Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Urgent! Eladio's dream could end by the weekend!

The E-Rod saga is moving faster than we can keep up. And it could be ending just as quickly! From Chad Jennings' Scranton/ Wilkes-Barre Yankees blog:

"...Chad Moeller is back with the Yankees and Chris Stewart has been optioned -- at least, the assumption in New York is that it's an option, no official word yet -- back to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The Triple-A team won't have to make a move because Stewart will take Britton's spot on the roster. At least, that's probably how it will be for a day or two. I doubt the Triple-A team will carry three catchers for very long.

"I also doubt the Yankees will keep five catchers on the 40-man for very long. It's worth keeping Stewart for now, especially while the team is waiting for a time table on Jorge Posada, but five catchers take up a lot of space on the 40-man."

Our Man Elli in Israel translates:

"No one picked up Moeller. He's back with the Yanks. This guy quoted above is right-- the Yanks won't and can't keep five catchers on the 40-man roster for long. That means E-Rod could be gone by the weekend-- and that could mean the end of the dream of seeing an IBL alum make the bigs. And that would be sad for everyone involved. All of us. Like you said, E-Rod united us, only this time it would be in sorrow."

Update: Eladio's AAA debut makes headlines!

The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
April 30, 2008
Pair star
in Triple-A
debuts for Yankees
Chris Kunda has 2-run double
Eladio Rodriguez has hit
and catches the entire game.

MIKE HAIM For the Times Leader

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Two players making their Triple-A debuts played key roles as the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees broke out of their scoring slump.

Chris Kunda was a defensive replacement and stroked a two-run double in his first at-bat, and Eladio Rodriguez was 1-for-3 and caught the entire game, as the Yankees withstood a valiant comeback try by the Buffalo Bisons to claim a 10-6 victory on Tuesday night.

Rodriguez found comfort in his debut, working with starting pitcher Dan Giese, who has become the sudden stopper in the Yankees’ starting rotation. Rodriguez last year was the co-MVP in the initial season of the Israeli Baseball League.

A 29-year-old whose last experience in the U.S. minor leagues was in 2004 as a pitcher in the Boston Red Sox organization, Rodriguez was signed by the New York Yankees last October and was stashed on the roster of short-season Staten Island before his promotion to Scranton on Monday.

“Our starting pitching was very strong,” Rodriguez said. “When the pitcher throws strikes, the catcher looks good.”

Giese (2-0) was quite effective despite giving up a pair of runs in the fifth inning. The two-run dent marked the first time this season he had yielded more than one run in any game and raised his earned run average this season to 1.35.

Miley was pleased not only with the win, but the progress of his two new players.

“They played well,” said Miley. “Rodriguez was fine behind the plate. I had never seen him play. Kunda’s double was the lead until we added a couple in the ninth. I’m happy the way they played.”

This time, we'll let Gawker take on TMZ

The Hollywood website Defamer had been on the verge of revolutionizing Hollywood entertainment reporting into something democratic and told by the footsoldiers inside, when they were steamrolled and paved over by the sleazy, amoral antics of shaved bronzed local news reject midget Harvey Levin and his band of bumboys at the corporate porn-pushing gossip site TMZ.com.

But while Defamer retreated to the couch in a fuzzy pink robe and bunny slippers to spend the day watching and posting clips from The View and Ellen, Gawker, its mothership alone has stood alongside us and Ray Richmond's Past Deadline site to hold the AOL Time-Warner webhole accountable for the excrement it smears across the pop culture we helped create. We went on about the latest outrage yesterday.

Today, Gawker is equally disgusted, as TMZ tops itself:

TMZ Continues To Be a Piece Of Shit

I've already ranted about the hideousness of TMZ, so I'll spare you a repeat. But it is worth noting that they've once again thrown decency out the window and named (and pictured!) a minor involved in a possible statutory rape case. A fourteen-year-old son of a celebrity has apparently been having sex with an older woman, and TMZ thought it appropriate and fun to post his name and a picture (from when the poor kid was ten). Joke as you may about "what a lucky kid!" or whatever, but there are certain standards of practice (and legality?) in this "industry," and publishing the name of a minor, especially one involved in a sex abuse case, just ain't right.

But who cares, right?

E-Rod doubles, walks twice in AAA Yanks debut

He’s not an Israeli. He doesn't have family in Israel. He's not even a Jew. He was in fact, a “ringer” from the Dominican Republic, brought in with several countrymen to bolster the roster of a fledgling hardball operation. But after his Triple A debut last night as catcher for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, Eladio Rodriguez is the Pride of The Israel Baseball League.

Playing against the Buffalo Bisons in Buffalo, E-Rod hit a double and walked twice in the Yankees' 10-2 win. The Bisons scored one run in the eighth off a passed ball to Eladio, but he was not charged with an error.

The hopes pinned on Eladio by both the Yankees and IBL is the most unlikely twist yet in the saga of baseball in Israel. After a knockabout journeyman career that had him on the mound and behind the plate, playing under various aliases and getting-- and losing a shot-- at The Big Show with the Boston Red Sox more than a decade ago, he went on to become IBL batting champ and co-MVP, only to have his minor league contract with the New York Yankees mocked as a publicity stunt to generate investment in the IBL. When he didn’t even show up for spring training in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the laughter intensifed.

But after a chain of mishaps starting with Yankee pitcher Jorge Posada’s injured throwing shoulder, Israel’s E-Rod is behind the plate in Scranton and looking for a possible move up to The Big Show after all.

Even more unlikely, this Spanish-speaking béisboler who's batting .333 has united all sides in the post-season Israel baseball conflict as friend and foe alike cheer him toward Yankee Stadium.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

¡Viva Eladio! ¡VIVA E-ROD!

Our Man Elli in Israel checks in from Jerusalem on the surprise developments in the New York Yankees organization that could lead to the presence of Eladio "E-Rod" Rodriguez, the Miguel Tejada of the Israel Baseball League, behind the plate for the Yanks' historic last season in the House That Ruth Built (Remember, E-Rod's signing was laughed off as a publicity stunt-- and he never showed up for spring training!

Elli emails:

"I want to point out that E-Rod is the first IBL graduate to make it to Triple A. I don't think there's even one IBL vet in Double A. That's huge. Huge! Larry Baras, of course, must be crowing to all his friends-- both of them (Duquette and Berger-- about how successful the IBL was in getting a player to Triple A. Truth be told, it would never have happened if Posada hadn't gone on the DL, and the Yanks' third-string catcher wasn't released just last Friday-- but what a turn of events!

"That Peter Abraham thinks he'll be in New York soon enough is a stretch, but look at all the crazy self-fulling prophesies that came from the IBL! The way things are going-- it could happen! And THAT would be the living end!

"That's what baseball is all about!"

¡Viva Eladio! ¡VIVA E-ROD!

Harvey Levin & TMZ feast on Jimi Hendrix's dick

Don't let anyone try and tell you that the corporate porn-pushing gossip site TMZ.com has cleaned up its act when it comes to promoting pornographic videotapes-- not now that shaved bronzed midget frontman Harvey Levin and his band of boy followers have come off a sex tape-shilling hiatus with their most graphic and disgusting display since the days of their "Screech Saved By The Smell" outrage.

Jimi Hendrix Sex Tape!!! Gives Good Headband
is accompanied by a promotional video that's not only NSFW and over the top, but which features an explicit-to-the-vein plaster cast of the guitar god's member and the word "dick" thrown around more often than it is during TMZ internship interviews.

The sales tape posted on the TMZ site is branded with a website URL, so that, just as in the old days, viewers can click in and buy a copy of the long-rumoured but somehow-suspect Jimi Hendrix sex tape.   And just like in those days when TMZ got its first multi-million page views through an unholy union with late porn merchant David Hans Schmidt, the same old questions arise:

Does Harvey Levin get a cut of the X-rated sales? Does AOL? Time Warner? Are any of the proceeds used to finance TMZ's sister operation, CNN? Is anyone at TMZ cashing on the porn it pushes?

In any case, while we don't expect the "mainstream" media to go after a concern as powerful and noxious as TMX, this latest display stands well as another example of how out of touch the TMZ team is with American values beyond the border of West Hollywood border. And it's definitely one that the wives and golfing buddies of TMZ's corporate overlords at AOL and Time-Warner should get a gander at.

It's almost funny. This Hendrix sex tape story has been reported by media around the world. And as any good tabloid reporter knows, any story can be told to any audience with the right words, humour and tone. But for all its financing and powerful corporate push, only TMZ, led by Harvey Levin and his amoral, immoral team of subliterate boytoys, leaves a... ahem... bad taste in the mouth.

But who cares, right?

Eladio Update: "He'll be in New York soon!"

"Chad Jennings reported on his blog last night that the Yankees added the former MVP of the Israel Baseball League to the Scranton roster as a backup catcher. The way things are going with the Yankees, Eladio Rodriguez will be in New York soon enough."
--Peter Abraham,
The LoHud Yankees Blog, The Journal News
of New York's Lower Hudson Valley

Jerusalem Post's editor-blogger: "No Israel baseball book, but I may pen follow-up story for the Post"

Jerusalem Post writer and editor Sam Ser says he’s not planning a book about the rise and fall of the Israel Baseball League, nor was he greasing the skids for an IBL PR swing yesterday when he posted a glowing, ten-month-old Post story about the IBL’s Opening Day (the Jerusalem Post’s last substantial story on the IBL shonda) on his website.

But Sam Ser says he is planning to write an update on the IBL’s saga— the details of which have been painstakingly laid out here, thanks to the intrepid and fearless reporting of Our Man Elli in Israel.

Sam Ser responds this morning to our story yesterday about the appearance on his website of the long, heartwarming story that appeared in the Jerusalam Post magazine back in June of last year. Its sudden resurfacing amid a surge of outdated and misleading Israel baseball postings across the Internet that have given the impression that the league is alive and well-- along with the Post’s lack of attention on its major hometown story-- led us to ask if Sam was planning a book.

That answer is "no." It turns out Sam Ser is a friend of Our Man Elli (who’s carried the water for every well-paid “mainstream” sports reporter in the business when it came to covering the rise and fall of the Israel Baseball League, painting an evolving and sobering picture of the shattered dreams and unpaid bills left behind by the carpetbagging American businessmen who made a “quick hit” before stealing home and leaving Israel without professional baseball this year or possibly years to come).

Elli got in touch with Sam, who’s packing for a US lecture tour. Sam emails Our Man Elli to say he’s not planning a book, there were no ulterior motives in posting that and other stories on what's essentially an archival site for his extensive writings on many Israel-related subjects (he'd uploaded dozens of stories yesterday).

And he says that we, in our sarcasm, were off base. We will not argue the call.

Monday, April 28, 2008

¡Viva Eladio! IBL star & his visa make the NY Times

As we've said and keep saying, the Israel Baseball League is suddenly in play all of a sudden. Moments ago, the broken dream got a mention in tomorrow's edition of the stately New York Times, thanks to its breakout star and our new IBL poster boy Eladio Rodriguez, who wandered into a New York Yankees minor league locker room weeks after he was expected from his home in the Dominican Republic:

"CLEVELAND — Jorge Posada left the Yankees on Monday to visit Dr. James Andrews, the orthopedic surgeon in Birmingham, Ala., and it could be a long time before he rejoins the active roster. "

"...(Manager Joe) Girardi said José Molina would catch roughly four out of five games in Posada’s absence, and another backup, Chris Stewart, joined the Yankees on Monday...

"To take Stewart’s place in Scranton, the Yankees added Eladio Rodríguez, who was the co-most valuable player of the Israel Baseball League last season. Rodríguez, from the Dominican Republic, missed spring training because of visa problems."

To think: This morning he was missing, tonight he's in the NY Times! What's next? Reclusive IBL founder Larry Baras surfacing in a feature story on kosher hot dogs? Oh.

Why are so many bloggers & sports reporters suddenly writing about the Israel Baseball League as if it's brand new or just getting into full swing?

Something wacky’s going on with the sportsbloggers and news mavens of Israel. Close to a year after the debut of the Israel Baseball League, and more than eight months after the first harbingers of its imminent collapse, every major news organization in the world has basically ignored or given short shrift to a scandalous sports story of international proportions that has unspooled under their noses— yet suddenly, amateur and professional bloggers alike are writing lyrically about the failed Israel Baseball League as if it’s just thrown out its first pitch or is launching into a new phase of nostalgic wonderfulness.

What gives?

The latest is shows up on the Sam Ser blogsite, an archive of feature stories written by a guy who introduces himself as “a news editor and features writer for The Jerusalem Post, where I have worked since 2000.

“My articles have explored issues of Israeli security and strategy, from the effectiveness of targeted killings against Hamas to the Iranian threat and the Second Lebanon War; cultural exposes on the Israeli mafia; the growth of Israel’s economy; anti-Semitism and interfaith relations; environmental policy vis-à-vis water, alternative energy and greenhouse gas emissions; editorials on current events, and much more."

Today, Sam reprints his piece called “Take Me Out to Ballgame,” which, if you read the small print, was originally published (in the Jerusalem Post magazine) on June 28, 2007:

“They came in carpools from Ra’anana. They came in
 convertibles from Beersheba. They took public buses 
from Jerusalem and got off on the highway at rush 
hour, walking a mile in a heat wave without a word of

"How long had they been waiting for this?

"Standing patiently in a single line at the gate, but
 hopping up and down with excitement, they turned to
the people around them and beamed in unison. Everyone
 knew how momentous this was. Once inside, they rushed
 to stands that offered memorabilia of teams which had 
never played a single game - and practically cleaned
 them out.

"Some jogged off to a clear patch of grass, a safe 
distance away from the crowd, and started playing
 catch. As if they were preparing to take the field
 themselves, they pounded their fists into leather 
mitts that had last seen action in another time. In
another country. In another life.

"Officially, they came to see the Petah Tikva Pioneers
 ‘host’ the Modi’in Miracle in the first game of the 
first season of the first professional baseball league
in Israel. Declaredly, they had come to support and 
celebrate the arrival of the sport they never forgot
 to the country they always loved.

"But really, deep down, they had all come for one
 simple pleasure: To feel like a kid again.

"The Israel Baseball League, the creation of American
 Jewish businessmen and Jews connected to Major League
 Baseball, is different... from 
the American original... The games go seven innings instead of
 nine, with ties decided by a home run derby instead of
 extra innings. There are no multimillion dollar prima
donnas here - the players will make $2,000 for a
 45-game season, plus modest expenses - and most of the
120 players are North American Jews. Only a dozen are 
Israeli (immigrants or children of immigrants,
 actually), while several have come from the Dominican
 Republic, and a few hail from other countries.

"One thing pleasantly lacking from Sunday’s ceremonies
 was any sense of pretense, from the players and the 
fans alike…"

And so it goes. Read the entire Jerusalem Post story and a layer of the IBL comes to life. But then click here and read Our Man Elli in Israel’s exposé of that first season that was first published here exactly two months later.

And then go to our Baseball in Israel archive site and dig into the epilogue, in which the people running the league hightailed it out of town leaving behind a million and half dollars of debts, and a lot of angry vendors and players and ordinary Israelis, left holding the bag while hiding behind a wall of silence that no mainstream journalist-- especially not the hometown kahunas at the Jerusalem Post-- has bothered to scale.

Reprinted ten months after the fact, Sam Ser’s lengthy post is a nice book proposal. But with its somewhat prescient apologies for Larry Baras and his organization, we wonder exactly why it’s appeared now, amid rumors of the baseball clinics or exhibition games that Baras and his cronies are planning as an offering to the Israeli people, like John Gotti’s Fourth of July fireworks displays or Thanksgiving turkeys thrown from the back of Nicky Barnes’ truck in Harlem.

Nice writing, Sam Ser. But why didn't you follow up? Now, if you’re really an editor, assign someone at the hometown paper to cover the biggest international sports story of 2008. There’s your book. Our book.

(Sam Ser's site says he'll be speaking May 4th at the Temple Shir Shalom and May 5th at Temple Israel in West Bloomfield, Michigan; May 7th at the Ezra Bessaroth synagogue in Seattle and May 9th in Phoenix.)


Baseball magic is alive!

And so is
Eladio Rodriguez!

Earlier this afternoon, we'd asked about the whereabouts of the venerable 29-year-old catcher from the Dominican Republic who made a hit-- (lots of hits, batting .461) with the Modi'in Miracle of the Israel Baseball League and won a contract with the New York Yankees' Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania minor league team-- but never showed up for Spring Training.

Our exact words: "Where's Eladio?"

And then... hours ago... amid talk of "visa problems" and multiple aliases... forgotten by fans... unexpectedly... ELADIO SHOWED UP !

Chad Jennings of the Scranton Times-Tribune Yankees blog has the exclusive:

"Hard to see this move coming.

"Needing a second catcher after Chris Stewart was called to New York, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees on Monday added Eladio Rodriguez, the 29-year-old former Israel Baseball League co-MVP.

"Rodriguez was one of two players signed by the Yankees out of the IBL this winter. The other, Jason Rees, was released during spring training. Rodriguez, meanwhile, never made it to spring training because of visa problems. When Mark Newman told me this spring this spring that Rodriguez wasn't in spring training, I took him to mean that Rodriguez was out of the Yankees fold completely.

"Instead, Rodriguez said this afternoon that visa problems kept him out of the United States until April 4, at which point he reported to extended spring training. He's been there ever since and said he feels ready to play.

"His history is a strange one. Originally signed by Boston as a non-drafted free agent, Rodriguez was an outfielder and catcher in the Red Sox system, but this fan site and his stats in the Yankees media guide say he spent all of 2004 as a pitcher (that link has the same stats listed in the media guide). When I asked Rodriguez about pitching, though, he said he had only pitched one or two times in his career and refered to himself as having always been a catcher.

"Maybe there was some miscommunication because of the language barrier, but I didn't feel like we were misunderstanding one another. Either way, last year's stats in Israel were amazing: 34 games, 16 home runs, .461 batting average and 44 RBIs. He's not in the lineup tonight, but he could be interesting to watch once he gets in a game. Amazing that in less than a month this team has gone from Chad Moeller and Chris Stewart to Jason Brown and Eladio Rodriguez."

The story continues to unfold...

I know my kid's a star & my sister's a murder victim

Did anyone notice the bizarre cross-promotion on cable television over the weekend? Tru TV's cookie cutter crime series, Missing Persons Unit, ran an episode Saturday night about how DNA technology helped police in New Jersey solve a ten-year-old missing person case, charging Stephen Alfred Vanderbeek with murdering his wife Cynthia Louise Vanderbeek back in 1995.

Appearing on the Tru TV show was Cynthia's sister, who'd reported her missing. Hey, she looked familiar! She was Sandy DiFranco-- who, with her son Gian, was a contestant on I Know My Kid's A Star on VH1-- until she was kicked off last week!

Small world.

(See a clip of Sandy on the Tru TV series here-- and by the way, I Know My Kid's A Star is a great evil show, and host Danny Bonaduce is powerfully effective-- miles away from his own reality seasons).

IBL's Jake Ayers trades bagels for Saltdogs

The Lincoln Saltdogs of Lincoln, Nebraska and the independent American Association baseball league have a refugee from the Israel Baseball League on the roster as they take to the field tonight for the first time in 2008 as they head to Midway Stadium in St. Paul, Minnesota for a pair of exhibition games against their longtime rivals, the Saints.

Our Sports Central reports that The Saltdogs head into the pre-season with 27 players on their spring roster, including one non-roster invitee, catcher Jake Ayers. The 6’ 1’’ native of Peoria, Illinois native played in 21 IBL games with the league champion Bet Shemesh Blue Sox. According to American Association rules, The Saltdogs can carry as many as 28 players on their roster until three days before the regular season begins on May 8th, when they have to cut back to 22 active players.

And as we salute Jake on his good fortune, we ask that somebody set straight the folks behind the Selfish Teams blogsite, who report today that in a “new development” in Israel, “a new league was formed this past year that’s called The Israel Baseball League — with stadiums in places near Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Among the feats accomplished during the season, catcher Eladio Rodriguez of the Modi’in Miracle (and, contractually, the New York Yankees) hit .461 with 102 at-bats…

“Interestingly, in case you wonder about the citizenry of Eladio Rodriguez, the IBL does not presently have any rules on citizenship; however, it’s their stated goal to ‘to raise the level of play throughout the country so that at least 25% of the players in the league are Israeli by Year 5’ (of the League)…”

A new development? Year 5???

Eladio, as our readers know, never showed up for Spring Training with the Yankees farm team to which he’d been assigned. And since he’s been known to travel from his native Dominican Republic to other nations to play ball under a variety of assumed names, we also ask, “Where’s Eladio?”

Miley Cyrus isn't the first pop star whose image & career were screwed with by Annie Leibovitz

Thirty three years ago this week, David Cassidy was on the cover of Rolling Stone, and exposed even further by Ms. Leibovitz inside. And considering what Annie did with Susan Sontag, we'd say the spectacularly-talented Miley got off easy...

Rachel Dratch is one hot chick

"Rachel Dratch is funny.
Rachel Dratch is a good actor.

Rachel Dratch is cute.
Rachel Dratch has a great rack..."

Back in August 2006, we caused a stir with our report that former Saturday Night Live player Rachel Dratch had been demoted from a starring role on her BFF Tina Fey's new NBC show 30 Rock for reasons that were obvious but not particularly pleasant:

“(Lorne) Michaels told Variety ‘that role has been scrapped and Dratch will play an assortment of different characters throughout the season.’

"…In Hollywood, that's called 'letting her down easy,' because a day later it's revealed that Jenna DeCarlo lives after all! Only little gnomy Rachels’s been replaced by Jane Krakowski-- a face and body more suitable to prime time….”

The piece, entitled Not Pretty Enough for Prime Time, caused a stir in its day, but in light of Rachel’s recent public complaint that she’s out of work and left behind by her sisters from SNL, we’re getting new response from that old controversial story, and we thought we’d share the one we got over the weekend from this guy:

Anonymous said...

Rachel Dratch is funny.
Rachel Dratch is a good actor.

Rachel Dratch is cute.

Rachel Dratch has a great rack.

Message to Hollywood: this is a woman I want to see more of. (Take that however you like.)

- Straight, employed, good-looking male in his 30s

Does CBS News think we're retarded or autistic?

A tip of the Tabloid Baby hat to the boss's wife, Julie Chen, and the other nitwits at CBS News and the flailing CBS Early Show for continuing to chop away at their credibility by running an interview this morning with crazy-eyed Big Brother winner Adam Jasinski, and hyping his feelgood smiley face announcement that he'll donate $100,000 of the half-million-dollar prize to an autism charity he worked for-- without mentioning to him or us that the United Autism Foundation fired the guy for referring to autistic kids as "retards" on the show.

No retards they, the Autism Foundation will probably take the money, saying on its website this morning:

"Even though Adam Jasinski created confusion and anger with his inappropriate comments in February 2008, we still would like to congratulate Adam to his latest victory at BIG BROTHER 9, a CBS TV show."

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Filled up

Howard Stern regular dies and nobody hears

If a
Howard Stern

drops dead
and nobody
hears about it,

is he really dead?

Well, it's happened, but who would know? Or care? Gosh, has it really been that long since Howard was relevant-- or even real? For you younger readers growing up in an aural wasteland dominated by the likes of the surprisingly pliable and recently feminized monotonal bore Adam Carolla (he now plays the “modern woman” to his pre-liberation sidekick Teresa Strasser and Eighties pop culture gal “Bald Brian”) there was a time when the radio personality was a vital force in pop culture, with his radio show debated on television and in print and the comings and goings of his subsidiary characters like Jackie The Jokeman and Stuttering John treated like characters on a radio reality show.

But since Howard sold out his fans and moved to private pay radio, he works in a vacuum. Forgotten by the mainstream and occasionally popping up in the media few days after the fact, thanks to a vigorous PR efforts and public displays of inebriation by his pathetic sidekick Artie Lange (whose phony on-air explosion and possible "firing" was an obvious publicity stunt before a vacation a couple of weeks back), whose sad claim to fame is being at the top of most Celebrity Death Pools.

But another Stern player has beaten Artie to the punch. Kenneth Keith Kallenbach, the hippie burnout who parlayed his Stern exposure into other appearances, died in jail last week (he'd been arrested for pulling an underage girl into his car-- looks like Howard didn't bail him out). The death was announced Thursday on Howard’s private show, but news from Stern's hideout travels as quickly as it did in the days of Pony Express.

Who would know if we didn’t mention it here?

Israel baseball's stat king is back at the plate

“I was glad someone took the IBL seriously enough
to report the true stories behind the league.
The road from there to the IBL's ultimate collapse
was not inevitable, but was rather the product
of decisions made by key individuals along the way,
some of whose motives remain unclear.”

bIBLemetrics, the website that deconstructed the first season of the Israel Baseball League through statistical analysis, has lain dormant since a “Fat Lady has sung” posting in January, but thanks to our recent salute to the man behind it, there’s new life to the site and more fascinating data and statistics to come.

At the urging of Our Man Elli in Israel, we pointed out the anonymous, self-described “Iblemetrician” as one of the Good Guys in the Israel baseball saga.

“He alone gave credit to Tabloid Baby for every bit of information that he shared with his readers,” Elli said. “And this guy devoted all this effort, in effect, to the players themselves. And they’re the real beneficiaries of all that work. Indeed, those inside-baseball numbers he produced just might REALLY be all that the IBL players walk away with from the summer of 2007.”

In his usual self-effacing, low key fashion, the Israel-based Iblemetrician fired up his site once again-- to say “Aw, shucks!”:

“What can I say? I'm honored - the Brits would say chuffed - and more than a little stunned that the one-and-only IBL journalist Elli Wohlgelernter has singled me out (anonymous little old me!) for praise due to my writings about the IBL.

“Wow. Thanks. I thought all I was doing was enjoying baseball (and statistics) a bit too much for my own good...

“But I've learned a lot about baseball this past year, and I only stopped posting to the blog because I was too busy with the rest of my life. I hope to get back to it when I can find the time again. Maybe I'll finally get to those pitcher comparisons.

“By sheer coincidence, this blog got going just as Elli's original feature story was released. I didn't enjoy what I read, but I was glad someone took the IBL seriously enough to report the true stories behind the league. The road from there to the IBL's ultimate collapse was not inevitable, but was rather the product of decisions made by key individuals along the way, some of whose motives remain unclear.

“All along, I've tried to be honest and fair, neither a cheerleader nor a fearmongerer. I still think most of the leading figures in the league had their hearts in the right places, though not always their heads. If that makes me a Good Guy, I'm proud to be one…”

Hey, we’re not going to steal site views from the Iblemetrician. Click here to read his entire post, and then surf around one of the most fascinating obsessions in sports.

And click here for our authoritative and comprehensive Baseball in Israel archive site.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Dr. Ruehl's requiem for a screamer

It was announced last week that Hazel Court, an English beauty who co-starred with the likes of Boris Karloff and Vincent Price in popular horror movies in the 1950s and '60s, died at 82. Hazel was a screamer. She was in fact, the “scream queen.” Best known for her work in Roger Corman’s 1963 take on Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” she was also a guest on Mysteries from Beyond The Other Dominon, the legendary sci fi, paranormal and B-movie public access show hosted by Tabloid Baby pal, contributor, columnist and TV & movie star Dr. Franklin Ruehl, Ph.D. Today, as he did recently with departed horror hostess Vampira, the mourning doctor sends us this appreciation of Hazel Court, British goddess of horror and “The Greatest Screamer in the Business”:


by Dr.Franklin Ruehl,Ph.D.

Fabulous red hair! Radiant green eyes! A goddesslike face! A model's figure!

These are a few of of the physical features that describe the late horror film star. Hazel Court, who recently passed away at the age of 82. Added to those attributes was a rich cultured voice which made her an absolute joy to listen to whenever she appeared on screen. She became an icon in the horror/sci-fi/mystery genre with memorable appearances in such entries as "The Curse of Frankenstein" (1956), "The Man Who Could Cheat Death" (1959), "The Premature Burial" (1962) and "The Masque of the Red Death" (1964).

If I was pressed to name her most engrossing performance, I would nominate her role as a nurse dramatically debating the morality of revivifying the dead at the cost of another human life with leading man Kieron Moore in 1960's "Doctor Blood's Coffin."

In addition to delivering her lines ever so eloquently, Hazel also used her voice to regularly shriek in terror, becoming known as the "Best Screamer in the Business,” inheriting that mantle from "King Kong" star Fay Wray, who preceded her as the "Queen of Scream." As a guest on my cable TV show, "Mysteries From Beyond Other Dominion" back in 1988, I asked her to deliver a sample scream, but she initially demurred. Then, a few minutes later, without any warning whatsoever, she let out a bloodcurdling shriek which made my day and the show! When I later guested on "Donahue" in 1990, I was able to display part of that cherished interview.

She also appeared frequently on television, in particular, often guesting on "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" (she and Hitch's daughter, Pat, were close friends). Her appearance on "The Twilight Zone" in the episode, "The Fear," as a fashion designer who had suffered a nervous breakdown and encountered a UFO was absolutely mesmerizing and worthy of an Emmy although she never received even a nomination.

Hazel revealed that fans repeatedly mistakenly associated her with the title role of 1954's "Devil Girl From Mars," which actually belonged to actress Patricia Laffan (Hazel was an all-too-human model in the film).

While she did not make any appearances after 1981, her impact was powerful on many of us, and I will always remember and honor her by periodically showing clips from her films on my program!

And may the Power of the Cosmos be with You, Hazel, wherever you may be now!

In loving remembrance,
Dr.Franklin Ruehl,Ph.D.

(Hazel Court Died in Threes, by the way, joined in death this week by Bebe Barron, who with her husband Louis composed the first electronic score for a feature film — the eerie sounds in the 1956 science-fiction classic Forbidden Planet— died Sunday at 82; and Kate Phillips, the actress who cowrote the 1958 horror film The Blob, died last week at 94.)

It will be sad when Amy Winehouse dies

Obituary information:

Amy Jade Winehouse (born 14 September 1983) is an English singer-songwriter, known for her eclectic mix of various musical genres including soul, jazz and R&B.

Winehouse's 2003 debut album Frank did well, both commercially and critically, in her native Britain. It was nominated for the Mercury Prize. Her 2006 follow-up album Back to Black led to six Grammy Award nominations and five wins, tying the record for the most wins by a female artist in a single night and becoming the first British singer to win five Grammys,including three of the "Big Four": Best New Artist, Record of the Year and Song of the Year. On February 14, 2007, she won a BRIT Award for Best British Female Artist; she had also been nominated for Best British Album. She has won the Ivor Novello Award twice, among other prestigious distinctions.

Morris doco reopens a 20-year-old can of worms

It’s amusing that the hand-wringing continues twenty years later over the use of reenactments and payments to interview subjects in documentaries, and funnier still that the latest uproar is centered on Errol Morris, because the quirky documentarian's breakthrough doco, The Thin Blue Line, was released in 1988 and was closely tied to the tabloid television show, A Current Affair.

The New York Times works up a scandal today over Morris’ payment of interview subjects and his reenactment techniques in his $5 million film-- mainly because the practice is rubbing off on the print industry (the movie’s being adapted as a book that was excerpted in The New Yorker). But its concerns over film and television practices are old news, even though the producers using them are still concerned that the public might find out what’s in the sausages they produce.

A Current Affair was pioneering the use of reenactments in television journalism, candid about paying for story exclusivity and taking a lot of heat for it when Morris came out with his artsy film about a man who was apparently railroaded in the murder of a Texas cop. The television show’s championing of the film, and its constant coverage of the case helped Morris’ campaign to have Randall Dale Adams’ conviction overturned. And in fact, after Adams was set free, he entered into a romantic relationship with the (female) A Current Affair editor who’d worked on the segments (help us out: Did they get married?).

Twenty years passed. The reenactments and story-telling techniques used by Morris and developed by tabloid television innovators were coopted by network news organizations in their prime time magazine shows.

And as the stories of ordinary people caught in extraordinary situations were exploited for television ratings, dramatic effect or, in the case of filmmakers like Morris or Michael Moore, millions of dollars in profits and residuals, those ordinary people holding the stories realized that their lives and experiences were commodities they deserved to be paid for. And while there’s been no evidence that paying story subjects has led them to embellish or overly dramatize their stories, you’ve got to admit it’s only fair that people who are being exploited-- and literally put to work-- should be paid for their time, which often includes taking time off from work, travel to a shooting location, and the ordeal of sitting under hot lights for hours at a time while being grilled on matters often not pleasant to relive but which become fodder for books, films and TV shows.

The Times is correct in saying there are “conflicting reactions among those in the world of film documentaries,” but it’s dead wrong in writing that “American newspapers, magazines and television news divisions do not generally pay subjects for their interviews; their caution is rooted in a belief that the credibility of interviewees diminishes when money changes hands and that these people will provide the answers they think are desired rather than the truth.”

Newspaper reporters with their notebooks (or in the case of Robery Downey Jr., a Dictaphone) may not pay for their doorstep interviews. Magazines, in other hand do pay. And so do television news divisions.

Television news divisions pay for interviews.

The payments are often disguised as travel expenses, payment for “materials” like photos or videos, “consultancies,” or (as the Times pointed out in the case of HBO and Rory Kennedy) “honorariums,” but in the highly competitive business of exclusives and “gets,” the interview subjects’ choices are rarely determined by whether they have the hots for Barbara Walters or Katie Couric.

They pay. A Current Affair took the hit for admitting it. Twenty years ago. And twenty years later, Errol Morris deserves a tip of the Tabloid Baby hat for his candor.

Excerpts from the Times article (and be sure to catch the line about brave Michael Moore):

“I paid the ‘bad apples’ because they asked to be paid, and they would not have been interviewed otherwise,” (Morris) said in a statement…

Some, though, said that documentary subjects have routinely been paid for many years — and that failure on the part of filmmakers to share the wealth might actually constitute abuse of people whose troubles will become the stuff of a profit-making enterprise.

“It’s not all that uncommon, it’s just something most people don’t talk about,” said Diane Weyermann, executive vice president of Participant Productions, which helped finance “Standard Operating Procedure,” and was a producer of “An Inconvenient Truth” and “Jimmy Carter Man From Plains.”

“Sometimes, you’re paying subjects who have nothing,” Ms. Weyermann said. “You’re making a film about them, and you don’t want to exploit them.”

But in the case of “Standard Operating Procedure,” the payments have reverberations in the realm of print, where cash compensation for an interview violates a deep taboo. A book linked to the film, by Mr. Morris and Philip Gourevitch, is scheduled for publication on May 15… Mr. Gourevitch said the payments did not trouble him… He said he had based his own work largely on interviews Mr. Morris compiled for the movie and was aware that some interviewees had consulting agreements with Mr. Morris, in keeping with common film industry practice, but he did not know which.

(The New Yorker editor) David Remnick… added that Norman Mailer’s book “The Executioner’s Song” involved payments to sources, and that he would have excerpted it, if given the chance. “The book is a masterpiece,” he said.

In the interview on Thursday night Mr. Morris expressed some ambivalence about whether these payments should have been disclosed in the film… “I perhaps should have. I didn’t feel the necessity of doing it. I didn’t disclose at the end of ‘A Brief History of Time’ that Stephen Hawking was paid a considerable amount of money to appear in that film, and for the rights to his book.

“...Without these extensive interviews, no one would ever know their stories.”

“I can’t say this is any type of scandal or anything abnormal,” Tom Bernard (of Sony Classics, the film’s distributor) said on Thursday. He noted that documentary makers faced an ever more difficult fight for access to prime subjects, as the number of filmmakers expanded, and interviewees became more aware of the profit potential in nonfiction films.

Indeed, a documentary as hallowed as “Grey Gardens”... involved payments.

A spokesman for Michael Moore, known for highly polemical documentaries like “Fahrenheit 9/11” and “Sicko,” said he did not know Mr. Moore’s policy regarding payment to subjects and was unable to reach him.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Dr. Ruehl's Bizarre News goes beyond the grave

The Realm Of Bizarre News, Episode XVIII

Tabloid Baby pal, contributor, columnist and TV & movie star Dr. Franklin Ruehl, Ph.D. is back and receiving cell phone calls from the dead, or as the Doc calls them, "ET (Electronic Transcommunication) with spirits." Us? We're waiting for a text message from Sonny Bono.

Israel Baseball: It's over, but not over til it's over

Picture this: players under the banner of the Israel Baseball League and recruits wearing Israeli Professional Baseball League jerseys playing dueling exhibition games in the Holy Land— because neither league could get it together to get off the ground, but the machers behind each want to keep their name brand alive.

Welcome to the wacky world of professional baseball in Israel!

Here’s what we’re hearing:

There won’t be a season of professional baseball in Israel this summer, and for that we truly mourn. We weep. We rend our garments. We sit shiva. We take no pleasure in the news. But we do manage to giggle inappropriately when we hear what the machers behind the IBL and its wannabe successor, the IPBL, are doing to keep their claws in the Israel soil.

Where to begin?

The Israel Professional Baseball League, a rebel band born of the controversy and conflagration surrounding the IBL’s financial scandal, still hasn’t gotten the certification from the Israel Association of Baseball that would allow it to do business. One reason is that the IPBL has not agreed to pick up the million dollars in debt left by Larry Baras and his IBL. We hear that Miami Magnetix maven Jeffrey Rosen (the guy who can’t get Our Man Elli in Israel’s name right) has offered a payoff of $50,000 for the rights—for 2009!

“Fifty grand— and that wasn’t to pay off the debts,” says our source under the olive tree. “That's for next year-- and fifty geezels is mighty cheap to lock up rights for 2009, when the bidding could go higher.

“Nobody else was willing to operate a league in 2008, and that was where the IPBL always had the advantage. But if that is no longer the case, there will probably be real competition for 2009, and license rights will have a significantly higher value. Think about it. 2009? They’d have a year to plan and do it for once the right way. To option future rights for $50,000—even seventy-five— acch! Such a deal!”

Meanwhile, a source at our favorite falefel stand tells us that the IPBL had been negotiating for playing fields— to little avail. The city of Bat Yam got cold feet, perhaps because the IPBL hadn’t gotten that IAB approval, and Rana'ana backed out because the city didn’t want to give up the field for an entire season. Why not?

They wanted to let the grass grow before soccer season in the fall!

In Israel, soccer is always king. Don't step on the grass.

As a result, Rosen was forced to go back to try to work out a deal with Gezer and Baptist Village, which initially he did not want to do. Ultimately, with no venue to market—and no revenue-- the IPBL couldn't launch a marketing plan.

End of season. Dream deferred.

But how to stay alive in the minds of the sabras?

As Our Man Elli told us earlier this month, the IPBL floated a plan to play exhibition games in Israel this summer, with teams comprised of players born in the United States, Canada, Dominican Republic, and possibly, Europe.

And now we hear (as a helpful commenter pointed out yesterday) that the IBL is pushing a similar plan. Word is that IBL President Martin Berger has been phoning former players and inviting them to come to Israel this summer to help conduct baseball clinics. And if enough players show up, why not put on some exhibition games of their own?

The only catch: The players must pay their own way!

“It’s to laugh!” says our spy at a Via Dolorosa souvenir stall. “Who would come to see their games? Feh! It’s a PR stunt to show that the IBL has its feet in the ground still. But how funny would that be? The IBL and IPBL both! Showing off!”

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Israel baseball blogger catches up quickly

The Mets fan who runs the 213 Miles from Shea site and recently expanded to the world scene with The Great International Pastime site has quickly brought himself up to date on the state of baseball in Israel.

The new site that explores American imperialism through the exportation of baseball to countries across the globe went up earlier his month. Earlier this week, blogger Elliott earlier this week treated the Israel Baseball League as a continuing enterprise, instead of the monumental failure it turned into. After we pointed out the error in a post titled "Israel baseball blogger arrives late to the game," Elliott got in touch and we continued in a very pleasant email exchange that led him to add our Baseball in Israel archive site to his link list and, last night, a new posting that reads in part:

The past few days have been a whirlwind of information about Israeli Baseball for me and I am just starting to get a grip on the story. When I posted… before, the information I had on the IBL came from their website. I thought it was a little strange that their last update was on February 20th, but I really didn’t think anything of it.
 My full intention… was to tell a story about conversation I had with my Israeli cousins over the weekend… they told me that they have never heard of professional baseball in Israel. I was astonished…

One of my cousins was also talking about how Americans always think that Israeli’s need some sort of distraction in their world. She went on to say that in her view, the attacks and everything around that are just events of her daily life, and she got used to them. That led me to start thinking about who’s interest are we trying to serve here.

Luckily, Sam Peters of Tabloidbaby opened my eyes to the entire issue. To literally quote part of our email correspondence:

 “A major flaw in the Israel Baseball League blueprint was its lack of
promotion among native Israelis. They were
playing to a US-based big money audience and not the punters who fill the
stands-- which is why your cousins never
heard of the league. How could that be possible?

 It is.”

This pretty much answers the question that the needs and “dreams” of the United States were really being granted in this expedition. This is a theme I hope to touch on later with the recent promotion of baseball in China.

…The IBL, albeit not officially announced on their website, will not be playing ball next year.
 This is an example of exporting of baseball that did not work.

Check out The Great International Pastime site. It promises to grow into quite an authoritative destination. As for Elliott, he’s definitely one of the good guys

UPDATE: Oy! See how factoids and disinformation spread? Now somebody set this guy straight...

Update: Ex-FBI man says Sonny was murdered

"This was an evil plot that was carried out
to almost perfection by ruthless assassins."

Here's the source of that Popbitch item. Our story was in The Globe and picked up by newspapers and news outlets around the world, including The Australian:

Sonny Bono 'assassinated' by hitmen
by staff writers

SONNY Bono, former husband and singing partner of superstar Cher, was clubbed to death by hitmen on the orders of drug and weapons dealers who feared he was going to expose them, a former FBI agent claims.

Ted Gunderson, now a private investigator, has told the US Globe tabloid that Bono, who served as mayor of Palm Springs for four years, did not die after hitting a tree on a Nevada ski slope in January 1998 as everyone believed.

"It's nonsense for anyone to now try to suggest that Bono died after crashing into a tree. There's zero evidence in this autopsy report... to show such an accident happened. Instead, there's powerful proof he was assassinated.

"This was an evil plot that was carried out to almost perfection by ruthless assassins," Mr Gunderson told the paper.

The former agent, who has been researching Bono's accident for the past decade, said top officials linked to an international drug and weapons ring feared the singer-turned-politician was about to expose their crimes - so they had him killed on the slopes.

Bono, an experienced skiier, was ambushed on the slopes by hired hitmen, who beat him to death and then staged a tree collision, Mr Gunderson said.

He called for authorities to dig up Bono's remains and open a homicide investigation.

His claims have reportedly been backed by top forensics experts who fear Nevada authorities were too quick to call the death a skiing accident.

Investigator Bob Fletcher had also confessed he sent evidence of a 10-year study that linked top US government officials to arms and weapons dealers to Bono less than a month before his death, the Globe reported.

"(Bono) was going to make it his No.1 priority... There's no doubt in my mind Sonny was murdered by someone who needed him silenced," Mr Fletcher told the paper.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Carly Smithson should have taken our advice

Had failed Irish pop star Carly Hennessy Smithson taken our advice of April 4th, perhaps she would have survived on American Idol past tonight to freak everyone out for another week with her angry Kabuki facial expressions, off-putting tat sleeve, bizarre outfits and nice guy husband. As you recall, we said we'd vote for Carly when

"that lady who's tattooed on her right arm starts singing along like the talking boil on Richard E. Grant’s neck in How To Get Ahead in Advertising!"

Sadly, it was not to be.

Popbitch joins us, asking: Who Killed Sonny Bono?

Who killed Sonny Bono?

Tabloid Baby has been asking the question for close to a decade ( click here and hit “columns” for “Conspiracy Corner"), from the time our original book promotion site hit the Internet by storm with exclusive video of John-John Kennedy attacking the paparazzi and Princess Diana running over tabloid producer Jim Sheehan (click here for “Pix & Flix”).

And this evening, Popbitch, the irresponsible, indispensable, hilarious, ahead-of-the-curve and politically-connected gossip email newsletter, includes in its weekly report-- tucked between Mick Jagger’s freakishly tall, surgically-scarred galpal and Nigella Lawson seen shopping at Selfridges with “bird shit on her arse”—this item:

Conspiracy theory corner
What to worry about after Diana

There's a weird new theory that Sonny Bono didn't die in an accident, he was assassinated. Some FBI agent reckon drug and gun runners killed him on the ski slopes, through a staged ski accident. One investigator said that he sent Bono evidence that top US government officials were linked to arms and weapons dealers. Less than a month later, Bono was dead.

Every time we’ve brought up the theory, people have laughed— “He was Sonny Bono, a fool, killed by a tree, yuk yuk”— and that would make the deed all the simpler to cover up: the death of a US Congressman and top GOP fundraiser, Scientology droput, defender of the Salton Sea and enemy of drug traffickers dying within a week of a Kennedy's death on the slopes (name another time a celebrity died in a ski accident— even Spider Sabich died of a gunshot to the nuts). In January, Tabloid Baby pal and contributor Dr. Franklin Ruehl, Ph.D. took up the case and concluded:

“Overall, I would assign this particular conspiracy theory a coefficient of credibility of 50%, that is, a 50-50 chance that Sonny Bono indeed was murdered.”

Now, it seems, someone has picked up on our reopening of the case in January and the theory has kicked up the UK.

Stay tuned.

And subscribe to Popbitch here.