brewers baseball and things


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.


mantle or someone else

Andy Binzler didn’t use deodorant. He had three or four chins by the time he was a teen. He wore his plumbers crack without really knowing it was a plumbers crack. He was a special species. We knew it. He wound up in the Ethan Allen school for boys in Delafield, Wisconsin. We visited him. He spent a few months in prison too. I think we visited him there as well. The other prisoners whistled at his man boobs. But this is all back of the baseball card details. The height and weight, birth place and so on. It’s easy to forget.

What isn’t easy to forget is all the baseball cards Binzler had. He was like the candy man. I was too naive to wonder how he got the cards or maybe i didn’t care? They were always stuffed in his front pockets and wrapped with rubber bands. I remember his fat fingers.

He traded me the oldest and best card i ever had in my collection. I remember that 1955 Bowman Mickey Mantle. It was creased and the corners were rounded, but the design was still a TV and it was still Mickey Mantle who wasn’t as untouchable and god like as Babe Ruth, but close enough or maybe Mantle and 1955 didn’t matter? Maybe it could have been any old card on my shag red carpet bedroom floor that I traded for?

I remember staring at the card and then picking it up, manhandling it, probably rounding its corners some more. The sky changed colors back then. Lighting cracked. Thunder sounded. I thought about death. That card was a buoy.


tale of a search engine mishap

i never really liked to read when i was young. i did receive a subscription to baseball digest. read some of those and a few books. Greatest World Series Thrillers was one of them. But i spent more time playing video games on intellevision and watching tv, mostly sitcoms and this week in baseball. Bummer because like any other kid I went to the bathroom and sometimes it took a long time in there. It was a perfect place to read. Every once in a while i planned ahead and smuggled a Digest or a stack of baseball cards into the can, just in case. But most of the time I went in there empty handed.

That’s when the hand soap came in handy because it had a story on the back or not a story, but close enough. It had ingredients of strange sounding names. Chemicals galore and the location of where the soap was manufactured. I had something to read, to kill the time and take my mind of the stomach ache i sometimes had. I must have read the same hand soap ingredients two dozens time or maybe more. it wasn’t exactly shakespeare but it did the trick. I pulled up my pants and escaped the bathroom time and time again.

i don’t remember any of the ingredients, but i do remember where that hand soap came from – Minnetonka, Minnesota. I hadn’t thought about it for many years until a few months ago when i started wondering if Tonka Toys were also made there? That’s when my search went all hay wire. It was like a weather vane leaving the barn roof or a cross soaring from a church top and going all air out of the balloon every which way.

I meant to look up Tonka on the computer, but typed Tanka instead. That resulted in a japanese poem very similar to a Haiku but with more syllables. I quickly tried to fix my mistake, but typed in wonka and that took me to the candy company made popular by the movie and somehow after that i landed on wankan tanka which in Lakota way of thinking means Great Spirit or Great Mystery. So now i was in lakota land which is near the Dakotas which is near Minnesota, but as it turns out Tonka Toys originated in Mound, Minnesota, not Minnetonka, but the company adopted the Dakota Sioux word Tonka or Great for its name and the logo back then was a red oval above waves apparently inspired by Lake Minnetonka.


spring spitball

i got my spitballs in the mail, not the pitches, but the magazine, of the spring edition, the one with my story in it – Along The Dirty River.

i asked the Spitball publisher, Mike Shannon, if i could post the story here and he said yes; that i retain all rights, but please indicate that the story first appeared in Spitball: The Literary Baseball Magazine, Spring 2016, No.78.

Along The Dirty River