A few years ago, I got a stack of mail and left it sitting for a few days. Finally sifting through it, I discovered the annual Hall of Fame gift catalog from Cooperstown. In it I saw this magnificent original painting by the wonderful artist Bill Purdom. Knowing the catalog had been out for a while, I felt certain that some uber-Mantle fan like Billy Crystal or Bob Costas had already snapped it up. I dialed the 800 number with a mixture of excitement and dread. Then, after reading the item number back to me, the operator said the painting was still available. I didn't believe her. I mimicked Joe Pesci, questioning Marissa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny: "Are you suuuuure?" She was, and I got it.
This is Mickey Mantle hitting one of only two home runs that reached the upper-deck façade at the original Yankee Stadium (nobody ever hit one completely out of the park). It's May 30, 1956, the year Mantle was at the height of his artistic powers, winning the Triple Crown with a .353 batting average, 52 ???homeruns and 130 runs batted in.
?By ?Cookie "Chainsaw" Randolph
The "Art of Baseball." I wonder if there is such a thing, considering that baseball consists of little more than a gathering of men who occasionally burst into flurries of action during an otherwise mundane three-hour period of standing, sitting, cursing, chewing, spitting and package adjustment.
Seeing as how this monotonous process accounts for such an overwhelming majority of the game's duration, however, it only figures that, unless you master the art of standing, sitting, cursing, chewing, spitting and package adjustment, you'll never make it in baseball.
If a baseball man were to chew, spit and curse simultaneously, in the direction of an umpire, he'd be ejected, since most of what he'd be saying and chewing would arrive upon the ump. This behavior is considered "art" only when the baseball man does this intentionally, in order to inspire his troops to, well, stand around with more...vigor. The men who excel at this art are known as "managers," who, for some reason, still wear players'
uniforms-only with much more fabric around the midsection. The manager wearing the player's uniform is an art form exclusive to baseball-we're not going to see the Chargers' Norv Turner coaching in full pads or Lakers manager Phil Jackson courtside in a tank top.
Another art form that takes years to develop is one that calls for a thick, even layer of Dixie Cups and sunflower seed shells on the dugout floor, no matter how close a trash can may be. Ballplayers understand that spitting shells into a Dixie Cup with the purpose of placing it into the trashcan later will completely destroy their ability to hit a baseball.
In the case of chewing tobacco, a true artist can spit his team's logo onto the Astroturf from 10 paces away. This takes years of practice. No wonder only Chernobyl has registered a higher concentration of toxic soil than the hallowed ground where former Phillies center fielder Lenny Dykstra used to discharge his salivaries on a nightly basis. The man was the Jackson Pollack of baseball. Now you know why so many major leaguers have Stanley Steamer on monthly retainer.
As for package adjustment, if you don't think this is an art form, you are a woman. Chaz Bono is finding this out as we speak-and he's got a lot of catching up to do, since most behavioral learning occurs during adolescence. If he shifts the wrong way in a movie theater seat while making the big
reach-around move on his girlfriend, he'll inadvertently jerk her into a headlock while buckling forward in pain. You'd hate to see a perfectly good transsexual romance ruined like that because some rookie didn't know the fundamentals. Most males have this mastered by age nine. This could be why, with the possible exception of Barry Bonds' preop, nad-shrinking hormone therapy, we've never had a transgender make it all the way into the big leagues.
-Cookie "Chainsaw" Randolph paints word pictures weekday mornings at 100.7 JACKfm on the Dave, Shelly, and Chainsaw Show.