As a child, my great love was baseball.
By the time, I entered 4th grade, in upstate Massachusetts, I had played one year of Little League and was usually interested in watching the Red Sox on Channel 38, as long as there was not a Godzilla movie on Channel 56. Though that year, I stumbled across a baseball book that had been abandoned by one of my older brothers (who were 9 and 15 years my senior). It changed everything for me,
The book was gloriously full of history and statistics, through the 1961 season. 1961 is one of the most-hallowed seasons in baseball history. There is a lot written about that season, if you’re curious, Billy Crystal can explain:
Spoiler alert: Roger Maris breaks the home run record.
My family moved to the Orlando area when I was a teenager and I became less interested in baseball, because I no longer played it, and there was no “home team” in Florida. I still liked baseball, but it had lost its obsession status.
When I started college, it was intriguing to see pictures of Roger Maris’ record-breaking swing in a few bars around Gainesville:
I later found out that Maris owned and operated an Anheuser-Busch beer distributor. I periodically saw his sons wheeling kegs of Bud Light, Busch, etc. into the restaurant where I worked: a high-volume breakfast joint (which curiously had a full bar).
Though I never thought that much about beer distributors until I was called on to change kegs in the middle of a busy shift. Then I blamed them for everything that was evil in the world.
Changing kegs was always a pain in the ass. Getting the key to the beer-storage room, wheeling the keg to the bar cooler, and swapping it out for an empty one, that was always ensnared in the clutter of barrels and knots of rubber tubing.
All the while, dirty dishes were piling up, milk dispensers needed to be changed, ice bins were emptied, and vomit was accumulating on the men’s room floor.
One fateful night, my boss, with his Boston accent shouted “Squawt, foah-get about that table, weah outta Budwise-ah, go change that keg!”
Budweiser = Roger Maris.
The cooler was in its usual disastrous state. I had to untangle many lines and move several kegs just to get at the empty. I didn’t have time for this, but I never did.
I hissed as I unsnarled the tap lines, and grunted with each keg I lifted. I was trying to hoist a keg over several others when I felt a familiar pang below my belt line.
It’s well-known fact that when I suffered my second (annual) hernia that night, my screams, of “FUCK YOU, Roger Maris!!!!!” probably could be heard for miles. I’m sure that there were reports of tremors being felt in Micanopy and Archer.
John, the manager, who had asked me to change the keg, bolted into the cooler, and yelled, “Who the f*** do you think you ah? Do you kiss yoah mothah with that mouth?”
Then he asked, “You OK, kid?”
I explained what happened and my self-diagnosis. He responded, “Oh shit, not again!”
He seemed only mildly surprised by who I was accusing.
“You blamed Roger Maris! That’s OK with me. If youah going to blame somebody it should be somebody who played foah those fuckin’ Yankees.”
I didn’t have the heart to remind him that Maris also played for the Cardinals, when they beat his beloved Red Sox in the 1967 World Series.
Soon after, I was on the operating table for the second time in a year. The post-surgical pain didn’t seem as bad at the previous year’s hernia. Perhaps it was because I was going to eventually receive a workman’s check, which would take the sting out of the missed paychecks.
I now look at that decades-ago injury and realize that I need to address a couple of things.
First, the tap lines that I was trying to disentangle when I sustained my injury included many brands of beer. I have no evidence that Maris’ distributorship was any more, or less, responsible for the tear in my abdominal wall (and dangling intestine) than any other.
Second, I was not even lifting an Anheuser-Busch product when the injury occurred. Therefore, it was unfair for me to cast aspersions against the Maris, or the Busch families. I hope that they will both accept my sincere apologies.
You are hereby absolved.
Given my Irish-Catholic roots, it is difficult, physically excruciating in fact, for me to let go of a grudge.
Though as time has gone by, I’ve come to appreciate the delicious irony of the fact that when I realized, that my intestine was breaking through my abdominal wall (again), I was lifting a keg with a label that was clearly labeled as Lite.