brewers baseball and things


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when a statistic is born

I thought there was a point in baseball time when the walk was not recorded. I was wrong. I did a google search for walk leaders by year and was surprised to see lists all the way back to 1871 when Ed Pinkham of the Chicago Whitestockings led the National League with 18 walks, a pretty low number, but not the lowest. That distinction goes to Candy Nelson of the New York Mutuals when he led the league with 9 walks a few years later in 1874.

A couple of things about Pinkham. What a name! as if a ham could be any other color but pink. Ed surprisingly only played that one season in 1871. I wonder what happened to him? I checked Wikipedia and discovered that he was born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and after his one season, he returned to New York and raised beets. Maybe he made Borscht soup?

I was trying to find a baseball equivalent to blocked shots in basketball because blocks are kind of a new stat. Take Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as an example. In his first four NBA season, from 1969-70 to the 1972-73 season, there is a blank space under blocked shots, for steals too because they didn’t keep track of either until Kareem’s fourth season, the 1973-74 marathon…82 games…Kareem played in 81 of them and averaged 3.5 blocks per game.

It strikes me as kind of weird that the NBA didn’t keep track of steals and blocks for so long, blocks especially since the 60’s were ruled by big men like Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. Wilt retired after the 72-73 season and Russel bowed out after the 68-69 season so any discussion about their prowess as shot blockers is left to bar rail oral histories.

I wonder what changed in the NBA’s mind to add blocked shots and steals? Maybe it’s all part of an evolution in measuring player performance. With that in mind, I’d like to see a new stat for the NBA. It’s one that already exists in hockey. I’m talking about the second assist. Hockey awards two assists per goal. I’m not sure if they always do. I guess it depends on the particular play. In basketball, say Andre Drummond of the Detroit Pistons snags a rebound and makes a perfect outlet pass to Derrick Rose at half court….Rose then finds Luke Kennard  in the corner for a three. I think there should be two assists awarded, one to Drummond and the other to Rose.


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when Victor lays down with Tussle

I was talking to my friend Earl the other night. He loves reminding me that last year he picked Auburn to reach the Final Four. He reminds me because Auburn did make the Final Four which might not sound like such a big deal, but it kind of is because very few people were picking Auburn to make it.

My favorite Earl prediction so far was him discovering a player in high school a few years ago. He guaranteed that this kid would be an NBA star. He’s from Milwaukee, played high school basketball at Whitnall and then signed to play college ball at University Wisconsin Madison, but then he changed his mind and went to Kentucky, pissed off Wisconsin basketball fans. His name is Tyler Herro. He had a great freshman year at Kentucky and then made himself eligible for the 2019 NBA draft. The Miami Heat picked him in the first round. I forget what number pick, but being drafted by Miami means you know how to play defense or want to learn how because that’s head coach Eric Spoelstra’s reason for being – defense. Tyler also creates his own space for jump shots and moves well without the ball. He’s playing a lot of minutes this year and the Heat are 5-2.

During our phone conversation, Earl said, “there’s so many stats in basketball!” Earl’s good in math, but doesn’t bother with new stats which gave me two ideas. The first one is about Daryl Morey, GM of the Houston Rockets, and one of the first promoters of advance stats or metrics or whatever those things are called  in basketball. He gives all credit to Bill James which gets me wondering if anyone has ever been elected into both the basketball and baseball hall of fame?, probably not, but Bill James might be the first!

The second idea I had was…..well….let’s say there’s this guy, call him Tussle Mcgee. He can complete a Sunday crossword in 20 minutes. He wears an orange sand knit cap, wears it in winter and summer. Most people have him pegged as a drummer in a rock and roll band, but he never listens to music and as far as playing music, he can’t distinguish between a triangle and a tambourine. He’s hooked on mountain dew and a candy bar that’s been out of circulation for many years. It’s called Summit or it was called Summit. He has boxes of these bars stuffed into his basement refrigerator. No one knows where he gets them from. He lives in the same house he grew up in. He lives alone because his parents were killed in a bear attack. Strange to see a grizzly so far south, but there it was, hungry as can be, gobbled up Tussle’s ma and pa. Tussle inherited all kinds of money from his parent’s life insurance policies and so he bought season tickets to the local baseball team, a major league team, the name doesn’t matter, but that he can’t add 8 plus 5 does matter. He stinks at math and so he doesn’t pay attention to a player’s stats, not even batting average and the other back of baseball card stats. Tussle was asked who is the best player in the league. His story ends there.

And Victor’s story begins here. Victor Headlong is the neighbor of Tussle Mcgee and he couldn’t be more different. He’s never been to a baseball game, doesn’t give a damn about the game, never gives it a thought. He plays the keyboards, guitar, and drums and boy can he sing. He also works for NASA. He too was asked who was the best baseball player in the league. He told them to buzz off, that he could care less about baseball. But then this someone reassured Victor that he would never have to watch a game, just plug some numbers into a formula that Victor would create himself, so Victor did it and he quickly came up with the best player in the league.

It was the same one as Tussle Mcgee’s.


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amen

Captain Treble came to the lakeside clinic with a cleft foot. He was born that way, six toes on his right foot, two sets of three. He came looking for answers. Dr. Winter smiled and scanned the room. He waved his hands like a circus trainer to encourage Captain Treble to have a look around and so the Captain did and he spotted a scalpel resting on a sterile cloth, a stethoscope, a stack of popsicle sticks designed for patients to stick out their tongue and say ahhhhhhhh, a blood pressure cuff, a box of plastic gloves, and all sorts of vials, tubes, and jars behind a glass case.

“Like a car shop mechanic , I am, that’s me,” said Dr. Winter. He smiled and held it for quite a while and then clapped his hands. “So what can I do for you?”

Captain Treble removed his shoes and socks and flexed his right foot, like a tease, all six toes, fluttering them back and forth, the three in unison with the other three.

“I wanna know why,” Captain Treble said. “Why do I have a cleft foot?”

“Well now,” said Dr. Winter, “I can tell you how we might be able to accommodate you, make it less awkward, easier to get around, adjust you to the lager and tequila crew, things like that. We have the tools We have the how, but the why? You best go across the street, to St. Kevin’s. Father Pat will help you with that. We’re like stamp and envelope, me and him, to get you on your way. That’s what you want, right?”

Captain Treble looked down. He knew all those gargoyle looking christs and mother mary statues. They scared him. But he felt something heavy peering down at him so he looked up and lazily nodded his head yes, as if to say, whatever, another dud. He put his socks and shoes back on and headed for the door.

But before he could leave, Doctor Winter reached up with his open palm. He was looking for a high five. He held it up there as he spoke.

“You might think, as a doctor, I’m being a bit informal with the high-five and all,” said Dr. Winter. “Well, you see, I don’t see corpses. I fix humans. Keeps me loose.”

And so Captain Treble high-fived Doctor Winter and went on his way. He braved the streets, jay walked between cars coming and going, didn’t care a bit if a cop happened to roll on by. He entered the church and asked for Father Pat. The man he asked, was Father Pat himself.

Captain Treble didn’t bother removing his shoes and socks. It was something in Father Pat’s eyes. They were stiller than an owl.

“We’ve been talking lately about Israel not being a promise land, not being a land at all, just a metaphor, said Father Pat, but just is too weak a word cause a metaphor’s a big deal especially when we’re talking about the world……Israel Jerusalem Mecca, all a state of mind, for everyone to know and feel.”

Father Pat tilted his head and laughed but never lost that still stare. Captain Treble rolled his toes in his shoes. He didn’t believe in any Jesus Jerusalem Israel Mecca Ganges River Buddha stuff. Well, that’s not entirely true. He tuned in to god every once in a while, but it wasn’t a mood thing, more like a moon cycle. He was a fair weather fan, a streaky hitter, a part time devotee.

He smiled at Father Pat and walked out of the church, took the back alleys and for a change, looked up, not down, and enjoyed some casual awe at pigeons lounging communal on a telephone wire and then launching into a figure 8 flight pattern and in the foreground, a solo seagull soaring carefree in the wind world, the world, he thought, not so bad.


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an old trip and writing letters

It was new year’s eve 1993 or 1994. I was riding a Pee Wee Herman beach cruiser in West Oakland, no helmet, no particular destination, just riding around. I was visiting my brother at the time. I don’t remember much about that bike ride other than spotting an outdoor basketball court, a full court with two rims, no big deal except for the couch on the sideline, right at half court. I remember thinking how perfect that looked. A few blocks later I was hit by a car. The driver took off. I flew over the handlebars and smashed head first into the side of an ambulance waiting for the light to turn green, a private ambulance so they couldn’t take me to the hospital. I suffered head trauma and full body seizures and was eventually taken to a hospital by a different ambulance. It took a month to recover, but i never really recovered, not when it came to bikes. I could never really ride one again, not without some latent fear of getting hit, but before that accident, oh what glorious bikes.

Five or six years earlier, in the summer of 1989, I took a bike trip with other people. I was 19. There were 10 or 11 of us. We rode to raise money and awareness about overseas development projects….creating wells and providing health services to third world countries, sort of a domestic peace corps on wheels, young and idealistic, maybe naive and a tad spoiled because my friends back in Milwaukee were working.  It was also an experiment in communal living. We rode our bikes from Seattle to Washington D.C. We had a van that rode along with us too so we didn’t have to carry tents and sleeping bags or food on our bikes. We did more than camping. We slept in church pews, gymnasiums, people’s houses, tribal reservations. People were super nice and generous with us. A lot of the places knew we were coming so they had everything prepared – food and beds or places to spread our sleeping bags out. We also camped. I didn’t like that too much, too many bugs and too much morning dew, wet in the sleeping bag.

We experienced all the ups and downs of living in a group for so long, day after day. Two guys left the group and rode off by themselves. They said they didn’t feel comfortable anymore, but I had a hunch it was because they didn’t like one guy in particular.

Anyway, I was by far the youngest of the group. I remember this one day. I don’t know where we were, but it was one of those sort of sunny days, not the deep blue sky sunny days. It was cloudy, but the light shot down in beams every once in a while, slipping between clouds, like a strange spaceship lights discovering someone or something to snatch up. This girl in our group was in the van with the two back doors opened, sitting cross legged, lotus style. She had long straight golden hair and it wasn’t golden from a reflection from the sun beams. It was simply golden like she was born that way, destined to be a princess, only she wore no slippers. She was barefoot and had her fingers inside a tub of peanut butter. It was one of those institutional size tubs, not a jar, but a tub, big enough for her entire hand and more than enough peanut butter for everyone.

She offered to make me a sandwich. Her feet were dirty so I said I’d eat later, but I liked her, kind of liked her even more because i was way too uptight to not wear socks. I never went barefoot. I envisioned us getting married, opposites attract, her with dirty feet and me with clean socks. Cripes, looking back now, I was being a stupid romantic movie with the way I was thinking. That crush made me feel so not-natural and not-speak easy free flowing. They still do, but I guess it’s good to blush every once in a while.

We both finished the trip. We all did, all 3,000 miles or whatever it came out to be, all of us except those two who took off.  After the trip, I stayed in touch with a few of the riders. We began a pretty decent letter writing campaign, the most prolific one with the golden hair peanut butter lady. She wrote poems and short stories and sent some to me. She also sent me music tapes with Andreas Vollenweider on it and other music i had never heard of, from other countries. She spoke other languages, had lived in europe and Africa, but was really quiet and humble.

We got to know each other on that bike trip, but even more in writing letters. Now I hear that post offices might have to shut down in a few years because no one writes letters anymore. That’s a bummer. It’s hard to know how much is lost without letters, but I bet it’s a lot.


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as another season ends

strange to see a work saw on the corner of 14th and cherry, especially one atop a green velvet cloth. i didn’t really see this. i mean there’s probably a work saw and green velvet cloth at 14th and cherry somewhere in the world, but not one i’ve wandered along. i’m not sure why i’m dreaming this up. maybe cherry for an ice cream sunday on a friday night and maybe some player with a number 14 i liked and green velvet because of some latent pool playing desire? at least i think the material a pool ball rolls across is velvet? but that wouldn’t explain the work saw. maybe the saw has to do with music since there is a tradition of people playing the saw. i’m not sure if it’s blue grass or country or who knows maybe jethro tull? frank zappa? probably, oh for sure. i saw zappa on you tube, on the steve allen show, playing the spokes of a bike with a violin bow. anyway, the work saw coupled with the green velvet maybe = music in a pool hall and that would take me back to the days of juke boxes. do they have juke boxes anymore? diners and dive bar rails?

i’m guilty of losing my hunter gene, to go and find these juke boxes, diners, and rails, but to be honest, i barely had a hunter gene to begin with. yeh, i went to a couple of diners sipping coffee, newspaper talk, holding sugar towers, and staring out windows and hunched at a few bar rails and all the conversation made them gardens of courage if you could endure and maybe, along they way, enjoy it.

maybe this is the season of paranoia with winds whooping up more violent and leaves, yeh sure they’ll all burning colorful, but they’re busy cutting ties with their source, twirling all teenage flirt, but old and cement dead paste cement soon, like a couple of leaves on 14th and cherry where i can talk to a man or a lady or a littler one or an older one and discover or rediscover that some people prefer shadows and rain delays and that baseball fields overrun with weeds, dented beer cans, and mattresses with coils jetting out of them are beautiful too.


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blundering my way to heaven

I don’t know if there’s a rule against slurping coffee in the library but it pissed me off earlier today and i thought about doing something about it, but instead, a thought creeped in before i raised a sword – the assassination of the archduke Ferdinand or whatever sparked the first world war creeped in and so the spark of a library brawl was snuffed out, the chairs and computer screens flying all over the place and in a worst case scenario a head placed under one of those giant paper cutters, the kind with a guillotine like knife….all of that that bloody ugliness was avoided.

instead, i thought about playing diplomat and recognizing the necessity of a slurp and even considered politely asking, “Excuse me sir, i know the coffee or hot chocolate or whatever you’re drinking is hot, but could you stop making that slurping noise. it’s messing with my mind.”

the slurper was sitting behind a computer and so was i, right next to him. we were computer neighbors. As i see sawed back and forth in my mind, to speak up or not speak up, i watched myself in an imaginary movie….me standing up and sneaking a peak at my computer neighbor’s screen to find out what he was reading or watching and discovering that he was looking at a picture of Steve Sax.

gratitude reigned in my mind, even a bit in my heart. i suddenly loved my slurping computer neighbor. I’m not a big fan of the saxophone. I prefer the trumpet, but sax is a great family name and sax had his golden boy looks and his arm, the right one, the one that caused so much trouble, so much so that they named a syndrome after him. I never witnessed sax messing up in person, not on TV either. Cripes, maybe it wasn’t that bad? Anyway, I’ve read about him on wikipedia, how he could throw the ball no problem, but he couldn’t aim, couldn’t find the target – the first baseman’s mitt and who knows, maybe balls heaved from Sax, their wild trajectory were like Charlie Parker sax blows?

as i sat in the library inventing a fake movie in my mind, Sax became the slurper, the ugliness in the game, the ugliness on every street corner, the ugliness atop Mount Everest, the ugliness beside beauty, the two of them dancing longer than a joe dimaggio hitting streak.

i walked out of the library and there were two clowns. i swear to god this really happened. one was playing the ukulele. they both had red noses. they were both males. a lady watching started dancing and so did another person. i felt really self-conscious and kind of sad because i couldn’t enjoy the two clowns and the lady and the other guy dancing so my lonely feeling felt like the slurper sound and steve sax’s aim and suddenly it made sense – all the ugliness has as much right as the beauties do.