- Jayson Stark, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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When your mom and dad say it's time to talk about the birds and the bees, it means one thing. When Half-Year in Review says it's time to talk about the birds and the bees, it means, well, that baseball has been an even more insane sport than usual lately. Read on
True bee-lievers of the half-year
It was a game only Samantha Bee, the late great Bea Arthur and BB King could have loved. The Bee Gees should have sung the anthem. And why B.J. Surhoff wasn't recruited to throw out the first pitch, we have no idea.
Normally, when there's a buzz in the ballpark, that's a good thing. But it wasn't such a good thing in San Diego on July 2 -- when the Astros and Padres got stung by the longest bee delay in modern baseball history.
They spent 52 minutes watching thousands of bees mistake the left-field ball girl's Padres jacket for a rhododendron bush, or something. And it wasn't until their friendly neighborhood beekeeper showed up and provided his own special brand of outfield extermination that they actually got to finish their little ballgame.
"You know, it's so ironic to have this happen in San Diego," Astros broadcaster/witticist Jim Deshaies told Half-Year in Review, "because they're never going to have a rain delay. I don't even know if they have a tarp. But they have a beekeeper on speed dial."
If you watched this game on the MLB Extra Innings package, you know that Deshaies was the true MV-Bee of this telecast -- providing 52 minutes of hilarious bee quips and info. So we've called on him to fill in our bee-sieged readers on just what they missed.
• On the beekeeper's techniques: "I was thinking, if this were you or I, we'd just go out there with a couple of cans of Raid and blast away. But with the beekeeper, I expected something greater, something different -- like maybe he herds them back into the comb somehow and leads them off to safety. But no, the beekeeper shows up and just does the same thing you or I would do: PSSSSSSSSSSHHH."
• On what attracted the bees to the jacket: "I kept expecting the bees were going to fly out of that jacket with a big Snickers bar that the ball girl smuggled into the ballpark. But they never did."
• On how bizarre it was that this could happen to an Astros franchise known for its Killer Bees (Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio): "We should have tried to get Bagwell and Biggio on a satellite hookup, so we could ask: 'Who are the real Killer Bees?'"
• On the most important fact he learned from the "Bee Quiz" that he sprung on partner Bill Brown during the delay -- that all worker bees are females: "So the question Brownie asked me was, if the worker bees are females, then what do the male bees do? And my theory is: All the males just sit at home in their little bee recliners with a beer, watching 'SportsCenter.' I can see them now. They're watching ES-B-N, drinking a honey-rum lager."
Bird land of the half-year
We don't have to explain to any ballplayers we know that a day at the old ballpark is no day at the beach. But trying to explain that to the sea gull population of Ohio -- uh, that's turning out to be a lot more challenging.
Night after night, starting in late May, hundreds of gulls began swooping in on Progressive Field -- under the mistaken impression, apparently, that they'd just arrived at the Outer Banks.
The Indians have since found a way to disperse them by shooting off fireworks between innings. But for a while there, the gulls were just waddling around the field during games -- looking, groundskeeper Brandon Koehnke told the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Paul Hoynes, for (what else?) "peanuts, popcorn and hot dogs." (You were expecting maybe a Grady Sizemore poster?)
But we think they were actually just aspiring to get themselves into a "Baseball Tonight" highlight. And sure enough, on June 11, that mission got accomplished when Shin-Soo Choo shrewdly deflected his game-winning, 10th-inning single off a sea gull. Which means, by our calculations, that the gull has more wins for that team this year than Tomo Ohka.
"I didn't see it hit the bird," Choo said. "But I'll take it."
Nationalism of the half-year
The most dramatic baseball race of the year isn't in the AL East or the NL Central. You can find it going on, right beneath your eyes, in our nation's capital, where the scoreboard looks this way through July 9:
Washington Nationals 25 (wins)
Adam Dunn 22 (home runs)
As the almighty Sultan of Swat Stats, SABR's David Vincent, determined recently, no team in history has finished a season with fewer wins than one of its own players had homers. But this team is a threat to do just about anything.
"It's OK with me, I guess," Dunn told Half-Year in Review, "as long as I hit about 85 homers."
Milestone men of the half-year
While we're on the subject of landmark Nationals feats, they've already done something this year that no team had done since Pop Corkhill's 1891 Pirates:
To put the Big Unit's greatness in perspective, we turn again to Dunn, who's a spiffy 1-for-15 lifetime, with eight strikeouts, against Johnson.
"There's nothing fun about facing him," Dunn said. "There's nothing fun about it at all. I mean, he's 8 feet tall, and when he comes from the side like that, it looks like the ball's coming from first."
"Wait," we asked. "By 'first,' you mean first base?"
"No," Dunn replied. "The first row."
Best Yankee Stadium quotes of the half-year
• Third prize: From Diane Sawyer of "Good Morning America," on the new Yankee Stadium, currently on pace to be the proud home of 274 home runs this year: "They're talking about a bumper sticker in New York that says 'Honk if you haven't hit a home run at Yankee Stadium.'"
• Second prize: From Rays manager Joe Maddon (courtesy of the St. Petersburg Times' Marc Topkin), on how the new stadium differs from the old cathedral: "I hated the smell of the old place. I don't know if that odor was the remnants of the ghosts walking around, but they always had a home-court advantage just based on the smell of the place. They could have put that in a bottle, sprayed it on somebody and you'd say, 'Oh, Yankee Stadium.'"
• First prize: From Indians reliever Jensen Lewis (to the New York Times' Tyler Kepner) after allowing two homers in his first two appearances at the new stadium: "It'll be very interesting to see what happens once it warms up in the summer there -- might as well install an air-raid siren with how many bombs will be hit."
More memorable quotes of the half-year
• The mixed-up-cliché snafu of the half-year comes from Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain, quoted by the New York Times' Jack Curry after a July 5 clunker: "At the end of the day, the sun comes up and I still have a job," Joba said, while apparently waiting for the first-ever evening sunrise.
• From Albert Pujols (courtesy of the St. Louis Post Dispatch's Brian Burwell), on whether he expected the Cardinals to bill him for knocking out the lights in the "I" with a June home run into Big Mac Land: "Nah. I'm expecting a Big Mac."
• From always-serene Cubs manager Lou Piniella, after a crazy June week that included a spectacular Carlos Zambrano tirade, a Ryan Dempster attack on the dugout Gatorade dispenser and Ted Lilly's ejection from a game he wasn't even pitching in: "I'm the only calm, cool and collected one around here."
• From Phillies leadoff man Jimmy Rollins, to Half-Year in Review, on the last time he played on a team that won a game by 21 before the Phillies beat the Reds 22-1 on Monday: "I was definitely playing 2-guard [in a basketball game], back in high school, against the Richmond (Calif.) Oilers -- before they had Coach Carter. Except it was more like 70-something to 40-something, not 22-1."
• From Orioles manager Dave Trembley (courtesy of the Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly), after the Orioles came from nine runs back (10-1) in the seventh inning to beat the Red Sox on June 30: "It was the shootout at the OK Corral, but it was at Camden Yards."
• From Twins outfielder Denard Span (courtesy of the Minneapolis Star Tribune's Joe Christensen), on what he was thinking when he went to Rochester to rehab from an inner-ear infection and hurt his thumb, a year after teammate Michael Cuddyer headed for Rochester to rehab a finger injury and broke his foot: "Get me out of here alive, or get me on that plane. I was trying to survive Rochester. Cuddy may not have made it out, but I made it out alive."
• From Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon Webb (courtesy of the Arizona Republic's Nick Piecoro), to his buddy Dan Haren on May 2, after Haren had taken over the league lead in strikeouts and won clubhouse pools for the NCAA tournament, the Masters and the Kentucky Derby: "I'm about ready to Tonya Harding you. I'm about as jealous as I can get right now."
• And, finally, it's the always-popular Ichiro Suzuki quote of the half-year (courtesy of the Seattle Times' Larry Stone), after the stunning May 15 game in which Ichiro hit two home runs off Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester: "Who knows why it happened? It goes to prove in the universe, mysterious things happen."
Joe Maddon quotes of the half-year
With the kind assistance of the St. Petersburg Times' Marc Topkin, we present the greatest pearls of the half-year from the only manager in baseball who requires you to have your iPhone's thesaurus.com app ready at all times:
• Third prize: On picking his own Ben Zobrist for the All-Star team: "There's a form of nepotism involved, and you don't want to be the anti-nepotist, if that's a word.''
• Second prize: On the thrill of getting to face Roy Halladay in the Rays' first game in Toronto this season: "I love the city. You don't need him as a welcoming committee.''
• First prize: On his personal theory that the Rays' 17 straight losses in Cleveland traces to a curse of Tower City (Mall): "It must have something to do with that tower where they have the mall. I'm sure there's some sort of negative spiritual influence that's been cast upon us from that particular tower. I really believe we need to do some research there. It has a real Ghostbuster look to it. We're going to look for the paranormal kind of activity. We'll get the little meters out, the ghost meters out, the next time we come here, and we'll see if we can eradicate it somehow."
Ozzie Guillen quotes of the half-year
With the help of the Chicago Sun-Times' Joe Cowley, it's time to fasten your seat belts and digest the Wizard of Oz's wildest quotes of the half-year:
• Third prize: On his relationship with his players: "As soon as the season is over, I don't give a [crap] about my players. They don't give a [crap] about me, either. I never send anyone a Christmas card, ever, because I don't give a [crap] about them. Now during the season, they're my kids. I will kill for them. I guarantee you I will. Now when the season is over, I got enough with my wife and three kids. But as long as we're here and have the same uniform, I will kill for them. And I hope they kill for me, too.''
• Second prize: On why he would never manage the Cubs: "I [will] never be in Wrigley Field [as a manager]. I don't give a [crap]. I can't I say I don't like Wrigley Field? Why can't I express myself? It's like I don't like to eat chicken. Why I should I have to like Wrigley Field? Whoever gets upset about that? [Bleep] them. I don't like Wrigley Field. What's wrong with that? I don't say I don't like the Cubs. Just make it clear. I don't say I don't like the Cubs. I don't say I don't like the Cubs organization. I just hate Wrigley Field. I wish I could do something about it. The governor of Chicago, please build another one. I don't know why people make such a big deal that I don't like Wrigley Field. I don't work for Wrigley Field. [Bleep] it."
• First prize: On his theory this week on what happened to MIA pitcher Bartolo Colon, who temporarily vanished while on a rehab assignment to Charlotte: "I think Colon disappeared. I think immigration is looking for him. I worry about Colon because Colon was a big-time Michael Jackson fan. He might see the TV and cry all day long. He maybe is in L.A. at his funeral because I can't find him."
Late-nighters of the half-year
Finally, it's the top three late-night TV quips of 2009 (so far):
• Third prize: No. 3 on David Letterman's list of Top Ten Questions to Ask Yourself Before Becoming a Somali Pirate: "Will I get along with Ross Ohlendorf? Oh, wait. Sorry. That's a question to ask yourself before becoming a Pittsburgh Pirate."
• Second prize: From Letterman: "The NYU graduation speaker is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She told the grads, 'Work hard. Save your money. And one day you might be able to afford to attend a Yankees game.'"
• First prize: From Jay Leno: "Manny Ramirez is being suspended for 50 games for taking a banned substance believed to be a woman's fertility drug. While some people are calling it a suspension, Manny's calling it maternity leave."
Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His new book, "Worth The Wait: Tales of the 2008 Phillies," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores and online. Click here to order a copy.
A swarm of bees at Petco Park. A flock of sea gulls at Progressive Field. A Nat with almost as many homers as his team has wins. Yeah, it's been one bizarre first half, for sure.