Saturday, April 2, 2011

Bravo Baseball, Ballet, Sunshine and Italian Food

Walking the perimeter at AT&T park at a Giants’ pre-season exhibition game, I popped in at Orlando’s Caribbean BBQ. Not for a crab cake or barbecue – I eat burnt hot dogs at ballparks, embracing all three known carcinogens just once a year.

I stopped in because after the ad for the eatery came up on the JumboTron, a vague memory unpacked itself from a box in the dusty attic of my past and presented me with a vision of a large Cardinals button that read, “Bravo, Bravo El Birdo!”

Orlando Cepeda, it seemed to me, had come up with the phase that led to the button.

“Sir,” I said to a smiling middle-aged fellow at the barbecue joint, “Wasn’t Orlando Cepeda a Cardinal at one time and didn’t he call his team ‘El Birdos’?“ The man considered my question.

“No,” he said. “He was never a Birdo. You are thinking of Albert Pujols.”

I was not thinking in any way of Albert Pujols, but I thanked the man and continued on my walking tour. (It was okay to be away from the action for a bit – there wasn’t any until the last 10 minutes of this particular game against Oakland.) When I got home, flushed with Giants Fever, I looked up Orlando Cepeda on line.

This Hall of Famer played for the Giants from 1958 to 1966 and then moved to the Cardinals, where he helped the Redbirds win the World Series in 1967 and the pennant the next year. Furthermore, Cepeda did nickname the Cardinals “El Birdos,” and his teammates called him “Cha Cha.” In 1967, Cepeda was elected as the National League MVP, the first unanimous selection for the award ever made.

In 1967 – San Francisco’s (in)famous “Summer of Love” -- I was 19. Bob Gibson was the Cardinal Pitcher Extraordinaire, and the roster also included Tim McCarver (now an erudite broadcaster), Roger Maris, Curt Flood, Lou Brock, Julien Javier, Dal Maxvill and Mike Shannon (the much-loved St. Louis broadcaster).

And somewhere in the apartment is my “Bravo, Bravo El Birdo!” button. Maybe. No disrespect to Albert Pujols, of course.

“Bravo” was on the tip of my tongue in another context this week when I went to see Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre in Berkeley. Founded in 1958, this is a company I have seen four or five times, dating back to the early ‘80s. I think I may even have reviewed a performance or two for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

As always, the performance Tuesday night was glorious, visually compelling and emotionally rewarding. And as always, “Revelations” – first produced in 1960 – brought down the house, with audience members all the way to the back row (where we sat) applauding and begging for more.

Another highlight this week (besides the Southern California weather visiting here in Northern California) was an outstanding plate of spaghetti and meatballs at Osteria, where I was invited to celebrate Susan’s birthday with her lifelong friends. Usually, I have the salmon, but this dish appealed and did not disappoint.

Baseball, ballet, balmy days and meatballs – perfect! 

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