brewers baseball and things


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feeling Kirk Gibson

Back then, Frank Machetti made up his own alphabet with strange shaped letters, ancient ones that people understood. He strapped a frying pan, spatula, onion, harmonica, and rabbit trap on his back and rode a bike 17 miles per hour to where love couples waited for him to catch and cook a rabbit over a three log fire and play the seductive sound of a harmonica, blowing breezes into the endless starry night…….

But those days passed and he became like a mining town that ran out of precious minerals. His doors shut to the universe. He took fewer risks. He became a mummy, a ghost, in his own life.

Frank Machetti took a job at a local print shop, a tad above minimum wage, enough to pay for a room at the local boarding house, 300 bucks a month. He tried walking to work a different way, but there was too much of the same. He was no longer sensitive to the miracle of trees.

Frank saw a butterfly get electrocuted by a bug zapper and that’s when he reached the end of all reason. How could a fluttering innocent beautiful butterfly get ruined, dead, and done! He air boxed, kicked, and then wandered, to the junkyard and sat in the front of a bulldozer.

He dreamed of being someone else, someone with the name Slip Mc-Fight-Again.

Frank imagined that this Slim Mc-Fight-Again fished on the Black Hawk River, casting a line from the Causeway Bridge and that sometimes he’d wander lower, under the bridge where water ran over rocks….a gurgle sound. That’s where he fantasized he would meet Zeta Williams….amazing he would think,  so many times under the Causeway Bridge, so many years and all that time, he’d never seen a thing or he saw lots of things – dented beer cans, used condoms, roaches, beetles, grasshoppers, pigeons, hawks, even a snake, but never a human and now here would be Zeta Williams, the one people called – the Love Doctor.

They would talk about the vacant baseball field overgrown with weeds and all the players who previously played there, from Motorbike Martin and his ability to lay down a bunt to Potbelly Perry who couldn’t throw that fast, but had no trouble painting corners with finesse, a little like left-hander Mike Cuellar.

They would play bingo at the Veterans Hall in this escape from reality world….smuggle in a bottle of Bacardi. They would never win, but after the last letters and numbers were called, they would stroll to Ditwood’s Cemetery, climb the wrought iron black fence, sit on tombstones and talk and that would be like winning because they would hold hands.

They would listen to Dave Brubeck records in her basement. They would be the same height. Zeta would have short black hair and be kind of skinny, but would have enough fat so when they would hug, it felt warm. Zeta would wrap a towel around her head after a shower, and look like an ancient goddess Frank had seen in Egyptian books. She would have no brothers. He would have no sisters.

They would somersault down dandy lion hill and enjoy walnut days. Zeta and Mc-Fight-Again would crack open the walnut shell and before eating the nutty meat, they’d look up, at the stars, and down, at the worms and then quietly, they’d make their own wishes, but they would both knew what the other was wishing…..an open road.

They would play ping pong at the Pinbrooke Community Center, go to movies, but never kiss or make love or have sex or anything like that. They would, however, sit on their backs, side by side on the grass and carry on back and forth conversations about insects taking over the world and how great it would be to wake up tomorrow morning and feel confident and happy. God, how they would love to talk.

Meanwhile, this he, this Frank Machetti imagining he was Slim Mc-Fight-Again  came back to reality and watched an old highlight reel of Kirk Gibson’s late 1980’s World Series home run. Frank limped around the room, impersonating Gibson, pumping his arm in and out, happy to know the universe created Zeta Williams, even if she wasn’t real…..not yet anyway.


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trapped

It was one of those motels with lawn chairs set up outside the rooms, 50 bucks a night, cockroach tape beside the beds. In the lobby, the owner was watching tv. There was one of those windows on the ceiling, a skylight. There was a moth or a butterfly banging into the window, presumably struggling to get back outside.

An older man wearing a white button down shirt looked up at the moth or butterfly flapping away and then noticed the blue sky and he didn’t know why, but he thought about those times in New York when there were three baseball teams playing in the same city with that Coogan’s Bluff outside the Polo Grounds and kids probably sneaking into Ebbets Field and some other happenings at Yankee stadium.

Maybe he felt like the moth or butterfly and wanted what he could never have?


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Rain Delays

There are new rules in this Covid 2020 baseball season that is supposed to start soon, maybe none more controversial than the universal DH.

I was hoping they might add — players will be allowed to wander around stadiums during rain delays. They’d be wearing masks and observing all they could see and they’d stumble on a red bird leaning face down in a bed of flowers, dead as can be. The bed of flowers would be in someone’s yard and the owner of the house and the yard would be hovering over the dead bird so the player would ask the who what where why detective stuff, to find out how the bird died and so on and she would reply,

“I don’t know what happened, but the bird’s been around every morning since however long ago that red bird was born, every morning and afternoon and evening it has been here playing and chirping among these flowers. We called it Mona and i reckon that Mona wanted to die where it loved to be and so it landed on these here flowers in the yard and died, to thank me for the hospitality and who knows; maybe the bird knew that its dead body would nourish the flowers?”


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baseball cards i have to have part 17 – Fielders

My dad is still pretty good at tennis and he turned 80 a few months ago. He plays two or three times a week. He was on the Ripon College Tennis team, in Ripon, Wisconsin, home of Rippin Good Cookies.

When I was a kid I played tennis a lot and was even in some competitions. I wasn’t that bad. I could keep the volley going, but I quit because I wanted to play baseball and haven’t really played tennis since, except when I visit my dad in Milwaukee. But for many years I didn’t play with him because we were in competition with each other or I was in competition with him. I wanted to be better than him at something. I wasn’t sure in what, but knew it would never be tennis.

Prince Fielder had a father. His name was Cecil. As a kid, he went with his dad to the Detroit Tiger’s dugout and played on the field too, took batting practice, and apparently hit one over the Tiger Stadium fence when he was 12 years young!

Scouts said he was too fat, but the Brewers didn’t think so. They drafted him in the first round, seventh overall pick of the 2002 draft. His parents got divorced at some point and Cecil owed a lot of money so he apparently dipped into his son Prince’s signing bonus and snatched up $200,000 bucks. I don’t know how he got the money, but Prince was pretty vocal about not liking his father, about not wanting anything to do with him….”My father is dead to me,” he said in 2004.

According to Prince, in some article I read back when he was playing for the Brewers, he directed a lot of his rage against his father into hitting a baseball. It worked too. He hit a lot of homers, 319 to be exact and get this – his dad also hit 319 homers!! They both finished with the exact SAME number of homers!! Insane! What are the odds! Gives credence to the cliche – like father, like son. They both hit 50 home runs in a season too or Cecil the father hit 51….Prince only hit 50, but for his career, Prince stole 18 bases. His dad only stole two. Prince and Cecil have made up and now are friends and at some point, I finally realized that my dad and I probably have similarly shaped finger nails and other facial features the same and we both tend to worry a lot. We’re now friends too.

This 2019 Topps Update card of Cecil is a pretty damn good representation of what Cecil did a lot of as a player – watch balls soar into upper decks and out of stadiums and he was before steroids.

The card on the right is a 2007 Bowman Chrome card of Prince. As you can see, he batted left-handed, his dad right-handed….Prince had a better eye at the plate than his dad. I don’t know who struck out more; they were probably about the same, but Prince walked more, hit more too. He had a higher BA and OB% than his dad, but numbers aside, he also hit the hell out of the ball…..like his dad.

 


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baseball cards i have to have part 16 – Grimsley

I often smuggle a book into work, stash it in my front pant pocket and during the day visit a good bathroom stall and read. It has to be a paper back and kind of small, to fit into my pants. One of these books is THE YEAR THE MONTREAL EXPOS ALMOST WON THE PENNANT by Brodie Snyder. It’s about the 1979 season. The Expos finished 95-65, two games behind the eventual World Series winners – the Pittsburgh Pirates.

I crease the pages of corners when I read books, to be revisited at dull moments in the future like page 43 in the Expos book. Ross Grimsley says,

“The Reds wanted to have full control over your lifestyle. They sent me to the barbershop three times in one day during spring training. If they said gargle with peanut butter and stand on your head, you did it. I had been reading about witchcraft and they jumped on me for that. They told me I was crazy. They also told me I didn’t run right, I wore my socks too high. And they didn’t care for the people I associated with. They continually degrade the individual and I guess I was a rebel. I told them to go stuff it a few times. I told them to leave me alone and I would pitch for them. That worked in Baltimore and it worked here. (in Montreal) They leave me alone and what I do off the field is my own business.”

Grimsley’s dad Ross ll played 16 seasons in the minor leagues and then appeared in seven games for the White Sox in 1951, his only seven appearances of his short big league career. 16 years in the minors! Sixteen !!!!! All at the same job!!!!! Pitching. Both he and his son were left-handed. I’d like to get this 1979 Kellog’s Grimsley, a 3-D reminder of what lefties bring to the democratic table…..pizzazz!!!


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baseball cards i have to have part 15 – Burdette and Shantz

Everything’s a bit complicated. I mean if you wander out to the corner of 4th and Chestnut and ask the twenty or so citizens milling about what’s going on, you will no doubt get 20 different answers. Try and delve into the past and things get even more 42nd and Grand Central Station complicated. No one really knows for sure what happened.

Take 1957 as an example. Was it a Yankee’s player or manager Casey Stengel who referred to Milwaukee as “bushville?” Or no one at all? Or was it in reference to Sturtevant, a small town south of Milwaukee? (Bushville in baseball speak is a derogatory term that implies something as “second rate” or not “Big League.”) I guess it doesn’t matter if or who, but what followed does. It rallied the Milwaukee fan base. They took it to heart, embraced the moniker and the Series rolled onto a game 7 and the Milwaukee “bushville” Braves won!

The MVP of the Series was Lew Burdette and could it have been anybody else? He threw three compete games, two of them shutouts including the 7th game clincher.

There are theories speculating that the “bushville” moniker lingered in Milwaukee, that fans remained hateful towards the Yankees and when the Brewers were born in 1970, a new rivalry was born which was actually an old one.

I imagine there were problems with rival cave man gangs way back in the stone age. Even the Pawnees played war against their First Nation enemies….the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Osage and that was before the white man arrived.

Maybe peace and love, “why can’t we be friends?” is built on fake smiles and lion laying down with the lamb biblical propaganda, ya know the nice talk, “how ya doing?” we have to commit at work, marriages, and funerals. But there’s no denying the camaraderie in this 1958 Topps card of the Yanks Bobby Shantz and Burdette or probably it was staged or maybe not, maybe there’s always room for peace? In any case, I’d like to get this card as as reminder that Milwaukee once won a World Series.

In related news, I think it was George St. Pierre, the mixed martial artist, that said he owes a lot of his success to his enemies because they motivated him.


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baseball cards i have to have part 14 – Ott and Baines

I’ll be walking along when BAM a smell bumps into me, maybe air freshener or yeast from a brewery and I’m taken back to another time. I wish we could bottle these smells or maybe that’s what perfume is? Anyway, one of these smells, maybe dirt, maybe fresh cut grass gives me a glimpse of standing at the plate, semi crouched, back elbow up, feet flat, staring at a pitcher and remembering it now, I wonder why I didn’t impersonate my favorite player more…….Harold Baines and his front leg lift? I woulda pulled the ball and generated some power, maybe even hit a home run and all I would have needed was one long bomb to put a little cowboy hat in my step.

I wonder who was the first player to use the front leg lift? Glen previously mentioned Mel Ott so I took my shovel and went to google in search of Ott and found a photo, the one on the left. What a shot! Not only the leg lift, but the low hands – 511 career home runs!

I also came across this card or “sort of” a card from 1937. I say “sort of” because it’s not your traditional card, it’s a 1937 Goudey Thum Movie on the right, yes thum spelled without the b. You turned the pages of a little booklet and could see Ott in action, presumably his front leg lift.

Goudey was an American gum company founded in 1919 by a guy named Enos Gordon Goudey. He was from Barrington Passage, Nova Scotia, Canada. Goudey began producing baseball cards in 1933. They were the first company to include bubble gum in cards. In 1937, Goudey introduced these thum movies for 2 cents a pack. They did it again the following year.

I’d love to see a Baines thum book, to see his leg lift. Of course, there are tons of videos of the Baines leg lift, but I’d be in control of the thum movie, could slow it down or speed it up. Baines was scouted at 12 years young by Bill Veeck and at some point in his White Sox career became a disciple of the Charley Lau’s hitting philosophy, one of Lau’s advices being “…..making the stride a positive, aggressive motion toward the pitcher.” I think that equates to a high leg lift. Tragic that Lau passed away at 50 years young from that freaking cancer, but he’s immortalized in the movie MAX DOUGAN RETURNS, appearing as himself. Anyway, the card on the right is a 1989 Fleer, one of my favorite Baines cards, glad to have it in my collection, got that leg lift, ready for contact, makes me want to go outside right now and play some ball in the local yard, me the batter, lifting my front leg, hitting one over a fence or slapping a single to the opposite field, either way…..anyone want to pitch?


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baseball cards i have to have part 13 – niekro and ryan

Some say alien beings previously inhabited Mars and that when a catastrophic event ended their long stay there, the dust from the disaster spread to Earth and humans evolved from that dust. If so, then we all share the same ancestors – MARTIANS.

If this is the secret of creation, then somewhere in there must live the secret of the knuckleball because in baseball’s history, there haven’t been too many full-time knuckleball pitchers. The most victorious was Phil Niekro with 318. In fact, he’s the only one to win over 300 games. Even his family name seems destined for the pitch with the N, K, E, and R. This would explain why his brother Joe was also a knuckler too. Phil and Joe Niekro!

Prior to the Covid outbreak, bus cabins were interesting to look at, not so much the cabin despite it reminding me of a dugout, but the people gathering inside, from a bag lady to a kid with a cartoon lunch box and all in between, a real democratic welcome scene.

This diversity reminds me of the all- time leaders in innings pitched. Number four on the list is you guessed it – Phil Niekro with 5,404 and right behind him is Nolan Ryan with 5,386, a mere 18 innings apart and the two couldn’t be more different in terms of style, Niekro the Knuckler flinging the spheroid into the wind and Ryan throwing missile after missile. I’m lucky to have this 1978 Topps card, both with hats that have the letter a, but both from totally different solar systems.


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baseball cards i have to have part 12 – Jeter

I’m not a Yankees fan, never have been, probably never will be but I don’t hate them. I don’t put pictures of Bill Skowron and Bucky Dent on my bedroom dartboard. I don’t even have a dartboard and anyway, there’s always Babe Ruth and Oscar Gamble to appreciate and the movie BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY.

I have to be honest. I love how in the top of the first as the Yankees take the field, fans chant each fielder’s name in a sing song sort of way and continue to do so until each player acknowledges the effort. I don’t know if this ritual was performed only in the old Yankee Stadium or if they still do it now? In any case, the enthusiasm reminds me of the little I know about Japanese baseball. Apparently, fans there try out to be in cheering sections and they play instruments.

I’m not too much into advanced baseball statistics and not because I’m not interested, but because I suffer from lack of math. But I do like the backs of baseball cards and baseballreference.com and there, I discovered that former Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter played in 158 post season games which interestingly winds up being like a regular season – 162 games. He banged out 200 hits in the post season and in the regular season he averaged 204 hits. That’s about as consistent as it gets.

I’d like to have this Jeter card. It’s a 1999 Bowman Early Risers. The yellow beams of light look a little like the Mohawk Nation Flag or at least the yellow beams do, less pointy, but still, both of them, emptying into a sun. It’s Jeter in that perfect follow through or maybe not perfect but one I became so familiar with from the highlight reel and watching him perform in the post-season. And the back of his card has more of those yellow beams of light angling towards a sun.


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baseball cards i have to have part 11 – origins

I never really contemplated the origin of the universe, never wondered if we evolved from apes or if God waved a magic wand and the first multi-cellular organisms abracadabra appeared. I did, however have a tree of life phase. I hoped to find out  where my ancestors came from. My mom steered me towards her Aunt, said she might know so I sent her a letter and my great Aunt Ruth called, left a message on our answering machine that said,  “YOU’RE FROM MILWAUKEE AND THAT’S ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW.”

Baseball has origins. The days of the Mills Commission insisting Abner Doubleday waved a magic wand and baseball was born no longer holds water. Now the consensus says baseball evolved from rounders and town ball, but wait a hair in the scientific soup bowl second. Last week I received two photos from a friend.

The one on the left appears to be from the Middle Ages and has women or men or maybe both playing what very much appears to be baseball! I like seeing that the fielders are playing 500 while the pitcher batter duel goes on, multitasking. The only words I recognize are pelota on the top inscription and lanta maria on the bottom. Pelota is Spanish for ball and lanta maybe has something to do with lancer which means to throw in French. Maria is well, Maria, that great pitcher during the early Latin years of baseball. I love her underhand knuckle spinner.

The other photo, a winter scene with a center fielder shading the batter towards right field, some sort of defensive shift based in part, no doubt, on way up north wind gusts. Could baseball have been born in Nunavut?

I’ve seen Inca relics where men are holding what appears to be a bat and another holds some resemblance to a ball. I think it’s time for a small series of cards called “baseball origins” or maybe one already exists? I mean the planets are shaped like baseballs and Saturn has those on-deck doughnut thingamadgegees that could very well be rings. They are rings! Baseball doughnut rings!!