Category Archives: Sports

The Michigan-Minnesota Game

Rudock was injured, but Wilton Speight proved to be a decent replacement. Still, that was too freaking close. Minnesota was right there on the goal line. All Minnesota needed was a touchdown and they would have won, but Michigan managed to hold them back until the clock ran out. Practically gave me a heart attack.

Michigan wins, 29-26. That makes them 6-2 for the season.

An Interview with W.P. Kinsella

W.P. Kinsella is the author of Shoeless Joe, the novel that the 1989 movie Field of Dreams is based on. He has written several other novels and short stories, many of them having to do with baseball, First Nations people and magic. “The Essential W.P. Kinsella” was released from Tachyon Publications in March and contains some of Kinsella’s best stories, including the short story Shoeless Joe Jackson Comes to Iowa, which was the seed for the novel Shoeless Joe.

Kinsella celebrated his 80th birthday on the 25th of May.

 

Interview conducted February 22, 2015.

Rob Darnell: Much of your work has to do with baseball. Do you closely follow the sport? What teams do you root for?

W.P. Kinsella: Not anymore. Loosely follow the Blue Jays. After the strike, I lost interest. In reality, neither players nor owners care in the least about the fans. The greed of both factions has destroyed baseball’s credibility, at least for the present.

RD: Are there any MLB players at all that you feel are not caught up in the greed?

WPK: As long as they are forced to belong to the Players Union, no. My hero will be the guy who tells the Union to get lost.

RD: MLB politics aside, do you still agree that the game is beautiful?

WPK: Yes.

RD: Are there college, minor league or independent teams that you pay any attention to?

WPK: No. Have never been a minor league fan.

RD: Did you play baseball when you were a kid? If you did, what positions did you prefer to play? And how well did you hit?

WPK: No. Played a little softball, but there was nowhere on the field it was safe for me to be.

RD: When did your interest in baseball start and what sparked the interest? What inspired you to mix baseball and magic together?

WPK: My dad talked a good game. A child got only the World Series on the radio.

RD: What is the best World Series you can think of and what made it great?

WPK: 1946, if my memory is correct. Harry “The Cat” Brecheen went against the Red Sox in Game 7. I stayed home to listen, practically had my head inside the radio.

RD: What is your fondest baseball memory?

WPK: Seeing Bob Forsch pitch a no hitter against Montreal.

RD: Both, Harry Brecheen and Bob Forsch, played for the St. Louis Cardinals. You have fond memories of both of them. Does that mean you were once a Cardinal fan? If yes, why are the Cardinals not your team anymore and when did your love for them die?

WPK: I became exclusively an American League fan when they instituted the DH rule, and will remain so until the National League moves out of the dark ages.

RD: Over the years you’ve seen many players come and go. Who are the players that you admired the most? And what was it about them that made them admirable?

WPK: Yogi Berra, Bill Lee, they were irreverent, poked fun at the stodgy owners and managers. Curt Flood, of course, was in a class by himself, a true hero.

RD: In the early years, you had to listen to the games on the radio. Do you remember the first game you saw on TV? Was there any difficulty in making the transition from radio to TV? Was it more enjoyable to watch than listen to the games?

WPK: Guess about 1954. Until Color TV came along, BW TV was too muddy to be enjoyable.

RD: What was the first professional baseball game you had been to? And how old were you? Can you describe the experience?

WPK: Edmonton Vs Calgary, 1946, age 10. First Major League game was San Francisco Vs L.A. Don Drysdale Vs Juan Marichal. Drysdale won. Didn’t realize how lucky I was.

RD: Have you been to many MLB games? What professional baseball parks have you been to?

WPK: At one time I’d been to every park except Baltimore and Houston, but can’t even keep track of who plays where these days.

RD: In your opinion, who is the greatest baseball player of all time?

WPK: It is hard to compare the eras, but Joe Jackson and Ty Cobb from the past, Sandy Koufax and Roger Clements from the present.

RD: Do you like any other sports, such as football, basketball or hockey? If so, what are your teams?

WPK: I’m a big fan of curling, follow all the major world events. Watch all four Tennis majors. Basketball is the worst sport. They need to raise the basket at least two feet.

RD: You and Ray have the same last name. Is there more that the two of you have in common? Does Ray Kinsella mirror much of yourself?

WPK: Ray is named for a Salinger short story character, but he mirrors some of my thoughts and experiences era 1980.

RD: I’m a Detroit Tiger fan, so I want to know, what does the voice in Ray Kinsella’s cornfield have to say about the chances of the Tigers winning the World Series this year?

WPK: Slim and slimmer.

RD: What do you say about Kevin Costner’s portrayal of Ray Kinsella?

WPK: Couldn’t be better.

RD: You were happy with Field of Dreams. What about the other film and TV adaptations of your work?

WPK: Pretty pitiful. I was lucky to get one good adaptation. Field of Dreams the Musical is lurking in the wings. Hope it will provide my daughters with a ton of money someday.

RD: You’re also known for writing about First Nations people. What sparked your interest in that area?

WPK: Found a good voice and took advantage of it. Each of my specialties was like a prospector discovering a vein of gold. I worked each until the vein was exhausted.

RD: In 2010, you said that the state of the book industry was such that you would not be able to break in if you were just starting out. It’s 2015 now. In your opinion, is the situation better or worse than it was five years ago?

WPK: I think it is worse for a mid-list author such as myself. You either have to sell like Stephen King or go with the small presses where there is no money. I was lucky to have been in the right place and time for many years.

RD: What would improve the situation for mid-list writers?

WPK: Less greed on the part of both publishers and chain booksellers. It is easier for them to publish and sell only blockbusters and leave the real work to small presses.

RD: Though you are a mid-list writer, has your writing made you a comfortable living? Would you say the larger portion of your income came from your novel sales or your short story sales?

WPK: In the 70s and 80s, I made a good living. Have managed my funds carefully, will never have to go out and cadge quarters from the tourists. My main income came from failed movie and TV options.

RD: I read somewhere that you were reading books when you were five years old. What are some of your childhood favorites?

WPK: Discovered W. Somerset Maugham in about 5th grade. Didn’t understand the plots, but loved the descriptions.

RD: And for that matter, what are some of the best books you’ve read over the years?

WPK: The Great Gatsby, the finest novel ever written. Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, Anne Tyler, In Watermelon Sugar, Richard Brautigan, What The Crow Said, Robert Kroetsch.

RD: Outside of baseball and reading, what are some of your fondest childhood memories?

WPK: Uneventful, though isolated childhood. Good, kind, stable parents.

RD: You’re a tournament Scrabble player. What is your highest achievement in the game? And how long have you been playing?

WPK: I’ve played tournaments for about 20 years. My daughter, Erin, who lives with me, also travels to tournaments. While I’m not a top division player, I’ve won a number of tournaments. Won Portland one year at about 19/3.

RD: You’re going to be 80 on May 25th. Do you have anything special planned for your birthday?

WPK: Going to a Scrabble tournament in Edmonton in May, so will celebrate with family there. My agent, Carolyn Swayze, is planning a “surprise” party on the actual day.

RD: This last question is from your novel Shoeless Joe. If you could do anything you wanted to do–if you could take time and turn it in your hands like rubbing up a new baseball; if you could stop somewhere in time, and in the silence and mystery and calm of that situation you could have a wish…?

WPK: I lost my wife Barbara to cancer two years ago. I would give whatever time I have left to spend one more day with her.

 

 

Jim Harbaugh in the Big House

We got him. It’s been official for a few days now. Jim Harbaugh has signed the contract and is the head coach of Michigan’s football team. This makes me happy. I couldn’t watch the Wolverines’ last season. I watched maybe five games and then I just totally gave up on them for the season. That’s saying a lot, because I really, really love the Michigan Wolverines. But this last season was such a disaster that I couldn’t watch. I just couldn’t.

Brady Hoke really fucked up. The guy made some horrible coaching decisions, even violated some rules. It was time for him to be gone. Jim Harbaugh has a great coaching record and a Super Bowl under his belt. Though he did not win the Super Bowl that year, he got his team there and that’s a big thing. It’s also known that Harbaugh did very well coaching college football before going to the NFL. I read somewhere that he feels his way of coaching is better suited for college kids. That’s one of the reasons why he decided to leave the NFL and return to the NCAA and his old school.

The 2015 college football season is a ways off, but I’m looking forward to it. I have faith that Harbaugh will turn things around.

Welcome back to Michigan, Jim.

 

Goodbye, José Valverde

Well, ouch. I was really hoping to see José Valverde back with Detroit, at least for one more season or what’s left of this season. But the word came in today. Yesterday Valverde met with the team officials and it was decided that he would be released from his contract. All on good terms, no hard feelings, it sounds like. So, this means Valverde is no longer with the Tigers or their Triple-A league, where he had been the last couple months.

No one knows what he plans to do now, but he is at that age where he could be retiring from baseball and I imagine that’s what he will do. Though he might be able to sign with another team. We’ll just have to see what he does.

He’ll be missed. He was a great closer.

Tigers in Cleveland

Man, I love baseball. During baseball season, there’s a game on almost every day and it can get boring after so many games. But I continue to have the TV on the Tigers when they’re playing. Tonight’s game was another game that reminded me why I love baseball so much.

I imagine the team had some unpleasant thoughts going through their heads today. Jhonny Peralta is off the roster for the next fifty games due to drug usage and I’m sure his teammates are not happy with him. Today was the first day of his suspension. Peralta is a valuable player. I hope he’s allowed to resume his career with the Tigers when his suspension ends. I feel a degree of disappointment, even a little betrayed. I hope he learned a lesson and that he never uses drugs again. I’m not going to call for his head or banishment, or whatever, because although I’m disappointed, I recognize that he is human and humans are flawed creatures who make mistakes. You who would throw stones at him ought to look at yourself. You’re probably not squeaky clean either.

Whether it had anything to do with Peralta’s suspension or not, the Tigers were having a tough game. Zeros for every inning while the Indians had a run in the second inning and another in the forth. I was worried that they would finish the game with nine zeros, and then Prince Fielder made it home in the ninth inning. But the score was still 1-2. The Tigers were not out of the woods until Alex Avila hit the home run, bringing the score to 4-2. Everything changed. The team was happily celebrating. If Peralta’s suspension wounded their spirits, it seemed they overcame their wounds in the ninth inning.

When the Tigers took the field in the bottom of the ninth, Joaquin Benoit kept the bases clean and my faith in him is restored.

It was a beautiful game.

That’s why I love baseball.

Papa Grande

I know, José Valverde is 35 years old, right about the age when professional athletics could be making plans for retirement. I know he had not done so well the last couple seasons and that he had spent most of this season in the Triple A League. He was called up for a stint with the Tigers when the closer they assigned to replace him couldn’t get the job done, but then they sent him back down when it later turned out that he didn’t have what they wanted.

But here’s the thing, I think they need him. I think they’ve needed him ever since they sent him down to work on his pitching. This is just my opinion and I’m far from being an expert, but it seems to me that every other closer Jim Leyland put on the mound had not done as well as Valverde had. Today Leyland went through three different pitchers in the ninth inning and all of them damn near blew the game. They’re lucky those fly balls didn’t leave the field. The White Sox might have caught up otherwise.

Valverde might never get his top game back, but I think he’s the best man for the job. I think they need to call him back up and keep him on until he either retires or they find a worthy replacement.

Matt Tuiasosopo

Who is that guy? I was asking myself this question when I saw the home run that put the Tigers ahead of the White Sox in the second inning of today’s game. It wasn’t Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Andy Dirks or Jhonny Peralta. In fact, I can’t say that I’ve ever seen this guy before. I don’t miss many games, but there are some players who I’m not familiar with. I spent a few minutes staring at the TV, trying to get a glimpse of the back of his jersey. The best I could get was a side angle that revealed the first three letters of his last name, Tui.

I got on the computer and went to Tigers.com to have a look at the team’s roster. There he was under the list of outfielders. Matt Tuiasosopo. But who is Matt Tuiasosopo? I googled his name to see what else I could find out about him.

Turns out he’d been playing in the minors for a while and was called up after an impressive Spring Training season this year, and I see he just came off of a fifteen day disability. That was a nice home run he hit today and I expect to see more of them. It’s too bad the Tigers didn’t win, but there’s plenty of more games to play before the season ends.

Kirk Gibson with the Arizona Diamondbacks

I keep checking the MLB Standings to make sure the Arizona Diamondbacks are still at the top the National League’s West division. Yep, they still are. They’ve been the leaders of their division, I think, since early in the season. But why do I care so much about the Diamondbacks, I’m a Tiger fan. I probably wouldn’t be thinking so much of them if Kirk Gibson wasn’t the team’s manager.

I’ve known for a few years now that Gibson was a bench coach for the Diamondbacks, but he was promoted to manager in 2010. I think that was the best decision the team’s overlords have made in a while. I understand that they had a string of unreliable managers before they finally promoted Gibson to the role.

Those of us old enough to remember the old Tiger Stadium, probably remember when the announcer would roll out “Kirrrrrk Gibson!” as Gibson stepped up to the plate. The man was a hero as a player, but he was also an excellent team leader. Remember the 1988 season when Gibson was playing for the Dodgers? The Dodgers did not do so well the season before, but when Gibson came to the team he inspired a winning attitude in the players. The Dodgers went on to win the World Series.

My faith in Gibson’s ability as a team manager is based on his season with the Dodgers. The Diamondbacks certainly have been looking good since he was promoted. In 2011 they won the Division Champion. I’d like to see them make it to the World Series this year. Of course, I want the Tigers to make it to the World Series, too., and they just might. The Tigers are at the top of the American League’s Central division. If the Diamondbacks and the Tigers meet in the World Series, I will be rooting for the Tigers, but it would be nice to have Kirk Gibson’s team there too.

Denard Robinson with the Jacksonville Jaguars

I’m happy that Denard Robinson has found a home in the NFL. Since the college football season ended, I had been wondering where Robinson would go. I’d hoped it would be Lions, but that was a matter of decisions to be made by both Robinson and the team.

Come football season, I will watch the Jaguars when I can, just so I can see Robinson play. As I understand it, he won’t be a quarterback, but will most likely play as a running back. And that’s cool. It was his rushing that I loved most when he was Michigan’s quarterback. So as a running back for the Jaguars, he’ll be making a lot of rushing plays. Yeah, he made some nice passes as a quarterback and I will miss those, but at least he’s still playing football.

In sports, I’m a fan of a few teams. The Detroit Tigers, the Detroit Lions and the Michigan Wolverines are my favorite teams. But it’s usually just the teams that I’m a fan of. There are some players who I like a great deal, but I wouldn’t say I’m fan of theirs. Most of the time I can’t keep the names of the players straight. But Denard Robinson is an exception. I plan to follow his professional career. It’s my belief that he will be a benefit for every team he plays on.