brewers baseball and things


polymania and the jays

there was Fenway Park. Just about everyone talked about its left field home run wall, the green monster. it was One Shot McGoo who turned left and not right, led the boys away from Fenway Park, to the Wigwam, home of the Boston Braves. it was 1947. it was two years after the war. Warren Spahn was back. One Shot McGoo didn’t need to convince anyone after that game, a 9-0 win for the Braves, a Spahn complete game shutout. Tommy Holmes went 5 for 5. Earl Torgeson hit a triple and drove in two runs.

the Wigwam gang was born. No one ever mentioned the Red Sox again.

and as the days and games passed, the boys began to wonder about wigwams and braves and what the words meant and so they snuck away to the library and found out about wigwams being domed dwellings and Braves meaning a lot, from Chippewa to Passamaquoddy to Iroquois Confederacy and maybe most importantly, in a practical sort of way, the beauty of a canoe, the way one is built. They loitered that same day in the alley beside Penticelli’s fish market and when the time was right, they swiped a few pickle buckets and with some ply wood slabs nailed to the buckets, they rigged up a raft and spent that summer paddling in no particular direction.

The Braves relocated to Milwaukee and eventually Atlanta. Boston became a one team city, but the wigwam gang still refused to root for the Red Sox. A few members of the gang had children and there was no scientific evidence that their love for the Braves seeped into their genes, some new DNA rebel strand passed on from generation to generation, but in the 1970’s, an invisible force guided the children of the Wigwam gang. They turned left, not right too and smoked lucky strikes beside the reformatory and a few years later, drifted into all you can drink coffee diners and at night, drank Schaefer beer from bottles at old man dive bars.

The sons of the Wigwam gang stuck together and most of them found their way, for better or worse.

The son of One Shot McGoo, birth name Tristan, mandala tattoo on his pitching arm, slipped across slimy rocks and swam into the rapids, head out of the water, a joint dangling from the side of his mouth. He jumped up on bar rails, ripped his shirt off and sang as cigarette smoke danced its way up to the x-shaped revolving fan hanging from the ceiling. he swore he’d jump off the Chuckskins bridge the night of high school graduation and he did and drowned and died.

Mitchel Doogans waxed on and on about the hydroelectric potential in waterfalls and the physics of a pitched baseball. Never did earn a university degree. Learned it all in the pubic library on his days off from the plastics factory.

Issac Bendrhymer set up a yurt, grew his own produce and petitioned the city council for the right to have cows and chickens in the back yard of the apartment complex where he lived.

Two Tones Trype was the only son of the wigwam gang who had no way, no idea what to do. he wondered about his father, still on the semi-pro baseball circuit and its million dreams. Two Tones delivered newspapers. Washed dishes at a pizza joint. Sat alone, at the end of a rail and never caught the fever of camaraderie, every social encounter a crucible, to survive.

But then came 1976 and the announcement that a baseball team was coming to Toronto, in another country, but closer than Seattle, the other expansion team…nothing a penpal connection couldn’t solve. And so Two Tones sent a letter to Baseball Digest, to the Fans speak out section, included his mailing address in the hopes he might exchange a few letters and if he was really lucky receive a fold up Blue Jays schedules that could easily fit into his wallet.

There were no replies, but there was still Toronto and the Lake Ontario it hugged and how it connected to other Great lakes, all that fresh water and merging with the St. Lawrence River and Montreal and further east, the wide open, massive Atlantic Ocean and what about Jays, the birds, where did they go in winter and were there hunters and gatherers in the region? native tribes and….

Two Tones bought his first pack of baseball cards and wondered about the printing press that made the cards and then he thought about the history of ink…..old ink from feathers and carriages and horses and rolling hills and mountains and sheep and who would be the first player the Jays drafted in the expansion draft and it turned out to be Bob Bailor and that rhymed with sailor and that was water and Two Tones remembered his father telling him about the raft he and the Wigwam gang built and Two Tones suddenly had a road; a polymania, a mad craving for everything in the universe.



doesn’t have to be hairspray

he had some outward signs…the grey patch of hair, a bit odd for someone 17 years young and then there was that cold, still gaze he shot at you, those pupils hinting at infinity, unsettling. But what really scared Wendel’s parents was the book he carried around with him….slept with it, brought it to school, parked it beside his dinner plate. Mom asked him where he bought it and Wendel wasn’t the least bit shy. “got it brand new, for a dollar, at St. Hedwig’s annual book bazaar.”

Three months passed and that book was always with Wendel like a third arm or something. He grew his hair long and took to smoking cloves.

Wendel’s mom drank vodka before sunset and well into the night, lubricating her pose of “respecting secrecy.” She waited for Wendel to fall asleep, tiptoed around his room with a flashlight and found the book, on his bed, beside his body. She recognized the tan cover and hitter’s stance. She scooped it up, retraced her steps back outside and committed literary sin; she read the back of the book synopsis. It didn’t strike here as a banned book from some old, prude decade, no illicit sexual exploration or mocking of an ethnic group. The author was Donald Gropman and the book was about JOE JACKSON, the baseball player, not the singer.

Mom then did what she always did with books. She asked a random question and then thumbed to a page, a passage, for an answer. she closed her eyes and asked,

“what is my son’s dark side?” and then she ruffled through some pages, exaggerated a long inhale through her nostrils and exhaled out her mouth, ruffled some more pages, decided on one or it decided for her. She moved her finger up and down, and then stopped, opened her eyes….page 70, lower right hand corner. An entire paragraph highlighted in yellow.

“in the territory of the Southern League (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisianna, and Tenessee), the spring of 1910 was one of the coldest on record. Sea lions swam in the ship canal at Galveston, Texas, where they had never been seen before. And for the first time in its history, the Southern League had to call all its games one day because of the cold spell.”

she jotted each and every word down, returned the book to Wendel’s bed, and went to see her husband. the two discussed the grey patch of hair on their son’s head and his still glaze and now these words, these dangerous, highlighted words.

“Maybe we should have given him a different name,” wondered the father. “a catcher’s name, maybe Milt after Milt May.”

“Yes, a catcher,” replied the mother….”close to the ground, rooted, a survivor.”

“Not some half-crazed doomsday lunatic named Wendel,” continued the father, “this cold spell cancelling games in the southern league will no doubt be more than enough fodder to ruin our boy’s optimism. He’ll drink hair spray, push around a shopping cart and whisper about the ice age doom that awaits us.”

Mom and dad’s concerns proved to be legit. Wendel mounted a poster on his wall describing the earth’s previous six extinctions and the seventh one we are currently stuck in. He began to rip away his cuticle flesh, blood dripping on the kitchen table…the sight of which forced mom and dad to play their card.

They called the Revive the Ritual Crew and the RRC, as they were known around town, didn’t hesitate, the desperate fiends; they came in a blue truck, armed in space suits, knocked down Wendel’s bedroom door, wrapped him up in a straight jacket and carried him away, to the headquarters where there were housing units, wrought iron fire escapes, cars, buses, pollution and back alleys and there were also trees and rabbits. it was a place where the days were split up in abacus organizational detail – morning meditation, reciting prayers, observing birds, listening to bus brakes, counting stars, all of it designed to tune Wendel and the other prisoners into the miracle of existence.

Wendel tricked the authorities with fake smiles and in secret, plucked dandelions and a few months later, turned them into wine and got all of the prisoners drunk and well, shit, god damn, they had a baseball team too and so he served in thought and deed – he studied pitchers and learned how to hit to all fields and play his position, the one his parents recommended – catcher, shifting his feet like a hockey goalie, blocking balls with his body.

…and there came a day when Wendel was deemed appreciative of his surroundings and therefore, ready to be reintegrated into society and when he left, he removed the rituals like a scuba diver escaping the suit, naked, relieved, returning to land and a new thought hit him like a never before breeze; that it was all tangents – meditation, prayers, doomy thoughts, camaraderie at the bar rail, and with that in mind, Wendel hankered for Seattle Pilots baseball cards and he had other desires too….there were Asian players to collect and Mariners games to listen to and with his new belly (he ate well with the Revive the Ritual Crew) a possible spot on the local softball team, as a first baseman because he was ready to be hospitable, to converse with baserunners, to share a little wretch over what we all have to suffer.


bowing to Blass

that red cheeked Sierra Sanchez, she liked Ender’s cleveland browns sand knit winter cap that he wore in summer and the way he lifted his white socks with the side of his shoe and when she found out that it caused a rash on his shins, she said, “I love you.” And Ender Finish relished the jean jacket she borrowed him when he cut his finger on a broken mickey’s malt beer bottle, like one of those silver trauma jackets, thought Ender, comforting, momma was here again and so he said “i love you” back at Sierra Sanchez and it took them both out of their minds, but something happened, something he said? he did? he was never sure, but she cried one day and dropped her hands, shoulders slouched, and she walked away and a few days later october, the marlins won the world series.

Ender didn’t like florida, not the beaches nor the sun and definitely not the sandals people wore and he didn’t like that a team only four years old could win the world series and Ender suddenly didn’t like anyone, his head down as he walked, dog nose to the grindstone in search of nothing, but there was something – a baseball card and it was steve blass and well, Ender believed that a crow appearing on a mailbox meant something, a symbol of some sort and so finding a baseball card also meant something so Ender went to the local library and did a search and up came some old newspaper articles and off to the microform machine he went and soon learned of Steve Blass syndrome and he knew all over again that nothing lasts forever, that Sierra Sanchez was fleeting and the body too, not reliable and Ender, right then and there, in that library booth, slipped into a state of wanting it all – wanting to see the sky and strange shaped eerie clouds and wanting to see the beautiful black infinity alley, all the smelly bags of restaurant trash and water dripping from gutters and if he was really lucky, cats without homes, burning fires in garbage cans.

he shed the sand knit cap and stopped lifting his socks with the side of his inner shoe. he combed his hair and there was a university degree and a mailroom job and an apartment and tv dinners and he thought – this is a life….this is it. this is what everybody gets so excited out about – independence, the thrill of a mail box with one’s name inscribed on it, a screaming commandment that I AM HERE and then year after year, he lost more and more hair and his knees started aching. He signed up for acupuncture. He switched jobs. He became a white sox fan, read about Ron Kittle and the 1983 team that won the American League west and then he lost some more hair and started playing badminton and bought velcro shoes and all along, he never got rid of that Steve Blass card. It was his 1974 Topps card, his glove hand fully extended, aimed at the sky. He’s off balance, but his eyes look glued at the plate, maybe at the ump for some change of fate, for a strike to be called. The back of his card tells the tale, of that infamous 1973 season…..when he hit 12 batters and walked 84 in 88.2 innings and the following year? He pitched five innings and that was it. end of his career.

Ender keeps the card on the desk beside his bed, next to his alarm clock. he looks at it every morning, a shrine of sorts, definitely idolatry, but he looks anyway, a reminder that this might be the last day.


designated for assignment

the afternoon school bell sounded at 3:12, exactly like it had the previous day and the day before that too – loud and decisive…signalling the end of math and stinky Ms. Booroar, but one late June bell was different than all the others; it was better, because it was truly THE END….the end of the school year and the beginning of summer.

the boy in the back of the class, the one with straight blond bangs that covered his eyes thought about the world’s first bell and then his thoughts jumped a beat, to Railroad Park where the home run fence was 200 feet from home plate, all the way around, from left field to right, 200 feet, and there was equality in that and more importantly, possibility, because hitting one over that fence seemed not so insurmountable.

no one in the little league threw curve balls or sliders. they were all fastballs, mediocre speed at best and no movement, groove jobs, right down the middle. No one knew how to paint corners either and yet, this kid with the straight blond bangs, this Tristan Lemming couldn’t hit one over the fence. couldn’t even bounce one there. He was a right-handed batter and when one year passed and then another and still no home run, he switched and batted from the left-side and it was only worse. he couldn’t even make contact.

the next league was called the bigger league and the home run fence had different dimensions, bigger ones, 315 down the lines, 330 in the alleys and 390 to straight away center. Tristan went to the tryout and made the league because he could poke the ball to all fields but he still had his mind on a home run. he believed it would be an initiation, a rite of passage, a transformative experience, from being a nonentity to becoming a cock sure superman. he wanted more than anything to take a home run trot, to perform his Jeffrey Leonard one-flap-down equivalent and yet all he could muster was a seeing-eye single, something he detested and then things got worse – the coaching staff got wind that he could bunt and so his third base coach flashed him the sign every once in a while – to bunt with the bases empty and more often than not he dropped a beauty down the line and legged it out for a single and so the boys and coaches and manager in the know called him Butler, not because he served other people, but rather, to honor Brett Butler, the former big leaguer who could drag a bunt for a base hit as good as anyone – all time.

and as he got older and made the high school varsity, his lack of clout became more psychologically dangerous than his earlier years. it aroused all kinds of doubts….. he suffered the painful pondering of why the hell am i here in the first place!

But there was some good news. The high school home run fence was less daunting than the previous one – a mere 290 down the left field line and so off he went in the early hours of Sunday morning, when the other kids were smuggled against their will into church where they sat at pews, feigning devotion, baseball stat books tucked into scripture and while they pretended to love god, Tristan was at the High School Field and not a sole could be seen. He stood at home plate, tossed up a ball and hit one after another and even with no pitcher, he couldn’t hit one over the fence, but eventually there were sounds, whistling sounds coming from the forest in deep-center and the shape of man under a willow tree, his raised arms blending in with the dangling leaves that behaved like long, tribal earrings. he wore a fisherman’s hat and when he was sure he had Tristan’s eyes on him, he raced towards the fence, climbed up and over and continued on toward Tristan. He walked on his toes, a hippity hoppity gait. He seemed happy. He pointed to where he had come from – beyond center field and the weeping willow. He didn’t bother with formal introductions, choosing instead to say,

“I learned it all from the leaves, the way they dance in the wind and then, sort of suddenly, there is no wind and the dancing stops, for a while anyway, but it returns. It’s the old fallow and fertile game, back and forth, round and round. So, my good man, why not put the bat down for a while, give your troubled mind a rest. Take to the streets,” and here he pointed east, looking as certain as a weather vein.

“Go where the old stadium used to be,” he continued. Push through those saloon style doors and buy a round for the drinkers and I bet you’ll hear about the violin player atop the dugout and Colver’s Corner beyond the right field fence and Penny Bendrimer’s two no-hitters during that inaugural season.”

The man handed Tristan a twenty dollar bill.

“That oughta cover it,” he said. “There’s never more than three or four barflies in the joint. I know them all. Tell them McGibbons sent you.” Tristan dropped his bat, took the twenty dollar ball and without saying a word, he walked away, and with every step, the memory of his failures faded like a passing fire truck, his mind newly tuned to finding out about a team his grandpa had only whispered about…


some sort of science experiment

there have been many baseball suicides over the years.

Jeremy Giambi is the most recent, this past February, gun shot wound to the head. The variety of methods is plentiful, from Dude Esterbrook leaping from a train window on the way to Middletown State Asylum to Pea Ridge Day slitting his throat with a hunting knife. Bert Hall hung himself. Fred Bratschi ingested battery acid and on and on goes the sad, tragic list.

One method not listed is Curiosity Over What’s Next. This gets me me thinking about one Hermie Snorek, the 62-year old newspaper delivery man who always wanted to catch a foul ball or a fair ball if he happened to be sitting in the bleachers. Let’s say he was a fan of the Minnesota Twins. He attended games at Metropolitan Stadium, then the Metrodome, and more recently Target Field. He watched Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Rod Carew, Kirby Pucket, and Miguel Sano and through all the years, he never once caught a foul ball though there was that one time, seated in the upper deck, 1977, Carew flirting with .400, a ball came up there and there weren’t too many fans, a chase ensued, but Hermie had a bum knee and lost the race.

Hermie had no wife or kids and well, the call from the other side, if there is another side became very welcoming, like a tent with a hookah and a band of pilgrims welcoming him in. Hermie had a knack for inventing things like take the mini waterfall in his basement. He rigged up a contraption enabling him to trap energy from the waterfall in a tube, plug the tube into a hot plate to boil water and presto he could cook up a cup of rice and he did just that and mixed in a can of sardines and well, protein galore. Life was good, really good. He had season tickets to Twins games, but that foul/fair ball still eluded his hungry hands….then, an idea launched in Hermie’s mind and since he had nothing else to do, other than deliver his morning papers, he mixed this into that and that into this. He worked all hours of the night and he wasn’t alone.

There were mice in the house, in the basement, where he worked so he caught them with a butterfly net and used them in his experiments. A Twins season passed and then another and still no results, but then one year, he discovered the right ingredients…a liquid, a simple liquid rubbed on the mice’s toes and he achieved his objective. It was time to try it out on himself and as luck or destiny would have it…. one cool, April afternoon at Target field, a ball hovered above the section where Hermie was sitting and up went his hands coated with that magic liquid he had brewed and down came that ball and though he didn’t catch it (the ball popped out), his flesh had made contact with the ball and he vanished into thin air. Hermie passed on doing what he loved, watching baseball, his dream of catching a baseball almost realized and for the few fans in his same section that witnessed the vanishing, well, Hermie Snorek lived on, forever in their minds, as first and foremost, a diehard Twins fan.


into the wind

It was like any megaphone inception…a few family members prone to wearing Sunday’s finest, felt blessed that a child wearing their name would soon discover snow and sand, and other family members, the ones who suffered buses splashing slush on their paints, wondered if the child would make other children cry.

mom and dad discussed with great pride the genes they would stamp on their child.

Mom was Wendy and she liked the name because Wendy was so damn close to when, as in when would people of earth work together, build runways, and welcome life from other planets. Yeh, Wendy had a lotta preacher in her and so when she got pregnant, she insisted the sex of her child didn’t matter, that both boys and girls could not only play baseball but could work in the major leagues, could even become pitchers, that if their child were a she…she might be the first female to toe the rubber in a MLB game!

“a league with women pitchers scattered about” scoffed dad, “the Veeckian publicity stunt nonsense! someone will hit over 100 bombs in a season…the league ERA will soar above 10.00. They’ll have to raise the mounds even higher!”

Mom and dad were no fight-no fun. Kept their love spicy and if either one of them got too soft and sentimental, they reminded each other that stones clashing produced fire.

Mom liked to chop wood, run around the stream, and play church bingo. Dad collected feathers from different birds. He also tested his luck at the horse track.

The two of them chose to know the sex of the child.

Dad, with his rivets and erector set knew how to change a muffler in silence. He recited instruction manuals to the baby inside momma’s belly. He envisioned his son to be an engineer, a builder of bridges.

Mom read Old Hardy Boys mysteries to her bulge. She envisioned her boy to be a detective, celibate and single, inviting witnesses back to his humble apartment to drink coffee and discuss motifs and motives. She didn’t want to be a grandma.

It was the seventh month when the name game began. Dad suggested Theodore. Mom didn’t disagree because she knew a Theodore was a Theo, was a Teddy, was a Teddy Higuera and his 0.999 WHIP for the 1988 Brewers and oh yeh, he was a Ted too, the greatest of them all, Ted Williams.

Theodore was born on a cloudy, cold day in April. He took to dice and jacks and Nordic legends, and eventually trains, and never once bothered to see what all the ruckus was at the schoolyard, that strikeout the kids played….to dusk.

then came old man bear.

There was everything in Old Bear’s pharmacy…..from crutches to diapers to pills to camel lights and at the counter, wax packs in a box and Teddy, as he liked to be called at that point, stared at those packs, wondered what was inside. threads of some ancient mummy? the waxy residue of a candle ritual? Teddy treated the suspense like a smuggler. He stuffed the pack between felt and flesh and raced to the nearest street light.

He ripped open that magic wax and there were cards and it felt like it did when he instantly knew a rabbits foot was real. he raced back to old man bear and bought all the wax paxs in the store. two boxes full. cost him 20 bucks and then it was home, to the basement, to his dad’s makeshift bar where his mom folded clothes and the two of them drank and sparred. Teddy, as always kept his head down, not wanting their dedication and depravity to seep into him. He slipped into his private room and the only poster he had on his wall, an eagle in full aerial waltz. He tore those packs open and stacked them up like Egyptian obelisks and then he turned the stack horizontal because skyscrapers scared him. And he liked what he saw, a chain, a train, a togetherness and all those teams and players and colors.

He stuffed as many cards as he could into his pockets and raced to the train yard and he immediately knew the layout like his father knew the inside of a lawn mower. He hopped onto the first train that passed, not knowing its destination, like one of the Hardy Boy plots his mother read him.

He sat awhile in that first open-air gondola he’d hopped and when backyards of abandoned toys came into view, that beautiful blur of colors, he flung one card after another into the wind.

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ball, yarn, and stub

All those medications and mindfulness classes and Gil let his mind wander anyway, at a boy under the bleachers… stetson hat, bluejay feather jetting out, opened black suit jacket, t-shirt, jeans with holes in the knees, and what looked like a 20-sided dice dangling from his neck. He was tossing pebbles at the tru-link fence, looking dreamless, bored.

The typically shy, reserved Gil approached this boy and told him, in a semi-preachy tone, about the beautiful yellow stains on the outfield grass…”that they come from the sun or maybe dog urine.” The boy laughed and did a 180…faced the field for maybe the first time so Gil continued….”trees carved into bats and the ratter tatter of players on benches mocking pitchers and sometimes the taunting works wonders as balls fly over the home run fence.

“Come with me,” continued Gil. The boy had no where to be…never did, so he followed along, to Pinball Pharmacy where Gil bought seven packs of baseball cards.

It was Bert Blyleven’s 1986 Topps card that planted forever in Gil’s heart and so he explained to the boy all about Blyleven’s curveball and about there maybe, possibly, hopefully, being some up and coming A-ball pitcher emulating Blyleven’s 12-6 spinner and as sure as a Russian mountain, another up and comer, a left-handed batter who would guess that lollipop sweet sucker was coming and send it sailing towards the right field bleachers into hands, our hands, forever, the lottery ticket winner.

“You mean, you get to keep the ball?” asked the suddenly bewitched boy.

“Yes, you do,” replied Gil. “Yes, we do, and yes, we will.”

“Well then, it’s about time I told you my name,” said the boy. “I’m Uriah.”

And so an objective, a dream, was born, to catch a home run ball and it bound Gil and Uriah together, more powerful than ethnic ties.

The two lived in Sweet Hammer, Michigan and other than the annual firehouse parade, there wasn’t much to do unless you liked fishing down by Tater Creek. But baseball fans didn’t mind all the nothingness because Sweet Hammer was home to the short season, A-ball, Cave Dwellers. They played at Hellbright Stadium.

And there were home runs there, plenty of em, maybe no more than the year Calvin Catapalt hit 47, but that damn canopy of longer arms and hands always won as some lucky older bastard caught the ball, but Gil and Uriah didn’t pout. They drank beer and played a game, more like a simulation, no sides, no winners or losers, only the two of them. One would throw the rubber ball on the gutter-less side of Tinker Tech’s school roof and the other would position themselves like a fireman waiting for a suicide leap, waiting for that ball to drop in their hands. then they would reverse rolls, until the sun faded and they couldn’t see the ball anymore.

Of course, they could have bought a ball from Merle Harmon’s Fan Fair at the old Busby Mall. Or Gil could have asked his father for one as a Christmas or birthday gift. Gil’s Dad worked at Yadorian’s Slaughterhouse and yeh, he eluded the bottle fate and didn’t beat his wife or fall asleep in front of the tv. but he was quiet, skinny, sad. not meant to be a father. and Uriah’s father? he didn’t have one. didn’t have a mother either, not that he knew anyway. He was an orphan. bad luck for both boys or maybe not because Gil clung to Uriah and Uriah clung to Gil, two vagabonds, sharing straps of a heavy load.

Gil took up guitar and found a job in textiles. Uriah let his hair grow and became a gravedigger.

A Detroit Tigers caravan voyaged around Michigan, to seduce families into summer trips to old Tiger stadium. And they came to Sweet Hammer one winter….Trammel-Whitaker-Parrish-all of em. They talked and signed autographs and a played an actual game with fans, indoors, at the local armory. Whitaker flipped a ball to Digger Whooster, a janitor at the only high school in Sweet Hammer. Gil and Uriah didn’t play. Instead, they drifted to the right field area where the bleachers would be and it was John Wockenfuss who sent one sailing, into Gil’s hands and well, the two young men never made a pact or an agreement as to who would keep the ball if they caught one…no documents, no signatures, no nothing and they say when water boils, the impurities rise to the top and as sure as a dog barks and world wars ignite, a custody battle ensued. Uriah argued that he deserved the ball, that he’d been wronged too many times in his life, from being an orphan to being fired from Otto’s Muffler repair shop to his life as a gravedigger.

Gil listened to Uriah’s plea and nodded his head, but he never let go of the ball. His nails were long. He’d been growing them to play a better flamenco guitar and so he easily set that ball’s red stitches free and then he removed the leather casing, unwound the yarn, intestines to the moon long and when he reached the golf ball sized ball in the middle, he tossed it to Uriah and said, “this yarn is textiles; it’s mine and this ball is yours.”

Uriah had no idea about a baseball’s innards, but he’d seen plants and flowers bloom above graves and rabbits too, darting about with their big, bulgy, life affirming eyes so Uriah figured why not give it a try…he tapped the 20-sided dice around his neck and buried the golf ball sized ball with a grave and winter came and winter went and in spring, there were no magical mangos dangling from birch tree branches, but Uriah felt warm.

he tracked down Gil and the two wandered out to highway 69 and hitchhiked south, to Tiger Stadium, to the upper deck of the the right field bleachers, and in the bottom of the seventh with no outs, Johnny Grubb launched one their way and no, they didn’t catch the ball, but a few innings later, when the 27th out was recorded, they joined the others and got flushed from the beauty and well, they made sure to keep their ticket stubs.


baseball tongues

it wasn’t clear what he longed for more – a little tail on his fastball or something, anything to arouse a sensitivity to the miracle – the gravity holding our body parts together…blood pumping our hearts alive.

he was putting on the years and day after month after year, he never noticed a stranger’s flirtation or figured they were eyeing his over-sized ear lobes.

All he had left was a name, Merbata, a name his father gave him, a reminder of an older people, his people, a south of the Sahara nomadic tribe who relied on the stars to know.

every day at 1:30 PM, he set up a telescope and aimed it at the horizon to see McGibbons the mailman appear and then he watched as he got bigger and bigger, closer and closer and when it was true, when McGibbons entered his apartment complex and jingled keys and opened the mailboxes, Merbata put the telescope away and waited and when McGibbons was gone, he peered into his mail slot and it didn’t matter what might be there…. coupons, jesus christ solicitations, local barber shop openings, warnings of lead in the water. he loved it all…reminders of passenger pigeons and emotions shared and he enjoyed an ember of hope that there might be some more of those emotions, but he never found any and yet, he knew about crocus plants sprouting above genocidal tombs and this thought of ‘maybe again’ danced through his daze and hope bred hope because one day there was a ball of yarn in his mail slot and along side it, birch bark, curled at the ends with scribbles on it, maybe letters? he wasn’t sure.

The town Merbata called home had more than one traffic light, a local community college too; been there for over a hundred years, back when the town was called Intanka which meant sky momma. the school was a Mennonite affair with pictures of carriages and butter churning machines lining the hallways. A Professor Shmoolie taught linguistics there, he, a fourth generation preserver of languages, new and old so Merbata grabbed the birch bark and hoofed it over to the house of learning and Professor Shmoolie, not accustomed to visitors, welcomed Merbata with a cup of green tea, a veritable hookah of hospitality he was and after some talk of traffic lights and local saloons, he got right down to it, dissecting and deciphering the codes on the birch bark and it became immediately clear that there were details mentioned of some old game and more specifically, ways of tossing balls, “hoop-hat pitches,” they were called, appearing as clear and visible as cave paintings, initially anyway, but then gone like spectres, impossible to hit and the breasts and bulge behind such pitches were christened as hermaphrodite deities.

“and are there instructions as to how to toss one?” asked Merbata excitedly.

Professor Shmoolie reached behind himself, to a bookshelf of dusty Harvard Classics and removed a red stitched ball and said, “Follow me” and off they sauntered to the courtyard, between Cummins Hall and the Sanctuary and Professor Shmoolie explained more of what was written on the birch bark. Merbata grabbed the ball and backtracked sixty feet-six inches or thereabouts and a catch ensued and Merbata never knew he had it in him, but there it was….that ball appearing and disappearing and indy league call ups followed and 60 scoreless innings and a major league contract and a minor league assignment…

but then he awoke and realized all was a dream and for reasons of leaky faucets and dead end jobs, he went to church and Professor Schmoolie was there too and they sat together and the professor closed his eyes and whispered in tongues, an acapella of confusion to Merbata and when the professor’s trance mellowed and his eyes opened, he explained that his speaking in tongues was ancient, as old as a redwood, and that his scholar, erudite buddies called it glossolalia, and that it was bursting with symbols.

Merbata smiled out of one corner of his mouth, a happy to learn something new smile, this glossolalia and on the other side of his mouth, a brother gut feeling formed, a reminder of Derek Deitrich, his catcher friend.

he took a small breath and told the professor that his baseball buddies knew symbols too and that “we call them a catcher dropping signs for his pitcher and that it was also ancient, Darrel Porter ancient.”

Merbata didn’t feel so numb anymore. tears came to life in his eyes. he looked at Professor Schmoolie… “You wanna go for a drink?”


another miracle at Gleeson’s Diner

no one talked about birthdays, not around Gleeson’s diner anyway..

it was Ministry Sue and her disciples who crowded around old man Haymaker and asked. he hunched a bit and spit out the side of his mouth,

“HORROR SCOPES! I was born between Shakespeare and Hitler,” he screamed, “sometime in April when birds sing and last year’s dog shit reappears.”

It had been a while since he had a friend. He jumped to his feet, leaving his oatmeal in the dust, and broke into air guitar followed by a chuck berry, side-step walk, out the door, not an easy move for an old-timer. he slid to the megaphones stashed in trees, where branches met, barely visible, but there was sound – the shrieking wails, a reminder, the skid row of it all….everyone a beggar, for a harvest or a friend.

It sent old man Haymaker to his knees and while he was down there, he touched the earth with his finger tips and felt an electric bolt up his spine and into his mind. He wondered about the possibility of an instant paradise, about one word, some magic, multi-syllable incantation doing the trick, ushering in the heaven of here and now, of a burning sunset or a dented coke can and so he tried…he uttered the ancient words he’d learned from Professor Sky, but they didn’t do a damn thing. instead, he got lost in that old tango dance he’d done with Miss Woolery over a decade ago, “a memory hijack,” he called it, “a flee from the now, a danger” and so he stomped in no particular direction, just stomped, banging his feet on the ground, acupuncture jolts, bringing him back, to the soft wind and it was then he knew, like a squirrel with a stash of acorns for the winter knows, that the night’s doubts, those useless questions, of why this life? were solved…

He kept walking, into the morning, his toes yawning free, sprinting as best he could across Laird field’s outfield grass, followed by a climb over the wrought iron black cemetery fence, to study tombstones like a bible junky studies psalms, not so much the birth year-death year numbers…more the letters that made up names. got him playing the baseball alphabet game, from Don Aase to Richie Zisk…inspired in him, a raccoon, don’t give a damn waddle stroll back to Gleeson’s Diner and there was the kid with the mullet haircut and the tailing fastball, talk of the town, intimidator, mocker of those with grey hair, Devin Damberry….

The Haymaker knew of his mistrust of the elderly, but still, he didn’t sit on the opposite end of the diner. He slipped in beside him and discussed walking canes, suit jackets with wide lapels, beer can collections, and that Versailles was a city in France..but Zoilo Versalles was once a shortstop for the Minnesota Twins and with that, without saying an actual word, both the Haymaker and Deven Danberry jumped to their feet and gravity felt good.

They walked downtown, to the hotel Rickenbacker and sat in the lobby’s cushiony sofa seat and listened to the man at the piano playing easy “the girl from ipanema,” and then they walked on and talked of bowie hunters knives, foraging for fruit, wild rice, on-base percentage, and ancient rivers. They collected empty cigarette packs and burst through the train station doors like two wild west gunslingers. They sat on a bench, the two of them scribbling numbers and suits – the hearts, clubs, diamonds, and spades, all of them on the backs of the cigarette packs, manufacturing a deck of playing cards, to play poker, four up, four down, fours are wild, and every so often, they paused and listened to a train coming or going…


stirring the potage

The lowly Handoogle…lowly, not because of some intrinsic flaw in his spirit or personality (he could raise a brew and bow to the void) lowly because of his stature, Freddie Patek-ish small…couldn’t touch a chin up bar or grab an apple from a tree at old Hammerstein’s Orchard. But what mattered most were his ancestors, cave people, those happy with a rock roof over their heads. it was dna, reminding him that any roof would do, a basement apartment roof, an 8-room house roof, a mini van roof, warehouse pallets nailed together roof, a cardboard hanging from branches roof, tent roof and so on.

The Handoogle shooed away the eyes zeroed in on his smallness…their loss, he thought, of them missing out on the pit crew speed and efficiency of garbage collectors, the way they stormed onto a scene and furiously gathered trash bins and emptied them into the compactor and how they hung onto the truck like they were desperate and determined to flee a slave infested land.

Handoogle moved molasses slow, head always down, in search of dirt and worms, to be aligned with his future and there was also the occasional pile of leaves that had somehow fallen from mid-summer tree and what a treasure it was for he sensed some ancient pact had been broken, that the leaves were forever banned from branches, free to swirl in clusters, spinning around in circles like laundry tumbling in a dryer, a public one, for all to see, round and round and round, far from any linear trajectory, a throw back scene to when seasons and cycles and masks and dances meant more than pi or an isosceles triangle.

When the coffee he scored from a local diner, compliments of the tall, skinny owner, took full effect, the Handoogle looked up, a quick glance at the blue sky and the the beautiful black beyond reminding him that earth is floating in outer space and that all of us humans are floating in outer space too….gravity only a ruse….a slap in the face of those astronaut looking creatures scribbled onto cave walls….

thoughts of outer space and planets inspired memories of a Russel Branyon blast against Miler Park’s center field wall and because of some drive for equilibrium, Handoogle wondered if Branyon ever bunted for a base hit?…the bomb and the bunt…a bi-polar baseball universe.

Thanks to the Handoogle’s slide show memory of Russel Branyon…my thoughts on this August 18, 2021 turn to the Brewers still in first place, a country mile ahead of second place Cincinnati or in numerical terms – 8.5 games, certainly something to boast about, but in no way erasing the ghosts of yesteryear’s demises…the 69 Cubs, 64 Phillies and more recently, the 2011 Red Sox…

there are rumblings already about the Brewers Willy Adames as MVP. i’m not really sure what a shaman is, but the way Adames has taken over the dugout social scene, high fiving coaches, removing helmets off the heads of runners who score, lifting the metaphorical hoods of the content, disrupting their “comfort zones” and his smile and non-stop chatter, endless enthusiasm…maybe that’s a shaman? his stats are good too.