brewers baseball and things


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second base salvation…

he never said where he came from, but we knew he was a refugee from some war-torn land. we could see it in his eyes, not from tears and sobs, but the way he stared off into some private space, one we would never reach – massive appreciation. he often hopped on two feet, a here and now dance. he rubbed his hands together, ready for whatever might come his way…

and we followed him….to roam around Shennigan’s park in search of a reported limestone cliff, to jump into the water, splash and swim swim swim and when he returned to land, he’d walk and talk about all kinds of subjects, from the Khazar empire to the euphoria of staring into a sparkler to rigging up a hooverville shanty, (how he knew about hoovervilles – a mystery to us) “to love a shelter, a look out, a fort, a home” he’d say.

he had the gift of gratitude, of grace in the way he walked, not sturdy and strict like some repressed soldier, but casual and fun as if he knew all was a dream, one he would never wake up from.

We inquired often about what he might have endured – land mines, lashings, and amputations of friends and family? blown up buildings, beheadings, aerial assaults….but he kept the course, kept quiet, choosing instead, that forever motion, always one step ahead of recycled misery, striving for the new, trespassing into private pools late at night, “pool hopping” he called it, rummaging through the dumpster behind “Ye Old” pharmacy and scoring expired candy bars, and his favorite of all activities – sipping stolen beer beside St. Cabrini’s rectory.

we wore replica detroit tigers jerseys with our names ironed on the back, the tigers, a consensus choice because of our collective love for a pitcher our fathers told us about – Mark Fidrych and the way he talked to himself on the mound. it ushered in gang thought, a brotherhood. We looked after each other. we offered him a jersey. he just whispered,

“never need my name to be seen…”

that’s not to say he didn’t like his name. in fact, he always introduced himself with his first, middle, and last – Javier Lee Torpedo, a South Korean mother and a Spanish father…

he was “proud to come from the split,” as he called it, always including his mother’s family name, to not cut her short because she had walked the 1500 miles to freedom with him, his father and two sisters..”adventures” as he called them…strange to refer to them as adventures, as opposed to torment, but so it was….

we weren’t so sure about his ethnic origins, not too many refugees from South Korea or Spain. We chalked it up as more disguise… to not leak his woe. it didn’t matter. The split, any split, struck us as an omen, a Yu Darvish, part Iranian, part Japanese….and what a success he’s turned out to be and that walking…a sure bet OB% supreme….inspired Harry Hanker to grab Javier by the arm and escort him to Shennigan Park’s baseball diamond, “to see what he’d make of it,” to hit shag flies, take grounders, play pepper and if enough kids loitered, to pick teams, dig in the dirt and enjoy a few innings of paradise.

Javier needed a briefing on the basics…that being on base was a safe haven, but one couldn’t rest on their laurels, one had to advance from one ivory sack to another and ultimately reach home and score a run and with that Javier ran out to second base and started laughing. He rolled his fingers towards himself, a signal for us to join him out there and obediently and eager, we did.

He looked back towards first at “all I’ve lost,” he announced.”

then he looked towards third and “all the joy that lay ahead,.”

“but this second base,” he continued, ….”somewhere in between, will always be home.”

it was Val Smirnoff who stepped up and told Javier about Tris Speaker – the all-time leader in doubles with 792 and Pete Rose second at 746 and the names quickly mushroomed into a forest fire of legend, tales, trivia, and Javier had to know, just had to know the starting lineup of every major league team, especially second sackers, from Kolten Wong to Ozzie Albies….


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a little tinkering action

i don’t know when it exactly happened, the shift from fluid movements and free expression to scarecrow stiffness and filtered talk, some casting out, some ban from the metaphorical garden. funny that it’s called adulthood. feels more like imprisonment.

but there are still options….there is still wandering to the outskirts of town and seeing a cow close up, flat on its side, waving its tail in a wind of easy.

the free and stiff, the life and death duality seems to me, like a catalyst for confusion and reminds me of a line from the desiderata prayer, “If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter….” in contrast to a John Cooper Clarke lyric – “Friction is the mother of pearl. It’s a disapproving, disappointing, disappearing world.”

with no disrespect to the Desiderata, i think the Cooper Clarke lyric rings truer….competition is everywhere and yes, friction does seem to be the mother of pearls, at times anyway…..it seems to be working for the 2021 Brewers and when I say the Brewers I don’t mean strictly GM David Stearns, but also manager Craig Counsell because I’m convinced decisions of players being added or subtracted enjoys the input of Counsell, his vision, the same one he championed as a player, to be utility minded, to be Campanaris capable, all over the diamond, to never be sure if he’d be scribbled onto the lineup card and yet he amassed over 4,700 at bats in a 16-year career…….

the Brewers announced as this 2021 season launched that shortstop would be a duel between Orlando Arcia and Luis Urias and then the Brewers traded Arcia to the Braves and the job was handed to Urias and then in May, the Brewers traded for Willy Adames and Urias was moved to third and/or share/duel it with Travis Shaw and then Shaw was on the IL and later put on waivers so Urias was awarded third base? for a short while because then the Brewers traded for third baseman Eduardo Escobar at the trading deadline and he’s been playing first base too.

the Brewers roster, players coming and going, playing all over the diamond, so many different batting orders, lots of competition and friction and a 28 games over .500 pearl.


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stirring the potage

The lowly Handoogle…lowly, not because of some intrinsic flaw in his spirit or personality (he could raise a brew and bow to the void) lowly because of his stature, Freddie Patek-ish small…couldn’t touch a chin up bar or grab an apple from a tree at old Hammerstein’s Orchard. But what mattered most were his ancestors, cave people, those happy with a rock roof over their heads. it was dna, reminding him that any roof would do, a basement apartment roof, an 8-room house roof, a mini van roof, warehouse pallets nailed together roof, a cardboard hanging from branches roof, tent roof and so on.

The Handoogle shooed away the eyes zeroed in on his smallness…their loss, he thought, of them missing out on the pit crew speed and efficiency of garbage collectors, the way they stormed onto a scene and furiously gathered trash bins and emptied them into the compactor and how they hung onto the truck like they were desperate and determined to flee a slave infested land.

Handoogle moved molasses slow, head always down, in search of dirt and worms, to be aligned with his future and there was also the occasional pile of leaves that had somehow fallen from mid-summer tree and what a treasure it was for he sensed some ancient pact had been broken, that the leaves were forever banned from branches, free to swirl in clusters, spinning around in circles like laundry tumbling in a dryer, a public one, for all to see, round and round and round, far from any linear trajectory, a throw back scene to when seasons and cycles and masks and dances meant more than pi or an isosceles triangle.

When the coffee he scored from a local diner, compliments of the tall, skinny owner, took full effect, the Handoogle looked up, a quick glance at the blue sky and the the beautiful black beyond reminding him that earth is floating in outer space and that all of us humans are floating in outer space too….gravity only a ruse….a slap in the face of those astronaut looking creatures scribbled onto cave walls….

thoughts of outer space and planets inspired memories of a Russel Branyon blast against Miler Park’s center field wall and because of some drive for equilibrium, Handoogle wondered if Branyon ever bunted for a base hit?…the bomb and the bunt…a bi-polar baseball universe.

Thanks to the Handoogle’s slide show memory of Russel Branyon…my thoughts on this August 18, 2021 turn to the Brewers still in first place, a country mile ahead of second place Cincinnati or in numerical terms – 8.5 games, certainly something to boast about, but in no way erasing the ghosts of yesteryear’s demises…the 69 Cubs, 64 Phillies and more recently, the 2011 Red Sox…

there are rumblings already about the Brewers Willy Adames as MVP. i’m not really sure what a shaman is, but the way Adames has taken over the dugout social scene, high fiving coaches, removing helmets off the heads of runners who score, lifting the metaphorical hoods of the content, disrupting their “comfort zones” and his smile and non-stop chatter, endless enthusiasm…maybe that’s a shaman? his stats are good too.


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the last lap moon time beer

Little Satch couldn’t a been older than 16 because no one’d ever seen him drive and his old man ran a decent carrot-potato-cabbage farm…lots of machinery and trucks and what not, but still, no one ever seen Satch behind a wheel cept for a shriner go-kart he stole from the antiques roadshow.

Satch had a habit of eating kraft american cheese slices, “a not so good habit” warned momma bacon because with every chew Satch’s eyes swelled up, but he was stubborn or brave or a little bit of both, because he shuffled his feet, a madman scarecrow in the ring, blues under each eye, a Cooney slow dance duking Larry Holmes to 12 rounds.

one night Satch waited till that cheese nearly made him blind…then he walked and with every step distanced himself further and further from his father’s wish for him to forfeit erectus and drop to his knees, for a little harvest action. he slipped into the darkness, all alone, moving nice and slow, feeling his way from tree to tree, beside Labreeze Lagoon and through Panners park, onto the avenue where he welcomed the unfamiliar city sounds…..the squeak of bus breaks, sewer grates rattling, undecipherable screams of back yard children and Herman Hellman aka “the man who mumbles in bus cabins.”

Herman had his own habits…..most notably – reading the farmers almanac every god damn day, the same one too, from 1973, “the year the universe became bi-polar” he insisted, “the year the DH was born and the american league established an identity and the soft core civil war ensued.” page after page he read….memorized weather patterns, moon shapes, and crop rotations and made up little ditties that he sang in a low voice to disguise his no harmony ways.

“plants dance” sang Herman, “and humans have no idea what they’re doing.”

this “humans having no idea” resonated with Satch cuz he often looked to the stars for answers, like some old mariner at sea or a Moor strolling the dunes, but he found no secrets, so he often turned to a genie bottle he had “borrowed” from a local country bazaar and though there were no magic plumes of smoke rising, he still got a smidgen of miracle tincture, of his flesh so perfect against his bones and veins and blood and heart pumping like some ancient jungle symphony and patterns on leaves and computer mother boards and how many sunsets a woman glowed before her baby was born? the industry and precision of it all.

Satch looked back at Herman and swears he saw him holding an old transistor radio and though it was blurry, Satch thinks he spotted a sticker on the back of the radio. it was the ball and glove shaped like an M and a B, the Brewers logo.

Satch retraced his steps, carefully, tree to tree….made it back home where as expected, his dad was sipping beer with a bunch more empty ones beside his chair, talking to himself, but as always, the tent was “open,” a welcome mat, inviting those interested, to sit down and listen to his monologue.

“There’s talk of watching Peralta’s innings,” he said as a sliver of moon shined in. “Keep him ready for October, a bit too early to prognosticate, but then again, never too early to prepare.”

Satch knew the Brewers were winning, but had no idea they were close to having the best record in baseball, not that it mattered, not with two wild cards and two other division winners and thus, so many chances to lose, but dad handed him a beer and the beer tasted good that night.


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a sort of genesis

she thought about what she had done over the years…a lot of strolling through Tilly cemetery, meeting strangers, inviting them for coffee at McDonald’s and none of it felt real, didn’t feel like it was her, more like a ghost or an actor in some old movie and even now, she felt like a ghost….good thing her shoes had holes in the front, exposing her toes to the wind, giving them a chance to yawn, material proof that she was really alive.

the hopeful asked for her name and she never balked. “Sheela Shohan,” she said with a snap of her fingers. They read her palms, asked her birthday, encouraged her to focus on her breath to bring her back to the now, but it did no good…only got her daydreaming, of a return, back to her primordial ancestor days, the caves, making fire with stick and stone, scribbling on cave walls, chanting and dancing under the moon, starting over again….all of it a pipe dream because she could do nothing but focus on her body, how it ached, nothing but a jalopy, unreliable, doomed to decay, dust, snake fodder.

Marvin Milkwood met Sheela outside Pill and Puff pharmacy. she was sitting on a bench and musta known he was behind her because she started talking….skipped all good morning how are you formalities, slipping instead into her distaste for information.

“i used to be a sucker for it all,” she said, still seated on the bench, still with her back to Marvin. “i knew all the countries in southeast asia and gems?!…don’t get me started. let me tell you” and here she stood up and faced Marvin. “They were all stuck in my mind, all of them,” she continued, from lapis lazuli to onyx to oval, the rare ones too, but that was then…now all there is the occasional stein at the Gas House and not the stone kind. i’m talking about beer.”

Marvin knew the Gas House, knew it all too Vodka well, but he wasn’t about to invite her for a drink, not in the early afternoon hours, sun still shining summer bright and mean. he’d been drunk in the day before. saw the pink elephants in the sky too. learned his lesson. but there were other options. he started to walk slowly and as he hoped she would, Sheela followed him and kept up with here chatter.

“haven’t been to a baseball game since the braves left town after the 65 season,” she explained.

Marvin slowed down. let her catch up. they were soon walking, side by side. “i was there the night the lights went out on braves baseball,” she continued. “i was one of the last to leave county stadium.”

Marvin mentioned wild cards, and inter-league play and the brewers being in first place.”

“never been to a Brewers game,” Sheela replied, “not even in 1982 though i do know a few of the players. hard not to. they sometimes show up at shoe stores and sign autographs.”

Marvin had tickets to 35 games and made a habit of asking strangers to games…young men he met at bars, young ladies he bumped into beside the vegetable section at grocery stores, at potawatomi bingo and now there was sheela shohan.

“the brewers were 21-23 on May 21st,” said Marvin. “then they acquired Willy Adames from the Rays. Now they are 58-42 and in first place, six and a half games over the Reds. Just saying. And their starting pitching…holy crap! Never before in franchise history have they had three starting pitchers in an all-star game and get this… two of them-Woodruff and Burnes were drafted and developed by the brewers….home grown!”

Sheela stopped, turned, and looked at Marvin.

He knew in his gut it was time to strike. He held that night’s tickets in front of him and waved them like peacock feathers…

“And these aren’t for the state fair either,” he sang.

Sheela grabbed a ticket and the beginning of a smile came over her face….


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babe ruth too!

ok, when Rick Wise hit two homers and tossed a no-hitter,
he was pitching for the National League Phillies, but
Ohtani hitting the way he does and in the American League!!
such an ironic, slap in the senior circuit’s “pure” baseball face.


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egyptian baseball mummy

i find baseball books at book fairs, garage sales, and buy them from amazon too and one special one i found. yes, i found it. i was delivering fliers door to door in ville st. laurent, here in montreal when i stumbled on a curb side throw away. somebody was moving. i remember talking to the guy. i don’t remember what he said or i said, but i found the book Ya Gotta Have Wa in the pile of trash. i had never seen it before. it’s about japanese baseball and no, it wasn’t some magic potion that altered my life. i didn’t move to japan and become a junky of japanese baseball, but i took the book and it was good and i still have it on my shelf along with a whole mess of other baseball books. i never counted them, but there’s gotta be well over 100 and probably close to 200, but now i’m bragging. damn ego!

i also have thousands of baseball cards and strat-o-matic cards and i don’t have a car or a cell phone or many clothes or shoes, but i’m materialistic, as much as the next gal or guy…..i’ve never read Dante’s Inferno, but there’s probably a place in his hell for hoarders and if so, I’m going there because of my baseball stuff obsessions.


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the birkenstock messiah

it wasn’t so much the shag carpet or its color – red, his favorite, but its proximity to mom and dad’s bedroom, across the hallway. He was the youngest of three boys and so he, via some ancient tradition, had first dibs on bedroom selection. He could have picked the one at the end of the hallway, the one with a porch and a get away gutter angling down towards street level, to smooch a secret love in the future shadows of an Elm or sniff paint thinner and watch the sun set below the telephone line or endless other dreams-dooms-destinies, but he didn’t want that freedom. Instead, he wanted to be close to mom’s long ear lobes and dad’s hunchback gait and they responded to his love and loyalty with box after box of baseball cards.

Kids called him Crucible Joe because of his scrunched up face, some hidden turmoil they deduced, but it was far from true because in reality, inside, the Crucible felt lucky…every waking day a triumph over death and with box after box of baseball cards, a veritable jubilee. He didn’t care about the player or photograph or stats on the back, only that he had lots of them, an existential blanket before he knew what existential meant. He placed them on the floor, in one long, meandering horizontal stack like an endless chain of train cars, a reminder that he was not alone.

But he was alone, day after day, year after year, until the Burnes boy got wind of his collection and snuck in through the first floor window and tiptoed up the steps. The Crucible’s door was always open. Burns didn’t waste any time either. He got right down to it, preaching the Barcelona experiment, the ancient barter, anarchy, and then he grabbed a few cards, slid them, one at a time, in his palms, oohing and ahhhing, in intervals, like a sophisticated song appreciating rain…a hum dance under the moon. Crucible Joe suddenly knew these cards were more than a material warm shower in a cold, lonely world, born alone die alone. They were an attraction, a talisman, a mysterious totem.

Burnes removed a 1974 Topps Traded to New York Lou Pinella and “that look of Spanish gambler,” he remarked….then a 1983 Lenn Sakata and his “perfect stab at the second sack” and on and on went Burns, from 1962 Eli Grba to 2019 Eric Sogard, their glasses, “their microscopes,” ruminated Burnes, “in love with details.”

Burnes offered a “surprise” in exchange for the cards and the sound of that word “surprise” conjured in Crucible Joe’s mind, images of his mom’s ox tail soup and so he nodded his head yes. Trust took flight. Burns walked to the window and removed his cap, tapped his forehead twice, a third base coach signal to someone or something down below.

She appeared, fat as grapes, lips like worms, wearing birkenstocks with white socks and a black hat with a peacock feather aiming out the back. She was Clarissa the Rat, an old truck stop handle, from her days as a well worn lot lizard. She sat down on the floor, lotus position with ease, flexible for a lady of her girth, cottage cheese arms and the smell too. She removed a stack from her front pocket, a stack of cards, but not baseball cards or playing cards or Tarot cards. These were strat-o-matic cards. She spread them out on the red shag and began to explain, rules of this simulated dice baseball game, and soon they played and she returned the next day and the day after and Crucible Joe was suddenly not alone.

And like the Baltimore Colts fleeing in the night, inconspicuous, Crucible Joe flew the safety of the family coop. He and Clarissa rented a motel room, 70 dollars a week. He turned to a life of decisions, to hit and run, bunt, or hit away? Replace a pitcher? Double switch? Infield in? The stress of managerial tinkering took a toll and so Clarissa the Rat offered scotch and with that first sip, he slipped under the gateway into a marriage with the bottle, a life of strat-o-matic, booze, welfare checks and Clarissa the Rat, she in the East, he in the west, two dugouts of the same diamond. And in the halls of erudition and down by the dirty river, an amor fati shimmered.


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sleeping with ghosts

there’s always a risk of an old fling lover wearing black boots strolling into our dream and us awakening and carrying the fantasy further, daydreaming and thinking what if….

It’s dangerous and ultimately fruitless because not only will it never happen, but even if it did, it would most likely end up how it ended the first time, as a dead end, as one of those highways that never gets completed, the ones with the metal coils sticking out. It’s best to keep moving onward on and forget the past. I think so anyway.

I hope that keston hiura of the Brewers does the same – forgets the past. The brewers had high hopes for him and why wouldn’t they! Hiura was drafted ninth overall in the 2017 draft and he sprinted through the minor leagues, hitting way above average at every level.

And yet, the Brewers sent him down to AAA Nashville earlier this week…..yes, the minor leagues is officially under way….no more alternative sight. god, it’s been a while, hasn’t been a AAA game since the Sac river cats won the championship in 2019.

But back to Hiura, I hope the minors help him refresh the system, and he doesn’t play over and over again that old fling, that major league success he had, those 19 homers in 2019 to go along with a .303 BA and .368 OB%. He followed it up 13 bombs in his sophomore year, but his average plummeted to .213. he also struggled defensively at 2b and struck out over a third of the time.

This year the Brewers moved him to first to make room for super glove man Kolten Wong, and Hiura bit it at the plate and so they sent him down. In fairness to Hiura, this is the year of the pitcher. Hitters just reek, with of course, a few exception, but it seems to be, once again, all or nothing, launch angle, exit velocity BLAH BLAH BLAH, strikeout strikeout strikeout and it’s bothersome. We need a change. We need batters bunting for base hits. We need batters to learn how to bunt! and we need batters to hit to the opposite field to negate the shift.

I hope Hiura relaxes a bit and returns to the majors and fulfills some of his promise. The brewers could sure use him…they’ve lost three in a row to the Harper-less phillies as more and more and even more players wind up on the IL…..including Christian Yelich for the second time this year with lower back problems….The crew is now without their best pitcher – Corbin Burnes and best hitter – Yelich. This might be a good year to get to know the Brewers AAA affiliate – the Nashville Sounds.


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injuries and pickle buckets

there seems to be more injuries in baseball this year than ever before. i don’t know if they keep track of the stat…baseball not keeping track of a stat? that’s like a dog not knowing neighborhood smells. maybe the mass injuries have something to do with so few games last year? Corbin Burnes (49k’s, 0 walks) one of the Brewers best pitcher (Brandon Woodruff being the other) probably contracted covid. there’s no official word, but the brewers so silent regarding the matter hints of Covid because apparently you need the green light from the player to reveal that he has the virus, as if it’s embarrassing to the player or is there something I’m missing? Isn’t it dangerous to not tell people? what if he signed an autograph for a kid before a game?

anyway, the brewers have been hit rather hard with injuries…14 or 15 currently on the IL including their two top catchers and yet, they are currently in first place. it’s gotten so bad that they reacquired catcher jacob nottingham from the mariners for cash after waving him and they begged jordan zimmerman out of retirement…he was apparently chilling at a cabin in eagle river, wisconsin when the brewers gave him a call. he had been invited to camp as a non-roster player but got cut.

and go figure, Cain and Yelich came off the IL yesterday and were in the lineup last night against the phillies and yet, the brewers lost which wouldn’t be so strange except that they were like 11-6 or something without them.

it’s exciting and strange to watch a Brewers team that is so pitching rich, kind of a first for the 50 year young franchise. when ya think of the brewers over the years, hitters come to mind, not pitchers. and with good defense, it bodes well for brewers chances this year, but….

who knows what can happen? In fact, this might be the year I attach a half-dozen pickle buckets under a large piece of sturdy wood, stake a tiki torch and stroll down stream….and maybe I’ll learn how to forage, hunt rabbits, and finally make it through Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra…god, is it confusing. I read like 10 pages of it, not understanding a lick and then BAM, there’s a nugget to consider for a few seconds and mark the page with a corner crease to be reread.

i need these distractions even though i will probably never build the raft or forage, but thinking about them is a little medicine especially with the situation in India covid variant horrifying…and that gets me thinking of the disparity….of countries with oxygen and vaccines and countries without. how in the world did i get so lucky? and in a selfish way, i can only cringe at the thought that if it’s happening there, in poor countries, it will eventually happen here and as part of it being here, messing up the baseball season, not that baseball is life or death, but it sure is a sweet escape.