As the 2014 baseball season inches closer, The Ledger decides to get in a past time frame of mind by selecting a few of the The Natural’s greatest moments.
Striking Out The Whammer
During a carnival-stop layover, a quiet 19-year old rookie named Roy Hobbs impresses locals with his pitching accuracy by knocking down milk bottles in a game.
Nearby, Walter ‘The Whammer’ Whambold, a character loosely based off of Babe Ruth, commands his own crowd as he crushes baseballs over a tarp during a soft-pitch carnie game.
Naturally, no pun intended, their worlds collide.
Hobbs’ agent wages that his young flamethrower can strike out the infamous Whammer on three pitches. Pride gets the best of the Whammer as he accepts the bet, planning to make a mockery of the fresh prospect straight from the farm.
Three pitches. Three strikes. Advantage Hobbs.
19 years later after a near death experience, Hobbs finally makes it to the majors.
Hobbs and Pop, N.Y. Knight’s cynical manager, get off on the wrong foot as animosity broods for weeks, relegating Hobbs to a first-class bench warmer. Reluctantly, Pop allows Hobbs to step into the batting cage to see what the salty vet has left in the tank, if anything.
Hobbs doesn’t disappoint.
He launches 400-ft plus homers all over the ballpark as awestruck teammates are mesmerized by thunderous cracks of the bat.
We are also introduced to Wonder Boy, Hobb’s homemade bat which becomes synonymous with the legend.
Hobbs has since captured the baseball nation with his electrifying bat and folky nature. His stature takes a nose dive once he begins concentrating on polishing his own Wonderboy and hits the dating scene.
Like clockwork, New York fans turn on the beloved hitter.
At the plate and unable to shake the terrible slump, Hobbs senses something in the stands that makes the hair on the back of his neck stand. We learn shortly after, that the something was actually someone; Hobbs’ old high school sweetheart.
The scene sparks a flame in Hobbs who then pulls a fastball to deep left field, shattering the Wrigley Field clock into a thousand pieces.
The slugger is hospitalized during the pennant race after “old wounds” are abruptly opened.
Ordered not to play by doctors otherwise risk life-threatening damage, as well as defying his black-mailing owner, Hobbs manages to will his way to play in the final game.
Injured, hobbling and as close to death as one could come, Hobbs takes a fastball to deep left-field only to watch it drift foul. The grand slam would have won the pennant for the Knights.
As if things couldn’t get any worse, he notices Wonder Boy is shattered after that last pitch. Roy turns to the club ball boy, Bobby Savoy, and whispers a simple command:
“Pick me out a winner Bobby”
Bobby races to the dugout and pulls his own homemade bat the Hobbs helped him make throughout the season. The christening of “Savoy Special” dutifully takes place as he hands it over to Roy.
The rest is grand slam history.
It’s apparent San Antonio wants an MLS team in their fine city.
What’s not to like?
San Antonio, or San Anton as we Texans like to call her, hosts many fine attractions.
Great mexican food, southern hospitality, The Alamo and lest we forget about the perennial NBA champion Spurs. San Antonions have plenty to boast about on a daily basis.
But an MLS team?
The Ledger speculates from a fan’s point of view and cringes every time the topic of “MLS In San Antonio” surfaces.
San Antonio has extremely passionate fans, but …..
Every time the Dallas Cowboys hold a training camp or the Texas Rangers play a pre-season mini-series, the house is packed. Heck, when Mexico played South Korea in an international friendly earlier this year, over 30,000 fans showed up.
Those are good results for a novelty game, but not realistic for an entire season.
City leaders have been on their hands and knees for years trying to seduce the NFL and MLB to franchise or relocate a team.
The will is there. The want is there. The desire is there. But is the willingness to sustain there?
Someone Would Lose
The NASL , MLS’s unofficial sub-division is already here.
The San Antonio Scorpions skyrocketed in popularity and appear to have won the hearts and minds of a small but dedicated fan base.
The Scorpions are proving financially they are nowhere near ready for an MLS push. They are a non-profit organization and refuse to pony up money to keep star players. Fans are beginning to notice and are slowly classifying the organization as a second-class outfit.
The Scorpions alone would never be able to sustain the financial burden of running an MLS squad.
Bringing in a second team to San Antonio would have a negative impact and do one of two things: (1) Crush the small payroll of the Scorpions causing them to fold, or worse, (2) cause a split between fans creating two allegiances neither team would be able to afford.
Eventually, one or both teams would die.
Kudos to the club for building a soccer-specific stadium. Toyota Field reportedly will expand to approximately 15,000 seats, but suffers from the same lame-brain city planning that the AT&T Center and the Alamodome suffers from.
The stadium sits just off one of I-35′s most congested areas with a baron industrial district on one side and a middle-class neighborhood on the other. Morgan’s Wonderland and a pristine youth soccer complex clogs the stadium grounds even further.
The traffic flow will cause even the calmest man to go insane.
The only other options are to build a new soccer-specific stadium or play in the Alamodome. The city will not pay for a stadium and no owner is willing to pay for upgrades in the outdated dome.
The city of San Antonio can not seem to wrap their heads around the common real estate vision of Location, Location, Location. San Antonio sporting venues are in all the wrong places. The Spurs home, AT&T Center, is surrounded literally by nothing unless you count the acres and acres of warehouses, and the ‘world-class’ Alamodome suffers from a permit-only parking syndrome, forcing customers to pay local bars and low-income businesses at $25-$50 a pop.
Soccer fans need a festive atmosphere with nearby “pubs” and lively restaurants. Toyota Field and AT&T Center offer neither. The Alamodome is proximal to downtown and meets that bill, but fails on many others.
Be happy with the your little NASL club San Antonio. You have a good thing, don’t look past it.
There’s a reason MLB franchises San Diego, Seattle and Miami, along with NFL franchises Jacksonville, Minnesota and New Orleans refused to come here.
You have your Spurs. That’ll do.
The Coin Flip
It was a disaster from the beginning.
Joe Namath. 70-years old going on 25. That ridiculous fur coat. And then the debacle of flipping the most important coin toss in sports before even asking heads or tails.
Even “Omaha Omaha!” couldn’t have even prevented that failed snap.
Probably more anticipated than the game itself, it was a down year for the over-hyped Who’s Who of commercials, as most of them failed to meet our expectations.
Halftime Show Pt I
I can deal with the crossbreeding of music genders. Carlos Santana’s Supernatural with Rob Thomas & Dave Matthews did well back in the day.
But Bruno Mars & the Red Hot Chili Peppers?
I like them both….individually, but it was like a drunk DJ mixing Southern Baptist hymnals with Ozzie Osbourne. Not cool.
Halftime Show Pt II
It was as if the skies opened up and the Gods smiled upon us for a brief moment when Jerry Seinfeld & George Costanza appeared on our sets.
More of a plug for Seinfeld’s “Comedians In Cars” than a fancy ad…we got a ninety-second “commercial about nothing” and loved every second of it.
God bless you Jerry!
The Commercials Pt II
Just as we hoped for a better game in the second half, we prayed for better commercials as well. Not to be. Another heap of very hard to comprehend advertising spots cemented that this day was not meant to be for any of us.
(For the record, my favorite commercial was Budweiser’s Puppy & Clydesdale BFF spot)