A Nice Race Story and a Nice Review of a Racing Novel

(Getty Images photo for NASCAR)

Clinton, South Carolina, Monday, May 8, 2017, 10:15 a.m.

By Monte Dutton

Lots of times, when I’m watching a NASCAR race on television, I think of the early scenes of Days of Thunder, when Harry Hogge is back in North Carolina, on his tractor, while the Daytona 500 is taking place.

I’m not sure what occupied Harry with his tractor in mid-February, but that’s Hollywood, I reckon.

A friend visited on Sunday, and the main difference was that I didn’t tweet as much as usual about the race. We wasted most of our witticisms one on one.

(Getty Images for NASCAR)

I was pleased Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s upset victory. For all the stages and bonus points and Chase (oops, playoff) bonus points and encumbered finishes, the season has fallen predictably. Until Sunday, no one won who wasn’t expected to win at least sometime if not in the race in which he did so.

No one expected Stenhouse to win, this in spite of his starting on the pole. No one will expect Stenhouse to win next week. They will treat a plate victory as an anomaly until Stenhouse and Jack Roush provide more evidence to the contrary.

Now that Stenhouse has won, he has stepped out of his girlfriend Danica Patrick’s shadow. The world will notice at last what I already knew. Stenhouse is friendly, quotable, humble, a good guy.

(Cover design by Steven Novak)

Meanwhile, what made my day was a customer review of Lightning in a Bottle, my novel about stock car racing. So far, the readers seem to like it. The reader who checked in on the Amazon page Sunday saw the novel just as I wrote it. He got what I was trying to say. Here’s the review.

So get ‘em while they’re hot. In a Kindle, or your phone, or your other electronic device, the words will be safely encased and safe to touch. In print, too, the words will only sizzle in your mind.

Or that’s the plan.

(Steven Novak design)

If you’d like me to mail you a signed copy of Lightning in a Bottle, or any of my other novels, you can find my address and instructions at montedutton.com. (montedutton.com/blog/merchandise)

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

I’ve written six novels and a collection of short stories. I’ve also written a number of books about sports, mostly about NASCAR. You can find most of them here.

The Kindle versions of my books, where available, can be found above. Links below are to print editions.

Lightning in a Bottle is the story of Barrie Jarman, the hope of stock car racing’s future. Barrie, a 18-year-old from Spartanburg, South Carolina, is both typical of his generation and a throwback to the sport’s glory days.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Cowboys Come Home is a modern western. Two World War II heroes come home from the Pacific to Texas.

I’ve written a crime novel about the corrosive effects of patronage and the rise and fall of a powerful politician and his dysfunctional family, Forgive Us Our Trespasses.

I’ve written about what happens to a football coach when he loses everything, Crazy of Natural Causes. It’s a fable of life’s absurdity.

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

I’ve written a tale of the Sixties in the South, centered on school integration and a high school football team, The Intangibles.

(Joe Font cover design)
(Joe Font cover design)

I’ve written a rollicking yarn about the feds trying to track down and manipulate a national hero who just happens to be a pot-smoking songwriter, The Audacity of Dope.

I’ve written a collection of 11 short stories, all derived from songs I wrote, Longer Songs.

Signed copies of Lightning in a Bottle are on sale at Emma Jane’s (see ad above). Signed copies of all my fiction are also on sale at L&L Office Supply in uptown Clinton, South Carolina.

(Cover photo by Crystal Lynn)
(Cover photo by Crystal Lynn)

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing), and/or @wastedpilgrim (more opinionated and irreverent). I’m on Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Instagram (TUG50), and Google-Plus (MonteDuttonWriter).

 

 

Lord, Coach Lombardi, What Have You Done?

(Monte Dutton photo)
(Monte Dutton photo)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, February 4, 2017, 9:43 a.m.

The weather has cooled, though it’s still a poor excuse for winter. I just got through playing “Facebook Friends” on my Pawless guitar. Earlier this morning, I wished a few of them – the Facebook friends, not Pawless guitars — happy birthday. I had almost exactly the same breakfast I’ve had every morning since I got back from Kentucky. It’s likely it’ll be pretty much the same tomorrow* unless I throw carbohydrates to the winds and drive out to the Hardee’s drive-through for a two-for-one biscuit deal.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

That usually occurs only on mornings when I’ve run out of eggs. The only way I won’t have eggs in the morning is if I make egg salad for the Super Bowl, and why would I do that? I’ll be watching it here all by myself.#

I watched a fascinating singer, Valerie June, on CBS Saturday Morning. I’ve been watching Aerial America for the past few minutes, struggling to come up with something in this blog that might be interesting to someone other than me. Perhaps it’s time for a break.

10:51 a.m.

It’s the pre-Super Bowl lull. The morning shows have previewed the commercials. Everyone has cracked on Media Day. The New England Patriots are paying a usual visit; the Atlanta Falcons are paying a rare visit. All time’s MVP, Tom Brady, versus this time’s MVP, Matt Ryan.

(Monte Dutton sketches)
(Monte Dutton sketches)

In any given year, the people watching the Super Bowl mostly don’t care who wins. It’s rare when one’s favorite team goes unless, of course, one is a Patriots fan. Both teams usually fall in that great range of teams one respects but doesn’t love. That’s why the commercials seem so important. I’m not too much into commercials, even Super Bowl commercials. Last year I spent a lot of them checking on something else, like what Charles Laughton was up to in Witness for the Prosecution.

TCM is running a series of Oscar-winning films in alphabetical order. In about 30 minutes, this blog is likely to take a break because Bound for Glory is on. The “Fox Super Bowl Pregame” begins at 1 p.m. Sunday, and the game should end at about 10:30. During that span, TCM is screening, in order, Camelot, Camille, Captain Blood, Captains Courageous, Casablanca, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

This is why I might miss most of the commercials again. If the Super Bowl isn’t close at halftime, Casablanca might keep me away for a while.

David Carradine as Woody Guthrie beckons.

3:13 p.m.

I found Bound for Glory, which I hadn’t watched in its entirety in decades, inspiring.

Did I then concentrate on the Georgia-South Carolina men’s basketball game? No, though it’s on TV.

I wrote a protest song, of course, or more than half of one. It could be complete, but I’ve got at least another verse or two of heartburn to get out and off of my chest.

I’ll probably never memorize it because I can’t think of a place where I could play it. Not here in town, anyway. I might could get away with it in Columbia or Greenville, or wherever else around here liberals are found.

Maybe I should watch the rest of the basketball game.

IMG_0705Sunday, February 5, 2017, 9:43 a.m.

Yes. It’s Super Bowl Sunday. The game begins shortly after 6:30, at least if one believes his DirecTV cable guide, a dubious proposition. The pregame shows – “Road to the Super Bowl,” “Skip and Shannon: Undisputed Super Bowl Special,” “Super Bowl Kickoff,” and “Super Bowl Pregame” – begin at 11 a.m. Never mind that the kickoff should not be before the pregame.

I suppose that watching all this foolishness would not reduce the need to watch the game, but I don’t see how many people could maintain their concentration for the game if they watched all the advance foolishness.

So I won’t. It’s my patriotic – and maybe my falconian – duty to occupy myself with reading, writing and music between now and the game. It’s no wonder people watch the commercials.

I’m tempted to wonder if I’ve gotten too old to appreciate the Super Bowl and to look back on the days of my youth when I could breathe it all in.

Never has there been such a time.

I may have the pregame shows on – just to confirm my intense dislike for the style of Skip Bayless – but I expect the college basketball games will get my slightly less mild attention.

This is my first-ever blog written over two days.

I’m not particularly proud of it.

*As it turned out, Super Bowl Sunday became an All-Pizza Day, beginning with microwaved pepperoni.

# And too much pizza.

cowboyshome_fullcvr343-page-001

If you’d like me to mail you a signed copy of Cowboys Come Home, or any of my other novels, you can find my address and instructions at montedutton.com. (montedutton.com/blog/merchandise)

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

I’ve written five novels and a collection of short stories. I’ve also written a number of books about sports, mostly about NASCAR. You can find most of them here.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

The Kindle versions of my books, where available, can be found above. Links below are to print editions.

My new novel is a western, Cowboys Come Home. Two World War II heroes come home from the Pacific to Texas.

I’ve written a crime novel about the corrosive effects of patronage and the rise and fall of a powerful politician and his dysfunctional family, Forgive Us Our Trespasses.

I’ve written about what happens to a football coach when he loses everything, Crazy of Natural Causes. It’s a fable of life’s absurdity.

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

I’ve written a tale of the Sixties in the South, centered on school integration and a high school football team, The Intangibles.

(Joe Font cover design)
(Joe Font cover design)

I’ve written a rollicking yarn about the feds trying to track down and manipulate a national hero who just happens to be a pot-smoking songwriter, The Audacity of Dope.

I’ve written a collection of 11 short stories, all derived from songs I wrote, Longer Songs.

 

(Cover photo by Crystal Lynn)
(Cover photo by Crystal Lynn)

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing), and/or @wastedpilgrim (more opinionated and irreverent). I’m on Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Instagram (TUG50), and Google-Plus (MonteDuttonWriter).

 

 

Tucked Safely Away

 

(Monte Dutton sketch)
(Monte Dutton sketch)

                The Boston Red Sox are no more. The third game was the only one I saw. Games one and two occurred while I was writing about high school football games. Monday night was excruciating, as games tend to be when one’s favorite team is eliminated. On Tuesday, I watched the remaining baseball. The Dodgers and Nationals are playing the only Game 5 Thursday night.

                I got up this morning and said to myself, “Self, I might as well write.” I deposited some money in the bank then went with most of it to the post office Tuesday. I bought some groceries with the remainder of new-found wealth.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

                The schedule was clear, and now I’m proud of myself. It was barely afternoon Wednesday, and Chapter 15 of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was on a virtual page elsewhere in the quicksilver of this laptop. It’s called “The New Deal” and is one of the crucial spins of this yarn, which is, in rough form, about 35,000 words now.

                I’m so proud that it might be admissible to read a while. Or play guitar. Or watch an old movie if a good one’s on.

                But, first, a blog. I reckon I still feel like writing, even if it’s nothing.

                Baseball is always good if you love it, and that sounds exactly like something I’ve heard watching games, because anything is good if you love it. Harold Reynolds is apparently rubbing off on me, and that’s a bad sign for a man attempting to write well.

                Even as I watched the Dodgers combust upon the Nationals and the Cubs feast on the Giants’ bullpen, I can’t help but ponder the Red Sox, because this was one of my favorite of Boston teams. Their memory will blur, though, because this team won merely the American League East, not “it all.” The teams of 2004, 2007, and 2013 remain indelible.

                With a little luck, many more memories will be in store from Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Andrew Benintendi. I’ll miss David Ortiz, but I’m glad he’s retiring because he went out as no one ever has. I’ve got plenty of memories of Big Papi.

(Monte Dutton photo)
(Monte Dutton photo)

                Handing out candy to kids on the road while waiting to bat in the fourth inning, then walking up to the plate and belting a homer. Kneeling in tribute to the fans before his last regular-season game at Fenway Park. Being restrained by John Farrell after being called out on a pitch he thought was errant. Big smiles. Bear hugs. Leading the league in doubles, which meant, if he wasn’t slow and forty, he would have been leading the league in triples.

                Still, the farewell is fond. I feel great that he’s retiring. It was a two-hearted team this year. Next year they’ll still have Dustin Pedroia.

                Baseball minutiae filled my mind, and I thought of names long forgotten by most but remembered by those of us who grew up reading box scores. Frank Quilici. Tony Horton. Diego Segui. Angel Mangual. Ron Herbel.

                I’m a whiz at so many things that don’t make money.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

I’ve written four novels and a collection of short stories. I’ve also written a number of books about sports, mostly about NASCAR. You can find most of them here.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

The Kindle versions of my books, where available, can be found above. Links below are to print editions.

I’ve written a crime novel about the corrosive effects of patronage and the rise and fall of a powerful politician and his dysfunctional family, Forgive Us Our Trespasses.

I’ve written about what happens to a football coach when he loses everything, Crazy of Natural Causes.

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

I’ve written a tale of the Sixties in the South, centered on school integration and a high school football team, The Intangibles.

(Joe Font cover design)
(Joe Font cover design)

I’ve written a rollicking yarn about the feds trying to track down and manipulate a national hero who just happens to be a pot-smoking songwriter, The Audacity of Dope.

I’ve written a collection of 11 short stories, all derived from songs I wrote, Longer Songs.

Most of my sports columns are at montedutton.com.

(Cover photo by Crystal Lynn)
(Cover photo by Crystal Lynn)

Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing), and/or @wastedpilgrim (more opinionated and irreverent). I’m on Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Instagram (TUG50), and Google-Plus (MonteDuttonWriter).

Various Absurdities of the Televised Sporting Life

A minor league ballgame in Hickory, North Carolina. (Monte Dutton photo)
A minor league ballgame in Hickory, North Carolina. (Monte Dutton photo)

Between episodes of an irreverent short story, I’ve decided today to write about sports in this space, rationalizing it on the basis that what will be written forthwith is fictitious and exaggerated.

ORCHESTRAL INTRO

“Live from Grand Canyon Arena in Teaneck, New Jersey, it’s the finals of the Rust Belt Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament, matching the Fighting Guide Dogs of the University of Alaska-Ookwacha against the Strikers of the Union Institute of Collective Bargaining. UAO went through the conference schedule undefeated, but the Guide Dogs’ campus is five thousand miles away, and the fourth-seeded Strikers bused in from their Paramus campus.”

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

Notre Dame won the Atlantic Coast Conference. West Virginia is in the Big Less Than Twelve. Maryland and Rutgers are in the Big More Than Ten. It’s not that exaggerated.

“So, some final remarks from the Corn Growers Love Ethanol 400 at Heritage Foundation Speed Colosseum, where Gary ‘Cold Cuts’ Mumbleton outdueled John ‘Not His Real Name’ Smith by seven seconds, and thirty-one other cars were on the lead lap.”

“That’s right, Elliott, they was racing tooth-and-cavity back there in the pack, and let’s give a call to Jolene Addison-Jolene for being one of the twenty-one drivers who opted for the wave-around with eight laps to go, and worked her way through that twenty-two car pileup behind the leaders on the final lap to come home with a well-deserved seventh-place finish even though she didn’t have none of them four fresh Goodstone Racing Beagles.

“Right you, are, Luke, and precious little of that Cornfed Racing Fuel.”

Rockingham, North Carolina (Monte Dutton)
Rockingham, North Carolina (Monte Dutton)

“Finally, for some final remarks, two-time Heritage Foundation Speedway race champion Ikey Dale Fillmore. What say, I.D.?”

“That’s right, Elliott. The little girl’s just about got the hang of it, and I’s proud of her. Up front, well, kabunkit, kabunkit, Gary Mumbleton’s got the field covered, but I think if Big John had managed to get out of the pits just a scosh quicker on that last debris-caution pit stop, and if he’d’ve got that track position, it could’ve all been different.”

“On account of, he had that fresh Goodstone Racing Beagle rubber, I.D.”

“All right, guys, for I.D. Fillmore, and Luke Nucular, and self-made millionaire Carlos Debonaire with our studio host Roy Donahue and Marilyn Van Doren, Mamie Hayworth, and Rita Monroe down in the pits, I’m Elliott Sandersen, and we’ll see you next week from Texas Business Tax Refund Speedway in Mineral Wells for the Texas Tea/Black Gold 500, where Milburn Drysdale is the defending champion.”

A few weeks ago, a singer botched the national anthem before a NASCAR race. It was Obama’s fault because the singer was so demoralized about what America has become that he couldn’t do the “Star Spangled Banner” sober.

A power hitter.  (Monte Dutton sketch)
A power hitter. (Monte Dutton sketch)

“Clayton Armageddon, the Crushers’ power-hitting third sacker, came off the bench exhausted from nine holes of golf and captivated a spring-training audience of 7,727, by clouting a grand slam off Joey Wiggles, the Vampires’ 17-year-old phenom, at HeyThereHiThereHoThere Park in Yuma.

“The Vampires won, seventeen to nine, as three Class-A minor leaguers combined for eleven hits, seven runs and nine runs batted in.

“It was the Vampires’ first spring victory in a day game.”

              Sorry. I was in a goofy mood. Too much television. That’s one of many reasons I should spend more time reading, and you should, too: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

That Old-Time Feeling Arises

For a long time, he hated the Indianapolis Colts. They were his when they were in Baltimore, and then an evil man, Robert Irsay, moved them away in moving vans. March 29, 1984. A Day That Will (Also) Live in Infamy.

It was unthinkable, and, in response, he did the unthinkable. He started rooting for the Washington Redskins. They’d always been sort of his sentimental favorites, losing every year, often heroically, thanks to Sonny Jurgensen, Charley Taylor, and Bobby Mitchell. When the leagues had merged, and the Colts had moved to the American conference, he had started rooting for the Redskins in the National.

It wasn’t the same, though. It just wasn’t. The Colts. From Bahlimer. Memorial Stadium and row houses. Chuck Thompson always calling Unitas “John” and Lyles “Leonard” (instead of Lenny, who was Moore). In Indianapolis, they started playing in a dome, for chrissakes. He wished they’d change the name. Change the colors. Stop using those perfect uniforms. It was inhumane. Let them be the Indianapolis Racers, with an STP sticker on the helmets and uniforms that glowed in the dark.

The Royal Blue and White got in the way. It made them so much harder to hate.

So, too, did Peyton Manning. He didn’t play like Johnny Unitas, exactly. No one ever did. He acted like Unitas, though. Old Man Irsay died. His son wasn’t exactly Tom Hanks, but Jim Irsay didn’t seem completely evil. He just inherited the dumb from his old man, it seemed. He wasn’t likable, but not many big-time sports moguls are.

Damned if Daniel Snyder didn’t buy the Redskins.

He found himself being drawn to the Colts again, even though they played indoors. They still wore those uniforms, blue jerseys at home, white from head to toe on the road. Manning was like Unitas. Manning was smart. Called his own plays, though from the line, not the huddle. The coaches called a play – Unitas wouldn’t even have stood for that – but Manning always changed it at the line. If Manning didn’t, it sure looked like it.

He remembered where he was. Driving through the back roads of New Hampshire, listening to a baseball game on the radio. The word arrived that Johnny U. was dead. He had to pull off the road. He felt silly, sitting there weeping for a boyhood hero, because now he was supposed to be grown up.

A few days later, he heard that Manning wanted to wear black high-tops to honor Unitas. The sanctimonious, greedy National Football League informed Manning that they were in charge of equipment, by God, and Peyton would take his megamillion dollars and smile when Peyton laced up his approved cleats.

Rules were rules, wretched or not, and Manning did what Unitas would have: followed the rules.

He thought it was a noble gesture, anyway, and, after twenty years, he started rooting for the Colts again. They won a Super Bowl and lost another. Manning moved on to Denver, which was good because Manning prospered there, and it wasn’t like when Old Man Irsay exiled Johnny U. to San Diego.

So here he was, sitting in front of a TV, watching Andrew Luck and the Colts play the Cincinnati Bengals in a first-round playoff game, fifty years after the first football game he ever remembered. That was when he was six, and the Cleveland Browns beat the Baltimore Colts, 27-0, in the NFL championship game. Fifty years, and he still remembered that an end named Gary Collins, catching passes from a quarterback named Frank Ryan, had eaten an aging Colts defense alive.

The game in front of him, played inside and on grass that didn’t grow, made him realize that some tiny molecule of a six-year-old was not only still inside him but thriving in its way.

              Most of time my sports-related stories are at www.montedutton.com. This one qualifies as fiction on a technicality. Please consider my books, fiction and non-fiction alike, here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1

See Change

Natural Bridge at El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico. (Monte Dutton)
Natural Bridge at El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico. (Monte Dutton)

Autumn isn’t really based on dates on a calendar. My belief is that it has different lengths in different places. This isn’t original. People say they like where they live because “it has four seasons.” The best way to determine the beginning of fall is that wild onions start growing in my front yard. When the grass grows little, but the onions rise above it, then it’s autumn. The wild onions rise with a crack in the air.

You may have gathered that I mowed the lawn today.

Soon my viewing habits will change. I’ll read about the same amount. I’ll probably play my guitar about the same amount. There won’t be baseball, though. I’ll start watching old movies and documentaries more. I thought about this today because TCM had some intriguing daytime flicks: The Maltese Falcon, Strangers on a Train, and The Outlaw. I didn’t really watch them, but I had them on while I was writing. It made me realize that I’ll watch movies more because the Boston Red Sox aren’t occupying my time – this year was like being under martial law – and neither is the rest of baseball. I’ll watch football, but it’s not every night of the week unless you’re a fan of the Mid-American Conference.

But baseball’s still got a ways to go, as we say in these parts.

I like the Giants because of the cream-colored home uniforms. Well, that's one reason.
I like the Giants because of the cream-colored home uniforms. Well, that’s one reason.

Frivolous observations about baseball:

The Nationals and the Pirates have the weirdest numerals in the National League. American League? Blue Jays and Red Sox. Predictably, I adore the Boston numerals. They’ve been weird for decades and decades.

Often it seems as if the Giants are playing Bryce Harper.

Incredibly, some Red Sox fans have now grown up without ever experiencing unspeakable Horror. Last in the American League East isn’t Horror. Game Six of Eighty Six is Horror. The most recent Horror was Game Seven against the Yanks in Aught Three. Bobby Valentine was horrible. He was horrific. It wasn’t Horror.

There’s so much less ego in the late game. Perhaps it’s the absence of Joe Buck.

This blog probably belongs on montedutton.com. Most of what is here is fiction. Sometimes I write here about writing. That was the plan this time. I still think it’s a Wellpilgrim blog, but I can’t really say why. It just is. Read my novels, The Intangibles and The Audacity of Dope. They’re very reasonably priced at http://www.amazon.com.

Little Things

Mookie Betts, at the moment, is playing for the Pawtucket Red Sox. (Monte Dutton)
Mookie Betts, at the moment, is playing for the Pawtucket Red Sox. (Monte Dutton)

In the baseball season to date, my favorite moment occurred when the Red Sox’ Mookie Betts legged out an infield hit and took off for second base, like a kid in tee-ball who just runs and runs and runs until he’s either out or scores. Betts took off for second because he saw that no one was covering it. A few nights back, Dustin Pedroia stole second and took third the same way. All these shifts are creating opportunities.

My second favorite moment occurred when Cincinnati pitcher Jonathan Broxton uncorked a fastball directly at Yoenis Cespedes’ head. Cespedes twisted out of the way and hammered a 430-foot home run to center on the next pitch.

Tim Lincecum. I love watching him pitch. (Monte Dutton)
Tim Lincecum. I love watching him pitch. (Monte Dutton)

The third favorite was an event, not a moment. Tim Lincecum pitched no-hitter against the Padres, against whom he also tossed a gem the previous season. Watching on TV, I started sketching Lincecum, but I hadn’t a clue it would wind up being a no-no. I thought the sketch needed more color, so I drew the Giants’ righthander with an orange top, even though his jersey was really white. What a mistake.

The rest of my top ten are all Jackie Bradley Jr. catches. The bottom ten are Jackie Bradley Jr. plate appearances. I dream at night of a .250 batting average.

Owing to the collapse of the Red Sox, a year after winning the World Series, there haven’t been many moments or events that seemed magical to me, but every season has its pleasures. Wait till next year. The Bostons are playing well now that it doesn’t mean much. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Giants and Atlanta Braves seem to be fading from contention.

I’m sort of excited about the Kansas City Royals’ resurgence because I knew their manager, Ned Yost, in the minors, and I like their ballpark. If only the Royals would stop wearing those baby-blue jerseys …

When one’s team is in contention, baseball is a big thing. When the summer isn’t kind, the little things mean a lot.

For instance, Vin Scully means a lot, not to mention Don (Orsillo) and Jerry (Remy), and Kruk(ow) and Kuip(er).

Umpire reviews? Oh, okay, but it isn’t much fun watching the manager killing time with the ump (“You know what I really like? Those pretzel buns at Wendy’s. You ever tried ‘em, Fieldin?”) and waiting for his bench coach to give him the thumb’s up or down.

Just what, today, would Earl Weaver, Billy Martin, and Tommy Lasorda do?