brewers baseball and things


awakened by Tekakwitha!

Ask Terence Fishman to name an offensive or defensive lineman and he’d pound the rail, shake his head, and call out to the bartender – “whisky shots!” He knew a few linebackers, a couple of safeties, plenty of quarterbacks, punters, field goal kickers, running backs, and receivers, but no linemen, not a one.

The bartender related to that feeling of not knowing. There was a time he had no idea what a Harvey Wallbanger was. He poured us three nice glasses, “on the house.” We clinked and drank.

“You know any middle relievers?” I asked.

Timmy pounded the rail again and his not knowing aroused the bartender’s sympathy a second time. We were rewarded with another round of whiskies.

“It’s nonsense like that,” mumbled Terence.

“Like what?” I asked

“That gets us into a nighttime of drinking.”

The third member of our trio slipped off off his bar stool and danced in place.

“Just pass me the pitcher please,” sang Frank, “and then another.”

We were in for a good night or we wouldn’t know the difference in a few drinks. But a few things were certain. There’d be nine ball played in the corner, beside the jukebox, and someone would inevitably play Ramon Ayala and that old dancing polka couple would arrive. It was after all, Saturday night. They hadn’t missed one in months and god could they dance. Musta been in their 70’s. We never asked. They never told. They came to dance. And there would probably be some spontaneous young lovers getting into each other’s pants and there would be us, sharing wretch at the rail, discussing the ban on shifts and the pitch clock and then like a million other nights, the lights would go on and we’d shuffle and sway back to Terence’s apartment complex, on the second floor, in the back, overlooking the alley, sipping cheap champagne and we’d feel the breeze for a change. Bars did that to us. Some strange collective madness calmed our minds. Took us out of ourselves.

Terence would get out his fishing pole and we’d attach a Miller beer to the line and dangle it down to the street and sometimes a “spurler” as Terence called them, someone from a rival bar, would stumble by and be in for a surprise or so they thought, a free beer, but Terence would wait for them to reach for the can and then he’d lift up the line, out of their reach and then he’d drop it again and back and forth and up and down, torture, but he eventually let them have the beer, on some nights anyway.

We’d talk about the instruments colonizers smuggled into new countries and how maybe that’s how the accordion thrives in Mexican Polka music. Frank would sing in Spanish, something about how time takes away your physical beauty; better to look for love. We’d go back inside and dance around and then sit down. Another bottle would be opened. Once again we’d discuss the ban on shifts and the pitch clock and we’d all wish we could beam up a stadium organ player during an imaginary rain delay. We’d dance some more. The downstairs neighbor would pound his ceiling which would be our floor. We’d quiet down, pass out at different times, me on the couch, Terence on the floor, and Frank on a chair. We’d awake to the sound of Terence reciting all the Indian princesses that had loved him over the years, their names and the tribes they came from.

“Kateri Tekakwitha!” he’d yell. “The Algonquin-Mohawk. I helped her get sainted!”

I guess he was still pissed about not knowing any linemen or middle relievers.



solo on the hammond b

i forget what series it was in this most recent post-season, but it was definitely the braves and it was definitely at their home stadium. i forget what inning, but Braves shortstop dansby swanson leaped to snare a liner and the ball barely eluded his outstretched arm and glove and skipped across the outfield….a single, but before anyone could extrapolate an esoteric metric, the organ sounded…..stairway to heaven, a nice, perfect, beautiful, appropriate zeppelin reference to Swanson’s leap…… a reminder of Late Night Letterman’s band leader – Mr. Paul Shafer and the way he would play music that matched the flow of Dave’s interview as they slipped into commercial break.

i like music, but i don’t like loud music at baseball games. i much prefer the organ, between innings or captioning action like it did for Swanson and it’s also perfect for rain delays, that long, stretched out, pensive time watching rain drops and getting all dreamy or wet or both and well, the winter is one long rain delay so hearing an organ takes me back to both this past season and many moons ago because memory is such a meaningful and entertaining place to explore.

it’s my secret pleasure – revisiting old teams and seasons in these winter months. the other night i watched or rewatched an old favorite – FRANK BOLLING HITS A GRAND SLAM OFF SANDY KOUFAX. it’s a short documentary about the last braves game played at county stadium in milwaukee in late september, 1965. it’s sad to see the lights get shut off, one panel after another with fans scurrying around to grab some dirt or grass…..Frank Bolling did hit a granny off Koufax during the game, but the braves lost 7-6 in 11 innings and then finished the season on the road and the next year were on to atlanta, that untapped, south east market……watching that video inspired me to pick up a book i bought many years ago at a second hand store in milwaukee but never read – The Milwaukee Braves: A Baseball Eulogy by Bob Buege, a book that maybe has no interest outside brew city, in part because it’s a bit tedious or depending on your perspective – disciplined in the copious details the writer provides, describing game after game, all 13 seasons the braves were in milwaukee which amazingly were 13 winning seasons! Anyway, eddie mathews wrote the forward and he mentions playing in Boston for a season and that’s when i realized that mathews played for all three brave incarnations, in boston , in milwaukee, and in atlanta and that got me wondering if there was an athletic who did the same since they also played in a city for 13 seasons – KC , sandwiched between Philadelphia and Oakland. I wonder what franchise has relocated the most times? I wonder how many times humans have to relocate, not only physically, but psychologically, to reboot their system, to start over. sometimes it feels like i have to every morning. Then there’s Denny McLain and his fall from 30 wins grace and so many memorable stats from that famous 1968 season, so famous, so effective that it helped sway the powers to lower the mound and then for McLain, it began to unravel a bit, to drinking and gambling and whatever other less than holy ways (most of us have been there), but then again, maybe he sits now and sips a cup of coffee and remembers his exploits, all of them, 777 jackpot, blitzed out of his mind, passed out, but waking up to live another day.

i wonder if he still plays the organ? i’m no connoisseur of the old church instrument, but i think Mr. McLain is pretty damn good. he recorded an album or two. this piece was originally written by Bobby Hebb and covered by many including Stevie Wonder and what a great song in so many ways, one of which is that it tricks the listener….tricks me anyway. Yes, it features positive lyrics, love saving a lonely soul, “the dark days are gone” and yet, it arouses another feeling in me, of being trapped inside a condemned apartment staring out a frosty window in the frigid northeast, staring at the sun, to get some heat, any little bit of heat. it’s desperate. it’s a rain delay. it’s lonely like this off season, like every off season….


tubas too

there’s something forever about a marching band – like maybe love, gum, cigarette, wafer christ cookie, or fuck that, we’re more desperate now and in need of a longer lasting fix, a stack of toilet paper coupons, a prayer, or a long glass of whisky. I guess they all serve similar purposes….a space ship runway towards our heart welcoming joy into our lives. lobotomy? I had a hankering for some drums a few minutes ago and Tusk came to mind and up on the you tube scoreboard came the video with no fans and i laughed, not a belly aching i forgot why i started laughing in the first place laugh…more of a kismet i’ll be damned kind of laugh…..NO FANS. Who needs electricity when we got tubas blaring in the breeze and a catcher eyeing up his wrist cheat sheet. exhibition, prohibition, regular season inhibition, late inning condition, 8 teams per league in the covid playoff rendition, i’m in.


dodo birds and their expanding kin

Pluto was once part of our (earth’s) solar system and then some years ago it was kicked out. I don’t remember why or remember really caring either. I mean, big deal, it was kicked out of this private solar system club. It didn’t disappear because of the exclusion. It lived on and still does somewhere in god’s great universe.

The same thing could be said about a lot of things like Jimmy Jimricks who used to be a member of the Long Horn Golf Club (LHGC). I say used to because for reasons no one knows, the powers that be at the LHGC decided one day that Jimmy Jimricks was no longer welcome so they slipped him a pink piece of paper that said get lost. Jimmy didn’t blame it on golf. He blamed it on the LHGC and kept playing. He was like Pluto. He lived on.

The same thing cannot be said for the LOOGY(Left-handed One Out Guy). It will no longer be. A rule change has now been put into effect. Relievers, any relievers, both righties and lefties must face at least three batters. No more pitcher entering the game to face one batter.

I guess a name like LOOGY was doomed from the git-go….. that snot spit we send from mouth to pavement. But I will miss the LOOGY like I miss all pitching changes and any other Mike Hargrovian delays because I like turtles and rain delays and long, lopsided games when right fielders pitch or second baseman catch. I also like watching games on TV that take a long time. It gives play-by-play and color man a chance to talk, to tell stories, to rib each other, and to crack jokes. The commercials I could do without, but what the hell; no one says we have to watch them. We can go the bathroom or heat up some pasta.

Last year, they limited the mound visits and now they’ve eliminated the LOOGY, all efforts to speed up the game. It’s sad, but fans need to be won, money needs to be made and people like click click click now now now fast fast fast so they’ll be no more Jesse Orosco types prolonging their careers as a LOOGY, no more 38 year old left-handers hitting the gym and playing long toss and dreaming just maybe if…..

This song is for you LOOGY. When singing it karaoke style, simply insert the lyric “I could have been a LOOGY” to replace whatever else Nick Drake sang in his “I could have been” melodies.




Jimmy Cliffnote needed some shelter and a warm meal, but he expected nothing, not from this world, not from the next either. He walked slowly, shoulders hunched, leaning forward a bit, eyes squinting, a hum and a breath, ready for the now.

He stopped at churches, Hindu veggie giveaways, and local soup kitchens. He always removed his orange sand knit cap, a thank you sacrifice. He ate, never said a word, stood in line for a bed, each one separated by chicken wire and more often than not, he got one. He dreamed.

It was in this spirit of whatever the wind offers that he stumbled on a synagogue and overheard of secret giveaways among the Jews. He changed his name, introduced himself as Jeremy Matza. The elders thought it a bit crazy, a family named after unleavened flatbread, but they knew the sun might rise in the west if god decreed so they accepted him into the fold and told him where he could grab a bite to eat and a bed all week long and so Jimmy Cliffnote or rather, Jeremy Matza hobbled from one synagogue to another and he ate and he slept.

He  met a plumber named Chaim who read the bible all the time.

“I’m a Torah junky,”  Chaim explained. “All the letters in the Torah, all the names are essential, from Mahershalalhashbaz to Methuselah to Sarah to Jacob, all of them as necessary as the deepest proverb or wildest tale.”

Jeremy hung out with Chaim for close to two weeks and then politely left. He was glad to be Jimy Cliffnote again, but he never forget the importance of names and one night he was walking along Lake Matsuka and baseball names appeared in his mind, one after the other and they wouldn’t stop….Vern Ruhle, Bill Naharodny, Biff Pocoroba, Toby Harrah, Kent Tekulve…………………….

Jimmy Cliffnote looked out at the stars and wondered about infinity.


The Billy Martin George Steinbrenner boogaloo

I was watching a documentary the other day, about Billy Martin. A fighter from his early days in Berkeley, California, growing up poor, playing under Casey Stengel on the Oakland Oaks. Stengel liked him so much that when he got hired to manage the Yankees, he brought Billy along for the ride, not so much because he was super jock, but because he had fire in him, played hard, over achiever, all that and more. Interesting side note of Martin as a player – he hit way above his career .257 average during his playoff appearances…99 at bats, 33 hits including 5 home runs.

When he was released by the Yankees, he maintained his offensive numbers for three years, but then at the young age of 33, he called it quits, played only 11 years. According to the documentary, being released by the Yankees cut his career short, messed up his mind a bit. Oh well, then he became a manager, first with the Twins, then the Tigers, Rangers and finally the Yankees and all those dramas with Reggie and Steinbrenner, followed by Billy Ball in Oakland and then back again to New York.

What I like is that the documentary doesn’t focus entirely on the New York dramas. I mean they cover it and why wouldn’t they? It’s as good as that hit sitcom from the 70’s called SOAP. I loved that show. The documentary also points out that Martin won everywhere and he did it by running, bunting, stealing home, hitting and running…..I love that style.

I still haven’t finished watching the two hour show, but during my imposed intermission, I did a you tube search for Letterman and Martin because I remember seeing him on the show. Funny story by Martin plus what I didn’t remember was the music selection as they faded to commercial. I guess they call that irony.


sort of a prayer

So Tony Horton gets traded from the Red Sox to the Indians for Gary Bell and he’s probably wondering why since Ted Williams had called him a natural in 1963 at Spring Training. Or maybe he didn’t wonder why. Maybe he witnessed George C. Scott (yes the Boomer’s middle name was Charles) on defense and knew he wouldn’t get a chance at first with the Red Sox. Sure, Scott could hit home runs, but he could also play great D. He even won a few gold gloves according to baseball reference. He musta been a big part of the Brewers. I don’t remember that far back, but a friend of mine from Milwaukee who now lives in Vancouver, Washington was in the south, in Mississippi, and he stumbled on George C. Scott, yes the baseball player and he took some pictures. He was manning a Hickory Smoked Pig House. This was before he passed away or at least I think he passed away?

I did get to witness the guy we traded Scott for….Cecil Cooper and he well, we impersonated his stance all the time, Carew like without the continuous alterations, just a consistent crouch that Cooooooooooop. That’s formative baseball years substance, comes back to mind when I catch a spring summer smell. The nose is a powerful organ, wonderful at times remembering pleasantries, but wicked other times when the opposite is true.

So there Horton goes to Cleveland in exchange for Gary Bell. Maybe Horton got bummed out about the Red Sox being so good the year they traded him? That was 1967, a couple of years before divisions were born. There was some last day significance between the Sox, Tigers, and Twins that season and the Sox finished tops and Horton in Cleveland? I don’t know where the Indians finished in the standings, but it wasn’t first. Still, I doubt that bothered Horton too much. I mean he went on to have some pretty decent years. He hit 10 home runs with Cleveland the year of the trade, slumped a bit the next season, but then bounced back in 1969 with a Charboneau year…. 27 home runs and I think that was the pitcher’s year, no? The year they lowered the mounds to give batters a chance against Bob Gibson.

Come to think of it, after doing some minimal research I discovered that he had a decent swan song season too, 17 homers and oh forget it. What good are stats! I think his method of termination was slit the wrists, but he failed and sort of lives on in mystery, but so do most suicides and almost suicides unless they are very good at vocalizing things or writing things down, but even then, as Lori Anderson sang……”Language is a virus.” I guess she meant to say it’s limited at best and doesn’t get to the eye of the storm. There is a Police Song that cites the limits of language too. It’s about love……”de dooo dooo doooo de daaa daaa daaa.”

Today’s billboard – Let Your Inner Self Scream Out.

I sometimes sit on my sofa and stare into space and wish players like Tony Horton had given themselves a break more often and then I realize I’m wishing the same for myself and everyone else.

Sun Ra would sell these types of singles out of the back of a car at shows. Often times they had homemade art work on the cover. Many of them had no record label. This one happens to be on Saturn Records. I believe that’s June Tyson who opens the chant with “Lightning, darkness” and then Sun Ra kicks in with the chant and the Arkestra follows like a caravan….on and on and on.


take me out to the church organ

David Letterman’s band leader, Paul Shaffer was a master at speaking through the music he played. He sent subliminal messages to portray the nature of Letterman’s guests. Were they being pompous or humble, sophisticated or a louse. He had a song for everything. Nothing comes to mind right now, but the sport of DJ-ing about a person took root in baseball as well. I think the White Sox organist got the ball rolling by playing that NAH NAH NAH NAH song when the opposing team’s pitcher got taken out of the game…..HEY HEY HEY GOODBYE.

With that in mind, I love sun ra’s music, his fans too. They keep posting material on you tube….this one from 1948…church organ music…super rare i assume and maybe some of his earliest recorded works and well…i enjoy imaginging i’m at a Brewers game and there’s a pitching change or better yet, a rain delay when this comes on to pass the time….


a melody for roger maris

i had a dream Sunday night, of playing baseball in a beautiful beach fog. It was warm and i wasn’t doing much more than playing catch, but i woke up feeling great, not about having to go to work, but about that dream, about baseball. It felt like….I don’t know… a life jacket. I guess I was drowning. I guess I am. Even a newborn baby’s breath begins to rot on the way home from the maternity ward. Diaper rash soon follows and wail wail wail? those blood curdling screams tell a tale, of being a human, to suffer and yet, we carry on. Put on your overalls boy and hop up on the John Deere. It’s your day.

That other morning, there was an interim period, no more than a few seconds, when the beautiful baseball dream faded and my life came gushing back to me like the window of a slurpee machine….all the blood gushing down the window and into my head and all I wanted to do was flush it away and go back to sleep and dream that baseball clear dream. But I was awake. It was too late. I was doomed…..again. I had this and that to pay and there were rumors that Canada would be getting dumped on this winter more than last winter and that the snow would last longer, possibly into March or April. I downed a cup of coffee and thought about winter and then Dylan came to mind, his “You don’t need a  weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” I thought about him being raised in Hibbing, Minesota and Roger Maris being born there. I’ve thought about this before. It’s geographically pleasing like Aaron and Ruth being born a day apart is astrologically pleasing. Look at me….a day after that dream and i was thinking about Aaron, Ruth and Maris….Roger Maris, just saying the name pleased me, warmed my bones.


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.