The Busher

Talking of Canseco, the man with the invisible knot on his head, made me remember The Busher, Ring Lardner’s guy (protagonist is too big a word for him) in “You Know Me Al“):

“Detroit, Michigan, April 28
“Friend Al: What do you think of a rotten maager that bawls me out and fines me $50.00 for loosing a 1 to 0 game in 10 innings when it was my 1st start this season? And no woinder I was a little wild in the 10th when I had not had no chance to work and get control. I got a good notion to quit this rotten club and jump to the Federals where a man gets some kind of treatment. Callahan says I throwed the game away on purpose but I did not do no such a thing Al because when I throwed that ball at Joe Hill’s head I forgot that the bases was full and besides if Gleason had not of starved me to death the ball that hit him in the head would of killed him.”

Real True-to-Life Inspirations …

CansecoYou can have your “hooray, little Jimmy overcame the mumps” and “Stalin loved cats and parakeets” sites. For me, the feel-good site of the day has got to be, celebrating the past and … well, past … of the player who redefined dumb and caused the Society for American Baseball Research to come up with a formula (“squandered talent quotient” or STQ) to describe mathematically what became of him.

Oh, yeah, the news: Jose had a walk-on tryout with the Dodgers today in Florida. Early reports are that he sucked.

 (Pictured: The formerly promising Canseco twin. Used without permission).

Reading the Obits

Reading The New York Times at the Civic Center BART station on the way home, I caught a glimpse of an old picture of a very tall-looking woman with very muscular legs (“cut” is the modern term, I think) in a track suit racing toward a finish line. The headline said, “Fanny Blankers-Koen, Star of 1948 Olympics, Dies at 85.” Never heard of her. But she was sort of the female Dutch Jesse Owens of the sprinting world, if there could be such a thing. Was a big fan of Owens, got his autograph as an 18-year-old at the Berlin Games in 1936, where she competed unspectacularly; then came back after World War II to run in the London Olympics despite public disapproval of a 30-year-old mother of two running down the track in shorts. She won four gold medals.

The Google search on her name comes back with 3,870 listings, including this 2000 profile on the BBC site.

A Cruel Hoax

Or maybe just a semi-amusing one. Here are two improbable wire service leads playing off today’s news about the Bowl Championship Series controversy. I admit I wrote them to snare a University of Southern California football fanatic in my newsroom — I was pretty sure he’d actually believe them, at least for a few minutes.

Schwarzenegger Says BCS ‘Bad for People of California’


Filed at 8:44 a.m. ET

SACRAMENTO — Seizing on the popular outrage sweeping voter-rich Southern California in the wake of Sunday’s surprise exclusion of USC from the national championship football game next month, newly elected Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger promised an investigation of a computer system he declared was “bad for the people of Colly-for-nya.”

Bush: BCS ‘Worse than Saddam’


Filed at 8:44 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON — Declaring that the inclusion of the University of Oklahoma in next month’s Sugar Bowl “a national outrage,” President Bush recalled special envoy Paul Bremer from Baghdad to deal with the BCS controversy.

“In the eyes of the world, America is about fair play,” the president said. “The BCS decision keeping the Trojans out of the national championship — well, it’s worse than anything Saddam ever did and I think it’s got nothing to do with democracy.”

But although he has recalled Bremer, his top troubleshooter, to handle the football mess, the president denied reports he’s considering redeploying U.S. troops from Baghdad to seize the rogue BCS computers.

Notes: This is a dangerous thing to do in any newsroom. As unlikely as it seems, something like this, once floated, can take on a life of its own and find its way to publication or to air. Bad. –I did take pains to plant clues that these were hoaxes. The phonetic spelling of California. The suggestion that Bush was responding to reports of a troop redeployment to seize the BCS computers. –The intended targets and (distressingly) a couple others did bite on the stories. My surmise: Part I: That they didn’t really do more than scan the first few words and hurry over the rest of what was there. The format looks right. Some of the right names and words are there. Sold. Part II: That we all encounter too much that really is unbelievable — yet turns out to be true, somehow — that we start out better than half-willing to believe the next amazing tale.