Saturday, August 28, 2010

How to Make The Major Leagues

For many years now I have known the secret to making it as a player in Major League Baseball.  In fact, this secret is so potent that I actually believe that it could be the key to creating the first woman big leaguer.  I've kept this under wraps for quite some time, hoping to use it myself, but in the spirit of sharing I've decided to go public.

Obviously there are certain things that will help a player achieve success in baseball.  You could be a genetic freak like Barry Bonds (son of former star Bobby Bonds and cousin of Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson) or Ken Griffey, Jr. (whose father was a key member of the 1970's "Big Red Machine" Cincinnati Reds).  You could work hard to overcome size and speed limitations, like Pete Rose, David Eckstein, or my boyhood hero Larry Bowa.  Regardless of which route you take, it is expected that a future pro will hit thousands of balls each year, practice fielding for hours every day and follow a detailed workout and diet regimen.

Or you could do it my way...

According to, there are 44,385 people named John Smith in America.  This is unquestionably a popular name.  Since 1876, three people with this name have played major league baseball.  According to the same source, there are 50 people named Ethan Lewis at this point in time (we are a rare breed), and nobody with my name has ever played in the bigs.  The website also reveals that there are only 17 people in America named "Steve Ontiveros".   With such a miniscule number of people, it would be natural to assume that no Steve Ontiveros ever made the Show.  But that would be wrong. From 1973-2000, TWO DIFFERENT MEN calling themselves "Steve Ontiveros" played in the majors.

The first Steve Ontiveros (SO1) played 8 seasons for the Giants and Cubs from 1973-1980.  This Steve Ontiveros was a third baseman and utility player with a weedy mustache and a thin build. He was born in 1951 in Bakersfield, California. I remember him from when I was young, but he didn't stand out in any particular way.  I mean, it's not like the 9 year old me had an epiphany about the significance of Steve Ontiveros.  No.  That came later...

The second Steve Ontiveros (SO2) to make the majors pitched 10 seasons for the A's, Phillies, Mariners and Red Sox between 1985 and 2000, earning approximately $2 million for a 34-31 record and an ERA of 3.67. This Steve Ontiveros was a right handed pitcher with a weedy mustace and a thin build. When he first showed up on the scene, I thought it was a miraculous late-career position switch for SO1.  Even when I saw him on tv, I thought it was the same guy (just with different facial hair).  But soon I learned that SO2 was born in 1961 in Tularosa, New Mexico.  That was when I realized the key:

If you are named "Steve Ontiveros" you will make the major leagues!

If my wife and I ever  have children, I wil change my last name to "Ontiveros" immediately. Clearly naming a son "Steven" or and this is key a girl "Stephanie" is a must (obviously her nickname of "Stevie" will be on her baseball card).  Or, you could scour the various state departments of youth services and try to find a foster child already named "Steve Ontiveros".  Then all you need to do is buy the kid a glove and a bat and call some scouts.  The rest will take care of itself.  Remember, SO2 became a millionaire despite a very hittable fastball.  In today's big money game, imagine what SO3 could earn.  It goes beyond the dreams of avarice.  So good luck, Mr. or Ms. Ontiveros.  I look forward to watching your career!

Friday, August 27, 2010


The late Stevie Ray Vaughan
Twenty years ago today, I woke up early to find the radio playing a song by Stevie Ray Vaughan.  "Pretty cool", I thought.  I really liked SRV, to the point of having sold two guitars to pay for a Fender Stratocaster that summer, mainly based on the fact that Stevie and Eric Clapton (two of my main influences on the instrument) played one.  The station followed that by playing another song by Stevie Ray.  "Awesome!  A double shot Monday" was my natural thought.  Then the DJ announced that there had been a helicopter crash early in the morning in Wisconsin, and that Stevie Ray Vaughan was dead at the age of 36.  The impact of his early, unexpected demise reverberated around the world, and I, for one, am still somewhat in shock.

Stevie Ray Vaughan grew up in Dallas, Texas and became a guitar player due to the influence of his brother, Jimmie Vaughan, a very successful musician who eventually went on to a great career with groups such as the Fabulous Thunderbirds, and as a solo artist (the brothers occasionally played together, as well).  After playing for years in Texas blues bands, SRV's talents drew him greater attention.  His style was heavily influenced by guitar giants such as Albert King, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Guy and Kenny Burrell. Stevie's band, Double Trouble (named after a song by Chicago bluesman Otis Rush) began to play before larger audiences.  Around this time, Nile Rodgers, who was producing David Bowie's album Let's Dance recruited SRV to play lead guitar on the record.  Popular songs like the title track, or "China Girl" are typical Bowie numbers, but then these bluesy guitar solos drop in as if from outer space, and that's Stevie.  Around this time songwriter Jackson Browne invited Double Trouble to his studio to record their first LP, Texas Flood. Many consider that this record and the ensuing albums Couldn't Stand The Weather, Soul to Soul, and In Step (which won a Grammy) were rare lights in the darkness of 80's synth-pop.  It is unquestionable that Stevie Ray Vaughan's popularity helped bring some older bluesmen out of the wilderness and gave them greater exposure (especially to white people like me).  SRV often played in public with Albert King and Buddy Guy (who was on the bill at the final concert) and loudly proclaimed his debts to the older generation.

One of the biggest tragedies of SRV's death was not just that he left so much unrecorded music in his short life, but that he died just as he began to get his life together again after years of drug and alcohol abuse. Stevie disappeared from the scene in the late 80's when his addictions got the best of him, but he emerged from seclusion in 1989 with a triumphant tour with guitar legend Jeff Beck.  Friends of mine asked me if I wanted to go see the show in Foxboro, MA, but I was a poor college student and didn't want to spring for the ticket, feeling that I would have plenty of time to see them later.  It is one of my major regrets...

Stevie's last album, In Step (1989), was a brilliant album filled with rollicking blues, Buddy Guy songs, and beautifully soulful tunes.  I remember driving with a friend when the song "Crossfire" came on the radio, and I thought "is that Albert King?" before realizing that Stevie had returned.  On his final concert tour he would take time to rap with the audience during his song "Life Without You" about his recovery, and for the need of everyone to overcome the demons that hold us back.

Stevie Ray Vaughan played his last show as part of an all-star appearance at Eric Clapton's concert in Alpine Valley, Wisconsin.  He shared the stage with Clapton, his brother Jimmie, Buddy Guy and Robert Cray, finishing with a rousing "Sweet Home Chicago".  By all accounts Stevie played his best that night.  After the show the artists and crew boarded four helicopters to fly back to Chicaco; three made it back, but the one bearing SRV (as well as Clapton's tour manager and other associates) got lost in the fog and crashed into a ski slope, killing all aboard.

© Dane Tighlman
There are lots of Stevie Ray Vaughan videos on YouTube.  Do yourself a favor and check them out sometime.  His passion, virtuosity and joyfulness are evident to me in every note he plays.  I have a framed print of SRV hanging over my guitar collection and I look at it all the time when I play.  Though thankful for all that he left behind, twenty years on, I still miss him.  Rest in Peace, Stevie.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Who is Icarus P. Anybody?

When the Sassy Librarian suggested that I start a blog, I naturally planned to name it Ethan Lewis' Blog.  After all, my website is, the online forum for my history class is and I feel like it is a nice brand identity.  But then I was told that "Ethan Lewis is boring.  Think of something interesting."

So I began trying to brainstorm names of blogs.  "Blog Horn" and "My Librarian Is Sassier Than Yours" quickly went by the wayside.  "30 Minutes Or Your Pizza's Free" was an early favorite.  But then I thought that I'd like to have a reference to one of my favorite movies.  Unfortunately, I'm not blessed at remembering movie dialogue except for some rare cases.  Basically I have memorized just about every line from The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and This is Spinal Tap.  An eclectic mix!  Rather than picking a quote from a film, I decided that I'd like to veer a bit off the beaten path, and choose a song title by Spinal Tap.

Spinal Tap has been very influential to me.  Ever since my first year of college, when I was a member of a band (Bräinhämmer) that pretended to be German heavy metalists and whose main influences were TIST and The Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Story (a sensationalist bio of the mighty Zep by Stephen Davis).  Later another of my bands (The Trouser Helpers) derived their name from a throwaway line by David St. Hubbins on the Arsenio Hall show.  Since then I have gone so far as to decorate my office with a vintage TIST movie poster and action figures.  In choosing a name, I relied on one of the all-time greatest websites, the Spinal Tap Fan Site, by Chip Rowe.  Rowe is an interesting guy, who is an expert on Spinal Tap, as demonstrated in his book Spinal Tap A to Zed.  Rowe has combed the movie, subsequent articles, tv appearances and other sources to compile the everything anyone needs to know about Tap.  But when I started looking at the titles, I realized that many probably wouldn't work:

  • "The Sun Never Sweats"--too warm
  • "Saliva of the Fittest"--too wet, plus I am working on a song of that name
  • "Nice n' Stinky"--too smelly
  • "Young, Smug and Famous"--unfortunately I am none of those things.
 And then I found it.  My "Eureka" moment!  A deep track on Tap's psychedelic album "We Are All Flower People", the epic "The Incredible Flight Of Icarus P. Anybody".  I knew then, that I had found my muse.

 After graduating college I spent a year writing humorous sports columns for the now defunct Northampton, MA College Optimist under the nom de plume "The Crank In The Stands".  You can read highlights of the Crank's rants here.  But the Crank is too negative for the 21st century.  So now I am pleased to work with the alter ego of Icarus P. Anybody, who strikes me as an optimistic, adventurous Every-person.  I look forward to seeing what he has to say!

Seeking a refuge from Scrabble.

I needed a healthy outlet for my time and energy.  As a schoolteacher, I am blessed with long vacations and summers off, but unfortunately I have misspent my free time.  You see, I am a Scrabble addict.  Specifically, I get obsessed with playing games on the Internet Scrabble Club site.  You may have played Scrabble--it's the crossword game where you make words that link with other words. It is very fun, and I am pretty good at it.  But what I really like is the adrenaline rush, you see, I play games where each player only gets 3 minutes for the whole game.  As a result I can play LOTS of games in a short space of time.  During the period from June through late August 2010, I played over 1100 games.  Since 2003 I've played over 11,000 games.  I estimate that this adds up to about two full months of my life spent playing Scrabble.

I had some high points this summer--my fifth game of 500 or more points, a "bingo" (seven letter word) of 216 points ("quizzers"), and establishing a personal record rating of 1520.  But unfortunately the game kind of took over.  For weeks I dreamed of playing Scrabble.  Whenever I had a spare moment I ran to the computer to get the rush of playing a fast game.  Ultimately, I realized I had a problem.

That's when my wife suggested that as a substitute for Scrabble I could try blogging.  At first I thought "what do I have to write about, that anyone would be interested in?"  But then I figured it was worth a shot.  I am interested in some esoteric topics, and I'll write about all of them on this site.  Some examples include (in alphabetical order):

  • Baseball
  • Guitar
  • Media Criticism
  • Movies and TV  
  • Music
  • Politics
  • Professional Wrestling
I'll also review and link to articles and blogs that I find in my perambulations on the web, and hopefully spark discussions about topics of mutual interest.

I hope you find this interesting.  And now, on with the show!