Archive for the ‘Detroit Tigers’ Category

h1

Tom Veryzer

April 13, 2010

Tom Veryzer was, according to a story that I can’t seem to lift from the haze of the apocryphal, a measuring stick of inconsequentiality. Have you heard this story? It’s of the Bird, Mark Fidrych, who died too soon a year ago today (the Huffington Post has more of my Bird-mourning today). In the story, Fidrych showed up early to Tiger Stadium for a game he was due to pitch during his wondrous one and only healthy season of 1976. Fidrych was amazed by the crowds already present outside the stadium, waiting to get in. According to the story, someone, either Tom Veryzer or some other buddy of the wide-eyed rookie sensation, slapped Fidrych on the back and said, “They’re not here to see Tom Veryzer.”

I searched the Internet for this story and found it only on a couple of blog posts, and neither post listed a source for the story. I revisited a video feature of Fidrych in the early 1980s on youtube, thinking maybe he mentioned it there, but it didn’t turn up. I read a long 1986 Sports Illustrated article by the great sportswriter Gary Smith, who depicts Fidrych as somewhat adrift and rueful about being cast out so abruptly of the wonderful dream that was 1976, but the story wasn’t in that article either. So, in essence, at least as of this moment, Tom Veryzer exists in my mind as a footnote used to define inconsequentiality in a conversational exchange that may not have ever happened.

But while the throng in Detroit may not have come to the ballpark to see a light-hitting shortstop who would soon be shipped to Cleveland to make room for Alan Trammell, I come to these cards to see Tom Veryzer. I come to see every player that ever arrived in my hands as a kid and seemed, by their very presence in the cardboard, to be something better and more lasting than the flimsy uncertainties of everyday life. And while a certain sunny and powerful glow comes off the cards of superstars, the cards of guys like Tom Veryzer exert a quieter but somehow stronger pull on me. You have to lean close to hear what the cards of guys like Tom Veryzer are saying, and that’s when they grab you and don’t let go. To say Tom Veryzer is inconsequential is to say that this life is inconsequential.

One man who would never have made either claim, about life or Tom Veryzer, was Mark Fidrych. At the pinnacle of his fame and on-field dominance, he humbly gave all credit to his defense, which was anchored that year by Tom Veryzer: “My teammates . . . are the ones who count,” Fidrych said in a 1976 Sporting News article. “They’re the ones who are making me. I don’t make them. If I was making myself, I’d be striking out everybody. If they don’t play well behind me, I’m not even here. I can’t believe what these guys are doing for me. I feel so good. I don’t know how to say thanks.”

Years later, long after anyone had come to the park to see Mark Fidrych, the Bird, who could have easily descended into a deep gap of bitterness over how quickly it all ended, continued to be grateful for all he’d seen and to all who’d once thronged to the park to see him and cheer his name.

“Please,” he asked Gary Smith in 1986, “just end this story by saying thank you to the people. Thank you to our society.”

***

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

h1

Dan Meyer

February 9, 2010

If the photo on this 1976 card is any guide, I think Dan Meyer may have missed his calling. Replace the bat in his hand with, say, an umbrella, replace the Tigers-related regalia with a cozy-looking turtleneck sweater and a corduroy cap, and airbrush the background from a hazy baseball scene to a misty beach or some leafy trees, slap the photo on an album cover with a title like “Dan Meyer: Feelin’ You Feel” or “Dan Meyer: To Be Your Friend Is What I Wanna Be” or “Dan Meyer: Hold Me Tight Today” and you could stroll up the top 100 on the 1976 charts like Hitler rolling into Czechoslovakia. Years later, instead of being the fodder for some middle-aged creep writing about his childhood baseball cards, Dan Meyer could be featured in a brief clip on an oddly mesmerizing late night infomercial, hosted by two frighteningly mellow members of Air Supply and a large pitcher of never-touched, presumably toxic lemonade, for a several-CD set of Soft Rock love songs. Oh Dan Meyer, had you chosen the path suggested by the photo on this card, insomniacs pushing fifty would now be happening upon the infomercial as they flipped for some safe television haven and would be so moved by the shred of one of your long-forgotten sugary ditties and the memory of it playing on an AM station on the transistor radio as virginity was released beneath the bleachers in the summer of 1976 that installment-based purchase of the set of CDs would be seriously contemplated before being dismissed as a significant and unretractable first step toward doddering senility. 

Alas, Dan Meyer stuck with baseball. It’s not as if he did so without cause. He had begun his pro career with a bang, at 19, tearing up the Appalachian League in 1972 with a .396 average. Within two years, he had reached the majors, swatting three home runs in 13 games during a September 1974 call-up. He became a regular the following year, splitting time between left field and first base on a putrid 102-loss Tigers squad. Meyer’s playing time decreased the following year, as the Tigers showed some signs of life on the wings of All-Star Game starters Mark Fidrych, Ron LeFlore, and Rusty Staub. At the conclusion of the season, the Tigers, along with every other American League team, had to decide which players they wanted to protect from possible selection in the November 1976 expansion draft that would channel bodies onto the rosters of the two brand new AL franchises, the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners.

In this 1976 card, cuddly would-be AM radio mainstay Dan Meyer is of course unaware that he is about to be deemed expendable. As the photo was probably taken sometime in 1975, he wouldn’t have even been able to see the faint writing on the wall that came with the Tigers selecting USC superstar Steve Kemp with the first overall pick of the 1976 amateur draft in January of 1976. Kemp joined a growing stable of young left-handed sluggers that also included Jason Thompson and Ben Oglivie and that made Dan Meyer, who must have seemed a promising part of the Tigers future back in his pro debut season of 1972, into excess baggage. The Tigers left him unprotected and the Mariners snatched him up with the ninth pick of the expansion draft.

Meyer seems to have epitomized the Mariners’ drafting strategy, which produced a plodding first-year team that rode its ability to hit the ball over the fence with some frequency to a finish that left them atop not only their fellow expansionists the Blue Jays in wins but also above the recently mighty Oakland A’s.

(Is it a good sign or a bad sign that I know the 1977 placement in the standings of the three lousiest American League teams the year I was nine years old without looking it up?)

Dan Meyer hit 22 homers and tied for the Mariner lead in RBI that first season (he and Leroy Stanton both had 90). That proved to be the peak of his career, though he did top the 20 home run mark one more time, in 1979, and stuck around in the majors for twelve seasons in all. I don’t know what else to say about him. He didn’t strike out much.

Meanwhile, the Mariners languished for years after the expansion draft, while their fellow newcomers, the Blue Jays, absorbed the blow of a few horrendous seasons while building for the future, which arrived in the mid-1980s, when the team became a contender for the next decade.

So really there are three teams that can be explored through Dan Meyer. The Tigers got rid of him and began a rise to the top of the standings that crested with a World Series championship in 1984. The Blue Jays neglected to take him and generally shied away from reaching for unwanted sluggers and gradually built from within until becoming an AL East powerhouse. And the Mariners took him and scuffled along without a discernable team-building philosophy for many years, and though they’ve had their moments they still have as many World Series appearances today as they had the day that Dan Meyer became a Mariner.

It could have been so different, if  not for the Mariners then at least for Dan Meyer. There could have been a Dan Meyer song stuck in your head right now, driving you slowly and softly insane. 

h1

Cecil Fielder

January 21, 2010

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of short stories by Raymond Carver. I always circle back around to his stuff, usually when I’m feeling like I can barely get out of bed, and he helps me get out of bed. This latest Carver jag grew out of my reading of a new biography of Carver by Carol Sklenicka. I learned a lot of new stuff about Carver in the bio, including that as a boy he was fat. Maybe that information helped me notice, after all these times reading his stories, that many of them include descriptions of eating, and that these descriptions, in the often harrowing context of a given Carver story, turn the act of eating into something sacramental. Carver’s fictional world is rife with uncertainty, disconnection, loneliness, loss. The concrete act of eating, in relief against these immeasurable hungers, takes on a power that borders on holiness. It’s something to hold onto, an affirmation. One of his most famous stories, “A Small, Good Thing,” ends with a baker offering food to parents whose son has died. Another of his well-known stories, and one that helped launch his career, is simply called “Fat” and centers on a waitress trying and failing and continuing to try to get at what it felt like to serve a man who was enormously obese.

***

“A big fat guy who hit home runs for a few years.” – Bill James’ entry, in its entirety, on Cecil Fielder in James’ Historical Baseball Abstract

“He is fat . . . but that is not the whole story.” – Raymond Carver, “Fat”

***

In “Fat,” there is a muted element of wonder in the waitress’ description of the prodigious amount of food she kept bringing to her customer. Reading it, I was reminded of a book I’d read as a child.

I don’t know if it’s still around, but RIF, which stood for “reading is fundamental,” was a program that visited schools and allowed each kid to choose a book to bring home. I always went for a sports book, something like Basketball’s Big Men or Baseball’s Best Catchers. One of my choices was a dual biography of Nolan Ryan and Reggie Jackson (it had no back cover but two front covers, one featuring Ryan in an Angels uniform and one showing Reggie in his Oakland garb), and in the Reggie bio there was a description of what he ate for breakfast every day. It was like several meals all rolled into one. Eggs and pancakes and sausage and bacon; orange juice and milk and coffee; potatoes and grits and oatmeal and big hunks of bread slathered with butter; and steak, always a big thick slab of steak. I think there might have even been a milkshake. But it was the huge steak that always floored me. For breakfast! I imagined Reggie hunkering down every morning and shoveling it in, and in this vision I was both an amazed watcher of the strapping slugger and the slugger himself, feeding every last alley of hunger inside. Reggie seemed superhuman in many ways, not least because of his ability to devour so much food and turn it into power.

***

Eating was a big deal for me back then. I loved Saturdays for the day-long ritual of eating it offered. I started out with several bowls of cereal, each spiked with heaping spoonfulls of sugar and backed with glasses of milk and buttered toast, all of this downed in front of cartoons: Bugs, Scooby-Doo, Goober and the Ghost Chasers, Fat Albert, Thundarr the Barbarian. At noon I’d switch to lunch and eat Spaghettios, which I’d chase with a tower of Chips Ahoy and more milk as the television programming edged into sports. All these years later, I’m still coming to terms with that first ritualized response of mine to empty time. Now whenever Saturday rolls around I feel that same pull—television to numb and food to provide the illusion of fullness. It’s chiefly a quirk of genetics (along with the limiting of Saturdays to once a week and my eccentric, outdated love of pedestrianism) that I’m not the size of a sofa.

***

If you had to choose a last meal, what would it be? I think this question came up back on Baseball Toaster, though I can’t recall where. I know Scott Long sometimes delved into food on his blog, The Juice, so maybe it was there, but I’m not sure. But I think I joined into the conversation and said I’d choose a Fenway Frank, the implication being that I’d be in Fenway watching the Red Sox as I ate it. I understand now that the hot dogs there are nothing particularly special, but when I was a kid I honestly thought they were the greatest-tasting food I’d ever eaten. I was being fed on every level. I was surrounded by my family, sitting next to my brother, wolfing down a hot dog, talking about baseball statistics, and watching the real-live versions of the Cardboard Gods, right there below me. It was worship.

***

Back then I dreamed of being a season-ticket holder at Fenway, but instead my connection to that place has always remained one that retains a kind of mystical distance. I return when I can. One of my most memorable adult returns came in the early 1990s, when my brother and I traveled up from New York to Boston to stay with our aunt and uncle and catch a couple games in a series against Detroit. Early in one of the games, Roger Clemens gave up back-to-back homers and then drilled the next batter, John Shelby, who charged the mound. Before Shelby could get to the ace, the late, great John Marzano, a backup catcher getting a rare start, made a flying tackle of the charging Tiger. Both benches emptied. My brother and I had never seen a brawl in person before, and this was a pretty good one, even though it didn’t take that long for it to calm down to the usual shoving and holding waltz where everyone on one team partners up with someone of roughly similar size and weight on the other team. This partnering was actually the best part of the brawl, because it offered everyone in attendance a joyous testimonial to the singular sensation that was Cecil Fielder. Since there was no one of equal size on the Red Sox’ roster (or on anyone’s roster), Mo Vaughn and Carlos Quintana, themselves both hefty specimens, combined to form the equivalent of Cecil Fielder, each holding one of his leg-sized arms and looking hilariously tiny as they did so, as if Cecil could send them sprawling with a chuckle and a shrug if he felt like it.

I loved Cecil Fielder that day, and every day of his career thereafter, save for when I had to avert my eyes when he donned pinstripes for a couple years near the end. He was a big fat guy who hit home runs. What’s not to love? And now that the uncertainty of the world has revealed itself to be every bit a part of that one thing I had always held in stark opposition to uncertainty—baseball statistics—I love Cecil Fielder even more. Who knows what the numbers in the single-season home run record list mean anymore? Since Cecil Fielder became, in 1990, the first player since George Foster in 1977 to hit over 50 home runs in a season, the once-rare feat has been achieved at just over a once-a-season rate. When Fielder did it, it seemed to me a thing of wonder, as if it hadn’t been done in a lifetime. I had been a kid when Foster had done it, and by 1990 I was, at least biologically, an adult. Since things are different when you’re an adult, Fielder topping 50 taters didn’t shine as brightly on my life as Foster’s feat, but it was amazing nonetheless. The devaluation of the mark since then has shrunken the significance it might otherwise have, but to me it remains something special. From the big, fat man: a small, good thing. 

h1

Jack Morris

October 5, 2009

Jack Morris 79

If your team’s season came down to one game, and you could choose your starter from a list including every pitcher who’s ever played for the team, who gets the ball? If that option were open to the respective fans of the Minnesota Twins and the Detroit Tigers, tomorrow’s one-game playoff to decide the A.L. Central might just feature Jack Morris facing off against Jack Morris.

This is Jack Morris’ first solo card after being featured the year before along with Tim Jones and others in a “rookie pitchers” card. When I got it, I doubt I had any idea that I was looking at the man who would win more games than anyone else in the coming decade. There’s nothing particularly promising about the card, neither in the somewhat chinless grimace of the thin figure on the front nor in the so-so minor league stats on the back. The speed of his fastball is mentioned (94 MPH), but I doubt it impressed me, since by then I knew such a speed was not on the level of the top flamethrowers in the game, such as Nolan Ryan and Goose Gossage. Two other pitches besides a fastball are mentioned as the Topps copywriter strains to fill out the blank space on the card, but neither of the pitches are the split-finger sinker that Morris became known for. I’d like to think that the grip he’s hiding in the photo on the front of the card is for that revolutionary pitch, and since Morris hadn’t mastered it quite yet he was shy about showing it to the world.

Once he had his pitching repertoire in order, the St. Paul, MN, native settled in for over a decade near the top of list of major leaguer aces. Beyond being the winningest pitcher through the 1980s, he also built a reputation as a guy who could thrive in the pressure of a big game. He pitched well in the 1984 playoffs, and kept his team in the game with 8 innings of 2-run ball in a do-or-die game 161 of the 1987 season (the Tigers won that game in 12 innings, and a Frank Tanana 1-0 shutout the next day in the final game of the year clinched the division).

That actually seems to be the extent of his big game heroics through the 1980s. Morris’ start in Game 2 of the 1987 A.L. Championship Series proved an unhappy homecoming to the Twin Cities, and he got hammered in the Metrodome for 6 runs in 8 innings. The following year, the Tigers finished just one game out of first, but that’s because the division winners, the Boston Red Sox, kept stumbling farther and farther back toward the pack as they neared their eventual playoff annihilation at the hands of the Oakland A’s. Morris did win his last three starts that year, so he deserves credit for that, but the Tigers were all but eliminated from the race during those starts.

However, his status as a big game pitcher became bulletproof in 1991, when he won two ALCS games for his new team, the Twins, won the first game of the World Series, pitched well enough to win in the fourth game (Twins reliever Mark Guthrie took the loss), and got the ball again for the seventh game, back home in the Metrodome.

What he did in that game is for many the cornerstone of the argument that Jack Morris should be in the Hall of Fame. Or maybe not the cornerstone (the win-based “Best Pitcher of the 1980s” claim probably has that distinction), but the shiny, fancy part at the very top of the argument, the thing you’d see first, gleaming in the sun, if you were miles away. And if one game could ever get a guy into the Hall of Fame, it would indeed be that game, a 10-inning 1-0 shutout win, probably the most amazing pitching performance that I’ve ever seen, all things considered.

Both the Tigers and the Twins have more accomplished pitchers in their history to choose from, if they could choose one pitcher to toe the rubber in a do-or-die game (Johan Santana, Bert Blyleven, and Jim Kaat come to mind—not to mention Walter Johnson, if the precursor to the Twins, the Senators, are included in the discussion, and, judging from the voting on this site for the all-time Tigers team, either Hal Newhouser or Mickey Lolich would be the top Tiger), but if you ascribe to the belief that there are certain unique demands on an athlete during the white-knuckle pressure of an elimination game, and that some people are better able to handle, and even thrive on, those demands, then it’s hard to argue with the idea of handing Jack Morris the ball.

Would this be a foolish decision? Is there such a thing, in other words, as clutch pitching? Mathematically, such notions as clutch pitching and clutch hitting have proven to be difficult, if not impossible, to support. But for me it’s hard to discount my own athletic experiences: in crucial moments, it was (and still is, even in a game of miniature golf) harder to concentrate on the game, harder to turn off the shrill narration of trepidation and doubt in my head. And it’s hard to discount my own eyes, which have seen Jack Morris engage in a ten-inning seventh-game staring match with oblivion and win.

h1

Mark Fidrych, 1978

April 16, 2009

1978-tigers-back

I don’t understand this life. For example, I don’t understand my baseball card collection. For example, I don’t understand why I have a Tigers team card from 1978 with the box next to Mark Fidrych’s name filled in without having a 1978 Mark Fidrych card in my collection.

There hadn’t been a Mark Fidrych card in 1976, the year he suddenly appeared at the center of the baseball world as if from thin air. I must have spent the summer of 1977 hoping for a Mark Fidrych card, but I know I never got one because my 1977 Tigers team card has a blank check box next to his name. The check box on this 1978 Tigers team card suggests that in 1978 I finally got my first Mark Fidrych card. I don’t understand why I no longer have this card.

***

I doubt I’m the only one who has spent the last couple days reading stories about Mark Fidrych, whose funeral will be held tomorrow. (According to MLB.com there will be a visitation today at a church in his hometown; please see the MLB.com story for information on the charities the family is encouraging people to give to in lieu of flowers.) One recurring element of the stories I’ve been reading is that you can’t hang on to anything. Mark Fidrych said it best himself, in a great 2001 Sports Illustrated article by Steve Rushin: “It all goes by so fast.”

When he uttered those words, he was talking not about his fame or his brilliant pitching skills, but about how he was trying to spend as much time with his wife and daughter as possible. He was talking about life. That’s the other element that keeps coming up in the stories about Mark Fidrych. Even though it’s impossible to hang onto anything forever, Mark Fidrych hung on tight as long as he could to the things that mattered. Read the rest of this entry ?

h1

Mark Fidrych, 1954-2009

April 13, 2009

1978-tigers

This 1978 card and another team card from 1977 are the last possible traces in my incomplete collection of the all-time single season leader in joy. I believe the Bird is in the back row, second from right. I’ve talked about him before on this site, but I don’t feel as if I’ve approached the singular effect he had on my childhood. To me, he was everything good from the 1970s wrapped up into one inimitable package. He’s the Pet Rock, mood rings, Morganna the Kissing Bandit, CB radio, Sasquatch. He’s Saturday morning cartoons and spaghettios and good-natured fun-loving longhaired yahoos piling into a customized van to go to the Foghat concert. He’s the magic of Doug Henning and the bright-colored fantasies of HR Puffnstuff and the glossy neon of Dynamite magazine. He’s Alfred E. Neuman. He’s that moment when you’re a kid and you start laughing about something and you don’t think you’ll ever be able to stop. He’s the moment when you realize you’re no longer a kid. I never knew him but to smile at him on TV and in magazines and, of course, baseball cards, but when I heard he was found dead today, underneath a pickup truck he was apparently trying to fix, I couldn’t breathe. For a couple seconds I couldn’t fucking breathe.

h1

Aurelio Rodriguez

February 26, 2009

aurelio-rodriguez-77The first man named Aurelio to make it to the major leagues was Aurelio Monteagudo, a partial, inconsequential presence in the margins of seven nonconsecutive major league seasons starting in 1963. A relief pitcher, Aurelio Monteagudo twice faced the second Aurelio to make the major leagues, Aurelio Rodriguez. The first time the two Aurelios faced off, in 1970, Aurelio Monteagudo struck out Aurelio Rodriguez while mopping up in a loss. The second time the two Aurelios faced off, in 1973, Aurelio Monteagudo struck out Aurelio Rodriguez to record the first out of the 11th inning in a 3-3 tie. He then surrendered two singles and a wild pitch, allowing the winning run to score. That was Aurelio Monteagudo’s final season in the majors. Some years later, in 1990, just a few days shy of his 47th birthday, Aurelio Monteagudo was killed in a car accident in Mexico.

***

Tuesday was one of those days. The bus I need to get to work was either delayed or had its schedule recession-slashed, so I had to stand waiting long enough to wonder if this is really the life I am supposed to be living. I had my earphones jammed into my brain, and through them came the voice of Howard Stern and the gang playing a new game that involved asking basic informational questions (“How many legs does a snake have?”; “What animal do kittens come from?”) to two developmentally disabled regulars on the show. I forget what the game was called. Which Retard Is Smarter, maybe. When the bus finally came I lumbered right onto it, foregoing any of the customary looking from side to side to see if I might be able to allow a pregnant woman or octogenarian to board before me. I did this because I was sick of waiting, sick of the whole world, and because the bus that showed was one of the two models used on my line, and it was the model apparently designed by people who would not know how many legs a snake has. It makes terrible use of the interior space of the bus, somehow offering just a few places to sit at all, and making those few spaces into a miserable game of commuter Twister, everyone on top of one another and sitting at angles that make the ride jerky and unpleasant, as if the designer of the bus wanted every rider to have the change shaken out of their pockets. The only two decent seats are way in the back row, on the extreme left and right. I wanted one of those seats and I got one, then I watched the rest of the suckers play that daily game of silent, joyless musical chairs.

***

The third and last Aurelio to play major league baseball, Aurelio Lopez, began his career in 1974, the year after the first Aurelio pitched his last game. Like the first Aurelio, Aurelio Lopez was a relief pitcher. He never faced the second Aurelio, Aurelio Rodriguez, but for one season, 1979, the second and third Aurelios played together on the Detroit Tigers. It would be the last full season on the up and coming Tigers for the second Aurelio, but the third Aurelio would stick around long enough to play a key bullpen role for the 1984 champions, logging a sparkling 10-1 win-loss record. Aurelio Lopez would pitch for eleven seasons in the majors in all. At the time of his final release in 1987 by the Astros, Aurelio Lopez had a .633 career winning percentage, 93 career saves, and a World Championship ring. In 1992, one day after his 44th birthday, Aurelio Lopez was killed in a car accident in Mexico.

***

After the bus had filled up, I saw a transit card tumble from the parka of a guy sitting several feet forward in the bus. By that point I was hemmed in by a thicket of knees to my left and right. I looked around to see if anyone else noticed the fallen card. It seemed that no one else had, or else they didn’t care. I weighed my options. I’d have to fight through human limbs to get to the guy and tell him. Also, he had his own earphones stuffed into his brain, so I’d have to yell at him or shake him to rouse him out of his commuter stupor, which would startle him and otherwise interrupt the general numb haze we were all collaborating on to forget that this was the life we’d fallen into. On one hand, it was the right thing to do, but on the other hand, fuck it. I went back and forth, trying to decide, and the moment passed. Now if I got up and tugged on the guy’s sleeve it would be weird. Hey, a few minutes ago your card fell out, and then I thought about it for quite a while, and now here I am. So fuck it, I said. I wondered if I was going pay for the whole thing, karmically. I began considering that maybe the guy who lost his card was an asshole. Maybe I’m doing the right thing, I tried to convince myself, by doing absolutely nothing at all. A half hour later, when I got off at my stop, I walked right past the guy and his trampled card.

***

Sometimes I think about life, its brevity, and how I’m wasting it. Someone hit me the ball! But why would they? I’m certainly not ready, like Aurelio Rodriguez is at the top of this page in his 1977 card, ready and willing to seize on anything hit to him and to do his part.

Aurelio Rodriguez was the second of the three Aurelios to play in the major leagues, but he was the Aurelio with the longest career, which lasted from 1969 (when his first baseball card appeared featuring not his own picture on the front but the picture of the team bat boy) until 1983. He won a Gold Glove at third base in 1976 and had, perhaps more significantly in the greater scope of things, a skill that qualified as one of those singular talents that fellow players continue to talk about with one another long after they hang up their spikes. He had a cannon for an arm. He is remembered for this. And for being a major league Aurelio. One night in 2002, he was neither in his native Mexico nor driving a car. Maybe he avoided these things when he could, aware of what had happened to the other Aurelios. He was walking around Detroit, his major league town. A car struck and killed him.

***

Are there such things as curses? I don’t really think so, but then again yesterday I couldn’t help but think that I was being punished. Now, a few days later, thinking about the three Aurelios, I see how small-minded I was being. Any day aboveground is a bonus. But I couldn’t really see things like that at the time. All day long I was beset with exactly the kinds of things that make me want to punch myself in the head. As some readers of these words may recall, I have had an ongoing punching-self-in-head problem. I get frustrated, usually with technological glitches that I, an idiot, feel powerless to solve, and the frustration and feelings of powerlessness build into an anger that I long to unleash on myself with a quick stiff jab to the side of my skull. Yesterday, as it happened, I did not punch myself in the head, for just a few days earlier, after a long stretch of restraining myself from that abuse, I had rung my own bell pretty good. That recent punching was enough to get me to take that second before punching and try to talk myself down. So I didn’t punch myself in the head, but neither did I rid myself of the clenched frustration of the day, the anger. That’s one thing about a good punch in the head. It really is the only thing to make me no longer want to punch myself in the head. When I left my cubicle for the day my computer was frozen and my fists were clenched and my earphones were feeding the rest of the radio game show I’d recorded before work–retards getting things wrong–straight into my brain.