brewers baseball and things


an 11-inning affair

Amy Roma was in awe the way pedals opened in spring, the way birds built nests, ants hills, and bees hives. She greeted the sun every morning with a wave of her hands like a drunk Pentecostal. She stared at stars, learned the constellations, danced under the moon. Many stamped her as an itinerant preacher and then settled back in their brood.

Johnny Turin liked the Seattle Mariners, specifically the 1977 expansion squad because it marked the return of major league baseball to the Emerald City, after seven long seasons without. He liked the continuity of colors, the yellow and blue, the same colors the previous team in Seattle wore, the Pilots, who relocated to Milwaukee after just one season to become the Brewers, on account of the team going bankrupt, supposedly. It wasn’t that Johny Turin didn’t like flowers and cats and moon phases and pearls hanging from blades of grass; he just didn’t notice. He was too busy, gloating on behalf of Bob Stinson’s .360 OB% in 1977.

Amy Roma and Johny Turin met at a mutual friend’s funeral. Johnny knew he was a slave to his thoughts, but he knew they were medicine too, mellowing the sting of his dead best friend, that starting lineup of the 1977 Mariners serving him like a sweet lullaby.

“How’d you know him?” asked Amy Roma. It was the question you’d expect someone to ask at funeral, small talk, selfish in a sense, to make the one asking the question feel a little less alone. But Amy Roma wasn’t done. There were tall, stoic evergreens hanging over the hole where Henry Wobbler was being laid to rest. And there were squirrels playing their game of tag, racing around some other kind of tree and it was fall and so leaves were red and yellow and falling and swaying and it was intoxicating to Amy Roma.

“Let’s walk,” she said, almost insisted to Johnny Turin. He was thinking about Diego Segui’s 0-7 record in 1977 and dismal 5.69 ERA and yet he only allowed 108 hits in 110.2 innings, so he nodded and grunted “Uh huh” in confusion and followed her as if he were under some strange spell. They strolled and the damn life sprouts from death rule was in full effect with tall grasses growing wild and free above buried bodies and this tickled Amy Roma to wax on about cycles and photosynthesis and gravitational pull and eventually this gnawed at Johnny Turin’s mind, ruined his concentration, his pleasant obsession over the Mariners not losing 100 games in their inaugural season and three players on that team hitting over 20 home runs and to stop Amy Roma from gushing over skies and suns and planets, he recited their names…

“Dan Meyer, Ruppert Jones, Leroy Stanton” and then he said them in the opposite order, “Stanton, Jones, and Meyer” and when he was done with that he rattled off the names of a few pitchers, hoping to gain an edge over this Amy Roma, but she knew the names; she knew the Mariners of 1977 and 2022 too and wondered if they would make the playoffs and she also considered the assassination of John F. Kennedy and why, in 2006, had the International Astronomical Union downgraded Pluto to “dwarf planet” status and what kind of bat and ball games were played in ancient Egypt and as always, she wondered out loud and this mention of Egypt had Johnny thinking about his dead friend Henry Wobbler and how he had walked to the Nature Reserve on that Sunday as he always did, but that day he didn’t take in the cranes and turkeys and cardinals. He climbed the tower to get a better view of Mount Ranier, took a deep breath and jumped to his death.

“So how did you know him?” asked Johnny.

And she told him about the volunteering where they met and then about Eugenio Suarez and all the homeruns he had hit that season, “and with so few RBI’s” and than about “Logan Gilbert’s slider” and Johnny had questions and so it went, back and forth, Johnny not realizing that he was slipping further and further from the 77 Mariners and into 2022.

Amy Roma led them under the wrought iron Cemetery awning, like some ancient chuppa, into the rest of the day and the Mariners were playing that night and the two went to the game, against the Texas Rangers and the Mariners won 10-9 in 11 innings and it seemed fitting to both Amy Roma and Johnny Turin that it would go extra innings because they had a lot more to talk about and there was another game the next night too…



Ty Cobb’s face

She was wearing a dark blue, ankle length dress. I figured she was part of some religious cult. I’m always a sucker for that type of species and the hope they engender, the challenge of it all, to sway her away from Jesus miracles into 24 hour donut shops and anywhere talk which is probably where Jesus would hang out if he were still alive, amongst the prostitutes, drunks, transvestites and the rest of us with no interest in sleeping, desperate to the endless possibility of connecting with humans. Do you wanna dance? Here. Right now!

Anyway, I’d been watching her for weeks, on the bus. She was always on it when I boarded. I didn’t bother thinking about destiny. I wasn’t looking to marry her. A conversation would do me just fine and then a coffee and a long stroll and smuggle a flask of Smirnoff into Estabrook Park and maybe we’d hold hands and kiss and exchange phone numbers, but the game was to collect more and more phone numbers and kisses. How many billions of people are there in this god damn world! Liechtenstein! Namibia! Pangea!

She had one of those old school trapper keepers which struck me as kind of strange because she was way older than high school. I had been being brave and sneaking looks at her as the bus rolled along and she’d smiled at me a couple of times. It was a nice, innocent little game we were playing, but the boxscore in my mind was incomplete; I wanted to know more about this developing trapper keeper situation. I hadn’t seen one in years. But I knew it was a trapper. I remembered those organizers and the Rick Springfield photos girly girlies slipped under the plastic so they could day dream about the mullet pop star model.

So, one morning I inched my way closer to the lady whose name I didn’t know.

“Is that a trapper keeper?” I asked with daring flair.

“I guess you’re old,” she replied.

I could barely hear her sarcasm. I was too interested in the photo she had slipped under the trapper keeper plastic front. I immediately knew the face. It was part Woody Allen, part Joan of Arc. It was Ty Cobb. It was unmistakable, that pear-shaped face and I felt a rush of empathy for Ty Cobb, a flash, a belief in my gut, that Cobb wasn’t ALL bad and neither was Genghis Khan or anyone for that matter and then I spotted a tattoo on the lady’s arm and I could feel her eyes looking at my eyes and I don’t know why but I started thinking about old baseball stadiums I knew, the names anyway, like Crosley and Forbes and so I told her what I was thinking and she didn’t know the stadium names or much about baseball; she just liked Ty Cobb’s face so I guess we had that in common because I like Ty Cobb’s face too.


the good enough marriage

i heard you’re into restoring victorian vases now and you wear sexy, great shoes and diamond earrings and your hair is the perfect color, some amazing mix of your natural beauty and synthetic crayola oils and curls at the end, perfect to stare at and twirl and i respect all that like i worshipped you a few decades ago and wondered where you got that necklace and your dark eyes and i know some work in diamond mines and others wear diamonds and i know i’m the one who has to work in the mines, but if i could go back, i would have softly held your hand and walked us over the tracks to the trestle and the unpredictable river where old philosophers had determined the same – unpredictable and we’d walk on and i would feel from your softness that you agreed and we’d finally smooch inside a giant, colorful cement tube on the kid’s playground where probably preschoolers did naughty things like we would do and the stars would agree and all of these trespasses from the simple touch of our hands, we’d sneak port wine into the cemetery and drink and I would proudly feel responsible for luring you into becoming the best damned viper in the world and we’d eat breakfast at Sal’s Diner, 1.99 for two eggs, toast, bacon and all the coffee we could drink and god, would we drink lots of coffee, us the kshhhh kshhhh of a needle that refuses to let go of the LP and you’d balance the sugar tower on sugar grains and i’d read the sports page, studying the boxscores and Joey Wiemer’s yesterday 0 for 3, but I’m sure he ran down a few fly balls and I’d totally forget about you and you’d kiss me on the lips and hug me because of my sudden absence and then I’d punch you on the shoulder for interrupting my brewers baseball reverie and we’d still both be feeling the previous night’s cemetery port wine high and it would be time to go to work and we’d send each other on our own ways, onto our own dance floors, spreading our own kind of love and maybe sneak some kisses with strangers and then we’d meet by the tracks after work and do it all over again come sundown whisky this time and sunrise back at the diner and sun would set and sun would rise and I’d know Viperette, as I would start calling you was bringing a little flamenco into the world, into me too…


Rain check

I don’t have a very good memory, but the first baseball game I attended was at County Stadium in Milwaukee; a double header against the Red Sox. Dick Drago pitched at some point for the Sox. It was 1978 or 1979. It was my birthday. My dad told me to invite some friends to the game and so I did. He handed us kids our tickets, actual tickets, ones we could hold in our palms and look at.

I didn’t know the atomic number of too many elements on the periodical table or that much about space shuttle journeys or Shakespeare lyrics, but I knew that ticket was my key into the game, a real god damn game with players I’d seen on TV and heard grown men talk about. Do they even have tickets nowadays? Or is the proof that you paid digitally recorded on a cell phone? How do you collect ticket stubs on a cell phone?

Anyway, the man standing beside the turnstile ripped my ticket into two unequal halves. I never thought much about the half he handed me or I did, but not the small print on the back. Instead, I focused on the row, aisle, seat number information. It would be my home for the next 18 innings. I was too excited about seeing Cecil Cooper in his crouched Carew-like stance to care about small print words. I had met Cooper at Cody for Kids Shoe Store at Milwaukee’s Bay Shore Mall. He signed a black and white picture of himself batting. I put it in a frame (without glass) and mounted it on my bedroom wall.

After we reached our seats in the upper grandstand, I could have set my ticket stub free, let it float like one of those helicopter leaves to become part of the beautiful mess – the empty paper beer cups and peanut shells and hard cement floor. Yeh, I could have, but I didn’t, instead I kept that stub, stuffed it in my pocket and in the front of my mind knew with sudden urgency that I would start a ticket stub collection, not knowing why, not knowing that maybe years later, I’d look at the stub and remember what had happened at the double header – maybe a Moose Haas win, a Robin Yount stolen a base and opposite field home run? Lenn Sakata? Don Money? Ben Oglivie? I just thought about the stub and how cool it would be to have lots of them, how cool it would be if my dad brought me to more games.

I don’t remember much about that double header, but for the sake of this post, I’m going to pretend that during batting practice, it started to rain and I watched other fans study their ticket stubs and so I snuck a peak too and discovered the unthinkable – that sometimes rain didn’t stop, even at a baseball game and when that happened, the game could get cancelled, even a double header and how deceived I would feel, that I’d been tricked, that life wasn’t all birthday cakes and Cooper’s stance; that things didn’t always turn out the way I wanted them too….

and in this pretend scenario, as we walked away from County Stadium, rain soaking through our jackets, making them heavy like blankets; as we stomped in puddles towards the car, I would be filled with a very promising thought – that the ticket stub I had kept was like a psalm, a promise of a batter day, that the rain would stop and there would be another game and that I would be entitled to attend that game; that one day I would finally see Cecil Cooper and the Brewers, that maybe life wasn’t completely bad.