h1

Dan Uggla

August 29, 2008
   
Untitled I Walk the (Mendoza) Line
(continued from Mark Corey)

Chapter Four
I.
You can’t walk the (Mendoza) line without knowing about slumps. I know about slumps. Hot streaks, not so much. But lately I’ve been experiencing a certain familiar variety of cheap luck that’s probably the closest I’ll ever come to a hot streak. It’s nothing to go crazy about. I’ve been finding things on the ground.

As you may recall, I had a similar phase a couple months ago that led me to the discovery on Golf Road of a scattering of shredded 2008 baseball cards, including the above fragment of Dan Uggla. This time I haven’t found any baseball cards, just 40 cents on an elevated train platform, then another dime later in the day on the carpet near the bathroom at my job, then on my walk home after work a beaten-up small white business card on the sidewalk that read, in its entirety, DR. REAM IT IN AND OUT.

You could certainly argue that the treasures I’ve found have been of little or no worth. What good is half of Dan Uggla? What good is 50 cents? What good is a small white business card for some entity known as DR. REAM IT IN AND OUT? Furthermore, in this disease-ridden age, what good could come of fingering soiled and tattered objects from sidewalks and roadsides and subway platforms, especially objects that have previously been fingered by someone who had a specific purpose for a small white business card that reads DR. REAM IT IN AND OUT?

It’s not much of a hot streak at all, but you can’t walk the (Mendoza) line without being grateful for whatever gifts you receive.

II.
Dan Uggla knows about slumps. Hot streaks, too. He started out slowly this year, his average at .167 on April 18. He got it up to .265 by the second-to-last day of April, then went cold again and dropped to .245 the day before I first wrote about finding him and his fellow massacre victims at a bus stop. Then he smacked two home runs the day, May 2, I shared the story of that find, and he hit ten more over the next three weeks while raising his batting average to .320. He began to taper off a bit after that, but still had excellent numbers at the midseason break, earning a well-deserved spot on the National League squad for the All Star Game.

III.
I don’t know what I’m going to do with my gifts. Maybe I’ll file my DR. REAM IT IN AND OUT card in my shoebox along with my baseball cards. That’s how I dealt with the dilemma of my headless Dan Uggla, though currently both the partial Dan Uggla and the DR. REAM IT IN AND OUT card are sitting on the desk in front of me, alongside a Mario Mendoza card that has been in the purgatory of desktop items for weeks, the longest-tenured current resident of that limbo, outlasting any utility bill or scribbled phone number or unsung baseball card that has shared that space.

As for the 50 cents, it has already been split into parts, the quarter going into an empty Pringles can that houses the laundry machine fund, and the dimes and nickel going into a porcelain cow with a slot in its back that will eventually, after years of paltry nourishment, be emptied and poured into the vig-demanding change redemption machine at the nearby CVS, where my wife and I will probably buy a case of cheap beer and some assorted necessary toiletries with the savings. I’ll drink the beers while watching or listening to or thinking about baseball, probably, but my mind will wander in many other likewise useless directions, too.

IV.
The 2008 All-Star Game provided me a chance to see Dan Uggla play for the first time. It was the worst I’ve ever seen anyone play. He made two gruesome errors in a row at one point, then added another a few innings later. Meanwhile, he also went hitless, stranding six runners on base while striking out three times and hitting into a double play. I had at first been dutifully rooting for the American League as a Red Sox fan, but as the game wore on I began rooting for the game to end quickly in any way possible so as to spare Dan Uggla further humiliation. He was playing so badly he reminded me of me.

V.
The Mario Mendoza card that has been sitting on my desk for weeks is from 1980, the last year in which I bought cards regularly. Because of my cards, I know where my attention was focused from 1975 through 1980. After that, I’m not so sure. In a certain sense I think my attention began to dim starting in 1981, my thirteenth year, when things began to move too fast.

Things were changing, becoming hard to understand. I went from Little League to Babe Ruth League and could no longer hit the pitching. The ball moved too fast. I was no better in the field. This was the most confusing development: I couldn’t catch the ball anymore, not even when tossing it around between innings. In one game in my second year of Babe Ruth, my last year of organized baseball, I was put at shortstop by our new coach, who’d been my coach my last two productive years of Little League. I made error after error after error. I felt like digging a hole and climbing in. Hit it to someone else, I prayed.

That was the year I took biology for the first time, the year I got my first D. The next year I took biology again, learned next to nothing once again, got a C. Near the end of that year I got drunk for the first time. The Cardboard Gods had receded from view, and so had everything else. We got drunk in the Little League dugouts, my biology-class cronies and I, getting blind, feeling good. I’d given up on baseball: playing it, worshipping it. The chain-link little league outfield fences looked close. I felt powerful sizing up the short distance, wasted, fantasizing about being able to go backward in time. The home runs I could hit!

VI.
You can’t go backward, only forward. After the All-Star Game, Dan Uggla had to trot back out there and man his position. He fell into a prolonged slump. Some connected the slump to his All-Star disaster. I have no insight on that, but it would seem to me that Uggla, the first player ever to be claimed in the human yard sale that is the Rule 5 draft and go on to be an All-Star (which he has been twice, in 2006 and 2008), would be able to shrug off adversity and keep plugging away, throwing his wedge-shaped no-necked body into the action, taking his ferocious all-or-nothing cuts. (Update: as pointed out in the comments below, many Rule 5 picks have become All-Stars; this fittingly atrocious error on my part was based on a misreading of the possibly unique distinction Uggla has of being an All-Star in the same season in which he was a Rule 5 draftee.) More likely he is just not quite the .320 hitter he briefly appeared to be in May, and things have just been evening out for him. This is the way, I guess, with hot streaks and slumps. Hot streaks end. But slumps end, too, eventually, if you keep showing up.

Dan Uggla is showing signs of coming out of it. He doubled in his most recent game after slugging a home run in the game before that. As for me, I’m sure my hot streak of finding objects of negligible interest on the ground will end soon. Nothing lasts, good or bad. The simple grounder will prove too much. I’ll long to be wasted, blind. But for now I’m just thankful. The garbage of this world seems weirdly alive.

(to be continued)

21 comments

  1. 1.  This was a spectacular entry.


  2. 2.  It’s great to see that the gifts of Golf Road keep on giving.

    I’m blown away at how angry people seemed to get at Dan Uggla afterwards, as if the enormity of his All-Star mishaps were his idea. Perhaps his name conjures something spiteful in their minds, I don’t know. It may also be that many of life’s distinctions are made in Little League. I spent most of my outfield years nervously chewing the strings of my useless glove. So I also see Uggla’s meltdown from that position. Don’t hit it to me, either.


  3. 3.  Lots of other Rule 5 draftees have gone on to be All-Stars, including Roberto Clemente and George Bell (off the top of my head). Not sure where that info came from…


  4. 4.  I myself recently changed my pennies, nickels, and dimes at the coinstar machine. It fetched me a solid $16.12 which was good for buying some shampoo, a pack of sweet Italian sausages, vanilla yogurt and a six pack of beer (Dos Equis). I was happy about that. It is the little things in life sometimes.


  5. 5.  You’re in the zone. You’re seeing the ball out of the pitcher’s hand. You’re squaring up nicely.

    Thank God for the internet.


  6. 6.  3 : Ah crap, you’re right. Big thanks for pointing that out. I made an update/correction in the body of the post.


  7. 7.  Indeed. Sometimes it isn’t luck, it’s skill.


  8. 8.  “The garbage of this world seems weirdly alive.”

    Damn…everywhere I go people are talking about politics…


  9. 9.  Terrific.

    Everyone knows the NL’s loss was all about Billy Wagner failing, not Uggla.

    The Coinstar machine I use offers vig-less distribution if you choose to receive your payment in the form of gift coupons. My change pays for iTunes.


  10. 10.  9 : Good to know there are vig-less options out there.


  11. 11.  Welcome. Key Food on McGuinness Blvd. in Brooklyn.


  12. 12.  After using Coinstar for a while, I’ve gone back to rolling change. I crack a beer at 5:30, turn on PTI (and then immediately turn it back off should Bob Ryan or Jay Mariotti appear on the screen) and bust out the coin rolls. It’s a pleasant decompression activity, and not unlike rearranging baseball cards.


  13. 13.  I personally think that if you keep looking, you’ll keep finding stuff on the ground. The luck will find you because you seek it.


  14. 14.  Some serious swings you’re taking in this post, Josh. Good stuff. It reminds me of Rawly Eastwick and Sparky Lyle in “The Bronx Zoo” finding things at random in the bullpens of the AL to give to one another. Of course that ended with Lyle ripping the phone off the wall to give to Eastwick, but you get the gist of what I’m saying. Even if it’s possible I don’t.


  15. 15.  4 I took the pile of change my friend had left behind after moving back to Australia, rolled it and went to the bank. Seems he’d accumulated $51 in his three years in Vancouver, so another friend and I took the money with us to the ball game and used it on 4 beers, 2 footlongs and a bag of peanuts.


  16. 16.  i don’t know; I thought A-Rod’s game against the Sox last week, when he went 0-5, grounded into two rally-killing double plays, made one error leading to a run and flubbed another play that wasn’t charged as an error, and finally struck out to end the game, was pretty pathetic.


  17. 17.  9 Does this make 2 years in a row that Wagner cost the NL, and possibly his own team, home-field advantage in the WS.


  18. 18.  You can’t go backward, only forward.

    Advice that is very simple, very obvious, but very hard to follow.


  19. 19.  16 : That was a doozy by Rodriguez, but I found it so enjoyable I have trouble considering it a “bad” game. I had to further my enjoyment by checking the New York tabloid websites the next day and they didn’t disappoint. My favorite headline plays on his name that day were “A-Bum” and “Double-Play-Rod.”

    18 : Yes, in practice, I can only go backward, never forward.


  20. Wow, 11: Key Food on McGuiness Blvd in Brooklyn. That is in my neighborhood, but I’ve never been there! At TD Bank (was Commerce Bank), you can get cash for change for free.


  21. I guess a moral of the story could be: You never know when a 33-game hitting streak will come along, even if you’re currently hitting .173.



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