brewers baseball and things

not the cure all, but still

19 Comments

The first fields were green grass, blue skies; idyllic, Elysian. There were no walls. And even when wood stadiums surrounded the diamond, home runs were of the inside the park variety.  It was the middle of the 19th century; the thermonuclear bomb was still one hundred years away.

800px-The_Great_Wall_of_China_at_Jinshanling

wikipedia

But there were walls; the Great Wall of China and the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem; symbols of human destruction and simultaneously, its great potential; of wars outside ourselves, of wars within ourselves. The two see sawing back and forth through history; from the first friction in big bang creation to cave seven doing battle with cave nine.

wikipedia

wikipedia

The hatred, weapons and our seeds of potential all evolving side by side; from honor being more valuable than life to the push of a button and leveling lands and innocent people; from declarations of war delivered by horseback to propaganda and mind control; from sticks and stones to bow and arrow, guns, tanks, and bombs. Prayer and apology.

In baseball’s beginnings, home runs were not encouraged. They were considered arrogant and excessive, a glorious tease in the sky inevitably landing in an outfielder’s bare hands or leather mitt, nothing but a long fly ball. Runs were to be manufactured and produced in ground battles; attrition, gradual, slow pace, 90 feet at a time. World War one happened.

But when the war curtains closed, Babe Ruth happened. He hit 54 home runs and then 59 and a few years later, 60 and he hit them over fences. He was bigger than Mussolini and Hitler which isn’t saying much since the dictators were poodle sized as dictators tend to be; barking away their inadequacy.

But Babe Ruth was heroic big at least in the province of baseball minds. And his swat was more than a transient miracle. It was a forever life raft worth clinging to. Baseball would never go back to playing for one run. A home run out of sight cured managers, teams, and fans, entire cities…the shots heard round the world existing in every major league town…and minor ones too. No kid dreamed of a sacrifice bunt. Hank Greenberg hit em’ against Hitler.

jsonline.com

jsonline.com

The great wall of china still exists; so does the wailing wall in Jerusalem; so does the war outside ourselves and the war inside ourselves. Neither is enough, not for me anyway. Global thermonuclear destruction lingers in the back of my mind and who knows how much it fuels my nervousness.

I need the home run wall and get the sense that 35,ooo brothers and sisters feel the same. Who are we but strangers sitting in our isolation seats when clack! we defy the master craftsman’s 100 mph wares. We soar with the ball into the air. We’re on our feet now watching and willing it further; way past our doubts and fears, anxieties and separation. The other bomb has been struck.

Our spines are suddenly electric. we believe again. Our limbs groove gracefully; maybe like never before. We high-five brothers and sisters who are no longer strangers. We riot together. It doesn’t last. It mellows like a tree after a summer storm but the game goes on and we have more to look forward to and no hair in the soup bowl, no nasty wind, no global thermonuclear war can stop us.

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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.

19 thoughts on “not the cure all, but still

  1. Very good article, Steve. (What else is new?) I don’t want to overdo my praise of your writing, as I usually do. So let’s just say that it’s safe to say that you’re the best writer at whatever hospital in Montreal, Quebec, Canada that you work at.

    I don’t think that that’s overpraise!

    Your friend,
    Glen

    • well, i don’t know about all that. i just do what i do, but i’m glad you enjoyed this one and by the way, Ben Revere is the current leader in at bats without a home run…1304 to begin his career.

  2. Isn’t it funny how home runs were considered “arrogant”, but war and killing was allright with the same people. Strange priorities.

    Personally, I got more of a thrill out of home runs when I was a kid than I do now. Now, (particularly after the Sosa-McGuire season), I feel that they’re overrated. Cheap thrills, even. Something for the highlight reel on ESPN, which vastly cheapens them.

    I missed the Mickey Mantle era, but I got quite a thrill out of a home run, particularly by a Met. And I got bummed out by any home run hit AGAINST the Mets.

    I was lucky enough to have lived through the Dave Kingman/Mets era. Dave Kingman was the first Met to hit home runs in large numbers (Agee, Milner, Staub, and a few others seemed to hit 18 to 20 homers a year. When Kingman came to the Mets, I wasn’t really that familiar with him, except for a baseball card of his. This was probably because the Mets were on so late on the coast in Frisco (where Kingman had played), and I wasn’t able allowed to stay up that late. (Games on the west coast ended at about midnight here on the east coast). I was amazed by Kingman’s all or nothing at all swing. He was, in my mind, the most exciting batter in baseball. And he wasn’t always a bad guy. At least not in the press. Not until I read about how he sent that dead rat to Jane Gross, a reporter for Newsday.

    Here’s two videos, one a song that COULD have applied to Kingman’s hitting style (even though it’s really about sex), the other one of the best videos that I ever saw about Kingman, which I sent to several people, one of whom subsequently put it on his Twitter page but gave me no credit for it.

    By the way, Sinatra’s terrific song was arranged by Nelson Riddle, and Kingman WAS somewhat of a riddle.

    And here’s the other one, one of the best videos that I ever saw on Youtube PERIOD, about Dave Kingman or otherwise.

    Glen

    • i’m still a sucker for the home run and a cheap thrill for that matter, especially as I get older. I feel like I need them even more, but your point is well taken Glen. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to eat a bowl of cereal.

      • I hope, for your sake, that it’s Wheaties. I love Wheaties.

        I’ll never forget the Wheaties commercial, where Henry Aaron from about 1970 or ’71 when Henry Aaron was at the plate and couldn’t hit the ball for the life of him, and the musical jingle went “Hey, Henry, You forgot your Wheaties!”

        Glen

      • wheaties are too expensive, but when they go on sale, you betchya… i snatch them up. Still got that Crunch.

    • Having said all that (and no offense directed towards you, Steve, a genuine St. Louis Cardinals hater), but as I got into my 20s, I got over the cheap thrills of a home home run and began to appreciate the finer things in baseball, such as Whitey Ball or Billy Ball (even though I despised Billy Martin.) Small Ball.

      By the way, about 18 years ago (18 YEARS AGO????), I spoke on the phone to Willis Hudlin, who was then about 89 or 90. I have the tape somewhere; my brother-in-law was quite impressed after listening to it. I’ll have to look for it.

      Anyway, it was quite a thrill to speak with Hudlin (who lived in Mississippi at the time). He was one of the last pitchers still alive who pitched to Babe Ruth. I asked him about the so-called “dead-ball era”, and he said that it was a crock of crap. He told me that the change in baseball from a baserunning game to a homer hitting game (he had pitched in both eras) was not the ball, but the BAT. Babe Ruth, he said, used a bigger BAT, and others followed suit.

      This was fascinating to me, and I wrote an article that I sent to Baseball Digest based on it. (It was rejected, mostly because I didn’t know anything about sending queries and other formalities of getting a magazine article published at the time.) It also wasn’t the best-written article in the world, I’ll admit.

      So Willis Hudlin, who had pitched in BOTH the so-called “Deadball Era” AND the live ball era, had the “smoking gun” when it came to the truth. He should have known, and he DID. After all, he was THERE, and he was both batting and pitching during BOTH eras. (By the way, Hudlin was a fine hitting pitcher; he hit a lot of home runs for a pitcher, as has Mel Harder, who I also spoke to, and who was a teammate of Hudlin.) What an honor it was to speak to these two guys; Harder was a gentleman, and Hudlin was a gentleman and quite a character, as well.

      Glen

      • the “finer things in baseball?”….Glen, you national league elitist snob! I’m only kidding. I enjoy small ball and bunts and hitting behind runners and all that, but there’s nothing like a home run or a triple. I think you’re living in denial Glen or just like to play devils advocate for the funk of it.

        Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m about to enjoy my second bowl of cereal.

      • Glen, you gotta find those tapes and if you do and don’t write the article, I’m gonna bother you about it until you send me the tapes so I can write it. Hudlin was from Oklahoma and lived to be 96 years old. I can already hear his accent sounding in your writing style. You gotta make that article happen.

  3. Hudlin was living in Arkansas at the time when I called him. (I think it was in 1995.) He was such a nice guy, and so was Mel Harder, who stayed in the Cleveland area after his career was over. Harder was the first guy to pitch at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, and he threw out the first pitch at Jacobs Field because of this.

    Glen

    • Also, Harder and Hudlin, ironically, died within about two months of each other. Harder lived to be 93.

      They were both swell to me. They really were.

      And I was literally shaking while I was talking with them. I was stammering, too. I tend to have a stammer when I talk, as my interpersonal communications are really lousy. I have a terrible social phobia, which I sometimes cover up with my New Yawk brashness. But I’m a half-breed——– Mom from a small town on the Ohio River in Pennsylvania, Dad from THE Bronx (as he likes to brag, he’s not just from “Bronx” but from “THE Bronx”!!!!!

      But when I talk to a celebrity, BOY, do I get nervous. And I was very nervous when I spoke with Harder and Hudlin over the phone.

      You, on the other hand, sounded self-assured when interviewing Gary Roenicke. And he was one of your favorite players, at that.

      You ought to interview your all-time favorite player, Harold Baines.

      Glen

      • That would be a huge challenge Glen, interviewing Baines that is. He hardly ever talked, but I can sure relate to being nervous when talking to baseball players.

        Roenicke did put me at ease. I think it was his willingness to stay on the phone so long. I didn’t feel pressured into asking great questions. He let me crawl along like a turtle asking this and that and then later, I tried to find a theme.

        But anyway, back to your interviews. Gary added some good insight here. The book he referenced opens a nice counter point to what Hudlin revealed to you. Come on Glen…Write that article.

  4. I’m going to have to disagree about the bigger bat theory. Modern day players are breaking records with toothpicks! No offense to Mr. Hudlin…but after reading “Glory of their Times,” a lot of the early 20th century players disagreed with each other on MANY theories concerning baseball…. but I’m an A.L. elitist…what do I know??

    • I can already hear Glen typing up a comment or hopefully an article integrating what you’ve added to the discussion here Gary. The question is…does Glen still have a cassette player to hear the interviews he recorded on tape? I have one, but it’s on its last few rounds.

      It’s kind of easy to convert cassettes to digital. The only item needed is a two headed wire; one end plugs into the tape player and the other into the computer. Free online software like “Audacity” can then be downloaded to make the conversion. It’s up to Glen now….

    • Gary, what I meant to write was HEAVIER bat. That’s what Hudlin said to me. Not bigger, but HEAVIER!

      Glen

  5. This is a great write-up for your blog, Glen….btw, I need a link, I can’t seem to find it. I think it’s a great idea to make it public, I had no idea it was private before!

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