The luck thing, I had to conclude, is a hoax. You read it here: I don't believe in it. Just in case, though, I'll take both hats to the next home game.
The All Star Game Jinx
Here's another superstitious theory I must jettison: for a Brewers player, being named to the All-Star team has been bad luck -- for Dan Kolb, for Chris Capuano, and especially for a "rock star" closer who can throw 99-mile-an-hour spheres right down Wisconsin Avenue (as Bob Uecker likes to say).
Question of the Year: Can We Still Play Ball
With Everyone On the DL?
In early May my team bubbled over with talent. Right from the star,t Prince Fielder looked like the Rookie of the Year. J.J. Hardy was both smooth and exciting. Corey Koskie proved to be the solid veteran we needed. Rickie Weeks was hot at the plate, along with the amazing Carlos Lee. Ned Yost's only problem was how to give more playing time to Bill Hall.
I was in love with my league-leading team.
When Tomo Ohka and Ben Sheets went on the DL one by one, I was bummed, but somehow we managed to win at home, behind a few not-quite-ready-for-prime-time pitchers bolstered by our bustling bullpen.
J.J.'s sprained ankle wasn't supposed to keep him out for long, so I didn't worry much. Besides, Hall was becoming a splendid shortstop. Even though we couldn't get a break on the road, we stayed near the top of our division, vying for the Wild Card.
The Black Cloud
After Ohka and Sheets came back, it became obvious the bullpen was pooped, exhausted, used up -- add your own adjective here. Leads oozed away. The rock star couldn't find the plate. The prime reliever cut his hand at the salad bar. And that was only the beginning.
When Weeks hurt his wrist and Koskie got a concussion making the fluke double catch with Hall, our lineup looked like a target at a shooting range. Fielder was the only original infielder left. Carlos got traded. Geoff Jenkins got demoted. I no longer knew who batted when.
The management team filled the gaps with guys who fast became my new heroes. Among them are Tony Graffanino and David Bell. Long, tall Corey Hart played daily and made the list too. And, ta-da! Francisco Cordero is not only quick, but awesome as closer.
Mired up to their waists in a slump still, the Brewers didn't need one more injury, but got one anyhow when Gabe Gross, the only guy getting on base that week, pulled a hamstring. You could hear teeth gnashing from the Lake Country to the Lakefront.
Keeping It All In Perspective
I'm not giving up. A diehard Brewers fan like me doesn't give up. We have twenty-plus games left. All we need is a winning streak. Okay, make that a miraculous, astounding finish, unheard of in the history of the team.
Occasionally, I wonder why this game consumes so much of my energy. Then I picture my mother following every pitch of a Cubs game on our seven-inch Sentinel television set and accept my compulsion. I pull on the Brewers sweatshirt my son bought me in May. I climb into my lucky chair, tune in the game on television and listen to Uecker and Powell on the radio.
After the Brewers' triumph over the ever-mighty Dodgers on Labor Day, a part of me gave a nod to my mom and, of course, to the sweatshirt.
Each September, with a heavy sigh, I reread these words written by A. Barlett Giamatti, former president of Yale University, renaissance scholar, president of the National League and later Commissioner of Baseball:
"It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone."