It is a cold December night in 1972, and I am with Mike Epstein and his wife. We are exiting his cherry-red Ford Thunderbird and about to enter the Marshmallow Disco. The “Marshmallow” as it is called is in a dingy, industrial block of Manhattan. There are a group of homeless folks staring at us as we exit the car–a unwordly group with distorted faces that would make one either question their drug intake or the group’s relativity to the planet Earth. I feel safe as I am with a man who has a hulking presence and once kicked the shit out of Reggie Jackson in the locker room. Some would say that this dust-up has even overshadowed Mike’s baseball oeuvre. A drunk Puerto Rican woman approaches Mike and his wife shouts,
“Look, bimbo, he’s with me.”
The “bimbo” skulks off in a fit of hysterics and Mike growls,”Look, man, I don’t have time to hassle with that shit. I got my old lady with me.”
Mike steers his wife in the general direction of the VIP door. There are smokers gathered, sitting on high school cafeteria scratched iron chairs–their legs crossed, casting appraising glances every which way with primal, reptilian eyes. You can hear the O’ Jays and Sly and the Family Stone bumping inside. There is American dissolution in the parking lot as American decadence flails away in a cocaine-induced dopamine explosion inside. The alcohol turning once happy groups into an imminent decent of after-hours grotesque buffoonery. A woman grabs a man on the way inside.
“Every damn time we fuck I gotta listen to your bullshit after we’ve finished. Why don’t you let me enjoy my afterglow for a change?”
“The tears I shed yesterday have become rain.”
A psychiatrist analyzes Billy Martin: He acts out our own anger. The athlete in America is a hero figure because we can sublimate our anger through his action. It wouldn’t be socially acceptable to slug somebody at a bar. It would be socially acceptable conduct to sit in the stands and egg Billy Martin on against an umpire; an authority figure. He fights our battles for us with no loss of status and with no pain. Heavy alcohol use directly affects brain function and alters various brain chemical and hormonal systems known to be involved in the development of many common mental disorders (e.g., mood and anxiety disorders). Thus, it is not surprising that alcoholism can manifest itself in a broad range of psychiatric symptoms and signs. Alcohol abuse can cause signs and symptoms of depression, anxiety, psychosis, and antisocial behavior, both during intoxication and during withdrawal. At times, these symptoms and signs cluster, last for weeks, and mimic frank psychiatric disorders As Freud believed, conflicts are part of the human condition and certain ego functions may become conflicted by aggressive and libidinal impulses, as witnessed by conversion disorders, speech impediments, eating disorders, and attention-deficit disorder.
The A’s have played 7 games so far, in which they split with the Mariners, and then beat up on the hapless Houston Astros to start the season with an impressive 5-2 record. I’m not going to bore you with stats, etc. because A.) You’ve probably seen/heard about the games yourself and you’re not a dumbass. and B.) I’m not going to sit here like every other shitty blog and feed you endless soul-sucking stats that don’t mean shit because the season is only 7 games old. Ahem. Thank you.
Instead, I have decided to regale you with the story of former A’s pitcher Matt Keough. Matt played on the A’s from ’77 to ’83, made the All Star team in 1978 (he is largely considered one of the worst All Star selections of all time) and finished his career in 1986 with an unimpressive 58-84 record. His career was in shambles by 1992, but the Angels gave him a shot in spring training. He was subsequently hit in the right temple with a foul ball while sitting in the dugout, giving him permanent brain damage. Matty married one of the ugliest Playboy playmates ever to walk the earth, Jeana Tomasino, and then appeared with her on the reality show, “The Real Housewives of Orange County.” (this whole thing sounds like a nightmare so far) She then divorced him because of his alcoholism, even stating that his brain damage may have left him a bit off.
Here’s where things start to get a bit crazy…. In 2005, Keough pleaded guilty to felony charges of driving under the influence of alcohol, during which he collided with a car at a red light in Orange County, which in turn, rolled into a pedestrian walking his bicycle across the street who was briefly hospitalized with a knee injury. (d’oh!) The incident occurred following a family squabble. Making matters worse, Keough wandered away after the accident. He said that he did not flee the scene as some reports had indicated, but he was so disoriented that he walked toward some nearby shops where he was tracked down by police officers. His blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. On December 18, 2007, Keough was arrested for violating his probation when he was found drinking at a bar. Under terms of his probation, he was to not consume alcohol. He was then sentenced to 180 days in the Orange County Jail on January 11, 2008. In August 2009 he was arrested AGAIN for a DUI and was sentenced to a year in jail. (Not to dismiss the brain damage theory, but if I was married to that thing in the video below, I might toss back a few too.)
Hopefully someone at OC Jail has been keeping a bunk warm for Orange County’s version of Otis from The Andy Griffith Show. Perhaps we should pity Keough. Rob Harley, the ex-arm’s attorney, has reportedly said that his client has never been the same since he was hit in the head with a foul ball during spring training in 1992, when he was attempting a major league comeback with the Angels. “He lost all self-respect, his self-esteem,” Harley says in wire service accounts of today’s sentencing, “and now he’s an alcoholic, a caged animal.”
Stanly Kirk Burrell was found outside the Oakland A’s stadium by team owner Charlie Finley dancing around for tips to buy tickets to the game. (isn’t that the weezy kid from “Malcolm in the Middle” playing him?) He recruited the 13 year old as a batboy for the Oakland A’s.
Legendary Reggie Jackson nicknamed Burrell “Hammer” because he resembled Hank Aaron. Burrell wanted to become a professional baseball player, but ended up joining the Navy. While in the Navy he worked on his rapping skills.
He was honorably discharged from the Navy and MC Hammer was born. He released an independent album in 1987 called Feel My Power which sold 60,000 albums. In 1988, he signed on to Capitol Records and rereleased the same album as “Let’s Get It Started.”
January 24th, 2006 was a sad day as actor Chris Penn died at the age of 40 in his Santa Monica condo from apparent heart disease. Penn was a much-loved actor mostly known for his parts as “Nice Guy Eddie” in the 1992 classic, “Reservoir Dogs”; and “Nicky Dimes” in another Quentin Tarantino classic, “True Romance.” Being a fan of witty and lowbrow humor, I enjoyed this scene from the former aforementioned movie with another favorite of mine, Harvey Keitel.
Nice Guy Eddie: The chick got tired of him beatin’ her so one night she walks in the guys bedroom and super glues his dick to his belly. Ambulance came and had to cut the prick loose.
Mr.White: Was he all pissed off?
Nice Guy Eddie: How would you feel if every time you had to take a piss you had to do a fuckin’ hand stand?
A couple of days later I’m looking through my stash of baseball cards and I came across a player who was a bit ahead of my time but looked a bit like…..can it be…. Chris Penn!? Who in the hell was this Rich McKinney?
Rich McKinney played seven seasons in the bigs for the White Sox, Yankees, and A’s. He retired after the ’77 season with a career average of .225, 20 dingers and 100 RBI’s. (not a bad full season) McKinney often acted like such a space cadet that he was nicknamed “Orbit” by his teammates. The label fully fit his aloof, detached-from-reality personality. He is best known for his propensity for making errors, even committing four in one game as a Yankee. (and i thought smoking doobies gave you the ability to focus) Strangely enough, he played seven different positions in his career: 3rd, SS, 2nd, right field ,DH, left field, and first. Prior to arriving in Oakland, McKinney reached the pinnacle of goofball behavior. After the White Sox traded him to the Yankees, McKinney joined the team for its annual winter caravan promotional tour. Within minutes of meeting the Yankees’ public relations director, the respected Marty Appel, McKinney asked him where he could score some marijuana. Flabbergasted that a player would ask a front office official such a question, Appel responded that he didn’t know.
Sadness permeates me for some unknown reason as I shove Mr. McKinney’s card back into the pile, perhaps never to be seen and contemplated in the future. A single thought haunts me, settles in my mind and then tumbles the way only a fresh and abstract thought can: there is a dignity in honest mediocrity.