brewers baseball and things


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one night long night

not exactly charboneau
down the lit-up walkway of yet another bus

saunters a boy with beast in his eyes,
expos hat on his head,
slipping into the seat beside the can
like it’s an old saloon or something.
you’d think he knew the players/passengers from some other life.
he’s got a deck of cards out and he’s fanning them with ease,
makes that ruffle cruffle crunch sound and no one can resist.
they all turn round.
one with hat on backward,
another no hat at all,
there’s a bible belt boozer, one from tobacco road, a tamiami swamper, an okie spitoon,
some are tall, some small, some singing, some shy,
tumbling towards beautiful nowhere,
and like a thousand times peoria pawtucketville plattsburgh before
the fit turn to flab and
15 minor league years pass just like that,
a wonderful shooting star
and no one made it
their lives one long beautiful anonymous night,
that tomorrow big league dream never coming
but everything’s gold anyway and never to be forgotten,
chiseled on invisible scrolls of second base smoke plumes
conspiring with other long lost nights and becoming clouds,
to rain down for someone else to forge the mantle new.

Micah Kila Kaʻaihue returned from Japan last year and served two AAA tours of duty, one with New Orleans, another with Syracuse, his overall batting average – .195. He was  released,  but he did hit seven home runs and that makes 14 consecutive years he’s hit at least one. Next stop northern league? Sand dune whiffle ball league? One more home run Kila Ka-ah-hoooo! You’re only 32.

 


kerouac

Spring training never rolled in like a stampede, but by the end of january, a last lap sensation kicked in, that day pitchers and catchers were to report chiseled into my mind, soon an intersquad paradise, a gallop growing louder as opening day neared with first pitches and the world not so heavy anymore, but nothing lasts. April turned to May. A dullness settled in.

Each game suffered a similar temperature drop. Hot hot hot that batting practice crack of the bat echo and fans oooooooohing, ”look at that one go.” The fielders taking the field popping out of the mother earth cannon dugout in perfect geometry, a pyramid as each player finds their place. And after that first pitch, I told myself this was gonna be the year. I was gonna watch every game and keep score and create a Brewers file, but by the second inning, the concrete felt cold and by the third, i calculated how many more innings and approximate time….are we there yet? to the more exciting later inning years of my life?

The birds made no indication, no sign i could decipher, but jack kerouac became JACK KEROUAC.

We only read two Kerouac books in James Liddy’s Beat Literature class – On The Road and Dharma Bums, but that was enough. I wandered, first to Spain, to study and work, then riding Greyhound buses for a year, hitchhiked up the Pacific coast, met travelers from Québec.

James Liddy and I exchanged letters over the years, until he passed away, but I’m still in contact with a friend I met in his class. The story To Be Frank in Dreaming .400 is loosely based on that friendship.

So much fades. Maybe everything fades, but I arrived in Québec for the first time in 1995 and never really left. The woman I dedicated Dreaming .400 to is from St. Pascal Québec. We visit her family there, have been for almost 10 years, but only during our most recent visit did we play Kerouac genealogy.

I think the video ”Jack Kérouac is Québécois” did it to us, or to her, to Sarah. She’s French and hearing Jack speak French opened her heart, Kerouac sounding so tender and quebekish and French Canadianish and beautiful…..le mot beat vien de negre, de pauvre, de jolie, beat beat Béatitude . (the word beat comes from black people, from poor, from joy, beat beat bliss)

We stopped in Saint-Pacôme, birthplace of Jack’s beautiful mother – Gabrielle-Ange Lévesque. I said thank you and then in St. Pascal, a few clicks away, it happened. We discovered, thanks to the lone employee at the genealogy building that Sarah was baptized in the same St. Pascal Church that Jack Kerouac’s grandparents – Jean Baptiste Kerouac and Clementine Bernier were married….and that Jack’s paternal great-grandfather – Marc Bernier was buried in the cemetery beside that church.

We walked on the buried bones and I believed, like praying at the tomb of Kateri Tekakwitha – Lily of the Mohawks that magical amazing things could happen and did like James Liddy promising to squeeze out love from heaven and send it my way, all our way.

I felt drunk with destiny.

The peaks of La Montagne à Coton sit like lions, welcoming you to Sarah’s home, to St. Pascal, et tabernouche (holy crap) we climbed la montagne, winded our way to the top, standing on the lookout ledge watchtower like Desolation Peak in Dharma Bums, seeing in all directions, past, present, and future too, all the points of Jack Kerouac’s ancestry, to Saint-Pacôme and to le fleuve St. Laurent angling east to big Atlantic and west to the great lakes all those roads and further south to ”le petit canada” Lowell, Massachusetts where Jack was born and spoke only french the first 6 years of his life and me right now, speaking that same french, a top this lookout tower and my love of Kerouac and Beats merging with my actual life, with Sarah and St. Pascal and Montreal and some things aren’t meant to fade. They revive, portage us out into that golden lake, to merge with the stars and love.

I read my destiny, kicked so far away from baseball, but in returning, i feel closer than i did to the pennants and scores I once adored.


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pin the tail on a nazi

Assuming for a long second
that seagulls and flying things still launch from hand rails and
soar similar heights,
does the wild euphoric collective scream
after a walk off homerun,
at today’s Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park,
sound the same to a seagull,
as a Nazi Nuremberg rally’s collective ”seig heil, seig heil, seig heil” did?

a question of consonants and vowels perhaps?
either way,
the bread crumbs and hot dog scraps of Ball Park delicieuse
serve a flying thing’s survival,
buy why Cincinnati?
why not bavarian milwaukee or anywhere else?

it’s because of my great half uncle in reverse –  Otto Ramdickle.
he lives in cincinatti and feels alienated there,
told me so over the telephone.
he said, ”the baseball announcers suffer from homerism,”
so i said, ”why don’t you shut off the radio then?”
but i immediately knew that was an out of the ball park question,
a foul ball question
because Otto loves baseball,
relies on it like a raft riding through a black hole
and that without baseball,
he might get all the air sucked out of him like a birthday party balloon and disappear.

Otto also told me that the ”homerism” he hears on the radio
adds to his alienation and that
the entire situation reminded him of the nazi germany he’s been studying in high school,

”first we take poland, then we take France,” he laughed, but i think he was crying.

i don’t have a big bookshelf or rather, the shelf is big; there’s just not a lot of books,
only a couple of baseball-isms, machinery manuals, and a few poetry pamphlets.
but i like asking the shelf a question and
then closing my eyes and playing a piñata game equivalent,
my hand and finger become the wand or stick,
but i don’t swing.
i point instead,
and whatever i point to…..book, manual or ism
i snatch it off the shelf.
there’s no candy inside either, only words,

i played the game while talking to Otto my half uncle in reverse and
landed on a postcard size copy of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl.
perfect i thought because i knew Otto had a copy too
so we read it to each other over the phone
back and forth,
4 or 5 lines at a time,
like two kids riding a seesaw,
and since a lady with a sweet balmy voice said, ”6 hours remained on the phone card,”
Otto and i kept playing…reading nice and slow,
doing our best to pause at commas and express emotions in wild lilts,
feeling like colorful saxaphone bouquet blasts
and when Otto reached the end of part 2 and
heard the word ”radios” come out of his mouth,

”radios…….. lifting the city to Heaven which exists and is everywhere about us!”

i could hear the curl in Otto’s face, the flesh stretching as he smiled
or maybe i exaggerate and it was more like empathetic visual hallucination?
either way, i let him read and read and read some more,
all the way to the last two words…..”’Western night” when
Otto paused and screamed,

”Creek Howl, Creek Howl, Creek Howl”

so i said it too,

”Creek Howl, Creek Howl, Creek Howl,”

not really knowing what i was saying so
i said it again and then it hit me,
the rhyming with ”seig heil, seig heil, seig heil.”
not a perfect Hop on Pop sort of rhyme,
but i knew what Otto meant or felt like i did anyway.

i closed my eyes and could see Otto beside water,
staring into the Ohio River,
at the waves,
Great American Ballpark in the backround.
he wore a half-smile,
the swastika’s meaning bending again.
i think Otto felt lucky.

 


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i may have answered my own question?

i had it stuck in my head that jackie robinson played longer in the negro leagues, longer than one year anyway. but either way, i just assumed he enjoyed it. That Ken Burns special kind of squashed my romantification of barnstorm bumpy bus ride salvation as Robinson revealed a bit about how crappy his experience was. 

i don’t know. when i see clips of negro league buses stopping side of a road, players decked out in colorful suites with instruments strumming, i’m thinking count me in and i think the same thing when i see neal cassady driving the merry prankster bus or any tour bus,…Sham 69, Madonna, A Tribe Called Red, whatever, more american mythic road show adventure with baseball for fuel. it’s all the same to me in a good way, that riding and going and seeing and i hear a month’s supply of valium always helps so whatever bus you happen to wake up in that anxiety and friction and down right nuisance of riding and going and seeing with the same gang of people can feel more like tv images, here and then gone, flushed down a toilet.

Robinson only played one season in the Negro Leagues, 1945, for the kc monarchs, only 47 games, 77 at bats or so the stat page says, more than enough i guess for him to call the Negro Leagues unorganized and having too much gambling and whatever else he felt. well excuuuuuuuuuuuuse me.  i guess his oh my gawd, gag me with a ginsu no more negro league for me opinion maybe had to do with where he was coming from – the pampered university life or at least i think that’s how Mr. Burns spins it in his special?

anyway my point is that he played shortstop for the monarchs in 1945 and then 2B for the Montreal Royals in 46 and both positions make sense because that’s what he played and that’s what he was good at, but the following year in 1947, the Dodgers put him at 1B?

1B?

the hookah of hospitality? the ivory sack of converso where you have to hang out with base runners, be sociable, serve them tea and be all nice like Sean Casey. Was this part of Branch Rickey’s turn the other jesus cheek, 2 year test? sounds like torture to me…

if he can keep calm at first base, then he passes and we’ll let him play 2B and even LF later in life or

maybe there was no reason other than it being practical. they had no other place to put him, not with pee wee reese at SS and eddie stankey at 2B. Both of them look pretty good on paper, offensively anyway, especially stankey and his career .410 OB%, including .436 in 1946, the year before Robinson arrived or maybe replacing one of them with robinson would be forcing change too quickly, like asking thomas jefferson to drop the slave owner from his gravatar? 

but then in march of 1948 they traded stankey to the Boston Braves and a month later on opening day 1948, robinson was playing second base. and it’s all great and everything, but that damn major league baseball is such a monopoly, sucking every other league out of existence.


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things happened while watching the phillies and brewers on tv

The Phillies have a Ruff and a Rup on their roster.

Darin Ruff is 6’3″, 250 pounds.

Cameron Rup is 6’2″, 260 pounds.

They might make up the heaviest duo with the shortest last names ever in the history of baseball. We’re talking 510 pounds and 7 letters.

I was watching the Phillies on TV this past Friday night when I seen them. They were playing the Brewers at Miller park and after seeing Rup and then Ruff, I was like Holy ghost of Greg Luzinski. He was also on the Phillies and 6’1″ 220 pounds, but his last name had 8 letters all by itself.

The other thing that happened during that game is that the Phillies looked kind of good. Maybe Reuben Amaro or whoever their GM was got fired? He was the one suffering from 2009 WS trophy separation anxiety.

That same night I saw Jimmy Rollins in a White Sox uniform, so yeh, i think Reuben Amaro must have got fired.

A third thing also happened. Aaron Nola. He was the Phillies pitcher that night. He’s from Baton Rouge, Louisiana and his last name is Nola which is sometimes or maybe always, the abbreviation for New Orleans, Louisiana so that would be like being from Boulder and your last name was Denver. Or maybe it’s not that weird and happens every once in a while. Anyway, Aaron Nola looks like he could be really good or screw that, he already is good, throwing strikes, keeping the ball low, not overpowering, reminds me of Roy Halladay.

Of course, my predictions of pitchers becoming super duper good hardly ever come true, but there was my prediction sometime in august of 2014, right here on this blog about jake arrieta being the most under rated pitcher in baseball.

Oh, hogwash, i should get over myself and remember what wesley snipes shakespeare said in the movie white man can’t jump, “even the sun shines on a dog’s ass some days.”


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and it could happen again

There was talk of a house on a bluff overlooking a lake. Not such a big deal. Some said it was the oldest house in the village, built over 100 years ago with such and such material and that wasn’t such a big deal either. People talked as far back as I can remember about a room beneath the basement in that house and most of them swear on their mother’s pumpkin soup that they had been there. What eeried me out was that most of their stories sounded the same.

The room was apparently at the bottom of a well. Most people said they bumped into a slide or some sort of chute and fell there rather than deciding to “do it.“ The house was old, 19th century old, and originally an Italian food and spice emporium with cannoli, pepperoni and all kinds of herbs stored in the basement. This would explain the chute since most boxes for deliveries were placed on a diagonal ladder or belt from the outside. The boxes would then slide down to a worker who arranged the stockroom.

But there was also a second chute that slid into this other room, beneath the basement. Down there, people swore there was a square wood cube about the size of a prison cell. It had a window too, they said, but it was on the other side and hard to reach because there wasn’t much space to walk around. They had to stiffen their back and straighten up like walking along the ledge of a building, but they did it.

At that point, they would sigh and say something like “good thing too because that was the only way out, up some steps, behind a door that didn’t look like a door from the other side. You had to be plush up against it to see it.“

Some said they peeked through that window before climbing up the steps to freedom. Others didn’t say a thing. But each and every one of them stopped the story right then and there. There were rumors about tombs, caskets, and mummies, but we were never sure and no one dared to find out, not yet anyway.

It was like NASA space exploration in reverse, into the ground, but generating the same kind of excitement and curiosity and wonder. Even the miserable and hateful took notice. It was like they were reborn or something. They typically whined like babies, disguising their whimp with a sophisticated, witty, and often times angry and deconstructing tongue. But with talk of the room reaching a sort of pennant fever, they hopped to the other side or so it sounded.

They were like smokers who no longer smoked, preaching against their yesterday beliefs. “It takes minutes to implode a building,“ they would say. “Anyone can lay down the dynamite and pull the lever, but to build, now that takes……….“

……1981………1981? Why not 1981 or any other jackknife incident in time, the end always right around the corner.

It was awful when the Baseball Strike really happened and on May 29, there were really no games. It was doomsday, a time to cry or criticize and deconstruct; a time to hate and be miserable and people did and were and still are and that`s ok, but something else happened too.

The Valley Times, outside of San Francisco got wind of  four high school students using strat-o-matic baseball to replace the real thing. The newspaper proceeded to devote an entire page, almost every day to the strato-games with writers Ross McKeon and Gary Peterson writing summaries, providing fictional quotes from real players, discussing potential trades, and so on. Darrel Evans even guest managed his San Francisco Giants. There were 571 games played and there would have been more, but the strike ended and that other season continued.

And in the east, Jon Miller and Ken Coleman brought strat-o-matic to life on the air, on WITS Boston, pitch-by-pitch accounts of strat-o simulation with fan cheers and sounds of the game slipped into each broadcast.

The idea spread to Cleveland as well and a strat-o-matic all-star simulation was really played, at that belly of the whale Municipal Stadium. A card table was set up at home plate. The scoreboard was turned on.  The Associated Press counted 58 diehards in attendance. And Sportsphone offered fans the opportunity to call up and hear 30 second updates about the game and many did………swim through the muck with a strat-o smile, that is.

 


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all-in-one kind of batter

Mound visits for coaches and managers will be timed this season, at 30 seconds. An in-stadium clock will be in plain view for all fans to see, and count down the seconds, in unison. It sounds horrible, an Hargrovian insult, but there will be no penalty if the coffee clutch extends beyond 30 seconds, only an umpire playing principal with a pat on the shoulder and “OK boys, show’s over. Back to class,” the same way it was last year and every other year. 

The rule does not apply to players so a shortstop, the catcher, even the left fielder could wander to the mound, in theory, and exercise stall tactics.  I’ve never actually seen an outfielder do this, but there was a time when players did double duty as managers and surprisingly, a lot of them were outfielders.

There have been 35 catchers in the dynamic role, beginning with Billy Barnie in 1883 and 1886. It looks like Bill Dickey of the New York Yankees in 1940 was the last catcher to also be manager. But anyway, I’m sure many catchers have served as managers since then. They just aren’t called managers. A catcher is perfectly suited for the role, especially in today’s game with pitcher batter match ups, meetings on the mound, calls to the bullpen, a real chess match, one the catcher is constantly considering.

There have been 34 player manager first baseman, 31 second baseman, 21 third baseman, 28 shortstop, and much to my surprise 55 outfielders and 20 pitchers. There has never been a player manager designated hitter, but there sure could be. Why not? The position seems perfect for a manager, pacing back and forth between the clubhouse and dugout, bat in hand, spitting seeds, pondering the game, a next at bat. Must be strange to pinch hit for oneself and all the other conflict of interests that would arise.

The last player manager was Pete Rose in 1984-1986, but there have been a few players considered for the post since then. The one I remember most was Paul Molitor in Toronto, 1997. He turned down the Blue Jays offer, choosing to finish out his playing career in his hometown Minneapolis, with the Twins.

Molitor played the majority of his career with the Brewers and there was often talk of him being a player manager. We settled on him as “The Ignitor,” the greatest lead off hitter in Brewers history. Milwaukee did have one player manager, way back in 1901, when Hugh Duffy managed and played outfield. That Brewers team moved to St. Louis the following year and became the Browns.

In terms of greatest seasons of a player manager maybe Tris Speaker in 1920 tops the list. He hit .388 with 50 doubles and a mesmerizing On Base percentage of .483. Speaker played center field for the Cleveland Indians that year and what a year! He managed them to a 98 win season, the American League Pennant and a World Series victory over the Brooklyn Robins, five games to two. The Indians won the World Series only one other time – 1948.

There was no MVP award in 1920. If there was, maybe Speaker would have won the award or maybe not since George Sisler hit .407 and Ruth hit 54 home runs as well and it was more like FIFTY FOUR HOME RUNS!!! because Ruth hit 29 the previous year and before that, I don’t think any player had ever hit more than 20.

Ruth was never a player manager, but he quit the Yankees when they wouldn’t let him be one.

 

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