Monday, July 23, 2007

Where the Children Are All Above the Mendoza Line

By now many of you know the truth: I was not playing in Japan last season. I was not working out with Roger Clemens in Texas. I did not spend a year spreading the baseball gospel throughout Brazil. I did not get a Crash Davis-like offer to manage a team in a neighboring town. There was no Padres scout watching me during our 2005 season, and Marge Schott never called to ask if I wanted to be the Reds sliding coach. Marge Schott is dead, I am now told, and teams don't allot a special management position dedicated to sliding. Although they should.

I told most of you at least one of these stories. Several of you, I told two or more of the above. Dave, I told you the Marge Schott story, which was really stupid, and I also told you the Padres-scout tale and also the Crash Davis whopper. I need to stop here, Dave, to clarify that time at the Buttermilk I told you that I had $25,000 in diamonds in my equipment bag but just didn't feel like showing them to you. That was a lie. And you probably know that.

I spent the 2006 season on ice in Minnesota, working for a radio show. I got married to my wonderful Linda. I didn't touch a bat once.

OK, that's another lie. I went to a batting cage twice in St. Paul. But it was indoors, and the batting helmet liners were soft and rotten, and the Juggs machines were so poorly calibrated that I actually got beaned.

To fill the Buttermilk Softball void in my life, I purchased a Twins season ticket. A crappy one. In the crappiest stadium in the majors (not counting RFK). I attended about 50-60 home games and witnessed a truly incredible regular season. Walkoff homeruns. Grand slams in high drama. No-name players absorbing what should have been devastating injuries to star players. Batting title. MVP. Gardenhire getting tossed all the fucking time. Everyone had fire in the belly. After the last game of the regular season, I sat in the Metrodome with about 40,000 other fans and watched the Tigers implode. The division title was ours. Twins players rushed out of the dugout and dove into the outfield seats. I stoicly wept next to the childhood pal in the season ticket next to mine. It was just meant to be: Another half-page-tall Star Tribune headline ... Magic!

But a humiliating post-season defeat at the hands of an accounting firm (Oakland) put an end to all that. And my job in Minneapolis ended. Another one surfaced in New York.
Linda and I loaded a big Penske truck with all our belongings, and I went down to the DMV to get my very first driver's license so I could drive the thing. (OK, OK, she did the tricky driving.) Soon enough, we were back in the borough of Kings, living among the Polish people.

My negotiations with the Buttermilk Commissioner's Office were not easy. Not for me. Not for my family. The first game was also not easy for me. The crowd booed and they all put on fake glasses that look like the prescription ones I wear off-the-field. So cruel. I almost couldn't take it, but Commissioner Dave came over to me on the field and put his arm around my shoulder. Just like Pee Wee Reese did for Jackie Robinson. Also, I went spikes-first, hard, into second base later in the game and I felt way better.

So that's the real story of where I was last year and how I worked my way back onto the team. Well, mostly it's real.

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