Well, the Cream City Hops are on the road again, this time to do battle with the Missouri Blue Birds and the Minnesota Surgin’ Sturgeons. So even though I’m still not sure what my role should be in all this, I figured it couldn’t hurt to take a little trip over there and look around. I was kind of sick of digging through public trashcans for a copy of the Cream City Herald, so I scrounged through an old cigar box I hid rocks and old coins in when I was a little kid. I found two old dimes and six wheat pennies, all dated before 1953. I had no idea if the currency would work – it’s possible that Mr. Dime, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was never even elected in the Cream City universe. It was worth a shot though, and I shoved the coins into my pocket before heading out the door yesterday afternoon. I’ve found myself actually kind of enjoying the period wardrobe. I bought a pair of suspenders last week specifically for these little jaunts.
It was a sunny day over there, about 65 degrees, but there was a breeze coming in off the lake, and I was thankful for my wool blazer. I snuck out of one of the stadium side-doors, and tried to get my bearings. It was easier than I thought – Schlitz is right on top of the lakeshore, and a five-minute walk led me to Veterans Park. I used to play catch there with my dad when I was growing up, and I was glad to see a couple of Cream City children doing the same. I had been walking for about five minutes, so it seems that Schlitz Stadium is about where the art museum is in our universe.
I didn’t really know where to go from there, so I turned around and headed towards the Third Ward. Since the area is so old, I thought the chances were pretty good that I’d find something interesting over there. Walking down the streets was surreal – I felt like I had been dropped into an episode of Happy Days. Eventually, I found a general store, and ducked in for a copy of the Herald and a roll of Necco wafers – 15 cents in all. The shopkeeper, an elderly black man with a ring of wild grey hair encircling his shiny bald dome, paused and frowned when I handed him the dime, and I tensed up, ready to make a run for the door.
"Man, that is one rough-looking dime," he finally laughed, and he reached down to wipe his fingers on a handkerchief. "What did you do, stick it to the bottom of your shoe and walk around for a few weeks? My word."
I hadn’t thought of that, but sixty years of wear and grime would look pretty odd on a coin that was supposed to have been minted just a year ago. So I gave him an embarrassed grin, and stepped out into the street, where I breathed a deep sigh of relief. I took my time getting back to the stadium, walking north along the Milwaukee River. As I passed the Pabst Theater and turned east, I weighed the implications of the interaction I’d just had. There’s no way the man didn’t see FDR on the coin’s face, grimy though it may have been. That made it very likely that many of the defining moments of the 20th century were common between our universe and theirs. The Great Depression almost certainly happened, and it would follow that some version of World War II had taken place, as well. I made a mental note to look into it all at some point, if I could. I paused by St. John’s Cathedral, looking just the same as it always did, before continuing back to the ballpark. Strange to see such familiar sights in so foreign a place.
I got back to Schlitz right as the sun was starting to set, and stopped to read the paper and eat my Neccos on a metal bench next to the box office. I have to revise my previous description of the stadium, by the way. The bricks that I assumed were red the night I snuck onto the field for batting practice are actually the pale cream for which the city is named. It really is a beautiful place.
I saved Maggie’s latest column for you all:
By Margaret Piper
The Hops are back on the road, so Maggie Piper is answering all your latest questions. So go on – give her your best shot!
Q: Hi Maggie. Big fan of your work. I coach my son’s weekend-league team – he’s ten – and I wondered if you could help me out with something. He’s a small kid for his age, and has never been able to hit for much power. Some of the other kids on the team have started to tease him about it a little, and although he puts on a brave face, I can tell it’s starting to get to him. He’s always been very quick, and I’ve tried to tell him that homers aren’t everything, but he doesn’t seem to believe me. He always reads your column, though, so I was wondering if you could give him some encouragement?
– Alan F., Germantown
A: No problem, Alan. You’re right – homers aren’t everything. Just look at Cream City Hops shortstop Raul Cassavetes. Through Friday, Raul was hitting .313 for the year, with fourteen stolen bases against only one home run! But because he gets on base so much, Raul is leading the team in runs scored. I asked power-hitting first baseman Chaz Simmons about what it means to have Cassavetes hitting ahead of him in the lineup, and this is what he had to say:
"Oh yeah, it’s great! It seems like every time I come up, Raul’s on first base. And he’s so fast, you know, so the pitcher is always looking over there to see if he’s gonna steal. Well, he’ll get so worked up about Raul that he forgets to throw me his good pitch. So yeah, I definitely benefit from having Raul in the lineup. Shoot, I have him to thank for half my ribbies this year! I’ve gotta take that guy out to dinner some time!"
So there you have it – even sluggers like Chaz know that speedsters are the key to any productive offense.
Q: At the beginning of the season, you wrote about a new pitch that Guillaume Guy-Homme had developed during the offseason. I was at the game last Saturday, and it looked like he was using his fastball, split-finger, snapper, and change, like always. Any word on the new addition?
– Ed B., Madison
A: Wish I could help you, Ed. I’ve asked Guy-Homme repeatedly about this elusive fifth pitch, and he claims that the proper opportunity to use it has yet to arise. To be fair, that may be true. He’s coasted to a 6-2 record and a 2.25 ERA so far this season. What’s more befuddling is that now he’s got Gary "Gopher Ball" Grant experimenting with a new pitch, too. Unfortunately, Grant says it’ll be awhile until it’s ready for game action. Whatever comes of it, I’ll be sure to keep you posted!
Q: What have been the strong and weak points to the Hops’ season so far?
– Betty P., Cream City
A: Great question, Betty. The Hops quietly put together a pretty respectable offense over the winter, bringing in Gabe Greene and Alvin Jacobs from out of town, and promoting Simmons and Cassavetes from triple-A. Newcomers Sosuke Moto and Bugs Robbins have held their own in the starting five, too, and with Guy-Homme leading the charge, the team has benefitted from above-average starting pitching. Unfortunately, the bullpen has been something of a disaster. As of last Friday, the Hops’ record stood at 17-22. Of those 22 losses, six can be blamed on the guys in the ‘pen, who have coughed up a league-leading eight leads in the seventh inning or later.
Q: I just heard about your summer intern position. It sounds like so much fun! Are you still accepting applications?
– Joan W., Beaver Dam
A: Yes I am. You can drop your résumé and a letter of interest off at the drop-box next to the Schlitz Stadium ticket office, or send them to the address you’ve been using for "Ask Maggie." But you’d better hurry – interviews start next week!
Q: Hello Ms. Piper I am Janet Greeley aged seven, and I was wondering if you knew if Gus Grasshopper would be signing autographs Sunday before the game?
– Janet G., Cream City
A: Thanks for your question, Janet! Gus will indeed be signing autographs on the first base concourse before the Hops take on the Lizards next Sunday. Maybe I’ll see you there!
That does it for me this week! The Hops return home on Sunday to begin a three-game set with the Los Angeles Lizards, then settle in for a long homestand, during which they’ll host to Boston and Detroit. The weather in Cream City should be nice, so come show your Hops some love!
See you at the ballpark, folks.
– Maggie Piper
Until next time, then, Brew Crew Ball. I’m kind of terrified of that series in Atlanta this week, but at least the Hops should be able to handle the Lizards. In any case, I’m hoping for the best. Go Hops/Brewers!