The bar stools are tall and never sturdy. Someone whittled away wood on the fourth legs of each chair. Puts people on edge as if their drinks had been mickeyed, a speak easy. People dance wherever they want to.
I daydream this bar up and brave a stool. The bartender rewards me with a newspaper, the kind with ink and chemical smells. I remember the backs of sports pages as my main source of information-the MLB standings, box scores, league leaders and that list entitled-TRANSACTIONS.
Nothing special, just a a roll call of players recently put on waivers, traded or called up. The explanations were more technical than that, but the gist was always crystal clear. Someone would be enjoying a roll out the barrel moment and someone else biting the dust.
Transactions lists were baseball’s Morse code, real minimal and matter of fact, kind of cold and colorless, just the facts, but fun to wonder. It was more about what the transaction didn’t say. I especially liked the call ups because this could be Ponny Lurcett’s one chance and there would be fireworks in Lurcett’s home town of Coos Bay, Oregon, the Mayor declaring it Ponny Lurcett Day. Local TV crews swarming to Motel 6’s up and down the Pacific, vowing to keep the course until Lurcett’s penciled into pitch. Or maybe it was the opposite and Purcett was sent down and had no more options except how to use the one way bus ticket offered by the organization as compensation.
Transaction lists are cruel, but democratic like a birth or death notice. Everyone gets one. Even when Ray Chapman was beaned in the head August 16, 1920 and died 12 hours later, a change had to be made because there was a free spot on the roster. The Indians won the freaking World Series that year and Joe Sewell enjoyed his first at bat on September 20 and that’s the same Joe Sewell who is still baseball’s all time toughest guy to strike out, one every 63 at bats. But the only thing The Cleveland Plain Dealer or any paper in the syndicate could say in its transaction was a cold rote of words something to the effect of, Ray Chapman: deceased and replaced by so and so.
Gus the imaginary bartender slides me a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel sports page. I finger to the back and scan to the transactions list with more piss and vinegar today, because the Brewers have been busy the last 48 hours and well, win or lose I like movement up and down the organizational ladder, but especially when we’re losing, maybe for the same reason people buy lottery tickets when they’re depressed or bored. Change.
The Brewers called up Tyler Wagner from AA Biloxi this past weekend-to start on Sunday against the Diamondbacks at Miller Park. Wagner was born in Las Vegas and attended the University of Utah. That makes him the 10th Utah alum to make the MLB. I looked it up. The Brewers drafted him in the 4th round of 2012.
He lasted 3.2 innings Sunday, gave up 9 hits and 5 runs, but the Brewers won the game in 17 innings on a walk off home run by catcher Martin Maldonado and after the game Wagner was sent back down to Biloxi. The plan was to keep Wagner around a while, but the 17 inning game used up 9 pitchers including starter Matt Garza for 5 innings.
And so now it’s Tyler Cravy’s turn, an even fresher arm. He was called up from AAA Colorado Springs early Monday morning. Cravy was born in Martinez, California. The Brewers drafted him in the 17th round of the 2009 draft so he’s enjoyed a few bumpy bus rides. Cravy didn’t pitch last night, but the Brewers scored a first inning run in St. Louis and the run held up. Mike Fiers and four relievers played tag team chain gang and shut out the Cardinals 1-0.
Kolten Wong hit a slow rolling drunk ground ball towards first base. The tying and wining run were on base. It was the bottom of the ninth. Jason Rogers literally smothered the ball like catching a mouse and then he snaked his way on the ground over to first base for the last out. Smiles all around. The Brewers are 18-34. The Cardinals fall to 33-18.