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.
i called my dad last week. he was born in 1939 so that puts him over 80. he told me he’d been attending a lot of funerals.
funeral hopping i thought to myself, not wanting to make light of death…..memories immediately aroused from my teenage years, of “pool hopping,” as we called it, trespassing into backyards, one after the other and slipping quietly into pools at night.
And then there was baseball stadium hopping. we lived in Milwaukee. we were lucky because in addition to county stadium we were only 90 miles north of Chicago, two teams Chicago, one national, one american, in the pre-interleague days.
In the early 90’s, a Milwaukee bar called the Why Not Two set up a field trip to Chicago, to see the Cubs. I forget how much it cost, but there was a barrel of beer in the back of the bus. I was drunk by the time we reached Wrigley so I don’t remember much, but it was a double header against the Astros.
for some reason which still bothers me I never went to a game at Comiskey Park, never went to see the White Sox and my favorite player Harold Baines. but i did get to see him when the Sox came to play in Milwaukee and i took some pictures of him warming up in the outfield.
more stadiums….my senior year of high school, I entered a contest in the back of Baseball Digest, to win tickets to the 1988 all-star game in Cincinnati and i won, but i soon found out that I had failed to notice one minor detail when filling out the contest entrance form. It was a contest to win the right to “buy” tickets not get free tickets, no big deal, right? Well, thankfully my dad thought so and he splurged which as it turned out wasn’t too much money….around 40 bucks a ticket in the upper deck at Riverfront stadium. I remember three things about the town and game…..firstly, Skyline Chili which is apparently unique to Cincy tasted good……secondly, one of the motel maid’s name was Wanda. My dad loves talking to strangers….and lastly was Jose Canseco hitting upper deck moon shots in batting practice.
but back to that phone conversation with my dad. I asked how he was doing and he said, “I’m kind of in a funk.”
When my dad is in a funk, it’s not because he’s been listening to George Clinton and the P-Funk all-stars. It’s because he’s depressed.”
I figured it was because of all those funerals he’s been going to. boy was I wrong. He said it was because the Brewers traded Josh Hader, arguably the best closer in all of baseball over the last four seasons.
How powerful is baseball! To cause an elderly man to slip into a depression. It didn’t help matters that after the controversial trade, the Brewers lost five out of six games. They were swept by the Pirates and lost two out of three to the Reds, both teams playing well below .500 and to make my dad’s mental state even worse – a few of the losses were caused by bullpen implosions.
My dad’s depression got me thinking about baseball as more than a sport and I got to be careful here, to not slip into over-the-top shmaltziness, but I can’t resist, mostly because i have no ritual or rituals that i follow, no holy rosary around my wrist, no mezuzah on my door post, no red dot on my forehead and so i turn to baseball and wonder…..
…..we’ve debunked the Abner Doubleday creation story and settled on a medley of bat and ball games as an origin…town ball, cricket, I forget the others. But there’s also Russian Lapta to consider not to mention pre-Neolithic revolution days when club and spheroid games were no doubt played when members of the tribe were not hunting and gathering.
There’s also the rites of winter trade talk, opening day, the all-star game and World Series. There’s the rituals of pepper, long toss, around the horn, batting practice, infield practice……a pilgrimage to cooperstown, the amulet magic talisman hobby of baseball card collecting, bards in the booth and legends, from Babe Ruth’s raucous, grateful crowning to a reluctant king in Roger Maris and that seems to cover the gambit of splendour to shame, the ancient masks we all wear. did i mention Mario Mendoza?
There is math in Batting Average and more recently, WAR.
There is science in launch angles and the physics of a pitched ball.
I could go on and on, but we all know and that’s why we love baseball…..
And the good news. The Brewers rebounded. They swept the Rays in a short, two game series and then tied up their series with the division leading Cards, but then on Sunday, the rubber match, the bullpen imploded again, the newly acquired Taylor Rogers (in the Hader deal) allowing four runs in the 8th inning. Albert Pujols hit two home runs. I wonder if he’s the oldest player to do that?
I suspect my dad’s transformed from feeling depressed to being fed up. I’ll call him tonight and remind him that there are still 49 games to be played.