I’m home. Well, that’s not technically true because I never lived here, in my mother’s place outside Chicago.
I’m here because she died. I can’t understand that. We never got to finish watching Kevin Costner’s movie about Shoeless Joe, though she did take the El with me down to see the White Sox in 2005, when the Yankees’ Shawn Chacon beat former and soon-to-be-again Yankee El Duque. She actually said aloud that she wished Mariano Rivera, her favorite player, had gotten to pitch. She knew about him because she loved me and baseball was the only thing besides fear of not going to work that could get me to stop sleeping back then when I was sick. So she watched Yankee games so that we could talk about them, and that’s how she learned about him. So I’m going to use this blog to steal away for a minute and talk about baseball. And the Dodgers, whom she and my dad took me to see so many times in LA, where she helped me dress up as Ron Cey for Halloween one year, and where I grew up until my Dad was transfered to the Chicago area just before Postseason of 1981, setting off 15 years of avoiding baseball, except a few games at Wrigley. And Brooklyn, where I work now, in the high school where Sandy Koufax played (Lafayette). And Jackie Robinson, who made that team what it is, and whose number is worn only by my mom’s favorite baseball player. Because, as Mark Gremse said so often “That’s baseball.”
But, on the surface, these are really just a few trivial lines about movie: WYIN – public television out of NW Indiana – is showing The Jackie Robinson Story (1950), which, as I just discovered, can be viewed on Google Video here.
Regular readers know I’m a softie for great lines from broadcasters. Here’s one from the movie, spoken right before Jackie steps to the plate in the 9th, with the Dodgers down by 1 and hoping to clinch the Pennant: “Brooklyn hearts have skipped more beats than an absent-minded policeman.”
It even goes beyond retiring as a Yankee. Did you know that Ron Guidry was his idol growing up! Uh, huh! Wait ’til you hear this — in his first MLB start, his opposing pitcher WAS Guidry. Take a look at the symmetry — closing out his career with Guidry as pitching coach?!
And, wasn’t David (David Wells, for those of you whose needs I have rudely ignored) undefeated as a Dodger until this week, when he took care to take LA out of contention himself, in plenty of time to sneak onto our roster?
You know he’ll pitch wherever he’s needed — as a starter, out of the bullpen, whatever. He and Clem could combine for a game. Now that’s symmetry.
Let’s make nice. OK? Please? So little is going well, even in my baseball social life. This bone would make so many dogs happy.
Let me get this straight:
- The Yankees just traded reliever Scott Proctor for part-time Dodger infielder Wilson Betemit
- Meanwhile, the Red Sox just obtained Eric Gagne (2.16, 17 of 18 saves) from the Rangers, despite having a killer closer in John Papelbon (2.15, 23 of 25 saves).
Am I missing something?
- CONSENSUS There was one, right? Yankees need bullpen pitching BADLY. NOT batters.
- A BAT FOR THE BENCH? Let’s look at our oft-maligned bench.
- Anchored by the mending Johnny Damon (.247), replaced in center by Melky Cabrera, who has improved to .291 from April’s .200, hitting .373 in July as an every day player
- Enriched, we hope, by the upcoming return of refurbished slugger Jason Giambi
- Ignited by Make-It-Happen Miguel Cairo ("the best .239 player in baseball," John Sterling reminds us.), a defensive star and utility player who has hit .255 overall but much higher during periods of everyday play covering first base while the injured Giambi’s replacement Doug Mankiewitcz was on the DL, and until farmhand Andy Phillips was appointed permanent substitute. If that sounds like teaching in NYC, where teachers who have more than paid their dues after a decade or two in the system are being forced into substitution while youngsters take over the classrooms, you’re right.
- No offense to Betemit (.231), but, … well, do we need him more than we need Proctor? And isn’t the point that we needed to ADD to our bullpen?
- BULLPEN – Yankees just traded their righty reliever Scott Proctor (3.81 ERA) Why?
- True, he hit a wall in June when he averaged 5.17 runs. But his July ERA is 2.84!
- He has pitched in 52 games. Last year he entered 89 and ended the season at 3.52.
- Consensus is that manager Joe Torre overused him last year. Umm. Would you say he was ON PACE to burnout again this year? Remember the uniform-burning ritual?
- Why are so many Torre Dynasty relievers in the running for most innings pitched?
- Does Torre have a pattern of overusing a reliever as his trusted go-to guy? Hmm.
- Lefty Ron Villone was so wiped out last year that his arm was dead by postseason. To recognize his contributions, the Yanks started him in the minors this season. Today his ERA is 3.12 after 23 games. He ended last year with a 5.04 ERA after 80 games. Looks like Torre might have learned something here.
- Is Mike Myers the new trusted lefty? Uh-oh. 2.61 after 50 innings. Already!
- Wherever and however he pitches, the one comment you can count on hearing about Mike Stanton is that he’s on the list of the hardest-working lefty relievers in baseball. He pitched in over 70 games for over half of 6 years with the Yankees (over 60 for the other 3). As a Met, he reached his pinnacle of 83 games in 2004, and still managed to keep his ERA at 3.16. Did Torre start him on this path? At this point, I get the feeling that he he keeps going in order to see how many innings his career can survive.
- Remember righty Paul Quantrill in 2004? Get ready: 86 games, 95.1 innings. Remember him burning out his arm?
- You get the idea. And don’t forget the great relievers they let go. Remember the Stanton – Mendoza combo? I’m still smarting from that one.
So, Mr. Cashman- Would you mind ADDING to our bullpen rather than taking away from it? Between you and Mr. Torre, we’re losing our relievers faster than we can win our games.
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