-- by Josh Suchon
Tuned into the Celebrity Softball Game because the menu on my television incorrectly said it was SportsCenter, and I wanted to see what I didn’t miss in the Home Run Derby. (I used to love the Home Run Derby, but it’s just too damn long. When they shorten it to two rounds, I’ll start watching again.)
Watched the Celebrity Softball Game for a few minutes because I wanted to mock it and figured I’d get a few minutes of material for jokes. Continued watching the game because I got the dumb idea that I’d take a page from the Ken Levine book of blogging and write a ridiculous review of this ridiculous event.
A funny thing happened on the way to me ripping everything. I actually watched the whole thing, and was actually entertained.
I still don’t like the hybrid rosters of baseball legends, celebrities, musicians, athletes from a few other sports, and a few token hot chicks. I’d rather see one of the following rosters:
Host city legends vs. all other legends. It’d be cool to see George Brett, Mike Sweeney, Frank White, Kevin Seitzer, U.L. Washington (only if he put a toothpick in his mouth) and other Royals legends against the non-KC legends like Rollie Fingers, Rickey Henderson, Dave Winfield, etc.
Baseball legends vs. other sports’ stars. Inviting a local star, like Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel, is a good idea -- unless the local fans hate him. It does give me great pleasure to rip Chiefs fans for booing their own starting quarterback. C’mon, it’s the offseason. Relax. I was impressed with soccer star Carlos Bocanegra’s swing. Maybe if you put a whole team of non-baseball players against baseball legends, you’d get some competitive juices flowing.
The problem with celebrity softball events is the quality of celebrities. The A-listers don’t show up because they’re too cool, they don’t want to embarrass themselves, and they have better things to do. The B-listers don’t show up because they think they’re A-listers, and want to mimic the actions of A-listers. The C-listers are all too willing to show up and take themselves way too serious.
That’s how we end up with James Denton every time there’s a celebrity softball game, in any city, in any state, on any continent. Denton doesn’t need baseball pants. He’s got them. He travels with them. It makes me wonder if he just shows up to every celebrity softball game, paying his own way, and nobody has the heart to tell him he’s not needed.
I guess Denton is still acting after Desperate Housewives, and a check of his IMDB page shows this is correct, but I’m convinced Denton’s occupation is playing at celebrity softball games. Was it shocking that Denton was the “funny” guy who stood beyond the fences, caught a home run, and tried to get an out called?
I was proud that Chord Overstreet, from Glee, destroyed some stereotypes by hitting a home run. But it’s not like baseball picked up a couple new fans who watched to see him. We don’t need Chord Overstreet, or American Idol singers David Cook and Haley Reinhart, or country singer David Nail, or Saturday Night Live cast member Horatio Sanz, or Modern Family supporting actor Eric Stonestreet, or Paul DiMeo from Extreme Makeover Home Edition. We do need to see Victoria Secret models like Chrissy Teigen, but not in this context. That’s why the Lingerie Football League exists.
I’m intentionally leaving Jon Hamm out of the above paragraph because even though I don’t want celebrities in the softball game, he’s a legitimate freakin’ star, he’s a legit Missouri sports fan (who my friends have seen in Mizzou gear at Mizzou watch parties in LA), and I’m hoping the footage of Don Draper hitting a home run somehow ends up on next year’s Mad Men.
I’m usually pretty indifferent on Bill Simmons. I’m not a huge fan, yet I don’t hate him. I loved his epic piece on why my beloved Golden State Warriors are so terrible. I respect his popularity, the niche he’s carved for himself, and that the fabulous 30-for-30 project was his idea. Still, when I saw he was doing the “analysis” for the game, I was expecting the worst.
Simmons was actually pretty damn good. He said Bo Jackson was the worst manager since Grady Little. When Rickey Henderson didn’t give much of an effort on a flyball in the outfield, Simmons said it was like the final five years of Rickey’s career. He thought Jennie Finch would be jealous of the supermodel at the plate and try harder to get her out (admit it, you thought the same).
Basically, Simmons talked like it was a 5,000-word column. He wasn’t afraid to rip people. Some jokes bombed, but hey, it’s live TV and there’s no script. I’d bring him back next year.
This has nothing to do with the game, and I’ve seen this commercial a hundred times, but this thought finally occurred to me. Why does Bayer hire Justin Verlander to be a spokesman for its product, then say, “but don’t take his word for it?” The whole point of hiring a celebrity to pitch your product is that us gullible consumers will buy your product simply because Justin Verlander gave us his word.
The most spirited reaction from the crowd was for Kansas men’s basketball coach Bill Self. Kansas City is right smack in the middle of Kansas and Mizzou territory, so the booing was appropriate, and so was the cheering as the two rivals’ fans had some fun. Self claimed he hadn’t swung a bat since 1992. Does anybody really believe that, especially after he homered in his first at-bat and also singled?
The only people who are bigger control freaks than college basketball coaches are college football coaches. I’m convinced this guy was taking batting practice every day the last two weeks. I’m waiting for a Deadspin reader to produce year-by-year stats of the three softball teams that Self has played on each summer for the last 20 years. Even if the stats are fake, I want to see them.
I really don’t want to review how badly out-of-shape our favorite teen-age baseball heroes are looking these days. Instead, I’ll wrap this up with the most important rules for celebrity softball games:
1. Always swing for a home run. Even if you’re Ozzie Smith. It’s alright if you single. You just can’t try to hit a single. Swing for the fences. Every time.
|This isn't going to help Steve Garvey's reputation.|
2. Never try to hit the ball to the opposite field. This means you Steve Garvey. I can respect that Garvey is trying to pad his career RBI total, or wants to prove to Hall of Fame voters they blew it by not electing him, or just remind fans he was an RBI machine every day in the 1970s and early 1980s. But obviously aiming for right-center? Garvey did it twice. He finished with three RBIs. I’m convinced Garvey knows his career batting average in celebrity softball games.
3. Whatever eccentric thing you were known for doing in your career, you’re contractually obligated to do. This means pre at-bat routines, bat flips, snap catches, and any other “hot dog” moves. Ham it up. Put on a show. And if Rickey Henderson gets on first base, let the man steal second base.
4. Jennie Finch should be the all-time pitcher for both teams. Forget any previous points about not needing beautiful women, or celebrities, or anything that would otherwise disqualify her. She’s great to look at. She knows how to lob pitches into the zone to let the hitters do their thing. She’s the face of Softball on this planet. It never gets old when she rifles a pitch over somebody’s head. She should be allowed to strike out at least one person. Maybe the last out of the game?
Just glad it wasn’t the last out of this game. What made me actually enjoy watching this game, and justify the hour of my life that I’ll never get back, was the final batter. The crowd was chanting for Bo Jackson to bat. Bo was managing because of his hip, and pointed repeatedly to his hip, when saying he wasn’t hitting.
Joe Carter was supposed to bat, but he demanded that Bo step into the batters box. Carter offered to be the designated runner. Bo asked for Carter’s batting gloves, which built the drama and gave the crowd a chance to salute Bo once again. The stage was set for a dramatic final moment, even if it was a 13-run deficit.
It didn’t matter that Bo popped up on the infield. Bo swung for the fences. Bo tried to pull it. Bo knows the rules.
That’s why we watch the legends play softball. Give us more legends and less James Denton, and I’ll keep watching this event every year.