Week of September 20, 2019


Yaz Homers At Fenway

Mike Yastrzemski, that is. For folks outside the Bay Area, the grandson of Red Sox Hall of Fame Carl Yastrzemski plays for the Giants, but this is a more interesting Hank Schulman story than a grandson hitting a homerun in the stadium the elder ruled for 20+ years.

 

Mike Yastrzemski is 29 and made his MLB debut this season with the Giants. In other words, he is far too old for anyone making a MLB debut who plans on actually sticking around. In most cases, a position player that age gets a token call-up at the very end of the year. After being stuck with the Orioles organization for seven minor league seasons, the Giants got the younger Yaz, and he was called up in late May. And he’s been pretty good for the Giants. 20 home runs, 60 runs, 50+ RBI in 340 at bats. The home runs number is especially shocking, considering he’s never hit more than 15 home runs in a season, including college (ball is no doubt juiced!) If nothing else, he’s finally proven he’s a big league baseball player, which was far from certain in the spring. After seven minor league seasons, that has to feel good.

The idea of circling a late September game at Fenway early in the season was not his focus. Per Schulman:

As soon as Mike was promoted to the big-leagues his family reminded him that the Giants were coming to Boston in September, but he could not afford to look forward to this day.

“I kept it very focused on just surviving one more day in the big-leagues,” he said. There had been a lot of turnover on the team and I knew that they were looking for production. In order to make it to Boston I had to play well.”

Mike walked to the ballpark himself Tuesday and admitted he was struck by nostalgia from his days growing up near Boston.

Once he got to the stadium, there was, of course, a staged meeting and walk to the Green Monster ( those in the know refer to it, ‘The Wall’ as we learn in a different article this week) with his grandpa. It’s one of those things that was simultaneously staged and corny, and still cool all at once. 

I’m most struck with Schulman’s last detail in the block quote – that Mike walked to the ballpark himself Tuesday. Maybe I’m over-analysing here, but I think that detail is a great piece of writing. 

It is a detail Mike must have given Schulman, and I’m left to fill in the blanks of the nostalgia that just had to be rushing through him (did he even feel the ground beneath his feet?). And the doubts I’m sure he had, especially in the last couple of years in the minors. The pride in knowing he was going to Fenway – the stadium where his grandpa became a deity – and he was going to walk into the same stadium as a player, just like his grandpa. He earned that walk to the stadium. He no doubt could appreciated that walk more as a 29 year-old than had he been a 23 year-old phenom making that walk.

And then this happened: 

Sidenote: there is no better home run call in baseball teh Duane “Smooth’ Kuiper. It’s simple. He saves it for legit big moments, and it’s from the gut. Never, ever gets old. 

Schulman is great baseball writer. It’s not the biggest story, but he didn’t overwrite a moment that so easily could’ve been overwritten. 

And here’s an insane sidenote: Grandpa Carl didn’t see the home run in person. He was at the stadium before the game, then left before the game started. What?!? His grandson, having a breakout season as a 29 year-old rookie is the first Yastrzemski to play left field in Fenway in almost 40 years and gramps taps out before the game starts? I hope there’s a good explanation for this…

One last note: can someone please get Tan from Queer Eye to give Carl Yastrzemski some goddamn clothes that fit? Let’s look at this again:

I’m not asking for a French tuck, but hell. Those pants and jacket are legit four sizes too big and need to go. – PAL 

Source:Giants’ Mike Yastrzemski matches hype of his Fenway debut with a home run in 15-inning win”, Henry Schulman, SF Chronicle (09/18/19)

TOB: Nice write up, Phil (and Hank). Re Carl: I read he never sticks around for the games – he’s there sometimes for pre-game ceremonies and then takes off; he was described as a recluse. I agree it was surprising, but I’m ok allowing an old man to live his life his way. The next evening, Carl threw out the first pitch…to Mike. 

Carl stuck around in the Red Sox dugout for the first at bat of the game…in which Mike drew a walk. Then Carl headed inside. You do you, Yaz.

Also, I’d like to point out the other wrinkle to this story: Mike’s dad, Carl, Jr., was a career minor leaguer, too, and passed away in 2004, when Mike was 14. That sad fact adds a little weight to the grandfather/grandson moments.


Bochy Being Bochy

As Bruce Bochy’s final season managing the San Francisco Giants comes to a close, you can bet we will be reading (and writing) a lot about him. But before the career tributes start arriving, I wanted to highlight this cool story by the San Jose Mercury News’ Kerry Crowley. Crowley is a young sportswriter, in just his second year on the Giants’ beat. 

Before Thursday’s series finale at Fenway Park, Crowley and some other beat writers were chatting with Bochy. Bruce asked them if they had all been inside Fenway’s famed Green Monster. Only Crowley hadn’t. So Bochy jumped up and said, “Let’s go.” Bochy took Crowley through the little door in the Green Monster, and into a piece of baseball history – for decades, players and coaches have walked through that door and signed their names on the inside walls of the Monster (also, one time Manny Ramirez walked through that door mid-inning to go pee).

 

Bochy looked for names of old friends, and Crowley got to experience something most of us never will. It’s a simple story, but it gives a glimpse into Bochy – his love of the game, and his generosity to others – he took time out of his busy day to give a young sportswriter a memory he’ll never forget. -TOB

Source: My Trip Inside the Green Monster at Fenway Park with Bruce Bochy”, Kerry Crowley, San Jose Mercury News (09/19/2019)

PAL: Hell, that got me a little choked up. What a great moment between a legend at the end of his career and a kid just starting. TOB, it would be our greatest victory to have a few beers with Bruce Bochy. This needs to happen. Is there any chance he stays in the area after he retires?

TOB: Pretty sure he still lives in the offseason in San Diego… 😦

PAL: Roadtrip. Maybe a little Joshua Tree camping, and a little non-creepy Bochy tracking. There is simply no way that guy isn’t sipping a Pacifico somewhere at 5pm in his retirement.


The Conwoman of the NBA

Anyone who’s seen the 30 for 30 “Broke” knows that millions of dollars in the pocket of very young adult athletes is a volatile combination. Most of us have heard a story or two about a professional athlete getting scammed for millions, but the detail and and emotional warfare Peggy King pulled on several NBA and NFL players was a familiar story told in a fresh way. 

As is required for every con, a solid backstory is the foundation. SI’s Alex Prewitt outlines King’s backstory like this: 

Upon completing her Ivy League education, obtaining a Series 7 license and earning a fortune on Wall Street, Peggy explained in interviews for her sizzle reel, she’d entered sports management for selfless reasons. Not only would her investment acumen guarantee a long-term financial windfall for her clients—”Building Generational Wealth,” her email signature promised—but she swore to protect them against would-be scammers. This, Peggy said, was why she insisted on working for free. Her athletes were family, and helping each other is just what family does.

And that story gains the trust of young athletes who, like pretty much all of us at 21 years old, have no idea how to manage their money. Of course they have way more than most of us will make in our life, and so they try to be responsible and have someone more knowledgeable manage the finances. You know, like a Harvard-educated broker. This ruse allowed King to take nearly $6M from Ricky Williams (running back), Dennis Rodman, Travis Best (her first mark), Lex Hilliard (NFL fullback who played only 3 seasons), and Rashad McCants (NBA). These are just the verifiable amounts from one case. She surely took more money from non-athletes, as is detailed in this story. 

Another detail from this story that sticks with me is how important a referral is in these circles. Lex Hilliard did not make a fortune in his short stint in the NFL, but he was in the same backfield as Ricky Williams in Miami. When Hilliard and his wife were trying to get a pawn shop off the ground in Montana, they became victims of fraud from family members. Looking to enlist a professional advisor, Hilliard’s wife reached out to a former teammate’s wife. Kristin Williams, in what must just hurt her to this day, recommended Peggy King. 

It was under this tragic backdrop that the Hilliards enlisted the expertise of a new financial adviser, based on the recommendation of one of Lex’s former Dolphins teammates—and at first Peggy was everything Ricky and Kristin Williams said she would be. Early on she lent the Hilliards $10,000 interest-free, Rebekah says. After setting up new joint checking accounts for the couple’s daily expenditures—the rest of their savings would hypothetically be raking profits in mutual funds—Peggy also flew to Kalispell and acted as the Hilliards’ lawyer in talks with business partners as the pawn shop rebranded and relocated.

That good faith didn’t last long, though. The following spring Lex was at Jets mini-camp, optimistic about his NFL future, when his bank card was declined at the team hotel. Back in Montana with the couple’s five children, Rebekah was suddenly struggling, too. A storage facility owner was demanding months of overdue bills. When the Hilliards’ youngest daughter reached her third birthday, finances were too tight for a party.

And of course it all fell apart on Peggy King. I’m damn near incredulous at how long the ride lasted when what undid her in the end was a few very basic checks on Kristen Williams’ part: 

  1. An alumni database check at Harvard (no Peggy King)
  2. A call to Charles Schwab to check on her and Ricky’s account (there was none)
  3. A call to the bank where Peggy had opened checking accounts in their name (of course they were denied access)

Reading this made me feel terrible for these athletes. Sure, King was found guilty, but that money is gone forever. If someone offered to help me with my finances (all $300) at 22 years-old, I would have been delighted and given them whatever they needed to help me save some money. Yet, I think up until this story my reaction to these scam stories has been “how dumb are you?!?” directed at the athletes. I finally know the answer to that question is these athletes were no more dumb than I was at their age. I just didn’t have any money. 

Peggy, of course, is just one of many stories like this:

Peggy is hardly alone. According to a recent study by Ernst & Young, pro athletes claimed nearly $600 million in total fraud-related losses between 2004 and ’18. But that figure is based on only 35 cases available in public court documents, the alleged victims of which include Tim Duncan, Mark Sanchez, Roy Oswalt and McCants’s guardian angel, Garnett. It likely represents a small fraction of the actual damage. “Extrapolating from what I know,” says Steve Spiegelhalter, a former federal prosecutor who cowrote the E&Y report, “it certainly exceeds $1 billion. It’s just not discovered.”

Athletes these days would be better off following Samir’s advice. – PAL 

Source: “She Won Athletes’ Hearts. And Robbed Them Blind”, Alex Prewitt, SI.com (09/19/2019)


Video of the Week


Tweet of the Week


PAL Song of the Week – Hot Club Sandwich – “Yogiri No Shinobiai”


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 I have no idea what I’m doing, but I know I’m doing it really, really well.

-Andy Dwyer

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