brewers baseball and things


towards sun-drenched lands

It had been there for years, stuck in the corner of Tucker Bandwith’s bedroom, leaning against the wall. Tucker never touched it, not out of respect, more disinterest than anything else. He never called it a bat. To him, it was a club because he was into ancient cultures, long time ago cultures, Neanderthal and caveman cultures when supposedly men carried around clubs that helped them ward off monsters, dinosaurs, and saber-toothed tigers.

It was an official bat. Some old ballplayer used it, a real MLB player or that’s what Tucker’s dad said, insisted, in a slur, a drunken slur. He had some connection to the player on the bat, but he never told him what it was. Dad gave it to him in the hope he’d catch the fever and he did, but a different fever – cowboys and punk rock music. Had an album collection that snaked around his room. He wore string ties with brooches and combat boots. He sprawled out on the black and copper- colored shag carpet in his bedroom, read the liner notes of albums and listened to music, the names of songs and albums, even the musicians didn’t matter, only the love he had for the lyrics. He dreamed of becoming a rancher and the dream made its way from his head to his heart to his hands. He rode horses, held reins at the local, indoor stable and on the rare day when it was warm outside and the livestock roamed or reclined, he studied the ways of cows sprawled out on the earthen floor, especially the way their tails waved in the wild, unpredictable breeze.

But then there came a foggy day, so foggy that you could only see the bottom half of downtown skyscrapers and in the suburb where Tucker lived, the water tower completely disappeared. Tucker had never been part of such a day. No one in Broomsville had, Broomsville, the coldest town in the nation, with 347.7 below freezing days per year, but never any fog and then so suddenly this fog, like a Woody Guthrie dust bowl blues rolling in thought Tucker. His caveman instincts kicked in; he picked up that bat, that club and prepared himself for whatever might suddenly come in from the fog, into his private 8×12 bubble. Minutes seemed like hours. He had his Star Wars watch to prove it. He rubbed the bat and it was smooth. He stopped for a second and for the first time, he read the name wood-burned into the barrel. There were actually two names – Louisville Slugger and Pepe Frías. He wasn’t sure which one was the actual name of the player, but it seemed strange to name a kid after a town – Louisville though he knew a girl named Georgia. Anyway, he chose “Pepe” as the name and began to make up a little jingle to soothe his fear of fog…

“born in a railroad track town
wearing an imaginary crown
Pepe Frías makes me clench my fists.”
about a land that no longer exists.”

And he took his song to heart or to his hands; he clenched them and then squeezed them around the bat handle and a creature suddenly appeared out of the fog, a dwarf of a creature with a computer screen for a head, a keyboard chest with all kinds of letters from all different kinds of alphabets – Cyrillic, Latin, and Chinese. There was a purplish brown liquid oozing out from where a human’s belly button would be. It mumbled in low baritone sounds not making any sense. Tucker grabbed the bat and started swinging. The computer screen head soon popped off and that purplish brown liquid started oozing from its arms which were mufflers and from the legs which were mini cement coal plant towers. He kept swinging that bat round and round and up and down and he made solid contact each and every time and he didn’t stop until the creature stopped speaking in that horrible low baritone. A strange silence, a loud silence began.

The fog lifted and Broomsville returned to cold and dark and all was well and right and fine except for the animal rights activists who insisted Tucker had killed an animal for no reason at all. Tucker pleaded with them, insisted that it wasn’t an animal, that he didn’t know what it was, but it made a scary sound and seemed ready to attack, that it was an act of self-defense.

The activists didn’t believe Tucker. They chased after him and they had gas station nozzles that shot gas and large softballs which were actually hard and they reared back and flung them at Tucker who ducked down alleys, kept a decent distance, avoided his attackers, but they grew in number when word sprang up about Tucker “the animal killer.”

Tucker knew every Clyde needs a Bonnie so he ran to his high school and waited behind the old elm tree; he waited for the wonderfully blue-haired, skinny, daughter of a construction worker – Ms. Penelope Dagger. Nothing needed to be said. They held hands and raced toward the Ludding Sea. Tucker positioned the bat under his armpit. Penelope scooped up a decent sized branch and together they sprinted across back yards and over fences and along railroad tracks. They knew all the shortcuts and soon the water appeared. You couldn’t see the other side. It felt like forever, They waded out into the water and drifted, staying afloat thanks to the bat and the branch.

The sun crawled slowly across the sky. Tucker and Penelope tried to bury their fears and enjoy the salty smell and cold, but refreshing water; they tried to feel gratitude towards the wood that kept them afloat, but they couldn’t help looking all around, for the boat that would inevitably appear, an Animal Rights Activist boat that would kill them. Instead, a few minutes later, a canoe appeared and two paddlers asked about the bat and they knew Pepe Frías, knew he was from San Pedro de Macorís and knew his 1976 Topps baseball card, him smiling in a Montreal Expos uniform.

“Any friend of Frías is a friend of mine.” said one of the men. He smiled. “Give me that bat and we’ll give you a ride.”

Tucker handed over the bat, climbed aboard, and with the barter complete, he sang his song,

born in a railroad track town
wearing an imaginary crown
Pepe Frías makes me clench my fists.”
about a land that no longer exists.

No need to clench your fists,” encouraged the paddler. “You’re heading to a land that still exists. You’re already there. It’s the nowhere land.”

“The now here land,” added the other paddler.

Now here thought Tucker. He looked at Penelope. They enjoyed the cold breeze and the seagull soars up above and the purplish clouds on the horizon. It wasn’t long before a fishing boot appeared. The canoe paddlers said a few words and the fishermen extended their hands and Tucker and Penelope stepped on board and then a few miles up ahead a larger cruise ship came into view. Tucker and Penelope slipped onto the back deck and no one noticed. They eventually joined the shuffleboard crowd and made small talk with an old couple from Dusseldorf. The ship was headed south, to the Caribbean.

They watched the waves bubble up behind them as the ship raced on…



suicide alternative

Billy Tourniquet tried his hand at pool and pinball. He rode the rails and clipped coupons. He worked with migrants up and down the California coast. He completed a plumbing program. Got certified too! He learned about fiduciary matters. He handed out beer to homeless people. He sang in midnight Christmas church choirs. He befriended young ladies and they trusted him and so they drank coffee together, at fast food restaurants, outside. They watched people. They talked.

But there was one thing Billy Tourniquet couldn’t do. He couldn’t dance. He took all the courses too… in Tango, Polka, Samba, Salsa, Hip-hop, even break dancing, but he was too stiff. His back hunched. But then over at the bazaar, the Climkin’s weekly bazaar beside the horse stables, he bought a mystery box and inside were baseball cards and there was a crescent moon that night. He studied the backsides of the cards and learned about the acronyms – ERA and HR and SB and he got smitten and did some research and the wick ignited into a flame and soon a baseball forest fire in his mind. He hit up used book stores and bought baseball books and read about shifts and reserve clauses and Ted Williams and the more he read, the more he got that wanderlust. The locals said it was on account of there beings no clock in baseball and the the potential for a ball to travel into outer space.

Billy walked along the highway shoulder with crows waiting to pounce on road kill and those crows weren’t afraid of Billy and Billy wasn’t afraid of the crows and one of the crows said something soft to Billy and he felt encouraged so he walked and walked and walked some more. He toured towns and took a vow to keep on moving until he reached a baseball diamond and there were plenty of golden McDonald arches and Pentecostal churches and traffic lights and then finally, there were was a diamond and that very night a game and he watched one batter, the number nine hitter peruse the infield before stepping into the batter’s box and then he hit the ball where there weren’t any fielders and Billy listened as a few members of the crowd, older gentlemen all said, almost in unison, “that a way Wee Willie, hit ‘em where they ain’t.”

That very same night, Billy Tourniquet wandered into the woods, picked up a stick about the size of a baseball bat and before stepping into the imaginary batter’s box, he impersonated that batter, that number nine hitter. He perused the scene. He stared at the trees and birds and squirrels and then he stepped in and took a few pitches and then poked one between short and third and then he ran and when he reached what he thought was first base and the umpire signaled safe, Billy rolled his hands around in a circle and hopped on one foot and then jumped up and down and as he did, he felt pleasure on the bottom of his feet and the sensation lingered; it moved like acupuncture jolts up his spine and into his mind and he thought about trades and free agents and suicide squeezes, but he didn’t want to commit suicide. He wanted to bat again and there was no shortage of sticks for bats and space for a field so he batted again and again, for both teams, inning after inning, rolling his hands around in a circle and hopping on one foot and jumping up and down after every at bat.


and a deer still eats grass

The chips, glass of green olives, and 2-liter Mountain Dew moved slowly along the conveyor belt, getting closer and closer to the cashier and her red lipstick. Herman Beeline didn’t know her name or her birthday, but he knew she was big…big in lips and big in breasts and she liked to talk, mostly about coupons which was more than enough for Herman. He envisioned her as the lady who would one day make him big brown paper bag lunches with little notes tucked inside, notes that had thoughts on them and these thoughts would occupy Herman’s mind as he earned his keep, delivering the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania newspaper.

Herman thought about grabbing the chips, eating a few and then reaching over the conveyor belt and touching the cashier’s forearm and in the process, end his anxiety, maybe her’s too – that feeling of being totally alone. He woulda rolled the dice if his mom wasn’t there. She knew he eyed the lady cashier and she knew he liked to eat and sealed packages were never a deterrent so she pointed with her index finger for Herman to look away from the lady and the food and it wasn’t that Herman was overly obedient; he was just scared by his mom’s still eyes so he chewed his nails and when he completed all ten, he swivelled his head 180 degrees and looked at the rack of movie star magazines which didn’t take his mind off the cashier, but then he spotted a magazine he’d never seen before, about the size of a baseball digest; it was a 1979 farmers almanac.

Herman grabbed the almanac and opened it up. There were weather predictions, horoscopes and an article on “nuclear families.” He read a few lines. It reminded him of his own family – a house, a mom, dad, brother, and dog named Raja, totally nuclear, but then his father flew the coop, headed north to Alaska, “To live off the land.” The brother went to jail for robbery and when he got released, he joined the Moonies or got abducted by them and disappeared. The dog died of cancer and so did the “nuclear family.” It was just Herman and his mom after that and despite here being strict when it came to food, she was loose as a lush about booze. She became Herman’s personal bartender, every night at sunset…Long Island Ice teas, Harvey Wallbangers, straight whisky, or whatever other concoction she invented.

Herman didn’t like that word nuclear. it reminded him of his family that once was. He flung the Almanac like a frisbee and then stomped up and down the grocery store aisles, grabbing cereal boxes and syrups and throwing them to the floor. He was eventually asked to leave and when he refused, a big armed security guard escorted him out of the store. That’s when he really started thinking about nuclear, about the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant meltdown two months earlier, on March 5, 1979 and another Three – Three Rivers Stadium – home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, in the same state as the nuclear meltdown. It was then that Herman knew; he knew it as certain as a mouse knows how delicious cheese is; he knew that Three River’s Stadium was built on top of a nuclear reactor and one day it too would suffer a melt down too and then what? a Kent Tekulve submarine pitch would disintegrate before reaching Manny Sanguillen’s glove? Omar Moreno chasing down a deep drive would stop in mid-stride and tip over, hyperventilating. There’d be no more heckling Mike Schmidt of the cross state Phillies as fans melted into their seats and disappeared like his nuclear family brother had.

Herman needed to know the future, to warn people of this nuclear meltdown at Three Rivers Stadium, to keep them far away on the day, the players too. This was a big deal in the small, newspaper delivering life of Herman Beeline. He was being called upon to be a super hero in real life, an RS, a Radiation Savior and no surprise that RS also stood for Runs Scored to inspire the Pirates in the 1979 National League East pennant race.

Herman knew scientists and he went to see them and they told him to take notes, collect data. “Of what,” he screamed. “The end is near.” He went to priests and pastors and rabbis and gurus and they all told him the same thing – to look towards the hills, that the answer was there, in the unknown, but Herman had no time for mystery and mystics, he needed specifics, the when Three Rivers Stadium would suffer a nuclear meltdown.

He called a palm reader he found in the back of the very paper he delivered and the palm reader charged him three dollars and told him to never take wooden pennies and that did Herman no good so he consulted an astrologer from the same paper and she gave him a date – July 20th. That’s when the nuclear reactor under Three Rivers Stadium would suffer its meltdown and well, that was only four days away and John Candelaria was scheduled to pitch for the Pirates, against the Astros.

Herman needed help to spread the warning word. He closed his eyes in search of a strategy and the cashier with red lipstick immediately came to his mind. She came in a slide show montage, all the images he’d seen of her, of receiving cash and doling out change, her blushing and smiles and dancing in place. God, she was perfect. He raced back to the grocery store and explained to her his predicament, Pittsburgh’s predicament. He asked her name. She told him. Sandy. They talked about coupons, the wind and well, she accepted her role as Radiation Savior 2. They made capes with RS on the back. They printed out fliers, warning citizens and players of the nuclear reactor under the stadium and the impending meltdown. They contacted the local media – newspapers and television. No one listened.

On the day of the game, Herman and Sandy sat in the bunker they had dug and listened on an AM transistor radio and an amazing thing happened. There was no meltdown and the Pirates won, a complete game by Candelaria and a home run by Phil Garner off the Astros J.R. Richard.

Sandy never made Herman brown paper bag lunches, but Herman bought a flask of Smirnoff and mixed it into sunny delight orange juice and he invited Sandy for a drink of a “screwy delight” and a wander down by one of the three rivers and so they went together and a deer was there, standing on all fours, looking calm, eating grass, and eyeing them every once in a while.


Rain check

I don’t have a very good memory, but the first baseball game I attended was at County Stadium in Milwaukee; a double header against the Red Sox. Dick Drago pitched at some point for the Sox. It was 1978 or 1979. It was my birthday. My dad told me to invite some friends to the game and so I did. He handed us kids our tickets, actual tickets, ones we could hold in our palms and look at.

I didn’t know the atomic number of too many elements on the periodical table or that much about space shuttle journeys or Shakespeare lyrics, but I knew that ticket was my key into the game, a real god damn game with players I’d seen on TV and heard grown men talk about. Do they even have tickets nowadays? Or is the proof that you paid digitally recorded on a cell phone? How do you collect ticket stubs on a cell phone?

Anyway, the man standing beside the turnstile ripped my ticket into two unequal halves. I never thought much about the half he handed me or I did, but not the small print on the back. Instead, I focused on the row, aisle, seat number information. It would be my home for the next 18 innings. I was too excited about seeing Cecil Cooper in his crouched Carew-like stance to care about small print words. I had met Cooper at Cody for Kids Shoe Store at Milwaukee’s Bay Shore Mall. He signed a black and white picture of himself batting. I put it in a frame (without glass) and mounted it on my bedroom wall.

After we reached our seats in the upper grandstand, I could have set my ticket stub free, let it float like one of those helicopter leaves to become part of the beautiful mess – the empty paper beer cups and peanut shells and hard cement floor. Yeh, I could have, but I didn’t, instead I kept that stub, stuffed it in my pocket and in the front of my mind knew with sudden urgency that I would start a ticket stub collection, not knowing why, not knowing that maybe years later, I’d look at the stub and remember what had happened at the double header – maybe a Moose Haas win, a Robin Yount stolen a base and opposite field home run? Lenn Sakata? Don Money? Ben Oglivie? I just thought about the stub and how cool it would be to have lots of them, how cool it would be if my dad brought me to more games.

I don’t remember much about that double header, but for the sake of this post, I’m going to pretend that during batting practice, it started to rain and I watched other fans study their ticket stubs and so I snuck a peak too and discovered the unthinkable – that sometimes rain didn’t stop, even at a baseball game and when that happened, the game could get cancelled, even a double header and how deceived I would feel, that I’d been tricked, that life wasn’t all birthday cakes and Cooper’s stance; that things didn’t always turn out the way I wanted them too….

and in this pretend scenario, as we walked away from County Stadium, rain soaking through our jackets, making them heavy like blankets; as we stomped in puddles towards the car, I would be filled with a very promising thought – that the ticket stub I had kept was like a psalm, a promise of a batter day, that the rain would stop and there would be another game and that I would be entitled to attend that game; that one day I would finally see Cecil Cooper and the Brewers, that maybe life wasn’t completely bad.


the umpires who chewed gum

She woke to AM talk radio every morning, before the sunrise, in total darkness. She woke to words of a war in a faraway land, car crashes and four-alarm fires. “Redhead” Radcliffe took a few deep breaths, but rather than relax her, she felt annoyed at the life she’d chosen or rather, the life her father had chosen for her – work at the feather shop, the arranged marriage, a devoted husband, and two kids.

She raised her arms and stepped out of bed or tried to, but the realization that she had never exercised her own free will was overwhelming. She slipped back under the covers and longed for something different, something not so tuned to her father’s vision.

She switched the radio to FM, to classic jazz and though she didn’t know the names of bands or songs, the bass and hi-hat sounds ignited a daydream. She would have no husband or children and there would be no job at the feather shop. Instead she would work at a warehouse picking orders with fellow “clock watchers,” as the boss called them because they had the habit of staring at the clock hanging from the wall. It would be no Big Ben, but it would still inspire dreams, of the hands moving faster, to bring the day to an end, but those hands would move slower than molasses and time, in the minds of the “clock watchers,” would became a tyrant, one with no remorse. It would always win.

The warehouse would have no windows and when the boss wasn’t spying from his second floor office, the workers would talk, none more than the oldest employee – Lockhead McDade. He would talk to Redhead Radcliffe about centipedes and global warming and then talk some more during their 15-minute break, at lunch, and insist on walking with her after work.

Lockhead would exaggerate his gait on the way home, doing what he called the “silly” walk, longer strides than usual, a nice rhythm, thought Redhead, a seductive one. The two would walk side-by-side.

Lockhead would invite “Redhead” Radcliffe to dinner and she was free, had no husband, no kids and so she would accept. It would be a small, one-bedroom apartment and they would eat salmon and pasta and Lockhead would flip on the TV, to watch a baseball game, all of it brand new to Redhead. She would have never seen a baseball game before.

“You see the way the pitcher tries to outsmart the batter,” Lockhead would explain, “a quick pitch, his change of speeds, but the batter gets his chance in this duel. You’ll soon see the way he calls time and steps out of the box to upset the timing of the pitcher.”

And then Lockead would finish his salmon , stand up and declare that he was born between Shakespeare and Hitler, in April, around opening day and…

“so what if the average fan is 57 years old, there’s no need to speed up the game. Leave it be. Let the empire known as baseball run its course like the Roman, the Inca and the endless others. Let it fade away. There will still be games, maybe not MLB games, but people will play all over the world and not a penny will be earned. Yes, people will wear mitts and hold bats and there will be championships and scouts and pine tar incidents and foul poles and if stadiums are destroyed to make room for expensive condos, baseball fans will transform old junk yards into diamonds and they will toss and swat anywhere there is grass and dirt, even on pavement and at the base of mountains and on top of buildings and to the hell with instant replay and robot umps. Let pitchers and players adjust to the imperfection. There are cracks in tombstones, the names no longer legible.”

Lockhead, apparently done with his speech, would then walk Redhead to the door and ask her to leave, but rather than upset Redhead, she would welcome his unpredictability. And the next day at work, Lockhead would stomp up the metal stairs to the boss’s watch tower office and Redhead and the others workers would watch as Lockhead tied the boss to his chair, turned off the light and slammed the door. He would then stomp down the metal stairs, three steps at a time, back to the “clock watchers.”

“Any ball that hits the roof is an automatic double,” he would announce. “The home run wall is obvious, the rack in the back. We’ll use cardboard as bases. This will be warehouse ball and we have plenty of players, more than enough for managers and four of us to be umpires and we will call balls and strikes and declare fair and foul and we will chew gum to welcome managers and players to argue with us.”

And before first pitch, old Lockhead would walk to the wall, unhinge the clock and remove the batteries.


and then pangea happened…

you’d think a walk-off home run woulda sent the young fan to his knees, especially since it was Easter Sunday, but it didn’t. Wily Barrel stood up so he could see the blast but after the winning run crossed the plate, he sat back down, frozen, lost in the impossibility of it all – a team, the Hillsborough Haymakers trailing 5-2 in the bottom of the ninth, two outs, two strikes, and then two hit-by-pitches, a pitching change and a three run blast into the teeth of a 37 mph spring breeze to tie the game followed by a four pitch walk and another blast to win it extending the team’s winning streak to eleven game in a row!

Wily Barrel never forgot that day, that game, that ending. you could say it doomed him. It was just a home run, “a kid’s game,” pleaded the shrinks – “get over it,” but he couldn’t and years and decades passed and like anyone else, Wily slipped into a routine, imprisoned by a pattern he couldn’t control, – at the rail every night, at the end of the bar rail sipping one beer after another, chin in hand, feeling like he’d spent most of his life trying to recapture that feeling, that being present during those home runs, that walk-off, the smell of bratwursts and beer suddenly so present as well as the body odor of fellow fans, that cold spring breeze massaging his face and the colors; everything seemed brighter…. he had never felt so tapped into reality and even those wide-eyed baby newborns had nothing on his heightened perception that day and so there was booze, lots of it, and LSD and cocaine, all kinds of drugs and religions and meditations to recapture that feeling, but nothing worked, only the pining remained and it was this pining that led him to pangea.

Wily woke up one drunk morning and the word was on his mind, this pangea and he had no idea how it got there. He repeated it a few times and as he did, he remembered a definition from some old world book encyclopedia browse or a national geographic magazine, this pangea, a super continent, the idea that all of earth’s landmasses were once one giant blob, but maybe it was more than an idea; maybe it was a fact? Wily wasn’t sure. he wasn’t there when it happened, paleolithic, neatropic, demontrific. Were there humans back then?

He kept this thought of pangea in his mind, tucked it like a good luck rabbit’s foot in his noggin, over and over he said the word like the mantras he had learned about in his study of one of the religious isms. And like his grandpa Clint told him – to think it, see it, and you’ll find it and sure enough he found himself at Henry the coke dealer’s river west apartment and there was an album on the floor……Pangea by Miles Davis.

Henry the coke dealer knew his music. He attended shows and played a few instruments too. He was the kind of man who had sympathy for paranoiacs. He skipped subtleties and spoke direct and Wily appreciated this. Henry the coke dealer wasn’t much of a baseball fan, but he was interested in everything and he knew Wily was a fan so they talked about the Haymakers and foul poles and balks and there were all kinds of questions and this made Wily feel like he had an identity, that he was a someone, a baseball fan. Wily picked up the album Pangea and as he did, he didn’t exactly feel one with universe, but he realized how different him and Henry were and yet, they had come together through a discussion of baseball and the connection was getting bigger and bigger as they talked about going to a game.

It would be the first game Wily had been to since The Walk-Off Game so many years earlier and they did go to a game and Wily did more than smell bratwursts; he bought one and then another for his friend Henry the coke dealer. He bought a program too. The two of them sat, in pangea togetherness, as Wily explained to Henry how to keep score. The 6-4-3 scribbles. It was like riding a bike….after so many years, Wily still had it.


memories of jean osowski and curtains on 2022

i hear it all the time…to never burn bridges and i’ve come to disagree. It’s better to blow them up! i was once walking across the north avenue bridge in milwaukee, walking west. a girl was walking east and we would have been ships passing in the day, but when i got nearer and she got nearer, we recognized each other. We knew each other from a class we were in together. we sometimes sat together. her name was Jean Osowski. she wore a green army jacket. the class was evolution and variation. it was a cool class. i once asked the teacher how long it would take for us humans to grow fins if we were born in water and stayed there our entire life, generation after generation in the water. how many generations would it take? he laughed and said, “a lot.”

anyway, Jean had just left her boyfriend’s house. they had broken up. she had tears in her eyes. i asked what was the matter. she told me the situation and confessed that she was walking back to his house. i didn’t need to know for what. I hadn’t had many love situations before, only one in fact, but i knew she was feeling super lonely, lonelier than before she met her current/old boyfriend. She wanted him back….needed him back…had no choice. the pain was too great. I mustered up some courage from god knows where and took the reins. I put my arm on her shoulder, a soft grip of some bone and turned her around. she didn’t resist. we walked in the opposite direction of her boyfriend’s place and when we made it to the other side of the bridge, I led her down the slope to the Milwaukee river and she cried and more confidence came to me once again from god knows where. i leaned over and kissed her on the lips. we stood up. we hugged each other. no more words were spoken. she walked away, in the opposite direction of her boyfriend’s place. I never saw her again. together, we had blown up the bridge and since this is supposed to be a baseball blog, i’m reminded of the Brewers 2022 season. couldn’t even make the playoffs in a year with three wildcard teams. i think i’ll write 2022 on a piece of paper and burn it, only because i don’t have any dynamite.


the droopy-eyed motel

Terminal Hedwig had no idea how he got there – to those railroad tracks high above a deep gorge with a slip through the ties a certain death.

“how ?” he kept asking himself. a drunken wander? abducted by a cult? extra terrestrial parachute? suicidal leaning?”

he didn’t breath too deep. didn’t want to rattle his body one way or the other and slip through the ties, so instead, he carefully, with a sudden will to live, tiptoed to the other side, the safe side, to the rest of his days, some sort of 12th chance or however many it would be and next thing he knew he was flat on his back, staring up at a late afternoon sky, the shapes of clouds like those of a naked, skinny-to-the-bone prisoner of war, a rib cage sky, and he cried as he lay there and then, his belly boiled, hotter than a heating pad followed by a sudden burst from somewhere within him or outside him and a realization that it didn’t matter where it came from.

it had happened and he shot up like he’d been jabbed with epineprine and there he was, standing on the outfield grass of some diamond or field or yard, a pitcher’s mound in place but not much else, no bases or traces of dugouts, only that mound and what lay beneath it…ghosts? dead ancestor bones? both?

Terminal Hedwig knew in his gut that he had defied death, gravity too. he raced around what were once probably bases, round and around he raced and stumbled and fell and got up and raced until he could breath no more and then he thought about beer and green tea and knew that some days called for one and others days called for the other. The sun was settling now and the clouds along the horizons were orange and purple, a time to celebrate, a time for beer.

he reached into his pocket and felt some paper, six-20 dollar bills….. enough for a 12 pack of Pabst cans and three nights at the droopy-eyed motel and its stained carpets, smell of a damp basement, 25 cent vibrating beds, mirrors on the ceiling, artifacts of what once were but would probably never be again. he spotted a newspaper on the dresser, beside the bed and that paper had the funnies and a sports page with box scores and it wasn’t from that day or even that year, but it didn’t matter because as he was reading it, he forgot about the experiment he was a part of, this life thing that involved death and then he looked towards the wall and there was a tv and he turned it on and there was cable and the mariners were playing the diamondbacks at 7 and he didn’t know much about either team.

he popped a top on a pabst and then another and another and abracadabra it was suddenly 7 and the Mariners took the field.


even the dogs did a little jig

The pre-game, pagan circus show starring Loretta Le Croix and her swordfish swim did nothing to change the fortunes of the Catchemcan Cannonballs, pride of southwest Kentucky…..nor did Nathan Leopold’s cave man chants while tiptoeing across red hot coals. There were vodka screwdriver giveaways, replica baseball player doll days. Nothing worked. The Cannonballs kept losing, but there were crowds….oh, there were big crowds and not only baseball fans. Preachers came and so did cops and peddlers and tinkers and thieves and they all shared cold feet and straight-faced jaws of indifference.

Manager Billy Oppenheimer loved to sleep, so much that he installed a bed in the dugout and caught some zeeee’s between innings, insisting that his dreams would solve the riddle of “incessant losing.” He woulda been fired too if he hadn’t a been a local boy, born and raised in Catchemcan. Local pundits said this aroused pride in folks who were so weighed down by all the abandoned coal mines, poverty, begging on the street, and the revival of hoovervilles.

The skipper’s bed became the hunchback good luck charm of players, specifically relief pitchers, not so much to right the ship-to win, but to ensure a steady flow of whisky in the bullpen. There were bootleggers back there, disguised as law-abiding citizens and they slipped them relievers dark jugs of moonshine whisky. The onlookers, those feisty local prohibition police came closer.

“What’s you got inside the jug?” they asked “We run a peaceful operation here! It’s a break, ya know, a little baseball medicine, for the residents.”

“Nothing but molasses,” promised “Tender Legs” McGoo, the closer. “Good for our pitching hands. Gives us a better grip.”

“Doesn’t seem to do you a lick of good. Can’t win a damn game, but alright then,” surrendered Johnny Law, not too interested in investigating the situation any more, preferring the breeze and daydreaming about their honey’s pot roast later that night.

The relief pitchers typically sipped the moonshine, giving them a slight attitude adjustment when they entered the game which was often and they were good, real good, about the only good thing the team had, in terms of statistics anyway….hadn’t given up a run in sixty three innings. Those damn starters walked the clean-up hitter, the nine hole, the third string catcher. They couldn’t hit an ocean with a beach ball….couldn’t make it out of the fourth inning and the game was already over by then. But those fans stayed, them and their cold feet and straight-faced jaws of indifference.

Well, one day them relievers drank moonshine all game long and in gulps too, out of nerves. you see, there was a perfect game going on, as rare as a toilet in a farm field for a Catchemcan starting pitcher and so not one of them relievers was summoned and they kept drinking and they passed out in the pen and never did find out if the perfect game happened. They woke up with a hangover, a headache worse than a heartache and they did what any right-minded citizen would do, they drank some more to revive the previous night’s feeling and after a few gulps the feeling was even better than the original drunk high.

They danced across the outfield grass as the position players performed stretches and played long toss in preparation for the new day’s game, them relievers still in the dark about that perfect game and with every dance step, they stopped caring about perfection. Once those players caught sight of the dance, they stopped and danced too and the manager, that snoring Billy Oppenheimer arose from the dead bed and declared that he would wake up early from then on and that practice would begin before dawn.

Didn’t matter if it was a day or night game….they were all to report to Billy Oppenheimer’s bedside before that sun crawled up the horizon and well it didn’t do a damn thing for the team’s won loss record, but that “crazy walking” as the newspaper coined the dancing, slipped into the umpire’s shoes and ushers too and police men and the organ player and the dancing never stopped, long after the game, into the streets and the bars and the zoo …..yes even the animals got into it as well as break rooms of banks, the schoolyard, the prayer people under the moon, painters of the water tower, and the dogs loitering beside the lagoon.

there was the side-step, the cradle launch, the bugaboo and whatever other dances the Catchecan folks and dogs and other animals felt like doing… fish started jumping too…