brewers baseball and things


Ed Halicki rides the bus

The J line ran night and day and Storey Island sat in perfect darkness. There was also mom’s home-made soups and Dad’s steel drums, but everything felt like an incestuous privilege” to Dirk Whipple; everything except riding that J line.

Mom knew a doctor; not the kind with a stethoscope, but one with a knack for palms and moon risings. Stelphus was his name and he and Momma Whipple mapped out a plan to seduce Dirk downtown with a burger and fries as bait. Worked like a charm. Dr. Stelphus sat at an adjacent table and didn’t say a word until Dirk’s mouth slowed down and he began pushing fries around his plate.

Only then did Stelphus make his move; striking up casual conversation and 45 minutes later, Dirk’s palms had been read and time of birth revealed. It was Momma Whipple’s turn now. She handed Dirk a 5 dollar bill and told him to “go and fetch some ice cream for him and his new friend.”

Stelphus put his hand on Momma Whipple’s. “Dirk may never show an interest in your soup or daddy’s steel drums,” he explained, “But don’t you worry about him riding that J train into the dark tunnel and out onto higher ground. All that in and out is good for the boy” and when Dr. Stelphus winked at Momma Whipple, she threw her arms up and raced to get Dirk; regretting she’d ever came.

It was on the J ride home where Dirk found a pack of unopened Topps baseball cards which didn’t arouse any excitement in him, but he opened the pack just the same, hoping one hundred-dollar bills might be inside, but there weren’t and so he flung the cards one by one onto the subway floor until one card sucked his eyes in. The player was kneeling down; looking like a sniper and aiming his bat at someone not even in the picture. Underneath it said “Ed Kranepool.”

Maybe an assassin,” Dirk thought; excited to use a word he had just learned from the scarf dealer on Storey Island and less than a week ago too and now this picture? He flipped the card over and found a number in the upper left hand corner. It said 641. Dirk assumed all the cards had numbers for identification purposes like prisoners of war getting digits branded onto their wrists or forearms. 

Dirk wanted to have more and more of these cards and collect them in a big pile and climb the fire escape of a big building and set them all free. He scanned the subway floor and counted six cards plus the ones still in the pack; “a good start,” he thought. The next morning Dirk walked to Clifton’s Pharmacy and began the ritual exchange of coins for cards.

That’s where he met Simmy Timpkins and learned of the 726 cards needed to complete the 1980 set. Simmy was big around the ankles and had all kinds of connections; stuck his nose in everybody’s business so when the time came and Dirk needed only one more card, Simmy stepped in like a pimp and promised him #217 Ed Halicki if Dirk would do him “just one small favor.”

There was an electric pole at the corner of Palisades and Avenue T and that’s where a gang of monk parakeets had taken refuge. Simmy’s little brother wanted one of the lime green critters for a pet and if Simmy didn’t get it for him than Simmy’s older brother would perform messy justice on Simmy.

Dirk made his way to Avenue T, spotted the hairy nest high above and just before beginning to climb, he said in a whisper,  “screw it” and scanned the neighborhood for a pharmacy not named Cliftons. Dirk spent 40 dollars on cards that day; one pack after another and as luck or destiny would have it; he scored not one, but two Ed Halicki cards. 

Dirk went home and gathered up all the cards, waited till dark and climbed the fire escape of Doogan’s Flour factory. There must have been over 3,000 cards he set free with all those doubles and triples flying every which way; some twirling like helicopter leaves towards the river and others nose diving into backyards and a few even slipping through open windows and onto a moving bus. One of them was Ed Halicki. 



day night and day

I have two TV’s,  so I guess in terms of world wealth, I am terribly spoiled. One of them is flat screen and that’s where I watch all the baseball games and movies. The other one is so old that it has one of those VHS bellies built into it. I keep it because I have some Brewer games on tape that are not available on You Tube like that game from I think 2005 when Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks both hit their first career home runs.

And that old TV freaking exploded Saturday morning. Thank goodness I reacted quickly; wrapping my arms around my head like Egyptian Mummy strands avoiding what I thought were going to be  flying shards of TV tube, but it was just a dream or I guess a nightmare, but what a loud BOOOOM and bizarre way to wake up on Sa-Turds day. The TV suddenly looked like a still and very peaceful Buddha.

The Brewers almost came from behind in the 9th to beat the Cubs Friday night. Lots of home runs too which may be like an uncivilized messy burger at a greasy spoon to some, but I like greasy burgers at local greasy spoons every once in a while and I ate one of those Saturday and well, the Brewers win when they hit home runs; always did and maybe always will. I like the fight in their fabric this past week.

The subway car is always something to exit; slipping through those Star Trek swooosh doors into an inverted cathedral; the massive cement underground; the up and down escalators way more than myth or metaphor with heaven and hell definite possibilities. I had a burger to eat and the Brewers another game to play. The afternnon passed and so did the evening. I digested that burger and by George, the Brewers beat up on the Cubs 12-4 with three more home runs; one of them the first in Jason Rogers’s career and heavens to Betsy it came as a pinch hit three run blast. Rogers looks a bit like Bill Madlock and he plays third base too.

The Brewers are 10-21 and I just saw a man wake up from under an evergreen tree.  He stretched his arms, yawned and apparently had a good night’s rest on pine needles and under the stars. Today is Sunday.


green thumbs and the neurotic samurai

The pamphlet for summer camps always arrived around Halloween. Time to prepare and save money and what not. Mom didn’t believe in such a list. She sent us to the Maple School Day camp. It was within walking distance to our house, public, and good enough.

The camp had everything we needed; kickball, nok hockey, peanut butter sandwiches, arts and crafts. I loved that nok hockey, but we made tie die shirts and that was ok too. There were a  few new friends. We walked home at 4 in the afternoon, ate dinner and fell asleep maybe around 9; totally exhausted. That made Mom satisfied.

There were also dictator and culture fashion camps; private  and way up north near Eagle River, Wisconsin.. We saw the brochures and heard the stories from kids who were forced to attend. Ambition was the culprit I guess. The kids hated it and wanted nothing more than to be with us, sitting around-nok hockey style, but no such luck. They were destined to discover the world of elitism and manipulation.

There were emotionally disturbed children; abandoned children and run of the mill rich kids at those camps. And some went on to become executives of big companies; others entry-level professionals. There were poets and plumbers, disc jockeys, husbands and wives, vagabonds. And all of em felt elite and exercised manipulation to get what they wanted.

On this day another relic probably crumbles in a far away land and that’s ok because, another statue and idol is raised up somewhere in the Portugese section of Montreal; maybe under a gazebo beside a street named Durocher.

Someone writes a song about that street and integrates the muslim conquest of Spain as a metaphor somewhere in the song, but come sunset, all the day’s sand grains are gone and still….there is no chorus so that becomes the chorus. In a slow tree waving motion with imaginary arms over imaginary shoulders we all sing because we can….

“come sunset, all the day’s sand grains are gone and still….there is no chorus.” And right about then, someone named Frank pulls a kazoo from his invisible holster and slips into a solo. The sound is a drunk flag and it takes the sun down. Night comes on like a blanket.

The Brewers won 1-0 Saturday. The Brewers lost 0-1 Sunday. Night and day. Day and night. According to magazines at the local Little Burgundy library, milkweed and potato bean run wild in urban areas and the two plants could feed the world.

I climbed a tree instead and removed dead branches. I was doing my neighbor a favor, but as it turned out, the favor was for me. It was yesterday. I spent 2 hours breaking the larger branches into smaller kindling and forgot about the whole damn world. When I finally came up for air and felt the suffocation again, all I wanted to do was make a fire with all that kindling.

But we can’t build a tiny hooverville fire in the backyard of a low rent apartment complex because of tree huggers whining about oil spills and automobile exhaust, plastic exhaust emissions.

Or maybe it’s Hydro Quebec and their monopoly on our energy supply. They don’t want us to heat our shelters with firewood foraged from local forests; the backyards of Mr. Jean Coutu. Or maybe the tree huggers and Hydro Quebec and oil companies and utility companies and politicians are all in cahoots; a doctor and pharmacists racket. We make the disease because we sell the cure. Self reliance is tabooooo.

I manipulated those branches a little harder..into twigs and placed em in a brown paper bag. Amazing how much can fit. I went inside; nursed my scraped forearms back into ready position, watched Ghost Dog the movie for the 12th time and dreamed of reaching neurotic samurai-hood…meditating on death while building a bon fire; Hagakure at my side.

The Brewers are 80-76.


broken note river

Breewoyyyyngggg was the sound, like some sort of string had popped or was popping and it kept repeating, Breewoyyyyngggg! Breewoyyyyngggg! It was the 4th or 5th inning. I should have been tuned to AM radio and eating a hot dog, but there was no stopping this and I wasn’t alone.

I looked over at the pom pom crowd yelling their radical left wing cliches. They were all wearing sunglasses and holding signs. So were the religious right on the other side. I couldn’t tell who was who anymore and didn’t really want to. Everyone sounded the same. It was a whining sound and it overshadowed the string popping sound.

“Refund” they kept yelling, “Refund.” “We want a winner or our money back.”

I looked away from the mass and into the darkness; grateful to find a vacancy aboard the train heading for broken note river. There were no reigns there; no plastic fingers waving right or wrong; good or bad. Reality amputated everything there. Up and down had no bottom or top. “Just enjoy the ride,” said the wind.

I drifted down the ramps, as far away from the whiners as possible. I was relieved to find cracks in the wet cement. There were gum stains and cigarette butts. I smashed a few paper beer cups with my foot and felt free. I love that sound. I peaked through the fence where the grounds crew gathers during games.

“Excuse us while we digest our own misery,” they sang as they worked. I hid behind an old booth where years ago a guy  musta stood there yelling “get your programs here” and years before him a red head in a kissing booth and before her a circus dunking booth and before that a vegetable stand and all the way back to when the wood of this kiosk was a tree in a silent field.

The grounds crew slipped outside. I followed from a distance and watched as they stood atop sewer caps looking like they were waiting to be beamed up by Scotty, but this was apparently a hands on situation. They fondled the sewer caps instead; moaning out loud…”such gorgeous ridges and curves and perforations.” They showed some good balance; leaning down like that.

One of them leaped into a pot hole beside a cap. It was filled with dirty water. He splashed around and made some ripples. One by one they leaped from the caps into the pot hole puddles and each one rap tap tapped the surface of the water. Sounded like steel drums and merged kind of nice with the string popping sound that had never stopped.

It felt like a barrel had been tapped. Maybe this was broken note river.There were no reigns there; no plastic fingers waving right or wrong; good or bad. just a something and whatever it was began mushrooming into a country or a planet or maybe a uni-verse. The grounds crew began to dance and so did I.

I looked up. Matt Clark was in the middle of sort of hitting his first career home run. Sort of because it was a miniature golf, 7 iron, the ball up up and away like a fractal into into the Miller Park geometry night…a pop fly and then a deep fly, a bird, a golf ball, a meteor crashing back to earth and Geoncarlo Stanton looks sloppy Joe on the other side of right field wall. That ball is somewhere else

and something else. Matt Clark now has one home run in the major leagues and Wily Peralta did what he’s done many times this year; win after the team suffered however many losses in a row. Final Score; Brewers 4, Marlins 1.

The Brewers are 75-71 and this is as good a time of year as any to take a canoe ride or string together a bunch of pickle buckets, lay some bamboo over the top and drop that sucker in a body of water and float down river, see where this goes right there.


no pepper allowed

imagesThere are symbols the majority of people don’t see, hear or agree on, but if one person agrees with another person and another and then another, there’s no telling what can happen; no symbols at all or preferably more and more symbols.

A few years ago I saw a sign with a bird crossed out. There was a government number on the bottom. That same day I found a copy of Robert Whiting’s “You Gotta Have Wa” in a box of books being thrown out on a curb.

What a great honor to our fellow flying thingsI always suspected that birds and all animals were smarter than human beings. I’m glad the government believes in a bird’s power to read and decipher symbols.

The establishment of rules and regulations gives birds an incentive to break the law, but I’ve never seen a bird or any animal with anything to prove. Only a few dogs wear that sad look in their eyes, but that was probably caused by co-dependent owners passing their own misery through the leash.

There might be mandatory human curfews when the tide of animals return rolls into town at dusk or dawn and takes over a bit, but I think we’ll get along fine in the new totem pole arrangement.

Pepper is a great game. There’s one batter and a bunch of fielders standing approx 10-15 feet away. Each fielder takes turns pitching the ball to the batter who hits hard grounds balls at the fielders. If a line drive or pop up happens, the fielder who catches the ball becomes the batter. The game can go on forever.

Most stadiums banned pepper a few years ago. I don’t know if the concern was over fans getting hit by errant balls, the field getting roughed up or players in a pepper game getting hit by balls during batting practice.

The jury is still out, but we seem to be in the interim days of the pepper ban because there are no symbols on stadium walls or there are, but just letters that spell out “no pepper allowed.”

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same fascination or something

It seems stupid now; to call a kid my best friend because he claimed to have a Ted Simmon’s fielder’s glove, but when he finally invited me over to play, I wasn’t disappointed. He did have a Ted Simmon’s fielder’s glove and I did have a new best friend.

His basement was a replica bar like many in Milwaukee; with a Pabst Blue Ribbon bar light, Milwaukee Brewer pennants and posters. But my new best friend also had a collection of Milwaukee Brewer media guides, yearbooks, and even a few bats used by Milwaukee Brewers.

I don’t remember exactly how I felt, but it was something close to a blanket and a crib and returning home after a long day crawling around floors in exile. I had no intention of reading the media guides or year books, but I wanted them in my bedroom like some sort of mobile above my head.

It was the same with baseball cards and the plastic sleeves and binders I slipped cards into, but why? The moldy plastic sheets stuck together and that disgusting sound as the plastic pages turned.

The Gorman Thomas bat I received for my birthday sat in a corner of my bedroom for years. Useless. The concession stands at County Stadium; all those colors and team names; uniforms and hats I drooled over in awe.

Even the condiment stations in the County Stadium concourse to dress up hot dogs; the ketchup and mustard buckets and tubs of sauerkraut looking like play-doh strands…all of it sacred like a fire to stare at but never get too close; a freaking aquarium. I was on the other side.

I don’t remember when the Santa Klaus in my head died, but it was an avalanche and I felt free real fast; free to go after some ousia feeling and I quickly realized how much hard work and discipline and concentration was required to remove those boulders one at a time.

I liberated those cards from those plastic sleeves and returned to the life of piles; to be sorted and unsorted and sorted again into stacks by numbers, last name, birth place, position, and whatever new category came to mind.

I took the Gorman Thomas bat to the closest field and used it during batting practice; let my friends use it and we cracked it during a base hit or a foul ball. It didn’t matter. I didn’t really care. It looked better cracked and felt right knowing we had cracked it.

I went to the ville de LaSalle last night; about 20 minutes from downtown Montreal; watched the Cardinals host Granby; game 38 of the LBEQ season-League Baseball Elite Quebec. Stade ÉloiViau. There were about 50 people in the stands. I counted. Tickets are 5 bucks; pays the two umpires and chalk and what not I guess.

Frédérick Fauteux;

Frédérick Fauteux;

The hot dogs smelled good and the hats and uniforms were colorful, but only the game really mattered. Frédérick Fauteux pitched a 7 inning complete game for LaSalle. They only play 7 inning games. Fauteux is a southpaw and now 7-1 and looks like any left handed starter with  all that slow wind up and grace. He gave up three hits. Final score; LaSalle 8; Granby 0.

There were two homeruns and some great defense by LaSalle. The Granby shortstop had a rough night; three errors, but one spectacular play in the 6th inning, leaping to snare a line drive. I hope the last play stays with him so he slept last night.

The sky was there, air too and bugs, Montreal downtown in the distance. The lights started buzzing in the third inning and reached full blast a few minutes later; turned the field into a drunk haze. It was in that inning that LaSalle scored five runs, but really it wasn’t much better than watching a game on TV.

The only advantage was seeing the Granby centerfielder take that first step as bat hit ball and chase it down. Other than that, it was just another triumph in killing time.

LaSalle is 26-12 and in first place; Uniprix division. The All Star break is almost finished.


a picture is worth a thousand illusions delusions dimensions, same thing?

Someone takes the actual photo on a baseball card. “Say cheese, smile, turn your head to the right, lift your left leg a bit. Perfect. The look of Walter Johnson. Hold that. Click” Maybe a strange shaped cloud rolls overhead or a rusty bridge in the background is seen and maybe it’s appropriate to include in the shot.

It’s hard to distinguish between intentional and accidental when it comes to meaning and baseball cards. But someone takes the time to arrange the perfect light and setting and what not. None of the cards feature a photographer’s name. There is no byline; just a Topps insignia, but someone travels all over baseball creation and snaps photos.

I’m not a big fan of studio poses or contrived shots on the mound but image seems more important than substance or meaning these days. Or maybe it always was. Maybe it was even more important back in the day with all the jewelry and face paint, masks and what not.

Anyway, I prefer action photos and the multiple meanings we assign them as deluded as they may be. Everyone can enjoy their own delusion. We can share or trade them and all live in one happy deluded baseball card world. And if we agree on the same delusion, maybe it becomes an illusion or a dimension. 

I think Topps issues its cards in February. Nowadays the card companies are many and each one launches a new wave of cards on a weekly or maybe monthly or seasonal basis. A baseball season features all kinds of changes; from opening day to the all star break and Word Series.

There are trades and records broken, winning streaks, no hitters, and what not and the baseball card world mirrors these changes or attempts to anyway. The intent in a photo can only be hinted, but there is no judgment, no asterik for those who used steroids or extra star for players who make more media noise.

gallardo blueThere’s just a photo and on the back side some bio info and basic stats. The rest is up to the viewer. The 2014 Opening Day Topps card of Yovani Gallardo displays his number 49 in full view. It’s not the first time his number can be clearly seen. The 2011 Topps Sparkle Sp Variation was maybe the best with a star above the Milwaukee insignia and that number 49 easy to see.

2011 Sparkle

2011 Sparkle

Gallardo wears the number to honor former Brewer left hander Teddy Higuera. Both Gallardo and Higuera are from Mexico; two of Milwaukee’s all time greatest pitchers. 2014 may be Gallardo’s last season as a Brewer, so the card takes on additional meaning.

But sentimentals and history aside, there are also the 2014 Topps Opening day cards of Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez. segura toppsgomez cardSegura seems to ignore the burden of ribs and joints and gravity. And Gomez laughs in the face of expert advice “nice and easy.” Segura is a swan. Gomez is a pleasant bull. And I’m a baseball card fan with delusions.

The Brewers had an off day Monday and visit Toronto Tuesday afternoon to play the Blue Jays in celebration of Canada Day.

The Brewers are 51-33.