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Thread: Brooklyn Blues

  1. #1
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    Brooklyn Blues

    If anybody is still here, I've had a lot of time recently, so went a bit further into the sequel I mentioned at the end of Orange and Black(Sox). Still not enough to guarantee a proper end, but might as well.

    Today we catch up from the end of OB(S) in 1950 to 2020. New posts approximately "whenever I feel like it."

    Oh, and also, pretty much no photos this time. Both because Photobucket annoyed me, and because even if I just include it with the text, I'm trying to fake pics from the present day and it just doesn't work that way.

    Enjoy!

    * * *

    Brooklyn Blues

    How Baseball Returned to Brooklyn and Won the Hearts of America


    By Jan Tyler

    * * *

    CHAPTER ONE: THE FAMILY BUSINESS

    His name is Jack Weston, and he was born for baseball. Literally.

    Seldom does one family so thoroughly dominate any activity. The Fords in cars, Barrymores in Hollywood, Kennedys in politics. These, and a few others, have managed to continue to produce heirs to the family throne who keep the dynasty going successfully.

    Many endeavors have sons and daughters who follow in the footsteps of successful parents, of course. But it is not without reason that the expression "from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations" exists. The first generation has the drive, the energy, the ruthlessness, and the creative genius to stake out a new area and claim it in a way that makes him or her a byword for success in the field. The second has the advantages of name recognition and a strong head start, and maybe the cleverness to expand the empire around the edges while still maintaining the core. By the third generation, most dynasties are either bringing in new blood through marriage or simple stock transfer, or are beginning to flounder and squander hard-won resources. And the fourth is as likely as not to be working for someone else who's bought the company, or watching as it's sold off to pay the debts run up by the seemingly-inevitable wastrel raised in privilege.

    The Weston family's game was baseball, and they followed the pattern to near perfection.

    Willie Weston was born September 16, 1914, when the major leagues as we know them were in their infancy. The American League had only been founded 13 years before, and the National, though far more venerable at 38, was still something that the modern world wouldn't recognize. The single season home run record was 27, set by Ned Williamson of the Chicago White Stockings in 1884 (Babe Ruth, who would break it, had made his major league debut two months before Willie's birth, but as a pitcher. Of course, pitchers batted then). A man could earn the nickname "Home Run", as Frank Baker did, by hitting 12 in a season. The changes wrought by the mighty Ruth, by gambling scandal and new Commissioner Thomas Kimball, by dominance of one or two teams (the Baltimore Orioles, borne as an expansion team out of the 1919 World Series scandal, won American League pennants in 1925, 1926, 1927, 1929, and 1930, and missed 1924 and 1928 by one game each - and they were only the second most dominant team, behind a New York Giants team that won every National League pennant from 1921 - 1928), moved the game much closer to what we have in mind when thinking of baseball today.

    But when Willie Weston was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1932, baseball was a group made up only of white men who played on one of 16 major league teams in 11 cities, using primitive gloves and cloth caps, and while the top earners in the game made up to $45,000 per year, the average player in that Depression year could expect to see $5,000 or less. Integration was five years away, batting helmets ten or more, and expansion, while occasionally discussed, was 30 years in the future, waiting for more money and faster transportation. The home run record that year, as it had been since 1920, was Babe Ruth's 54.

    Willie first saw the major leagues in 1932, and was a regular by 1936. When he retired in October 1957, he had half a dozen trips to the World Series under his belt and was the toast of New York, on a Yankees team that was successful enough in the Forties and Fifties to make its fans forget the depths of the late Twenties and the even greater pit that was the Thirties. Great, and popular, as he was, his retirement was not the talk of baseball. That would be either the new home run record, set by Pat Chopcinski of the Cleveland Indians at 57, or the impending move of two franchises to the golden west. For that was the year in which Walter O'Malley and Horace Stoneham took the Dodgers from Brooklyn, the Giants from New York, and the hearts from thousands of fans. They left behind them two empty stadiums, and, due to a rule put in place when the perennially mismanaged St. Louis Browns fled to Chicago in 1932, their names and colors.

    One other thing went with them. Willie Weston by this time had two sons in professional baseball. The oldest, Bill, was a pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers in that year, and so he was in Los Angeles the next, in which they became known as the Stars. Bill, a morose, generally surly man unloved by even his closest teammates, was nevertheless one of the premier pitchers of his generation. In 1963 he would pitch a no-hitter for the Stars, who by then were one of the most successful teams of their time, largely because of the home run prowess of their thoroughly beloved first baseman, Ernie Banks. Banks beat Chopcinski's home run record the year after Chopcinski earned it, smashing 68. The following year the record he broke was his own, with 74. In 1961, when expansion finally came, he hit 78, and thoughts of Home Run Baker were far, far in the past. The Stars were the best, and Brooklyn fumed. Even moreso because, when expansion arrived in the National League, the two cities to get teams were Houston, with the Colt 45s, and New York, with a team that chose to use the dormant name Giants.
    The Orange and Black(Sox) - The Complete Saga

    Part One - The First Ten Long Years: The Orange and Black(Sox)
    Part Two - Ten More Years! (Orange and) Black Times
    The Spin-off Mini-Series: An Orange and Black Shroud

    Part Three - How Long Can This Go On? Charlie's War

    The Spin-Off: Braves New World

  2. #2
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    Re: Brooklyn Blues

    Brooklyn Blues

    How Baseball Returned to Brooklyn and Won the Hearts of America


    By Jan Tyler

    * * *

    CHAPTER ONE: THE FAMILY BUSINESS (continued)


    In 1963 Pat Chopcinski broke the long-standing career home run record of Lou Gehrig, who had retired with 616 when his health left him in 1939. Just as Banks didn't let Chopcinski's single season record last long, he broke his career record just two short years later. In the meantime, Bill Weston continued to thrive, and Willie was the first member of his family to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1964. (Technically the second, because his uncle Charles Aaron, the former general manager of the Baltimore Orioles, was given his jacket a few minutes earlier. But the names were different, as were the accomplishments.) But Willie didn't have one son in baseball, he had two. And Karl wasn't doing nearly as well as his brother.

    Both Westons had been drafted in the first round in 1955. Bill, as said before, had been chosen by the Dodgers. Karl was taken two picks earlier, at number six, by the woeful Red Sox. And nine years later, when his father stood on a platform at Cooperstown and his brother earned World Series rings and the acclaim of thousands, Karl had nearly made it to Seattle, the Red Sox AAA farm team. But not quite, and so he was still in Reading PA.

    Karl was much more popular than his brother. That was his problem. Nothing was serious to him. Having done his time in the service, he was court martialed for allowing a fellow soldier to sleep while on guard duty in Germany. He was punished in basic training for running the final lap of a mile run backwards. He continued to behave much the same in the Red Sox organization, at a time when the team's lack of success meant that they couldn't afford any distractions. He also managed to get a local girl pregnant when he was on the Sox' lowest-level team in Albany NY, and was a father of Steve Weston at age 20.

    Still, Karl was of the second generation, the one that maintained the legacy of the first. And thanks to his brother Bill, in what Karl often said was "the one decent thing the SOB ever did for anyone", he got a chance to prove it. Just before the 1967 season, after having already been the player to be named later in a forgettable deal with the Washington Senators, Karl was dealt to Los Angeles as a favor to Bill. The Stars' third baseman was struggling, and Karl got a chance. And hit 60 home runs, driving in 122 and winning the National League's Most Valuable Player award. And loudly telling anyone who would listen that he could have been doing that for the previous ten years if anyone would have let him.

    As the 1960s and 1970s went on, both Westons continued to shine, while the game changed around them. Venerable teams such as the Philadelphia Athletics and Washington Senators moved to Oakland and Dallas, becoming the Oaks and Texas Rangers. Expansion came again in 1969, adding the Royals, Pilots, Padres and Expos, all of which have continued as franchises to this day, though only one with very much success even now. The Orioles, once a dominant team, went through a 20-year dry spell, only returning to prominence with the end of the legal dispute between the heirs of late owner Martin Peterson, and the hiring Chuck Aaron (grandson of the original GM) to rebuild the franchise. And the American League decided, with many sunset provisions and "trial" runs, to allow pitchers not to bat but be batted for. The Nationals would not follow suit until the late 1980s, when Commissioner Ueberroth said what was on many people's minds, that it was silly for two leagues playing the same game to have different rules, and chose the American League way.

    Bill Weston retired in 1975, with 284 wins. Karl held on until 1977, retiring just over a year after his son Steven, the third generation, was drafted by the Pirates, and two weeks after Steven's major league debut as a September call-up. Karl finished with 543 home runs, leading him (if no-one else) to ask what he might have done had he been given a chance to play before he turned 29. Bill was called to Cooperstown in 1981, becoming part of the first father-son duo so enshrined. Karl joined him two years later. By this time, Steven had been traded to Seattle, the first of eight times he would be part of a deal before his career ended. He was well on his way...to proving the shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves adage exactly. Following in his father's time frame, he wasn't really ready to be in the majors until he was much older than usual. Also following Karl, once he was ready, he showed it, pitching a no-hitter against his father and uncle's old team in Los Angeles in 1990.

    By this time he was no longer on the Pilots, playing instead for the Atlanta Raptors. The next round of expansion, welcoming the Marlins and Rockies, came in 1993. Steve Weston, unpopular as he was, was left unprotected by Atlanta and taken as the third overall pick in the draft, by Colorado. Within two months he'd annoyed his new organization so much that he never wore their uniform, and was dealt to Detroit, his seventh team. He earned his 200th win and his third World Series ring that year (all three with a different team), and was able to celebrate with his grandfather Willie before Willie's death at age 79. By the end of 1994 he certainly had the statistics to make a case for the Hall of Fame - just no votes, because he was universally disliked.

    Even by his son Jack, drafted with the sixth pick in the 1996 draft by Montreal. He was still in their minor league system when his father retired in July 1998, with 253 wins, and nine major league organizations. And 3589 strikeouts, good for ninth on the all time list. And a fan club consisting of basically his uncle Bill. For a time, there were no Westons in major league baseball, the first time since Willie's debut as a regular in 1936. This lasted two years, but they were an eventful two.
    The Orange and Black(Sox) - The Complete Saga

    Part One - The First Ten Long Years: The Orange and Black(Sox)
    Part Two - Ten More Years! (Orange and) Black Times
    The Spin-off Mini-Series: An Orange and Black Shroud

    Part Three - How Long Can This Go On? Charlie's War

    The Spin-Off: Braves New World

  3. #3
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    Re: Brooklyn Blues

    Brooklyn Blues

    How Baseball Returned to Brooklyn and Won the Hearts of America


    By Jan Tyler

    * * *

    CHAPTER TWO: MAKES US STRONGER

    By the late 1990s, baseball was no longer the same game Willie Weston played as a youth in Baltimore. Some of the differences were subtle, some not. There were more teams, meaning more players, and since not everyone could be as good as everyone else, this meant a dilution of the abilities found throughout the leagues. Ballparks were generally better, but also tended to be smaller. Strength and conditioning were no longer considered satisfactory just because the players tossed a medicine ball around for a couple of weeks in the spring - now, players were expected to work out and remain in shape throughout the year, and report ready to play in February. Pitchers no longer batted, and had not done so for ten to twenty years, depending on the league. And finally, there was the chemical enhancement revolution.

    When, in October 1997, Carmelo Martinez of the Cubs ended the season, he had hit 616 home runs. This was the same number as hit in his stellar career by the great Baltimore Orioles' first baseman, Lou Gehrig, from 1921 - 1939. Martinez had hit his in three fewer seasons. More importantly, Gehrig had retired with the major league record. On the day Martinez ended the season with 616, he was tied with Gehrig for 19th place on the all time list. Pat Chopcinski had broken Gehrig's record in 1963, and Ernie Banks had surpassed Chopcinski two years later. Banks was still, in 1997, the holder of the record, his 737 putting him ahead of Tony Solaita (719), Frank Robinson (716), and Willie Stargell (714). Even Chopcinski's 659 was no longer in the top ten, and Babe Ruth, who had done so much to make it all possible, was in 46th place all time.

    On a season by season basis, there was more stability, as Banks' 78 was still the record and had been since setting it in the expansion year of 1961. (There had been a move to put an asterisk next to the record that year, ostensibly to denote that it had been both an expansion year and a season in which teams played more games than before. This was widely seen as having racist motivations, as Chopcinsi, Gehrig, and Ruth were all white and Banks black, and the idea was quickly dropped.)

    And then came 1998. In which Los Angeles Stars' third baseman Tom Slade broke Banks' record on September 25 against expansion team Phoenix, and ended the season with an even 80. He also batted .340, and drove in an astonishing 199 runs, easily capturing Triple Crown honors, and for the first time raising suspicion that he had not done it alone, but had had chemical help. Still, his defenders pointed out that he had always been a power hitter (indeed the 33 he'd hit back in 1988 was his lowest season total, and he'd topped 50 three times). It was plausible enough, and nobody really wanted to believe that the game or its hero was tainted anyway.

    The next year it was harder to ignore though, when no fewer than five players all hit their 500th career home run. Jay Buhner, Albert Belle, Ken Griffey Jr., Bill Bathe, and Danny Tartabull reached that once-rarified total. Griffey was 30, by far the youngest ever to do so. And it didn't stop there. The summer of 2000 was a race between Slade and Martinez, now with the Marlins, to see who could get to number 700 first. Slade won, hitting numbers 700 and 701 in the same game on August 15, coincidentally in Martinez' home park in Miami. Number 701 moved him ahead of Dave Kingman, who had retired with exactly 700, and into fifth all time. Slade, only 35 years old, was widely expected to surpass Banks' record. He would have done so in 2001 except for a wrist fracture suffered in July which cost him four weeks, but he ended the season only two behind Banks. The fracture also cost him his job at third base, as 24 year old Braden Stone, his replaceent, hit 55 home runs and drove in 147 runs.

    The fracture also allowed a roster spot at the major league level for the Stars, which was filled by young Jack Weston, traded to Los Angeles in March 2001. What it did not do was stop the Stars on their pennant run of that year, which ended in a game seven victory over Baltimore. Tom Slade finally had, among all his other honors and the adulation of millions, the one thing that had eluded him - the World Series ring. Jack Weston had what he surely thought would be the first of many as well.

    Weston was dealt to Seattle in the off season, and Slade played only a few games before going back onto the disabled list. But on May 14th, in Milwaukee, with Ernie Banks looking on, Tom Slade hit home run number 738. People heard Banks complain that it was surely suspicious that all those players on the Stars were hitting all those home runs. And while it was true that the top ten in home runs were all occupied by members of the Los Angeles team, this was still largely dismissed as a cranky old man who didn't want to give up his place in the record books. Behind the scenes, in the Commissioner's office, Banks' comments gave new life to an investigation which had been floundering.

    A thrilling 2002 World Series, in which the Rockies and Seattle Pilots stunned the Stars and Yankees, respectively, to make it in the first place, kept everyone's minds off the looming scandal as much as possible. The Pilots fell behind three games to none, and then came roaring back to sweep the final four games, for the first time this had happened in a World Series since the all-Baltimore classic of 1950. Questions were starting to be asked more loudly about steroids, particularly about the Stars, though pitcher Sidney Ponson, asked about it on winning the first of his seven Cy Young awards, was memorably quoted as saying "If they're using something to hit it, why aren't we smart enough to use something to pitch it?" It seemed that everybody knew players who were using, everybody knew it was particularly true in Los Angeles, but nobody was willing to name names. In public.

    The Commissioner's Report which was released on January 14, 2003, named names. Oddly, the only team that did not have at least three players on it whose names appeared in the report was the Stars. Since in 2002 Stars outfielder Juan Molina led the majors with 64 HRs, Braden Stone was second with 63, and Stars second baseman Gee Renaldo third with 61, this seemed impossible. Two months later, when the Supplemental Report came out, all three were named, with evidence appended, including grainy, black and white surveillance photos showing them and many others in the act of using the drugs. Tom Slade was among them, though the evidece was not as iron clad in his case. It is for this reason that, while Molina, Stone, and Renaldo were suspended from the game for life, barred from a place in the record books - in effect, retroactively made to have never existed - Slade was simply forced to retire and banned from the Hall of Fame. This was largely seen as a wrist slap, but the owners and executives in baseball could not allow their Home Run King of Kings and Star of Stars (the name given him on the day he broke Banks' record by a somewhat over-enthusiastic Los Angeles sportswriter) to be completely tainted. They therefore allowed him to make the ludicrous claim that the evidence only showed that he'd begun using after hitting his 745th, and coincidentally final, home run. They all would count, and he still held the record, though the game didn't want to see him again.

    It was not until 2005 when the final lawsuits filed by Molina, Stone, Renaldo, all the other players, and their union, were settled. Settled, it must be added, almost entirely in the favor of Major League Baseball. 2005 was also the year in which Ken Griffey, his powers failing him and falling well short of the record, found himself traded to San Diego where he was able to hit 31 home runs and easily win Comeback Player of the Year. Finally, 2005 was the year in which the Montreal Expos, one of the worst franchises in the history of the game, failed financially and had to be taken over by the league, an action not taken since the Boston Braves in 1942.

    Griffey would go on to continue, year after year, until finally hitting home run number 738 against the Expos/Nationals in 2008. The celebration for taking over the second spot on the all time home run list was far greater than would be expected for such a non-record, but it had become apparent by then that most baseball fans, if not most of baseball itself, was simply willing to pretend that Tom Slade had never happened, and that Banks still held the record. Major League Baseball as an entity made much more of Griffey's home run number 746, on July 28 of that year. With home run totals dropping back to pre-steroid levels, and with the greatest home run record now held by someone who everyone in the game could not only like, but trust, baseball seemed to be back on a sound footing.

    But there was the matter of the Expos. And finances in general. And even a World Series for the ages couldn't fix all that was wrong.
    The Orange and Black(Sox) - The Complete Saga

    Part One - The First Ten Long Years: The Orange and Black(Sox)
    Part Two - Ten More Years! (Orange and) Black Times
    The Spin-off Mini-Series: An Orange and Black Shroud

    Part Three - How Long Can This Go On? Charlie's War

    The Spin-Off: Braves New World

  4. #4
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    Re: Brooklyn Blues

    Brooklyn Blues

    How Baseball Returned to Brooklyn and Won the Hearts of America


    By Jan Tyler

    * * *

    CHAPTER THREE: MONEY MONEY MONEY


    The Montreal Expos were never supposed to happen.

    In 1967, the major leagues consisted of 20 teams. The National League had the Atlanta Peaches, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Houston Colt 45s, Los Angeles Stars, New York Giants, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Earthquakes, and St. Louis Cardinals. The American League was represented by the Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, California Angels, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Athletics, and Washington Senators. California, Minnesota, Houston, and New York were all expansion teams, either five or six years old. Atlanta had been the Boston Braves by way of their time as the Baltimore Clippers (and would later keep their multiple personalities alive by becoming the Atlanta Raptors, and later still the Georgia Peaches). The Stars and Earthquakes had come from Brooklyn and New York, respectively, though former New York Giants owner Horace Stoneham had "seen the error of [his] ways" and sold his San Francisco Seals, using the money to purchase once again the team that played in New York's Polo Grounds. New Seals owner Charles O. Finley had immediately re-named the moribund San Francisco franchise after the city's most famous event, a measure of poor taste that was nevertheless approved, or at least not objected to, by the rest of the game. Bill Veeck had just sold his interest in the White Sox after many successful years there partnered with veteran General Manager Andrew Snyder - within nine months of the sale, he would get itchy to return to baseball, buy the Colt 45s, change their name to the Astros and latch onto America's Space Race for his marketing, lure Snyder away from Chicago, and together they would again build a multiple-time champion.

    But that was in the future. At the All-Star game in Anaheim that July, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn had announced the formation of a committee to again study the possibility of expansion. Nineteen of the twenty teams in the leagues were at least making more than they spent in a year - the exception, the once-again woeful Athletics, were in behind-the-scenes talks with a potential new ownership group with great plans to revitalize the team and its fortunes in downtown Philadelphia. These plans would fall through, and the franchise would be moved in December 1967 to Oakland, California - Finley could not be allowed to have the entire San Francisco Bay area.

    On May 27, 1968, Expansion Committee chief Walter O'Malley announced the four cities which would be blessed with new teams. Kansas City and Seattle would get new American League franchises. San Diego would get a National League team. The final team, also to be in the National League, would be the re-birth of arguably the most successful organization of the 1950s, the Baltimore Clippers.

    The team had won four World Series championships during that decade, and six National League pennants, and had once again made Baltimore a city synonomous with successful baseball. Even as the Orioles experienced their first prolonged slump in the club's history, due to the penny-pinching of team owner Martin Peterson (and despite Herculean efforts by GM Andrew Snyder, the same Snyder who would have so much later success elsewhere), the Clippers won pennant after pennant. Owner Harrison Daniels, who purchased the team in 1951 from Arthur MacMillan, had one advantage over Peterson - while he also made bad baseball decisions, he did not allow them to deplete his minor league system. It was MacMillan's system which produced a stream of talent that created the success of the 50s. It was Daniels' mistakes, and Daniels' attitude toward the city and its fans, which drove attendance to record lows as soon as the success dried up. And it was Daniels who accepted Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen's offer to move his franchise to the south in 1965.

    Baltimore, though, was beginning to suffer as all major cities in the United States did after their heights in 1950. From a population high of 2.4 million, the city's numbers had begun a slow but steady decline, leaving them at just under 2 million in 1968. Long-dormant matters of race had flared up again, particularly with national events to incite them. Recently-elected Mayor Peter G. Angelos, who had won the 1967 election largely due to the financial support of Orioles' owner Peterson, was proving to be completely unable to deal with the running of a modern big city, and worse than that, completely unable to recognize this lack of ability. Plus, though he didn't know it, Angelos had done one other thing which would keep him from being able to run for re-election on the basis of having lured back a second major league team. He had insulted a woman named Susanna Aaron.

    Mrs. Aaron regularly visited Baltimore with her husband Charles long after the two had retired from Baltimore and moved to Florida. They had family in the area, and still had ties from their many years of residence in the city. The two were present at an annual celebration held by Baltimore United Charities in November 1967. No one recorded exactly what Mayor Angelos said to Mrs. Aaron, who was in frail health at the time, and in fact would pass away less than a year later aged 81. But it was noted at the time that the 81 year old Charles Aaron had responded to Angelos "with a vigor that belied his age", according to the couple's daughter-in-law, Vivian. This would have doubtless been dismissed by history as merely a mistake by an experienced politician, but for the fact that Charles Aaron was the former general manager of the Baltimore Orioles, was still respected throughout much of the baseball world, and where he was not respected, at least still knew where the bodies were buried. Furthermore, after his wife's passing in June 1968 he had a lot of time on his hands. He made use of that time.

    Thus it was that, at the ownership meetings in December 1968, the Baltimore franchise was declared dead, and a new one rose in Montreal. The problem with that, as even Aaron acknowledged in an interview shortly before his death in 1976, was that the late acceptance of the bid for a team caused all sorts of problems for the new team, and put them behind the eight ball from the start - a place where they remained for the entirety of their existence in Montreal.

    It did not begin that way, perhaps. The Expos were not, after all, the worst of the four expansion teams. That would be the Seattle Pilots, who managed to eclipse not only the 20th century record for futility set by the 1929 St. Louis Browns with only 34 wins, but the all time record of the 1898 Cleveland Spiders and their 20 victories. The Expos would have held the record, winning only 22 games that inaugural year and losing 140 - but the Pilots won a pitiful 13 times. Were it not for the fact that Seattle had fans willing to pack tiny Sick's Stadium despite their team's status as "loveable losers", and to continue to pack said stadium for years to come, it is likely that it would have been the Pilots and not the Expos who were destined to be the last team to move in the major leagues. Perhaps it would even have been the Expos who were the first of the four 1969 expansion teams to win a World Series, instead of Seattle.

    It is also not that the Expos could not catch a break. It's more that they were never close enough to a win to make a break even possible. The team had one winning season, in their seventh year of existence. Thirty years later, they still had one winning season. And the fans of Montreal were tired of it. By 2005, team owner Randall Miller was forced by Major League Baseball to sell them the team, on condition that he never come back again. Rather than declare bankruptcy, he readily agreed. The team floundered in Montreal for that 2005 season, and were then sold and moved to Washington - where their record of unmitigated failure has continued to this day. Baseball in Montreal was dead.

    But baseball as a game was thriving. At the 2006 Winter Meetings, the owners voted to expand by 2010. It was one small voice, from the Cincinnati Reds, that suggested that the 2006 Congressional elections and some other economic factors might indicate caution. By October 2007, the world's economy was in shambles, expansion was off the table. An exciting 2007 World Series, and Griffey's pursuit and capture of the all time home run record in 2008, were enough to keep baseball alive, but certainly not enough to cause talks of expansion. Annual votes at the winter meetings postponed discussions for the next year, and the next, and so on through the remainder of the decade, and beyond. The desire, as always, was there. The money was not.
    The Orange and Black(Sox) - The Complete Saga

    Part One - The First Ten Long Years: The Orange and Black(Sox)
    Part Two - Ten More Years! (Orange and) Black Times
    The Spin-off Mini-Series: An Orange and Black Shroud

    Part Three - How Long Can This Go On? Charlie's War

    The Spin-Off: Braves New World

  5. #5
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    Re: Brooklyn Blues

    Brooklyn Blues

    By Jan Tyler

    * * *

    CHAPTER FOUR: FROM BROKE TO EXPANSION


    At the 2012 Winter Meetings, for the sixth consecutive year, the lords of baseball decided to postpone talk of expansion. Their teams were doing well. Well enough, anyway. Griffey's capture of the home run record, which saw him hit 751 and retire after the 2009 season, had helped immeasurably to bring the game back to public favor. Football was still popular, but appeared to be losing some steam as players grew more and more angry over their contracts, and how much more remunerative it was to play baseball. As the players complained, the public stayed away, and as the public stayed away, the money went with them, and contracts grew smaller still. This cycle would eventually combine with public concern over players' health to cause a drop in popularity, a drop which baseball was only too eager to exploit. Commissioner Frank Robinson commanded enough respect from his years as a player that even the more colorful owners were hesitant to work against him, and so some of his outreach programs to youth were implemented with full support. The game seemed perpetually on the cusp of exploding again, and many thought that all that would be needed to push it over was expansion. But enough thought that expansion would tip it back the other way, that it was never brought up seriously beyond talking about not talking about it.

    In 2012, Houston Astros owner Mike Veeck carried enough votes with him to get a restructuring of the leagues accomplished. This sweeping change would do away with the separate offices of the American and National Leagues, making one Major League Baseball organization. It would also move Veeck's Astros from the National League to the American, change the number of teams in each division to five each, and introduce a second Wild Card. For baseball, moving from one Wild Card team in 1994 to a second fewer than 20 years later was blinding speed in making changes. It also necessitated at least limited interleague play, which had been under discussion for a hundred years, and so was much more in keeping with baseball's usual pace of change.

    Now no longer tainted by steroids, all the previously-mentioned factors in baseball's home run barrage continued in effect. So it was that when on August 29, 2013, Atlanta Raptors left fielder Richard Hidalgo hit his 700th home run, it meant that the entire top ten on the all time home run list was now at or over 700. Gehrig's 616 was no longer in the top twenty. But because there was no taint of chemical enhancement (or appeared to be - the rumors of Griffey being given a pass on steroids so that he could stay in the game long enough to break Slade's record, with undocumented approval by baseball, would persist), the public was coming to the games as never before. By December 2016, though the owners were not scheduled to address the possibility of expansion, they tentatively did so anyway. There was great political turmoil at that meeting, with what has been described as a near riot breaking out when two owners, California's Pietro Hecaro and the Cubs Harold Silvers, came to blows over an argument about the Presidential election. But the owners, and the league, agreed that it wasn't quite time yet, though it was closer than it had been in ten years.

    Then came 2017. And another third baseman for the Los Angeles Stars turned everything upside down. By June, Matt Seals was on pace to shatter not only Banks' unofficial record of 78 home runs in a season, but also Slade's official 80. He was on a pace, in fact, to hit 106. "It's amazing how often my name came up in the 'random' selection for drug testing that summer," he would say later, but the leagues actually made no bones about it and publicly announced that Seals would be tested every three days for the remainder of the season. And somehow, it didn't matter, and he finished the year with 92. And the crowd, as they say, assured by the tests that the assault on the record was legitimate, went wild. Attendance soared at every Stars game, so much so that the team announced plans to spend the money on a new stadium to replace by-now dilapidated Stars Stadium. The Giants made enough to consider shuttering old Shea Stadium and building a new one, to be named the Polo Grounds on its opening in 2022. The Pilots were finally able to move out of the repeatedly-upgraded and very old Sick's Stadium, with a new Pilots Field scheduled for a 2021 opening. Even the White Sox, who had kept to McLaughlin Field (and which had originally, as White Sox Park, opened in 1910), announced a new park for 2020.

    Seals was the perfect man to bring baseball back to the top. Humble, pleasant, good-looking (he acted in the off-season), well-spoken, with a beautiful wife, a beautiful house, and three beautiful kids, he brought to mind images of baseball's other Gentlemen, including Steve Garvey (whose 3,813 lifetime base hits were second only to Ty Cobb, though he did play until he was 47), and Gentleman Will Weston. Seals also had a teammate, shortstop Zack Kosek, who pushed him in 2018, and the two finished with a combined 177 home runs and over 400 RBI. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Stars won the World Series that year. And attendance throughout the game continued to skyrocket. It was time.

    In January 2018, a limited expansion of two teams was announced. Bids came in from Newark NJ, Mexico City, Montreal, New Orleans, Portland, Nashville, San Antonio, and surprise entrant Havana, and each received much publicity. Also submitting entries, but to much less fanfare, were the cities of Boston, Los Angeles, and the borough Brooklyn. After a year of consideration, the December 2018 winter meetings saw the announcement of a move that would help to make the World Series live up to its name at last - Mexico City and Montreal were set to join (or re-join).

    And then they didn't. Over the course of 2019 more and more began to leak from the league offices in Manhattan about flaws in the two winning bids. And while nobody could quite nail down what was going on, the former sites of Calvert Vaux Park in Brooklyn, and Joe Moakley Park in Boston, had some sort of construction going on. Reporter Dennis Kush of Sports Illustrated made the first public suggestion that another team in New York and one in Boston would help to produce competitive balance for the successful Yankees, Giants, and Red Sox (though the Red Sox were generally not competitive or successful, at this particular time they were on an upswing). ESPN, always accused of favoring the New York/New England areas, made no attempt to discount their support for the idea of a return to the National League for one of the two cities.

    On October 1, 2019, Commissioner Robert Manfred announced that the Mexico City and Montreal bids were officially dead. And that he was stepping down as of December 31, to spend more time with his family. On December 9 former United States Senator Alvin K. Thompson was announced as the next Commissioner of baseball. The next day Thompson stated that tech billionaire Peter Nomen in Brooklyn would have an American League team starting in 2021, and old money J. Wellington Northcutt would have a National League team in Boston, the same year. Future expansion would be under consideration.


    Here begins our story.
    The Orange and Black(Sox) - The Complete Saga

    Part One - The First Ten Long Years: The Orange and Black(Sox)
    Part Two - Ten More Years! (Orange and) Black Times
    The Spin-off Mini-Series: An Orange and Black Shroud

    Part Three - How Long Can This Go On? Charlie's War

    The Spin-Off: Braves New World

  6. #6
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    Re: Brooklyn Blues

    October, 2020

    I. Do Not. Believe. This.

    What a mess.

    I sat and looked at the paper in front of me. It had been left on my desk, next to the cheery "Welcome Aboard" note from Mr. Nomen. It was currently the only thing on my desk, other than that note. No computer. No phone. No papers, pencils, pens, passcodes to the company wifi. Nothing but a welcome from the boss, and a copy of the current roster of the team I was somehow supposed to use as my starting point.

    And it was a total mess.

    Seriouslly, the biggest collection of castoffs, rejects, and losers I've ever seen. And I've been in baseball for 25 years. Who put this piece of -

    Oh, that's right. My mor0n predecessor. Ray Bernard.

    I went back to the list. I'm not sure I even have any trade chips in there. I'm mostly going to have to wait until their contracts expire and try to pick up good players in the meantime. We're going to suck so bad in '21.

    I tried to lean back in my chair. It was adjusted for a much smaller man. Bernard. I tried then to find the lever, or switch, or whatever to make it work. No good. I'll need another chair.

    And another pitching staff. And another set of position players. And another minor league system.

    Possibly another job.

    I just sat and thought for a while. Nothing happened. I looked around my office. There were two boxes on the floor next to the desk. On the carpet, a very nice, thick carpet that was unfortunately a hideous purple. One of Ray Bernard's favorite colors. Forget being utterly incompetent at baseball, he should have been fired for bad taste alone. At least the desk was classic, big and oak and with actual drawers and not some modern monstrosity. I think that was mostly because it matched the shiny leather chair, which would be great except that the damn thing won't lean back. There were empty bookshelves around the room, except for the one wall that wasn't a wall, it was a window with a big view of the dirt patch and construction equipment that we were currently calling Ball Park. I'm sure some day I'll be glad ol' Ray chose the office overlooking the park, rather than the one on the other side of the hall that looks out over Gravesend Bay. That one is Mr. Nomen's office, and he is barely going to use it, he says.

    Actually, my office isn't that bad, and if it didn't have that purple carpet and the gold trim around the room, I'd probably say it was nice. But it does. It's like Bernard tried to mix his favorite colors and an old gentleman's club, and ended up with 1920s whore house.

    Which come to think of it probably explains the team.
    Last edited by birdsin89; 05-15-2020 at 11:37 AM.
    The Orange and Black(Sox) - The Complete Saga

    Part One - The First Ten Long Years: The Orange and Black(Sox)
    Part Two - Ten More Years! (Orange and) Black Times
    The Spin-off Mini-Series: An Orange and Black Shroud

    Part Three - How Long Can This Go On? Charlie's War

    The Spin-Off: Braves New World

  7. #7
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    Re: Brooklyn Blues

    By the way, while I see the Views number moving some, if anybody wants to comment, even if it's just to let me know that it's not all bots, that would be great.

    * * *

    October, 2020

    "Knock knock," somebody said at my open door. I hate it when people say that. Knock, or don't, but come on. On the other hand, when I looked up from the papers about my team, she was cute, so I'll let it go.

    "Hi. You must be Jack. I'm Malinda. Malinda Evans. I'm the Director of Player Development..." She didn't so much end the sentence as she kind of trailed off. I had the impression that she was continuing it in her head. I wasn't looking at her head.

    She had a good eye for clothing and used it to hide a fine body well, unless I missed my guess. Her dark red hair came to the top of her fairly bulky green sweater. Loose-fitting tan slacks made it harder to determine the quality of legs within them, but I'm really good at this. I guessed early 30s, then changed my estimate on a second look at her face. Too many lines around the eyes. Late 30s. Small nose, eyes light brown to almost hazel. I approved, not that she knew or cared. And the one feature I look for most in a woman - a third finger of her left hand that was totally free of any kind of ring.

    I gestured toward one of the visitor chairs, said "Have a seat." There were two such chairs, and thank God they matched the desk and not the carpet. "Yes, I'm Jack."

    She sat, looking over me every bit as thoroughly as I'd just done with her. She had a nice smile that for some reason was not reaching her eyes. I would have loved to know what she was thinking. I had long ago learned that I am really bad at reading what people are thinking. So my usual assumption is that they're making their shopping list. I never seem to get in trouble assuming that.

    "You see what you've got to work with. What are you going to do?" She was gesturing to the organizational rosters spread out on the desk.

    "Mostly lose. Badly. For a good long time," I replied. "Then, I'm going to hire some really good scouts, and some really good minor league coaches and instructors, and fire the really bad ones who thought this would make a good team. After that, I'm thinking of tracking down everybody who was here and signed off on this collection of losers and hitting them until they promise to stop being stupid."

    That really nice smile had faded with just about every word as I went on. I was pretty sure I knew why. Didn't care. But I changed my approach a little, and went in a different direction. "No, I'm not going to do that last one. Instead, I'm going to pretend that every moronic decision made that got us to where we are right now, was the fault of Ray Bernard. I'm going to assume that everybody else tried desperately to talk him out of it. Because that way I don't have to do what I just said I would do. How does that sound?"

    I leaned back in my chair, making the point that I was in charge. It would have worked better if the chair hadn't chosen that moment to finally lean back, putting me off balance, and almost throwing me onto the floor. She looked like she wanted to laugh out loud, but was stopping herself as hard as she could. Now, finally, the smile approached her eyes. It was still a very nice smile. It cleared away quickly.

    "It sounds as though you think we're all a bunch of idiots who need you to come along and save us from ourselves. But you're going to condescend to us, because that will work so very well to get us on your side."

    "I'm not all that worried about you all being on my side. It would be nice, sure. But the only person I really need on my side is the guy who signs our checks, and if Nomen didn't think I could do the job, he wouldn't have put me here."

    At this, she grinned. "Sure, but remember, Peter Nomen thought Ray Bernard was qualified too."

    "And what did you think?" I asked.

    She seemed surprised by the question. "I, uh, well..." she hesitated, before collecting herself. "I wondered why Mr. Nomen would hire a bunch of people who clearly knew baseball, and put them in positions throughout the organization, and then make his private secretary the GM."

    "Does seem kind of dumb."

    She stopped. She was looking at me now, for the first time. I think she was trying to decide if I was somebody who she could talk baseball with, rather than play office games. Which is all I really wanted. Unless she decided to show me what's under the sweater, but I wasn't going to encourage that. Yet.

    "Okay," she said, "cards on the table. Ray Bernard was in over his head from the minute Nomen hired him. He is what happens when the boss hires one of his buddies, instead of somebody who knows the job. He picked bad players, in every draft he's had. He picked bad scouts, and you're going to have to fix that. He picked bad coaches in the minors, and you're going to have to fix that too. He was out-negotiated by agents, and by minor league team owners, and by the Mayor's office. Somehow he did okay with the unions, but that's about it, and to be honest I'm not sure that was his doing. He was forced into errors, and he made unforced errors. He should have been replaced the day before he was hired..." And once again, she seemed to be finishing the sentence in her head.

    "And I'm going to need my Director of Player Development's help, or I'm never going to be able to do anything with this mess. Isn't that right?"

    She'd been on a good rant a moment ago. This pulled her up short, and she sat and looked at me for a bit. Finally, a real smile, and for the first time the eyes matched. "Damn right you are," she said, and, standing, held out her hand. I rose and took it. "Hi. I'm Jack Weston," I said. "Nice to meet you."

    "Nice to meet you, Jack. I'm Mal Evans."

    "Good to meet you Mal. Let's get to work."
    The Orange and Black(Sox) - The Complete Saga

    Part One - The First Ten Long Years: The Orange and Black(Sox)
    Part Two - Ten More Years! (Orange and) Black Times
    The Spin-off Mini-Series: An Orange and Black Shroud

    Part Three - How Long Can This Go On? Charlie's War

    The Spin-Off: Braves New World

  8. #8
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    Re: Brooklyn Blues

    October, 2020

    As I sat in my office, trying to figure out how I was going to arrange my two boxes of stuff in such a way that their contents filled space for about eleven boxes, I heard a buzz. It started as merely "annoying", but progressed quickly to also being "persistent".

    I went looking for it. It clearly wasn't on my desk, because as I said, nothing was. It wasn't on the small conference table in the meeting area of the office. Not on the shelves, or the empty trophy case. After searching through the drawers in the heavy wood...whatever kind of furniture it was...and finding some things that Bernard had left behind that threatened to move the needle on my opinion of him, I finally came across it under my desk, where the chair would be if I pushed it in. Turned out it was an intercom, with a message from my secretary letting me know that he was in.

    From this I learned a few things.

    1. Ray Bernard was not afraid to imbibe.
    2. I had a secretary.

    I asked him to come in so I could meet him. A man in his mid-twenties showed up at my door a moment later. He was...well. I would honestly be able to tell my Dad I had a pretty secretary.

    Remember Captain Kirk back in the TV show days? Or, for that matter, Captain Kirk in the movie reboots? He didn't look exactly like either of them, but that's the level of pretty we were dealing with here. I figured him for about an inch or two shorter than my own 6' 2". But where my playing days muscle had begun the inevitable over-40 conversion, he was still fit and trim.

    And observant. "I see you looking," he said.

    I paused for a second, then held out my hand. "I'm Jack."

    "I don't do that, you know." He didn't take my hand.

    "What, you don't shake hands?"

    "I don't have sex with my boss. Or anyone at work. It's a policy of mine that I hold to very tightly."

    "Um, okay," I said, as I quietly brought my hand in.

    "I'm flattered, don't get me wrong. Well, really I'm not all that flattered either. It does happen all the time. It's kind of a nuisance by now."

    "Ah." I was definitely on the wrong foot here. "I, uh..."

    "I get it. Really, I do. You see someone who looks, well, like this," and he gestured to himself, "and you start to wonder what it would be like. It's only human."

    "I'm really not trying to-"

    "But you have to resist it," he continued as though I hadn't said a word.

    "That shouldn't be any problem, because I'm not trying-"

    "But of course, if I were that easy to resist, more people would do it, and I wouldn't always have to be the strong one."

    "I don't want to-"

    "No, of course. Nobody wants to. They just can't help themselves. They just assume that somebody so obviously built for speed is always available to race. It never occurs to them that I'm about more than just the obvious physical perfection."

    "I don't think you're per-"

    "I have a mind, you know. I'm very good at my job, you know. And I have hobbies, and interests. I'm not just all about sex, all the time, pounding, pounding, driving sex, until it just drives you out of your mind. I'm-"

    "I don't want to have sex with you!" I yelled, loudly enough to finally cut through what was apparently a well-practiced monologue.

    It worked. He stopped, stared at me, Appraisingly, I thought. But then...

    "Wow. Totally homophobic and proud enough of it to yell it at me within five minutes of meeting me. Not a good look for you, dude. You need to check your privilege, and maybe educate yourself. I'm not sure I'm going to be able to work for someone who's that prejudiced and open about it."

    And he left the room. I watched him as he returned to his outer office.

    "What just happened here?"

    I then realized that there was a woman in the door to my office. A small strawberry blonde. About five and a half feet tall, with pretty blue eyes and a face that had seen more time outdoors in her youth than was really good for it. The opposite of Malinda in one respect, she wore a woman's business suit and wore it to show off whatever she had. Also unlike Malinda, she didn't have much to hide.

    "Well," she said with a small smile. "I see you've met Colt."

    "Is that who that was?" I was still looking past the door into the outer office.

    "Uh huh. He's harmless."

    "Good to know."

    "No matter how much you try, he's not going to sleep with you. Or anybody else around here," she said. Very wistfully, it seemed to me. "But I know how you feel. I'll talk to you later. You probably need to be alone for a bit now. God knows I always do." She left and closed my door.

    And I repeat - what just happened here?
    The Orange and Black(Sox) - The Complete Saga

    Part One - The First Ten Long Years: The Orange and Black(Sox)
    Part Two - Ten More Years! (Orange and) Black Times
    The Spin-off Mini-Series: An Orange and Black Shroud

    Part Three - How Long Can This Go On? Charlie's War

    The Spin-Off: Braves New World

  9. #9
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    Re: Brooklyn Blues

    October, 2020

    I kept looking at the roster. It didn't get any better no matter how many times I looked at it. So I looked around the table. They didn't change any either, still staring at me, waiting to see what I was going to say.

    We were in the conference room down the hall from my office. Either someone had prevented Ray Bernard from inflicting his choice of team colors on this room, or someone had hit it with several coats of white since Bernard was shown the door. Judging by the smell, I was guessing repaint. The small smears around the doorknob and the lightswitch showed me that it was done quickly. Or cheaply. Or possibly both.

    Most of the room was dominated by the table. I knew where I'd hold a family Thanksgiving meal if I ever had an urge to invite every cousin I've ever had. This table would easily seat twenty-five, was made of some shiny polished wood that I couldn't identify because I didn't care what wood it was made of, and probably weighed a thousand pounds. The twenty chairs around it were overstuffed and oversized, so that everybody in it seemed to be just a bit smaller than they really were. I always felt like a kid playing at grownup. Looking around at the people there wasn't helping.

    Mal was at the other end. We had already basically determined that she was going to be helping me with the transition, since somehow this multi-million dollar organization didn't have an assistant GM. I'm more than a little surprised that they have a GM at all. I should probably see about making her the assistant GM, but I'm not sure either of us trusts the other yet.

    On Mal's left sat Herb Winwood, our top Finance guy. I wasn't a whiz at finance, and I knew it, so I wanted to make sure I could work with Herb. I also wanted to make sure he wasn't going to explode just sitting there - I hadn't seen a man so twitchy since my playing days, when some of the guys did some lines after the game. I didn't think he was that kind of twitchy though. He just seemed uncomfortable in his suit. I would have been too. I guessed I'd have to work on the dress code along with everything else.

    Behind him, in the second row of seats around the room, and almost hidden by Herb's six feet four frame and Einstein hair, was a little mouse of a man who I'd only just learned was Herb's top budget man, Joe Lampere. Both Herb and Joe looked to be in their fifties, and both appeared to sweat a bit too much. Lampere, though, also looked out of place, like he should have been a lumberjack or a tugboat captain or something like that. Lampere was looking at Herb, while Herb was looking at his reflection in the table.

    On Mal's right was a tall, thin man with iron gray hair, who looked like a judge. Or like a judge is supposed to look, anyway. This was Adam Talbot, and he'd been introduced to me as my Minor League Director. I hoped he was good, because we surely needed a good minor league system. God knew most of the players we had belonged there, if they belonged on a team at all. Adam was somehow more immobile than Herb was twitchy. He wore a gray three piece suit, which should have made him look more stable than the rest of the room, and probably would have if I hadn't earlier seen him remove the JC Penney tag on the jacket.

    Since nobody was volunteering to start the meeting, I decided to break the silence. "Mr. Lampere, would you mind moving to the big table. God knows we've got room." Winwood scowled, and Lampere jumped, and I knew I was going to have trouble with these two. Lampere kept looking at me, as I pointed at one of the empty chairs. I think if I'd gone on with the meeting he'd have settled back into his seat in the outer ring, but when he saw I was going to remain where I was with my arm outstretched until he moved, he finally, reluctantly, did.

    The strongly-built African-American man next to the previously empty seat moved over, although there was plenty of room as it was. He'd been the last one in the room, so I'd not been formally introduced to him yet. "Thank you," I said, "Mister..." I trailed off, allowing him time to jump in.

    He did, with a voice that should have been singing about a Grinch. "I'm Frank Scurry. I'm your head of scouting. I need more money." Said seriously, it would have been a hell of a challenging way to meet the boss, but he was definitely not serious. I thought. He also wore a suit, but it was two piece and he looked as though one or two flexes would be all it would take to rip it to shreds.

    "Frank Scurry," I nodded. "I know that name. Did you play ball?"

    He smiled. "If you remember my name, you have a good memory for bad baseball, Mr. Weston." He chuckled and I thought it was going to shake the windows. I made a mental note to find out if he could sing the National Anthem. "I was in the Expos organization a couple of years before you were drafted. My lack of talent probably contributed to their need to pick you, though I was gone by then." The twinkle in his eye, and his voice, said that his lack of success was something he'd dealt with long ago.

    I didn't trust it. Sorry, but nobody who makes it to the level of play that gets them drafted into professional ball is that unconcerned with not making it. I didn't want to say anything yet, especially since I'd figured out where I'd heard of him just before he said it. He was right, I'd heard from my first pro coach that they'd had a guy who was the great hope of the organization before me, and he'd been great until they threw him his first pro curve ball. So I had never met the man, but had thought of him as a loser for 25 years. And if it was this easy for him to accept it, then a quarter century of mystery was solved. He immediatly moved higher on my list of people to be let go.

    "And what would you do with more money, Frank?" I kept it neutral. At least I thought I did, though that look of annoyance that flitted across his face said otherwise.

    "Fire some scouts who don't know anything more about baseball than that they can't play it. Find some who know how to recognize talent when it's in front of them. You've got a bad roster there, and you need to be able to know who to deal, who to drop, and who to pick up. If we can build a good scouting staff in these first few months, everything else will follow from that. Good scouts means good players means good replacements when it's time to let the earlier good players go."

    "I see you are familiar with how I like to work," I said.

    "Actually I'm not. But there are only so many ways to build a team. You start with proven talent that's a little past its prime, get some immediate success, and use that to lure other veterans here in free agency. Or you start at the bottom and stay there until your kids grow up, then deal them when they get expensive. Either way you need to know how good the boys on your team are, and how good the boys trying to be on your team are, and if that's not accurate, you're stuck. My job is to get you the most accurate numbers available, which means I need the best scouts. Which means, as I said, I need more money."

    Okay, I wasn't sure I trusted him, but I couldn't argue with him. Not on this, anyway.
    The Orange and Black(Sox) - The Complete Saga

    Part One - The First Ten Long Years: The Orange and Black(Sox)
    Part Two - Ten More Years! (Orange and) Black Times
    The Spin-off Mini-Series: An Orange and Black Shroud

    Part Three - How Long Can This Go On? Charlie's War

    The Spin-Off: Braves New World

  10. #10
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    Re: Brooklyn Blues

    October, 2020

    The meeting continued.

    "I'm going to keep going around the table, because I think we have a problem here. Actually, I think we have two, but if I don't fix the small one, I can't fix the big one."

    At least I had their attention. Scurry, Lampere, and Winwood were all looking at me as though they couldn't figure out what the small problem I was talking about might be. Mal was sitting back. She knew. She'd been the one, without meaning to, who'd let me know it existed in the first place.

    "So who's next?" But I was looking straight at the strawberry blonde from yesterday, seated next to Scurry. I'd seen her walk in. Had to admit that while I'm not much of a leg man, any who were would be impressed.

    "That would be me," she said. "I'm Jill Weaver. I'm your marketing director. And you're right, we have a problem. Are you going to change the team name?"

    I was a little surprised by the question. "What makes you ask?", I hedged.

    "Because Ray Bernard screwed things up six ways from Sunday since the day he was hired, but it was only after he announced that the team would be the Brooklyn Barons and not the Brooklyn Dodgers that he got fired. And I need to know, because he had me and my whole department work up the marketing for the Barons. If we're going to be the Dodgers, I need to make some massive changes and fast."

    "Which would be easier for you?"

    She caught herself from actually calling me a bad name. I was glad, because I had decided that I liked her. "What difference does that make?" she finally countered. "If you want us to be the Barons, we've already got our ads set up for that. We know our colors, we know our team, and we'll make a big push based on the novelty angle. If you want us to be the Dodgers, we'll have to change the colors, change the name, and push on history and nostalgia. We can do it either way, we just need to know."

    "And what do you think would be best?" I wasn't stalling, I really wanted to hear it. And more, to hear if she would say it.

    "Best would have been if Ray had asked me in the first place. But he didn't, and he announced the purple and gold Barons, and that's what the public sees us as now. There's no doubt in my mind they saw us as the return of the Dodgers the day before. The Dodgers, the nostalgia, it all practically writes itself. This new...thing...well, we're throwing away one of the built-in appeals we had. But nobody asked me."

    I hid my smile. At least she hadn't ended with a flourish and shown me the nail holes in her hands. Instead I just said "Jill, I'm asking. I'd like to have a report from you on the pros and cons of either option. In fact, I'd like to have your thoughts on whether we should still consider other options. We wouldn't be the first team to run a contest to pick a name, you know."

    She jumped in before I could go any further. "You want us to go into November or December without knowing what our team name is! That's cutting way too much into our time to build a buzz! Why - "

    "No, that's not what I said. I said I'd like to have a written report from you about it. Today is October 15th. I want you and I to meet within one week and hear from you everything you think about the advantages and disadvantages of changing the team's identity. You get creative, you tell me the best way to go from where we are now. Okay?"

    She didn't look convinced, but she nodded. I figured that was the best I was going to get from her today.

    "That's also going to make matters tougher on my end," the woman across the table from Jill said. In her late 50s, with graying hair and thick glasses. I guessed that she'd been quite a looker in her day, which was decidedly not now.

    "And you're Natalie Harper, right? My head of Media Relations?"

    She nodded, and even the nod was all business. "That's right. You have to know how bad we already look to the local sports media. We're not a team, then we're a team, then we're a series of bad draft picks, then we're the Dodgers, then we're the Barons. If we keep going like that, we're going to be even more of a laughingstock than we are now."

    "So you don't think you can bring the media to our side if we make some changes?" I knew what I was expecting to hear, again wanted to see if I got it.

    I did. Jill had had to catch herself, but it probably wasn't noticeable to anyone not looking for it. Natalie was less able to hide it, and for just a moment some anger blazed in her eyes. When she spoke, it was a very mannered, deliberate speaking, as though she was talking to a child. I was going to have my hands full with this one.

    "I can bring the media over to our side if we play at Generic Stadium and you call us the Players to be Named Later." I thought she was going to go further, but she didn't, and so I laughed.

    "I think we can avoid that, though I admit the Brooklyn Players does have a certain charm. Team colors of black, white and gray, I'd assume?" Others laughed too. I nodded to Natalie, indicating that we would talk more later.

    The next person in the room, Drew Davis, who I was told was the Director of Promotions, was dark-haired, dark-complexioned, and appeared to be one of those men who got five o'clock shadow by 9 AM. He didn't say much even when I talked to him directly, looking instead at his supervisor Jill to find what he was supposed to say. He had the kind of looks that women just seem to melt for - I could see him in our ads, and was pretty sure that was how Jill had found him in the first place.

    I also thought I detected a couple of looks going his way from the woman to my right. It wasn't until she introduced herself that I saw why. "I'm Emma Davis," which coupled with the glances made her either Drew's sister or wife. I hoped sister, because I'm not sure I'd seen a more beautiful woman in twenty years. Ash blonde short hair, gray eyes, flawless skin, a cupid's bow mouth. I was smitten, I admit it, though that's not all that hard to do.

    But then she continued, in a completely deadpan voice. "I'm your Director of Security. My job is to see to it that you, the team, the stadium, and everything else associated with us, whatever our name may turn out to be, is safe and secure against all threats, foreign and domestic."

    I laughed at the obvious hyperbole. Too late, I noticed that nobody else did. But I kept going. "That's good to know. Out of curiousity, what kind of foreign threats do you expect?" I thought I heard a sharp intake of breath from someone around the table.

    Sure enough, she just leveled a stare at me. "All. Threats." And then...she kept staring. It was far more uncomfortable than being stared at by such a gorgeous woman should have been.

    "Ahem. Yes. Well. All right then." I saw the smirks around the table. I had lost that one. Time to change the subject.

    "Malinda, is there anyone else who should have been here?"

    Smirking, because she knew I'd lost too, she said. "Probably. You'll want to meet Carlton Carter, get his opinion on things. He's our head of HR."

    "No I won't. I haven't met an HR person yet whose opinion I wanted. But please continue."

    That brought her up short for a second, but she shook it off. "Then nobody else. Well, nobody else who we've hired yet."

    "All right," I said to the room. "I said earlier that I saw two problems. One is that you all think I'm blaming you for the team being in the shape it's in now. I'm not. I'm blaming Bernard." It was a small joke, but it seemed to get a smile from them all. "It doesn't matter whose fault anything is. What matters is how we go from where we are now, to where we want to go. And where we want to go, is having some World Series trophies in that empty case out in the lobby.

    "People, I've been to the World Series twice. Won one, and you all know what happened at the second one." I looked around - they did, and it was as though a little bit of pressure went out of the room because I'd brought it up first. "It's a lot of fun to go to them. It's even more fun to win them.

    "So let's go have some fun."
    The Orange and Black(Sox) - The Complete Saga

    Part One - The First Ten Long Years: The Orange and Black(Sox)
    Part Two - Ten More Years! (Orange and) Black Times
    The Spin-off Mini-Series: An Orange and Black Shroud

    Part Three - How Long Can This Go On? Charlie's War

    The Spin-Off: Braves New World

  11. #11
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    Re: Brooklyn Blues

    October, 2020

    I was right. I met Carlton Carter, the head of HR. My life was every bit as rich, full, and exciting before I met him as it was after. He's a little round man with a little round head and a great big sense of his own importance. On a team he'd have never made it, even a high school team and even if he had a hundred mile an hour fastball. He'd have had too much itching powder in his jock. Or hot feet. Or anything else I'd ever heard from my grandfather that my Dad's teammates had done to him, for that matter. I had dealt with his type outside of family before too, and would do what I usually did. I'd treat him the way I would a rabid animal - with a great deal of respect as he could hurt me severely, and from as great a distance as I possibly could.

    Until I decided it was time to shoot the *******.

    Honestly, it was pretty nice to meet everybody else. Especially once word got around that I wasn't blaming them for everything that had gone wrong, but wanted their help in fixing it. No, I didn't really mean it. Didn't mean the parts where I said that nobody was going to lose their job, either. Some of them needed to. Some of the people in this organization needed to be Drop and Pops.

    I'll explain. For the past ten years, I'd been in the front office at various minor league levels for the New York Giants. Yes, I got the job at St. Lucie because my grandpa Karl felt sorry for me when I "retired." Didn't matter, I was good at it, and rose through the ranks. When we would release a player, often within a day or so their name would come up on the league's "voluntarily retired" list. In other words, guys who were barely hanging on in our organization, and couldn't get a job with anybody else in baseball, and knew it. We'd drop them...and they'd pop up on the list. Drop and pop.

    And as I said, some of the people in this organization need to be Drop and Pops. But I have to walk a fine line, and make sure the reason I'm firing them gets around. Even if it's not the real reason.

    Example. One of Frank Scurry's top scouts is a man named Ron Smith. Mal informed me that Smith was actually hired before Scurry, and was in line to be the Director of Scouting. He'd made several of the decisions that had given the Barons their minor league system, such as it was. Then Mr. Nomen had discovered Scurry. More accurately, he'd discovered that Scurry had been trying to get to see him for months, and that Smith had been blocking it for that much time.

    Now, perhaps you've seen one of Nomen's TED Talks. Good looking blond guy, in his fifties but doesn't look it, tall and thin and active, always moving on the stage. Wears the black turtleneck and perfectly faded jeans, looks like the tech billionaire he is. Really big on the whole flow of information thing, makes it a key part of the philosophical crap he puts out (and that the techophiles just lap up). And just, always, conveying the idea that he is the one in control, no matter what the situation is. So, to find out that one of his underlings was preventing him from getting the information he needed? That one wasn't going to be around too long.

    But here's the thing about Nomen. It's not that he's a softie or anything, but he doesn't like firing people. I mean, most people don't, but he really doesn't like it. So Ron Smith is still employed by the Brooklyn Barons, though at a truly impressive cut in pay. But he's had a slight re-assignment. He is now the man solely responsible for finding us hot international prospects. In Greenland.

    I'm going to just fire him. But I don't want the people in the office to think that if they make a mistake, they'll lose their jobs. That produces nothing but a group of yes men, people who are afraid to be risk-takers. I don't need either of those. So I'm going to let it be known that he was fired exactly because he was a yes man who was afraid to take a risk. That those are two things I will not tolerate. You know, the usual boss rah-rah stuff.

    But first I have to have a meeting with Mr. Nomen. I have this risk I want to take.
    The Orange and Black(Sox) - The Complete Saga

    Part One - The First Ten Long Years: The Orange and Black(Sox)
    Part Two - Ten More Years! (Orange and) Black Times
    The Spin-off Mini-Series: An Orange and Black Shroud

    Part Three - How Long Can This Go On? Charlie's War

    The Spin-Off: Braves New World

  12. #12
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    Re: Brooklyn Blues

    October, 2020

    "Bill, have a seat." I welcomed my old friend into the office. "Can I get you anything?"

    "What do you have?", the grizzled old man asked. Well, grizzled. He's in his mid-50s, about 15 years older than I am - so by definition, old. Funny, I remember when to be old you had to be 30 years older than I am.

    And his question brought me up short. "You know, I have no idea." I looked in a cabinet in which I'd seen some bottles earlier. "Ah, we're in Brooklyn. Flavored mineral water. A lot of mixers and no booze."

    "You haven't been here very long. You want to fix that right away, boy."

    "Yes I do. In the meantime, I've got something over there on the table that says it'll make more different kinds of coffee than Juan Valdez ever dreamed of. I don't have a phone yet, but I've got a designer coffee maker."

    "Give me a bottle of water and skip all that hipster crap." I did, and he took a sip. Made a face. "What the hell flavor is that?" He looked at the bottle. "Raspberry pomegranate with kiwi?" He looked at me, looked at the purple carpet. "This crap making changes in you, boy?"

    "Oh, I don't know. A few curtains, some throw pillows..." I trailed off. Seeing the look of disgust on his face was enough. "You're going to have to keep that kind of talk under wraps, you know," I said in my most serious tone.

    "Aw, hell, you know me. 'Live and let live' for real, Jack. Especially on that particular matter."

    "I do know, Bill. I remember you before your brother came out though."

    He took another swig, looked down. Was that shame I saw? "Yeah, well, I learned a lot then, okay?" Then his head snapped up and he stared at me, and it felt like I was a kid again. "What do you mean I'm going to have to keep that kind of talk under wraps? For what?"

    "If you're going to live here in Brooklyn."

    As I expected, that almost brought him out of the chair. "What in hell would I want to do that for?" he practically bellowed. There was my old coach. I looked, and...yes, there was that vein in his temple. I noticed it was easier to see it now that what hair he had was either gray or much thinner than before. Ah, that bellow. The drill sergeant routine. The attitude, the swagger, that went with it. The unswerving sense that he knew, simply knew, that he was better at whatever it was he wanted you to do than you were, that he was probably wasting his time, but that if by some chance you had the sense God gave a goose you might just shut your pie hole and learn from him, and you might be able to do it yourself once he took the training wheels off, and half a dozen other mixed metaphors and messed-up catch phrases.

    So I gave it back. "Well, *****, I'd figure you'd want to live somewhere near where your job is, unless you want to fly in every day from whatever little hole in Cow Hampshire you're living in now."

    He sat back, as he always did when somebody responded in kind. Somebody he respected, anyway. And since he and I had been through it together (would always be associated in the public mind, in fact), I was one of the few on that list. Still, he looked suspicious, as though he thought I was trying to con him. I was, but not in the way he thought. "What job?" Somehow when he said it, the first word had three syllables.

    "Manager. Come on, Kyser, you didn't think I'd ask you to drive down here just to see my new office, did you?"

    "I hoped you did, boy. If you haven't noticed, I haven't been in a whole hell of a lot of demand for the past fifteen years."

    "It was thirteen, and you have so. Don't pull that poor pitiful me crap on me old man, and give me credit for knowing what you've been up to. You've coached college ball. You've run a baseball academy. You've stayed in the game."

    "I'm not old!" Then he saw me smiling at him. "Punk kid. I should have known you couldn't run fast enough to beat that throw."

    "You should have never sent me." But there was no heat in either of us. It was two old friends, with two well-worn lines. And we were both smiling.

    "Maybe not. But I'd do it again today, and you'd still run your ass off to make it happen." And as two old friends will do, we sat, silently, with our thoughts for a moment.

    "Now what's this about being a manager? Coach, sure, I can do that. That's what I thought this might be about. But manager? Hell, boy, I haven't done that in years, and never at the major league level. Unless you're talking about taking one of your minor league teams. Albany?"

    I was stunned. Not because of what he'd said, but the way in which he'd said it. Sure, he'd named our Triple A team. But it was with a hope. As in, please don't tell me you want me to start at Double A, or Single A, because we both know I'll do it, but I'll be embarrassed. I hadn't seen him in a long time, and for the first time since thinking of him for the job, I doubted myself. Was he really that beaten by that one moment?

    "No, Bill, I'm not talking about Albany. I said Brooklyn, and I meant Brooklyn. I want you to be the first manager of the Brooklyn Do- Barons." I stumbled over the name. I hoped he wouldn't notice.

    His laugh told me he did, even before he followed suit. "Can't even say the name, can you? Yet another dumb decision. Are you trying to handicap yourself, boy? Prove you can do it with one hand tied behind your back?"

    "Hey, it was the decision that made Nomen decide to finally bite the bullet and fire Bernard. I can't knock it." Something about what I'd said bothered me, but Bill kept talking and I forgot it.

    "Course you can. So, Nomen. He going to give you a lot of trouble? Always meddling, mixing in when you're trying to get a good player, or a good trade? He going to tell you that the seven year deal you just painfully negotiated with an ace free agent is too long because he doesn't like the guy's mustache? Or that you can't deal away an old fool to restock your farm system because you can't give up on the season when you're twenty eight games out in August?"

    "I don't know. I know those are exactly the kind of questions I asked him when he interviewed me. He-"

    "You asked him?" he interrupted. "Or you told him you wouldn't take the job if he pulled any of that crap?"

    "You got me. I told him. He said 'You're the baseball man. I make the money. You build the team."

    "Sounds too good to be true."

    "I'm sure it is," I said. "I'm sure he'll have his surprises. He's probably just waiting until I want to get rid of Andres Blanco, or somebody else he likes, and he'll just casually drop by my office, and casually mention that he'd heard rumors to that effect but he knows I'd never be dumb enough to even suggest such a thing. But you know what, Bill? Until that day comes, I'm going to do whatever I think is best for the team. And one of the things I think is best is for you to be the manager."

    He thought about it for a moment. He needn't have - his answer was clear. "Okay, I'll do it. But I'm not going to wear the damn purple."

    "It's part of the uniform. Unless you want to wear a business suit like Connie Mack, you'll wear it."

    He looked like he was going to argue, but then stopped, smiled. "Deal." He held out a meaty paw. I rose and took it, thinking that he'd given in too easily. Well, at least he gave in. I like it when people do that with me.

    "You know I knew you were going to accept," I said as he sat back down.

    "How?"

    "When I said the best thing for the team was for you to be manager. You didn't ask why. That told me you already agreed."

    "Well for damn sure I didn't ask you why you thought I was the best for the job! If I did you'd have thought I wanted you to hold my hand and tell me I'm good, and we both know I don't give a rat's ass about that. Now let me see that s**tshow of a roster you've got there."

    He was right, it was still a terrible roster. And while the men on it didn't know it, they'd just become a better team.
    The Orange and Black(Sox) - The Complete Saga

    Part One - The First Ten Long Years: The Orange and Black(Sox)
    Part Two - Ten More Years! (Orange and) Black Times
    The Spin-off Mini-Series: An Orange and Black Shroud

    Part Three - How Long Can This Go On? Charlie's War

    The Spin-Off: Braves New World

  13. #13
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    Re: Brooklyn Blues

    OMG I am so glad I decided to randomly log in. Love it!!!!!

  14. #14
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    Re: Brooklyn Blues

    jshaw: Hey, great to see you! I'm glad you came in too. Hope all is well.

    * * *

    October, 2020

    "Bill Kyser? You hired Bill Kyser to be your manager?"

    I smiled at Mal as she practically jumped out of her seat. Her face was turning redder by the second. So I played it off, to see if I could get a bigger reaction from her. "Sure. He's got a lot of experience."

    "Yes he does! All of it bad! Why would you want us to be associated with the public's one biggest memory of him?"

    It wasn't an official meeting or anything, just a chat in the breakroom, so there were more than a few witnesses. Scurry, Lampere, Weaver. Both Davises. The young college intern, Dara something, or Dava, or something like that. A few others. All of whom knew exactly what she meant. None more than me, of course. But you could almost hear them all sucking in their breaths that she would bring it up. It was, after all, only the afternoon of my second day there.

    "You mean the way they're going to associate the Barons with the public's biggest memory of me?" I sounded angry. I wasn't.

    I've had a long time to get used to this coming up, it doesn't hurt any more. Much. Or so I tell mysef, at least three times a day. I could hear from the murmurs in the room that they had all been expecting it, and most of them really wished they were in another room right then.

    Of course Mal wasn't backing away - of course she couldn't just let it go. She did tone it down a bit. "Well, yes. I mean, it was a long time ago. But you have to know that every interview, every manager's corner, every public appearance is going to talk about that play and not about the Barons. Is that really what we want?"

    "When we start? We're going to be so bad, we're going to need every bit of distraction we can find. I've already talked to Jill, and Natalie, and Drew about that." I gestured toward Drew as I said it.

    "We've still got to market ourselves," she said, as though she thought that it wasn't an uphill struggle anyway.

    I may have surprised her. I nodded. "You're right, we've got to market ourselves, and let's face it, the product we're selling is going to stink. People are not going to come to the park to watch us play good baseball, because we're not going to play good baseball. The one thing I can do - that is, the one thing we are supposed to do, and we're going to be very bad at it. So if they're distracted by memories of a World Series, let them be. Maybe they'll come out to see if Bill screws up again. It doesn't matter."

    I turned my attention from her to the rest of the room. "Do you get that? It doesn't matter. If it weren't for that one day you all know that Bill would have been managing in the majors for years now, and we wouldn't be able to afford him. We're getting a break this way. We're getting a man who knows this game inside and out, backwards and forwards, from beginning to end. Do you think we could find anyone better?"

    "Not anyone who would come here," Drew said, quietly.

    "Right," I replied, smiling. I took a bite of a pear, went on. "Not anyone who would come here. So maybe Bill's a reclamation project. But then, so am I. So is the whole team - we weren't supposed to get this franchise, remember? Hell, the whole city, or borough, or whatever, is a reclamation project, getting a team back after all this time. It's perfect." I looked at her across the table. I still hadn't really moved while I was talking, just sitting there, in a normal voice. Not mad at all, just a couple of friends kicking around an idea. On the outside anyway. "Now before I end up doing the Meatballs speech, does that make sense to you?" Okay, that was maybe a little condescending. Oh well.

    She started to bristle though. But before she could say anything, the kid asked a question. "Before this goes any further, could I ask someone to explain what you're talking about here?"

    Okay, so I guess I was wrong, and not everybody in the room knew. Which made sense. She's just started her freshman year of college. She was probably about three or four when it happened. I was going to answer, but before I could, Mal turned to her. "Dana, you're in baseball now. Which means there are some baseball legends you're going to have to learn," she said. "Some of them are great, and some are funny, and some are just bad."

    "Legendarily bad," Drew added.

    Mal nodded, went on. "Legendarily bad. And one of those is here right now. Have you ever heard of Merkle's Boner?"

    Dana looked shocked. "Merkle's...boner...was a legend? How - I mean, was it - I mean..." Any tension that had remained in the room evaporated as everyone laughed.

    Emma said "Don't worry, young woman, this is just another example of how the meaning of words can be altered, corrupted, and/or changed over time. You see, a 'boner' did not always have its meaning of the male appendage. A century ago, it meant a mistake." She then left her thoughts on that unspoken - and didn't speak them so loudly that everybody in the room knew exactly what they were.

    Unnerved now, I picked up the story. "Fred Merkle was a player for the New York Giants over a hundred years ago. He made a big mistake," I turned to Mal and exaggerated this next part, "that wasn't really a mistake, and was exactly what everyone else was doing," and then turned back to Dana, "and it cost his team the pennant for that year. And the mistake became known as Merkle's Boner, and followed him for the rest of his career."

    "Rest of his life," Scurry contributed. "It was part of his obituary."

    "And there were plenty of others," Mal went on. "There was another less-known one with the Giants just a few years later." She paused, wrinkled her nose kind of cutely. "Come to think of it, it has a bad name too. It's called Snodgrass's Muff."

    "Wow," Dana said. "I had no idea old time baseball was so...graphic."

    It hung there, a fat pitch over the middle. By silent agreement, we all passed it up. Mal continued as though she hadn't spoken. "He dropped a fly ball in the 1912 Series, and ended up costing them the whole thing.

    Scurry chimed in. "There have been plenty of famous mistakes in the game. There was the Gaston Gaffe that cost the '73 Orioles Game Six against the Giants. And more."

    My turn. "And then...there's the 2007 World Series. The Cubs, trying to end a fifty-nine year drought, against the Oakland Oaks." Now all eyes in the room were on me. As they should be - nobody would have quite my perspective on things, not even Scurry, who had played ball.

    "And the game that changed my life."
    Last edited by birdsin89; 05-15-2020 at 11:56 AM.
    The Orange and Black(Sox) - The Complete Saga

    Part One - The First Ten Long Years: The Orange and Black(Sox)
    Part Two - Ten More Years! (Orange and) Black Times
    The Spin-off Mini-Series: An Orange and Black Shroud

    Part Three - How Long Can This Go On? Charlie's War

    The Spin-Off: Braves New World

  15. #15
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    Re: Brooklyn Blues

    November, 2020

    "The Chicago Cubs are one of the more snakebit teams in baseball history. Really good around the turn of the last century, then nothing until the mid-forties. Took them 39 years between championships or something like that." I had the attention of the room, but was mostly just setting the pitch for Dara, the college intern. Or Dava. Dana. Whatever.

    "And it turned out that those two championships in the forties were the peak. After that, let me think, some division titles, but nothing beyond that. And the weirdest things would happen to make them lose. It was like God Himself didn't want to see another title there."

    "Now don't get me wrong, they weren't terrible for that whole time. After their good run in the forties, they made it to the Series, what, every twenty years or so?"

    "Sixty-six. Eighty-five. Won their division in 2004. Divisions or wild cards in 81, 83, 99 - 2001, 2005, and 2006," Lampere said in a dead voice. Everyone turned to look at him. "What? I was born in Chicago."

    I smiled, turned back to Dara. "Okay then. Some success, nothing that got them a ring. I mean, they weren't Reds bad, and they weren't Pirates bad. How long has it been since the Pirates won a Series?" I turned to Joe. "Anybody in the room from Pittsburgh?"

    Mal answered. "I'm not, but they haven't won a World Series since 1909, and they've only been in two since then. Some time in the thirties, and about ten or so years ago." Now we all swiveled to look at her. "I was a scout for them for a year or two. It was a challenge. No matter how messed up our organization might get, it'll never be as bad as that one."

    "God willing," I said. Then I turned back to Dara and my story. "Okay, so the Cubs weren't the saddest, but they weren't far from it. They were getting close in 2005 and 2006, but not quite. Then they made an offseason deal with the Raptors." I saw Lampere wince. I laughed. "Right. The one that brought me to Chicago, with Mike Bacsik - "

    "For Jon Zuber, Yuniesky Betancourt, Rick Ankiel, and cash," Lampere said quietly. As though it was an incantation.

    "Hey, don't knock it Joe, it worked, didn't it? We got to the Series that year. Me, and Jeter, and Tony Batista, and Orlando Hudson. Remember?" I was teasing - if he was the fan he seemed to be, I knew he remembered. You just did.

    "Kris Benson went 18 - 1 that year for us. Nobody else was that good, but they were all good, even Bacsik."

    "And I hit 29 dingers, which wasn't my best by a long shot, but didn't suck. Tony Batista hit 40 or 50, but I didn't hurt anybody." I hoped it didn't sound defensive.

    Apparently it did. "Nobody is saying you did," Frank jumped in. Well, at least nobody's yelling at me for hiring Kyser any more.

    I waved him off. "And we should have lost to the Giants in the playoffs, but we came from down two games to one, to win in five. Then we should have lost to the Phillies, but we held them off and won. So then came Oakland."

    I saw Lampere nodding along with me. He clearly remembered. I motioned to him to take it for a bit. As though he knew where I was going, he did. "Oakland that year was the best team in baseball. I think they won 110 or something like that. They could hold you scoreless and win a pitcher's duel, or they could club you to death."

    "And in the Series, they did both. The first three times they beat us, it was something like 10 - 0, 12 - 4, and -"

    "Nineteen to eight," Lampere said. What could I say? He was right.

    "Yeah. Whereas we beat them 4 - 2, 3 - 2, and 5 - 0."

    "And your boss," Lampere said to Dana with what sounded almost like legitimate liking, "not only drove in the winning run in the 3 - 2 game, but he hit a home run to get them on the board in the 5 - 0." Now that was a surprise. Everybody had already been looking at me, of course, I was telling the story. But there appeared to be some respect mixed in now. Well, they wouldn't be here if they weren't at least a little bit baseball fans.

    "I did okay," I said. "I had some good luck that year, especially during those playoffs and Series. Hell, the whole team had some luck - Joe, didn't they say we won about nine or ten more games than we should have? Especially during that stretch run?"

    "Something like that."

    "Until," I said as though I was ending the speech, "that luck stopped." Now I could see everybody nodding, except for the kid of course. They knew where it went from here.
    The Orange and Black(Sox) - The Complete Saga

    Part One - The First Ten Long Years: The Orange and Black(Sox)
    Part Two - Ten More Years! (Orange and) Black Times
    The Spin-off Mini-Series: An Orange and Black Shroud

    Part Three - How Long Can This Go On? Charlie's War

    The Spin-Off: Braves New World

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