brewers baseball and things


honus wagner, fernando tatis jr, and utopia

and so tatis is king for 14 years! i like that…TATIS the king  and to think the White Sox traded him for james Shields. funny how things turn out. one year an expert, the next year a dunce and so royalty has returned to america!! yes, there have been long extensions before but never 14 and 14 is an important number somewhere so we can now forget about the war of 1812 or whatever it was that knocked out kings and queens from america. it’s no longer a metaphor. baseball is king and queen. diamonds will soon be everywhere…beside lakes and rivers and oceans and mountains, behind dairy queens, on both sides of the tracks and buried in them too. kids will be in forever seek mode, but not on screens, it’ll be under real live mounds, adults too. diamonds will be on abandoned car lots and drive thru movie theatres. public drinking fountains will no longer be water, they’ll be beer and whisky and there will be baseball murals on office building walls and common baseball cards will function effective as food stamps and vaccine vouchers, radio broadcasts will be blasted from megaphones hanging from streetlights on streets….public holidays will include opening day and all world series games played during the day, yes during the drunk day, and if the people don’t like it, they can move to canada and we’ll make a new baseball utopia there and i called in sick to work today and i plan on doing the same for opening day and last night you tube landed me on honus wagner and his criticism of today’s baseball life and players and what not and that translates to the 50’s since wagner played in the early 20th century…..his voice sounds like charles bukowski which makes sense because both were from germany or their ancestors were which makes me wonder why in the hell do we call Wagner the flying dutchman? His family wasn’t from the netherlands…they were from germany and sam jethroe is from mississippi so who cares.



baseball cards i have to have part 15 – Burdette and Shantz

Everything’s a bit complicated. I mean if you wander out to the corner of 4th and Chestnut and ask the twenty or so citizens milling about what’s going on, you will no doubt get 20 different answers. Try and delve into the past and things get even more 42nd and Grand Central Station complicated. No one really knows for sure what happened.

Take 1957 as an example. Was it a Yankee’s player or manager Casey Stengel who referred to Milwaukee as “bushville?” Or no one at all? Or was it in reference to Sturtevant, a small town south of Milwaukee? (Bushville in baseball speak is a derogatory term that implies something as “second rate” or not “Big League.”) I guess it doesn’t matter if or who, but what followed does. It rallied the Milwaukee fan base. They took it to heart, embraced the moniker and the Series rolled onto a game 7 and the Milwaukee “bushville” Braves won!

The MVP of the Series was Lew Burdette and could it have been anybody else? He threw three compete games, two of them shutouts including the 7th game clincher.

There are theories speculating that the “bushville” moniker lingered in Milwaukee, that fans remained hateful towards the Yankees and when the Brewers were born in 1970, a new rivalry was born which was actually an old one.

I imagine there were problems with rival cave man gangs way back in the stone age. Even the Pawnees played war against their First Nation enemies….the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Osage and that was before the white man arrived.

Maybe peace and love, “why can’t we be friends?” is built on fake smiles and lion laying down with the lamb biblical propaganda, ya know the nice talk, “how ya doing?” we have to commit at work, marriages, and funerals. But there’s no denying the camaraderie in this 1958 Topps card of the Yanks Bobby Shantz and Burdette or probably it was staged or maybe not, maybe there’s always room for peace? In any case, I’d like to get this card as as reminder that Milwaukee once won a World Series.

In related news, I think it was George St. Pierre, the mixed martial artist, that said he owes a lot of his success to his enemies because they motivated him.


baseball cards i have to have part 11 – origins

I never really contemplated the origin of the universe, never wondered if we evolved from apes or if God waved a magic wand and the first multi-cellular organisms abracadabra appeared. I did, however have a tree of life phase. I hoped to find out  where my ancestors came from. My mom steered me towards her Aunt, said she might know so I sent her a letter and my great Aunt Ruth called, left a message on our answering machine that said,  “YOU’RE FROM MILWAUKEE AND THAT’S ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW.”

Baseball has origins. The days of the Mills Commission insisting Abner Doubleday waved a magic wand and baseball was born no longer holds water. Now the consensus says baseball evolved from rounders and town ball, but wait a hair in the scientific soup bowl second. Last week I received two photos from a friend.

The one on the left appears to be from the Middle Ages and has women or men or maybe both playing what very much appears to be baseball! I like seeing that the fielders are playing 500 while the pitcher batter duel goes on, multitasking. The only words I recognize are pelota on the top inscription and lanta maria on the bottom. Pelota is Spanish for ball and lanta maybe has something to do with lancer which means to throw in French. Maria is well, Maria, that great pitcher during the early Latin years of baseball. I love her underhand knuckle spinner.

The other photo, a winter scene with a center fielder shading the batter towards right field, some sort of defensive shift based in part, no doubt, on way up north wind gusts. Could baseball have been born in Nunavut?

I’ve seen Inca relics where men are holding what appears to be a bat and another holds some resemblance to a ball. I think it’s time for a small series of cards called “baseball origins” or maybe one already exists? I mean the planets are shaped like baseballs and Saturn has those on-deck doughnut thingamadgegees that could very well be rings. They are rings! Baseball doughnut rings!!

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baseball cards i have to have – part 10, PROJECT 2020

Topps is currently running PROJECT 2020 – a year-long event that includes 20 artists or painters or whatever and 20 iconic baseball cards. I don’t know how they decided on the 20 cards, but they did. It must have been a committee that took a vote or each member made a suggestion of a card and then they all voted on them. In any case each of the artists or painters will provide their own interpretation or “reimagine” the 20 cards.

According to the Topps website, the artists are “famed streetwear designers, tattoo and graffiti artists, and one of the premier jewelry designers on the planet.” As far as jewelry goes – I don’t wear or have any, but if I did, I’d make them out of aluminum cans and well, I don’t know what I’d do with them, maybe give them away to random people.

You can find some of the cards that have already been completed here.

My favorite so far is the Tony Gwynn card by Efdot (on the left). It’s his version of the 1983 Topps Gwynn card (on the right). I know it’s kind of busy but I love the black surrounding the circle, the waving Palm Trees trees, ocean blue, hinting of the heat the heat the heat, when the body loosens up which  reminds me of Gwynn at the plate so relaxed, slapping hits all over the field seemingly with ease, and running the bases, as he is in the card, in the midst of chugging somewhere, probably towards first base since there’s a crowd in the background which is eliminated in Efdot’s version suggesting that he’s simply running which Gwynn wasn’t too bad at. He had 390 steals over a 20 year career which struck me as amazing since he always seemed a tad overweight. But then again, Greg Luzinski stole 37 bases over a 15-year career. The other interesting thing about Gwynn was how good of a basketball player he was. As I understand it, hoops was his first and favorite sport.

One of the other artists is life-long A’s fan Blake Jamieson. I’ve been watching his you tube posts and feel like I got a new friend. He’s so damn humble and sincere, funny too. In one of the you tube’s, he reads a blog post or a letter from his dad about their family’s interactions with Mark McGwire. It brings Blake to tears. He also reads from the book The Alchemist. I’ve never heard of it, but it sounds good so if the libraries open up again, I think I’ll check it out and give it a read. That you tube post is below.

As Blake explains, he used McGwire’s 1985 Olympic card (on the left) as inspiration to recreate one of the 20 iconic cards – the 1987 McGwire card (on the right) That would explain the transformation of the green and yellow A’s uniform color to the red, white, and blue.

It’s a bit rah rah rah American flag waving, but I guess that’s the point. Blake based it on the Olympics which is every country being rah rah rah about its home. I’m not a big fan of McGwire, but I’m not about to judge him either. I drop Pepto-Bismol pills (yes they come in pill form now) from time to time and those little pinkies are definite performance enhancers.


baseball cards i have to have – part 9, Topps Throwback Thursday

One of the weekly features on the Topps website is Throwback Thursday, so named because the cards are issued with an older Topps design. Sometimes they use baseball cards, other times hockey or basketball. Last week’s Throwback Thursday featured a non-sports card. It was a Brady Bunch design.

Brady Bunch!?

Yep, in 1970, Topps issued a series dedicated to the TV sitcom. It was released as a test set and featured 55 cards. The following year, Topps issued a second Brady Bunch set with 88 cards so I assume the test set produced good results. The cards are designed with a TV border much like the 1955 Bowman baseball set. I once had a card from that set, a Mickey Mantle (seen on the left). It was Mickey freaking Mantle. I don’t know why, but I traded it for….well, I can’t remember for what,  but if I would have held onto it, it would be my oldest card. As you can see the border resembles a TV; the border is a TV!; the entire card is a TV!! which makes a hell of a lot of sense since the first televised game happened on August 26, 1939, a double header between the Brooklyn Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds, but as I understand it, TV and baseball didn’t really flourish until the 1950’s making the 1955 Bowman TV border a wonderful historic artifact.

As far as the Brady Bunch cards go, they captured the variety of personalities on the show – three boys, three girls, a homemaker mother, an architect father, and an entertaining maid name Alice. In this particular card, we see Bobby and Peter, two future Hall of Famers – Sandlot Stars!

Topps issued six cards using the Brady Bunch card borders. The card I’m most interested in features three current Toronto Blue Jays payers – Cavan Biggio, Vladimer Guerrero Jr., and Bo Bichette. All three have fathers who played in the major leagues, two of them Hall of Famers – Craig Biggio and Vladimir Guerrero!! I like the TV wood border and the three of them in a coffee clutch pose discussing where to eat after the game. I can’t remember they’re ever being three sons of former major league players on the same team, and all in the same starting line up!! These aren’t utility players either. The Blue Jays have high hopes for all of them, especially Guerrero Jr. But my favorite is Cavan Biggio. He has an incredible eye at the plate. Last year, he hit .234 with a strange .364 OB%, strange because his batting average was so low. That’s what 71 walks will do for ya! The photo is taken at Toronto’s Rogers Center, the giveaway being the Tim Horton’s sign in the background. Tim Horton’s is Canada’s most popular doughnut and coffee shop.

Currently, the six Brady Bunch throwback cards are being sold for 30 bucks or one for 19.99. Way too expensive for one card when you consider the old days of 25 cent packs. But here’s the dumpster diver deal in my mind. You walk to the local print shop, print out the card in color for 50 cents, cut it to specs, mount the print on some cardboard and then create whatever back your baseball card loving heart desires….total cost $1.50…..50 cents for the print out and $1.00 for use of the computer. Done.


battered bastards of baseball

One of the criticisms of minor league baseball is that teams are under the watchful eye of Big League Daddy. Players are called up to the next level on short notice. What was once a good team turns it into a not so good one. On the one hand, it makes for a unifying force with all affiliates aimed at the big league level like Santa’s little helpers. But how  can a team or a city for that matter build anything under such insecurity?

There were The Milwaukee Brewers of the AAA American Association. They  changed affiliates a number of times, but played from 1902-1952 at Borchert Field in Milwaukee. The major league Brewers of today took their name from that team and their beer barrel chested mascot as well. Only the colors changed.

Some fans opt for the Indy Leagues. There are currently nine Independent baseball Leagues scattered across the USA and Canada including two teams in Quebec. There are three more that play in the winter and a new league – The Southwest League to start up this April. In the early 1970’s the number of Indy leagues had dwindled down to zero. Then something happened in Portland, Oregon. It’s been made into a documentary, Jim Bouton included. It delves into this topic of Indy leagues versus minor leagues and much much more.

If you haven’t seen it, it’s available on Netflix (the internet TV network) and youtube, for the time being. I say time being because many vintage baseball games and programs have been taken down due to copyright violation issues. 

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why i sort of hate history…

game five of the 1982 ALCS
county stadium
i was there
and yet,
I don’t remember a damn thing about the game
not the bark of the vendor, the smell of beer,
or fans running onto the field.
memory is so damn elusive.
nothing but flashes
a dizzy slide show.
only a familiar smell slows it all down,
turns it into an old film
but only for a few seconds.
maybe I don’t want to remember?
maybe I block it out because it’s gone and that makes me sad.
then joe charboneau pops into my head and
just like his name (charbon in french is coal)
there’s fuel.
suddenly, i’m grateful that my memory sucks.
i write this poem.
it forces me to focus on my life right now
that this is all i got.
just this….
the sound of a dumpster flap opening and closing in the breeze,
a walk to work,
some 8-4,
a homeless man begging for a change,
the smile of the post office cashier,
the seasonal discussion of baseball returning to montreal…..


a visionary dud or?

On a good day after work, I take deep breaths and walk home slowly. It’s paradise. I inhale bus fumes and see amputated trees. It’s been that way for 10 days now….tree stumps on apartment lawns. Makes me wonder if a man in a cape will swoop down at night and turn them into gnomes? Or maybe they’ll be picked up by a shredder truck and turned into pulp?

I hadn’t given these stumps too much thought until I sat down and started to write about them. Maybe the city cut the trees so the overhead electric wires will have more room, in anticipation of freezing rain this winter? Or maybe the trees have been diseased and had to be removed to not contaminate the other trees? Or maybe I’m the chosen one and it’s my duty to gather up all this wood and begin construction on a new baseball stadium? Of course, stadiums aren’t made of wood anymore, but I would be part of a new nation, a chosen nation, that comes together, a nation of warriors, wood gatherers, and millioners….together as one people to get people off their anti-baseball asses. There’s too much culture in Montreal anyway. They already took away our horse tracks.

We wouldn’t be the first to consider ourselves a chosen people. There were the Moonies starring Reverend Sun Myung Moon. He preached that Korea was chosen by god to perform a divine mission. There were also the Tarahumara people of northwest Mexico. You might recognize the name from one of the stories in Dreaming .400…..Running from the Shackles. In it, the main character – Tunis, the one who inspires the test tube baseball babies is part Tarahumara. The story is fictional, but the Tarahumara are real and they believe they are chosen people or “Pillars of the Sky.”

There are many examples of people who believe they are chosen. It probably does wonders for an individual’s self-esteem and potentially propels an entire race to great heights or causes a nosedive into confusion and paranoia. Either way, I like the extremes it begets. With that in mind, what would happen if I heard more voices,

“Collect 18 tree stumps and I will give you a dugout in which to dwell. Collect 7 more and there will be livestock for you everywhere, plenty of cows and pigs to provide an endless supply of hot dog-hamburger-bratwurst stadium concessions, wheat and barley for your beer too, and an endless supply of joy….no more misery, only dancing and joyful noise and screaming and laughing and fun fun fun!”

And then in flash, what if all of it was taken away. What if the 18 stump sacrifices and dugout promises didn’t exist? What if it was all fig newtons of our chosen people’s imagination? Then what? Well, we might look at each other anyway and realize that we had something going on, something good, a dance of sorts, a people, so we might decide under a still standing tree to carry on the tree stump search as a metaphor……..and from there, on that first day, we might find a stray stump and from it, carve out a baseball bat and it may not turn out so good. It may be a bit asymmetrical, but the historians among us might point out that old-time baseball players used bats a little less than perfect too.



let it rain….

Little did I know what baseball cards would eventually do to me. How could I? Do we ever know what a first drink or sniff, shot in the veins will do? I could have invested my newspaper money towards an accordion or a pogo stick and joined a Klezmer band or the circus, made something of my life, but no, I had to fork over bills to the old man dealer at the pharmacy….he wielding his wares with that wicked smile, all under the guise of wholesome American fun, a pastime, an initiation into the way, assimilated and accepted and off with your yarmulke kid and the hell with Odessa!

Little did I know, but it’s true; baseball cards, you are a ghost. You drive me into an obsessive compulsive frenzy, yes a frenzy, and not a disorder, a freaking frenzy, an OCF, an Obsessive Compulsive Frenzy. I pace back and forth in my small apartment because I don’t know what to do with all my cards. I could sell them, if I could find someone who wanted them and I’m sure I could. I have old cards, rare cards, nice rookies, and plenty of complete sets. But something always stops me. It’s…it’s…. it’s……I can’t put my finger on it. Oh how I wish I was a saint like Mother Theresa. Then I could sport a cape, call myself Father Tyrone and roam around town to children’s hospitals and hand out my cards to little Shriner kids. But then those kids would slip into being addicts or maybe worse, wind up like me, pacing in the throws of an OCF.

I could always decorate the sides and tops of a van, turn it into a scooby-doo vehicle, and wander American roads. I’m sure a car company  would donate a van and sponsor my journey. I would need no destination. But there would be no relief, only a bad back from sitting in the car so long. So why not turn it into a cooperative driving exercise with hundreds of card collectors taking turns driving? We would be spread out all over America, Canada too. We would be like a hand-over-the-baton-discover-America baseball card gang. We would have no destination, no ambition, no goal, only driving with baseball cards on our backs like cultural camels.

Or I could invest in a shredder machine, stuff all of my cards into the blades, fill up a bag with all the cardboard scraps, climb city hall’s ladder, roam the roof, and let the shredded cards float and fall. We could all do this, all over America, Canada too, at all the city halls. It would be like every city had won the World Series.


baseball and god

of all the radio broadcasters,
over all the years,
ever since the first transmission way back when,
all of them,
nestled in booths,
owls perched on a branch
overlooking the diamond
describing all the action or non-action;
there must have been at least one
who compared a baseball game to a story
with all its up and downs,
twists and turns,
plots and characters,
but a game is sometimes dull,
so dull
that people fall asleep and
others complain and suggest ways to speed the damn game up,
to make it more interesting and what not
but a story can never be dull or
it’s not supposed to be.
the author struggles to make each sentence sizzle
or maybe they make sentences intentionally boring
as a set up for the ones that explode?
like dissonance and harmony dancing one after the other!
in that case a story can be like a baseball game,
but the author of the game can never be known.