brewers baseball and things


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swept away again

We called them gulls because there was no sea,  just a big lake and a lot of dirty rivers. We used to get real close and open our palms to impress both the gulls and Mr. Sphere. “Question of crayola and contrast,” he would say.

We never understood what the hell he was talking about, but we liked the free rein. “The gull carves invisible angles” said the smart ass among us, but Mr. Sphere knew our game, knew we wanted something from him and maybe we did, but we were too young to know what the hell we were doing. Smashing in sun roofs one night and pool hopping the next.

“A drunk pendulum, but in full control,” Mr. Sphere said and then lifted his glasses and let them get lost in that wild hair of his. I think that was the moment an invisible seance ignited within us. We felt all together like never before and were no longer interested in far away places or even next towns. We watched gulls much closer from then on, especially their kamikaze nose dive missions toward one of our abandoned brown paper bag lunches. We felt kindred watching their cadaver dance, pecking away like an oil rig and looking up every now and again, in between chews and swallows as if to say This is our town. This is seagull planet earth. We rule your endless human ruins, junk heaps and piles and mounds. 

We made a pack to be like gulls and defy our own gravity and webbed feet. It was one thing to be a hawk, falcon, or eagle soaring from one mountain majesty to another, but to be a gull and dumpster dive and scrounge through frat boy vomit. That was the simple cement to us all, the stuff to build our future, the back alleys, utility infielder, heave and hoe of our soon to be anonymous 8-4 lives.

We sat everywhere together, but no place felt more like home than the dugout. It was partially below ground and would  probably be called a semi basement if it were an apartment in the classifieds, but it was public space so we lived there for free, three times a week anyway, when our baseball teams played. We were in senior league. Weird name since none of us were seniors, but we were too old to reach Omaha’s Little League World Series so we were washed up I guess and they called us seniors-aged 13-17.

But who needed little league anyway! We played on real regulation diamonds. Pitchers had mounds that looked miles away from home plate. Bases were 90 feet apart. We could psyche out the pitcher and steal like Henderson and Raines, head first slides if we had the guts and most importantly we had dugouts. We arrived early and left late, loving to loiter in there long after the game, exploring all kinds of boundaries. That dugout was the closest thing to home other than our bedrooms and as we got older, only the dugout endured.

It was our fort and shelter and it felt ancient and essential when we found out about the dugout canoes used by Native Americans and Africans, Asians and Europeans too, all the way back to stone age peoples.

They renamed that diamond we played on. It’s now called Henry Aaron Field. It’s where the UW-Milwaukee Panthers play so there’s black and gold Panther colors everywhere and the dirt is a beautiful red and the grass is well manicured and what not, but I bet the corners of the dugouts still fill up with dry crunchy leaves.

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it was the beginning of a dynasty

Franz Festanoosh didn’t have the name of a ballplayer, not a last name anyway, sounded more like a sweet treat at a county fair or a musical instrument from another century and well, Franz didn’t really care, not until late one summer afternoon when it started to rain and didn’t stop for 24 straight hours.

It was more of a mist than a downpour….real soft and soothing on the face, almost invisible, but wet enough that birds behaved like oil rigs pecking at the earth in search of worms and come to think of it, the mailman did turn down Melvin Street instead of Atkins Boulevard and Franz did slip into the library and that hardly ever happened. It was 5:30 PM and the only thing Franz remembered was a skinny librarian, her blue rimmed glasses and the sturdy grocery bag she handed him. Next thing Franz knew he was home, sitting on the edge of his bed with the fattest book he had ever seen.

It had a grey hardcover with a three word title and a red diamond beside it. Franz flipped open to the back. There were over 3,000 pages. He lifted it up. Must have weighed 10 pounds!

He shut the front cover and opened it, shut it and opened it. He did this a few times and then read the title out loud, “The Baseball Encyclopedia” and as he did , the small bookcase in his room did not spin 180 degrees and no magical passage opened up, but when he opened the book again and began reading, the night started to feel like a slumber party with sleep the enemy.

The book began with Aardsma, David and it didn’t take long for him to realize that the only requirement to get in was one single solitary big league appearance. That explained the presence of Abadie, John a few pages later. Abadie came to bat 49 times in 1875-a beginning and an end.

Franz thumbed through every page and every name in search of someone-anyone with the name Festanoosh and the closest he came was Alex Ferson and Lou Fette. Not one player had a family name beginning with Fes, only a manager named Wally Fessenden so Franz, now fully under the effects of post midnight loopiness, thumbed through every page and every name a second time in search of someone-anyone named Franz. And with the light of day still no where in sight, it happened.

Franz Otto Knabe appeared and Franz was only his birth name and not the name fellow infielders probably chattered when going round the horn, but Franz raised his arms above his head anyways and sizzled out an elongated Yessssssssss for a good 15 seconds or so.

Franz Otto Knabe played 11 years beginning in 1905 for Pittsburgh, but only three games. He was waived and claimed by Philadelphia. Stayed  seven years there and then jumped to the Baltimore Terrapins of the Federal League. Jumped?

That’s what it said and Franz had to pause because he had never seen the word “jumped” to describe a player transaction, maybe a shortstop “jumped” to avoid incoming spikes or the accused “jumped” bail,  the courageous “jumped” into fires and saved little children, but a player “jumped” leagues?

That was free will, rebellion, and defiance. Franz felt elated to be related to a ballplayer like Franz Otto Knabe even if it only was a first name. His excitement sobered a bit when reading the next line….Knabe was “purchased” by those same Pittsburgh Pirates in 1916 after the short-lived Federal League folded. He only played half a summer with the Pirates before being traded to the Chicago Cubs. He retired that same year.

Why would Pittsburgh want him back and then get rid of him so quickly again? There were was no biography, only the facts Franz knew from the backs of baseball cards-height, weight, place of birth and burial, but there was a piece of paper, crumpled and torn, sticking out of the next page and on it, in cursive swoops was written…..”Otto Knabe” and underneath were words written with even bigger swoops. 

“prone to gambling and drink, tiny little runt, but had arms like bowling pins and never met a cat he wouldn’t pop in the belly or keister.”

The name Franz was not written on the note, but Franz Festanoosh knew and good thing too because when the sun poked above the horizon and injected all that light into objects, Franz felt naked and exposed, but no longer alone.

It was time to get ready for school and Franz didn’t know it yet, but that mist would last another 12 hours.

 


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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.


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that tomato tasted good

Days can be long by a clock’s standards, but not when Sally Perplenix loiters the universe and asks questions like; “a baby born in water grows fins in how many years?” A little nudge later and pfoooosh Sally Perplenix is a bird breaking through an already shattered window.

On Sunday, my girlfriend and I thought about taking a bike ride. We often do, but never can. We’re scared or lazy so we walk instead; for the slow down molasses pace possibility when the world becomes a museum….when branches morph into Yes album covers from the 1970’s and construction sites don’t wear a no trespass sign. 

There’s also the ass bone to consider. That turns a wind blown feather of a bike cruise into a back alley sadomasochistic session minus the whips and knee high boots. The crack of knee ligaments is another detractor, but we did it on Sunday. We pumped up the dusty pancake tires at the gas station and a few bike pedal revolutions later, I envisioned a Dr. crazy machine with gears and cranks and axles all turning in great unison but it wasn’t my bike I was thinking about. It was my body and all its organs behaving like 7 plates spinning simultaneously and  my mind reaping some kind of reward.

All our turns were right because we had no destination; only a buffet table of surprises; a train and that clump clump clippety clump over the railroad ties and its industrial saw sharpening squeal ..must be the brake balls playing friction with the rails. It overwhelmed me in the best of ways. My mind shut down temporarily. There was nothing to protest. Reality was perfect as is.

The aqueduct building was not a Sri Lankan vacation, but it looked like a castle with bright auburn colored bricks and  a wrought iron gate guarding the premise were not lions, but the grass was a nice florescent green and maybe this was my inner organ spins tilting my pinball eyes towards “way too optimistic” but I like it when water is protected and preserved.

We arrived home just in time for a tomato and cheese sandwich and Jean Segura getting plunked in his face and thank God the fastball hit the bill of the helmet. Segura even tried out first base but was too dizzy and came out of the game which was tied 3-3 in the 8th inning; Brewers visiting the Cubs. The bases were now loaded and nobody out, but Braun hit into a double play and then the Cubs did a strange thing. They walked Adam Lind to load the bases again. Strange because Aramis Ramirez was coming to bat and he had already hit a home run and has crazy good career stats with bases loaded; 10 grand slams and an average way over .300 and he muscles a 2 run single into shallow left and Brewers win 5-3. Brewers win 2 in a row against the Cubs.

And Monday morning I learn that Ron Roenicke is fired and Craig Counsel hired as new Brewers manager. I predicted this during an off season post so I scrolled around my own blog and felt a little self indulgent doing so but I never predict the Brewers future accurately so what the hell.  The post was called because general managers don’t wear hats

Counsell’s first game was at home against Kershaw and the score was 3-1 Dodgers in the 8th inning. Kershaw cruising and then it happened. Hectar Gomez connected for his first career home run. Adam Lind lined a double to right center. Kershaw to the showers and that perfect Dodger bullpen not so perfect anymore.

Counsel called for two pinch hitters last night; Perara and Lind; both lefties and both banged out base hit hits off Kershaw. Final score; Brewers 4, Dodgers 3. Three wins in a row. The Brewers are 8-18 and only 11.5 games behind the Cardinals. 

 


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in this season

In this season of seagulls never running out of breezes and 52 cards fleeing the safety of decks; there’s nothing sadder than a golden Labrador limping across a field, but there’s a trapeze wire above our heads and squirrel and crow play “i got next game,” ready to taste each other’s blood for the first time again.

Two kids stand under the wire and take turns flinging a pair of abandoned shoes. The squirrel panics; darts east and west; looks up and down and finally surrenders; pushing off hind legs and soaring to a near by branch. The crow doesn’t blink.

The kids try 20 times to lasso the shoes onto the wire and fail; don’t even come close, so they ditch the tradition that brought them together in the first place.

I feel like an ice cube shut off from all this volcanic activity; the Brewers 0-4 heading into Saturday’s game against the Pirates.

One kid is small and he reaches down and grabs a coke can stuck between the bars of a sewer grate and pretends it’s a football and runs round and round in circles. The other kid is tall and does nothing and that’s maybe why the two of them are best friends. They need each other like an explosion needs an empty chamber. One serves, the other vollies and together they dream up an empress who never needed a country; just a river and sky.

The Brewers were the last team in baseball to reach the win column and Jimmy Nelson; what a win; struck out 9 Pirates in 7 shutout innings Saturday.

A black lab approaches; its nose twitching spastic across creation; an explosion of smells again and the dog chooses my hand so I’m sure its an elder saying “life sucked as a soberite” and the dog’s galloping paws are the rattling chain of a liquor store door and a beer or four more.

Last year’s 10 lap lead in mid May aroused too much expectation lust. I prefer the “I probably lost my apartment keys” mentality when suddenly there they are and life was nothing but a turnkey situation all along and I’m inside and the Brewers are leading the Cardinals in St. Louis; 2-0 and then 5-2 and Jeremy Jeffress is on to pitch the 7th inning.

He ignores a Segura throwing error and keeps the lead at 5-4 and Broxton in the 8th and Rodriguez in the 9th and that’s 27 outs and a win to spoil opening day at Busch and I wonder how many 8 x 12 prisons lean towards paradise? 

The Brewers are 2-5.


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maybe i heard a train

I’ve been working on an opera; can’t get past the first line, but I sing it anyway in my morning shower. Ichiro has a hammer. He wakes up way before the dawn.”

The stage scene is all dark during the repetition of these two lines. I sing them 5-7 times in high and low voices. Then the light crawls across the scene and a low baritone narrator voice sounds,

“As wind stirs the tall sugary grasses of Toyoyama, a father begins to play xylophone with Japanese soup spoons. The eyes of Ichiro have opened.”

Then I say things like “Mangos and mandrakes and manchurians” and  shut the computer down; deciding to ration my search engine to one every 72 hours or so; ya know that chaotic infinite arrow; beginning with wonder about a garlic skin’s waterproofosity and meandering four searches later to early Aryan Indus valley plumbing genius. Those pre-Hindus knew how to get rid of human waste. Incredible engineers.

I slide over to the bookshelf; time to get hen pecked by some books; maybe Survival of the Birch Bark Canoe by John McPhee again; hijacked by Henri Vaillancourt’s bare hands; building a canoe from scratch it must be spring.

Or screw it. There’s Jim Brosnan’s two books; both of them written in earshot of On The Road and Dharma Bums. Tickles every bone in my body. Brosnan passed away this past June. Damn Shame! I mean 90 years old happens, but strange timing because Brosnan promised to write a third book after the Cubs won the World Series. He was a big Cubs fan and well, the Cubs have all the fixings for an October stew; haven’t had one since 1906 and we’ll see what happens right there.

I walk outside and the damn mountain in Montreal is no mountain at all; more of a mound at 700 and some highest peak feet, but a mound is a mound and could be a burial mound dear Jim Brosnan and the parking lot behind my apartment complex is a shopping mall and well; consumer craze revenue spin the economy and what not so the snow plows arrive early in the pre Ichiro morning and they’re big and loud and holy Gestapo boots I wake up and there’s awe out the window. The snow is pushed into incredible mounds transforming the lot into Alps.

Kids forfeit culture’s first gift of dance and song and mount the mounds and play king of the hill and chicken. They do it every morning. Doesn’t matter when the the hills get crusted with pollution streaks and strewn with abandoned shopping carts. The kids are still there. I stop and stare and wonder how those carts get there? Set free from sidewalk gravity; tumbling to wherever ever land? Fly away parachutes crashing into a tree canopy; these strange and wonderful fates. Shoes dangling from overhead wires like feet dangling over a summer camp pond; maybe love for the first time or maybe love always feels like a first time.

Dontrelle Willis retired in Brewers camp a few days ago, but we never fall off our horses; just the scenery changes. The Brewers did very little this off-season; signed K-Rod to a 2 year contract, traded Marco Estrada to Blue Jays for Adam Lind, traded Yovani Gallardo to Texas for three up and comers.

Hot damn! We can sit on a park bench this apocalypse season and enjoy  sweet lemonade and consider the marination plan in full effect; the wisdom of Kyle Lohse seeping into still green minds of Wily Peralta and Jimmy Nelson. Lohse with stories and pranks and pinpoint control and don’t worry. Matt Garza in hoodie looks like Lohse’s Druid sidekick.

And The Great Walking  Path of Algonquin Ojibwe speaking people is still in full effect; just transformed into roads and highways and maybe tracks for trains and the colonizers saw the genius of birds and built runways and planes and there’s one right now floating across a perfect morning sky; so slow in its descent or ascent I can never tell. There’s a bunch of chimneys blocking the view; spitting smoke into all kinds of impossible shapes.

 


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manic spring fling

I’m sure the only way to a thunder clatter tongue is to read, read, and read some more. My certainty comes when ice chunks gather in gutter clusters and race one track tornado down the mountain side back home to sea.

Or maybe the urge or urgency to read arrives in any season after manic google searches; garlic skins to Basque boats; not staying long enough  to enjoy any particular view. Damn screen! 

The back side of a hand soap does me better; meditating on the ingredients and singing the manufacture town name; Minnetonka, Minnesota in exaggerated slow down syllabic flare. My head sizzles, feet tap, heart starts.

My lack of focus returns; easily transplanted to my bed with five open books, but a few sentences later it all starts again; that sizzle followed by more certainty.

I’m falling in love with Rico Carty for the first time. The declaration pins me against a wall, not quite head shaved and hare krishna, but what’s the difference!

probably do this every spring; falling in love with some Carty equivalent; not consciously; more like a silent reflex, to keep some ancient myth within me from being completely choked out of existence.

In Fidrych; Charboneau and JR Richard I trust.

I never knew Carty as a player, only as a name I liked and I’m not sure if it was the Rico or Carty part; probably just a baseball card flash. He comes to me later in life; in books; as the man who rattled Hank Aaron’s diplomatic cage. I don’t know the details, don’t know how he did it; how he crawled so far under hammering Hank’s perfect skin, but he did; maybe them two getting dirty and rolling around; maybe them two despising each other for a while, but rolling around some more and you forgive me and I forgive you and the superficial pierced and there’s a bridge called trust to come a little closer.

Milwaukee fans made a banner with Carty’s name and hung it from the top of the left field bleachers, not because he fought with Aaron who took Carty under his wing-roommates in Milwaukee but because back in 1964, the last of those miracle Brave embers was sizzling and Carty was the party. 

Spahn was tired and refusing to retire. Joe Adcock and Lew Burdette had already been traded; all the other ones sold off; typical clean house situation with new owners, but there was still Aaron and Mathews and no duo hit more home runs than them two.

But the same thing that brought the Braves to Milwaukee was taking them away; a new and potentially lucrative market; from Boston to Milwaukee and now Atlanta; the business side of baseball; the slash and burn blah blah.

The people never get blamed, but Milwaukee attendance fell from an all time National League high of 2 million in 1958 to 500 thousand in 1965.  

There’s banana peels everywhere; cemeteries on both sides of the street and crops go fallow with or without money, but before that trumpet player blew taps at County Stadium there was Rico Carty. He only came to bat two times in 1963 and no one probably noticed, but in 1964, he hit .330 with 22 home runs and almost won the batting title; almost won the rookie of the year too.

That banner hanging from the top of County Stadium’s left field bleachers said, “Rico Carty Our Rookie of the year!!” That possessive our sticking out more than the 2 exclamation points.

And who could blame them! Their Carty, their Braves, their baseball team and each and every home game spilling down aisles and ramps into parking lots and bars and bed time stories and one last beer and dreams and box score sunrise was under threat of extinction. They were doing the flat lines dance, the ghostly amputee shuffle; enjoying Carty like the last day of their lives because it always could be.