Mrs. Z worked in a small room; to the left of the guidance counselor and to the right of the big exit doors. She wasn’t trained as a nurse or made no airs if she was; no name tag on the door; no framed wall certificates; more like back alley abortion equivalent so the school could save money I guess.
Mrs. Z. was small; maybe 5 feet and had nice minty breath; reminded us of Mary Lou Retton; but much older. She didn’t smile too much either. We preferred it that way.
She was our get out of jail free card. There were 6 or 7 of us and we could be sick with a 102 temperature or suffering from a severely scraped knee or nothing at all. Mrs Z didn’t care. Trick the teachers and make it to her room and she wouldn’t say a damn thing and if you talked baseball, you could stick around a while.
We weren’t the smartest kids; a few flunked the fourth grade, but we knew Mrs. Z could melt clocks; make the day pass faster. I remember snippets she said; things like, “The Los Angeles Angels were born from a one night stand.” It didn’t make sense until we watched girls practice gymnastics and got those sensations.
I think it was Doug Limpkins who gave us the scoop about the Angels; about AL expansion in 1961 being a knee jerk reaction to the Continental League threat. Limpkins was good at math too.
The Angels did pretty good that first year; 70-91; still the best record for any expansion team’s first season, but according to Mrs Z; “the owners made it rougher after that.”
We never knew what she meant, but it helped explain nine consecutive losing seasons for the Brewers.
Gorman Thomas came up often in our conversations. He was Seattle’s first round pick in 1969; making him our big daddy, but Mrs Z. never liked Walt Disney. She preferred reality.
“The Pilots were in the 1968 draft as well,” she explained “And it was more than the Expansion draft; more than Roger Nelson, Don Mincher, and Tommy Harper.”
Limpkins confirmed it. “Expansion teams beginning play in 1969 were rewarded picks in 1968,” he told us, “But not until after the fourth round.”
“Some reward,” Mrs Z would add.
Limpkins’ father had media guides of all Brewer/Pilot teams. We could have just asked him, but we preferred sneaking around, so we waited until Mr. Limpkins was at work and slipped into those media guides.The first Pilots player chosen in that 1968 draft was Marty West; 4th round; 84th overall pick. He never surfaced in the major leagues and neither did the Pilot’s next two picks; Greg Brosterhous in the fifth round; 108th overall or Roger McSwain; 6th round; 132nd overall pick.
“But The Pilots took Bill Parsons in the 7th round; 156th overall and he had a decent career,” one kid said.
Mrs Z smiled and said. “four years and 360 degrees, but he did get that trophy on his baseball card.” She never tried to look too smart; preferring dialogue instead.
The Pilots made Tom Kelly their next pick, but he never made it to the majors until 1975 and not as a Brewer, but as a Twin. Mrs Z had that card too.
But other than Tom Kelly, there were just a lot of names on the draft board and blank spaces in her baseball card binder.
The only other player Mrs Z showed us from that 1968 draft was a 1974 Rookie Outfield card featuring Wilbur Howard; originally drafted in the 19th round; 443rd overall. Most of us had never seen a rookie card like that; not with four mug shots.
The Pilots last pick was Bob Nero; 71st round; 913th pick. Mrs Z never mentioned Nero as last emperor of a Roman dynasty something or other. She knew better. She wanted us to come back and anyway, we were still digesting what she told us about Bill Parsons.
He won Sporting News AL rookie pitcher of the year for the Brewers in 1971, pitched opening day in 1972, won 13 games both seasons and then as Mrs Z liked to point out; “he fell down a shaft.”
Parsons pitched only 2 more seasons and won a measly 3 games; traded to Oakland, then St; Louis, Chicago, surfaced in Venezuela and “last scene at a bar rail,” Mrs Z joked.
Random killing sprees are harder to digest than the earth swallowing entire villages. We wanted to hear that Bill Parson hurt his arm or became a religious freak and wandered the earth barefoot.
No such luck, but Mrs Z. did point out that Steve Blass lost control about the same time Parsons……and then she would never finish the sentence.