One Night in December
Before we get off on another jaunt here, one beef: just last week, we were the top result when one searched for "caught looking" on Yahoo.com. Now, all of a sudden, we're 6th? Our yet to be assembled marketing department needs to step to the plate and take a few cuts at this, to put it in obvious fashion. Now, onto the anecdote.
Earlier this week, a rare baseball author event grabbed our eye that we just could not pass up: H.G. "Buzz" Bissinger, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Friday Night Lights and the newly-released Three Nights in August, a grand-scale dissection of both baseball itself and one manager's reputed genius, appeared at an Olssons Books event, hosted by the George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium. Bissinger, every bit the crotchety and overly self-referential writer character, at least on stage, was mercifully flanked by two bigger draws than himself: author and former lawyer John Grisham, whose multi-million selling legal "thrillers" (yawn!) and resulting omnipresent movie adaptations do very little justice to his comfortably low-key southern humor, served as moderator, while Bissinger occasionally interrupted the star of the show, 3 Nights focal point Tony LaRussa, manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. All told, three guys on stage, all sitting, all above 50 (we think), should not have been this interesting. But, as they say, baseball is a funny game, and the mostly likewise audience of senior members, along with a few students, seemed to enjoy the twisting narrative of LaRussa and company.
Because of previous engagements -- we're currently in rehab for some serious elbow tendinities, Vicente Padilla-style -- CL was not able to make the 7 pm start time, but showing up around 7:45, we were able to persuade the box office to waive the $25 price tag, so we could waltz in for free for "what can't be more then 10-15 minutes left" we hypothesized. Imagine our joy when the program pushed into the Q&A session around 8:30.
What we witnessed for those 45+ minutes was a fairly open, engaging manager talking about not only the book that bares his one-weekend witness, but his entire array of philosophies, from how to handle pitchers ("I don't pay much attention to pitch counts and even less to my pitching coach when it comes to starting pitchers -- pitching coaches get too emotionally involved with their starters to make in-game judgments alot of times") to what he can offer major league hitters ("I can teach them how to handle pressure and to save at-bats with two strikes on them -- other than that, it's entirely up to them"). Through the course of the evening, LaRussa showed a knack for deadpan humor and seemed cordial, in a gruff way of course, to the audience, which in all fairness, contained a pretty nice contingent of "life-long" Cardinals fans. LaRussa had the good sense to praise both the Nationals' season and their manager and the somewhat surprising timing of having followed the day's latest development on the ever-frustrating DC stadium deal.
After the Q&A session began with a thud, thanks to the first questioner finishing his question with a ridiculous "How are you going to handle getting a Nationals beatdown next year?" (drawing even more ridiculous applause), the format provided probably the highlight of the night, at least the second half -- LaRussa, in painstaking detail, replaying and explaining his thought process when Albert Pujols hit that two-out, ninth-inning go-ahead HR of Brad Lidge in the NLCS. LaRussa, all the while, as the questioner so clearly illustrated in his question, "almost refused to celebrate perhaps the biggest moment of the season to that point. What the hell was going through your mind?" It was the type of innocent question most of us ask in our heads when we see two incongruent events happening simultaneously. This kid actually asked it out loud and LaRussa had no problem answering it fully. It was a strange and extremely compelling couple of minutes; not even pins would drop.
While I've seen and heard alot about both LaRussa's body of work as well as his apparent weirdness, I've heard enough to know I'd like to know more. Not necessarily just about the man, but about the game, both physical and mental. Baseball is definitely a game given to obsessions.