brewers baseball and things


on the way to Woodstock

I wasn’t alive in the spring of 1969 but if I was, I like to think I woulda been 17 and woulda had a big crush on a girl with olive-colored skin, black hair and dark eyes, so dark that I could see the world reflected in them except at night. Then it would be downright spooky and my crush on her would grow. She would lead me all over town in say Brooklyn. Yeh, I would be living in Brooklyn, not too far from the Greenwood cemetery. And I would know that Henry Chadwick was buried there and I would know that Chadwick created the first baseball box score and that he questioned the thinking that lots of errors equaled “bad fielder” because it might just be a case of a defender having greater range, getting to more balls = more chances = more errors. I wouldn’t be 100 percent sure of all this because I would have overheard it from a conversation a bunch of old men with hats would have been having at the local pharmacy.

I would follow my beady-eyed babe over the black wrought iron gates of Greenwood cemetery in the hopes of a kiss. It would be amazing to just clear the spiky tops of the fence, and I would make it and she would hold my hand and then let go and I would run after her and she would hold my hand again and then run away again. I would eventually get tired and pass out and when I woke up she would be gone. But I would have a brother and we would be really close, really different, but really close. He would be a weed smoker and the occasional dropper of LSD and he would go see bands and he would have a massive music collection and I would be a baseball card collector and I would like astronomy and baseball and that would be about it. I would have a lot of friends, but not many dreams other than liking it when winter was over and spring came and baseball would be starting again. I would go to a lot of Mets and Yankees games with my friends. I would like the Mets better, but I would also like to see American League teams and their players and anyway the subway and bus reached both Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium so I would go to both. And I would like 1969 because there would be talk of men going to the moon and there would be four new teams in baseball and they would be all over North America – Montreal, Seattle, Kansas City, and San Diego. And at some point I would get wind that Jim Bouton would be pitching for the Pilots in Seattle and that he had been assigned a task – to chronicle his 1969 season and I would think that was really cool because his chronicle would be like a diary and that would be like gratitude for living, an appreciation of every day, good or bad, drunk or sober, proof of a life lived, a sort of a thank you note to God or whoever. I would want Bouton’s Pilot’s baseball card, but there would be a problem. Topps would issue its cards in spring, but they would be for the previous season so the 1969 set would be about the 1968 players. There would be no Jim Bouton Pilot’s card that year, but it was right about that time that my brother would invite me to some concert in upstate New York. He would say things like, “You gotta go and don’t worry, I know exactly how to prepare you for the event.”

He would sit me down and hand me a small piece of cardboard, much smaller than a baseball card, much much smaller, and he would tell me that it was LSD and that I should put it on my tongue. He promised that it would make me want to hear music, to go and see live music. I would be kind of innocent and gullible, but it would be my brother and I would trust him. Nothing would happen at first, but then I would start noticing things that were always there, but they would be different like the colored shapes of the floor tiles and the turquoise colored ceiling. There would be rainbow colors around the light and my brother would put on an album and it would be Canned Heat and he would tell me about the origins of the name canned heat and we would be like holy crap – “How could anyone drink that!” and I would get to thinking that maybe there was a little magic in all of this and that maybe I should go with my brother to this music concert he called Woodstock which would be the town where the concert would be and maybe it was the LSD talking, but I would wonder and then really believe that there would be a Topps baseball card maker at Woodstock and that he would be making cards from the back of his VW bus, that all the players who would be playing in that 1969 season would have cards including Jim Bouton on the Pilots!

We would hitchhike, my brother and I from Brooklyn to Woodstock and along the way we would eat some more of these LSD cardboard tabs and I would start thinking about time being made up, about it being man made and that all that mattered was the sun and moon, night and day and I would feel even more excited about there being four more teams in baseball and when we would get to Woodstock, I would meet an old man with a radio, an AM transistor, and he would tell me that the Pilots were playing the Orioles in Seattle that weekend and I would know that and he would offer to drive us to Baltimore, that he had a Dodge Dart and we would listen to the game on the radio in Baltimore in his one bedroom apartment and it wouldn’t feel that weird or creepy because it would be Woodstock and I would trust everyone. And when I would say yes, he would say, “Maybe Bouton would pitch.” And it would feel so bizarre and magical that this old man would say such Bouton things, like how would he know that I had come to Woodstock to find some Bouton baseball card magic, but it would be really happening so I would tell my brother and thank him and he would understand because he would be a great brother and he would know things and we would get to Baltimore, me and this old man, on Saturday and the magic would just be starting because Bouton would pitch in Saturday’s, August 16th game and yeh, the Pilots would lose 16-3 and yeh, Bouton would give up three earned runs in two innings, but I would have heard Bouton’s name said over and over and I would imagine what he might do later that night and how he would paint the experience with words in his soon to be book and I would be excited about one day reading it. I would not remember how I got back home to Brooklyn, but when I would get there I would be more sure than ever that I would get that dark eyed girl to kiss me and I would still not know her name.



knuckleball dreams

She’d been waking up early, before the sunrise and it wasn’t an alarm clock beep, a crow, or baby scream that did it. She just woke up and started wondering if maybe Allah was calling her because she had heard that Muslim Sufi Dervishes woke up early too and spun around and felt good. But she didn’t like to dance; she just liked the name Dervish because it was so close to Padres pitcher Yu Darvish. The silence and darkness of those mornings is what she loved; that’s when she didn’t think about nuclear bombs and radiation and melting flesh, when she didn’t feel like a useless scrap around the toilet bowl that refused to flush.

Harrietta Sickle wore an orange baseball cap. It was plain, no indication of a favorite team or if she preferred the National or American League. She related to the river and the way it never stopped, reminded her of her mind – an airport baggage carrousel of thoughts that never shut off, round and round and most of the thoughts were guillotines and electric chairs and overdosing on valium, but she had hope buried deep within her too – thoughts that her mind was maybe like a dog and it could be trained if she only had a whip.

She worked as a cashier in the local grocery store. She’d look away from her watch and then back at it and only 10 minutes had passed and so when a customer showed up in the line and talked about the weather or the price of corn flakes or the mayor of Suddville, she was grateful for the distraction. Time flew which was a good thing because it meant she was closer to last breaths and tombstones. Harrietta liked making up things to put on her tombstone like, “Born alone, die alone and so I feel lucky to have met you, in between” and it was true she did meet someone, but she slit her wrists and died.

Harrietta wore her hair in pigtails. She woulda quit her job in a second if a baseball team ever came to town. Yeh, she would work in the ticket office all spring and summer, sell tickets in a booth until the third inning and then go watch the rest of the game for free and since she still lived at home, she’d have enough money saved for the winter months, to help her dad out with rent.

Harrietta liked to walk to Fitzgerald’s Pharmacy in the morning, in those pre-sunrise Sufi Dervish “mawnings” as her Boston Aunt used to say. She went there because they had a bundle of papers beside the front door which was interesting because no one read newspapers anymore, and that got Harrietta thinking about food stamps, phone booths, and VHS tapes, and all the things she’d seen in old movies. Her dad made her watch old movies. He said it was part of his duty as a father, “to pass on the bridge.”

One morning the sun didn’t rise and there was a man at the pharmacy in a suit and tie, an old tie, a wide one, solid green and that green signaled GO! to Harrietta. She walked closer. The man had a full head of hair and none of them were grey so Harrietta figured he couldn’t have been older than 30, not that it mattered. He was sitting on a bench beside the papers, rocking back and forth and humming and when Harrietta inched her way closer, he winked.

“They had a team here once,” he said while rubbing his ear, looking like a third base coach sending signals to the batter and Harrietta liked the codes. “We live in Suddville and we ain’t got no team, but they used to call this town Desperado,” he continued, “and we had a team, yes we did. It was a bandit team and the players were all trespassers or boonswicklers.”

“What’s a boonswickler?” asked an excited Harrietta.”

“People who made their own moonshine,” laughed the man. “That’s what a boonswickler was and probably still is. We just don’t hear or see them anymore. Each one of them added a special ingredient to make that moonshine their own, give it a signature, ya know what I mean? Like ginger or garlic or cinnamon. They didn’t agree on much, those boonswicklers, only when it came to bubblers, ya know drinking fountains; they agreed on that, on moonshine replacing water and drunking the town and people punched each other in the face for no reason, but they danced with strangers too.”

The man stood up and bowed towards Harrietta.

“Do you know about baseball cards? Probably not since you’re a lady, a nice looking one if you don’t mind me saying so. I like them pigtails. Not often I see a lady with pigtails. I’ve been to hundreds of baseball card shows and there aren’t too many woman there. None that I’ve seen anyway. Yeh, the majors got that Kim Ng and the minors got their lady managers and the announcers aren’t all mini skirts and high heels anymore. You women got brains, baseball metric brains, not that I like metrics, but baseball cards? I never met a lady baseball card junkie. You wanna drink?”

The man pulled out a decent sized plastic bottle of whisky from his black bag and it was morning and as depressive and suicidal as Harrietta could be, she never bothered with booze in the morning or the night either. She preferred weed.

“I live in a big complex,” continued the man. He was talking fast. “I pay 300 bucks a month. Collect welfare in three different states so I can live in a drunk state too. I love the government or I like screwing them over anyway.”

They both laughed.

“Three different P.O. Boxes. Three different states,” said the man, still standing, “and friends that mail me the checks. I eat at soup kitchens. That’s how I have enough money to collect cards. Why don’t you come with me to a baseball card show? They got em twice a month, sometimes three, all of em at St. Alyosius. Ever been to St. Alyosius? I’m not much of a prayer guy, but they got a nice organ there. Anyway, you should come along. Here, take a swig or mind my manners. I’m sorry. it’s still morning. No good young lady drinks in the a.m. or do you?”

The man let out a loud laugh and it lasted for a few seconds, a belly laugh.

Harrietta thought maybe early morning booze was a key?

“The pharmacy will be opening soon,” he said. “We’ll sit at the half moon diner in there and I’ll buy you a coffee and spike it with some of this here magic corn.”

He let out another laugh.

Harrietta stepped back.

“But I don’t know you. Don’t even know your name.”

“Don’t worry. We’ll be surrounded by humans at the diner. Watch tower humans. Guardians. Protectors of the species. They know me there. I won’t even kiss you on the cheek. Promise.”

He bowed again.

“Call me Hillbilly.”

Harrietta knew about suicide squeezes and Mordecai “three finger” Brown, but knew nothing about baseball cards. The only thing she collected were toothbrushes and that was only because she forgot to throw them out. She took a deep breath and nodded her head up and down, a yes, she’d take some coffee corn. She had something to prove.

“What’s your real name?” asked Harrietta.

“My jewel and yours to discover,” said Hillbilly.

Into the pharmacy diner they went and there was no one there, only Felicia the waitress and she had no smile on her face, as always, secretly wishing the world would get angrier. Harrietta sat down, looked out the window, and whispered about Eri Yoshida, about her being a girl from Japan who worshipped Tim Wakefield.

“Who the hell is Eri Yoshida?” asked Hillbilly.

“Shes in wikipedia god dammit,” screamed Harrietta.

Hillbilly liked her edge and waved his hand to Felicia for some sugar towers. And while she was busy fetching the sweet drug, he removed his flask and topped off their coffee with some boozy whisky and the rest was blurry for Harrietta because she didn’t usually drink. Hillbilly had her where he wanted her – vulnerable, open to baseball card ideas.

“It’ s my anchor, these cards, far away from “why am I here?” questions. Puts my mind on something. Fixated. Free.

And that word – anchor – made sense to Harrietta. She needed one, to make this earth the stop, to dig in and enjoy something, anything and Hillbilly knew it and in a beautiful benevolent conspiracy sort of way, there happened to be a card show that day, a Sunday, a holy day. He led the way. They took the Mitchel street bus west and went to 92nd and Greenfield.

Gonzaga Hall was attached to the St. Alyosius church.

“Welcome to the land of boozy breaths” said Hillbilly.

The doors opened.

Harrietta took an immediate liking to 1971 Topps – the black border and the Thurman Munson card, especially the Thurman Munson card, not only because the team name was green and player was yellow, but that rookie of the year trophy and the photo, most of all the photo, the action, the dust of a close play at the plate. Hillbillly bought her the card and Harrietta held it in her hand and for a change, for a moment, she felt right in her skin.

There was still no team to cheer for in Suddville, but that night she dreamed of knuckleballs and when she woke up she realized that the pitch had nothing to do with knuckles. It was all fingernails. She laughed and reached for the Munson card, only 751 more cards to complete the set.


bell towers and Red Sox rookie stars

*this is a continuation of the previous two posts.

The grounds crew room was warm. There were no windows. The overhead pipes looked like stiff, above ground tree roots. The hammock didn’t sway. There was a slow drip of water from one of the pipes, bit it didn’t bother me. It was like the motor on the bus – a consistent, repetitive sound, soothing, a dark lullaby. I slept.

“You awake from your nap Trevor?” asked fungo man. “Or should we call you Butch like they did back home?”

“Doesn’t matter to me,” I said while falling out of the hammock and landing on my feet, standing up, a decent dismount.

“Well, how about we give you a new name,” said fungo man, “since you’ll be doing a job you’ve never done before – a writer for a new league, a new town, a new place to sleep.”

“And new hot dogs I hope.”

We both laughed.

“We’ll figure it out,” said fungo man. “Let’s discover your style and then we’ll come up with a name.”

I didn’t know what to expect about this new league and its 12 teams. But I knew all games would be at Hawthorne Stadium, and that a batter had three strikes to work with and that there would be chalked lines, and the delicious possibility that a game could go on forever, like that two-day, 25 inning marathon between the Brewers and White Sox back in 1984.

Fungo man walked towards me and patted me on the shoulder. “We’re gonna decide everything about this new Continental League. And you, my friend are a member of the Pigeon Committee. You get to vote on all matters.”

“Pigeon Committee? Why Pigeon?” I asked. “Why not Lion or better yet, a Robin Committee in honor of Robin Yount and Robin Roberts. There are no baseball players nicknamed pigeon.”

“No, it’s gotta be pigeons,” insisted fungo man. “They’ve come a long way.”

So much for voting I thought, but didn’t get a chance to express my opinion. Fungo man had more to say.

“From passenger birds carrying messages to them pigeons performing figure eight flight patterns, all together, every morning, looking like an aerial school of fish…that’s how we’re gonna be.”

It struck me as a tad communist, but it did remind me of my dad reeling off teams with a unified theme from the Gas House Gang to the facial hair of the Oakland A’s to Harvey’s Wallbangers and anyway, I had no other place to go and I liked this fungo man….

Wetchy, the pitching coach, was another matter…he struck me as a bit of an ass, someone who always needed to get in the last word, but he had given me a stack of empty notebooks before my nap, the same kind, he said, he used to track pitches, 154 lined pages per book, all that virgin paper. I reached for one of them. I was going to jot down this pigeon concept, but didn’t get a chance. A young man with a turtle neck walked through the door. He was wearing tan corduroys and brown shoes. He had a big smile on his face. He looked like an ivy league honor student. Couldn’t have been older than 20.

“This here is the manager of the Hawthorne Madcaps. His name is Billy Tomcat, but call him Catty,” said fungo man. “He might be young, but he knows his advance metrics and isn’t afraid to follow a hunch either, best of both worlds.”

“I hear from my cronies,” said Catty, “that you will be joining us on the Pigeon committee and that you will be writing about the Madcaps.”

“He’ll be writing about the entire Continental League,” interrupted fungo man.

“The hell he will,” screamed Catty. “He’s writing about the Madcaps and that’s it, that’s all.”

Fungo man removed his cap and bowed. The grounds crew room suddenly felt more like a dictatorship than a commune, so much for pigeon unity.

“And don’t forget,” continued Catty, “it was God who brought you here, as certain as a cow’s moo.”

I knew what had brought me to Hawthorne Stadium and it wasn’t god. It was thoughts of John Briggs and sleeping inside Memorial Stadium, as certain as a suicide squeeze. The door was still rattling when in walked another guy, shorter, with a straight jaw and large forearms. I had him pegged as a third baseman and I was right.

“This is our third baseman,” said fungo man. “Lance Henchman. I’ll leave you guys to it. Let’s get outta here Catty and let these guys talk.” Fungo man winked at me and then he and the skipper exited the scene.

“I deconstructed radios as a kid,” explained Henchman, skipping any hello, how do you do formalities.

“Did you put them back together?” I asked.

“So, you’re a smart ass,” said Henchman.

“Only when someone asks for it,” I replied.

A breeze hit my face. It wasn’t from outside. It couldn’t have been. There were no windows in there and no air conditioning or fan either. It made me feel alone and wondering what the hell I was doing there. I had the suspicion that I was being set up, framed. What was the point of getting involved with this team, this league, this Henchman. It would all suffer the same fate as wood stadiums and the Seattle Pilots – death and disintegration like my mom and dad, six feet under, eaten by worms. I wanted to be alone, to not be attached, to not suffer the here today gone tomorrow fate of us all.

I walked quickly to the door, opened it and stepped into the open air, under the seats. I looked to my left and the outdoor gate was still there, the same one I had entered through, a few hours earlier. I thought about the hill I’d seen when I first got off the bus. I had a tent and a sleeping bag. I could sleep there, under the trees, find a soup kitchen, loiter at the library during the day.

I could feel Henchman trailing me.

“Hold on Butch,” he yelled.

I had no idea how he knew my name. My suspicion grew. I ran as fast as I could and distanced myself from him, surprising since I had the sleeping bag and tent on my back, but Henchman had that belly. I ran until I was out of breath. To my right was a laundromat and attached to it, a giant chimney, a minaret that extended into a bell tower way up there, at least three Fenway Park green monsters high. There was a ladder on the side of the building. I stepped on the first rung, pulled myself up and continued.

“Stop,” screamed Henchman.

I looked down and there was Henchman, shaking. I knew about these practical people, guys like Henchman. Sure, they could deconstruct radios and handle the hot corner, but those were all gravity bound tasks. Ask them to climb a minaret and they would cower like a turtle crawling back in its shell.

I took one rung at a time, easy-peasy. I had a knack for climbing buildings. My dad used to compare me to Ken Griffey, the way he scaled walls and turned would be home runs into outs. I could have gone fast, could have reached the bell tower before Henchman made it half way up, but I wanted to see him suffer. I thought about my parent’s suicide and the injustice of it all, me, alone, orphaned at 23. I wanted revenge on the world.

Henchman was whispering some self-help mumbo jumbo to encourage himself to carry on and I have to admit, I was impressed by his resolve and determination, but it still smelled fake, contrived, like a set-up and yet, there I was, still as a Buddha statue, waiting for Henchman to catch up and he did and we climbed together. It was like I was under some spell.

I or I should say we eventually made it up and over the last hurdle, a short wall. We were inside the bell tower. I was calm, as calm as a no wind, early morning. Henchman was out of breath and sweating, but he had a smile on his face. He started laughing.

“Do you collect baseball cards?” he asked.

The question was delightfully random, completely out of nowhere. He didn’t give me time to answer.

“My favorite all-time baseball card is the 1972 Topps Red Sox Rookie card featuring Carlton Fisk, Cecil Cooper, and Mike Garman.”

Henchman sat down in the lotus position. I did too. I felt seduced, but liked the idea of rookies, of starting over.

“I wondered what happened to Garman?” I asked. I looked at Henchman. He shook his head. He didn’t know.

I suddenly had a lot more questions.


Fun-go Man strikes again!

*In case you’re bored and didn’t read the first part of this post – The Fun-go Man, here’s the link –

“What’s your name anyway kid?” asked fungo man.

The beer had gotten to me. A tear appeared in my eye, then another. They both roll down my cheek. I hadn’t cried since being above that bus motor, the hum of it so steady, unlocking a part of me I typically had no access to.

“This is no time for tears,” said pitching coach Andy Wetchman (Wetchy). “We got a game tonight. In less than an hour, this clubhouse will be filled with players and they got no time for feeling sorry for themselves, no time for distractions like that. Ambrosia is pitching tonight and he’s got control, elite control, not much junk, not much of a fastball either, but he throws strikes and so players got to be on their toes, focused come first pitch, ready for the ball coming their way. They’ll be playing jacks and hackey sack in preparation, playing right up until batting practice. Ya gotta be sharp when Ambrosia is pitching. No humming Esquivel in the outfield, no picking up stones and trying to flick them in the same spot, no rituals, no good luck charms. This is about skill and if there are bad hops, you block them with your chest, pick up the ball and throw the runner out.”

I stopped crying and looked at fungo man.

“My name is Trevor, but people back home called my Butch.”

“What…you play third base?” asked Wetchy. “They don’t pay much to play on this team, just enough for rent and some grub at Sal’s Diner, but we sure could use a third baseman. So do you play?”

Fungo man walked over to the fridge and removed three more beers.

“Hey, we gotta game in four hours,” yelled Wetchy. “No time for beer.”

Fungo man tossed me a beer.

“Like we need to be sober during a game,” laughed fungo man. “You’re so god damn stiff Wetchy. When you walk out to the mound, you’re supposed to loosen up the pitcher, not stress him out and cause him to groove pitches in the batter’s wheelhouse or get him aiming too much and throwing wild pitches. You could use a beer or three before the game, a little mental calisthenic.”

“What are you talking about,” snapped back the pitching coach Wetchy. “You don’t do anything all game, except chew gum and blow bubbles, pretending to be Kurt Bevacqua! You’ll never get your face on a baseball card. The day they make one for a fungo man is the day I hand in my uniform, cash in my last check, and go and see Linda over in Hanker County.”

“How you manage to keep her under your skin,” snapped fungo man, “is more of a miracle than Oil Can Boyd, all six feet, one inch, 155 pounds of him. He’s lucky a nor’easter didn’t blow him right out of Boston and you’re lucky that Linda over in Hanker County hasn’t done the same with you.”

Fungo man put his arm on Wetchy’s shoulder, squinted his eyes in my direction and asked what I wanted to know about the stadium. I repeated what I had told them before, about houses and castles and churches and bridges and all the things man had built, from teepees to skyscrapers to baseball stadiums, dugouts too. I took a big hit from the beer can, nearly half the can, and revealed that I liked to sleep inside stadiums, to find a cubby hole somewhere and doze off to the lingering smell of hot dogs.

“So you’re a loiterer,” snarked Wetchy, “a bum and so young too. Ah what the hell. If you can play third, we’ll give you a shot.”

“Why do you assume every human being is a baseball player?” asked fungo man, “or has the potential to be one? You suffer from a one track mind Wetchy. There are players and there are fans and then there are those who like to sleep inside stadiums.”

I took another hit off the beer, took a deep breath, let out a long exhale, and began to speak.

“I lost my parents to a double suicide and bought a bus ticket to San Diego, but that wasn’t my destination.”

“Where were you planning to go?” asked fungo man.”

“Anywhere but home. I had three weeks to use the ticket and I could stop and stay anywhere along the way.”

“So let me guess. Three weeks passed and you wound up in Marshville,” said an irritated Wetchy. “No one comes here unless they have a little baseball left in the tank….washed up prospects who lost their chance at making it, for one reason or another…..tripped over a sprinkler, busted their ankle, screw inserted, hobblers for the rest of their life, but good enough to play first base in Marshville, Bill Buckner their patron saint. Others took to cocaine and booze, spent years in the gutter, but experienced a baseball revelation, to pray to Jesus and to play ball, a Josh Hamilton species. And you? You come to Marshville and don’t have some tragic story ending in a return to the game that once made you happy? I don’t believe you.”

“No,” I said. “I just wound up here, as random as a monk parakeet in Brooklyn.”

“That’s not so random,” snapped back Wetchy, “because there are monk parakeets in Brooklyn and yeh, them and their lime green fluorescent feathers stick out like a toilet in a farm field, but they are far from random. They’ve been there for decades. Build nests at the top of electric posts. I’ve seen them up on Avenue J. You ain’t fooling anyone kid.”

Fungo man walked back to the fridge a third time and tossed me another beer.

“So, what’s with the stroller?” he asked.

“It’s where I stash my beer. Last thing my parents drank before they overdosed. I like sharing the euphoria they experienced. Reminds me that there’s still a chance.”

“Do you ever watch baseball?” asked fungo man.

“Oh yeh. I don’t remember when I first caught the fever, but the first player I remember was John Briggs. My dad was from Philly and he had a poster of Briggs up on his bedroom wall.”

I stood up and walked towards the water cooler, my back to Wetchy and fungo man. “I think I inherited my mom and dad’s melancholy, “the fits,” my dad called it. Whenever I got that way, dad reminded me that Briggs played 12 years and finished with a batting average above .250 and an OB% above. 350, signs of consistency, “which is what we’re striving for,” he would say. He taught me how to play strat-o-matic baseball and took me to baseball card conventions.”

“Do you collect sets or individual cards?” asked a warmer Wetchy. ” I see you as a sets guy, someone who likes completion.”

“I collect both. All kind of cards,” I said. “Come to think of it. I should go back home and get my cards before they seize our home.”

A few minutes passed. It was the first time in weeks that I hadn’t thought about my mom and dad, my mind suddenly occupied by baseball cards.

“I got an idea,” said fungo man”

He started pacing.

“Did you ever hear of the Continental League?” he asked.

“Yeh, my dad talked about it as a way to mellow the sting of New York losing both the Dodgers and Giants. A new league that never happened, right?”

“Something like that. Well, it’s about to happen again,” replied fungo man.

“What is?” I asked with sincere curiosity. “Don’t tell me we’re gonna turn Marshville and its competitors into the Continental League? I like that idea. We could compete with the MLB.”

“Well, that would never work,” said fungo man. “You know how the MLB gobbles up all rival leagues. But, we’re gonna tell anyone that asks what you’re doing here that your grandfather was set to be a journalist for the Continental League and when the league never happened, he passed on the journalism itch to your father and when your father died, his last words were “Continental Times.” It’s your turn kid.

“Turn for what,” I asked.

“You’re gonna write about every game that’s played here at Hawthorne Stadium and there are plenty of games. All teams play here, all 12 of them and on some Saturdays, there are four games, first one starting at 9:00 a.m. so get your pen and paper ready. It’s the beginning of the Continental Times. I have a copy machine at home and we’ll make hundreds of copies of your story and hand them out to the couple dozen fans who attend – game summaries, interviews, editorials. And don’t you worry about sleep. There’s room in the grounds crew room and I know Epstein, chief of the grass. Got plenty of room beside the rakes and hoses over there. I’ll have him rig up a hammock for you. And food? Plenty of peanuts, hot dogs, and coke. It won’t kill you. What do you say?”

Fungo man looked at Wetchy and then me. I laughed. So did Fun-go man. Wetchy shook his head and said, “Takes all types.”


and there were cocktails…

She came from a place no one had ever heard, from Crapshoot, meaning “in memory of the risks we once took,” she explained in her native Crapshootian tongue.

The local geography maven, Spencer Guinness, sat at the rail every night. He rattled on about Siberian hills and Madagascar waves and small towns in Nebraska and parks and streets in their hometown of Springfield. Now Spencer stood up, pitcher of Blatz in his hand, and waxed on about Crapshoot, about its mountain peaks and views and tent town under the Steeltoe Bridge beside the Ruminate River. There were singers there, strummers and students too and retired insurance salesmen and folk who talked about the people with the long necks. Spencer liked to hear that name Crapshoot so he said it often and bought everyone beer too and this inspired them to learn more about the lady from Crapshoot….

…so tall and yet legs so short, arms so long, and her neck, jetting up like a giraffe’s causing people on Springfield’s east side, home of the local university, to talk about a hybrid birth – half human/half giraffe and this had geneticists and biologists and sociologists and all kinds of “ists” concluding that she came from lands where giraffes walk, that she was from Chad or Somalia so they named her Chadalia. It was all over the papers and the local bar patrons liked the name Chadalia too.

Chadalia didn’t know about bars and didn’t read the papers and yet, she swung her hips like she was playing Hula Hoop and she walked and walked and ran out of breath at the LastStraw Saloon’s front door so she went inside and talked with the nice bartender who was its owner too. His name was Jack. They talked about traffic lights, specifically why there were only three lights and not four and what color would the fourth be and what would it cause people to do. They talked about parking tickets and stop signs. Chadalia loved cars, especially ones from the the 1950’s. She never left the bar. She sat down, her long neck almost touching the X-shaped ceiling fan. She liked the dark so when the lights went on, she ducked her head and slipped downstairs, to sleep in a small room, compliments of Jack the bartender.

Jack hadn’t felt so excited since Grimpy the Drifter recited all that Irish poetry by heart. He announced a walk-off seance, a beer and booze binge fest to welcome the new Chadalia to town, for everyone to walk-off their jobs for a day or a night if they were graveyarders, to drink for free, to dance, sing, argue, fight…

“Like 5 cent beer nights,” exclaimed Jack the bartender.

Hank Cavanaugh knew about walk-offs, from “Small Mouth” Watson’s walk-off bunt in the pre-civil war game, back when it wasn’t even called baseball; he knew about Aaron Pinterest’s school yard walk-off walk at Sunday Church baseball in Boise, Idaho and he knew about the regular season not so memorable names who hit walk-off’s. There were even a couple of wild pitch walk-offs and of course he knew about Bill Mazeroski and Chris Chambliss and Joe Carter post season walk-off home runs. He’d never actually seen one in person, but he had a friends with old VHS tapes and he read about others from books, the way everyone enjoyed some collective euphoria and how sometimes stadiums actually swayed. Hank invented his own play-by-play calls. He never had a mother or father to read him bed time stories so he sang the walk-offs out loud at night like some roll call lullaby prayers to help him sleep, but he seldom slept. He was too excited.

Hank once stayed awake for 97 straight hours. He walked all over town and ultimately ran out of breath at the LastStraw Saloon’s front door, exactly like Chadalia had and he too went inside. And Jack’s bar wasn’t too big so Hank eventually met Chadalia. And Hank didn’t waste any time. He began reeling off one walk-off moment after another and this impressed Chadalia, the sing song, lilt in Hank’s voice.

“Walter Johnson was nicknamed “Big Train” and Rube Waddell liked his booze and once upon a time there were no batting helmets,” said Hank, causing everyone in the bar to whip their necks around and stare at Hank because he was no longer reciting walk-offs.”

“And Tony Phillips walked 132 times in 1993,” continued Hank and “Maury Wills played 165 games in 1962.” Hank couldn’t stop; he didn’t want to. There was baseball data that needed to be downloaded into Chadalia’s mind.

“Drafts are more than wind gusts sneaking under blankets,” said Hank. “And Pie Traynor helped Larry Doby get a footing in the outfield and Fernando Valenzuela’s eyes and Bill Buckner almost catching Hank Aaron’s 715th home run or at least climbing the wall and trying. Chadalia didn’t know a pitcher’s rubber from a fungo bat, but she knew a one track tornado and she asked Hank to dance. Hank had never danced before.

“Cocktails on the house,” sang Jack.

And with that, Hank stepped away from his stool and extended his arms and open hands and began to sing about “infield hits and suicide squeezes and he had more fuel in the tank. Chadalia grabbed his hands and spun young Hank around and Hank felt something old arouse inside him.


another ancient chinese secret

Thea Bannister didn’t like her first name. It was too close to tea and tea reminded her of China and she was afraid of Chinese people, especially old Chinese men because of the hair growing from moles on their naked arms. She had read in one of her mom’s Readers Digest magazines that Chinese mole hair symbolized wisdom. Thea was afraid of wisdom and perfection and power. She preferred gutters and drains and hunchbacks in corners talking to themselves.

Thea didn’t like her last name either. Bannister. Kids at school called her TB and Thea was no Einstein but she knew the TB were her initials and that to Thea was like cancer and not because she was born in the astrological month of Cancer, in July, like Andre Dawson and Mario Soto and hundreds, maybe thousands of other baseball players, but because TB upset people, got them whispering about boils, malaria, leprosy, polio, mumps, measles and how the world was suffering and that pissed off Thea. She didn’t want people to be upset and death was ok to her. She liked cemeteries; she liked the quiet and the sound of leaves on trees rustling from the wind and she liked frogs too. She saw one down by the swamp. No one believed here, especially her dad. He said there was no swamp in their town and even if there was, there would be no frogs in it, but she knew; Thea knew; she’d seen a frog and she never forgot the way it sat still for so long and those big eyes.

Thea’s dad said they had a great family name, that Floyd Bannister was the name of a former big league pitcher, a pretty good one too, not HOF good, but good enough to win 134 games and pitch 15 seasons, including one with the “winning ugly” White Sox 1983 season and daddy Bannister had dozens of them games recorded on old VHS tapes from that season and while he watched and cheered on the Sox and Bannister, Thea dreamed of becoming a sniper or a mercenary or someone who panhandled up enough change to fly to the Amazon and go searching for frogs.

Thea did share one thing in common with her father. She was drawn to the basement of their two bedroom house. It was humid down there, perfect for a frog and six feet under. Her dad liked it too. He built himself a makeshift bar and collected bottles and drank at night and sometime in the morning too. Thea grabbed one of her father’s middle age replica swords one late night and brandished the sucker high above her head like she was being yanked by a drunk kite, but she was in complete control as she slid her feet, sword still above her head, slid towards dad’s Hartland baseball statues lined up along the bar rail. There was Eddie Mathews and Warren Spahn and a bunch of other Milwaukee Braves players. She wasn’t gonna do anything to them, just scare her dad and hopefully get him to go upstairs. She knew all the player names because when she was a toddler, they were her dad’s sweet lullaby equivalents, a roll call of Braves baseball players to help her sleep and yeh, she fell asleep, out of boredom, but now she was older and she practiced ways to get under her father’s skin and it worked. He did go upstairs the “night of the sword. Thea had the entire basement to herself, but it was late so she went to sleep and she had a nightmare of being chased down an alley by kids wearing Milwaukee Braves uniforms wielding baseball bats and mitts, cornering her under street lights and threatening to steal her milk money.

There really were boys at school who stole her milk money so this was no nightmare fantasy. This was reality and these boys were smart boys who always made Thea feel stupid in English class because she could never remember the prepositions and the teacher, a Mr. Edwin Hanover always called on Thea to sing the preposition song, “Aboard, about, around,” and so on and it wasn’t that Thea got tongue tied or suffered a brain freeze, she just didn’t know and that damn teacher used to raise his upper lip to his curled down nose and inhale heavily and shake his head at Thea.

Thea didn’t want to lose her milk money or get mocked by the teacher, so she didn’t go to class that day. She walked in the other direction of school, far away, to the other town whose name Thea always forgot, but she knew a man that lived beside the railroad tracks in a shanty with a blue plastic tarp. She had never seen him, but she had heard him. He spoke with an accent from inside the shanty. Well, on that day, he appeared and she watched him. The old man ran a hose through a fence and towards a wall and fastened it to a spout or whatever you call the place where water flows. Thea thought that was a nice thing to let the man have water like a restaurant or drugstore that leaves a sign in the window that says, “if you’re gonna sleep in the doorway under the awning, it’s ok, but when you gotta piss, use the empty bottle beside the window. Thanks.”

Thea walked closer to the man. He was small, smaller than Thea, and he looked Chinese and without any formal, hey, how you doing greetings, the Chinese man said, “DURING the storm and AFTER the war and ABOVE the clouds and Thea thought that maybe these were prepositions and she wondered how this old Chinese man knew and then he added, UP and DOWN, more prepositions, thought Thea and then it hit her and she wondered how she hadn’t known before, that voice, that broadcasting voice on one of her father’s VHS tapes, the voice of Chris Berman saying, Floyd “up and down” the Bannister and as she thought, this the Chinese man indicated with his hands UP and DOWN. He raised them high above his head and then brought his hands way down low and Thea didn’t know if this old Chinese man had mole hair, but she didn’t mind him at all because she mighta been barely 16, but she knew plenty about up and down.

Thea walked home slowly and the next morning she woke early and made coffee for her father, but she couldn’t remember if he liked milk or sugar in his coffee or both or nothing at all because she had never made coffee for him so she asked him and before he told her how he’d like his coffee, he told her about Eri Yoshida, that she once played in the Arizona Fall League and Thea had one question after another and so she asked them and her dad answered and they talked about Yoshida worshipping Tim Wakefield as a kid, about her wanting to one day throw a knuckleball like Wakefield and Thea drank the first cup of coffee in her life. She didn’t need any sugar.


and a deer still eats grass

The chips, glass of green olives, and 2-liter Mountain Dew moved slowly along the conveyor belt, getting closer and closer to the cashier and her red lipstick. Herman Beeline didn’t know her name or her birthday, but he knew she was big…big in lips and big in breasts and she liked to talk, mostly about coupons which was more than enough for Herman. He envisioned her as the lady who would one day make him big brown paper bag lunches with little notes tucked inside, notes that had thoughts on them and these thoughts would occupy Herman’s mind as he earned his keep, delivering the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania newspaper.

Herman thought about grabbing the chips, eating a few and then reaching over the conveyor belt and touching the cashier’s forearm and in the process, end his anxiety, maybe her’s too – that feeling of being totally alone. He woulda rolled the dice if his mom wasn’t there. She knew he eyed the lady cashier and she knew he liked to eat and sealed packages were never a deterrent so she pointed with her index finger for Herman to look away from the lady and the food and it wasn’t that Herman was overly obedient; he was just scared by his mom’s still eyes so he chewed his nails and when he completed all ten, he swivelled his head 180 degrees and looked at the rack of movie star magazines which didn’t take his mind off the cashier, but then he spotted a magazine he’d never seen before, about the size of a baseball digest; it was a 1979 farmers almanac.

Herman grabbed the almanac and opened it up. There were weather predictions, horoscopes and an article on “nuclear families.” He read a few lines. It reminded him of his own family – a house, a mom, dad, brother, and dog named Raja, totally nuclear, but then his father flew the coop, headed north to Alaska, “To live off the land.” The brother went to jail for robbery and when he got released, he joined the Moonies or got abducted by them and disappeared. The dog died of cancer and so did the “nuclear family.” It was just Herman and his mom after that and despite here being strict when it came to food, she was loose as a lush about booze. She became Herman’s personal bartender, every night at sunset…Long Island Ice teas, Harvey Wallbangers, straight whisky, or whatever other concoction she invented.

Herman didn’t like that word nuclear. it reminded him of his family that once was. He flung the Almanac like a frisbee and then stomped up and down the grocery store aisles, grabbing cereal boxes and syrups and throwing them to the floor. He was eventually asked to leave and when he refused, a big armed security guard escorted him out of the store. That’s when he really started thinking about nuclear, about the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant meltdown two months earlier, on March 5, 1979 and another Three – Three Rivers Stadium – home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, in the same state as the nuclear meltdown. It was then that Herman knew; he knew it as certain as a mouse knows how delicious cheese is; he knew that Three River’s Stadium was built on top of a nuclear reactor and one day it too would suffer a melt down too and then what? a Kent Tekulve submarine pitch would disintegrate before reaching Manny Sanguillen’s glove? Omar Moreno chasing down a deep drive would stop in mid-stride and tip over, hyperventilating. There’d be no more heckling Mike Schmidt of the cross state Phillies as fans melted into their seats and disappeared like his nuclear family brother had.

Herman needed to know the future, to warn people of this nuclear meltdown at Three Rivers Stadium, to keep them far away on the day, the players too. This was a big deal in the small, newspaper delivering life of Herman Beeline. He was being called upon to be a super hero in real life, an RS, a Radiation Savior and no surprise that RS also stood for Runs Scored to inspire the Pirates in the 1979 National League East pennant race.

Herman knew scientists and he went to see them and they told him to take notes, collect data. “Of what,” he screamed. “The end is near.” He went to priests and pastors and rabbis and gurus and they all told him the same thing – to look towards the hills, that the answer was there, in the unknown, but Herman had no time for mystery and mystics, he needed specifics, the when Three Rivers Stadium would suffer a nuclear meltdown.

He called a palm reader he found in the back of the very paper he delivered and the palm reader charged him three dollars and told him to never take wooden pennies and that did Herman no good so he consulted an astrologer from the same paper and she gave him a date – July 20th. That’s when the nuclear reactor under Three Rivers Stadium would suffer its meltdown and well, that was only four days away and John Candelaria was scheduled to pitch for the Pirates, against the Astros.

Herman needed help to spread the warning word. He closed his eyes in search of a strategy and the cashier with red lipstick immediately came to his mind. She came in a slide show montage, all the images he’d seen of her, of receiving cash and doling out change, her blushing and smiles and dancing in place. God, she was perfect. He raced back to the grocery store and explained to her his predicament, Pittsburgh’s predicament. He asked her name. She told him. Sandy. They talked about coupons, the wind and well, she accepted her role as Radiation Savior 2. They made capes with RS on the back. They printed out fliers, warning citizens and players of the nuclear reactor under the stadium and the impending meltdown. They contacted the local media – newspapers and television. No one listened.

On the day of the game, Herman and Sandy sat in the bunker they had dug and listened on an AM transistor radio and an amazing thing happened. There was no meltdown and the Pirates won, a complete game by Candelaria and a home run by Phil Garner off the Astros J.R. Richard.

Sandy never made Herman brown paper bag lunches, but Herman bought a flask of Smirnoff and mixed it into sunny delight orange juice and he invited Sandy for a drink of a “screwy delight” and a wander down by one of the three rivers and so they went together and a deer was there, standing on all fours, looking calm, eating grass, and eyeing them every once in a while.


the droopy-eyed motel

Terminal Hedwig had no idea how he got there – to those railroad tracks high above a deep gorge with a slip through the ties a certain death.

“how ?” he kept asking himself. a drunken wander? abducted by a cult? extra terrestrial parachute? suicidal leaning?”

he didn’t breath too deep. didn’t want to rattle his body one way or the other and slip through the ties, so instead, he carefully, with a sudden will to live, tiptoed to the other side, the safe side, to the rest of his days, some sort of 12th chance or however many it would be and next thing he knew he was flat on his back, staring up at a late afternoon sky, the shapes of clouds like those of a naked, skinny-to-the-bone prisoner of war, a rib cage sky, and he cried as he lay there and then, his belly boiled, hotter than a heating pad followed by a sudden burst from somewhere within him or outside him and a realization that it didn’t matter where it came from.

it had happened and he shot up like he’d been jabbed with epineprine and there he was, standing on the outfield grass of some diamond or field or yard, a pitcher’s mound in place but not much else, no bases or traces of dugouts, only that mound and what lay beneath it…ghosts? dead ancestor bones? both?

Terminal Hedwig knew in his gut that he had defied death, gravity too. he raced around what were once probably bases, round and around he raced and stumbled and fell and got up and raced until he could breath no more and then he thought about beer and green tea and knew that some days called for one and others days called for the other. The sun was settling now and the clouds along the horizons were orange and purple, a time to celebrate, a time for beer.

he reached into his pocket and felt some paper, six-20 dollar bills….. enough for a 12 pack of Pabst cans and three nights at the droopy-eyed motel and its stained carpets, smell of a damp basement, 25 cent vibrating beds, mirrors on the ceiling, artifacts of what once were but would probably never be again. he spotted a newspaper on the dresser, beside the bed and that paper had the funnies and a sports page with box scores and it wasn’t from that day or even that year, but it didn’t matter because as he was reading it, he forgot about the experiment he was a part of, this life thing that involved death and then he looked towards the wall and there was a tv and he turned it on and there was cable and the mariners were playing the diamondbacks at 7 and he didn’t know much about either team.

he popped a top on a pabst and then another and another and abracadabra it was suddenly 7 and the Mariners took the field.


even the dogs did a little jig

The pre-game, pagan circus show starring Loretta Le Croix and her swordfish swim did nothing to change the fortunes of the Catchemcan Cannonballs, pride of southwest Kentucky…..nor did Nathan Leopold’s cave man chants while tiptoeing across red hot coals. There were vodka screwdriver giveaways, replica baseball player doll days. Nothing worked. The Cannonballs kept losing, but there were crowds….oh, there were big crowds and not only baseball fans. Preachers came and so did cops and peddlers and tinkers and thieves and they all shared cold feet and straight-faced jaws of indifference.

Manager Billy Oppenheimer loved to sleep, so much that he installed a bed in the dugout and caught some zeeee’s between innings, insisting that his dreams would solve the riddle of “incessant losing.” He woulda been fired too if he hadn’t a been a local boy, born and raised in Catchemcan. Local pundits said this aroused pride in folks who were so weighed down by all the abandoned coal mines, poverty, begging on the street, and the revival of hoovervilles.

The skipper’s bed became the hunchback good luck charm of players, specifically relief pitchers, not so much to right the ship-to win, but to ensure a steady flow of whisky in the bullpen. There were bootleggers back there, disguised as law-abiding citizens and they slipped them relievers dark jugs of moonshine whisky. The onlookers, those feisty local prohibition police came closer.

“What’s you got inside the jug?” they asked “We run a peaceful operation here! It’s a break, ya know, a little baseball medicine, for the residents.”

“Nothing but molasses,” promised “Tender Legs” McGoo, the closer. “Good for our pitching hands. Gives us a better grip.”

“Doesn’t seem to do you a lick of good. Can’t win a damn game, but alright then,” surrendered Johnny Law, not too interested in investigating the situation any more, preferring the breeze and daydreaming about their honey’s pot roast later that night.

The relief pitchers typically sipped the moonshine, giving them a slight attitude adjustment when they entered the game which was often and they were good, real good, about the only good thing the team had, in terms of statistics anyway….hadn’t given up a run in sixty three innings. Those damn starters walked the clean-up hitter, the nine hole, the third string catcher. They couldn’t hit an ocean with a beach ball….couldn’t make it out of the fourth inning and the game was already over by then. But those fans stayed, them and their cold feet and straight-faced jaws of indifference.

Well, one day them relievers drank moonshine all game long and in gulps too, out of nerves. you see, there was a perfect game going on, as rare as a toilet in a farm field for a Catchemcan starting pitcher and so not one of them relievers was summoned and they kept drinking and they passed out in the pen and never did find out if the perfect game happened. They woke up with a hangover, a headache worse than a heartache and they did what any right-minded citizen would do, they drank some more to revive the previous night’s feeling and after a few gulps the feeling was even better than the original drunk high.

They danced across the outfield grass as the position players performed stretches and played long toss in preparation for the new day’s game, them relievers still in the dark about that perfect game and with every dance step, they stopped caring about perfection. Once those players caught sight of the dance, they stopped and danced too and the manager, that snoring Billy Oppenheimer arose from the dead bed and declared that he would wake up early from then on and that practice would begin before dawn.

Didn’t matter if it was a day or night game….they were all to report to Billy Oppenheimer’s bedside before that sun crawled up the horizon and well it didn’t do a damn thing for the team’s won loss record, but that “crazy walking” as the newspaper coined the dancing, slipped into the umpire’s shoes and ushers too and police men and the organ player and the dancing never stopped, long after the game, into the streets and the bars and the zoo …..yes even the animals got into it as well as break rooms of banks, the schoolyard, the prayer people under the moon, painters of the water tower, and the dogs loitering beside the lagoon.

there was the side-step, the cradle launch, the bugaboo and whatever other dances the Catchecan folks and dogs and other animals felt like doing… fish started jumping too…


baseball states of mind

i called my dad last week. he was born in 1939 so that puts him over 80. he told me he’d been attending a lot of funerals.

funeral hopping i thought to myself, not wanting to make light of death…..memories immediately aroused from my teenage years, of “pool hopping,” as we called it, trespassing into backyards, one after the other and slipping quietly into pools at night.

And then there was baseball stadium hopping. we lived in Milwaukee. we were lucky because in addition to county stadium we were only 90 miles north of Chicago, two teams Chicago, one national, one american, in the pre-interleague days.

In the early 90’s, a Milwaukee bar called the Why Not Two set up a field trip to Chicago, to see the Cubs. I forget how much it cost, but there was a barrel of beer in the back of the bus. I was drunk by the time we reached Wrigley so I don’t remember much, but it was a double header against the Astros.

for some reason which still bothers me I never went to a game at Comiskey Park, never went to see the White Sox and my favorite player Harold Baines. but i did get to see him when the Sox came to play in Milwaukee and i took some pictures of him warming up in the outfield.

more stadiums….my senior year of high school, I entered a contest in the back of Baseball Digest, to win tickets to the 1988 all-star game in Cincinnati and i won, but i soon found out that I had failed to notice one minor detail when filling out the contest entrance form. It was a contest to win the right to “buy” tickets not get free tickets, no big deal, right? Well, thankfully my dad thought so and he splurged which as it turned out wasn’t too much money….around 40 bucks a ticket in the upper deck at Riverfront stadium. I remember three things about the town and game…..firstly, Skyline Chili which is apparently unique to Cincy tasted good……secondly, one of the motel maid’s name was Wanda. My dad loves talking to strangers….and lastly was Jose Canseco hitting upper deck moon shots in batting practice.

but back to that phone conversation with my dad. I asked how he was doing and he said, “I’m kind of in a funk.”

When my dad is in a funk, it’s not because he’s been listening to George Clinton and the P-Funk all-stars. It’s because he’s depressed.”

I figured it was because of all those funerals he’s been going to. boy was I wrong. He said it was because the Brewers traded Josh Hader, arguably the best closer in all of baseball over the last four seasons.

How powerful is baseball! To cause an elderly man to slip into a depression. It didn’t help matters that after the controversial trade, the Brewers lost five out of six games. They were swept by the Pirates and lost two out of three to the Reds, both teams playing well below .500 and to make my dad’s mental state even worse – a few of the losses were caused by bullpen implosions.

My dad’s depression got me thinking about baseball as more than a sport and I got to be careful here, to not slip into over-the-top shmaltziness, but I can’t resist, mostly because i have no ritual or rituals that i follow, no holy rosary around my wrist, no mezuzah on my door post, no red dot on my forehead and so i turn to baseball and wonder…..

…..we’ve debunked the Abner Doubleday creation story and settled on a medley of bat and ball games as an origin…town ball, cricket, I forget the others. But there’s also Russian Lapta to consider not to mention pre-Neolithic revolution days when club and spheroid games were no doubt played when members of the tribe were not hunting and gathering.

There’s also the rites of winter trade talk, opening day, the all-star game and World Series. There’s the rituals of pepper, long toss, around the horn, batting practice, infield practice……a pilgrimage to cooperstown, the amulet magic talisman hobby of baseball card collecting, bards in the booth and legends, from Babe Ruth’s raucous, grateful crowning to a reluctant king in Roger Maris and that seems to cover the gambit of splendour to shame, the ancient masks we all wear. did i mention Mario Mendoza?

There is math in Batting Average and more recently, WAR.

There is science in launch angles and the physics of a pitched ball.

I could go on and on, but we all know and that’s why we love baseball…..

And the good news. The Brewers rebounded. They swept the Rays in a short, two game series and then tied up their series with the division leading Cards, but then on Sunday, the rubber match, the bullpen imploded again, the newly acquired Taylor Rogers (in the Hader deal) allowing four runs in the 8th inning. Albert Pujols hit two home runs. I wonder if he’s the oldest player to do that?

I suspect my dad’s transformed from feeling depressed to being fed up. I’ll call him tonight and remind him that there are still 49 games to be played.