brewers baseball and things

there’s always baggage on the train


It happened again yesterday, first time since… well, I don’t really remember…probably when I surrendered and stopped fighting it; the cold that is, the booger freeze, the no one gets outta here feeling.

Yesterday must have been above zero because I slipped my hands out of gloves and let em yawn and stretch and even when cold pinched me a “it’s still only February sucker,” I stayed rebel and clenched fists and remembered what it was like to carry a fact and a feeling around all working day long; that the Brewers would play a baseball game later that evening.

There’s no denying the return of pitchers and catchers to Arizona and Florida reservations, but it’s no celebration or rather the celebration never ended because the baseball season never does. The last out of the World Series simply morphed, as it always does, into baseball card piles and books abandoned during the previous pennant races; dreams and legends and franchise histories; fiction and winter meetings, rule v drafts, killing the clock.

And now it’s reality’s turn on the wheel. The ham string pulls and rotator cuffs, rounding out pitching staffs, the stretching, sprints, pitchers covering first base over and over, fringe players wearing number 93 hitting home runs into spring training skies and forcing managers to roll the dice and bring em north.

The buzz of this new season will probably last all the way to opening day and maybe as far as May, but the jackhammer will pounce hopeful heads 6 feet under. It always does. Sure, a few teams teams will linger and who knows; maybe one or two will surprise us all summer long, but mostly there will be failure. Players will be sent down, managers fired. Fans will complain, but something will get quenched. It always does.

The trucks have already rolled west and south and Cinderella has already splintered into 30 naive dreams including Houston; hungrier than ever to not lose 100 games. You can dive into this sunny day so many ways. You can soak away in odorless water filled with potassium, silica, magnesium and iron. Good for a sore arm, arthritis, and shooting the breeze. The Buckhorn Baths in Mesa, Arizona were home to the New York/San Francisco Giants from the late 1940’s’s to early 1970’s.

Leo Durocher made it mandatory for his players to loiter in her waters. The entire team stayed in the Motel with the same name; a classic kitchenette roadway Inn. A silver tray presented by a Durocher team still sits on display there.

The Baths closed a few years ago and no major league team stays at the Motel anymore. But then again, there’s bound to be a player in baseball today who prefers a Ma and Pa motel over a big one with employees dressed like congressman. I’m sure there’s one Rube Waddel or maybe a dozen who arrive to Florida or Arizona with trouble on their mind. 

Waddel had no interest in relaxing massages and meditation therapy. He sought release the old fashioned way. He wrestled with alligators, drank pints of Bourbon and wrestled some more; with ladies of the night and when that failed, he threatened suicide. Waddel pitched for the 1903 Philadelphia Athletics; a team managed by Connie Mack; the longest serving manager in MLB history; the one who refused to wear a uniform in the dugout; preferring a business suite instead.

Mack blamed the Athletic’s disappointing 1903 season on the temptations of Jacksonville, Florida and refused to return for 11 years. The Athletics appeared in five World Series during that span and won three of them. Rabbit’s foot, lucky charms? Whatever it takes to tilt the scales and tap into momentum.

Avoiding temptations, soaking in mineral water, drinking away nights and mornings? What’s a more effective tactic? Hell if i know? I’d be most likely to try em all because there’s gonna be slumps and tired arms and scrums of reporters asking dumb questions. There’s gonna be groupies, autograph hounds, and second guessing.

There’s 15 teams in Florida and another 15 in Arizona. The day is regimented and predictable. The opposition plays 10 minutes away. No more St. Louis Cardinals training in Hot Springs, Arkansas; Yankees in New Orleans, Cubs in Catalina Island; Tigers in Honolulu; Brooklyn Dodgers in Havana, Cuba.There are no second jobs to hold down. This is 2014. Teams don’t barnstorm by train or bus and hope to scrounge up a game against a local semi pro team anymore. No one holds down a second job. Spring training is a lucrative carnival..

But it’s all just a change of clothing; a fancier, more comfortable one, but underneath all the Hollywood and hype, everyone is there for the same reason; to begin again or enjoy the illusion that there is a beginning.



Author: Steve Myers

I grew up in Milwaukee and have been a Milwaukee Brewers baseball fan for as long as I can remember.

7 thoughts on “there’s always baggage on the train

  1. This is terrific. I mean, really terrific. You don’t write any bad ones, do you? I wish it was so easy for me.

    I realize that you weren’t implying that Connie Mack was the only manager who wore a “business suite” (sic). I don’t know if that was unintentional error or classic Steven Myers cleverness, (because, after all, the piece was largely about modest motels as opposed to fancy motels, and there IS something called a “business suite” in fancy motels for the well-to-do (at least I think so), but the sentence reminds me of classic first-person Henry “Author” Wiggen vernacular in Mark Harris’ novel, “Bang The Drum Slowly”. (Which I absolutely loved.) Actually, the run-on sentence I just wrote was classic Glen Russell Slater when he was feeling too lazy to edit his own comment.

    Anyway, what I was getting at was that Burt Shotton took over the Dodgers for the 1947 season because A.B. “Happy” Chandler suspended Durocher right before Jackie’s Season for gambling and lending his apartment to unsavory characters (actually, in my opinion, Ben Chapman was FAR more unsavory than Durocher could EVER be), and Shotton wore street clothes. No, he didn’t wear a business suite like Connie Mack did, but he wore street clothes on the field, and often a tie (and sometimes a bow tie), while managing the Dodgers.

    Was this shown in the movie “42”? (the movie about Jackie Robinson), which I refused to see because knew they would give it the simplistic “TV Movie Of The Week” treatment (which, as I’ve read in critiques of the movie, I was correct), and I already knew more about Jackie Robinson by the age of ten than any movie could tell me. I had the feeling that they would oversimplify the Jackie Robinson stoy, and from what I’ve read about it, they DID.

    Anyway, GREAT post, and I’ll take it over posts about Aldous Huxley (who I know almost nothing about except that he was one of them intulectuwal filosofer guys) any day. I’m not a college graduate, and I didn’t understand that post. So please make it easy for us lowbrows!


    PS I chose to wear #42 in a high-pitch Portland (Maine, of course) Jewish Community Center league softball game in 1988, not to honor Jackie, but to honor Ron Hodges, one of my favorite Mets. I’m one of those goofy guys whose favorite Mets were guys that no one else had as favorite players, like Dave Marshall, Don Hahn, Neil Allen, Dan Frisella, Steve Henderson, Ray Sadecki, Joel Youngblod, and others.

    • Mack was one of them, but you’re right, Shotton too, wearing suits and ties. I don’t know of any others, but of course Mack had so much money and control that he managed Philadelphia more than half his life so I guess he goes down as the one most remember.

      You sure have a lot of favorite Mets players. I like Jesse Orosco’s name pronounced backwards. I will always be grateful to Harry Caray for doing that.

      • Was Harry high on Budweiser at the time?

        I just gave you some of my favorite Mets. Others include the usual suspects, such as Dave Kingman, Cleon Jones, Bud Harrelson, Jerry Grote, and, of course, Tom Seaver! But others include Mike Phillips (infielder who hit for the cycle in 1975 at Wrigley Field), Bob Bailor, Rusty Staub (naturally), Ed Kranepool, Hubie Brooks (I wish they never traded him for Gary Carter, and, no, I’m serious), Wayne Garrett (highly underrated third baseman; the Mets wouldn’t have made the world series in ’73 without him and his suddenly-found power), Doug Flynn, John Stearns, Pat Zachry (I LOVED his pitching motion!), Ken Singleton, Dwight Gooden (until he disappointed us all), Keith Hernandez (who should be in the Hall of Fame), Ted Martinez, Tom Hall, Billy Baldwin, Donn Clendenon, Art Shamsky, Del Unser, Pepe Manguel, Leroy Stanton, Mickey Lolich (no, really), Jackson Todd, Mike Vail (one of my BIG favorites), Bob Apodaca, Jerry Koosman (of course), Skip Lockwood, Tug McGraw (of course), Randy Tate, and I probably left out a few.

        You most likely heard of a lot of these guys, and as for the others, I suggest you look them up on the internet.

        Glen Russell Slater

        • Lots of favorites on the train! Yeh, almost all of them I have heard of after years holding their 1970’s Topps baseball cards in my hand.

          My favorite player was always Harold Baines. I took a lot of crap in Milwaukee for that because Baines was on the rival White Sox at the time. That was back when the Brewers were in the American League.

          The only Brewer I could ever say favorite was Rob Deer and I can’t forget Bonnie Brewer, the Brewer’s mascot from 1973-1979….blonde hair with gold skirt and blue lederhosen. She was my only girl friend in the 70’s and 80’s and she never knew me, but i knew her.

  2. Least favorite Mets of mine included Joe Foy, George Foster, Ellis Valentine (for reasons I gave you before; because he took the place of Joel Youngblood), Butch Metzger, and others.

    I forgot to say that I liked Lenny Dykstra a lot; he was always funny to watch at the plate, dribbling his tobacco all over his uniform. He reminded me of Michal Keaton in his great hyperactive comedy role in the movie “Night Shift” (he played opposite of Henry Winkler.) I likes Dykstra until he almost killed himself and Darrell Daulton when he smashed his Mercedes Benz into a tree; he was drunk, and I have no love for drunk drivers.

    Glen Russell Slater

    • Oh, yeah, other Mets I hated were Richie Hebner (a lot of Met fans did, after he endeared himself to Met fans by bitching about being traded to them in the press, and then when he was booed on opening day of 1978, or was it 1979?) he gave the crowd at Shea the middle finger, and Nolan Ryan. Yes. THAT Nolan Ryan. I’ll explain another time!

      Again, there were probably others.


      • Hey, I posted a message with other of my favorite Mets, but it disappeared.

        Mike Phillips, who hit for the cycle at Wrigley Field in either ’75 or ’76, Bud Harrelson (naturally), Cleon Jones (of course), Bob Bailor, Ed Kranepool (naturally), Doug Flynn, John Stearns, Jerry Grote (of course), Skip Lockwood, Tom Seaver (naturally), Tug McGraw (of course), Jerry Koosman (naturally), Mickey Lolich (no, I’m serious), Rusty Staub (of course), Billy Baldwin, Ken Singleton, Keith Hernandez (should be in the Hall of Fame), Donn Clendenon (of course), Art Shamsky, a BIG favorite of mine named Mike Vail, Jackson Todd, Dave Kingman (of course), Del Unser, Tom “The Blade” Hall, Pat Zachry (I loved his weird pitching motion), Doc Medich (yeah, for the entire game he pitched for the Mets), Randy Tate, Mike Jorgensen, and others. Oh, yeah, I liked Lenny Dykstra until he almost killed himself and Darrell Daulton in a drunken crash; I have no love for drunk drivers.

        Players I hated included Joe Foy, George Foster (most Met fans hated him), Butch Metzger, Ellis Valentine (only because he took the place of Joel Youngblood in right field), and, of course, Richie Hebner, who endeared himself to Met fans by bitching about being traded to the Mets, and then when Met fans booed him on opening day, proceeded to give the crowd at Shea the middle finger. What a great guy!


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