This may or may not be a story about Tim Lincecum. You’ll have to decide.

It’s just that he’s pitching Saturday night and I’m covering the game, and I’ve been thinking about it for days. I mean, each of his starts is so interesting in good and bad ways. And that’s where this story comes in.

First some background. As you know I grew up in Brooklyn. I spent most of my time until I went away to college in a playground across the street from our apartment. We called it the Avenue L Park even though it had about six trees. It was basically a giant slab of concrete enclosed by a fence, and we played all our games there — punchball, stickball, slapball, handball, you name it.

I was one of the younger brothers. There was a whole set of older brothers about five years older than my group and one day the word went out that two of the older guys, Vasquez and Greenspan were going to fight in the Park after school on a particular day. They were settling some kind of grudge.

For days I thought about the fight, pondered it. It excited me and it agitated me. It certainly fascinated me. I was there when it happened, there alone standing near a fence. Vasquez and Greenspan walked toward each other near second base of the punchball court. It was all very formal. Vasquez got Greenspan in a headlock — there were lots of headlocks in those days in the mid-1950s. He yanked Greenspan to the ground and threw Greenspan on his back. Then Vasquez grabbed him by the hair and slammed his head into the concrete a couple of times and Greenspan said I give up. At which point, Vasquez got off him. They both walked towards the men’s room and as they entered they whipped combs out of their back pockets.When they emerged their hair was perfectly combed. Then everybody went back to playing ball. And that was that.

I haven’t thought about Vasquez and Greenspan in ages. Could someone out there explain to me why I keep thinking about them now and what this has to do with Lincecum?

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  1. lameduck

    Psychiatric help, 5 cents…
    First, I’ll go with you have an emotional tie to both instances. With the fight and pitching start you are agitated and excited. Hence there is the emotional tie which stirs memories.
    The fight gave you a sense of completion. It ended. It may be that you want the Lincecum drama to end as well or result in the moves you’ve suggested or the moves others have suggested.
    Lastly you may be wishing for a similar outcome where after Lincecum does battle with whatever move is made on him, the team and the player both comb their hair and move on.

    July 13th, 2012 9:52 am

  2. CohnZohn

    Lameduck, Thanks for taking the time. I learned from this.

    July 13th, 2012 9:55 am

  3. lameduck

    Now I’m wondering why I keep singing “Maria” in my head – from West Side Story….

    July 13th, 2012 9:59 am

  4. Brady

    Ha! what a great story. thanks for transporting us back there, Lowell. Maybe it has to do with what feels like a formal, but ultimately unnecessary fight? Vasquez and Greenspan were clearly able to put their differences in the past and get back to playing at the park. Why couldn’t they do it without blood? Yet they had an unwritten agreement that that was how it needed to be settled, and after they had both endured pain, they could forget the grudge and move on. With Lincecum, he’s trying to get back to being good. Once he does – I believe he will – it will feel like the months of struggle were unnecessary. He’ll realize something, change something, think of something, and voila, he’ll be good ol’ Timmy again. But he understands he has to go through this ugly battle to get there, even if it seems from the outside that he could just skip the struggles, just as Vasquez and Greenspan could’ve said “hey, we’re going to forgive in the end, let’s skip the find and get over it now.”

    July 13th, 2012 10:24 am

  5. Brady

    skip the fight*….excuse the typo.

    July 13th, 2012 10:25 am

  6. Capts

    I think it means Tim needs a haircut.

    July 13th, 2012 10:44 am

  7. Joe Sanchez

    When I read about Vasquez yanking Greenspan’s hair, I had a very vivid mental image of someone yanking Tim Lincecum’s long hair. I bet Timmy would cry unkle too.

    Half the fight is mental though, we’ll see if Timmy can pull out of his slump.

    July 13th, 2012 10:48 am

  8. gary

    sorry, no clue.

    July 13th, 2012 12:22 pm

  9. KauaiRobert

    Same reason why people slow down to look at traffic accidents…or why rollercoasters are a blast…or why rednecks watch NASCAR…or why SPQR watched the gladiators in the Colosseum…or why I love scary movies…
    Anticipation. Fascination. Exhilaration.
    P.S. Punchball, stickball, slapball, handball…
    Did you make some of those up?

    July 13th, 2012 12:32 pm

  10. CohnZohn

    Kauai Robert, If a person grew up in Brooklyn, those were the games he/she played.

    July 13th, 2012 12:34 pm

  11. KauaiRobert

    P.S.S. If that was ALAN Greenspan you were referring to…I’m glad he got his butt kicked!

    July 13th, 2012 12:35 pm

  12. CohnZohn

    Sorry, KauaiRobert, It was Teddy Greenspan.

    July 13th, 2012 12:38 pm

  13. Stan

    It means you’ve read too many of my posts and are now mov’in in to my territory?..wink.

    July 13th, 2012 12:46 pm

  14. KauaiRobert

    This should be a very interesting experience for you Lowell.
    The question is on everyone’s mind with each and every outing: What will Lincecum do?
    It gets more fascinating as the season goes on as and fall approaches.
    I can really sense what your getting at here.
    The good news for you though, is that regardless of whether Timmy is lights out or the Astros light him up–there doesn’t seem to be an in-between for this kid–there’s an interesting column in it for you.
    Win, win.

    July 13th, 2012 12:53 pm

  15. turd tupperville

    That fateful Friday afternoon, after his 2:30 Differential Calculus class, would hold
    life-long ramifications for young Greenspan, who finally realized that his boyhood
    dream of a career in the World Wrestling Federation would never come to fruition
    after suffering a humiliating and ignominious defeat and two concussions at the
    hands of the 123 pound Vasquez.

    July 13th, 2012 1:02 pm

  16. Iggy

    I’d like to offer my own interpretation of my dad’s story, which I’ve never heard before, although I have played ball in that park.

    Both Vasquez and Greenspan are Timmy. He used to be Vasquez, now he’s Greenspan, and the agitation and excitement we feel before he pitches comes from wondering whether that’s the day he’ll finally return to being Vasquez, or if he ever can become Vasquez again. Is he condemned to a life of being Greenspan?

    July 13th, 2012 1:33 pm

  17. Johnc

    I like the explanation of lameduck. There has to be some sort of trauma and cartharsis. leading to a resolution. Timmy will be sent to the minors. That is in your subconscious..
    As for Brooklyn, I grew up in Queens where shoolyard scenarios and concrete playground areas next to apartment complexes abounded. Who can forget the headlocks? lol

    July 13th, 2012 1:59 pm


    You are remembering a time when there were rules. You didn;t hit below the belt or when the guy was down. No one else jumped in and the matter was settled when the guy gave up. Maybe, this all ended when Marichal used a bat against Roseboro. Maybe, it ended when managers like La Russa changed the pitching game. Maybe Timmy needs to say, “I give up and need some help. Maybe, he needs a comb.

    July 13th, 2012 3:29 pm

  19. KauaiRobert

    Iggy’s getting deep!
    It’s like a good-Kirk, evil-Kirk scenerio.
    Timmy’s fighting himself for control!
    This thread may actually be more interesting than the game itself…

    July 13th, 2012 3:52 pm

  20. Pablo

    For me, your story speaks of a day of reckoning. Whatever happens tomorrow will bring closer, be it good or bad.

    Tomorrow will reveal whether Lincecum becomes a Greenspan or Vasquez. You are experiencing the same anticipation you had, many years ago.

    Lowell, did you also play baseball and kick the can, as a kid?

    July 13th, 2012 3:59 pm

  21. Pablo

    Closure, is what I meant. But you know that.

    July 13th, 2012 4:00 pm

  22. CohnZohn

    Pablo, Yes I played baseball at Wingate Field — later Midwood Field — the same place Woody Allen played ten years earlier. I never played kick the can.

    July 13th, 2012 4:08 pm

  23. mendozaline

    Here is my take, which is worth what it costs.
    The story is not about Vasquez nor Greenspan. It is about
    Lowell…the younger brother…watching the older brothers.
    Lowell is not only excited, but agitated. Younger brother, feeling a lack of power around the older brothers and alone, a spectator.

    Today’s Lowell, still a spectator, but no longer feeling powerless. Lowell loves boxing, a test of manhood. Tomorrow he will watch Lincecum’s test of manhood. No longer agitated, no longer powerless…just excited.

    Tomorrow, I’ll post my theory about your dislike of the DH.

    July 13th, 2012 9:14 pm

  24. mike

    Timmy’s current predicament, although becomming rather long-term, reminds me of the adage that says, “What I was isn’t what I am, and what I am isn’t yet what I can be.” His battle to sort out the issues that have caused this current slide in his pitching skills not only is a physical battle but also a mental war he fights 24-7, and the longer it exists the greater the ruts in his mind are deepened. More so than battling an opponent, Timmy is fighting a war within himself, and that is the draw of the moth to the flame for Lowell. It’s like an English class for a comparison and contrast and a essay about conflict vs. man and conflict vs. self. In Timmy’s case, it is a dual faceted story because he not only has the opponent but also himself.

    July 14th, 2012 9:57 am

  25. Gopal

    Accepting that you lost a fight, and then getting on with your life is a difficult emotional terrain to climb.

    July 14th, 2012 11:15 am

  26. Stan

    Every start has been like the old saying “You cant squeeze blood out of a turnip”..sage that I am. I’m not expecting much today. If Lincecum starts huffing and puffing,and that chest heaves in 56f San Fran “heat”..then its just more of the same.
    I do notice that some locals wont say one word about his thinness…Papa,Krukow,others. That’s called prima donna media cant admit I was right. The are the ones who ignored the Righetti quote.
    You can look down all you want at me media types..but right is right.

    July 14th, 2012 11:19 am

  27. Neal

    No clue Lowell, although the childhood story was good. Maybe it means that Linicum is going to be in a big fight and he is going to win or lose

    July 14th, 2012 11:56 am

  28. RM

    I think the link between Vasquez/Greenspan story and Lincecum’s start tonight is that they both share a guilty fascination with human failure. Nobody watches a playground fight for its subtle elegance (your own arguments for heavyweight boxing many moons ago not withstanding.) It’s about the fact that someone is going to lose, and likely lose ugly. There will be embarrassment and a fall from grace involved.

    Similarly, the current interest in Lincecum is fueled primarily by a fascination with his own precipitous fall from grace and a part of us that realizes, no matter how much we may like the kid, that there’s something compelling about a story line involving a 28 year old guy who has gone from untouchable to almost unmentionable. And yes, as others have pointed out, both then and now you have served in the official and professional capacity of observer or witness. Your job is to ‘cover’ this with very little of your own emotional well-being at stake.

    All this said, I’m not betting against the kid yet for the long haul. Somebody should shut his old man up, though.

    July 14th, 2012 12:12 pm

  29. RC

    Grant nailed it, Tim is either one or the other on any given day….more Greenspan lately.

    July 14th, 2012 12:45 pm

  30. Dennis

    It is about putting yourself on the line. Win or lose, you have to show up and perform. In this case Lincecum has more than a game to lose and that is intensity of it. Every pitch (punch in the case of the fight) will be a nail biter.

    July 14th, 2012 1:08 pm

  31. mike

    Does anybody remember why Mark Fydrich of the Tigers went from phenom to forgotten in such a short period? One day he was talking to the baseball and grooming the mound before he befuddled hitters and then eventually talking to the walls outside of the game.

    Strange how somebody can go bust so quickly, but there are circumstances maybe never known to the general public.

    July 14th, 2012 2:40 pm

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