Some came racing to Water Tower park by Schwinn red sting ray bicycle. Others walked along the railroad tracks and through the bush. The coach’s children packed into a four door Honda and arrived with yawns and hair still wet.
A few kids sat on one corner of the dugout bench playing with Star Wars figures. They didn’t really want to be on a baseball team. Some tugged on mom or dad’s sleeve; hoping for soda or hot dogs, preferring to watch rather than play. And then there was Alexandra Simmons. Of course we called her Amanda Wurlitzer because she was a girl and she could pitch. We never bothered explaining to her the real origin of our Pirate’s name. Alexandra believed in the power of being a pirate.
We turned her Santa Klaus faith into a good luck charm and encouraged her to wear a patch before every game. Some called her Panda; a nice mix of Pirate and Amanda, but most of us just watched her paint corners with awe. We kept our discussion about the Pirate’s name to ourselves. We did it for the team.
The original name was the Pittsburgh Alleghenys, but when they were accused of stealing players from the rival American Association League, “for being piratical,” they renamed their team Pirates for the 1891 season. The new nickname didn’t appear on their uniforms until 1912, but once it was there, it never came off.
Alexandra Amanda Wurlitzer Simmons didn’t need to know. None of us did because no matter how different we were, we were winning and all of us knew what to do when the other team’s runner reached first base and advanced to third on a single. The situation called for a sleight of hand, art of deception, decoy, pirate trickery. Oh, we called it all kinds of names including “73.”
The runner breaks for second and our catcher who we nicknamed “Malted,” throws a strike to the second baseman, but just as the ball reaches the destination, the shortstop who we called “Flight” steps in the way, intercepts the throw, plants his feet and throws a return strike to the catcher-“Malted.”
The runner breaking home from third slides. The ensuing cloud of dust gives way to a riot because the runner is a dead duck. The umpire thrusts his arm down signalling out. The double steal has failed. We had practiced that play ad nauseam and seeing it come to fruition was the only proof we needed in life.
But that was Little League. The double steal in first and third situations seldom happens in the major leagues, maybe because the arms of defenders are missile bulls eyes, but last night?….well, I’m still ringing from the Brewer Pirate fever.
The score was tied 2-2 in the top of the 8th inning. With runners on first and third, last year’s MVP-Andrew McCutchen hits a towering pop up to the right of home plate. It was a dome closed Miller Park sky. Things can get Dizzy, but Brewer’s catcher Jonathan Lucroy makes the catch with one hand and jumping geewillikers, the runner from first-Travis Snyder tags up and tries to advance to second base; a poor man’s Pirate double steal trickery?
Lucroy throws a strike to second base, but shortstop Jean Segura steps in front, intercepts the missile, plants his feet and returns a strike to the pitcher; yes the pitcher-Jim Henderson who is now covering home plate. And Henderson doesn’t flinch; blocking the plate like no pitcher is supposed to do, like the hockey player from Calgary, Canada that he is. Tag applied; completion of a little league double play.
And with poetry aligning the batting order and planets to make sure the great defender is rewarded, Lucroy steps to the plate in the bottom of the inning. Braun stands on second as the go ahead run. The Milwaukee crowd is screaming Luuuuuuuuuuc just like we did for Cooooooooop all those years and the boy from Louisianna-Jonathan Lucroy lines a sharp single into the hole between the first and second baseman. Braun scores just out of the reach of the catcher’s tag. Brewers take the lead 3-2.
Frankie K-Rod Rodriguez allows a lead off walk in the ninth, but then closes the door for his fourth save.
Brewers win their 8th game in a row good for first place in the National League Central with a 9-2 record.
Oh screw it, if you wanna see the Bizzaro double play with pitcher Jim Henderson covering home plate, click for some trickery