Archive for the ‘George Brett’ Category

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George Brett

December 16, 2012

brett and roe

(This post originally appeared on The Classical.)

Evidence

Three: Rocky Roe

Beside the Donnie Moore card and the fragment of Mr. October is a 1994 George Brett card featuring an unusual photo (for the genre). The card’s perspective is from behind the plate, its subject, George Brett, following through on a swing that has resulted in the ball bounding toward second base. In the background, the scoreboard is clearly visible, providing plenty of clues to allow the moment to be identified.

In an uncertain world, it’s nice to come upon hard evidence, even if the evidence doesn’t matter. Maybe this is what’s behind my lifelong attraction to meaningless baseball occurrences. Despite the complete lack of societal or personal need for any illumination whatsoever about the photo shown in George Brett’s 1994 baseball card, I found myself researching details about the moment it occurred. The card lent itself well to this wasting of time. That’s probably part of the draw. To waste time. To squander. But sometimes it also feels good to know something, anything.

I found the game (an 8–7 Royals win), and the result of the play (groundout, Brett’s last at-bat of the day; on an earlier pitch in the at-bat, Brett had fouled a pitch off his foot, injuring it), and the identity of the pitcher (Jaime Navarro, now a coach with the Mariners) and catcher (Joe Kmak, now a high school math teacher). The umpire is Rocky Roe. Roe’s prominence in the card, no less than the last card of an inner circle Hall of Famer, is unusual if not unprecedented in terms of baseball card portraiture. Based on the composition of the shot, the card could easily be for Roe, not Brett. But what could possibly go on the back of a card for an umpire? And who would want such a card?

Roe got his start as a major league umpire in 1982, as a replacement for Lou DiMuro. DiMuro had ascended above the general anonymity of his profession a couple of times in his long career, once for being smashed into and injured by the gigantic Cliff Johnson, and once a few years earlier for his role in a famous World Series moment. He was the umpire behind the plate in Game 5 of the 1969 World Series. After ruling that a pitched ball had not hit Cleon Jones in the foot, he changed his ruling when presented with evidence: shoe polish on the ball. This keyed a Mets’ rally, and the Mets won the World Series, arguably the most improbable World Series win ever, evidence to many of miracles, of magic. Thirteen years later, after umpiring a game in Texas, DiMuro was hit and killed by a car. Rocky Roe got a call, filled a void.

Roe was the home plate umpire in Game 5 of the 1986 ALCS. As far as I can remember or recover through my compulsion to do pointless, time-consuming research, he did not make any controversial calls during the crucial moments of that game. One of his rulings during the fateful ninth inning, when it still seemed the Angels were going to surge into their first World Series, was that Boston batter Rich Gedman had been hit by a pitch thrown by Gary Lucas. It was not a disputed call.

Gary Lucas still feels guilty about the pitch. He was brought in specifically to face Gedman, lefty on lefty. After hitting the Boston catcher, Lucas gave way to Donnie Moore, who gave up a two-run home run to Dave Henderson. All these years later, Lucas still wonders about his role in Donnie Moore’s subsequent suicide. “If I do my job that night,” he told Los Angeles Times reporter Jerry Crowe in 2010, “perhaps he’s still with us.”

Guilt is one way to create a thread connecting one event to the next. Shouldering the world this way, as a burden, is an excruciating way to live, but the deep vein of guilt running through the collective human narrative suggests that we prefer suffering fictions to the alternative, a world without evidence, beyond our control.

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George Brett

May 2, 2011

Stephen Siller was a firefighter with Squad 1 in Park Slope in Brooklyn. A little less than a decade ago, he worked the late shift from the night of September 10 into the early morning of September 11. After work, he was on his way to play golf with his brothers. When he heard on his scanner that a plane had hit the Twin Towers, he went back to the firehouse to get his gear and drove toward Manhattan. The Battery Tunnel into Manhattan had already been shut down by then. He started running through the tunnel with all his gear. A fire truck from another company picked him up near the other side of the tunnel and dropped him off near what would soon enough become known as ground zero, so that he could try to join up with the firefighters in his squad, and that was the last anyone ever saw of him.

A Tunnel to Towers run that followed Siller’s footsteps was created to honor Siller’s memory. I ran in the first of the annual runs in 2002. They shut down the Battery Tunnel and firefighters lined the walls of the tunnel, standing at attention. I got a t-shirt from the run that I don’t wear much, not wanting to wear it out, but yesterday for whatever reason I decided to put it on, so I happened to be wearing it last night when I watched President Obama declare “justice has been done.”   

This morning I have been trying to write but I can’t manage a whole lot. One reason, maybe the biggest, that I write about baseball cards is because it’s the one part of life that I have at least a slight grasp of, at least in the very literal sense that I can hold a card in my hands. Everything else is more or less beyond me.

I was nine when this 1977 George Brett card came out. Stephen Siller was eleven. The year before, he had become an orphan. He was raised after that by his older siblings. It’s easy enough to imagine him looking to baseball like many of us did when we were kids, for something solid, something to rely on, something bathed in sunlight and fun. Siller grew up playing baseball and cheering for the Mets, but it seems that he may have reserved his most passionate enthusiasm for the All-Star pictured here. On the website for the Tunnel to Towers foundation, there are some notes about Stephen Siller’s life, and one note in particular brought him to life for me. If I’d ever been lucky to meet this guy, I would have liked him: 

  • Drove straight to Kansas City for George Brett’s last game, drove straight back, went to work
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George Brett

April 26, 2010

Does George Brett remember that he won his first-round match in the 1975 Bazooka/Joe Garagiola Big League Bubble Gum Blowing Championship? So much came after that. Batting titles, kisses from Morganna, division titles, the flirtation with .400, pennants, hemorrhoids, MVP awards, pine tar, a World Series title, 3,000 hits, enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. How are you going to remember every victory? Still, it would be a shame if all the drama and glory in his career obliterated any recollection by Brett of when his bubble bested that of his first-round competitor, White Sox infielder Lee Richard. I can see it now. Richard’s bubble springs a small hole, its growth stalling, while Brett’s bubble continues to expand. He’s a young man. I imagine him finding it hard not to laugh.

***

I find myself nostalgic for moments in my own life that are inconsequential enough to seem to be bordering on vanishing. Driving home from work years ago, when I first moved to Chicago. The radio is on, sports radio babble. It’s an instance of being neither here nor there, but I remember that feeling, being in a new place, driving, not feeling particularly bad or good, the sky growing dark, and I want to hold onto it, and I don’t know why. Years before that, I took a short trip with my friend Charles to Montreal. We were walking around, and I saw a guy sail past on a bicycle. I wanted to be that guy, some guy who lived in Montreal and rode around on his bicycle. There are these moments that seem like nothing but in retrospect seem like you were close to the edge of the veil.

***

Brett was one of three future Hall of Famers to participate in the one and only major league bubble-blowing tournament. (A fourth standout, Bert Blyleven, seems to have a chance to push the number of enshrined bubble-blowers to four.) The other two Cooperstown-bound players, Johnny Bench and Gary Carter, bowed out in the first round of the tournament, to Jerry Johnson and Johnny Oates, respectively. But Brett notched the win over Lee Richard to advance into a three-man second-round match with Blyleven and Mickey Scott, which Scott won, making the final six in the three-man semifinal matches free of guys whom the casual fan would be able, just a few years later, to remember.

***

When I was a kid, my conception of my future adulthood was very vague, with one exception. Generally, I imagined that adulthood meant finally being free of the kinds of worries that tied my stomach in knots. I assumed that adult me would have it all figured out. I’d have a house and kids, too, because that’s what adults had. That’s about as specific as it got. But I did imagine one specific eventuality: some day, I would make a killing by selling my baseball cards. All my stars would be worth millions. Even the nobodies would be somebody because I’d held on to them.

***

There were some good players involved in the bubble-blowing tournament (besides the Hall of Famers: Bill Madlock had been on the all-star team that season, and John Stearns, Doug DeCinces, and Rick Rhoden would be all-stars later in their careers), but the majority of players able to rack up bubble-blowing wins in the tournament came from the ranks of the relative unknown. It’s odd to think that George Brett was at that time a member of the lesser-known of the bubble-gum competitors. But he was once merely a guy with just one card in his likeness, a young man staring out into the unknown.

***

I wouldn’t want to sell my cards now, but if I did, I’d probably only get enough to buy a suitcase of Miller Lite to haul back to my apartment. This George Brett rookie card would theoretically be my most valuable card, I would guess, though I don’t know that much about the relative worth of various cards. But as you can probably tell, the card has been handled a lot, all its corners dinged up and parts of the card worn down to flecks of white. It’s also off-center, as a lot of 1975 cards were. But I like it. It’s mine, worthless to anyone else but me. It seems to be before anything has happened. Brett has an erect batting stance that he would soon jettison to become the foremost warrior in the crouching cult of Lau. His shoulders are even bunched a little so that he looks like an eight-year-old worried about being drilled by a pitch. But besides that suggestion of anxiety, there is no urgency in the moment. Off in the distance, some guy is walking around holding a windbreaker in his hands. Who is that guy? Where is he going? Can I go with him?

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George Brett, 1978

January 16, 2009
 Untitled 

Reality #1

It is fucking cold here in Chicago, Illinois. Twelve degrees below zero as of this moment. I haven’t been outside since yesterday, when I put on two pairs of socks, long underwear, my thickest pair of jeans, three shirts and a sweater, a parka, hiking boots, gloves, two wool hats, and a scarf the size of a blanket and walked a few blocks to slide the DVD of Pineapple Express through the return slot at the video store. The digital bank clock by the video store reported that it was minus five. The walk there wasn’t so bad, but on the way back I was walking against a stiff wind, which I swore at through my unraveling scarf-blanket as the few inches of exposed skin on my face became increasingly painful.

But worse, really, is the oppressive monotony of being inside all the time, especially in an apartment with very poor insulation. I’m in the apartment’s office right now, which is above the unheated stairwell. The wood floor feels like chilled metal, and cold air pushes through the two windows. I’m wearing a wool hat, long underwear, flannel pants, two pairs of socks, slippers, two shirts, a sweatshirt, a sweater, and a gortex vest, and I’m still chilly, especially in my hands, which I have to rub and blow on pretty constantly, like Bob Cratchit. The heat comes on every couple minutes, producing images of cartoon dollar bills flying from my wallet. Our heating bills are going to put us into the poor house, which is probably even more poorly insulated. Or worse, we’ll be out on the street. My god.

I’m glad I’ve got a roof over my head during times like these.

Fantasy #1

But I wish I was in a place as warm and sunny as the one on this 1978 baseball card of George Brett. Of course, it’s hard to know for sure that it’s warm wherever Brett was when the picture was snapped, but it is inarguably sunny, and he is without a hat and doesn’t seem to be cringing against a stiff wind or wearing anything thicker than the thin blue polyester Royals uniform designed for the brutally hot Kansas City summers. I guess you could argue that some manner of wind is blowing Brett’s tousled golden locks, but I really think it must be more of a gentle spring breeze than a stiff chilly gust.

So that’s where I want to be. Bathed in sunlight. The sounds of the game echoing across the warm green fields. I think what I’d do is lean back and close my eyes and angle my face right up at the sun and just listen.

Reality #2

The worst cold snap I experienced occurred in Vermont in January 2000, the year I lived in a cabin with no electricity. I went to visit my aunt and uncle near the beginning of the cold snap, and couldn’t leave for a couple days during the worst of it because my car refused to start. Finally it coughed to life one morning when the temperature rose from instantly crippling cold to merely really, really cold, and I drove back to my cabin, first stopping at a K-Mart to buy thick opaque sheets of plastic to put up over my windows and another wool hat to add to the bulky collection on my head. When I got back to the cabin I discovered that everything I owned had frozen solid, including things that I didn’t know could freeze, such as toothpaste. I got a sputtering fire going in the little wood stove, using the shitty green wood that the owner of the cabin, a tense hippie with a reputation for fucking people over, had sold me, then I inexpertly plastered the plastic all over the windows using duct tape. I spent the remainder of the winter huddled over the wood stove, practically hugging it, because it never generated enough heat to warm up the whole cabin. I couldn’t really see anything through the plastic, but I had a vague idea of whether it was night or day, and I could tell by the wind rattling the birches and moaning through pines that it was cold out there, the kind of cold that would seem almost predatory if it weren’t so completely indifferent.

Fantasy #2

I was ostensibly working as a teacher during that era, but by January 2000 my course load as an adjunct professor had dissolved to next to nothing, my only task being the sporadic tutoring in essay writing of a Vietnam vet with severe post-traumatic stress disorder who eventually stopped showing up for our meetings. But I still went onto campus every couple of days to the office I shared with several other adjuncts so that I could check the progress of my fantasy basketball team. It gave at least the tiniest shred of a shape to a life that had become almost utterly shapeless.

I guess my life has more of a shape now, but I still start every day with a check of my fantasy team or teams. Right now all I’ve got going is a basketball squad in second-place in a thirteen-team league, but I think I did see some article just this morning on my way to check on my roster about B.J. Upton’s prospective slot in upcoming fantasy baseball drafts. I was excited by this, because this meant it is almost time for me to put together a pre-draft ranking list, which always proves to be an enjoyable way to kill some time.

I’m not really sure why I find such things enjoyable. I do know that ever since I was a boy I’ve tried to dream my way out of my life and into a fantasy life revolving around sports, especially baseball. In 1978, the year I first held this sun-drenched George Brett card in my hand, I was well into a childhood consumed with imaginary baseball-related games around the house, games in which I would become someone else, or actually whole worlds of someone elses. I’d be every player on both teams and the crowd and the announcers, too. At the moment of victory I’d pitch to my knees in the back yard holding a whiffle ball bat or tennis ball or whatever else I’d been using and imagine I was the victorious long-suffering star, finally basking in the warm light of winning, and I’d pretend to cry.

Reality #3

But the coldest I’ve ever been was not here in Chicago or in Vermont but one night while I was drifting randomly around Europe the year after I finished college. I had been in Essen, Germany, lazing around a youth hostel while I waited for the Grateful Dead to arrive in town for a concert. Unfortunately, the day before the concert I was told I had to leave the hostel because it had been reserved months before to house several teams of acrobatic teenagers from all around the globe coming to Essen to compete in an international youth trampolining contest. Evicted, I took a train to Cologne, arriving in the late afternoon. Both of the youth hostels I tried in Cologne were full. I guess I could have shelled out for a room in a hotel, but I don’t think I even considered that. I didn’t have much money, and more importantly I was obsessed with the idea that my money equaled time, as in the longer I could keep my little roll of bills alive the longer I could delay my return to the utter blank of my post-college life in America. So I went down to a park along the river with my backpack. Though it was November I didn’t think it was that cold, at least while the sun was still above the old-world steeple-marked skyline. I think I even imagined it might be peaceful. A night out under the stars! But as the night went on it got colder and colder. Pretty soon into it I had emptied my backpack of every last article of clothing I owned and wrapped it around my shivering body. I figured if I could fall asleep I could make the night go by faster, but I was never able to even so much as fall into a shallow ditch of unconsciousness for more than a couple minutes, at which point I’d wake up trembling and have to get up and do jumping jacks and wind-sprints. I also whooped and hollered, as if by using my voice I could somehow push back against a world that kept telling me I had to move.

Fantasy #3

If I had lived a certain kind of life maybe by now I would have enough money in the bank to get the hell out of town when it gets really fucking cold. Perhaps I could even go to Fantasy Camp. This is where middle-aged dudes pay a bundle to exit the winter and play baseball in the warm sun against each other and against some of the major leaguers who showed up on the baseball cards and in the fantasies of the campers back when they were basking in the summertime glow of youth.

I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m mocking such a thing, because, really, if I had money how better could I spend it than on such a thing as this? That’s the thing with these baseball cards I write about day in and day out. When I was a boy I fantasized about being a 24-year-old A.L. ALL STAR, a red, white, and blue shield on my card, the sun lighting my tousled golden locks, and now that I’m a middle-aged guy I fantasize about being a 24-year-old A.L. ALL STAR, a red, white, and blue shield on my card, the sun lighting my tousled golden locks. These cards are the unchanging fantasy at the center of the unraveling spiral of my years.

So, yeah, more power to the Fantasy Camps, which feed into perhaps the single most enduring fantasy of American men that doesn’t involve a cheap funk soundtrack and grateful moaning. I don’t know exactly when the first Fantasy Camp opened, but I feel like I first started hearing about them around the time I was gripping onto my little wood stove for dear life during the year in the cabin.

But in fact the first Fantasy Camp occurred several years earlier than that, in the sunny year of 1978, under the visionary leadership of none other than the late great Mr. Roarke. Turns out George Brett was on hand, along with fellow Cardboard Gods Fred Lynn, Tommy Lasorda, and Steve Garvey. Gary “Radar” Burghoff was there, too, on one of his last stops on his way out of the public eye and into the oblivion beyond Fantasy Island guests spots. As Mr. Roarke explains, Burghoff’s character is a guy named Richard Delaney who wants to be a baseball superstar. (Fittingly, at least from where I’m sitting, Richard Delaney has come to the warm, sun-drenched island of fantasies from that undoubtedly cold-as-fuck city of reality: Chicago, Illinois.) To get a peek at Delaney’s fantasy, which is really all our fantasies, or even just to take a break from the cold and see some sunshine and warmth and to hear Ricardo Montalban demonstrate his greatness by the way he recites the words “baseball superstar,” click here (thanks to Dodger Thoughts for the link).

***

(Love versus Hate update: George Brett’s back-of-the-card “Play Ball” result has been added to the ongoing contest.)

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George Brett

May 28, 2007
 

I Need You

Chapter Three

I.
Who is the greatest third baseman in baseball history?

Here are the candidates, as I see it:

Pie Traynor

You don’t hear his name mentioned in the third baseman debate anymore, but when I was a kid in the 1970s Pie Traynor was the one most frequently mentioned in the baseball history books I was constantly checking out of the library. According to Bill James, “the idea that Traynor was the greatest third baseman of all time originated in the mid-1950s, about 20 years after Traynor retired.” I wonder how much James himself had to do with Traynor falling out of that top spot. In James’ Historical Abstract, Traynor is ranked 15th, below several guys who have, unlike Traynor, not made the Hall of Fame (such as Al Rosen, Ken Boyer, Sal Bando, Graig Nettles, and Darrell Evans). And in general, of course, James has led the revolution in statistical analysis that has revealed the once almighty hitting statistic, batting average, to be a frequently misleading representation of a player’s offensive worth. Traynor’s .320 lifetime average, which seemed at one time to cast him as the Rogers Hornsby of the hot corner, has gradually been downgraded in light of the facts that A) it came in an era when batting averages were at their historical peak (most famously illustrated by the 1930 season, when the entire National League hit over .300), and B) it was not augmented by a particularly high secondary average, meaning that he neither drew many walks nor hit for a lot of power. Still, part of the fun of imagining a team of all-time greats is envisioning a bunch of grizzled hard-bitten old-timers kind of emerge from the mist to retake the field on more time with their spikes sharp to gash guys with. In that respect, it’s hard to vote against a guy named Pie Traynor.

Eddie Mathews

“I’ve only known three or four perfect swings in my time. This lad has one of them.” – Ty Cobb on Eddie Mathews

The implication on the BR Bullpen profile of Pie Traynor is that Eddie Mathews is the player who bumped Traynor out of the top spot: “Pie Traynor was widely considered the top third baseman in the history of baseball prior to the time when Eddie Mathews became a star.” If this was the case, I feel that I would have seen it reflected in all the books I took out of the library in the 1970s, but I don’t ever remember any book ranking Mathews as the top third baseman. And when Traynor finally did lose his top spot, which I would guess occurred sometime in the late 1970s, it wasn’t to Mathews but to the next man down on this list. So Mathews, at least as far as I know, never really got a chance to be the top guy at the hot corner, and that’s too bad, because from what I’ve read he was a decent fielder and was without question one of the greatest power hitters ever at any position. When thinking about devising the greatest lineup of all-time, it’s certainly tempting to fill the third baseman’s spot with a left-handed slugger who for the bulk of his career, until his body started to give out, seemed the best bet among all active players (including Mathews’ teammate, a guy named Hank Aaron) to break Babe Ruth’s lifetime home run record. Maybe Aaron’s gradual ascendancy to superstardom helped cast Mathews into the shadows. Maybe he also lacked a moment when the whole baseball world centered around a display of his prodigious skills at their peak. He played in two World Series early in his career and was a pinch-hitter in another one late in his last season, with Detroit, but only managed one home run and ten hits in 50 World Series at bats. I mention this only by way of a possible explanation of his being somewhat overlooked in the greatest third baseman debate. Maybe what he needed was to have taken over a World Series, as the next guy on this list once did.

Brooks Robinson 

Robinson persisted on some Greatest Team of All-Time lists even after his lifetime numbers began to look a little meager in comparison to two third baseman who came into the majors just as he was winding up his long career with the Orioles. That was probably due in large part to the general discrimination against the present moment in such list-making. When baseball fans dream up these lists, part of the fun is the dreaming, and a guy who is still out there grounding into double plays and offering up drab cliches to the beat reporters just does not encourage dreaming like some legendary figure from the past. And as the years went by Robinson’s unmatched prowess as a fielder, highlighted by his dominant, electrifying play in the 1970 World Series, seemed to find especially fertile soil in the dreaming minds of nostalgic baseball fans. Though Robinson’s fine offensive numbers don’t match up to those of the other top choices for the all-time third baseman, I think some list-makers still want to rank him first because A) they value fielding above offense at that position and B) there’s just something unutterably cool about the kind of dazzling fielding plays Robinson could make. I actually can only vouch for myself on that second point, for though I personally don’t have Robinson pencilled in as my all-time third baseman, I do bring the same thinking to my choice for shortstop: you can have Honus or Ripken or A[pril]-Rod, I’m taking the Wizard of Oz.

Judy Johnson and Ray Dandridge

Speaking of my all-time team . . . I have one player from the Negro Leagues among the starters on my 25-man roster (Satchel Paige is in the starting rotation, but I’m leaning toward Lefty Grove as my opening day starter): Josh Gibson, catcher. As for third base, Judy Johnson and Ray Dandridge were for many years (up until 2006, when Jud Wilson joined them) the only two Negro League third basemen in the Hall of Fame. I honestly don’t know that much about them, but it appears that though they were both stellar players (Johnson a high-batting-average man from the Pie Traynor era and Dandridge considered one of the best fielders ever to play the position) they seem not to have been as dominant as Gibson was at his position in his day, nor as dominant as the two third basemen below were during their day. Still, as the best third basemen in Negro League history, they certainly deserve to be in the conversation about the best third basemen ever.

Mike Schmidt  and George Brett

Over the last few years, one of the above men seems to have gained an edge over the other in most people’s minds as the best third baseman ever. It’s hard to argue with this general consensus. After all, leading the charge to crown Mike Schmidt the king of all third sackers is Bill James himself, who as a devoted Kansas City Royals fan probably spent as much time studying the play of Schmidt’s chief rival, George Brett, as anyone. Other observers have followed James’ lead, citing Schmidt’s superior power (548 lifetime home runs to Brett’s 317), on-base percentage (.380 to Brett’s .369), fielding (ten Gold Glove awards to Brett’s one), and number of MVP awards (three to Brett’s one). In his excellent book Clearing the Bases, Allen Berra provides ample evidence to back up his suggestion that one could make a case for Mike Schmidt as not only the best in history at his position, but the best player at any position, ever.

Who am I to argue with these experts? Well, nobody, obviously, except a guy who has spent, or I guess wasted might be a more accurate term, many, many hours daydreaming about such things. As the sands in the hourglass of life have trickled away I’ve imagined again and again choosing up sides against some other all-time team daydreamer. And when it comes time to pick a third baseman I’ve always imagined selecting the guy I’d most want to have up at bat for my team in a big spot with the game on the line. I’m not saying it’s the right call, but whenever I’ve imagined being the GM of baseball eternity I’ve always chosen George Brett to be my third baseman. 

II.
Brett, it should be noted, has fantastic lifetime numbers, better than anyone on the above list save for Schmidt. He could hit for average, for power; he was a good fielder and an excellent baserunner. There’s really nothing he couldn’t do. Unfortunately for my argument, all of the above could be said of Schmidt, except perhaps regarding his ability to produce high numbers in the batting average statistic, which, as mentioned above, has been shown to be of increasingly negligible worth on its own.

But there is one key lifetime stat in which George Brett thoroughly bested Mike Schmidt (by a two to one ratio):

Times kissed by Morganna the Kissing Bandit.

Morganna the Kissing Bandit was a significant part of what made my childhood years the greatest and most ridiculous era in the history of the planet. She was this giant-breasted blonde who vaulted the fence and ran across the field in the middle of games, her increasingly famous chest cha-chonging wildly, to plant kisses on the faces of star players such as Pete Rose, Nolan Ryan, and Freddy Lynn. George Brett, as far as I can figure, was the only man to have his work interrupted twice by the affectionate interloper, one of these occasions serving as Morganna’s most ballyhooed feat: invading the 1979 All-Star game (which Brett seemed to take in stride, his unflappable nature surely another mark in his favor in the debate of the greatest third basemen).

Morganna had enormous breasts. I know I’ve already made this point but it bears repeating. Her measurements were 60-23-39. 60! Now let me also remind you that her heyday in the late 1970s and early 1980s coincided exactly with my transformation from a talkative baseball-crazy Ogilvie-esque child to a sullen, inward, reedy-voiced contender for World’s Most Prolific Onanist. I’m not saying she featured heavily in my fantasies. Considering the fact that I could name 50 other women off the top of my head ranking ahead of her on my “most thought-about” list (Cheryl Tiegs in the see-through fishnet bathing suit at the top of that list, always and forever, Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman, the oft-mentioned WKRP ladies, 75% of the girls in my grade, etc.), I actually doubt that I ever fantasized about, you know, getting Morganna into one of my town’s magical shirtlessness-inspiring gravel pits that I mentioned earlier in this multipart puberty-alogue. And yet, in a certain way she epitomized a key element of my entire unsavory fantasy life: the idea that somehow all these women would run right at me and smother me with their giant-breasted affections without my having to do anything. The ache of puberty for me was the feeling that I existed at an impossible remove from any deshirting, and my fantasies were as much about imagining the erasure of this infinite gap as they were about the brief guilt-laced physical euphoria they helped bring about. The image of Morganna galloping across a baseball field, of all places, to benevolently suffocate a player with her exploding sexuality served me as a sturdy concrete foundation for a whole mansion of impossible fantasies of being swept away by a tidal wave of voluptuous sex-crazed femininity.

The passivity imbedded in these fantasies has often characterized my fantasy life, if not my life itself. For example, when not up in my bedroom imagining some steamy gravel pit scenario I was often playing basketball by myself in the driveway, fantasizing that for some reason Dr. J would be riding by in a limousine, and fascinated by my jump shot form would command his driver to stop, and I would then be whisked away from rural Vermont to NBA stardom. I wish I could say I’ve left these fantasies of passivity and undeserved deliverance far in the past, but the fact is I still sit around eating chocolate chip cookies and wishing a Publisher of Great Books would kick down my door and tell me that, as it turns out, all my creepy egomaniacal and self-lacerating notebook scribblings comprise in their entirity a work of undying and highly sellable genius.

Get up, young man, this enthusiastic invader will say, you are necessary.

Get up, get up! You are needed!

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