A 42-Year-Old Recurring Nightmare
I’ve been a little sick the past couple days, and last night the medication drove me to bed early; thus I found myself listening to the conclusion of the Phils’ glorious victory against the Marlins on the radio.
It was not quite a throwback experience for me. I am an AM radio addict, open-eared for any space alien conspiracy theory freak occupying the late night air or any neo-con nut slightly to the left of Hitler by day. And I have a confession: Your host finds kernels of truth in most any agenda posited. Yes, I do believe there are god-infected lunatics who are serious in their threats to commit mass murder, allah inshallah. Yes, I agree it is bizarre to hear even a bad sitting president accused by another of being “the devil” at the United Nations – and even more peculiar to hear applause by his political “peers” supporting his medieval declaration, let alone seeing lost souls like Danny Glover parading around Harlem with him like an unabashed whore.
If Hugo Chavez dropped the sulphur-stinking shtick and stuck with the facts about Bush being an alcoholic, he would have gotten a lot less flack from the godsquad, particularly hard drinkers like the Catholics. Do you have a spot of Jameson, Fadder? I think I need a tightener.
There’s a lot of assholes in the world, and people can vent about them on the radio. That’s what makes it fun. But somewhere after Scott Franzke’s game re-cap and the middle of the UFO show, the Ny-Quil took hold and a vision dream was manifest upon me with all the clarity of a Yuengling piss stream.
“One down, nine to go,” a voice intoned, and as the fog of the subconscious cleared, I beheld the living image of Gene Mauch!
“I’m pitching Hamels again Sunday,” Mauch said to me. “Then Myers, then Hamels again. Gotta go with the hot hand. Gotta clinch this thing now. Lieber’s fat and bad. Wolf has nothing. Hamels and Myers…Lieber once, then Hamels and Myers again.”
I was 15 months old when “The Mauch Men,” the 1964 Phillies, conducted for Hoagie Land’s sporting pleasure probably the biggest collapse in baseball history. I have no memory of my time in diapers. But I heard the stories for years -- about how the Phillies blew a 6 1/2-game lead with twelve games left. About how Mauch insanely and adamantly started Jim Bunning and Chris Short five of the last six games. About how I peed in my Dad’s beer glass during one of the losses. About what a perfectly Philadelphian failure the whole mess was. But what did Mauch mean when he said one down, nine to go? And who was he to fuck with the 2006 pitching staff? Why did he come to me in a dream now? I soon had a few cryptic answers. Visions are like that.
“We need to win all the games,” Mauch said. “Just like the Cardinals did.”
Well, the Cardinals didn’t win their last ten games in ’64 – but they did manage to win eight of their final ten games as the Phils were busy losing ten straight to take the pennant from Mauch's Chokemen. “Mauch – speak to me from the grave,” I implored him. “Mauch, are we going to do it this year?”
The recently-deceased manager seemed to look off at the distance. He squinted and got that trademark “little general” look about him. The conspiracy show’s experts tell me when a person has painful, unresolved issues at death, they leave an electromagnetic impression – a ghost – that remains on earth to find closure.
I always pitied Phillies managers in that regard.
“What’s Richie Allen doin’ with 58 homers?” he asked.
“That’s not Richie Allen, Mauch,” I said. “That’s Ryan Howard.”
“Frank Howard plays for the Senators.”
“Yes, he sure did,” I agreed. “But Ryan Howard plays for the Phillies. Hopefully, for life.”
“For life,” Mauch laughed. “Nothing’s for life.” He looked around in a northeasterly direction and something else caught his attention.
“What’s that sonuvabitch Bowa doin’ at third?”
“He’s the Yankees’ third base coach, Mauch,” I explained. “But at one time, you’ll remember, he had your old job until just before your expiration.”
“He never won anything at the helm while I was still alive,” the little general said with a smile.
“No, he didn’t,” I told him. “I suppose you were his mentor after all. But now we have Chollie Manuel to fuck things up.”
“They made him a manager?”
“Not only that, he’ll probably be back for his third season next year, especially if he wins the wild card,” I informed him. “He finally understood your most famous invention, the double-switch, after a season and a half.”
“I’m tellin’ ya, the two-man rotation is the way to go the last week. Maybe he can do a little crammin’ and learn quick,” Mauch said. “The fans will never appreciate my legacy.”