Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Categorical Denial

I'm sick of categories.  People can not be stuffed and sorted into little boxes and explained so easily.  We are nuanced creatures and as such should escape these designations.  For its need to separate us into groups science fails us here, as does the natural human instinct to make snap judgments about the people we meet.  Yes, I'm gay but that does not begin to define me as a person.  Every male I meet is not a potential sex partner.  I am picky and don't consider most to be attractive.  Even when I am smitten once I know a man is straight that door closes and I respect boundaries.  There are many other facets of my life and as far as the social aspect, time spent playing sports, having an intelligent conversation, or quietly sharing a beer is just as important.  Sadly, since I came out I find myself with more new female friends than male because of sexual tension that should not even exist.
 These are my frustrations and I am sure you have yours.  Our tendency to group the world into gender, race, sexual orientation, and other categories narrows our vision and blinds us to what we truly are: a bunch of individuals each shaped by unique experiences.  I know I have fallen into these traps myself many times.  Every day from now on I want to strive to improve my ability to understand and empathize with friends and co-workers.  I want to challenge convention, not be trapped by the sort of thinking that attempts to simplify what is complex.  I hope you will to.  

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

MLB All Name Team, The Finale: R-Z

After a series of unforeseeable cost overruns caused by the banking collapse in Cyprus and the discovery of a live marmot in my refrigerator the final list, long awaited by many people (or at least three), is ready for press.  Yes, the likes of Ugly Dickshot, Chick Manlove, and Rusty Kuntz will be joined by thirteen more players whose names/nicknames are capable by their mere pronouncement of returning your frown to the upright position.  Lacking further introductory blather let us now present the greatest names in baseball history falling in alphabetical order somewhere in between infielder Brian Raabe's career zero homers and the last entry on Baseball Reference, Dutch Zwilling (who hit an outstanding .113 in one season for the Cubs).

C: Pop Swett and Pi Schwert - I haven't done a platoon in the past, but these names were so oddly similar and easily interchangeable it seemed appropriate to go with the combo platter.  Pop Swett played one single season for the Boston Reds in 1890, smacking a single home run and batting .191.  Pi Schwert was a .208 hitter in two years with Yankees, and might have gone on not to suck had World War I not interfered with his baseball career.   After serving in the Navy, he went on to become the only former Bronx Bomber to date to serve in Congress, representing Western New York.    

1b: Razor Shines -This was the hardest of choices for me and the fan vote didn't help matters by finishing in a three way tie.  I have therefore played reluctant dictator and chosen this Expos scrub. Although his name does sound vaguely intimidating, his .183 career batting average and zero homers were not.  Razor did achieve impressive longevity at the minor league level, forging a sixteen year career Bull Durham would have been proud of.  Since retiring as a player he has managed several minor league teams and is currently with the Great Lake Loons.  Honorable Mentions: Chicken Wolf, Ed Smartwood

2b: Mike Tyson - The inclusion of a celebrity has become a requirement for this list, and it is hard to beat the long series of bizarre incidents that are brought to mind when the name of a man as mentally balanced as a seesaw with a midget and a linebacker on either side is invoked.  The baseball version of Iron Mike started for the Cardinals during the 1970s, hitting around .250 over eight seasons.  The Northsiders in Chicago saw something they liked and signed him to a contract, probably for way more than what he was worth.  That statement is true regardless of the sums as he proved to be worthless and was forcibly retired within two years of adding his name to the long list of terrible Cubs.  

SS: Tony Suck - I try to let the great ones on this list speak for themselves so I will be brief.  Believe it or not, Tony was actually born with the surname Zuck and intentionally changed his name to Suck.  He lived up to the new name, striking out four times in eight National League plate appearances in 1884 while never managing to reach base via hit.       

3b: Butts Wagner - The older brother of Hall of Famer Honus Wagner had it tough.  While Honus spent nearly a quarter of a century manning the Pittsburgh Pirates infield, gaining renown as one of the best hitters to ever play the game, Butts managed only one season in the big leagues and only one career home run, which did happen to help win a game for the best named team in baseball history, the Brooklyn Bridgegrooms.  The unfortunately nicknamed brother also managed to worm his way into popular culture.  For some inexplicably reason Butts was depicted as an eccentric inventor during a boy's long (erotic?) dream sequence in the book The Mystery of the Wagner Whacker.  

OF:  Pussy Tebeau - Nuff ced.  Pussy played two major league games for the Cleveland Spiders and I would like to personally thank God for allowing his awesomeness into the annals of Major League Baseball history.  I might even Tebeau.

OF: Count Sensenderfer- Unlike most players on this list, Sensenderfer was not utterly terrible.  Nicknamed Count for his aristocratic bearing rather than a desire to drink blood after the sun goes down, Sensenderfer played in some of the first recorded professional games in baseball history, scoring an unbelievable 200 runs during the 1868 season.  He played his entire career in Philadelphia and later went on to a career in politics, serving as Count Sensenderfer, Philadelphia County Commissioner. 

OF: Chappie Snodgrass- Chappie was a nickname, but his real name wasn't that great either.  Born Arnzie Beal Snodgrass, Chappie gets this team back on track in the useless turd department.  He managed only one career hit in ten major league at bats for a whopping. .100 batting average. OF Honorable Mention: Live Oak Taylor, Homer Summa, Rip Repulski, Chick Shorten. 

P: Crazy Schmit - My research came up with two possible reasons for Schmit's nickname.  The first theory is that he was released from a mental institution prior to his Major League Career.   Another tidbit I found suggested Crazy was a wee bit fond of alcohol and his behavior train would remove itself from the rails of civility after a round of overindulgent imbibing.  He played for the Cleveland Spiders 1898 team, which is considered the worst in the history of baseball.  A major contributor, Schmit managed to win two games while losing only eighteen. 

 P:  Mysterious Walker - What is the opposite of a sandwich?  Walker's career was successful at the beginning and the end, but hit a bit of a lull in the middle.  As a college athlete he starred in football, baseball, and basketball at the University of Chicago.  After graduating he chose a career in professional baseball, earning his nickname by playing incognito for the minor league San Francisco Seals.  This is the part that did not go so well.  The Mysterious One went 7-24 over five seasons, finishing his career in 1915 with the Brooklyn side, who had now ingeniously changed their name to the Tip-Tops (they also performed for a time as the Superbas, whatever the hell those are).  Following his playing career Walker went into collegiate coaching, manning the helm as a football, baseball, basketball coach, and once serving as athletic director.  He certainly made the rounds leading teams at Utah St, Mississippi, Oregon St, Williams, DePauw, Carnegie Tech, Washington & Jefferson, Texas, Dartmouth, Wheaton, Loyola (LA), Rhode Island, and Michigan St - all in a span of less than twenty five years!

P: Cy Slapnicka - Like Walker, Slapnicka was another unsuccessful pitcher either unable to cope with an odd name or just burdened with a lack of talent.  The man must have known something about the game, however, as he was able to parlay it into a 50+ year career.   Mainly a minor leaguer, Slapnicka played at the lower levels for eighteen years and compiled a 1-6 during short stints in the big leagues.  Over his decades of service he learned enough to gain employment in the Indians organization, acting as General Manager from 1935-1940, then spending the next twenty years as a scout for the franchise.  His most famous signing?  Hall of Famer and fellow Iowan Bob Feller.

P: Lil Stoner - Jung Bong now has a partner on the all marijuana team.  Apparently the weed assisted his pitching, as the Tiger hurler managed a 50-58 career record, rather impressive when compared to the other losers on this list.  He was said to have a wicked curve thanks to a deformity on his pitching hand, which he received after his brother nearly chopped the digit off.  His brother was also the source of his nickname, since the young boy was unable to pronounce Ulysses or any of the other eight presidents Lil Stoner was named after.  Even Stoner's great breaking ball could sometimes fail - Babe Ruth is said to have hit his  longest home run off the pitcher, an epic 600+ foot blast.

P: Cannonball Titcomb - A combination of the vaguely sexual and outright bizarre, Titcomb's name exemplifies everything we look for in a great name.  He is also the ace of this sorry staff, barely managing a career winning record of 30-29 and also pitching a no hitter in 1890 versus Syracuse.  His minor league career included stints with the Jersey City Skeeters, the Rochester Hop Bitters, and the Providence Clamdiggers.  Honorable Mentions: Phenomenal Smith, Charlie Wacker, Pete Rambo, Biff Schlitzer.

Well that's it folks, except for one last late addition to one of our earlier teams.  Sometimes the nicknames aren't listed unless you go to a player's page so oversights can easily occur.  While researching this list I came up a bit of nickname greatness I had overlooked.  This player not only had one great moniker, he had three, and they are way too good not to be included retroactively: Arlie Latham, AKA the Dude, AKA The Hustler from Hustletown, AKA...wait for it....."the Freshest Man on Earth."     



Wednesday, February 20, 2013

We Have Nothing to Beer Except Beer Itself

Earlier today, while exercising on a fake bicycle, I began thinking back upon one of the saddest days of my life.   I had just entered Ohio on my cross country hike, and was excited about the prospect of having a beer or two to celebrate the completion of West Virginia.  The town of Belpre did not boast many choices, so I made my way to the local Pizza Hut.  To my shock and horror they did not serve beer.  In fact, the entire county was dry. 
The scars from this discovery have yet to heal.  I have racked my brain since to solve the problem, which is bigger than mere local prohibition of alcohol.  Despite evolving a great deal since Gwynzoggg invented fire and Boltroggg used it to burn down the Great Artrusian Forest in 25078 BC, mankind has not learned impulse control.  As a result society has been forced to come up with half measures, laws which attempt to govern our use of alcohol, fire arms, drugs, and other useful items. 
I admit, even from a personal perspective, it is very hard to perceive someone's ability to act responsibly.  As a twenty year old I had no idea how to properly ingest alcohol.  I'd use a bowl, funnel, can, bottle, syringe, or any other object near at hand to introduce the liquid to my liver as quickly and efficiently as possible, with no regard for the amount of consumption beside what my body chose to reject.  The next day I would usually feel horrible, questioning the sanity of such mass consumption.  Amnesia would thankfully offset feelings of regret and another binge was soon underway.
Or so I thought in those days.  I now know as a responsible adult that drinking should be properly regulated.  My youthful indiscretions are regretful, and I was lucky to survive this period of my life without following in the footsteps of the great artist and alcoholic Edgard Allen Poe, who finished up his final session by passing out in a gutter dead.  
Should someone have stopped me?  Maybe, but I sure would have a lot less funny stories to tell.  I am not an angry drunk and no one was ever hurt physically by my actions while intoxicated.  I did, however, occasionally operate a motor vehicle when I shouldn't have. 
Blanket bans or prohibition is unfair, we end up punishing everyone for the sins of a few.  Properly separating the wheat from the chaff is the real issue if we are to make sensible policy.  How can we possibly decide who is well-suited to hit the bottle or the bong?  I think the driving test is a good model. After a period of training, an exam would be administered, one designed to weigh your knowledge and gauge your responses to certain situations.  A panel of five experts would rule as to whether you are capable of enjoying the pleasures of drugs and alcohol or various levels of lethal weaponry safely.  If successful these panels might expand their role.  Don't we all know someone who probably shouldn't be allowed to procreate?  I know this sounds like more government interference in our lives, but once we have passed the exam we will be allowed to defile ourselves in peace forever.  Who doesn't want that?  

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Baseball All Name Team: M-P

Now done with wandering the countryside momentarily, I'd like to wish the Thoughts Askew readership a Happy New Year.  I would like to inaugurate 2013 by welcoming back our standard drivel, the continuation of a project I have been working on intermittently for a period of time bordering on forever, the greatest names in Major League Baseball history.  We have seen an amazing list of candidates so far, from Rusty Kuntz to Ugly Dickshot to Stubby Clapp.  Amazingly, only half of the players have been named Dick.  Don't expect a notable rise in maturity level amongst the choices below, especially since I've allowed several of you degenerates to vote.   With no further procrastination, I present to you the most apt appellations sandwiched in the directory between Duke Maas and Tim Pyznarski.   You'll probably notice the high rate of alcoholism amongst our contestants. 

Catcher: Chick Manlove - Our world would be a much less happy place if Manlove had not been deemed worthy of seventeen major league at bats in 1884.  Never has a name sounded so ineffably gay while also retaining a tinge of heterosexuality.  The extra impetus of the odd nickname gives Chick the edge over second place finisher, Kurt Manwaring.

First Base: Jackie Mayo - In an effort to avoid being gross or sophomoric, mainly to keep the audience confused, I will refrain from making any comments on the discharge brought to mind here.  Mayo managed to spooge out (okay I lied) over fifty base hits for the Phillies during a short career in the late 40s and early 50s.  Honorable Mention: Talmadge Nunnari

Second Base: Frank "Scat" Metha - I believe guano is an ingredient in Methamphetamine, which is without a doubt how Scat obtained his nickname.  I base this stone cold fact on absolutely nothing, except that after such a short career (36 total at bats) Frank was probably in need of another source of income.  Honorable Mention: Dick Padden.

Shortstop: Chick Naleway - with two Chicks on this team, I feel it likely we will have a menage a trois.  Naleway surely must have gotten into porn, because like the rest of the fellows so far, he did not have a long, majestic stay in the big leagues.  Two measly plate appearances in 1924 and it was all over.  From a sociological perspective, I imagine the relentless heckling these players must have endured did not lend itself to great success.  Predestined failure: is it all in the name?  Postscript: Chick is buried in Resurrection Cemetery, leading me to think first of zombies, then of this classic scene.

 Third Base: George "Doggie" Miller - Pickings were slim at third base to be perfectly honest.  Miller actually had quite a long career, which according to the previously stated theory, means fans were not able to make much hay from his name.  In fact, he was the first player in Pirates history to finish ten full seasons for the franchise.  What sets him above the other weak contestants are his two other odd nicknames: Foghorn and Calliope.
According to Baseball Reference, he earned his most commonly used moniker by breeding dogs.  The article goes on to mention he is the only player ever named Calliope (but not Foghorn) and that he was somewhat fond of obliterating his liver.

Outfield: Les Mann - Let's sing Hedwig and the Angry Inch together now!  Les was also nicknamed Major, but that was before the surgery.  Or was it a horrible hedge-trimming accident?  Either way, he went on to have a long major league career, playing outfield for the Cubs in the days before they became consistently terrible.   

Outfield: Dizzie Nutter - Some of these can only be ruined by comment.  I'll let you sit back and savor the comedic possibilities of sexual vertigo on your own.  Nutter played one brief season for the 1919 Boston Braves.

Outfield: Angel Pagan - Angel currently plays for the World Champion San Francisco Giants.  I have not been able to confirm whether he is an atheist, but wow would that be a wonderful bit of irony.  Honorable Mention: Queenie O'Rourke.

Pitcher: Dick Pole - I think by now we are all aware I can't make one of these lists without including a man named Dick somewhere.  Assign the blame to my proclivities if you will, but I think if we are honest with ourselves we can all agree that a name just can't have too many wiener inferences.  Dick Pole lasted six seasons in the mid 1970s, with a nicely inflated ERA above five, which he no doubt blamed on Carter's economic policies.  Proving the old Shaw axiom about those that can't do, teach, Pole went on to become a pitching coach for the Cincinnati Reds.

Pitcher: Wedo Martini - Wedo wanted to prove that an Italian could go on to become something besides a gangster or a priest.  With a career ERA of over 17 I'll let you decide for yourself how well that turned out for him.

Pitcher: Doug "Buzz" McWeeny - Chicagoan McWeeny, (which is something that should definitely be on the McDonald's menu), was a lot more successful than Martini, winning 37 games for his hometown White Stockings, which is a mere 37 more than Martini won.  Doug also had a bit of luck in that the term Weinie did not enter the American lexicon until twenty years after he retired.  It makes me want to travel back in time and give him the heckling he missed out on. 

Pitcher: Cletus "Boots" Poffenberger: What determines the course of a man's life?  Is he predetermined to fall thanks to a terrible name choice by his parents?  Does the intemperate life of baseball carry him down into the depths of disgrace?   What happened to form Boots, who had a short three year major league career, is uncertain, but we do know the result:
    *During one game in Nashville the free-spirited ballplayer had a few shots of gin before he first took the mound.  It didn’t take long before Boots became angry after some calls that did not go his way, and decided to fire the ball at the umpire that resulted in a 90-day suspension.   In retrospect Boots admitted that he had previously taken a few beers before scheduled to pitch, and said of the umpire incident, “It just slipped up on me this time.”  
 Former Pirate Dock Ellis, who once pitched a no hitter on acid, was unimpressed.  

Pitcher: Heine Meine - Known as the Count of Luxembourg (the area of St. Louis in which he lived), Meine was a feisty hurler who managed to survive on wits and control, as he lacked velocity.  Baseball made him many connections in the world of alcoholism, which he parlayed into a second career as the owner of a speakeasy.  The bar served a variety of moose milk (a combination of vanilla ice cream and several liquors) which was supposedly potent enough to peel the paint off of a battleship.   Honorable Mentions: Jeff Manship, Ossie Ozborn,  The Only Nolan, and Limb "Big Pete" McHenry.  

 *Reprinted from Chatter From the Dugout.