Stay classy, Tenors!

Singing the National Anthem at a sporting event can be a harrowing experience.  You’re up at the microphone, you’re already nervous, and you worry about hitting that one note during “And the rockets’ red glare” without your voice cracking.

That’s the American national anthem.  Now if you’re going to sing the Canadian national anthem – which, by the way, is called “O Canada,” and comes in both English and French versions – do not mess with the lyrics.

Case in point.  Years ago, when I worked in the Premier Basketball League, there was a team in Quebec City called the Kebs.  I was at a game one night, and the person singing “O Canada” started off without a hitch … until the crowd noticed that the singer was performing the anthem completely in English.  In Quebec City.  In the heart of French-speaking Canada.  And the crowd let her have it.  Chants of “En Français!  En Français, beetch!”  And that was the classiest thing they could say.

Last night, at the 2016 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, a group known as “The Tenors” were hired to perform a reverent version of “O Canada” for the fans – remember, there’s at least one major league baseball team in the True North; two, as soon as the Oakland A’s officially move to Montreal and become the Montréal Eh’s.  Ha.

Well, one of The Tenors decided this would be a perfect moment to change the lyrics to “O Canada” to suit the moment.

Did he make reference to Toronto’s José Bautista flipping the bat in an epic playoff home run?  Mais non.

Did he remind people that the Blue Jays have won two World Series rings in the 1990’s?  Mais non.

No, he decided to inject a reference to the “Black Lives Matter” / “All Lives Matter” debate.

Yep.

The original lyrics are supposed to be, “O Canada / Our home and native land / True patriot love / in all thy sons’ command / With glowing hearts / we see thee rise / The True North strong and free…”

That’s not what this clown sang.

First off …

You can’t have “All Lives Matter” until you start having “Black Lives Matter,” also.  But yeah, that.

Oh, and nice of you to hold up a sign that says “United We Stand” b/w “All Lives Matter.”  Like we couldn’t see your handiwork on the JumboTron.  And if you’re doing the Canadian National Anthem, shouldn’t that sign be in both English and French?  Bilingual laws, don’tcha know.

To their credit – and along with some major damage control – The Tenors posted this message on their Twitter account.

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Then again, this isn’t even the worst performance of a country’s national anthem at a San Diego baseball stadium.

This one still wins out.  If you call this rendition “winning.”

Do me a favor, Tenors.  Next time, if you’re going to perform a beloved Canadian anthem at a sporting event…

Could you please perform THIS song instead?

Thanks in advance.

That’s not a maple leaf, Toronto…

Sometimes baseball teams try to think outside the box, only to discover that there’s a REASON why there’s a box in the first place.

Example?  The Toronto Blue Jays.  The Blue Jays’ baseball cap features a stylized maple leaf as its logo.  Got that?  Good.

Well, for St. Patrick’s Day, the Blue Jays have offered a green version of their baseball cap.  You know, a perfect hat for the St. Patrick’s Day Blue Jays fan.  Right?  Right.

Take a look at the St. Patrick’s Day cap.

torontogreenhatUm…

Er…

I’m not sure, but that logo doesn’t look like a maple leaf any more.  In fact…

It kinda looks like…

Well, let’s just put it this way.

You could wear this hat on March 17th…

And you could wear it again on April 20th.

Woah.

Wait, wait, here’s another one.

Will the Canadian National Anthem be performed at Blue Jays games by Cypress Hill?

Or better yet… oh please let this be true…

Can the ceremonial first pitch be thrown out by former Montreal Expos pitcher Bill “Spaceman” Lee, who when asked one time if he preferred grass or turf in his playing career, he said, “Grass, because I’ve never smoked turf.”

Thank you, I’ll see myself out.  😀

Baseball’s little funny moments

Joe Garagiola once wrote a very famous book called Baseball Is a Funny Game, in which he recounted stories about the lighter side of the American pastime.  With that in mind, I figured today I would share some funny moments – both on the field and in the announcing booth – that shows that baseball isn’t just nine innings and 27 outs and a couple of home runs now and again.

Now check out this clip from 2007.  It’s a game where the Angels are in Boston, and one of the Boston players hits a pop-fly that looks like it’s headed toward the left field stands.  And…

I sometimes wonder if players don’t have time to eat a healthy meal before a game.  Which might explain this little snack-move by Prince Fielder.

Carlton Fisk will always be one of the greatest catchers in baseball history.  He also is a very head’s-up player, as noted when he tagged out TWO Yankees on a play at the plate.  Well, one of the Yankees was Dale Berra, who wore #2 when Derek Jeter was still in Little League.  And Dale Berra played this like he was still in Little League.

Speaking of Little League plays, I bring you now the footage of San Francisco Giants baserunning gaffe expert Ruben Rivera.  Forget the fact that at one time he was traded away from the Yankees for stealing Derek Jeter’s glove and trying to sell it.  Here he is with the Giants, misunderstanding that you don’t have to tag the base if the outfielder doesn’t catch the pop fly.

Here’s a good one from 2013.  Juan Segura apparently forgot that this is baseball and not fifth grade recess, where you can run to the tree in the playground, touch it, and you’re safe from tags.

Randy Johnson is one of the most feared fireballers in baseball history.  Trust me.  In a spring training game, one of his fastballs took out a seagull.  I’m not showing that video here.  I am showing, however, an All-Star Game clip win which Randy Johnson basically made John Kruk completely give up.

This is kinda cool.  Especially when you consider “fan trying to catch ball at Wrigley Field” and you’re not thinking of the 2003 NLCS.  Watch this footage and it will restore your faith in humanity.

Hey, sign this ball girl up, she can’t be any worse than the Red Sox are dealing with currently!

Pat Venditte is currently in the major leagues, but when he started playing in the New York-Penn League, he showed off a very unique skill.  In fact, when he ran into a switch-hitter from the other team… well this little pas de deux just makes you laugh.

So did Pat Venditte do his little “switch-pitching” stunt in the major leagues?

Yep.

Rene Lachemann, a bench coach for the Colorado Rockies, offers some staunch advice to a young fan in the stands – including how to take a pee.

And on Labor Day, I hope you enjoy these funny moments that make baseball the best game out there.

125-year-old Troy record broken

Troy once shared a record that survived since 1882.

Today, that record was broken.

See, in 1882 the Troy Haymakers, a professional baseball team that later evolved into the San Francisco Giants, played their last game of the season on the road in Worcester, Mass.  The total number of fans in attendance?  Six.  Not six thousand, not six hundred… just six people.  Both teams were terrible, it was the last game of the season, and there was probably an episode of CSI: Reichenbach Falls in print in the local newspaper that caught everyone else’s attention.

And that record in attendance futility survived until today, April 29, 2015 – when the Chicago White Sox and the Baltimore Orioles played in front of an empty stadium.

Don’t believe me? Major League Baseball says it is so.

So for all those days when Times Union sports reporters harped on low attendance at local sporting events… this apparently was continuing a tradition that goes back to the 1880’s.

Wow.  Six fans.  At least all six of them saw Troy take the win, 4-1 over Worcester.  Ha.

Upcoming Albany Institute of History and Art exhibition to feature baseball, local and national

Many years ago, when I was clearing out most of my accumulated collections in the wake of my divorce, I bundled up boxes of Albany-based scorecards and game programs and memorabilia, all for donation to the Albany Institute of History and Art for their records and archives.

The other day, I heard from Tammis Groft, the Institute’s Executive Director, that a new AIHA exhibit in 2015 will encompass baseball’s long and storied history; and, as part of the exhibit, they’re looking for anyone who is willing to donate or lend baseball memorabilia for a special exhibit on the Capital District’s local baseball history.

From the press release:

The Albany Institute of History & Art is devoting its galleries, educational programs, and family events to our great history, heritage and love for baseball with our exciting new exhibit: Triple Play! Baseball at the Albany Institute.

Triple Play! Baseball at the Albany Institute includes three separate exhibitions on the main floor

Baseball: America’s Game organized by the Bank of America is drawn from their collection of nationally significant baseball materials.  This multimedia exhibition features more than 90 photographs, illustrations, objects, and audio and video clips that bring to life the history of the American sport that has provided common ground and decades of enjoyment for fans across the nation.

The Clubhouse organized by the Albany Institute is a community-based exhibition that will include baseball memorabilia from teams coast to coast.

Play Ball! Organized by the Albany Institute is a community based exhibition that highlights the history of baseball in the Capital Region. Materials will be drawn from the Institute’s collection as well as loans from area collectors.  Key to this story is the Twilight League.

The history of the Albany Twilight League is intertwined into the fabric of our area’s baseball heritage. From its earliest days in 1930, the ATL has always provided venue in the Capital Region for ballplayers to display their talent and love for the game before a hometown crowd. Following the disbandment of the Senators in 1959, the Albany Twilight League became the area’s chief venue for organized baseball. Founded in 1930, the league got its name from its propensity to begin games in the evening—illuminated by the sunset—until 1958, when lights were installed at the league’s home at Bleecker Stadium, bringing forth an exciting new time of night baseball for the community. From its earliest days, the ATL has been a venue for amateur and college players to play before a hometown crowd, and is today the oldest continuous amateur baseball league in the United States.

In recognition and appreciation of this legacy, Albany Institute would like your help to identify and borrow materials related to the ATL for the Play Ball! Exhibition or coast to coast materials for the Clubhouse exhibition..  

In you have materials that you are willing to loan to the Pay Ball! or The Clubhouse exhibitions, please contact

Tammis Groft,

Executive Director of the Albany Institute of History & Art

Grofttk@albanyinstitute.org or 518-463-4478

So I went back to my sports memorabilia collection – okay, what’s left of my sports memorabilia collection – and in the next day or two, I’ll be dropping off some treasures from the 1949 Albany Senators baseball team, including a game program, a team-signed baseball, and an autographed newspaper clipping from a game the Senators played against the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates.

And if you’ve acquired some baseball treasures from the Capital District’s baseball history – maybe you have a bat signed by one of the Albany-Colonie Yankees; perhaps you have a game-worn uniform from the Tri-City ValleyCats; or perhaps there’s an old Schenectady Blue Jays baseball jersey in your family’s old storage trunk – you should contact the Institute and offer the treasure for display in the exhibition.

I’ve worked with and donated to the Institute in the past.  Not only have they received my sports memorabilia collection; they’ve also received all the archives from the “dumpster dives” in saving the history of my high school before it closed forever.  They know what they’re doing and their exhibitions are top-notch.

Hey, you never know.  You might have that one item that will make the upcoming exhibition stand out.

So step up to the plate, why don’tcha.

The Stitches: Cork Center

Clark Henry was an outfielder for the Albany Senators minor league baseball team.  He played on the Senators squad from 1945 to 1951, and surpassed a .300 batting average in the 1950 and 1951 seasons.

I have his signature on a team-signed 1949 Albany Senators Eastern League baseball.  The ball has turned an orange-amber hue in age; many of the signatures have faded to nothingness.  Clark Henry’s autograph, however, is clear.

Last year, I purchased a macro lens at a “going out of business” camera store sale.  I’ve played with the lens a couple of times, but was never completely satisfied with its capabilities.  I’ve photographed flowers in my girlfriend Nicole’s garden, I’ve photographed the stems of apples from my kitchen.  But nothing seemed to work for me.  Lens, meet shelf.

Then I came up with an idea.  Lens, get off the shelf.

Maybe I can capture something in the stitching and seams of a 65-year-old baseball.

After a few tries here and there… I ended up with this shot.

Clark Henry autographed baseball
Clark Henry autographed Eastern League baseball. Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 55mm 1:35 macro lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Not bad… I’m not sure if the orange-amber patina is from the ball being dipped in either shellac or tobacco juice.  The signature’s nice, too… it’s not like anybody outside of hardcore Capital District minor league baseball fans would have any idea who Clark Henry was.

But what if I zoomed in closer… maybe on the stitches… I mean, this is 65-year-old leather cowhide…

Adjust… tilt… shift…

After I zoomed in closer and turned the ball to a better angle… well…

This came out.

Cork Center
Cork Center. Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 55mm 1:35 macro lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

This is nice.  You can see the fibers and seams and strands of the stitches, and the “CORK CENTER” is still readable on the lightly dimpled cowhide.

This is a first test.  I know that I have several options when it comes to macro photography – I can use this old lens, or I can flip one of my other lenses around.

Still… This isn’t too bad.

Right now I’m trying to focus on something else, anything else.  I’ve got to find that elusive spark.  The spark I had in photography.  The one that I seem to have misplaced.

It’s out there.  I just can’t stop looking for it.

Batter up!!

Experimental film at a baseball game in Binghamton. How did things turn out?

Lately I’ve experimented with several film photographic disciplines, in the hopes of capturing something new, something different, something competition-season-worthy.  I have to break out of my current emotional malaise, and maybe a good old fashioned photo shoot will help me sort my tired self out.  I wanted to capture some more baseball players in action with my slitscan camera; and wanted also to try my experimental films like Revolog Tesla and LomoChrome Purple.

So all I need to do is find some baseball games to shoot.  Let me call the New York Yankees, surely they can give me a media pass – well, after they laughed for a good five minutes, they hung up the phone.  Ditto for the Boston Red Sox.  Ditto for the New York Mets.

Next option.  I could go over to Joe Bruno Stadium and photograph the ValleyCats in action – yeah, if I want to wait until July.  Sorry, folks, I’m not that patient.

Next option.  I can go back to Bleecker Stadium and photograph some Albany Twilight League games and – urgh, the Twilight League won’t start for another couple of months.

Next option.  How about some Albany Dutchmen collegiate games – oh crud, same thing.  No Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League contests for at least another couple of months.  This is my curse for living in upstate New York when the springtime arrives around late April.

Next option.  Hamilton College has a varsity baseball team, and it might actually be worth a trip to the alma mater for a little shutterbug action.  And look at the schedule – Hamilton’s got a double-header on Saturday against Tufts.  Say it with me, folks.  Hamilton’s playing against the all-time “safety school.”  So I called the SID, Jim Taylor, and made arrangements for attending the game.  “Oh, I’m sorry,” he said, “That double-header was cancelled, because of all the storms and snowfall and bad weather, our field isn’t ready for play.”

That sound you just heard was me banging my forehead against the wall.  I may continue banging against the wall until either the wall crumbles or I start seeing red stains on the wallpaper.

I could drive to Syracuse or Rochester or Pawtucket for an International League game… or… I could drive to Binghamton for an Eastern League game, or…

You know what?  Binghamton’s not that far, they’re the AA affiliate of the Mets, they’re playing the Akron RubberDucks (no, I don’t know if there’s a team in the Eastern League called the Pigpens or the Smokey Bears), and there’s a game Saturday afternoon at NYSEG Stadium in Broome County.  Some e-mail correspondence with the director of media relations, and all was set.  So long as I don’t violate Minor League Baseball’s policies regarding the sale of still photographs, I’m in good shape.

So here’s the plan.  I’m packing the slitscan-modified Nikon EM camera and my non-slitscan-modified Nikon F100 camera.  I’m only going to use one lens, the big bulky Nikon 50-400 f/4.5 “Rachel” telephoto, which will be locked onto my Vanguard Tracker IV tripod.  Those are my weapons.

My ammunition?  Every film I’m bringing can be developed in C-41 chemicals.  In other words, one pile of film dropped off at the local Walgreens, and a pick-up the next morning.

Got my weapons, got my ammo.  Let’s go.  Interstate 88, here I come.

I drove down Interstate 88, with the plan to arrive at NYSEG Stadium an hour ahead of the 1:00 p.m. first pitch.  What I didn’t realize was that Friday night’s game against Akron was weather-postponed, and Saturday’s game became a double-header that started at noon.  All right, no problem.  I picked up my photo pass, signed a release form (if I take a line drive off my skull, it’s my fault for being in the path of a speeding baseball), and set up my cameras along the third base line.

Okay, first up – let’s get some slitscan pictures.  I figured I’d practice some shots by taking images of the Mets’ pitcher of the day, Rainy Lara.

Rainy Lara stretches out.  Fuji Experian 800 film, Nikon EM camera moddified for slitscan.  Photo by Chuck Miller.
Rainy Lara stretches out. Fuji Experian 800 film, Nikon EM camera moddified for slitscan. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Okay, I can make some adjustments, let me wind off the next pitch and –

SNAP

The rewind handle snapped right off my camera. The EM is now broke and out of commission.

Are you kidding me right now?  I drove two and a half hours to Binghamton, it’s barely 30 degrees above zero, and my damn slitscan camera just broke?

I can’t deal with this.  I’ve got enough stress on my plate – enough stress to bend titanium – and now I have to deal with this too?

All right, I’ll have to make do.  Let’s see if my experimental films can at least help me out at this point.    LomoChrome Purple, can you come through for me?

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Okay.  Now let’s see if I can at least pull something out of this with my Revolog Tesla film.

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Okay.  At least the Revolog and LomoChrome films kept this from becoming a complete washout of a day.  And my thanks to the Binghamton Mets organization for allowing me to take photos this weekend.

But overall, it was a mixed effort.  I’m glad that the experimental pictures came out well, especially the Revolog lightning-coated film.  But I’ve worked that Nikon EM camera past its limit.  That crank system isn’t supposed to be used in this manner.  And I need to re-tune this camera so that stuff like this doesn’t ever happen again.

Believe me, I’m trying very hard to find something positive in all this.  Maybe there’s something in these shots – perhaps one of the Revolog photos – that can help me get an edge in competition season.

I just need something to work in my favor.

I wonder if it’s too late to hit a five-run homer.