Posts Tagged ‘baseball’

Sports Munsters

June 14, 2013

Thursday June 13th, 2013 – Geneva, IL

   I attended a Kane County Cougars baseball game tonight with my friend Mark Fenske. Mark is a fellow comedian, and like a lot of comedians he’s a huge sports fan. There’s usually no middle ground with comedians when it comes to being a sports fan. Either we’re rabid or not interested.

   I have been consumed by sports since early childhood, but nobody in my family other than my grandfather followed it even casually. Gramps liked sports, but he didn’t live and die with it like I did other than with his beloved Green Bay Packers. The other sports weren’t on that same level.

   My father, uncle, grandmother and siblings all couldn’t stand sports and would laugh at me for the way I’d follow my teams so closely. My step mother thought it was funny to taunt me when a team I followed lost, and that was another reason I couldn’t stand her on top of the ones I’d had.

   It was a lonely existence growing up the only sports fan in a family of ‘Sports Munsters’ but as I grew up I met a lot of friends who were into it as much as I was. There’s a bond between sports fans, as we’ve all gone through the same emotions with our teams. There’s also an entire field of knowledge we share that takes a lifetime to acquire that can’t be faked. One knows it or doesn’t.

   It becomes especially personal when we happen to have played any particular sport in question. I wanted to play any sport I could, but was always discouraged by my grandparents because they thought I would get hurt. I don’t think it was so much about me, but the affect on their insurance.

   I wanted to be a baseball pitcher more than living life itself. It was all I trained for as a kid, and being left handed was finally an advantage. I still picture my grandmother and stepmother saying to me one day “You don’t think you can be a baseball player and make a real LIVING, do you?”

   Golly jeepers, NO! What was I thinking? A left handed pitcher would never be in any demand in baseball. Why don’t I just mop floors like the rest of the monkeys who live in our family tree? I couldn’t squeak by on several million dollars a year. I’ll be a total loser like the rest of our clan.

   I never listened to the deluded wisdom of the family, but Gramps was already gone so I had no encouragement in my corner. I played in city leagues in Milwaukee, and eventually had a tryout with the Kansas City Royals. They came to all the Major League cities looking for talent and my coach at the time suggested I give it a shot so I did. It was in Milwaukee, not far from my home.

   I got a second look from the scouting crew, but I didn’t get signed. They told me I could come try out again at one of their other camps in the state, but by that time I was 18 and on my own. It would have been impossible to make it to the camp because I had a job. It wasn’t in the cards.

   Not long after that, I got started on the comedy trail. I wish the rest were history. It’s personal history, but that’s about it. Nobody else cares, and that’s fine. Everyone has broken dreams, but the only time anyone else wants to hear about them is when another comes true. Then it’s legend.

   Mark Fenske talked about how his father never supported him either. He wanted to be an actor, and actually had some success in LA in the 70s. He was on Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley and he said his dad told everyone about it then – but never supported him getting there. That’s so typical of an entertainer and we talked about it as we watched the game. How many of those kids will make the big leagues? Not many. Years from now they’ll look at this as their life’s pinnacle.

Ten Cent Triumph!

November 9, 2012

Thursday November 8th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   One of a precious collection of useful things my grandpa told me that still sticks with me today is the difference between good luck and bad luck is good luck isn’t funny. When someone else is mired in a losing streak, those who see it laugh out of sheer tension relief. The only one laughing during a streak of good luck is the one experiencing it. Everyone else is feeling jealous or angry.

I’d much rather be the only one laughing, and today I got my chance. Actually, I have been in a tremendously upbeat mindset of late, and I can’t say it’s bothering me in the least. I’m enjoying a brief respite from being life’s dart board, and quite frankly if I never go back to the other side I’ll be more than fine with it. ‘Mr. Lucky’ is a character that lives onstage, and he needs to say there.

Dobie Maxwell is an entirely separate entity. He’ll take all the breaks he can get – funny or not. Today I caught a nice one, and it piggybacked on a couple of others I’ve had recently. I’d like to gratefully acknowledge them all, and vehemently ask the universe to keep sending them my way.

A couple of weeks ago, I happened to find a $10 bill crunched up on the ground and stuck it in my wallet to decide what to do with it later. A few days after that, I was walking through one of my favorite thrift stores and happened upon a collection of Apollo 12 collectible drinking glasses dated November 19, 1969. There were five of them on the shelf, and they were priced at $1 each.

I bought all five, thinking if nothing else they’d make fun gifts on The Mothership Connection at some point for either guests or listeners. I paid for them with the $10 bill I found, and in return I received a receipt with a red star on it and was told those are lucky winners of a $5 store credit.

Technically, the glasses were free and I still had the $10 I started with. I decided to keep going and see what else I could buy for ten bucks and hopefully spin it for more. I would have to scour the thrift stores, but I do that anyway. It’s a relaxing pastime I’ve always done. I enjoy the hunt.

It’s kind of like my own personal ‘Storage Wars’ or ‘Pawn Stars’ adventure. I’m trying to find something someone else didn’t know the value of when they priced it, and neither did those who looked at it on the shelf before I got there. Chances are low that it happens, but once in a while it absolutely does. It’s all about being in the right place at the right time, and having street smarts.

Today I drove by the same thrift store and was kind of in a hurry but that little voice inside told me to take a quick lap. I almost blew it off, but decided against it as I felt it strongly urging me to do it immediately. Positive things usually happen when I listen to that voice, and they did today.

I walked past a shelf of knick knacks and saw two official National League baseballs in plastic cube holders screaming at me to buy them. One was priced at $2.12 and the other $2.62. I looked closer and saw that one was autographed by Hall of Famer Ernie Banks and the other by some of the 1989 Cubs including Mark Grace, Jerome Walton, Mike Bielecki and Rick Wrona. I couldn’t believe they were priced so low, and I took them right to the checkout and the total was $5.10 for both balls. I gave them my winning receipt and my total was .10! I floated to my car in ecstasy.

So let’s review. I started with ten bucks I found on the ground and bought five collector glasses for $5. With tax, it was around $5.40. I won $5 in store credit, and used that to buy two baseballs in plastic holders – both autographed. The total was $5.10, so my out of pocket cost was a dime.

There’s no way to authenticate the signatures, but I’d bet they are legit. They’re official league balls, and I’ve seen autographed stuff before. These should have no problem selling to somebody in the Chicago area who loves the Cubs, and I can hold out for my price since I have little into it.

All totaled that would mean I’d have five collector glasses, two autographed baseballs plus my left over total of roughly $4.50. That’s a pretty good start, and I think I’ll be able to sell all of it for a healthy profit without gouging anyone and keep the ball rolling. I know how to find stuff.

Selling it has been an issue, and it may continue to be. Where would I sell collector glasses or baseballs? The first thought would be Ebay, but I’ve never sold anything on it before. I bought a ton of stuff over the years, but never sold even one thing. But how hard can it be? I can handle it, but I’m not sure if I want to. I have enough going on without starting some new time demander.

Still, the lure of the treasure hunt is strong. Who doesn’t love looking for the big payoff? I sure do, and I freely admit it. I know every deal isn’t going to be a winner, but I’ve heard tales of big scores through the years and I do believe things like that happen. To win, one has to participate.

I did take a quick lap through Ebay and saw that the glasses weren’t all that rare, and weren’t at all priced consistently. I saw them listed for anywhere from $2 to $20 each, but shipping was the big expense. I’d be thrilled if someone gave me $20 for four of them, and I’d keep one to give to my Mothership Connection co-host Greg DeGuire. He’d enjoy it, and it would be a fun souvenir.

The baseballs should realistically bring somewhere around $100 for both, or at least that’s what I’d look to get out of them. They’re in great shape, and Ernie Banks is a Hall of Famer without a doubt. I know he signed a lot of stuff in his life, but some Cubs fan would love to have that ball.

Say I can manage to score my asking price somehow from someone and walk away with $120 for everything. Couple that with the roughly five bucks I have left from my original $10 and call it an even $125. That’s well over ten times my original stake, and it literally came from nowhere.

I don’t think it’s realistic to expect to keep pulling off ten times my investment on a consistent basis, but doubling my money doesn’t seem out of line in the least. What could I invest $125 into that will bring me at least double in return? The possibilities are endless, and I’d love to give it a shot. I’d get it in cash in smaller bills and have them available to make a buy everywhere I went.

Eventually, $125 becomes $250 becomes $500. Then $1000, then $2000 and on and on. It may take a while, and I’m sure I’ll blow it on occasion and make some less than stellar buys, but on a long term basis I like my chances to be able to build a significant wad of cash I can use to keep a constant flow of more items and cash coming in. It’s been done before, but not by me. I’d love to take it all the way from $10 to enough to walk in and pay cash for a new car. It will be fun to try.

No Cubs No

September 19, 2012

Monday September 17th, 2012 – Chicago, IL

   I fully intended to spend the entire day getting caught up on my mountain of mundane minutia, but in the end it remains another undone Monday. But this time I’m ok with it. It was my choice, and I’d make it again – even though what I chose to blow everything off for didn’t even happen.

I received an unexpected phone call this morning from my friend and fellow comedian ‘Uncle Lar’ Larry Reeb, asking if I would be available for a Cubs game this evening. Had it been a call from almost anyone else in the cosmos, I would have politely thanked them but said a firm no.

This was a special occasion, and I had no choice but to say yes. Our mutual friend Bob McVia happened to be in town, and Larry and I hadn’t seen him in far too long. The three of us started a tradition probably twenty years ago now of trying to catch a live baseball game every summer.

Most of the games have been at Wrigley Field, but on occasion we’d switch it up and catch the White Sox or even the Brewers in Milwaukee. We’re all baseball fans, but it’s never been about that exclusively. We’re all good friends that make each other laugh hard. That’s the real draw.

Bob used to bring his son Johnny every year, who was probably 12 when we started. He’s now in his 30s, and has a family of his own. He hasn’t been to the last few games, but Bob has told us in the past how much Johnny used to really love hanging out with us and being part of the group.

There are extremely funny people who never become full time comedians, and Bob has always been one of them. That’s no insult to anyone, but the lifestyle sacrifice it takes to pursue this as a full time career just isn’t for everybody. Quite often idiots stay in the game and talent drops out.

Bob McVia is far from an idiot. He’s a down to earth, well read funny guy who dabbled a bit in comedy but decided to have a life and family instead. Good for him. Larry and I gave it all up for comedy, and we joked about whether it was a good decision or not. Frankly, there was no choice.

Comedy is a calling. Those of us who have that calling can’t do anything else. We need it, and will do anything to get it. Larry and I would do comedy even if nobody paid us, and that’s where things seem to be headed. He’s been doing it even longer than me, and we both see what’s going on and it has us more than a bit concerned. It’s too late to back out now. We’re both in too deep.

We didn’t let any of that stop us from having a great time, and we made each other erupt with laughter just like we always have. In fact, we didn’t even need a baseball game. There was a rain delay, and we sat in the stands from 7pm to 10 and they didn’t even take the tarp off of the field.

Larry’s brother Jim came with us, and he brought his son who is Johnny McVia’s age. We had a blast just hanging out, and nobody was upset there was no baseball game. I don’t know if that’s an insult to baseball or a compliment to the quality of the company, but we enjoyed ourselves for an entire evening and nobody was angry we didn’t see even one pitch. Hanging with friends like Larry Reeb and Bob McVia make life worth living. My pile of laundry will be there tomorrow.

Ball Four Time

March 23, 2010

Monday March 22nd, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

A ritual I’ve had every spring since I was in high school is to find a copy of my favorite book “Ball Four” by Jim Bouton and pass it on to someone who hasn’t read it. I love that book and never get tired of the stories and characters in it. I think it’s an absolute classic.

It’s amazing how many rabid sports fans have never read that book, even though it’s 40 years old now. It’s Jim Bouton’s diary of playing for the Seattle Pilots for the only season they existed in 1969 before they moved to Milwaukee and became the Brewers, the same team I grew up watching as a kid in the ‘70s. It’s a very candid peek into life in baseball.

He talks about the politics, which aren’t all that different than the politics in comedy or any other field of endeavor. He caught a lot of grief for it when it came out, but looking at it now, it’s pretty tame. He had a lot of dead on observations and predicted correctly quite a few things that actually happened. The players of his era were not millionaire crybabies.

It’s also a lot more. 1969 was a pretty tumultuous time in our country too, and Bouton’s timing was perfect to capture it all in one book. Plus, he was traded during the season and played for the Houston Astros to finish out the season. That and his being sent down for a brief stint in the minor leagues really provided a fascinating in depth look into baseball.

I read it in high school and it really resonated with me for some reason. I love sports but it’s more than a sports book. It’s a diary of hilarious stories with strong characters and I’m always able to pick it up, turn to any page and start back up where I left off. It’s timeless.

A big reason I started writing my own diary of life as a comedian was a direct influence of Ball Four. I thought it was a treat to get to peek inside the world of baseball that so few people ever got to see. It revealed a human side to it and even though he caught hell for it at the time, Jim Bouton wasn’t disrespectful at all in my opinion. He handled it perfectly.

He was honest about how he felt, and didn’t exclude himself in his criticisms. I loved it then and continue to enjoy it year after year. That’s a mark of a true classic and there isn’t another book I can think of I’ve enjoyed as many times over the years as I have this one.

Hopefully, I can provide a similar peek into the world of what it’s like to be a comedian on the road. Jim Bouton was never a superstar and neither am I, but he did achieve a huge accomplishment by making it to the major leagues for several years. That’s no small feat.

Making a living solely from being a standup comic was no easy task either. I admit I’m not a household name, but I’m not a part time wannabe either. I’ve done it and been there and brushed up with some of the all time greats. Jim Bouton did too, and it’s interesting.

I recommend Ball Four to anyone, not just sports fans. I have an extra copy I’ll be glad to mail to anyone who asks for it, but it’s available at Jim Bouton’s website too which is http://www.ballfour.com. Hopefully my little diary will entertain people forty years from now.