Dayn Perry did a all-drinkers team, and I’ve done an all-ugly team, but there’s one team in between the two that deserves mention. It’s the cast of characters on the beer-league baseball team that make up the Best Bar in Baseball.
Walk in the front door, and the first person you’ll notice is Jon Rauch. That’s because he’s both the bartender at this mythical bar, as well as the tallest, meanest-looking tatted biker type you might find in baseball. He’s the tallest person in the major leagues, but he’ll more likely be proud of a lesser-known stat: he’s the tallest person to hit a major league home run and it came off of Roger Clemens. He’s not a man of a ton of words, though, so you’ll order your Lagavulin neat or your Old Rasputin Nitro (of course this bar has good whiskey and craft beers, why wouldn’t it) and look for a seat at the bar.
You find your way to the nicest looking man in the bar, a generally middle-age looking dude. He tells you he can only hump his fastball in there in the high seventies these days, so you figure you’ve found a nice old dude you can relate to. But then he can tell you don’t know who he is and asks you to guess. You know this will end badly. He gives you a hint. “I’ve faced almost nine percent of all players to ever play the game of baseball,” he says, and you almost snort your drink. Is that even possible. “Are you Phil Niekro?” That makes the man put down his drink (a Manhattan). “My pitch isn’t a gimmick, most of baseball throws the changeup,” he retorts. “I’m the winningest pitcher in the history of the Mariners,” he adds as he picks his beer up with his left hand. “Ah,” you say, “you must be Randy Johnson.” Now the man is done with you. “I’m still playing, dude,” he says as he shakes his head.
You decide you’d rather talk to the salaryman with the glasses nursing his beer in the corner. “Don’t let Jamie get to you,” he says, “Dude’s just bitter that all we talk about is how slow his fastball is.” Dammit — Jamie Moyer. Of course. You figure the next words this man will say would be about his boring day job, but he surprises you. “You know, I actually love catching him. Two signs, really, and I doubt I really have to give them to him anyway.” You notice he’s wearing sunglasses — “A little dark in here, no?” you ask. A sheepish grin comes over his face as he takes the shades off. “Don’t like my glasses much,” he admits.
“Goddang nerd,” erupts from an old guy by the jukebox. “Shut up Cobb you old man,” Moyer yells back. “Why don’t you hit me with your fastball you weakling,” cackles the dark bundle of bones, full of spittle, wrath and Crown Royal. “I goddam will,” says Moyer, picking up his tumbler and ready for a brawl. Brian McCann calms them down: “Let’s save it for the other team, eh guys?” Ty Cobb grumbles into his drink about sliding spikes-high.
“Yeah, and you’re all grandpas to me anyway,” says the 150-pound black kid coming out of the bathroom. You do a double-take. Rauch glares at the youngster: “Little Dee better go sit at the tables or he’ll cost me my license,” he growls. The look was enough to tighten your back, but the youngster rolls his eyes. “Pops owns this damn bar you know,” but he slides into a booth and flicks a “FlashBar” coaster at the still-glaring bartender.
Out of the bathroom after him comes a man slicking his hair back with water. “Yo little man, I can help you with your size,” he says. “You leave that kid alone,” erupts Cobb, “or I’ll rip out those peas you call nuts, hear me?” Jose Canseco seems genuinely scared for a second, but as he takes a seat near the mirror, he manages a weak quip about dunking an old man in the tank past center field.
The other two members of his booth barely look up to acknowledge his presence. From the longboard propped up next to the booth, and the tattoos that you can barely make out on their necks, you’re not surprised the sleaze purveyor would pick the two ruffians for boothmates. But a snippet of their conversation floats past the AC/DC on the jukebox and does give you pause: “You know, there IS a similarity. When I’m charging and the waves are cranking out there, I get into the zone, just like when I’m pumping strikes. There’s a non-thinking thinking quality to both. You get that on the golf course?” The one with a neck tattoo smiles and nods. “Completely. Non-thinking thinking. Just see the ball and hit it. Watch it bounce on the green.”
A new guy kicks the door in with his skateboard. “You dorks. Whatup B-League” he says as he flashes the hang ten to Brandon League, “Golf? Really, Roberts, golf?” he says and heads to the bar. “You still doing that PBR and Jack thing?” he says, “I don’t have the cash our third baseman and closer do. Just got sent down, and got injured. More time to skate, I guess.”
Now you’re having trouble. You knew about Ryan Roberts, and could have guessed League without the hint. Who’s this short dude with the short board tho? “Screw BALLER!” shouts someone out of a smoky booth. Out erupts a young black man with a joint that he offers to the newcomer. “Nah man, they testing me every time I go into the doctor’s office,” he declines. “Guess I’ll call you Daniel then,” says the blazed newcomer in a high falsetto.
“Dukes, don’t let me get the bouncer,” says Rauch. “Y’all don’t have a bouncer that can handle me,” retorts Elijah Dukes. “You must be forgetting our first baseman,” says the quiet short guy sitting with Moyer that you didn’t notice before. Well, dude’s a little small. “Little man JOSE ALTUVE, did not see you there,” laughs Dukes. “But Parker doesn’t scare me.”
The bar gets quiet when Dave Parker enters from the manager’s office when he hears his name.
With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.