November 26, 2008
At the risk of sounding oversentimental or already drunk on cranberry sauce, I'd like to confess that I love those "What I'm Thankful For" columns.
Long favored by columnists with one foot out the vacation door and perfected by Joe Posnanski, I'm thankful someone provides me a forum to get all touchy feely before the fam breaks out Mom's famous cheeseballs and we watch the Lions get mauled by whatever team they're facing.
So without further delay, here's a few heaping spoonfuls of grateful, which shall serve as the Stew's weekend stuffing, so long as baseball's GMs don't shake off the effects of tryptophan and finally start making some offseason moves over the weekend.
(Which is to say, we'll probably see you next Monday ... Have a great Thanksgiving.)
To begin, I'm thankful, of course, for the game itself (1). Over the past 10 months, I've been able to follow it as closely as ever and, as such, was able to watch the moments we'll never forget from '08. When I look back, I'll be thankful I saw things like Brad Lidge doing his best Tug McGraw impression (2), David Price sending the Rays to an improbable World Series with a four-out save (3), the no-hitters from Carlos Zambrano and Jon Lester (4), Griff's 600th and Man-Ram's 500th (5), the hotter-than-hot .400 start from Chipper Jones (6), the ageless pitching performances of Jamie Moyer (7), the play-through-the-pain dedication of guys like Albert Pujols and Chase Utley (8) and, lest we forget, Josh Hamilton sending little white baseball after little white baseball up into the air of the black Bronx sky (9).
I'm thankful for other things that defined the season — the earth-shaking deadline deals like Manny Ramirez-to-the-Dodgers (10), the earth-shaking swap (in more ways than one), CC Sabathia-to-the-Brewers (11), pitchers like The Big Guy pitching on short rest during a playoff push (12) and, even though it redefined ug-lee at the end, the surprising two-horse race in the AL Central between the White Sox and Twins (13).
If you read this blog on a frequent basis, I'm thankful for you, the reader (14). I'm thankful you understand that my love of baseball goes beyond the standings and statistics, that I've got a penchant for the offbeat and colorful, that I adore the little things that make up the fabric of why we pack the stadiums each summer day and follow them on the radio or TV each summer night.
I'm thankful for the frivolous and silly things like the infernal hip-bump (15) that help the players make it through a 162-game grind and make running a baseball blog so much fun. I'm thankful for things like Jason Giambi's mustache (16), Derek Jeter, A-Rod and Roger Clemens on a gossip page (17), Torii Hunter's humor (18), clubhouse pranks like Kyle Kendrick getting traded to Japan (19), Jonathan Papelbon's grating, yet sorta endearing hijinks (20) and because I'm nothing if not a frustrated fashion diva, the Cy Young-winning wardrobe of Tim Lincecum (21).
I'm thankful for the great nicknames that keep alive the tradition of good baseball monikers — "Pronk" (22), "Pat The Bat" (23), "Big Unit" (24), "The Hebrew Hammer" (25), "Doc Halladay" (26), "King Felix" (27), "El Caballo" (28), "Big Papi" (29), "Cinco Ocho" (30) and "Big Puma/Fat Elvis" (31/32) among them.
I'm thankful for the aspects of television that make this the best era to be a baseball couch potato. I can no longer live without Extra Innings (33), Extra Innings in hi-def (34), legendary announcers like Vin Scully (35) and Bob Uecker (36), underappreciated PBP announcers like Dan Shulman (37) and Len Kasper (38), pitch count trackers that never leave the screen (39), recording a game on DVR (40), starting it 45 minutes late (41), missing most of the commercials (42), talking about it on your team's message board (43) and following it all with an open laptop set to GameChannel and your fantasy team (45).
Speaking of computers, I'm thankful for the contacts and friends I've made in the baseball 'sphere over the past year. Close to home, I'm thankful for Dave Brown's invigorating shots of Morning Juice (46) and even more so for his cooky yet oh-so-revealing Answer Men sessions (47). I'm particularly thankful for the time he asked Cole Hamels if he had ever smoked a pack of Camels (48) and his continued linkage of Eva Longoria photographs (49).
Across this seam-stitched series of tubes, I'm thankful for Meech's Phillies videos on The Fightins' (No Questions Asked) (50), Walkoff Walk's Prancing Shrimp (51), Tao of Stieb's Canadian comedy (52), the pop culture references of Sons of Steve Garvey (53), Andy Dolan's simmering Cubs rage over on Desipio (54), Samara's artful take on Roar Of The Tigers (55), David Chalk's insistence on still calling them the Devil Rays on B&C (56), the laughs I get from Surviving Grady (57) and Cards Diaspora (58), Ian Casselberry's blessing of his boys (59) and the 3,000 word posts from JoPo that always derail my productivity (60).
But enough inside-bloggerdom, let's get back to baseball. I'm thankful for the league's ballparks (61) and the differences between them. I'm thankful for the ivy at Wrigley Field (62), the fireworks on a July night at The Cell (63), the unparalleled tailgating scene at Miller Park (64), the statues of Clemente, Stargell and Wagner outside PNC Park (65), the tomahawk-choppin' Chick-Fil-A cow at Turner Field (66) and the Think Blue sign outside Dodger Stadium (67). While I won't miss the smell at old Yankee Stadium, I'm still thankful for the Bronx roar you can't get anywhere else (68), just as I'm thankful for Cardinals fans all dressed in red (69), outfielders avoiding the centerfield flag pole in Houston (70) and even that big, honkin' HD scoreboard in Kansas City (71). I'm thankful for McCovey Cove at AT&T Park (72), the Green Monster at Fenway (72) and the catwalks at Tropicana Field (74). In that order.
Since I'm starting to think about Thursday night's dinner, I'm thankful for ballpark food. Things like crabfries at Citizens Bank (75), garlic fries at AT&T (76), kosher dogs with grilled onions on Chicago's South Side (77), the cheese-fry helmet and the pressbox ice cream at Miller (78), I-shaped pretzels in Cleveland (79), Dodger Dogs in Chavez Ravine (80), Boog's BBQ in Baltimore (81) and Ben's Chili Bowl in Washington (82).
As Poz would say, time for the big finish: I'm thankful for New Era fitted baseball hats (83), the bronze plaques at Cooperstown (84), the flood of new baseball books each spring (85) and old video games like RBI Baseball (86) and Baseball Stars (87). I'm thankful my mom hasn't thrown out binder after binder of baseball cards in my childhood bedroom, even though it's been a good 10 years since I last looked through them (88). I'm thankful for old Beckett magazines (89), the Bo Jackson card where he's holding a bat across football shoulderpads (90) and anything having to do with Ron Kittle (91) and Leon Durham (92).
I'm thankful for things like deciding to go to a 7 p.m. game at 6:15 (93), scalpers with a fistful of tickets to sell and no one to sell them to (94), blooper reels during rain delays (95), constantly checking scores on your cellphone (96) and pumping a fist when you see a score you agree with (97).
I'm thankful for talking baseball with friends (98), going to baseball games with dad (99) and writing about baseball here on the Stew (100).
Finally, I'm most thankful for having plenty of beer to drink while watching baseball (101).
(Did you really think I'd go 101 deep without mentioning that last one?)
Talk amongst yourselves: What are you thankful for?