Von Hayes to meet Von Hayes

Sometimes when a door closes – or in this case, never appeared – a new one opens. In the case for Von Hayes it appears as if they will finally come face to face with Von Hayes.

No, that wasn’t some type of Zen thing. Far from it. Instead, the muse will get a first-hand look at the poets.

So to speak.

Here’s the deal: The indie rock band Von Hayes, based in Newark, Del. and North Jersey, will play a set before the Sept. 20 game between the York Revolution and Lancaster Barnstormers of the non-affiliated Atlantic League and then will perform “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” during the seventh-inning stretch.

The game/gig will be played at York, Pa.’s Sovereign Bank Stadium at noon as part of a two-town, day-night doubleheader. The Lancaster club, it appears, is missing out.

Nevertheless, the Barnstormers are managed by Von Hayes, the former star-crossed Phillie turned modern-day cult hero. The group Von Hayes, as chronicled by Jeff Pearlman for ESPN.com last week, petitioned the Lancaster baseball club for a chance to perform “The Star Spangled Banner” (or anything) with the hope of paying homage to its hero.

“Von Hayes is our inspiration,” Peter Bothum co-founder with Andrew Zitelli of Von Hayes told Pearlman.

According to Pearlman (as well as my past experiences), it wasn’t so much that the Barnstormers’ were standoffish about the idea of Von Hayes performing on the same field as Von Hayes, they just didn’t seem to care or return any phone calls.

As Pearlman wrote, “Somewhere, Bill Veeck is rolling over in his grave.”

But that’s when York team stepped in. In another salvo in the long-simmering War of the Roses (York is white, Lancaster is red), York seems to be taunting Von Hayes with Von Hayes. It’s as if York is claiming to have a Von Hayes of its own, only with power chords instead of a .259 lifetime batting average.

The York-Lancaster rivalry runs deep with the local press, despite the fact that it hasn’t really galvanized the citizenry. The fact is, York is just another town one sees as they drive on Route 30 to Baltimore or Washington. Kind of like how Lancaster is just a blur through the windshield to folks from York as they head to Philly or New York.

Who knows, maybe Von Hayes can be the spark to get a buzz back on the streets?

Or not.

Either way, Von Hayes is very excited about the possibility of meeting Von Hayes, however, Bothum wrote in an e-mail, “Hopefully he doesn’t come out and beat us up.”

Von Hayes was known for hitting two home runs in the first inning of a game at the Vet against the Mets, but these days Von Hayes recently released an album called Evident Eyelid on the independent label, State Capital Records.

It’s hard not to like the fact that both Von Hayes and Von Hayes are working for indie organizations.

Nevertheless, Bothum sent along the first single (“If there is such a thing anymore”) called, “You Should Call Clyde.” The group also maintains a MySpace page where all other relevant information is kept.

In the meantime, Von Hayes and the Barnstormers appear to be limping to a last-place finish with a 53-69 record. The other Von Hayes will play at the Franklin Tavern in Lawrenceville, N.J. on Sept. 12.

***
You Should Call Clyde (mp3)

Hello, Von Hayes, hello

Von Hayes was one of the more intriguing players in the history of the Phillies. Actually, it’s Hayes’ legacy as a Phillie that is the interesting part. That’s much more the case than Hayes’ actual baseball performance. Hayes was a good player – there’s nothing more to parse in that statement. Perhaps if he had played for another team he would be remembered differently. Perhaps with less animosity.

Apparently, Hayes heard a boo or two at the ol’ Vet.

That last part might have more to do with Philadelphia and the Phillies than Hayes. After all, it wasn’t Hayes’ fault the Phillies sent five players to the Indians in the trade for him. It also isn’t Hayes’ fault that he landed in Philadelphia when the Phillies were transitioning from their golden age to mediocrity.

Anywhere else Hayes would have been a nice complimentary player – maybe like Jayson Werth for the current club – and not counted on to be a star.

Again, not Hayes’ fault.

But there certainly are perks to showing flashes of brilliance on the field in Philadelphia. Hayes, of course, once belted two home runs in the first inning of a 26-7 victory over the Mets in 1985. For many adolescents of the ‘80s who followed baseball religiously before the proliferation of cable TV and the mass media, that two-homer inning was enough to make fans for life. Back then there wasn’t a game on TV every night, so we lived vicariously through the box scores in the paper. Here in Lancaster, on the distant end of the Philadelphia media market, Hayes’ name stood out.

Actually, the positive media reports regarding Hayes’ potential was what made the most impact. He had a swing like Ted Williams, we were told. A contender for the rookie of the year in ’82, the Phillies were right to deal five guys (Manny Trillo, Julio Franco, George Vukovich, Jay Baller and Jerry Willard) to get him, they claimed.

Based on the numbers – which look quite skimpy in the post-steroid era – Hayes seemed like the quintessential Phillie of that age. He was a .267 lifetime hitter, but hit .305 in 1986. He hit 124 home runs in 9½ seasons for the Phillies, (an average of around 13 per season), but in ’89 he slugged 26 to finish seventh in the National League.

There were the flashes of brilliance, but mostly Hayes never quite lived up to the hype. In hindsight, those flashes proved to be aberrations.

But one of the best parts about sports is romanticizing the past. Playing remember-when works well in any time regardless of demographics or media dynamic. Though the games look different and our experiences with them have morphed from following along on the radio and newspapers and TV to the Internet, but the sentimentalizing transcends all that. For instance, yesterday I was visiting with a friend who is going to a game at Yankee Stadium this week for the first time since he was a kid in the early 1960s. He remembered the last trip so vividly it sounded damn-near Rockwellian.

Mantle, Maris, Yogi, Rizzuto and his dad. Top that. I’m anxious to hear about how his return trip went.

Anyway, what stirred the Von Hayes memories was a story written by Jeff Pearlman for ESPN.com, about a group of guys that formed a lo-fi alt-rock combo named for the ballplayer. No, they aren’t a Hayes tribute band or anything silly like that. They just claim to be inspired by the old Phillie.

There were two things that piqued my interest about the story. One was the subject matter. These days Von Hayes is the manager of the Lancaster Barnstormers, who play in the independent Atlantic League. The Barnstormers ballpark is located just on the other side of Franklin & Marshall College from my house. From a second-floor window I can see the light towers from the ballpark and on weekends the non-stop fireworks shows launched after ballgames annoy the crap out of the entire town.

But think about that for a minute… Lancaster, Pa., Von Hayes and fireworks. If I had a Turkey Hill slushey, some Atari games or APBA baseball, I’d hop onto my Mongoose bike and roll over to the games. It would be like I was 13 all over again.

The most interesting part about Pearlman’s story, however, was the few grafs near the end where he wrote about his attempts to contact the club’s front office. Apparently, the PR department or some other group in the team office didn’t return Pearlman’s calls.

And here I thought it was just me.

Pearlman and I are in the same boat in this regard. The fact is, I’ve called and e-mailed the Barnstormers’ president and a few folks in the PR department and have never, ever had my messages returned.

Never, ever.

Look, I just work for Comcast SportsNet. We’re bigger than anything in Lancaster, but we’re not as big as ESPN. Nor are we as big as Pearlman’s former employer, Sports Illustrated. So if the Barnstormers aren’t returning calls for Jeff, I guess I shouldn’t be so upset.

Right?

Well…

Pearlman just finished up an in-depth book about the glory days of the Dallas Cowboys. He also wrote a book about the 1986 Mets and Barry Bonds. He famously wrote about John Rocker for SI and even cracked The New York Times best seller list. Not too shabby.

Meanwhile, I’m just used to professional courtesy. In fact, every team in Major League Baseball has always returned my calls or e-mails (some faster than others), and every U.S. Representative, Senator and governor I ever have needed a response from has followed through promptly, too. But if the Lancaster Barnstormers don’t call back Jeff Pearlman for a fun story for ESPN, I guess that Von Hayes story I wanted to write is a no-go.

Oh well.

Here’s a funny part: As I was preparing research and awaiting a reply for access from the Barnstormers for a potential story on Hayes, I contacted the front office of Oakland A’s, whom Hayes worked for as a manager in the minors. Not only did someone from the A’s return my call, but actually showed up in Philadelphia at the ballpark to answer a few questions and talk about baseball. It was a really fun afternoon.

I was told the A’s liked Hayes, among other little nuggets. It might have made for a nice story.

Instead, this is all I got out of it…

And you just got a little whine.

P.S. One more thing about Von Hayes: When I was a kid I was a prolific letter writer. I wrote to anyone and everyone. Once I even wrote a letter to Von Hayes, and guess what?

He wrote back!

Based on that, what’s he doing with the Barnstormers?

Morning clicks

John AdamsIf I was a contributor to the web site Stuff White People Like, I would add something about HBO docudramas about dead presidents/founding fathers in Colonial America that are produced by Academy Award-winning actors that appear to be defined by the subject matter of the web site, Stuff White People Like.

Or something like that.

The truth is, like most people described on that site, I like hating corporations, coffee, knowing what’s best for poor people, and Mos Def. I also have enjoyed the first three installments of HBO’s series, John Adams, which, I think, shows just how messy it was to set up a representative democracy in a time when the population was not connected by mass media or a mouse click. Actually, there wasn’t even electricity and the men wore some of the fanciest powdered wigs this side of the Christopher St. Halloween Parade.

I think it’s a cross between awesome and totally awesome.

Instead, being a citizen took effort by today’s standards, though it likely wasn’t viewed in such a manner. Based on my reading of Walter Isaacson’s Benjamin Franklin, participation elaborate civics duties wasn’t just relegated to certain cliques. No one claimed that our founders were in “show business for ugly people.” Actually, politics didn’t have an entertainment value and it seemed as if the participants were in it more for the common good than some sort of jewel at the end of a long campaign spent raising millions and millions of dollars.

For instance, Adams spent years away from his family in Europe where he campaigned to the swells in France and Holland for money to fund the revolution. While there he kind of had a knack for rubbing folks the wrong way with his uncompromising ways, belief in American independence and inability to promote and market himself the way his buddy Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson could.

In fact, Adams sacrificed much personal glory for the sake of American ideals and goals. He very well could have been the main architect of the Declaration of Independence, but instead took a role in the background as Jefferson’s editor and compass. Yes, Jefferson gets all the well-deserved credit for writing the Declaration, but the document is as much Adams’s as well.

So yeah, if I’m not already in bed resting up for an early Monday morning to prepare for Opening Day and escaping The Lanc before Barry Obama shows up in town for the big rally at Stevens Trade, I’ll tune in to the fourth installment of the Adams epic on HBO. After all, there won’t be any college hoops on the tube and it appears as if I have the bracket competition all but locked up.

Dead presidents and founding fathers… hell yeah!

In the meantime, former Phillies and all-around gentleman, Doug Glanville, wrote another Op-Ed piece for The New York Times. It seems as if ol’ Dougie is itching to get the glove and uniform back on, but, you know, a new career calls. Besides, the Phillies don’t really have a need for a reserve outfielder with a low on-base percentage and limited power. CBP was built for American League-style ball, baby. The Phillies need to bash.

***
Elsewhere on the baseball front, ESPN’s Jeff Pearlman focused on the death of left-handed pitcher Joe Kennedy and how his family is coping. As some may recall, Kennedy died suddenly last winter in Florida the day before he was to attend a wedding, leaving behind a 26-year-old pregnant wife.

Though just 28, Kennedy died from hypertensive heart disease.

My memory of Kennedy is from the 2001 season when he shutdown the Phillies while pitching for the Devil Rays around the time manager Larry Bowa and Scott Rolen had it out after the skipper told a writer that the middle of the order “is killing us.”

That game in St. Pete could have been Kennedy’s finest as a big leaguer.

***
Sally Jenkins of The Washington Post became the first mainstream writer — at least that I’ve seen — to take the IOC to task for awarding the 2008 Olympics to Beijing.

Before I write, “What were they thinking…”, and yes, I know what they were thinking. The dollar signs where their pupils used to be are easy to spot. Try this out from Jenkins:

Up to this point, the IOC has soft-pedaled these events under the rationale that “engagement” with Chinese officials is better than nothing. President Jacques Rogge defends the decision to send the Games to China, saying they are an opportunity to expose a fifth of the world’s population to the “Olympic ideal.” But it’s safe to say the Olympic ideal isn’t getting through to the Chinese people. Only the McDonald’s billboards are. On Monday, Yang Chunlin was sentenced to five years in prison for “inciting subversion.” His crime? He posted on Internet sites under the theme, “We don’t want the Olympics, we want human rights.”

Seriously… what were they thinking?

***
Finally, from Gina Kolata of The New York Times, running can, indeed, make one feel high.

Duh!

More
HBO: John Adams

ESPN: Joe Kennedy is gone, but not forgotten

The New York Times: The Boys of Spring

The Washington Post: IOC Needs to Step In Or Perhaps Move On

The New York Times: Yes, Running Can Make You High

Fully engaged?

Barack & HillaryToday is another Super Tuesday of sorts in the Presidential primary races. It gets the all-encompassing “super” moniker simply because of the implications the races in Vermont, Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island. For the Republicans it means that shoo-in nominee John McCain will collect the necessary delegates to put him over the top.

On the Democrats side, a four-state sweep by Barack Obama could push Hillary Clinton’s Presidential bid to the brink. However, if Clinton wins the two delegate-rich states in Texas and Ohio, be ready for a full-court press by both candidates before the Pennsylvania primary on April 22.

Here comes the understatement of the week: There is a lot at stake today.

But that fact has been known for a very long time. In fact, media reports indicate that the 2008 bid for the White House has galvanized voters of all ages in ways that have not been seen in a very long time. People are engaged in the process, they are listening to the speeches out on the campaign trail, dial up the relevant news on the Internet, and have turned out to the polls in record numbers.

Everyone is engaged, especially 20-something year-old voters, who, according to reports, have turned off the ridiculous YouTube videos and dived into the national discourse. Better yet, those folks are asking questions and confronting conventional wisdom… these are all very good things. Frankly, it should make all citizens, regardless of political philosophy, to see so many people engaged.

It is an exciting time in our history.

But according to an ESPN.com story by Jeff Pearlman, there is one subset of folks whose precarious bubble has not been pierced to allow reality inside. That group?

Major League Baseball players.

According to Pearlman’s story, there are little fraternity houses in every ballpark around the country where Maxim magazine, the lack of fuel efficiency of one’s Hummer, and the run-of-the-mill superficiality of the bling-bling culture have not been offset by a true historical moment. Yes, according to Pearlman, baseball players are as dumb as ever.

Chronicling his visit with the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals and the lack of political discourse therein, Pearlman charted the top 10 topics of discussion. They were:

Indeed, a top 10 list of spring training topics discussed by ballplayers would look something like this:

1.Baseball
2. Free sunglasses
3. Breasts
4-5. Jesus/golf (tie)
6. Dinner options
7. The Kyle Kendrick YouTube video
8. Britney Spears
9. Strip clubs
10. More Jesus/golf (tie)

C.J. WilsonNot every player is so switched off, though. One who was not shy about discussing his disdain for his teammates’ apathy was reliever C.J. Wilson, a left-hander who has been described as a Taoist and adheres to the Ian MacKaye-inspired “Straight Edge” philosophy of personal politics. When asked who amongst his teammates is as interested in the Presidential races as he, Wilson glumly answered, “No one.”

“It’s frustrating,” Wilson told Pearlman. “I’d say there are two reasons. One, there’s a general lack of education among us. But two – and most important – you’re talking about a population that makes a ton of money, so the ups and downs of the economy don’t impact whether we’re getting paid. Therefore, we often don’t care.”

“It’s not that complex,” Wilson says. “Baseball players think about baseball.”

That’s true. Baseball players get paid a lot of money to play a game and there are always dozens of players just waiting to get a chance to bump off another from the lineup. Understandably, there is a lot of pressure involved in keeping such a high-profile and high-paying job.

Yet at the same time there is a ridiculous amount of downtime for professional athletes. Games don’t last all that long and there is only so much time that a player can devote to workouts and treatments and whatever other job-related tasks. As a result, Pearlman’s list is pretty apt, though he seems to have missed on the ballplayers’ devotion to gambling, card playing and crossword puzzles as favorite pastimes.

At the same time, maybe Pearlman picked the wrong clubhouse? The Phillies have a few players switched on to issues, if not elective politics. Chase Utley is a budding conservationist and has lent his name to environmental and animal-rights initiatives. Meanwhile, Jimmy Rollins, the team’s player representative, is quietly aware of history regarding civil rights and baseball.

Jamie Moyer runs his Moyer Foundation, which created and funds Camp Erin, the largest national network of bereavement camps for children and teens; Camp Mariposa, for children affected by addiction in their families; The Gregory Fund, for early cancer-detection research; and The Moyer Foundation Endowment for Excellence in Pediatric Palliative Care for Seattle’s Children’s Hospital.

Additionally, Moyer’s father-in-law, Digger Phelps, worked for the Office of National Drug Control Policy and also served as an observer in the 1993 elections in Cambodia.

Those things are little more involved than simply following along with the process. Still, baseball players have – and various athletes in general – have picked up the label as being nothing more than “dumb jocks.” Some have chided golfer Tiger Woods for refusing to take a stand on various racial and political issues. Meanwhile, Michael Jordan famously failed to endorse African-American democratic senatorial candidate Harvey Gantt in his early 1990s race against arch-conservative Jesse Helms in North Carolina, because, as Jordan stated at the time, “Republicans buy sneakers, too[1].”

That’s hardly as inspiring as Ali’s, “I ain’t got no quarrel with no Viet Cong,” but perhaps Jordan and Woods have to protect their corporate interests first? If that’s the case, how does one define ex-cyclist, turned marathoner, Lance Armstrong, who has been nothing if outspoken in endorsing political candidates and calling out others for their failure to work for improved cancer research and better health care?

Greg Odenwhat about Greg Oden, the top pick in last summer’s NBA draft? Out with an injury for the entirety of the season, Oden has spent his time following the campaigns and musing about them on his blog. In a recent interview with The Washington Post’s, Michael Wilbon, Oden admitted some of his naiveté about politics, but said he is committed to being fully engaged in the process.

“I can’t even imagine that now, knowing enough to govern a city or a state,” Oden told Wilbon. “I’m just at the point where I’m watching CNN more than I ever have, listening to the candidates. I’m not the most educated guy in the world on the issues, but I’m getting there.”

During various campaign stops, Oden has had a telephone conversation with Obama and introduced First Lady Laura Bush at a campaign event. He admitted that both events were quite nerve-wracking.

Nevertheless, Oden has come out with an endorsement for Obama on his blog and says the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

“I can’t say I know every single one of his policies by heart,” Oden told Wilbon, “but I’ve done enough homework to know what I like about him. I really feel more strongly about young people voting, about making an educated decision. I’m not trying to tell people what to do or who to vote for, just to educate themselves and participate. What could be the harm in that?”

None. None at all. Perhaps all this engagement could have some sort of influence on our democracy and maybe even get a few more folks involved.

***
Also by Pearlman: Nomar is a creep.


[1] To be fair, Jordan contributed money to Gantt’s campaign and has also been a contributor to Bill Bradley’s and Obama’s run for the White House. Plus, people have the right to shut-up, too.