brewers baseball and things


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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…..like 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.

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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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death, montreal mirages or maybe this has to do with baseball?

A lobster crawls along the ocean floor and that’s only on TV. In the grocery store, their claws get rubber banded shut. They continue to crawl, but THUMP into the glass wall too. They turn around like bumper cars, crawl some more, thump into the glass wall again, and then again, and again. Must be frustrating. 

They look drunk or wounded and anyway, they’re too expensive and too complicated to eat. But I’ve heard that the flies in northern Quebec are so everywhere summer annoying that a Native American Tribe whose name I forget said screw it and went east towards the Atlantic Ocean and survived on lobster till autumn.

I would change my ways if need be and eat lobster, but I don’t know about those advertisements on TV for a hypoallergenic pillow. It’s  a 1-800 number and says things like, ‘ if you order now,  we’ll throw in a satin night-gown. It guarantees a great night’s sleep. I would never buy one but it’s a nice thought – a good night’s sleep. There are so many ads like this, one after the other, all guaranteeing a better life, from pills to skin creams to comfortable cars. I guess these days are filled with great idealism. It serves as great fodder for the critics, cynics and comedians as well. It’s a see saw world  and meanwhile, back to that lobster.

It’s escorted by blind fold equivalent dry to a kitchen and lowered back home, into water, only it’s not cold fresh water; it’s boiling hot water. The end. Strange way to die. Cows are tricked to the slaughter-house as well. Rabbits hung out on a clothes line and sliced head to toe. Birds snipered out of the sky. Deer and moose stalked and rifled. Humans sit in hospital beds attached to wires, moaning and groaning. Old baseball pitchers jump out of train windows into suicide valleys. Flat lines for us all one way or the other.

i wonder if before darwin took his boat around the world our ancestors looked at a chicken and said “oh, that white thing coming out of its ass, mmmmmm, I think I’ll crack it open and give it a try.” I guess they got the idea from other animals. Good thing they did, for omelletes sake.

i miss pay phones and many things, but evolution and technology and medical breakthroughs are great. It’s just that sometimes i feel really useless. I don’t know what I would do if the grocery store reverted to its warehouse roots. It would be like braille without bumps. I would go blind or i mean hungry or maybe both after eating some poisonous plant thinking it was celery. I’d  have to start over and learn new things, how to gather the right nuts and berries, fish, and hunt and what not.

I was reading the other day that the Pawnee Native Americans were star-gazing people and arranged their dwelling places on earth as a mirror to certain constellations. I’m not sure how that helped their day-to-day life but it sounds interesting.

There must be a constellation out there in the endless traffic light galaxy resembling one of the Brewers’ defensive shifts? Then, if all the buildings and stadiums suddenly disappeared and we had to start over, we could arrange diamonds and dugout shelters according to one of these defensive shift constellations.

Maybe the ocean would respond in some sort of rocky way with volcanoes in never before places. A Machu Picchu might form at a nearby park and a baseball team might even return to Montreal. The ancinet issue about the city having to build a new stadium would vanish as nature became a pitcher’s paradise with that impossible Picchu home run wall.

Is it asking too much? I mean who decides to put up all these condominiums anyway?

The heroic souls cemetery called Elysian Fields could remain and so could the physical place of baseball’s first game, on that field with the same name – Elysian in that city with another name – Hoboken. 

I always liked that name, hobo kin. The city sits beside the Hudson River and that river bends into bays and the massive Atlantic Ocean and there’s still a hobo wind with no color or destination. It dances an invisible dance and seems equally pleasant as it does cruel, realistic, like kin.


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the groundscrew was away from their desk

The importance of TV dinners is not measurable in terms of joy, serotonin measuring devices notwithstanding. The thrill of a Swanson Hungry Man turkey meal was in direct proportion joy to the walls between the food groups on the silver foiled tray. Compartmentalization was the key for me, more than the actual taste. It was to ensure that my potatoes did not mix with the cranberry, corn, or fudge brownie. There were variations to the medley.

But all that anal retentive symphony passed. It had to…. with bounce back innings looming on maturity’s horizon. Maybe the bounce back inning has no free will. Maybe it’s the most despicable scenario we can conjure – fork prongs wedged between fingernails and when removed, salt finds its way there too. Maybe there is no bottom line, not with the bullpen on sabbatical and the skipper busy with his pouch, pontificating in old man chaw tongue, “revive or rot away, kid. Get out to the mound.”

The bucket of Bazooka Joe suits the kid like a wishing well. He cuddles up beside and blows. He’s the three spin munster, got that natural movement on his pitches. But the mound became his guillotine just an inning ago when his fastball sailed and curve spun. Served up three home runs, walked the bases loaded, two long fly outs, two sac flies, gastrointestinal disorder, three broken nails, two more singles, an itchy crotch, a bases clearing triple, and finally a K. It was too much to tally. A diagnosis given in some strange measurementNo pitch counts either.

“Bounce back or walk to the train station, you speak Korean?”

The elder loogies gathered round, looking steel plated now, a rosary of stitch incisions round their laurel lobotomies. “Amnesia is our poker hand kid,” they said in their tilted pinball machine chorus, followed by  –  “Lasso anxiety to the trough”…..chain gang bullpen of dusty roads twilight.

The kid has options. Sees it in their wrinkles. He could shave or drop his arm slot, ditch the overhead Rockwell motion that won him the prom king looks. He could duck, wear a bullet proof vest for valentines day or better yet, channel The Vuke, oh Dear Vuke, of shoe changes and lace rearranges, knick-knack paddywhack a rosin bag. Destiny had nothing on you Vuke. You were born old, pockmarked face virgin side of the tracks, painting towns long before the bus could roll you under.

The Loogies sit the kid down on an upturned pickle bucket, tell him to walk well with reincarnation, lead it astray and then flush it down, all the way down. Hear it echo, scream, dissipate and be on its merry way, into that circle of water Fwoooooop, sucked under, gone to the other side seal deal. Your samsara done.

The kid hears samsara and knows what to do. “Gas is great” the kid farts. “Next inning I’m gonna  throw nitric oxide invisible,” his eyelashes fluttering butterflies, so optimistic. He’ll never park an ambulance in his driveway, not this kid, pulsating out to the mound.  The skipper slides down a dugout notch, popcorn position for the bounce back inning, bumps the bat boy a whiff of his cigar breath.

“Another kid!” he screams, but jesus of gibberish, this bat boy kid screams back,

“even Maddux was barely ripe at 25.”

Must be a second coming baseman thinks the pitching coach, pacing the dugout walls. Yep, this bat boy is bound to be a second baseman

This bat boy got great posture, smile on his face, hair curly but combed

“perfection eludes peanut vendors,” the bat boy kid hums.

The skipper smiles. smiles? Only a mother hubbard second sacker can put an arc on that man’s puss, jumper cable his youth, no more breaking up Lezcano echoes. The skip’s with us now, slipping into communal double dutch, stats oozing from him like gas in some parallel universe with the bounce back kid. Skipper spits from both ends now, about Stanton never hitting Peralta, 1 for 16 with 6 k’s and round the dugout cement spittoon we go, each one sharing a duel. Keeps us all together. Left and right brains dancing now, digging two trench towns – one in the batters box and the other beside the rubber.

The bounce back kid mows ’em down 1-2-3, two long flyouts that coulda been home runs in some other galaxy and a last batter K, foul tip in catcher’s glove. Luck on his side.

*Side note. The Brewers had already lost 3-2 so I switched to the Nationals and watched almost history last night and then to the Cubs and announcer Len Kasper revealing that four pitchers had now struck out 20 in a game. Clemens did it twice and once each for Randy Johnson and Kerry Wood and now Max Scherzer, but what sent Kasper’s serotonin levels off the chart were the no walks among them.

Is that possible? In 45 innings – 5 complete games, there have been  100 K’s and not one walk?! I gotta look that up just to see it on paper or screen..scream.

 


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we have a situation NASA

On July 4, 1976, the Boston Red Sox played the Milwaukee Brewers at County Stadium. The game took two hours and fifteen minutes. Attendance was 13,552 fans. I wasn’t there, and I wasn’t celebrating the USA’s bicentennial either or I probably was, but as only a six-year-old kid can, free from ethnic, family, religious, and national pride/burden. I was on the grass, sliding around or hearing Lake Michigan’s waves, just glad to be alive.

And almost 40 years later, thanks to Baseball Reference, I can find out what I missed. In the top of the fifth on that July, 1976 summer day, Cecil Cooper hit a home run off Brewers starter Pete Broberg. The Red Sox went ahead 3-1 and that’s how the game ended and a few months later, after that season was dead and gone, Cooper was traded to the Brewers.

I don’t know if that home run warmed minds and Brewers Brass said we gotta get Cooper, but they did and he played 11 years in Milwaukee and is it a sin to thank G-d for a baseball player in one’s life? I waited in line for three hours to get Cooper’s autograph at Cody for Kid’s Shoe Store and I mounted his 8 x 12 autographed black and white photo on my bedroom wall. There were no trumpets, no ceremony, but that picture never came down.

Cooper’s low to the earth stance was modeled after Rod Carew and well…….I played Cooper karaoke in the mirror long before I ever tried singing.

And that bicentennial year of 1976 came back to me a few years later, but more as a castigation than a celebration, as a shopping kart fashioned into a hearse, as a megaphone strapped to the spot where kids typically dangled their feet, as  a voice. America apparently had a crush on sugared cereal and this symbolized a deep-seeded problem in the country, in its people, in me. The Sugar Smacks, Frosted Flakes and Golden Grahams I had come to love and depend on every morning were on some sort of trial. The first and only place I had ever played Treasure of the Sierra Madre was in the bottom of these very cereal boxes, in search of Kellog’s baseball cards. The foundation of my being was under investigation, but I listened because I’m attracted to people who push around shopping carts.

The voice told me I didn’t know about Red Auerbach, not yet anyway because I hadn’t seen him in the Boston Garden, waiting patiently to light up his end of the Celtics game cigar. I was still a sugar junky and too much sweet makes you greedy for more, said the voice. You suffer from expectation lust and think the world owes you something. And then the voice would take a swig from some moonshine mix made from hair spray, rubbing alcohol and a lemon.

The voice reappeared the other day after hearing baseball’s new commish – Manfred Mann say something about the average age watching baseball’s game of the week last season was 56 or maybe it was 65? He didn’t come right out and reveal that baseball was an endangered species or that baseball’s American origins were not the same as they were in Cuba where revolution and the game would forever twirl like a double helix barber shop pole, inseparable, in the blood and so on. He only hinted that baseball in America was merely a pastime and so like anything else in America, disposable.

The voice insisted there was work to be done, if we hoped to turn that great idea of a constitution into a reality and keep baseball a float and so with that in mind,

Dear Manfred Mann,
It’s only a matter of time before kids are swallowed whole by hand held screens, entering a fourth dimension and loving it and who can blame them! Cyber bionic whatever is seductive. I propose random acts of baseball guerrilla warfare to offset this trend and get kids back outside and into baseball, first as players and then as voyeurs of that big game of the week.

I propose we rent bulldozers and drive them down main streets and then build baseball fields. Build them everywhere, indoors and outdoors, in cemeteries, behind armories, inside Church Bingo Halls. We stuff baseball cards and programs and pennants into the crevices of post office walls, church pews, government buildings and wherever else parents walk around with kids. We strap megaphones of baseball broadcasts to trees and bury them in the bush of the vine so it looks like the tree of life is talking baseball.  

And I’ll volunteer to walk around town and impersonate Cecil Cooper’s batting stance. I will do it near bus cabins and across the street from schools and playgrounds and in spring, a bunch of us will take over the schoolyard and play the strikeout stickball variation we call Wall Ball.

Thank you Mr. Manfred Man. I’ll be in touch.
P.S. Could you make baseball cards a little less expensive and put them in cereal again?

sincerely,
Steve Slick Myers.

 


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I`m glad it’s today and not 1982 or yesterday for that matter

Billy met Bertha. They moved up north, to Marathon, Michigan or maybe it’s in Wisconsin? Last we heard there was a kid on the way.

Scott earned a scholarship to some school, hoping to become an engineer one day. Build bridges and knock other ones down.

Jerry didn’t wear an ax on his back, but he went west, followed the seasons. Fashioned himself into a migrant worker. He drank a lot of wine too.

Mark pitched one year in Idaho, on some low-level minor league team and now he sells golf clubs, near Sarasota, Florida. I think he lives there too.

The rest of us stuck around Brew City and slipped into jobs and bars and drank a lot of beer. We were blind to the moon making its way across the sky. We even forgot which celestial bodies moved or revolved, rotated and which ones didn’t? We musta been drunk. Someone changed the subject.
Who has an axis?
You got an ax to grind?

We woud sing in unison,
JERREEEEEEEEEEE

Remembering Jerry I guess, the dirt under his nails, destined to become a farmer.

Someone would then say, “Grunge.“

And someone else, “Nirvana.“

“The Bowie cover, The Man who Sold the World.“

And when the jukebox played, talk returned to celestial bodies and planets revolving.

“Or is it the sun that doesn’t move?“

The bartender had beads for eyes, piercing, black and beautiful. It was like there was no iris in either of his eyes, no color, only black and beautiful and forever. I forget his name, but we called him Carpo, short for carpet, because he always slid the bottle across the rail with a wink as if to say, find the answer in bottom of the bottle and we never did, find an answer, that is, and I still don’t know what carpo or carpet had to do with him sliding the bottle, but carpo sounded like a fish and rhymed with Harpo and I never forgot it or his eyes.

We were never a band, not in the musical instrument sense. We just hung around together. Went swimming in Limestone quarries and got drunk inside abandoned boat houses along the lake. Those Lake Michigan waves were like the funeral commercials we watched on television, water lapping over pebbles and a narrator whispering that nothing lasts forever.

I`ve been thinking about Lake Michigan lately and “nothing lasts forever.“ I guess Aramis Ramirez traded to Pittsburgh last July started it all. This came as no surprise, but Jhonathan Barrios was the first of many prospects to wash ashore in blue and gold, the future. Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers were then dealt. Winter came and K-Rod was soon gone, followed by Adam Lind, Jean Segura, Khris Davis in exchange for prospects prospects prospects and so with Jacob Nottingham – our catcher of the future arriving and Lucroy having recently expressed a desire to play on a contender, but yesterday he said,

“One of the first things that happened here is I met Jacob Nottingham……..He asked for help with some catching stuff…..I’ve realized that this is what the game is all about. That’s what Jason Kendall once did for me. So regardless of what I said about not wanting to be on a rebuilding team — I’m going to make the best out of it. We have a really good group of guys, a good coaching staff, and the fans are awesome and they’re going to support us, no matter what. I just want to be positive and I want to have fun.”

Well hot damn! And with a pitching staff led by Jimmy Nelson, Taylor Jungmann, Wily Peralta….well, I don’t rely on ERA`s or the more metrically advanced stats. I don’t have to. I don’t work in a front office. I’m just a fan and I’ve seen all three of them pitch and well, like most MLB pitchers, they can be dominant. Question of consistency.

Sounds like Lucroy will be behind the plate.

And up the middle, there will be SS Orlando Arcia in June or maybe earlier and there hasn’t been this much Brewers hype over a SS and his range since Alcides Escobar.

Former Pirate Keon Braxton will hopefully be awarded CF. He can fly and handle a glove.

And I like the defense and pitching and maybe I’m overly optimistic, but I`m glad it’s today and not yesterday.