baseball.

Hey.  Packing was fun.

So was working, going to lamaze classes, trying to find a pediatrician when your wife was confined to bed, making lists of shit you needed to buy for your new house, trying to come up with the cash to actually buy it, and dealing with the sweltering heat of the most miserably hot summer ever in the history of the universe.

Note that I didn’t mention anything about actually running a record label, which, in the summer of 1995, was the only thing that I wanted to do.  But I wasn’t doing it, and there appeared to be no point in the future where I might be able to carve out any time to.  The Mommyheads were planning their fall tour, Footstone were in the studio recording a new album, cuppa joe were recording but I was embarrassed to talk to them due to the issue with Steve’s original art.  I had walked away from Dots Will Echo, lost out on Gapeseed, Toast had disappeared.  Blenderette and Jenifer Convertible were both in the early stages of our relationships.

Essentially, I had a record label and no bands.  I was trying to find a distribution deal but didn’t have any new releases to distribute.

I was trapped in a shitty dayjob that I didn’t like, which I was ostensibly doing so that I could afford to run a record label that didn’t exist, so that I could feel like I was doing something meaningful with my life when all I was doing was going into 30 years of debt so that I could buy a box to hold a baby.

I was, essentially, operating alone.  Sandy was confined to bed, and even though she got more active as we headed into August and got closer to the due date, I still felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders.  People started commenting on how tired I looked.  A few people mentioned that I was putting on weight.  I had dark rings under my eyes, and was constantly half asleep at work.  

During this period, we spent a lot of time watching the Yankees.  I mean, there was absolutely nothing else to do.  And so that’s what we did.  They were making a run at the pennant in Baseball’s new playoff format that allowed for a “wild card” team, much like in the NFL.  Young centerfielder Bernie Williams was emerging as an offensive force, and newcomer Jack McDowell was having an excellent year.  The late season acquisition of hired gun David Cone was a promising development, and the Yankees provided us both with a summer’s worth of exciting baseball.

It was the afternoon of August 14, 1995 that we settled into the bedroom to watch the day’s Yankee game, when the broadcast opened with a solitary and silent image of the number 7, from the Yankees’ retired numbers plaque in the outfield.  As soon as I saw it, my eyes welled up because I knew.

Mickey Mantle had died.

Mantle was, to a Yankee fan growing up in the 70s and 80s, an unbelievable superhero.  Everybody’s father listed Mantle as their favorite player.  Everybody’s father compared the stars of the day to Mantle.  I heard it throughout my entire childhood: “Cedeno plays a nice center field, but he’s no Mickey Mantle.”  “Reggie Jackson hits the ball far, but not as far as Mantle.”  “Tim Raines can run, but he’s still not as fast as Mickey Mantle in his prime.”

If you grew up on the outskirts of New York, Mickey Mantle was the barometer for all offensive players, much like Sandy Koufax was the barometer for pitchers.  “Guidry’s great, but he’s no Koufax.”  “Lee Mazilli looks like he can play, but he’s no Mickey Mantle.”

Of course the prior generation said the exact same thing about Joe DiMaggio and Bob Feller.  Before that, it was Babe Ruth and Lefty Gomez.  Before that, Ty Cobb and Christy Mathewson.

But Mickey Mantle was the hero of my elders, and it wasn’t lost on me that as I sat there next to my pregnant wife, that my baby would never experience life with Mickey Mantle in it.

“You know, we really should do something related to baseball,” I said to Sandy, after the shock of losing such an icon wore off.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“I mean really, our favorite things are music and baseball.”  That was true.  Sandy, not a baseball fan growing up in the suburbs of Boston, decided to marry me and move to New Jersey.  This meant that, if she wanted to have any kind of relationship with me through the spring and summer months, she would have to sit in front of the television with me and watch the Yankees.

And since I never shut up, I would just talk.  And talk, and talk, and talk.  I told her every baseball story I knew, and she absorbed every one of them like a champ, and came out the other end a Yankee fan.  A real Yankee fan, who knew as much about baseball as I did, and sometimes enjoyed it even more.

“Maybe we can do some sort of baseball-related record,” I continued.  “Or a series of seven-inches with a baseball theme.  Maybe we can do a split singles club, and include some sort of information on some of the game’s real characters – guys like Rube Waddell, Dizzy Dean, Dock Ellis.”

“Why not start small?” she suggested.  “Maybe do a mailorder catalog with a baseball theme.  Who knows – maybe you can turn it into a zine, and release a flexi with each issue”

She was taking her cues from some other small, baseball-related zines that were out there.  But I liked the idea anyway.

A “flexi,” for anyone reading this who’s never seen one, was like a flexible seven-inch record, made on some sort of plastic material.  It could be bound directly into the pages of a zine.  A company in Florida called Eva-Tone made them (they called them “sound sheets”), and by 1995 it had gotten to the point where your zine was almost missing something if it didn’t include a flexi.

So I reached out to Eva-Tone and asked them to send along some samples and some pricing, so that I could see what my options were from a manufacturing standpoint, and try and figure out whether I could make money doing a baseball zine with an indie rock focus.

~ by Al on September 4, 2009.

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