brewers baseball and things


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a Krukian way

I guess Rawly asked for it, striking up conversations with strangers in bus cabins, especially a Jew in full costume dress – a Daniel Boon looking hat minus the tail, black blazer and slacks, white buttoned down shirt, knotted strings dangling down from both sides, full beard.

“What’s that you have on your head?” asked Rawly.

“A shtreimel,” he said.

“Sounds like a pastry,” replied Rawly in the best of ways.

The man laughed, so did Rawly.

“What’s your name?” asked Rawly.

There was a pause, a throat clear, shuffle of the feet, and then,

“My name is Shlomo.”

This was followed by another pause, some rubbing of the hands, a deep breath and….

“Do you know why I pray?” asked Shlomo. “You might think it’s stupid and useless since a bus could hit us any second. Snatch us up. Take a 7-year old as easily as a 70-year old, man or woman, good or bad, random.”

Rawly started to yawn, but kept the caffeine course, in case he ever got his chance against what was beginning to sound like a crusade, strange for a Jew, Rawly thought. They usually keep to themselves.

“I pray,” Shlomo continued, “Because there is a next life in Judaism, the transmigration of souls, the gilgul, souls moving from one body to the next. Everything we do is preparation for what we become.”

Rawly had heard of Hanukkah, dreidels, Woody Allen and some old Jewish prize fighters and oh yeh, he knew about Jews being kicked out of Spain and Russian, the Holocaust, and so on, awful tragedies, but Jews and reincarnation? That was for Hinduism or Buddhism or one of those isms.

Rawly took a deep breath and during the inhale, an orange smell invaded his nostrils, aroused a memory of two Torah Junkies sneaking a peek through a Brooklyn Bar window to catch some baseball playoff action.

“Twitchell,”  Rawly said, as in Wayne Twitchell the pitcher. He clapped his hands like a bleacher creature does during a towering fly ball, that orgasmic release of a long ball so near. He did this when he knew his objective was a bulls-eye, in this case, to transfer Shlomo’s religious fever to baseball.

Rawly had become a crusader of his own, a bit hypocritical, but he kept the baseball missionary course, and quickly made some ripples. Shlomo began to doven right there in the bus cabin, back and forth, mumbling in some undecipherable tongue, eyes nearly closed, some sort of defense? A protective measure? A fence to keep Rawly, the outsider away?

“Ron Jaworski,” Rawly sang, thinking the ‘ski’ at the end might remind Shlomo of Poland and the wonderful Yiddish culture that thrived there for hundreds of years, to bring him back into the conversation. Then he threw in an Otis Birdsong, the last name sounding like a psalm, followed by an Eastwick to honor the pitcher Rawly was named after and then Bill Nahorodny and Biff Pocoroba,” the names strung together…..Jaworski-Birdsong-Eastwick-Nahorodny-Pocoroba a sporty equivalent to the endless cast of Biblical characters.

And what do you know, Shlomo rubbed his beard; his back went straight, no more dovening back and forth, no more mumbling. His eyes no longer squinted either. He pulled out a bible, a “Torah” he called it, and thumbed to something called Ecclesiastes and began to read, not mumble, but read, real loud and clear. The others in the cabin made exodus. Rawly stuck it out, good thing because with the words BE MERRY, he perked up and remembered he had a half-dozen John Kruk cards stuffed in his back pocket.

Kruk to Rawly epitomized the state of being MERRY. He scratched his palms, tickled them to make sure this was all real. When he felt something, he knew the MERRY and KRUK was more than a coincidence so he removed the cards and spread them out like a Japanese fan. Shlomo looked on with a smile.

“Why don’t you and I go to tomorrow’s twi-night doubleheader,” Rawly suggested, almost insisted.

“What’s a doubleheader?” asked Shlomo.

The bus arrived. Passengers boarded. Rawly and Shlomo stayed.

“This bus cabin is like a dugout” Rawly said.

“A cave,” replied Shlomo , “The place where Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his son Elazar dwelled for 12 years, surviving on carobs and water, studying and praying all day.”

It was time for Rawly to discuss Tony La Russa’s experimentation with pitching staffs.

Another bus came. Passengers boarded. Rawly and Shlomo stayed.

Rawly handed three Kruk cards to Shlomo. It was his turn to talk.

Back and forth they went.

All they were missing was a fiddle and a harmonica.

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a love story/addiction with a happy ending

It happened at McDonalds, probably from the salt or grease or maybe that’s the same thing? It was the Egg McMuffin, hashbrown in the envelope, and coffee. I felt orgasmic elation while chewing and swallowing. I did it often, at least once a week, a religion of sorts. I was hooked and every final chew and swallow made me feel miserable and alone. I wanted more and more and when that craving seeped into the post breakfast hours, I knew I had a problem so I went to the Problems Center and stated my claim.

“McDonalds,” I said, “The Egg McMuffin to be more specific and those hash browns in the sleeve.”

“Next” said the intake counselor, shooing me off to the side and out the door. They apparently expected alcoholism, a mental disorder or drug addiction. I felt even worse than when I entered, more alienated and alone like my problem didn’t exist.

But I still had my baseball cards to manhandle, to store and stack in violent spurts, to fling against the wall, to go all Mussolini on and in the process purge my demons or at least take my mind off salt, thanks to the sugar-coated piece of cardboard rectangular gum inserted in each pack. Dealers would be no doubt be around every corner, in drugstores, pharmacies, five and dimes, ma and pa’s, just like the old days. For 50 cents, I could quickly slip into the wax pack daze again….726 or 792 cards to complete a set, enflaming my already off the charts obsessive compulsive disorder, but a cure for boredom, a fuck you McDonalds and your salt. I would have something bigger and sweeter – sugar, baseball cards. I would be released into something else, into a cardboard craze like when I was a kid.

My favorite card of all time was a Topps 1980 Gorman Thomas, favorite not because he’s squatting on the grass, bat aimed down, donut at the end, Gorman with that golden lion look, the handlebar moustache, long hair, and ready to go, ready to face anyone attitude…..all that’s cool, but it was my favorite card for a different reason, favorite because I couldn’t get it.

I bought up the whole fucking Bears Pharmacy, wasted all my paper route money and still no Gorman and I was growing up in Milwaukee at the time, weird, no Topps regional loyalty. I got every other card in the set, but no Gorman. The summer passed and eventually I got it, don’t remember much more, other than standing on cement and feeling a sense of relief.

That was a long time ago, but the cure was real. Why not today? Because something happened to the hobby. I don’t write for the economic herald so I won’t even begin to try to unravel what went down. The only thing I know for sure is that more sets were introduced and the price of cards went way up. Fast forward even more years and some cards are available only on-line and only during a short window of time. A clever idea to immortalize a moment, but what the hell can you do with a digital card?

The other day I get an email from a friend. He lives in Vancouver, Washington. He sent me an article about a baseball card bunker paradise. Some guy is opening up a vault and charging people a percentage to store their cards for that futuristic day when the cards will be worth something.

I’m more communist than anything else, not the corrupted version, but the kind that gives everyone healthcare, taxes the rich more than the poor and so on. I don’t like this bunker baseball card idea. It screams of more baseball cards as an investment. I get the idea of preserving the cards as historic relics like cave paintings or ancient Mesopotamian texts. I guess the investors with glass do just this but at what cost? I thought the fun was buying massive amounts of cards, trying to complete sets, trading on street corners if need be, and yeh, they might get damaged, but let me ask you a question…

Would you rather have a hoe stained by saber-toothed tiger blood or a hoe in perfect condition?

There must be a balance between private vaults perfection and Jefferson Burdick who not only invented the number system on the backs of cards, but didn’t protect the cards in sleeves or plastic. He did the adult equivalent of cards stuck in spokes and flipping them against the wall, as they should be maybe because nothing really lasts forever unless people want to go all mummy like and be buried with their cards. Hey that’s not a bad idea, not to be mummified with the cards, but bury them in a suitcase for some future gang of kids to discover. But then they’ll take them inside and mom and dad will say,

“Hey those might be worth something.”

Ah screw it, I’m going to buy an egg McMuffin for breakfast.

 


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bored revisited

You might remember the previous post on this site. For christ sake, i wrote it yesterday, a wordpress binge I guess. The post was called bored and so naturally or synthetically since this is a blog and we can’t see each other, the follow up post is called bored revisited. It aims to answer one specific question – why did do the Suicide Crew love Domingo (Sunday) Santana so much?

Well, we got hold of Hankus Pinyata, one of the founding members of the Suicide Crew and he revealed the reasons.

1) Sunday Santana showed no emotion. He dragged his bat to home plate. He could put a stadium to sleep.

2) But who cares about charisma, wearing woes on your sleeve, and all that. Jesus already died on the cross. In 2017 Santana demonstrated tremendous opposite field power….tremendous!

2) He also did a damn good Mike Hargrove imitation, messing with pitcher’s mound mind to the like of 4.10 pitches per plate appearance, good enough for 24th in all of baseball.

Yeh sure he slumped in 2018 but what the hell did the Brewers expect? They forked over their top prospect to get Christian Yelich and signed Lorenzo Cain…..good moves, great moves, took them to the brink of the World Series, but a big screw you to Santana’s 30 home runs the previous season.

He filled in for an injured Yelich in April, but struggled, was sent to the minors, got called up and served as a damn good pinch hitter, big hits in the playoffs too, an over simplification for sure, but the Brewers wanted more flexibility so they traded him to Seattle for a player with the last name Gamel. Sound familiar? It should. He’s the younger brother of the Brewer’s former top prospect Mat Gamel whose career slipped into Indy League oblivion due to injuries. But this new Gamel can apparently man all three outfield positions and work a count too.

Either way, here’s to you Domingo, you were here and now you’ll be there, in Seattle. The Suicide Crew will be watching and know that nothing lasts forever, everyone destined down the drain, Ted Williams came and went, Tony Gwynn too….


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bored

One witches tit-booger freeze-dead of winter day, they slipped into their avocado boots and ducked down into the subway catacombs. There were four of them. They arranged it that way…four corners…..Fuck Bi-Polar. They were Quatro-Polar.

They called it Operation Flipskin.

The subway stretched into beautiful darkness in both directions, east and west or maybe it was north and south…left and right. It didn’t really matter. On one side sat the Suicide Crew angling towards that beautiful infinite tunnel and trailing behind them, following them like flies on shit were the doting mothers pleading with them, begging them to not do it.

The Suicide Crew didn’t envision a hanging or a slit wrist, nothing self-negating like that. Their gumption, as old as Egypt, was more out of curiosity, to see, to finally know if there was anything else. They’d read and heard the slap stick, soppy sentimental, overwrought poetic, arduous scholar and it was all good, if not great,  but they wanted more.

Booze helped. Weed did too or maybe it hurt. Who knows? They didn’t. They were the Suicide Crew. They didn’t know shit except one thing – to stand up from their subway squat and flee the herd of mothers trailing them like scraps around a toilet’s ring refusing to flush. And when they finally moved, an amazing thing began to happen, a little like violet bulbs appearing on branches in spring. Last requests rose, initially only as blips on their mind’s radar, but then mushrooming into a blue print plan to walk, splashing through sewer water and above and then below again.

The weep and wails of mothers echoing in the subway chamber began to fade fast. The Suicide Crew marched on, towards Peoria, Rockford, Beloit, Janesville, and parts unknown, all the way to Milwaukee, home sick as they may be; they made it, upturned sewer cap and all, right there, they arrived in front of the Historical Society on some such downtown streets and what a surprise to find a plaque commemorating the birthplace of the American League, the words chiseled forever or until water wears it all away.

“On the night of March 5, 1900….” and so on, a bunch of bigwigs including Connie Mack and Ban Johnson met to flip off those self-righteous National League bastards and establish their own league.

The Suicide Crew had new life and despite the Brewers not being in the American league anymore and trading away their favorite Brewer – Domingo Santana = Sunday Santana in Spanish and so they crawled back down through the sewer hole to where the rats roamed and wondered how Santana had done in his short career on Sundays, a stupid trivial ponder that the metrics people would mock, but The Suicide Crew didn’t care because they were drunk on canned heat. They, like Santana were heading west, to reach the cactus before spring training.

 


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wine, whisky, beer

i’m drinking to Harold Baines tonight; heck i’m drinking to him right now. he was always my favorite player. i loved his swing and high leg kick and amazing arm in right field, maybe not the best range but he had a big glove so that helped. . I even had a jersey made of him at Merle Harmon’s fan fair…..the number 3 and BAINES on the back, not the classic black and white pajama uniforms which i loved but the ones after, kind of boring in comparison, just a banner across the breast with the letters SOX spelled out. Good old placid midwest Milwaukee. No one said a thing about me wearing a white sox uniform.

Anyway, he’s in the HOF now and well, i don’t really care, in or out, like a belly button, don’t matter to me. I’ll still love his humble attitude. Ozzy Guillen said the two of them once drove from Chicago to Milwaukee and Baines didn’t say a word and what about all his game winning rbi’s! When did they stop keeping that stat? I remember him having lots of them. Then there’s him as a DH, countless at bats, years and years worth of at bats, all that idling, all that being stuck on pause, no picking your crotch talking it up defense to forget about striking out with the bases loaded or whatever.

I find life’s riddle, sometimes anyway can be solved by keeping busy and what does a dh do? Watch film of pitchers? Do a crossword puzzle? Pick their nose? There’s no option of running around the block or working an 8-4 or writing a novel unless you’re Jim Bouton or Brosnan but they were pitchers. Cut off your eye brows? A DH sounds both boring and hard. Baines did it and hit well or well enough.

The experts talk about WAR, about the WAR of Baines being way below HOF caliber and it’s all well and good and I believe in their genius, in quantifying player performance thorough multiple variable analysis and making worthy comparisons. I guess that’s why the Reutenshell Analysis Center has announced that from now on, HOF inductions will be determined by a machine. You enter a piece of paper with a player’s name into a fully updated modern machine with all the statistical equations. You wait a few whistling seconds and presto out comes a verdict –  yeh or neh on the HOF, is the player in or not? No more ceremonial speeches, no more debate, no more intangible discussions, just cold hard stats.


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Waylon Wipple

Glen mentioned he liked the quirky stories I used to write. That made me feel both honoured and home sick for those stories. So I thought I’d give it another try to see what happens. I don’t know if this is quirky or good for that matter, but I had fun writing it.

Thanks Glen.

There were side armers, subterranos, herky-jerks, clean dirt off a cleat with a popsicle stick typo types, Luis Tiant wield around dervishes…all sorts of motions, more flavours than the local ice cream shop….. all attempting to seduce scouts so they’d fix on eye on them, take a second look, get them thinking between sips that yeh this guy can get big league hitters out, one day, some way.

I met Waylon when he was tending bar. I forget the year, the month, the day. Forgive my lack of GPS but I was on a binge. Waylon was well-known around town as the quickest, most accurate drink maker in the west or at least in Saskatchewan which was saying a lot because Saskatchewaners liked to drink in a lowest common denominator sort of way, that is, if math does to your mind what pop rocks used to do to a mouth, one of those universal volcanic explosions….yes, drinking is habit and a pastiime enjoyed by most unless Allah rules your roost or Doctor so and so points his bad breath at you and says, “You Drink-You Die.”

Waylon tended an old man’s bar. Drinkers broke the rules of decency, ogling teenage girls and old grandmas alike, but they also showed ambition. They longed to see Waylon step out of the cinema of being a bartender and join the old men rascals..carouse a bit.. to do what cocaine dealers are encouraged never to do…..

DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES SNIFF THE MERCHANDISE.

Do not get high, hooked and screw up the entire operation. And so Waylon kept the course. He slid drinks with eight ball corner pocket accuracy across rail and table alike. He never needed a notepad to jot down the chicken wings and ginger whisky spritzer orders either. His mind was inside of a lawn mower sharp and when he wasn’t catering to sorry souls, he sat tucked away in the Jimmy Leyland corner chain-smoking and putting to memory what most people never even thought about.

But one hot sticky swimming through yogurt humid night, he fell from isolation chamber grace.  He fell hard. At the time I was on my binge. I had no idea what caused him to look for answers in the bottle of a Jim Beam bottle but thank God or the Devil he did and thank God or the Devil I was there because somewhere between bar time and those lights going on and the last straggler falling to the floor, Waylon rolled up his sleeve. A rare event. He always wore long sleeves and pulled them down over his hands making it kind of impossible to prepare drinks, but he did it, somehow. If anyone asked, he said the cuffs were like wings to him. “Do you want your drink or not!”.

Rowdy Tellez is currently a first baseman for the Blue Jays. I swear on the beauty of Rowdy’s name that Waylon revealed a web for a hand that sticky and summery night. So there I was staring, ogling at an old man’s bar but not at some fleshy waitress or old man drooling cigar juice from his half-open, stroke induced jaw, but at Waylon Wipple’s web of a right hand, all the fingers and thumb joined together by flesh. The questions gushed through me. How did he tend bar, all those quick and accurate drinks and how in the Urban Shocker did he play baseball? He had mentioned being a pitcher and being pretty good at it too.

I couldn’t resist. I called scouts, knowing a webbed hand would make a Grizzly Adams beard or a side winder look Beaver Cleaver innocent. The scouts organized a gathering at the local field. They came like salmon spawning in spring or fall or whenever they lay their eggs and Waylon grew fast, tore up the league or tore it down with K’s galore. He held the ball in his webbed hand, not much of a grip and easy to detect, but by nature, by some freak of nature, his supposed handicap, that ball merged with the wind and curved and dropped and screwed in ways no one had ever seen before…fork ball, knuckle ball, screw ball, fast ball……it was time…..web ball.

I started to jog, mostly through wooded areas, a fertile place to wonder when some carny hand helper, a low squatting muscle man, one who wields a hammer and sends the puck skyward…..when would he switch professions and reach those fences and in doing so spark the seesaw of pitcher versus batter once again.

 

 


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the little i know about samurai

I’m not much of a movie buff, but i love movies. I love being swallowed into one, really escaping. Then when the credits roll and the post movie music quiets down, I have to face the other music…the crud in the corner of the kitchen, cobwebs on the ceiling above the bathtub, that annoying co-worker, work in general, anxiety, depression, then a smidgen of joy, bills, writers block, the thought of dying, of having to be there when we die, the thought of family members dying, of having to endure that. This brings me to my point or to that movie – Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai.

At some point during the film, it says something to the effect of imagine your being eaten by dragons, falling off a cliff plunging to your death, being hit head-on by a speeding train….imagine any other assortment of tragedies, …this is apparently the way of the Samurai. You go beyond being ready to die; and actually die, sort of, I guess, I don’t know or maybe it’s only a movie? But I like it.

His name wasn’t pencilled into the line up card. He wasn’t even listed on the roster. One of his cleats was missing. There was spray paint on his locker spelling out “stupid faggot.” There was a notice to see the manager. He was being sent down to A ball, not AAA or AA, but A ball, to work out some issues with his swing. Things would be reassessed in September when rosters expanded.

Vegetables were where his jock straps usually were. His suitcase smelled like a compost bag. He took the bumpy bus ride to Hammy Point, but the manager there knew nothing of his reassignment. He had no space for him on the roster and kindly asked him to leave the premises. Hammy Point had outlying farms, mostly apples and pumpkins, good timing for the season neared. He walked close to 15 miles, not that anyone was counting. He had time on his hand and as he walked, he shed his previous dreams and aspirations and stared out at all the nothingness.