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Personalities

This Week Beyond Baseball

A dim light in the booth. A buzzing, and the microphone fizzles back on. Welcome back the ghost of Mel Allen, the departed host of This Week in Baseball! With Biff Loman in tow, his soul walks again to give us the rundown on who to watch in the 2002 pennant race.

Hi folks. This is the ghost of Mel Allen, coming to you from the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field in Chicago. Or is this Limbo? Hard to tell sometimes, ain’t that right Cubs fans? Hey, was that a Fury flying past or the latest Mamet script? Hahhaha. Just joking. This heat wave is getting to me, folks. I’m here today with my good buddy Biff Loman, out in left shagging balls. How about that, Biff? Is it true Sammy ‘The Bull’ Sosa is liked but not well-liked in the Cub clubhouse?

First up: the American League East. The Boston Red Sox, once leading the division by as many as five games, have plummeted in the standings, and are sinking behind the New York Yankees faster than Plymouth Rock. As glum as ever, the Fenway faithful blame the collapse on the curse of Babe Ruth, the frozen head of Ted Williams, Yankee arrogance, and poor pitching (in that order).

Meanwhile in Gotham City the Yankees are again Bronx Bombers, scoring at will and winning consistently despite the complete meltdown of their bullpen. It is rumored the faces on the god-idol monuments in Yankee Stadium are very, very angry with the NY relief corps, and sacrifices must be made to regain favor. It’s still up in the air whether former Mayor Giuliani or ex-reliever Goose Gossage will handle the ceremonial burning of blown saves.

Just down I-95 the Baltimore Orioles continue to impress. Predicted by most to finish somewhere south of Cape Horn in the standings, the O’s are feisty to say the least. While the Birds won’t make the playoffs, contending AL clubs have already given Baltimore the ‘Biggest Pain in the Ass of the Year’ award. With the playoffs on the line, no one—you hear me Biff?—no one wants to see the Orioles come to town. As my mother always used to say to us at dinnertime, it’s better to be feared than loved. Way to go Birds!

In the AL Central, the Minnesota Twins are on a vengeance trip unseen since Caesar crossed the Rubicon. Slated in the off season for dissolution by baseball Commissioner Bud ‘Evil’ Selig, the Twins sued, kept the club intact, and now lead their division by an estimated 600 games. Said one anonymous groundskeeper named Thor, ‘They figured they almost got screwed. Now they got a hardon for all baseball, and are just looking for someone, anyone, to screw back. You really gotta admire these guys.’ Yes you do, Thor, yes you do.

Behind them in the standings are the Lockhorns, otherwise known as the Chicago White Sox. Continuing a Pale Hose tradition, the ChiSox had high hopes coming into the season, but inner turmoil and a clubhouse atmosphere like raw sewage has the team in disarray. Frank ‘The Big Hurt’ Thomas has been a big hurt for his own team at the plate this year, and could lose beaucoup bucks because of a ‘diminished-ability’ clause in his contract. Good thing we don’t got one of those in our network deal, eh Biff? Shit, I’m dead and you don’t even exist, how’s that for diminished ability? It’s also being said that All-Star first baseman Paul Konerko, fed up with the Hurt’s laissez-faire attitude, has put a hit out on Thomas. Maybe they should re-name Thomas ‘The Dirt Nap?’ Either way, the ChiSox are six feet deep as far as this season goes.

Right beneath them in the AL Central graveyard are the Cleveland Indians. The Tribe also had high hopes, but, suddenly realizing that unloading some of their biggest stars in the off season meant having a lousy team, they continued to unload, and now the team consists of slugger Jim Thome and 23 guys named Larry. Thome, whose homeruns come down with snow on the laces, has showed tremendous class and loyalty, so far sticking with the Tribe despite their grim prospects. Even if Cleveland don’t rock anymore, way to be, Jimmy!

Out in the AL West, it’s like Sly and the Family Stone said: ‘There’s a riot goin’ on.’ The Seattle Mariners, the Oakland A’s, and the Anaheim Angels are in hand-to-hand combat for the Western division lead. The M’s have the best bullpen, the A’s have the strongest starting pitching, but the Angels may be the overall superior club. What’s made the race even more fascinating is the interest it’s inspired with hometown corporate rooters. Seattle is backed by Boeing and Microsoft, who provide blueprints and frozen blue monitors whenever the team loses, while Anaheim has Disney leading squeaky, anti-unionized cheers. Oakland has responded in kind, with the Hell’s Angels donating sawed-off pool cues for late-inning intimidation tactics. Dance to the music, fans! It’s going to come down to the trip-wire.

On to the National League, where the pitchers bat for themselves and the ballparks are kind of ugly. Hey Biff, what’s with those concrete backdrops in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati? Is the joint even open yet? Hahha, just keep shagging, Biff, just keep shagging. In the East, the Atlanta Braves have run away with the division, proving that strong pitching, timely hitting, and having the worst announcers in the history of televised sports are the keys to a successful franchise. They may be dull, folks, but they win, and that’s all that counts down in Hotlanta. Don’t you wish you were there to see it, Ms. Fonda? And shut it, Biff! You know I could give a flying monkey fuck about the National League. You think you can crack wiser? Be my guest!

Okay, folks, behind the Braves in the East by about 100 miles of hot Georgia asphalt are the New York Mets and the Montreal Expos. Despite the poor play of their high-priced free-agent acquisitions, their early season obsession with Roger ‘Headhunter’ Clemens, and the bizarre ramblings of their simpleton manager (who hinted to the media that star catcher Mike Piazza was gay), the Mets are somehow still in the wild-card hunt. The Expos, another team almost dissolved by ‘Evil’ Bud Selig, have shown they can win but only when no one expects them to. After obtaining—some say raping—the cash-poor Florida Marlins and Cleveland Indians for quality players, the team has played terribly, showing that fear is more than a factor. Voulez-vous coucher avec moi c’est soir, Montreal fans, cause it could be a long summer!

Out in the Central division, the St. Louis Cardinals hold a slim lead despite the sudden, god-awful death of veteran pitcher Darryl Kile. Kile’s death, caused by clogged arteries, was a complete shock as he’d done excellently on his physical earlier in the year. The Cardinals’ season had already taken on a funereal tone when their legendary radio announcer Jack Buck passed away mere days before Kile’s death. Division rivals may have frittered away the chance to overtake the Cards when, stunned by the two deaths, the team played like zombies for close to three weeks. Now the Cardinals are back at it and Redbird rooters have a lot to look forward to this fall.

The Cincinnati Reds, surprising everyone, have played well all year despite continual injuries to star centerfielder Ken Griffey, Jr. In fact, the club played so well sans Junior that fans have turned viciously against Griffey, hanging signs from the stands calling him ‘worthless.’ Hey, don’t hide your love away, Reds fans, you sound like one of my exes!

Meanwhile, the Houston Astros, playing in the park formerly known as Enron Field, have been as up and down as the stock market, unable to gain enough momentum to merit the word ‘contender.’ Corporate sponsorship of their stadium has been seized by Minute Maid, and now their field is now derisively known as the Juice Box. Bet former-Astro and drunken steroid boy Ken Caminiti will love that name! Snakes alive, did I say that out loud? Fuck me! Anyway, here in the Windy City, the Cubs continue their proud tradition of sucking no matter what. Despite the formidable talents of Sammy Sosa, pitcher Kerry Wood, Moises Alou, Fred ‘The Crime Dog’ McGriff, and rookie phenom Mark Prior, the Cubbies aren’t even within sniffing distance of the playoffs. Hey Chicago: Third prize is you’re fired!

Out in the NL West, there’s another coastal brouhaha, with the world-champion Arizona Diamondbacks, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the San Francisco Giants all pummeling each other for bragging rights. The Dodgers are led by slugger Shawn Green and the newest Japanese import Kazuhisa Ishii (pronounced like it’s spelled) while the Giants rally behind steroid- and humility-free Barry Bonds, who has compared the possible baseball strike to striking bus drivers. Leg injuries to the entire SF outfield has Bay fans singing, ‘Brother, Can you Spare a Hamstring?’ and it’s looking like their chances for claiming the division are equally strained. Ever-steady, the Diamondbacks have opened a slight lead, and are led by pitchers known as Schill and the Big Unit. Hey Biff, you know all about shills, don’t you? Hahhhaha. Just kidding, folks. Biff don’t know nothing about nothing.

Alrighty, that’s all for ‘This Week Beyond Baseball.’ My thanks to the Friendly Confines, the all-hours Limbo liquor license, and ‘Evil’ Bud Selig for making today’s show possible. Tune in next week when we’ll talk about the looming strike and whether any of this means a goddamn thing. And remember kids, strike or no strike, follow your ABC’s- ‘Always Be Closing!’ For Biff Loman—keep shagging, schmucko, keep shagging—I’m the ghost of Mel Allen. How about that!

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Tobias Seamon recently published the novella The Fair Grounds. More can be found here. More by Tobias Seamon