brewers baseball and things


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and it could happen again

There was talk of a house on a bluff overlooking a lake. Not such a big deal. Some said it was the oldest house in the village, built over 100 years ago with such and such material and that wasn’t such a big deal either. People talked as far back as I can remember about a room beneath the basement in that house and most of them swear on their mother’s pumpkin soup that they had been there. What eeried me out was that most of their stories sounded the same.

The room was apparently at the bottom of a well. Most people said they bumped into a slide or some sort of chute and fell there rather than deciding to “do it.“ The house was old, 19th century old, and originally an Italian food and spice emporium with cannoli, pepperoni and all kinds of herbs stored in the basement. This would explain the chute since most boxes for deliveries were placed on a diagonal ladder or belt from the outside. The boxes would then slide down to a worker who arranged the stockroom.

But there was also a second chute that slid into this other room, beneath the basement. Down there, people swore there was a square wood cube about the size of a prison cell. It had a window too, they said, but it was on the other side and hard to reach because there wasn’t much space to walk around. They had to stiffen their back and straighten up like walking along the ledge of a building, but they did it.

At that point, they would sigh and say something like “good thing too because that was the only way out, up some steps, behind a door that didn’t look like a door from the other side. You had to be plush up against it to see it.“

Some said they peeked through that window before climbing up the steps to freedom. Others didn’t say a thing. But each and every one of them stopped the story right then and there. There were rumors about tombs, caskets, and mummies, but we were never sure and no one dared to find out, not yet anyway.

It was like NASA space exploration in reverse, into the ground, but generating the same kind of excitement and curiosity and wonder. Even the miserable and hateful took notice. It was like they were reborn or something. They typically whined like babies, disguising their whimp with a sophisticated, witty, and often times angry and deconstructing tongue. But with talk of the room reaching a sort of pennant fever, they hopped to the other side or so it sounded.

They were like smokers who no longer smoked, preaching against their yesterday beliefs. “It takes minutes to implode a building,“ they would say. “Anyone can lay down the dynamite and pull the lever, but to build, now that takes……….“

……1981………1981? Why not 1981 or any other jackknife incident in time, the end always right around the corner.

It was awful when the Baseball Strike really happened and on May 29, there were really no games. It was doomsday, a time to cry or criticize and deconstruct; a time to hate and be miserable and people did and were and still are and that`s ok, but something else happened too.

The Valley Times, outside of San Francisco got wind of  four high school students using strat-o-matic baseball to replace the real thing. The newspaper proceeded to devote an entire page, almost every day to the strato-games with writers Ross McKeon and Gary Peterson writing summaries, providing fictional quotes from real players, discussing potential trades, and so on. Darrel Evans even guest managed his San Francisco Giants. There were 571 games played and there would have been more, but the strike ended and that other season continued.

And in the east, Jon Miller and Ken Coleman brought strat-o-matic to life on the air, on WITS Boston, pitch-by-pitch accounts of strat-o simulation with fan cheers and sounds of the game slipped into each broadcast.

The idea spread to Cleveland as well and a strat-o-matic all-star simulation was really played, at that belly of the whale Municipal Stadium. A card table was set up at home plate. The scoreboard was turned on.  The Associated Press counted 58 diehards in attendance. And Sportsphone offered fans the opportunity to call up and hear 30 second updates about the game and many did………swim through the muck with a strat-o smile, that is.

 

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How Bill James taught me to love again

No one told me about Darrell Porter, but it wasn’t like he was a secret, certainly not in Milwaukee. The Brewers made him the fourth overall pick in the 1970 draft. He made some noise as a rookie in 1973, was an all star in 1974, again in ’78 and then 1979 happened.

I had Porter’s 1980 baseball card, all star strip across the top, autograph print in the middle, Royals banner along the bottom with a nice action photo, Porter in pump mode, ready to hit the ball.

It was like any other card in my collection; from the Jackie Jensen 1959 to Jim Brewer 1975, in that I turned it over often, and stared mindlessly at all those numbers and details about a player’s life, sometimes accompanied by a cartoon like the 1981 Harold Baines, “Was first noticed by White Sox as a 12 year old playing Little Lg. Ball.”

I later learned it was Bill Veeck who noticed Baines, but back to Porter. I never noticed that he walked 121 times in 1979, but then again, how could I? The 1980 Topps was like any other Topps set, from 1952 to 1980;  walks were never included. Only in 1981 with Donruss and Fleer flooding the market were walks given their due, and by all three companies too.

But in 1980, walks were nowhere to be found. Still, no excuse. I should have known, since I subscribed to The Sporting News and the paper must have praised Porter’s 1979 season all summer long – the walks, 112 RBI’s, 100 runs scored, 20 home runs.  Crazy numbers for a catcher, maybe one of the best seasons ever for a guy who also caught 157 games. I could have gone all Darrell Porter Puffs Crazy over those 121 walks, but I didn’t and Bill James didn’t help matters.

His annual abstracts were no longer back of baseball digest mail order specials. They weren’t mainstream either, but his wisdom was out the bag, flood to soon follow. I should have been ashamed for not knowing, for not caring  about walks. My Little League coach turned the third base coach’s box into a podium to preach, “Good eye. A walk’s as good as a hit,” but I didn’t listen. I was too in love with all the pennants and posters plastered across my bedroom wall and UL Washington’s toothpick, the submarine delivery of Tekulve and Quisenberry, flamingo front leg kick Harold Baines, one flap down Jeffrey Leonard, and so on and so on, a Mickey Rivers bat flip, Cooooooooop, all the colors of baseball.

My strat-o-matic guru tried to convince me. He praised Porter’s 1979 season and preached walks, home runs per at bat, right-lefty splits as keys, but I didn’t listen. I was still in love with what I wanted to love and sure, every so often I got lucky and Rob Deer, one of my favorites happened to crush lefties, walk a lot, hit home runs efficiently and what a throwing arm so his strat-o card reflected this, but that was no way to run a strat-o team or my life, bowing to luck and love, but the duo worked wonders, melted time and removed boredom.

But one year, I must have looked in the mirror one too many times because a cold breeze hit me, to the bones. I took a stance, became an anti-sabermite, nay saying statistical research as somehow not human or not what baseball was really all about, an us versus them world I lived in, but bubbling up from the ground came more than Bill James. There were dozens and hundreds of number crunchers who could also write with flare and a sense of humor and so life became a pigeon’s neck – grey with a turquoise and berry shimmer, a best of both worlds with numbers and instincts twirling together a barber shop pole, love fueling the machine.

I joined SABR, discovered there was more than statistical research there and signed up to write the Gary Roenicke BIO, as part of the massive SABR Bio Project undertaking, to preserve every player, coach, executive, mascot, organ player, anyone involved in baseball since the big bang, I guess Ross Barnes blast on May 2, 1876?

The Orioles front office provided Roenicke’s phone number and a breakthrough happened midway through our conversation. I pointed out that he was never platooned, that most of his home runs were hit against righties and Roencicke perked up and agreed. I felt so damn smart, sabermetrically smart. What a boost to my mathematically challenged mind. Of course, my insight was in reality no insight at all, just a baseball reference observation under home run splits, but still, my strat-matic guru, would have been proud.

I think the entire interview is posted on this blog somewhere. It’s also on you tube. I finally got around to writing the full Roenicke BIO and last week, it was accepted and published on the SABR site, http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/1b9f0200

 


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the brewers are 15-27

I feel like an obese person conveniently preaching that beauty is only skin deep. The Brewers lost last night, to the Braves, 10-1, but it’s gonna be ok. It always was ok.

The Middle East and Southeast Asia were carved up by drunk colonizers in the aftermath of World War II or maybe it happened decades earlier? Wasn’t the world once Austria Hungarian Ottoman Persian Assyrian Babylonian Etruscan Hebrew? I should keep my day job, but over there, in some anonymous Idaho stream maybe  there is extra terrestrial dust from long long even longer ago?

Makes me wonder why the Houston Colt .45s included a decimal point before their name and why there was no apostrophe between 45 and s. Was there some drunk grammar colonizing crew that decided exception to the rule or maybe it’s  me who doesn’t know the rules?  Should there be a decimal point before 45?

Apparently there is supposed to be one before .45 but why no apostrophe between 5 and s as in Colt .45s? I guess for the same reason there is no apostrophe between the r and s of Brewers as in Milwaukee Brewers. English is complicated.

The Colt 45s, excuse me the Colt .45s  played in Colt Stadium from 1962-64 before moving into the 8th wonder of the world Astrodome. Colt Stadium apparently featured rattle snakes on the field, horrific heat and humidity and  nasty swarms of mosquitos. Some called it a barn which was maybe generous because barns have hay for rolling around in and smooching and I suspect there was a baby or two conceived at Colt Stadium.

These mosquitos remind me of the black flies of quebec north which apparently drove the native americans on summer vacation to the Atlantic coast. Smart people. They fished for lobster and returned home after the flies were done doing there thing.

Some people think because the Brewers are playing so bad this year, they too should go on vacation, especially since summer hasn’t even started, plenty of time to make a casual escape as opposed to a secret Baltimore Colts sneak out of dodge situation. All the proper disguises could be put in place with minor league brewers replacing major league ones, but the uniform name backs would remain the same name. A little face make up her and there and no one would know the difference. And who would fill minor league rosters? Anyone. Local kids with nothing else to do for the summer. What a thrill for everyone involved. And current Brewer players would be happy as well, catching those lobsters along the eastern seaboard in anonymity.

Early on in the 2014 season way back when there was concern over Carlos Gomez’s swing so hard his helmet fell off or even worse-he dropped down on one knee, but not to pray. It was to keep from falling or maybe both serve the same purpose? But the concern went deeper than Gomez. It stretched up and down the roster. This was a team that didn’t take too many pitches and hardly ever walked.

I was late to OB%, but ode to my strat-o-matic baseball guru. Thank you.  He was the one who ordered Bill James pamphlets from the backs of baseball digests. It took me a long while, but I caught on.  OB% matters.

So April-May-June of last year was an enjoyable drinking binge with all that getting on base and timely hitting. We spiked our next morning coffees with whisky to prolong the feeling,  but we knew it wouldn’t last or the good pitching did, but there were no more ducks on the pond and as a result-no more runs in July-August-September and even fewer this year.

And so home runs are my best friends and that’s OK.  I love the Brewers. Win or lose is beside the point and excuse me while I sound like a fortune cookie cliche, but the journey is what matters and there’s a game almost every damn day and I can watch it if I feel like it and if I had a porch, I’d paint it and listen to a game on the radio and pop a top on a pabst.


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everyday mickeys

No one really wants to be a Moses, not even Moses. He was shy and hesitant to lead the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery. He even asked God if his older brother Aaron could do the talking; be his mouthpiece. Who can blame him? But what can you do? It’s unavoidable. Shit happens and then you hear a voice. You either listen or miss the train.

I wonder if Moses made love to a bottle before bed or hooked up with Ezekiel and scored whatever it was that inspired a four winged chariot vision a few books later. Jerusalem whiskey can only do so much. But then again, it did wonders for Damon Maskins; the booze and vision that is.

He was 17 when he moved out of his parent’s house. I think he was driven to dangerous extremes because other kids picked at his rotting carcass like scavengers. They were too afraid to live their own life or didn’t really know how or lacked the courage to try so they coat tailed Damon instead.

strat-o-matic.com

strat-o-matic.com

Damon played the drums, listened to April Wine and loved Mickey Tettleton. He also slept on a hammock and drank whiskey in the afternoon. None of this stopped him from rolling strat-o-matic baseball dice with us every winter.

Damon moved in with his band members. There were girls there, but when we arrived, they got the hell out of dodge saying…”shit, it’s the paper baseball people.” We were already sorting through cards and too concerned about lefty on lefty matchups to care about girls.

We were a sanctuary to Damon. We never wanted anything from him; only to fill out his lineup card and roll some dice. I think hard work was Damon’s greatest and only vision. Nose to the grindstone day after day. Never stopping with yesterday water off his back. Band practice, bartender, three whiskeys, hanging with with the band for band talk, three more whiskeys, sleep, do it all over again. Strat-o-matic baseball.

greenwichcitizen

greenwichcitizen

Maybe that’s why he loved Tettleton so much. The guy walked over 100 times during five different seasons, hit a home run every 20 or so at bats and squatted in the dirt blocking balls for nine innings. Catchers wear the uniforms of great warriors. Tettleton was a centaur.

I tracked Damon down a few years ago. He was still tending bar and playing in his band. He immediately recognized me. My face doesn’t change that much. He leaned over the rail and looked long and hard into my eyes. I didn’t flinch; had nothing to hide. He finished his shift and we talked for a long while; dropped hundreds of baseball names, discussed the Brewers starting pitching and drank and drank some more.

The situation was addictive for both of us; a pleasant escape from all the useless expectations. He had to work tomorrow and I had to be back at work the following week.

There was never any promise land for Damon or if there was, it was far away from the klingons and their need to be entertained. There was never any promise land for Moses either He never stepped foot in Israel. Seems kind of ironic or something since he was the big star of the old testament, but then again it doesn’t seem ironic at all.

There’s always so much more work to be done.


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Arnold, i hate you i love you

Arnold McRease refused to tie his shoes inside; only on the sidewalk or the street, the grass, beside a porta-potty….wherever the odds were higher of someone bumping into him. There were no accidents. Arnold always threw the first punch.

bostockThe locals called him a demon, but Arnold didn’t call himself anything except pissed off. He pulledclemente the trigger sending a love jealous bullet into Lymon Bystock’s right temple.He nosedived the planes carrying Roberto Clemente and Thurman Munson to their death. He moved the pen banning the Black Sox, banning Pete Rose. He stopped the heart beat of then commissioner A. Bart Giamatti, just 8 days after Rose was banned.

Arnold McRease remembers it all, remembers it like saline solution shooting through his veins. He’s haunted and tormented, but the feeling won’t stop.

He cut the lines of cocaine sniffed by Keith Hernandez and Paul Molitor. He waved the machete of Uguethe Urbina attacking five Venezuelan farm workers. He was the doubt in Dan Thomas’s prison cell on June 12, 1980 when the former Milwaukee Brewer hung himself.

haddixArnold McRease was the run that didn’t score for Harvey Haddix at County Stadium on May 26, 1959. Arnie was the 45 consecutive hitless at bats for Craig Counsell in 2011. He was the tarp that swallowed Vince Coleman during the 1985 NLCS.

Arnie didn’t mean to do any of it. He had no idea he was a demon. The real ones don’t. Same thing for the saints. But Arnie was there during every god damn gash in the milk and honey of baseball innocence. He was there pouring black tea on the fire. He couldn’t help himself. No one could help him.

But of all the despicable acts Arnold McRease committed, he was proudest of the Montreal Expos. It wasn’t their best record in baseball during the season ending strike of 1994. It wasn’t the fire sale of players that followed. It was in 2002 when baseball’s owners voted unanimously to sell the Montreal Expos to major league baseball.

Arnie was there the following winter to remind the artificial brain trust led by Omar Minaya that Puerto Rico loved baseball and so the MLB sent the Expos on the road to play 22 of its home games in Hiram Bithorn Stadium-Puerto Rico. Oh, but of course. The well dressed men promised Montreal might break even with additional revenue. In reality, Montreal was the perfect guinea pig for the MLB to test its product in the Caribbean.logo

BithornStadium

Hiram Bithorn

No one in their worst nightmare expected the Expos to be in serious contention for the Wild Card as late as August 28, 2003. But there they were in a five way tie for the last playoff spot.The same team that won in 1981 during baseball’s first strike and again in 1994 during its second was winning again while playing on the road, 1,926 miles away from home. Can you say exhausted?

But what perfect timing. It was almost September 1st. In baseball that’s an important day. Rosters can be expanded from 25 to 40 players. But not the Expos. Bud Selig and the MLB handed down a decree saying “Sorry, our team-Montreal can not afford the $50,000 to call up players and so they didn’t. The Expos went 12 -15 the rest of the way. The following year was there last in Montreal.

I remember Arnie in 2003. I bought tickets before the season to see the San Francisco Giants, second row down the left field line, Barry Bond heckler seats. Major league baseball rescheduled the series and sent it back to San Francisco; three more home games on the road.

StratOBonds

2001 Bonds Attack

The fake owners promised we could trade the tickets in for any regular season game. But it wouldn’t be the same. I had a plan and Barry Bonds was a big part of it. He was gonna sign his 2002 Strat-o-matic baseball card-the greatest card in the history of strat-o-matic after the greatest season of any player all time.

Barry was already under the hecklers curse at that point so I would have had to do something outrageous, but pleasant and calm to convince him I wasn’t another self-righteous prick throwing stones from my glass house. I never got that chance, but what the hell, it probably takes just as much temptation and trespass to tango this crazy world round and round as it does discipline and love, this crazy baseball world.
Happy New Year Arnold.


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a small little gathering

Galliano is a name I will always remember as fat mouthed mickey’s malt beer and dumpster diving for day old donuts. We called Galliano, “g-lee” because he wouldn’t tell us his first name.

He showed up at the wall ball diamond to pick a fight. He was a new kid and needed to mark his turf, posing as a gambler with a wad of cash. We should have called him “hot plate.”

He was easy meat for The Last Straw Fantasy Baseball League driving around town in late March looking for the year’s new recruits. They suckered g-lee and his last 260 bucks without lifting a finger. The rules were real simple. Draft 25 major league baseball players and sit back and watch as the season makes or breaks you. That was the last we saw of g-lee until the all-star break.

He returned to the wall ball diamond looking real pale. He had quit the fantasy league, but it had nothing to do with success or failure. He was in second place. He was just bored, real bored.

sidney mines, novia scotia

sidney mines, novia scotia

The draft day in early April turned out to be the first and last time the owners got together. No one even watched games on tv. They stared at numbers on screens and forgot all about their favorite teams.

“Fantasy is for private sky box general managers,” G-lee said.

On the day he returned, it looked like rain, so we headed indoors to play strat-o-matic baseball. G-lee  had nothing else to do, so he bought some mickey’s malt beer and came inside.

He made a lot of “i’ll be damns” while looking at the detailed player cards, advanced strategy charts and the dice. Man oh man, he loved rolling those dice and when the red one landed on 3 and the two white dice added up to 6, he grabbed his hitter’s card and sang “home run 1-15 or fly ball 16-20.” And when he rolled that 20 sided dice to determine the outcome, he recited a play-by-play we never knew he had in him.

Yeh, g-lee loved all that, but what he loved even more was the beer, pizza, and simply hanging out.

I don’t know this Tony guy in the following video, but there’s definitely some g-lee in him.


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maybe today perfecto

I think it was a summer afternoon or was it winter? Who knows? Who cares? We were 20 games plus into the 2007 strat-o-matic baseball season so there was no reason to go outside anyway, but maybe I should have.

Dontrelle Willis of the Octopus Kings threw a no hitter against my Over The Fencers. I thought about offering congratulations, but was too pissed off so I rolled the dice one more time and  said to my friend,  “big deal! it wasn’t a perfect game. throw me a beer.”

There’s been other no hitters in Strat-o-matic time. I witnessed two others on TV, but never a perfect game, never 27 up and 27 down without a base runner. On Tuesday night, Homer Bailey was perfect through six innings, but it didn’t last. It seldom does. He walked Gregor Blanco to lead off the seventh inning and had to settle for just another no hitter.

Thanks to Bailey and Joey Votto’s defense, there’s now been 280 no hitters since 1901, but only 21 perfect games out of something like 350,000 games. It takes some impossible balance of perfect wind, moon, tides, humidity, umpires, great defense and oh yeh, a pitcher with pinpoint control.

There’s been at least one perfect game in every month baseball is played including Don Larson’s 1956 October World Series game. The merry month of May has the most with seven. August had to wait until last season’s King Felix. That was one of three in the same 2012 season-the most ever.

Kenny Rogers threw one on July 28, 1994 three years to the day after Dennis Martinez did the same against the Dodgers. That makes July 28th the only day in which two perfect games have been thrown. It’s also Marty Brenneman’s birthday.

Maybe Mark Buehrle’s in 2009 was the most spectacular because of what happened in the 9th inning. Dewayn Wise’s catch almost silenced White Sox’s announcer Ken Harrelson, but mercy! the hawk returned and perfection happened two outs later.