brewers baseball and things


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if our toes could talk one day


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not exactly aces

With no traveling minstrel show or pow circuit listed on my immediate social schedule, i took to the street and walked around the block, hoping to align with change, with baseball’s barnstorm get away travel days as one series is done and another about to begin and Gerald Nicosia screaming softly in my head – ACCEPT LOSS FOREVER or maybe it was Steve Nicosia? He split his last major league season – 1985 –  between the Expos and Blue Jays.

i suppose the revolving door has its perks, has a certain origami quality to it, a shape shifting potential, colorful flowers growing from a soldier’s tomb without the help of human hands.

The beginning and end of a series feels similar to being a kid and ripping into a wax pack of baseball card player personalities, seeing and liking, but tucking that card on the bottom, forgotten, replaced by the next new top card, and so on and then no more cards and some are memorable and some not. Chew-chew-chew; that stick of gum actually softens, a first lesson in ignoring nay say noise.

yeh neh,
up down,
joy pain
sun rain
the orgasmic grease of another McDonald’s hash brown please don’t be the last bite! god, i love hash browns.
the hot shower has gone cold
every damn day turns to driftwood,
washed away,

but a different series washes ashore. in my Brewers shoe box motel mind welcoming these new teams and players into the TV view finder carousel round and round, series after series after season and there was this restaurant/bar in Milwaukee. I forget the name, but it had an upper deck. Reminded me of the Old Tiger Stadium i watched on TV with the outfield seats jetting out over the field or at least it looked that way on TV – perfect place, that bar and probably tiger stadium as well, to enjoy the gift of elevation, of turkey vultures soaring a breeze in search of fresh carcasses to scavenge or to sit self-conscious, hug the Pink Floyd banister and stare into the cloudy blues below remembering all the teams and players Jason Bergman you are memorable.

Bergman was drafted by the Montreal Expos in 2002. Didn’t debut till a few years later in 2005, as a Nat. I remember 2007 spring training. I remember Jason Bergman. A reporter asked him what his expectations were for the upcoming season and Jason said something like, Well, I’d like to be 13-10 with a 3.47 ERA. There was a pause, the reporter startled from the specifics and then Bergman added that he would also like to unveil a new pitch, a Turgasoo or something like that and the reporter believed him for a few seconds until Bergman cracked up.

Bergman was born in Neptune, not the planet, but the state, of New Jersey. He was pretty good in 2007, good enough that I ordered his strat-o-card, but to be fair, I ordered the entire league as well. He pitched 115 innings and only gave up 99 hits, 86 strikeouts, but 42 walks. I guess that’s a lot of walks. Gave up 18 homers too.

The last Bergman spotting was in 2013, in the Indy Atlantic League pitching for the Sugar Land Skeeters in Sugar Land, Texas and holy sweet tooth, in 30 innings as the team’s closer, he gave up 15 hits and 1 earned run, 33 strikeouts against 2 walks. Then he pitched at Escogido in the Dominican Winter League. The Royals signed him to a minor league deal in 2015 I think. I also came across an article from July of 2015 that mentions Bergman as one of the National’s all time worst players. Oh well,

a fastball cowboy boot motorcycle zoom.
there’s probably never been a cocksure knuckleballer.
i hear one of the
k-niekro brothers carried a flask.
there musta been magic in it.

 


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box score

it’s a still life,
a first supper of numbers,
perfect spread of names, columns and rows,
latitude and longitude,
knowing everything that happened,
and nothing at all.


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all or nothing but sometimes something

There’s one on every street corner. A human factory cranks em out on a daily basis. Talking about The Species. They don’t wear a green star on their shirt, no number monogrammed onto their wrist. They sometimes swing and miss….a lot of times in fact, but they also know the strike zone. They earn walks and do make contact, more than contact, more like explosions, The Big Fly. I bet if we lined em all up, we could make a great long wall, Red Rover Red Rover, send Adam Dunn over?

i was looking for players who had a high OB% with a low batting average, more affectionately known as OBP – BA differential. Where would the world be without dashes? I figured most of the players, maybe all of them would fit the above profile and be like Dunn, be power hitters. His career BA is .237, career OB% .364………462 long balls.

I found the OB BA differential list for 2009. Carlos Pena ruled the roost with his .222 batting average and .357 OB%, good enough for a .135 difference. No surprise. Pena fits the mold or my assumption of someone who swings and misses a lot, but swings and hits home runs too and scares pitchers into throwing balls, hence, walk a lot too.

But I didn’t find any other seasons and I didn’t find an all-time leader list, yet.

The Brewers Colin Walsh, no relation to Joe Walsh, as far as I know defies the logic I was trying to develop. Walsh made the Brewers team this year, his first major league season, on his reputation for working a walk. It’s a good fit, Walsh and the Brewers, especially if you subscribe to the notion that a manager is God and he builds a roster in his own image. Not only does Walsh mildly resemble Craig Counsell in a sculptured facial feature sort of way, but he takes pitches in mind-expanding volumes. Colin Walsh simply does not swing and that makes him sort of a circus side show because he doesn’t really hit either, certainly not home runs or not in the majors, not yet anyway. But he did hit 16 home runs in 2012 – A level St. Louis and 13 in 2015 AA Oakland. He also hit .302 that year with a .447 OB%.

Walsh was originally drafted out of Stanford University by St. Louis, then released and signed by Oakland. He was left unprotected and the Brewers grabbed him in the 2015 Rule V draft which means he has to remain on the Brewers roster all season.

At the present time, Walsh is batting .095 with a .321 OB%. In 56 plate appearances, he has walked 13 times and struck out 18, 4 hits in 41 at bats, 2 RBI’s. He also spins the bat between pitches. It’s a different sort of baton twirl than Mickey Rivers, but a twirl nonetheless, a Hasbro sensation, fun for everyone to see.


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the other eye shadow

It was night time in Miami the other night, Brewers Marlins last game of their series. i never really thought too much about that black shiny goop under a player’s eyes before. I mean i thought about it, but not really.

Eye black removes the glare from sunlight and apparently over head stadium lights too because Derek Dietrich of the Marlins had lots of it under his eyes Wednesday night, on TV anyway.

Derek Dietrich is The Marlins second baseman. He is not related to Marlene Dietrich who was an actress. I have no idea why I know she was an actress because I have never seen one of her movies. Maybe she is a lyric in a  song? Either way, their last names have the same spelling, but the similarity ends there.

Derek Dietrich is also the grandson of former major leaguer Steve Demeter, but Derek Dietrich had no control over this. It’s like Red Barber saying he had no control over being white and so he figured what’s the big deal.

Meanwhile, back in that game Wednesday night, there’s Derek Dietrich standing in the night time Marlins dugout wearing a thick strip of that eye black when a flash goes through my mind….

sweatbands, my sweatbands,
uniform, my uniform,
name on my back
L’ego my Ego
but now my waivers,
and this road i hoped to avoid for a few more years anyway
bothers me in proportion to how much
i reveled in sweatbands, my sweatbands
uniform, my uniform,
name on my back
L’ego my Ego
and so on………

 


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the groundscrew was away from their desk

The importance of TV dinners is not measurable in terms of joy, serotonin measuring devices notwithstanding. The thrill of a Swanson Hungry Man turkey meal was in direct proportion joy to the walls between the food groups on the silver foiled tray. Compartmentalization was the key for me, more than the actual taste. It was to ensure that my potatoes did not mix with the cranberry, corn, or fudge brownie. There were variations to the medley.

But all that anal retentive symphony passed. It had to…. with bounce back innings looming on maturity’s horizon. Maybe the bounce back inning has no free will. Maybe it’s the most despicable scenario we can conjure – fork prongs wedged between fingernails and when removed, salt finds its way there too. Maybe there is no bottom line, not with the bullpen on sabbatical and the skipper busy with his pouch, pontificating in old man chaw tongue, “revive or rot away, kid. Get out to the mound.”

The bucket of Bazooka Joe suits the kid like a wishing well. He cuddles up beside and blows. He’s the three spin munster, got that natural movement on his pitches. But the mound became his guillotine just an inning ago when his fastball sailed and curve spun. Served up three home runs, walked the bases loaded, two long fly outs, two sac flies, gastrointestinal disorder, three broken nails, two more singles, an itchy crotch, a bases clearing triple, and finally a K. It was too much to tally. A diagnosis given in some strange measurementNo pitch counts either.

“Bounce back or walk to the train station, you speak Korean?”

The elder loogies gathered round, looking steel plated now, a rosary of stitch incisions round their laurel lobotomies. “Amnesia is our poker hand kid,” they said in their tilted pinball machine chorus, followed by  –  “Lasso anxiety to the trough”…..chain gang bullpen of dusty roads twilight.

The kid has options. Sees it in their wrinkles. He could shave or drop his arm slot, ditch the overhead Rockwell motion that won him the prom king looks. He could duck, wear a bullet proof vest for valentines day or better yet, channel The Vuke, oh Dear Vuke, of shoe changes and lace rearranges, knick-knack paddywhack a rosin bag. Destiny had nothing on you Vuke. You were born old, pockmarked face virgin side of the tracks, painting towns long before the bus could roll you under.

The Loogies sit the kid down on an upturned pickle bucket, tell him to walk well with reincarnation, lead it astray and then flush it down, all the way down. Hear it echo, scream, dissipate and be on its merry way, into that circle of water Fwoooooop, sucked under, gone to the other side seal deal. Your samsara done.

The kid hears samsara and knows what to do. “Gas is great” the kid farts. “Next inning I’m gonna  throw nitric oxide invisible,” his eyelashes fluttering butterflies, so optimistic. He’ll never park an ambulance in his driveway, not this kid, pulsating out to the mound.  The skipper slides down a dugout notch, popcorn position for the bounce back inning, bumps the bat boy a whiff of his cigar breath.

“Another kid!” he screams, but jesus of gibberish, this bat boy kid screams back,

“even Maddux was barely ripe at 25.”

Must be a second coming baseman thinks the pitching coach, pacing the dugout walls. Yep, this bat boy is bound to be a second baseman

This bat boy got great posture, smile on his face, hair curly but combed

“perfection eludes peanut vendors,” the bat boy kid hums.

The skipper smiles. smiles? Only a mother hubbard second sacker can put an arc on that man’s puss, jumper cable his youth, no more breaking up Lezcano echoes. The skip’s with us now, slipping into communal double dutch, stats oozing from him like gas in some parallel universe with the bounce back kid. Skipper spits from both ends now, about Stanton never hitting Peralta, 1 for 16 with 6 k’s and round the dugout cement spittoon we go, each one sharing a duel. Keeps us all together. Left and right brains dancing now, digging two trench towns – one in the batters box and the other beside the rubber.

The bounce back kid mows ’em down 1-2-3, two long flyouts that coulda been home runs in some other galaxy and a last batter K, foul tip in catcher’s glove. Luck on his side.

*Side note. The Brewers had already lost 3-2 so I switched to the Nationals and watched almost history last night and then to the Cubs and announcer Len Kasper revealing that four pitchers had now struck out 20 in a game. Clemens did it twice and once each for Randy Johnson and Kerry Wood and now Max Scherzer, but what sent Kasper’s serotonin levels off the chart were the no walks among them.

Is that possible? In 45 innings – 5 complete games, there have been  100 K’s and not one walk?! I gotta look that up just to see it on paper or screen..scream.

 


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almost a book reading

There were three of us presenting projects this past Saturday at the SABR Quebec gathering and three other members, so we were six in all, a nice sized country at the Le Cage sports bar-restaurant beside the Bell Center. We shared a pitcher of Molson Export. The Blue Jays were on one TV, at home hosting the Dodgers. A hockey playoffs game was on the other TV.

One guy bought fish and chips. I bought just the chips. Norm King talked about his book –  50 Greatest Expos Games – or we all talked about it, about Bill Stoneman’s no-hitters, Dennis Martinez’s perfect game in the alcoholic recovering twilight of his career, Curtis Pride’s first hit at Olympic Stadium as a deaf man. It seemed appropriate that the Dodgers were on TV in that no one talks about the Dodgers in Montreal, not after Blue Monday 1981 when Rick Monday hit a playoff home run over Dawson’s head and there went the season down the drain.

When the food arrived, Patrick – the SABR Quebec president said, “steve, tell us about dreaming .400. I had it all rehearsed, hadn’t really slept much the night before. I was terribly nervous, but so was Norm King and so was Jean Allard, our third presenter. Jean is a long time P.A. announcer of local and international baseball competitions.

I chose the story Close Encounter to discuss. I could have read a sample and would have felt comfortable doing it, but people were eating. It didn’t seem like the time and anyway it was so informal and friendly. In fact when I mentioned the long shot thrill of Bill Lee endorsing my book, Jean Allard asked “Did you go up the hill?” That hill leads to Bill Lee’s home and mini baseball bat factory in Craftsbury Vermont. Jean had made the trip before.

I discussed my book for no more than 10 minutes, mostly about the story Close Encounter, about it taking place Easter Sunday, 1987, at  Milwaukee County Stadium, the Brewers being on the brink of winning their 12th game in a row to start the season, thrilling in itself, but even more in Wisconsin because of our local greasy spoon burger chain George Webb that we always called Le George Webb.

George Webb has been around since the 1940’s predicting the minor league Milwaukee Brewers of the American Association would win 17 games in row. They never did and were forced out of town when the Braves arrived from Boston. George Webb then lowered its prediction to 12 and hinted that if the Braves won 12 in a row, free burgers would be dished out for all of Wisconsin. The Braves didn’t win 12 in a row and they relocated to Atlanta in the mid 1960’s. The Brewers were next, a few years later, and this time George Webb did more than hint. They promised free burgers if the Brewers could win 12 in a row and holy crap, they did it in 1987.

The fictional character I created for that story – Sam Doobins was at the Easter Sunday game and he went to George Webb the next day and something happened there. He redeemed his free burger of course, but something else happened and it changed his life forever and that’s all I said on Saturday. It was a teaser because I wanted them to buy the book and one guy did and another said he would buy it from the publisher’s website – summer game books

I also traded one Dreaming .400 to Norm King for his book – 50 greatest Expos Games. A great moment…trading books, trading anything. I’ll trade you an aortic valve replacement for 1 year of car maintenance and I’ll cut your grass too. OK, fine I’ll throw in my Tim Raines rookie card. That must piss off the world’s corporate structure? Or maybe I should leave that topic alone? Politics + economics = over my head.

The last thing I said was thank you and Go Brewers. Later that night, the Brewers won in Cincinnati. Aaron Hill hit three home runs, including the extra inning go-ahead grand slam.

 

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