brewers baseball and things

there’s still .338

4 Comments

I remember a simple bus ride across town being an adventure; soaking up new scenes and gushing; either inside my mind or with a stranger. Those moments drift into the past much quicker now. They disappear into nothing. I don’t cling to them; don’t want to anymore. It must be old age.

I remember when baseball records were untouchable. I would stare in complete awe at the 3,000 hits list sometimes 30 minutes or longer. I remember being in math class when the name Cobb was spoken. I felt embarrassed or vulnerable like a secret had been exposed, like no one should say Cobb’s name in vain.

It seems so stupid now, but those players, the ones I only knew as black and white photographs were from a different world where time and death didn’t exist. All I could do was imagine. It was powerful. George Herman Ruth, Tyrus Raymond Cobb, Rogers Hornsby. Who were they? Were they even real?

bostonbaseballhistory

bostonbaseballhistory

They were locked in some other dimension; invincible. They were the summer vacation that never ends. They were youth and the excitement of a simple road trip. And then Rose cracked 3,000 followed by Lou Brock, Carl Yastrzemski, Rod Carew, Robin Yount, George Brett, Dave Winfield, Eddie Murray, Paul Molitor, Gwynn, Boggs, Ripken, Henderson, Palmeiro, Biggio and Derek Jeter. The same happened with home runs and for pitchers; strikeouts. It seemed dirty and wrong.

So many players I held in my hands as baseball cards were invading this immortal space. The coveted treasure chest was being soiled. It was all too human and real. There wasn’t much to anticipate anymore. I was getting old. Something had slipped through my fingers….sinking fast.

I spent more time as a child scanning backs of baseball card statistics than going anywhere or meeting people. Not much has changed. I just look at a baseball reference instead of the backs of cards, but my eyes still gravitate towards batting average despite the tradition’s bluesy existence beside sabermetrics. I listen and learn about WAR and BABIP, but still can’t kick the habit of batting average. Still can’t kick the habit of Tony Gwynn.

He’s the last leaf on my winter tree and he refuses to crumble and fall. His .338 career batting average is surrounded by all those old names on black and white photographs; the invincibles; the Cobb, Hornsby, Joe Jackson, Lefty O’Doul, Ed Delahanty, Tris Speaker, Billy Hamilton, Ted Williams, Dan Brouthers, Babe Ruth, Dave Orr, Harry Heilmann, Pete Browning, Willie Keeler, Bill Terry, George Sisler, Lou Gehrig, Jesse Burkett and then there he is….Tony Gwynn followed by Nap Lajoie.

gwynntpI know next to nothing about any of them; just Gwynn and his .338 career batting average, slashing hits all over the diamond with purpose and precision like Minnesota Fats in the pool hall..

He’s the only one I saw with my own eyes. He’s the only one I held in my own hands. Gwynn’s 1983 Topps Rookie card is the tail pipe exhaust after a hot rod race to me. It’s him hitting .289 as a rookie in 1982; the only time he hit under 300. It’s followed by nineteen consecutive years batting over .300 including .394 in 1994; that strike season of what ifs.

But there is no if when it comes to Gwynn on my baseball tree of life. He’s still there and always will be, tied with Jesse Burkett and Nap Lajoie; the three of them at .3382, sandwiched between Gehrig .3401 and Jake Stenzel .3378.

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Author: Steve Myers

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

4 thoughts on “there’s still .338

  1. When I was a kid, I would look at the stats on the back of the cards for long hours as well. What always fascinated me was just how long some of those careers were. The print on the back of a ’73 Al Kaline card appeared so small because he’d been around so long. Made me wonder what I’d been missing all those years before I started paying attention.
    The Gwynn baseball card you show is a great shot. Looks like he just slashed another single to center-field.
    Good stuff,
    Bill

    • Well actually, it looks like he’s about to steal second base. For a guy that got so fat, It’s amazing how many bases he stole, but then again …I just looked it up on b-ref. He stole 319 bases , but got thrown out 125 times. That’s not too good.

      I relate to what you say about wondering what you were missing all those years. Great thing about baseball is that it’s so damn loyal. Maybe that sounds stupid since it’s not a person, but still… it’s always there even after all those years we didn’t pay attention or rebelled into other interests and what not. Thanks Bill.

  2. Why you aren’t writing the “page 2” in some sports section in some newspaper in some town is beyond me. The hacks run the scene….it’s HORRIBLE!!!!
    You really got me…I remember spending more time with baseball cards than actual human beings at the age of 11 or 12. I was awkward, and would spend countless hours throwing cards against the wall, expanding stats, and hallowing “careers.” (My mom was mystified by the holes in my pants…it was because I was constantly gathering the cards thrown, my pants constantly scraping the hideous early 80’s brown carpeting)…..it was a simple game, if the batter was closer to the wall than the pitcher it was a base hit. Batter leans against the wall it’s a homer. Pitcher leans against the wall it’s a bench grabbing K with the batter having no opportunity to bat.) Confusing and mind altering times. My love of literature was spawned because of these times.

    • I wonder if there’s a human gene of making up baseball games? I remember day dreaming about inventing one, but never did come up with any. Your flipping card game is ingenious and a sure bet way to turn prison into a pastime. If the warden allows cardboard and crayons in the cells and yard, we’d be looking to Gary to make some magic happen.

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