jrpearlman

Speaking of Josh Hamilton …

 

josh-beckettWhenever I think of Josh Hamilton, I think of Josh Beckett. The guys went one-two in the 1999 amateur draft, and for the longest time it looked like Beckett would be known as this brilliant pick, Hamilton this bust.

Anyhow, my story: After the Marlins beat the Yankees in the 2003 World Series, Beckett—who had been somewhat underwhelming until that season—was hot shit. You know, getting a ton of endorsement deals, dating Leeann Tweeden, bombarded by fans, etc. Well, according to several people I know and trust, Beckett tried getting into the Sports Illustrated Super Bowl party in early 2004 but was told his entourage was too big and couldn’t all enter. Beckett huffed and puffed and cursed—and walked away. He swore he would never speak to Sports Illustrated again.

Fast forward to spring training 2004, and SI wants to run a Beckett profile. I’d actually written a good deal on Josh throughout the years, so I volunteered. Upon approaching him at Marlins camp, Beckett was his usual ornery self (and I’ve long liked the guy). “Fuck Sports Illustrated,” he said. “I’ll talk to you, because you’ve been good to me before. But that whole scene was bullshit.”

Josh said what he needed to say, then we sat down and had a very solid, professional 45-minute interview. Toward the end of our conversation, I spotted Rick Reilly, SI’s star columnist at the time, standing by the clubhouse TV. When I was done with Josh I asked Rick if he needed some help. “Yeah, he said. “I wanna talk to Beckett.”

“OK,” I said. “Lemme try introducing you.”

I re-approached Josh, said, “Hey, this is Rick Reilly from Sports Illustrated. He’s a good guy and …” For some reason, I stopped midway through and said, “Rick, you weren’t at the SI Super Bowl party, were you?”

A huge smile crossed Rick’s face. “Was I?” he said. “Hell, it was the greatest friggin’ party I’ve ever been to. You shoulda seen the women. And the food. Man, it was …”

Beckett, meanwhile, stood to the side, smoke oozing from his ears.

A very funny moment.

 

Josh Hamilton and A&W Floats

Before I begin to write about Josh Hamilton, allow me to offer my first official Jeffpearlman.com word to the wise: If you’re looking to purchase a bottled-soda-that-tastes-like-a-float beverage, DO NOT buy the new “A&W Float,” which takes like—for lack of a better thought—my son’s poop floating in bathwater (See earlier post for reference). The brainiac marketers at A&W describe the drink as “A creamy blend of rich A&W and Ice Cream flavor.” (but without the actual ice cream)

I describe it as liquid shit.

Whew, got that off my chest. So—Josh Hamilton. A few weeks ago I was in Houston, doing some Clemens research at Minute Maid, when I overheard a TV boob look into the camera and bellow, “Josh Hamilton might be the best comeback story of the season.”

Might be?

Might be?

Even halfway through the season, with Hamilton among a group of three or four AL MVP front-runners, I am amazed by how lamely Hamilton’s story has been covered by the mainstream media. This isn’t a comeback, a la Michael Jordan or Sugar Ray Leonard. This isn’t even a traditional druggie-comes-clean-after-60-days-in-Betty Ford comeback, a la Dwight Gooden or Steve Howe.

No, this is the absolutely, positively greatest comeback the sporting world will ever see. And I’m not exaggerating. Josh Hamilton was a coke addict-turned-crackhead who missed nearly four full seasons of professional baseball to do drugs. Ask a guy who misses, oh, one full season how hard it is to come back. Now miss four—and add the physical deterioration that comes with massive crack hits; plus take into account that Hamilton never played higher than Double A in his entire career.

It is, simply, unprecedented, and I am personally thrilled to see Hamilton back. In 1999, when he was just an obscure high school player in Raleigh, N.C., Sports Illustrated sent me down to write a profile. The kid I met was polite, humble, a tad awkward. He kissed his grandma before every game; took the team’s mentally impaired batboy under his wing; etc … etc. As nice a high schooler as one would ever meet.

So, please, when you tell people about Josh Hamilton, be effusive in praise. This guy deserves it.

RIP—Bobby Murcer

Was saddened by the news of Bobby Murcer‘s passing earlier today from cancer. In America, most people either:

A. Remember Murcer as the excellent Yankee outfielder and announcer.

B. Have never hard of him.

I, however, had a very unique experience with the man; one I’ll never forget.

On June 4, 2000 I was sent by Sports Illustrated to cover the Yankees-Braves series in Atlanta. This would be my first exposure to the Braves since the whole John Rocker mess, and I was—to be 100% honest—awfully nervous.

Well, as was widely reported, Rocker lit into my beneath the stadium in a hallway, threatening to kick my ass and repeatedly jabbing his finger into my chest. By the time the tirade ceased, I was truly shaken. This was my first MLB confrontation of any magnitude, and I was ill prepared.

Out of nowhere, I heard someone say from behind, “Hey, are you OK?” And there he was—Bobby Murcer. Maybe it didn’t seem like a big deal at the time. But as everyone else sort of backed away from my suddenly toxic radius, Murcer immediately checked to make sure I wasn’t having a heart attack. It was the first time we’d ever met—and years later I had the chance to tell him how much his actions had meant to me.

“Oh,” he said. “That was nothing.”

Maybe. But to me, it was something.

Something I’ll never forget.

I will never use this page …

… to whore products (save for, ahem, my books). But I hired a painter to do a portrait of my wife and daughter, and he produced what I thought was absolutely amazing work. (the photo I gave him was cruddy and actually taken through a screen window) His name is Greg Kuppinger, and we met him in Buffalo. Is just a low-key guy trying to make it in a tough biz, and I really, really want him to succeed. Hence, here is his website. A real gem of a guy/artist.

The grossest thing ever

My son happily watches Elmo as I morn cleanliness.

About 20 minutes ago I was taking a bath with my son, Emmett. He’s 20-months old, extremely cute (hey, I’m allowed to brag) and a lover of all things “wah-wah.” (water). We were having a great time. He’d dump water on my head, I’d dump water on his. I soaped him up, he giggled and giggled and giggled. Excellent father-son Kodak moments.

Well, while gathering some water in a cup I noticed a brownish tint to the agua. Then I looked to the left and—egad!—a tremendous log of my son’s crap was floating my way.

Instincts took over. “Oh nooooo!” I shouted, before picking up my content (and blissfully boweled) boy and rushing him into the shower. He never seemed to notice we were swimming with his fresh feces. As I write this, in fact, he’s happily watching some pre-bedtime Elmo. I, on the other hand, am repulsed.

Ah, fatherhood.

* Writer’s note: In light of the Mariners releasing Richie Sexson, I was going to use this space to write about the time Richie, as a young Indian slugger, shook my hand after dramatically jingling his balls. Luckily for Sexson, he was out-grossed by the floating log.

Congratulations, Jim. You seem to know why Room 242 smelled like butt!

After careful consideration, the wife and I have picked a winner from the first JEFFPEARLMAN.COM contest. To refresh your memory, I offered a signed book (woo hoo!) to the person who could best tell me why Room 242 of the Boston Ramada smelled like butt. The winner (drumroll, please) …

… is Jim, who wrote:

They don’t wash the bedspreads and only change the sheets. Everything else stays put as thousands of elbows and assholes move through the room like organic bran through a public colon. Who opens the windows in a motel room? sure, when you are on vacation in Hawaii you open the window. but here, in America (Hawaii isn’t America!?), you leave the windows closed when you go to a motel. At least once a child was in your room. children are like bees – they do the needful mundane tasks that we could never automate. bees pollinate the flowers, children puke in impossible to reach places.

Once, while in India, a rat ran between my legs as i was going into my bathroom. it ran across the room and went under the drapes, never to be seen (by me) again. maybe it died of fright right there, began decaying in its own feces.

Jeff…the answer to your question is obvious. it is life immobile…stale, decrepit existence…the essence of the tail end of robust diversity. you are living in the world of the fungus.

Or it could be something else. what the hell do I know?

Jim, congrats. Drop me an e-mail @ anngold22@gmail.com with your address, and I’ll hook you up.

Thanks to the eight people who voted.

My favorite song.

An admittedly lame post, but I’d like to share with any readers here my favorite song.

Click here.

Not sure that’s the greatest version. But I absolutely, positively believe Shannon Hoon was one of the truly great young songwriters of my generation. His band sorta flickered after “No Rain,” then he died of a cocaine overdose in 1995. Man, though, the guy had something going on.

Anyhow, here’s an official list of my top five favorite tuns (top of my head, admittedly).

1. Blind Melon, Change.

2. A Tribe Called Quest, Check The Rhyme.

3. Dr. Dre and Snoop, Deep Cover.

4. Dixie Chicks, Cowboy Take Me Away.

5. Hall & Oates, Rich Girl

No laughing, please …

The pusher

 

I keep forgetting to write about an incident that took place two weeks ago that truly fascinated me. I was on a flight from New York to Houston, seated next to a skinny 18-year-old with a twangy accent. He was in the middle seat, so I told him, “Boy, that sucks. Sorry.” He nodded, then said he had just connected from a flight from Israel.

At this point, I made a silent prediction. This kid was either:

A. A Jewish kid visiting the Holy Land.

B A devoutly Christian kid who went to Israel on a “mission.”

The answer was B. After he told me this and we exchanged some brief chitchat, he said, “Can I guess you’re Jewish?” And I said, “What makes you say that?”

“Well,” he said, “there are a lot of Jewish people who live in New York.”

I nodded, told him I was Jewish—and then he spent 25 minutes trying to open my heart, mind, soul (and, presumably, wallet) to Jesus Christ. Now, I have no real problem with those Christians who try and convert we others. Yeah, it’s annoying. Yeah, it’s sorta bullshit. But, from their vantage point, the only way to eternal salvation is through a belief in Christ. In that regard, they’re being sort of selfless.

Turns out this guy is actually attending a Bible college in San Antonio, and his major deals with the actually practice of converting other religions. It’s literally what he wants to do for a living. Hence, he went on and on talking about sin; about how he refuses to look at pretty women because it might lead to impure thoughts; about how homosexuality is a damnation. He ran off sin after sin after sin, and how God is up there, looking down and keeping score.

Finally, I asked a question. “Here’s the thing I don’t get,” I said. “You think God would be mad at you for looking sexually at a pretty woman, right?” He nodded. “And yet,” I said, “you’re sitting here, flying on an airplane that’s releasing tons upon tons of toxic emissions into the air and contributing to the earth’s demise. Don’t you think that’s a little worse than checking out a hottie?”

The pusher proceeded to give a line I’ve heard many born-again Christians utter before; a line that would lose any debate 100 of 100 times. “God,” he said, “made earth for man to do as he pleases.”

Go back to school, kid. Goodnight.

No Troy Aikman, No Emmitt Smith—no problem

As I sit here late Thursday night, a copy of “Boys Will Be Boys” on a nearby desk, I can accurately predict a question that will be asked by radio guys far and wide come September 1.

“Jeff, is there anyone on the Cowboys of the ’90s you didn’t talk to?”

“Uh, Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith.”

Loooooooooong pause.

“Well, how can you possibly consider yourself an authority … blah, blah, blah.”

I write this because I’ve been down the road—twice. First, with “The Bad Guys Won!” when neither Dwight Gooden nor Daryl Strawberry would speak with me. Second, with “Love Me, Hate Me,” when Barry Bonds—the subject of the damn book—wouldn’t talk.

Fact is, there’s nothing more off than the idea that you need central characters to cooperate in order to write an authoritative biography. In fact, I’d order just the opposite. Aikman and Smith, both excellent men, have told their Cowboys stories time after time after time. Like a butcher on Day 567,543,112 of the job, they’ve trimmed the fat, and are left with simplistic, one-dimensional Polaroids of experiences. This isn’t a slap at either man; just the reality of what happens when sports stars are interviewed literally hundreds upon hundreds of times about a single play or event. Instead of remembering the moment, you remember your memory of the moment.

That’s why, to me, the key to biography writing comes in the so-called little people. For example, the Mets book wouldn’t have worked without the observations of Ed Hearn, the little-used backup catcher. The Bonds book flounders without Jay Canizaro, a forgotten second baseman who lockered near Barry. With “Boys Will Be Boys,” I interviewed hundreds of players, and my absolute best material came from the on-field witnesses to the magic—but not the magicians themselves. Yes, Michael Irvin was great to speak with. So were Darren Woodson and Jay Novacek. But, come final submission, a biography is made by the people who are willing to talk—and who have never done so before.

The saddest thing in life …

… just might be an un-updated celebrity website. It’s the sign of a true has-been. It’s even worse than not having a website, because basically you’re saying, “Yeah, I exist. But I’ve really got nothing going on in my life.”

I bring this up because, way back in the summer of 1994, my first story for The (Nashville) Tennessean was a profile of Daron Norwood, supposedly the next big thing in country music. I spent a day following Norwood around at an enormous country event called Fan Fair (since renamed), and he was, put simply, The Man. Knew he was about to enter Garth Brooks territory, so he flashed that big ol’ country smile and signed one autograph after another.

Poof.

According to Wikipedia, Norwood had a couple of minor hits, and was arrested for beating his wife. When I went to his official site, I thought, “Well, at least he has one.” Then I noticed the update date: May 2, 2007. Even worse is his last posting in the NEWS section:

November 10, 2005

My big accomplishment recently: I’ve gotten the fan posting board up and running so check it out!
Tonight I was doing a web search for Daron to see what things I could find that I hadn’t already seen and I came across a couple interesting things. The first thing is a “jingle” for American LubeFast. Daron sings it so of course I just had to hear it right away! It’s a full 60 seconds long and the company has it available for download on their site. I actually like it, even if it is just a commercial, but hey, Daron could probably sing the ABCs and I’d like it!
The second thing I found is an album released last year that I’d never even heard of called America Will Always Stand. Daron has a song on it called “God And General Lee.” Amazon has song clips available to preview the album, so if you haven’t heard this yet make sure to check it out! It sounds like it’s a great song and I can’t wait to get the album asap.
Hopefully within the next couple of weeks I will have some
very interesting news to share, so make sure to keep checking here for updates. Things could be very busy soon!

Bad news, old friend. If things aren’t busy by now, well, don’t expect an invite to the CMAs.

On the bright side, Norwood could have it much worse—he could be New EditionDaron Norwood, which hasn’t updated its site in (egad) four years. You’d think a group with Bobby Brown would have something to say.

Oh, well. There’s always Justin Guarini to mock …