brewers baseball and things


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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.

 


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i got some mail the other day

Spitball magazine is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the black sox scandal. They’re looking for submissions. According to their home page, they’re accepting poems, short stories, non fiction, just about anything so i thought i’d pass it on in case anyone was interested. Click the link and it will take you there or maybe I didn’t need to explain that; maybe it was evident? SPITBALL


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diamond therapy

It became kind of clear they didn’t want us there. The little darts came zooming in from every direction and they were loaded with some sort of sedative; knocked us on our ass, out cold. Lucky we weren’t carrying gold in our teeth or we’d be hubcaps in east St. Louis, gone and forgotten.

We woke up in an alley atop mattresses with springs jetting out, stray newspapers everywhere. Bottle caps galore, broken glass too, smell of a cat urine,  a little like Eucalyptus. We all rolled around a while, still recooping from the darts, fell back to sleep, cut my hand on a stray sardine can or maybe it was a dream? Sucked the blood for breakfast. It was real. Everyone else was hungry. It was way past sunrise. We were way behind schedule. Actually, we had no schedule. We had quit our jobs and settled on a life of nothing. This was day one.

Ghetto criteria came into full zoom and bloom…..the trifecta of a check cashing institution, a liquor store, and a holy site, church or otherwise, in this case, Luigi’s Mosque which happened…go figure, to be a former church. The front door had a ram for a knocker; made a loud thump sound. We let it loose five times before someone came to the door. There were three of us. We held out our hands, hoping for a falafel ball or silver coin, something, anything, but all we got was the pork-o-meter, a simple device, much like a metal detector. They x-rayed our ass or rather, read our entrails. We had no chance. The pork rinds and strips of bacon we had eaten lit up like bolts of lightning. The mosque master handed us each a bag of coins and flung us to freedom. 

We spoke with fake Arabic accents, but it was no use. We lacked the royal family gene so we sucked up some air and remembered the rumors about pay phones; how a few still existed at the bottom of Silendro’s shopping mall, and if you tapped the cap with a paper clip, you could win a dial tone, free of charge. I stepped into the booth first and liked the sit down position much more than the walk around, look important cell phone routine.

called the suicide hotline.

“Press one if you’re feeling like an overdose with Valium washed down with Whisky.
Press two if you prefer carbon monoxide poisoning.
Press three if you have a rope and are near a chin up bar or some other horizontal pole.
Press four if you have a bridge to jump from not too far away.”

This went on and on and if I hadn’t thought about suicide before calling, I sure did now, all the recordings and no actual human, but fittingly the reel of spiels ended on the ninth option. Nine…. like nine players on a diamond. I smashed the phone down, not out of disgust or hatred at the world. I did it for the sudden synchronicity over the number nine. I put my arm around my buddy’s shoulders and we walked to the liquor depot. We pooled our bags of coins together and bought a bottle of rot gut wine, Carlo Rossi, so big we needed a wheel barrow to lug it along.

Instead, we cruised by the junkyard and snatched up an abandoned stroller and then…..well….we strolled, a family of four…..the three of us and our baby bottle red tucked nicely in the stroller throne, a cherry king.  We drank and drank and we were lit up when we entered the diamond. I forget who was playing….high school or little league, maybe an Indy league team? It didn’t matter. It was relaxing.

We lived another day.


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post apocalyptic baseball starter kit

I had no idea what the rumors of Jose Abreu being traded to the Red Sox might do. I mentioned it Thursday morning as a work warm up and the lone Red Sox fan in our Montreal warehouse smiled a David Ortiz smile and then added,

“Wasn’t there another Abreu in baseball?”

“Yeh,” I said. “Bobby Abreu.”

“For the Cardinals?” he asked

“No, a couple of other teams, but mostly the Phillies,” I said.

“Oh yeh the Phillies,” he responded. “He was an Expos killer.”

I had no idea about Abreu being an Expo killer but I related to the horror because Reggie Jackson murdered the Brewers at County Stadium. I told my co-worker this. He paused and then said,

“We’re going to an Expos game one day.”

He might have been referring to the annual spring training games held at Olympic Stadium between the Blue Jays and some other team, but he said Expos. I could have asked him, could have made clarification my top priority, but I prefer riffing off someone any way I like, delusional as it may be.

So one day we were going to an Expos game. Hmmmm. Of course things would have to change. Typically baseball arouses ire rather than awe in Montrealers. They seem to use the sport as a springboard to deconstruct society and all its woes, maybe understandably so considering the Expos were stolen from Montreal and moved to Washington D.C.

Then there is a group that welcomes the idea of baseball back here, but only if there is a new stadium. They know exactly where to put one too, how much money it would generate, and so on. No one liked Olympic Stadium. No one does. This is nothing new. Even the Expos management didn’t like it back in 1975 when they promised major league baseball it was a temporary solution while a new stadium was built. We’re still waiting. But a new stadium wouldn’t solve Montreal’s problems. Sure, if you build one, people would come, but only for a year or two and then what? The newness of the fashion would fade.

I say forget the new stadium mentality. Start over. Take a new road. Mind you this is very much a work in progress. I’m no urban planner, but as a baseball fan in Montreal I can only tolerate so much Bobby Wine-ing. Here’s my nine cents…..

1) revive Montreal’s lost rivers from before the automobile highways aroused a strange desire in cement.
2) create blue prints to carve canoes from fallen trees, paddles too.
3) 
build real simple baseball diamonds all over the place, river to river.
4) organize teams according to old parish neighborhoods
5) open bars and diners near the diamonds.

6) organize baseball games.
7) don’t keep score.

8) stop the games at random moments and have players and fans breathe, feel the wind, make games longer.
9) make batting practice a city-wide every day holiday and let fans take batting practice after every game.


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winter meetings

I always assumed the winter meetings took place in warm climates. Well, I was wrong. They’ve been held all over the place including Toronto in 1979, Chicago in 1942, and a couple of times in Columbus, Ohio. There is of course no obligation to make deals of any sort. Owners, General Managers and whoever else sets up a booth at these things can do absolutely nothing. They can sit and glow at what some critics call a commercial mish-mash, advertising nightmare.

I wonder what kind of hallucinated beings Hunter S. Thompson would create at such a venue?

In 1967, the meetings were held in Mexico City to celebrate the Mexican League’s upgrade from Double-A to Triple-A. It was the first one held outside the USA. This year’s pow wow is in Orlando, Florida, December 9-13, and there might be a trade or two, a few free agent signings….fuel for a wintery day.

The Brewers are shopping for a pitcher to replace Jimmy Nelson who suffered season ending surgery last year. You could argue that he was one of baseball’s best pitchers over the last year and half. It’s not clear how long he will be sidelined for 2018. There are a few free agents to choose from if the Brewers decide to go that route, but I hope to beer mug heaven they don’t.

The last two pitchers we signed were total busts. The bad judgment began with Jeff Suppan in 2006. He was great for the community, a god fearing man no doubt, but he was also great for opposing team’s hitters. Then came Matt Garza in 2014. He’s been  injury prone and for the most part, another dud. Both Suppan and Garza were over 30 years old when we signed them to 4 year contracts. Ughhhhhhhh! 

The ultimate solution would be an in house one. They could convert Josh Hader, a left hander, into a starter. He was lights out as a reliever last year….68 k’s in 47 innings, 2.08 ERA. I don’t know how he was just slipped into trades, from the Orioles to the Astros to the Brewers? Maybe he was the bargaining chip? Whatever the reason, we got him now.

What about Brent Suter? He’s also left-handed and was very serviceable as a fill-in starter last season. I love his antics on the mound. he made every pitch seem like it might be his last. Very fidgety like watching Tug McGraw in a Brewers uniform. Sure, he labors, but he get outs…maybe more like a spot starter and a long reliever? There’s also hope that Junior Guerra will be healthy and regain his 2016 out of nowhere success. How does a guy 31 years old slip under the high-tech extra terrestrial scouting bureau radar? His baseball reference page barely fits on one screen.

Trades….I hear the Rays are looking to rebuild. The Brewers could go after their ace – Chris Archer. I’m drooling at this possibility. The Brewers won 86 times last year. A starter like Archer would put them over the top, help them win the division. I’ll put 20 bucks on this too. Trades have been “berry berry berry” good to the Brewers as Chico Escuela of Saturday Night Live might have said. We brought in CC Sabathia in 2008. He was 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA and we won the wild card. Then in 2011, we traded for Zack Greinke. He was 16-6 (11-0 at Miller Park) and we won the NL Central. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I prefer a big ol’ trade to a free agent signing any day of the work week.

I guess every winning team is a combination of drafted and developed players, astute trades, and smart FA signings. The trick is knowing the right balance. For the Brewers this is where big daddy Counsell comes into play. He has four kids waiting for him at home. I get the sense that he lets his players have fun, that this freedom is an extension of his playing days when he didn’t try to out stage anyone. He let people be. This bodes well for the Brewers. It already has.


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a love story with no beginning

Damien was the falcon nosed kid. I forget the color of his hair, but he could stare without blinking. He had pointy bones and liked to fight. He ruled the playground. I learned more about the history of the world from Damien, with all its divide and conquers, survival of the fittest, and begging for mercy than I did in the classroom. It wasn’t just Damien bashing in kid’s heads either. He knew all the books, especially the literatures and yet he talked so street talk colorful.

Damien had the golden tongue, but not the kind that put priests in a holy mood. He mocked and ridiculed. I often hid an extra 10 minutes under my blanket knowing i would have to face Damien’s music, that tongue of his. I never knew what he might say. Some days I slid a thermometer in my arm pit, waited for the mercury to rise and moaned to my momma. What a relief when she insisted I stay in bed.

One day Damien announced he was gonna be a field goal kicker. That changed everything for me because he needed someone to hold the ball and as it turned out, much to my surprise, he liked me.

“A place kicker ain’t no job for no shaky handed boy,” he said. “You’re one of dem’ honest types. I can tell. I can trust you.”

He said it would be easy. The only thing to worry about was the cold, but even that was curable with the big mittens and giant sideline heaters pro kickers used. 
We walked over to the university and tried our luck. He got pretty good. The longest he kicked was 35 yards. But then spring came and we started playing strikeout and forgot all about field goals and football. I guess we had attention deficit disorder. We learned it from the seasons.

But from then on we were friends. In summer, we got drunk in Damien’s basement. His dad had rigged up one of those makeshift bars, fully equipped with a neon “beer served” sign, a tap, and spirits under the rail. We drank whisky and went to girl’s softball games. We cheered for the first baseman. She was tall and skinny, a definite contortionist, perfect fit for a first sacker. Her name was Sabrin. Damien asked what happened to the “a’ at the end of her name. She smiled and whipped around 180 degrees. Her long blond hair spread out like a Japanese fan.

We made up songs about her, making sure to put a lilt in our voices so she knew we meant no harm.

Sabrin started to come over and talk to us between innings. She told us she liked digging her cleats into the dirt. She wondered if her cat enjoyed the same sensation when she scratched the carpet tower? I think her saying that changed Damien. He started asking her more and more questions. This went on for many days. He stopped picking fights at school. People were free to do whatever they wanted.

I was curious what had happened. So I mustered up the courage and invited Sabrin for a soda at the arcade. She said yes and then gave me one of those 180 degree spin arounds. Once again, her hair spread out like a Japanese fan. I think in that moment I already knew what had happened to Damien.

When Sabrin wasn’t on the diamond, she took to fixing things, mostly dishwashers and washing machines. She learned to take them apart and put them back together again. She did the same thing with herself and soon gave up first base and batting third and baseball all together. She turned her bats into bird feeder ledges and her mitt into a nest for her cat. She took her collection of balls and rolled them down a hill and watched them disappear.