You may not know who she was. If you are lucky, you had your own Malaika, and you know exactly what I mean by that.
She died today, January 14, 2008, and this is where I write about people who matter to me who die. She had a Brooklyn Dodgers jersey with Holman-Bermiss across the back and the number 42. And she had cancer.
Barrington unlocked the door to her office so I could drape the jersey over her chair as if she had just left it there overnight. I didn’t want her to know whom it came from, but Floraine – who is Frick to my Frack in Malaika’s book, couldn’t keep the secret (though MHB would have figured it out anyway, me being from LA, our school being in Brooklyn) because – it was sweet – she really wanted Malaika to know that it came from me because of how much I loved her and how hard it was to find a company that allowed enough room for all the letters on the back: H-O-L-M-A-N–B-E-R-M-I-S-S. Her father’s last name, Holman, had to be on there because she hyphenated, and especially because she and her father used to follow the Dodgers from Flatbush, Brooklyn, where her school was until just before she retired, and where her dad still lives with her family. And, in fact, a year or so later, she asked me where I’d had the jersey made because her father had discovered hers, she said possessively, and he needed his own.
And you know, she let me have my secret after all, in her way. She slowed down
into one of those rapid
slip-slip-slip-I’m-about-to-stop-for-about-half-a-second skips on her
way down the hall and said something to me in that
this-is-for-only-you-to-hear voice that was probably closer to a mutter than
a whisper. Barely stopping, she came close enough for only me to hear "See you
in the Series, Yankee."
Malaika Holman-Bermiss was Principal of The Brooklyn Comprehensive Night High School for almost all of our near-20-year history. She retired in 2005. Her Assistant Principal Catherine Paparelli is Principal. The school will be closing June of 2008, this year.
It seems like one could not exist without the other. Or maybe it is time for the rest of us to step up now. Or both.
"Pitchers and Catchers" is coming. Let us not drop the ball just because she’s not here to tell us when to show up.
More memories are to come, as ever.
PLEASE SHARE YOUR OWN MEMORIES OF MALAIKA. You are welcome to use the comment space below – there is a very brief registration – or – and this would be great – you can leave a memory on the BCNHS Homepage in the MEMOIRS section. Just scroll down on the right. You’ll see it.
RARE VIDEO OF EXTENDED STEVE TRACHSEL INTERVIEW before Game 3 of the 2006 NLDS, against his and my own hometown childhood team, the late 70s and early 80s Los Angeles Dodgers, when he rooted against his manager Willie Randolph, who was then 2nd baseman for those foes the New York Yankees.
Trachsel Workout Day Interview If this doesn’t work, try the link below:
Trachsel Workout Day Interview Look under OCTOBER 6 and click.
He has not been to a postseason game at Dodger Stadium since he was 10 or 11, and now he’s working for a recent Yankee on a team that was built in 1962 to fill the hole left in the souls of Brooklyn Dodger Fans, New York Giants Fans too. The team of orange and blue. That’s Baseball. (I miss Mark Gremse. No question where he would stand on this match-up, though, even if I was his favorite LA Dodger fan. Oddly, there might be a healing circularity in pulling for Trachsel, who, as a Cub in 1998, knocked out his beloved Giants in that one-game playoff to get to the NLDS. Two stories go with that, and they are here and here.)
In the summer of 2003, I ordered satellite TV for the MLB Extra Innings package, which allowed me to watch every televised baseball game. What a treat. See, I don’t watch much TV. Keeping my eyes open and fixed on a box drains my enthusiasm generally, unless a beautiful or fascinating series of images draws my eyes to it. Radio, now that is more my thing, and unless I am at a ballgame or at Sophie’s bar, I am usually asleep or listening.
On those spring nights back in 2003, I would come home late from work just in time to turn on the west coast games. If I was lucky, I had missed only an inning or two, and distress arose only when I couldn’t find the games fast enough to switch during commercials on what seemed like 500 stations. No MLB Mosaic had they!
At first I figured it just made sense that I would end up watching the Dodgers most often. I was born and raised in Los Angeles. I was born and raised a Dodger fan. (Now, STOP NOW. This is not the time. You think it was easy becoming a Yankee fan? I DID my time. 15 years. Without baseball, that is. I couldn’t watch a game for 15 years after leaving LA in September 1981. Not that I didn’t watch the Series that year. I SAID STOP. You’ve got me all upset. Back to the story. OK?)
Soon I realized there was more to the attraction. Dodger Stadium is peaceful, orderly, and beautiful, like a Dodger home uniform. I found myself drawn to the cordial, courteous, grammatically pleasing, and, yes, mellifluous tones of Vin Scully broadcasting to me from Dodger Stadium, unencumbered by company crowded into the sound booth with him. I remembered that voice. When I first heard his voice as a child in LA, I had never heard of Brooklyn, which is where I work now. Isn’t that something? As Mark Gremse would say, "That’s baseball." Remember him? I was his favorite Dodger fan.
Accustomed to the YES (Yankees Ever Superior) Network anchors I call the SuperFriends because they seem to broadcast in teams of 4 or more (Kay, Kitty, Kenny, Bobby–did I leave anyone out? O’Neill?), I was struck by the moments of silence in Scully’s game. No plays missed during the punchline of someone’s joke. No tension waiting for the inevitable interruption by whoever’s slacks are too tight tonight. No anxiety over whether the game is interfering with Michael Kay’s beauty sleep (code word: unmanageable) No patter. No filler. Just the game. Calls. Observations. Questions. Speculations. Analysis. Reminiscences, of Branch Rickey?!. Now that’s baseball.
Now, I have a fast computer and broadband internet connection. What else do I have? MLB All Access and MLB Mosaic. All Vin Scully, any time.
If you’d like to share a memory about MARK GREMSE, please leave a comment below. MLB.com will ask you to make a user ID (fast & easy), & will bring you right back to this page.
The windows of Sophie’s were covered with photographs. It was almost impossible to push open the door. One after another, friends of Mark Gremse stepped up onto the window seat and spoke their minds and hearts.
So many people from so many different parts of Mark’s life came — people who might have heard of each other, but just as likely had not. There were the people from Sophie’s, of course. And from the building on East 4th Street. Monie, who flew in from Germany. The East River Ratz. A huge bunch from the Law Office came — I’d like to dedicate a special thanks to them — you "guys" really came through, posting on this site, talking about him in person, wow, no wonder he made it to work. And so many others, who have their own unique connection to this Giant of a Man. And I’ll bet that for everyone who was able to make it, there were 10 more who would have come if they could. Let’s not leave out all those of you who have written your memories on this page, and those of you who are about to.
Freddy, you really pulled things together and made Mark’s memorial gathering possible. Thank you so much.
I wish I could be more eloquent. I just want to post this in time for some of you to see it and realize how grateful I am to all of you. Meeting you and reading your feelings for Mark made me feel deceptively warm — almost, almost, as if Mark were still here.
Please stay in touch. I am not too good with email, but I will respond. Keep posting here, too.
With love and appreciation,
Mark’s All-time Favorite Dodger Fan
The memorial gathering for Mark Gremse has been postponed to the AFTERNOON of Nov. 19, 3-5pm, so that travellers can attend. Sophie’s Bar, 507 E. 5th St., NYC, between Avenues A and B.
Check back for updates.
If you would like to share a memory about Mark on this page, please leave a comment below by clicking HERE, or just scroll down.
If you’d like to share a memory about MARK GREMSE, please leave a comment below.
MLB.com will ask you to make a user ID (fast & easy), & will bring you right back to this page.
Mark Gremse died this week.
He was someone you’d want at a memorial service — a service for someone that everyone knew, someone you happened to love. I keep thinking I should call him about Saturday.
Mark didn’t just speak. He inscribed. Sometimes he engraved, with flourishes. You could count on him for a eulogy that would make you understand why you were crying so hard. He’d put all the words together for you and breathe feeling into them. He’d conjure the grandeur and the meaning of the life that had passed, and then make you remember a private moment that only you could keep alive now. You might imagine what he might say about you at your own funeral, and suddenly see how you, too are a part of history, a part of him, and, yes, a part of baseball.
You would never imagine him dead, silent.
If God were a Giants fan, Cooperstown would be on East 4th Street on the Lower East Side, between Avenues A and B. Closer to B. You can tell He’s not, because Mark would be alive and curating. And the Giants would have won more than that pennant in the 50 years Mark shared with us.
You may have read the beginning of a story about him that I finally posted August 9. I hope he did. The rest has been coming out slowly, forever. But now, without Mark in that apartment, forever feels different. It’s not an ongoing thing anymore. It’s not like Pitchers and Catchers, or Next Year, which always rolls around if you wait long enough. It’s not even like a baseball game, pure in its unclocked timelessness. I counted on Mark to connect next season to last year’s, and all the seasons before that. To take me into history, with him. Is baseball really timeless, after all?
Credit for the title of this post belongs to Marc Marc. One late morning, Marc made me coffee and a proposition. "Let’s go to Gremse’s. For the game. We can make it." I thought he was talking about a bar, and went, willingly. But he took me to the apartment of one of his closest living friends, a friend who then grew deep into me, like that tree on 4th Street grew into to Gremse, the sapling he tried to save after it got hit by a car that was trying to squeeze into a parking spot. He used his belt to tie it together for the moment and convinced someone to watch over it while he ran to the hardware store, for wood glue. Can you imagine, being the passer-by whose aid he enlisted on behalf of that tree? I asked him about that tree a year or two ago. He looked away. "It died."
A memorial gathering for Mark Gremse is planned for Saturday AFTERNOON Nov. 19 (note change), 3-5pm, at Sophie’s Bar, 507 East 5th St., between Avenues A and B. Closer to A.
That’s what Mark Gremse says at the end of a great story. If you tell one yourself, he’ll append it to yours, too — if it’s about baseball, that is, or if it could be. That’s the kind of generous he is. Right now, the most important thing you need to know about Gremse is that he is a lifetime New York Giants fan. A Polo Grounds Giants fan. Here’s a little more about him…
I’m his all-time favorite Dodger fan.
If you don’t pick up any nuance there, you probably don’t know Gremse (He’s called by his first name, Mark, outside Sophie’s, where the chances someone’s name is Mark, Joe, or Dave run about 4 to 1). You’ve already figured out that he has no business having a favorite Dodger fan, especially one born in LA after 1958. Maybe you think you hear some sarcasm — favorite, yeah, sure, whatever.
But I knew what I was hearing the first time Mark called me that. It was Love, with Irony — those twin Furies who step-in for the Muses in matters of the art and history of baseball. Mark is a historian, and his memory is iconographic. It’s not that he worships idols, though visitors to his apartment on East 4th Street would be forgiven for thinking so. (Think Cooperstown as treehouse fort.) It’s that he operates on a level of orthodoxy that most of us will never achieve, with a superior spiritual understanding approaching a that of a Zen Master. He can see the higher truth in apparent contradiction. That’s why he was open to the possibility that something good can come out of an act that on the surface is so grotesquely wrong: the befriending a girl with eyes of Dodger Blue. Gremse can always see the spin on the ball as it leaves the pitcher’s hand. There’s a spin on this one — and a story goes with it….
…more to come