Author Archives: Gary Trujillo

About Gary Trujillo

A blog for Oakland A's fans. contact: cococrispafro@gmail.com

Ex-Oakland Athletic Brian Kingman Talks About Books, Baseball Cards, and Mortality

(Author: Brian Kingman)

Ok, so what the hell does Don Mossi have to do with Billy Martin, Cal Ripken Jr. Durwood Merrill, Rickey Henderson? (editors note: the Cal Ripken incident will be discussed in a future post.) I want to say absolutely NOTHING, but I would have been wrong. As it turns out, Mossi was traded to the Tigers, along with his good friend and roommate, Ray Narleski, in a November 1958 deal that sent Billy Martin to Cleveland. No that’s not the reason for Mossi’s appearance here either. 

The reason I posted Don Mossi’s baseball card is all about the book someone mentioned, The Wax Pack. After reading their description of the book I was intrigued and checked out a couple of reviews. I then ordered a copy that should arrive next week.

It appears that The Wax Pack covers several of my favorite subjects: The afterlife, the loss of innocence, and of course, baseball. Impermanence is just a more sophisticated way of saying  “Nothing lasts forever” or ‘A constant state of change”. Impermanence only becomes a “gift” when we learn to understand and accept the constantly changing, fleeting nature of life and appreciate what we have. All things good and bad eventually come to an end.

The Afterlife

Is there life after baseball? I am going to say yes, mainly because I am currently living it. It has been said that athletes die twice so I presume I’ll be dying at least one more time. Athletic careers imitate our life span. The life span of an athlete’s career is an accelerated version of our real lives. It mimics the process of development and decay we experience throughout our lives at a faster pace. As we age our performance declines  It’s the curse of mortality, a symptom of impermanence. You spend the first portion of your life learning, growing stronger, polishing your skills, then your body begins to fail. You remember yourself in your prime and wonder where that person went. The wear and tear of training and competing, combined with the physiological changes that naturally occur as we age, conspire to slowly diminish our physical skills…..nothing lasts forever and careers come to an end.

Then in “real” life, you repeat the process only at a slower pace. If you have come to terms with the inevitability of impermanence then you will be better prepared to cope with it. I guess you could call it a gift as the L.A. Times review did, but I think if you have managed to come to terms with the inevitability of impermanence, you likely earned it the hard way.

The Loss of Innocence

As it pertains to baseball the loss of innocence for many of us the transition from the joyful innocence of playing the game as a youngster to professional baseball where it was much more of a business than it was a game. Then there comes another transition from doing something that you had worked hard at and has been a major part of your life since childhood quickly deteriorate and leave you facing a fate that apparently can be the equivalent of death! This is why they say athletes die twice because for some, getting a job in the real world after living in a fantasy world can be very traumatic.

Back to Don Mossi

About 10 years ago my friend Steve Ashman (High school & Senior league baseball teammate) was staring at Don Mossi’s baseball card commenting about the size of his ears and said “You know we should go visit him, he only lives a couple of hours away” It sounded like a good idea to me. We made a list of players we wanted to meet in addition to Mossi. I added a pair of 20 game losers, Don Larsen, Roger Craig, and Vida Blue even though he only lost 19–never mind being an MVP, and Cy Young award winner! Steve added Alex Johnson and Willie McCovey to the list along with Rusty Kuntz. Rusty Kuntz? I asked Steve ‘Why Rusty Kuntz?” He replied “I always wanted to ask him what his parents were thinking when they named him Rusty”

So we planned a trip for “sometime in the future” and as you might imagine we never got around to making that trip. Life got in the way. Alex Johnson passed away in 2015, McCovey in 2018, Mossi in 2019, and Larsen in 2020. They were victims of impermanence as we all will eventually be. 

 

Asterisks Beer Review While Vaxxed as F*ck

Bang. Bang.

I know the threat of the Oakland Athletics moving to a different city looms in the shadows, but it would be inconsequential to comment here until the Oakland City Council votes on the matter on July 20th. The readers of this blog already know my feelings concerning billionaire flim-flam artists and John Fisher is no exception. 

***

I finally got my second vaxx shot, so I commended my new precursor to freedom and the ending of covid-induced hibernation by buying a few beers and a new collectable Skeletor as my companion and I drove through the winding, craggy hills singing Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry” at the top of our lungs. (Subsequently, I was confused by her public animosity of the Eagles, but love of a few choice Henley songs)  It’s scorching and humid and we are glistening as a result. There was an excursion to Taco Bell, a food I hadn’t eaten in well over a decade, and I felt as if  I was eating toxic sludge with notes of acidic regurgitation, but I needed sustenance before we went to a party bursting at the seams with a certain titular clique of Southern socialites. Not my cup of tea as a breezy West Coaster, although I was looking forward to imbibing on the Southern Belle, The Alabama Slammer, and The High Noon Old Fashion  which would perhaps loosen me up for the plethora of “ya’alls” and stiff posturing that would be heaved my way. How did I end up here?

“Did you ever notice that Donna Summer looks like Rick James without a mustache?” she said.

 ***

Are my readers tired of the pseudo-intellectual baseball pundit gibberish constantly shoved down their throats? Perhaps, but if you can’t dazzle them with your brilliance, then baffle them with your bullshit regarding “pre-gaming” and cliche sports blog financed beer reviews– but color me naive as I have not received one thin red dime for my efforts here. 

And as I was standing in the store aisle, blankly staring, and confused by the dizzying array of choices, I  gave in and decided to try the Houston Asterisks sponsored Crawford Bock, and my immediate impression was that it reminded me of a sort of piss-infused Newcastle. I found it to be rather bland for an attempt at a bock, and about as safe and by the books as you can get without going the dreaded “light beer” path. This is an attempt at making baseball fans that are used to drinking traditional lifeless, stodgy beer feel sophisticated by drinking a trendy, “craft beer” when this is the farthest thing from it. It’s a damn good metaphor for their baseball team–style over substance and pure surface trickery. I felt in the end I was paying for the can with its retro-rainbow Nolan Ryan era motif more than anything, and in the tradition of the organization, felt cheated. Not Recommended. 

Junk Wax Era for a Junk Wax Culture

No one jumps when the phone rings at Todd Van Poppel’s house. It rings almost constantly, and not just because Todd is a typical high school senior. It rings because Todd just may be the next Nolan Ryan.” —Sports Illustrated

Who farted?

I was a baseball crazed ankle-biter when i read the above article in a 1990 issue of Sports Illustrated, but gave the zit-faced high school senior nary a second thought because my esteemed Oakland A’s had no shot at getting him with the 14th pick that year. Ol’ Todd didn’t help out the situation by saying he was going to college, in turn scaring off most teams, including the Braves who swallowed their pride and took some second-rate scrub named Larry “Chipper” Jones. The A’s, being the perpetual team of desperation took a shot on the guy and “Zitface” decided that Oakland was better than wearing flip-flops and kicking around a hacky sack once he got a taste of the oodles of greenbacks, loose women, unquestioned admiration, and the sycophantic ass-kissing big leaguers deal with in every city around the country.

Apparently, when the A’s signed Van Poppel, they signed him to a major league contract and not a minor contract. Consequently, the A’s could only use a limited number of minor league options on Van Poppel, so they had to rush him through the bush-leagues and he never really had time to develop. In scouting reports, Van Poppel was described as having a blazing fastball with no movement, which helps explain the discrepancy between scout analytics and the reality of his career. In the end, Van Poppel was a career reliever who bounced around from the Tigers, Rangers, Pirates, Cubs, and Reds; never coming close to Ryan’s 324 wins and ended his career with a paltry 40-52 record, essentially becoming one of the biggest busts in baseball history. I, like every other red-blooded American dipshit bought into the false and largely propagated by Upper Deck baseball card craze of the 90’s and hoarded “Van Pimple” cardboard –never dreaming that you could find it (with case) 22 years later for exactly 25 cents on amazon.com. (with the case being more valuable than the card.)  I should have listened to my economics teacher explaining why you can’t print more of something and expect it to keep its value–and would have been better off putting the damn thing in my bicycle spokes.

A’s come out of the gate looking like Glass Joe, now look like a second level Piston Honda

The Mike Tyson’s Punchout cheat code is 007-373-5963

You know, I haven’t been giving this humble blog much time or attention lately, so I suppose it’s time to “dip into the ‘ol inkwell” and throw my two cents into the misty ether of right-wing conspiracies, porn, self-help, self-righteousness, quasi-mysticism and shit talking.

This baseball season, so far, can be summed up by using the opposite theater masks of tragedy and comedy, and this Oakland ball-club has all but bathed in the bubble bath of the above. After causing a mini-panic, collective brain-implosion and a negative knee-jerk reaction after starting out 0-6, the team collected themselves and went on a tidy 13 game winning streak–all but erasing the memory of their earlier incompetence and once again garnering the veneration of people with nothing better to do than to root for strangers wearing pajamas and Oakley Blades on a daily basis.

There was also a plethora of injuries, most notably a guy smashing his pinky finger against a desk (Jesus Lizard) because he was sucking at video games, (for more idiotic baseball injuries see John Smoltz and Glenallen Hill) and another taking a ricochet off a BP pitching cage and getting a shiner in an absolute “someone up there really hates me” freak of nature accident. (…and in a deliciously tasty form of irony, yours truly once took an angry Nintendo controller ricochet off the eye socket, giving both injuries a swirling, yin and yang home in my world of lunacy)

Yesterday, Mark Canha was drilled in the elbow with a wayward toss by a Baltimore hurler breaking legend Captain Sal Bando’s HBP record and, ever the comedian, doffed his cap to the crowd. I am absolutely thrilled that this guy has worked his ass off to turn himself into one of the best lead-off hitters in the game, and it’s hard to surmise that he was acquired from the Colorado “baseball team” for the baseball trade equivalent of a ham sandwich. 

The crescendo of BS before you is slowly coming to an end, (we’re all busy, aren’t we?) and I’ll leave you on this particular thought–watching Elvis Andrus play baseball is like the equivalent of rubber-necking a repulsively bloody and twisted metal-strewn car accident on the freeway. You know you shouldn’t look, but you can’t pull your eyes away because you want to see how bad it gets. An absolute shit show that makes me wonder how the yokels in Texas ever put up with the guy. Mr. Blue Hawaii was the mental goof protagonist on the one and only time I EVER saw a runner tag and score from 3rd on an infield pop. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you would pencil that in on your scorecard as a “SAC P6.”

Blasphemy.

It’s the day before Opening Day, day

Now that’s a beautiful lineup. Nine out of 10 shirtless guys agree.

I was watching an A’s /Twins game from 1988 on YooToob and it was a blast from the past and a chopped up line in the bathroom of nostalgia. Bob Welch was on the hill for the good guys and it was sort of sad to see him facing Kirby Puckett as both shuffled off this mortal coil way too soon. I was enjoying the game and settling in, but I was distracted by all the shirtless guys, carrying their wax cups full of Budweiser, happily fluttering around in the crowd like social butterflies with blindingly glistened oil-soaked bodies and Tom Cruise approved knockoff Ray-Bans.

When did it become socially acceptable for guys to walk around shirtless at the ballpark in the ’80s? I’ve seen this sort of exhibitionism in many 80’s movies, (maybe it was because gay culture was influencing the mainstream on the down-low, hence the straight guy mustache trend of the era which made baseball players look like leather daddies and was a disco-hangover) but was it art imitating life or vice versa? Although the apotheosis of shirtless guy movies, Magic Mike, came out in 2012, it still didn’t inspire a vomit-inducing public movement. Guys in the 2000’s just decided it was better to leave their shirts on. I’m not saying an individual should wear a suit and tie à la the 1920’s Babe Ruth era, but please leave the “beach bod” (which isn’t always the case) at the beach. It’s goddamn distracting as most of the time the person committing the atrocity looks less like Arnold and more like he was squeezed out of a tube. Is this is a California thing or an 80’s thing? Inquiring minds want to know.


It’s (the day before) opening day and you would like to watch your favorite team, but you can’t due to blackouts. Bummer. Here’s the biggest misconception about MLB blackouts–teams are not blacking out games to make you go to the stadium, they are doing it to ensure they don’t piss off the regional sports networks, which are established cash cows to the tune of 2.1 billion. Like most of you, I couldn’t care less about what billionaire has the biggest dick and just want to watch my local team. Here is a gift for the dedicated readers of this site: (all 10 of you) simply click on Alfred E. Newman’s face to the upper right (or at the bottom if you are reading this on a phone) and free baseball! Burn it all down! Fuck Rob Manfred! Destroy the system! …Although you’ll probably want to *ahem* return tomorrow since there are no games today.

The First World Pit of Hell

It has many stories

I wasn’t close to my father, who was a rather opaque person. He wasn’t unkind — I mean, he didn’t have any malicious thoughts toward me, just a kind of a vague indifference. Eventually I started to feel the same, even forgetting for years at a time that he even existed. One day, out of tremendous boredom, I decided to stalk him on the internet, and there was only one thing: a news interviewer asking him why he thought the water in the port near his home was so green. He didn’t know, but remembered swimming in the muck as a small boy, thinking nothing of it. I instantly regretted this action.

Many hours later I was a little (majorly) tipsy and tired of swimming in the salty sea of regret and memories when I did what anybody in that situation does–I turned to internet consumer therapy. I have been a Nordstroms credit card holder for several years now and have always had good standing on my account, so I decided to buy brand new A’s cap since I had worn the same one since 2010. I spent nearly 30 minutes placing an order only for it to be canceled 5 minutes later. I then spent 30 minutes on the phone with an operator who decided I should re-start the entire process again. In conclusion, I decided to stick with the soiled, banged-up cap I’ve had since 2010. I had a guy spill an expensive, local, craft brewed, 15 dollar beer on it in Seattle trying to catch a foul ball in what could be called a mosh pit within a legion of outstretched hands, and you can’t replicate those types of lovely memories. (In the end, yours truly caught that ball)

Please accept our apology for the inconvenience.” At times that feels like a representation of what I feel about the world and how I’ve observed the mechanics of reality: but it was only a baseball cap they were speaking of. I decided to rate them 1 star, and thought it was amusing how we are constantly rating things on a five star scale, from movies, hotels, Uber drivers, Amazon gift cards, and even The Statue of Liberty. (How do you rate her?) This has just been one of those days. It feels like a game of MadLibs where you are sort of blindly filling in the blanks and hoping it makes sense in the end. There is a keen sense of raw honesty and ironic detachment filling me as the sun beats down like a goofy friend with a Peter Tosh record and some words of encouragement.

Interview with poet, baseball writer and Brewers fan, Steve Myers

Steve was one of the very first (if not the first) individuals to post a comment on this blog, and we’ve been “internet friends” ever since. 10 long years later, we are both published and still banging away on our keyboards–what a strange, wild, wacky world.  I recently contacted him to chat about his book, Dreaming .400: Tales of Baseball Redemption. 

Let’s start at your formative years. Talk a bit about where you grew up, how you gravitated to the game of baseball, and who were your favorite players?

I grew up in Milwaukee, but to say that would be kind of a lie since I was raised in a suburb of Milwaukee – Whitefish Bay… people around town called it “white folks bay” for obvious reasons. There were no bars there either, but there was a city bus line…the number 15 took us down to Milwaukee’s east side and elsewhere, to eat at diners, slip flasks into laundry mats and drink at bars which was always a scary self-conscious venture, for me anyway. I don’t know what initially triggered my interest in baseball but my dad took a bunch of friends and me to a doubleheader at County Stadium against the Red Sox. I don’t remember who won. I think it was in 1977? I woulda been seven at the time. I also remember my dad bringing home a pack of cards in 1975, all those colored Crayola explosion borders. I remember one of the cards – Jim Brewer, probably because I knew the Brewers played in Milwaukee, and yet, here was this pitcher with Brewer for the last name and he played for the Dodgers? It was confusing. I was no Einstein.

My favorite player was and will always be Harold Baines. I first saw him on WFLD channel 32 Chicago in the early ’80s. I don’t know what it was about him…maybe because he was an outfielder and so was I…maybe because he batted left-handed and so did I or maybe because he just seemed so mellow and humble or maybe it was the way he lifted up his front foot when batting?  I later got to meet him in Sarasota, Florida where the sox trained and where my grandpa lived. He was standing with an Amish family. I waited my turn. He didn’t talk too much to me, but he sort of smiled and signed the ball I handed him. I later learned that Baines was from St. Michaels, Maryland and that there are a lot of Amish there. That explained that. Anyway, the contrast of Baines in his uni and the Amish family in their unis stuck with me in a whole lot of democracy happening on the urban street corner sort of way.

I have a nice baseball card collection, nice as in large. When I was a kid, I was a sucker for the rookie cards, thinking I would make a money-killing future. I bought tons of Dwight Gooden rookies in 84 and then a few years later, John Kruk and Kal Daniels and Barry Bonds and Barry Larkin, McGwire, all from that wood border 87 Topps set. I did score a 1968 Nolan Ryan rookie at a card show for 10 bucks which I’ve since sold for 500. I wish I wouldn’t have. it’s the only card I’ve ever sold. I did it to send money to my kid’s mom. I should have talked my way into postponing alimony.
I also got a Johnny Bench rookie, the same year, 1968. I still have that one. I still collect too. I’d like to one day have every Brewers card ever made or at least every Topps Brewers card. Seems doable since the Brewers are not that old…51 years. So am I. I like knowing that I was born the same year the Brewers were. I haven’t been too loyal. I spent many years away from “The Crew,” but they always welcomed me back…a forgiving family.
I played Strat-o Matic baseball as a teenager and into my adult life. The awesome thing about our strat-o group (there were five of us) is that one of the players was Craig Counsell, former MLB player and current manager of the Brewers and another guy was Galen Polivka, bass player for The Hold Steady. It’s awesome because their dreams came true!!!….Craig became a big leaguer and Galen became a member of a rock and roll band. The Hold Steady just came out with a new album too so they’ve been together for a good stretch. Anyway, I’m happy for them both and a little jealous too, mostly because I hate my job. I work in a hospital, in the warehouse, delivering supplies all over the place. too heavy. bad for my back. I’m freaking 160 pounds and not strong, but there is that team dimension that’s kind of interesting like a dugout with all the ages and personalities, plus I don’t have a boss breathing down my neck so it does award me time to jot down notes for my blog posts and stories. I’m currently working on a second collection of short stories which is supposed to be out in September or October 2021 but these dates always change which is cool because deadlines suck. I like the extra time and freedom to further develop characters, clarify themes, and whatever else to make a story more compelling.

 

  • You have an interesting and unique writing style. Who were some writers that influenced you, and who are you reading at the moment?
I didn’t do much reading as a kid, only baseball books and one book about pro quarterbacks in the NFL. I knew all the quarterbacks in the early ’80s and weird, I still remember them…Jim Plunkett, Steve Grogan, brian sipe, and on and on I guess the shit from our early teen years stays stuck in our mind somewhere. I took a beat generation class at UW-Milwaukee in the early 1990s and that rocked my world, from narrow stretches to the wide open. The teacher – James Liddy was from Ireland and a poet, the kind of guy who looked under your hood and provoked, brought us closer to ourselves.  He encouraged us to hang out at bars and really demonstrated how to live a happy, single life, a life of drink and friends. Kerouac is definitely an influence, maybe Huxley and Hesse too. I read a bunch of their books. I also liked Shoeless Joe by WP Kinsella. that’s probably an influence too since I write short stories with baseball references sprinkled about. And then there’s my fellow bloggers like you, Gary…I love your rants and creativity and excellent writing so somehow I’m sure you’ve influenced me too. I’m currently rereading Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl…a book about a psychiatrist stuck in Auschwitz and other concentration camps and how he put to use psychology he had developed prior to the war. It’s called it logotherapy — and in summary, seems to say that if there is a meaning to our lives, we can endure any circumstances. The psychological terms are a bit boring and hard to grasp, but the narrative from his time in the camps is fascinating. I love the metaphor of prison life…I often feel like I’m a prisoner at work, even worse, since, at work, I have to deal with so many people and in prison, you get some time alone or maybe most of the time is alone or with the bunkmate or whatever. I tend to be a hermit which is kind of good since writing fiction is one of the main reasons I wake up in the morning and to do that requires time alone, lots of it….and getting down? depressed? writer’s block? those things happen but talking to my psychiatrist or an afternoon whisky helps. It’s a good thing I live in Canada. my doctor doesn’t cost me a penny. not to go on a tangent, but I think socialized medicine helps individuals from feeling estranged, knowing that a government cares a bit about them. the other book I’m reading is Journey To The End of the Night by Louis Ferdinand Celine. I’m only a few pages in but he strikes me as a badass, a hardcore cynic, a massive critic, and a great writer. I learned about him from an interview with Kerouac way back when. At work, on my lunch break, I read Tropic of Capricorn by Henry Miller. I like the way it flows and the low-life beautiful characters he creates or chronicles. I’m never sure if it’s autobiographical or fictional or maybe both?  And the book I just finished was Adventures of Wim by Luke Rinehart. It took me a while to know what the freaking thing was about but when i did (it was a long book) I dug it. the concept reminded me of that Kafka book – The Castle…if I remember right…something about knocking on a door and hoping to get “in” when in fact, there is no ‘” in” with the trick being to keep knocking? That longing is the secret to some sort of happiness or a reason to wake up in the morning or afternoon…or ride around in a hearse…whatever you like.

 

 I’ve read your excellent book Dreaming .400: Tales of Baseball Redemption, and I was wondering what your writing process is like, and when did you realize that you wanted to partake in the life of the scribe?

I wrote my first poem in that beat class I took back at UW-Milwaukee so I guess that’s when I thought about writing when I started to take it seriously or not seriously but having that ambition, that vain desire to be published. The poem went something like — “didn’t catch the train but beats blow fresh air my way… the Ferris wheel begins.” I remember Liddy, the teacher liking it and that made my day or my year or my life since I still remember him liking it. I wrote hundreds and hundreds of letters, back and forth with three friends, in particular, Liddy too, so they probably influenced me as well. I’m not sure what my process is other than the story idea comes in a specific moment like a flash of light with a lead sentence, a good sentence, a provocative one…and that sentence is like a miner’s light that shines through the whole story. I don’t really have to try to stay on subject because that first sentence guides me subconsciously or if it doesn’t, I make changes where necessary. I very rarely sit down and write a story in one sitting. I work and rework sentences and like my theme to be somewhat invisible so the reader has to do some connecting dots and thinking on their own, but not too much… I don’t want the reader to be confused. I think my writing is simple and straight-forward, probably because I’ve become simple and straight-forward. I think I used to be more confusing because I felt confused. Now, more than anything, I’m pissed off. One other thing about my writing process…I often take long breaks from stories, to let characters and plots marinate awhile in my mind. But there’s a danger in that because if i neglect a character, he or she won’t speak to me, not literally. I don’t have hallucinations, but speak to me in the sense of giving me ideas of things for them to do, things so the reader can get a better understanding of who they are…same with plots…I have to focus on it, give it attention. then the miracle can happen, that breakthrough that links the first paragraph to the last one. And as far as length goes, I find that a 4-page story is sometimes too long and a 14-page story is too short. Reading helps my writing.

 

  • Do you have any Brewers predictions for 2021?

I didn’t watch many games last year, but the word was that second baseman Keston Hiura stunk up the place so what do the brewers do this off-season?  they signed Kolten Wong and moved Hiura to first base… a brilliant move, not that 1b is so easy to play…in fact, all that footwork strikes me as very challenging, not quite “spinning nine plates at the same time,” but easier than picking grasses in left field. Having a middle infield of Wong and Arcia….gonna be fun to watch. i’ll say 90 wins and another trip to the playoffs or maybe I’m too optimistic, unlike my dad who is from Boston. He knows better, being a Red Sox fan all those years before BIG PAPI and Manny and Pedro strolled into Bean-Town. Kind of a laugh in the face of Yawkey Boston tradition, if my history is right since Boston was so late to integrate. Thanks for having me on the FRO!!

Beer and Japanese Nachos

I’ve come a long way since I had to meticulously set up my VCR to record the Game of the Week on my lousy, buzzing and rolling miniature television crowned with broken rabbit ears. (and Mel Allen’s TWIB!)  It almost seems absurd that I can now watch any game of my choosing on my phone while exercising or sitting on the toilet, and up to four different games simultaneously on my laptop. And that’s exactly what I decided to do on a lazy Friday. Escape. Open a few cans of Lone Star, tear open a bag of chips and salsa, and…just…escape. Does anyone care about Spring Training and its shuffling of bush leaguers and odd rules? Probably not.

Shohei Ohtani was on the hill for the Halos and that made me harken back to the time I saw him pitch in an exhibition game at Dodger Stadium one curiously freezing night in Los Angeles. The bleachers were teeming with Japanese, no doubt there to see their fellow countryman Ohtani pitch, and a young lady walking by my seat in the aisle spilled a large tray of nachos on me and my F*** the Angels t-shirt. (The stains exist to this day and I am still resolute about that idea) She apologized profusely and meekly in broken English and I felt terrible for her and assured her that I would wash myself off in the bathroom and there were no hard feelings. I also made a mental note of the very odd cultural difference/dichotomy of the Japanese dressing as if they were attending a business function/fashion show rather than the American way of dress which was mostly casual and lacking visual ingenuity with a few jerseys and baseball caps thrown into the mix. I honestly had never seen anyone wear a suit and tie at a baseball game that didn’t involve black and white footage of a guy cheering for Babe Ruth and tossing a fedora into the air. Is this a thing?

These glorified practices are opiate-inducing, laid-back affairs and I was watching passively as Mike Trout was pulled from the game in the 3rd and was probably teeing off by the 5th. Matt Olson does what Matt Olson does and hits a moon-shot to RF in his “feast or famine” playing style that is popular with big leaguers and Olson seems to excel at. The A’s decided to throw in a pitcher by the name of Brian Schlitter (who didn’t play last year because the minor leagues went the way of the dodo) and I had to stifle a laugh as I had written about this dude waaay back in 2019 before that mystery guy even thought about eating the delicious flying mammal that caused a global pandemic: A’s call up Brian Schlitter, A’s bullpen still in the shitter.  You ever hear that tired cliche–“the more things change the more they stay the same?” As you may have guessed, Schlitter did indeed put the game in the shitter, but I didn’t notice as equal measure of beer and Spring Training kicked in, and I was soon floating on clouds while verbal sparring with Morpheus in lotus land. Final: Angels 7 A’s 3

An interview with Major League A*Holes

Is it common knowledge that Jose was a cuckold with his brother or is that just all in my head?

I hate most baseball podcasts if only because they usually re-hash things you already knew last week or act like fabricated shills for an organization that doesn’t give them one thin red dime for their efforts. The hyper-positivity is nauseating. I stumbled upon this podcast and fell in love instantly because of Ryan and Pete’s grittiness and ability to “tell it like it is” with character, integrity, and a sense of humor. Ladies, Gentlemen, and Non-Binary… I give you…Major League A*Holes.

1) Let’s start at the genesis of the operation. How did you guys meet, and why did you decide to do a baseball podcast?

Ryan: We started working together at a Chicago ad agency in 1998. I walked by Pete’s desk one day when he just blurted out “I can’t take it anymore, I have to go buy some AC/DC!” so I immediately thought we should be friends. We also had a mutual love of sports and started a fantasy hockey league with a spreadsheet and newspapers (pre-internet boom).

We started a fantasy baseball league in 2004 called Burnt Ivy after some fucker poured acid on a portion of the Wrigley Field ivy. My team name was Major League Assholes after President Bush 2 got caught calling a reporter that on a hot mic. We changed the league name to Major League Assholes the next year as it still is today.

In 2010, we got the idea to start an irreverent baseball blog covering Pete’s White Sox and my Tigers & Cubs. Ten years later we got lazy, stopped writing, and started a podcast instead because it was easier.

Pete: So Smitty and I met at work at a marketing agency in Chicago working on print ads for Sears… yes we’re fucking old. I was his manager, and I can tell you that he was a decent employee, now we’ve come full circle and he’s really my manager with our podcasts. (Laughs) We loved to talk about baseball and I don’t remember the exact event, maybe Smitty does, but it went like this. “If Carlos Zambrano ever does this, we will start a baseball blog.” It was something we had thought up because it was such ridiculous behavior. I think we made it ridiculous because we really don’t know anything about doing a baseball blog, so we kind of were like we want to do it, but were kind of nervous. Well, I think a year later Zambrano did said thing, we texted each other, and Major League Assholes was launched. We changed it shortly after to Major League A*Holes so we could have a consistent name on social media and advertise on T-shirts at baseball games.

2) What are your favorite teams and what players did you follow growing up?

Ryan: I grew up in Michigan as a Tigers fan. Mark “The Bird” Fidrych was the first player I remember but he blew out his arm after a year so I couldn’t really follow him. But after that, the ‘84 Tigers were the shit and I got to watch Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker turn double plays for 20 years. By the way, BOTH should be in the fucking Hall of Fame, but I’ll spare you from that long-winded that tangent again…

After Tigers Stadium, Wrigley Field was the first major league ballpark I ever visited back in the mid-‘80s when I was 16. My aunt and uncle had season tickets in the upper deck down the first baseline. And I was hooked. Everything about Wrigley and Chicago, in general, was fucking awesome compared to the boring suburban landscape I was born into in mid-Michigan. From that day forward, my goals were to go to college and then get a job in Chicago. I moved to Chicago after I graduated from Central Michigan University in 1997, got a job, and eventually bought a condo a mile north of Wrigley Field in 2003.

I’d say my first favorite Cubs player was the Shooter, Rod Beck. If anyone tries to tell you Kenny Powers from East Bound & Down wasn’t based on him, they’re full of shit. Dude was fucking legendary — glorious mullet, terrifying fu manchu, sizeable gut, cool nickname, ominous presence on the mound, lived in a Winnebago, got fucked up with fans after games — he personified everything awesome about baseball in my mind.

Probably gave Eric Clapton a run for his money.

Pete: Born and raised on Chicago’s Southside, so I was birthed into White Sox-dom. I was even born at a hospital on Chicago’s Southside that was five minutes from Comiskey Park. My entire Italian side of the family grew-up in Bridgeport the neighborhood where the Sox play still to this day. The new stadium is just across the street from the original Comiskey Park. I have a shadowy memory of my first game in the mid-‘70s where Wilbur Wood, Tom Kelley, and Dick Allen signed a ball for me. My favorite teams outside of 2005, are 1983 and 1994 in that order. ‘83 had those sweet jerseys with Luzinski, Kittle, and Baines hitting roof shots. Then you had a coked-up Lamar Hoyt dominating batters, whatever it takes, right? I kid, I kid. So many characters on that team and Tony La Russa brought them together. Hopefully, he has an encore performance left. It was around the same time I was playing little league and was always on the Giants, every year. I loved the uniforms, so I started following the Giants the best I could back then. I was limited to appearances on network TV and newspapers. Not the best way to follow a team, but I did. Will “The Thrill” Clark was my favorite Giant growing-up. He looked like some guy you could hang out with that could crush the baseball. Of course, in the ’90s Barry Bonds became my favorite Giant and my hatred for Dusty Baker began. I was so excited when he ended up with the Cubs. I’m like he’s going to fuck up your pitching staff and fall short every year. Enjoy!

3) Talk a bit about the legendary Game 7 of the 2016 WS–where were you and how did you process it?

Ryan: As the t-shirt says, ‘The best game ever played was on a November Wednesday night in Cleveland.’ I was watching it at my place a mile north of Wrigley Field with a buddy of mine. He panicked and took off after Rajai Davis hit the home run to tie it in the 8th so I was left alone pacing laps around my small condo. The rain delay and isolation certainly didn’t help my fractured mental state. When they finally won it, I freaked out and didn’t know what to do so I just left and started walking down to Wrigley. My street and the entire neighborhood was completely packed with cars honking horns and people going nuts. The cops had built a perimeter around the stadium so I couldn’t get closer than across the street from it, but it was all good. I skipped work the next day and captured a lot of fun photos of the scene.

Pete: Game 7 is the game I wanted to end in a tie or never be played. I’m a White Sox fan watching the Indians play the Cubs. Fuck me. Anyway, I was happier with the outcome because, while the Cubs are intra-city rivals, they are not division foes and I couldn’t wait to see the frat party unfold with all the stupid shit that fan base would do. The average fan knows the ingredients of a can of Bud Light better than the starting line-up. It was also nice to see Jason Heyward earn his $21 million as a public speaker. Although, there have been some recent theories that it never happened or was blown out of proportion… I was watching the game at home with a bourbon. I shit you not, not living on the Southside you could walk into a bar and get a seat with no issues during the Cubs World Series. I went to our local tap house in Lemont, Pollyanna for Game 2, showed up around game time and the place only had two tables occupied, one by Cubs fans. It’s a pretty hard divide in some areas of Chicagoland.

4) What is going on with the trope of a Chicago sports fan either being a cigar-chomping fat ass or a drunk college bro?

Ryan: The former is a Southside stereotype perpetuated by the Super Fans SNL skit, but it’s pretty accurate. The latter is just Wrigleyville. I can’t imagine how much worse it’ll be once the world gets back to normal and the bros come out to party again. But that’s more of an issue outside the ballpark in Wrigleyville, the neighborhood bar scene around the stadium.

Pete: The cigar-chomping fat-asses are the post-50 crowd (shhhhh, I’m getting close). Those are normally tied back to Bears fans too. It’s been a thing here forever. The older crews love to eat a shit-ton of unhealthy food, that’s delicious, and smoke their cigars. Da Bears skit on SNL is dead-on. I have relatives like that. I would say the cigar-chomping fat-ass for baseball favors my beloved White Sox more than the Cubs, but there are a few in every crowd. Drunk college bro is pretty much a Wrigley thing. Millennials with disposable income going to day games during the week. The reason most Sox games are at night is they are the blue-collar team of Chicago, and they’d have even smaller crowds if they played day games. For the Cubs, a tourist attraction for their field, it doesn’t matter. It’s a white-collar team with tons of disposable income. It’s a party, and even though it took 17 years for me to attend my first Cubs game, which I sat behind a post, I can honestly say that a sunny day in the bleachers is a good time.

Toilets are overrated.

5) Are the Wrigley bleachers really as bad as everyone says they are? (drunk college kids puking everywhere and pissing on themselves)

Ryan: That’s more reputation than reality. It hasn’t been that bad for close to 15 years now, but it certainly was before ticket prices went thru the roof. No one wants to pay $100 to get into a game just to blackout or get kicked out. Don’t get me wrong, we’re all getting fucked up out there, but it’s not a puke/piss-fest.

Pete: Not anymore, the bleachers have changed throughout the years, it’s kind of funny. Originally, they were the cheapest ticket in the park and were the home of middle-aged Cub fans getting wasted during the day. That was the 60’s through the mid-’80s. Then the Cubs hired Harry Caray away from the White Sox and the frat party began. It was brilliant marketing by the Cubs. That’s one thing they became really good at back then, marketing a shit product, but filling the stands. They sold the beauty of the park along with the party atmosphere… “loveable losers”. Seriously, kudos to them. Especially because back then Wrigleyville was not the thriving bar scene it later turned into in the early 2000s. So yes, the ’90s and a lot of the 2000s the bleachers were a mess. No doubt about it, but then Theo came to town, made the bleachers the best seat in sports, raised the price to $50 a ticket average, and now it’s just fun. Yes, fans can be seen wasted, but that’s on both sides of town.

6) You guys do a segment on your show called “Asshole of the Week.” Who are the biggest assholes in MLB today and why?

Ryan: I’ve got to give that honor to Commissioner Rob Manfred. We just gave him our prestigious Asshole of the Year award for 2020 so he’s the reigning champ. His bad faith negations with the Players Association, leveraging the pandemic to dismantle the minor league system, which put a lot of people out of work just because he could, and his ability to talk out of both sides of his mouth makes him the biggest asshole in MLB today. I seriously question if he even likes baseball.

Pete: I’m giving it to Manfred hands down. I named him, Commissioner Palpatine because of his constant attempts at manipulation of the players and fans. His absolute power clauses in these agreements are so Star Wars prequels it’s not even funny. He only has his own interests and the owners’ interests in mind. He couldn’t care less about the players and fans, and I fear this will lead to a strike in 2022. I hope I’m wrong.

7) What do you see in the future for the podcast?

Ryan: It’s weird because we started the podcast just before COVID hit and it ended up being the perfect hobby to have when you can’t hang out or go to games. We haven’t even gone through a full season yet, but we’ve had so much to talk about starting with the Astros scandal, then all the bullshit negotiations to get the season started, the 60-game sprint, the White Sox rising, the Cubs imploding, the Tigers rebuilding, and the Giants doing whatever the fuck they’re doing.

But to answer your question, I think it might be fun to start doing some interviews to get a little broader perspective so it’s not just Pete and I barking at each other for an hour at a time. I’m also kicking around the idea of adding a 5th team that we start to cover extensively in addition to the Cubs, Sox, Tigers, and Giants. Hell, maybe Pete even has some ideas for the future… Stay tuned, mofos!

Pete: The great thing about Major League A*Holes is Smitty and I don’t take ourselves too seriously and we go with the flow. Sometimes we change the show on the fly because while we always have a preset outline, the conversation takes us in a different direction. I think the future of Major League A*Holes is anyone listening can be promised that we’ll always be trying new segments, we’ve already introduced two new staples this year; “askhole” and bad tweets. Askhole is we each ask either a completely assholish question about each other’s teams and bad tweets started out as Bob’s Bad Tweets dedicated to the disaster known as Bob Nightengale and already morphed into bad tweets by sports media personalities. We’re always going to be trying to make things better and more entertaining for everyone.

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R.I.P. Lew Krausse. Old twirler for the K.C./Oakland A’s

“I went to three Royals games this year, but when I go there I come home and I dream about it for two weeks. And my dream is crazy. It’s that I am going to pitch, but I can’t find my hat or my glove and that I lost one of my shoes. I never throw a ball in a dream. I went to see a shrink about it, and that dream was defined to mean that I left the game before I was mentally prepared. I left because of an injury, rather than for a lack of ability. It’s a dream of frustration.” –Lew Krausse

I was saddened to hear of Lew Krausse dying last week, and it gave me the initiative to look into the ol’ cigar box to retrieve a creased and beat-up autographed 1969 baseball card of the legendary twirler. Lew had played and retired long before I was born, but I had read about and enjoyed his exploits in the various books published about Charlie Finley’s Kansas City/Oakland A’s. In another random and very odd twist, I was invited by an unnamed source in the Athletics organization (send me more free stuff!) to watch his Livestream funeral service (Feb. 24) on Vimeo. I’m not sure if I’ll partake in that quite yet, but it would be nice to honor the man in his final send-off.

Here are some facts about the pitcher:
–Lew was one of the first “bonus babies” in pro sports, signing at that time for a record $125,000 bonus by A’s owner, Charley Finley.
— pitched a 3 hit shutout against the LA Angels in his ML debut at the age of 18. (!!!)
— A legendary drinker who would give Wade Boggs and Mickey Mantle a run for their money, Lew shot off a handgun from the window of his hotel room in KC and kicked down a hotel room door in Anaheim.
— Starting pitcher for the Oakland A’s in their inaugural game in 1969, and also did the same for the first Milwaukee Brewers game in history.

For anyone interested, you can watch Lew pitch 3 innings of relief against the Red Sox in 1969 on Youtube. (relieving Jim Nash and earning the save. Reggie Jackson also hits a homer in this game.)
And In an added bonus, Lew also singles off the Green Monster with Yaz taking the carom and holding the runner. Link: A’s/Red Sox 6/15/1969.