brewers baseball and things


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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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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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a visionary dud or?

On a good day after work, I take deep breaths and walk home slowly. It’s paradise. I inhale bus fumes and see amputated trees. It’s been that way for 10 days now….tree stumps on apartment lawns. Makes me wonder if a man in a cape will swoop down at night and turn them into gnomes? Or maybe they’ll be picked up by a shredder truck and turned into pulp?

I hadn’t given these stumps too much thought until I sat down and started to write about them. Maybe the city cut the trees so the overhead electric wires will have more room, in anticipation of freezing rain this winter? Or maybe the trees have been diseased and had to be removed to not contaminate the other trees? Or maybe I’m the chosen one and it’s my duty to gather up all this wood and begin construction on a new baseball stadium? Of course, stadiums aren’t made of wood anymore, but I would be part of a new nation, a chosen nation, that comes together, a nation of warriors, wood gatherers, and millioners….together as one people to get people off their anti-baseball asses. There’s too much culture in Montreal anyway. They already took away our horse tracks.

We wouldn’t be the first to consider ourselves a chosen people. There were the Moonies starring Reverend Sun Myung Moon. He preached that Korea was chosen by god to perform a divine mission. There were also the Tarahumara people of northwest Mexico. You might recognize the name from one of the stories in Dreaming .400…..Running from the Shackles. In it, the main character – Tunis, the one who inspires the test tube baseball babies is part Tarahumara. The story is fictional, but the Tarahumara are real and they believe they are chosen people or “Pillars of the Sky.”

There are many examples of people who believe they are chosen. It probably does wonders for an individual’s self-esteem and potentially propels an entire race to great heights or causes a nosedive into confusion and paranoia. Either way, I like the extremes it begets. With that in mind, what would happen if I heard more voices,

“Collect 18 tree stumps and I will give you a dugout in which to dwell. Collect 7 more and there will be livestock for you everywhere, plenty of cows and pigs to provide an endless supply of hot dog-hamburger-bratwurst stadium concessions, wheat and barley for your beer too, and an endless supply of joy….no more misery, only dancing and joyful noise and screaming and laughing and fun fun fun!”

And then in flash, what if all of it was taken away. What if the 18 stump sacrifices and dugout promises didn’t exist? What if it was all fig newtons of our chosen people’s imagination? Then what? Well, we might look at each other anyway and realize that we had something going on, something good, a dance of sorts, a people, so we might decide under a still standing tree to carry on the tree stump search as a metaphor……..and from there, on that first day, we might find a stray stump and from it, carve out a baseball bat and it may not turn out so good. It may be a bit asymmetrical, but the historians among us might point out that old-time baseball players used bats a little less than perfect too.

 


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the impossible possible anatomy of perfection

every once in a while Dennis Martinez’s perfect game pops up in conversation. Gets me wondering how many perfectos there have been. off the top of my head hmmmmm, I start with Len Barker in 1981 and then of course Don Larson in the World Series 1950 something, Sandy Koufax a few years later and Mike Witt on the last day of the 1984 season….Tom Browning, David Cone and David Wells. More recently, Matt Cain did it and so did Felix Hernandez and oh yeh, Dallas Braden and Philip Humber and i’m missing a bunch but the point is Braden and Humber everything suddenly seems possible.


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death, montreal mirages or maybe this has to do with baseball?

A lobster crawls along the ocean floor and that’s only on TV. In the grocery store, their claws get rubber banded shut. They continue to crawl, but THUMP into the glass wall too. They turn around like bumper cars, crawl some more, thump into the glass wall again, and then again, and again. Must be frustrating. 

They look drunk or wounded and anyway, they’re too expensive and too complicated to eat. But I’ve heard that the flies in northern Quebec are so everywhere summer annoying that a Native American Tribe whose name I forget said screw it and went east towards the Atlantic Ocean and survived on lobster till autumn.

I would change my ways if need be and eat lobster, but I don’t know about those advertisements on TV for a hypoallergenic pillow. It’s  a 1-800 number and says things like, ‘ if you order now,  we’ll throw in a satin night-gown. It guarantees a great night’s sleep. I would never buy one but it’s a nice thought – a good night’s sleep. There are so many ads like this, one after the other, all guaranteeing a better life, from pills to skin creams to comfortable cars. I guess these days are filled with great idealism. It serves as great fodder for the critics, cynics and comedians as well. It’s a see saw world  and meanwhile, back to that lobster.

It’s escorted by blind fold equivalent dry to a kitchen and lowered back home, into water, only it’s not cold fresh water; it’s boiling hot water. The end. Strange way to die. Cows are tricked to the slaughter-house as well. Rabbits hung out on a clothes line and sliced head to toe. Birds snipered out of the sky. Deer and moose stalked and rifled. Humans sit in hospital beds attached to wires, moaning and groaning. Old baseball pitchers jump out of train windows into suicide valleys. Flat lines for us all one way or the other.

i wonder if before darwin took his boat around the world our ancestors looked at a chicken and said “oh, that white thing coming out of its ass, mmmmmm, I think I’ll crack it open and give it a try.” I guess they got the idea from other animals. Good thing they did, for omelletes sake.

i miss pay phones and many things, but evolution and technology and medical breakthroughs are great. It’s just that sometimes i feel really useless. I don’t know what I would do if the grocery store reverted to its warehouse roots. It would be like braille without bumps. I would go blind or i mean hungry or maybe both after eating some poisonous plant thinking it was celery. I’d  have to start over and learn new things, how to gather the right nuts and berries, fish, and hunt and what not.

I was reading the other day that the Pawnee Native Americans were star-gazing people and arranged their dwelling places on earth as a mirror to certain constellations. I’m not sure how that helped their day-to-day life but it sounds interesting.

There must be a constellation out there in the endless traffic light galaxy resembling one of the Brewers’ defensive shifts? Then, if all the buildings and stadiums suddenly disappeared and we had to start over, we could arrange diamonds and dugout shelters according to one of these defensive shift constellations.

Maybe the ocean would respond in some sort of rocky way with volcanoes in never before places. A Machu Picchu might form at a nearby park and a baseball team might even return to Montreal. The ancinet issue about the city having to build a new stadium would vanish as nature became a pitcher’s paradise with that impossible Picchu home run wall.

Is it asking too much? I mean who decides to put up all these condominiums anyway?

The heroic souls cemetery called Elysian Fields could remain and so could the physical place of baseball’s first game, on that field with the same name – Elysian in that city with another name – Hoboken. 

I always liked that name, hobo kin. The city sits beside the Hudson River and that river bends into bays and the massive Atlantic Ocean and there’s still a hobo wind with no color or destination. It dances an invisible dance and seems equally pleasant as it does cruel, realistic, like kin.


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crayons and picket signs

The Atlanta Braves are not quite Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Oakland, Miami, or Chicago White Sox pathetic when it comes to this year’s attendance, but it’s pretty damn close. The Braves are 25th overall, 22,107 per game, or scratch that, they just jumped ahead Cincinnati into the 24th slot and anyway 22,107 doesn’t sound THAT bad, only looks bad because Los Angeles, San Francisco, and St. Louis are all over 40,000.

It’s some sort of reverse marketing hype as opposed to Dem Bums of Brooklyn who enjoyed forward marketing hype and still do. Those ”loveable losers?” I never understood that. Maybe they were loveable, like many other teams, but not losers. Cripes, seventeen out of their last eighteen years in Brooklyn, 1939-1957, they enjoyed a winning record, including three seasons of 100 or more wins, seven trips to the World Series and one World Series triumph. And yeh, they lost six World Series and three other ones before 1939, two as the Brooklyn Robins and one as the Bridegrooms. The Bridegrooms? What kind of a name is that for a baseball team? Anyway, they – those Bridegrooms also suffered a tie in the 1890 Series (3-3-1) and that strikes me as a sin. Can you imagine a World Series ending in a tie today? There would be riots like there should have been in Milwaukee when Selig let the 2002 All-Star game end in a tie.

Maybe all the hype around Brooklyn is because it’s New York or Brooklyn or whatever and well, anything New York seems to get a disproportionate amount of attention and good thing too, probably saves baseball from going bankrupt, but anyway, what happened to the good old 1951 days when the Boston Braves averaged 3,653 fans per game. That musta been a blast, to be at The Wigwam Braves Field and having all that space and silence to watch and ponder a game, a major league game, no different from the game 17,000 fans at Fenway were watching or different, for sure, but interesting in its own right.

I say move the Braves back to Milwaukee. I haven’t made a picket protest sign yet, but I’m thinking about it. Unfortunately I’m in Montreal so no one would know what the fart I’m talking about, but a few people in Milwaukee are still bitter, mostly old farts and mostly as an excuse to get together and drink beer and remember 13 consecutive winning Braves seasons before being airlifted down south and yeh, the Braves won 14 divisions in a row there, but only one World Series and everyone expected them to win more with all that pitching, but they didn’t and this year, Atlanta is 14-34, tied with Minnesota for the worst record in baseball.

This is the ideal moment to return the Braves to Milwaukee and piss off Montreal, make them more like Red Sox fans who cry about curses. Montreal would then fight even harder for a team, maybe a relocated oakland or tampa bay.

Milwaukee as a two team city would result in more tailgating, but where? Who cares where! What good is a brand new stadium if only 21,000 fans looking like ants sit there? A local field filled with bleachers would be louder and the new Milwaukee Braves would win lots of games from all that enthusiasm.

And that new stadium being built for the Braves, the one where play is to begin next year could be turned into a giant dog park paradise with people from all over the world visiting, proceeds or part of them funneled back to the MLB to compensate for money lost at small venue Milwaukee Braves Field. I’m panting, tongue wagging, out of breath.


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almost a book reading

There were three of us presenting projects this past Saturday at the SABR Quebec gathering and three other members, so we were six in all, a nice sized country at the Le Cage sports bar-restaurant beside the Bell Center. We shared a pitcher of Molson Export. The Blue Jays were on one TV, at home hosting the Dodgers. A hockey playoffs game was on the other TV.

One guy bought fish and chips. I bought just the chips. Norm King talked about his book –  50 Greatest Expos Games – or we all talked about it, about Bill Stoneman’s no-hitters, Dennis Martinez’s perfect game in the alcoholic recovering twilight of his career, Curtis Pride’s first hit at Olympic Stadium as a deaf man. It seemed appropriate that the Dodgers were on TV in that no one talks about the Dodgers in Montreal, not after Blue Monday 1981 when Rick Monday hit a playoff home run over Dawson’s head and there went the season down the drain.

When the food arrived, Patrick – the SABR Quebec president said, “steve, tell us about dreaming .400. I had it all rehearsed, hadn’t really slept much the night before. I was terribly nervous, but so was Norm King and so was Jean Allard, our third presenter. Jean is a long time P.A. announcer of local and international baseball competitions.

I chose the story Close Encounter to discuss. I could have read a sample and would have felt comfortable doing it, but people were eating. It didn’t seem like the time and anyway it was so informal and friendly. In fact when I mentioned the long shot thrill of Bill Lee endorsing my book, Jean Allard asked “Did you go up the hill?” That hill leads to Bill Lee’s home and mini baseball bat factory in Craftsbury Vermont. Jean had made the trip before.

I discussed my book for no more than 10 minutes, mostly about the story Close Encounter, about it taking place Easter Sunday, 1987, at  Milwaukee County Stadium, the Brewers being on the brink of winning their 12th game in a row to start the season, thrilling in itself, but even more in Wisconsin because of our local greasy spoon burger chain George Webb that we always called Le George Webb.

George Webb has been around since the 1940’s predicting the minor league Milwaukee Brewers of the American Association would win 17 games in row. They never did and were forced out of town when the Braves arrived from Boston. George Webb then lowered its prediction to 12 and hinted that if the Braves won 12 in a row, free burgers would be dished out for all of Wisconsin. The Braves didn’t win 12 in a row and they relocated to Atlanta in the mid 1960’s. The Brewers were next, a few years later, and this time George Webb did more than hint. They promised free burgers if the Brewers could win 12 in a row and holy crap, they did it in 1987.

The fictional character I created for that story – Sam Doobins was at the Easter Sunday game and he went to George Webb the next day and something happened there. He redeemed his free burger of course, but something else happened and it changed his life forever and that’s all I said on Saturday. It was a teaser because I wanted them to buy the book and one guy did and another said he would buy it from the publisher’s website – summer game books

I also traded one Dreaming .400 to Norm King for his book – 50 greatest Expos Games. A great moment…trading books, trading anything. I’ll trade you an aortic valve replacement for 1 year of car maintenance and I’ll cut your grass too. OK, fine I’ll throw in my Tim Raines rookie card. That must piss off the world’s corporate structure? Or maybe I should leave that topic alone? Politics + economics = over my head.

The last thing I said was thank you and Go Brewers. Later that night, the Brewers won in Cincinnati. Aaron Hill hit three home runs, including the extra inning go-ahead grand slam.