my cousin eddie wasn’t really a baseball fan, but he took me to my first baseball game, a doubleheader against the Red Sox at Milwaukee’s old county stadium, in either 1977 or 1978. I was seven or eight at the time or come to think of it….it had to be 1978 and I had to be 8 because Eddie was ten years older then me. how else could he have a driver’s license? you had to be 18 to drive in wisconsin.
He loved cars. Had a massive car brochure collection. He said it was all about marketing and when I asked “what’s about marketing?” he said, “everything” and then he pulled out a lincoln continental car brochure, right there, right at the game, pulled it out of his mysterious black bag (back then you could go to games with mysterious black bags) and opened it up, pointed to the opera windows towards the back of the car and at a family of smiling faces enjoying a picnic or something like that. i was too young to get his sarcasm, but i liked the way he waved his hands around to make his point.
We took the bus to that doubleheader game. It was the first time i had ever been on a city bus. Eddie said it was the green limousine and to not forget it. Thinking about it now, it’s kind of strange that he never had a car since he loved them so much. he took me to the car show every year after that game and in between car shows he took me to the dealerships to test drive cars and more than anything else, i remember that he knew more about the cars than the dealers!
eddie said he was gonna make a fortune selling coupons. i was too young to understand his business plan, but looking back now, why would anyone buy coupons? Wouldn’t that ruin the idea of coupons, of saving money? anyway, Eddie had other ideas.
he loved the idea of catholic parishes, not so much because he believed in god, but because he hoped all the different ones could come together and build runways for extra terrestrials. he believed they were gonna visit earth some day soon, that they were our true ancestors, that all humans were related. i had seen close encounters of the third kind the year before so i knew about the possibility….
but back to the game, my first game ever that he took me too. i don’t remember much about it other than Dick Drago pitching for the Red Sox. eddie bought me a program and told me to keep it, that it might be worth some money one day, but he also told me to never sell it. it’s weird that i remember him telling me this, but i can’t remember a damn thing about the actual game or games since it was a double header. i love that name double header as in two heads as in baseball is a head game. anyway, he wrote some stuff down inside the program, on the scorecard which didn’t bother me since i had no idea how to keep score, how sacred it was for some fans, more important, way more important than twirling a rosary between pitches. on the home team side, he wrote – “if it’s all pre-determined, what’s the point of cheering?” it made no sense to me at the time. i threw it up as Eddie strangeness and was glad to know him. he was something different than my parents or my brother. he made me feel like i had my own road to travel down before i ever knew anything about four lane highways and trucks jackknifing and all that.
the brewers were good the next couple of years, really good and they kept getting better. they won 93 games in 1978 and 95 the following year, fell to 86 wins in 1980, but won the first half of the strike shortened 1981 season and then lost to the Yankees. But then in 1982, they beat the Angels in the ALCS but unfortunately were without their closer Rollie Fingers and lost lost to the Cardinals in the World Series. I defied Eddie’s wisdom and cheered my voice off. I remember going hoarse at the couple of playoff games my dad took me too and I remember being sincerely sad when Bruce Sutter struck out Gorman Thomas swinging to end game 7. I cheered that year without really knowing why. i just wanted the brewers to win. There were no thoughts of it being like a gambler wishing for the right cards or a disciple calling to Jesus. Eddie’s words across my program still didn’t awake any of the typical why are we here questions.
it wasn’t until a few years later when that happened. i was a sophomore in high school. my friend chris and i decided to not sleep. we picked up leaves after midnight, held them under the street lights and noticed for the first time that there were lines on the leaves like veins on our arms or like the lines on our hands. the branches on trees were so still and silent. it was kind of eerie. at some point, we started thinking about things we had never thought about before like time as a measure, a human measure, made up, that clocks were nothing compared to the sun and shadows and then we went to Denny’s. It was like four in the morning and we thought out about life being a book, the author unknown and that got me remembering what eddie wrote in the program he bought me because if life has an author, then it can’t be predetermined because authors have no idea how a story is gonna end and or maybe they do? i don’t know. In any case, I decided right then and there that i was gonna cheer for the Brewers for a whole new reason – because the book is still going and we can sway the author to change the outcome or at least scream loud enough to motivate Rowdy Tellez to play solid defense at first base.
last night Tellez did. The Rays and Brewers were tied heading into the tenth inning. rays had the freebee runner at second base to start the inning. Devin Williams on the mound. Ground ball to Tellez. without hesitation. he throws a perfect strike to third. i forget who was playing third. Maybe Urias? anyway, he tagged the runner. One out. runner on first tries to steal a few pitches later. tagged out. that’s two. the batter with two strikes on him. he strikes out. Williams faces two batters and gets three outs. brewers win in it in the bottom half. Willy Adames with a sharp single to left field.
I cheered. I thought about Eddie.