Raptor in the Winter

High times at the old beer bar with the Prof
Share |

In 1995 and 1996, the Cleveland Indians may have been the best baseball team in the world. A fearsome crew of hitters strode the earth—at least the parts of the earth covered by American League ballparks—and names like Albert Belle, Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez hit balls desperately hard, exceedingly far, and with alienating regularity. (As I buffed my memory of these teams with research, I realized I had forgotten Eddie Murray. My memory issues aside, contemplate for a moment the meaning of a lineup sufficiently Marianasian to hide a man responsible for 3,255 hits and 504 home runs.) As the aforementioned did the previously described, Kenny Lofton seemed always to be between bases—streaking, not stuck. He set the rookie record for stolen bases, led the league in them, set team records, and went around so savagely hitting baseballs and scoring runs and flying in center that it made sense to think of his relatively subtle skills as the team's most valuable year after year, instead of bowing to the inarguable and obvious narrow-earth-bestriding colossi mashing dingers. He was, with the rest of his team, visibly great, even if they never won it all.

In 1995 and 1996, I felt like I was always between bases—trudging/stuck, not streaking, walking from home to work or work to home, headphones on and a cheap cigarette burning. Days were light warehouse work, night were carrying amps at my friends' shows, retyping poems in the basement. I was not visibly great, and I didn't win it all.

2002. Greatness, that year, belonged solely to Barry Bonds. I was well out of the warehouse by then, and I wasn't carrying anybody's amps. I'd been to college, graduated even, and had been in my own bands, if still carrying amps. I was working in a beer bar, not writing any poetry (or any emails, or anything else) and watching a lot of baseball. It was on every day, the Seattle Mariners weren't far away, and they were even good. (Note: They weren't great; they didn't win it all.) My Kansas City Royals lost 100 games that year.

The bar was a dive, where the Pabst flowed can by dollar-can to a somewhat uneasy and dirt-common mix of town and gown. I'd spent most of my college nights there, fountaining smoke and pompous undergraduateness into the air, sluicing sour yellow beer into the void left behind. There were dark wood panels on all the walls, and there was an aquamarine bar with a brass plaque commemorating the stool of the bar's first customer, Ray "Icepick" Oster. All the light in the room was ambient, coming from a couple dozen neon beer lights and a pair of TVs.

By 2002, my pilgrimage had taken me to the Slough of Diploma. I wasn't going to the bar every night, because I was out of dough, and, besides, there was a lot of depressed sitting around, showerless and idle, to do. Three bartenders quit in two weeks, and, as a joke, I put in an application. For my sins, they hired me.

At the beer bar, we had a regular—an uber-regular, the kind of staple customer that defines a local bar. Friend of the owner, with a reputation for being a huge tipper (after a night of special treatment and fifteen beers, he might well leave a bartender a twenty; bartenders are not very good at math), he was also a mathematician. A real mathematician: More or less retired from the college down the street, he'd had gigs at the big computer company—you know the one: they make their own computers and some toys and some software—and a bunch of other places. He was a balls-to-the-wall heavy drinker, a chain smoker in those days before the ban, and, in the chatty echo chamber of a neighborhood bar only blocks from a college notable mainly for its capacity to fetishize itself, he was the locus of a shit-ton of dumb rumors, mostly obviously false: He was a millionaire (maybe); he was a swinger (kind of doubt it); he was a genius (maybe); he won all the time at video poker by being such a genius he could mentally hack the machines' patterns just by playing them (false), and so on.

I'd half-known him for a few years. I'd talked to him one summer night, and had gone off to the college library to read a book he'd collaborated on. When I tried to talk to him about it a week later, he blinked at me a couple times and went back to his omnipresent yellow pad and finger-drumming. Only after I was on the supply side of the bar was he particularly interested in talking—if never interested in listening. I learned from him a bit about information theory and the spam arms race, some things about pi and primes and a great deal about his commitment to the rebranded sociobiology movement, now called evolutionary psychology. I also had to endure his constant theorizing on the source of lesbianism (“They're too ugly to catch a man” is a more-than-fair and perfectly accurate summing-up of his stance). There were some long nights in that bar, in a state where on-duty bartenders are not allowed to drink.

That year of a lot of baseball games, he was a king-sized fan, a giant San Francisco Giants fan, though he'd generally compound his all-round awkwardness by speaking mainly in easy-to-retrieve-from-static-memory catchphrases, including a few that you never hear, only read in the lesser works of Bob Costas—"the great Barry Bonds" was always my favorite. He may also have said "vaunted" out loud. The catchphrases were, precisely, epithets, as in Homer: Unvarying bits of verbal material that a speaker could construct sentences around. Homer needed them to to fill out his dactylic hexameters; I think The Prof needed them to get utterances out at all after his eleventh Blue Boar. After Bonds, his best beloved Giant was Kenny Lofton, acquired in midseason and sure, The Prof was sure, to clinch a pennant with clutchiness. His epithet for Lofton: The Raptor.

The Prof was, for whatever reason, no fan of advanced statistics. He loathed Edgar Martinez, and in years to come would trumpet Bonds as "the best any of us will ever see" based purely on the basis of those much-reprehended counting statistics (home runs, batting average) and on the eye test: Look how many intentional walks he draws. He loved Lofton mostly for this kind of eye-test impression, and every time he'd show up in the on-deck circle the epithets would flow: "Kenny Lofton: The Raptor. If he gets on base..." Too drunk to make much of an argument, The Prof nevertheless did a hell of a job of pointing out Lofton's ability to scare the living shit out of pitchers, even entire teams.

We were there, The Prof, the bar, and I, for that 2002 Giants run to the World Series. We were there, drunk and infinitely impressed, when Lofton, in the National League Divisional Series, whacked two singles, then saw a reliever come in specifically to face him, was improbably not substituted for, and proceeded to crank another ball to the outfield for his third single of the night. Oh yeah: He batted in the winning run there. The Raptor, predatory as ever in his thirteenth season, his seventh trip to the postseason.

The Giants would go on to lose a huge lead in Game Six of the World Series, following it up with a Game Seven loss—not really a novelty for Kenny Lofton, who'd endured same in 1995—and The Raptor ended up chasing his ring on another team the next year—two other teams, in fact. Then another the year after that. Then another the year after that. Then another the year after that. Then another two the year after that. He never did get his ring.

I got out of the bar. The bar closed, then reopened under new management. I didn't make it to the closing party, and haven't visited the new version. The Prof... I don't know where the Prof is. But he, and Kenny Lofton from 2002, and Kenny Lofton from those years smeared around 1995, are still in my head, with the warehouse, and the bar, and the headphone cigarette walks and all the stupid things I heard and said and did, and everything else. When Lofton was around, he was always, every play, worth watching. The Raptor had a weird way of kind of focusing the game; when Lofton was there, he always just... seemed important. He always made memories. You can't say that about very many players.

Illustration by Mike McGrath 


Share |

Comments

Quickly this site will indisputably be famous among all blogging people, because of its fastidious articles or reviews.
car insurance liability

afternoon with everything on the line. Then, come the next workday, they'll be back at the office, likely lacking that feeling of camaraderie and common purpose they saw on TV.
minecraft xbox one update |
free psn games

Very efficiently written information. orbita watch winder It will be beneficial to anybody who utilizes it, including me. Keep up the good work. For sure i will check out more posts.

I really like your article. It’s evident that you have a lot knowledge on this topic. Your points are well made and relatable. Bonuses

That gives off an impression of being fabulous anyway i am still not very beyond any doubt that I like it. At any rate will look much more into it and choose by and by! professional seo services

This is a shrewd online journal. I would not joke about this. You have such a great amount of information about this issue, thus much energy. You likewise know how to make individuals rally behind it, clearly from the reactions. Download video youtube

I think this is an informative post and it is very useful and knowledgeable. therefore, I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article.תל weight loss pills for men goalvip

I havent any word to appreciate this post…..Really i am impressed from this post….the person who create this post it was a great human..thanks for shared this with us. Judi Online Finalbet88

He was a millionaire (maybe); he was a swinger (kind of doubt it); he was a genius (maybe); he won all the time at video poker by being such a genius he could mentally hack the machines' patterns just by playing them (false), and so on.
how to get more views on youtube |
500 likes

I have read your blog it is very helpful for me. I want to say thanks to you. I have bookmark your site for future updates. Skintagsgone

I m awed with this exceptional post. I will make a point to bookmark your site for entire arrangement analyzing through http://www.line-creative.uk/

You share tons of interesting info, neat and excellent design you've got here. It's certainly one of the most informative stuff on this topic I've ever read Lowest prices

The post should have brilliant course on this fundamental matter. This site is genuinely a walk around for most of the data you required about this and didn't know who to ask. check my blog

Nice work, man. This is some really good work you've published here. The information is top notch. The font is just spectacular. I could not have asked for a much better article than this today. Keep it going! Bursataruhan

I thought haven’t read such distinctive material anywhere else on-line.
best seo tool

I require this article to finish my endeavor in the school, and it has same subject with your article. fat diminisher system book

Your blogs further more each else volume is so entertaining further serviceable It appoints me befall retreat encore. I will instantly grab your rss feed to stay informed of any updates. bandar judi euro 2016 perancis

I see the greatest contents on your blog and I extremely love reading them.

Survival

Great Information sharing .. I am very happy to read this article .. thanks for giving us go through info.Fantastic nice. I appreciate this post. best site

Thank you Live Casino Maxbet

The written piece is truly fruitful for me personally; continue posting these types of articles.

Manic Depression information

Such a very useful article. Very interesting to read this article. I would like to thank you for the efforts you had made for writing this awesome article. Entrepreneur

I have got this wonderful site, now I will share this to my friends and colleagues as well because they are also fond of learning this type of things. prosper202 vps

Whether somebody pursuit of his vital thing, hence he or she desires to be accessible that at length, hence that thing is maintained over here.
opulence for life bonuses

These are actually wonderful some ideas in the blog. You have touched good quality points here. In whatever way continue writing.
opulence for life

Positive site, where did u come up with the information on this posting?I have read a few of the articles on your website now, and I really like your style. emotional support animal certificate

Hi buddies, it is great written piece entirely defined, continue the good work constantly. push button influence alex mandossian

I thank the author of this article; the article has great significance for me, it just me to do better for this life. Very meaningful, thank you very much, Get More Information

I have got this wonderful site, now I will share this to my friends and colleagues as well because they are also fond of learning this type of things.
Conversion Fly review

Your articles make whole sense of every topic.

short term payday loans

Thanks for your beyond belief blogs stuff.
how to get discounts on car insurance

I keep in considerations. Much appreciated for talking about such a stunningness a few points of interest. hoteles juegos olimpicos rio

Highly vigorous blog, I liked that much.lifeinsurancerates.com

The blog is unique that’s providing the nice material. Please post more interesting articles here.Virtual CEO lifestyle bonuses

Remarkable blog! I have no words to praise, it has really allured me.online payday loans no credit check

Much thanks for this incredible post. http://cccamserver16.soup.io/

I truly absolutely esteemed the speculative style you've used as a touch of this article. Might I have the ability to please get the name of that substance style ? fishing reel

I use basically superior fabrics : you will discover these products by: Obsession Phrases

Thank you for the information and clarification about the identical houses. While I was reading the post I thought they might be haunted, but its nothing of that sort, thanks to your explanation http://bit.ly/1WLJZtt

I concur with your procedure for thinking.Thank you for your post, I search for such article along time, today i discover it at long last. https://twitter.com/gohealthpdx/status/716860432917610496

I require this article to finish my endeavor in the school, and it has same subject with your article. instagram followers app | insta liker

Checking any blog may make others just want to come up with a greater number of. Cara Daftar Sbobet Online di Jutabet

Hey, great blog, but I don’t understand how to add your site in my rss reader. Can you Help me please? sbobet wap

This is very interesting content! I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your points and have come to the conclusion that you are right about many of them. You are great. Signs it is Time to end a Relationship

he was a genius (maybe); he won all the time at video poker by being such a genius he could mentally hack the machines' patterns just by playing them (false), and so on.
facebook top eleven |
coc gem hack

Thanks to share these details it’s truly nice.
carinsurancerates

It’s really just what exactly Needed to check out anticipation around long run you are going to continue on to get spreading this sort of great posting. buy followers
| instagram like hack

Really impressed! Everything is very open and very clear explanation of issues. It contains truly information. Your website is very useful. Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to more. situs casino online katanabet

This text may be value everyone’s attention. How will I learn more? club flyers print