A fictional account of the adventures of Bob Hale, scout for the Kansas City Athletics.

scout Bob Hale was tired and just wanted to eat, have a beer and perhaps grumble to a stranger. He spotted a flashing motel sign in the distance and pulled his station wagon into its gravel strewn parking lot. There was a small light above a window/door that said, ring bell for service. The bell hadn’t stopped ringing before a short, twerpy guy popped up from behind the window, leaping from a portable cot that was hidden from sight.

“Yeah, I’ll take a room for the night.”

“That’ll be ten dollars for the night and it comes with a hot shower,” the twerp said, adjusting his thick horn rimmed glasses.

Hale pushed the ten spot across the wooden counter, all the while thinking about a card game he had lost a few weeks earlier.

“There a place to get a drink around here?”

“Yeah, The Double Deuce, right down the street. You’ll be in room 5 and check out is at 10.”

“Thank you kindly.”

The Double Deuce was a small place with sawdust on the floor and a jukebox in the corner. There were a few local toughs milling around mingling with their girlfriends. This was a cesspool, a dump, a junkpile and a shithole all wrapped in one, yet it was fine for a few quick drinks before stumbling back to the room with a melancholy residue. Hale was used to the more classy joints in his hometown of Chicago, but he was here on business so the intricacies of this hick town meant nothing to him.

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Kansas City Athletics owner Arnold Johnson (L) yukking it up with president Harry S. Truman. (R)

Hale had driven to Kansas City from Chicago a mere 12 hours ago. Arnold Johnson, the Athletics owner had set up a mandatory scout meeting earlier in the day at Municipal Stadium. The meeting was not pleasant in the mind of Hale as Johnson was more of an industrialist-capitalist than a baseball man. He despised men like Johnson who had  Yankee Stadium in his possession and were using the game for profit. He also had no respect for a man that had weaseled the team from the Mack family with the help of his rich cronies. Baseball was a little different, a little sadder, for the era of one of the game’s greatest figures in Connie Mack was over.

“What’s it gonna be, buddy?”

“Tom Collins,” Hale said as he lit his Cuban cigar.

“Sorry, pal, we don’t have the mixins’ for that. I can get you a gin and tonic if you’d like.”

“Sounds fine..”

One of the locals, the one with the Elvis Presley haircut, stood up suddenly and started barking at his girlfriend. Hale had the prescience to know that this would happen and didn’t move a muscle. There was a minor dust-up until order was quickly restored.

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local toughs.

“The kids today and their rock and roll,” Hale snorted.

“Yeah, they’re a goddamn pain in the ass, but I’m not one to turn away customers…say, are you from around here?”

Hale was wearing a Panama hat with cuffed khaki trousers, a sign that he definitely was not from around “here.”

“Naw, but I’m a baseball man…the Athletics.”

“Wow! They sure are big around here, buddy, you can be sure of that! Are you some sort of big-wig or somethin’?”

“Naw. I’m a nobody, an ass-kisser, a smudge, a nothin'”

“Fair enough. Well, we love the team around here…I just took my kid last month.”

“Actually, I’m just in town for a few days to meet up with my shit-kickin’ boss and to scout a local kid for the ball-club.”

“A local kid! Sheeeeeeeit. What’s the kid’s name?” said the bartender as he looked over Hale’s shoulder at the toughs.

Hale took a long drag off his cigar and exhaled just as “Rock around the Clock” poured out of the jukebox. The hoodlums started to dance in unison.

(To be continued……)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jack Kerouac and baseball.

nash“Writers are a different breed of lonely and resistant re-arrangers of things; anxious malcontents,  children afflicted at birth with some presentiment of loss.” –Joan Didion

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. kerouacThe 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.

Charlie 'O 1965 yearbookCharlie-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)

Tommie Reynolds interview

1970-topps-tommie-reynolds 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.

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