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Hoke

If Murph’s in, Wuck, <quote-01>we better get to baseball<quote-01> before he cools on this whole thing.

Let me start here: I think I always knew you were a Los Angeles Dodgers fan, Murph, but you didn’t talk baseball much when we were kids. We already had a shared life. 

I was jealous, though, when I got wind several years back that you, Wuck, were being tutored into the grand literature of baseball by you, Murph. I imagine Wuck watching all he could and hammering Murph with questions, which he happily fielded. I imagine that was a joy for you, Murph, like watching your son totally give a shit about your hobby, asking increasingly advanced questions that turn your private dorkdom into wonder and fellowship. But back then I was like, Wuck likes baseball now? Then it made sense to me: baseball is like Faulker, or chess, but with an even greater history and complexity. I was so glad you too mentioned this in your first letter, Wuck: you’re the guy who works through Bach’s Goldberg Variations alone at his piano in his apartment in Brooklyn for months, not for any audience, but just for fun. Baseball was your new Bach, I figured. <quote-02>You bought<quote-02> a classic blue hat with a white, vintage Brooklyn Dodgers “B” and wore only that for a while, and it all made sense.

I was missing out, I knew. But I was busy.

Murph, you eventually swayed me, the former evangelical kid, with the kind of spectacle that often prompts people to convert midlife. 

That summer night five years ago now, the night you brought me to your temple, was a night the spirit moved. I was down in LA with a van full of homies and nonprofit volunteers visiting a Homeboy Industries conference, and you, Murph—with an excitement I could feel through the text messages I checked while driving the LA freeways—said you were working on securing me an extra ticket to the Dodger game that night, but sans homies. You said it was a big deal, this game, and when I remembered baseball games probably weren’t twelve bucks anymore like when I was a kid, you assured me you’d take care of it. 

The sunset was huge and pink and golden and perfect, a lazy glow behind the slender palm tree silhouettes around the outfield rim of Chavez Ravine. <quote-03>Kershaw was<quote-03> pitching (I’d never heard of him until our climb into Dodger Stadium earlier; actually, I didn’t even know starting pitchers rotated, so you kindly covered that when I, age 34, asked you to slow down). Anyway, Kershaw somehow nabbed a line drive at the mound by instinctively, blindly, backwards, swinging his glove toward the 100mph ball while off balance. And Puig fired a baseball from deep right field across the diamond to catch a runner at third base. I stood up and screamed both <quote-04>times<quote-04>. When we won, you had to yell in my ear, through the din and the dog piles, the champagne and on-field swagger, what it meant to “clinch the division.” You had to explain why it was extra fucking sweet that it had happened against the Giants. <quote-05>You bought me a crisp blue and professional-fit Dodger hat<quote-05> at the Top of the Park on the way out while Randy Newman’s “I Love LA” echoed from the lips of soccer moms, open-collared CEOs, and large Mexican families alike, all of us pouring out into the parking lot to a recessional praise anthem people actually <quote-06>believed<quote-06>.

That night my heart was turned. My inclusion into the fellowship continued with Dave Velasco giving me (or you telling Dave to give me) his sign-in to the MLB phone app so I could watch and follow every pitch back home in Washington. And by being added to the Dodger group text, my small group fellowship was sealed. The buzzing of that thirteen-member community alive in my pocket was persistent, whether I watched the game that night or not.

So I guess that’s my assumption here: Murph got Wuck and me into baseball—into Dodger Baseball—through our different obsessions, but what it’s really been about is belonging. It’s a way we can belong to each other again, season after season, especially for the three of us in our far removed corners of the country, the separate places where we are nearing forty and becoming fathers.

Murph got us into baseball, our daily bread.

Then again, maybe you’ve both noticed how rarely I engage in The Dodger Thread these days. The chatter seems thinner lately, more like crumbs. 

But now, Wuck, you’ve proposed this, something significantly more substantial. Now you’re the one getting the other two into something new, something better suited for three of us who miss each other and don’t mind being more long winded than The Dodger Thread allows.

So where do we start? You, Wuck, suggested to us—now in the Dodger offseason—the biggest scandal in perhaps the history of baseball: the Houston Astros, the team that broke our hearts during the first Dodger World Series of our collective fandom, were cheating.

Baseball—the national pastime—is on fire. The entire tradition is desecrated; the archbishops of the league scramble to put it out.

And, just this week, the even bigger national story of the senate impeachment trial coming to a close, the system failing to correct a flagrant abuse of power at the top of our system, despite a wealth of televised and online evidence.

And what of—I throw this in, as I like concentric themes—the #MeToo tidal wave rocking every industry from Hollywood to DC? Male power of any dimension—sports, government, enterprise—is being exposed.

How do we as three white dudes talk about white dudes’ long legacy of shitty behavior? Takers? 

I wrote too long, or too late into the morning. Not only do I have to get Abram off to preschool soon, but two prison collect calls have lit up my phone the last ten minutes.

Wuck’s got East Coast time differences, and Murph you’re nocturnal, so I imagine that’ll stagger us across the day in this conversation.

Here we go! Talk to you soon.

2020.02.05

<pull-quote>we better get to baseball<pull-quote>
<avatar-wuck><avatar-wuck><author-name>Wuck<author-name>
<p-comment>by all means.<p-comment>
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<pull-quote>You bought<pull-quote>
<avatar-wuck><avatar-wuck><author-name>Wuck<author-name>
<p-comment>actually, murph bought it for me. i was broke as shit.<p-comment>
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<pull-quote>Kershaw was<pull-quote>
<avatar-wuck><avatar-wuck><author-name>Wuck<author-name>
<p-comment>the first dodger game of my adult life was also with murph, and i remember watching the pitcher, also kershaw, throw his first heater. watching pitches from the sideline was a whole lot different than seeing them from center field on the tv screen. i remember looking to murph and exclaiming, fuck, that shit’s fast!<p-comment>
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<avatar-murph><avatar-murph><author-name>Murph<author-name>
<p-comment>You were also mesmerized by how I could guess the speed of his pitches before the reading appeared on DodgerVision. Little did you know how automatic Kersh's three pitches were at that point in his career. Fastball 93, Slider 87, Curve 74, give or take a mile per hour.<p-comment>
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<avatar-wuck><avatar-wuck><author-name>Wuck<author-name>
<p-comment>aaaaaand pavlovian rage. #asterisks<p-comment>
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<pull-quote>times<pull-quote>
<avatar-murph><avatar-murph><author-name>Murph<author-name>
<p-comment>Your recall of that night is pretty incredible. A quick glance at the box score reveals both a Puig dinger and outfield assist. Kersh went 8 and struck out 11.<p-comment>
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<avatar-hoke><avatar-hoke><author-name>Hoke<author-name>
<p-comment>Yeah. It took magic to convert me.<p-comment>
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<pull-quote>You bought me a crisp blue and professional-fit Dodger hat<pull-quote>
<avatar-wuck><avatar-wuck><author-name>Wuck<author-name>
<p-comment>aha! who else you buy dodger hats for, Murph? Hoke give it up to you in the bathroom at phillippe the original like I did? unbelievable.<p-comment>
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<avatar-murph><avatar-murph><author-name>Murph<author-name>
<p-comment>Off the top of my head and in order? Kristen, Abram, Dino, Grammar, Pablo's Juliet, and Rachel. The unnamed Webber child will certainly receive many hats.<p-comment>
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<avatar-wuck><avatar-wuck><author-name>Wuck<author-name>
<p-comment>unnamed webber we found out today is male<p-comment>
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<avatar-murph><avatar-murph><author-name>Murph<author-name>
<p-comment>:-D<p-comment>
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<pull-quote>believed<pull-quote>
<avatar-murph><avatar-murph><author-name>Murph<author-name>
<p-comment>Incredibly, perhaps, the expanse of time from Wuck's jump start into Dodger baseball and your own is just a calendar year. Wuck first showed sincere interest when he arrived for Koontz's wedding in August 2013, and you and I, Hoke, attended the next year's clincher in September 2014.<p-comment>
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<avatar-wuck><avatar-wuck><author-name>Wuck<author-name>
<p-comment>when was my first trip to the ravine with you? was it koontz’s bachelor week? we all went and sat in the all you can eat section as part of your bachelor activities but that was years prior.<p-comment>
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<avatar-murph><avatar-murph><author-name>Murph<author-name>
<p-comment>I just looked it up. August 11, 2013. Sunday evening game against the Rays. Kershaw went 8 that night as well!<p-comment>
<p-comment>The AYCE Pavilion game was August 19, 2007. Saito struck out the side in the ninth to preserve a 4-3 lead.<p-comment>
<p-comment>Who else went with us in 2013?<p-comment>
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<avatar-wuck><avatar-wuck><author-name>Wuck<author-name>
<p-comment>dave and connie? i feel like i’ve been back since with you and that might have been with dave and connie.<p-comment>
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<avatar-murph><avatar-murph><author-name>Murph<author-name>
<p-comment>That was certainly the foursome for NLCS Game 5 in 2018.<p-comment>
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<avatar-wuck><avatar-wuck><author-name>Wuck<author-name>
<p-comment>ah yes! koontz is responsible for both of these trips with you to dodger stadium: first his wedding, then his 40th birthday celebration in san clemente.<p-comment>
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