By John Rolfe
May 20, 2009

After weeks of struggle and lousy press about their third baseman (not Cody Ransom) and the ticket prices in their new emporium, the Yankees are at last enjoying a little success. By golly, they're also having some fun while they're at it.

Fun is a commodity not often found in the Bronx where the Bombers have traditionally gone about their business with all the cheer of an undertaker. But A.J. Burnett's introduction of cream pies to the proceedings may be the most revolutionary development out there since Joe Pepitone's hairdryer.

Last weekend, Burnett nailed Melky Cabrera, Alex Rodriguez and Johnny Damon in the kisser on successive days after they delivered walk-off hits against the Twins. It's a sweet little ritual that Burnett brought with him from Toronto, and Florida before that, and one that's in keeping with athletes' finest traditions of playing with their food: Gatorade baths, champagne showers, and beer spritzes not to mention former New York Ranger Nick Fotiu putting a live lobster in his sleeping teammate's bed.

But one wonders how George Steinbrenner would react to Burnett's new sideline as a baked goods delivery man if The Boss were still in his hale and hearty prime. He always ran a tight ship -- banning beards, insisting on short hair, and keeping extraneous mirth to minimum -- and one suspects that pies would not go down well, especially while the team is anywhere but in first place by 10 games.

For a hint of George's view of foodstuffs foolery, we travel back to 1973 when the newly-minted Principal Owner popped a cork when witnessing shortstop Gene Michael's on-field hysterics upon discovery that half a hot dog had been placed inside one of the fingers of his glove. The Boss demanded that manager Ralph Houk come down on Michael like the proverbial load of bricks and ol' George kept a steely eye on the obvious troublemaker. Safe to say Burnett would probably be on the watch list now, too. Be interesting to see if the pastry hijinks continue should the team ever find outself out of playoff contention.

Speaking of dietary matters, as the mystery of Manny Ramirez's chemical transgression continues to unspool -- apparently elevated synthetic testosterone and not the female fertility drug hCG tripped him up -- reader Joey of Dallas, TX availed himself of the handy Epistle Portal (below) to suggest that Manny may have had a legit reason for that hCG prescription that was discovered in his medical records (Manny's, not Joey's):

Please just look up hCG diet on Google. Why is no one in the media mentioning this usage? I have no clue why Manny was taking it, but y'all complete mischaracterize the drug as having no other legitimate uses.

Speaking for this humble media outlet, this space had never heard of the hCG diet. But alack and alas, research suggests that a daily hCG injection can help shed up to two pounds per day, and possibly more, when accompanied by a starvation diet of 500 calories. So perhaps Manny, who has been looking a little zaftig of late, was merely trying to shed some unsightly avoirdupois before bikini season begins. We're willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Had to chortle at the pack of bodybuilders who promptly packed up and fled that championship in Belgium last weekend as soon as the drug-testers arrived on the premises. The event was promptly canceled because no one was left to compete -- kind of like what the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies will be like in a few years.

Speaking of Hall of Famers, it's good to see former Royals great George Brett is enjoying his retirement in a state of gracious mellowment. George's eloquent discourse on Royals manager Trey Hillman reminded this space of a classic by another Mr. Sunshine of Our National Pastime: Tommy Lasorda. (WARNING: Not for the easily-offended or people with heart conditions. Please DO NOT play while the vicar is within earshot.)

In our last thrilling installment, we pronounced soccer players the meanest, most dastardly athletes on the planet, a title that did not sit well with some readers.

David from Manchester opined: Footballers the meanest and nastiest athletes in the world? That's like saying that Yao is the most durable man to ever play basketball. Ever heard of a little team called Italy?

And Mike Clist of NYC put forth: Soccer players as the "meanest and nastiest?" Soccer players are gutless pukes. If they are not spitting or farting, they are diving or kicking each other's legs out. These guys are the biggest pansies of the sports world.

Well, okay. Now that you mention it, we're going to pass this torch to dominoes players. If a fatal stabbing doesn't qualify them, we surrender.

While pondering the subject of toughest athletes, we found this item in the You Learn Something Every Day file: Apparently, there's a World Series of Birding. Yep, teams fan out over rugged terrain, braving all kinds of horrendous conditions in the interest of seeing who can spot the largest number of tweeter species in a 24-hour period. "It gets into your blood," Alan Peterson of the Waterman Bird Club's Diving Dabblers told the Poughkeepsie Journal after mucking about the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Basking Ridge, NJ two weeks ago. "The day itself is crazy, senseless, brutal and no fun."

Sounds great. And this grueling event really shouldn't come as a surprise, as there's a World Series of just about everything now. Besides Major League Baseball's World Series of the World Series, and the College World Series and the World Series of Poker, there are world series of strip poker, cheerleading and dance, beer pong, pop culture, team roping, golf, wine, croquet, diving, lawn mowing, pinochle, spades and bid whist, asphalt stock car racing, blackjack, flip cup, hip hop, ice drags, mahjong, Uno, and Wiffle Ball among others.

What's truly amazing is that MLB let the name get away. The NFL comes down with both lawyers on anyone who dares utter the words "Super Bowl" in vain. It's why every non-licensed venture must wink and say "The Big Game" instead.

Quite the unsightly contretemps between WWE honcho Vince McMahon and Nuggets poobah Stan Kroenke over the scheduling conflict at Denver's Pepsi Center where Monday Night Raw is due to collide with the Nuggets and Lakers playoff game on May 25. McMahon went on ESPN to talk what you call your smack about Kroenke booking out the arena even though it was possible his team would need it for a postseason shindig. This space was left to wonder why the whole thing couldn't be resolved with a little civilized grousing, the way the NHL did when New Age keyboard whiz Yanniforced the Capitals and Penguins to conduct playoff games on back-to-back nights (May 8-9) due to his gig at Pittsburgh's Mellon Arena.

The NHL has a grand tradition of high-profile schedule conflicts, among them a circus at New York's Madison Square Garden famously forced the Rangers to play all but two of the six 1940 Stanley Cup Final games in Toronto, and all of the seven 1950 final games in Detroit and Toronto. To our knowledge, no one on either side demanded a steel cage death match or insisted that anyone be arrested for impersonating a businessman. And to think that some people insist the NHL is just a circuit for mouthbreathing knuckledraggers.

With Terrell Owensarriving in Buffalo to huzzahs from the general public and Plaxico "Big Bang" Burress apparently causing certain teams to bat their eyelashes in his direction, it's only natural that the hot question would arise: Who would you rather have on your team? The query strikes this space as something akin to: Which would you rather have: shingles or scurvy? And now the yaws derby has begun as teams start to jockey for the services of one Michael Vick. Decisions, decisions...

Lots of chatter about more NFL games in London and maybe a Super Bowl there, too. What to make of it? Our reliable souse with "inside knowledge" of what goes down at 230 Park Avenue (never mind that league offices are at 280 Park), the NFL is slowly trying to sneak out of the country on the QT and it ain't coming back. "Goodell is trying to lull everyone into a false sense of security by offering up a lot of soothing flim-flam about more regular season games for the fans," our insider said over a steady stream of boilermakers, "but which fans and where? Goodell, he smells the heady scent of filthy lucre overseas and with the economy here in the pot, he wants out. He has visions of six billion Chinese at $250 a head plus seat license fees. I tell ya, the moving vans, passports and tree suits are ready. I know 'cause I done seen 'em. Hell, the Bills are already halfway to Toronto."

Don't say we didn't warn you.

As the internet continues to make great literature go the way of the Studebaker, this space fights to keep the art form alive by offering you a place to dish your quill. Merely powder your wig, roll up your parchment and place it in the handy space-time delivery portal on your right. Click Send and our team of trained paramilitaries will do the rest. Opinions, screeds, stemwinders, fillibusters, rants, harangues, soliloquys, sonnets, doggerel, links and laundry lists are welcome and will likely receive a response from the proprietor as soon as he's done avoiding his creditors.

Thank you, and good night.

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