brewers baseball and things


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close call

The Brewers loaded the bases three times yesterday against the Mets.
They had runners on second and third two other times.
They had base runners in almost every inning in fact, and yet they could only score two runs.
It felt like the wasted opportunities would come back and bite them in the butt.
Then the Mets’ Wilmer Flores smashed a solo home run to lead off the 8th inning and suddenly it was 2-1.

Those wasted opportunities felt like giant 0cean waves roaring closer.
But then Brewers closer Corey Knebel whipped his 98 mph fastball, struck out two and holy mackeral, he now has 46 k’s in 26 innings.

The Brewers won 2-1 and all ocean wave superstitions were tossed out the window.
They head home to play the Dodgers  and well, it’s June 2nd and they’re in first place,
only 4 games over .500, but these moments are worth relishing.

An encouraging sign for the future is how many home runs (45) they hit in the month of April and how fewer (29) they hit in the month of May and yet, they kept winning.


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flick your bic for one more song

It’s 1954, Christmas Eve, in Boise, Idaho and all young Petie Squibbles can think of is the organ he hopes to find under the Christmas Tree come morning. The idea of an organ sort of came as a surprise. It happened in Boston a few months earlier.

Petie and his pops were on a trip out east, to Fenway Park, to see Jimmy Piersall and the Red Sox play and much to Petie’s surprise came the soothing sound of an organ blaring in from the overhead stadium speakers. From that moment on, he dreamed of having one to play in their Idaho basement.

Is this realistic? Did kids really long for organs the same way they did a few years later with guitars, after seeing Elvis or The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show?

Organs are an old instrument, dating back to Ancient Greece. Apparently they were water organs back then, whatever that is, but what gets me pumped is that they were predominately played during races and games as opposed to strictly religious ceremonies. That seems to set the later stage for sporting events.

The first baseball team to have an organ was the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on April 26, 1941 when Ray Nelson played the pipe organ. The following year, the Dodgers made Gladys Gooding at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn the first ever full-time organist.

Other teams soon joined in the organ fun. The sound added to the ambiance of the stadium and even enhanced the experience of watching the actual game. At some point the organists began to mirror the actions on the field, almost like DJ’s spinning appropriate records and in some cases sarcastic ones. They provided musical commentary. One of the more well-known was Nancy Faust of the White Sox. She would play the Paul Leka song ‘Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye’ after the opposing pitcher gave up a home run or was in jeopardy of being taken out of the game.

More than anything else, I find the organ to be a very relaxing sound. I have fond memories of hearing ‘Roll Out the Barrel’ during the 7th inning stretch of Milwaukee Brewers home games. That was back when they played at County Stadium.

The baseball organs disappeared with the arrival of new stadiums in the early 1990’s or maybe it was because of all the commercial music and other pre-recorded noises piped in. Thankfully, interest has revived and slowly, teams have brought back the organ including the Brewers at Miller Park.

I don’t know if kids really dream of owning an organ, but former pitcher Denny McLain once had one and he recorded an album ‘Denny McLain at the Organ.’ I like the tune ‘Extra Innings.’ Every time I play the song’s last notes and think the song is over, I am always surprised when those same notes repeat, a reminder of the beauty of Extra Innings, that once hooked and reeled in by a game, I never want it to end.

The song reminds me of a game I watched on TV. It was the longest game in major league history, a game between the Brewers and White Sox at Comiskey Park. It was suspended on May 8, 1984 and finished the following night. The Sox won 7-6 when Harold Baines hit a home run off Chuck “my bags please” Porter.

25 innings in all.
43 hits.
Tom Seaver got the win.
I love extra innings.
I love the organ.


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johnny finds a rose

it’s an early spring morning.
a pleasant cardinal tweet greets Johnny
but he wonders darkly instead.
if he were stranded in a small boat,
in the middle of a big ocean
with no signs of land,
no water to drink,
and no food to eat,
would he really care
that 37 games into this 2017 season
the Brewers were 20-17,
and had already hit 60 home runs,
most in the majors?
would he care?
maybe more than ever!

 


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the affectionate one

the thermometer hasn’t changed much recently.
makes the odds of a miracle seem low,

but then last night,
the Brewers were in Toronto for the Jay’s home opener.
the Brewers’ Domingo Santana was at bat.
i forget what inning,
but he stood there and took a bunch of pitches and fouled off a few more.
he does that often.
he looks like a bull fighter not the least bit impressed by the bull pitcher.
i forget how the at bat ended up,
but i felt warmer.
the Brewers won 4-3.


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pop corn seeds and Eric T

A few weeks ago when the Brewers non-tendered Chris Carter, I think they became the first team in major league history to non-tender the previous season’s home run champion. Carter hit 41 bombs in 2016 to tie the Rockies Nolan Arenado for the National League lead.

A few weeks after dumping Carter, the Brewers did something even weirder. They signed Eric Thames to a three-year contract. Thames spent the last three seasons playing in Korea. I listened to the press conference welcoming him to Milwaukee. Manager Craig Counsell admired the journey Thames had taken to play baseball and looked forward to his journey continuing in Milwaukee. Thames said the pitching in Korea was a lot slower and that it would take some time to adjust to major league velocity.

The transaction was very inspiring. I was almost tempted to drag my bat to the nearest batting cage and rig the machines late at night when no one was watching, take some swings, get up to snuff and try out for the Brewers first base job, but instead I’ll just dedicate the next two paragraphs to Eric Thames and his new life as the Brewers first baseman.

The grapes were bigger that summer. The newspapers blamed it on too much rain. Mr. Crimkins said it was all the dogs licking trees and bushes, spitting nutrition into the fruits, he insisted. Eric T stuffed a handful in his pockets,braved the steps in three monster leaps and stole away into the basement. That’s where he enjoyed the next few months of his life, sitting down there among a bat collection. He had all kinds of bats – yellow birch, hickory, ash, maple, all sizes too and all kinds of players – Lyman Bostock, Ned Yost, Pepper Martin, and Rob Picciolo, just to name a few.

Eric T entered into a zone after leaping down those basement steps. It was like incense fumed in his head or a siren sounded. It was a call to attention –  to work out the kinks of his stance – Cooper crouch or spastic Morgan twitch or maybe both and that holy trinity of medicine – spit, swing and swat grapes and popcorn seeds every which way.

Yes, he had popcorn seeds in his pockets in addition to grapes and he spit them both out his mouth; hit them hard too, so hard, that Eric T dreamed up wine and popcorn afternoons, but more importantly was the repetitive motion. It quickened his wrists and smoothed his hip tango gyrations.

Eric T. rose from the basement into the full bloom of the 2017 season and in early April showed signs of swat and being selective too. His on base percentage hovered near .400 for a while and little by little, Brewers fans forgot all about Chris Carter’s 41 home runs.

 


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just another winter day

the elder john and grandpa joe discussed death related matters,
wills and who should inherit that Gorman Thomas broken bat with barrel still intact
and what about all those Topps doubles from 1977 and 1978?
all those books and pennants, posters and Cecil Cooper’s wrist bands?
and should they be cremated or buried in street clothes six feet under?
when all of a sudden Grandma molasses had an idea – to be buried under Busch Stadium in a secret catacomb, to haunt all future Cardinal teams. Everyone laughed including the two kids in the room. They couldn’t a been more than 12 years young. That’s when Grandma molasses announced that she wasn’t cooking lunch that day – a cue to Elder John to lead the parade out the door to the Esmeralda Pharmacy that did double duty as a diner. That’s where they continued to discuss death related matters, scribbling makeshift wills on napkins. Everyone tossed in ideas and came to life, including the two young boys who shared a steak and eggs breakfast.


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face lifts and Kimchi

The Brewers have been emptying the cupboard of everything except Ryan Braun. He’s the only player that remains from the 2011 team that reached the National League Championship. This is nothing out of the ordinary. It’s what teams do when they decide to rebuild. Trade players before they become free agents. Trade them when their value is high and get some prospects in return who very few fans have ever heard of.

Khris Davis, Carlos Gomez, Jonathan Lucroy, Mike Fiers, Martin Maldonado Jean Segura, Jeremy Jeffress, and Wil Smith are all gone, so is Chris Carter. The Brewers signed him last year and he did everything they expected and more. He hit 41 home runs, tied for the National League lead. He also led the team in RBI’s with 94, but he struck out a whopping 206 times and hit .222, but then again the year before in Houston, he hit .199. People say he is a friendly, good clubhouse kind of guy and on TV he looks like one,  but friendly doesn’t win pennants. Eric Thames does. Eric Thames? Shortly before or after the Brewers handed Carter a pink slip, they signed Eric Thames.

Thames spent the last three years playing in Korea where he hit a ton of home runs. He said in the press conference that he would need a little time to adjust to major league pitching because it’s so much faster than the Korean League. The numbers Thames put up as a member of the NC Dinos of the Korean Baseball Organization are whiffle ball high. He hit .348 over the three-year span with a .450 OB% and a .720 slugging %. In addition, apparently the stadiums in Korea are very hitter friendly.

It’s a crazy move, not quite Sidd Finch, but compelling enough to make opening day 2017 seem even more interesting.