brewers baseball and things

shake it off


A band of young boys connected by habits were never bothered by a baby sleeping in a stroller or a drunk using the curb as a headrest. The boys marveled the way both slept so peacefully and wondered, if underneath all the dust, dirt and flesh, they dreamed the same dream?

The boys roamed day and night in search of automobiles. Didn’t matter what make or model. Hoods were pried open and innards removed. Nothing but bare aluminum carcasses remained. The parts transplanted to dusty lots. Strangers came from far away. Their knees crunched. Must have been retired catchers. They were drawn to the coils and gaskets spread out in stick-figure formations, crop circles, a  virgin wind, boys crawling along rocks barefoot, into caves. A stubbed toe. Dog fights by the canal. Ambulance sirens. Stitches, the disabled list, but the roster is 25 deep so a few bullpen meltdowns or tripping around second base. A seven game losing streak. Holes in your shoes. Wet socks. Shake it off. The season is long.

Doc, pass me a few of those pills and sure, I’d love a shiatsu. I love dogs.

A dog? What’s a matter with you boy? Hop up on the examining table and I’ll give you a massage, not a dog. Shake it off. Relax. 

But how do you shake off an entire season Doc? 

I scrolled the roster of the 1942 Philadelphia Phillies to see if any names reappeared on the 1941-1940-1939-1938 teams as well because they lost 100 games five years in a row, only team to ever do it. The Washington Senators lost four in a row, 1961-1964 and so did the Mets, 1962-1965, but only the Phillies did it for five.

I couldn’t find a player appearing on all five teams, but right-handed pitchers Ike Person and Boom Boom Beck, outfielder Stan Benjamin, catcher Bennie Warren, and most interesting of all, third baseman Pinkie May were on four of them.

Merrill Glend “Pinkie” May”…. What crappy luck! He plays on the last four of the Philly 100 loss seasons and then he plays one more year – 1943 and then Pinkie goes off to war and never returns to baseball. But somewhere along the way he met a lady, because he’s listed as the father to Milt May who wasn’t born in May, but did enjoy a 15-year career as a catcher. And the closest he came to being on a team with 100 losses was the 1975 Astros who lost 97.

I’m not sure I would really want to be traded mid-season, to a contender anyway. It would make the dance and dive, that late September mosh pit celebration around the mound feel kind of strange, lukewarm like I didn’t really belong, foreign country.

Jonathan Lucroy says the Brewers don’t appear interested in winning anytime soon and since he’s not getting any younger, maybe they should trade him because he wants to play on a winner, not a re builder.

But there is loyalty in panhandling to feed a fix and enduring all the moon phases of a team’s face lift and  being in the seats for all 81 home games. My thoughts return to Robin Yount and twenty years with the Brewers, with the same freaking team and no other team. I counted eighteen players in all who enjoyed careers of 20 or more years and played each and every one of those years on the same team- Brooks Robinson, Walter Johnson, Red Faber, Jim Palmer, Mel Ott, Stan Musial, Yaz, Stargell, Trammel, Biggio, Brett, Gwynn, Ripken, Kaline and Yount, but  all these guys played on winners at least once.

Only Luke Appling and Ted Lyons of the White Sox and Mel Harder of the Indians never stepped foot in the playoffs. 


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 “shake it off

  1. I think the trade with the A’s worked out for you….I saw that Nottingham kid play last year and he is a beast in the same Piazza masher mode.
    Bah….what am I saying? Losing sucks and it’s tough to care when it happens. My only saving grace in the late 90’s was Miguel Tejada and Jason Giambi. Oh, wait….even THEY turned out to be a farce. Yikes. I guess it’s the boneyard for you my friend.

    P.S. losing builds character and that makes for good writing….didn’t some obscure Frenchy say that?

    • Gary I’m glad you mentioned Nottingham and you’ve actually seen him play so that tells me more than any numbers or what we’ve been hearing a lot lately, “catcher of our future.” One of the exciting potentials this year and maybe the next few years will be plugging the roster with inexpensive veteran solutions. We already have Aaron Hill and I have good memories of Parker being on the Brewers towards the end of his career and then there will be the call ups, probably not Nottingham for a few years, but shortstop Orlando Arcia hopefully in June or maybe earlier.

  2. Steve, I’ve got to admit, I don’t get it. Was this an exercise, more or less, in stream of consciousness or something like that?

    By the way, and I’m not saying that this is plagiarism, maybe “unconscious” plagiarism like “He’s So Fine” by the Chiffons (1963) and “My Sweet Lord” by George Harrison (1971 or ’72), and I don’t think John Updike is going to sue you like George Harrison was sued because Updike died a couple of years ago, but in the first part of the first two paragraphs of what you wrote here, the style reminds me so much of the very first page or two of Updike’s classic novel “Rabbit Run (written in 1960). That’s among one of my favorite parts of the novel in a novel where I thought the parts were better than the whole. The novel has some GREAT writing and it seems to go in spurts because then there’s other parts that I love so much, like the part where he comes home from work and he’s watching the Mickey Mouse Club on the TV and thinking that it’s all lies while watching Jimmy, one of the older mouskateers, telling about some moral thing about what’s good and what’s bad that he’s teaching the Mouskateers and watching his drunk wife Janet sitting there drunk while she’s pregnant and thinking about what an idiot she is, and also about the parts where he’s driving into the night to get away, because he feels trapped. I’ll have to read it again someday, because I found that a lot of it dragged and it literally took me years to read it— never heard of the book until the summer of 1981 when I saw a paperback that caught my eye in King’s Department Store (later Ames) in the New Paltz Plaza Shopping Center in New Paltz in New Paltz, New York, across the river from Poughkeepsie once you get past Highland and cross the bridge. I bought it and read about 1/4 of the book, then years later went back to the beginning of it and got to the middle, then FINALLY finished the book years and years later. (In the mid-90s or thereabouts!)

    Here is the first part of that novel, and I will always love this piece of writing——

    Boys are playing basketball around a telephone pole with a backboard bolted to it. Legs, shouts. The scrape and snap of Keds on loose alley pebbles seems to catapult their voices high into the moist March air blue above the wires. Rabbit Angstrom, coming up the alley in a business suit, stops and watches, though he’s twenty-six and six three. So tall, he seems an unlikely rabbit, but the breadth of white face, the pallor of his blue irises, and a nervous flutter under his brief nose as he stabs a cigarette into his mouth partially explain the nickname, which was given to him when he too was a boy. He stands there thinking, the kids keep coming, they keep crowding you up.

    His standing there makes the real boys feel strange. Eyeballs slide. They’re doing this for themselves, not as a show for some adult walking around town in a double-breasted cocoa suit. It seems funny to them, an adult walking up the alley at all. Where’s his car? The cigarette makes it more sinister still. Is this one of those going to offer them cigarettes or money to go out in back of the ice plant with him? They’ve heard of such things but are not too frightened; there are six of them and one of him.

    The ball, rocketing off the crotch of the rim, leaps over the heads of the six and lands at the feet of the one. He catches it on the short bounce with a quickness that startles them. As they stare hushed he sights squinting through blue clouds of weed smoke a suddenly dark silhouette like a smokestack against the afternoon spring sky, setting his feet with care, wiggling the ball with nervousness in front of his chest, one widespread white hand on top of the ball and the other underneath, jiggling it patiently to get some adjustment in air itself. The cuticle moons on his fingernails are big. Then the ball seems to ride up the right lapel of his coat and comes off his shoulder as his knees dip down, and it appears the ball will miss because though he shot from an angle the ball is not going toward the backboard. It was not aimed there. It drops into the circle of the rim, whipping the net with a ladylike whisper. “Hey!” he shouts in pride. “Luck,” one of the kids says.

    Actually, those are the first words of the novel, and the scene actually goes on from there, but this was all I could find online to copy/paste. I know how you like basketball even more than you love baseball, and there’s proof right there that basketball can be written about just as eloquently and vividly as baseball.

    Here is the cover of the edition (and there have been many editions) that I bought in 1981. I can’t see how much it cost back then; it’s too small of an image to see the price.


    P.S. Speaking of Mel Harder, Steve I still can’t find the tape of when I interviewed Mel and Willis Hudlin about their pitching to Babe Ruth during their career. I know that the last time I played it, I played it for my brother-in-law at my sister’s house, and the most recent time I was there (last month) I looked all over but could not find the damn tape. It’s driving me CRAZY! Hudlin told me how the “Deadball Era” is a myth; the ball didn’t change, he said; the BATS did. After Ruth switched to a heavier bat and hit all those longballs, everyone else followed suit. In other words, he more or less said that it was the BAT, not the BALL, that was “dead”.

  3. Yay! I found a bigger image of the paperback edition that I had bought at King’s Department Store in New Paltz, New York in the summer of 1981, and I thus can now see on the cover how much it cost. 95 Cents.


  4. I was only kidding, Steve, about plagiarism, unconscious or otherwise! It was a joke. I guess not a good one. All I can say is that if you never read anything by John Updike, then you are an incredible writer. I knew that you are an incredible writer already. I just thought that it was uncanny in similarity of the cadence of what your wrote. That’s what I meant.