In a couple of weeks the Pirates will depart on their 21st consecutive losing season cruise. What they could really use right now, in addition to new ownership, is Heine Meine (Hiney Miney). After all, if you’re going to lose, if your team has no business competing with the payrolls of other clubs, why not at least enjoy your misfortune by scattering some real wild cards into your lineup? I don’t think many were wilder in the history of Pirates baseball than Heine.
It may sound like some children’s playschool rhyme about their posteriors, but it’s actually the name of a drunken Pirates’ pitcher in the early thirties. The Pirates team that we look at today, quilted together from everyone else’s scraps, is not a precedent. It’s happened before in this town, several times over. And it’s high time that we remembered some of the bad teams from the past, before we start condemning the guys who suit up in the present.
Just because your team loses doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun.
I want another Heine.
Heinie Meine sits at the top of the list of great Pirates’ names of all-time, a list that also must include Vinegar Bend Mizell, Sixto Lezcano, Spook Jacobs, Preacher Roe, Pie Traynor, Boom Boom Beck, Odell Jones, Coot Veal, Smoky Burgess, Cookie Lavagetto, and Mudcat Grant. Not all great players, but what names!
Heinie Meine, Henry William Meine, also known as The Count of Luxembourg, was a spitball pitcher who had some success for his hometown St. Louis Browns in the late 20’s. The spitter was an almost unhittable pitch. Those who knew how to doctor a baseball correctly could make it move like a wiffle ball on a windy day. It would roll forward as it approached the plate and suddenly, when that weighted side came over the top, the ball would fall to the ground like a shot-gunned duck. It would bounce at the batter’s feet just as he swung, embarrassing and defeating him simultaneously. Heinie Meine was one of a number of masters of this kind of pitching, a list that included Dizzy Dean. But when the spitball was outlawed, Heinie’s career was pretty much over. So, he retired from baseball to manage a tavern. One day in 1929 a couple of the tavern regulars started jagging Heine about how the St. Louis Browns were so bad that he, Heine, could probably strike them out out, even though he hadn’t been on a mound since 1922.
Heinie, half in the bag, called his old bosses in St. Louis and arranged a tryout.
Since he could no longer legally throw the spitball he resorted to other junk pitches. There was the cut-ball, in which he would rub the ball against his belt buckle and gouge it’s surface, the Vaseline ball, in which he would rub Vaseline, or Brylcreem, or whatever greasy substance he could from his hair onto the ball, and the knuckler, which he had been working on with his son in the yard of their house. Sure enough, the Browns decided to give him a tryout. He left the bar to his brother and went to St. Louis, tried out for the Browns, and although he hadn’t pitched any organized ball in 8 years, St. Louis signed him to a minor league deal.
You want to talk about how bad the Pirates are now? You want to talk about how the talent that they put on the field isn’t up to league standards? The Pirates, looking for a pitcher, having seen this guy pitch eight summers before in St. Louis, asked the Browns about him. St. Louis, knowing a sucker when they saw one, praised the guy. The Pirates, in a sign of things to come, signed Heine Meine to a contract.
He was a bartender who could throw a knuckleball.
Do you think the fans of 1931 bitched about Heine Meine’s signing? Probably didn’t mean much at the time. After all, they had the Waners, they had Arky Vaughn. There was some talent on those clubs. But after they went to the series in ’27, it would 33 years of losing for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Guess why the Bucs couldn’t compete in the 30’s?
The owners of the club refused to pay what the Yankees were paying. Sound familiar? So, in an effort to save some cash, they looked elsewhere for talent. I don’t know whether fans were lamenting the Pittsburgh ballclub’s lack of competitiveness when the drunken barkeep was signed, but as the season wore on, it’s a sure bet that they did nothing but cheer. This so-called “washed up” former major leaguer led the league in wins in 1931 with 19, and in innings pitched with 284. That season the National League boasted 12 future hall of fame pitchers.
Heine was better than all of ‘em.
Within two years he was once again gone from baseball. Eventually major league hitters catch up with junk ball pitchers. But it’s fun to remember that once, long ago, when they couldn’t spend like the Yankees, the Pirates were able to find some hidden talent.
Where is the next Heine Meine?
That’s the question.
And can he close a game?
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to scout. I’ll be heading to a few taverns this evening. If there’s a drunken bartender who can strike out a major league hitter, I’m going to find him and sign him to a deal. It’s the least I can do for the team I love. Somewhere Henry William Meine, once known as Heinie, the Count of Luxembourg, is smiling.
The Mayor of Pittsburgh, Luke Ravenstahl, recently revealed that he is damned sick and tired of politics and would like to get the hell out of Dodge (or, in this case, Pittsburgh). His refusal to join the other wig-wearers in the playing of reindeer games creates an opening for the most criticized position in Western Pennsylvania politics (with the possible exception of Miss Smiling Irish Eyes).
I support his decision one hundred percent, as long as the Mayor can get this parking ticket fixed for me right up until the time the revolving door smacks him in the buttocks. If he is unwilling to right my wrongs, I’m going to search the city charter until I come up with a by-law that states we can nominate anyone from any walk of life to immediately serve in the Mayor’s absence of interest.
I nominate Mr. Zippy, the head chimp at the Pittsburgh Zoo.
Sure, there would be a little additional cleaning of the office. But think about the press conferences! For perhaps the first time ever, average citizens would take an interest in local politics. What’s the new Mayor going to do about my property taxes? Who’s going to pay for the Steelers’ new bleachers? Why can’t we put more food on our families (thank you, George Bush)?
Mr. Zippy would have the answers. First, to solve the increasing property tax, the Mayor Chimp suggests tossing some of his own excrement at the wall. Stadium expansion problem? No problem! The new Mayor will simply lay all applications for bleacher work at the bottom of his cage. The first one to be hit with a spray of his own urine gets the bid! And that last question – the one about food and families? That’s a little deep for the new Mayor’s first day on the job, but chances are he’ll come up with a suitable answer after masturbating nine or ten times.
While news reporters look on.
We here at Cheap Channel Broadchasing also have a system to make sure everything gets backed up, even if one of us suddenly decides we no longer want to play reindeer games. Surprisingly, it has little to do with getting taxpayers to front lap dances. If you’re keeping score at home, I am sitting in this week for Randy Baumann, who is one vacation. And filling in for me?
Hey. He didn’t get the Mayor gig. Yet.
Chimp’s gotta eat.
Our apologies to the man who cleans the building. We realize that with a monkey performing in our studios, rather than the usual gang of idiots, there won’t be as much body fluid to clean up. Sorry to give you such a boring night.
And that man who gave me the sage advice, all those years ago? He was my boss, the guy who owned the radio station. I worked for him for four years and then the police showed up. He taught me many things about management, including that fact about always having your replacement in mind. The biggest thing he taught me was not learned face-to-face, but through his actions.
Never cook the books while addicted to cocaine.
Are you listening to me, Mr. Zippy? Pay heed, young chimp. Get your face out of the nose candy. You could be getting a call soon from the Mayor. The city of Pittsburgh needs fresh new thinkers like you. Now, stop that yanking and do something about this parking ticket, would you?
One hour into USWhoreWays flight one-zero-zero-niner, Charlotte-to-Pittsburgh, the third leg of our three-legged tour (a three-legged tour), the pilot spoke to his napping, snoring and drooling passengers. His voice was that Chuck Yeager drawl that every pilot uses, from Space Shuttle astronauts to the guy manning the rudder on the Just Ducky Tour boat, the one that tells you he could land a elephant onto an iceburg. “Uhhh… this is your Captain speaking. We’ve just been informed by the fine folks in Pittsburgh that they have no runways for us.”
That’s about as pissed off as you’ll hear a pilot be in public. “The fine folks in Pittsburgh” were not fine. He knew it. He wanted us to know it. They were, in fact, pussies. They were keeping him from landing his plane because they couldn’t manage to plow a little snow. Instead, he informed us, they were considering closing the airport due to some “weather”.
“Uhhh…They’re having some weather,” he said.
In fact, they were having a blizzard.
“We’re gonna circle for about five-oh minutes until the fine folks in Pittsburgh decide,” said the Pilot. “And then we’ll either land or divert to Buffalo.” He then added, rather nonchalantly, “Uhhh… because we’ll need fuel.”
I wanted to land in Pittsburgh. It was, after all, my final destination. But what I did not want, above all else, was for it to be my FINAL destination, as in, the tank goes below “E” and we drop like a stone, creating a ditch from Moon to Aliquippa.
Forty-eight minutes and thirty-two seconds later, the pilot came back on the intercom. “Uhhh… folks. This is your Captain. The fine folks in Pittsburgh have decided to close the airport (Pussies). So we’re going to fly over to Philadelphia. We’ll be getting you folks on the ground in about an hour. We’re sorry for the inconvenience.”
It was a conundrum. Run out of jet fuel and crash in the snow or go to Philadelphia. Hmm.
At midnight we landed in a snowstorm in Philly, where, we were told, a USWhoreWays representative would greet us and provide us with the answers to our many questions.
Instead, there was Lisa.
Lisa knew nothing about nothing. That’s not me singing Billy Preston. That’s her exact words. “I don’t know nothing!” she pleaded with the angry mob that burned torches and waved pitchforks. “Well,” said a calm man who polite and kind. “Perhaps you direct us to someone who could.”
That’s a lie, too.
What he said I cannot repeat in front of the children, but it had something to do with fitting a large object into a smallish opening. There were words scattered among his sentences, but mostly it was ranting and thrashing, spitting and threatening.
I laughed to myself, both because I had been up for about 20 hours and I had been that very guy about twenty years ago. My ranting and thrashing moment came to O’Hare Airport in Chicago, at the end of another very long travel day in the middle of another very bad snowstorm. The Lisa I verbally attacked broke into tears and left for the day.
The lesson learned that day was that blowing your stack gets you nowhere in the world of airline travel. Instead, it cost me a floral arrangement and a note of apology sent to my "Lisa" the next day, after I had come to my senses and realized being stuck somewhere was not the end of the world.
The lines were long. The hour was late. The wait was forever. But thanks to four other Lisas, some of whom knew answers to questions, the best was made of a bad situation.
We’d be staying the night in Philadelphia.
We’d be flying out the next night to Pittsburgh.
I made plans to rent a car and drive.
And then, suddenly, one of the Lisas, a smart one with experience and cool hair, found an airplane to take us to Pittsburgh. She handed us two boarding passes and whispered in a prison-break voice, “Go down to B-6. They’ll be boarding ten minutes.” I expected her to tell Ilsa that Rick had to stay, but no.
At two in the morning, we boarded our fourth airplane. The wings were weighed down by five inches of snow and ice. I pulled down my window shade. I knew that if I kept staring, a gargoyle would appear, taunting from the wingtip.
The plane did as well.
Once airborne, the pilot (a different pilot, but the same voice) spoke to us from somewhere beyond first class. “Uhhh….folks. This is the Captain. Once we’ve been de-iced we’ll be making our way to Pittsburgh, where the fine folks there have decided to clear a runway for us (pussies). We certainly apologize for the delay, but we’ll get you to your destination just as quickly as possible.”
No, I said to myself.
Do not fly quickly.
It’s a blizzard.
I’m in no hurry.
I’d been over the threshold of being in a hurry. It was three-forty-five in the morning. I’d been traveling for nearly a day. Nine hours, in fact, to get from North Carolina to Pennsylvania, a distance easily walked in that time frame. I was no longer in a hurry. Take your time, Buck Rogers, I silently wished. Fly gently into this bleak night.
We landed in Pittsburgh at four-forty-nine, the only plane in the friendly skies. The flight attendant promised that a USWhoreWays representative would greet us and provide us with the answers to our many questions.
Instead, we were greeted by dozens of people sleeping in incredibly uncomfortable looking positions: slumped forward in chairs, rolled into balls under coats on the floor, standing up, grumbling, snoring, drooling. Sleeping overnight in a plastic chair at an airport is a winner in the whine-for-your-supper game every time. I’ve done it. Once. Atlanta. 1997. There’s not much worse.
I counted my blessings to have remembered to not pack my car keys into the luggage, which was somewhere in Philadelphia.
We drove home through the unplowed snow, thinking of the last words my sister said to us as we packed for home. Standing on her back porch, overlooking the Caribbean, she asked, “Are you sure you wouldn’t like to stay one more day?”
I had a horrible nightmare last night. I dreamt that I was single.
Most guys my age, if they’re married (especially if they have children) will on occasion fantasize about being single. Similar to our fantasies of playing for the Steelers, hitting the lottery or having full and total control of the remote, this single guy fantasy is just that – a fantasy. The reality of the situation is that most of us are very happy with our lives and wouldn’t change a thing.
That doesn’t stop us from fantasizing.
Women have similar fantasies. They’d like us to be single as well. If just for a day or two. To get us the hell away from them. The fact is that everybody fantasizes about how things would be if their lives had taken a different path.
The ability to fantasize is what separates us from dogs. That and the fact that we don’t eat our own poop.
If you are one of the many who have fantasies about a single life in which you get nothing but sex, sex, sex, with younger and younger partners until your entire existence is one big long scene from a porn movie, I’d like to gently shake you now. It’s time to wake up.
If the commercials on TV and in print are any indicator, life as a middle-aged single man would not be very good.
Sorry to be a fantasy buzz-kill.
Oh sure. There would be a lot more televised sports and a lot less holding the purse. But if all we married, settled guys really took a look around, we’d realize that sex, the reason we’re on the planet in the first place, would not be easy as a forty-something single guy.
The other night, as I was sitting, watching TV, a commercial aired in which a guy about my age, but better looking, was working out on a stair climber at the gym. “Boy,” I thought to myself, “I’ve got to get back to the gym. I need to get back to that routine I had where I walked for an hour and got nowhere.” While this guy in the commercial was walking but getting nowhere, a young girl walked behind him. He smiled, she smiled, and the announcer said, “With all your wrinkles, she’s probably wondering if you’re late for your Bingo game, Grandpa.”
What followed was a sales pitch for skin crème for men. Sometime in the last two decades, while I was aging, the makeup industry ran out of crap to fool middle-aged women into buying. Did they panic? No. They just turned their gun sights at middle-aged men.
“Are you taking care of your skin?” the announcer asked. “Does your skin make you look older than you are? Are age spots, smile lines and wrinkles coming between you and success?”
What the hell does that mean?
The ad went on to pitch me on buying some goop to rub onto my face in hopes that young girls at the gym will be fooled into thinking I’m not an old pervert and will, they all but guarantee, sleep with me. Well, I’ll be sleeping. They’ll be wide awake. They’re younger. They don’t require as much sleep. The point is, that without slathering my face with this ointment, I’ll be wrinkled and immediately recognizable for what I am – A MAN.
Not only does age bring with it spots, smile lines and wrinkles, but it has also brought me a certain wisdom that tells me that if having those imperfections of the skin stops anyone from wanting to get closer, perhaps “success” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In short, if I have to wear makeup to be a stud, I think I’ll stay here on the couch.
Sorry, coeds, but I just don’t have the energy it takes to keep up with you. Oh, I’m fine as far as “success” stamina goes. I just don’t have the energy to visit the makeup mirror four times a day to check my base coat.
If you’re my age and you’re currently wearing anti-aging crème, makeup or Preparation-H under your eyes to hide those bags (and you know who you are), I hope for your sake it makes you feel better about yourself. I wish you nothing but success.
And if you’re done with that crème, could you pass it my way? I’ve got a little fantasy I’m working up and I’d like to get rid of some wrinkles.
I love The Bible. I’m not a churchgoer and I don’t attempt to live my life according to the interpretations of “teachings” in the Old or New Testament. I just love the book.
It is, after all, our oldest collection of letters and short stories. Which of those parables, lessons and songs are based in fact has been the one unsolved mystery that has driven many scholars’ careers.
Did Noah’s Ark exist?
Was Jesus a man?
If Adam and Eve had three sons, how did the world get populated?
I don’t know (and neither do you); religion doesn’t ask us to prove anything. It asks us to believe.
No, this is not a sermon. Instead, it is a tale about a man named Jeff Bush from Florida who was swallowed by the Earth. His tale did not happen in some long forgotten century before lines of communication. Instead, this poor fellow fell asleep in his bungalow and no one knows if he ever woke up again. What we theorize is that a sinkhole opened beneath his house and he fell to his death, now buried in rubble yards beneath the surface of the planet. Rescuers have yet to find his body.
Jonah was swallowed by a whale.
Lot’s wife (nameless) looked back on Sodom and was turned to salt.
Jeff Bush was swallowed by the Earth.
All that’s left now is to come up with the “why”. Depending on your end game, you could pick any number of horrible sins the man from Seffner, Florida, committed and use the story as your own pulpit weapon. Tell that lesson-story enough over a long enough period of time and, well, you’ve got yourself a genuine one hundred percent parable, brothers and sisters.
Two, three thousand years from now? There might be a Book of Jeff, alongside letters from the AFL-CIO to the FBI describing how St. Jimmy Hoffa was taken from this world. Turn the page and read the tale of Amelia Earhart flying directly to Heaven.
Scoff if you must (go ahead, I’ll wait) but once a really little guy beat the crap out of a really big bully and somebody decided to use that schoolyard fight between David and “the Goliath” as the framework to bring the masses closer to God.
That’s why I love the Bible.
It’s kind of like a really old version of “Unsolved Mysteries”.
Minus Robert Stack.