Baseball Toaster The Griddle
Monthly archives: April 2005


Sketch Artist
2005-04-13 07:08
by Alex Ciepley

This article originally appeared over a year ago at my first blog, Ball Talk.

I began mucking around in portraiture when I was 12 or so, and I started for exactly one reason: I was cheap. I wanted to send my baseball cards to my favorite players to collect their autographs, but I was suspicious of the U.S. Postal system, and thought the players themselves were suspect as well. Not wanting to lose "valuable" cards in the mail, I drew portraits based on the cards and sent those instead.

My likenesses often left a lot to be desired, but my efforts must have charmed the players somewhat, as almost everyone sent my pictures back, signed. A couple of my first drawings: (click all thumbnails for a larger image):

I was big into rookies at the time, and sent out pictures to the likes of Palmeiro, Snyder, Danny Tartabull, and Matt Nokes. Of course, I was partial to Cubs youngsters:

I sent the drawing above to Mark Grace first, hoping he'd open his mail in the clubhouse and pass the picture on to Damon Berryhill and Palmeiro before sending it back. No such luck. So when Gracie sent it back to me, I sent it right back to the Cubs, this time addressing the envelope to Berryhill. Berryhill was one of my favorite players at the time, and he included a short note with the pic when responding. Receiving that letter from him was one of the highlights of my youth.

Unfortunately, Palmeiro had been traded by the time I got the drawing back from Berryhill. I didn't want to risk invoking Raffy's wrath by portraying him in a Cubs uni, so I never sent it off to get that last autograph.

I got a few big stars to sign some things for me, but usually these players had some sort of publicity machine in place -- my pictures of Nolan Ryan and Dale Murphy were returned unsigned along with autographed head shots. I remember being shocked when Jose Canseco actually sent my picture back. I guess I thought he was a jerk even back then:

Shawon Dunston wasn't really one of my favorite players ... until he returned my pic of him along with three signed cards to add to my collection:

I rooted for the namesake of the Shawon-O-Meter for the rest of his career.


Fast forward 15 years. During the winter of 2003, I decided to try my hand at portraits once again. The subject? Mark Prior. I didn't know what to expect, assuming the charm of getting a drawing in the mail is lessened when it isn't accompanied by a pleading note scribbled in a 13 year-old's handwriting.

As a happy ending to my tale, I got my sketch back from Mark during spring training that year:

Burns on Baseball 2005: 'Utterly Reflective of Who We Are'
2005-04-08 10:46
by Jon Weisman

From Nick Christensen of the Las Vegas Sun:

Ken Burns knows about perspective. So when an audience member at a lecture by the famed documentarian asked Burns about the escalating salaries, he had an easy response.

"If an outfield stays together when you're 10, 11 and 12, that's a quarter of your life," Burns said. "It's the relativity of time."

It was 11 years ago that Burns' 18 1/2-hour documentary on the history of baseball became the most-watched show in the history of PBS, and in the interceding time, the game has seen a strike and the recent steroids scandal.

Yet, when asked if the current time was the "Civil War" of baseball, Burns scoffed.

"Did you watch the World Series and playoffs last year?" he said. "It's never been better. It's utterly reflective of who we are right now, the good and the bad."

Preview Week: The Big Story
2005-04-01 05:30
by Alex Ciepley

What will be baseball's biggest story in 2005?

Alex Ciepley: I think that steroids will continue to be a big story throughout the season, but for different reasons than it currently is. I think a few players who have been under the spotlight--guys like Giambi and Sosa--will see an uptick in their production. How will the media react to their whipping boys putting up good numbers while they're assumedly off the juice?

Will Carroll: They'll respond, "It's not working! We need the death penalty for steroid suspicion. Never mind the tests, I can tell when these guys are juicing. Trust me."

Cliff Corcoran: Well, the big stories of the recent past have been Barry Bonds, steroids, and the Red Sox. It's not possible that the Red Sox could be as big a story this year. The steroids story always seems to recede some once the games are being played (though Will and I certainly have our reasons to hope that it remains big news throughout the season).

Barry Bonds, meanwhile, seems like something that will not go away. He'll either get back into action and start chasing down Ruth and Aaron, or he'll be out for a prolonged period, feeding speculation about retirement and suspicion about drug use (remember, Barry was supposed to be the one who didn't suffer the typical injuries).

And if he does retire, that will be huge. So no matter what happens, Barry Bonds seems like a sure bet to be a major story, if not the major story in 2005, for worse or worse.

Alex Belth: I think that the biggest stories of the year will surround performance-enhancing drugs. There are too many people with too much invested in them. If it's not Congress it'll be Barry Bonds. And I think that Bonds is a story that just won't go away until he finally steps down. He might retire before he can beat Aaron, but there nothing that is going to prevent that man from passing the Babe.

Scott Long: Steroids will continue to lead the headlines, but the biggest story on the playing field will be how this year's major free agents didn't live up to their contracts. Of the players who signed long-term deals over $7 million annually, I suspect only Pedro and Jon Lieber will be judged as good deals after the 2005 season.

The biggest positive for MLB will be the most competitive division races of recent times, as the AL Central, AL West, NL East and NL West could all come down to the final week, before anyone clinches a playoff spot.

Ken Arneson: There will be a lot of "I-told-ya-so" stories about the A's and the Dodgers. It doesn't really matter if they succeed or not. Either way, in the end, somebody's going to be gloating.

Alex B: There will be enough great stuff happening on the field to serve as a distraction from the bad stuff. But I can't think of a positive story that will overwhelm the drug talk. Who wants to hear about players like Vernon Wells, Johan Santana and Miguel Cabrera anyhow? Are they going to sell any papers?

Maybe the best story baseball could hope for is no Yankees, no Red Sox, no Braves or Cardinals in the Serious.

Cliff: I have to disagree about the Yanks/Sox/Cards/Braves in the World Series. Well, Sox and Cards for sure (they've been in exactly one each since 1987, even if it was last year). The Braves won't make the series so that's not a worry and if the Yanks have the right opponent (Cubs, Dodgers, Cards, Phils, Mets... really any contender other than the Fish or Pads) it should be compelling.

Baseball's vibe is to ride its signature franchises. A Rangers/Marlins series is not going to help baseball, nor is an Angels/Padres series.

Alex C: No! As a Cubs fan, the Cubs versus my corporate softball team would be ideal. I'd have to imagine the Cubbies would be able to overcome any of the horrifying curses left in the bank to pull out that one.

Cliff: Right, but for baseball, I think Cubs-Yanks would be ideal, as it would have been in '03. Imagine how much better that series would have been than Yanks-Fish.

Alex C: No! Don't mention 2003. Too much pain...

Mike Carminati: The biggest story may not be the best. The biggest stories will probably be steroids for the first half, followed by Bonds's injury, comeback, and the possibility of his breaking Aaron's record (further fueling the steroid debate), and finally the media will drum the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry into our heads with modulated regularity of a Jude Law movie premiere.

I think the best story of the year will be the development of a few young teams. The Indians, Padres, Twins, and A's, to name a few, will be the teams that I'll be watching.

Also, as the season progresses, both sides (but especially Selig and the owners) will start posturing in anticipation of the current CBA running out at the end of next season. There have already been a few minor labor-related stories a-brewing this spring. And boy, will the sport be missing Doug Pappas as the story progresses.

Alex B: Even in relatively calm years, baseball is always battling it's image problem. It's par for the course. Mike is right, by the end of the year, Selig and talk about the CBA will rear its ugly head, too.

Despite that, we know there'll be some incredible seasons to follow, hopefully there will be some decent pennant races, and, of course, a great October.

Ken: The best story for baseball would be something that defies all logic, all statistics, all predictions, and makes you believe, if just for a moment, in magic and miracles.

The story begins on Sunday.

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