Since I have always lived more in my mind than in the geographical location where I receive my mail, and since that mind has more often than not focused itself on baseball, it’s accurate to say I grew up not in any particular state or county but in the American League East. The Brewers were there, for the first few years a blurry, negligible presence, like a quiet, nondescript kid in the back of the class, the kind who never seemed to change from year to year (not that anyone was ever really looking, not even the teacher). Then gradually as the ’70s waned that kid hit a testosterone-heavy growth spurt and hair exploded from his face and he got suspended for bringing a switchblade to school and suspended again for knocking his vocational arts teacher unconscious and in general made you feel uneasy when you passed him in the high school parking lot as he leaned on his dented Camaro with his eyes hidden behind mirror shades and his hands on the Wrangler-bejeaned ass of his raspy-voiced world-weary girlfriend.
Ah, the Brewers of my puberty years. I didn’t realize I’d miss them when they followed that brief loud prime by receding into anonymity again, hair disappearing, muscles liquefying, bravado reduced to the occasional impotent beer-drunk rant against the many encroaching borders of life. I imagine as they first moved into this anticlimactic phase of their lives they resembled Bill Travers, still young, cleanshaven in accordance to employee rules, the only change from one year to the next the slight shift of facial expression from confused and questioning to confused and blurrily, sadly resigned.
Who even knows when they moved out of the American League East? One day you drove past their trailer where they’d spent the last several useless years, and the weeds spouting up through the engine of the dented Camaro up on blocks seemed even more overgrown than usual, no sign of the Brewers or the no longer scrawny but still world-weary woman or the couple’s several nondescript towheaded quietly crying kids.
I still live in the American League East for the most part, i.e., in my mind, but I get my mail in a region affiliated most heavily with the National League Central. Turns out this is where the Brewers moved, like a factory worker who decided when the factory relocated that instead of taking severance pay he’d move the whole wreck of his life to another state entirely and take his chances there. Nothing really changed. Year after year the Brewers punched the clock. If a baseball card were produced to personify each of these years, the series of cards would again resemble the 1975 and 1976 cards of Bill Travers, as if the meek unchanging anonymity of childhood was the inescapable fate of their life.
Last night I listened to the end of the Milwaukee Brewers game on the radio. The crowd was roaring. Their newest acquisition, a towering, charismatic beefster, got the win, one of their two great young sluggers, an obese vegetarian, drove in a run, and their other great young slugger, The Hebrew Hammer, blasted a three-run homer. In other words, for the first time in many years, I looked straight at the Brewers, and it turns out the Brewers seem to have a glimmer in their eye like they might just throw a bowling ball through a plate glass window or put a guy in a headlock in the parking lot of a Molly Hatchet concert or find that long-missing part for their dented Camaro. In other words, lock up your daughters. Here come the long lost Brewers.