brewers baseball and things



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.



batter x

little league wasn’t for everyone,
but most kids took their shot at hitting a ball,
back alley dares;
windows were meant to be broken.
i forget the kid’s name,

but it was easier for him when the bat was wet.
he shook the lumber like carney lansford,
all spastic and focused,
auburn colored hair,
even when he swung and missed,
he screamed and never stopped,
kicked over garbage cans.
he found a way under everyone’s hood.
he took took us from matchbox cars to the moon,
and even now,
so many years later,
i can hear him whizzing as
another pitch,
another day,
heads our way!


the first breath again

the old barber shop,
with a red, white and blue twirl outside and
a chair i had never seen before inside.
i was too small so the barber laid a board across the arm wrests to raise me up.
there was a mirror in front of me.
there was a mirror behind me.
i could see myself repeating for infinity.
the barber gave me a bazooka joe bubble gum when he was done cutting.
the wind felt right as I walked away.

i don’t look at the mirror much anymore.
it reminds me too much,
of what’s been lost,
baseball’s four divisions
and before that,
the two leagues of my grandpa’s time
all spring summer season long they played for
only one winner per league,
one playoff called the World Series,
all those games for nothing i love that,
no wild cards,
no inter league play,
no money sponsors commercial,
only strange named relievers and hot dog wrappers.

i like the smell of a vagabond.
i like the will of a can collector.
i like the runaway train determination of anyone doing what they love to do.
i cut my own hair these days.



a deck of playing cards is scattered about my route to work
just like it was before the snow fell frozen,
stray numbers,
stray royalty.

i look up instead.

a satellite dish and a crow share a roof top.
makes me long for the order of a baseball diamond,
i go there,
but there are only partially underground dugouts,
3 feet underground dugouts,
a used condom and candy bar wrappers in the corner,
but it’s a kid’s crumpled up 
homework assignment that saddens me the most.

i think about cancer, name calling, depression, stubbed toes and all sorts of woes, but then i think about those cups we used as kids, the ones we connected with strings and communicated with one another and then i think about walkie-talkies and dugout phones and bullpen phones and a manager summoning something ancient from the bullpen ——the menagerie of a reliever, the circus of his hair, a messiah, an assassin, to climb the mound and prevent any further damage, to preserve it all, and in the next half inning,
to give us another chance,
one more chance,
and then one more,
over and over again.


dear candlestick park

i didn’t know about you until watching Cubs at the Giants games on WGN, sometime in the early 80’s, but I was immediately struck by something. Back then we called it 20,000 leagues under the sea. that was our code word for exotic or out of this world. the spaceship by the water, the orange uniforms, the hot dog wrappers in the wind, Ed Halicki.


half way home

It wasn’t so much the history as the hair – Nabookar’s hair. That’s what the boy loved, and if anyone asked, he told them “Nabookar was a chief with the wildest curves of burgundy.”

Kids in the neighborhood grew curious. They gathered in the early morning, to be there, when the boy pulled the curtain cord. He never did at the same time, but he always did the same thing. He stared at nothing in particular, for 20 minutes sometimes. Then he would wiggle off the chair in spasms, like he had been tasered and slip gracefully into a somersault of however many rolls it took to reach the window, poke his head outside, look left, then right, then left again….a cuckoo bird escaping the clock.

Kids grew spiteful. They heaved all kinds of vegetables at him, some fresh, some not so fresh. He changed his name to Arooooooon and turned every taunt into fuel. Then he screamed “vrooooooooom vrooooooooom goes Arooooon, to the thicket on the outskirts of town.”

Mom and dad figured all the fleeing would end with the arrival of arm pit fuzz, but it didn’t. After Mom kicked dad out, she kept right on figuring, that the fleeing would end when Arooooon poked around under the hood of his first jalopy, but there never was a jalopy. There was only Nabookar and Arooooon’s course.

“Some course!” screamed his mother. “You’re nothing but drift wood.”

“Vrooooooooom vrooooooooom goes Arooooon to the thicket on the outskirts of town.”

He changed the walls of his bedroom or not the walls, but the posters he pasted on them. He removed the tidy animals of pleasant looking fur – all the bunny rabbits and guinea pigs that surrounded that wonderful head of Nabookar’s hair and replaced them with centipede legs and scorpion stingers.

But he never messed with Nabookar.

And suddenly he was no longer a kid and then no longer a teenager, nor a twenty something-er either. In fact, he was 33 years young and neighbors, not school kids scrunched a wicked grimace when Arooooooon walked by. He kept his vow and recorded each and every taunt on a notepad. He stored them under his pillow in the same bedroom he slept in as a child. 

It was a few hours before sun rise, on the eve of Aroooooon’s 34th birthday when his mother mustered up the courage to finally make a run for it – to the bus station – for a one way ticket – 2700 miles away – to be free of what she had created – her only child.  

The father smelled the mother’s escape exhaust because he rose above the thicket where he slept on the outskirts of town. He stomped single-minded to the home he had built with his own hands and braved the smells that sparked all the memories, of being kicked out, not so much for sloppy drinking, but for failing to light a fire under their boy’s breast.

 “Make him a captain of industry, a singer of Psalms,” his wife would scream, “Something! anything!” 

But she was gone now and as the father rounded the final corner, he whiffed an island of spruce and spotted the black shutters of his boy’s room and sighed. Another chance, he thought, to put an end to the boy’s aimlessness.

Pops still had a left over from the previous night’s drunk so he fell right at home slipping through the cat crawl space into the kitchen. He wondered out loud to his boy of 33 years young about circuit boards, the mechanics of a lawn mower, and the intricacies of a ceiling fan. He seemed to be getting somewhere too because the boy stacked toothpicks on the table in the shape of what appeared to be a log cabin.

There was Echo bowl later that same afternoon. They weren’t exactly attached at the hip, more like a locomotive and caboose with a million box cars in between, but the beer, balls and pins falling was a start. Pops flashed a few hand signals to the bartender. A liter of Wiser’s Whisky arrived. He gulped and so did his 33 year young son. The son stomped outside. Now the father followed to under the overpass where the brightest of Bazaars was always under way. A black market filled with beautiful wild-eyed drunks, louts, scums, and serendipeteers laying out their worldly wares onto the naked earth, from pinball machine parts to baseball cards to paper clips, porcupine statues.

Aroooooooon eye’s became like microscopes there.


that disturbing sound of paradise

I remember Lars talking about Oklahoma or maybe it was Nevada? A few weeks later, he was gone. It sucked. He was my best friend. I tried to track him down, but couldn’t remember how to spell his last name.

He had a brother – Leo,  but we called him Veto as in reject, hoping he would disappear. He was two years older than us, not a bad guy, but always combing his hair and that was cool, but he never had enough time, not even to rag on his younger brother and that wasn’t cool because younger brothers needed ragging.

We assumed Leo would get first dibs on choosing a bedroom since he was the oldest, but dad said Lars gets first choice and before Leo could whine about it, dad screamed, “Because I said so.”

Dad moved ’em from an apartment complex into a small cottage house. Not a big deal to many kids, but to Lars and Leo it meant no more sharing bunk beds. Lars twanged the straps of his imaginary overalls, scanned the shag carpet and sighed. He picked the room across from Dad and no one understood why. The one down the hallway was obviously the  best choice. It had an outdoor porch and gutter to slide down, easy escape to the outside world.

Lars needed his Dad close, just like he needed his mom before she passed away. He didn’t want freedom, didn’t know what to do with it. He preferred carpet space and shelving units, to store the leaves and insects, stamps, coins and baseball cards he collected. They were his compass and security blanket.

Dad moved the family during the same summer Paul Molitor threatened Dimaggio’s hitting streak – 1987. In reality, Molitor had only passed Ken Landreaux’s 31, but that was enough to wet our wipples. 

Lars waved me closer one night and whispered to “keep quiet.” We waited until Leo slid down the gutter and when he was out of sight, Lars tiptoed into Leo’s room and  “borrowed” the boom box stereo sitting on his night stand. It was better than the TV or the big family radio because it had batteries. We could move around.

I spun the dial to 620 WTMJ. We went outside. Lars had a Maxell cassette tape ready to lock and load and I guess, record the game. We listened like we had so many nights that summer, to Bob Uecker’s play-by-play. Molitor was on the brink of tying Ty Cobb at 40 games, only four more names till Dimaggio.

I don’t remember who was pitching for the Indians, but Molitor was on deck in the bottom of the tenth and still hitless, score tied 0-0 when Rick Manning hit a soft liner to drive in Mike Felder with the winning run. Brewers fans booed. It was bad enough that Gorman Thomas had been traded for Manning. Now he had to go and get the game winning hit with Molitor on deck and his streak frozen in time.

We went back inside. Lars pulled out a shoe box from under his bed. I wasn’t  surprised to see how many games he had recorded. He was a collector after all, but the dedication – to slip into Leo’s room like a jewel thief every time? That took guts and precision. All of the games were labeled and in perfect order, from Marshal Edwards first career home run in 1982 to Mark Brouhard’s last at bat to Teddy Higuera’s 20th win in 1986 and now Molitor’s 39 game hitting streak would have a slot.

It was late, but we were too confused by what life and Manning had done so we played back the last inning hoping for a different ending, something like – Manning strikes out and Molitor gets another chance! But something even better happened!! The sound coming from the speaker was monstrous and slow like a 45 record stuck on 14, Bob Ueckers voice an alien transmission. The boom box or cassette had malfunctioned.

Lars and I raced down to the garage and waited until we heard Leo’s footsteps and when we did, Lars turned the volume up and pressed play.

Dad said Leo pounded the front door so hard his knuckles were bloody. Leo denied it, said he went back to his girlfriend’s house. He winked at us when dad wasn’t looking, but we had the cassette and within a few weeks our own boom box to play that alien sound when Leo entered the room.


all my messiahs

After completing the final edit to Dreaming .400, I had no choice, but secretly wished Bill Lee`s phone number would not be available. He scared me. I had met him once before, here in Montreal, but as part of a small group outside a book store. It was safe and Mr. Lee broke up the coffee clutch anyway and escorted us to a bar. Bill Lee was unpredictable, never said a commonplace thing, equally at ease with baseball nerds and those who know all the “right“ bands and books.

I never saw Bill Lee pitch and never read one of his books, not until a few years ago, but after meeting him, all the baseball stripped away. He was and still is a guru to me because he enjoys life. I’d be content watching him tie his shoes or fasten the velcro. I must have sounded like a nervous chicken when he picked up the phone the other night. I had to do most of the talking, to seduce him into reading my book of short stories and providing an opinion, some praise to be published on the back cover.

Well, he agreed and when I said, “By the way, don’t be deceived by the title. The stories include plenty of pitchers.“ Bill laughed. “Don’t worry, I dream .400 every night before bed, but wake up hitting .200“ and then he laughed again. So did I.

This story – “All My Messiahs“ was written with the other night and Mr. Lee in mind.

A quick peek at the neighbor’s dog did it. That quivering nose reminded me there was much more happening than I could ever imagine. I wandered outside for a good while, slipped through some bush and stripped down to my shorts and eased my way in, lay flat on the St. Lawrence riverbed floor.  Most people warn me. They say it’s dirty, infested with pollutants, but what do I care. I grew up splashing in the dirty Milwaukee river and would like to better understand the language of birds, fishes and trees.

I could only sustain the séance a short while. My mind wandered. I came up for air and sat on a cement slab, probably an old fishing pier. I closed my eyes and let the sun do its thing – dry me off. I was freezing and so I escaped, back to the Ding Dong days when Hostess was more than a wafer and body of christ at St. Pascal’s. It was a holy trinity panel of baseball cards that sparked all kinds of conjuring, of tip toeing down the basement steps and digging out my father’s imaginary Elmer Fudd hunting cap. It was the summer of 1977. The hat fit me well so I changed my name to Pierre and began to hunt, for baseball cards that is, not the most manly of hunts, not in my father’s eyes, but Pierre senior-that was my father. He had already passed away in this daydream so Pierre junior – that’s me. He was free.

And so he scrounged for coins in the cracks of couches, raided Mom’s penny purse, even hocked Dad’s war medal for a couple of bucks. He lost all sense of right and wrong, obsessed by O-Pee-Chee baseball cards and as a collection gathered on his shag carpet bedroom floor that feeling from his father’s death – that amputated limb feeling. It disappeared.  

The writing on the backs of cards was in both French and English, some sort of language law, but Pierre cared more about the language of trees, of lumber and how bats were made and anyway, he had a magic fortune-telling eight ball under his bed and it flashed three names not known to Pierre one hot summer 1977 day. He swears he saw them appear out of that eight ball blue liquid, “looked like names chiseled on a tombstone”  he said. “Dawson, Cromartie, Valentine” and no one believed Pierre, not until a few months later when Gary Roenike was traded to Baltimore.

Same Gary Roenike who hit .285 with 14 homers for the Quebec City Carnavals in 1975, earned the Eastern League MVP, but was considered “expendable” and traded, probably because of those same magic 8 ball words – “Dawson, Cromartie, Valentine.“

For the first time, Pierre felt daddy`s death in the gut. Made him cry too. Change came quickly. Strange coincidences. Two more Quebec minor league teams were being eliminated. Death was everywhere.  The Eastern League had dropped Thetford Mines in 1975, shortly after Pierre senior passed away and now Quebec City and Three Rivers were being booted from the baseball solar system. Only the Expos remained.

Thetford Mines was more inland and would require some portaging of the canoe and maybe the water between Three Rivers and Quebec City suffered some rapids, but Pierre was determined to trace a triangle and barnstorm. He didn`t know why, but he did it anyway.

The stadiums were empty. The grass was in need of cutting. A few stray newspaper pages flew in and out. There was the sound of wind. The words came to Pierre, words he could never say to his father, simple words like “thank you.“ 

The sun had done its thing. I was dry. I could hear trucks in the distance, maybe a dog barking. I put my shirt on, climbed up the hill and walked home.


climbing attic steps

I can’t remember the sweaty palms of a first crush any more than scratching at the cement of our wall ball batter’s box, but we must have looked super small to nearby birds; standing there beside that big red brick wall and small spray painted square with an x inside; our all-knowing strike zone.

I did the Cecil Cooper crouch. Others went with a super relaxed Eric Davis. There were all kinds and no pitcher’s mound, just more cement. We took chances with no grown ups telling us what to do. I liked being Kent Tekulve; total submarine style; turned pitching into a dance and felt better on the arm.

The greatest moment was whacking one with that 29 inch aluminum bat and watching a deflated dirty yellow ball come to life like that, soaring over the fence and bouncing down an alley and disappearing. There were no bases so no home run trots, but a hell of a lot of flipping the bat, dancing and jumping around. Pissed the pitcher off just the same.

It’s depressing to think maybe I’ve already lived the greatest moments in my life, but maybe we’re not supposed to live very long anyway. There were no heart surgeons 200 years ago. Our ancestors performed rain dances, downed whisky, clenched their teeth and hoped for the best. No wonder Walter Johnson pitched so many complete games. Less to lose with death always a possibility rather than 40 years away, but then again Gaylord Perry pitched plenty of complete games and he lasted into the early 80’s.

Complete games may never return, but the wind pouring through an attic window hopefully will and kids will find a way past the mom or dad border guards and be there to take in the breeze and see the cobwebs all around and invent nightmare mythologies to last an entire childhood. May there never be a dull day. 

The Brewers playing with three starters on the disabled list last night and Aramis Ramirez also not in the lineup. His replacement Jason Rodgers made a bad throw on an easy ground ball; potential third out of the third inning. but instead the bases are loaded and Jay Bruce goes Grand slam. Reds 4, Brewers 0.

The Brewers come to bat in the bottom half; a single and a 2 run homer by replacement catcher Martin Maldonado; a couple of doubles and a single and most runs scored in an inning for the Brewers this season-4. Game tied.

But Todd Frazier in the very next inning; bases loaded again and BAM; another grand slam. Reds back on top 8-4 and in the fifth inning , Zack Cozart hit his second home run of the series. I think the score was 11-4 Reds at that point and then 13-4. Brewers score a run in the sixth. and recently called up Elian Herrera comes to bat after three consecutive walks and BAM Grand slam. It’s suddenly 13-10 and Brewers announcer Bill Shroeder barks it out; Game On!

The Reds added some more in the top of the 7th. Votto hit another home run; final score 16-10 and maybe Jason Marquis pitching has me thinking with  Marquis colored glasses, but Brewer bats seem to be heating up. 

Not a dull moment at Miller Park last night; The two teams combining for 7 homers and 3 grand slams; must be some sort of record; but the Brewers still lost and are now 2-12.

And even if they keep losing; no two losses seem to behave the same; reverse spice of life I guess. Next up Johnny Cueto. The Reds ace set to face the Brewers new ace; Jimmy Nelson Wednesday night.

The Cleveland Spiders were 20-134 back in 1899.


there’s always larry dierker

I could always scream “A CHANCE” when my eyes open and breath and voice return in the morning, but I escape into my own thoughts instead. I slither in the sheets and eventually get the courage to sit up; rock back and forth; shake dust from my mind.

Then it’s off to the computer and before that, it was off to the tv and before that my mouth-watering for cereal and before that; where’s my mommy?

I flee to the bathroom or coffee pot nowadays. I’m on auto pilot I guess; maybe even brainwashed by hope because I could have said Booo and stayed under the blanket; played games all day, but I go to work.

I’d like to see or hear or smell the world like it was on the first day of big bang creation way back when and I know my desire is impossible and dangerous because of the potential lusts and addictions rising from the ruins of my frustration.

Snow mounds on the local baseball field look like incurable diseases.

I love coffee in the morning and the chocolate Danish and second coffee during my 15 minute work break and beer after work feels like summer vacation when I was 13 years young and just bought Combat Rock.

I loved Winkie’s Variety Store store; the racks and rows of toys and board games and aquariums filled with fish; mostly goldfish but exotic enough. And the entire front section devoted to candy and bubble gum and Topps, Donruss, Fleer and magic tricks and perfect rubber baseballs to play strikeout.

But the windows were thick cubes and you couldn’t really see through them; only colors all smeared and distorted and if you squinted or shifted to the right or left, the distortion got worse or better; depended on what you wanted; a carnival mirror or reality; maybe the same thing.

It always felt a little suspicious to me because you couldn’t see inside; could never know what was going on in there and that’s exactly how I feel now. I can’t look back inside and see what’s going on in there. I’m cut off from the past and it depresses me. I’m stuck in the prison of now, but if I accept it like death, maybe gratitude rushes in like buffalo and Larry Dierker comes to life again and it feels like the first time.

It’s not the inside of Winkie’s Variety Store. It’s not the first day big bang creation either, but it is September 1964 and that’s close enough.

Maybe everyone had a friend resembling Lawrence Edward Dierker or maybe that’s just me trying to sound clever, but Dierker did have perfect teeth and a smile on crash course with squinty eyes and freckles; a recipe for rabble rouse always the first to do; always the most outlandish.

Larry Dierker turned 18 on September 22, 1964. He also appeared in a major league game on that day; as a starting pitcher for the Houston Colt .45’s. There were younger ones; maybe Bob Feller? and definitely Joe Nuxhal who was 15 I think, but any teen on the burial mound blows me into the next state of mind and Dierker struck out Willie Mays in his first inning.

His overall debut wasn’t so good; but he pitched 2 more times out of relief in 1964 and didn’t allow a run in 6 innings. 

Maybe the Colt .45’s were desperate with nothing to lose; not afraid to make asses of themselves; no reputation to uphold or preserve.

The Brewers traded Yovani Gallardo this off-season. He was up for free agency after 2015 anyway but there is still a year to fill and Gallardo was drafted and developed by the Brewers; appeared as opening day pitcher the last 5 or 6 years. He probably won’t appear on a stamp, but he was the ace and he is gone.

Move over Yo and let drafted and developed Jimmy Nelson take over.

Nelson endured a roller coaster debut in 2014; 82 hits in 69 innings and this year could be a flop or fantastic; and so could today and that’s exactly how I like it; the unpredictability keeps me from looking over my shoulder into those window cubes.