every once in a while Dennis Martinez’s perfect game pops up in conversation. Gets me wondering how many perfectos there have been. off the top of my head hmmmmm, I start with Len Barker in 1981 and then of course Don Larson in the World Series 1950 something, Sandy Koufax a few years later and Mike Witt on the last day of the 1984 season….Tom Browning, David Cone and David Wells. More recently, Matt Cain did it and so did Felix Hernandez and oh yeh, Dallas Braden and Philip Humber and i’m missing a bunch but the point is Braden and Humber everything suddenly seems possible.
A few weeks ago when the Brewers non-tendered Chris Carter, I think they became the first team in major league history to non-tender the previous season’s home run champion. Carter hit 41 bombs in 2016 to tie the Rockies Nolan Arenado for the National League lead.
A few weeks after dumping Carter, the Brewers did something even weirder. They signed Eric Thames to a three-year contract. Thames spent the last three seasons playing in Korea. I listened to the press conference welcoming him to Milwaukee. Manager Craig Counsell admired the journey Thames had taken to play baseball and looked forward to his journey continuing in Milwaukee. Thames said the pitching in Korea was a lot slower and that it would take some time to adjust to major league velocity.
The transaction was very inspiring. I was almost tempted to drag my bat to the nearest batting cage and rig the machines late at night when no one was watching, take some swings, get up to snuff and try out for the Brewers first base job, but instead I’ll just dedicate the next two paragraphs to Eric Thames and his new life as the Brewers first baseman.
The grapes were bigger that summer. The newspapers blamed it on too much rain. Mr. Crimkins said it was all the dogs licking trees and bushes, spitting nutrition into the fruits, he insisted. Eric T stuffed a handful in his pockets,braved the steps in three monster leaps and stole away into the basement. That’s where he enjoyed the next few months of his life, sitting down there among a bat collection. He had all kinds of bats – yellow birch, hickory, ash, maple, all sizes too and all kinds of players – Lyman Bostock, Ned Yost, Pepper Martin, and Rob Picciolo, just to name a few.
Eric T entered into a zone after leaping down those basement steps. It was like incense fumed in his head or a siren sounded. It was a call to attention – to work out the kinks of his stance – Cooper crouch or spastic Morgan twitch or maybe both and that holy trinity of medicine – spit, swing and swat grapes and popcorn seeds every which way.
Yes, he had popcorn seeds in his pockets in addition to grapes and he spit them both out his mouth; hit them hard too, so hard, that Eric T dreamed up wine and popcorn afternoons, but more importantly was the repetitive motion. It quickened his wrists and smoothed his hip tango gyrations.
Eric T. rose from the basement into the full bloom of the 2017 season and in early April showed signs of swat and being selective too. His on base percentage hovered near .400 for a while and little by little, Brewers fans forgot all about Chris Carter’s 41 home runs.
the elder john and grandpa joe discussed death related matters,
wills and who should inherit that Gorman Thomas broken bat with barrel still intact
and what about all those Topps doubles from 1977 and 1978?
all those books and pennants, posters and Cecil Cooper’s wrist bands?
and should they be cremated or buried in street clothes six feet under?
when all of a sudden Grandma molasses had an idea – to be buried under Busch Stadium in a secret catacomb, to haunt all future Cardinal teams. Everyone laughed including the two kids in the room. They couldn’t a been more than 12 years young. That’s when Grandma molasses announced that she wasn’t cooking lunch that day – a cue to Elder John to lead the parade out the door to the Esmeralda Pharmacy that did double duty as a diner. That’s where they continued to discuss death related matters, scribbling makeshift wills on napkins. Everyone tossed in ideas and came to life, including the two young boys who shared a steak and eggs breakfast.
I used to wonder how baseball might alter the political climate of the Middle East. The props were all in place – Great Wall, sunny skies, plenty of sand to be used as dirt for base paths, a pitcher’s mound, warning tracks. Suicide bombers could be converted to suicide squeezes, etc etc. Lion lays down with lamb. Easy as ABC. I figured if they can play in sun dry Arizona, they can play in Tel Aviv with water from the Mediterranean Sea keeping the grass green or maybe it’s too salty? Is it salty?
Anyway, the Civil War in America was apparently the bloodiest of all wars America has been involved in. I like to think that baseball was an effective opium elixir to calm everybody the fudge down. The civil war finished in 1865. The World Series began in 1901. There were no teams in the south at that point, but people knew about the game and played in peach patches and farm fields and what not. I like the odds of baseball doing some similar wonder work in the Middle East.
I forget how I tracked down Peter Kurz – Secretary General of the Israeli Association of Baseball (IAB), but his response included a phone number and a thumbs up for an interview. This was way back in 2009. The experience sort of spoiled my idealism of the Algerian Grounds and King Tut Stadium and what not, but opened my mind to a grassroots baseball scene that has been happening in Israel for almost 30 years.
Israel failed to get into the 2013 World Baseball Classic. They lost to Italy in ten innings in a qualifying game. But they beat Great Britain this past September to qualify for the 2017 WBC which begins in early March. If you’re bored and have 10 minutes, here’s my interview with Peter Kurz.
The Brewers have been emptying the cupboard of everything except Ryan Braun. He’s the only player that remains from the 2011 team that reached the National League Championship. This is nothing out of the ordinary. It’s what teams do when they decide to rebuild. Trade players before they become free agents. Trade them when their value is high and get some prospects in return who very few fans have ever heard of.
Khris Davis, Carlos Gomez, Jonathan Lucroy, Mike Fiers, Martin Maldonado Jean Segura, Jeremy Jeffress, and Wil Smith are all gone, so is Chris Carter. The Brewers signed him last year and he did everything they expected and more. He hit 41 home runs, tied for the National League lead. He also led the team in RBI’s with 94, but he struck out a whopping 206 times and hit .222, but then again the year before in Houston, he hit .199. People say he is a friendly, good clubhouse kind of guy and on TV he looks like one, but friendly doesn’t win pennants. Eric Thames does. Eric Thames? Shortly before or after the Brewers handed Carter a pink slip, they signed Eric Thames.
Thames spent the last three years playing in Korea where he hit a ton of home runs. He said in the press conference that he would need a little time to adjust to major league pitching because it’s so much faster than the Korean League. The numbers Thames put up as a member of the NC Dinos of the Korean Baseball Organization are whiffle ball high. He hit .348 over the three-year span with a .450 OB% and a .720 slugging %. In addition, apparently the stadiums in Korea are very hitter friendly.
It’s a crazy move, not quite Sidd Finch, but compelling enough to make opening day 2017 seem even more interesting.
I’ve been reading Arnold Hano’s, A Day In The Bleachers. It’s about one game, the first game of the 1954 World Series, between the Cleveland Indians and New York Giants. Hano doesn’t hide his love for the New York Giants. They are his team, but the book is much more than the game itself, much more than the famous Willie Mays catch too. It’s a meandering river of Hano’s thoughts about baseball.
He subscribed to a few superstitions, one of them having to do with batting practice home runs. The more home runs a team hit in batting practice, the less likely they would hit any during the game. Made me wonder who is the all time leader in batting practice home runs? I guess we’ll never know because batting practice home runs is a stat even baseball fanatics never kept track of and probably never will.
i was watching the last game of the 1980 regular season, white sox hosting the angels at Comisky park. The turquoise seats stuck out. They looked so sea dreamy mermaid. Jimmy Piersall stuck out too. He shared the broadcasting with Harry Caray, at least the first three innings of it. They had a soft core spar about who was the mvp for the 1980 white sox . Harry had interviewed Jim Morrison before the game and decided on him. Piersall disagreed. He voted for Mike Squires due to his great defense at first base.
I was initially attracted to the game because Harold Baines was in the lineup. 1980 was his rookie year. He hit a double to drive in a run in the bottom of the second inning and then scored on a passed ball all the way from second base. He was fast back then. Had a healthy set of knees.
Max Patkin,the clown prince of baseball, appeared in the top of the 4th inning. I had no idea he performed his various acts while the game was sort of going on. He stole the glove of the Angel’s first baseman’s while he was tossing ground balls to the infield between innings. He even did a few routines after the inning had started. Someone from the Comiskey crowd tossed a roll of toilet paper on the field and Max stuffed it under his shirt and pretended to have breasts. The White Sox won.