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Soup of This Day #186: I’ve Been Made Blue

May 30, 2012

Robert Duvall
Robert Duvall. He was in The Natural but he didn’t get to play the role of manager of a baseball team. It’s a shame, because I reckon he’d make a kick-arse skipper – Photo: Josh Jensen, 2009. Josh Jensen is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

This post has some language. It’s mostly in context but if that kind of thing offends you then maybe don’t read on…

Back some time around 1993 I went to the cinema with Brother of Longworth72 to see the movie Falling Down. It was an uncomfortable experience – Not because of Brother of Longworth72 – Nope, mostly because the film charts the breakdown of a pretty ordinary guy, known as D-Fens, played by Michael Douglas.

This feeling of awkwardness was lessened somewhat by some humour. For instance 1 of the scenes features Michael Douglas’ mad-as-hell-and-not-taking-it-no-more guy pointing out to the staff of a fast food restaurant that what they have served him does not accurately resemble the picture on the menu board.

That 1 scene resonates with a lot of folks because it’s true – What you see in the advertising is not what you get in the wrapper. And it is a little annoying – So I’m guessing that fast food restaurants hate that film – They’ve probably had to deal with a few recreations, hopefully without firearms.

That’s not my favourite memory from the film though. That honour goes to actor Robert Duvall, who plays a police sergeant on the day of his retirement. He’s been sidelined and condescendingly written off by younger management, who on this day are only too happy to fob him off on what seems like a dead-end hunt for an antsy white collar worker.

In his own patient way Duvall’s sergeant has been absorbing all of the crap and in contrast to the guy he’s chasing, he’s come out of it ok. At the end though he’s had enough and when he’s congratulated by his captain after he traces and shoots dead the battered down and broken D-Fens he quietly fires back the line of the day:

‘@#$% you captain, @#$% you very much.’

This line came to mind last night as I watched the replay of yesterday’s Detroit Tigers vs Boston Red Sox game at Fenway. In particular I’m casting Tiges manager Jim Leyland in the Robert Duvall mode – There’s even some physical resemblance – That same craggy face – Although whereas Duvall is more stoutly built, Leyland has what can best be described as chicken legs.

In the bottom of the 2nd, with scores tied at 1 apiece there was a bit of an incident. The Sox had a runner (Sweeney) on 2nd and 2 outs. Mike Avilés was at the plate and having advanced the count to 0 and 2 took a swing and a miss at a sinker. Strike 3 and end of the innings it seemed. ‘That is that’, announced the Detroit commentator.

Or not.

The 1st base ump somehow saw a foul tip into a missed catch. Which was nice except that replays seemed to indicate that Avilés did not hit the ball. Even if he had done then the replay unambiguously shows that Tiges catcher Gerald Laird has caught the pitch. It’s low down to be sure but Laird has his glove well under it. It’s a no-brainer on 364 days of the year.

Except this is that 1 day when it is a brainer so it’s called a foul and Avilés gets another go. At this point Leyland heads out there, cool and collected, like Robert Duvall’s small-town physician in Phenomenom. Mostly he keeps it under control, just a companionable chat with home plate umpire Jeff Nelson. After arguing the toss for an appropriate time Jim gives it up and Doug Fister resumes pitching to Avilés.

Who gets a ball before lining a single to centre field that scores Sweeney for a 2-1 lead.

The camera flashes to Jim Leyland in the dugout where he waves his hands in frustration, in the manner of Robert Duvall’s car thief brushing off the cops in the 2000 remake of Gone in Sixty Seconds.

Then Daniel Nava doubles off of a fly to deep centre, scoring Avilés to extend it to a 3-1 game.

The camera flashes back to Leyland. This time he’s stony faced, and chewing on something, in the manner of Robert Duvall’s General Lee in Gods and Generals.

Then Dustin Pedroia singles a sharp ball to 1st that ricochets off a glove, allowing him to reach and Daniel Nava to just beat the throw at home. Further salt is applied when Pedroia beats out a subsequent throw to 2nd. And the Sox now with a handy 4-1 break.

All of this time Jim Leyland is stewing. And as the innings ends via a Gonzalez ground out that stew boils over. With Felix Doubront warming up on the mound for the Sox with an unexpected gift of a 3 run buffer, Leyland has a voluble discussion with 3rd base ump Tim Tschida who has just thrown Tigers 3rd base coach, Gene Lamont, out of the game. That done Jim heads back to the dugout from where he continues to snipe. 1st base umpire Bill Welke though has had enough, calls time and responds by chucking the Detroit skipper out of the game.

To which Leyland blows up completely. He runs out to confront Smith, his legs pumping in much the same way as Robert Duvall’s crew chief running victory lane in Days of Thunder. And when he gets there he lets Welke have it – At this point Tim Tschida attempts to intervene, repeatedly putting himself between Tiger Jim and his 1st base colleague Welke in much the same way that the secret service will protect the President – All steely-eyed missile man.

Although Bill Welke isn’t the President and he looks pretty capable of handling himself, being noticeably bulkier than the stocky Tschida. Either 1 should be able in truth to easily handle the irascible Leyland.

In the end Jim helps them out a bit by stomping off to the clubhouse of his own volition, where no doubt he cussed and stormed while watching the rest of the game on TV. Which is where we get to our final Robert Duvall moment…

The Sox gained 3 runs via that mistaken call in the 2nd. They added 3 more to 1 thereafter to make it a 7-2 ballgame into the last. There, Sox closer Alfredo Aceves gave up a 2 run blast, enough to make the Fenway faithful nervous and to remind all and sundry of Aceves’ last save attempt, which he’d blown. Fortunately though Alfredo got the last out and the Sox got the win 7-4.

The Sox won by 3 runs.

Which they got off of that erroneous call back in the 2nd.

Yeah, umpires shouldn’t have to stand there and get abused in any sport and Bill Welke had no choice but to turf Leyland out of the game but jeez it’s hard not to feel sorry for Jim, the Tigers and just Detroit in general. This time out their baseball outfit got the wrong end of a pretty ordinary call that the final box score shows made a huge difference to a game that dropped them 2 wins below .500.

I reckon Jim Leyland was over the rage by the time Aceves got the last out. I would like to think that he limited himself to a grim nod at the TV and a quiet and heartfelt:

@#$% you guys, @#$% you very much.

I’ve Been Made Blue

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