Twin Bill

In a couple of days, Tampa Bay and Oakland’s baseball teams play two games against each other in the same day. 

Two things make this doubleheader unusual. One, the games will take place back to back, with a half hour break between the games. These days, doubleheaders are usually played with a game in the early afternoon and a game at night, so that teams can charge separate admissions for each game. 

The other unusual part of this attraction Saturday is that this was a scheduled doubleheader, not something done for inclement weather. Plus, this is only the second such event at Tropicana Field, because usually domed stadiums prevent weather from interfering with the game. 

It’ll be interesting how well this regularly scheduled doubleheader draws. Tropicana usually holds 30,000 for baseball, though it can 40,000 if there is demand for it. If it draws well, maybe this becomes a yearly attraction. 

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The Games Played With Games

As a sports fan almost all my life, I do find it meddlesome at times when the rules of sports get tweaked. 

Recently, MLB changed the rules concerning intentional walks. The runner is now just awarded first base with no pitches thrown. I’ve seen wild pitches thrown during intentional walks. Now that can’t happen. 

Ditto the NFL a couple of years ago making the extra point after a touchdown. Takes out the possibility of a team faking a kicked extra point and going for two points with a run or pass out of a kicked formation. 

NASCAR keeps changing their standings points system. This year, they are dividing races into segments and awarding points to who leads 30 percent and 60 percent through the races.

To me, this is a bit strange. Do they remember who had the lead a quarter of the way thru the Kentucky Derby, or the Boston marathon?  Probably not. 

The Wordsmith Of Balls And Strikes

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When I briefly lived in Las Vegas in a couple of mistimed and under-funded ventures in 1996 and 2000, one of the things that got me through some long days was listening to Los Angeles Dodger games on the radio on Sin City’s big AM station, 720 KDWN.

I had known of Vin Scully through his nationally televised work of not just calling baseball games. People often forget that he called NFL games and PGA Golf on CBS, too. He called the famous playoff game that turned out to be a historical focal point in NFL lore when the 49ers beat the Cowboys 28-27 that marked the birth of San Francisco’s football dynasty. The punctuating moment was, of course, the Dwight Clark catch with under a minute left for the decisive score.

There was that game at Shea Stadium in 1986 where the Red Sox appeared to have a World Series won, but the Mets had other plans. (Some YouTube whiz put Scully’s call of that Met 10th inning of Game 6 to an RBI Baseball video game.)

Another magical night captured by Vin’s audio artistry was Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, where another improbable improv played out with one swing of an ailing Kirk Gibson’s bat.

Sunday will be Scully’s last game behind the microphone at Dodger Stadium. His last game overall will be the following Sunday in San Francisco as the Dodgers travel to face the Giants.

When his announcing career began with the Dodgers at the start of the 1950 season, they still called Brooklyn home, and my mother was less than a year old. (Oops, just gave away her age.) He called the only perfect game in World Series history, when Don Larsen retired 27 Brooklyn hitters in a row in 1956. Sixty years later, he’s calling Dodger games on local cable TV with no second man in the booth to analyze or to play off of.

He’ll be 89 in a couple of months, but the sports broadcasting world will likely never be the same once he calls his last pitch. If you’ve never heard Scully call a Dodget game, you can’t fathom just how good he is as a broadcaster, even to this day. He should be thanked (and has been) for his contributions to the game, and if and when the Dodgers ever move out of Chavez Ravine, Vin Scully Stadium would be a great name for the new park in an era of corporate greed.

A Pauper Among Draft Kings

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Sometimes in life you tend to drift back into old habits, and after playing a bit of Daily Fantasy Sports last fall and swearing off of it, I’ve fallen off the wagon to play some DraftKings. Mainly I play baseball, but I play a little PGA and NASCAR on the side.

One thing I have observed: picking winners in baseball is a LOT tougher than the NFL, NASCAR, and other sports. That’s because there’s a high degree of variance in baseball. Today’s hitter who hits three home tuns is tomorrow’s hitter who goes 0 for 4.

I don’t play with money I can’t afford to lose, and my daily bankroll limit of 25% of my total bankroll keeps me in action every day. For me right now, it’s about learning a lot more than making some spare change.

I was concerned last year about the DFS sites (FanDuel is another one of note) getting shut down. But I think if it was going to happen here in Florida, it would have by now. The leagues and teams do a lot of hand-in-hand advertising with these teams, and even I couldn’t help but notice all the DraftKings logos and colors my two trips to Tropicana Field this season.

It’s good mental exercise, and I treat it like that. It’s not an obsession of mine.

Swimming In Pizza

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I must be doing something right in my life these days, living in the Tampa Bay area.

Twice in the past week, I’ve taken advantage of a couple of deals Papa John’s Pizza has offered, mainly because of geography and local sports. Much like similar deals in other Major League Baseball markets, if the Rays score six runs or more in a game, their pizzas can be ordered half off online if put the code of “RAYS6” in. Last year, the Rays scored six runs or more in 37 of their 162 games. So far in 17 games this season, they’ve only gotten to six runs twice.

But wait, there’s more! Whenever the Tampa Bay Lightning win a game, the pizza is also half off when ordering online, using the “SLAPSHOT50” code. Thursday, the Rays beat the Boston Red Sox 12-8, AND the Lightning beat the Detroit Red Wings 1-0 to win their first round series in the NHL playoffs, sending Detroit fans and their octopi back home to Michigan.

On top of that, I had a free pizza coming my way with their rewards points system.

With all of these orders to choose from, I had a brain fart. I redeemed the free pizza as opposed to keeping that offer on ice for later.

Oh, well. What can you do other than fridge the pizza slices that you can’t eat? There are bad problems to have, and good problems to have, and this is a clear example of the latter.

Baseball Mania

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At Tropicana Field watching the Rays play Seattle, May 27, 2015.

On the same day the 32nd Wrestlemania was held at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, the 2016 MLB season got underway with three games stretched throughout Sunday.

Turning on ESPN early awaiting the 1 o’clock start of the Cardinals-Pirates game, I saw a preview of the big wrestling card later that night. I don’t watch the “World Wide Leader” that much these days, so seeing a WWE card, even it’s biggest event of the year, promoted on the channel caught me by surprise. But it did remind me of watching Channel 13 (WTVT) in Tampa on Tuesday nights, and seeing sportscaster Andy Hardy promote the night’s card at the Ft. Homer Hesterly Armory. They held weekly matches in Tampa back then. Now, the top wrestling promotion only comes to town a few times a year, though its NXT farm system frequent holds performances at a small arena near Pinellas Park High School, not too far from me.

Also not far away was were the second MLB game of the day was played: the AL runner-ups from last year, the slugging Toronto Blue Jays, took on the local Rays at Tropicana Field. Usually, the Rays don’t draw well for a multitude of reasons I’ve discussed on this blog before. I also think that FOX Sports Sun carrying about 95% of their games is part of it too. No knock against their crew, which does excellent work, led by veteran play-by-play man Dewayne Staats and host Todd Kalas, whom I once had a chance to meet doing the P.A. at Largo High basketball games when he worked at Vision Cable in Clearwater. The games get great ratings for the local sports network, but it also tends to eliminate incentive for fans to go visit the ballpark.

On this Opening Day however, attendance is not an issue, as a sellout crowd came to the Trop to watch the road team from Toronto get the 5-3 win. Say what you want about the Tampa Bay market, but if your team is a consistent winner, and the game is important enough, fans will come out and see the big game. The price of parking, hot dogs, beer, and hamburgers the size of a small child are mere temporary financial setbacks. The game of baseball provides memories that last forever, and the game will likely be there to be observed and savored when the NFL eventually crashes and burns.

Tuned Out By Tunein

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I must admit that when I got an E-mail from the people at Tunein a couple of days ago, I began to salivate a little bit.

For those of you who don’t know, Tunein is the service that aggregates radio stations all over the world that broadcast online and has a majority of the broadcasting rights. Want to listen to a radio station in the middle of Switzerland? It’s there for you. It’s better than a owning a shortwave back in the day, plus their premium service offers the ability to listen to audiobooks, plus MLB and NFL games.

I also have Tunein on my IPhone 4 (with an IPhone upgrade on my present to-do list), and therein lies the rub: on some audio books where the chapters are less than 10 minutes, the last few seconds of each chapter tend to cut off if edited a certain way if I listen on the IPhone. Thus, when I saw Tunein giving this survey, it motivated me to give it a try.

One of the questions asked is if I’ve worked in the media in my career, or blog about the media. I answered honestly yes to both (because I was in radio from 1989-1996 and blog about CBS’s Big Brother once a month, but daily during their season), and was quickly forwarded to a page thanking me for my participation without asking me any further questions.

I was bummed that the survey process didn’t allow me to share their problem with them, so I contacted them by E-mail to see if it can be fixed. The consensus seemed to be that because my IPhone is older and uses an older IOS, that was causing the problems I was having with audiobooks in some cases.

But just because I was someone with a past in radio doesn’t mean I wouldn’t give them an unbiased opinion. All the companies I worked for are no longer around, with the exception of WTAN which remains a “mom and pop” timeshare station that anyone can buy an hour on.

Oh, well.