Nothing to be Grouchy About

LOS ANGELES—What a marvelous day this was. What a privilege.

Buzz and his doctor girlfriend were too busy smooching outside Dodger Stadium to notice, so I detoured and went for this club level ticket some idiot movie industry guy was selling dirt cheap.

Turns out the seat was right next to the private boxes, and in the very first inning Del Unser fouled a Hooton fastball straight back at our neighborhood. It bounced out of the hands of this old guy in the first box, bonked off a railing and landed right in my lap! I felt bad for the man, so got the attention of a nurse who was in the box with him, and tossed it to her to give to him.

The next thing I knew I was being ushered into the guy’s box. Sitting there in a wheelchair, hooked up to fluids and drugs, but still wearing his beret and smoking a cigar was none other than one of my lifelong heroes, Groucho Marx!

“Thanks for the ball, fellah,” he said in a scratchier version of his smooth sarcastic voice, “You’re a stand-up guy. I’d stand up myself but O’Malley probably doesn’t want another lawsuit. Pull up a chair and enjoy the game. I hear we’re having Vegas showgirls between innings and they brought their own wieners.”

I was given a chair beside him. From what I remembered, Groucho had a couple more weeks to live, but he’d always been a Dodger fan and probably wanted to see one more game so was let out of Cedars Sinai for the afternoon. I sure wasn’t going to be the one to break his actual departure date to him.

“This Hooton’s a good thrower, but if I were him I’d change my name. Sounds like either a horned owl or a horny teenager. What did you say your name was?”

“I didn’t. It’s Sherman. Sherman Wayman.”

“I was wrong. You sound like a horny teenager. Does your mother know you’re sitting with an old pervert? What’s the score, anyway?”

“None yet. Don Stanhouse is walking people again. It’s amazing the way the Expos never hit for him.”

“Probably because they don’t like his demeanor. It rubs off, you know. Sometimes you have to go to Woolworth’s and buy a gruffy demeanor stain remover. Hey—we got a run!”

Ron Cey had just singled in Reggie Smith for a 1-0 Dodger lead in the 3rd. I was told I could order anything I wanted, so got myself a jumbo kosher dog and a giant bag of peanuts. I offered a handful to Groucho.

“No, son. Keep the change. Besides, I already drank my lunch through these handy tubes. You should try them sometime. Uh-oh, it’s that guy they call the Hawk. He scares me, and believe me, nothing scares me these days except doctor bills and reruns of F Troop.”

“Dawson’s good. He might make the Hall of Fame one of these days.”

“That or a police lineup. It’s a fine line, you know.”

The Hawk rifled one at that moment, high and deep and into the bleachers for a 2-1 Montreal lead. Groucho made a guttural noise and shook his head.

“That’s what I get for betting on a teenage owl. Well, we can still win this thing with a field goal.”

Cey singled in a second run soon after to tie the score, and then we went scoreless for the next four innings. It was a hot day and Groucho fell asleep, cigar ash and a bit of drool dripping on his shirt. Boos woke him up when Carter blasted a solo shot with one out in the 10th.

“What happened? Am I dead yet? Hope not, because I forgot to pick up my dry cleaning.”

I told him we were losing 3-2 but not to worry because there was a special reason I was at this game. A reason I couldn’t really talk about.

“Don’t keep secrets from people. You’ll regret it. It’ll also make your life a helluva lot easier.”

Like he’s done twelve other times this season, Stanhouse blew the lead, giving up a walk and booting Baker’s grounder, before Manny Mota tied the game with a double. Groucho cheered as loudly as he could.

“Manny Mota! Sounds like a lost Marx brother, or one of those idiot Stooges. Moe and Larry sure never hit like that!”

Kerrigan came on to get Yeager and the game dragged to the 12th. Groucho was fading, but didn’t want to leave. Finally, a Garvey walk, Cey’s third single, and a winning pinch single by professional bench man John Hale brought in the winner.

“Thank god. Now I can go back to my hospital room and still catch Bonanza. Oh wait—Hoss died five years ago. Thanks for the ball, son, but now it’s yours,” He tossed it weakly back to me, J. H. MARX scrawled on it between two of the seams. “Let’s do this again sometime and say we did.”

I hesitated a long second, then told him I would sure try. What more could I say?

MTL 000 020 000 100 – 3 10 2
L.A. 001 010 000 101 – 4 9 0

W-Hooton L-Kerrigan HRS: Dawson, Carter GWRBI-Hale

The Buzz Line (NL today, AL on Monday)

PIRATES 11-13-1, at CUBS 4-10-2
Sheila was a lot less crazy today, though she’s still talking about getting hitched. The Pirates winning by seven runs had a lot to do with that, though it was 5-4 going to the 9th. Sutter comes in and gives up the farm, meaning a single, two walks and a Robinson double before Donnie Moore comes on for his specialty, the killing 3-run homer, to Edward Ott.

PHILLIES 8-14-1, at ASTROS 7-10-0
Philly makes it a clean Astrodome sweep, and they’re now a ridiculous 14-3 against the ‘Stros on the year. Kaat has an 8-3 lead here and Garber almost blows it, but Garry Maddox miraculously nails Jose Cruz at the plate to break up a 4-run rally in the 8th and basically decide the game. Bo McLaughlin, replacing Pentz in the Houston rotation because of his great spot start work, makes his official debut and gets keelhauled.

at CARDS 4-9-1, REDS 0-3-0
REDS 10-15-0, at CARDS 1-8-0
It’s Schizo Day at Busch, with Bob Forsch hurling a brilliant 3-hitter in the opener, and Falcone, Metzger and Eastwick getting eviscerated in the epilogue. Foster adds his 47th homer to cap a 6-run 9th as Gary Nolan gets a rare start and his first win.

NOTE: Roy Halladay rocks my world.

National League through Sunday, August 3

Philadelphia 62 45 .579
Pittsburgh 63 46 .578
Cincinnati 62 48 .564 1.5
Los Angeles 58 47 .552 3
St. Louis 56 50 .528 5.5
Houston 46 62 .426 16.5
Montreal 44 62 .415 17.5
Chicago 37 68 .352 24

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Nothing to be Grouchy About

  1. Donnie Moore comes on for his specialty, the killing 3-run homer, to Edward Ott.

    Ooh, that’s cold. Ice cold.

  2. I always thought that Chico Marx would be a great name for one of those speedy good-field, no hit Latin utility infielders from the early and mid-60s.

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