brewers baseball and things

another day at the office

11 Comments

I didn’t have Mel Parnell on my mind when I woke up Thursday morning, but there I was, around 11 AM with two hours to kill and the sports card hall of fame around the corner on Decarie Blvd.

The bubble gum machines were no longer in the entrance corridor. There was only one guy there, same guy the last time I was there. He’s at least 55, maybe 60. He probably attends night school, working on his sports card junky degree.

I’m never looking for anything, but that doesn’t piss off the owner. He places the one box of assorted baseball cards on the glass counter and asks me to not mix them up. This is Montreal hockey town. Baseball is a dirty word. There are 3×5 cards in the box separating the sports and seasons. The baseball is mostly O-Pee-Chee which is not related to Tai Chi Pee – the act of camouflage disguise trickery when one desperately needs to urinate and does not want to be bothered by the cops. He stands face to face with a tree or bush and pretends to be performing Tai Chi martial art exercise ritual while simultaneously taking a pee and no one bothers him.

The cards were from 6 or 7 different baseball seasons. The name that really grabbed me was Harvey Kuenn and not  as manager of the Milwaukee Brewers. This was Harvey the player on the Tigers and the card was all creased and wrinkled and smudged, just the way i like my cards to be. Screams of stuck in spokes ghosts. I started thinking how much I would love to have a Harvey Kuenn card hanging around my apartment, keep me and the spiders company. It was from the mid 1950’s too. I put it in my “maybe” pile and continued looking. I put a Mel Parnell in there too because his name rhymes and because my dad watched him pitch at Fenway. But I passed on both because their pictures were poses.

Then the O-Pee-Chee cards started. I guess the only difference between Topps and O-Pee-Chee is the same difference between a Canadian and USA Snickers Bar….the French. Doesn’t matter if you buy that Snickers Chocolate Bar in White Horse Yukon or Iqaliut, Nunavut. The ingredients will be listed in both French and English because dammit, every one deserves to know when they’re eating partially hydrogenated soybean oil. A gang of fur-claden linguists will one day integrate the Inuktitut Inuit Language onto the back of the bar as well. I suspect they suffer from the same spatial proportion problem facing back of baseball card engineers – how to make batting average and BABIP and all the new stats get along and fit on the same card.

IMG_0731Anyway, i arrived to 1973 and fell in love all over again, not because the card corners were pin prick mint. That would skyrocket the fee and I’m cheap, would never spend more than 3 bucks on baseball cards or anything for that matter except a beer and a bag of potatoes, my rent too. The action is what got me.

I had never heard of Luis Alvarado, but the picture, the action picture got me,  or more than action – automobiles in a parking lot, early 70’s Meatloaf muscle cars, red pinstripe White Sox uniforms. That ball mere inches away from first baseman venus fly trap! And is that an all dirt little league infield? And that fence! So simple and accessible and not all spring training moat fortification castle guards and 20 dollar entrance fees and what snot. It’s actually Ed Smith Field in Sarasota, Florida, dreamy.

The other card I removed was Ray Newman and I did this not knowing that Leo Durocher once called him a Kook for riding his bike to Wrigley Field and a few months later traded him. I found that out wikipedia later, after arriving home. I just liked Newman’s action wind up southpaw – Caldwell, Augustine, Travers and McLure and that familiar number 49, same number as the Brewers greatest southpaw – Teddy Higuera and Homeland – The County Stadium left field bleachers in the back round. It was under those bleachers I first witnessed smooching and punches. Is that John Briggs in left field?

The last card I pulled was the 1975 Brewers team card because of that guy wearing a plaid dress jacket in the lower right corner and also because on the back it says “Get all 24 team checklist cards. Send 40 cents plus one baseball wrapper to such and such address….expiration date – Dec 31, 1975.” Make mental note. Work on time machine.

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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.

11 thoughts on “another day at the office

  1. Steve – I have never been to Montreal. If I ever make it there, may I join you on a trip to your card shop? I promise that if I come across a card that catches your eye and ranks higher than a “maybe,” that I will give you first dibs. I may even buy if for you, as long as it is also not very expensive. I’m a thrifty fellow as well. Recently, I made a trip over to a card shop in Berkeley looking for a Harry Spillman and a Mike Krukow card. I found both. Very good condition. The store owner wanted $1 each. I bought both. When I added in the parking fee, the cost doubled. I was feeling a little silly about it all, but it was a good half hour of entertainment and fun doesn’t always come for free here in the Bay Area.

    • Oh yes Bruce, we must and we can walk too. Montreal is an island and so is San Francisco if i remember right? and that makes everything near or at least appear near. A nice subway system out there too, that BART, carpeted floors and Star Trek swish of a door opening and closing and what not, a real luxury and way less stressful than a car if you ask me. The commercial in Milwaukee always said “come ride with us on the bus” – see below. I always followed orders. Part of the thrill of scoring a baseball card or two or three is staring at it on public transportation or a park bench. That’s my two cents anyway.

  2. I remember Luis Alvarado–he wasn’t good-field no-hit as much as we was kinda-OK-field, no-hit. The Ossie Alvarez of the early 70’s.

    • According to the back of his card, he played at Waterloo in 1967. I’m no history maven, but Alvarado was 5 foot 9, a Napoleomen i guess.

    • Alvarado was on the Mets for about five or ten minutes at the beginning of either 1978 or 1979. He had a long droopy mustache and he looked like the Frito Bandito. That’s all I know about Luis Alvarado.

      In other words, he looked like this:

      ……..One of my favorite commercials from when I was in my elementary school days. Plus, I loved Fritos! (Still do!)

      Glen

      • After doing my Mets research and seeing Luis Alvarado’s pose on The Ultimate Mets Database, I thought I was looking at Jim Rice wearing Robin Yount’s number 19. I know, too much Mr. Potato Head as a kid, but actually I never had a Mr. Potato head.

      • Luis Alvarado. He played one game at second base for the Mets in April of 1977 (I had the year that he played for the Mets wrong) before the Mets got rid of him.

        I think I’m one of the only people who remembered him playing for the Mets.

        Glen

  3. You write of Mel Parnell. Mel Parnell, as your father probably could tell you, was one of the most valuable pitchers that the Red Sox ever had. He was a lefty who was able to pitch at Fenway, which is quite a feat. In fact, he had an outstanding record at Fenway. A very overlooked pitcher in the history of baseball. He was so valuable during the pennant race of the summer of ’49, which was written about in an excellent book by David Halberstam called “The Summer of ’49”. It’s an excellent book and I recommend it.

    Glen

  4. I miss card shops; I used to loiter in them as a kid. Good post.

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