brewers baseball and things


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baseball’s seismic shift….

Shohei Otani, a two-way player from Japan, will soon be signed to a contract and once he does, he will remain a two-way player. Otani has spent the last five seasons playing for the Nippon Ham Fighters in the Japanese Professional League. He has a 42-15 record over that span with a 2.52 E.R.A. and 624 strikeouts in 543 innings. He also has a .286 batting average with 48 homers and 166 runs batted in. I don’t think major league baseball has ever seen someone like him before. He is potentially a franchise player, a term used more often in basketball.

More than franchise, he could end the pampering of pitchers and inspire kids to dream of being baseball’s Jekyll and Hyde.

What makes the situation even more exciting is that he can’t be signed for more than a minimum amount of money due to this or that in the new CBA. I think it’s somewhere around 3.25 million. He is 23 years young. This opens the door to every team.

In an unprecedented twist, Otani’s agent sent a questionnaire to all 30 teams, asking them to explain why their team and city is the best fit for Otani. There are seven questions or requests.

1. An evaluation of Shohei’s talent as a pitcher and/or a hitter
2. Player development, medical, training and player performance philosophies and capabilities
3. Major League, Minor League, and Spring Training facilities
4.  Resources for Shohei’s cultural assimilation
5.  A detailed plan for integrating Shohei into the organization
6.  Why the city and franchise are a desirable place to play
7.  Relevant marketplace characteristics

This is unique. This suggests concern for a 23 year old kid about to take a journey into a foreign country. It rearranges the priority. I hope the Brewers get him.

Dear Shohei Otani,
Milwaukee is a small market city, totally out of the spotlight. The success we enjoyed last year pushed our rebuild phase up a few notches. We are young and enjoyed being in the playoff hunt till the last day of the season. We aim to compete in 2018, to battle for the NL Central title. We want that World Series. We have past dealings with Japanese born players, most recently Norichika Aoki who we signed as a free agent in 2012. He played two seasons with the Brewers. The city embraced him.

There are a number of Japanese restaurants in Milwaukee including Kanpai Izakaya. There are also cultural centers and festivals dedicated to Japanese culture.

OR

We could skip the ambassador talk and send Mr. Otani a few sexy baseball haikus that integrate Lake Michigan with Miller Park and being on the Brewers.

I’m dreaming because Otani will probably pick an American League team where he can serve as a DH when not pitching.

Regardless, he is a once in a life time phenom. Sure, he’s from Japan and unproven, but at 3.25 million, there’s not much to lose, not in baseball cents anyway. Rumors are swirling. The courting has no doubt already begun. He will be posted in the next few weeks and then most likely be signed before Christmas.

Too bad Otani and/or his agent don’t make their address public. We could flood them with mail. That might turn the tide.

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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?


4 Comments

flick your bic for one more song

It’s 1954, Christmas Eve, in Boise, Idaho and all young Petie Squibbles can think of is the organ he hopes to find under the Christmas Tree come morning. The idea of an organ sort of came as a surprise. It happened in Boston a few months earlier.

Petie and his pops were on a trip out east, to Fenway Park, to see Jimmy Piersall and the Red Sox play and much to Petie’s surprise came the soothing sound of an organ blaring in from the overhead stadium speakers. From that moment on, he dreamed of having one to play in their Idaho basement.

Is this realistic? Did kids really long for organs the same way they did a few years later with guitars, after seeing Elvis or The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show?

Organs are an old instrument, dating back to Ancient Greece. Apparently they were water organs back then, whatever that is, but what gets me pumped is that they were predominately played during races and games as opposed to strictly religious ceremonies. That seems to set the later stage for sporting events.

The first baseball team to have an organ was the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on April 26, 1941 when Ray Nelson played the pipe organ. The following year, the Dodgers made Gladys Gooding at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn the first ever full-time organist.

Other teams soon joined in the organ fun. The sound added to the ambiance of the stadium and even enhanced the experience of watching the actual game. At some point the organists began to mirror the actions on the field, almost like DJ’s spinning appropriate records and in some cases sarcastic ones. They provided musical commentary. One of the more well-known was Nancy Faust of the White Sox. She would play the Paul Leka song ‘Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye’ after the opposing pitcher gave up a home run or was in jeopardy of being taken out of the game.

More than anything else, I find the organ to be a very relaxing sound. I have fond memories of hearing ‘Roll Out the Barrel’ during the 7th inning stretch of Milwaukee Brewers home games. That was back when they played at County Stadium.

The baseball organs disappeared with the arrival of new stadiums in the early 1990’s or maybe it was because of all the commercial music and other pre-recorded noises piped in. Thankfully, interest has revived and slowly, teams have brought back the organ including the Brewers at Miller Park.

I don’t know if kids really dream of owning an organ, but former pitcher Denny McLain once had one and he recorded an album ‘Denny McLain at the Organ.’ I like the tune ‘Extra Innings.’ Every time I play the song’s last notes and think the song is over, I am always surprised when those same notes repeat, a reminder of the beauty of Extra Innings, that once hooked and reeled in by a game, I never want it to end.

The song reminds me of a game I watched on TV. It was the longest game in major league history, a game between the Brewers and White Sox at Comiskey Park. It was suspended on May 8, 1984 and finished the following night. The Sox won 7-6 when Harold Baines hit a home run off Chuck “my bags please” Porter.

25 innings in all.
43 hits.
Tom Seaver got the win.
I love extra innings.
I love the organ.


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the 27 club

It’s just a number, but more than a bit strange that so many musicians, artists, and actors have died at the age of 27. The most well-known are probably Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix. I took a look at the list the other day and hadn’t heard of most of them, but was shocked by the number of names including the more recent additions of Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse.

So i got to thinking about baseball, about players who died at 27, in the prime of their career. I counted 18 players, the first one being Charlie Hodes, way back in 1875. I had never heard of him and scanning the list, the only player I recognized was the most recent – Lyman Bostock in 1978, shot and killed by a jealous husband.

Two things that stuck out about Bostock were that his father played in the Negro Leagues for a good chunk of time and as is often the case, there are little, if any stats on his career. That always amazes me considering the development and obsession over stats  in the other league that still exists today, the one we call the major leagues. The other thing that stuck out was that after Bostock signed with the California Angels in 1978, he struggled out of the gate and insisted on returning his April salary to the Angels. When they refused, he donated it to charity.

Bostock is part of my gravatar image. I created it one day when I was bored.  He’s to the left of the watch and baseball, at about 8 o’clock, right between I think that’s a 1972 Topps Ron Swoboda? and definitely a 1976 Topps Dock Ellis.


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the impossible possible anatomy of perfection

every once in a while Dennis Martinez’s perfect game pops up in conversation. Gets me wondering how many perfectos there have been. off the top of my head hmmmmm, I start with Len Barker in 1981 and then of course Don Larson in the World Series 1950 something, Sandy Koufax a few years later and Mike Witt on the last day of the 1984 season….Tom Browning, David Cone and David Wells. More recently, Matt Cain did it and so did Felix Hernandez and oh yeh, Dallas Braden and Philip Humber and i’m missing a bunch but the point is Braden and Humber everything suddenly seems possible.


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pop corn seeds and Eric T

A few weeks ago when the Brewers non-tendered Chris Carter, I think they became the first team in major league history to non-tender the previous season’s home run champion. Carter hit 41 bombs in 2016 to tie the Rockies Nolan Arenado for the National League lead.

A few weeks after dumping Carter, the Brewers did something even weirder. They signed Eric Thames to a three-year contract. Thames spent the last three seasons playing in Korea. I listened to the press conference welcoming him to Milwaukee. Manager Craig Counsell admired the journey Thames had taken to play baseball and looked forward to his journey continuing in Milwaukee. Thames said the pitching in Korea was a lot slower and that it would take some time to adjust to major league velocity.

The transaction was very inspiring. I was almost tempted to drag my bat to the nearest batting cage and rig the machines late at night when no one was watching, take some swings, get up to snuff and try out for the Brewers first base job, but instead I’ll just dedicate the next two paragraphs to Eric Thames and his new life as the Brewers first baseman.

The grapes were bigger that summer. The newspapers blamed it on too much rain. Mr. Crimkins said it was all the dogs licking trees and bushes, spitting nutrition into the fruits, he insisted. Eric T stuffed a handful in his pockets,braved the steps in three monster leaps and stole away into the basement. That’s where he enjoyed the next few months of his life, sitting down there among a bat collection. He had all kinds of bats – yellow birch, hickory, ash, maple, all sizes too and all kinds of players – Lyman Bostock, Ned Yost, Pepper Martin, and Rob Picciolo, just to name a few.

Eric T entered into a zone after leaping down those basement steps. It was like incense fumed in his head or a siren sounded. It was a call to attention –  to work out the kinks of his stance – Cooper crouch or spastic Morgan twitch or maybe both and that holy trinity of medicine – spit, swing and swat grapes and popcorn seeds every which way.

Yes, he had popcorn seeds in his pockets in addition to grapes and he spit them both out his mouth; hit them hard too, so hard, that Eric T dreamed up wine and popcorn afternoons, but more importantly was the repetitive motion. It quickened his wrists and smoothed his hip tango gyrations.

Eric T. rose from the basement into the full bloom of the 2017 season and in early April showed signs of swat and being selective too. His on base percentage hovered near .400 for a while and little by little, Brewers fans forgot all about Chris Carter’s 41 home runs.

 


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not really a book review

I’ve been reading Arnold Hano’s, A Day In The Bleachers. It’s about one game, the first game of the 1954 World Series, between the Cleveland Indians and New York Giants. Hano doesn’t hide his love for the New York Giants. They are his team, but the book is much more than the game itself, much more than the famous Willie Mays catch too. It’s a meandering river of Hano’s thoughts about baseball.

He subscribed to a few superstitions, one of them having to do with batting practice home runs. The more home runs a team hit in batting practice, the less likely they would hit any during the game. Made me wonder who is the all time leader in batting practice home runs? I guess we’ll never know because batting practice home runs is a stat even baseball fanatics never kept track of and probably never will.