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1993 was the year of the last baseball pennant race. The following year, Major League Baseball instituted a "wild card" rule that allowed second-place teams into the post-season. In 1993, when the Giants won 103 games but finished one game behind Atlanta, who won 104, fans saw a real pennant race. By the rules of subsequent years, both teams would have been rewarded for their fine seasons with post-season invitations, but in 1993, only one of those teams could advance, and so every game counted. The Giants built up a seemingly insurmountable lead of 10 games in late July, and as late as August 11 their lead was still 9 games. A month later, their lead had evaporated, and on September 15, they lost their 8th straight game to fall 3 ½ games behind Atlanta.

The Giants proceeded to win 14 of their next 16 games, which put them in a tie with the Braves on the final day of the season. The Giants lost that day and ended up second, but the Last Pennant Race will be long remembered.

The star of the Giants' bullpen that year was 24-year-old Rod Beck. 1993 was a special year in many ways … the Giants had lost 90 games the year before and almost moved to Florida, but then a group of local businessmen bought the club, kept it in SF, and signed Barry Bonds. Candlestick Park rocked all season long, and Rod Beck, nicknamed "Shooter," was a real fan favorite. He had a long, unkempt mullet sticking out of the back of his cap, and a gnarly mustache, and what looked a lot like a beer belly. But he could pitch, and when the Giants went on their final run that season, manager Dusty Baker, who has become well-known as a manager who will ride his pitchers until their arms fall off, threw Beck out there almost every day. Shooter pitched an inning in a Giants win on September 19 … three days later, he pitched the final inning of a 1-0 victory. Beginning September 24, Beck pitched five days in a row, took a day off, and then pitched three more days in a row, 8 times in 9 days, and the Giants won every one of those games. By the end, Beck was running on fumes, but while in general I don't approve of overusing pitchers, when the pennant is on the line, you do what needs to be done, and Rod Beck rose to that occasion.

In 1997, the Giants finally won their division. Beck, by then 28 years old, was an important part of that team. The Giants trailed the hated Dodgers by two games in mid-September … the Dodgers came to Candlestick for a two-game series. The Giants won the first game 2-1, and then, in one of the most memorable games I ever attended, they won the second game the next day in 12 innings before 52,000+ fans … it was the "Brian Johnson game," when the little-known catcher homered in the 12th inning to win it for the Giants and tie them in the standings with the Dodgers. Rod Beck pitched three innings in that game, which was pretty much unheard of … he only did it nine times in his entire career. He began in the top of the 10th inning, and immediately loaded the bases on three straight singles. But he struck out Todd Zeile and got Eddie Murphy to ground into a double play, the retired the side in the next two innings, allowing Johnson's heroics.

For all of the above and more, Rod Beck was a folk hero to Giants fans. He went on to pitch for other teams, fell victim to injuries, then made a comeback that was highlighted by a minor-league stint where he lived in a trailer just outside the ballpark's fence.

When we think of Rod Beck, we think of someone who actually gave credence to the unbelievable cliché about giving 110%. When he was called, he delivered, even though it may have shortened his career.

And we think of Rod Beck today, because yesterday he was found dead in his home, at the age of 38.

top ten food items from our trip

The top ten food-related items from our trip to Europe … drum roll, please:

10. German beer gardens

9. "Taco Beef"

8. Ava eating camarones

7. Fanta Limón bajo en calorías

6. Robin eating white chocolate gelato at Albi

5. Desayuno in Ronda


4. The first solomillo de cerdo in Ronda

3. Robin having cream tea while Steven ate bocadillos at El Choque Ideal

2. Robin's salad on her last night in Ronda

And the #1 food-related item from our trip to Europe:

1. Two words: vodka lemonade

our vacation

I'm writing this before we leave on our trip ... I'll predict what I might say when we get back, and post-date it to June 23, at which time we'll see how accurate I was.

Well, I guess you could say we had a great time on our vacation. Germany wasn't my favorite place, although the people were nice and it was more my own crotchety nature that made me spend most of my time there wishing we were already in Spain. Spain was lovely as usual ... lovely and hot. Nerja was beautiful, the sea was beautiful, the food was yummy, and everything was great except when Katie tried to make me ride a horse. Then we went to Ronda, where we happily did nothing for a week or so. My birthday was nice, as was my birthday present from Robin, the Slingbox that allowed us to watch the final two episodes of The Sopranos. I'm glad to be back, and glad to see Starbuck and the other kitties ... but being back means life is normal again, and it always takes awhile to adjust to that.

we're home

And trying to stay up as late as we can. Cats are fine. Here are five quick pix to hold you over, one from every place we were except Malaga, which was for less than a day. First, Ava at home in Germany:


Next, the Alhambra in Granada:


A self-portrait from Nerja:


The view from our patio in Estepona:


And finally, the view from the backyard in Ronda:


friday random ten, 1980 edition

1. Linda Ronstadt, "How Do I Make You." For all of the effortless nature of Ronstadt's voluptuous voice, when she sings rock and roll, she often seems to be trying too hard, and the results are more awkward than raw. Yet for some reason, in this song from her odd attempt at New Wave, Mad Love, sounds just fine to my ears.

2. Diana Ross, "Upside Down." I have even less use for Diana Ross than I do for Linda Ronstadt, but disco suited her impersonal vocals (and yes, I know I'm in the minority in my opinion of Miss Ross' voice). Didn't hurt to have Chic along for the ride. (The video shows Diana making a bit of a mistake … never invite such an electric performer on stage with you, people will forget you're there.)

3. Professor Longhair, "Whole Lotta Loving." Back in the summer of 1970, a friend and I lived in a church in San Francisco for a month. One day we were walking down Fillmore Street when an old toothless guy who smelled like liquor grabbed a hold of me and started singing "I got a whole lotta lovin, for you." Times have changed … I'd probably take it as a compliment now, but then, just turned 17 and away from home for the first time, I admit I was scared shitless. This has nothing to do with Professor Longhair, by the way. The video link is delightful.

4. The Nuns, "Lazy." This is basically a Jennifer Miro solo number, and probably the only recording by any band who was on the stage for the infamous Last Sex Pistols Concert at Winterland in '78 that I can play when Robin is around. "I'm lazy, so lazy, I'm too lazy to fall in love. It's such a bother, I'd much rather stay home and watch teevee."

5. The Manhattans, "Shining Star." A lovely song, released eighteen years after the Manhattans first got together.The wait was worth it. If you don't like the video link, I don't like you.

6. Geraldine Hunt, "Can't Fake the Feeling." Does she count as obscure at this point? "Can't Fake the Feeling" was #1 on the club charts in its day, but no one talks about Hunt these days. Too busy showing their love for Diana Ross, I guess.

7. The Clash, "Police on My Back." Shuffle play strikes again. No reason why this song should follow the Manhattans and Geraldine Hunt, but whattyagonnado? The Clash was not only one of the all-time great bands, they were the masters of the cover version. This one is so great, Willie Nile later stole it pretty much note for note … sounded just great when he did it, too! (The audio on the video link, taken from the US Festival, is sterile, but you do get a feel for Mick Jones' emotional attack.)

8. Rod Stewart, "Oh God, I Wish I Was Home Tonight." One of the problems when a great artist turns to crap is that his rare good tracks get buried where no one can find them (see Presley, Elvis, 1970s). By 1980, Rod hadn't made a great album in eight years or a good one in five. His most recent hit was "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" And then, Foolish Behavior, from which this song has been extracted. All Music Guide got it right when they called the album "bland but professional," noting the ironic title of the hit, "Passion." This song isn't an all-time great, but it would have sounded pretty good on, say, Atlantic Crossing.

9. Warren Zevon, "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead." I run hot and cold with Zevon, but I loved his 1980 live album, Stand in the Fire … it's my fave of his albums, in fact. And I REALLY love the title of this track. Hope he's enjoying the snooze … if anyone wonders who my role model is for how to die, it's Warren Zevon, who went out with great style and wit. Enjoy every sandwich.

10. The Humans, "I Live in the City." I'm the kind of guy who, if I hear a song more than once, I assume it's a hit. By those standards, "I Live in the City" was a smash. Yet it's hard to find much about it online. Forget about a video, even though I have vague memories of it playing on early rock-video TV. The song itself is power pop as sung by Napoleon XIV.

of course there had to be one last post from spain

It's not really a travel post, but I'm sitting in a hotel in Malaga as I type, so it's a half-travel post, at least.

The Rubios are having a family reunion this summer, and I came across the following picture on the reunion website, which I thought I'd post here. It's an old, pre-digital photo, so the quality isn't good, but the spirit is:


The time frame for this picture is somewhere around the summer of '76. Some of these people are dead now ... some are no longer literally "in the family," although in many cases we still think of them as family to this day. Robin figures the reason we are all laughing is that we were waiting for the timer to go off and take the picture.

I'm posting this now, not just because it's a pretty cool picture, but also because I'm about to leave Spain, and in the middle of this photo, just to Robin's left, is my grandmother, Francesa Rubio of Estepona. There was always some question about her age, but she would likely have been in her mid-80s when this was taken.

With apologies if I get spelling wrong, the people in the picture are:

Back row: Neal, my dad, my brother Geoff, his then-wife Lynn, my brother David's then-wife Bonnie, and David

Middle row: me, Robin, Grandma, Geoff's step-daughter Traci, and my sister Sue

Front row: my sister Chris, my mom, Sue's then-husband Randy (Jacob and Julie's dad)

maybe the last post from europe

I'm sure there'll be a wrapup post from home, but in the meantime, this might be the last post from Europe. In a bit we're driving to Malaga, from where we will leave tomorrow morning for the long flight(s) back to the States. Thank you to everyone for all of the birthday greetings, which showed up all over the Internet! My apologies for being bad luck ... apparently, when I leave the country, the Giants go in the toilet. Thanks to everyone for saying they enjoyed reading these missives from other lands. Soon I'll be speaking English all the time, and Spanish will go back to being something I hear on GOL TV.

Time to let Robin read her email. Goodbye from Spain!

birthday in ronda

I had an interesting birthday yesterday, although a lot of the day was for Robin to get some things done. The cafe next door is closed on Wednesdays, which meant we didn't have Internet access unless we wanted to hunt down an Internet cafe ... having made it this far without such a trip, it seemed silly to do it now. Meanwhile, Robin has been a real trouper as we wander around, me conversing in Spanish with the locals ... she does just fine, but I know from personal experience that it's nice to be able to really take part in a conversation, so the English women at the cafe have been a real find for her, and for both us, to be honest.

So yesterday morning, Robin drove out to one of the women's house, where she got a pedicure. We spent the afternoon doing the usual walking and nothing, then around 4:00 we finally drove out to the Hiper Sol (just for you, Sonia!) and then on to Max the pedicurist's house. We all got in her car and drove to pick up the woman who owns the cafe, and then the four of us drove into a rural part of Spain for half an hour or so. Eventually we had to turn onto a dirt road ... the dirt road turned into a dirt "road" ... then, you couldn't even call it a road in quote marks, it was just dirt, we had to drive onto bushes and the like. When we finally arrived at our destination, we met up with Nigel, the English alpaca farmer. He has a place in the middle of nowhere ... we drove in his car across a field to where his alpaca live, and we played with them for a bit. Then back to his house, where he showed Robin some freshly-shorn alpaca fleece. She bought a couple of hundred Euros worth, and back we drove, with many thanks to Max and Pat the Cafe Owner.

We got back around 8:00 and walked to town for my birthday dinner, which we ate at some anonymous but tasty restaurant. Today we drive to Malaga for one night, then we fly home on Friday.