This is a short piece of fiction inspired by a very real situation.
Hank Bauer slammed down his glass of scotch as his wife, Charlene looked on. Charlene was worried about the glass because it was part of a crystal set and she didn’t want the assemblage to be compromised.
“Hank isn’t supposed to use those,” she thought.
There was now a large gash on top of the deep brown oak desk where the glass had chipped away the smooth, glossy veneer. The glass was still in one piece.
“That son of a bitch Finley embarrassed the hell out of me today — I told that hippy Jim Nash to cut his sideburns,” Hank snarled, “and what does Charlie do? He tells Nash that they’re nice.”
“Now I’m the laughing-stock of the goddamn team! I tell you Charlene, if anyone pulled that shit in the Marines he’d be picking my foot out of his ass.” Hank had spent nearly three years in the South Pacific during WW2, surviving attacks of malaria, sustaining shrapnel and winning numerous medals. He was proud of all of this.
Hank wasn’t finished. “I’m telling you that this shit wouldn’t have happened in Baltimore. I had that goddamn team on a leash, and that’s why we won it all in ’66.”
“Maybe you should talk to Charlie?” Charlene was speaking in hushed tones.
Bauer took a long slug from his glass, drained it and poured another. “Son of a bitch already fired me in Kansas City, I’m not going to put up with his foolishness again…you know what he wants me to do? He wants me to pinch hit for the catchers during every at-bat. I tell you — it’s a goddamn circus, Charlene.”
“I’ve never dealt with so many bores, bastards and phonies in all my days. If it was up to me I’d roll the whole thing into the sea like a sack of waste.”
Bauer started peeling off his khaki shirt, in turn putting on his military uniform. He usually did this on flimsy pretext. Charlene exited the room quietly. Bauer let the anger rise until he began to see bright, quick flashes. The synapses in his brain entered places they had never been before. He began to see new dimensions in everything that had happened.
I was elated to receive this personalized autograph in the mail on this fine, sunny day in October; and since the once- promising now rotten-in-retrospect season is over for the Oakland ball-club, I thought that this would be a perfect time for a short look back at Joe Rudi’s career.
Joe Rudi was the left fielder for the A’s World Series champions from ’72-’74, and most popularly noted for his amazing Spiderman–like catch in game 2 of the ’72 series versus the Cincinnati Reds that explicitly saved the game for his team. Rudi spent 16 years in the big leagues, hitting .264 with 1,468 hits, 179 home runs and 810 RBI. He was an All-Star three times and thrice a Gold Glover, he also twice finished second in MVP voting. (losing to Dick Allen and Jeff Burroughs respectively.) Rudi had quite a bit of postseason experience, and though he wasn’t stellar overall–his career batting average in the playoffs was .257–he did have some moments of brilliance. In the 1973 World Series, for example, he hit .333 with nine hits, two doubles, three walks, three runs scored and four RBI. In the next year’s World Series, he hit .333 with six hits, one home run and four RBI. Joe will always be remembered as a fine player on a great team, and a way above average defender who waved a solid stick.
It is no secret among my cohorts that my sense of dislocation and fluid relationship to language gave me an extremely strong sense of the arbitrary when it came to systems of communication. In layman’s terms: I can see through the bullshit.
But, before I turn this into a slander against greedy owners, bitchy players, or “literary” based baseball blogs whose editors couldn’t write their way out of a paper bag; I would like to take a short walk down memory lane…. (if you can wade through the labyrinthine stories and digressions)
Jack Kerouac was a “be-bop” writer and one of my heroes as a teenager. I tried to dress like him (khakis, newsboy hat, white t’s) and even did funny things like taking hallucinogenic mushrooms in cemeteries and writing poetry. (anyone who sees this as “wrong” should probably analyze their own connection with a reality based culture in which facts, opinions and lies are interchangeable) Although my admiration had waned for “Ti Jean” by the time I had reached my 30’s, I was astounded when I had learned Kerouac had devised a fantasy baseball game as a child. The game was based on a set of cards that had precise verbal descriptions of various outcomes (“slow roller to SS or 2B,” for example), depending on the skill levels of the pitcher and batter. The game could be played using cards alone, although sometimes Kerouac determined the result of a pitch by tossing some sort of projectile at a diagramed chart on the wall. In 1956 he switched to a new set of cards, which used hieroglyphic symbols instead of descriptions. He collected their stats, analyzed their performances and wrote about them in homemade newsletters and broadsides. I, too, had played a similar game as a child, using baseball cards, dice and statistics; (this was how i figured out the E.R.A., an arduous task as a boy) keeping track of careers (this involved ungodly amounts of paper), sending players to the minors (yes, I had minor league systems too!) and conducting drafts. It was sort of therapeutic to find out that one of my idols had done something so cerebral and individualistic with the same obsessive quality that I had. This was a testament to my love for the game and a secret I had held close until now.
Thanks to Jim Nash for the personalized autograph. In the interviews I’ve listened to, you seem to be a good guy and have a lot of hilarious stories to tell.
Charlie-O the Mule was the mascot used by the Kansas City Athletics and Oakland A’s from 1963 to 1976. The mule was named after Charles O. Finley, the team’s flamboyant owner at the time.When the A’s moved to then heavily Democratic Missouri, where the official state animal is the mule, Governor Warren Hearnes gave a mule to Finley for his barnyard menagerie at Municipal Stadium which also included sheep and goats that scampered up the hill behind right field. The Municipal Stadium menagerie also included Warpaint, the horse mascot of the Kansas City Chiefs. As questions swirled about whether Finley would be loyal to Missouri, he embraced the mule and removed the elephant from the A’s logo and changed the A’s colors from blue, red and white to green, gold, and white.When the Athletics left Kansas City after the 1967 season, there was debate about whether Charlie O should stay behind in Missouri, but Finley decided that the mule had been a gift and took him with him to Oakland in 1968. The mule died in 1976 at age 20. He was cremated, and the location of the remains is secret. (Wikipedia)
Merry Xmas from the ‘Fro!
Born April 21, 1941, in Sioux City, Iowa; Green was a slick-fielding second baseman for the Kansas City and Oakland Athletics for 12 years (1963-74), almost all of them as a starter. The 5-foot-10, 180-pounder hit .240 for his career. His best season was 1969, when he hit .275 with 12 home runs and 64 RBI for Oakland. Was a key member of the Oakland dynasty that won World Series titles in 1972, ’73 and ’74. Hit .333 (6-for-18) in the 1972 Series. Mr. Green recently sent me these responses to some questions in the mail. They seemed that they were done in haste, so I posted the video below that speaks for itself.
What are your thoughts on Charlie Finley?
He was a great man.
The 70’s Oakland Athletics were known for their brawls with team-mates in the clubhouse. Were you ever involved?
Mark Ellis broke your record for most homers by a second baseman in club history-were you disappointed?
I wasn’t disappointed, Mark is a terrific person and a great ballplayer.
Hal McRae and Johnny Bench had some vicious slides against you in the 1972 World Series. What are your thoughts?
They were clean hits.
Tommie Reynolds was drafted by the Kansas City Athletics in 1963, and played for them among other teams like the Mets, Angels and Brewers before he retired after the 1972 season. Mr. Reynolds was also a bench coach for the Oakland A’s during their 1989 World Series run, and later followed Tony LaRussa to St. Louis where he did the same for the Cardinals during the summer of 1996.
I recently received the following interview in the mail. I’d like to thank Mr. Reynolds for his time and baseball wisdom. In a day and age when geeks who have never picked up a bat in their lives argue endlessly over mind-boggling and trivial stats, it’s refreshing to pick the mind of an old veteran who actually knows what the fuck they are talking about. Enjoy:
You once shared the outfield with 2 greats – Reggie Jackson and Rick Monday. What was Reggie like back then-had he acquired his hot dog persona yet?
No- he wasn’t. He was a good outfielder with a strong arm. He played the game right. If we hadn’t lost him for 2 weeks I think we would have won the pennant.
You played in Kansas City, Oakland, New York, Anaheim and Milwaukee. What was the most enjoyable city to play in? Did you get along with your managers?
Oakland was my most enjoyable one, we were in a pennant race. I got along with all my managers except Dale Crandell who took over for Dave Bristol whom I enjoyed playing for.
Was it tough playing for an awful Mets team in 1967? (editors note: they lost 101 games)
The thing that I disliked is that I didn’t play more. I was used mostly as a late inning replacement for Tommie Davis. I think we competed well with the league, we were just a little short on the pitching. Tom Seaver was our best… he was .500 for an also-ran team.
I heard a radio interview recently with pitcher Dave Stewart who said that Jose Canseco didn’t want to be there once the play-offs started. Is this true? Did you have a relationship with either?
I don’t know if that’s true or not. I didn’t have much contact with Jose. I do know that in 1989 he competed his tail off in the series.
You were also a bench coach with the St. Lois Cardinals. What is your relationship with Tony LaRussa, and do you think he should be a HOFer?
I had a great relationship with Tony all the way back to 1964. He should definitely be in the Hall. He’s a great motivator, strategist and teacher.
How did it feel to win the World Series in 1989, and was it your biggest baseball thrill?
It was a great feeling to be part of a historical game; to come back after the earthquake and sweep the Giants was awesome. I was more excited for the players. My greatest thrill was making it to the Major Leagues when others doubted me.
When I was a kid, I would see hippie types at the Coliseum wearing the logo to the left and I was quite intrigued. What could it mean? I was in Florence with my buddy, and we just had the shittiest time getting into the city from Rimini. It was late July and the city was baking. We threw our gear down and started with getting some pizzas. Half liter of wine turned into two, which turned into four. I was retelling some raunchy stories despite being in a crowded restaurant, expecting no one to understand what I was talking about. Turns out, we were sitting next to an old English couple who were every inch the uptight stereotype. They told me I was the most offensive being on the planet. I thanked them. We then headed to a bar, met a gorgeous Australian girl, dark hair, blue eyes. I only say that out of recall, seriously, I had zero chance. We started ordering pitchers of Heineken four at a time. The beers were ice cold and the night was hot, so they went quickly. Walking around the city at night, everything was dark, but we heard music, and followed up to a house party and crashed it. They were listening to the Greatful Dead, and despite my prejudices, it was sounding good. For some reason, I had the bright idea of swiping two massive bottles of wine. On the steps of the Duomo, there were a bunch of kids milling around the steps, we joined them, where I finished a bottle while watching my friend attempt to hit on a hippie girl in Italian. Then we proceeded to spend the next hour searching for the hotel, because we hadn’t bothered to keep track of where it was, or which one it was. That was awesome.
I woke up at 8:30 having to catch the 9am to Basel, and had it all, the spins, the nausea, the imploding headache, burning eyes, and I reeked of alcohol. Of course my train is packed, and for once, I’m sitting across from a beautiful woman as opposed to a fat hairy dude. I’m reeking of booze and sweat and again, I had no shot. But I started thinking about the Dead again and how the music nerds in Arthur Magazine (or one of them anyway) had said that they were a good band if you gave them a chance and got passed the sterotypes. (I think you know what I’m talking about or you wouldn’t be here) A quote from Arthur Magazine: ” A funny thing about Deadheads (by that I mean even avid fans that don’t go to the concerts) is that I think a lot of times the explosions, the feedback and the edges of the earth exploring that they hear are all in the eye of the beholder. Whereas Sun Ra or Keiji Haino make the pushing of boundaries and the assaults on the senses an obvious and fundamental thing and bring the abnormal and danger and deconstruction into a bound and constructed world to be presented, there is something about the Dead which is off in its own little world –you have to go there to dig the presentation, and partly that’s because once they had that weird huge traveling built-in fan base it was so intense that they could completely ignore musical trends, sudden radical changes in their sound of their albums wasn’t even reactionary to what was going on around them musically. When you engage with The Grateful Dead music you engage on their terms and step inside of their huge complex bubble. And in that way and within that realm their music means many different things to different folks – including a great outlaw philosophy and devious and experimental heart. And those not willing to engage on their terms I think just fucking hate the shit.”
I’ve been collecting autographs through the mail since I was a kid, and this past year started the unenviable task of trying to collect the autographs of the entire 1969 Oakland A’s team. These players are long retired and generally sign a lot quicker than your modern day MLB player. Obviously, some of these players are no longer with us, so if anyone has one of these autographed cards lying around, i would be willing to trade/buy it. email: firstname.lastname@example.org and of course, if you need any of these addresses, please feel free to email as well.
#27 Lew Krauss (signed, 1 week)
#44 Danny Cater (signed, 1 week)
#60 Dave Duncan (received, 2 weeks)
#105 Rick Monday (hit or miss ttm signer, sent a request, no answer)
#124 Hank Bauer (oakland manager died from lung cancer in 2007, need)
#143 Joe Nossek (signed, 6 days)
#195 John “Bluemoon” Odom (signed 10 days, also sent a letter stating he would charge 5 dollars from now on)
#217 John Donaldson (signed, 6 days)
#235 Jim “Catfish” Hunter (HOF pitcher died from lou gehrig’s disease in 1999, need)
#260 Reggie Jackson (tricky one since his rookie card is in the 200 dollar range and he also charges 50 bucks for an autograph)
#281 Ted Kubiak (signed, 6 days)
#302 Jim Pagliaroni (died from Lou Gehrig’s disease 2010, need)
#334 Phil Roof (Catfish Hunter’s favorite catcher,signed, 6 days)
#358 Rookie Stars Lauzerique, Rodriquez (can’t find any info on these players, help!)
#371 Sal Bando (was excited to get this one from the A’s great, signed, 2 weeks)
#397 Chuck Dobson (received 6 months)
#423 Bert Campaneris All Star (received, i month)
#467 Tom Reynolds (signed, 1 week)
#495 Bert Campaneris (signed, 11 days, was very happy with this one!!)
#515 Dick Green (signed, 1 week)
#546 Jim Nash (signed, personalized, 1 week)
#556 A’s All Stars Bando, Campaneris, Cater (pending)
#587 Joe Rudi (it’s been 6 months and no answer))
#597 Rollie Fingers (the HOF pitcher’s rookie card, charges 20 bucks a sig, need, pending)
#618 Ramon Webster (this slugging first baseman from Panama fell off the face of the earth, info?)
#638 Ed Sprague Sr. (signed, 1 week)
#655 Mike Hershberger (died following brief illness, need)