This one hurts.

I tried to write the day it happened. I couldn’t write anything that made any sense. Mostly I sat and stared. I told myself when the Royals made the Wild Card, I’d be happy with whatever happened, because it was postseason baseball for the first time in 29 years.

But as they kept hanging on and steamrolling opponents, I got greedy. And it’s hard to feel guilty for getting greedy. Because I don’t know when this will happen again. Read more

An insider’s view of the Atari ST

I’m sure pretty much everyone who cares has already seen this on Slashdot or wherever, but I found this blog entry from Landon Dyer, one of the designers of the Atari ST, fascinating.

I was a Commodore fan, but all of the old-fashioned computers (except maybe the Mattel Aquarius) are more interesting than anything that’s being built today. Commodore computers are kind of like the Marx trains of the 1950s: extremely cheap, yet capable and durable, but it’s the rival that made the costlier, sometimes less capable products during the same era that gets all the glory. When you talk 1950s electric trains, Lionel gets all the glory. Talk 1980s computers, and Apple gets all the glory.

The funny thing is, when I was growing up in the 1980s, I only ever met one person who lusted after an Apple II*, and only one other person who owned one. That guy was a snob, and not very many people liked him.

The ST is an interesting beast, because it was built by Atari under Commodore’s old management (Jack Tramiel and his sons) and they brought in some ex-Commodore engineers to work with the Atari engineers they retained. So the ST was a very Commodore-like computer made by Atari. As opposed to the Amiga, which was built by Commodore but designed by some former Atari engineers.

One Commodore magazine, Transactor, actually gave the Atari ST a lot of coverage early on. This may have been because Atari’s then-state-of-the-art machine was more Commodore like than the machine Commodore was using to compete with it. Or it may have been because the ST actually hit the market a few months before the Amiga 1000 did.

Commodore’s story has largely been told. Many ex-Commodore engineers over the years have been willing and even eager to talk about what they know to anyone who’s interested, so their stories are everywhere. So it’s nice to read some perspective from someone with inside knowledge of the ST. Much of Atari’s story remains untold, which is a bit odd because I suspect more people are interested in Atari’s story than Commodore’s.

*Joe Posnanski-like footnote: One weekend, my Dad and I watched the guy who lusted after the Apple II help his dad paint a small delivery truck in their driveway using cans of cheap spray paint. On Sunday it looked better than it sounds, but of course after a summer’s worth of sun and rain it was a bigger eyesore than it had been when it started.

My baseball heroes

Joe Posnanski just did an entry on his childhood baseball idols, and lots of people chimed in about their unlikely heroes. So I got to thinking about mine. When it comes to likely heroes, of course George Brett and Ryne Sandberg were on my list, but that makes me no different from about 10 million other people. Bo Jackson is more of an underdog because his career was so short, but he’s a pretty obvious choice too. There’s an old joke in Kansas City that nobody can name a current Royals player except for George Brett. I mean Bo Jackson. I mean Bret Saberhagen.

If you followed the Royals through the 1990s, it’s funny. I’m sure the overwhelming majority of people who come across this page will have to take my word for it.

Anyway, here’s my list.3. Calvin Schiraldi.

I have no connection to Boston except for a little bit of personal baggage that isn’t Boston’s fault, but in October 1986 I was a Red Sox fan. Why? They were playing the New York Mets in the World Series, and if the Mets were playing the Cuban Nationals, I’d probably root for the Cubans. The only time I root for the Mets is when they play the Yankees.

In 1986, Boston’s closer was a young fireballer named Calvin Schiraldi. Schiraldi pitched well early in the series, but not so well later on. In the fateful Game 6, an exhausted Schiraldi was the pitcher who gave up a single to Ray Knight, setting up the infamous Mookie Wilson ground ball between Bill Buckner’s legs that forced Game 7 and cost Boston the World Series. Schiraldi didn’t throw that pitch; he watched helplessly from the dugout while Bob Stanley tried to pitch out of the jam.

I still remember the images of Schiraldi sitting in the dugout afterward, his face buried in a towel.

Schiraldi took the ball again in Game 7 and took the loss in that game too.

For me, Schiraldi came to symbolize the guy who takes the ball when his team needs him, whether he has his best stuff or not, and no matter how tired he is.

I had the chance to meet him a couple of years later, but I had no idea what to say to him. I wish we’d talked baseball a little, but I don’t know what I would say if I had the opportunity again tomorrow either.

2. Ron Hassey.

I think I told this story before. Ron Hassey was a left-handed hitting catcher who worked well with pitchers and had some pop in his bat. In 1984, the Indians packaged Hassey up along with relief pitcher George Frazier and starting pitcher Rick Sutcliffe for outfielders Mel Hall and Joe Carter. Yes, Joe Carter as in the hero of the 1993 World Series.

Rick and I are related, but it’s not like he looks me up when he’s in St. Louis or anything. I’ve met him twice. Once the day after his 200th major-league win, and once at his grandmother’s funeral. (His grandmother was my great aunt.) But I digress.

The Cubs didn’t really know what to do with Ron Hassey. Jody Davis was the Cubs’ catcher, and he made the All-Star team every year as Gary Carter’s backup and he was a fan favorite. One night that summer, Hassey got a rare start at first base, which wasn’t his usual position. I don’t exactly remember how it happened, but Hassey hurt himself on a play at first base. It was either his leg or his knee. Writhing in pain, he hit the ground, but he had the ball. He had the presence of mind to literally roll over to first base and tag the bag to get the out.

I’m not sure that the team doctor approved, but I always thought that was the way baseball was supposed to be played. Play hurt and play hard.

So, for all those times I played softball trying to disguise a sore hamstring so the opposing team wouldn’t get the wrong idea… I guess you could day I got the idea from Ron Hassey.

At the end of the year, the Cubs packaged him up in a deal with the Yankees for a couple of forgotten names, Brian Dayett and Ray Fontenot. Trades involving Hassey then became something of an annual offseason tradition for the Yankees for a few years, kind of like firing Billy Martin. Eventually the Oakland Athletics got their hands on him, and he became Dennis Eckersley’s personal catcher.

1. Lyman Bostock.

There’s a lot I can say about Lyman Bostock, but I’ll start with this: Lyman Bostock is the greatest baseball player of all time that you’ve never heard of. He only played two complete seasons, but he was a contender for the batting title both years. He was kind of like Tony Gwynn, only with better speed and range.

But his final season is the reason he’s on my list. He signed with a new team and stunk up the place his first month, so he went to the owner and tried to return his salary. He refused, so Bostock announced he’d give the money to charity instead. He received thousands of requests, and personally went through all of them to see who really needed the money the most.

These days, when a free agent signs a fat contract and promptly tanks, he laughs all the way to the bank.

There’s a good reason why Bostock isn’t in the Hall of Fame, and it’s the same reason you’ve never heard of him. Toward the end of the 1978 season, he was visiting his uncle in Gary, Indiana. Bostock’s uncle pulled up to a stoplight with his goddaughter in the front seat of his car and Bostock in the back. The goddaughter’s estranged husband walked up to the car and fired a shotgun blast into the car. The shot hit Bostock in the head and he died two hours later.

I never actually saw Bostock play, seeing as he died when I was 3, but he posthumously became one of my heroes. He wasn’t just the kind of guy a father can point to and tell his son, "Play baseball like him." He was the kind of guy a father should point to and tell his son, "Live your life like him."

This is why Joe Posnanski is one of my favorite sports columnists

Joe Posnanski is a columnist for the Kansas City Star. He writes about baseball. He writes about the Royals sometimes, because that’s his job.

But he’s probably at his best when he writes about the Indians. He grew up in Cleveland, after all.This blog entry from him, It’s Like Being 10 Again, is a really good example.

I really think he should have printed this one in the paper.

Read it, even if you’re not a big baseball fan. It’s really good.

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