What If You
Threw a Party
by Dave Moyer
Three years ago, our family made a commitment to purchase two tickets to a Milwaukee Brewers 20-game season ticket package. With all of the busyness of our daily lives that comes with having five children, going to these games is really one of the only things we actually do. So 2007’s not quite close enough finish was tough to swallow. A year and a lot of $7.50 beers later, it was almost, what do you call it—déjà vu all over again?
Despite manager Ned Yost’s stubbornness, illogic, and condescension, the Brewers managed a terrific August and built a sizable lead in the Wild Card. But not so fast . . .
Were we Brewer fans all so engulfed in hope that we failed to see that throughout the first half of the season, we had a second baseman who couldn’t turn double plays, an ace who may or may not make any given start, a closer we bought who couldn’t get anybody out, and players who frequently did things like swing at first pitch sliders in the dirt with one out and the bases loaded? Perhaps, but something about these guys made them eminently likable anyway, so we kept hope alive. They were our summer companions. Imperfect as we, ourselves, are, they became our daily compass. We rose and fell with them, as they cushioned us from a country at war, a hurricane, and this small mess called the failure of ourfinancial institutions.
It was maddening at times. Not this year, not again, we begged no one in particular.
Enter C.C. Sabathia in June. Did his arrival get our hopes up even greater so that the crash would be even harder?
And why was it all so important after all? It is just a game, right? What’s the big deal about not having been to the World Series in 26 years. Wisconsinites didn’t need to build the new Miller Park (what do the state politicians think now, I wonder)—heck we don’t even need a baseball team at the state’s Big Ten university, do we? Not so fast. Turns out over 3,000,000 people did care about baseball that particular summer. Turns out more people actually cared about the Brewers than the Packers on the last Sunday of September, 2008—the 28th to be exact.
But still, that begs the question, “Why should this mean so much?” Surely, we are an imbalanced lot, we kids that don’t want to grow up. Though what exactly is so great about growing up, no one has yet quite explained to me.
It meant something when the Brewers’ owner and management said, we’re going for it, and brought in Mr. Sabathia. It meant something when the Brewers’ management bucked conventional wisdom and opted to change managers with two weeks left in the season. It meant something when Ryan Braun hurt his back and Prince Fielder said, “It’s okay boys, climb on mine for a while.” It meant something when Braun hit a two-out grand slam in the bottom of the 10th inning on September 25th to beat the Pirates 5-1. It meant something when Sabathia took the hill on that Sunday against the Cubs for the third time in nine days, and the crowd acknowledged his talent, guts, and professionalism with a standing ovation. It meant something that day when savvy veteran Craig Counsell drew a bases loaded walk in the 7th inning to tie the game. It meant something an inning later when Braun again hit the ball out, a two-run shot to give the Brewers a 3-1 lead, which would hold and secure the wild card. Sabathia finished 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA in a Brewers uniform the summer of 2008.
Yes it did mean something.
And not to be forgotten, it meant something when Corey Hart, who was mired in what a kind person might term a slump, made a terrific diving catch in right field earlier in the game. It is easy to forget those things sometimes.
It did mean something that 45,299 people were losing what was left of their minds that Sunday. Normally, at a ball game, I pretty much watch the game without a whole lot of hoopla. But on Sunday, September 28, 2009, not so. I was yelling and screaming at the top of my lungs, emitting primal, therapeutic screams that I may have inherited from cavemen for all I know. For a couple hours, all angst and disappointment was released amidst the warm community of elated, equally crazed people doing the same thing. This was our shared normalcy. Many thanks, Brewers, for not quitting on us. Well you may not put it in those terms, a lot of us do need you sometimes more than you may realize.
Why it meant something, near as I can figure, goes something like this. When I was a kid, I traipsed around with my dad at an old ballpark in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, that is since torn down. A dad who ran a ball team, and without whom there would be no new ball park in Sheboygan now or high school baseball either. And I dreamed dreams on glorious summer afternoons with a bunch of other dreamers who likewise didn’t think being a kid was all so bad.
And we also took trips to County Stadium to see the Brewers, including some of the games in the playoffs and World Series of 1982. Then, Robin, Paulie, Gumby, Simba--now C.C., Prince, and Ryan. All of these people are tied together in our shared collective baseball memory—for some of us, our very existence. Saturday night, the eve of that great game, I called my dad for no apparent reason and found out that he, too, was going to the game. And so my 10-year old and I were able to tailgate some with him before the game. Three generations of us were in the ballpark together to experience the shared psychosis. Someday my 10-year old will have to grow up. But when he does, he will have this memory, and be able to tell it and keep it alive. He saw the most significant Brewers game in 26 years with his dad, and his grandpa also there.
This means something. And when my son finally does grow up, it will be okay with me if he is still mostly a little kid.
Copyright 2010, Dave Moyer. © This work is protected under the U.S. copyright laws. It may not be reproduced, reprinted, reused, or altered without the expressed written permission of the author.
Dave Moyer is the author of the recently released novel Life and Life Only. In the past year, his short stories have appeared in Puffin Circus, Monkey Puzzle , PANK. Moyer received his Doctorate from Northern Illinois University and his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, where he majored in English. A regular reviewer for the New York Journal of Books, Moyer, a former college baseball coach, currently resides in Crystal Lake, Illinois.