To get ready for the 2012 baseball season, we’re looking at each team by way of a short story or one-act play. Why? Why the fuck not. Up next: the Midwestern cesspool of the National League Central.
1. St. Louis Cardinals (Predicted Finish: 85-77)
The Best Fans in Baseball
EXT. BUSCH STADIUM – DAY
Two ST. LOUIS CARDINALS FANS sit in their seats, taking in an afternoon game against the Cubs and enjoying their BL Nums.
CARDINALS FAN #1
Great day for a ballgame, old pal.
CARDINALS FAN #2
It sure is. Especially to be out here among the very best fans in all of baseball, of which we are most certainly a part.
CARDINALS FAN #1
Indeed. How do you like our team this year?
I don’t like ’em. I LOVE ’em. What a squad. So much to cheer for. So many great guys.
Yep. The Big Puma. Carp. Wainwright. Motte. Love ’em all.
What do you think about Beltran?
I don’t know. He better show us something soon.
Love Schumaker though. And Freese. Linebrink. Good guys.
How do you feel about Furcal?
I know, right? Love Tyler Greene, though. And Kyle McClellan. Can’t forget about Mattie Holliday.
CARDINALS FAN #2
Not so sure about Jaime Garcia though. Doesn’t pronounce his name right.
Right. At least that damn traitor Pujols is out of our hair this year. Don’t have to pretend to root for him anymore. Sure do miss Jimmy Edmonds though.
Jimbo! Hey, what happened, why is everyone cheering? We didn’t miss a home run, did we?
I don’t think so, but if the best fans in baseball are cheering, we better cheer too. Probably a well-executed hustle play!
Or a bunt. Oh gosh, do I love bunts.
I never trusted Pujols.
He never bunted.
Cincinnati Reds (83-79)
- Somewhere I Belong/Linkin Park
- Crash Into Me/Dave Matthews Band
- Lick the Gaps Between My Cornrows (original)
- Holding On to Heaven/Nickelback
- Gotta Get Me Some/Nickelback
- Give Some Love (to the Pitcher) (original)
- Drops of Jupiter/Train
- To Be With You/Mr. Big
- Shine/Collective Soul
- Cincinnati Blows (Compared to Boston) (original)
- Far Behind/Candlebox
- Arms Wide Open/Creed
- Tops Out at 87 (My Fastball) (original)
Milwaukee Brewers (82-80)
Do you guys want to hear a story about Bob Uecker or a story about Francisco Rodriguez? Guys? Fine. I’ll decide.
Bob Uecker takes a leak in the small bathroom right outside the broadcast booth. He enjoys the relief, hurriedly washes his hands and gets back to his seat before the next inning begins.
“Welcome back. We move to the top of the 5th, with the Brewers holding a slim 3-2 lead. Up next for the Astros is Jose Altuve, batting .233 now after his strikeout in his first at bat. Greinke gets ready to deal.”
That’s when he hears it…in his head…again. He thought getting up to take a piss and clear his head would help, would get rid of it, but escape is obviously not going to be that easy. It’s clear as a bell, though he knows no one hears it but him:
“Streaks on the China, never been there before…”
“And a ball high brings the count to 1-1 on Altuve. What do you think of this kid, partner?”
Uecker lobs the ball to his color guy to give himself a moment to breathe, to think, to try to meditate.
“When you drop kick your jacket as you came through the door…”
Hewett, you motherfucker, Uecker thinks. Even now, more than a decade in the grave, the fat fuck still haunts him. Still comes to him in dreams, making him feel like shit about himself. Bragging on being in the Royal Air Force, on performing with the greats, on his classical training. Reminding him that even though Uecker’s name sold the pilot, Hewitt was Mr. Belvedere.
He was always big-timing Uecker, insisting on the biggest dressing room, referring to himself as the star of the show, calling Uecker an ex-jock at every opportunity.
“And that’s an easy pop fly that Gamel shouldn’t have any problems with. One away.”
“According to our new arrival…”
Hewett never let him see what he was actually writing in that goddamn diary. Never let him share his eclairs. Never invited him to his home for dinner. Always talking about how true acting only took place “on the boards,” and how a simpleton like Uecker couldn’t understand that. When Belvedere got cancelled, Hewitt told Uecker it was because people had stopped caring about him, and couldn’t take his amateurish performance anymore. How Uekcer hadn’t practiced, hadn’t run lines, hadn’t left it all out on the pitch, so to speak.
And then the bastard went and died before they could really have it out.
“The pitcher, Wandy Rodriguez, takes a strike, 1-2.”
“Life is more than mere survival…”
Get out of my head, you limey fuck, goddamnit. But he’ll never leave Uecker’s head, and Ueck knows it. The ballpark used to provide respite, and he’d focus on calling the games, giving him temporary but heavenly peace. Now, that sanctuary is gone, and Hewett is everywhere at all times. The haunting is breaking him, minute by minute, until there’s nothing left. Uecker feels like sanity slipping away. He tried to think of something else, of Major League, of his commercials, of his family. They all fade from view.
“And…uh…that’s out number….two.”
It’s all he can see, all he can hear, all he can feel. That wretched ghost inside of him stirring up a storm in his ego, causing tumult to his digestion. Hewett. It’s always been Hewett. He just wants to leave this world behind and the torment with it. He wants that peace again.
“We just might live the good life yet.”
Pittsburgh Pirates (78-84)
Andrew McCutchen sits at a conference, flanked by his lawyer and his agent. Across the table sit Pirates owner Robert Nutting, his lawyers, and Pirates GM Neil Huntington. McCutchen scans the final page of the six-year, $51.5 million contact extension on the table before him. He looks at his lawyer. His lawyer nods. He looks at his agent. His agent nods. McCutchen picks up the fancy pen he’s been given for the occasion. (Is it for calligraphy or something? Jesus.) Nutting beams. Huntington smirks.
Then, just as he’s about to see, two mirages appear on the opposite side of the table, one of them sitting next to Nutting, and one sitting next to Huntington. Everyone else at the table seems to freeze.
“What the fuck? Who the fuck are you? What just happened?” says McCutchen.
“We have frozen time so that we can have a conversation. Don’t worry, they can’t see us or hear us. This is just between the three of us,” says one of the mirages.
“I am here to make sure you don’t sign that contract. My name is Jason Kendall,” he continues.
“And I’m here to sure as shit make sure you sign it. My name is Willie Stargell,” says the other mirage.
“Listen to me, Andrew,” says Kendall. “I played here for 10 seasons. A fucking decade. And don’t get fooled because I got crappy when I got old — they were good seasons. Seven out of ten years with above-average OPS+. While playing fucking catcher. I was loyal. I played hard every night. I kept my mouth shut. And what happened? Our winning percentage was .147* during those ten seasons.”
“Don’t listen to him,” interrupts Stargell. This is a great city and a great franchise. More importantly, these are great fans. When you win here, ain’t nothing else like that. Haven’t you heard about the ’79 Pirates? We Are Family!”
“That was more than 30 years ago,” says Kendall. “This is a moribund franchise, and if you sign that extension you’re guaranteeing yourself years of misery. Years of being the lone All-Star representative on a terrible team. Years of being out of contention by May 1.”
“Bullshit,” says Stargell. “A championship core has to start somewhere, and maybe it starts right here, right now, with you signing that little piece of paper in front of you. If not you, who? If not now, when?”
“It shouldn’t be your personal responsibility to life this team and this city on your shoulders.”
“There’s no finer cocaine in all the world than right here in Pittsburgh, PA.”
“Look at your fucking pitching staff. Run, man. Run for the hills. Rip that paper up, and go sign with the Angels or the Phillies, FCYG.”
“What the fuck is FCYG?” asks Stargell.
“First chance you get.”
“Sign it. The team’s getting better. The fans are coming out to the park — and isn’t it a beautiful park?”
“Don’t sign it. They’re fucking losers.”
McCutchen stares at his hand clutching the pen. When he looks back up, the mirages are gone, and the men in suits are all watching him expectantly.
*Mirages may not be very good at math.
Chicago Cubs (69-93)
They say that no one has ever died in Disneyworld.
Well, not as well-known but equally true, no one has ever been date-raped in Wrigley Field.
At Disneyworld, they say that if someone suffers a heart attack, calamitous injury, or other life-threatening situation, Disney staff have been instructed to get that person off the grounds first, even before administering medical treatment. There is allegedly an entire system of underground tunnels designed solely to get dying people off Disney property before they expire. As long as they’re across the border before the heart stops beating, the perfect record is intact.
So it is with Wrigley Field. When staff members see a date rape about to take place, they immediately usher the couple outside the Friendly Confines. As long as they’re out on Waveland or Clark before penetration occurs, Wrigley’s pristine reputation remains immaculate. So rest assured, baseball fans, when you see a lecherous frat boy lifting a drunk girl over his shoulder, or one bro distracting a girl while another slips a roofie in her Old Style, that date rape will not occur within the structure of Wrigley Field. Simply. Will. Not. Happen.
The Chicago Cubs stake their brand on it.
Houston Astros (61-101)
Carlos Lee rode alone into the desert wind. The riding was hard, over rocky terrain, but Lee knew he must ride on. Three horses had escaped through a hole in a fence caused by a late-season storm, and Lee couldn’t just let them go. So he tracked them, even as the wind blew sand over their trails. Even as his water supply ran low. Even as his own horse silently begged him for rest. Even as the sun scorched his skin and dried his lips, he rode on in this Godless land.
They called him El Caballo, and other riders gave him his space. Lee carefully cultivated his reputation with a few careful shots, a few well-measured punches, and one nightmarish fire. For these troubles, he now had the privilege of riding alone, mostly free from the fear of an ambush, or a bullet to the back of the head from a cluster of rocks.
But Lee could not let his guard down, could not ride at the pace he desired, because nothing came easy in such a lawless place.
He felt the weight of his gun on his hip, his knife in his boot, the seat pouring from under the brim of his cap. He knew he was a hefty load for his horse to carry, but beasts of burden are intended to carry such weight. We all have our purpose, Lee thought, and this horse’s is to help me.
Lee knew if he didn’t find the other horses within three days, he would run out of water, with no source or stream for miles. He knew that he, his horse, and the horses he chased, would all perish. But El Caballo rode on, directly into that devilish sun, even as it blinded him, even as his horse whimpered with pain.
He rode past rattlesnakes, past carcasses, past mysterious tracks that he couldn’t place. He saw smoke from campfires on the Southern horizon. He watched as all recognizable terrain disappeared behind him.
He rode past the point that any sane man could bear, or would choose to continue. He rode until the chase became an issue of pride instead of one of logic. He rode to his certain doom, not to mention the innocent animal beneath him. But he rode on.