brewers baseball and things

baseball states of mind


i called my dad last week. he was born in 1939 so that puts him over 80. he told me he’d been attending a lot of funerals.

funeral hopping i thought to myself, not wanting to make light of death…..memories immediately aroused from my teenage years, of “pool hopping,” as we called it, trespassing into backyards, one after the other and slipping quietly into pools at night.

And then there was baseball stadium hopping. we lived in Milwaukee. we were lucky because in addition to county stadium we were only 90 miles north of Chicago, two teams Chicago, one national, one american, in the pre-interleague days.

In the early 90’s, a Milwaukee bar called the Why Not Two set up a field trip to Chicago, to see the Cubs. I forget how much it cost, but there was a barrel of beer in the back of the bus. I was drunk by the time we reached Wrigley so I don’t remember much, but it was a double header against the Astros.

for some reason which still bothers me I never went to a game at Comiskey Park, never went to see the White Sox and my favorite player Harold Baines. but i did get to see him when the Sox came to play in Milwaukee and i took some pictures of him warming up in the outfield.

more stadiums….my senior year of high school, I entered a contest in the back of Baseball Digest, to win tickets to the 1988 all-star game in Cincinnati and i won, but i soon found out that I had failed to notice one minor detail when filling out the contest entrance form. It was a contest to win the right to “buy” tickets not get free tickets, no big deal, right? Well, thankfully my dad thought so and he splurged which as it turned out wasn’t too much money….around 40 bucks a ticket in the upper deck at Riverfront stadium. I remember three things about the town and game…..firstly, Skyline Chili which is apparently unique to Cincy tasted good……secondly, one of the motel maid’s name was Wanda. My dad loves talking to strangers….and lastly was Jose Canseco hitting upper deck moon shots in batting practice.

but back to that phone conversation with my dad. I asked how he was doing and he said, “I’m kind of in a funk.”

When my dad is in a funk, it’s not because he’s been listening to George Clinton and the P-Funk all-stars. It’s because he’s depressed.”

I figured it was because of all those funerals he’s been going to. boy was I wrong. He said it was because the Brewers traded Josh Hader, arguably the best closer in all of baseball over the last four seasons.

How powerful is baseball! To cause an elderly man to slip into a depression. It didn’t help matters that after the controversial trade, the Brewers lost five out of six games. They were swept by the Pirates and lost two out of three to the Reds, both teams playing well below .500 and to make my dad’s mental state even worse – a few of the losses were caused by bullpen implosions.

My dad’s depression got me thinking about baseball as more than a sport and I got to be careful here, to not slip into over-the-top shmaltziness, but I can’t resist, mostly because i have no ritual or rituals that i follow, no holy rosary around my wrist, no mezuzah on my door post, no red dot on my forehead and so i turn to baseball and wonder…..

…..we’ve debunked the Abner Doubleday creation story and settled on a medley of bat and ball games as an origin…town ball, cricket, I forget the others. But there’s also Russian Lapta to consider not to mention pre-Neolithic revolution days when club and spheroid games were no doubt played when members of the tribe were not hunting and gathering.

There’s also the rites of winter trade talk, opening day, the all-star game and World Series. There’s the rituals of pepper, long toss, around the horn, batting practice, infield practice……a pilgrimage to cooperstown, the amulet magic talisman hobby of baseball card collecting, bards in the booth and legends, from Babe Ruth’s raucous, grateful crowning to a reluctant king in Roger Maris and that seems to cover the gambit of splendour to shame, the ancient masks we all wear. did i mention Mario Mendoza?

There is math in Batting Average and more recently, WAR.

There is science in launch angles and the physics of a pitched ball.

I could go on and on, but we all know and that’s why we love baseball…..

And the good news. The Brewers rebounded. They swept the Rays in a short, two game series and then tied up their series with the division leading Cards, but then on Sunday, the rubber match, the bullpen imploded again, the newly acquired Taylor Rogers (in the Hader deal) allowing four runs in the 8th inning. Albert Pujols hit two home runs. I wonder if he’s the oldest player to do that?

I suspect my dad’s transformed from feeling depressed to being fed up. I’ll call him tonight and remind him that there are still 49 games to be played.


Author: Steve Myers

I grew up in Milwaukee and have been a Milwaukee Brewers baseball fan for as long as I can remember.

12 thoughts on “baseball states of mind

  1. Holy shit! I’m gonna have to start paying close attention to the Brewers now. I had no idea they were having bullpen issues. The A’s are boring as shit anyway. Of course, if they implode the fans will blame it on “the trade” just like the Oakland fans did when they traded Cespedes. (and they actually STILL whine about that trade to this very day) There should be a rule that you can’t drink a bottle of whiskey before deciding that a trade is a good idea…and I can’t believe Pujols hit 2 home runs! I’m embarrassed for the guy every time drags his ass to the plate (and tries to run out a grounder slooooooowly) and now he’s Babe fuckin’ Ruth.

    “the amulet magic talisman hobby of baseball card collecting”

    That was a good line because I knew exactly what you were talking about and you put into words something I never could even though I’ve tried for years to justify my childish hobby.

    P.S. Steve, if all this sounds crazy keep in mind that it’s really early right now and I’m kinda half asleep.

    • Gary, i’m glad to have you comment when you’re half asleep, dreaming, sipping a whisky cocktail, anytime.

      Yeh, the Brewers bullpen has been a trouble spot since the trade, but then again, Hader was a trouble spot the last few times he pitched for the Crew. It’s a weak division and the Brewers struggle offensively so I don’t think it’s their bullpen that’s gonna cost them a playoff spot. They should have gone after a bat at the trading deadline or maybe they did with the prospect they got. I can’t remember his name, but he’s improving at AAA and will hopefully get a call up in September and silence the haters of the Hader trade.

      I think I owe Josh Wilkers a hat doff for coming to an understanding of how important baseball cards were in my life and still are.

  2. You had me at “pool hopping.” Those were the days. I can very much see baseball as ritual, almost religious feelings. It’s great you connect to it in that way.

  3. Sometimes I think baseball fans in their 70’s and above like your dad are the last great generation of baseball fans because they date back to the times of “we listened to Jack Buck/Vin Scully/Ernie Harwell/(fill in the blank) on the radio.” I have a fondness and appreciation for the older gents sitting in their season ticketed seats they’ve had for 30 years wearing headphones so they can here the home announcer call the games. I don’t even know if listening to baseball games on the radio is even a thing amongst the tic tok and twitter generation. Hell, even a Gen Xer like myself is more interested in all of the different tv broadcasts and ESPN app updates than I am interested in listening and/or watching one particular team and broadcaster.

    To use an old-school term, what’s the latest scuttlebutt in Milwaukee about Christian Yelich? Two MVP years and then injuries just seemed to have derailed it, but he seems to have been fairly healthy this season?

    • Double K, I like the way you describe what might be, as you suggest, the last great baseball generation. I’m reminded of the guy who sat in the centerfield bleachers at Indians games (when they were called the Indians) and pounded a drum. He did it for years. I love that loyalty.

      There is so much available to us know, so easy to tune into any game with a subscription to MLB.TV and at such a reasonable price. I guess we live in a distraction time. I find it hard to focus for any stretch of time on anything, but there are some announcers who really keep a broadcast interesting like the Mets, as an example. I’m not really a big Mets fan, but I watch their games or listen to them because of Cohen-Darling-Hernandez and when it comes to the Brewers, I like the combo of Brian Anderson and Bill Schroeder, both former catchers, nice friendly banter and sarcasm between the two of them. Unfortunately, Anderson has gotten national attention and is often away doing some other sport.

      Love that word scuttlebutt! i’d never heard it before. I think Yelich’s two power MVP years were rare and now he’s returned to being a great lead off hitter. He gets his walks and scores a lot of runs… where near worth what we paid for him, but still productive.

  4. Steve: Your Dad sounds like a good guy and a cool guy in his own way. Professional sports (as well as big time college sports) is a mostly scuzzy and disgusting business but its saving grace is that it creates bonds between people. The baseball bond between you and your Dad is mighty special. Savor it while you can.

    My wife I went to Chicago in 1989 specifically to see a game at Comiskey Park. Our only time there. Glad we went. We had seats in the lower level in right field. Unlike the sanitized corporate-controlled marketing-manufactured social clubs deemed as ballparks today, Comiskey Park, despite a myriad of flaws, had character and soul and was a real ball yard. The visit there sticks with me to this day.

    • Thanks Mark. I’ll be seeing my dad soon and we don’t get to see each other too often so your suggestion to savor it while i can is much appreciated and very timely. I’ll take your words with me.

      I’m glad you and your wife got to see the old Comiskey Park. I watched many games on TV that were played there, including the two day extra inning marathon between the Brewers and Sox. I think it lasted 25 innings…..the game won by a walk off home run by Baines.

      Two things I remember about the Old Comiskey were the turquoise colored seats and the picnic seating behind the left field fence. I wish I would have gone to a game there. one stadium I’d like to go to a game at is PNC park.

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