brewers baseball and things


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.




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.
a ball bounced above each syllable.
fans responded by singing,

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?


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.



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.



dear candlestick park

i didn’t know about you until watching Cubs at the Giants games on WGN, sometime in the early 80’s, but I was immediately struck by something. Back then we called it 20,000 leagues under the sea. that was our code word for exotic or out of this world. the spaceship by the water, the orange uniforms, the hot dog wrappers in the wind, Ed Halicki.



keeping it on the one

I was dribbling a basketball in a dream. I was on the court. I was in the game. A lane opened up. So I made my way into the paint for a finger roll layup when all of a sudden I was four inches above the rim and getting ready to dunk the ball. That’s when the hoop and rim became a painting and i crashed into the wall.

I woke up from the dream and laughed. It was like Santa Klaus and the thrill that’s sucked from kid’s minds when they find out. It was like the two greatest baseball cards of my life – Jim Konstanty and Ty Cobb.

I don’t remember how I got the Konstanty card but I remember his face or his glasses. He looked so ordinary and nice. He looked like my friend’s father – the head janitor at our elementary school. Maybe Konstanty was a janitor? Players didn’t make much money in the 1950’s. They had jobs in the off season. Konstanty was the mvp pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies. The card was from 1950. The background was blue. I loved it, mostly because of that number 1950. That was old to me. Super old. I had struck gold. I didn’t know about price guides yet.

The other card was Ty Cobb. My brother gave it to me. It was an all time greatest hits card. I didn’t know it was from the 1973 Topps set. I focused on Cobb’s face instead. It was old and mean. It was really and truly Ty Cobb. He had the most hits of anyone. It was was the greatest card in the world, even older than the Konstanty card.

I collected cards for the thrill of completing a set and finding my favorite players. All those stacks lining my bedroom floor were comforting. I also wanted to be rich. My delusion peaked with the wood border set of 1987. I bought 50 cards each of Barry Bonds, Kal Daniels, Rafael Palmero, and Barry Larkin. I figured these rookie cards would net me a fortune one day.

They didn’t. This story had a moral, but I forget what it is? I guess that things don’t always appear as they are. They’re better because now I have boxes and boxes of cards, thousands of them and each one tells a different story or carries some hidden meaning and what’s great is that the meaning or no meaning depends on my mood, my perception so the cards are always new.

_58Take this Rusty Staub 1984 Fleer card. That’s some serious focus going on. He’s probably not thinking about anything but bat on ball there. My neighbor used to call that – keeping it on the one.




anonymous breath

i’m sure Honus Wagner’s hands were huge and it would be cool to sit around and shoot the shit with him. Eat a steak with Boog Powell too. Talk public transportation with Kent Tekulve. Visit an airport with Luis Tiant, slip into lounge, and sip some beers.

I bet my upstairs neighbor has plenty of stories to tell too and I bet if I lugged a bottle or two of something upstairs we’d have a good ol’ time. Who knows? Maybe once upon a time he traded two Willie McGee’s and a Kent Hrbek for a pack of smokes?

I once traded three beers and an airplane size flask of whisky for my neighbor’s St. Louis Cardinal hat. I put that hat in my freezer. It was in 2011. The Brewers were playing the Cardinals in the NLCS. The Brewers lost, but the cryonics fever I was under seemed to bloom.

I ran into that neighbor more frequently.
He smiled.
So did I.