Monday, August 22, 2016

Baseball fragments (1)--for the pennant

Eighth grade, and we're over a year out from the move from Manitowoc to Tucson. The GATE experiment is not yet a disaster--we're still in the first quarter, so too early to log those D's in English, or Social Studies, or (yes) Woodshop.

Somehow the importance of the day's game is not lost on my Social Studies teacher, who pulls some strings, gets me out of that afternoon's class, and allows me to watch the one-game playoff between the Brewers and the Orioles. This was the proverbial 163rd game--a one-game playoff to see who would win the A.L. East pennant. Don Sutton on the mound...

It is a small kindness, but a profound one. How did that happen? I just remember being alone that afternoon in the room, with a TV, in the second-floor room at Vail Junior High.

This was the apex of baseball madness for us all--BOAT League being a prime mover for us all. But on top of everything, there was that bet with PJ. The most unlikely bet I would ever win--and probably the reason I don't bet on anything any more.

Earlier--late spring or early summer, when Milwaukee was like 5th in their own division--PJ goaded me as only PJ could do. Frikking Yankees, right? They stink, he told me. There's no way the Brewers are doing anything this year. And earnest me takes the bait: hook, line, and sinker.

The bet: $10 that the Brewers will not win the A.L. pennant. Even odds. What craziness (or what naïvety) held me to make that bet? But I couldn't back down, I guess.

Then the most amazing thing happened: the Brewers went to the World Series, beating California in a five-game series.

And I won $10.

PJ was so mad, he wouldn't even talk to me for a week. His dad paid me the money. And his dad told me what a dick his son was being. Which, looking back on it, is pretty hilarious.

The Brewers took the Cardinals to Game 7 that year, but came up short. I'd forgotten that Rollie Fingers was injured, and didn't pitch at all that series. Maybe things would have been different with him there, but that final game was a blowout.

I remember hearing, though, about the rally at County Stadium afterwards, including Robin Youth riding in on a motorcycle (must have been a Harley-Davidson, seeing as their factory is there in town). The crowd chanting IT JUST DOESN'T MATTER.

Yount. Molitor. Cooper. Gantner. Simmons. Vukovich. Fingers.

Gorman Thomas.

They were the team I grew up with--the team that never won it all, and actually got the closest after we'd left Wisconsin. But they were the team that captured my heart in the late '70s and early '80s. They were the template for what a team you root for really could be.

They were mine.

Trying to write a little this week--and baseball is the engine. Some wholeheartedly subjective and personal moments to reflect upon. So sue me.