October is Upon Us

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The steps from the clubhouse to the Durham Bulls dugout, late August, 2011. Photo by Frank Hunter.

And that means Major League Baseball playoffs, which got off to an astonishing start on the 162nd day of the regular season Wednesday night.

Today, the Rays will throw rookie Matt Moore in Game 1 versus the Texas Rangers.  Moore was with the AAA Durham Bulls a month ago when we did a trial run for a 2012 project we’re calling Bull City Summer.  For a player considered the top pitching prospect in the sport, we found Moore to be humble and gracious, even after doing a face plant while trotting to the mound during his first AAA start.

My partner on Bull City Summer, Adam Sobsey, wrote a brilliant piece yesterday about longtime Bull Dan Johnson, who hit an immortal home run for the Rays on Wednesday to tie the game with the Yankees with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth.  One afternoon a month ago I interviewed Johnson in the home dugout of the Durham Bulls Athletic Park as he was experimenting with a remote control airplane, unsure of his future.

The 1960 World Series, the Pirates over the Yankees, made it into the JLP book, courtesy of Gene Smith’s tapes of the radio broadcast, and into Chaos Manor, too.  My wife, Laurie Cochenour, who grew up a few miles down the river from Forbes Field and Three Rivers Stadium, heard Clemente’s name as she stood there on Bergen St. watching Chaos Manor unfold.  Her roots in Pittsburgh were what got me started on this Gene Smith trail almost fifteen years ago.  The trail keeps going.  Yesterday I heard from photographer Larry Clark who grew up in Tulsa and at age eighteen traveled to NYC to meet Smith.  Two years later he made this photograph of Smith on Sixth Avenue.

By the way, the manager of the Bulls, Charlie Montoyo, who has won five consecutive division titles in Durham, grew up in Puerto Rico, like Clemente.  Charlie was seven when Clemente died in the plane crash.  Today Charlie listens to Puerto Rican salsa during his daily five-mile runs.  He made me several mix CD’s indicating his refined tastes – El Gran Combo, La Sonora Poncena, Hector Lavoe, Fania All-Stars, Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Ray Barretto – nothing but the good stuff.

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Outfield lights, Durham Bulls Athletic Park, late August, 2011. Photo by Kate Joyce.

- Sam Stephenson

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