h1

front porch sittin’

May 31, 2010

I’ve been lucky enough to get some good reviews for my book over the last few weeks, but an email I got yesterday is my favorite thumbs-up so far:

i got your book about two weeks ago. it came in a care package from my beautiful wife (care package cause i am in afghanistan right now). a few months ago, she and i were on a plane and i was reading some magazine that escapes me now about your book coming out. it sounded awesome. i was also an avid card collector growing up. i was OBSESSED with jose canseco. haha. he was my fucking hero. i couldn’t get enough of him. i read all the stuff i could in beckett’s about him, got all the cards i could, and even saved my allowance to buy his rookie card (when it was actually worth something) when i was young. i was maybe 9 or 10 when i finally got it. it was such a triumphant day. i was on top of the world. 

today, as i was finishing your book, something really spoke to me. when you talked about ricky henderson (who i was a fan of, cause i loved my oakland a’s), it helped me put shit into perspective. there are certain challenging things in my life, and it got me thinking. the way that you described henderson’s willingness to treat every at bat like he was deciding the world’s fate with his performance made sense. no matter how bad they were losing, he would still try his hardest. even in a situation where it seems easier to give up and lay down and wait for the loss to be official, his ass made shit happen.

i applied that to my current situation in this third country hell hole. so… thanks. you helped me get perspective. 

again, i really enjoyed your book. i hope you don’t mind, but a few buddies here are gonna borrow it and read it.

take care,

SGT Dane Brown
414th MP Company
 

I thanked Sgt. Dane Brown for writing to me and tried to express my gratitude for his service and sacrifice. I asked if he’d be willing to talk a little more about his experiences as a baseball fan growing up and as a baseball fan now. He got back to me, and so the floor is his for the rest of this Memorial Day:

when i was younger (six or seven) i was drawn to jose canseco. i think it was cause he was a star starting from his rookie year. there were plenty of his baseball cards out there, and he was everywhere. i remember having a poster in my room celebrating his monumental 40/40 season. i remember thinking how awesome it was that he was able to that. that’s why i was an a’s fan. because of jose canseco. i didn’t grow up in california, and didn’t even go there until my adult years. so it wasn’t a geographical thing. it just worked out that way, oddly.

my other team (you can have two favorites, you’re a kid!) were the cubs. talk about a heartbreaking team. i was born in central illinois, and my dad’s side of the family is die hard cubs. my grandpa breathes the cubs. i remember watching games with him on wgn. he would drink pabst NA, and eat candy. i’d drink root beer, and eat candy. and we would have fun. at the same time in life, i had my baseball cards separated in binders, divided by teams, then players. i had a big section for ryne sandberg and mark grace. they were really big when i was a kid. and my grandpa and dad used to cheer for “ryno”.

i can still remember hearing my grandpa yelling at the TV cause the cubs let another run score, another error, or another game lost. to this day, my grandpa still believes. hell, every cubs fan still believes. someday, in some miracle that we deserve, the cubs will finally win the series.

i went to a cubs game with my mom last may. it was miserable, temperature wise. it was raining pretty good, and it was cold. and there were so many people at wrigley, drinking a beer, eating nachos. everyone there, waiting, hoping that, maybe, this is the year. of course, it didn’t end up being the case. but, it never is. but we refuse to give up hope.
 
and that’s something that i love about cubs fans. no matter how bad the cubs are doing, they just deal with it. i live in springfield, missouri. stl cardinals everywhere. that’s who everyone loves. no one really gives a shit about the royals, just the cards. i get a lot of stupid looks and questions. i also get the inevitable statement, “the cubs fucking suck.” well, i know that. but i don’t care. i love them, and i refuse to switch just because they will probably never win a world series while i am alive.
 
the dedication, the undying devotion, the sense of brotherhood with other cubs fans. i love that shit. it reminds me a lot of different things in life. my current situation, here in lovely afgahnistan, even. it sucks here. i don’t like it. my brothers and sisters in arms here hate it. but we move on. it’s what we do. our day sucks? fuck it. we move on, and go onto the next day. just like a cubs fan, “well, today was not good. but we will wake up tomorrow, and do our duties.”
 
and i think that’s really what it’s all about. our willingness to do that part of the job. and being a cubs fan is just that. a job. just like a shitty job for minimal pay… you do it. you do it, but you hate it. but you find companionship with your co-workers… just like with fellow cubs fans.
 
as for me right now, it’s not glamorous here halfway across the world from home, but i’ll be home soon enough. then my wife (who is a yankee fan, GASP!!!) and i will be able to go to a few games. chicago, new york. either way, we’ll both be home [Dane's wife is in the military, too] and back together. i am pretty fucking ready for that time to get here.
 
***i put a few pics in here. one is me, chilling in the sun… with your book. it’s what we call “front porch sittin.” haha. the other one is a few buddies and i. just to let you see the kind of nerds we are. haha.

put the pics up if you want, but you certainly won’t hurt my heart if you don’t. thanks
 
take care. keep up the good work.
 
dane

18 comments

  1. Great post Josh, and very timely. I am so glad you chose to share this with the rest of us.

    I’m reminded of two quotes when I read this, neither has anything to do with baseball but are apropos of Dane’s two posts:

    “Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy, forget in time that men have died to win them.” – FDR

    “All gave some, some gave all.”

    I’m enjoying the blog and have your book on my Father’s Day wish list. One day I’ll share my love affair with baseball cards and the Phillies via a 1978 Bob Boone card…


  2. Nice story on this Memorial Day Weekend.

    Dane – be safe and we can’t wait for all of you guys over there to get back home!

    Thanks for renewing my interest in my old baseball cards. I will get your book this week and can’t wait to read it!

    This site is now one of my favorites!

    My favorite card as a kid was a 1982 Topps Carlton Fisk in action diving for a pop up!


  3. Thanks for sharing Sgt. Brown’s letter’s Josh. I’m not sure what else there is to say that won’t sound inadequate.

    God, I fucking love baseball.


  4. I should have also thanked Sgt. Brown for sharing his thoughts with Josh (and all of us), and of course for his service.


  5. Good Post.

    The Sgt. brings up some good points about Rickey Henderson. I don’t think there’s another player of his caliber that’s as disrespected and overlooked as Henderson is/was. He was an odd guy no doubt, but he was also one of the top 15-20 players in baseball history. People focussed too much on his flakey demeanor without focusing on his productivity.

    Here’s how he ranks in 5 categories:

    Runs scored: 1st
    Stolen Bases: 1st
    Base on Ball: 2nd
    Times on Base: 4rth
    Runs Created: 10th
    WAR (Wins Above Replacement): 14th
    Hits: 21st
    Total Bases: 38th

    He was the best player in baseball 4 times, ’81, ’85, ’89, ’90, and he should have won the MVP 3 times.

    Here’s the top 20 position players in career WAR, just to put Henderson’s career in perspective:

    1. Babe Ruth+ 172.00 L
    2. Barry Bonds 171.80 L
    3. Ty Cobb+ 159.40 L
    4. Willie Mays+ 154.70 R
    5. Hank Aaron+ 141.60 R
    6. Honus Wagner+ 134.50 R
    7. Tris Speaker+ 133.00 L
    8. Rogers Hornsby+ 127.80 R
    Stan Musial+ 127.80 L
    10. Eddie Collins+ 126.70 L
    11. Ted Williams+ 125.30 L
    12. Mickey Mantle+ 120.20 B
    13. Lou Gehrig+ 118.40 L
    14. RICKEY HENDERSON+ 113.10 R
    15. Mel Ott+ 109.30 L
    16. Mike Schmidt+ 108.30 R
    17. Frank Robinson+ 107.40 R
    18. Nap Lajoie+ 104.20 R
    19. Joe Morgan+ 103.50 L
    20. Alex Rodriguez 100.70 R


  6. A nice, timely post…
    Now, as far as Rickey Henderson goes.. sure I know how great Rickey was, (he’s let the world know, himself, plenty of times) and his career numbers speak for themselves.(and I’m betting they do so in the third person…)

    However, as a Mets fan, the taste of #24 that remains in my mouth sure isn’t one of a competitor who “treat(ed) every at bat like he was deciding the world’s fate,” and CERTAINLY not “one who tr(ied) his hardest.”

    I mean I know his ass made shit happen, but in my mind’s eye, the montage I see of Henderson in a Mets uniform consists of a different sequence of images:

    Rickey slowly loafing after a ball hit to the gap in center… Rickey pausing and admiring one of his shots… Rickey padding his stats with a stolen base (or two) after a walk in a 9-1 blowout…Rickey languidly trotting up the baseline after hitting a grounder to third…Rickey playing cards in the clubhouse during an extra-inning NLCS thriller…Rickey holding court in the clubhouse like royalty – a pack of rabid journalists waiting at his feet for scraps of wisdom…Rickey doggin’ it during batting practice… RIckey doggin’ it during games…Rickey seeming to not really give a shit…

    Who knows, maybe he was burnt out. I just hope that our men and women serving overseas don’t end up suffering from the same sort of malaise.

    My thanks to Sgt. Brown for sharing his thoughts with us. And maybe Canseco is a better “role model” for all the nice impressionable young people out there…


  7. Ramblin Pete,

    I’m a Mets fan as well and I have to respectfully disagree with your comment.

    Sure Henderson would do things to make you scratch your head and leave you slightly frustrated but I feel those aspects of his game have been blown way out of proportion to his overall play.

    The bottom line to me is if a player produced or didn’t and the numbers don’t lie that Henderson was one of the most productive offensive players on those 1999 Mets.

    He had a line of .315/.423/.466, 37 stolen bases, and 96 runs created.

    His .315 batting average led the team, and at the time was the 7th highest seasonal total in Mets history, it was still the 11th highest at the end of 2009. His .423 on base percentage was second to John Olerud and the 3rd highest single season on base percentage in team history.

    He stole 37 bases and was the person most responsible for Roger Cendeno having his only productive major league season.

    As far as his fielding, he wasn’t very good but remember he was a 40 year old man the year he played for the Mets, so I don’t think it’s fair for people to have expected him to field like a 24 year old.


  8. Rickey had a terrific season with the Mets in ’99 (he and Orel Hershiser, longtime enemies, were revelations to me that season and I’m glad I was forced to appreciate them shortly before they retired).

    He felt his contract should have been renegotiated to reflect that year in ’00 and instead all he got was misplaced blame for the 99 playoff shortfall and the card incident (Hernandez drinking beer and smoking the clubhouse while they rallied in ’86 by contrast only adds to his legend). I don;t like how he showed his displeasure but the Mets knew what kind of player Henderson was; I thought they should have done a better job defending all the work he did to help get to the playoffs that year and sure, throw him a few extra bucks if that’s what it cost to keep him happy.

    Nice notes from Sgt. Brown. I wish Canseco wasn’t such an asshole.


  9. mbtn01,

    good point about Hernandez smoking a cigarette and drinking beer at the end of game 6 not being held to the same standard.

    How many games did Mickey Mantle show up hungover after a night full of drinking and hookers and yet he’s revered by an entire generation of fans. Same thing goes for Babe Ruth.

    I don’t understand the charge that Henderson wasn’t a “winning” ballplayer either when he had 262 plate appearances in post-season play. The ’89 A’s don’t even win the division without Henderson let alone the WS. The ’81 A’s don’t make the playoffs with/out Henderson. He was the MVP of the American league in 1990, he won a WS with the Blue Jays, went to the playoffs with the 1992 A’s, 1996 Padres, 1999 Mets and the 2000 Mariners.

    His career WS line is .339/.448/.607

    Even with the 1999 Mets he hit .400 and had a .500 on base percentage in the ALDS against the D-Backs. And if memory serves, he was sick during the Alcs against the Braves.

    And his .315 BA in 1999 is the 7th best for a player 40 years old or older and his .423 on base percentage is the 4rth best for a player 40years old since 1901.

    And it’s impossible for somebody to “dog it” and be “indifferent” and be the all time Major League leader in Runs Scored.


  10. (sigh) I’m not saying Rickey “dogged it” throughout his career – only that he often appeared indifferent (if not occasionally lazy) during his stint at Shea. You can certainly back up Rickey’s HOF career with all the stats you want… but when it came to intangibles, like running out a ground ball, say, he didn’t impress me with any sort of hustle. Period.

    As for Spoon retreating backstage for a much-needed beer and smoke, well, he had just made the apparent penultimate season-ending out, and was burnt, and disappointed, and frustrated. Nobody wanted to win that game as much as Keith, who famously sat riveted on the edge that “lucky chair” in the clubhouse, listening intently as the rally unfolded, afraid to budge because he superstitiously felt that the chair “held a couple of hits” left in it…

    This is a far cry from a disinterested Bonilla and an oblivious Henderson sitting around casually playing hearts as the thrilling extra innings of 1999’s NLCS Game 5 unfolded. Henderson had been replaced in the field after whiffing in the bottom of the tenth inning; I imagine both were presumably inconvenienced when Bonilla was summoned only to do the same in the twelfth.


  11. “Somebody asked me did I think Rickey Henderson was a Hall of Famer. I told them, ‘If you could split him in two, you’d have two Hall of Famers.'”

    — Bill James, The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, pp. 654


  12. Thank you for this post. I have to be honest here. I have seen your blog since you were on baseball toaster, but never read until recently. Your concept for a blog is great. Althogh I haven’t read your book as of yet, I plan to in the very near future (I love to read and have a list). Your posts are great and they bring back a lot of memories.

    I wish you were coming to the west coast (So Cal). It would be great to meet you.

    Thanks for your great work.

    Tim


  13. Hey Tim, Thanks for checking in. I actually will be making a very short trip to So Cal soon. Here are the two events listed in the “book tour events” page (there’s a link to this page in the sidebar, under the image of my book):

    THURSDAY, JUNE 10, 7 PM PACIFIC
    Baseball Reliquary, South Pasadena Public Library Community Room, 1115 El Centro St., South Pasadena, CA
    Author appearance, reading and book signing.
    Free and open to the public.
    For more info call: 626.791.7647

    SATURDAY, JUNE 12TH, 11 AM PACIFIC
    Upstart Crow Bookstore, 835C West Harbor Drive, Seaport Village, San Diego, CA
    Author appearance and book signing.
    Free and open to the public.
    For more info call: 619.232.4855


  14. The one lasting impression I have on Rickey Henderson’s attitude came in a game in the early 90’s. It was tied in the bottom of the 9th inning, the oppposing team was batting and had a runner on third with one out. The batter hit a long fly ball to left that was clearly going to land foul, but it was easily deep enough to score the winning run on the sac fly if caught. Henderson caught the ball and the winning run easily scored. After the game, a reporter asked Henderson if he thought about letting the foul fly ball drop instead of catching it. Henderson stared at the guy for a couple of seconds and said “Hey, I get paid to CATCH fly balls, not DROP them!”


  15. Most of the stories surrounding Rickey Henderson were exaggerations and fabrications and myths told by baseball writers for the purpose of entertainment.

    When did this alleged “I get paid to Catch fly ball, not Drop them” actually happen? I’ve never seen a box-score from this alleged game.

    Henderson was actually a great defensive outfielder during the 80’s and should have won 6-7 gold gloves.

    And “hustle” is overrated concept in baseball. You think Ted Williams “hustled” in the outfield? He could care less about defense, he was in left field in Fenway Park practicing his swing half the time. Williams only played in 1 World Series and hit .200, why doesn’t he get labeled as “not a winning ballplayer”?

    You think Mickey Mantle was running out ground balls to the pitcher after a heavy night of drinking?

    You think The Babe was hustling after a night drinking illegal bathtub gin in some whorehouse?

    Nobody cares because they’re among the top 10 players in baseball history.

    Who would you rather have Doug Flynn “hustling” and running out a ground ball while hitting .212 or Ted Williams?


  16. Dane is my best friend, and I stumbled upon this randomly on the internet. Kind of blown away that he didn’t tell me about this post.

    I am definitely the friend that tells him the cubs suck as often as possible!

    GO CARDS!

    -chase


  17. This is such an awesome post – wish I had seen it on Memorial Day. (My son is a Marine, went to college in Vermont, currently in flight school.) I love the way you write. Am spreading the word about your book, and I’ll keep reading this blog because it’s great. I love the fact that Dane went to see a game with his mom. It was so cool seeing Rickey Henderson’s stuff in Cooperstown this past winter. I stared at it for a long time. Thanks for making the game come alive through cards. I don’t have mine anymore.

    http://www.watchingthegame.typepad.com/


  18. Thanks for checking in, chaselepard.

    Cool looking site, jljchatham! And thanks for the kind words about the book and blog.



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