brewers baseball and things


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forever cocktail

the baby mobile that once spun slowly above him in reality or dreams or both blurred together
would just make him drunk circle dizzy now.

and his body was never much to begin with
but now his ribs can be seen and there’s other things…

the fists he once carried into playground battle are now parked beside the prayer hall
in search of??? and all he gets is an echo that says in an oz like baritone – it’s out of your control.

are we all failed experiments? suddenly?
steve blass forever?
care for a drink?


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hoping for a resurrection Ryan future

i take notes. i do it on the backs of utility bills or if i’m lucky, a fresh, virgin, untouched piece of paper from a copy machine. i fold it into a small square which makes 8 small sections, 16 in total, with both sides….i number each section so when i’m reading them later on, there’s some continuity. i always keep one of these pieces of paper in my pant pocket holster. i jot down books or movies, a grocery list, doctor phone numbers, ideas for a story or a blogpost and on and on.

this past saturday, i was going through a whole mess of these papers when i stumbled on what must be something i copied word for word, from a baseball game, most likely from an old radio broadcast on you tube. It says TRANSCRIPT on the top and underneath it says, Jeff Davis, but his name is then crossed out and under him it says Phil Rizutto and under him Mel Allen. Radio? TV? Probably TV. I’m not sure who made the announcement….

“The score at the end of three full innings…the Red Sox one and the Yankees nothing. (long pause) Fans, this Sunday at Yankee Stadium will mark the return of the colorful Detroit Clowns who will meet the champion Kansas City Monarchs in a Negro American League doubleheader at 2PM and returning to the stadium with the Clowns will be the fabulous Goose Tatum and the equally noticed Sweet Water Clifton and it should be a big afternoon on Sunday.”

Too bad there’s no way to watch this game, but there was a way to watch Saturday night’s Twins-Brewers game. I haven’t seen a better pitched game in a long while….both pitchers – Jose Berrios for the twins and Corbin Burnes for the Crew….the two in total command of their pitches and painting corners, all four corners….virtually identical performances, both with double figure strikeouts by the 6th, no hits allowed, the sole baserunners – two HBP by both pitchers, both on good pitches too, sliders in.

Burnes was removed after serving up his first hit, a gopher ball to Byron Buxton in the top of the seventh. Stupid pitch count did him in, or not really, only 87.

Berrios got the surprising hook after six innings, surprising because he still had a no-hitter and because he too hadn’t made that many pitches – 84.

Where’s Nolan Ryan’s ghost, that game on June 14, 1974 when he threw his gas for 13 innings and god knows how many pitches!?

Saturday night was a bummer for Berrios. Bummer for baseball….though Berrios seemed to take it all in stride, swimming in that cliche of the day – “happy to do whatever it takes for us to win.” I prefer the Blake Snell edge – “leave me in coach, I got this guy and the next one too dammit!”

if any pitcher manages to throw a no-hitter or perfect game these days, it’s gonna be dodo bird resurrection rare. Twins won 2-0.


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evolution of the baseball species

a few weeks ago my tooth hurt and then it kept hurting. i thought it was the weather changing but the pain wouldn’t go away. i couldn’t inhale on that tooth, couldn’t even put toothpaste there so i called the dentist and made an appointment. i sat back in the lazy chair and he tapped a few of my teeth with a metal scalpel of some sort to find out what tooth was causing the pain. he took a few x rays too. i had cracked the 27 tooth. i had no idea teeth were assigned numbers but dr. pizem told me it was number 27. i immediately thought of carlton fisk because that was his number when he played for the red sox and when he was traded to the white sox, he reversed it and wore 72. Luckily, we don’t have 72 teeth. anyway, doctor pizem said it could have happened with anything, a hot dog , a slice of bread.

my 27 tooth was a filling too so doc had to remove the filling to see the severity of the crack. turned out, thankfully, the tooth was salvageable so a root canal did the trick. later that day i read that around the same time i cracked the 27, byron buxton of the twins cracked one of his, biting down on a steak. He also needed a root canal. i felt like a major leaguer, me and Buxton, enduring all that pain, pulling up our socks and playing on, Ripken-ish. reminded me of a time when i had more balls, back when i was in a class at the university of wisconsin-milwaukee…it was called evolution and variation or something like that. it was a big class, lots of students and yet, I unabashedly, mustered up the courage to ask a not so intelligent question…how long would it take for a baby to grow fins if they were born in water and spent their entire life there? the professor laughed and answered – eons!

eons? That gets me thinking of masks. will we be wearing them for eons? and if so will our bodies respond, as we tend to do, adding fingers to our repertoire so many thousands of years ago and then standing up and becoming homo erectus…will we grow an extra flap around our mouths like the added flap of batting helmets, a slab of skin that can be zipped and unzipped to protect us? evolutions like 10 balls for a walk, then nine, eight and eventually four… the lowered mound…. designated hitter….inter-league play….the wildcard…..wild cards…. are these evolutions or devolutions? what about the runner on second base to start an extra inning?

the brewers were down by three heading into the bottom of the ninth, opening day against the twins. Travis Shaw hit a line drive to score the second and third run of the inning, tied it up and in extra innings to start the top of the 10th, there was that damn runner on second base…that stupid new rule, the stress of an inning starting with a runner on second base, but then the thrill of Josh Hader blowing three hitters away with electric fastballs and me the hypocrite suddenly glad to see lorenzo cain on second base to start the bottom fo the 10th and he advanced to third on a single by narvaez and then scored the winning run on a chopper by orlando arcia and there were jumps up and downs and brewers are in first place, for a day anyway.


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a junky’s dream…

opening day today reminds me of of an incident a long time ago. i was walking around Milwaukee’s river west neigborhood with a friend and we spotted a bag in the grass and us being curious, we looked closer and good thing we did…. it was rolled up and filled with green, marijuana green…..maybe from a drug deal gone bad, cops witnessing the transaction, and a smoker soon on the run when the contraband slipped from their sack and into destiny – our greedy hands or maybe there was some magic easter bunny specter, dropping golden eggs in the mist? we weren’t big smokers preferring a boozy brain vacation, but we adapted and our summer was set with a big (in our estimation) half ounce bag of weed.

and so here we are at 20 or so percent capacity, fans in the stands that is, good enough, and 162 games, a massive stash and i splurged, again, and made my annual not tax deductible contribution to mlb.tv and so i’ll be behind the screen to watch the brewers host the twins in what’s become their mlb arranged, post inter-league, contrived rivalry….i say contrived because brewers fans never had a gripe with the twins. it was the white sox when we were in the american league and the cubs when we switched to the national, but ratings are ratings so they made us an enemy…some war economy equivalent.

anyway, we got 162 and i plan on melting, on escaping into the massive beautiful tangent of baseball. it is extra seductive this year because of the lingering threat, covid strains death stuck in our conscience minds…screws up everything…a headache and i think i’m dying, a slight exaggeration but it does lead me to the bottle. i’m usually pretty good about not thinking about the inevitable death, for a few hours at a time anyway and though i’ve gotten used to this mask wearing and fear and death, it still sucks, for lack of a better word and yet, nature and tradition roll on….easter eggs, crossing the red sea and bulbs on branches to burst into green…every team a horse behind the gate ready to begin on equal footing or maybe not with covid already cancelling the mets nationals and the blue jays beginning without George Springer and Robbie Ray and the white sox losing eloy jimenez for 5-6 months and so on and so on….

but the Brewers will send out their new second baseman, golden glover Kolten Wong and we’ll probably see another newcomer, another gold glover – JBJ as they call him – Jackie Bradley Junior…..the brewers are all about pitching and defense this year or that’s what marketing is pushing to us fans, but i bet they’ll do like bamberger did and wait for the three run homer….no bunts for base hits to beat the shift…

in other news, a blessing to the tall and skinny, there is a new addition to the Pascual perez, oil can boyd ilk and he goes by the name Triston mcKenzie at six feet five inches and a robust 165 pounds!! He has apparently earned a spot in the tribe’s rotation….

it’s 1:45 eastern time…15 minutes till first pitch brewers and i think i’ll pour me a small glass of whisky…my excuse? it’s what hot air balloon flyers do when the balloon lifts off. actually, i think they use champagne, but a champagne buzz comes and goes like a bottle rocket…whisky is longer lasting, a bonfire, but that hot air balloon ride must be something else….soaring slowly across the summer sky…..long lasting….like the 162.


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when drivers honk horns

He’d been trying to live in the mystery of that which no one knows for some time…went so far as changing his name…to Terence Karob Knell, the first and middle names not mattering as much as the last name – Knell…a bell sound signalling death. 

Becoming a catcher seemed like the obvious choice…all that equipment, tuned to the danger and fragility of it all, the easy pop fly one out followed by a rule breaking Pete Rose collision at the plate. A catcher, he reasoned, sits so close to the ground, to earth-dirt-dust, a reminder of here today-gone tomorrow…a catcher squats, grateful to gravity’s gift, stuck to a planet floating in outer space and the future? He flashes signs. He faces the diamond and sees all, but still, there’s no way of a catcher really knowing, only that Knell sounding some day.

Terence was tall and lean and had big hands. His teammates pegged him as a pitcher. But he didn’t like the raised pedestal of the mound…too tempting to lord over the opposition. He preferred the surprise attack of a whipper toss behind the batter, to his first baseman, to catch the runner leaning casual and cock sure.

and he did well…He hit for average, double digit home runs, could even run a little, bunt for a base hit. Screwed up the shift. The junior colleges came calling and he went to some small school and then on to a bigger, division 1, where he set a record for most bunt hits by a catcher and base runners? No chance. He threw out over 50 percent of would be thieves.

draft time. the Tin Town Totems were pleased to see Terence still on the board in the 11th round, same round as Milt May back in 1968. He moved quickly through the minors, mostly on account of his defense. He framed pitches with the best of them. Didn’t use a sponge under the cowhide either. And stuck out his bare hand to snag wild pitches. 

It was in early May when the Totems called him up. Told Terence to cultivate “fire man readiness, like a pinch hitter,” that they might need him in any inning, to replace the longest tenured Totem – Darrin Youth.

Terence paced the dugout eager to know his team. The left side of the infield gathered beside the sunflower seed buckets, a critical bunch, a circle jerk of cynicism, wouldn’t know good fortune if they bulls-eyed back to back bingo wins at St. Hedwig’s….left Clarence feeling powerless, no guns in his holster, not even a sling shot, not a witty remark in him for miles. But he accepted his meekness like a turtle does rain and as luck or god or destiny or the Knell bell would have it, the centerfielder – Clem Secretbloom was a Mormon, completed his obligatory two year mission in the Independent Leagues, preaching out of the back of a pick up truck. And Clarence considered becoming a servant of God for a few games, but seeing the second baseman back pedal into right field and make a diving catch hooked him on self-reliance, again. That was the only way. And so one day, a game against the Pale Crows, set for 2 PM with a 10:30 arrival time required…Clarence was a no show.

The cool Lake Winagain breeze sucked him in to its easy morning way and so he walked, fully uniformed in green and red, the Totem design emblem on his hat, wearing spikes too. People took note. Thumbs up and screaming out Tin factory windows, praising his passion, his trust in the 162, win or lose. He made it all the way to the Catchmecan Bridge and it was there when he realized why he’d come, to know what lay behind the Knell bell and so he jumped to what he hoped would be an instant death, but the drop was not far and the water not too cold…it sent electrical jolts up his spine and mind.

He swam to shore and made his way back to Forever Avenue and as he walked, he heard another kind of Knell….horns sounding and they hit him like Jericho blasts.

It suddenly didn’t matter if there’d be no bar flying or utility talk with the boys. And who needed to know what was behind the curtain, if anything at all. In time, he’d find out. He was here, right now, in the major leagues and he longed to get in a game, to hit major league pitching, to frame pitches, and most of all gun down runners hoping to steal a base.


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two junkies in the park

he didn’t remember what it was, maybe his knee cracking and buckling when he tried to take a flight of stairs or something less significant like a paper cut. He slumped down on a couch, letting out a long sigh as he did. He thought about the body’s unreliability, of its destiny – to become an old jalopy, abandoned along some country road… weeds pushing through the floor board…..weeds being nose and ear hairs that never seem to stop growing.

His mind became a slide show, one memory after another….of a sprained ankle during elementary school dodge ball…of playing football at a friend’s house and diving for a catch and the football not being there, but a stone bird bath was and SMASH….his lips puffed up and turned all kinds of crayola purple and yellow, kept him out of school for five days, plenty of stitches, and when he returned, he was still crayola purple and yellow and people looked the other way, grossed out, and very few of them bothered to ask what happened.

it was then he knew the world was rigged. he didn’t know by who, but he knew it was rigged, that it wasn’t fair, that looks mattered more than anything else so he set his mind on absolutes, on the periodical table and 60-feet six inches and later that same spring, with a barely visible scar on the side of his mouth, he struck out nine little league batters and a few years later struck out 12 in a varsity game and division 3 schools came calling and there, at St. Ida, he struck out 14 batters and was eventually selected in the 12th round and did well in those A ball rookie leagues, but tore his achilles and slipped on water spilled from a big orange jug and hurt his hip, started suffering bad headaches and then he tripped over a summer sprinkler playing with his brother’s kids and it wasn’t exactly a body bag tag….

he could still breath, but he couldn’t pitch, couldn’t get any traction in the dirt, so he quit and met a post office cashier and they had coffee and walked around a bit and she noticed a vacant look in his eyes, a look stuck on some unattainable goal and soon enough, he told her about his bad body luck so she suggested they go to that afternoon’s baseball game between the hometown Clementon Catnappers and the Ludvig Lovecrafts. He resisted at first, not wanting the reminder, but she nudged him on the shoulder and the physical touch had him feeling better in his skin.

They sat in the bleachers. She bought a scorecard announced the names and called out every play. They went to the next game, then another, day and night. Season’s passed. They bought lower grandstand season tickets, glad to be Clementon Catnapping junkies and he forgot all about his body and she had a smile in her stomach, seeing that his eyes no longer had that vacant look, no more stuck on some unattainable goal…


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honus wagner, fernando tatis jr, and utopia

and so tatis is king for 14 years! i like that…TATIS the king  and to think the White Sox traded him for james Shields. funny how things turn out. one year an expert, the next year a dunce and so royalty has returned to america!! yes, there have been long extensions before but never 14 and 14 is an important number somewhere so we can now forget about the war of 1812 or whatever it was that knocked out kings and queens from america. it’s no longer a metaphor. baseball is king and queen. diamonds will soon be everywhere…beside lakes and rivers and oceans and mountains, behind dairy queens, on both sides of the tracks and buried in them too. kids will be in forever seek mode, but not on screens, it’ll be under real live mounds, adults too. diamonds will be on abandoned car lots and drive thru movie theatres. public drinking fountains will no longer be water, they’ll be beer and whisky and there will be baseball murals on office building walls and common baseball cards will function effective as food stamps and vaccine vouchers, radio broadcasts will be blasted from megaphones hanging from streetlights on streets….public holidays will include opening day and all world series games played during the day, yes during the drunk day, and if the people don’t like it, they can move to canada and we’ll make a new baseball utopia there and i called in sick to work today and i plan on doing the same for opening day and last night you tube landed me on honus wagner and his criticism of today’s baseball life and players and what not and that translates to the 50’s since wagner played in the early 20th century…..his voice sounds like charles bukowski which makes sense because both were from germany or their ancestors were which makes me wonder why in the hell do we call Wagner the flying dutchman? His family wasn’t from the netherlands…they were from germany and sam jethroe is from mississippi so who cares.


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an atheist bows down

Laramie Lou slipped out of bed, stood up, faced east, and chanted, “If Hack Wilson can drive in 191 RBI’s in a single season, then I can be happy today. It was a ritual he did, but not by rote, because the feat changed every waking day, from most HBP to fewest walks per nine and yet, still no happiness for Laramie Lou. And then it got even worse, there were no words, nothing audible anyway, only spit dribble lips silence, not a sound. Laramie Lou had lost his voice and a panic ensued for he suddenly knew he’d never speak Greek, Hebrew, Xhosa, Navajo, or Etruscan; he’d never know each language’s secrets to happiness, no 37 different names for 37 kinds of winds and so he rolled over, ducked under his wool quilt and slept and dreamed of a lady with a Russian accent. She had still blue eyes. He braved her serenity and stared into those eyes, held it long enough to feel her right knee buckle and shoulders shrug and when he awoke, he knew god was close.

The morning bird watchers swore they heard Laramie Lou scream all night long, “sing some brass…drink a flask.” That’s why he lost his voice, they insisted. The newspaper delivery men disagreed. They heard something different.. “fling it crass, wear a mask” and so the kinfolk argued and debated and creeds were drawn.

Laramie Lou looked left and then right, noticed each side cheering their own kind and so he walked straight, between the masses, mowing down the fog. He walked for hours, until  the Mataloosa bridge. He slipped down the slope and there it was…a surprise, a 1966 Bert Campenaris baseball card, curled corners, faded colors, looking like a melted LP, but it was Campenaris alright, so with diamond nine, metal mind, Laramie Lou slid in silence back to slave labor frito lay conveyor belt double shift and then cleaning offices at night, grave digger Richie Hebner dawn, and back home, to do the dishes and laundry and writing holiday cards with real picture stamps and a trip to the standing in line post office – old men without glasses, big eyed ladies reading books, boys with backpacks, and Laramie Lou enjoyed a silent stare at the ho hum cashier, her first name pinned to her uniform, Darleene, her pleasant holiday greetings and maybe a future writing on note cards with her, sharing a brandy fused coffee, poor old mute Laramie Lou…all of it still a miracle.


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on a day vows are almost taken

i’ve never seen a mushroom cloud or i have, but only on tv….kind of beautiful which makes me wonder if the end of the world will be the same…sitting on a porch sipping one harveys wallbanger after another, hoping the vodka will never run out, contemplating god, maybe even talking to the the great one, ted williams, and then after a little rumination about next destinations, if there are any, that mushroom dust cloud closing in, my thoughts will switch to how close Joe DiMaggio came to hitting more career home runs than striking out  and just as i start to choke on the radiation fumes, up comes some new “oil can” Boyd pitcher nicknamed “moonshine” Mankowitz, hailing from some old, almost forgotten Mississippi town, and i will him with me for a beer or his preferred boilermaker, and down they go and down we go, two mushrooming spiral drunks with mike witt last day 1984 season perfect game smiles.


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on an otherwise not so romantic night

“A dirty chain ain’t half bad,” mulled Slapstick Sam. “Keeps a stranger from flying over the handlebars, keeps the links together.”

The air was thick, but it wasn’t summer, no swimming through molasses decisions needed, to move or not to move. It was almost winter and a few pitchers had already signed nice free agent contracts, a small trade here-talk of bigger trades there. Talk of January being mild, of the Sanitary Commissioner stepping down, of old Slapstick Sam unveiling his stack of basketball cards, the tall ones, from the early 70’s including the Lew Alcindor rookie and the sound of sweet Lew turned minds to Maury Wills and his 104 stolen base season, of him only getting caught 13 times, helped Slapstick Sam sleep well and he woke up good and ready, strong coffee wondering if Sadaharu Oh hit 868 homeruns, than maybe Josh Gibson hit 900 or some unknown league in Liechtenstein housed a gunner who hit 40 inside the parkers for 30 years which adds up to 1200 if these moon time calculations are accurate.

But back to that dirty chain, Slapstick Sam had his eyes on a girl. She went by the name Calypso the Copperfield, named after the magician, and she could dance, on a pogo stick or a unicycle, it didn’t matter, she had the stroke, in dirty water or high blue skies, she had the grace, that knowing she wasn’t supposed to be and so her and Slapstick Sam wandered into a wintery night and the smell was right, the wood burning and crispiness of it all December, but they turned back anyway and settled down on their cabin sofa, on a love seat, and flipped on a rerun of some old regular season game…the rib and ridicule of the play by play and color putting them at ease, glad to be alive for another night.