I Want a Baseball Story: Vol. 1
After shortstop Omar Vizquel publicly blamed [Jose] Mesa for being a “choker” and blowing the 1997 World Series for the Cleveland Indians in his book, Mesa and Vizquel ended their longtime friendship. Mesa was quoted as saying “If I face [Omar Vizquel], I’ll hit him. I won’t try to hit him in the head, but I’ll hit him. And if he charges me, I’ll kill him. If I face him 10 more times, I’ll hit him 10 times. Every time. If he comes to apologize, I will punch him right in the face. And then I’ll kill him.”
As of April 22, 2006, Mesa made good on his promise and hit Vizquel, now playing for the San Francisco Giants, on every one of three occasions he has faced him.
–from Wikipedia entry on Jose Mesa
It’s a Sunday night, the kind of humid rainy night that reminds me of Chicago even though the rain here isn’t the same heavy fresh green-smelling rain. Despite the fact that I’m alternately unbearably sad or really pissed off about many things in the world, none of which affect me directly enough to warrant such anger (George W. Bush, the unbelievable stupidity of movies being released lately, people who thank God after accomplishing anything in life as if their efforts had nothing to do with it, people who drive below the speed limit, people who don’t signal before turning), I’m really quite content. This is why I have nothing to say lately and prefer to pet my cats or try to fool the dog so I can flip him over while he’s sitting (usually he’s too smart for this but sometimes you can catch him just once) or pull weeds or go to baseball games where I yell too much, always.
I look out the window (windshield wipers that are on even though they’re not needed are high on the list of things that annoy me, like dogs with an ear inside out or toilet paper on your shoe, only worse) and think: How would I change my life if I could? What would I want to be different?
The only thing I can come up with is that I would like to drive around Denver and hand out copies of J Dilla’s Donuts to random people. I don’t know if people are in the habit of accepting CDs from strangers in cars, but this is what I would do. I don’t know why. Perhaps Donuts is some sort of key to the universe. I suspect that it is, but I have no idea how it works.
One day I would give a CD to a nondescript guy with a stubbly chin and one of those army-green jackets guys used to get from surplus stores (maybe they still do). Weeks later, this guy would be at a party somewhere downtown and he’d tell the host to play the CD. Jose Mesa, relief pitcher for the Colorado Rockies, would be in attendance and, without realizing it, would start to hum along with Workinonit.
Never one to fit in with the squeaky-clean Jesus-loving Rockies, Jose Mesa was no stranger to blown saves or above-average ERAs. You might almost think that he was past the glory days of his career, but you should never think that too certainly, lest Jose Mesa read your mind and accidentally run you over with his car. Although he was acquitted of all charges, the allegation of rape distanced him from the guys who didn’t even read Maxim, at least not when anybody was looking. He was too old for this shit and frustrated, tired of pretending that he gives a rat’s ass when somebody talks about Jesus dying for his sins. Jesus better recognize, he’d think, throwing peanut shells to the floor.
Ben and I were afraid to go to the Brown Barrel, because you couldn’t see inside and it looks like it might be the kind of place where skinny men push up their flannel sleeves and tuck their wallet chains into their pockets before hurling a table out of the way and throwin’ down. We were brave and went in one day and it was nothing but a bunch of ash trays and a kindly bartender who had good intentions but served bad drinks. The women’s restroom is spotless. One bored evening I walk into the Brown Barrel only to see Jose Mesa, relief pitcher for the Colorado Rockies, sitting at the bar.
Oh shit, I think. He’s ruining the story by staring at my boobs. Figures.
“Hey,” he says, mustering as much excitement as he can, “J Dilla changed my life, too.”
I realize that I’m wearing my “J Dilla changed my life” shirt and wow, I really suck for thinking that Jose Mesa was staring at my boobs.
“I used to always think about how I wanted to punch this guy in the face and then kill him,” Jose Mesa says. “But now I listen to J Dilla, and only think about it sometimes.”
I realize that the only zen you have on a barstool at the Brown Barrel next to Jose Mesa is the zen you bring up there. I’m sorry that I dropped him from my fantasy baseball team. I’ll get him back as soon as I get home. Some things just belong, even though they don’t always work out the way you’d like.
Jose Mesa patiently listens to me tell my story of random J Dilla CD distribution, and it is then that he knows that in actuality, I changed his life. As a result, we become fast friends and spend the rest of the summer wearing yellow pants, leaning on parked cars eating ice cream, and fighting crime. Well, we don’t really fight crime, but one day Jose Mesa decides to give back to the community, so we spend a hot Wednesday afternoon driving the spay/neuter van in Commerce City. It goes without saying that we both think Jose Mesa should instead be in the All Star Game.
Jose Mesa and I go to City Park to ride the paddleboats, and he is nice enough to ride the one shaped like a swan (I really want the flamingo, but you just don’t ask Jose Mesa to paddle around a pond in a flamingo). I wonder if Jose Mesa knows: if he were a better pitcher — if he won the World Series — he’d get a better story, one with a freckled 10-year-old boy with grass-stained pants and hair that his mom tries to flatten under his hat. Instead, he gets me and a paddleboat but, see, I didn’t like sports when I was a kid, so I get a story now. I tell him that I read an article about Big Papi in Sports Illustrated, even though I hate the Red Sox.
“You can’t really hate Big Papi,” Jose Mesa says as we watch a cormorant fly overhead and, as always, Jose Mesa is right.
Big Papi said that he likes to stay around people and keep busy because otherwise, he starts to think about very deep things, such as life after death. This makes me realize one thing: we all have the same struggles. You’re not so different from Jose Mesa. When we’re lonely, we’re all lonely the same way, which means we’re not really lonely at all.
One day I get stuck and miss a green light on Grant Street because some stupid bitch in a big-ass SUV is blocking Colfax. I do what I always do when I’m mad and in traffic — I get really pissed off and swear, tapping my hands on the steering wheel. Then I realize that if Jose Mesa were here, he’d get out of his car and punch that woman in the face.
I immediately feel better.
I stand at home plate and yell at Jose Mesa, “Wussy! It has to be wussy!” Jose Mesa couldn’t be wussy if you tied him up and tickled him while throwing pies at his face. The ball flies past me and aswingandamiss. Jose Mesa laughs at me and I kick off my flip flops and run around the bases anyway.
Update: Now you can get an official “J Dilla Changed My Life” shirt here. Proceeds go to J Dilla’a family. I have no affiliation with/financial interest in the shirts.