Mark Teahen of the Royals ain't alone. The Star reported today Teahen received a letter from a fan in Shawnee with some rather complex instructions for changing his position at the plate and he went three-for-three yesterday. Now, Teahen did not say he took the fan's suggestion. In fact, the Star writer noted sarcasm in Teahen"s voice when he described the letter. A good editor would have asked for a more specific description of Teahen's reaction before using the word "sarcasm" but I'll stop beating on that dead horse for now.
Henry Wiggen used to get two letters every day he worked. He tells us about it in the beginning of a "Ticket for a Seamstitch." "One is from a fellow in Bloomfield, N. J., saying "Luck to you and every member of the New York Mammoths," and one from a fellow in Astoria, Long Island, "I hope you blow higher than the sky, you phony."
Henry notes this on the day he receives the dauntingly long letter from the seamstress out West with a ten-dollar bill sewn to first page who intends to somehow find her way to New York for July 4th and wants Henry to get her a ticket to the game. The letter is so exhausting in detail, Henry says, she threatens to give the life history of every brick in every store in the small town she's from.
How many letters of advice from former 3-and-2 league sluggers, former high school sluggers, former college sluggers, current coaches of 14-year-old junior high league teams, do you think professional ballplayers get? It always amuses me when some cluck, to use Henry's term for fans, calls the talk show and says HE could hit better than Tony Pena, or, hedging just a bit, that any Ban Johnson League slugger could hit better than Tony Pena.
Yea, right. Right after you went back in to change your underwear once that 88-mph curveball you thought was aimed at your ribs broke across the plate. Allow me to venture a guess that no one who hasn't done it, has any idea what it is like to stand six inches away from a 95-mph heater with movement.
When I was 14 or so I batted against a pitcher who would go on to have a professional career. I got a hit. You know how I got that hit? I started my swing when he let loose of the ball, closed my eyes, and prayed the ball would be right down the gut. (He had no reason to throw it anywhere else against me...) Like magic, bat met ball, base hit up the middle. I harbor no pretension that I could do any more than listen to a major league fastball go by.
As George Brett said: The farther you get from the dirt, the easier the game is.
After reading the game story, I went to the reader comments. That's my dirty little secret. Every now and then I like to wallow in the mud at the end of the stories in the Star. It's a perverse little pleasure, like having a buddy -- which I do -- who always has a socially inappropriate joke to tell. It's titillating, forbidden, and sometimes very funny.
One writer missed the tongue in Teahen cheek. Finally, he wrote, it took a letter from a fan to get a Royals' hitter to change his approach. Fire batting coach Kevin Seitzer, he demanded, and hire the guy from Shawnee. Yessiree, Ole Roy has competition. Wonder if the boys on the afternoon talk shows, with their own 14-year-old baseball experiences, will pick up on the idea.
Another guy who signs on as something like "ratdog" or "ratface" demands to know what's wrong with Jose Guillen because he has to make a decision by noon about his fantasy team. Once again, the Star has let a reader down.
A portion of his comment reminds again of the ordeal Raul Ibanez is fighting.
Of course, you have the usual debate about whether a sweep of the Reds means anything, whether the home team is really any good or just pretenders. One writer advises the Royals players not to read all these negative comments. Good managing fella, but, unfortunately, by the time the Royals come to your warning they'll already be steeped in negativity.
One fascinating comment comes from a guy who writes he started paying attention to baseball with the birth of the Royals in 1969, being too young for the A's. He grew up a few blocks from the ballpark, he says, then he tells us his father was always too busy to take him to a game no matter much he begged. Whoa! fella, this is a public board, don't forget. He tells his dad he still loves him, however, then launches into how hard it has been to be a fan of a team so often on the losing end of its games and advises we drop the negativity and just enjoy the victory. It is really a strangely touching post.
One of my college buddies claims to have become an atheist because of the Kansas City A's. At church every Sunday morning, he says, he prayed the A's would win. Then he went home, listened to the game, and -- of course -- the boys dropped a double-header. How can there possibly be a god? he asked, long before he read Nietzche.
Lofflin -- Enjoying the bright clear sunlight after a big rain