Friday, July 2, 2010

An old scribe's lament

As the great 19th century entertainer Lili Von Shtupp once sang, "I'm tired."

I'm wondering if I'm getting too old for this game. Yesterday, I rose at 5 a.m. after a few hours sleep and caught a flight to Denver. When I got to my hotel I had just enough time to order room service and take a half-hour nap before cabbing downtown to get a rental car and driving to Coors Field, where a long night's work was waiting after the Bengie Molina trade.

I was gassed. I really wanted to sidle up to a player who trusts me and say, "Look, I know you guys still have that amphetamine-laced coffee in the back. Howsabout you bring me a cup, and next time you commit an error I'll blame it on shoddy groundskeeping?" I got through the day, but it was tough, and I'm a little surprised my stuff in the paper today was as lucid as it was (shaddup!).

I'm in decent shape for 50 and a guy my size (shaddup Dylan Hernandez). I know I could stand to lose a few pounds and say "no" to the sexy siren song of a voluptuous buttermilk doughnut bar. As my friend Gonzo always used to say under his breath when he saw a real fatty, "Hey, mix in a salad once in a while."

As I was struggling to keep my eyes open in the press box 3 hours before game time, my competition bounded in. Andy flew in an hour before I did with just as little sleep but reported he had plenty of time for a workout in the hotel gym before he did a great phone interview with Bengie Molina, wrote a couple of blogs then came to the ballpark. He was still there when I left. If I had more energy, I might have strangled him and thrown his corpse into the humidor where they keep the baseballs.

Andy is a hell of a reporter, a terrific blogger and one of the funniest guys I know. He is also 15 years younger than I am. Sometimes at work I look at him and see the Energizer Bunny. Then I look in the mirror and see a lot of bags under my eyes and wonder how much longer I can do this.

Thing is, I love this job and can't imagine doing anything else. Well, that's a lie. If a casting director approached me and said, "You! You're the only man who can play Cameron Diaz's love interest in my next movie, and she gets naked A LOT," I'd turn in my Chronicle pass key so fast I might injure the security guy I threw it to. Other than that, there is nothing better than chronicling a team through a baseball season with all the attendant metaphors for life: the ups and downs, triumphs and tragedies plus all the free gum I snatch in the clubhouse. Please don't tell Murph.

In a tremendous gem of casting, John Sayles picked the great writer and documentarian Studs Turkel to play Hugh Fullerton in the baseball movie "Eight Men Out." In the film, Fullerton is the gumshoe reporter who breaks the story that the 1919 Chicago White Sox (or Black Sox) threw the World Series against Cincinnati for money.

I looked it up. Terkel was 76 years old when that movie was released in 1988. Maybe in those days a guy that old could be a baseball writer, but not now, not with the blogging and the Tweeting and the post-9/11 travel.

I do have something to shoot for. The great and wonderful Bob Stevens was the Chronicle's full-time Giants writer from the time they moved to California in 1958 through about 1978. That's 21 seasons. This is my 13th season as the Giants writer for the Chronicle. If I can hang in there for another eight, I'll catch Bob for longevity. He was a wonderful man, and I know what he would say from beyond if I did catch him: "You fat bastard. You think you're as good as I was?" No, not really. I'm sure he would be just as supportive to me in the afterlife as he was in real life. He was one of the nicest men I knew.

It's a lofty goal. My only fear is that when I achieve it I'll have to ask Miss Diaz to hold my arm up so I can accept the congratulatory handshakes.


  1. Great read, love what you do! As you do as well.

  2. Someone actually pays you for this drivel?

  3. Hank, you must hate not having Molina on the team any more. It must have been great knowing, even with the way you feel, "I can kick butt on a pro athlete in a foot race."

    By the way, please raise your standards when it comes to fantasizing about love scenes with actresses. Diaz might make a trophy wife, but not for first place.

  4. As long as it's only your arm she has to prop up....

  5. Oh, and to BBL901 (i.e., anonymous troll), no, no one is paying him for this. It's called a private blog. And guess what, you're not being paid for being here. So, if you don't enjoy what Hank has to say, then feel free to move along.

  6. A year ago, I thought Baggerly had you beat silly. But I think you've made quite the comeback, especially on Twitter. I find your interactions with the fans to be informative and entertaining.

    Keep it up, even if it kills you! ;-)

  7. @BBL901 and your point is? Not that I expect a response anyway, but you get no points here. I enjoy this blog for what it is, a look at what it's like to be a baseball writer. If you were expecting something else, keep moving, nothing to see here.

    Henry,keep on ...

  8. Yo Henry. I'll have to remind you of a killer doughnut shop in Atlanta when the team comes to town. Buttermilk doughnut bars? Try a Reece's Peanut Butter Cup doughnut, an Oreo doughnut, a Nestle's Crunch doughnut... now THAT'S worthy of a 50 year old beat writer.

  9. Hi, Henry. Never mind Studs Terkel. The real Hugh Fullerton was in his mid-40s when the Black Sox scandal happened.

  10. The sportswriter as anti-hero? See John Updike and Richard Ford. But don't dismay, the world of professional sports is an endless mine; a novel, a movie staring Paul Giamatti (what? you thought jude law?) plan your escape now.

    or hunker down and fight: learn spanish


  11. That doughnut shop in Atlanta that G noted is similar to one down here in Silicon Valley (Campbell) called, seriously, Psycho Donuts. Here is their URL for the non-believers and the curious:

    As you can see there, the cashier dresses in a nurse or psycho ward garb and there is wide selection of "crazy" combinations on the donuts:

    I had the Moodswing because it has two of my favorite toppings on it: peanuts and cocoanut. There is even (somehow) a vegan one.

    And no, I do not own it or work there, and I've only been there once. But if you're in the neighborhood, it's an interesting place to visit, there is even a padded room (see back of photo) named Psycho Pfoto Cell for you to take your picture in. There are even costumes to wear for the pictures.

  12. Wow, so your tenure began basically around the same time as Sabean.

    And in 8 years, when you reach that milestone, the Giants mortgage will be up and they'll have another $20M to spend on players.

    And I think you'll get to go to another Giants World Series (or three) in that time, and I think we'll have a good shot at winning one along the way as well.

    I guess you aren't happy about Andy bragging about his weight loss in his recent blog post....