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Wednesday, August 20
Updated: August 21, 8:37 AM ET
 
Wild Pitches: Ozzy on the loose

By Jayson Stark
ESPN.com

Songbird of the month
Somewhere, Harry Caray was looking for an extra long, extra tall, extra cold beverage this week, because on Sunday, a man sang what music experts have identified as a rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" that made Caray sound like Frank Sinatra.

That man was Ozzy Osbourne. And on Sunday, the Cubs handed him the opportunity to sing Harry's favorite song during the seventh-inning stretch at Wrigley Field. Only over the next minute did we all discover this was like handing Evel Knievel the keys to your Bentley.

Ozzy Osbourne
Call Ozzy Osbourne, center, Mr. Cub from now on.

The song that followed was so unrecognizable that the Chicago Tribune actually felt obliged to print a transcript of it the next day, just so witnesses could verify they'd heard what they heard. Here goes:

"One. Two. Three.
"Let's go out to the ballgame. Let's go out to the bluhhhhhn.
"Take me a ee-yan eeya (humming) the field.
"I don't care if I ahh-uhn ack.
"Da da da da duh da da da eam. Duh ee, da da da da dahhh.
"For a fee, two, three strikes you're out at the old ballgame. Yeahhhhhh."

Now was that magic, or what?

"It was very interesting," Cubs outfield-witticist Doug Glanville told Wild Pitches. "I was looking around the crowd to see if anybody was actually following this, because there's always somebody.

"Then I saw a kid who was singing right along, verbatim. So I talked to the kid after the game, and I said, 'Where are you from?' He said, 'I should tell you where my parents are from. My mom was from the Western Milky Way, somewhere between Pluto and Neptune. And my dad is from the United States.'

"I asked, 'What state?' And he said, 'West Southern Idaho. That's kind of a new state.' So we didn't realize it at the time, but that language he was singing in was Plutonian-Neptunian-West-Southern-Idahoan. I think that explains it."

Then again, perhaps this rendition wasn't so much celestial as it was, say, bestial.

"I saw it as a call of the wild," Glanville theorized. "I was looking around to see if some herd of wild emu or wild water buffalo were coming to meet their master. But it never happened -- because he was so off-key. But I'm sure there are probably many wild habitats where, if you played that, they would have really felt it. They'd have formed all kinds of mysterious formations, I bet. So we need to take this tape and play it in various habitats and jungles, wild-animal environments, and see how everything responds.

"Or we could play it in space. Who knows -- Jupiter might change colors. We might have contact with some other life form. This could turn out to be cutting edge. It could signal a sequel to ET because I do believe, somewhere in there, he was phoning home."

And if, indeed, he was phoning home, he was no doubt saying, in his own special way, "Turn on the freaking VCR -- fast!!"

Lovable loser of the month
His reign has lasted for 23 glorious years now -- longer than Mark McGwire held his home run record, longer than Joe Lieberman has hung out in the U.S. Senate, longer than Dan Rather has spewed out the evening news.

But our man, Brian Kingman (A.K.A, The Last 20-Game Loser of the 20th Century), knows he's in trouble now. Big trouble. Bigger than Gray Davis. Bigger than Gigli. Bigger than the Uruguay Olympic hoops team.

His only goal in life is as modest as goals come: Brian Kingman just wants to go down as The Last Pitcher in History to Lose 20 Games in a Season. Forever. In the 20th century. In this century. In every darned century till the end of time.

But that's not happening now. The good news for Kingman is, Tigers teenager Jeremy Bonderman (6-16) will probably get hooked from the rotation if he gets close to 20 losses. But the bad news is, his teammate, Mike Maroth (6-18), is going to lose 20. It's that simple. Brian Kingman knows it. Mike Maroth knows it. The hitters know it. The Tigers know it.

Maroth
Maroth

Maroth went into his start Tuesday against Texas with 17 losses. He's already the first pitcher to lose 17 by Aug. 13 since Clyde Wright stopped there on the Road to 20 in 1974. Maroth became the first with 18 losses by Aug. 19 since Wright and Randy Jones each did that in 1974, when both lost 20. And Maroth is way ahead of Kingman, who had just 13 losses at this point for Billy Martin's 1980 Oakland A's.

So how can Mike Maroth not lose 20? There's as good a chance he'll win the AL Cy Young Award as there is that he can avoid losing 20, pitching for a team that loses every single night, whether it needs to or not.

But if you think that means our man Brian Kingman is just going to give up his reign quietly, you haven't been following this guy. "Quiet" isn't exactly a word we'd use to describe him -- especially these days.

In the last two months, he has been profiled in nearly 30 newspapers. He's been a guest on more than a dozen radio talk shows. He's had SportsCenter look him up. And he had an Outside the Lines crew grill him for an hour and a half last weekend.

"If I can get people to come to Phoenix when it's 115 degrees," Kingman laughed, "to talk to a guy who hasn't pitched in 20 years, you know something's wrong."

We admit it's a crazy, mixed up world we live in when that many people want to talk to a guy about losing 20 games. But as media go-to phenoms go, Brian Kingman never disappoints. And he still doesn't.

So sure, there may seem to be a zero shot of preventing Maroth from supplanting him in the trivia annals. But after watching the previous four threats to his throne -- Scott Erickson, Mike Moore, Omar Daal and Albie Lopez -- go to the mound eight times (with a combined record of 26-76) and fail to lose their 20th, Kingman has good reason to think the impossible is always possible.

So he's toying with implementing all these emergency measures over the next few weeks:

Running for governor: With everybody else in California running for governor, why not Kingman? He could get elected "and pardon myself from trivia death row," he theorized. Only one problem, even if he wins: "It would be useless, because I wouldn't be elected in time."

The voodoo dolls: Kingman has been hauling out his special voodoo dolls since 2000, when Omar Daal got to 19 losses, but mysteriously avoided losing No. 20. And now, the dolls are the staple of his Anti-Ballistic 20-Loss Defense System. But one loss these days, and a doll gets yanked out of the rotation. So it's almost time for a doll Kingman refers to only as "The King." The King is 4-0 lifetime, stopping Daal and Lopez from losing 20 in four consecutive starts. And it's been hanging in a special safe ever since. "But it looks," Kingman sighed, "like the King will be tested again this year."

The power failure: A few of Kingman's buddies got an e-mail last week, entitled: "Voodoo Doll Error Causes Power Outage on East Coast." Hey, why not? Kingman admits he has been "trying to use the voodoo dolls to transfer power to Detroit and Mike Maroth and Jeremy Bonderman. So maybe there's a fine line between electrical powers and other kinds of power." But if there is, even that didn't work. "At first," Kingman says, "I thought, maybe it will cause them to play a lot of doubleheaders and mess up their rotation. But they were on the road, so that didn't happen, either."

The mountain and the valley: Next on Kingman's agenda is a hike to the top of Mount Whitney, to leave a voodoo doll at the highest point in the continental United States. Then he'll do the same at Death Valley, the lowest point. And what, you ask, will that accomplish? "I figure, I don't really know what works," Kingman said. "So I'm just covering all my bases."

Hello Africa: Should he ever reach the peak of desperation, Kingman's research has revealed there's some kind of native settlement in Africa where they have special powerful dolls for "just about any reason," Kingman said. "I don't know if they're into baseball, but maybe I can steal their technology, or their spirituality, or whatever it is. Maybe I can harness that at my moment of crisis. Except I don't have time to get to Africa, so that will have to be for the future -- if there is a future."

Sparky-ism of the month
Sparky Anderson showed up in Anaheim last weekend to visit his old team, the Detroit Tigers. Asked by Booth Newspapers' Danny Knobler if he was concerned the Tigers might lose more games than the '62 Mets, Anderson gave the kind of answer that has made him the legend he is.

"Things have been bad enough," Anderson replied. "That's like pouring more fire on the gasoline."

If all this stuff looks like it might fail, Kingman is still wracking his brain, looking for one last-ditch trivia-preservation scheme. Ah, but what?

"I'm not sure," he said, "outside of befriending Bill Gates and buying the Tigers -- and then appointing myself as manager or pitching coach. Or, if things get really bad, I could make a comeback and try reclaiming the record. Which wouldn't be hard if they let me pitch. Of course, getting the opportunity might be tough."

Well, tough, sure. But not impossible. If Maroth gets to 19 losses, Wild Pitches promises to try to find somebody who will let him make that comeback, and possibly even pitch in every game the rest of the season. Which clearly indicates we're now officially as nuts as he is.

Rainy day men of the month
It was just your basic three-game series at Wrigley Field. Three beautiful days in the Illinois sunshine, as the ivy bloomed, the organ played and thousands basked in the special joy of Wrigley-ness.

OK, that's what that Aug. 1-3 series between the Cubs and Diamondbacks may have looked like on the drawing board, anyway. But in real life, it didn't work out to be quite that euphoric.

Not with six hours and 21 minutes of rain delays mixed in. Not with an attack by 98 billion baseball-loving gnats mixed in. Not with three straight days of late-inning leads turning into late-inning losses. But we won't even get into that.

So let's take you inside this fun-filled series, by going back to our official Wild Pitches tour guide, the Cubs' Doug Glanville:

Game 1: Your series opener was pretty routine, other than the fact it started at 2:20 p.m. and ended at 10, that it lasted 14 innings, that it included a three-hour and four-minute monsoon delay in the seventh, or that the Diamondbacks couldn't hold a two-run lead with two outs and nobody on in the 11th.

So how long did these guys spend at the park that day?

So long, Glanville said, that "our bat boy was 14, and I swear that when I was going back to my apartment, I passed by the Cubby Bear Lounge, and he was legally having a drink."

So long that Glanville is pretty sure the Cubs ate "eight or nine courses" of food. "And the amazing thing," he said, "was that there was still a danger of everybody starving ... because we ate everything there was in the whole stadium."

So long that Glanville, who had just been traded to the Cubs two days before, "knew everybody on the team" by the time it was over. "By the end," he reported, "I knew their first name, their nickname, their wives, their kids. I knew everybody's life story."

So long that Glanville, who had been trying to move into a new apartment, had just about abandoned that whole concept by the end of the game.

"I was thinking I needed to just move my apartment over there," he said. "I was just getting settled into my place. But I said, 'Why don't I just stay at the stadium? I'm here all day anyway.' "

Game 2: This was, allegedly, the "normal" game in this series, other than the fact that the Cubs blew a one-run lead in the ninth and there were approximately 75,963 gnats in attendance for every human.

At one point, reliever Joe Borowski told the Arlington Daily Herald's Kent McDill, the swarm of gnats was so thick, "it was like it was snowing."

So many players spent so much time on the field swatting that Arizona's Luis Gonzalez told the East Valley Tribune's Ed Price, "A lot of guys are going to have to change their cologne or after-shave or something tomorrow."

We'd never previously thought of Wrigley as the perfect setting for a Hitchcock thriller. But we've changed our minds after a day that gave a whole new meaning to that term, "high fly."

"We went through around 33 cans of Off," Glanville reported. "At first, we were spraying it on. After a while, we were just drinking it, like Mai Tais."

Game 3: Fortunately, the gnats apparently only had Saturday off, so they were gone Sunday. Unfortunately, those raindrops were back. This rain delay went three hours, 17 minutes -- meaning that in a span of 53 hours, these two teams spent about 27 hours at the ballpark and sat through almost 6 hours of rain delays.

"We were there so long," Glanville said, "I have now become one with the stadium. I'm now walking around with ivy on me."

Rumble, bumble, stumble of the month
We all slip. We all fall. We all have our moments. But if Orioles rookie Jack Cust could give the rest of us some advice these days, it would be this:

Welcome Mr. Prez!
We don't know what music was playing in the Mets' clubhouse Aug. 12. But it sure wasn't "Hail to the Chief."

Their visitor that evening was a former head of state named Bill Clinton, who had somehow been invited by staunch Republican left-hander Al Leiter. Clinton then forecast that this could ruin Leiter's career -- "his political career if not his pitching career."

But enough politics. We love it when life imitates a Saturday Night Live skit. So Clinton helped make that happen -- by heading directly for (what else) the clubhouse food room.

The response from most Americans, if they saw a former President eyeing their buffet line, would be, no doubt: "Can we get you a plate, Mr. President?" But these are baseball players, remember.

So the New York Times' Rafael Hermoso reports that John Franco's one-liner was (ta-dum-dum): "You have to pay your dues if you're going to eat."

Why do we think this will be the ex-prez's last visit to the Mets' clubhouse?

Whatever you do, don't fall down on live television when you're about to score the tying run against the New York Yankees.

If you haven't seen Cust's mad dash to nowhere in the 12th inning Saturday night in Baltimore, don't fear. It ought to be re-airing someplace in the next 30 seconds.

But to recap, here's what happened to Cust on the way to (not) scoring from first on a two-out Larry Bigbie double: He rounded third, tried to stop and slipped. When he got up, he found himself in a clearly hopeless rundown between third and home. Except that the next thing he knew, the Yankees had nobody covering the plate. Whereupon he burst for home one last time -- and fell right on his schnozz. To end the game.

So in blooper history, Cust will go down as the man who fell down twice on the same play, trying to get to two different bases, and never did get to either of them.

Best quotes of the day:

  • From Yankees reliever Jeff Nelson, who gave up the hit, on what he thought when Cust went down the first time: "I was relieved. I thought, 'We're going to get this guy in a rundown. Nobody messes that up.'" Uh, guess who messed up by not backing up the plate? Yep, Jeff Nelson.

  • From Yankees third baseman Aaron Boone, on what went through his mind as he was chasing Cust toward the uncovered plate: "I went, 'Uh-oh -- run! Fortunately, we had a sniper in the lightstands."

  • From Joe Torre, on what he thought when he saw nobody was covering home: "I thought, 'Who's pitching for us next.' "

  • John Flaherty, the longtime Devil Ray: "I've seen endings like that with the Devil Rays. But we always lost on plays like that."

  • From Jason Giambi: "Thank God he didn't score -- or we would have been out there for another six hours."

    And the best headlines the next morning:

  • Orioles Tumble to Yankees (Newsday)

  • Yanks Run Down Orioles in 12th (New York Daily News)

  • Orioles Fall Short, Tagged with 6th Consecutive Loss (Baltimore Sun)

    Cyclist of the month
    Not to say it had been a long time since a Cleveland Indian hit for the cycle, or anything. But the last time it happened, Jimmy Carter was president, Wilbur Wood and Jim Bouton were still pitching, and, believe it or not, only hours later, Steve Martin sang "King Tut" on Saturday Night Live for the first time.

    It was April 22, 1978, to be precise. Andre Thornton was the cyclist in question. And the guy who would become the next Indian to hit for the cycle, Travis Hafner, was all of 10 months old.

    But the world turns. And after it had turned for 25 years last Thursday, Hafner came to the plate in the Metrodome needing a triple for the cycle. Since Hafner is built more like Jeremy Shockey than Juan Pierre, his buddy, third baseman Casey Blake, told him exactly how to hit one.

    "It would need to be high off the Baggie," Blake said. "Dustan Mohr would have to jump up on the wall -- and get knocked out."

    Instead, Hafner thumped one up the gap in right-center. And Mohr stayed conscious. But the ball still rattled around the Dome long enough for Hafner to make it into third with the seventh cycle in the Indians' 103-year history.

    Afterward, Hafner had trouble coming up with any great cycle humor. But he did tell the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Paul Hoynes that his nickname around the Indians is "The Pronk." And what does that stand for? "Part Project -- Part Donkey," Hafner said.

    "When I was with Buffalo this year and we were playing in Ottawa, my teammates used the French pronunciation," Hafner revealed. "So I was Le Pronk."

    Tirade of the month
    Anybody can get kicked out of a game. It takes a special kind of genius, though, to evoke images of Adam Vinatieri on the way out.

    Piniella
    Piniella

    But that's our man, Lou Piniella. When he got run last Wednesday by Jerry Layne, the Devil Rays manager didn't just fire off a bunch of words you'll never hear repeated on "Rug Rats." He did the Tampa Bay Hat Dance.

    He threw his cap, picked it up, then threw it again. Then he kicked the hat five different times -- finishing with a spectacular left-footed boot that almost flew through the imaginary uprights into the box seats.

    It was such a beautiful thing that the St. Petersburg Times' Marc Topkin figured out the perfect guy to go to for reaction -- Martin Gramatica, of that other team in Tampa Bay.

    "He looks like he has some flexibility, some potential as a kicker," Gramatica told the Times. "He seems to have a very good follow-through."

    And as we know, it's all about the follow-through.

    Dancer of the month
    And as long as we're on the subject of Piniella, he told Topkin he can't wait to see Bucs coach Jon Gruden follow through on his promise to Playboy to dance down Dale Mabry Boulevard in Tampa, not quite fully dressed, if his team wins another Super Bowl.

    "Boy, I tell you what, I'd like to see Gruden over on Dale Mabry with his jock strap. I'd love to see it," Piniella said. "It had better be about 3 in the morning."

    Airborne spheroid of the month
    If we were holding a pregame meeting to go over our scouting report on the Seattle Mariners, we could sum up Point No. 1 in exactly four words:

    Don't run on Ichiro.

    But Blue Jays rookie Reed Johnson made a biggggg mistake, on what he thought was a normal trip from first to third on a ground-ball single to right last week in Seattle.

    Next thing he knew, this beam of light whooshed past him -- and Ichiro had just thrown him out at third, by 15 feet.

    Best reaction, from closer Shigetoshi Hasegawa, to the Seattle Post Intelligencer's John Hickey: "That throw was faster than my fastball. ... I think Ichiro should be the closer."

    Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com.





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