brewers baseball and things


rearranging furniture is maybe not a revolution but it’s a start

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. 



my master has gone away

There were probably hobos of all sizes and one or two of em maybe looked like Connie Mack who was real tall or seems real tall in today’s black and white photos or maybe it’s the suit and tie that delude me? shoot his back higher than it really is?

Either way, it’s probably better to be small; not for moral reasons, but for squeezing under fences, lifting heavy objects and hopping trains and what not.  

I’ve hopped one train in my life and only rode it for 15 minutes; from Cote St. Luc to Rosemont; two small little boroughs around Montreal. It was maybe the greatest 15 minutes of my life with the only regret being that I jumped off, but braving my cowardly breath and leaping toward the metal handle, ahhhhhh, I felt like a zoo animal escaping the chains and that might sound all romantic, but it’s not true. It’s like the bark being bigger than the bite. I was scared all the way; from inhale to leap to grab the metal handle to pull myself up to the exhale.

But there were a few feelings between the fears and even now almost 10 years later, I wonder about it and play analogy; what it would be like to climb the Fergie Jenkins mound for the first time? I wish they would rename Wrigley’s pitcher’s mound “The Fergie.”

I wonder what criteria science experts use when deciding if a species is endangered?

If i took the Fergie today I’d feel like a farmer in overalls and you betchya, I’d be twanging em and staring out at all the creation like i shoulda been doing on that train; at all the broccoli patch of trees rolling and where sky and land meet.

I’d be like a dog enjoying a buffet table of smells; a wonderful mix of maybe popcorn, beer and perfume and maybe it would remind of some early point in my life and I would have to pause and the opposing team might get suspicious  and make up rules to speed up the game, but smells are powerful.  

I would wear my arm on my sleeve and not be a bionic prince. I’d keep reminding skipper that I work 10 hour days in the off-season ; shoveling cow manure on daddy’s farm. “I don’t need no tommy john surgery” I’d tell him and then he’d know that  i sure as hell don’t need no relievers neither.

But I guess Roenicke had no choice last night, but then again I don’t think any teams score many runs anymore; not with defensive shifts and Tommy John bionic arms and no more PED’s. This is a Pitcher’s World dammit, but Aramis Ramirez already announced his retirement after this season and Carlos Gomez-the Brewers best hitter or at least the most entertaining has been shelved with a hamstring problem.

So Roenicke had no choice so he pinch hit for our fill in ace Jimmy Nelson in the 6th inning. Fill in because Kyle Lohse’s ERA sounds like science fiction after 2 starts; 11.17. And the Brewers only scored one more run and the Pirates score three and so it goes.

I’ve never seen a home run hit farther at PNC than Starling Marte’s blast off Johnny Broxton; up to the second deck in left center; made the score 6-2 Pirates.

And I’ve never seen a batter lay down a perfect sac bunt and realize it was either make contact or feel Ray Chapman. The fastball from Jeremy Jeffress came flying in; heading for the batter’s face. He had already squared to bunt so he just raised his arms and sweet jesus, ball hit bat somehow and ball rolled up the first base line looking like 8 ball hugging the rail and the camera followed the batter who never left the batter’s box. There were no pats on ass and high fives when he reached the dugout; just a collective sigh saying  “whooooo daddy, live another day.”

The Brewers are 2-8; worst record in baseball.


Ron “rising up from” TheFLoor again

Maybe it was a fork prong stabbed in the back of a hand on a minus 20 degrees day or maybe Oklahoma and Nunavut can’t see the damn sky; dust or snow; the end always near and kin folk ready to break emergency glass and retrieve Armageddon shoes for one last dance.

There’s a big jump between Kalamazoo and Denmark;. kings and queens and flags and Karl Marx burned and “drift continent drift” screams the wind. Dave ??? what’s his name? the light skinned Japanese looking Red Sox who stole that risky base back in 2004; down 0 games to 3 and trailing in game 4; bottom of the ninth and it was close at second but he was safe and then this and that happened, Red Sox beat the Yankees 4 games in a row. Red Sox sweep the Red Cardinals. Church attendance soars.

I love impossible comebacks but Ron LeFlore gives me more goose bumps. I probably watched him steal a base or two back in the late 1970’s at County Stadium when the Brewers and Tigers were in that big bad AL East, but hell if I can remember. 

There were 7 teams in that AL East and I do remember Boston”s Dwight Evans wore an inspector Clouseau mustache and New York’s Mickey Rivers twirled a bat better than a bobby sock cheerleader did a baton. Andre Thornton was the professor in Cleveland; Cliff Johnson was a pock-marked assassin Blue Jay or maybe that happened in the early 80’s?, Lenn Sakata Baltimore wore glasses and I was convinced he had the secrets to atomic energy and I loved the Brewers, but the Tigers had Ron LeFlore and we all said “here comes LeFlore” and I didn’t know why then, but I whiplashed around to see anyway. LeFlore stole a lot of bases. He was traded to Montreal and that was a foreign country.

I think LeFlore still holds the single season record for steals in Expos-National history. Was it a good stolen base percentage? Was it up to sabermetrics satisfaction? I don’t know, but he hit for a good average; above .300 a couple of times, walked enough, hit 16 homers one year, and none of that really matters because Ron LeFlore is  remembered for a movie about his life and that movie is hard to find. 

LeVar Burton played the life of LeFlore in “One in a Million.” I think it was an after school special. I never saw it and have been trying to find it with no success. Grows up in a Detroit ghetto; deals drugs, hooked on heroin,chain-smoking by 14, stuck in jail for armed robbery or something like that goes the horse stable fable, but then LeFlore’s story turns an unprecedented direction and gets inspirational and downright greek mythological and heroic; legendary, like a nature show depicting the life cycles of some obscure wildebeest.

He plays baseball in prison ; no big deal, but someone sees and reports to Billy Martin-manager of the Tigers at the time and LeFlore gets a tryout during a furlough  from prison? or he was on parole? Anyway, he makes good during the showcase and he’s never played organized baseball in his life, but the Tigers sign him to some kind of contract and this doesn’t happen in real life or not anymore anyway? Does it? So the rest of LeFlore’s life is Walt Disney? Not really, but he may be the Duracell bunny in disguise or at least a cat with 9 lives.

I read about his life and pinch my onion arm; convinced this is a satire. How much can one human being suffer and endure before turning into a sour puss grinch or reach for the Socrates poison and end it all? Somehow LeFlore is still smiling and doesn’t make excuses or point fingers. 

He was booted off the White Sox sometime in the early 80’s for being fatter and falling asleep in the clubhouse or maybe because he was arrested and cops found amphetamines and a loaded revolver in his Chicago home. Probably banned from baseball at that point. Couldn’t even find a job selling peanuts so he he became a baggage handler at the airport, failed at  umpire school, played and coached in a few pro leagues that no longer exist, lost a child to infant death syndrome; got busted a few more times on drug charges, had his leg amputated in 2011, but couldn’t get disability insurance because he hadn’t worked for 10 years and the baseball pension plan?????

He’s waiting till 65; when Medicare kicks in for one more dance. 




the 57th floor

ok, so if you believe in god or whatever, then everything comes from god; evolution, a leaf twirling from a tree, even a 16 year old’s heart suddenly not beating, a fastball when you’re waiting on a curve ball; everything; the slumps, wild throws and demotions to the minors.

All what we perceive as bad twirls beside all that we perceive as good; a double helix barber shop pole; the two opposites fully embraced; dancing and spitting out plots.

That’s what the guy wearing a trench coat; handing out green bibles on the corner tells me anyway.

It’s weak, but understandable why some people drift into conspiracy, paranoia, and narcissism. It’s also courageous and understandable when a player pulls up his socks and transforms shit into fertilizer and sees the cruel, politically driven baseball world as a benevolent conspiracy. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and what not. It’s our choice I guess.

The whole damn thing is not fair in terms of odds, but we carry on anyway. A pitcher gets the ball and he decides; in part anyway, how creation will unfold. He is god; throwing speed and junk every which way with batters standing 90 feet away, filled with reams of data, but only a millisecond to swing or not swing, pray or not pray. The pitcher buckles the batter’s knees or grooves him a batting practice pitch. No one knows.

I like the way uncertainty flows into horror or synchronicity; dissonance or harmony, meaning or nothing.  I especially like it on a day when I don’t have to work and a Philipino man is wearing a Brewer’s hat in Montreal. The sighting offers a free for all of possibilities, of reverse paranoia, benevolent conspiracy. The barber shop pole is strange; impossible to understand. I leave it at that and don’t bother making mountains; not on this day. I have french fries to eat and a game to watch. Matt Garza is making his Brewer’s debut.

There’s Harvey Haddix in the air, even in my tv room. Both Garza and the Braves starting pitcher-Aaron Harang are throwing no hitters through six innings, but then Chris Johnson shatters the moment in the seventh inning. He hits a solo home run-first hit of the game and that’s all the Braves need. The same bullpen that shut the door Tuesday, shuts it again Wednesday with baby-faced Kimbrel earning his second save; tying Gene Garber for 2nd on the Braves all time save list with 141. 

But the bigger monster is Harang. A month ago he was in the Cleveland Indians spring training camp vying for a job. He didn’t make their opening day roaster and was offered two choices; a train ticket to the minor leagues or freedom. He took the second option and within a few hours, the Braves called and invited him on board.

They had just made space by releasing Freddy Garcia; opting instead to sign the 35-year old Harang who pitched mediocre at best last season, but there he was pitching a combined 2-hit shutout on game 3 of the young 2014 season; skunking the Brewers 1-0. A monster of the unknown and yet, he appears so quiet and humble; almost shy out there on the mound; been doing it for 12 years now; nothing spectacular, just keeps his team in the game.

I have a soft spot for people who talk to themselves with no signs of a cell phone. This has nothing to do with Harang or maybe it does. A guy talking to himself stands beside an elevator. He’s laughing and the inspiration appears to be the up and down buttons. Both are lit up, but no one knows the direction momentum will take on this day. It can’t be measured like the moon and tides.


the windows were just tinted

We were gonna skip school or work and wonder how brains or God or whoever could squeeze all that blue sky, ash wood, cowhide, green grass, chalk dust and enthusiasm into a floating diamond of coordinated pinball players for nine innings or more?

The chains were gonna slip away like drunk snakes and we were gonna reach above the wall and sneak a peek; shape shift into drift wood and merge with a gush of melted mountain side snow; racing head first towards the ocean.

Elemental carbon was gonna be more than a periodical table. It was gonna spark more than flags and anthems and ego. We were going to look out at the sky; drunk on infinity.

But it wasn’t meant to be. I was sitting in the cafeteria break room at work instead. It was 2:45 PM in Montreal. My body seized control; turned my mind sober. Opening day was nothing but a rally flirt, just a game among 162; an exaggeration; a myth of Sisyphus and the world’s grimace tried to suck me in deeper.

But then an amazing thing happened. I received a jolt of something from somewhere and I began to see wills as big or small; not the check list wills of who wins our knickknacks when we die, but the will of courage. We are the chariot rider. We control the reigns. The horse-our emotions is at our mercy.

I became convinced that people can read these wills like braille without the bumps and fingers; more like mannerism detection; rewarding or punishing us accordingly.

My will must have been Polo Grounds big because no car, wheelchair, or pedestrian sign interrupted my locomotion. I made it home in 17 minutes flat; arriving at precisely 4:17 PM. It was the top of the sixth inning; Brewers leading the Braves 2-0.

I abandoned all discipline and vows and middle ways. They fell away like lizard’s skin. I resubscribed to the flirt and seduction of opening day; downed some metaphorical champagne and started feeling giddy. Gibraltar was no longer 90 feet away. I was there and a strange and wonderful thing happened.

It was only a damp, dark room and an arrangement of electrical pixels on a screen in the corner, but it did a convincing impersonation of Brandon Kintzler pitching the top of the seventh inning, Wil Smith in the eighth, and Francisco Rodriguez in the ninth.

Final score; Brewers 2, Braves 0. Gallardo-the winner over Teheran.  Milwaukee in first place with a 1-0 record, ahead of Pittsburgh and St. Louis who also won, but the M in Milwaukee is closer to A than P or S.


everyday mickeys

No one really wants to be a Moses, not even Moses. He was shy and hesitant to lead the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery. He even asked God if his older brother Aaron could do the talking; be his mouthpiece. Who can blame him? But what can you do? It’s unavoidable. Shit happens and then you hear a voice. You either listen or miss the train.

I wonder if Moses made love to a bottle before bed or hooked up with Ezekiel and scored whatever it was that inspired a four winged chariot vision a few books later. Jerusalem whiskey can only do so much. But then again, it did wonders for Damon Maskins; the booze and vision that is.

He was 17 when he moved out of his parent’s house. I think he was driven to dangerous extremes because other kids picked at his rotting carcass like scavengers. They were too afraid to live their own life or didn’t really know how or lacked the courage to try so they coat tailed Damon instead.

Damon played the drums, listened to April Wine and loved Mickey Tettleton. He also slept on a hammock and drank whiskey in the afternoon. None of this stopped him from rolling strat-o-matic baseball dice with us every winter.

Damon moved in with his band members. There were girls there, but when we arrived, they got the hell out of dodge saying…”shit, it’s the paper baseball people.” We were already sorting through cards and too concerned about lefty on lefty matchups to care about girls.

We were a sanctuary to Damon. We never wanted anything from him; only to fill out his lineup card and roll some dice. I think hard work was Damon’s greatest and only vision. Nose to the grindstone day after day. Never stopping with yesterday water off his back. Band practice, bartender, three whiskeys, hanging with with the band for band talk, three more whiskeys, sleep, do it all over again. Strat-o-matic baseball.



Maybe that’s why he loved Tettleton so much. The guy walked over 100 times during five different seasons, hit a home run every 20 or so at bats and squatted in the dirt blocking balls for nine innings. Catchers wear the uniforms of great warriors. Tettleton was a centaur.

I tracked Damon down a few years ago. He was still tending bar and playing in his band. He immediately recognized me. My face doesn’t change that much. He leaned over the rail and looked long and hard into my eyes. I didn’t flinch; had nothing to hide. He finished his shift and we talked for a long while; dropped hundreds of baseball names, discussed the Brewers starting pitching and drank and drank some more.

The situation was addictive for both of us; a pleasant escape from all the useless expectations. He had to work tomorrow and I had to be back at work the following week.

There was never any promise land for Damon or if there was, it was far away from the klingons and their need to be entertained. There was never any promise land for Moses either He never stepped foot in Israel. Seems kind of ironic or something since he was the big star of the old testament, but then again it doesn’t seem ironic at all.

There’s always so much more work to be done.


minor disturbances

Mike Hessman strikes out a lot, doesn’t get on base that much, but hits plenty of home runs; 389 heading into this season, but only 14 in the major leagues. The 389 happened in Myrtle Beach, Greenville, Toledo, Buffalo, Oklahoma City, and elsewhere across minor league America. He also hit a half-dozen in Orix of the Japanese Professional League.

If Hessman plays a few more seasons, he may wear the dunce crown real soon; currently held by Hector Espinosa who hit 484 in the unaffiliated, but AAA level Mexican League. Or if that doesn’t make the grade since many Mexican League players probably preferred playing in their native Mexico, there’s always Buzz Artlett. He hit 432 homeruns plus a whopping .341 in the Pacific Coast League and American Association. But then again, many players in the PCL preferred to stay there as well.

So maybe Mike Hessman is already the king of incapacity and what a lucky son of a bitch he is because home runs are orgasmic and it doesn’t matter at what level; pee wee, kangaroo league, strat-o-matic, World Series. A home run is a rush to everyone involved, but still can’t compare to Ron Necciai.

Because nothing compares to Ron Necciai. He was the master of all masters; the dunce of all underachievers. He struck out all 27 batters in a May 13, 1952 Class D Appalachian League Game. He also threw a no-hitter that day.

Say all you want about the low-level competition, but then put your arm where your mouth is and join a whiffle ballthe bird league. You won’t struck out 27 batters. I’ll bet you my Mark Fidrych autographed cover of Rolling Stone Magazine from some time in 1977. I’m not worried because you probably won’t join a league anyway and even if you do , you won’t strike out 27 batters.

ron_necciai_autographAnd there is nothing easier than pretending to be Zeus on a whiffel ball mound because there’s no pretending. It’s all real. Any shlump like me can throw a curve, slider, slurve and never before seen pitch that has no name because the whiffel waffles with little or no effort, but 27 k’s in the same game? Never. Only Ron Necciai.

Necciai followed up his masterpiece with a two hitter, striking out 24. He was drafted by the Pirates, but went off to war and when he returned to baseball, stomach ulcers and a rotator cuff did him in or at least that’s what I gleaned from wicked pedia.

Crapola, bummer, shit on a sparkplug for Necciai and all the other one hit wonders; from Bob Hurricane Hazle who my father always slips into our conversations to Joe Charboneau to hundreds of others.

For a short while, they were on top of the baseball world; smashing base hits in big league parks or striking out batters with faces they first touched on baseball cards. And then they fell for all sorts of reasons; injury, weird momentum, bad luck, not really that good, who knows.

Maybe they’re bitter these days or maybe they’re grateful, but they’re not hungry anymore, not for baseball anyway.

Meanwhile, Mike Hessman still has his nose to the grindstone. He’s 35 years old and still probably living month to month on a mediocre salary, but he’s real hungry because he’s never really failed at the major league level. OK fine, in 223 at bats, he hit .188, but what the hell, he also hit 14 homeruns for the Braves, Tigers, and Mets. That’s one every 16 time at bat or one every four games or 41 over a full season.

I could go to me grave happy with that, but I would want one more chance, maybe a full season of at bats, but only after breaking the minor league home run record. And I wouldn’t be all melancholic about the record like Crash Davis in the movie Bull Durham. Hell no! I’d order a minor league belt buckle like a heavy weight fighter wears around the ring. I’d be proud of my under achievement.

Perseverance is all over the place; even in a drunk’s ability to scrounge up enough change for a bottle. And if he stays grateful through all the failures and shitty feelings, what’s more brave than that?


not really a conspiracy

The Tampa Bay Rays haven’t endured a losing season since dropping the Devil from their name prior to the 2008 season and of course, the devil’s absence was the difference maker.



Drafting and developing pitchers like David Price, James Shields, Jeremy Helickson, Matt Moore and the latest stud-Chris Archer didn’t hurt either. Neither did a skipper like Joe Maddon, the presence of Evan Longoria, intelligent trades and FA signings. Result-a winning percentage of .565 (550-423) since 2008.

Maybe the Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey is the wild card of their success. He’s the one who takes young, impressionable pitchers under his wing and provides not only pitching advice, but life advice.

The amateur draft began in 1965. Baseball may not subscribe to a salary cap and that maybe makes it the ultimate capitalistic sport, but the draft does provide equal opportunity to all teams. The challenge is not so much finding top prospects as it is transforming that potential into success at the major league level.

I had never really thought about Jim Hickey until I met Julien Tucker. The Montreal born pitcher had just completed a 13-year tour of duty around the Minor and Independent leagues. He never made a big league roster, but years of bumpy bus rides provided a window to stare out and come up with a reason why not.

Julien Tucker-Montreal

Julien Tucker-Concordia

We hung out at Concordia University baseball games. He had returned to school and was pitching again in 2009. There are no age limits when pitching in the Canadian Intercollegiate Baseball Association (CIBA) and there’s no Expo games to loiter at anymore. But there are CIBA and amateur leagues like the LBEQ (Ligue Baseball Elite Quebec). That’s where Russel Martin and  Eric Gagne once played for the LaSalle Cardinals.

Tucker was pitching for the same LaSalle team when the Astros offered him a tryout in 1993. They signed him as an amateur free agent. And so began another dream in the Gulf Coast Rookie League, Kissimmee, Florida. That’s where Tucker as a 20-year old, standing 6 feet 7 inches and weighing 200 pounds first met Jim Hickey.

Tucker and I hit it off right away; discussing players he had served time with in the minors; Carlos Lee, Grady Sizemore, Fernando Tatis. The conversation took a turn for the worse when the White Sox were mentioned. After being traded to the White Sox in 1996, Tucker’s agent had a heated conversation with team owner Kenny Williams about why his player was not being being promoted. Bad idea.

Tucker pitched for five organizations including the the Expos in 2002 and then finished out his professional career in the Can-Am Independent League from 2003- 2006, but he called his Expos experience in the Florida State A+ League his most bitter and ultimately the last straw. He lost hope of ever making it.

Montreal was being run by foreigners who had no interest in filling up Olympic Stadium with fans. According to Tucker, he was pitching good enough to get a call up. Of course, it would have been a big jump all the way from A ball, but it made some sort of financial sense as a crowd pleasing draw, much like Eric Gagne was when the Dodgers were in town.


claude raymond

Local Montreal boy pitches for the Expos!!! That hadn’t happened since Claude Raymond was purchased by Montreal from the Atlanta Braves in 1969, but  it wasn’t about to happen with Tucker.

A quick glance at his career minor league stats at the The Baseball Cube say nothing about Kenny Williams or financial realities in Montreal. And there’s very little statistical evidence warranting his call up to the major league roster.

Tucker must have sensed my body language. I get bored when people make excuses. He changed the subject often to Jim Hickey.



“I wish that guy (Jim Hickey) was my coach all the way through the minor leagues. He never messed with my delivery. I’m  a power pitcher. I fall off the mound. Pitching coaches tried to change my delivery for what? So I could field a ground ball better? I lost velocity on my pitches. Hickey let me pitch the way I wanted to pitch.”

Tucker looked much happier speaking in odes about Jim Hickey than he did deconstructing the cold realities of the MLB.

I watched every Concordia home game that year and one of the reasons was probably Tucker’s sense of humor. I asked him about his entrance song during Minor League games. He never hesitated to answer. “The Carpenters, We’ve only just begun.”

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suicides not called squeeze

The 2003 Detroit Tigers won 43 games and lost 119-good enough for the worst record in American League history. Outfielder Demitri Young did his best to put the situation in perspective midway through the summer.

“This isn’t a psychiatric ward,” he said. “Nobody’s going to commit suicide.”

Young was right. No one did commit suicide, but baseball is no stranger to suicide. Eighty six former players have taken their own lives. That’s over 100 years of however many players.

Being a professional baseball player is a job with pressures like any other one, not to mention an 8-month vagabond lifestyle, ridiculous expectations, a pain in the ass media and and the constant pressure to win.


Dugout fraternity Wikicommons

Baseball clubhouses are not the place to suffer a nervous breakdown or maybe they are. Maybe the baseball fraternity is more sensitive than the crotch scratching, beer drinking Bull Durham Hollywood cliche.

It sucked when Hideki Irabu got drunk and hung himself, just like it sucked when Ryan Freel shot himself in the head like it sucked when any ball player or anyone takes their life. The consolation in all of this is that only one player committed suicide during their playing days.

Willard Hershberger was a reserve catcher for the Cincinnati Reds. On August 3, 1940, he slit his throat. The Reds dedicated the rest of that season to their fallen friend and went on to win 100 games and defeat the Tigers in the World Series.

There was also Ed Delahanty who supposedly “slipped”off a bridge in 1903 and fell to his death in the Niagara River.

What amazes me is the large number of players who tasted the major leagues and then fell on their face. The one hit wonders toil away in the minor or independent leagues or just throw in the towel and do something else; from Joe Charboneau to Dontrelle Willis, Brian Doyle, Jerome Walton. Every fan has one or three in mind.

And yet just one suicide, two if we include Delahanty.

It gets me thinking about pitcher Zach Greinke who nearly walked away from the game in 2006. He suffered and still suffers from social anxiety disorder and depression. Matt Wise was Greinke’s teammate on the Kanasas City Royals at the time. Wise saw a “brother” in need and did the logical thing. He reached out his hand. Greinke consulted with doctors, began taking medication, and learned how to cope with his disease.

Greinke won the Cy Young award with the Royals in 2009 and now pitches for the Los Angeles Dodgers.