At 12 years old my interests were the same as your average kid from the 80’s era as I enjoyed playing with Star Wars toys with friends, re-creating scenes from Return of the Jedi and eating the latest sugary cereal concoction that hit the market. Seeing that we were boys and enjoyed rough-housing, there was also the random broken window from a baseball being batted which is decidedly why my friends and I began making balls with newspaper and duct tape– in retrospect this was a genius move as we couldn’t care less if we lost the ball and there were no more broken windows and the inevitable grounding and ass-tanning that came with it.
This was the year I went to my first Major League Baseball game which was on September 26, 1987. I know this because my Grandfather took me because it was “Reggie Jackson Day,” and Reggie being his all-time favorite player made this game matter-of-course. The Oakland Coliseum wasn’t the out-dated monstrosity that it has become today and back then you actually had a view of the Oakland hills behind the bleachers, a view akin to Dodger Stadium today. The details of the actual game have been blurred through time, yet I remember being disappointed that Reggie batted only once (on his day!) in a pinch hit role, popping out. After a bit of research what had once been in my mind’s-eye, indeed, the above date held true. Ol’ Reg had stepped in the box once–popping out with runners on second and third in a 3-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox and their new pig-tail “C” caps.
After the game Reggie was in a bad mood.
“I’m not into talking about how wonderful things are for me when we’ve lost four in a row,” he said. “I’m embarrassed.”
“If we had won, it would be different. But right now, my esteem is low. My self-importance is microscopic.”
The box-score is interesting to me as I remember my 12-year-old self wondering, “Who in the hell is Walt Weiss?” (Regular short-stop Alfredo Griffin must have been hurt or taking the day off) Weiss was in his third month in the league, and went on to win Rookie of the Year the next season. Long time Oakland A’s pitching coach Curt Young started the game, pitching 7 strong innings and giving up 1 run. (This wasn’t part of my memory, as the only one I remember is Reggie batting once and popping out which probably destroyed my belief in predestiny and prepared me for the heartbreak and disappointment of being an A’s fan for years to come) Overall, I don’t remember much as far as feelings or any other waxing “ball park details”, except the expansiveness of the field, my grandfathers chain-smoking of Marlboro “Reds”, and pissing in a trough for the first time. Yet, I must liken this experience to a crack head’s first hit as it led me a life-long obsession that still exists to this day.
America’s hipsters and post-ironic trust fund kids may be growing out their mustaches now, but baseball players of the 70’s had little idea of how their ‘staches (which were considered masculine) were actually a cultural influence initiated by gay culture. Dennis Eckersley no doubt had the most famous mustache in Oakland A’s history, (besides Rollie Fingers) and unlike most players in the 90’s, kept the mustache until it became hip again and still wears it today.
Starting with the ’60s, when hippie culture and gay culture seemed to collide, facial hair really got out of hand, as gay beat poet Allen Ginsberg and his bushy face exemplify. In 1969, with gay liberation after the Stonewall Riots, those on the front lines were the drag queens without a hair on their faces and the hippie types who wanted to buck the establishment and had nothing to lose. Again it was the smooth and the hairy in perfect harmony.
Things started to change in the ’70s, as the proliferation of gay porn, the popularization of disco (a gay sub-culture) and an exploding gay culture gave birth to what is known as “the clone look,” which started with super-popular gay porn star Al Parker. You couldn’t swing a handbag on The Castro without hitting a guy with a mustache, and everyone felt the need to conform because not only was it a way to spot other gays but it was the beauty ideal, and something that was considered masculine. Gay icons like Freddie Mercury, the Village People, and John Waters were all known for their iconic mustaches.
A landmark film from 1972 was Deep Throat, which made perhaps up to $600 million (no one really knows the exact figures…probably not even the mobsters who backed it) and kicked off the era of ’70s “porno chic.” Along with the other major male porn stars of the time, like John Holmes and Ron Jeremy who made mustaches synonymous with sleazy sexual appetites, perhaps leading to their public decline in the gay community and lending itself towards a more “macho” mainstream appetite.
The 1990’s unfortunately became a fallow time for mustaches, which were associated with the past two decades and seen as cheesy and unhip. Now, of course, they’re making a huge comeback with today’s cool kids, who reach back for the circa-1900 look and who have a keen taste for irony since they can’t define their own media-obsessed generation by any clear materialized pop-cultural definition.
People often wax nostalgic about baseball with its poetic and graceful nuances; and I understand the feeling as I often do the same– yet there is a darker, more ominous underbelly that isn’t quite as idyllic or sophisticated: alcohol.
Drinking is just as ingrained in the rich tapestry of the game as hot dogs, Cracker Jacks, bloated payrolls and greedy owners–just ask Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, Harry Caray or Cleveland Indians fans on ten-cent beer night.
Before baseball became the voracious, obnoxious corporate entity that it has become today it was just a simple, no-frills place for the working-class to let off some steam and have a beer or three. Baseball represents a lot of different things to a lot of different people; and for some it isn’t always a wholesome night with the family that stands up, yawns and quietly leaves in the 7th inning. These are true fan testimonials:
–I was completely blasted, as well as pretty stoned during Game 20 of The Streak. I sobered up pretty damn quick though when the Royals started coming back!
–I drank a bottle of Jose Cuervo in the parking lot before a game. I was barfing into an empty Gatorade bottle all game and no one seemed to notice since everyone had their eyes on the field.
–My Dad looked out at the field in the 4th inning (we were both about 8 beers in at that point), and turned to me saying, “Holy shit, did you realize there’s a ballgame going on?!” We were still more sober than the girl puking on the subway on the way home.
I miss Opening Night in the late 70’s early 80’s when fans were crazy, there were fights and people going nuts for foul balls. I got knocked down 8 stairs at age 10 from the mob going after a foul ball…good times.
–We were swearing at the umpire and a row of 50-year-old duds told us to shut up. We all sat down, everything settled and we went back to watching the game. That’s when my buddy comes back from the bathroom and spills a beer down the back of one of these guys on accident. I thought it was going to be an all out brawl… They were livid and we couldn’t stop laughing.
Anytime I went with my dad and uncle back in the early 70’s especially the World Series in 74. I was 6. The bleachers were cheap and beer was sold in the stands.
–World Series…can’t remember if it was ’88, ’89 or ’90. I was in the old bleacher area walking back from the bathroom or something. I looked up on the grassy area way up top in the back, and ESPN had set up a place for their crew to sit, with cameras and everything. I saw Peter Gammons, Bob Ley and someone else. A few of us were looking up at them, waving, smiling, etc. Some REALLY drunk dude walks up to me and asks what we are looking at. I pointed up and said, “It’s ESPN, Peter Gammons and Bob Ley!” (I was about 11 years old so I was very excited). Drunk dude, yells up in a drunken slur, “Hey Peter!!!!…..” (who then looks down and smiles) “…Fuck You!!!!….” Drunk dude then hurls his cup of draft beer up right at them! Cops then come and pull dude away. It was pretty funny.
–For my 40th on a Friday night, I had a suite and my friends kept buying me double 7&7’s from the suite bartender and the Irish Bar. I was so drunk and not my usual, respectable self. My sales guy came by to visit and I was apologizing, profusely, for being inebriated. Half of my friends in the suite were Giants fans, the other half A’s fans and one lone Dodger fan. My favorite moment was when a friend walked into the suite stopped and said, “Whoa! There are Giants fans in here…what are they doing here?” I think I was hung over for the next two days but still made it to Saturday and Sunday games that weekend. That was the last time I drank that much at a game. Never again.
–My buddy started making fun of a drunk Giants fan throwing up in the parking lot before the game. We almost had to throw down with his friends when we asked if he “had too much of that championship champagne.”
–Once, I was in the bathroom near gate D and the guy in the stall next to me was plastered. He sang “We Are The Champions” by Queen until he threw up on the floor.
–One time I got kicked out of the bleachers for having a flask, but then came back through the season ticket holder line.
–The last time I went to the Coliseum the bleachers were teeming with rowdy drunkenness, sort of good-natured heckling, pot smoke and “e-smoke.” Strangers were handing me hot links, chicken and pickle sandwiches and falling all over me. Fans kept getting kicked out and booing the staff every time they hauled off some poor fool that was passed out or slugging whiskey. Some guy nodded off and barfed three seats away. I’m a Mariners fan so I was glad the fans would rather have a good time, smoke, get drunk, dance, barf and get thrown out rather than pick on me. And really, why waste your time on anything else–that’s some real shit right there. Beats the fucking Dodgers fans I can tell you this. Salt of the earth.
After the earth dies, some 5 billion years from now, after it’s burned to a crisp by the sun; there will be worlds, stars, galaxies coming into being, and they will know nothing of a place called “Earth.”
Sometimes when the stresses of life are getting to me I try to remember the above quote and how it applies to the meaningless of everything I do. I admit, sometimes it works, but mostly not.
The economic disarray, joblessness, and overall feelings of hopelessness in this country is akin to Karl Marx slapping me in the face and telling me, “I told you so.” I know that if I don’t kiss up to my boss–leading to an immediate termination–I could end up like one of the homeless folks that I see outside of my second story window. (I have nicknames for two: one is the “predator” because of his ass length dreadlocks and likeness to the alien in the movie of the same name, and the other is “Old Yeller” because he loves to drink beers next to the Starbucks garbage can and, well, scream at the garbage can before he passes out in front of it.) And as I’m daydreaming one day while being inspired by these gentlemen, my mind wandered to a time that had been long erased from my rotted cerebrum–a time when the only thing you had to worry about was school, when you were finally going to get laid and your measly pittance of a weekly allowance.
Carney Lansford was the third-sacker for the A’s during their dominating run in the early 90’s and one of my favorite players. His nerdy glasses and un-ironic mustache (I always thought guys did this because they had thin upper lips) gave him a comforting “cool dad” like quality. After tinkering a bit with batting stances, my 13-year-old self decided that Mr. Lansford’s hand jerky style was the one I’d mimic while rocketing balls off the cyclone fence intertwined with branches and leaves. (my cousin and I thought this made it look more like Wrigley) He was also part of the team that won the ’89 World Series, which was the last time the boys in green even came close to sniffing a title. (’06 ALCS doesn’t count as we were swept by the Tigers and weren’t even supposed to go that far) I sat there, lost in a myriad of unspoken emotions and feelings that had rushed to me in a fruitful and happy wave, and suddenly a burst of terrible 80’s classic rock comes pounding out of my clock/radio. Time to go to work. I must cut this story short, good reader… wage slavery calls.
When people try to figure out what to believe and explain why they do, they don’t spend much time thinking about the fundamental nature of truth, knowledge, or reality. As Shakespeare said, ‘there’s nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so’. Truth is difficult to define because as soon as you think you have it pinned down, some case or counterexample immediately shows deficiencies.
Bert “Campy” Campaneris is largely heralded in the baseball community for being the first player in modern baseball history to play all 9 positions in one game on September 8th, 1965. The feat was admired so much that comedian Will Ferrell even tried his own bombastic and barely funny version in Spring Training last year.
Now here’s where things get tricky: if Campaneris hadn’t “achieved” this feat the Athletics would have won the game that they eventually lost 5-4 in 13 innings. One run scored when Campy dropped a fly ball in right field, another scored when he pitched the 8th inning, and yet another scored when the smallish (5’10, 160) player was crashed into at the plate leading to another run and the D.L. for 5 days. If this accomplished anything in my mind it certainly wasn’t admiration from a baseball standpoint. It begs the questions: What is real? What is true? And is the reality of the world different from how we perceive and experience it in our minds?
I have post-capitalist ennui, but it all seems worth it as we drive the long windy road into the mountains. I hadn’t seen snow for almost 20 years. This is one of the disadvantages/advantages of living in California, you don’t have to worry about the weather too much as you go about your daily routines. We finally reach our destination–a beautiful two-story cabin deep in the woods. I had been admiring the look and serenity of the snow during the long trip and could finally touch it. My admiration for the substance quickly turned less poetic and became more biological survivalist theory as I tossed the stuff like a celebrity throwing out the first pitch. My hand was frozen solid.
My girlfriend and I decided not to celebrate Christmas this year–well, at least not in the traditional sense. Life had gotten in the way and the next thing you know we were thrown into the bizarre world of family, gifts of things we didn’t need, overindulgence of food we would never eat otherwise, and drinking copious amounts of alcohol in order to bring the gelatinous madness together. We didn’t even get around to the trivial task of buying a tree. Seems a bit silly….don’t you think?
For the readers of this blog that don’t follow the Athletics closely–Bobby Crosby was a super-stud prospect who was called up to the big club, won Rookie of the Year in 2004, and then just….disappeared. I’m not a huge fan of poetry, but I believe that this one sums up Crosby’s and hundreds of other players careers that have come and gone throughout the decades. Poem by Sam Yam.
It looks so straight, but ends up slicing
If pitching were a cake, it would be the icing
There’s nothing in the world so enticing
as the slider low and away
It feels like the pitcher is just showing off
I’ve tried to get the runners to tip me off
But however I try I just can’t lay off
of the slider low and away
Fastballs and changeups? I don’t do ’em
Curveballs and sinkers? I eschew ’em
Strikes in general? I say screw ’em
for the slider low and away
They wish that I could hold up and stare
But quite honestly, I just don’t care
Because nothing will end my love affair
with the slider low and away
In the news: Donald Trump and his xenophobic rhetoric and unrealistic, infantile threats of massive bombing have been dominating the attention span of talking heads recently. I am a member of one of the most pessimistic and ironic generations that has ever roamed the earth–Generation X — so all of this is difficult to process as I can’t get past Trump’s silver-spoon-since-birth shitty bourgeoise attitude and makes me laugh/makes me want to kill someone psychedelic hairpiece. It’s also offensive that the man is using death, suffering and a public existential crisis to further his own political agenda; not caring a lick about working class struggles or fears. Truly a sickening individual with no ability to conceive the reality that average Americans face everyday. “Condemnation without investigation is the highest form of ignorance.” – Albert Einstein
MLB’s alcoholic circle jerk known as the Winter Meetings took place in Nashville and new Oakland G.M. David Forst harkened back to the early days when teams would try to find the drunkest guy in the room and then proceed to pilfer him for great players on the cheap. Forst recently lived up to that generalization when he traded Brett Lawrie to the White Sox and in exchange the South-Siders sent minor leaguers RHP J.B. Wendelken (AAA) and LHP Zack Erwin (A) to the A’s. Neither was on the Sox’s list of Top-30 prospects. This trade was a head-scratcher because of its insignificance.You would think that the Oakland ball-club would try to squeeze something more appetizing out of the Sox because of their desperate attempt to pick up ANYONE better than Mike Olt at third base. Let us take a pause… we’ve now traded Josh Donaldson for 3 minor league pitchers, 1 major league pitcher, and a very young (albeit in theory future superstar)short stop. Forst just pushed the button on the evaluation of the that ill-fated trade even further. Lawrie? who knows…he probably called out Beane for not stocking the vending machine with free sodas. (this may be an inside joke to the clueless, hello Dave Justice!) Joking aside, the trade may have been a desperate attempt at dumping “Tweaker” as there have been whispers about Lawrie being a clubhouse nuisance after not one teammate stepped up when was drilled early in the season by Kansas City.
Something tells me the A’s will be okay without Lawrie, and that moving on was the hard-boiled thing to do. Lawrie will always be seen by this blog as a hard-nosed player with a serious hitch in his swing, horrible plate approach and is partial to tattoos and copious amounts of energy drinks. With Lawrie you see the sweat, blood, tears, screams, anger, defeat, triumph, joy, sadness and a .299 OBP. (probably the real reason why he was traded.) You see every bit of it. But unfortunately individuals with freakish athleticism don’t always translate well to the baseball field. Just ask Michael Jordan.
Louis Van Zelst was born in 1895 and was disfigured, the result of an early childhood fall. However, while Van Zelst grew to have a humpback, he was never particularly self-conscious about it, and willingly served as a mascot for a few teams at the University of Pennsylvania.
The University of Pennsylvania happened to share a city with the Philadelphia, and Van Zelst came to know some of the team’s players and its manager, Connie Mack. Van Zelst approached Mack in 1909 saying he was lucky, and after giving him a tryout, Mack was sufficiently superstitious to believe him and bring him on in an official capacity.
Van Zelst began as the Athletics’ bat boy in 1910, and while the team had been good the year before, in 1910 it won the World Series, and Van Zelst was paid a substantial bonus. The Athletics would then win the World Series again in 1911 and again in 1913, before losing in 1914. Still, Van Zelst had four Series appearances and three championships to his name as a mascot, which is about as good as it gets.
In the day-to-day, Van Zelst was on hand for pretty much every home game and many road games. Prior to each game, players would walk over and rub his humpback for good luck. Such practices were not rare in those days. They stemmed from the rather out-of-control belief in superstitions which resulted in midgets, humpbacks and other unfortunates joining the ranks of youngsters in the dugouts of major league baseball teams. In Baseball: The Golden Age, Harold Seymour explains that “Lefthanders, hunchbacks and cross-eyed people were all considered (lucky). …Touching a hunchback was popularly believed to bring good luck…. Brownie Burke, a midget to whom Gary Herrmann took a fancy was in uniform daily with the Cincinnati Reds.” There are countless other examples from Ty Cobb’s unfortunate black boy mascot Li’l Rastus to Babe Ruth’s not-so-unfortunate Little Ray Kelly. Indeed, the crosstown Phillies would soon match the A’s with a hunchback mascot of their own. Van Zelst was popular with both Athletics players and visitors, and was even invited to second baseman Eddie Collins’ wedding. At one point Mack tried to send him out to coach first base before the umpire told him to return to the dugout.
Unfortunately, Van Zelst fell ill after the 1914 season and soon died of kidney disease. After advancing to the World Series with Van Zelst in 1914, the Athletics finished in last place in 1915, the first of seven consecutive years they’d finish in the basement.
Joaquin Andujar, who famously supplied fellow teammates Lonnie Smith and Keith Hernandez with copious amounts of cocaine in the 80’s died recently on September 8th, 2015 at the age of 62. In memory of Andujar I’ve decided to pleasure you with some of the best quotes concerning the yayo that Eric Clapton famously crooned about in song.
“If I have a near-beer, I’m near beer. And if I’m near beer, I’m close to tequila. And if I’m close to tequila, I’m adjacent to cocaine.” ― Craig Ferguson
“Happiness lies within one’s self, and the way to dig it out is cocaine.” ― Aleister Crowley, Diary of a Drug Fiend
“It’s not the side-effects of the cocaine – I’m thinking that it must be love. — David Bowie
“This original version of Coca-Cola contained a small amount of coca extract and therefore a trace of cocaine. (It was eliminated early in the twentieth century, though other extracts derived from coca leaves remain part of the drink to this day.) Its creation was not the accidental concoction of an amateur experimenting in his garden, but the deliberate and painstaking culmination of months of work by an experienced maker of quack remedies.” ― Tom Standage, A History of the World in 6 Glasses
“Until you’ve got your mouth full of cocaine, you don’t know what kissing is. One kiss goes on from phase to phase like one of those novels by Balzac and Zola and Romain Rolland and D. H. Lawrence and those chaps. And you never get tire. You’re on fourth speed all the time, and the engine purrs like a kitten, a big white kitten with the stars in its whiskers.” ― Aleister Crowley, Diary of a Drug Fiend
Cocaine is God’s way of saying you’re making too much money. –Robin Williams
(Cocaine) is neither moral nor immoral — it’s a chemical compound. The compound itself is not a menace to society until a human being treats it as if consumption bestowed a temporary license to act like an asshole. –Frank Zappa
If we could sniff or swallow something that would, for five or six hours each day, abolish our solitude as individuals, atone us with our fellows in a glowing exaltation of affection and make life in all its aspects seem not only worth living, but divinely beautiful and significant, and if this heavenly, world-transfiguring drug were of such a kind that we could wake up next morning with a clear head and an undamaged constitution — then, it seems to me, all our problems (and not merely the one small problem of discovering a novel pleasure) would be wholly solved and earth would become paradise. –Aldous Huxley