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Wednesday, January 30, 2002

Anagrams for Dollars

Houston we have a problem.

For some reason unknown even to me, the Enron mess conjures up one
of the looniest passages in TITLE="Big Bad Baseball Stats Entry">Jim Bouton’s oeuvre-not
from Ball Four, actually, but from his follow-up book, I’m Glad You
Didn’t Take It Personally
(which, of course, most people did-and
still do).

Sitting the Astrodome dugout one early 1970 evening, Bouton and
teammates Tom Griffin and

HREF="" TITLE="Big Bad Baseball Stats

Norm Miller began musing about all the empty seats and
what could be done about it.

“Midgets,” Tom Griffin said. “People will pay to see midgets.”
“Not unless they’re doing something,” Norm Miller said.  “How about
dropping them from the roof in parachutes?” I [Bouton] said.  “Not
exciting enough.” Griffin said. “How about nine midgets, one an
inning, and only eight parachutes?”  “We could sell it as a raffle,”
Miller said. “The fans who drew the midget without the parachute would
get a prize.”  “Great,” Griffin said.  “We could call it Dollars For

Astros fans may need promotions with such a macabre edge to them
in 2002 as they attempt to purge themselves from the nightmarish
occurrences in their home town over the past month. But, as George
Vecsey points out in one of his best columns in recent memory over at
the New York Times ( ""Astros
Should Give Some Money Back
), there is a small problem that
will plague them in such an effort.

The stadium, as you know, is called Enron Field.

Vecsey’s column is quite good on this (and I’d say that even if he
hadn’t actually appropriated one of my lines in describing Bud Selig
“and his merry band”), and explains how the Astros are stuck in a
binding contract for naming rights that may leave them in a surreal
pact with a dead company for quite some time to come.

However, given the absurd nature of the situation (as baseball
itself continues to grind along in one of its looniest off-seasons
ever), I’d like to meet the spirit of the times with some, well,
impish “solutions” of my own. The factotums in Houston will probably
not find these to be especially practical, but such matters are not
our concern.

The only real choice with a chance to work legally, as I see it,
would be to retain the five letters in the stadium name, but to
rearrange them in some fashion to remove the offending memory.

The problem is that a name like Enron just doesn’t leave us with
much latitude in terms of anagrammatic reconstruction. However, never
wanting to leave a challenge untaken, I have dutifully played around
with these five unpromising letters and have discovered two alternate
combinations that actually make usable words.

The first-and it’s one that many of you may have already thought
of-is NOREN. Now, I’m sure that lefty-hitting

HREF="" TITLE="Big Bad Baseball Stats

Irv Noren (he of the Senators-remember them?-the
Yankees, and several other teams in the 50s) would be only too pleased
to have a stadium named after him, even in this, er, “indirect” way,
but-there’s a problem.

While Irv’s name does conjure up images of a good old boy, the
facts are that he’s a native New Yorker, and the closest he probably
got to Houston was when he was (like so many other players during that
time frame) shipped from the Yankees to their “farm team” in Kansas

Nope, I’m afraid this one won’t work. Even though the name works,
it’s just too obscure. And if it’s too obscure for me, I know that
it’s gonna be too obscure for you-and for the honchos in Houston.

OK, that leaves us with one other way out of the rats’ maze. The
other word you can anagram out of Enron is RONEN, which as an
inveterately shady Scrabble player I will insist is the plural of the
Japanese word RONIN, which stands for the order of samurai warriors
whose code of honor and violence was so vividly depicted by filmmaker
Kenji Mizoguchi (in The 47

Now, it’s a stretch, but we’ll take one twice as long as

HREF="" TITLE="Big Bad Baseball Stats

Willie McCovey’s to get us out this pickle. The Houston
poobahs can strike a blow for multiculturalism and solve their
stadium name problem with Ronen Field as their new name AND by
scooping up all of the Japanese ballplayers they can get their hands
on to give their team an entirely new direction.

Yes, that’s right. The code of the samurai will take over a town
drowning in the collapse of enervated oil-and-gas. All the ‘Stros need
to do is trade Lance Berkman to the Mariners for

HREF="" TITLE="Big Bad Baseball Stats

Ichiro! Suzuki and

HREF="" TITLE="Big Bad Baseball Stats

Shigetoshi Hasegawa. Then they can keep the blue wave
of the samurai rolling to the Gulf by packaging overpriced closer
Billy Wagner, fading righty

HREF="" TITLE="Big Bad Baseball Stats

Shane Reynolds and false hope

HREF="" TITLE="Big Bad Baseball Stats

Chris Truby to the ever-willing Los Angeles Dodgers for
Hideo Nomo, Kazuhisha Ishii, and

HREF="" TITLE="Big Bad Baseball Stats

Adrian Beltre. (Yes, yes, the Dodgers still have to
sign Ishii, but baseball’s backroom is almost as creative as the one
in Washington, so I have no doubt that something can be worked
out. And, no, Beltre isn’t Japanese, of course, but I figure the
Dodgers need to keep up their tradition of giving up too soon on their

The Astros can boost their samurai quotient by trading a prospect
to the Giants for outfielder TITLE="Big Bad Baseball Stats Entry">Tsuyoshi Shinjo, and then
packaging up some leftover barbeque to send off to Montreal for
pitcher Masato Yoshii. Like Enron, the stock of

HREF="" TITLE="Big Bad Baseball Stats

Hideki Irabu has fallen so low that he can be picked up
for a blind pedal steel player to be named later.

So there you have it-in just a few bold, slashing moves, the
Astros can retool themselves into a team with a new stadium name, a
new image, and a not-so-new “high concept.” The crossover effect into
other areas of culture will become apparent at Ronen Field’s
concession stands in 2002, when the food courts are filled with “sushi
bar-b-que” and a saki chaser for your favorite brew. It’ll be strange
bedfellows for awhile, but soon a new economic alliance will occur
when Japanese carmakers realize that a whole new market for
gas-guzzling Hondas is staring them in the face right there on the
Gulf of Mexico.

And all it takes is shuffling a few letters on a few signs. It’s
amazing how such a simple change can have such a profound effect,
ain’t it?

So cheer up, Houston. Trade in those ten-gallons for warrior’s
robes, and you’ll put all of this shame and perfidy behind you-thanks
to a new slant on life. Lord knows you need one.

Don Malcolm Posted: January 30, 2002 at 05:00 AM | 3 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Charles Saeger Posted: January 30, 2002 at 12:22 AM (#604755)
I started work on Monday just to pay my bills,

At Enron-ron-ron, at Enron-ron

By Tuesday Kenny Lay had stolen from the till,

From Enron-ron-ron, from Enron-ron

Yeah, I had some bills,

Yeah, Ken stole from the till,

But when your buddy's in the White House you sure can chill

At Enron-ron-ron, at Enron-ron

Thought I'd take that off my chest.

Anyhow, what to do? Seriously, the state, which paid for the ballpark, should be recouping the money for the naming rights, not the Astros. But, conceding the necessity to work in the confines of the insane funding system of public stadia, I have a new idea:

ENduring home Runs ONly

Considering the stadium characteristics, it makes sense. Who says we can't add letters?
   2. Jose Bautista Bobblehead Day Posted: January 30, 2002 at 12:22 AM (#604756)
It makes a fella proud to be an Astro.
   3. Charles Saeger Posted: January 31, 2002 at 12:22 AM (#604761)
So Harris County paid for Enron, not the state of Texas. So what? It's still public funding, which was my point. You're being a nit-picking jerk, and for no reason.

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