To All the Ships At Sea
Every once in a while I think I can write. At least my English professor the first year in college thought I could. I’m pretty sure it’s the only A I’ve gotten (well maybe also in history.) Then along comes Mark Joseph, one hell of a great writer says the New York Times for sure. He was on the best seller list. The man loves baseball! I’d like to share this piece he sent me the other day.
Baseball withdrawal has been easier than ever this year. After the worst World Series in living memory, Im scratching my head and wondering how the postseason fizzled. Every single one of my predictions was wrong, which is nothing new, but who could have predicted five errors by Detroit pitchers in five games to hand the series to the worst team ever to win the big banana. The poor TV ratings reflected the low quality of play in damn near freezing weather, and all I can say in favor of St. Louis is that they still have the best uniforms in the National League when they wear red hats and home whites. Why the Cards sometimes wear blue hats is beyond me. Id like to see the Cards play the Nippon Ham Fighters who won the Japanese World Series. The Yankees and Mets, who could have staged a terrific subway series, both went bust because of injuries and lack of pitching, and the Twins finally ran out of gas. The result: zilch, double zilch and a bullshit pine tar controversy. Egad, whats a fan to do? Winter ball. Mexico
On Saturday night, October 21, I saw the Venados the Bucks of Mazatlán play at home against Los Yaquis of Ciudad Obregón. In a beautiful little stadium jammed to overflowing with 14,000 fans, Mazatlán won 2-1 in a tight, errorless ball game that featured three outrageous calls by the umpires that favored the home team. My friend Larry Banner who lives in Mazatlán bought field level seats ($9) that put us next to the home dugout and behind a chain-link fence within spitting distance of first base. A Yaqui runner beat the throw by a step and the ump called him out. Another Yaqui runner was picked off and was clearly safe, but the ump called him out. And when a Mazatlán runner dashed home on a hit to the outfield, the beautiful throw from right field had him nailed but he was called safe. The visiting manager didnt make a peep, leaving me to believe that everybody understood that when Mazatlán visits Obregón the calls would favor the home team there.
Mazatlán is an extraordinarily polite city, and the fans were enthusiastic but not rowdy. Noisy, yes, insane, no, considering that before the game guys in yellow vests put buckets of ice and beer every few steps up the aisles in the stands. The Pacifico Brewery, which seems to own Mazatlán, owns the team, and perhaps the league, and you could get a beer by waving your hand, but you had to go to the concessions for a Coke. The baseball was AA at best, maybe good college ball, and no one on the field stood out as a major league talent. Each team in the Mexican Pacific Coast League is allowed 5 foreign players, although the Bucks have 6 (5 gringos and 1 Dominican) and if you wonder why a 32 year old American is playing for Mazatlán, maybe you should watch the film Major League again. The fans didnt care. The uniforms said Mazatlán and Pacifico and Señor Frogs and Coca-Cola and Bancomer and Mega, so much advertising they looked like soccer uniforms but the best part was the end of the game when 2000 kids ran onto the field. The players hung around and signed autographs for 30 minutes until the lights went out to get everyone off the field. This was pure bush-league baseball in a bush-league town, a little time capsule with no million-dollar contracts, no hissy fits, no posturing, and no bullshit except for the umpires, at least on this night, when time stopped and it was 1953 again.
Mark Joseph is an American novelist. He is the author of To Kill the Potemkin, originally published in 1986. As a paperback, it spent four weeks on The New York Times bestseller list in July and August 1987.
He later published the novels Mexico 21 (1990), Typhoon (1991), Deadline Y2K (1999), and The Wild Card (2011).
Born in 1946 in Vallejo, California, he is a 1967 graduate of the University of California, Berkeley.