The Newberg Report turns 10. (2024)

"Texas signed Ricky Pickett to a AAA contract today."

That's how the first Newberg Minor League Report began, 10 years ago today.

I was a newlywed, with no kids, a fourth-year lawyer fired up about the six-game division lead the Rangers were nursing, when I decided to start writing about the club's minor leaguers. Suddenly unanonymous phenomenon Jeff Zimmerman had just been promoted to AA, leaving Mike Lamb, Doug Davis, and the dominant Shawn Gallagher behind in Charlotte and joining Ruben Mateo, Warren Morris, and Ryan Glynn in Tulsa. Josh Hamilton was a year away from finishing high school, Jon Daniels was a year away from finishing college, and Nolan Ryan was a year away from induction into the Hall of Fame.

Tom Hicks was three weeks away from purchasing the red-shoed Rangers, who were a week away from drafting Carlos Pena and Barry Zito.

There were back-to-back playoff Octobers just ahead.

That first "report" went to one email address, belonging to a newsgroup that today is one of about 4,000 subscribers on the Newberg Report distribution list.

A few months ago my sister gave me the book "Lyrics by Sting," a book, surprisingly enough, of lyrics by Sting. In it, Sting reprints the words to every song he's ever written, both with the Police and as a solo artist, with lots of commentary. I read the book in just a few days, because I dig that sort of thing and because there was a time when I was a big fan and because, man, I couldn't believe how unabashedly self-important the commentary was, even knowing how unabashedly self-important Sting is. In that sense, the book had something of a train wreck aspect to it that wouldn't allow me to put it down.

Just because I couldn't come up with a decent idea on how to commemorate the 10th anniversary of this thing, I figured I'd lift a few excerpts from past reports, and call on Sting as a guest commentator. You know, let him do his thing.

August 5, 1999

How about all these Juan-to-Detroit rumors starting to invade the papers? The Tigers are looking for a way to make a splash offensively and expect to have a huge revenue boost as they move into their new stadium next year. What would it take? Texan lefty Justin Thompson will be the name tossed around most frequently, but you would expect it would take more than just Thompson, who has already made an All-Star team at age 26 but has had a rough season thus far (one could read that whole sentence and just as easily insert the name Andy Pettitte, eh?). Detroit won't deal Jeff Weaver, of course. What about Rice Owl Matt Anderson, who hits 100 on the gun, or fellow closer prospect Francisco Cordero? A trade of Gonzalez would leave a hole in either CF or RF, with Mateo inheriting the other. So what about power guy Gabe Kapler, tools guy Juan Encarnacion, or right-field porch threat Bobby Higginson? There could be a match with these two teams, and this off-season might be the right time to take advantage of a team with Diamondback Syndrome: an imminent infusion of bigtime profit on the way and a big head to match. Trading Juan for, say, Thompson and Kapler would save the team a ton of cash and arguably improve the team, as the loss of run production would be offset by the addition of a front-of-the-rotation lefty, not to mention whatever the extra millions would mean – another legit starter, probably.

--- I prefer the saints in my personal hagiography to have at least some basic human flaws, but JT took that notion to a prickly extreme. The King of Pain, indeed. – Sting

August 11, 1999

Cesar King has served out his penance, and now it's teammate Juan Bautista's turn. The two were involved in a clubhouse scuffle a week or so ago, and the organization has assessed three-game suspensions for each.

--- Ah, yes. The report that led the director of player development to set up a meeting with Newberg to find out how he knew such a thing. (The answer? The Tulsa World, online edition.) Newberg has said it felt like he was being deposed, which I suppose would be like me sitting in the front row at a show put on by the world's greatest rock band. Ever. – Sting

September 6, 1999

In response to the requests of a number of NMLR readers and website visitors (including a bundle of players' parents and wives), I am going to compile every daily edition of the 1999 Newberg Minor League Report in one bound copy, and sell it for very little more than cost. I am going to try to keep the bound volume at $10 plus postage if at all possible. It stands to be over 200 pages, so the copying costs alone (without taking binding into consideration) might force me to charge a tad more.

--- Collectively, individually, by intention or accident, we dream our world into being. We just have to be careful what we dream. – Sting

September 13, 1999

As difficult as last night's Texas game was to watch until the 10th, seeing Royals skipper Tony Muser imitate John Shulock after being tossed was about the funniest thing I've seen all season. Shulock had called a balk on rookie pitcher Tim Byrdak in the ninth, and Muser came out to instigate what at first was a calm discussion and then escalated things and got himself thumbed. Just before heading off to the clubhouse runway, Muser took one last shot, stiffening his posture, lowering his cap over his eyes, and mocking Shulock, doing about as good an impersonation of the veteran ump as I have seen. Kind of reminded me of that chef on the Muppet Show, which 20 years later I probably should not remember a thing about . . . .

--- Imitation is the sincerest form of demagoguery. – Sting

December 13, 1999: A love letter to Todd Zeile

Doug Melvin won't cast aspersions in your direction through the media, and that is one of the many things I admire about him. But in a way, I am sure he isn't terribly disappointed you won't be around for the next three years, and instead Lee Stevens, whose apparent integrity actually seems to have some substance behind it, will be here for the time being to provide some veteran lineup protection. Pack up the pink bats and the frying pan glove.

--- Tantric. – Sting

April 18, 2000

I tell you what: I don't want to hear any more about Luis Alicea and the outstanding leadership he provides this club. It was boneheaded for him to stand in the batter's box on the game's penultimate at-bat, and "boneheaded" will have to suffice so that AOL doesn't cancel my account based on the words I'd like to use. Either he did not know the ball hit his leg after he made contact, and he has to run to first base, or he knew the ball hit him and he has to put up a better fight – any fight! – than to accept the umpire's severely blown call and just grab his things and sulk back to the dugout. There is no other possibility. Some savvy veteran he is. I don't care if Alicea wins the next four games with walk-off homers – he will never have a fan in me again. Never.

--- We men are strangely contradictory creatures, which has very little to do with the fact that I fondly remember Hungry Jack biscuits, Pepsi shakes, magic kits, and the word "decipher." – Sting

April 12, 2001

Watch Out for Juan Moreno.

--- I ran home with the cawing derision of the crows in my ears while the sheep resumed their grazing. – Sting

May 26, 2001

I assume I am not the only one who suffers from a handful of meaningless nagging emptinesses. It hurts a little whenever I think about that pass that Jackie Smith dropped in the end zone. I bemoan the fact that Jellyfish disbanded after making just two brilliant CD's. I struggled inside for 11 years waiting for Thomas Harris to finally write another novel. I am as big a fan of the Rangers now as I have ever been, but at some point I would like to enjoy a playoff series win. I still have never seen the episode where Edith Bunker dies.

But yesterday I expelled one of those vexing irritants, and in my opinion this one is not entirely insignificant. I have been looking for almost all of Erica's life for a good photograph of Kermit in his "roving reporter" trenchcoat and fedora. Right around Erica's birth, I painted Ernie and Bert, Big Bird, Elmo, and Super Grover on the walls of her nursery. The finishing touch was going to be News Flash Kermit, but the only image I could gather to use as a model was a VCR still from the recent A&E Biography on Sesame Street. Not workable. For one, the freeze frame on our VCR was not good enough to get any use out of the image, and on top of that, I didn't feel like lugging a television set and VCR into Erica's room for the "sitting."

So I check out of the office in mid-afternoon yesterday to get the holiday weekend started early, and after buying another $30 tank of gasoline, I decided to stop off at Half Price Books and check for some book that might help. I did so without any confidence, since I'd gone hitless in my last two stops there. Home run. I found "Sesame Street Unpaved," a like-new book that some halfwit actually chose to give up, and I now own it. A dozen good photos of Kermit in the get-up I needed. The final character is set to join the party on Erica's walls, and work on it commences this holiday weekend.

--- Heh heh. Heh heh heh heh. He said "$30 tank of gasoline." Heh. – Sting

May 31, 2001

On December 18, 1988, one of the most important games in Dallas Cowboy history took place, as the Green Bay Packers defeated the then-Phoenix Cardinals, 26-17, salting the win away on a Don Majkowski-to-Clint Didier touchdown pass.

I kid you not.

The significance of that GB-PHO game — the Pack's second straight win — was that it improved the Packer record to 4-12, while the Cowboys were busy dropping to 2-14 with a 23-7 loss to Philadelphia. Had Dallas won and Green Bay lost, the teams would have been deadlocked and facing some sort of tiebreaker or maybe a coin flip to determine which of them would get the number one pick in the 1989 draft.

With the unlikely two-game win streak for Green Bay, the Cowboys picked first, taking Troy Aikman. The Packers picked second, landing Tony Mandarich.

Why do you care?

Because in my opinion, the final week of the Rangers' 2000 season might ultimately prove to be similarly significant in its effect on this club's immediate future.

The Baltimore Orioles were a bad baseball team last year, at 67-86 with nine games remaining against Boston, Toronto, and the Yankees. Texas wasn't so great either, as its record stood at 70-83 with nine to play against Anaheim, Seattle, and Oakland. And then something strange happened. The O's reeled off seven wins out of the nine games, including the final four games straight — by the average score of 13-2. At the same time, the Rangers lost eight of nine, including the final three — by the average score of 11-2. And as a result, in the space of nine days, Baltimore went from three games worse than Texas in the AL standings to three games better, and accordingly Texas ended up with the third-worst record in the league.

In baseball, the draft is conducted with the AL and NL alternating picks, and so the result of the Texas-Baltimore standings flip at the 2000 finish line was that the Rangers will pick fifth overall in the June 5, 2001 draft, and the O's will pick seventh. This could be very, very important.

That is because in my opinion, which I will state right out front is worth very little since I have not seen any of these guys play, four players are worth getting excited about — USC righthander Mark Prior, Georgia Tech third baseman Mark Teixeira, Middle Tennessee State righthander Dewon Brazelton, and Baltimore high school righthander Gavin Floyd. And even though Texas drafts fifth, I feel pretty comfortable that one, and maybe two, of those players will be there when the Ranger selection comes up. Were the Rangers picking seventh, those four would likely be gone

* * *

Teixeira is, by all accounts, one of the most polished hitters to come out of college in years, a switch-hitting Troy Glaus/Lance Berkman type. A Scott Boras client, the Twins won't take him. The Cubs won't unless Prior goes first. Tampa Bay cannot pay its own major league roster, so forget Teixeira — plus they have never — never — taken a college player in the first three rounds. The Phillies? Would they choose to run into Boras again, after the J.D. Drew disaster a few years ago?

Would the Rangers take Teixeira, when (1) the need for pitching is so glaring for this organization, (2) they do not pick again until the fourth round, and (3) third base seems to be fairly well accounted for on the farm with Mike Lamb at AAA and Hank Blalock making huge noise again, this time at High A Charlotte? The way I look at it is this: you take the best player available. If you are not crazy about the pitchers available to you at number five, you don't "settle" on someone with that pick. Were there hitters that Texas preferred over Jonathan Johnson in 1995, such as Todd Helton or Geoff Jenkins, who were the two players taken immediately after the Ranger pick? In 1996, do you wonder whether St. Louis (3rd pick: Braden Looper), Montreal (5: John Patterson), Detroit (6: Seth Greisinger), or San Francisco (7: Matt White) actually liked Mark Kotsay (9th pick) or Eric Chavez (10th pick) more but felt they needed to go with a pitcher? In 1997, according to the Baseball America draft preview issue I am staring at right now, Anaheim had the third pick and was split between Glaus and righthander Jason Grilli — they took Glaus, and Grilli went with the next pick to the Giants. Think the Angels are happy they made that decision? In the 1998 draft, Kansas City took Stanford righthander Jeff Austin with the fourth pick. J.D. Drew went fifth, Austin Kearns went seventh, Sean Burroughs went ninth, and Carlos Pena went tenth.

What's the point? These examples illustrate that at times, deciding in the top of the first round to draft for need can be dangerous. It may very well be that the Rangers like Prior and Brazelton and Floyd and Karp more than Teixeira, and if so, I hope they take the pitcher. But if they evaluate Teixeira to have a higher and more projectable ceiling than whatever pitchers are undrafted by the time the fifth pick comes around, then I think Teixeira needs to be the pick.

--- Ah, yes. Thus was hatched the "Glaus vs. Grilli" mantra that I must shoehorn into the next song that I pitch to Jaguar. Alliterative truisms cook like an Oliver Perez slide-piece. – Sting

April 14, 2002

There are a number of interesting notes in today's Fort Worth Star-Telegram, headlined by this one: when Ranger team physician Dr. John Conway gave Jeff Zimmerman a routine diagnostic saline injection during contract negotiations in January, for the purpose of insuring Zimmerman's arm, no tears were found in the elbow region. But Zimmerman had an adverse reaction to the shot, according to club trainer Danny Wheat, causing swelling in the elbow. Wheat says the pain that eventually sidelined the righthander is not in the area where the injection was administered, but of course there is speculation that Zimmerman might have altered his motion to compensate for the original pain, causing the additional damage that forced the shutdown. Both papers report that Zimmerman will resume his throwing program tomorrow. He might be throwing off a mound in a week.

--- The wind was decidedly ill. – Sting

April 20, 2002

Frank Catalanotto may be one of my favorite hitters in the game today, but as much as I couldn't understand why Derek Harper was not taking more playing time away from Brad Davis in the mid-'80s, I fail to see why there would be anyone in baseball who doesn't think Michael Young is a 150-game second baseman. He may not offer the offensive versatility that Cat does, but he is virtually infallible defensively and executes at the plate. The three opposite-field shots he hit last night, one in front of Ichiro and another separated from Ichiro by an outfield fence, were impressive. Does anyone realize that Young has at least two hits in each of last four starts, has an OPS for the season of 1.176, and has committed no errors? Nobody noticed that he hit 11 jacks in his 386-at-bat rookie season last year, and as he continues to quietly go about his business for this club, I will make sure to bullhorn the guy, even if nobody else will.

--- "Il n'y a rien de plus discretement précoce que de déguiser des pensees vides dans une langue étrangere. Admirez moi!" – Sting

May 5, 2002

Bill Walton is an extremely entertaining basketball commentator, but only because he makes some of the most idiotic observations imaginable, and does so with exceptional consistency.

--- "Where the Streets Have No Name" and "Crazy On You" are even better without words. – Sting

February 13, 2003

Imagination is fuel. It gives us "Memento" and "The Usual Suspects" and "The Westing Game" and "Werewolves in Their Youth" and Tin Star and ASU linebacker Darren Woodson as a pro safety and some producer's idea that Jennifer Garner's work in "Dude, Where's My Car?" would translate so well to a project as challenging as "Alias." In my elementary school days it gave me the idea that Mark Gallagher and Castorian Kirby really could lap the Tom C. Gooch blacktop in 1.5 seconds and that my T-ball teammate Keith Menter really did hit that ball through the school window and that if I tied the corners of the paper towel down just right, I could get the Evel Knievel action figure to float down to the floor like he had a real parachute on. Erica's imagination is wildly active these days, whether she's describing what the Little Mermaid's grocery list contains, what kind of birthday cakes the Muppets get on Sesame Street, or what piece of clothing she needs to grab out of the closet or the playroom in order to "be the Mommy."

I'll bet you that if I asked Erica right now whether Texas can win the West this season, she'll emphatically assure me that it's a slam dunk. There's something about spring training (perhaps the promise that our brains will soon thaw out overlaid on the reality that they aren't quite there yet) that gives each of us the license to believe that this could be The Year. And you and I have the added benefit of knowing what Anaheim just got through doing, information I'm fairly sure Erica's not up on. Our two-and-a-half-year-old sees no reason the Rangers can't win in 2003, and I'm not about to talk her out of it.

--- Perhaps the dream was dreaming us. (And hey, what ever happened to Erik Thompson?) – Sting

April 2, 2003

Chan Ho Park was awful. It was the kind of effort you find yourself hoping was attributable to a blister, or a stomach virus, or a hamstring strain. I know: Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson and Freddy Garcia and Josh Beckett and Roy Halladay have been punished this week. But Park's eminent hittability, and total lack of command, has become too consistently characteristic of what he takes to the mound, regardless of how many protections his manager creates for him, regardless of who his catcher is, regardless of the situation (bouncing a hit-by-pitch with an 0-2 count on the number nine hitter??). It's demoralizing. Buck Showalter's ability to diagnose and unlock will be tested in no case more important than in Park's.

--- Appreciating the Ho, while fraught with limitation, has also an element of magic to it. It is essentially a shamanic art, and to follow its winding path is to reenter that realm that is halfway between sleep and waking, where the mysterious imperative of the unconscious can reveal itself on a payoff pitch with the bases jacked, whether or not you have a physiatrist on retainer. Watch Out for Kennil Gomez. – Sting

May 3, 2003

Nauseated by that disgraceful basketball game, I have very little appetite to write today. This Maverick team is a 12-man extension of Michael Finley's game, and that's not good enough to do anything. When we lose tomorrow, which feels as close to a sure loss at this point as a seventh game at home can, we'll be wishing Portland would have had mercy on us by sweeping us in four. What a pathetic display – and the worst part is that I have less faith that Dallas will grow from the adversity, as currently constructed, than I have confidence that the psyche of the team will be further eviscerated, that it's lack of fight will be further forged. Sorry, sorry effort. But hey, nobody can beat us in H-O-R-S-E.

By the way, spare me the talk about not trading Michael Finley because he's the heart and soul of the Mavs team, when the team basically has zero heart and soul. Finley might be the emotional leader of the team, but the Rangers also have a number one starter, the Cowboys have had head coaches for the last nine seasons, and Andie MacDowell had a role in which she came across as more believable than in any of her others.

--- Songs are built by whimsy, faulty memory, and free association. So are parts written for Andie MacDowell. – Sting

June 14, 2003

Mark Teixeira will be appearing at JW Sportscards at Preston and Belt Line in Dallas from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. today. Bring your 2002 or 2003 Bound Edition and have him sign the cover. Then have him tear the cover off of it, which is something he's been doing with encouraging frequency to baseballs of late.

--- Brevity is the soul of wit, the point of which is that it makes me not a little uncomfortable that you're still reading. – Sting

June 27, 2003

I'm convinced that the reason that toothbrush manufacturers tell you on the box whether the bristles are soft or medium or "razorblade" but don't put the description on the brushes themselves is that they count on those of us whose memories have capacity remaining only for the really important things to forget after a few months of using a brush which kind we're supposed to get for ourselves when it needs replacing. That way we end up having to buy twice as many toothbrushes as we need.

--- The idea of finding myself in the cold, desolate landscape of old age and melancholy reminded me indecorously that my mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun, and that William Hurt was an underrated actor. – Sting

January 31, 2004

There were two teams I never wanted to see invite Garth Brooks to spring training, especially in years I plan to visit Surprise. Kansas City, the Rangers' complex-mates, will take reps away from players fighting for roster spots in order to showcase Brooks. What an embarrassing farce. There have to be 10,000 better ways for him to raise money and awareness for his charity.

--- Like writing a song and selling it to Jaguar. – Sting

February 5, 2004

If you ever cut my hair, I assure you that I'll double the tip if you actually practice dental hygiene.

--- Gross. – Sting

February 29, 2004

I miss Progresso pizza sauce, Marathon bars, and pineapple pink grapefruit juice.

--- Marking the passing of the snowdrops and crocuses of February for the daffodils of March, the hanging blossoms of April, I remember marveling at the elaborate courtship dance of the mayfly all around the copper beechwood. And I miss Progresso pizza sauce, too. – Sting

June 25, 1999
One of the most underrated skills in baseball is flipping the bat away like Dan Wilson (and Kirby Puckett before him).
April 19, 2002
Dan Wilson's bat flip is the best in baseball.
July 25, 2002
Dan Wilson's bat flip is the best in baseball.
August 11, 2002
Dan Wilson's bat toss may reign supreme, but his teammate Bret Boone's flippant flip would compel me to put a pitch in his mouth — it shows less class than standing at the plate and watching the ball's flight, which by the way Boone also does from time to time.
April 14, 2004
Very nice win last night, with Chan Ho Park being the biggest plus (his seven shutout innings lowered his career Safeco ERA to 1.00). But the greatest 30 seconds of the game came in the bottom of the second, when Laird gunned Randy Winn down at second by a silly amount, after which we were treated to Dan Wilson's Hall of Fame bat flip.

--- We are a superstitious and primitive tribe, perhaps staving off the same fate that visited "Cop Rock," the XFL, New co*ke, and Chris Gaines by virtue of the inimitable manner in which Dan Wilson tossed aside his lumber. That, and the injection of self-esteem we all get every time we ponder the impossibility that Nickelback is successful. – Sting

April 17, 2004

Finally, a plea to you travelers who stay on upper floors in downtown hotels and think nobody can see you when you're standing in the window in the morning with the curtains pulled back and wearing nothing but your underwear, surveying the day: number one, please understand that there are parking garages and office buildings that (ahem) abut these hotels, and there are people on levels in those garages and buildings just as high up as you are; and number two, please re-read number one — you're probably not as good-looking as you think you are.

--- I maintain a great reverence for the mystery and wonder of our existence, and my cynicsm is a tolerant cousin to my curiosity. Plus, penne pasta isn't penne pasta until the two sides meet. – Sting

September 13, 2004

Two nights ago I fell asleep with the clock radio tuned into the game, and it reminded me of when I used to do that when I wasn't much older than Erica. I remember one game that Steve Busby pitched against Texas, and it seems like Freddie Patek hit a couple home runs that night, which of course is virtually impossible and makes me think I had to have dreamed that part of it.

These are other things I remember.

Football cards and baseball cards at Schepps with Dad on Saturday morning. Manilow in the house on Sunday morning, or Peter, Paul & Mary. Nanny's banana cake. Papa's LTD. Aunt Sandy's laugh.

Watching Mom and Dad play a board game called Probe with Richard and Janice, when I was three.

The home run that Plano East's Reggie Green hit — no, pulverized — off me in the Sherman Tournament. Lincoln's star running back trying to score from second on a single hit to me in right field, which I saw in slow motion then and still do. The home run I hit off the Fort Worth Southwest High southpaw, called back because he balked. Twenty-nine, in my first 14 innings.

Ray Corbett calling me a "57" and not yet knowing what it meant.

Finding out what it meant.

Continuing as a teenager to second-guess myself every time I wanted to use the word "condone," probably because I wanted it to mean "condemn" even though I was pretty sure it meant the opposite.

Similarly, hesitating to use "drop a line" because I'd go back and forth trying to decide whether it meant writing, or calling.

Roger Staubach at Sanger-Harris. Jim Fregosi and Bill Fahey and Roy Smalley at Northaven Field. Verne Lundquist at Sonny Bryan's. Drew Pearson and his family at Pennywhistle Park.

Filling out "My Book About Me." Buying a new copy 27 years later.

Deciding as a kid that if I were ever hired to write a TV spot for Froot Loops, I'd go with: "Precious and few are the moments we, Toucan, share."

Not knowing Ginger (though I don't remember what it felt like to be me when I didn't know Ginger).

Recalling not knowing Erica and Max? Getting tougher.

Erica telling us what Max's name would be.

Those Who Dig at Rizano's, I bet 20 times.

Almost every moment of that first week in Austin, at Disch-Falk.

Cowboy games with either broasted chicken or Halleck's, plus El Fenix queso.

Scorekeeping Ranger games on the radio, and afterwards drawing my Star of the Game on the scoresheet.

Alternately thinking it was both cool and unfortunate that Scott Harris wore a house key around his neck in first grade.

Bob Gooding and Mike Shapiro, Taco Plaza or Hungry-Man. Those little wax bottles full of fruit punch. Shasta.

Dr. Haledjian and the "Two-Minute Mystery" every morning in TAG. Tony Sangchompuphen, my worthy adversary. "Bungalow" at the Spelling Bee at Old City Park.

How Robin Yount and Paul Molitor made me want to be a baseball player.

Batman and Spider Man foamy bath soap. "Shazam," on Saturday mornings. That amazing show hosted by Bill Cosby one night every September where he'd help preview an entire network's new fall lineup, including all the Saturday morning programming.

"The Rookies" (a cop show, not a baseball movie). "The Six Million Dollar Man" ("Six," at seven, on 8). "Sports Night." "Wonderland."

Streetball in the cul-de-sac next to the Chocolate House. A thousand games. Ten thousand.

Bar Exam prep at the Red Lion.

That wretched Billy Joel song Rob would play over and over, and over, while we prepped for the LSAT.

Thinking too highly of Dan Peltier, John Dettmer, Bobby Reed, and Cameron Drew.

A fascination with George Blanda, not only because he was in his mid-40s, but also because he was both a quarterback and a kicker.

Writing my parents from summer camp at age 12, asking if I could spend half my savings on a Mike Schmidt rookie card. Because I had a feeling.

Handing the guy a dime at the coin and stamp shop register, and hoping through my sweat that he didn't realize that the 1982 John Littlefield wasn't exactly worth a dime. Flipping the card a month later for about a dozen Boggs, Strawberry, Gwynn, and Mattingly rookie cards.

Cracking the 1985 Fleer cellophane sequence, and making it pay off at Revco.

Duck and cover when the tornado hit in second grade, and Kerry crying and praying to The Force that we'd live through it.

Those first 45 minutes each day after waking up in Anghiari.

The 10 p.m. jogs to the Hillcrest baseball field. Sitting in the bleachers for 20 minutes, to think.

Arapaho. Pharaoh. Arapaho. Pharaoh.

Coach Shor breaking his watch in anger at halftime in Phoenix.

Being grateful to Don Majkowski and Scott Boras for effectively putting Troy Aikman and Mark Teixeira on my teams.

The episode of "Unplugged" that inspired my favorite Newberg Report ever, and one of my favorite memories.

The Farmers Branch watertower, which was as creepy at age six as the statue of Sam Houston along I-45 is today.

Swensen's by bike, for phosphates.

"My Sharona" and "Don't Bring Me Down," on 45.

"Murmur," from Paul, on 33 1/3.

"Bellybutton," on Rod's recommendation, on CD.

Pickup games at the Viroslavs' on July 4th, even though most years I had to play a real game later that night.

Fleisher, left center field. Danny Heep.

My twenty-minute interview with Vial Hamilton (Mark Hansen and Janice Davis) in a room at UT no bigger than a Jeep. And the embarrassing reason I really wanted that interview.

My first day practicing law, which was 10 years ago yesterday.

My first closing argument, and then the 15 seconds that felt like 15 minutes as the jury filed back into the courtroom after deliberations. (Though I don't remember hearing the verdict.)

My Wilson A2000 XL.

The adrenaline triggered whenever a Cowboy or Maverick first-round pick was about to be announced, or whenever breaking news hit that the Rangers had made a trade, right before they actually said who was involved. Similar adrenaline right when the lights went down for most concerts I've been to. Similar adrenaline last night on "Six Feet Under" when Michaela said, "You should talk to my dad. He's in the office."

Permian Records and Ron Kittle.

Introducing Mandy to Subway, and Barry to Tin Star.

The run-in with Griffey after the game.

The therapy of teenaged free throws, outdoors.

And the feeling those last few weeks in 1996, 1998, and 1999, when it felt like the Rangers were rewarding me for hanging in there for more than 20 years, as they headed into season-ending strings of games in the division with every pitch meaning something. It's going to feel like that again starting late tonight, and I will love it, and hate it. And remember it.

--- Bah, schmemories. Our survival can only be a collective effort. We can't do this alone. Why else do you think Gerald Alexander's curve ball wasn't enough? How else do you explain (1) the fact that David Murphy was a .273/.343/.407 hitter in the minor leagues, (2) Mike Macfarlane's hair helmet, and (3) Nickelback? – Sting

November 20, 2004

This JACK-FM phenomenon has me hooked. Driving last night, I heard an old Asia song and an old Toad the Wet Sprocket song back to back, and I was thrown back to my pre-teens, thinking of nights playing 2-on-2 hoops with Paul and Alan and Patrick until it was too dark to see the basket any longer, which reminded me of "Taps," the first non-kids' movie I ever loved. I thought about "Time Zone" and "Zork" and "Deadline" and those other computer adventure games that I phased in and out of for a few years. I thought about going through the toy and sporting good sections of the Sears catalog about this time of year, over and over and over, when I was a little older than Erica. I thought about salt maps in first grade, taking the time to draw every United States President in second grade, making a list of every hom*onym I could think of in third grade. (Maybe I should have been paying closer attention to the road.)

--- Toad was conceived in Santa Barbara, which is the collegiate home of Michael Young, who, if he played for the Yankees or Red Sox, would be the international spokesman for sliced bread. Josh Hamilton, on the other hand, is sliced bread. – Sting

January 29, 2005

Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro have appeared in 25 games as teammates, back in 1989 when Sosa broke into the big leagues at age 20 and the 24-year-old Palmeiro was in his first season as a Ranger. Oriole fan Mark Teixeira was nine.

Now in Baltimore together, Sosa hit .238 (20 for 84) in those 25 games 16 years ago and Palmeiro hit .242 (24 for 99). Sosa had only four extra-base hits (three doubles and a homer) in that span and Palmeiro had just three (two doubles and a bomb), and, interestingly, two times they collected them in the same game, including Sosa's major league debut on June 16, when both players doubled in an 8-3 Ranger loss in Yankee Stadium.

Their doubles came off future Ranger minor league coach Andy Hawkins, who got the win.

Sosa would hit his first big league homer and Palmeiro would double on June 21, in a 10-3 win in Boston.

Their extra-base hits came off Roger Clemens, who suffered the loss.

Clemens lives in Katy, Texas. Hawkins has a daughter named Katy.

Hawkins pitched one more no-hitter than Clemens has.

But they have the same number of no-hitter victories.

Sosa and Palmeiro's Orioles host the Astros and Clemens this June. It's unlikely that Baltimore, however, will face Class A High Desert, where Hawkins now coaches after four distinguished years in the Ranger system.

And there's your dose of consequential Rangers news for the day.

--- Huh? – Sting

March 13, 2005

Slightly off-topic: Was Purina that smart when they settled on the genius of that checkerboard logo, or did they luck into its impact? You can be sure that if I were running a pet store, a grocery store, or a store anywhere near a pet store or grocery store, I'd be in touch with Nestle Purina to see how much it would be worth it to them for me to tile the store's bathrooms and walls with a simple square pattern.

Message to radio, TV, and print journalists: One person cannot make a "concerted" effort.

--- De do do do. De da da da. – Sting

March 15, 2005

Righthander Todd Ritchie, trying to come back from a shoulder injury, has told the Pirates that he's retiring. The announcement comes less than a week after righthander Todd Van Poppel told the Mets he was hanging it up.

The greatest high school game I ever saw was in June of 1990, when Duncanville's Ritchie faced Arlington Martin's Van Poppel in the Class 5A state semifinals at Disch-Falk Field in Austin. Van Poppel, who threw a one-hitter as I recall, lost the game, 1-0, a few days after Oakland had used the 14th overall pick in the draft on him. (I think future Reds prospect Steve Gibraltar drove in the lone run.) Duncanville went on to beat Deer Park for the Class 5A title game the next day; Deer Park — behind ace Andy Pettitte — had defeated Austin Westlake the same day that Duncanville downed Martin.

Most of us who were at UT at the time were sure that Van Poppel was going to be a Longhorn within weeks, having cautioned big league teams that he wasn't interested in signing a pro contract yet (he reportedly might have gone number one instead of Chipper Jones had he not issued that warning). Instead, the rumor around campus was that Oakland drafted UT ace Kirk Dressendorfer in the supplemental first round of that same draft with more than just Dressendorfer's upside in mind; the speculation was that the A's were able to use Dressendorfer to convince Van Poppel to sign pro, luring him away from his Longhorn commitment by disparaging UT coach Cliff Gustafson's handling of pitchers. Roger Clemens, Greg Swindell, and Calvin Schiraldi were all examples of first-round picks who had experienced serious arm problems soon after leaving Gustafson's program for pro ball.

Many say that Van Poppel's decision to sign with Oakland — particularly signing a major league deal that caused his options clock to begin running immediately — doomed his career before it really got started, maybe more so than three years at UT would have. And it's true that he was rushed to the big leagues because of the options problem (check out his walk totals on the farm before he was in the majors to stay), and that he bounced around a bunch, pitching for six major league teams in his career. The Mets would have been the seventh.

But at the same time, Van Poppel spent 15 seasons in professional baseball, earning more than $9 million to do it and never throwing in the towel just because he didn't become what everyone expected him to become. He's married with two kids, and at age 33 has more than enough time to do whatever he wants with the rest of his life. There's not one person who was at Disch-Falk that day in June of 1990, on the field or in the stands, who wouldn't have gladly accepted that fate. But as for how many would have handled the adversity of failed expectations that Van Poppel faced, that's another question.

Next time I write, I'll be busy watching more than 100 Ranger minor leaguers who, though they would never acknowledge it now, will be fortunate to have a Todd Van Poppel career.

--- The line between genius and hom*ogeneity is blurry. Still, neither camp will embrace Herb Scott's catch of Roger Staubach's final pass. Or Nickelback. – Sting

November 27, 2005

I didn't realize until having kids that bananas divide vertically into 120-degree wedges.

Why did those network After School Specials always seem like events, even though they were never any good?

I miss having a real cookie jar.

I thought the opening credits to the syndicated, mid-'70s Tarzan series were the best part of that show.

The band's decision on how to order songs on a CD fascinates me.

I'm not going to look this up because I'm sure I'm wrong, but I bet the word "Daddy" was coined by a male. "Mama" and "Mommy" make sense as shortened versions of "Mother." But how did "Father" become "Daddy"? Probably because babies can say "Da-da" long before they can make an "F" sound. So some jealous father decided: "'Da-da' it is."

The Paul McCartney show was good, but I really wish I saw it three weeks before the U2 show, rather than the reverse. The U2 show was a top five "experience" for me . . . and the McCartney show drove that home. The latter — which I'm still really, really happy I was at — had the effect of making me appreciate the U2 show even more, which I didn't think was possible.

--- My certainty that Mom and Dad knew everything faltered when neither could tell me what rack and pinion steering was. – Sting

February 26, 2006

Seeing Ohno shred the track reminded me of a hypothesis I advanced several Bound Editions ago, about Deion Sanders being a more effective punt returner to his right than to his left, because of the counterclockwise motion running the bases all those years. (Try running to second base by rounding third instead of first; see which gets you there faster.)

--- Prime Time was the inspiration for "If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free" (a title that suffered from improper noun/number agreement). Perhaps the highest compliment you can pay to a partner is "I don't own you—you're free." If you were to try to possess them in the obvious way, you could never appreciate them in the way that really counts. I delivered copies of the song to the Falcons, Niners, Cowboys, Redskins, Ravens. Yankees, Braves, Reds, San Francisco Baseball Giants, and Blue Jays. Gave one to my beloved Newcastle United, too. Just in case. – Sting

June 28, 2006

That was a disgusting, pathetic, sickening display of umpiring incompetence that I would expect to have consequences of some sort, if I didn't have exactly zero faith that the league had any freakin' clue on how to handle it.

I hope JD didn't have a television feed in Oklahoma City. As furious as I am, I can't imagine what he must feel like.

I'm not going to sleep well tonight.

Tonight's home plate "ump" (Larry Young) and tomorrow night's home plate excuse (Tom Hallion), who are basically bulletproof and not held accountable for their pathetic ineptitude, will probably sleep like babies.

What a disgrace.

--- I can't, I can't, I can't stand losing. – Sting

September 24, 2006

Seeing that big smile on Carlos Lee's face today as he stepped into the box to a chorus of boos with one out in the bottom of ninth, down five runs, it occurred to me that the parting of ways between Lee and the Rangers this winter will probably be exceedingly mutual.

Love the trade, but there's no way we can bring that guy back for anywhere near the money he already turned down from the Brewers. Whoever pays Lee to play left field for multiple years, in a decent-sized park, is going to be disappointed.

The dribbler to the mound to end the game was sort of a fitting way to end the home season. Only Texas and Kansas City were on the wrong side of .500 in their own yard among American League teams this year. Very frustrating.

As far as Lee is concerned, let's hope the CBA provision that governs draft pick compensation survives at least one more winter.

--- Pull up a wingback, Blake Beavan and Julio Borbon. Welcome, David Murphy. Synchronicity III. – Sting

March 27, 2007

There's a batch of punch lines ripe for the picking as far as today's 24-7 score is concerned, and none of them are good.

But that's the thing about the Great Game. San Diego 24, Texas 7 is now a thing of Baseball Past, no more relevant to the imminent Rangers season than:

* Bill Caudill's half-beard
* John Pacella's flyaway lid
* Oddibe McDowell's butter knife
* Todd Burns's OCCD
* Mark Lemongello
* The Peterson-Kekich wife swap

Especially since it's spring training. Even if this were June, a loss is a loss when they figure out on September 30 which teams get to keep playing, whether it's a 17-run drilling or a 2-1 squeaker. But in spring training, a loss isn't even really a loss, and statistics (especially for veterans locked into roster spots) don't scare up a whole lot of significance.

Then again, if I'm going to go on and on about Joaquin Benoit's dirty 7.1 camp innings and dare to invoke the words "Mark DeRosa" when talking about Matt Kata's work in Surprise, it would be sorta hypocritical to ignore what happened to Kevin Millwood and Ron Mahay and Eric Gagné today.

But just as spring training win-loss records and player stats don't really have a lot of meaning, blogs don't really have a lot of rules, and so you'll either forgive me when I elect to spend no more time discussing today's box score than I'd spend waxing nostalgic about Greg Harris's reversible Mizuno, or you can spare yourself the email demanding further analysis of today's drubbing and use that time to Google "Roger Moret's catatonic trance."

--- Alas, poor Rogelio. Alas. Dreaming of blue turtles, I suspect. Incidentally, when I changed my name from Gordon Sumner to Sting, "Lemongello" was a close runner-up. – Sting

June 26, 2007

Stewart Copeland was no different from Greg Maddux, killing not with power but with precision. The left-handed grip was as unmistakable as Yastrzemski's stance, or Tekulve's delivery. But above all, like Maddux, he was consistently dominant, if bespectacled and in all other respects just as unimposing.

Sting was Roger Clemens, holding forth with a confidence that has morphed into arrogance, in age-defying physical shape and still able to do on his own stage what very few 20 years his junior can do. A sellout? Maybe. But still worth paying to see. (And like Koby Clemens, I had low expectations for Joe Sumner, figuring his opportunity was merely a nepotistic instance of waking up on third base, so to speak. But like the younger Clemens, Sting's kid might actually have something ― Fiction Plane was pretty good, in a Soundgarden/Killers kind of way, with hints of U2 and Nirvana.)

Andy Summers was Mariano Rivera. (Ya know?)

I was driving home, feeling pretty sure that when I wake up Wednesday morning, the newspaper experts will proclaim their super-turbo-intelligence and tell me that the concert I was at was lousy, that the Police are nothing at this point but shadows (on the door? in the rain?), exploiting a susceptible fan base. That I was essentially wrong for having a kick-ass time at a kick-ass show.

Then I learned that the Rangers did it again, winning improbably in Detroit. Like the rest of this stretch of good baseball, it will probably be nothing but a footnote for many in the local sports media, if not an opportunity for some of them to chastise those of us who continue to give everything we've got to this team, to condemn us for sticking with it.

I probably won't read the concert reviews in the morning, and with a few exceptions I'll continue to skip the columns and the talk show segments that zero in on the Rangers.

If I'm wrong to have had a blast at the Police concert, or to forget about the standings the minute the first pitch is thrown each night, don't bother telling me.

You make the best of what's still around.

--- Whatever, Newberg. Got 10 more in ya? – Sting

The Newberg Report turns 10. (2024)
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