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Tag: Baseball (1-6 of 6)

'Eastbound and Down' finale: Farewell to pop culture's last baseball star, Kenny Powers

There are many reasons to mourn the end of Eastbound & Down. Danny McBride’s easy, almost casual hilarity, the show’s odd, un-TV-like pace, and the sheer thrill of seeing Will Ferrell on television will all be missed.

But there’s also another thing that the HBO series will take with it when its finale airs tonight, and that’s baseball — or, more specifically, baseball’s place in pop culture.

For years — even decades — people have talked about baseball losing its mantle as America’s favorite pastime, but the topic has flared up again in the past few months. National ratings are down, even for postseason games, while professional and college football continue to dominate; this year’s World Series ratings were among the lowest ever, while the past several Super Bowls ranked as the most-watched events in TV history. These figures have renewed the contentious debate about baseball’s supposed decline, with some pundits declaring it culturally irrelevant and others arguing that it’s healthier than ever.

We’ll leave the in-depth sports analysis to the in-depth sports guys. But if you were to use the likes of TV shows and movies to assess the game’s popularity, well, it does seem like baseball is losing the good fight. And now with Eastbound & Down leaving us, our pastime’s cultural footprint threatens to become that much smaller.


Derek Jeter to Mariano Rivera: 'It's time to go.' Cue waterworks.

Jimmy Dugan was full of spit: There is definitely crying in baseball.

At least there was last night in the Bronx, where the greatest relief pitcher in the history of the sport said goodbye to the home crowd after 19 seasons and five World Series championships. Mariano Rivera, who has confounded batters and shattered bats with his unhittable cut-fastball ever since 1995, took the mound in Yankee Stadium for the last time. It was hardly a typical Rivera outing — even though he retired four straight Tampa Bay hitters. For one, the Yankees, who failed to qualify for the playoffs this season, were trailing, 4-0, so this wasn’t an opportunity for Rivera to add to his all-time saves record. More notably, he was pulled from the game in the ninth inning.

That’s when the tears flowed.

It wasn’t altogether unexpected that Rivera was removed from the game with one out remaining; the change gave the home crowd an opportunity to shower Rivera with a standing ovation as he left the field. But instead of Yankee manager Joe Girardi marching out to the mound to make the switch, which is customary, Rivera’s longtime teammates Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte walked out of the dugout to do the honors. “It’s time to go,” said Jeter.

When the trio embraced near the mound, Rivera lost it, as did the crowd of more than 48,000. You didn’t have to be a Yankee fan to appreciate the moment, and as the ovation went on and on and on, you almost expected the immortal Rivera to walk into some cornfield that had magically sprouted in centerfield and disappear into the ether.

Watch the moment below so you can properly lie to your grandkids that you were there the night the great Mariano said goodbye. READ FULL STORY

Keith Olbermann and A-Rod: You can go home again... as long as you're a hit

Alex Rodriguez returns to play in Yankee Stadium tonight for the first time since a disastrous 2012 postseason performance and  — even more ignominiously — since appealing his 211-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. Boos have rained down on him since he returned to the field during the Yankees recent road trip, but it will be interesting to see how the home crowd receives him. Rodriguez can take solace in the fact that Keith Olbermann returned to SportsCenter last night, 16 years after napalming his bridges there. Maybe you can go home again after all.

Olbermann’s first tour of duty at ESPN was defined by two things: (1) His star-making SportsCenter partnership with Dan Patrick that helped define the franchise, and (2) his impressive ability to insult and offend just about everyone that had to work with him. When ESPN hired him back last month — to host his own show on ESPN2 — observers couldn’t help but think back to the line in ESPN: Those Guys Have All the Fun, in which Rece Davis told authors James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales about the producer who said, “If we hire Olbermann back, he first has to stand in the reception area and everybody who wants to, gets to come up and punch him in the stomach.” READ FULL STORY

Baseball's Tim McCarver goes deep into Metallica's 'Enter Sandman'

Baseball relief pitchers are like professional wrestlers in that they have great entrance music to announce their presence with authority when they enter a close game in the late innings. And no closer is more associated with his music than the Sandman, New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera, who’s been jogging in from the bullpen to the tune of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” for most of his illustrious career. At last night’s All-Star game in New York, the 43-year-old got the call one last time in his final midsummer classic before his planned retirement. The music blared, the players paid tribute, the fans stood, Rivera mozied onto the mound and tipped his hat. And then… something happened.

Just as Yankees fans finished wiping tears from their eyes (and even as Mets and Red Sox fans applauded in grudging appreciation), Fox TV analyst Tim McCarver — who’s also retiring after this season — dug deep into the song’s lyrics. Perhaps McCarver is a Metallica fan from way-back. Perhaps some Fox Sports intern handed McCarver the lyrics to share with MLB’s mature television audience (mean age: 126). Or perhaps this is just Tim McCarver being the Master of the Universe that he’s always known himself to be. “How ’bout the chorus to “Enter Sandman’…,” McCarver began, as a million Gen-Xers picked up their smartphones in unison. McCarver’s recital of the lyrics is a brilliant blend of professorial condescension and beat poetry that I doubt James Hetfield and Co. ever imagined, even in their darkest nightmare. Click below for audio only, or click here for video of both Rivera’s entrance and McCarver’s… tribute? READ FULL STORY

Baseball's Opening Day: The day your pre-season high hopes go to die

Opening Day of the season is very special to all baseball fans, but especially to those in cities like Pittsburgh, Miami, and Minneapolis, where the first pitch delivers hope to loyal fans who are accustomed to — or expecting — long, losing summers. No errors have been made yet, no bad calls by the umps, no called third-strikes with the bases loaded. This could be the year for the [insert your team's name here], folks.

Here in New York, it’s been a tale of two cities in recent years, as the Mets have been Amazin’ in all the wrong ways while the Yankees have maintained a level of excellence that is both awesome and somewhat joyless. But even that may change this year — no thanks to the Mets — as the Bronx Bombers fielded a team this afternoon in their home-opener against the rival Boston Red Sox that left many Yankees fans scratching their heads and asking, “Who are these guys?” READ FULL STORY

R.I.P. New York Yankees dynasty: 1996-2012

Tonight in Detroit, the Yankees dynasty might very well be given its last rites.

Down 2-0 to the Detroit Tigers in the best-of-7 playoff series, missing their captain Derek Jeter after a fractured ankle, and featuring a lineup of high-priced, underperforming sluggers, the New York Yankees are seemingly doomed. On the mound for the Tigers is their ace, Justin Verlander, he of the 100 m.p.h. fastballs that Alex Rodriguez will need to start swinging at now to have any prayer of contact. If Verlander stomps the Yankees tonight in Detroit, the writing will be on the wall. As Yankee fans know all too well, only one team in baseball history has ever come back from an 0-3 deficit (that would be the magical 2004 Red Sox who stunned the Yankees) and these Yankees seem too bloated and tired to dig out of such a ditch. Jeter is finished. Human cyborg Mariano Rivera is gone. Alex Rodriguez, unfortunately, remains in uniform. READ FULL STORY

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