Baseball, heartbreak & a letter from my imaginary friend, Greg Maddux.

A cultural memoir on baseball and life featuring a life lesson by future Hall of Famer,  Mr. Gregory Halfway to a Nap Maddux.

By Andrew Whorehall

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Wrigley,

Another midsummer classic approaches.  What do we know about baseball in 2010?  The lack of steroid use means achilles heal injuries and home run counts have simmered down?  Yes, drastically.  Coincidence?  Nah.  Albert Pujols’ last name is pronounced, Poo-holes?  Yes.  The Chicago Cubs still suck?  Yes.  No one still cares about the Chicago White Socks and the Milwaukee Drunks?  Yes and yes.

Nothing has really changed since I dumped my first love, baseball, in 2003.

For years I let that selfish b*tch come around every spring to apologize for the previous seasons disrespectful and lazy actions.  And every year till the spring of 2004, I accepted those apologies.  After awhile I realized she, Baseball, wasn’t the hooker- I was.  I loved being used, tossed around while wasting time and my emotions on a careless activity- baseball.  I allowed the heartbreak to happen with the passing of seasons, repeatedly.

All the years wasted supporting losers (Cubs), putting my faith in a flawed organization that only cared about taking more and more, dollar after dollar, tear after beer, year after year.  At the end of each season I told myself, no more, no more next year.  And every spring I took her back in.

Cemeteries

Cemeteries

The first taste of heartbreak was 1984.  The ’84 boys of summer got me good.  Every boy wanted to be Ryne Sandberg followed by Jody Davis, Keith Moreland, Bobby Dernier, Lee Smith, Rick Sutcliffe, Sarge Matthews,  Larry Bowa, Ron Cey… man, Leon Durham, so many characters on that team.

Game 5 against the Padres, a series-season ending loss after being up 2 games to 0, was my first taste of real Cubbie heartbreak.  I actually cried at my cousins house who made fun of me and my team after game 5 ended- over baseball.  I put all my energy into that team that year.  Coming home after school, summer break, back to school, trying to catch each game being played on the radio or special airings on Channel 39 was how I spent most of 1984.  I still remember Steve Trout’s 1-hitter… Ryno’s 2 homers against the Cards and Bruce Sutter, it was a Saturday afternoon in June.  I’ve never forgotten these moments.  They’ve stayed with me as much as they’ve scarred me.

Sickness.  Baseball became a sickness.  1984 put the burn in me, the first real taste of heartbreak.  To cry over something so meaningless like a sport was pretty new.  The only thing to compare it to now is the year, 1998.  Remember the feeling of losing ‘the one’ you thought was ‘the one’ but really wasn’t ‘the one?’  Yeah we all got those, difference is- I could’ve been married with children now.  What a horrible way to commit suicide.

No one really cared too much about the 1989 or 98 Cubs, flukes from the get go and 1984 stil stung after all those years.  Flash forward to 2003.  That was it, that team had the best chance since ’84’s team to go to the World Series for the first time since 1945— and blew it as only a Cub team could do in dramatic fashion.  That season slow-dripped and drained whatever leftover love I had reserved inside for baseball.  I knew when 2003 ended, my love for baseball was without a pulse.

Cemeteries

Cemeteries

It’s now 2010.  I hate baseball, most sports, more than ever.  There are better things to do with time.  Like writing about how much I loathe sports in general is one.  Putting faith in a team to win seems less rewarding than a decent bowel movement now a days.  Two major rewards came from my self-imposed emotional exile from baseball:

1) I can go to a game and cheer for everyone, including the fans.  I can boo everyone, both teams included, without owing allegiance to one team- it’s enjoyable and the snack food is wonderful.

2) # 2 is loaded.  Soon after the Cubs blew their chances with 5 outs to go to get to the World Series in 2003, I wrote future hall of fame pitcher & ex-Cub, Greg Maddux.  I wrote him for advice, seeking some pointers on how to possibly become a Cardinals fan after a lifetime of supporting lovable losers.

Years later, he finally wrote me back, see below.

Greg

Greg

Dear Andrew,

You asked me about curve balls, Americans, baseball, switching allegiance and litter. Good questions young lad.  Do you enjoy cigars?  Have one and put up your feet, it’s time to read and relax… your distaste for many, the Cubs, extends to the dugout and beyond, young lad.

I’ll get to curve balls in a second.  I fall asleep each night wondering when America’s children are going to litter.  If they’re alone or with friends— or if they decided those 24 cans of Icehouse were a good thing to enjoy on my property as I slept.  This concerns me more as each sunset passes.

In this case, a knuckleball is being called— wave it off and play smart.  The piss in the can was sure enough to knock one of them out!  I’m a veteran baseball player just like Nolan ‘No-Hit’ Ryan was but much slower, Andy.  I’m smarter and if I must add, endowed- obviously.  Do you know how many times I’ve adjusted myself between the loins knowing a national TV audience and 40 t housand people in the stands are watching?  Laughs on me America, here’s my hand to the nuts and adjust!

Meanwhile, I threw my fastball already and it breezed right by him.  Even the crowd missed it somehow;  drinking their 6th beer by the 5th inning.  That’s to be expected, they’re only there for the party anyway.  Blind suckers never catch a scuff if I need to throw one, they’re too drunk to care!  That’s baseball 101 for all veteran pitchers.  For you Andy?  That goes for life too.

Missing on a strike 3 it should have been an out.  The catcher missed it too and the batter ran to first base like luck would have it.  The catcher failed his part, regroup, calm down, wait for luck to hook up with karma cause that’s what baseball is really about.  Right?

Young ‘Drew, you asked me about curve balls, Americans, baseball and litter.  I seem to have run off course.

At any moment it can all fall apart. Take game 6 of the Cubs-Marlins playoff series, 2003, 8th inning, 5 outs away from somethin special you and the purists may have thought.  My old organization got it good when lady luck and cahcah karma hooked up for a historical f*ckfest!  Cub fans are foolish, to believe in baseball at all, this is just a business young lad.

Face it Andy, from the time I spent working for that organization to the time they let me wander off to become the hall of fame pitcher I became with the Atlanta Braves, I offer you what I know:   they’re quite the losers but not as lovable as they proclaim.  They’re self-defeated drunks at the end of the day.  It’s their life to waste, you are correct.  Go ahead and thank Moises, Steve, but thank Coach Dusty for being scientifically inadequate with pitchers and mathematically daring with pitch count.  That’s why you and others will always be 5 outs away in your hearts when remembering 2003.

Count on your intuition, Andy, always.

What goes around sure did spin like demon seed spirits on the hunt for the ghost and the egg on that night, game 6, 2003, Wrigley.  Hell yeah! I yelled at my TV screen in happiness the moment it all fell apart for the Wrigley Field Faithful- I NEVER YELL.  Want to know why ‘Drew?  I’m Greg, ‘Halfway to a Nap,’ Maddux, afterall.  Watching the Cub faithfuls on TV pee their pants to flood the field was better than all my Cy Youngs and the 1995 World Series ring combined!

Back to baseball and your letter;  he advanced to 2nd on a walk, I got lazy.  Pushing his luck, he foolishly tried to steal home from 2nd.  Stupid f*cker must’ve forgotten there’s rules when you get to the majors right out of high school.  Now me?  I’m just wondering what happened, there’s a job to finish by now.  Have to play smart but a ‘not quite caught-off-guard’ Umpire whispers, You’re an idiot. you’re out.

I’m scientifically half dead according to medicine;  step off the mound and call the coach.  Teams do have relief.

This

This

To answer your question about becoming an ex-patriot, it’s never too late to be a Cardinals fan, so yes, go for it.  Do as your grandfather advised wisely (and jokingly) on that 1984 bus ride to hell’s cemetery known as Wrigley Field;  One day you’ll get tired of supporting losers.  I did, 1945, right after coming home, game 7, another loss.  That time was it, losing to Detroit was it but at least we won the war.

On this bus you wrote me about there was 1 Cardinal fan, your grandfather, sporting that red mesh hat, and 41 Cub fans including you.   I’m sure you know by now, 26 years later, that his advice to give up on losers who love to lose was serious.  Who had the last laugh that day on the bus ride home?  The single Cardinal fan, That’s right, your grandfather was a genius.

Think about all the time & emotion spent that’s passed between 1984 and now.  Has anything else come along to defeat your boyhood dreams so tragically like the 1984 Cubs?  I doubt it, 2003 was just the stamp on the envelope you sent to me, correct?  They destroyed many kids’ dreams that year and created new Cardinals fans 26 years later.

Ernie,

Ernie,

You’ve earned it, Andy, trade in your allegiance to a winning business model if you’re going to waste your time at all on sports.  Face it, supporting losers like the Chicago Cubs is the same thing as supporting a drug dealer who doesn’t do.  Kick it, now.  Your grandfather obviously saw the light after Wold War 2 when he dumped the Cubs for winning pastures.  Make him proud wherever he’s at now and become a Cardinals fan immediately, life is short, start winning now, celebrate.  The last out will be your own loss anyway.

Hopefully your other questions have been summed up?  I doubt it.

Greg's

Greg's

All I can say Andy is that smart baseball is like life;  avoid knuckleballers, curveballers and learn how to throw back a fastball at the knees— and the head, accurately.  Even if you’re not a pitcher, be prepared like a pitcher, try to imagine your next pitch and where it’s going, the possible results.  Do such and winning results will trump chronic losing traits you’ve supported for so long by being a true American idiot— a Cubs fan.  Go Cardinals and good luck to you son.

Sincerely,

Greg Halfway to a Nap Maddux
Baseball, heartbreak & a letter from my imaginary friend, Greg Maddux.Andy Whorehall
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