brewers baseball and things


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.



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.


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.


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.


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one night long night

not exactly charboneau
down the lit-up walkway of yet another bus

saunters a boy with beast in his eyes,
expos hat on his head,
slipping into the seat beside the can
like it’s an old saloon or something.
you’d think he knew the players/passengers from some other life.
he’s got a deck of cards out and he’s fanning them with ease,
makes that ruffle cruffle crunch sound and no one can resist.
they all turn round.
one with hat on backward,
another no hat at all,
there’s a bible belt boozer, one from tobacco road, a tamiami swamper, an okie spitoon,
some are tall, some small, some singing, some shy,
tumbling towards beautiful nowhere,
and like a thousand times peoria pawtucketville plattsburgh before
the fit turn to flab and
15 minor league years pass just like that,
a wonderful shooting star
and no one made it
their lives one long beautiful anonymous night,
that tomorrow big league dream never coming
but everything’s gold anyway and never to be forgotten,
chiseled on invisible scrolls of second base smoke plumes
conspiring with other long lost nights and becoming clouds,
to rain down for someone else to forge the mantle new.

Micah Kila Kaʻaihue returned from Japan last year and served two AAA tours of duty, one with New Orleans, another with Syracuse, his overall batting average – .195. He was  released,  but he did hit seven home runs and that makes 14 consecutive years he’s hit at least one. Next stop northern league? Sand dune whiffle ball league? One more home run Kila Ka-ah-hoooo! You’re only 32.



not exactly a trip to the yard, but….

People still say, “Look over there, it’s the swimming pool where Willie Stargell launched home runs.“ Memory arouses mirage I guess because there is only grass where the small unroofed grandstand and a baseball field once stood and off in the distance, there is also the Stade Uniprix, where tennis tournaments are now played.

But it is located on Gary Carter street and there is that grass and an empty field, maybe not the exact location where Ron Hunt stood, but close enough. And I like staring at the grass and waiting like a kid might, lost in the universe, a zillion miles away from my home planet, anticipating that it might happen and then it does.  Someone either stumbles along or is already there, sitting on an adjacent park bench. He’s half-shaven and wearing a winter coat, probably sweating like Bill Stoneman did back in early September, 1971, on the Jarry Park mound. He knows what it’s like to have his heart yanked out and is happy to feed my hunger and so he tells me about that swimming pool and Stargell.

He never bothers mentioning Olympic Stadium. No one liked the Big O, not anyone I’ve talked to since moving here. The naysay and criticism is in fashion, almost cliche.  The holes in its concrete roof and the threat on human safety is all that matters anymore.

It was announced that in 2016, for the third consecutive year, major league baseball will play exhibition games at Olympic Stadium and so the stadium issues lingers and that’s ok by me. It’s a chance to revisit 2003, the year The Canadian Baseball League began play. Ferguson Jenkins was the commissioner.There were eight teams and two leagues, an east and a west. Seemed like a good idea.

The Montreal Royales were one of those teams. They played home games at Amadée Roy Stadium in Sherbrooke, Quebec. Sherbrooke is a very beautiful city I hear with mountains, rivers and manufacturing and is the former home to the Pittsburgh Pirates AA affiliate too. Mario Mendoza hit .268 on that 1973 team and Kent Tekulve recorded a 2.62 ERA in 1972 and well, the names Mendoza and Tekulve get me high on a cold, windy autumn night coming soon when leaves fall to earth and coupled with rain, stick to the cement and don’t move.

Mendoza symbolizes the mundane into magnificent for me, the mediocre into something celestial or longitudinal or at least a line, a Mendoza Line is medicine.  And in Tekulve, there is an ostrich flinging a ball submarine style at 90 mph while wearing dark glasses. But I’m way off topic.

Oh yes, Sherbrooke is wonderful place, both past and present , but its a 90 minute drive from Montreal. And sure, the Royales only played nine games at Amadée Roy Stadium before the team and the entire league folded. Bankrupt or something. The TV contract bellied up. And in that same season-2003, the Expos played some home games in Puerto Rico at Hiram Bithorn Stadium, 3,099 miles away. That stadium issue….a ghost all over again.

The National League welcomed Montreal into its exclusive club back in 1968 and the city of Montreal promised it would build a place for baseball, but didn’t and the team almost moved to Buffalo. But then as a sort of last resort, Jarry Park was transformed from a 3,000 seat overhang into a 29,000 seat venue and the powers that be let it be for a little while longer – 8 years to be exact or until the Olympics happened. The homeless Expos were on the move again, to Olympic Stadium. Only temporary, they promised, but a new stadium was never built.

Baseball was back in Montreal in 2014 and again in 2015 and it went well.  Sell outs for two consecutive days. Come cheer on the Blue Jays, they encouraged. We chanted “Let’s go Expos.“ instead, but the The Red Sox are coming in 2016, to face those same Blue Jays. We had hoped a regular season series would be played as a sort of next step in the process, but the current mayor of Montreal – Denis Coderre is a huge baseball fan. He’s made bringing baseball back one of his major issues. Hopes are high, but they have been before.

Oh well, there’s still that open field green grass Jarry Park and on Saturday, September 18, 1971, Ron Hunt was not hit by a pitch, but he did bang out two hits and score three runs. The Expos beat the Phillies 6-2, Bill Stoneman with a complete game for his 16th win. The attendance was 16, 6779 and if I squint my ears, I can hear them. I hope it’s the future.


cream cheese blues in need of an accordion

The final edits of my book of short stories – Dreaming .400 are now complete. The extra lap did wonders for the story “Expos Next Generation,” but that’s all I will say.

The release date has been pushed up two weeks, to the end of September. You can still pre-order the book or wait until it’s available at places listed on the publisher’s websiteWe’re also flirting with the idea of posting a PDF version of one of the stories. I’ll keep you posted.

I received the uncorrected or “galley” proofs of the print book over a month ago. The vain sensation of holding it in my hand and seeing my name on the cover didn’t last long, but it still felt kind of cool. I have been distributing them in the hopes of reviews being written and some have, to be posted in various places.

I’m slow when it comes to marketing and branding my author name, but I try to keep my mind open. In the next few weeks, I will be pursuing a number of on line avenues to draw attention to my book – a Dreaming .400 website, author page, Facebook page, and so on. The experts tell me it’s best to link all of the sites together so there will be an icon for each on this blog to click and be taken directly there.

In other news, I survived a cream cheese scare at work. Either the bagel was way too small or the lady behind the windshield was way too liberal with the cheese. All I know for sure is that it squirted out the sides and through the hole like play-doh and yes, that can be fun when you’re at lunch and have one hour to kill, but not during a 15 minute break.

I knew right then and there that cream cheese belonged in a pita or on wonder bread, something with a roof or cover, not a bagel, but it was too late. I had it all over my hands, nose and cheeks and I was hungry so I rubbed my face free with my finger tips and licked away, all the while saying to myself, never again, never again!

But I still had a job and that’s a good thing and my imaginary great uncle – Otto von Simchastein popped into my head as well. I hadn’t thought about him in almost a year. He always told me that in a previous life he was a fighter pilot in the SS Nazi army. That always struck me as kind of strange since my family is Jewish. Otto said it had to do with gilgul which is reincarnation in Judaism. Sounded good to me. I love bratwursts and sauerkraut. It ain’t kosher, but it sure tastes good and on a grill outside Miller Park is just right of paradise! To die for!

Otto loved attending free events. He took me to solar panel demonstrations, limerick recitals and my all time favorite frenzy of his – “Russian language classes, all you can drink Vodka.” I always brought a harmonica hidden in my jacket pocket because I knew how Otto could get after a few swigs of Captain Karkov, inventing little fortune cookie ditties like,

“One carries pampers on his head, another a case of beer. Do you have a favorite dead tree, free, you and me, see?”

And when I politely asked what the hell he was talking about, he would just slip into more ditties,

“A hangover is a leftover. The moon is a pill, still, we will find a thrill.”

If Otto were a real person I would buy him an accordion and invite him to a real simple place with wood bleachers, maybe the home court of a division three basketball team. He could roam the sideline and pluck strangers from the crowd and dance with them a while and when the waltz was over, raise up their arms in a Che Guevara triumph, crowning strangers with unexpected joy.

Speaking of joy, the Brewers now have a better winning percentage than five teams including the Atlanta Braves. And in Canada, the Blue Jays are kicking so much ass that even Montreal baseball fans are warming up a bit.