2003 Season

   2003 Season

Edition No. 1 

   January 16, 2003     



      Happy New Year to twelve of the swellest guys around.  Throw out the original cast of La Cage Aux Folles, and it would be hard to find a more fun-loving, tightly-knit group of 40-something men around.  (All right, Tirebiter, you haven’t quite reached the Big 4-0 yet, but you’ve got your ten years of service in the HSL in, so you qualify as an official HSL crusty veteran with the rest of us.) 

      All kidding aside, with Nebraska football in the crapper and half of January and all of February ahead of us through the windshield, I’m once again very thankful to have baseball, and especially Hot Stove League fantasy baseball, to look forward to in just a few short months.  Not to wax too nostalgic, but these past eighteen years of Hot Stove League competition with the boys have been a great ride, and replete with great memories.  Just think, if any one of us had been born with just one different chromosome, we’d be getting our kicks from planning our next visit to a crafts fair at Our Lady of the Blessed Church, instead of our next ballpark visit for baseball, bräts, and beer. 

     Speaking of our next ballpark visit, I note that the Cincinnati Reds will be hosting the Houston Astros on the weekend of June 19-20; the San Francisco Giants on August 2-3; the Astros again on August 16-17; and the St. Louis Cardinals over the weekend of August 30-31.  Take a look at your calendars and give some thought as to which of these weekends would be preferable to you, and please try to at least mentally block off these weekends from your calendar until we pick one of them for the Big Show.  I would like to see us have eight or nine members in attendance, at least, for this year’s Trip, perhaps even besting our group attendance at the 1993 California Dreamin’ swing.


     Okay, now on to another important topic.


      As indicated in my recent e-mails, it looks like the best day for our league Holy Day is the afternoon of Saturday, March 22, 2003, which is exactly nine days prior to this year’s March 31 Opening Day.  Thus far, nobody has indicated that they would be unavailable on the afternoon of the 22nd, including those select few who routinely see it as their duty to jam a big stick in my spokes whenever I am trying to schedule this premiere event.

      For those of you who have ignored my e-mails seeking immediate indications of your availability on March 22, and you know who you are, you now have written and electronic notice that we will be drafting on the afternoon of Saturday, March 22, absent earthquake, famine, the Bubonic Plague, an emergency root canal job for Screech the dentist, a hot run for Itchie at the craps tables spilling over from the night before, or some other bona fide emergency or other excuse.  In fact, for those of you who keep electronic calendars on your computer, why don’t you go ahead and mark off the Saturday that is nine days before the Monday of Opening Day for about the next twenty years, so we can make this Draft Day scheduling smooth and easy down the road when we start to lose our marbles and can’t remember when or where we are supposed to be more than about an hour into the future.


     On this last point, let me share with you a painful experience from last week in Denver, which is a frightening glimpse at what the future holds for many of us, including yours truly. I had an appointment late last Monday afternoon with a client in Denver at the Lutheran Hospital just off Wadsworth Boulevard near a dicey Denver neighborhood, and as I was on the way there, I stopped at a grocery store about a block or two away to get a couple of apples and a bagel for a late lunch. After being in the store no more than about five minutes, I came out and could not locate my rental car. I walked up and down each and every aisle of the parking lot about five different times, looking at the exterior of every car, and could not find anything that resembled the car that I seemed to recall having rented. A 16-year-old stock boy saw me in my perplexed state and asked me if he could help. I asked him if they had a problem with car theft in this fringe neighborhood, and he responded that he thought he heard about a car getting stolen about five years earlier. He asked me why I was wandering around the parking lot (he was a sharp one), and I told him that I thought that my vehicle had been stolen. He kindly offered to help (“Hey, dude, we have a phone inside if you want to call the cops”), but I declined his offer for the time being and decided to make one more walk through the lot before taking the bigger step of contacting the constabulary of the Mile High City.

     Although I was a bit self-conscious walking around the lot with my sack of apples and bagel, wearing a dress shirt and tie (I forgot to mention –– when I was packing my suitcase, I forgot to pack my sport coat for this business trip, so I probably looked like a middle aged sack boy scouring the parking lot for spare change), but I had resolved to stop and make a conscious visual search of the inside of each and every vehicle in the lot, looking for one with my briefcase and suitcase inside. Even though I was of the belief that I had rented a small car with four doors, sort of silver-green in color, I wasn’t really certain of anything at that point, and so I did not eliminate even pickup trucks, SUVs or Volkswagen minibuses from my search. After looking in each and every damn vehicle window up and down the entire lot, I finally came to a sort of funky looking vehicle, kind of aqua-green in color, which was the very last car on the lot, and which I had looked at during my earlier searches, but only the exterior. Damned if somebody hadn’t taken all of my stuff out of the car that I rented and put all of it in this strange aqua-colored car. Not only that, but somehow they changed the key system so that the keys to my rental car now fit this imposter rental car. Heckuva deal.



     (Memo to file: Write down make, model, color and license number of rental car in future, take mental snapshop of parking lot where same is parked.)

     Relieved although still confused, I left the lot, turned the wrong direction out onto Wadsworth, and drove about ten miles the wrong direction before figuring out that I was going the wrong way, made a nifty U-turn in the middle of a rush hour intersection, and hightailed it back to the east for my meeting with my client. I was fifteen minutes late getting there, but he was twenty-five minutes late himself, so things just couldn’t have worked out better.

     The way things are going, I’ll be hiring a personal attaché to follow me around in the next couple of years. If any of the rest of you are having this same problem, maybe we can go in halfsies to keep our individual expenses down. Now on to happier subjects.


     There’s something very unsettling about the ring of the above subtitle. Especially for those of you who, like me, have had the experience of seeing that part of Itchie south of his ankles. I think it was on our baseball trip to St. Louis, or maybe it was Houston, that I got a nice, up-close view of Itchie’s gnarly hammertoes while we were out at the pool. I’m not saying they’re unsightful, but if they belonged to me, I’d wear shoes to bed, and everywhere else.

     But I digress. This section of the Bullpen is meant to report on the little shindig at our place on December 7, 2002, when all –– well, most –– of us gathered to pay tribute to our only four-time winner of the Hot Stove League, the one and only Itchie. Owing to his personal magnetism and great popularity, and to the promise of free food, free booze, and free wearing apparel, Itchie’s celebratory gathering was well attended. Only those league members more than 150 miles away, or total slugs, did not make it over to raise a glass to Itchie.

     After the usual back-slapping, flesh-pressing and other manly tributes and congrats, Itchie broke open the box of goodies and passed around his breathtaking “Quad Squad” jackets. With Brother B.T. personally having a hand in the design, the group was in agreement that this year’s apparel handouts were a cut or more above some of the previous offerings, although it seemed clear to me that they were not talking about last year’s splendid Senatorial sweatshirts. Finally, with great fanfare, B.T. presented Itchie with a beautiful genuine goatskin Fonzie-style motorcycle jacket, adorned with the Quad Squad logo. So magnificent a garment is this that there was actually speculation that Itchie might try to have the breast pocket logo surgically removed, so he could sell the pure black article to the highest bidder on the open market.


     In any event, an excellent time was had by all, and thanks to each and every one of you who made the effort to attend Itchie’s big night.


      On New Year’s Eve day, all of the members of the Omaha chapter of the Hot Stove League, sans Mouse, gathered for lunch at Travato’s to close out 2002, and to initiate the new season with a mock draft.  In spite of promises to the contrary, Screech and B.T. were unable to join the rest of the luncheon crew, and by virtue of same, must live with the four players drafted for them by the rest of us for the entire 2003 season. 

      The mock draft results are as below:







Skipjacks A-Rod Kent Walker Matsui
Reds RJ Mulder Hudson Magglio
Wahoos Bonds Ramirez Pujols Chavez
Cubs* Schilling Bagwell Alomar Glaus
Chiefs Helton Berkman Colon Chipper
Bombers Soriano Jeter Mussina Bernie
Senators Zito Oswalt Percival Burrell
Blues Pedro Sosa Sweeney Abreu
Redbirds Vladdy Rolen Hunter Vasquez
Tribe Giambi Smoltz Ichiro Clemens
Pirates Tejada Piazza Maddux Buehrle
Tigers Nomar Erstad Delgado Moyer

 There may have been a few trial balloons sent up during this mock draft session, but by and large, the selections should be considered to be legitimate.  And for any of those of you who were not in attendance at the lunch who might be scoffing at these names, keep in mind that the brain trust at the lunch comprised the ownership of fifteen Hot Stove League titles in our eighteen overall years of competition.  It would not be unfair to suggest that Tirebiter was surrounded by some pretty good baseball company, and will do well to learn at the feet of the masters.


      The more observant among you may have noticed that we have a new newsletter/letterhead format this year.  No particular reason for same, just wanted to mark the passing of another season with something new to look at for the next year, and what better than this fine portrait of Denton “True” Young. 



     Also new this year at FTB is my suggestion that each owner/manager pen two special editions of FTB this baseball season, helping to shoulder the load just a bit.  I ran this idea up the flagpole at our December 31 luncheon, and it was met with a consensus acquiescence, if not outright giddiness. 

     I know, I know, some of you are probably already sweating your new obligations because you are about as funny in print as a multiple homicide.  Worry not, my right-brained friends.  You are not being asked to provide ten pages of stupefying blather, á la one of Possum’s Message Board offerings; nor are you expected to produce two or three pages of knee-slapping, belly-busting, guffaw-producing print humor such as appears weekly in the Bullpen, and occasionally in the Jiggernaut and the Bellyflop.  All we are asking for is anywhere from two or three paragraphs to one or two pages of observational text to comment on the preceding week’s events, and we will take care at this end of following this up with the week’s standings, the point totals for the week you are reporting on, individual point totals and the like. 

     I know it’s an innovative new idea, a little new spin on the ball, something different, etc., for a pack of crusty old “When I was your age, we did it this way”-kind of guys, but let’s all hike up the pants, pull our belts in a notch, and give it the old college try for one season, eh?

     Chew on it for a while.  If any of you would likely secede from the league rather than to have to provide a bit of text for two issues of FTB this season, let me know before you do anything drastic.  I can already feel B.T., Stretch and Tirebiter squirming, and there may be others.  In any event, next issue I will publish a schedule of responsibility for your two weeks as guest columnists, and that way you can get your crayons and colored pencils out early and start jotting down ideas well in advance of your two assigned weeks.  Or ram the colored pencil through your jugular, to get out of the task.  (Minor illnesses will not do.  Only massive head trauma and unstaunchable exsanguinating bleeds buy you a free pass.)

     Next issue:  My book report on Sandy Koufax, an unauthorized biography (if I get it finished in time).

     Only one more month until those beautiful words:  “Pitchers and catchers report.”  Have hope.








Back to the top            Home