brewers baseball and things


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catching foul balls

i guess you could make an analogy of seats at a stadium to class structures.
box seat bourgeoisie
proletariat grandstand
blue-collar bleachers and so on.
i’m probably messing up the terms.

County Stadium Milwaukee had its red seats and green ones,
upper and lower
box and grandstand
each had a number that matched the ticket.
row-seat-aisle.
like a private property chair,
until the last out anyway.

then there were the bleachers.
there were no private seats there.
i guess you could say it was communism,
all of us sharing space on wood planks,
we could see outfielders up close
and catch home runs too.

one of the first games i ever went to was with my older brother.
it was the Brewers against the Twins,
the year Carew flirted with .400.
we were in the upper grandstand.
a foul ball came there.
it pinballed around and disappeared.
we ran in its general direction, but couldn’t find it.
then this older guy reached down under a red seat and snagged it.
up went his arm.

another time, i was in the lower grandstand with my dad.
i forget who was batting,
but they hit a towering foul ball.
it was coming our way.
i cupped my hands together and watched it ricochet off the mezzanine.
arms went up all around me,
all kinds of arms.
I felt like a midget looking up at a levitating octopus.
the ball somehow eluded those arms and fell into my hands.
it had a black scuff mark on it from the 
mezzanine.
I had caught a foul ball.

i wish i could say i kept score of games or
studied the graceful gazelle like strides of Robin Yount or
clumsy back tracking of Ben Oglivie or
Gorman Thomas’s shaggy hair.
i wish i could describe in microscopic detail how each seat provided a different vantage point,
but where i sat never mattered.

i was just glad to be at the game or because ummmm…..
there was always a chance.

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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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battered bastards of baseball

One of the criticisms of minor league baseball is that teams are under the watchful eye of Big League Daddy. Players are called up to the next level on short notice. What was once a good team turns it into a not so good one. On the one hand, it makes for a unifying force with all affiliates aimed at the big league level like Santa’s little helpers. But how  can a team or a city for that matter build anything under such insecurity?

There were The Milwaukee Brewers of the AAA American Association. They  changed affiliates a number of times, but played from 1902-1952 at Borchert Field in Milwaukee. The major league Brewers of today took their name from that team and their beer barrel chested mascot as well. Only the colors changed.

Some fans opt for the Indy Leagues. There are currently nine Independent baseball Leagues scattered across the USA and Canada including two teams in Quebec. There are three more that play in the winter and a new league – The Southwest League to start up this April. In the early 1970’s the number of Indy leagues had dwindled down to zero. Then something happened in Portland, Oregon. It’s been made into a documentary, Jim Bouton included. It delves into this topic of Indy leagues versus minor leagues and much much more.

If you haven’t seen it, it’s available on Netflix (the internet TV network) and youtube, for the time being. I say time being because many vintage baseball games and programs have been taken down due to copyright violation issues. 


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towards mount olympus

i don’t know why i liked harold baines.
he began his MLB career with the chicago white sox.
i lived in milwaukee and rooted for the brewers.
brewer fans and white sox fans sometimes brawled and yet,
I liked Harold.

the white sox games were on channel 32 WFLD.
i watched Harold’s name on the scoreboard at comiskey park.
it was broken up into syllables.
HAR…………OLD
a ball bounced above each syllable.
fans responded by singing,
HAR………OLD.

a friend of mine called Harold “fish face” and yet,
i liked Harold.

I met Harold in spring training.
he signed a ball for me,
but never cracked a smile, never even looked at me.
he was talking to a man dressed in a suit with a beard but no mustache.
i remember it being very strange.
i had never seen Amish people on a baseball diamond.
i had never seen Amish people at all.
looking back now,
there was great variety in that.

reporters called Harold the dullest interview of all time
and it’s true he was more placid than a peaceful lake.
shortstop Ozzy Guillen said he drove Harold up to milwaukee
and the only words Harold said the entire trip were at the very end
“thank you” and yet,
i liked Harold.

he lifted his front leg.
people called it japanese-esque,
but i didn’t know anything about all that.
he often looked sad like he didn’t want to play and yet,
i liked Harold.

he hit a lot doubles – 488.
that tied him with Mel Ott and Jeff Bagwell for 73rd all time,
he hit a lot of home runs – 384 including 13 grand slams and 10 walk-off blasts. i watched one on tv.
it was against the Brewers.
it was the longest game in baseball history-25 innings.
Harold hit it off the Brewer’s Chuck Porter.

on the back of his 1981 Topps baseball card,
it says,
“was first noticed by white sox as a 12-year-old playing little league ball.”
maybe that’s why I liked him?
since i was 12 when I first held that card in my hand….

I later learned that Charlie Lau worked with Harold.
i knew Lau from the movie Max Dougan Returns.
i loved that movie.
so maybe that was it?
maybe that’s why i liked Harold?


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why i sort of hate history…

game five of the 1982 ALCS
county stadium
milwaukee
i was there
and yet,
I don’t remember a damn thing about the game
not the bark of the vendor, the smell of beer,
or fans running onto the field.
memory is so damn elusive.
nothing but flashes
a dizzy slide show.
only a familiar smell slows it all down,
turns it into an old film
but only for a few seconds.
maybe I don’t want to remember?
maybe I block it out because it’s gone and that makes me sad.
then joe charboneau pops into my head and
just like his name (charbon in french is coal)
there’s fuel.
suddenly, i’m grateful that my memory sucks.
i write this poem.
it forces me to focus on my life right now
that this is all i got.
just this….
the sound of a dumpster flap opening and closing in the breeze,
a walk to work,
some 8-4,
a homeless man begging for a change,
the smile of the post office cashier,
wordpress,
the seasonal discussion of baseball returning to montreal…..


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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.