Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker” poured out of the Mustang in the driveway as Pete and Nick sat on the front porch. They had just torn open a few packs of baseball cards and decided to make a few swaps before the cards were relegated to a rubber band and the back pocket of faded dungarees.
“Ok, you like the A’s right? I’ll give you a Dave Hamilton for George Brett.”
“Are you kidding me! You must think I’m a fucking idiot. That’s not a fair trade; and besides, it looks like he’s taking a shit!”
Pete’s older brother, Craig, stopped washing his black treasure and walked over with kinked hose in hand.
“You turds need to shut the hell up before I hose you down. Besides, I got Amy coming over and you two dumbasses aren’t gonna ruin my chance at getting some trim.”
“You haven’t got a chance in hell,” Pete spat, shoving a brick-hard powdered slab of gum in his mouth.
“Keep talking big mouth and I’ll give both you and your stupid friend knuckle sandwiches. You’ll be spittin’ out teeth for a week”
Craig continued washing his car, alone with the hose, the suds, the black beauty and the privacy of his own young and perverted mind.
“He thinks he’s such a big shot.”
“Yeah, I can’t wait until I get older so I can kick his ass…so Dave Hamilton for George Brett?”
50 Years Ago Yesterday . . .
Major League Baseball holds its first Free Agent Amateur Draft (now known as the First Year Player Draft). The very first overall #1 pick was Rick Monday from Arizona State University by the Kansas City Athletics.
We all know what happened with Rick. He became an All Star, (on 2 occasions) and a fan favorite with the Cubs and the Dodgers. With the latter team he achieved baseball immortality by grabbing the American flag from two rabble-rousers trying to burn it in right field at Dodger Stadium. (I think our fore-fathers would have found the act amusing considering the modern day economic and civil rights breakdown of this once great country) and he is now an even-keeled announcer for the Dodgers when Ol’ Vinny needs a break between the 4th and 6th.
In my humble opinion he does a fairly good job–I find his voice soothing and boring enough with just a pith of telephone operator and 50’s television dad to fall asleep too on a hot Los Angeles day during an Indian summer. Complete with lemonade, a little bit of hooch, the lawnmowers blaring, the smell of grass and the parrots in my neighborhood playing screwball and scaring the crows, and it usually turns out to be a fine day for me. (the parrots are an anomaly of themselves; the locals tell me that a pet store burned down ten years ago and they’ve been here ever since.)
But, what ever happened to Tony Pierce?
Well, Tony used a baseball bat to fend off his daughter-in-law as she repeatedly stabbed him with a pair of scissors in his Columbus, Ohio home on Oct. 27th, 2010. Tony claimed she once called him “God” for two days and on one occasion crawled into bed with him.
I dare you to find a baseball card where Tony doesn’t look completely DESTROYED mentally; all of his cards seem as if he sees his destiny, and wants this mortal coil to end.
Laura Pierce, 32, admitted stabbing her father-in-law in a detailed bizarre confrontation, saying she arrived at his home unannounced, left her purse by the door and put his 130-pound Rottweiler in the bathroom before assaulting him as he sat on his couch.
“I thought something was wrong with her,” he said. “It’s like a fairy tale. She’s jabbing at me, saying, ‘I have to die, you’ve got to die.’ I saw it in her eyes. She meant it, too.”
She stabbed him several times in the chest as they struggled. Eventually he was able to grab the scissors in one hand and her head in another. Scanning the room for some way to ward her off, he saw a baseball bat.
He’d decided by then that either he or his daughter-in-law had to die, he said. As he reached for the bat, she stabbed him in the back.
He hit her with half a swing of the bat.
“I was trying to hit her in the head,” he said. “I mean, this was for real. The whole thing is just hard to believe.”
She went out to his front yard, screaming that she was bipolar and schizophrenic. She was still there when police arrived.
Alvin Dark was fired by owner Charles O. Finley in 1967 and here he was taking his grief, again, in 1974. The Oakland ball-club had just lost to the Sox, 3-2, and Charlie O. was throwing a tantrum of epic proportion in the manger’s office. Dark knew that the players had heard some of the one-sided conversation and hoped that his embarrassment would light a fire under their asses.
“I’m playing to win!” screamed Charlie, veins protruding from his neck and eyes popped out as if he was being squeezed by an anaconda. This was, after all, the jungle.
“If you don’t start playing aggressive baseball I’ll kick your fucking ass out of here!” “We won the World Series two years in a row without you and we can win again without you!”
Al understood what was going on– Charlie was from Chicago and hated losing to the Sox more than getting a root canal or a coat that wasn’t plaid. Dark was a Christian so he didn’t raise his voice or even curse. He just sat there, eyes staring directly ahead in an omnipresent out-of-body experience that lasted about 30 seconds until he snapped out of it.
“We’re not wrestling with the mysteries of the universe here, Charlie, it’s just a goddamn….”
Dark stopped himself in mid-sentence and privately scolded himself for the blaspheme.
Mr. Alvin Dark walked the parking lot of the Coliseum alone, the primordial universe spread before him. He slowly lowered himself into a green ’74 Mercury Cougar and started flipping through radio stations with impunity. Thoughts began to develop and unfold as he forgave Charlie for his paradigm of curmudgeon behavior. The song “Thankful for what you’ve got” poured out of the speakers as Dark thought, ” It’s not that the celebration becomes less fun as we get older, it’s more purposeful. Our intentions adjust with the weight of responsibilities and existential dread….and the slow erosion of joint cartilage.”
Dark put key to ignition and foot to pedal as he drove away, leaving an empty parking lot…and the primordial stars to themselves.
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.”
Jim Nash and the “hippy” sideburns that started the fracas.
“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.
“Well, if you gotta go, Gene, at least it will be on national television.”–Reggie Jackson
In the 1972 World Series (against the Cincinnati Reds) we end up winning Game 2 and I’m still in this extremely relaxed state. The guys are lightly celebrating the victory. I get in the clubhouse and Dick Williams pulls me away from all these writers who are interviewing me. We go into his office and there’s these two guys in dark blue suits.
“What’s going on,” I ask.
“Geno, somebody wants to shoot you,” Dick said, matter-of-factly as he closed the door.
“Shoot me,” I said, with half a laugh, “What did you mean shoot me?”
The men turn out to be FBI agents. One of them goes into this story that a woman on a concession line early in Game 2 at Riverfront Stadium stood behind this man who was saying to no one in particular, “If that guy on Oakland hits another homer, I’m gonna put a bullet in his head as he rounds third base.” A couple of people around him laughed it off, but this one woman went to an usher who grabbed security and a police officer. They found the guy, got him out of the line and sure enough he had a .22 in one pocket (loaded, too) and bottle of bourbon in the other. They kept all this commotion away from me until the game was over. From that point on, I was battery mates with the FBI for the rest of the series. I had to travel with the FBI – I didn’t even get to go with the team anymore. Riding in unmarked, bullet-proof cars, I’m not gonna lie, it was kind of cool. They just followed me all over. Leaving ballparks from exits unknown to the general public. 24-hour surveillance. FBI agents guarding my hotel room door. Treating me like a rock star, but it was too much, I’m just trying to win a world series and some lunatic was out there wanting to pop a cap in me. Yeah sure, they caught the guy, but they still went through precautionary measures. Who knows if he was working with someone else. Sounds crazy, but you never know. Funny ending to this story. 10 years later, I’m with the Cardinals, going back to the series in ’82 against the Milwaukee Brewers, guess who I get a letter from? “Mr. Tenace, I’m so sorry what I put you through. It was a bad time in my life. In and out of jail, broke. Please forgive me.” How about that? He was apologizing. Fine, I guess, but I couldn’t believe, 10 years later, this guy’s still got me on his mind? Are you kidding me?
We ended winning (game 7) 3-2. I was named the MVP of the series. NBC broadcast the games and their owner, RCA sent me this enormous home unit entertainment center as part of my award. When the delivery men carrying this thing got to my house, man, this sucker was so big it took like four guys to carry the thing off the truck. Had to get the neighbors to come over and help me get it in the house. We open it in my den and sure enough it had a nice, big television screen and eight-track tape player in it, too. Got to hear my Elvis and Frank Sinatra music in stereo. Lots of Country & Western also played on that hifi for many years.
That night in the offseason, my wife went to sleep early and I tucked in the kids in bed. Everyone was excited about the new piece of cool furniture. I was excited about finally having some peace and quiet at last.
I cracked open a beer, sat back on my recliner and enjoyed my new hifi, just the three of us. Elvis, The King. Frank, The Chairman. Most importantly, the memory of my 1972 Oakland A’s teammates.