The Joy of Being a Baseball Fan

casey-at-the-bat-cartoon-mudvilleCan “sports” and “spirituality” coexist in the same sentence? Absolutely! The adrenaline rush from an exciting game stirs something important in our souls, inspiring us to work harder and reach higher in our own lives.

When the Minnesota Twins made their playoff run in 1987, eventually becoming World Series champions, the entire state of Minnesota was emotionally sky-high for a full month. People were happier, more outgoing, more likely to strike up a conversation with a perfect stranger. After Game Seven of the World Series, I’ll never forget watching everyone outside the stadium celebrating, laughing and hugging each other—people they had never met before! I saw one guy high-fiving people from his car as he drove by. Even now, the memory of that time brings a smile to many a Minnesotan.

As that magical season unfolded, I wrote a tribute to the team called The Miracle Twins and followed that up with Thanks to the Twins after they disposed of the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games in the World Series. Fittingly, before the season had started, I had written a parody called Hrbek at the Bat, which was later published in Joy in Mudville: The Big Book of Baseball Humor, compiled by legendary sports journalist Dick Schaap and Matt Gerberg.

I hope you enjoy them!

 

1987-minnesota-twins-world-series-sports-illustrated-cover

THE MIRACLE TWINS
(1987)

‘Twas the end of the season, and all through the league,
Every team was complaining of pain and fatigue.
With one stunning exception—the Miracle Twins,
Who kept fighting back and kept piling up wins.
Yes, this is a tale of guts, pride and glory,
But I’m ahead of myself, let’s get on with the story.

‘Twas a day late in May when we ventured from home,
Parked twelve blocks away and then walked to the Dome.
The turnout was light, I guess you could say,
There were scalpers just giving their tickets away.

The children were nestled all snug in the bleachers,
While dollops of Frosty Malts dripped down their features.
And Mom with her bratwurst and I with two brews,
Had just settled down to watch the Twins lose.

When I heard by the dugout such clapping and cheers,
I sprang from my seat and spilled both my beers.
I raced down the aisle, half out of my mind,
Crashed into a vendor—and hot dogs went flying!
When what to my wondering eyes was revealed,
But a major league team had just taken the field.

With a poker-faced leader whose hair had turned gray,
I knew in a moment it must be T.K.
Up through the dugout, his players they came,
And he whistled and spat and he called them by name.

Now, G-Man! now Gladden! now Newman and Kirby!
On Laudner! on Gagne! on Lombo and Herbie!
On Frankie and Bert! Now don’t pitch too fancy!
On Larkin! on Smalley! on Bush and Brunansky!

To the top of the pack, to the top of the West!
Now swing away every day, play at your best!
He returned to the dugout and fought back some tears,
And his thoughts drifted back just a couple of years,
When the Twins were so young and the Twins were so bad,
Before Puckett arrived—and the man called Pohlad.

That was three years ago, and questions remained,
Could they win it? Was losing too deeply ingrained?
Was Puckett a hero? Or would he be a goat?
Could G-Man play third with his hands ‘round his throat?

They needed some guidance—along came T.K.
“Just a game at a time, boys,” he’d solemnly say.
“Lots of ball left, I like the players I got.
Just a game at a time, boys, and we’ll have a shot.”

At home in the Dome, yes, the winning came easy,
When the Twins hit the road, though, their fans became queasy.
With their heads bowed in prayer, fans circled the Dome,
And knelt as they prayed, “Please God, bring our boys home.”

Now the Twins are pursuing their own Holy Grail,
But their quest would have stalled without Andy MacPhail.
He wheeled and dealed with brilliant acumen,
Getting Gladden, Nieto, and Reardon and Newman.

And he picked up Joe Niekro and Juan Berenguer,
And when they pitch together, they make quite a pair.
Like a one-two punch from Muhammad Ali—
Float like a knuckler, sting with Juan B.

Now the pitching staff’s set, led by Frankie and Bert,
And Straker’s come through after years of being hurt.
When the game’s on the line, T.K. goes to the mound,
And Reardon strolls in and nails it down.

But a spark was still needed to bust down the doors,
So he dealt for some veterans who’ve been through the wars.
First Carlton, then Baylor, were welcomed aboard,
The Twins were contenders—their spirits had soared.

But will destiny smile as the Twins chase their dream?
It will all boil down to the heart of this team.
To the four who have battled, united as one,
For these four will not rest ‘til the fighting is done.
They have come much too far to abandon the prize,
If it takes their last breath, you can count on these guys.
When the Twins win the pennant, and it’s raining confetti,
Thank Hrbek, Brunansky, Puckett, Gaetti.

And when the dust clears and the Series is won,
They’ll hoist up T.K. and he’ll join in the fun.
They’ll drink Moosehead brew ‘til their cheeks are bright red,
Then they’ll circle T.K. and pour beer on his head.
And you’ll hear him exclaim, all drenched and elated,
“Thank God we weren’t featured in Sports Illustrated!”

 

1987-minnesota-twins-world-series-wheaties-box

THANKS TO THE TWINS

Well, the season is over and winter draws near,
And it’s time to say thanks for a wonderful year.
To the Twins who say, “Hey, we’re just regular guys,”
You’ve done more for the fans than you may realize.

There were people whose lives were devoid of all hope,
You rekindled the flame and you helped them to cope.
You breathed life into people who needed a lift,
And you touched all our hearts, and that’s quite a gift.

And thanks to you, Herbie, our own hometown boy,
We don’t live in Mudville, and we have known joy.
In a slump and playing hurt, but by force of sheer will,
You unleashed your bat and you made time stand still.

And at the last game, I yelled and I prayed,
And I lost all control when the last out was made.
With thousands of others, I jumped from my seat,
We poured out of the Dome and into the street.

We roared our approval, our victory cry,
I clenched both my fists and punched holes in the sky.
The noise hurt my ears but I wanted to hear it,
Each shout was sweet music – a triumph of spirit.

And triumph you did, through hard work and ambition,
With passion and pride, you completed your mission.
You’ve earned every medal that’s pinned to your chest,
You held nothing back and you’ve given your best.

The odds were against you right down to the wire,
But destiny called and your eyes were on fire.
You gave even more than you knew you could give,
And I’ll cherish it all for as long as I live.

 

kent-hrbek

Kent Hrbek

HRBEK AT THE BAT

It looked extremely rocky for the Twins in ’86,
They expected to contend, but instead they took some licks.
And so when losses mounted and far outnumbered wins,
A pallor wreathed the features of the patrons of the Twins.

On the last day of the season, though, the fans were not depressed,
For there’s hope that springs eternal within a Twins fan’s breast.
And they knew if mighty Hrbek could unleash his mighty swing,
T’would put a smile on their face and keep them warm till spring.

But it looked as if their wounded pride would not be healed this day,
The score stood four to six with but an inning left to play.
And so when Gagne popped it up and Salas hit it flat,
There seemed but little chance of Hrbek’s getting to the bat.

But Kirby bounced a single off the artificial grass,
Gaetti lined a shot to left that struck the plexiglass!
A hush swept through the Metrodome, for fate had surely beckoned,
For there was Puckett safe on third, and G-Man huggin’ second.

And then the gladdened multitude cheered and screamed and squealed,
It rattled off the scoreboard and the canvas in right field.
They cheered till they could cheer no more, for this was worth the wait,
For Hrbek, mighty Hrbek, was advancing to the plate.

There was ease in Hrbek’s manner and a twinkle in his eyes,
There was grease on Hrbek’s fingers as he polished off some fries.
And when some popcorn spilled out as he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the Dome could doubt ’twas Hrbek at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as the game ground to a halt,
Five thousand tongues applauded as he drained a chocolate malt.
And as the pitcher glared at him, his hands upon his hips,
The mighty Hrbek gestured for a hot dog and some chips.

And then the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Hrbek clutched his stomach as if it struck him there.
The trainer started running out, but Kent just shook his head,
“It’s just some gas,” burped Hrbek. “Strike one,” the Umpire said.

With a smile borne of confidence, he took some practice cuts,
And stepped back in the batter’s box while munching on some nuts.
He signaled to the pitcher and again the spheroid flew,
“Got some salt?” asked Hrbek, and the Umpire said, “Strike two!”

The smile is gone from Hrbek’s lips. He mutters, “Time out, please,”
And hurries to the dugout for a Whopper, double cheese.
And now the pitcher holds the ball and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Hrbek’s blow.

Oh, somewhere there’s a stadium where fans all shout and cheer,
As their team wins its division and the playoffs every year.
But inside the empty Metrodome, all is still and quiet.
But just you wait till next year—mighty Hrbek’s on a diet!

 

I had actually written The Miracle Twins back in 1984 when the Twins made a surprising run but faded down the stretch and didn’t make the playoffs. Here is the original version.

billy-gardner-baseball-card-minnesota-twins

THE MIRACLE TWINS
(1984)

’Twas the end of the season, and all through the league,
Every team was complaining of pain and fatigue.
With one stunning exception—the Miracle Twins,
Who kept fighting back and kept piling up wins.
Yes, this is a tale of guts, pride and glory,
But I’m ahead of myself, let’s get on with the story.

’Twas a day late in May when we ventured from home,
Parked twelve blocks away and then walked to the Dome.
The turnout was light, I guess you could say,
There were scalpers just giving their tickets away.

The children were nestled all snug in the bleachers,
While dollops of Frosty Malts dripped down their features.
And Mom with her bratwurst and I with two brews,
Had just settled down to watch the Twins lose.

When I heard by the dugout such clapping and cheers,
I sprang from my seat and spilled both my beers.
I raced down the aisle, half out of my mind,
Crashed into a vendor—and hot dogs went flying!
When what to my wondering eyes was revealed,
But a major league team had just taken the field.

With a wisecracking leader so witty and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be Ol’ Slick.
Up through the dugout, his players they came,
And he whistled and spat and he called them by name.

Now, G-Man! now Teufel! now Engle and Kirby!
On Laudner! on Hatcher! on R.D. and Herbie!
On Butcher! on Smitty! Now don’t pitch too fancy!
On Filson! on Houston! on Bush and Brunansky!

To the top of the pack, to the top of the West!
Now swing away every day, play at your best!
He returned to the dugout and fought back a tear,
And his thoughts drifted back to the start of last year.
When the Twins were so young and the Twins were so bad,
Before Puckett and Schrom and the man called Pohlad.

But now they had changed, he had watched them mature,
Were they ready to win it? He wasn’t quite sure.
They played well as a team and had great rapport,
But they hadn’t been through this much pressure before.

Slick asked for a veteran, so Calvin got Speier,
But in his first inning, Chris blew out a tire.
They picked up Pat Putnam, but the jury’s still out,
Thank goodness that Bruno’s providing some clout!

When Castino still ached and stardom had beckoned,
Teufel stepped in and was brilliant at second.
Puckett’s the sparkplug that keeps the Twins winning,
Gaetti lost power, but plays every inning.

Hrbek’s home runs provide quite a spark,
Though it’s doubtful he’ll live through an ‘inside-the-park.’
Though Laudner and Bush had both been in a slump,
All they needed, says Slick, was a slap on the rump.

Engle started out great as a fine All-Star catcher,
But the biggest surprise just has to be Hatcher.
He was good as a klutz, now he’s great in the clutch,
And Slick never thought he’d be helping so much.

Smithson’s great hurling was raising some hopes,
(If he’d just keep his mind off those damn daytime soaps!)
Viola had blossomed like the rest of the Twins,
And Butcher had carved out his share of the wins.

Castillo and Schrom had returned to the crew,
And Filson could pitch a strong inning or two.
When the game’s on the line, though, Slick walks to the mound,
And Davis strolls in and nails it down.

And when the dust clears and the pennant is won,
They’ll hoist Slick aloft and he’ll join in the fun.
They’ll drink Moosehead brew ‘til their cheeks are bright red,
Then they’ll gather ‘round Slick and pour beer on his head.
And you’ll hear him exclaim, ’mongst his rookies and scrubs,
“What a great Series, pal—the Twins and the Cubs!”





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2 Responses to “The Joy of Being a Baseball Fan”

  1. Rebecca Reece Says:

    Wow! These are great! I am impressed with the writing, and I am nostalgic about the content. Thank you for sharing! ~RR

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    My pleasure, Rebecca!

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