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Game 99: White Sox at Twins

The team you love to hate, besides all those other ones, comes to town.

R.E.M.’s 40th Anniversary Of Chronic Town Celebration Concert
Of course I have a crush on Linda Pitmon, I’m 50, and drummers are cool.
Photo by R. Diamond/Getty Images

Time: 7:10 Central

Weather: Calm, some cloudy shade, 80° at first pitch

Opponent’s SB site: South Side Sox

TV: BSN. Radio: Caused a riot in 1979

MLB team record for strikeouts: 1596. Twins’ current pace: 1656

You remember Lance Lynn, don't you? DON'T YOU? He joined the Twins in 2018, after several quality years with the Cards, and promptly became mediocre. The Twins traded him to New York at the deadline for, essentially, nothing, and he turned back into a competent starter.

Until this year, when he's struggled a lot. Possibly as an act of contrition for getting Paul Molitor fired and Joe Mauer retired, Lynn is giving up dingers like a first-inning Brad Radke (although FanGraphs thinks this may be a fluke). He throws a low-90s fastball, a cutter sinker, and slurve, non-Twins batters are hitting them all. Digits:

All five people who read these things might remember that last year I mentioned how much I enjoy The Baseball Project, a band which does songs about, well, baseball.

And how one of the lead songwriters/guitarists, Scott McCaughey, suffered a stroke. Which hits home because in 2021, Mrs. James suffered one, too. So the arrival of a new Baseball Project album (it’s out now) is very fun for me.

Stroke recovery is weird, since the brain cells that die during a stroke will never regrow, nor will they be absorbed by the body. They’ll stay there, dead. Like if suddenly one section of your brain turned to Styrofoam. Those dead brain parts will just be there until you die and decompose.

But your brain can find workarounds past them. Imagine if you lost the ability to write with your dominant hand. You would, eventually, learn to write with the other one. Perhaps just as well, if you are younger. This is more difficult, if you are older, and the readjusted brain functions may never be as good as the lost ones.

McCaughey had to rely on fundraisers for his recuperative therapy, as indie-rock musicians don’t have great health insurance. Mrs. James did — she qualified for Minnesota Medicaid. (And whenever someone says Medicaid is for poor lazy people, please punch them in the face for me.)

In both cases, the recovery has been amazing. Not 100%, though. Mrs. James is cognitively unaffected, but needs a cane to walk, now. Bizarrely, it was one thing the otherwise-excellent Minnesota Medicaid would not cover. So we had to buy it. (Like, $30,000 in hospital/care facility/rehab therapy was all covered, just not a $30 cane.) McCaughey can play guitar and write new songs just fine, yet he needs a printed sheet to remember his pre-stroke lyrics. (He remembers the guitar chords more than the words, isn't that weird.)

Two standouts by him on the new record are “Journeyman,” about workaday pitchers, and “The All Or Nothings,” featuring the lyric “and Joey Gallo is fine!” (It’s meant sarcastically.)

But since the Twins play Chicago tonight, let’s focus on a fun song the other lead lyricist, Steve Wynn, came up with:

You probably know the basics of the Disco Demolition Night story. It was 1979, disco was king, and ChiSox business manager (and future Saints owner) Mike Veeck came up with the promotional idea to blow up disco records fans brought to the stadium. The thing descended into total mayhem, and the Sox had to forfeit the second half of a planned doubleheader (the first game started at 6:00, which was a bad idea to begin with!)

Now, there’s always people who hate whatever’s popular at the time. In 1998, I remember being unable to decide which I loathed more, “Closing Time” or “We Like To Party” (answer: “Closing Time,” forever). And a lot of disco holds up much better than the classic rock of its day; consider the gorgeous Bee Gees harmonies vs. Peter Frampton jams. But, yeah, some disco was formulaic, overproduced cash-ins on a fad. (The disco version of “Star Wars” is pure pain.)

Some people participating in Disco Demolition Night weren’t just opposed to cheesy synth beats; they were bringing records to burn by any kind of Black artist. One Chicago journalist remembered attending as a 15-year-old and feeling that Rock “was under attack from an alien music and culture popular with black folks and, occasionally, gays.”

It’s certain that Mike Veeck didn’t mean it that way (his dad, Bill, who owned the White Sox, was the only person then in MLB to appear on Curt Flood’s behalf before the Supreme Court). The popular Chicago DJ Steve Dahl, who led the demolition rally, was 24, and had been fired from a rock station when they switched to an all-disco format.

This fascinating 2019 oral history features those two and many others who were at the event. It’s a wild read about totally wasted fans throwing records, setting fires, you name it. My favorite story is by stadium organist Nancy Faust: “At first I saw little fires breaking out in the outfield. Three nuns were sitting near me. They turned around and asked, “What is everybody chanting?” In those days, “Disco sucks” wasn’t a nice thing to say. My friend told them, “They’re just going, ‘Let’s go, Sox.’ ”

While the promotion was a disaster for the White Sox and for Veeck (he was out of baseball for years until getting into independent-league ownership), it was sure a success for the record station. And Veeck, who’s the subject of an upcoming Netflix documentary, wasn’t shy about remembering the incident; in 2014, he had his Charleston RiverDogs blow up Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus stuff. (It was much less riot-y.)

Today's Lineups

Andrew Benintendi - LF Carlos Correa - SS
Tim Anderson - SS Edouard Julien - 2B
Luis Robert - CF Alex Kirilloff - 1B
Eloy Jimenez - DH Max Kepler - RF
Jake Burger - 3B Matt Wallner - LF
Yasmani Grandal - C Byron Buxton - DH
Gavin Sheets - 1B Donovan Solano - 3B
Zach Remillard - RF Ryan Jeffers - C
Elvis Andrus - 2B Michael Taylor - CF
Lance Lynn - RHP Joe Ryan - RHP

Extra bonus Baseball Project fun: in April, I wrote about the 1973 Yankees players who swapped wives, kids, and even dogs! I should have known there was a Baseball Project song about this… here it is!