetts Avenue, will be closing on June 30, 2020 after 73 years in business.

I stopped by to listen to Jon Diamond, the son of the founders about the history of this Fenway institution.  I am greeted by a cash register sprouting more buttons and levers than I can count. 

“Perhaps it is of World War II vintage? I ask Mr. Diamond?

“It is my grandparents.”

“When was this store founded?”

“My parents…

“Not a parent company …”

“Ha, ha.  Yes, my folks Dorothy and Harold.  It was kind of like Bernie and Phyl’s.  A family business.”

…Mexican sweaters, Afro wigs, digital watches…

“What was the original concept?”

“We were a millinery in the neighborhood.  Kind of an alternative to downtown.  We also had costume jewelry.”

…a dozen faceless, eyeless Styrofoam ovals peer down from a shelf just below the ceiling bedecked with a variety of headwear…

“So you were always alternative?”

Mr. Diamond looked over his shoulder while straightening out the necklaces perched precariously above the watches and laughed.

“One thing we’ve been able to do is retain our core business.”

“Yes, I can still see that you sell a lot of hats.”

“Yes, and we’ve branched out into other stuff.”

“That’s OK I can put back the makeup,” Jon said as 2 guests were leaving with a cart chock to the brim with hats, wigs and a cornucopia of theatrical makeup.

The gentleman dressed up with a COVID-19  mask with a Jolly Roger death’s head moved to the back where Jon and I stood and actually returned the merchandise!

“Yeah, I guess you could say that… Hey, please pay attention to the customers, puh-leaze,” said Mr. Diamond with the 1/2 grimace 1/2 smile used so often by folks engaged in the direct supervision of staff in customer service venues.

“What qualities do you look for in employees?”

“They have to be honest, energetic, learn the stock and be able to run a register.  You’ve gotta be able to engage with people all of the time with a smile and you can’t be too sensitive.  She, [Mr. Diamond gives a head nod], is a good worker but she gets upset too easily.  You can’t take things personally.  She’s been working here for 3 years and she just doesn’t talk with customers as much as she should.”

“When did you start working here?”

“I was in grade school.  I worked downstairs in stock and tagged merchandise.  My brother Rich worked here too.”

“What was the neighborhood like then?”

“Black.  This whole stretch of Mass. Ave. from Boylston all the way to the end of Mass. was black.”

“All of the real estate ads say ‘Back Bay’ now.  I used to live at 4 Symphony Rd. for $25 a week for a furnished room.  It seems the Fenway doesn’t even exist as a neighborhood.”

“Definitely, this was pre-gentrification.  A lot of what is now called the South End was called Roxbury for years.  Boylston Linen was next door and there was Symphony Deli…”

“Symphony Deli became Dixie Kitchen.”

You’ve got a good memory.  There was the Bostonian Market, which became City Sports.”

“What was your clientele like?

“Well, women looking for hats and costume jewelry.  And we always had neighborhood folks and Berklee, Conservatory and Northeastern students.  Black women came by for wigs.

We added theatrical make-up in 1985.”

“For the drag queens?”

“Ha ha.  Yes, and we had kids from the drama departments of the schools so we just expanded our inventory.

We’re a mid mark-up store.  We try to keep things affordable.

In 1988 we doubled the size of the store by taking over the Boylston Linen slot next door.”

“I’ve always come in even for just a few minutes to look at what have you and about once a month make a purchase.”

“Yes, we’ve always had neighborhood semi-regular customers.  That goes to what I’m talking about when I’m talking about our core.”

“You used to sell underwear and T-shirts.”

“Wife beaters..”

“You mean spousal disablers.”

“Ha ha.  Well A-shirts and socks.  The problem was that  street people would come in buy 1 and walk with one and we were spending all of our time watching them even when the underwear were tucked in the back so it got to where it wasn’t worth it.”

“So where do you get your stuff?”

“I buy a lot of close-outs in clothing and visit vintage store quite a bit.  For other stuff, [waving his hand around the store] I use specialty sales reps.  Facebook, Instagram, whatever.”

…fishnet stockings, stocking caps in June, devils and angels for Halloween…

“You know the very first time I was here was in my first summer here in the Fenway back in 1979.  I was across the street and I heard  disco coming from an open door so I walked across the street and looked in.  I couldn’t believe what I saw…a bunch of punks trying on dog collars and buying black bandanas.  Then I looked to the back of the room and saw Afro wigs.  I couldn’t believe it!”

Jon looked up from the sunglasses he was re-arranging and laughed.

“A lot of musical trends have been outfitted here you know with Berklee and this area once had a lot of musicians living here.

“My folks were involved until 1984.  I bought out Rich in 2007.”

“Who is the landlord here?”

“Christian Science has always been the landlord.  This building is from the 19th. century.  it is far from ‘green.’ 

“Is Christian Science a good landlord?”

Stepping out from behind the jewelry counter Jon grimaces.

“Well we’ve gone from $600 to $6000 in rent.”

“Is the building maintained?”

Jon gives me a sour look, gives a hand signal to the cashier on duty and takes a deep breath, “No, they do as little as possible.”

I have improved the building, which is not my job.  I added the awning in 2004 and in 2000 took out the lay-in ceiling and exposed the original ceiling which is a lot nicer.”

Indeed the pressed tin ceiling is a nice look.

“But now that they know we are leaving they let me out of the lease which ran until 2022.”

…camouflage jackets, ergonomic backpacks, Pride flags…

“You know on Halloween the line stretches around the corner.”

Jon straightens up from picking a piece of paper from the floor and smiles.

“Yes, ever since we doubled the size of the store it has only gotten bigger.  We have all kinds of costumes, toys, hats and just about whatever anyone could want for Halloween.

“I’ve seen you guys on TV.”

Jon says nothing but gives me his best fake smile…and I laugh!

…American flags, MAGA hats, Uncle Sam Hats…

“So, why are you closing?”

“It’s everything.  COVID-19, Amazon, no Red Sox.”

“Yeah, I remember when the Sox won you had Red Sox T’s in the window.”

“Definitely.  The Sox, Pats, when the Celtics and Bruins win, there is always a lot of interest. I always root for us to win a championship every year!

…I spy a dour Bill Belichick mask…

St. Patty’s is my 2nd. biggest holiday.  4/20, tourists in town buy Boston t-shirts all the time.  The Sox not playing has hurt us not just for the Sox but for foot traffic.

I have colored contact lenses I would be selling.  They are a hot product right now.”

“I know I’ve seen them at the club.

So is COVID-19 why you’re closing?”

“Yes, that and Amazon.  Once Amazon got on phones it got very tough.

COVID-19 is the big one.  I’m over 65 so I’m in the high risk group and with business the way it is.”

Jon shrugged his shoulders and gave a half smile.

“So what is the future?”

“Maybe I’ll open up a pop-up across the street.”

“One week a month!”

Jon and I laugh.

Many will miss Dorothy’s. 

I among them.

PASSING: Little Richard and Richard Penniman, December 5, 1932-May 9, 2020

June 13, 2020 1 comment

Little Richard/Richard Penniman passed on May 9, 2020 from bone cancer at his home in Tullahoma, Tennessee surrounded by his brother, sister and adopted son Danny Jones Penniman who gave the cause of death as bone cancer.

Little Richard came into my ears upon my Dad’s 1970 purchase of the Gallanter family’s Harmon Kardon Slimline AM-FM/Turntable/Cassette stereo.

WCBS FM 101 SOLID GOLD became my first choice of radio as the Rock & Roll Revival of that time had spawned a radio format.

I had heard of Little Richard…

…hearing him was a whole other thing. A screaming messianic yell  filled with what this 12 year-old was just figuring out was sexuality along with an evangelical intensity that I associated with my Mom’s Mahalia Jackson records.

“Rip It Up,” “The Girl Can’t Help It” and “Reddy Teddy” prompted my begging my folks for headphones so that I could hear Little Richard as loudly as possible.

So taken with Little Richard was I that my brother Peter purchased me FRIENDS FROM THE BEGINNING-LITTLE RICHARD AND JIMI HENDRIX an album that purported to be from Hendrix’ time as a sideman for Little Richard.

(Whether either Jimi or Richard is on this LP is argued at Wikipedia).

en.wikipedia.org>wiki>Friends-from-the-Beginning

(Boston proto punks Reddy Teddy took their name from “Reddy Teddy” as sung by Little Richard in THE GIRL CAN’T HELP IT).

On that note, listening to Little Richard’s singing of “The Girl Can’t Help It” with Bobby Troup’s lascivious lyrics while watching  Jayne Mansfield clutching 2 bottles of milk to her 2 bottles of milk brings the glory of repression to fruition!

https://youtu.be/W4XVKl4j1VA

Sylvester’s masculine femininity wouldn’t exist without Little Richard.

Ru Paul’s feminine masculinity wouldn’t exist without Little Richard.

Richard Penniman played piano for Little Richard.  To listen to “Lucille” is to hear the caffeinated left hand banging out rapid rhythm on 80 gauge strings over an enthusiastic snare while the right hand plinks dainty suggestions of melody.

“LOU…SEAL..UHHH,” with the last elongated syllable adding a scoop of beat to Little Richard’s full throat declaration and then the sax comes in with a sensual wail echoing and commenting on Little Richard’s voice,which is a saxophone while Richard Penniman hammers away.

By beginning “Lucille’s lyrics with the title Little Richard anticipated James Brown’s vocabulary template of funk.

Femme? Yes.

Soft? Never.

Little Richard’s chart run began in January, 1956 with “Tutti Fruitti,” and ended with “Good Molly Miss Molly” in February, 1958, per MusicVF.com perhaps not a long run by today’s standards but remember that this era was the the rise of rock & roll.

It is integral to Little Richard’s story to understand that America was on the cusp of the civil rights era.  “Cover version” referred to versions of R&R and R&B hits, “race records,” as they were called at the time, were remade over by white artists as retailers such as Sears Roebuck were loath to display records with black performers.   Indeed, Little Richard his own self proclaimed in LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL that “Pat Boone couldn’t move his mouth fast enough to get around “a wop bop a lu bop a bomp bam boom.”

Indeed, Pat Boone’s version went to #12 while Little Richard’s original went to #17 per MusicVF.com

Richard Penniman took over from Little Richard in October, 1957.

“That night Russia sent off that very first Sputnik.  It looked as though the big ball of fire came directly over the stadium about two or three hundred feet above our heads.  It shook my mind.  It really shook my mind.  I got up from the piano and said ‘This is it.  I am through.  I am leaving show business to go back to God.”

Richard Penniman enrolled in Oakwood College, (now Oakwood University), and became an ordained Minister of the 7th. Day Adventist faith.

In 1958 Little Richard formed the Little Richard Evangelistic Team that criss-crossed the South bringing 7th. Day Adventist faith and gospel music.

In 1959 Richard Penniman married Ernestine Campbell.

As recounted to biographer Charles White in The Life and Times of Little Richard: The Quasar of Rock; the 7th. Day Adventist faith “cured” Little Richard’s “contagious” homosexuality.

(This book will also tell you more than you could possibly want to know about Buddy Holly’s love life.  Not for the religious).

Richard Penniman was no more politically correct than Little Richard was correct.

1959 also brought Richard Penniman’s GOD is REAL LP.

The tension between the rock and roll sexual love of Little Richard and the gospel spiritual love of Richard Penniman love was to remain the dynamic for the rest both lives.

To see Little Richard discuss his faith and life as Richard Penniman this interview is very revealing .

https://youtu.be/OXldBnWFjB8

Richard Penniman had a certain machismo that shocked The Advocate in yet another twist in Richard Penniman’s challenge for the soul of Little Richard.

www.advocate.com..people.2017/10/06 “Little Richard, once Gay is Now Antigay-Again”

1961 brought his Mercury LP King of the Gospel Singers, produced by Quincy Jones no less, featuring Richard Penniman, billed as Little Richard singing the gospel classic [There Will Be] Peace in the Valley(For Me).  This is not similar to the version sung by Elvis on How Great Thou Art, but a more traditional rendition with a pipe organ behind Little Richard’s throaty tenor.

https://youtu.be/Ovz-98UAt80

Little Richard returned to rock in 1962, touring England and being watched and emulated by Paul McCartney as  Mr. McCartney relates in the Introduction to The Life and Times of Little Richard: The Quasar of Rock.

1964 brought the LP Little Richard is Back(and There’s A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On) which slipped into obscurity. 

Little Richard’s time as a popular American  recording artist had passed.

Dedicated fans of Little Richard can enjoy his very swampy 1970 US hit #48, UK hit #27 “Freedom Blues”

https://youtube/zRNLyACJcSK

Indeed, England remained a vital market for Little Richard until the end of his performing career.

Richard Penniman continued to perform at 7th. Day Adventist churches on a regular basis adding straight up preaching to his gospel stylizations.

While Little Richard’s recording career had withered away his appeal as a live entertainer was about to skyrocket.

1973’s LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL movie showcased Little Richard performing as part of Richard Nader’s Rock & Roll Revival collated with footage of Little Richard performing in his 50’s heyday.

To see Little Richard fluffing his bouffant and proclaiming “Ooh, my soul,” in front of a mirror is to see a man who would be totally at home today.

By the filming of LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL Little Richard was performing in a flowing aquamarine caftan with trapezoids of mirrors affixed.

Little Richard’s drama queen persona was never in finer fettle than while chatting with manager Bump Blackwell in a limo on his way to a Rock n Roll Revival show, saying

“I was washing dishes in a Greyhound bus station in Macon, Georgia.  I was the only Jewish cat there.  Everyone else was colored.”

https://youtu.be/9vcGZdPxNBw

Humor aside Little Richard had most of his vocal range during his Rock n Roll Revival phase and the hyper dynamic left hand of Richard Penniman enabled all.

All through the 70s Little Richard was a staple guest of Dick Cavett on late night TV as the oldies radio format declined.

https//youtu.be/eSylFhKk8

Little Richard-Lucille and Lawdy Miss Clawdy (The Dick Cavett Show 1970).

  It is often offered that celebrities become “self parodies” but Richard’s makeup encrusted face seemed as natural as his appearance was unnatural.

The 70s also saw Little Richard drinking prodigiously and taking cocaine while performing up to 100 nights a year.

Richard Penniman remained in my mind when viewing the Cleophus Robinson show whose gospel enlivened my teen and Nassau Community College years.  When Al Green retired from popular music with the Belle LP’s  title pronouncement of “It’s you that I want, it’s Him that I need,” I wondered whether Little Richard had had such a thought and whether Richard Penniman had the LP.

Little Richard never really left my mind completely as his hysterical cameo in the 1986 movie DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HILLS inspired my playing of “Lucille” as on the soundtrack of LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL.

Richard Penniman continued to wrestle with spirit and sex his entire life.  In 2017 telling GOD REPORTS, “If I had my life to do over again, I would be ‘Little Richard the Preacher,’ standing on street corners.”

At a certain age those who reached us at an early age pass.  On May 9, 2020 the passing of Little Richard prompted a digital wave of remembrances from rockers, critical evaluations of his musical legacy and lengthy treatises on Little Richard as a signifier of Afro-queerness.

It is Richard Penniman who has passed. His contradictions are now eased forever.

Little Richard?

A WOP BOP A LU BOMP A BOMP BAM BOOM!

SOURCES: 

MusicVF.com for chart positions. 

The Billboard Hot 100 as a combined chart of retail, jukebox and airplay began August, 1958.  MusicVF.com combines the previously separate Billboard charts and is the citation for all chart positions noted.

Little Richard, GOD IS REAL Peacock GOSPEL CLASSICS, 1959

http://www.amazon.com>God-Real-Little Richard

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF LITTLE RICHARD: THE QUASAR OF ROCK  Little Richard as told to Charles White. 1985. 269 pp. 33 B&W photos. New York

A chronological biography in the ‘as told to’ vein that recounts Little Richard’s rise to fame and the religious life of Richard Penniman.  Paul McCartney’s Introduction credits Little Richard with his ambition to become a musician.  Cool pix.  Available in the Boston Public Library.

God Reports

godreports.com.2017/10>little-richard-his-truth-frutti

LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL

https;//youtu.be/C90UuBWV8TS

A wonderful non-fiction film that includes wonderful performances, some not-so-wonderful performances and more than a little sadness.  Filmed at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y. and Cobo Hall, Detroit, MI.

http://www.bostongroupienews.com>ReddyTeddy

This website gives a short chronological history of the Boston proto-punk band that appropriated its name from Little Richard.

The Belle Album, Al Green, Hi, 1977

This was Reverend Al Green’s, now State Rep. TX/D, last secular L.P. of the 1970s.  The title track’s “It’s you that I want, it’s Him that I need,” sings the contradictions of Little Richard and Richard Penniman.

Coronavirus: Quarantine Quintella

May 18, 2020 1 comment

*1  Strainer thingy in kitchen sink drain is clean from broccoli florets, pita bread crumbs and other detritus.

*2  52 PICKUP by Elmore Leonard is a swell read.  Elmore Leonard has written 2 kinds of books; the great, SPLIT IMAGES, and the very good; 52 PICKUP.  Recommended.

*3  Bars here in Boston, and in most of America, are closed.  While tending bar is not a fitness exercise, it does burn calories.  2 60 minute mall walks here at the Prudential Center in Boston at 120 steps per minute will add 14,400 steps to a week.

*4  Every day is a bad hair day.

*5  MLB is a no go.  The Korean Baseball Organization(KBO) is shown weekly on ESPN. The play is  entertaining and indeed contains elements of contact hitting and durable starting pitching that have been leaving MLB for some time.  Recommended.

HAIKU 5*7*5* Coronavirus bus

April 30, 2020 1 comment

The 39 bus

Has only 2 passengers

Where’s the rest of us?

HAIKU 5*7*5* Corona wish for all’s health

April 5, 2020 1 comment

A wish for all’s health

Edgerly Rd. is quiet

Like September 12th.

BARTENDER’S TIPS #2 “The customer is always right…especially when they are wrong.”

March 15, 2020 1 comment

“The customer is always right,” is truly one of the requisite cliches of any and all forms of customer service.

“And we’ll be right back to the NorthGarden where the Celtics are leading the Cleveland Cavaliers 72-61, after this word from our sponsor.”

“Hey, you know Kevin Love is the son of one of the Beach Boys.  Someone said that his uncle played in the NBA.  You know everything about basketball..,”

“Well, I don’t know everything but Love’s uncle played for the Baltimore Bullets..,”

“Huh?”

“The Baltimore Bullets became the Capitol Bullets, who became the Washington Bullets and are now the Washington Wizards.”

“How did that happen?”

“Well the NBA thought that ‘Bullets’ was too violent so they changed..,”

“And now they are named after the Klan!?”

“Well..but… yeah, Kevin Love is the son of Mike Love of the Beach Boys.”

https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Kevin_Love

Actually Kevin Love is the nephew of Mike Love of the Beach boys and the son of ex NBA player Stan Love…but let’s just move on.

“The customer is always right,”…

As an adult beverage distribution engineer my experience is that customers often offer this bromide to evade payment, leave with cocktails and initiate conflicts with security staff.

There ARE some things that aren’t right, refusing to pay for a drink is actually the crime of “defrauding an innkeeper,”

Section 12C. (a) An innkeeper may refuse to admit or refuse service or accommodation in the hotel to a person who: while on the premises of the hotel acts in an obviously intoxicated or disorderly manner, destroys or threatens to destroy hotel property, or causes or threatens to cause a public disturbance, or refuses or is unable to pay for the accommodations or services.

I will spare you, gentle reader, further links to MA law.

“The customer is always right …especially when they are wrong!”

In 1985 I was tending bar at Our House East under the supervision of Henry Vara III.  I had already worked at Our House(West), Cornwalls and Narcissus so I was well versed in the policies and folklore of Kenmore Management as headed by Henry Vara Jr; indeed, this was one of the reasons I was hired.

Board games, in this pre-smartphone era were offered in many of the pubs of 1985, Cornwalls among them.  Trivial Pursuit was the best of these for bar sales as Trivial Pursuit tended to prompt interaction among the players who often invited the bartender to join in.

It was a warm Monday spring evening without the blessing of Monday Night Football, a thing at the time.

I was trying to keep my guests at the bar so passers by would see folks at the bar and wander in without feeling a tad of guilt about entering an empty Our House East.

So I hauled out Trivial Pursuit and performed a cursory examination of the contents to make sure there were sufficient cards so that all 3 of us could play.

I timed my introduction of the game 1/2 way through their 1st. pints of Rolling Rock which was $1.50 a pint at the time.

Obviously, this was a long time ago!

Hey, we’ll play.  Wanna join in?”

“I thought you’d never ask,” I replied with the usual mix of camaraderie and con that characterizes a good deal of bar side bull.

Job #1 was easily accomplished with 2 more beers being ordered and change piling up alongside the board.

These guys were actually pretty good and U.S. History and Movies were strong categories for the 2 of them.  After a while it became apparent that they were pretty good friends who did not have plans that involved anything later in the evening, or for that matter, early the next morning.

However, they were competing with each other and with myself.  I did well in U.S. History and O.K. in Movies but got whipped badly in Television and Fashion when in walked Henry, I always called his son and my supervisor HV 3; the major domo of Our House East.

Unlike many of my co-workers I wasn’t petrified by the presence of my owner.  Indeed, I had been on Henry’s more or less good side since he had witnessed me grabbing money from guests with a degree of intensity that crossed the line into abrupt.

“Hi, Steve G.”

“Hello God.”

A 3rd. round of Rocks were served as the 2 gents broke into an animated conversation about the glory of GILLIGAN’S ISLAND, which I didn’t know much about.

Henry gave a bemused smile to my guests and your narrator and ordered a screwdriver with precisely a 1.25 oz. shot of Vodka City bar liquor and puffed on his cigar.

Obviously, this was a long time ago!

Trivial Pursuit regained my attention once the next 2 categories turned out to be Alcoholic Beverages and Baseball; 2 subjects that were and are close to my heart.

I decided to win.

“A Brandy Alexander is made of..?

“1 part brandy, 1 part white creme de cacao, 1 part milk, shake and strain,” I proclaimed to the slack-jawed gaze of my contestants.

“Who was the very first baseball Rookie of the Year?”

“Jackie Robinson when there was only 1 Rookie of the Year for both leagues,” I yelped.

“How do you remember all of this stuff, Why remember all of this stuff?” one of my opponents asked while staring into the dregs of his Rolling Rock.

“Wanna play again?”

“Nah, that’s O.K;” the more talkative of the 2 said while standing up and pushing an Honest Abe to me.

“How much did you get?” Henry asked with a conspiratorial glint in his eye.

“5 bucks.”

“I would have gotten 10!”

“Huh?”

“I would have thrown the last question and let them win,” Henry said with a devilish grin.

“Huh..but I’m right!”

“THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT…ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY ARE WRONG!”

Henry proclaimed with a vehemence that I didn’t know was part of him.

Henry seemed taken aback by his own intensity.  He put his cigar back into his mouth and chewed upon it reflectively.

“It’s good to be smart but nobody likes a smart ass.

Who do you think you are?

“JOE GENIUS”

I have learned much in the 7600+ bar shifts I have worked but this may be the most important thing I have learned from my most frequent employer.

“Joe Genius” indeed.

 

BASEBALL: HIGHLIGHTS OF THE OFF SEASON: Wayne Garrett, The Young & Mismanaged. (Or how a constellation of errors revolved around a 3rd. baseman who was too good to be good enough).

November 27, 2019 3 comments

WAYNE GARRETT

would be on my mind if I were were 12 at this time of year.

Indeed, the annual revolving door regarding the Mets 3rd. base situation was a true sign of highlights of the off season as surely as a Joe Namath injury.

At 61 baseball is once again occupying  my mind during this off season.

This has transpired during the 50th, !?!?!, anniversary of the Miracle Mets triumphant ascent to their 1969 World Series victory.

We Mets fans have an affinity, perhaps even a predisposition, to bipolar fandom.  2019 has given us the good; Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil and Jake deGrom,  the bad; relievers Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia being worse than the BoSox arson brigade and the ugly 1st. half of  Amed Rosario and the better than O.K.ish 2nd. half of Amed Rosario.

Wayne Garret’s career personifies the essence of the binge and purge nature of the Mets history.

Wayne Garret was one of the Mets of my years’ ages 9 through 20 in Port Washington, Long Island, New York.

Wayne Garrett was not destined for the National Baseball Hall of Fame(NBHOF) and in this case a round-about determinism, deliberate, yet unintentional, prevented him from being the pretty good player that he pretty much usually was.

https://www.baseball-reference.com

Ronald Wayne Garrett was originally drafted by the Milwaukee Braves following his brothers James and Adrian, who played for the Cubs among others in a 163 game career spread over 8 years, in the 6th. round of the very first 1965 amateur draft.  Wayne hailed from Sarasota, FL and attended the high school of the same name.  After 4 years in the Braves system he was selected by the Mets via the Rule V draft for the princely sum of $25,000 in the only minor league transaction of the Mets prior to the 1969 season.

https://sabr.org>bioproject

Biography by Ron Masterson

Wayne Garrett’s rookie year at age 21 found Garrett being the left handed side of a  3rd. base platoon along with the 36 year-old Ed “the Glider” Charles.  Garrett was primarily a 3rd. baseman but also saw some time at 2nd. and shortstop as Mets manager Gil Hodges juggled the Vietnam era National Guard commitments of second sacker Ken Boswell and shortstop Bud Harrelson.

Wayne’s 1/39/.218/.290/.268 slash line hardly excited  anyone, least of all Strat-O-Matic’s Harold Richman, but as a 21 year-old rookie winning a World Series on the the very first winning season in the Mets history one would think that he had dibs on the job.

Wayne hit a HR off the Braves’ Pat Jarvis in Game 3, the NLDS being best-of-5 in 1969, which was the first playoff victory by a Mets team.

One would think…but the Mets didn’t… bringing in Joe Foy from the Kansas City Royals after having been dispatched to expansionville from Boston and putting up a semi-bounce-back season. 

Foy was acquired for Amos Otis and Bob Johnson and was thrust into the starting lineup but was ineffective and developed what would now be called “issues.”

(Otis went on to be the Royals’ CFer for more than a decade but that is another story… which I might tell.  Stay tuned).

Wayne Garrett was back in the starting lineup on a full-time basis after the 1970 All Star break.  In spite of only playing 114 games Wayne exceeded all expectations, including mine, with a 12/45/.254/.390/.421 HR/RBI/BA/OBA/SLG slash line.  Of course, this was a time in which walks were often overlooked but a .390 OBA should have given someone a heads up.  While these numbers didn’t threaten the status of Ron Santo as the N.L’s top 3rd. baseman they are substantial in the light of the Mets team slash line of 120/640/.249/.333/.370.

About this time WOR 9’s Bob Murphy began to regularly refer to Wayne as “the Mets Huck Finn” for his red hair.  Upon visiting Shea to see the Expos, Carl Morton pitched, with my folks and brother Peter I remember looking at Garrett from the box seats my father had bribed an usher $5 for and thinking he looked like a high school kid.  Wayne Garrett was 22 and had taken a huge leap forward to where he looked to be a regular at a position that had been a perennial problem for the Mets.

The Mets had other ideas… none of them very good.  They went out and acquired Brooklyn born Bob Aspromonte from the Houston Astros, the last Brooklyn Dodger to play in the big leagues.  Aspromonte had been an All-Star but his better days were in the past and Garrett was reinserted into the hot corner.

Being jerked around didn’t suit Garrett well; he regressed in power but retained his batting eye.  However the Mets, and most of their fans, focused on Garrett’s low BA and loss of power.  Garrett didn’t seem to be the man for 3B.

In 1972 Jim Fregosi was acquired from the California Angels a a classic ‘highlight of the off season’ trade in exchange for future Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan and perennial prospect Leroy Stanton.

Fregosi had 6 All Star seasons behind him and about 6 weeks as a Met regular in front of him.  I vividly remember seeing Fregosi’s pot belly cascading over his belt on a Mets WOR-9 telecast and wondering why Fregosi looked to have the physique of one of the guys manning the deli counter at Bohack rather than that of a professional athlete.

Once again Wayne Garrett stepped into the void and while a 5/29/.232/.374/.315 slash line hardly inspired euphoria it was the production of a player with a future rather than that of a player with a past. 

Fregosi was sent on his way early into the 1973 season.

“You Gotta Believe” was the Tug McGraw inspired rallying cry of the 1973 Mets.  And while the 83 win Mets did not scale the Olympian heights of the 1969 Miracle Mets they provided almost as many thrills. 

At 15 years of age I was embarrassed by being a MLB fan.  I was  past the age of where being a Mets fan was cool and my shoulder blade length hair, fondness for Steely Dan and hitchhiking the local bi-ways concealed a heart that still bled orange and blue.

1973 saw a pennant race described by Bill at the Sherwin Williams  store at ‘4 one-legged men in a ass kicking contest’ as the Mets outlasted the Pirates, Cubs and the newly ascendant Expos to weasel out 83 wins.

The Ya Gotta believe Mets featured the highlights of Garrett’s career.

In September Garrett clubbed 6 homers of his 16 round trippers while compiling a  16/58/.256/.348/.403 season which proved to be his career pinnacle.

Garrett also turned 36 double plays, second only to the 39 DPs of the Dodgers Ron Cey.

The playoff against the Reds had Cincy 3rd. sacker Dan Driessen, playing out of his usual 1st base role, tagging the base rather than a hustling Garret speeding into 3rd. on Felix Millan’s sacrifice bunt.  Cleon Jones’ double plated Garrett with what proved to be the winning run as the Mets vaulted to the World Series to face the defending champion A’s,

shock the Reds in the N.L. playoffs and give the A’s all they could handle in the World Series before losing in 7 games.

Garrett contributed 2 home runs in the 1973 World Series with the first coming in the 3rd. inning of Game 2 off Vida Blue.

However, Garret’s homer would be overshadowed by the 10-7 12 inning contest which is best remembered for Oakland A’s owner Charlie O. Finley’s attempt to force A second sacker to claim to be injured following his 2 crucial errors in Game 2.

Game 3 saw Garret tag Catfish Hunter with a 1st. inning from the leadoff slot as the Shea faithful roared their approval and I watched from the Sherwin Williams store.  Unfortunately, the A’s won, 3-2, but once again Garrett had  shone in the October spotlight.

Ultimately, the Mets lost to the A’s in 7 games and there are still Mets fans posting on Ultimate Mets Database that manager Yogi Berra should have started George Stone in Game 6 and saved Seaver for Game 7 but that is another story…

1974 finally gave us Wayne Garrett as a full-time player.  Garrett played in 151 games and posted a 13/53/.224/.337/.337 slash line.  Defensively a Range Factor per 9 of 3.12 was a tad above the N.L. average of 3.04, although the extreme flyball tendencies of Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Jon Matlack and Tug McGraw may have forced Garrett’s numbers down a touch.

However, 1974 also gave us Mike Schmidt and Ron Cey maturing into prominent  N.L. third basemen and the slender statistics of Garrett surely looked less than the competent contribution that they were.

1975 saw another retreat on Wayne Garrett’s career trajectory as the Mets had acquired Brooklyn born Joe Torre to man the hot corner.  Torre wound up starting 76 games but his 6/35/.247/.317/.357 resembled that of Garrett’s all too much while demanding that Wayne  fill in as a late inning defensive replacement.

1975 saw a diminishing of my interest in baseball as Steely Dan and shoulder blade length hair had changed my vision.

However, I still perused the NEWSDAY box scores on a daily basis, which I would never admit to my friends at the North Shore Unitarian Universalist congregation, with slack-jawed incomprehension as the Mets diddled away what was left of Garrett’s potential while investing in the 34 year-old Torre…but, of course, Torre was a Brooklyn born name player.

1976 saw a revival of my baseball interest as my long delayed pubescence was near completion and I felt free to return to my boyish passion for baseball.

1976 proved to be the last full season that Garrett spent in Willets Point.  His 4/26/.223/.359/.311 slash line offered some redemption with a more than decent OBA but 58 starts were all that manager Joe Frazier saw fit to offer the now 28 year old Garrett as the “promising” Roy Staiger was the primary player at the hot corner.

In October of 1975 principal owner Joan Payson passed, plunging the Mets into an abyss from 1977 to 1983, although 1976 was an 86 win team. 

The Yankees, under the ownership of George Steinbrenner returned to Yankee Stadium after having spent 1974 and 1975 sharing Shea with the Mets, and with the Jets AND Giants of the NFL in 1974.

1976 also saw the Yankees return to the World Series, and although vanquished by the Reds, the Yanks had claimed the title of “New York’s baseball team.”

Garrett was traded July 21st 1976, along with Del Unser, to the Montreal Expos for Jim Dwyer and Pepe Mangual.

Garrett became a utility infielder in The Great White North, starting 44 games at 2nd. base and only 1 at the hot corner.

1977 saw a further diminishing of Garrett’s role as the Expos had obtained former Philly All-Star Dave Cash for 2nd. base and manager Dick Williams was committed to the potential of Larry Parrish at 3rd.

A sore shoulder and a strained knee ligament contributed to a lack of playing time

By this time I rarely though of Garrett as anything other than ‘a guy who used to play for us’.

Garrett’s trade, oddly enough on the very same July 21st. that sent him to the Expos, to the Cardinals confirmed his utility status even as he hit .333 in 39 games.

Facing professional extinction Wayne Garrett accepted a 2 year contract with the Chunichi Dragons of Nippon Professional Baseball.

By the time the 1978 season ended I lived here in Boston and upon reading of Garrett’s plan to play in Japan all I could do was sigh.

“If I could have played well, run, and thrown normally, that would have been different. I went to Japan, took the money, and did as well as I could. I earned my salary there. It wasn’t the same. It was just to make a few bucks. It wasn’t a lot of fun,” he told Maury Allen, After the Miracle: The 1969 Mets Twenty Years Later (London: Franklin Watts, 1989).

https://sabr.org>bioproject

Mets fans still have considerable affection for a Met who played in 2 World Series.  Indeed, fans reminiscences on

https://ultimatemets.com

praise Wayne Garrett as a friendly, approachable man to the many of us for whom the Miracle Mets were one of childhood’s great events.

The 1973 Mets who fell just short of triumph represented the high tide of Garrett’s career and my fond memories of watching the ‘Ya Gotta Believe Mets’ in the Sherwin-Williams paint store on Main Street of Port Washington, N.Y are always highlights of the off season.

A great player?  Hardly.  An All Star…well…he wasn’t; but he certainly made a contribution more than any of the “real” 3rd basemen who the Mets went through like the used hot dog wrappers that swirled above the Shea Stadium field.

Wayne Garrett was too good to be good enough.

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