Humbled by a gift from the baseball gods

New writing assignment feels like a playoff victory

By Jerry Briggs / San Antonio Missions | March 14, 2019 11:29 AM

I distinctly remember how Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell seemingly made all the right moves with his pitching staff last fall, much to the chagrin of the Colorado Rockies.

On top of that, Counsell deployed a 38-year-old catcher who tortured the Rockies by roping one single after another.

Finally, almost like magic, Milwaukee scored runs on a balk and a wild pitch in the sixth inning of a clinching Game 3 at Colorado in the National League Division Series.

How did it happen?

"The baseball gods are definitely shining on the Brewers ... , " a radio reporter said in an interview on Milwaukee's 105.7 FM The Fan, a day after the 3-0 sweep was complete.

LateIy, I've been thinking a lot about reporter Chuck Freimund's commentary.

When I found audio of his "baseball gods" interview, it resonated with me on so many levels, it was almost scary.

For one thing, in a surprise development that felt sort of like scoring on a wild pitch in the playoffs, San Antonio Missions President Burl Yarbrough recently offered me a position on his staff.

I said "yes" faster than an errant slider skipping to the backstop.

Coincidentally, I'll also be writing about the Brewers' players and coaches this summer for samissions.com.

The Missions' first season in the Pacific Coast League, and the club's first as a Brewers affiliate since the early 1970s, opens on April 4 in Oklahoma City.

The home opener is scheduled for April 9 at Wolff Stadium against Memphis.

It's a pivotal year for the Missions, as fans try to process the nuances of change, from following a Double-A ball club for all these years, to this year's upgraded Triple-A team.

Which, for players, is one transaction away from the majors.

In kicking off our coverage today, I just wanted to take a few minutes to say hello, welcome everyone to the new element on the website and to introduce myself briefly.

San Antonio has been my home since the early 1960s.  

I studied journalism at both San Antonio College and the University of Texas at Austin, which both served as the bedrock for a nearly 39-year career in newspapers.

Starting off by working through one football season at the Shreveport Journal in Louisiana, I returned to South Texas in 1978 for a job at the old San Antonio Light, just in time to cover pitcher Dave Stewart and the San Antonio Dodgers that summer.

When the Light closed in 1993, I was picked up off waivers, so to speak, by the San Antonio Express-News. 

Finally, I stepped out of the newspaper business in 2016 to retire, officially. But, unofficially, to pursue other opportunities.

Over the years, trips to the minor-league ball park have been special.

During some otherwise forgettable seasons on the diamond, the chance to meet with friends and catch up with familiar faces on the Missions staff -- that was always the highlight for me.

It's just really hard for me to think about Missions baseball without thinking about the late Jim Hutton, or the late Harry Page, both of them former sportswriters at the Express-News.

As a young reporter at The Light, I'd sit there in the press box at V.J. Keefe Field in the late innings, with a deadline looming, and a young Orel Hershiser would get up to throw in the bullpen.

Hutton would turn to me and say, in a low voice, 'E-I, E-I-O."

Smiling, I'd nod.

The nickname was a succinct mesh of pop culture and baseball, touching on the 'Old MacDonald Had a Farm' nursery rhyme, while also commenting on Hershiser's growing reputation for allowing a late run to score, to force extra innings.

Hence, 'E-I-O' stuck as a moniker that followed Hershiser through the years whenever San Antonio-based journalists would write about his storied major league career with the Dodgers.

As for Page, who passed away only last week, I remember him mostly for his good humor, but also for his unwavering loyalty to those who were committed to precision in scoring a game.

Once, the franchise employed a public address announcer who occasionally would step out of his lane and start to add commentary -- over the P.A. -- about official scoring calls coming out of the V.J. Keefe press box.

Page was mostly cool and unflappable. But on one night, he got tired of listening to the guy's barbs.

So, he stepped out of the press box, pointed toward the P.A. man seated behind a rickety blue desk, and -- in a rebuke heard 'round the ball park -- shouted emphatically, "Brother, if the score keeper says it's a hit, it's a hit."

Hey, in baseball, sometimes you just have to tell it like it is.

Sometimes, the gods don't shine on you at all, and you feel like the Rockies. Sometimes, they gift you with sun beams, and you feel like a champion.

That's how I feel today, my friends, and I hope to see you at the ball park real soon.

jbriggs@samissions.com

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

View More