brewers baseball and things


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a Krukian way

I guess Rawly asked for it, striking up conversations with strangers in bus cabins, especially a Jew in full costume dress – a Daniel Boon looking hat minus the tail, black blazer and slacks, white buttoned down shirt, knotted strings dangling down from both sides, full beard.

“What’s that you have on your head?” asked Rawly.

“A shtreimel,” he said.

“Sounds like a pastry,” replied Rawly in the best of ways.

The man laughed, so did Rawly.

“What’s your name?” asked Rawly.

There was a pause, a throat clear, shuffle of the feet, and then,

“My name is Shlomo.”

This was followed by another pause, some rubbing of the hands, a deep breath and….

“Do you know why I pray?” asked Shlomo. “You might think it’s stupid and useless since a bus could hit us any second. Snatch us up. Take a 7-year old as easily as a 70-year old, man or woman, good or bad, random.”

Rawly started to yawn, but kept the caffeine course, in case he ever got his chance against what was beginning to sound like a crusade, strange for a Jew, Rawly thought. They usually keep to themselves.

“I pray,” Shlomo continued, “Because there is a next life in Judaism, the transmigration of souls, the gilgul, souls moving from one body to the next. Everything we do is preparation for what we become.”

Rawly had heard of Hanukkah, dreidels, Woody Allen and some old Jewish prize fighters and oh yeh, he knew about Jews being kicked out of Spain and Russian, the Holocaust, and so on, awful tragedies, but Jews and reincarnation? That was for Hinduism or Buddhism or one of those isms.

Rawly took a deep breath and during the inhale, an orange smell invaded his nostrils, aroused a memory of two Torah Junkies sneaking a peek through a Brooklyn Bar window to catch some baseball playoff action.

“Twitchell,”  Rawly said, as in Wayne Twitchell the pitcher. He clapped his hands like a bleacher creature does during a towering fly ball, that orgasmic release of a long ball so near. He did this when he knew his objective was a bulls-eye, in this case, to transfer Shlomo’s religious fever to baseball.

Rawly had become a crusader of his own, a bit hypocritical, but he kept the baseball missionary course, and quickly made some ripples. Shlomo began to doven right there in the bus cabin, back and forth, mumbling in some undecipherable tongue, eyes nearly closed, some sort of defense? A protective measure? A fence to keep Rawly, the outsider away?

“Ron Jaworski,” Rawly sang, thinking the ‘ski’ at the end might remind Shlomo of Poland and the wonderful Yiddish culture that thrived there for hundreds of years, to bring him back into the conversation. Then he threw in an Otis Birdsong, the last name sounding like a psalm, followed by an Eastwick to honor the pitcher Rawly was named after and then Bill Nahorodny and Biff Pocoroba,” the names strung together…..Jaworski-Birdsong-Eastwick-Nahorodny-Pocoroba a sporty equivalent to the endless cast of Biblical characters.

And what do you know, Shlomo rubbed his beard; his back went straight, no more dovening back and forth, no more mumbling. His eyes no longer squinted either. He pulled out a bible, a “Torah” he called it, and thumbed to something called Ecclesiastes and began to read, not mumble, but read, real loud and clear. The others in the cabin made exodus. Rawly stuck it out, good thing because with the words BE MERRY, he perked up and remembered he had a half-dozen John Kruk cards stuffed in his back pocket.

Kruk to Rawly epitomized the state of being MERRY. He scratched his palms, tickled them to make sure this was all real. When he felt something, he knew the MERRY and KRUK was more than a coincidence so he removed the cards and spread them out like a Japanese fan. Shlomo looked on with a smile.

“Why don’t you and I go to tomorrow’s twi-night doubleheader,” Rawly suggested, almost insisted.

“What’s a doubleheader?” asked Shlomo.

The bus arrived. Passengers boarded. Rawly and Shlomo stayed.

“This bus cabin is like a dugout” Rawly said.

“A cave,” replied Shlomo , “The place where Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his son Elazar dwelled for 12 years, surviving on carobs and water, studying and praying all day.”

It was time for Rawly to discuss Tony La Russa’s experimentation with pitching staffs.

Another bus came. Passengers boarded. Rawly and Shlomo stayed.

Rawly handed three Kruk cards to Shlomo. It was his turn to talk.

Back and forth they went.

All they were missing was a fiddle and a harmonica.

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a love story/addiction with a happy ending

It happened at McDonalds, probably from the salt or grease or maybe that’s the same thing? It was the Egg McMuffin, hashbrown in the envelope, and coffee. I felt orgasmic elation while chewing and swallowing. I did it often, at least once a week, a religion of sorts. I was hooked and every final chew and swallow made me feel miserable and alone. I wanted more and more and when that craving seeped into the post breakfast hours, I knew I had a problem so I went to the Problems Center and stated my claim.

“McDonalds,” I said, “The Egg McMuffin to be more specific and those hash browns in the sleeve.”

“Next” said the intake counselor, shooing me off to the side and out the door. They apparently expected alcoholism, a mental disorder or drug addiction. I felt even worse than when I entered, more alienated and alone like my problem didn’t exist.

But I still had my baseball cards to manhandle, to store and stack in violent spurts, to fling against the wall, to go all Mussolini on and in the process purge my demons or at least take my mind off salt, thanks to the sugar-coated piece of cardboard rectangular gum inserted in each pack. Dealers would be no doubt be around every corner, in drugstores, pharmacies, five and dimes, ma and pa’s, just like the old days. For 50 cents, I could quickly slip into the wax pack daze again….726 or 792 cards to complete a set, enflaming my already off the charts obsessive compulsive disorder, but a cure for boredom, a fuck you McDonalds and your salt. I would have something bigger and sweeter – sugar, baseball cards. I would be released into something else, into a cardboard craze like when I was a kid.

My favorite card of all time was a Topps 1980 Gorman Thomas, favorite not because he’s squatting on the grass, bat aimed down, donut at the end, Gorman with that golden lion look, the handlebar moustache, long hair, and ready to go, ready to face anyone attitude…..all that’s cool, but it was my favorite card for a different reason, favorite because I couldn’t get it.

I bought up the whole fucking Bears Pharmacy, wasted all my paper route money and still no Gorman and I was growing up in Milwaukee at the time, weird, no Topps regional loyalty. I got every other card in the set, but no Gorman. The summer passed and eventually I got it, don’t remember much more, other than standing on cement and feeling a sense of relief.

That was a long time ago, but the cure was real. Why not today? Because something happened to the hobby. I don’t write for the economic herald so I won’t even begin to try to unravel what went down. The only thing I know for sure is that more sets were introduced and the price of cards went way up. Fast forward even more years and some cards are available only on-line and only during a short window of time. A clever idea to immortalize a moment, but what the hell can you do with a digital card?

The other day I get an email from a friend. He lives in Vancouver, Washington. He sent me an article about a baseball card bunker paradise. Some guy is opening up a vault and charging people a percentage to store their cards for that futuristic day when the cards will be worth something.

I’m more communist than anything else, not the corrupted version, but the kind that gives everyone healthcare, taxes the rich more than the poor and so on. I don’t like this bunker baseball card idea. It screams of more baseball cards as an investment. I get the idea of preserving the cards as historic relics like cave paintings or ancient Mesopotamian texts. I guess the investors with glass do just this but at what cost? I thought the fun was buying massive amounts of cards, trying to complete sets, trading on street corners if need be, and yeh, they might get damaged, but let me ask you a question…

Would you rather have a hoe stained by saber-toothed tiger blood or a hoe in perfect condition?

There must be a balance between private vaults perfection and Jefferson Burdick who not only invented the number system on the backs of cards, but didn’t protect the cards in sleeves or plastic. He did the adult equivalent of cards stuck in spokes and flipping them against the wall, as they should be maybe because nothing really lasts forever unless people want to go all mummy like and be buried with their cards. Hey that’s not a bad idea, not to be mummified with the cards, but bury them in a suitcase for some future gang of kids to discover. But then they’ll take them inside and mom and dad will say,

“Hey those might be worth something.”

Ah screw it, I’m going to buy an egg McMuffin for breakfast.

 


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Chuck “my bags please” Porter

No, this is not about the Brewers reliever who suffered the loss in what still is the longest game, time wise, in MLB history, 8 hours, 6 minutes. The game took two days, May 8th and 9th, 1984 and was played at Chicago’s Comiskey Park. The White Sox won in the 25th inning when Harold Baines hit a homer off Porter.

Porter, by definition is someone who carries luggage and loads, hence the Chris Berman nickname. He’s helping someone on the go and that someone is Edwin Jackson. This is an update, a glorious one in honor of Edwin Jackson. A few posts ago, I discussed the starting pitcher in the hopes he might be called back up to the Nationals and win a spot in their starting rotation or bullpen. Unfortunately, the Nats released him, but the A’s picked him up and sent him to AAA where he pitched well enough to earn a call up.

Yesterday, he got the nod to start the game and did well. (6IP, 7K’s, OBB’s, 1 ER) A no decision, but he showed that he can still pitch in the big leagues. He’s only 34 years young and here’s the kicker……he is now tied with Octavio Dotel for most franchises played for in the history of baseball – 13. What makes his traveling ways even more remarkable is that he’s a starter, not a LOOGY.

If I added a photo to this post, it would be a 13-sided collage.

Dear Edwin! You inspire me. Maybe you’ll one day pitch for the Brewers. If not, it doesn’t matter, I will always remember you, especially if one day I lose my job. I will never get too down.

Your friend and fan,
Steve


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and happy birthday Harold!!

The sleeping pill-mood stabilizer-tranquilizer-five mile run around the block-glue sniffing distractions to snooze through the Jake Arietta daze are finally over sweet Jesus brotherly love Philadelphia for signing the former Cy Young award winner for three years at 75 million dollars….75 million?

I remember as a  kid trying to count to a million. I quit after a thousand and assumed it wasn’t possible to do in a single lifetime, but apparently it is…..

“If you count every minute of every hour of every day, you would reach 1,000,000 in 6 days, 22 hours, and 40 minutes, almost 1 week.”

But still 75 million is a lot of money. I don’t know where all of it comes from or how it’s distributed to keep everyone happy, from the big free agents to the grounds crew to the peanut vendors, but it happens, one season after another. Baseball isn’t quite the age of an empire, but it’s older than 100 years and that’s something.

Hail hail the chief, a.k.a. Mr. David Stearns (DS), Milwaukee’s General Manager for not biting the bullet and signing big free agent pitchers to dreaded four-year deals. In pre (DS) days we screwed ourselves by signing Jeff Suppan and Matt Garza for way too long. This year we went under the radar and signed Jhouyls Chacyn to a humble two-year contract for 15 million, still a lot, but he apparently has one of the deadliest sliders in baseball. We also invited former Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo to camp along with Wade Miley to duke it out in an old gun slinging wild west shoot out. May the most effective March hurler win a trip to the 25 man roster. I prefer spring training battles rather than short cut free agent signings.

All the experts had the Brewers in the mix for Arrieta, Alex Cobb, and Lance Lynn (recently signed with the Twins) They said the Brewers needed to muscle up their staff after losing ace Jimmy Nelson last year in a freakish pitcher injury. Aren’t all pitcher injuries freakish? No, he didn’t trip over a sprinkler or stub his thumb painting a gutter, but he did mush his shoulder sliding back into first base. Freaky enough, especially for Milwaukee, an American League city for its first 27 years, a place where DH’s ruled the roost. Larry Hisle comes to mind. There were others. I can’t remember them right now, maybe Von Joshua, Dick Davis, Thad Bosley, Joey Meyer, Billy Joe Robidoux, Jeffrey Leonard. What a job; that toiling away all alone, pacing between the dugout and clubhouse…… I did a quick search of all time greatest DH’s and Paul Molitor popped up. I don’t remember if he DH’d for the Brewers, but what a career, so great that….

“He is one of only four players to have 3,000 hits, a .300 career average and 500 stolen bases. The others are Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner and Eddie Collins.”

Some argue “but he was a DH.” Others argue “AND he was a DH,” the difference being that a DH is not awarded the distraction of going to the field and forgetting about the previous inning’s K with the bases loaded. It takes a special mind to be a DH.

Harold Baines…he too served time as a DH, a border line Hall of Famer, a hitter with a front leg kick. I’m biased. He’s may all time favorite player; takes me back to my baseball formative years when it – baseball was everything, the only thing. It’s his birthday today….March 15th. Happy Birthday Harold!

In other news, Edwin Jackson pitched OK for the Nationals on Monday – three innings, three hits, two walks, two k’s, one earned run, It doesn’t look like he’ll crack their starting staff, but he could very well make it as a spot starter/long man. He says it’s not about the money. It’s about still having more in the tank. More in the tank…..more in the tank…..more in the tank…….my new every day mantra.

 


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towards mount olympus

i don’t know why i liked harold baines.
he began his MLB career with the chicago white sox.
i lived in milwaukee and rooted for the brewers.
brewer fans and white sox fans sometimes brawled and yet,
I liked Harold.

the white sox games were on channel 32 WFLD.
i watched Harold’s name on the scoreboard at comiskey park.
it was broken up into syllables.
HAR…………OLD
a ball bounced above each syllable.
fans responded by singing,
HAR………OLD.

a friend of mine called Harold “fish face” and yet,
i liked Harold.

I met Harold in spring training.
he signed a ball for me,
but never cracked a smile, never even looked at me.
he was talking to a man dressed in a suit with a beard but no mustache.
i remember it being very strange.
i had never seen Amish people on a baseball diamond.
i had never seen Amish people at all.
looking back now,
there was great variety in that.

reporters called Harold the dullest interview of all time
and it’s true he was more placid than a peaceful lake.
shortstop Ozzy Guillen said he drove Harold up to milwaukee
and the only words Harold said the entire trip were at the very end
“thank you” and yet,
i liked Harold.

he lifted his front leg.
people called it japanese-esque,
but i didn’t know anything about all that.
he often looked sad like he didn’t want to play and yet,
i liked Harold.

he hit a lot doubles – 488.
that tied him with Mel Ott and Jeff Bagwell for 73rd all time,
he hit a lot of home runs – 384 including 13 grand slams and 10 walk-off blasts. i watched one on tv.
it was against the Brewers.
it was the longest game in baseball history-25 innings.
Harold hit it off the Brewer’s Chuck Porter.

on the back of his 1981 Topps baseball card,
it says,
“was first noticed by white sox as a 12-year-old playing little league ball.”
maybe that’s why I liked him?
since i was 12 when I first held that card in my hand….

I later learned that Charlie Lau worked with Harold.
i knew Lau from the movie Max Dougan Returns.
i loved that movie.
so maybe that was it?
maybe that’s why i liked Harold?


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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.


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just another winter day

the elder john and grandpa joe discussed death related matters,
wills and who should inherit that Gorman Thomas broken bat with barrel still intact
and what about all those Topps doubles from 1977 and 1978?
all those books and pennants, posters and Cecil Cooper’s wrist bands?
and should they be cremated or buried in street clothes six feet under?
when all of a sudden Grandma molasses had an idea – to be buried under Busch Stadium in a secret catacomb, to haunt all future Cardinal teams. Everyone laughed including the two kids in the room. They couldn’t a been more than 12 years young. That’s when Grandma molasses announced that she wasn’t cooking lunch that day – a cue to Elder John to lead the parade out the door to the Esmeralda Pharmacy that did double duty as a diner. That’s where they continued to discuss death related matters, scribbling makeshift wills on napkins. Everyone tossed in ideas and came to life, including the two young boys who shared a steak and eggs breakfast.