brewers baseball and things


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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.


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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.


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the affectionate one

the thermometer hasn’t changed much recently.
makes the odds of a miracle seem low,

but then last night,
the Brewers were in Toronto for the Jay’s home opener.
the Brewers’ Domingo Santana was at bat.
i forget what inning,
but he stood there and took a bunch of pitches and fouled off a few more.
he does that often.
he looks like a bull fighter not the least bit impressed by the bull pitcher.
i forget how the at bat ended up,
but i felt warmer.
the Brewers won 4-3.


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elements

our first baseman was tall.
most were
and as they got older,
they had to field and hold runners close to the base.
i don’t know how they ballet did it?
with nomadic hookah hospitality?
nice words trickery?
i never found out,
but i made it to first as a runner and
it felt like a scary desert island.
i admired first baseman even more!

many failed at becoming first baseman.
they drifted to the outfield instead or
across the diamond,
to third base or
they quit baseball altogether and
took up cigarettes, stamp collecting or whatever.

the first baseman i know today is not tall and
he never talks about baseball.
he works in a warehouse.
people go and talk to him.
they get to know each other.


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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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pop corn seeds and Eric T

A few weeks ago when the Brewers non-tendered Chris Carter, I think they became the first team in major league history to non-tender the previous season’s home run champion. Carter hit 41 bombs in 2016 to tie the Rockies Nolan Arenado for the National League lead.

A few weeks after dumping Carter, the Brewers did something even weirder. They signed Eric Thames to a three-year contract. Thames spent the last three seasons playing in Korea. I listened to the press conference welcoming him to Milwaukee. Manager Craig Counsell admired the journey Thames had taken to play baseball and looked forward to his journey continuing in Milwaukee. Thames said the pitching in Korea was a lot slower and that it would take some time to adjust to major league velocity.

The transaction was very inspiring. I was almost tempted to drag my bat to the nearest batting cage and rig the machines late at night when no one was watching, take some swings, get up to snuff and try out for the Brewers first base job, but instead I’ll just dedicate the next two paragraphs to Eric Thames and his new life as the Brewers first baseman.

The grapes were bigger that summer. The newspapers blamed it on too much rain. Mr. Crimkins said it was all the dogs licking trees and bushes, spitting nutrition into the fruits, he insisted. Eric T stuffed a handful in his pockets,braved the steps in three monster leaps and stole away into the basement. That’s where he enjoyed the next few months of his life, sitting down there among a bat collection. He had all kinds of bats – yellow birch, hickory, ash, maple, all sizes too and all kinds of players – Lyman Bostock, Ned Yost, Pepper Martin, and Rob Picciolo, just to name a few.

Eric T entered into a zone after leaping down those basement steps. It was like incense fumed in his head or a siren sounded. It was a call to attention –  to work out the kinks of his stance – Cooper crouch or spastic Morgan twitch or maybe both and that holy trinity of medicine – spit, swing and swat grapes and popcorn seeds every which way.

Yes, he had popcorn seeds in his pockets in addition to grapes and he spit them both out his mouth; hit them hard too, so hard, that Eric T dreamed up wine and popcorn afternoons, but more importantly was the repetitive motion. It quickened his wrists and smoothed his hip tango gyrations.

Eric T. rose from the basement into the full bloom of the 2017 season and in early April showed signs of swat and being selective too. His on base percentage hovered near .400 for a while and little by little, Brewers fans forgot all about Chris Carter’s 41 home runs.