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 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…..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 when 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 know 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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down at the pier

It’d been over 20 years since Zipper dropped out of school in the eighth grade, but he learned the Presidents and the backs of baseball card statistics, from Sisler’s .340 career batting average to Matt Stairs’ 23 pinch hit home runs and Zipper couldn’t hold it in. He invited the mailman in every day for a nip of whisky and when he had him nice and drunk, he began his song of names and numbers, from Richie Zisk to Carlton Fisk.

People on the street called him the Professor, Professor Zipper cause he never zipped it up. The simplest thing would trigger his reel of names and numbers, a horn honk, a bird chirp, or worst of all, a speed limit sign inspiring a recitation of all players who had stolen 30 bases and hit 30 homers in a season.

Zipper cut grass in the spring and summer months, plowed snow in the winter. He did this for 10 years and then one October, the leaves skipped their orange and yellow phases and disappeared into brown….. floating back to earth to be crunched underfoot by pedestrians walking around wondering why? That’s when a new idea, a compulsion took over Zipper’s mind – to commit armed robbery, and be sent to an 8 x 12 prison cell, award him some rest and relaxation a winter shelter, rent free, a chance to write that novel he had spinning in his head, something about his early twenties, those years traveling around the southwest selling life insurance.

Zipper never owned a gun, not one with bullets, only one of those gag guns that released a flag saying BANG when you pulled the make believe trigger, but he brought it along for the heist and it worked just fine. The cashier handed over some tens and twenties. Zipper smiled and pulled the trigger. The Bang flag dropped and the blond-haired cashier, still a teenager, laughed a belly aching laugh. She tucked some hair behind her ear, sighed, and smiled, a crush of sorts.

“Call the cops,” insisted Zipper. “Come put me in a head lock and I swear I won’t move. You’ll be a hero and me……well, don’t worry about me. I know what to do.”

And everything went as planned…..the arrest, the “you have a right to an attorney,” the charge, the court hearing, the sentence and six months in jail, a chance to write, uninterrupted, no distractions.

And then it happened or didn’t happen – the worst, most unimaginable curse. Zipper couldn’t write. It wasn’t anything physical, no splinters in his fingers or sprained thumb, more of a mental block. Any time he sat with pen and paper, no ideas came so he performed sweet lullaby equivalents, naming knuckleball pitchers one night and 500 homerun hitters the next….worked like a charm. He slept all day and night, awakening only for the three meals. He looked like a raccoon, bags under his eyes from too much sleep. Rumors abounded that Zipper could caste spells, that he had killed a man, gutted his body and ate all his entrails, used the bones to build baseball bats…..rumors, crazy, untrue rumors, rampant as always in the Sinkyshot State Prison….rumors that worked to Zipper’s advantage. People stayed away and six months of slumber passed.

The gates opened and Zipper was escorted to the exit which was the same as the entrance. He felt a surge of energy. He looked up at the sun and remembered where he was born – Jackson, Mississippi. He hitchhiked home in search of an old Civil War bunker, if there was one, to tap into the electric grid, eat at soup kitchens, loiter at libraries. He didn’t find a bunker, but he did stumble on an abandoned baseball dugout, three feet below the earth and so Zipper tried again with pen and paper, but nothing came so he strolled on and soon stumbled on a red Schwinn banana seat bike. He stood it upright, hopped on and peddled west, along the dirt trails and made it all the way to the Great Mississippi River where he let the bike free and walked along the river and came upon an old pier. The wood planks were rotted. There was a boat. Zipper ducked his head and climbed down the three steps into the cabin, another 8 x 12, he thought, but one in motion, the boat waving back and forth, the sloshing and slopping of water into the pier. It soothed Zipper. He sat down on the floor, pulled out pen and paper, again, but this time, words came….

The wind that summer blew towards the west, wilder than ever, so I followed it all the way to Taos, New Mexico. I bought an old sky blue Plymouth Valiant and landed a job selling life insurance. I road all over the state and discovered towns with neat sounding names – Las Cruces, Carlsbad, Ruidoso, and Santa Rita – birthplace of Ralph Kiner. There were mountains. I spotted my first road runner and will never forget that day when I took a detour and walked along Heron Lake. I listened to the water gurgle over rocks, saw a salmon jump and what if, I suddenly thought; what if, for just a short while, I suddenly feel happy, with all my worries blowing away like crunched leaves, dust and done. That’s when I heard the gun shots……


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bus station love

She went by the name Starfish. No one knew her birth name. She lived near a bus station. She loved to go there and watch all the hellos and goodbyes. But it was closed, had been for a month or more, quiet like a cemetery, even quieter, because there were no screams for the deceased, no robins chirping, no angry dogs barking, only the soft hum of refrigerators.

She slipped her hand into an oven mitt, walked to the station, and smashed the side door window. She reached around and unlocked the door. An alarm went off. She didn’t care. She walked to the photo booth, the kind with a curtain. She stood there nice and tall. That’s when she noticed a young man sitting at a table. She smiled with half her mouth. The other side was a flat line. She had no lipstick on her lips, no makeup at all. She had long straight black hair. It shined from the overhead fluorescent long tube yellow lights which for some strange reason were still on. They were the kind that housed moths in the hot humid summer months. She was wearing a long black blouse that extended down to her knees She had green wool socks jacked up under her blouse. The only flesh she flashed, other than her face, was some space over her wrists. She had skinny fingers.

The young man sitting at the table went by the name Lugnut. No one knew his birth name either. He didn’t need to break into the bus station. He was asleep in the bathroom, sprawled out in one of the stalls when they shut the operation down. No one noticed him. He’d been living there ever since, munching on bags of peanuts and Dr. Pepper, compliments of the snack bar, no charge. He sat at the same table that once housed kids eating french fries with ketchup on their cheeks. There used to be old men there too, reading newspapers and playing card games and every day a lady would file her nails, always the same lady, always at the same time, more reliable than a clock. But they were all gone and only Starfish and Lugnut remained.

There were some stray salt packets on the floor so Lugnut picked them up, ripped them open and watched the little white grains sprawl out on the table which happened to be black. He imagined endless galaxies of stars being born.

It was then that he looked up and noticed Starfish’s half-smile and wondered. He looked some more, this time at her long blouse. He figured she played the piano and lived with eight cats or something. His toes wiggled without any conscious effort. They wiggled on their own like they were stretching out after a real long hibernation or something. His spine straightened. He lost his slouch. He wasn’t used to that kind of freedom. He never wore cowboy boots or a superman t-shirt. He stood up and reached into his front pants pocket and pulled out a 1990’s Ken Griffey baseball card. He held it in his palm, looked at Griffey’s still-life-stand-tall relaxed bat pointed towards heaven and then he looked up at Starfish again.

She smiled with the other side of her face and then slipped out the same door she had entered.

Lugnut heard sirens nearing so he went back into the bathroom stall and sprawled out. He too smiled with half his face.


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becoming ben zobrist

Ender McFly knew there’d be Kit Kats. Been that way since he first landed on planet vending machine outside the local fire house. Four quarters was all it took to see one squiggle free from its metal bondage. He’d watch it through the plexiglass. Down it would go to that invisible pit. Push open the door. Grab it. Rip it open. Chew up and down the crunchy fretboard – Ender’s daily sweet escape.

Ender never lost a relative or a pair of shoes, but one day an empty Kit Kat row dropped him an “accept loss forever” misfortune and things got worse when he arrived home. The family was leaving their three-story Bellville paradise. No more sprawling red shag carpet bedroom, no more rows of baseball cards snaking like a train around the room. It was onward to a more urban setting – “Lower taxes and more opportunity to sell my crawl tub treasures,” promised his father, Dangit McFly. “No more restrictions on how high we grow our grass and don’t you worry, your mother will still make her Oxtail soup!”

Their were two kids – Ender and his older brother Mytopolis….Mighty, he with a chip on his shoulder, stood against the world for he felt he’d been spited as the first born, cursed, forced to learn “it” the hard way, to carve his own path, no older brother to hand down jeans and albums for him, no rolling that first marijuana cigarette, no buying beer. Mighty was on his own and he stayed that way, choosing to pay little, if any attention to his younger brother Ender.

Their new house was small, but featured a spiral staircase to a second floor. Ender had first dibs on bedrooms, him being the youngest. The family gathered in the kitchen. Ender took a deep breath and remembered that empty Kit Kat row. A tear fell from his eyes.

He picked the room at the top of the stairs across from mom and dad.

That left Mighty Mytopolis with the room all the way in the back, bigger than Ender’s’ and it had an outside porch too! Mytopolis could have explained the future to his younger brother, how he would one day want a big room and that escape route porch to freedom, but he didn’t care so he let Ender stay nice and tight beside mom and dad.

A few weeks later, Mighty slipped out to the porch as he always did. He slid down the gutter in search of trouble on his BMX bike, hockey stick at his side. Ender watched him from the front window and when he was out of sight, he went upstairs and tiptoed down the hall into Mytopolis’s new room. He smelled the sheets, tried on his big brother’s shirts and shorts, stared at the mirror and assumed Mighty’s tough guy pose. Then he perused the bookshelf and played the finger dive game – dropping his finger on random pages and passages and when that got boring he flopped on the bed and flapped his legs and arms – a snow angel equivalent. He did this for a while and then suddenly, felt stupid and sad so he stood up and raced to his own room

There, he closed his eyes and imagined roaming the new neighborhood, from 14th and Chestnut all the way out to 95th and Burnham, playing baseball at diamonds. He would meet Frankie Cheshire, a first baseman with an ear to ear smile, a Sean Casey disposition, friends with all, and then on to 47th and Keeper, he would meet Bullhead Bonders, a third baseman who would show him how to open a beer bottle with his right eye. A left fielder would follow, quiet as a lake, then a shortstop who would dance tango by himself, and then a right fielder who would go by the handle Tow and he would teach Ender how to switch hit.

Ender eventually drifted off to sleep and when he awoke the next morning, he had no thoughts of his brother. Instead, he clipped pictures from magazines he had under his bed. He found a Kit Kat advertisement and various trees and insects. He taped them on the walls.

Then he removed his deck of playing cards from his bedside drawer and glued them to the ceiling, in the shape of a baseball diamond, all nine positions, a designated hitter too. He lay flat on his back staring at the diamond. A smile came to his face.


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sympathy at the local watering hole

The outside sign had lost its luster, rain and snow outlasting wood and paint. There was a curve of what once was maybe an S, nothing but a mini crescent moon now. Arnold Heymaker didn’t really care, only the NEON in the window blinking OPEN did.

Arnold or Arn, as his landscaping crew co-workers called him, was a regular at the rail though he never talked. He often passed the bartender walking his dog up near the wood fence palisade that separated the apartment buildings from private homes, squalor from scented bathrooms. Arn didn’t reach down and say in a respectful little coddling voice…”nice little doggie.” No, he didn’t say a word because, as a kid, he was bitten by a Dalmation. He bought a piano later in life to slam the black and white keys, crush his fear of Dalmations, of dogs, but it didn’t do a damn thing. He crossed the street when a dog neared. The bartender never asked why.

Arn always tapped the bar’s wooden door four times before entering, a symbolic gesture of three bases and a plate, a cycle, a completion of one’s long journey, a return home, this watering hole, a place where he never had to speak because the bartender knew exactly what he wanted.

He slipped in quietly and doffed his green baseball cap towards the bartender. There was an elderly couple at the rail, right beside a man with a mustache and an afro bowl of curly hair. He held a slab of wood in his hand. It resembled an ass slapper used by teachers or priests of days gone by. It was a cribbage board.

Arn sat far enough away to not be invited into the game, but close enough to hear their talk. They skipped all formalities and slipped into a rumor about a preacher doing double duty as an A ball pitcher three towns over.

“He’s got it,” beamed the bartender.

“Not overpowering, I bet,” replied the man with angry gruff in his voice. “Has that pinpoint control, right?”

And with that he flung his cribbage cards in the air and abruptly ended the game. The bartender sighed, a reminder sigh to himself, that he’d seen this behavior before, a mask on a different face that signified – I’m drinking past bar time tonight.

Arn peeked at the card flinger, his slouched back somehow still sturdy on the stool, eyes staring at the tall bottles of booze below the mirror or at nothing at all, alone in his thoughts, gripping a Moosehead with both hands like it was a buoy, the same hands that probably once held a bat or gripped a ball, batter or pitcher, it didn’t matter. The dream had dried up.

But Arn could see with each ensuing sip this guy took, each gulp, and new bottle that he didn’t care anymore. His memories of whatever had happened were a ship fading fast into the horizon…..like a long ago girlfriend, revisited on only the drunkest of nights high on wine, but this guy didn’t go for wine and this couldn’t be about a girlfriend because he showed no interest in the jukebox beside the bathroom. He was a beer drinker and he had a job to do – get drunk, forget, and enjoy the nothingness.

Arn turned and faced the front. He noticed a stack of napkins and a glass filled with colored toothpicks. He thought about Steve Dalkowski, especially that minor league year Dalkowski walked 207 batters in 104 innings and also struck out 203, a hit or miss sensation, must have had every fan eager for the next pitch, to see if Dalkowski might throw one over the backstop for a souvenir and had every home plate ump wanting to cut out, retire early, and collect their pension.

Arn put both hands on the rail and wondered why the church hadn’t crowned Dalkowski patron saint of drunks? After all, the one-time pitching prospect who earned the nickname “white lighting” claimed to not remember a big chunk of his life, too much drinking the culprit, and yet, Dalkowski is still alive, 80 years and counting!

Arn thought about the car crash and what he’d lost. He turned his head shyly and looked at the card flinger a second time, then at the bartender. He cleared his throat.

“Bartender,” Arn said with a crackle in his voice, from lack of use. “A round of beer for all of us and three shots too.”

It was the first thing Arn had said in weeks.


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a little of that old pitchback game salvation

It happened so suddenly…..
this no more talk of resurrection and red sea crossings…
this no more bird chirp dawns of spring…
this no more kids playing whiffle ball in suburban backyards…
this no more spring training number 99 who? playing shortstop…
this no more violet bulbs on branches bursting a wild rush gush of green.

this crucible we’re in.

i got that worry, that paranoia. I bought a lot of food, but in my panic i bought spicy hot dogs that are messing with my stomach. i’m failing this test so i close my eyes and watch my body walk real slow, slide across the wood floor a sort of moon walk. Along the way, I pick up a rubber ball and slide some more, towards my bedroom wall. I stand on a makeshift mound, a stack of underwear or an old newspaper and I exhale nice and slow. I throw that rubber ball.
I’m Tiant’s 180 degree tango one pitch.
Fernando’s heavenly glance the next,
and then Pedro’s three quarter,
Dave LaRoche’s eeuphus,
Kent Tekulve submarine and so on…
Tim Lincecum’s cupped ball…..Brandon Woodruff over the top and holy crap he can hit too, whacked a home run off Kershaw in the 2018 playoffs and so I dream of a bat in my hands and long for a pitcher to bring it on and
suddenly i don’t know what time it is or what day and death doesn’t matter, for a few minutes anyway.


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a spring training thought

I don’t wonder about the origins of the universe, when and how it all started, things like that. Maybe I should. Maybe it would take my mind off my old, doomed jalopy of a body and the 8-4 work thing. But instead of philosophical ponders, I’d rather take a quick peek at one of the Brewer’s top prospects, pitcher Zack Brown, his last year minor league numbers, really bad, and then yesterday, see him pitch a scoreless, 2 strikeout inning in spring training against the Padres and wonder how his stats were so bad? He looked so good, fastball on the corners, not afraid to throw inside, and a backdoor curve ball. Reminds me of an imaginary world where Demitri Jayson hits three homers one afternoon and strikes out four times the next day. Elation and blues, crazy bi-polar seesaw universe, all of us with tons of potential…. enough to try it again tomorrow, another chance to tilt the scales.


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initiation

Maxie Masimo was five-years old when his father gifted him a pack of baseball cards. He did it without saying a word, hoping the subtle gesture, would spur his son a junkie habit.

Maxie unfolded the wax paper with one hand and discovered a rectangular stick of pink gum. He let his other hand hover over it like one of those mechanical arms aiming to hook a stuffed animal. He pinched the gum with his finger tips, brought it close to his face, squint his eyes, and sniffed. He examined it like an entomologist might do with a beetle. That’s when he noticed a white residue. His heart and stomach jumped for he knew it was sugar.

He dropped it on his tongue and bit. The piece cracked in half. He chewed. The pieces crumbled. He knew building legos took effort so he worked the scraps into a saliva flow and chewed and chewed and chewed. Only then, with the sugar fuelling his every move, did he remove the cards and let the wax paper float to the floor like a helicopter leaf.

He handled the small stack of cards and liked the feeling of the cardboard edges rubbing against his palms. He looked at the first card and tucked it under the stack. He continued until he’d seen all the cards. He never paid attention to the colors, the player names or what team and when he turned the card over to the backside, he overlooked the height, weight, place of birth, birthday biographical data. The other numbers didn’t impress him either. The cards were nothing but another toy, to be stashed among a pile of Mouse Trap and Erector Set parts. He tossed them, one at a time, and tried to get each card to the wall without it actually touching the wall.

Lightning and thunder and breakfast cereal still ruled Maxie’s world.

It wasn’t until a few years later, sitting in the TV room with his father and two of his father’s friends when something caught fire in the belly of Maxie Masimo. It was game 87 of the 86 game season, an extra affair because the Valentinos of Stackland and Cold Cuts of Beachwood were dead locked at season’s end.

The Valentinos scored five runs in the first inning and it was 5-3 heading into the bottom of the 8th when two men reached base, one by error, the other a walk. Then Tristan Trinkets launched a three run homer to put the Cold Cuts ahead for good.

Maxie watched his father and his father’s friend’s heads drop and shake. Every year the Valentinos came so close to winning the division and every year they found a new way to lose, one year the ace tripped over a sprinkler, the next year the left field slugger divorced his wife and quit baseball right in the middle of the pennant race! This year it was Trinket’s three run homer.

Maxie sat in bed that night. Couldn’t sleep so he squirmed out from under the sheets, ran towards the light switch, and flicked it towards the ceiling – the sky, he thought. The light went on. He walked among piles of clothes, towards the cards, and they were where they always were, scattered among other toys. He picked them up and cleared away an outfield grass equivalent.

He sat in the lotus position and for the first time, looked closer at the cards, at the colors and action and poses. He arranged them in order, first by name, then team, then position. He did it over and over again. At one point, he looked at the digital clock on the table beside his bed. It was 4 in the morning. He had never stayed awake that late.

At breakfast, the sugar frosted flakes didn’t seduce him. He thought back to the game and all that five run first inning euphoria and late inning plummet, all that joy and suffering, all that here and there, night and day, moon and sun and so on and he wanted to be a part of it, part of something bipolar bigger than himself. He brought the cards with him as he crawled back into bed after breakfast and fell immediately to sleep.


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thinking of Don Kessinger

Judah Muscovitz was a beggar by trade. He held midnight vigils – bonfires in garbage cans, burning yesterday’s newspaper blues. Flames waved free. He banged on the side of the can with a stick, and inspired by the beat, he chanted simple little ditties.

“In a horse’s hoofs and the sigh of a skipper.”

He knew baseball rules, from the infield fly to the subtle nuances of a balk. He knew all the names and numbers too, from Bruce Benedict to .367. He especially liked the way skippers paced and spit. It hinted of contemplation and design. That’s where Judah felt home, in the safety of his mind, chanting.

During one of his late night vigils, a young man approached. It was Adam Stronghold, a catcher on the local wood bat team. He lived in the dirt, both on and off the field. He never bothered to remove infield earth from under his nails or between his toes. They were a badge of honor. And he did more than push and shove during a bench clearing brawl. He kicked to the mid-section and landed punches. And when tensions mellowed and a runner on third dared to tag up and score, he blocked the plate like a sturdy, ancient wall.

Fans nicknamed him The Mustang Man for he often stood up from his crouch and flexed his biceps for all to see and at the plate he stepped out of the batter’s box and did a dozen push ups. He would have done more too had the umpire not told him “to get on with it.”

But he was more than a muscle show off. He had the wings of an eagle in the way he housed all his teammates and listened to their woes, a bartender soul. He carried their problems to bed and as a result didn’t sleep too well. He wandered one night north, the next night south, never the same streets twice, a practice to hopefully never see two days as the same and he never did. One day, Mustang Man thought about turtles and the next one, he wondered how butter was made.

It was during one of these late night walks that he stumbled upon Judah Muscovitz and since Mustang Man was never one to lack confidence, he strolled towards Judah and his garbage can vigil as if he were heading out to the mound to relay words of encouragement to his ace who had suddenly lost control.

The heat from the flame slipped quickly into Mustang Man’s heart. He joined Judah’s chant midstream like a school girl entering a jump rope revolution, round and round, trapped joyfully into forever. They chanted all night. Only when a trace of daylight appeared did they stop and sit down, on the curb.

“So you’re a ballplayer,” implied Judah.

“How’d you know?” asked Mustang Man.

“From the giddy-up optimism in your voice,” replied Judah, “That encouragement to the pitcher, to hit the target. I wish I had that kind of enthusiasm.”

“But your chants and these fire vigils, your faith in the bat-ridden nights!” said Mustang Man.

“I’m always in my mind, haven’t cried since…….I don’t know when,” whimpered Judah, his head down and shoulders slumped. “All I do is think and chant.”

“Why don’t you come and play with us,” encouraged Mustang Man.

Judah accepted the invitation and later that same day, he stood on the diamond and kicked around dirt. He pivoted to his right and left, making off balance throws from second base and short, panting and stretching, standing on his toes. It was as if a wound up tight top had been set free. Judah felt his heart beat like never before. For a change, he used his heart more than his head.

The Bemidji Bunyans had no second baseman so Judah was inserted into the lineup. There were seven ground balls hit his way that first game. He made all the plays and was invited back the next day. He stood flat-footed at the plate, waving his 32 inch Louisville Slugger. He poked singles past all the infielders.

A week passed, then a month. Judah still stood on second base. But he did more than field ground balls and bang out base hits. He didn’t forget his mind. He studied opposing batters and instructed his teammates where to stand. On offense, he suggested to redo the batting order. There were grumbles, but more than half the team agreed with Judah. Mustang Man called a meeting. A vote was taken.

The Bemidji Bunyans of the Wood Bat League made Judah Muscovitz the first player-manager in team history.