Friday, November 16, 2007

Joe Nuxhall

This past summer I was lucky enough to attend the Reds' game which included a pre-game ceremony honoring three of Cincinnati's great broadcasters: Marty Brennaman, Waite Hoyt, and Joe Nuxhall. There were speeches, hugs, and much applause, but the thing that got me was the replaying of some of their famous calls of Reds' moments. Baseball has been a part of my life as long as I can remember, and Marty and Joe were the ones to send the Reds action (or lack thereof) through my radio.

Marty was, and still is, the professional announcer while Joe was the old left-hander (and the youngest any hander ever in the big leagues), your unabashed homer in the Reds' radio booth...

In the days before 24 hour sports coverage on dozens of cable channels, if we weren't actually at the ballgame Marty and Joe were our connection to the Reds. In fact, many people chose to bring their radios to the ballpark to listen while watching the action live...

Joe Nuxhall passed away Thursday evening, and while we may never hear the old left-hander "Rounding third and heading for home" again, we will always remember the summer days and nights when he brought home all the joys and frustrations of Reds baseball. From all of us in Reds country, good night Joe.

To read more about how Joe touched us all, go here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I'll Take That...and a bag of chips!

The famous auction house Christie's had a little sale last night which, it appears, was attended by none of my closest friends for some reason (I'm looking at you Whitey). Having spammed everyone I know with a short wish list of reasonably priced artwork, I figured I could check the web this morning and see what my good pals had decided to bestow upon me this holiday season.

Imagine my dismay. My only hope is Whitey may be "anonymous telephone bidder," but knowing his flair for publicity I highly doubt it. But on to the paintings! Being the Renaissance Man I am, I feel highly qualified to critique some of the offerings from last night. While you may say, "My kid could do that...," you would be wrong. Or your kid needs better PR.

  1. Andy Warhol: "Liz" This beautiful thing was owned by Hugh Grant, and supposedly it is a "heavy-handed" version. Regardless, it sold for $21 million which netted Mr. Grant a nice return on his investment - he bought it in 2001 for $3.5 million. Rumor is her eyes follow you. Creepy. Or endearing. Goes well with white walls or Miami Vice decor. I was going to put her in the bathroom for reasons I need not divulge here. Alas.

  2. Lucian Freud: “Ib and Her Husband” Freud is still alive (this was painted in 1992) and probably looking on in dismay as I doubt he let this go for more than $100. It was sold by a woman in Seattle for $19.3 million. That's Freud's daughter (Isobel) and, one would hope, her husband in the painting. I like the radiator in the background. Charming.

  3. Ed Ruscha: "Burning Gas Station" Ed is also still alive and presumably not hurting for cash. This painting was sold by a guy in San Francisco for $6.9 million. I like it, but I tend to go for the apocalyptic more than most. Good for the kids' room if your kids happen to be named Pugsley and Wednesday.

  4. Mark Rothko: Untitled I like the name, or lack thereof. More than many other artists, except maybe Pollock, Rothko often generates the, "My kid could do that" comment. While that may be true, your kid didn't do it and isn't buying you a new fleet of Maseratis anytime soon with the $34.2 million they would have made. This was the big boy at the auction, fetching the highest price tag. Good for the geometry teacher on your Christmas list or convincing people you have a blue flat-screen TV. Worth more than the GNP of many African countries.

  5. Richard Prince: "Piney Woods Nurse" $6 million. Go figure. This is one in a series of 'Nurse' paintings by Prince, most of which I like better than this one. If you see one in a doctor's office near you it will serve as a gentle reminder as to why medical school is so #$%damn expensive...and why your insurance rates are so high.

  6. Gerhard Richter: "Düsenjäger" Jet planes! For the low, low price of $11.2 million! I think it would look better on velvet with Tom Cruise peering out of the cockpit. Probably be worth more too!

  7. Jeff Koons: "Blue Diamond" Aptly named, this monstrosity is seven feet wide and almost eight feet tall. The only reason one should spend $11.8 million on this is if you: A) have a joint bank account with the artist; B) are the artist's representative (which the buyer was) or; C) receive some documentation that it is indeed a real diamond. If you have someone present "C" to you, I have a bridge in Brooklyn in which you might be interested...

  8. Basquiat: "Sugar Ray Robinson" I'm not sure this is the actual painting which was sold last night, but it was the only representation of the same name I could find. The New York Times describes it as, "...a brightly colored hulking figure in shorts and gloves..." which this painting most definitely is not. Nevertheless, something titled "Sugar Ray Robinson" by Basquiat sold for $6.5 million last night. And yes, your kid probably could have knocked this painting out.

Most of my information came from this article in the New York Times. I would assume most of our loyal readers accidentally discarded the postcard reminder sent to them by Christie's concerning this sale. Fear not! Tonight you have a second chance to buy me some stuff to adorn my presently blank apartment walls! Without further ado, a preview of tonight's auction across town at Sotheby's...

  1. Jeff Koons: "Jim Beam - Caboose" No, it's not a painting, but it's a caboose! When Koons wasn't chopping out hideously over-sized blue diamonds he was working on the choo-choo's! A steal at $1-1.5 million. I'd like it more if it was an actual scale representation, but beggars can't be choosers.

  2. Mark Rothko: Untitled We may have missed out on a Rothko last night, but we're in luck...another is on the block tonight. I like to call this one "A View From the Moon." Goes with any decor (especially mine). Hope you saved your pennies as the starting bid is $12 million.

  3. Zeng Fanzhi: Mask Series 99-A-2 Easily the creepiest thing for sale. This is what you get that pesky in-law just to force them to have to put the thing on the wall every time you come over. In fact, I'm making this our banner just to creep y'all out. Should you want to give this to someone, bids start at $900,000. I think it's worth the look on your Mother-in-Law's face Christmas morning: "An original shouldn't have!"

  4. Mike Kelley: "Written in the Wind" This one is a bit difficult to grasp through the picture. There are a couple of these 'installation pieces' for sale, and this one is my favorite. It includes: a cardboard box, 10 found stuffed animals, coat rack with jacket and shirt, and ten wall texts. The dimensions are variable, as you could presumably heap it all a corner, graffiti the walls yourself, and then deal with your wife's sour looks for the duration. Little does she know you dropped $1.2 mil on this over-sized diorama. Trust me, the subtlety will be lost on her. Feel free to explain.

  5. Damien Hirst: "Adam and Eve (Banished From the Garden)" If the previous work didn't getcha, I offer this beauty. It includes: Painted steel and glass vitrine with 2 metal gurneys, 2 cloth dummies, 2 metal buckets, various medical instruments, 1 spool of twine, 2 needles, 2 rubber gloves, 2 rubber plugs, chicken bones, one plate and sandwich, 3 fish hooks and chain, and cloth. I like the chicken bones, three fish hooks, and sandwich. If you buy this, make sure you find those items quickly as they will probably be your only source of nourishment after whomever you live with finds out you spent $3 million on this wonderful item. Enjoy.

  6. Ellsworth Kelly: "Dark Grey Curve" Looks more like a dark black curve to me. Once you spend $1-1.5 million on this, go ahead and name it whatever you want. Whitey likes "Slice of Licorice." My personal favorite is "Bad Cheese."

  7. Andy Warhol: "Campbell's Soup Can (Pepper Pot)" We've all seen these before. You can buy a reprint of this Warhol masterpiece (in practically any flavor) for probably around $20. Or you can buy the original for $9 million. Your choice, but remember: you always get what you pay for.

  8. Francis Bacon: "Second Version of Study for Bullfight No. 1" Last but not least, this is my favorite. It looks like a miniature bull is chasing its tail in the corner of your dining room floor. Sotheby's doesn't even put a price on this on their website ("Estimate Upon Request"), but the early word on the street is it will go for at least $35 million. Don't be shy, I'm worth every penny.

Check out Sotheby's for more information and a complete list of items for sale. You have to register, but it's quick, painless and, most importantly, free. Coming Soon! Whitey & The Professors' First Annual If I Get One Toy For Christmas, It Better Be One of These Christmas List. No need to shop for the kids 'til then.

Take the bump?

C.C. Sabathia has been named the American League Cy Young Award winner for the 2007 season. When we last saw C.C. he was getting shelled by the Red Sox. His teammates didn't help much, giving him little run support against Josh Beckett. Beckett was lights out in his two meetings with C.C. in the American League Championship Series. He came in second with 11 fewer first place votes. He did, however, win the World Series this past October.

If it is any consolation, I'll just tip this to you. By winning the Cy Young, C.C. has become only the second Cleveland Indian to win the award. He also becomes the first African-American to win the award in the American League since 1971, when Vida Blue won (trivia: who was last African-American winner in the National League?). Sabathia topped the bigs in innings pitched with 241. He went at least 6 innings in every game during the season, had a record of 19-7 in 34 starts, a 3.21 ERA, and received a $2.25 million bump in pay by winning the Cy Young. He gets a $250,000 bonus and will earn $11 million in 2008 instead of $9 million.

An even bigger pay bump could soon be coming: Sabathia can become a free agent after the 2008 season. At 27 years of age and a dominate south-paw, teams will be salivating at the chance to sign him ("Teams" probably means the Red Sox, Dodgers, Cubs, and Yankees). And just for good measure there is another guy out there who might get traded this hot stove season and make a bigger payday: Johan Santana of the Minnesota Twins.

The Twins are a small market team, and will probably move Santana before the start of next season to get the maximum value for him. That should set the bar quiet high. Greg Maddux, at 41, just inked a $10 million, one year deal to stay with the San Diego Padres. You do the math!

The Free Agent poll...updated with others who ain't free agents but you'd like anyway!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

In a perfect world?

Don Shula stirred up a little controversy this past week with his comments, or non-comments, on the season the New England Patriots are putting together. Should the Patriots be burdened with an asterisk next to their name if they succeed in going 16-0?

First and foremost, I think the asterisk is one of the most misused symbols in the English language. A little history: the asterisk originates from feudal times where it was used as a symbol to indicate date of birth. It originally had six arms, like teardrops falling from the center (see the picture above). It can bring attention to a footnote and is also used in mathematics, human genetics, economics, and cricket. You know...things that really matter. However, now it is being thrown around like a Frisbee at Woodstock!

In 1961, when Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth's 60 home runs in a season record, he did it in a 162 games schedule while Ruth played a 154 game schedule. So Ford Frick, the baseball commissioner at the time, placed an asterisk in the record book. He wanted to have an explanation (or retelling) for the accomplishment that Maris had achieved. The stigma of the asterisk stayed with Maris for many years.

Today, the concept of a real or figurative asterisk denoting less-than-official records has become widely used in sports and other competitive endeavors. It became almost a sport to say the word when Barry Bonds hit 72, and after 756 it hit a fevered pitch. Marc Echo, who bought the ball for a large sum of money, had an on-line poll concerning what to do with the ball: send it into space, donate it to the Hall of Fame, or burn an asterisk into the ball. Sure, like the next guy, I'd love to see anything shot into space, but it is historical. He owns the ball so he can do what he wants with it. As for me, I think it's spineless to use Joe Q. Public to stand between you and Bonds at the next ESPY's when you're the guy who allowed a piece of history to wear the Scarlet letter.

Shula, on the other hand, is the coach of the only NFL team to go undefeated in a season: 16-0 in 1972. the player and coaches from that team get together to celebrate the last undefeated team's first loss every season. At tad pompous if you want my opinion. They only beat two teams with a winning record in a 16 game schedule. The Patriots will have to play 19 to go undefeated for a season. Do you think that an asterisk on the 16 game schedule would be fitting? Maybe it is more that the Pats are looking so good that we won't have to watch those guys pop open the Dom and toast to their record being intact.

Yes, the Patriots were caught doing what most, if not all, people do. Trying to get ahead by any means necessary. "If you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin'," is the phrase that became popular while sitting in the bullpen filling your fingernail to a sharp point. It's a pitcher's friend and allows one to score a ball easily in an attempt to get more bite on breaking pitches. I don't really care if the Patriots go 19-0, I would just like to not have to hear they may get the asterisk. If I were to get a 19-0 Patriots team, and a winless Dolphin team, in the 2007 season, it would be a perfect world.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Come One, Come All! The Bengals are in town!

This commentary on the carnival ride that is the Cincinnati Bengals has been brewing for some time. Their record now stands at 3-6, a disappointing start to say the least.

But if there is one thing the Bengals are good at it is playing themselves right out contention and then sailing to a .500 record. They tend to either start the season well and then tank, or tank from the get-go and then finish strong. Either situation leads to a scenario where hopes are high with "What-If's" at the end of the season and no significant changes are made.

Last season the Bengals started 3-0 and were 8-5 at one point before losing the final three games of the year to end at 8-8. In 2005, they were 11-3 before losing their final three games of the year, including the first-round playoff game in which Carson Palmer had his knee bent sideways. In 2004, they started 2-5 but rallied to go 6-3 the rest of the way to finish out 8-8. In 2003, Marvin Lewis' first year as head coach, they started 1-4 but righted the ship enough to go 7-4 in the remaining games to finish, you guessed it, 8-8. Let's not forget that Lewis took over a team that had finished 2-14 the year before.

Before this season started, I asked the question of local commentators here in Cincinnati why we should believe the Bengals team this year should be any different than the 8-8 team last year. Crickets...and, "Carson is healthy." The defense is, well, the same bad defense. The amazing thing to me is how close the Bengals are to being a 1-8, or even 0-9, team.

Game #1 against Baltimore saw the Ravens turn the ball over 6 freakin' times and the Bengals won by seven (final score 27-20). If not for a deflected, shoe-string interception on the goal line in the final minute of the game the Bengals may well have lost...with a turnover margin of +4. In the game yesterday, the Ravens again turned the ball over six times (proving there actually is a more inept 11 than the Bengals defense) which resulted in a team record seven field goals. In two games, Baltimore had 12 turnovers and the Bengals scored a grand total of 48 points including two, count them, two offensive touchdowns. Remind me again why Carson and Co. are considered a "prolific" offense.

The only other win the Bengals have is against the Jets (38-31) who, let's face it, are a bad football team. The Bengals haven't beaten a team with a winning record since week 10 of last season (New Orleans). If history holds true, Cincinnati should get 4 more wins (Arizona, St. Louis, San Francisco, and Miami) which would give them a 7-9 record. I say the Bengals will be 7-8 going into the final game of the year against a winless Miami Dolphins team...who will get their first win. Who-Dey!