brewers baseball and things


things i could and couldn’t figure out while watching the yankees astros wild card game

Dallas Keuchel’s initials are DK, like the Dead Kennedys and he struck out Billy Gardner three times. The Yankees lost and so there goes Didi Gregorius and his six syllable name, but the Yankees are 1 for 1 in making the playoffs during Didi’s life as Yankee shortstop. That play by Didi to throw out George Springer was like seeing Reefer Alston cross over into a new found land. I’m glad I watched the game. I wonder what Yankee player suffered the most years without ever making the playoffs? Dallas Keuchel really is a wizard, painting pitches, especially that master mind of Alex Rodriguez and his first pitch swinging shallow fly to center in the bottom of the 6th and so went the Yankees only real threat.

Chris Archer entered the broadcast booth at some point last night and did an inning or maybe it was two or maybe that was my wishful thinking? God, he was was good, if not great. Super sounding voice and perfect amount of pitcher expertise and Jessica Mendoza was also in the booth and well, holy mackeral, she provided some mind popping insights, first about Jose Altuve’s strange unique ability to get two strike, way outside, protect the plate base hits. Holy plate coverage “where most hitters produce a lazy ground ball or pop out…..” I forget the rest of her quote, but it’s true,  Altuve turns nothing into something. When I grow up, I wanna be small like Patek and Altuve and if I’m a pitcher, I don’t want to throw hard. I want to be like Keuchel. I wanna be left handed and lob it towards corners.  This is a tolerant day, for lefties anyway and does any sport love lefties more than baseball? If we were pygmies, lefties would be gods. Maybe we are pygmies and lefties are already gods? I wasn’t too sure about the lefty Keuchel being removed after 6 innings last night, not after all that legendary build up….20 game winner, first start ever on 3 days rest, Madison Bumgarner echoes, and then out comes yet another lefty Tony Sipp, as spastic and fidgety and upset after every pitch as he was in Cleveland.

And after Sipp struck out the Yankees new legend Greg Bird swinging, Jessica Mendoza deflated the incessant flapping of Yankee fans, calling  Sipps’ painting of corners “Keuchel like.” She is more than the sexy legs the MLB likes to showcase.

Chris Carter
The under Mendoza line .199 BA and 20 home run plus a few more. I love that fact. I think Carter singled last night or maybe he worked a walk and then got pinch runned. Is there anything more obvious or insulting than being pinch runned for? You fat, lazy old ass and you don’t even have grey hair.

God bless John Kruk. He knows Sipp has to twitch and gyrate on the mound, repeat the same patterns and behaviors as wild as they may be. Kruk in full verbal swag with “Altuve looks like he’s swinging a 52 inch bat.

I don’t know much about numbers but three teams atop the NL Central with those kind of win totals. Sheeeeeeeit! 100 wins for the red turds, 98 for the Pirates and 97 for the Cubs. One of those teams should make the World Series. There’s my uneducated sabermetrics prediction and I sure hope it’s the Cubs or Pirates and not the cardinals that advance down this October road.

“For those of you at work or school on Thursday, download the application and watch the Blue Jays play the Rangers on our phone.” That was the commercial between innings last night, here in Canada on Rodgers Sports Network. That cracked me up, encouraging kids and adults to play hookie. I think I might.


In that temporary dwelling

Parents were never mom or dad to us. They were pa-rentals and we were tenants. There were five of us friends and we fended for our own fun. We  climbed fire escapes, slept on rooftops, slipped under fences. We scooped up stones and tossed ’em at birds or anything that moved or didn’t move like our elementary school’s earth science window. We were half way home before the shattering and splintering stopped.

The school never found out, but our little brothers ratted. It didn’t matter anyway because parentals couldn’t do anything right, not even punishments. What they perceived as cruel, we grew to love. 

We had no interest in being Boy Scouts and wearing those ridiculous scarves and pledge pins and yet, our parentals felt all-powerful in denying us what they thought was such a “golden opportunity.”

And so they enrolled us in Indian Guides instead and we loved the names assigned each of us; leaping lizard and stalking bobcat. We were excited to trap squirrels and make fires, build tepees from birch branches and maybe most importantly, we met Jeff Minchkins. He was the sixth member of our assigned tribe and the only one without a father escort because Jeff came by choice, as an exercise of his own free will. He wanted to be an Indian Guide.

We met in each other’s basements. Jeff Minchkins was the only one who moved around, from black leather couch to bar stool, standing and then sitting, but not nervous, more graceful with no father hawking his every move and weighing him down. He talked about things other parents knew nothing about; like Moses J. Yellow Horse striking out Babe Ruth and a team of Mohawks playing in the Quebec Provincial League and the more Jeff talked, the more parents fidgeted and referred to the Indian Guides rule book. They insisted we call them “elders.” 

Each of our basements resembled a bar with a stocked mini fridge, a shiny wood rail and a massive beer can collection; typical Milwaukee relics. The McCauleys also displayed Hartland Baseball Statues and not surprisingly, all of them were Milwaukee Braves – Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, and Warren Spahn, but what was surprising was the number of them. There were 30 in all, but only of those three players…a battlefield of red, white and blue clones.

Jeff slipped around to the other side of the rail and sat beside a Blatzblatz statue Beer Statue instead. It was strange, almost eerie looking, nothing you’d find in an art museum, but I liked it just the same…a runner sliding into a pile of dirt that looked more like quicksand or vomit, a catcher reaching up to catch the ball or keep his head from pezzing off its axis – a stretchy freak house mirror at the carnival. An umpire in albino Mario stash signaling safe. All of ’em ankle deep in dirt. The catcher with one foot on land, bodies shaped like Blatz beer bottles; one can, one bottle, and the umpire with maybe a fat-mouthed Blatz barrel we didn’t know about?

It was wonderful and Minchkins thought so too because he stuffed the statue under his sweatshirt. No one said a word either. It all happened real fast the next day. We dragged real estate signs, a hammer and a bag of nails to the railroad tracks at the outskirts of town. We dug a hole, 3 feet deep. Minchkins dropped the Blatz statue in. We covered it up and went to work like squirrels, fast and furious, paranoid and industrious:

Fit abandoned railroad ties into 8×12 diamond shape.
Stake four smaller ties as corner posts.
Nail real estate signs to ties.
Incline smaller sign as roof.
Gather up evergreen and spruce branches and
nail them into side walls and roof as camouflage/cop repellent.

We plastered the inside walls with different things over the years –  baseball cards, album covers, beer labels. We drank Blatz beer in there, Miller and PBR as well. We ate all kinds of food. We called it “fort” but there were no wars fought unless inner ones count.

Minchkins stalked us throughout our 20’s and 30’s with postcards at every solstice, never saying much, but there was always a sketch of a tree or moon and a reminder that even our own bodies would come and go but “it” would last forever.

He never explained “it” and as much as it reeked of a religious message we all returned to the fort. I can only speak for myself, but being there aroused a sensation; of fetching water from a well and quenching a thirst I didn’t even know I had.


that old rough up ground

According to the Farmers Almanac there was rain/drizzle on September 22nd, 1965 in Milwaukee. Who needed the sun anyway! It had been setting that entire ’65 baseball season on Milwaukee Braves fans.

It was time to play the last home game in franchise history, in Milwaukee anyway. Frank Bolling stepped to the plate to face Sandy Koufax in the 2nd inning that September 22nd night. The bases were loaded. Frank had hit a fair share of home runs leading up to that moment, 104 to be exact, one of ’em off Koufax back in 1961, a three run blast at LA’s Memorial Coliseum where left field was 251 feet from home plate so it probably wasn’t a blast at all, more like a Chinese home run as they used to call it, one barely clearing the fence, but 104 home runs…..not bad for a second baseman.

And here was Frank again, a little over four years later and he didn’t crush this one either, but it was a line drive just the same, and it was off Koufax, a rope lasting the necessary 320 feet to sneak over the County Stadium left field wall, a grand slam, the first of Bolling’s career, see it at 5:40 in this video…. “”

And when Mack Jones homered to lead off the next inning and Hank Aaron followed with a single, god’s left arm was sent to the showers with no outs in the third inning! What a thrill it must have been for the 12,577 Milwaukee fans, that swan song Braves night, to rough up Koufax like that. The Dodgers eventually won the game, but that’s beside the point. And so are home runs and strikeouts, camera lights. Even the teams don’t really matter. I could have said 1965 or 1982. Phil Niekro would have be pitching either way and both times as a Brave and if it was 1887, it would have been someone or something else.

There is no perfect diamond in Debbie Chan’s painting. A field is nothing but a dirty square anyway. Baseball is not one of her recurring themes, but like a sweet drunk night after so many sober days, it’s better than alright.


Debbi Chan-

I don’t think this painting has a name. It just says, “Idaho Travel Album.”

The pitcher is there, but there’s no batter in immediate sight and maybe that’s intentional since the batter gets scraps and left overs, 60 feet six inches later and has to make do. He’s on the other side of the river, not much of a beach, but still dry and pebble crunches, nature’s batters box. The water waits.

On Debbi’s web site there is a brief description of this painting as a fold out album of Idaho landscapes and this painting is apparently just a part of that landscape. It continues onto other pages. The river is easier to identify as it flows on, but the baseball disappears or maybe only in the minds of those who whine, “speed up the damn game.” The tree doesn’t care about time.

I love this painting. Everything so imperfect and wild. Makes tip toeing across well manicured baseball lawns a nightmare to me. Pigpen! That tree maybe not acorn and romantic, but nice to sit there and wonder about Ty Cobb using steel wool as dental floss.

Fantastic to see a pitcher and batter in some sandy beach subconscious mess, maybe a psychic warfare realm with a river between ’em, a great natural bridge war, the river with  with water being 7 out of 10, the earth’s surface. Papi hit .688 in the 2013 World Series, advantage to the batter? He does appear higher than the pitcher who has no mound, in this here Debbi Chan’s rendiiton anyway.

Is the air salty? Everyone’s arm a Tommy John? The body not reliable? Only the ancient duel is? Who will be the first one to blink? No one too loud or obnoxious, just blending in with the scene. Waiting for shadows.

Symmetry is for geometry class, not baseball as the box score drones on. There were a few garbage cans turned over and set on fire back in 1965, those late September Milwaukee nights. Frank Bolling played in 1518 games. I’m not sure how many innings that adds up to, but every one of them was as a second baseman.



not exactly a trip to the yard, but….

People still say, “Look over there, it’s the swimming pool where Willie Stargell launched home runs.“ Memory arouses mirage I guess because there is only grass where the small unroofed grandstand and a baseball field once stood and off in the distance, there is also the Stade Uniprix, where tennis tournaments are now played.

But it is located on Gary Carter street and there is that grass and an empty field, maybe not the exact location where Ron Hunt stood, but close enough. And I like staring at the grass and waiting like a kid might, lost in the universe, a zillion miles away from my home planet, anticipating that it might happen and then it does.  Someone either stumbles along or is already there, sitting on an adjacent park bench. He’s half-shaven and wearing a winter coat, probably sweating like Bill Stoneman did back in early September, 1971, on the Jarry Park mound. He knows what it’s like to have his heart yanked out and is happy to feed my hunger and so he tells me about that swimming pool and Stargell.

He never bothers mentioning Olympic Stadium. No one liked the Big O, not anyone I’ve talked to since moving here. The naysay and criticism is in fashion, almost cliche.  The holes in its concrete roof and the threat on human safety is all that matters anymore.

It was announced that in 2016, for the third consecutive year, major league baseball will play exhibition games at Olympic Stadium and so the stadium issues lingers and that’s ok by me. It’s a chance to revisit 2003, the year The Canadian Baseball League began play. Ferguson Jenkins was the commissioner.There were eight teams and two leagues, an east and a west. Seemed like a good idea.

The Montreal Royales were one of those teams. They played home games at Amadée Roy Stadium in Sherbrooke, Quebec. Sherbrooke is a very beautiful city I hear with mountains, rivers and manufacturing and is the former home to the Pittsburgh Pirates AA affiliate too. Mario Mendoza hit .268 on that 1973 team and Kent Tekulve recorded a 2.62 ERA in 1972 and well, the names Mendoza and Tekulve get me high on a cold, windy autumn night coming soon when leaves fall to earth and coupled with rain, stick to the cement and don’t move.

Mendoza symbolizes the mundane into magnificent for me, the mediocre into something celestial or longitudinal or at least a line, a Mendoza Line is medicine.  And in Tekulve, there is an ostrich flinging a ball submarine style at 90 mph while wearing dark glasses. But I’m way off topic.

Oh yes, Sherbrooke is wonderful place, both past and present , but its a 90 minute drive from Montreal. And sure, the Royales only played nine games at Amadée Roy Stadium before the team and the entire league folded. Bankrupt or something. The TV contract bellied up. And in that same season-2003, the Expos played some home games in Puerto Rico at Hiram Bithorn Stadium, 3,099 miles away. That stadium issue….a ghost all over again.

The National League welcomed Montreal into its exclusive club back in 1968 and the city of Montreal promised it would build a place for baseball, but didn’t and the team almost moved to Buffalo. But then as a sort of last resort, Jarry Park was transformed from a 3,000 seat overhang into a 29,000 seat venue and the powers that be let it be for a little while longer – 8 years to be exact or until the Olympics happened. The homeless Expos were on the move again, to Olympic Stadium. Only temporary, they promised, but a new stadium was never built.

Baseball was back in Montreal in 2014 and again in 2015 and it went well.  Sell outs for two consecutive days. Come cheer on the Blue Jays, they encouraged. We chanted “Let’s go Expos.“ instead, but the The Red Sox are coming in 2016, to face those same Blue Jays. We had hoped a regular season series would be played as a sort of next step in the process, but the current mayor of Montreal – Denis Coderre is a huge baseball fan. He’s made bringing baseball back one of his major issues. Hopes are high, but they have been before.

Oh well, there’s still that open field green grass Jarry Park and on Saturday, September 18, 1971, Ron Hunt was not hit by a pitch, but he did bang out two hits and score three runs. The Expos beat the Phillies 6-2, Bill Stoneman with a complete game for his 16th win. The attendance was 16, 6779 and if I squint my ears, I can hear them. I hope it’s the future.


“Illuminating the Joe”

The artwork for Dreaming .400 was initially going to be a baseball field with fans flocking to it in every imaginable way, by boat and canoe, stage coach, train, and good old fashioned one foot in front of the other.

But like anything else, plans and designs are meant to be changed. I remember hearing about a subway system in Seville, Spain that was partially built. The jackhammers had ripped up cement squares; a few building had been knocked down when uh-oh, the underground area was said “to not be conducive to excessive drilling” so they patched it up like nothing had ever happened, jewel thieves in the night.

But what the hell, it lowered unemployment for a while, a sort of New Deal in an ooops sort of way,  Maybe not a bad idea in today’s world. Maybe in northern Canada, just below Nunavut, they could build a massive amusement park and put to work all of these refugees pouring into Europe from Syria and Lebanon before realizing that the cold harsh northern climate was “not conducive to an amusement park construction.”

Canada would then be stuck with thousands of refugees and maybe that’s not a bad thing. Maybe they could immigrants could till the frozen soil and make something out of nothing? Or maybe I should keep my day job. I work at a hospital, delivering things, but back to to the cover the art. The publisher and I both noticed it on line without either of us knowing what the other one was doing. I think that’s a biblical occurrence or a proverb or something? Ya know, like not letting your right hand know what your left hand is doing or maybe I’m mixing up apples?

skinnyAnyway, Judy McSween is the artist and the painting  is called “Illuminating the Joe.” I love that name. Love the painting too. Looks like a dream which goes well with the title of the book-Dreaming .400. She’s a teacher and mother of three or four kids.

The painting is a sunset falling behind Joseph P. Riley Jr. Stadium in Charleston, South Carolina. Joe Riley – the person – was a big player in the stadium’s construction back in 1997. The stadium is currently home to the Charleston River Dogs of the Class Single A-South Atlantic League (New York Yankees affiliate). I sort of cringed when I found out the Yankees were involved, but I don’t really care. I love the Yankees just like I love Darth Vadar and all the forces in the universe that inspire me to stand taller and fight.  

Anyway, the Charleston River Dogs were previoulsy an affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. And before that-the Rangers, Padres, and Royals. Different masks, but same beautiful baseball going on.

The stadium is also home to the Citadel Bulldogs.


cream cheese blues in need of an accordion

The final edits of my book of short stories – Dreaming .400 are now complete. The extra lap did wonders for the story “Expos Next Generation,” but that’s all I will say.

The release date has been pushed up two weeks, to the end of September. You can still pre-order the book or wait until it’s available at places listed on the publisher’s website. We’re also flirting with the idea of a posting a PDF version of one of the stories. I’ll keep you posted.

I received the uncorrected or “galley” proofs of the print book over a month ago. The vain sensation of holding it in my hand and seeing my name on the cover didn’t last long, but it still felt kind of cool. I have been distributing them in the hopes of reviews being written and some have, to be posted in various places.

I’m slow when it comes to marketing and branding my author name, but I try to keep my mind open. In the next few weeks, I will be pursuing a number of on line avenues to draw attention to my book – a Dreaming .400 website, author page, Facebook page, and so on. The experts tell me it’s best to link all of the sites together so there will be an icon for each on this blog to click and be taken directly there.

In other news, I survived a cream cheese scare at work. Either the bagel was way too small or the lady behind the windshield was way too liberal with the cheese. All I know for sure is that it squirted out the sides and through the hole like play-doh and yes, that can be fun when you’re at lunch and have one hour to kill, but not during a 15 minute break.

I knew right then and there that cream cheese belonged in a pita or on wonder bread, something with a roof or cover, not a bagel, but it was too late. I had it all over my hands, nose and cheeks and I was hungry so I rubbed my face free with my finger tips and licked away, all the while saying to myself, never again, never again!

But I still had a job and that’s a good thing and my imaginary great uncle – Otto von Simchastein popped into my head as well. I hadn’t thought about him in almost a year. He always told me that in a previous life he was a fighter pilot in the SS Nazi army. That always struck me as kind of strange since my family is Jewish. Otto said it had to do with gilgul which is reincarnation in Judaism. Sounded good to me. I love bratwursts and sauerkraut. It ain’t kosher, but it sure tastes good and on a grill outside Miller Park is just right of paradise! To die for!

Otto loved attending free events. He took me to solar panel demonstrations, limerick recitals and my all time favorite frenzy of his – “Russian language classes, all you can drink Vodka.” I always brought a harmonica hidden in my jacket pocket because I knew how Otto could get after a few swigs of Captain Karkov, inventing little fortune cookie ditties like,

“One carries pampers on his head, another a case of beer. Do you have a favorite dead tree, free, you and me, see?”

And when I politely asked what the hell he was talking about, he would just slip into more ditties,

“A hangover is a leftover. The moon is a pill, still, we will find a thrill.”

If Otto were a real person I would buy him an accordion and invite him to a real simple place with wood bleachers, maybe the home court of a division three basketball team. He could roam the sideline and pluck strangers from the crowd and dance with them a while and when the waltz was over, raise up their arms in a Che Guevara triumph, crowning strangers with unexpected joy.

Speaking of joy, the Brewers now have a better winning percentage than five teams including the Atlanta Braves. And in Canada, the Blue Jays are kicking so much ass that even Montreal baseball fans are warming up a bit.


fiberglass doesn’t last forever and Domingo Santana

There are many names given to the grand poobah of the universe and even more names used to describe what’s impossible to describe, attributes of mercy and what not.

Darryl Dawkins was not God, but he named his dunks.

The Chocolate-Thunder-Flying, Glass-Flying, Robinzine-Crying, Babies-Crying, Glass-Still-Flying, Cats-Crying, Rump-Roasting, Bun-Toasting, Thank You-Wham-Bam-I-Am-Jam”) In Your Face Disgrace, The Go-rilla, Earthquaker Shaker, Candyslam, Dunk You Very Much, Look Out Below, Yo Mama, Turbo Sexophonic Delight, Rim Wrecker, Greyhound Bus (went coast-to-coast), Cover Your Head, Spine Chiller Supreme, Slam Bam Thank You Maam and Walk Away From Love.

He had a heart attack yesterday and passed away. Bummer. He was 58-years old and squeezed a hell of a lot of excitement and blocked shots in a 25 year pro career – NBA, CBA, IBA, Europe.

His nickname was Chocolate Thunder and he was an alien from the planet Lovetron. I tried to reach the planet many times with the help of a ladder in our backyard. With ball in hand, I set sail from the third rung and attempted one of the Dawkin dunks, but more often than not, hung on the rim in the hopes of bringing down the iron. Dawkins shattered a few backboards in his time. Probably inspired the break away rim, yet another extra terrestrial invention. 

I enjoyed watching highlights yesterday of Dawkins transferring the ball we always called a pill from right hand to left in mid-air and still executing a tomahawk windmill shlamoooooooooo. And when I slipped on the White Sox game, lo and behold, Chicago’s Pale Hos unveiled beautiful Bill Veeckian black and white retro Pajama uniforms. I had a new distraction.

I grew up a White Sox fan. They could have worn purple ponchos and I would have loved ’em, but seriously, I love those uniforms, so casual looking like Muslim priest gowns. Speaking of great uniforms, Mike Fiers and Carlos Gomez look stunning in Astros orange. Took me no time at all to adjust.

Maybe the orange shoes did it? Or maybe orange is just a great color. Pumpkins, orange juice, marmalade, sunsets, Popsicles, and the orange van in Bad News Bears Breaking Training.

Fiers has a bald head and beard to go along with his orange shoes. He stands tall, cups the ball in his hand, a curly cue leg kick, nothing near Marichal ballerina high, more Japanese stop and stutter. Fiers had never entered the ninth inning of a game, not until last week. Now he has a complete game no hitter under his belt. Nolan Ryan was watching the game. He didn’t look too happy. He never does. Every time I see him on TV he looks constipated and frustrated by the fact.  I think it was the 11th all time no hitter for the Astros.

Ken Forsch and Bob Forsch. One of them pitched a no-hitter for the Astros. The other one maybe for the Cardinals? but together, I think they’re the only brothers to perform the feat.

One of the players the Brewers acquired for Fiers and Gomez was Domingo Santana. He made his Brewers debut on the Fiers no-hit night. In his third at bat, he whipped his waist around, and got the bat on the ball and holy crap, it was over the fence in two seconds.

The Fiers no-hitter and Santana home run happening on the same night reminded me of luggage carousels at the airport and the small cubbyholes with those car wash-like flaps where luggage enters and exits. I think it was when Brewers play by play guy  Brian Anderson announced “No hitter watch,” and all I had to do was press a few buttons and Spine Chiller Supreme Slam Bam Thank You Maam, I was instantly in the eye of the Houston no hitter.

No more wondering what was going on behind the carousel car flaps other side.  


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