The Magic is back.  Yesterday was Major League Baseball’s Opening Day. For a baseball fan Opening Day starts a new year. It’s history, hope, loyalty, and fulfillment. Magic.

It was a full Opening Day with games on ESPN beginning at noon and ending 10 hours later. It was a telethon. In addition the local club – the Brewers – was on against a tough division rival. I planned to enjoy all of it. 

The ESPN lineup included the Tigers v Yankees; Padres v Cardinals; Giants and Dodgers. The Brewers would be visiting the Reds. 

I was born in Jersey and a Yankees fan.  The game was a yawner. But the Pinstripes had to start hot or the hated Red Sox would clinch by Memorial Day.

The Cards-Pads game was starting. The Red Birds have Superman, Carpenter, and what? Still, they would whack San Diego.

But it was all about the Brewers. The Crew was starting the season playing the Reds. Cincinnati had owned the Brewers in the Queen City but many experts thought the two teams would battle for the division and a playoff spot. Sure the Reds looked good on paper, and had last year to show it. But they had won more than 40 games in the 7th or later. Certainly they wouldn’t be able to do that two years in a row. 

The Brewers were ready. They came out hitting, scoring 3 runs in the first inning, including back-to-back homers by the first two hitters. And they were up 4-1 when my son Andrew came home from school. 

I was on the computer when he walked in and we quickly moved to the couch to get a better view of the victory. My son and I were experiencing Opening Day together. Magic.

It was going as planned. The Brewers had received a quality start, hit the long ball and got two good innings from the pen. Axford was on in the 9th to close out a 6-3 Opening Day win.  Then the roof fell in.

Axford wasn’t sharp giving two straight hits. A force out was botched. And suddenly it was 6-3, bases loaded and no outs. Ouch. They couldn’t blow could they? Axford got a strike out for the first out. A long line drive resulted in a run with the second out. Still, the Nicol boys were confident. One out to go.

And it never came.

The Reds catcher, Ramon Hernandez, hit a 300+ foot rocket to right field. Game over, 7-6. The Reds had done it again. This time against the local boys. On Opening Day. 

I used a word I shouldn’t with a kid around. Andrew said “Stupid Brewers” and left the room.

Ten minutes later I heard him going through laundry. I called, “What are you looking for, pal.” “Nothing.” He was down to the basement, then upstairs. Then he was going to the back door. “Where you going?.” “Out side.” He’s 11. I went to the windows in the back.                     

Andrew was wearing his Braun jersey, Brewers hat and batting gloves. There was a ball on his batting tee. He cradled his Easton while consulting a Sporting News issue. With confidence he walked up, took his stance, swung his hips and lined the ball into the neighbor’s yard. He trotted around the imaginary diamond. 

It was Opening Day. The Magic was back.

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I enjoyed the brilliance of two historic artists last week. No, not Koufax and Drysdale. Not Mantle and Maris. I attended the Milwaukee Symphony’s performance of Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks and Mozart’s Concerto in E-flat major for Two Pianos and Orchestra.

I never played an instrument  (at age 13 I slaughtered a trombone for 2 months). But like most I know what I like (Allman Brothers, Stones, Doors, Randy Newman) and that includes classics by a really good orchestra. That’s MSO performing Handel and Mozart.

(Note: A great concert is Newman with the MSO. He was classical trained, is a noted American composer, and a great lyrist. Of course the uninformed think “Short People” and Disney.)

The concert started at 11:30 on Friday. I was one of the younger patrons in the hall. I didn’t even get a discount.

Kate got me there on time. She’s noted for being late. I got a $30 seat. Cheap. It was located in the middle of Row 3.  Unbelievable!

The Handel piece was written to commemorate the victory of Austria with Britain.  The 1749 celebration actually “back-fired” when the explosives  ignited. It resulted in the site burning and destroyed. Two died. Great piece though.

It was time for Mozart. I was excited and, then, stunned when 2 huge Steinway pianos were rolled to stage. They were positioned face-to-face and overlapping. Great. I couldn’t see – just the pianists. No wonder these seats were inexpensive.

But all was saved when the pianists appeared – two attractive women. Christina and Michelle Naughton are world renown . I wished Emily, practicing the violin and wanting to learn the piano, could have seen them. Just fantastic.

What a great city. A Classic doubleheader followed a week later by Opening Day. Over the next two months it will be Braun and Beethoven and Fielder and Tchaikovsky and Greinker.

        

Bobbling Along

March 23, 2011

When did bobble heads become coveted momentos? Once folks went to a game and perhaps buy one as a souvenir. Today they go on Bobble Head Day – and there’s a game too.

When my Dad would take us to a game – Yanks or Mets – bobble heads were at the concession stands with all the other team paraphernalia – pennants, caps, little bats, player cards and photos (what ever happened to my photo of  Mantle and Maris). Seemed like there were 100 items to peruse. Including bobble heads.

(Note: One of the greatest give-a-way days was the Yanks’ Bat Day. Thousands of young fans received an actual bat as they entered the Stadium. In the 5th inning all the kids were asked to hold their up. What a site. Today, of course, the carnage would be unimaginable.)     

The little bobble guy was posed with either a glove or bat. And he had a great big smile that said “it’s great to be a Yank or Yankees fan.” OK, he was goofy looking, kind of like a Bob’s Big Boy hamburger stand statue. But he wasn’t as goofy looking as Mr Met.

I quickly learned the Mets had their own bobble head. And their guy had the same face. He was just as happy as the Yanks’ bobble head. How could that be? He was with the Mets for God’s sakes.

Then Dad took us to the Polo Grounds for an AFL football game between the (LA?) Chargers and New York Titans. And there were bobble heads at the Titans concession stands. I know because I bought one. And it was the same guy’s face. He got around. Only this time he was a Charger – white helmet with yellow lightning bolts and the powder blue jerseys. Classic.

Good luck finding and buying original bobble heads issued before 1980. I thought I would buy one for the couple who clean our house. She collects angels. He’s a big baseball fan. I thought I would try to buy a ’61 LA Angels head. Right to Ebay. Suddenly I was bidding with others. When it got to $50 I pondered just how clean the place had been. I checked one last month. The asking price was $250.

No wonder there is trafficking in the little cherubs.  Two years ago Andrew and I took his buddy Matthew to Miller Park. I forgot it was a Bobble head day. With an extra seat we had an extra head. I told Matthew he could give the extra to his brother. On the way from Miller to the parking lots Matthew had numerous opportunities to sell his brother’s bobble head. And, he did. It was a 3-way transaction. Matthew got a cool $10. The fence got his. And I learned something about Andrew’s friends.

Of course, there are bobble heads and there are bobble heads. In just one season we got Hank Aaron, Robin Yount, Jeff Suppan, and Bernie the Brewer. The Suppan, of course, is worthless.

And there are hockey players bobbles, indoor soccer players bobbles, all sports bobbles. There’s Betty Boop. I’m sure there are bobble heads for every President from JFK to today.

But the value of a bobble head comes from the memories, not the figurine.

Tix

March 15, 2011

Brokers have it easy. For them there is no complication, art or science to the ticket transaction. But I have season tickets for the Milwaukee Brewers. And there are important aspects to the buying and selling of the tix.

First, of course, can you afford the tickets? I really bought a package of 20 games. My 20-pack entitles me to the same seat location for all of the games. 

There have been half and full season ticket programs. I don’t know how any one person could justify it. Corporations might have a legitiment reason to buy those packages. But life is too short, busy and interesting even for a person like me.

And there is cost. My two seats in the Loge behind home plate cost me $1500 (actually, they cost $1440. Marketing?). To much? Well, consider see (or rational):

1. I don’t fish, hunt, boat. I’m not an outdoors man. All those cost;

2. The “package” gives a deep discount. My seats cost $37 not $45 per;

3. And Andrew loves baseball. He came to it on his own. Really. Going is a “Dad and son bonding” opportunity. Really, no kidding.

Hey, I could go see the “The Kings Speech” 20 times and no one would considerate it a waiste of time. OK, bad example. 

I sought authority and approval from the high command – Kate. That’s pretty expensive. How about a 9-pack (marketing)? I get the discount. That’s a lot of games. I’m going to sell 6 or seven. I’ve heard that before. No really. They’ll be in demand. What package? Sunday again. We’re Episcopalians. We don’t have to be there every week. Fine. Saturday, not Sunday.                  

Now, which to sell and for how much. The cost was easy – sell them for my costs.

The big challenge is sell enough and still keep attractive games. Given the NL Central, you don’t want to get stuck with the Pirates, right? The Saturday package had a real benefit. Most of my tix were for Friday and Saturday in one weekend. 

So I can sell the Twins on Friday and Andrew and I can go on Saturday. Same with the Cardinals, Phillies, Reds and Cubs. I can keep the singletons with the Rockies and Giants. Heck, I might be able to sell Houston.

My prospects look good. Only the Pirates, typically eliminated when teams break spring training camp, will be a real problem.

Unfortunatly I have tix for 3 of them. Even brokers have a hard time with those. I hope the High Command understands.

Three in a Row

March 12, 2011

Tuesday was brutal. First, the local 9 – the Milwaukee Brewers – received awful news on the injury front. That was quickly followed by a disappointing basketball loss.

Brewers fans have high hopes for the 2011 season. The club signed a major free-agent pitcher – Zack Greinke – in the offseason. Greinke was the 2009 Cy Young Award winner in the American. Sure, he had joined on for a lot of dough (2 years at $4 mil each) and didn’t have a good 2010 year (allowing nearly5.00 runs a game). But, the thinking was the cost was justified given the market. And regarding Greinke’s 2010 record, well, he had been the victim of a miserable Kansas City Royals team.

Plans call for the 29-year old to be the #1 starter in an  impressive rotation. Backed by the Brewers’ hitting attack, Greinke could eat 230 innings and win 15 games.

More than a few prognosticators were calling them the projected wins of the NL Central Division.

Then Greinke played in a pick-up basketball. One or two fractured ribs later, the club begins 2011 behind the Reds.

Friends and I were talking about Greinke during warmup for a basketball game between the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and Butler. The hometown Panthers were playing for the Horizon Conference title and a spot in the NCAA Basketball Tourney.

Sure, Butler was just one jump shot from beating Duke  in the 2010 NCAA Championship game. But this is a new year. UWM had beaten Butler both times when the two played in the regular season. The game was in Milwaukee. The Arena was filled with 10,000. ESPN was in the house – and around the country.

The Panther were poised to pounce on their prey. (I know. I know.)

Butler 59, UWM 44. 

They say bad news comes in three. It snowed 4 inches over night. Just brutal.