brewers baseball and things


and happy birthday Harold!!

The sleeping pill-mood stabilizer-tranquilizer-five mile run around the block-glue sniffing distractions to snooze through the Jake Arietta daze are finally over sweet Jesus brotherly love Philadelphia for signing the former Cy Young award winner for three years at 75 million dollars….75 million?

I remember as a  kid trying to count to a million. I quit after a thousand and assumed it wasn’t possible to do in a single lifetime, but apparently it is…..

“If you count every minute of every hour of every day, you would reach 1,000,000 in 6 days, 22 hours, and 40 minutes, almost 1 week.”

But still 75 million is a lot of money. I don’t know where all of it comes from or how it’s distributed to keep everyone happy, from the big free agents to the grounds crew to the peanut vendors, but it happens, one season after another. Baseball isn’t quite the age of an empire, but it’s older than 100 years and that’s something.

Hail hail the chief, a.k.a. Mr. David Stearns (DS), Milwaukee’s General Manager for not biting the bullet and signing big free agent pitchers to dreaded four-year deals. In pre (DS) days we screwed ourselves by signing Jeff Suppan and Matt Garza for way too long. This year we went under the radar and signed Jhouyls Chacyn to a humble two-year contract for 15 million, still a lot, but he apparently has one of the deadliest sliders in baseball. We also invited former Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo to camp along with Wade Miley to duke it out in an old gun slinging wild west shoot out. May the most effective March hurler win a trip to the 25 man roster. I prefer spring training battles rather than short cut free agent signings.

All the experts had the Brewers in the mix for Arrieta, Alex Cobb, and Lance Lynn (recently signed with the Twins) They said the Brewers needed to muscle up their staff after losing ace Jimmy Nelson last year in a freakish pitcher injury. Aren’t all pitcher injuries freakish? No, he didn’t trip over a sprinkler or stub his thumb painting a gutter, but he did mush his shoulder sliding back into first base. Freaky enough, especially for Milwaukee, an American League city for its first 27 years, a place where DH’s ruled the roost. Larry Hisle comes to mind. There were others. I can’t remember them right now, maybe Von Joshua, Dick Davis, Thad Bosley, Joey Meyer, Billy Joe Robidoux, Jeffrey Leonard. What a job; that toiling away all alone, pacing between the dugout and clubhouse…… I did a quick search of all time greatest DH’s and Paul Molitor popped up. I don’t remember if he DH’d for the Brewers, but what a career, so great that….

“He is one of only four players to have 3,000 hits, a .300 career average and 500 stolen bases. The others are Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner and Eddie Collins.”

Some argue “but he was a DH.” Others argue “AND he was a DH,” the difference being that a DH is not awarded the distraction of going to the field and forgetting about the previous inning’s K with the bases loaded. It takes a special mind to be a DH.

Harold Baines…he too served time as a DH, a border line Hall of Famer, a hitter with a front leg kick. I’m biased. He’s may all time favorite player; takes me back to my baseball formative years when it – baseball was everything, the only thing. It’s his birthday today….March 15th. Happy Birthday Harold!

In other news, Edwin Jackson pitched OK for the Nationals on Monday – three innings, three hits, two walks, two k’s, one earned run, It doesn’t look like he’ll crack their starting staff, but he could very well make it as a spot starter/long man. He says it’s not about the money. It’s about still having more in the tank. More in the tank…..more in the tank…..more in the tank…….my new every day mantra.




two strikes and you’re out?

There ain’t much worse than booger freeze winds, but there is a solution. Stay inside and watch old Brewers games uploaded onto YouTube.  I stumbled on County Stadium’s last home opener back in 2000. The new Miller Park hovers over it like a giant spider. The Park’s opening was delayed because of a tragic crane accident. This game was the seventh of the young season for the Brewers, the first for Davey Lopes as the skipper.

1:14:23 into this game, a funny thing happened. The Brewer’s Jose Hernandez had just begun his at bat. It was the second pitch, a swinging strike, less than fifteen seconds into the plate appearance when he seemed to mistake his swinging strike as the final one of the at bat.  The announcer said,

“The cold weather can freeze your mind up.”

It was cold that day, something like 38 degrees with a minus 16 windshield, but what the announcer failed to point out was that Jose Hernandez struck out 140 times with the Cubs in 1998 and another 145 times in 1999. Of course, the announcer had no way of knowing that Hernandez would struck out another 125 times with the Brewers in that 2000 year or that he would establish the Brewer’s all- time single season record with 188 k’s two years later.

I’m no logician, but him walking away from the plate at 1:14:23 seems to suggest that either A) He was freezing his ass off and wanted to get back in the dugout or B) He was so used to striking out that he just assumed the second strike was the third or C) All of the above. In fairness to Hernandez, he did hit an outside pitch on the line, for an out to end the inning, but still pretty well struck.


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.



the 27 club

It’s just a number, but more than a bit strange that so many musicians, artists, and actors have died at the age of 27. The most well-known are probably Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix. I took a look at the list the other day and hadn’t heard of most of them, but was shocked by the number of names including the more recent additions of Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse.

So i got to thinking about baseball, about players who died at 27, in the prime of their career. I counted 18 players, the first one being Charlie Hodes, way back in 1875. I had never heard of him and scanning the list, the only player I recognized was the most recent – Lyman Bostock in 1978, shot and killed by a jealous husband.

Two things that stuck out about Bostock were that his father played in the Negro Leagues for a good chunk of time and as is often the case, there are little, if any stats on his career. That always amazes me considering the development and obsession over stats  in the other league that still exists today, the one we call the major leagues. The other thing that stuck out was that after Bostock signed with the California Angels in 1978, he struggled out of the gate and insisted on returning his April salary to the Angels. When they refused, he donated it to charity.

Bostock is part of my gravatar image. I created it one day when I was bored.  He’s to the left of the watch and baseball, at about 8 o’clock, right between I think that’s a 1972 Topps Ron Swoboda? and definitely a 1976 Topps Dock Ellis.



no name

He could have been like the others and joined some wilderness retreat and learned a new pitch, become a converted reliever and revived or rather, started his career. Others had done it, most recently, Edgar Warrbins. The Boise teenager could barely hit 75 on a radar gun, but when he dropped his arm down to the side, he won a few onlookers. Then Edgar dropped it even further, to the submarine zone and the Indy leagues came calling. It made his pitch swerve and some say rise and then quickly fall,  a bit like a drunk struggling to a squat kerplunk to the hard earth. Batters would swing and miss. It was all very unorthodox and highly contagious, but he looked down and then around, at the railroad tracks stretching horizon to horizon. He liked where he was and so he kept to the amateur league course, as a mop up man, throwing ho-hum overhand strikes, inducing fly balls, and eating up innings. He said it was better for his well-being, reminded him of the thankless toil of it all.



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.



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.