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).
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, but if you’re curious, just ask Billy Crystal:
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 a regional beer distributor. I periodically saw his sons wheeling kegs into the restaurants where I worked.
Though I never thought that much about beer distributors until I was called on to change kegs in the middle of a busy shift of the voluminous, all-night breakfast joint where I worked.
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 aluminum barrels and knots of rubber tubing.
All the while, dirty dishes were piling up, milk dispensers needed to be changed, 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.
It’s well-known fact that when I suffered my second (annual) hernia that night, my screams, of “F*** YOU, Roger Maris!!!!!” probably could be heard for blocks. I’m sure that there were reports of echoes being heard in Micanopy and Archer.
John, the manager, who had asked me to change the keg, bolted in 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.
“Who blamed Roger Maris? ” he said. Followed by “You blamed Roger Maris! That’s OK with me. If youah going to blame somebody it should be somebody who played foah the 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 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 A-B 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, I was lifting a keg with a label that was clearly labeled as Lite.