Madison: Hot Snap into a Cold Season
Friends, Fans, and followers, it’s time for an update from the desk of Roy Madison, and the green lawns of the East Van Baseball League. It’s been a tough season for your overly seasoned writer so far. Summer has taken its sweet as a peach time to arrive here in Canada, and a short stint under the radiantly gorgeous California sunshine to cover the celebrations at Chavez Ravine for the Dodgers’ opener, and Vin Scully’s street naming ceremony, didn’t help any. Hell, I’m lucky I even had a room to return to at the Gardens after Oliver damn near burnt the place down. Tina was waiting for me at the front desk after I dragged my suitcase across Franklin Avenue. I could hear her before I even opened the door to the lobby.
“Es muy larga, Roy!” She yelled, holding a long list of charges in front my 5 O’Clock shadow that was glistening from a late afternoon blast of heat. I can still hear her playfully barking between drags of her cigarette once I smoothed things over with some poolside Dubonnet. “es muy larga,” now she was saying it with a giggle instead of a growl. If that gal wasn’t saddled with her duties at the Gardens, I would have scooped her right up then and there and brought her back up to Canada with me.
The life of a sportswriter is a lonely one though friends, fans, and followers. After things had quieted down some at the Gardens, and my assignment in Hollywood was complete, I was alone again in Vancouver. Standing in the solitude of my living room at the Sylvia Hotel, ironing my slacks in my underwear and looking at the dark, moody clouds that were taking shape over the waters of English Bay, my thoughts quickly returned to poolside sunsets, Dubonnet, and pre-cooked BBQ ribs, picked out of the Fresh N’ Easy at North Sycamore and Hollywood Boulevard. “Es muy larga, my darling,” I whispered to the open window while the iron in my hand spit out a plume of steam. The East Van Baseball League Season was going to open at 6:00pm that evening, and all I could think about was what could have been.
That’s right, friends, fans, and followers, the season hadn’t even started, and already it was apparent that my attempts at covering this new league were off to dismal beginnings. Standing there in white Jockey briefs, I realized if this was going to go anywhere, I needed to forget Hollywood, the Gardens, Oliver, and especially Tina. I had to get my head out of the sunshine, and into the atmosphere of uncertainty that lay ahead in Canada. In just a few hours everything on those goddamn east Vancouver fields would start to be officially recorded! Heroes would be created! History would be made! I needed a drastic act to snap into it, and before I even realized what I was doing, my mind decided on one. “Es muy larga!!!” I screamed in pain as the hot iron met my bare forearm in an attempt to expel the demons of comfort and love. Then, I put my shirt on and went to the park.
Friday April 15–6:00pm: Black Sox vs Isotopes
I didn’t even get out of my car. it was so goddamn cold, friends, fans, and followers. I just sat there with the gear in park and the motor running. With a clear view of the diamond, I got out my pencil and paper with a sigh as I prepared to score the game. Then, something wonderful and unexpected happened. Just before the Isotopes were getting set to challenge the East Van Black Sox, one of the gals on the Mount Pleasant Murder — scheduled to play the next day against the Railtown Spikers — opened the East Van Baseball League’s season with a rousing rendition of Canada’s national anthem. Something in those words and in that voice reminded me what I was there to do, friends, fans, and followers, and I got to it! By the time I was finished scoring the game, I had a final of 13 to 11 for the Black Sox. One of the fellas for the Sox by the roster name of Peter Plett, hit a homerun. Bygolly friends, fans, and followers, in the sweet words of Tina back at the Gardens: it was very long.
Saturday April 16–12:00pm: Murder vs. Spikers
Day two: Opening Weekend. I thought the bloody sun might pull through for the two games scheduled for that Saturday afternoon at Strathcona Park, but I forgot about the weather pretty damn quick once I was treated to just about the worst goddamned thing a sportswriter could suffer: getting scooped! And not even two games into the season. I know I haven’t made myself known to these kids yet, and that baseball is a complex game that requires many hands to record the complexities of life it plays venue to, but that doesn’t discount the plan I hatched to be the one that would introduce the East Van Baseball League to the world, and the fact that I had planned on doing it all in good time; you can’t rush this stuff!
You think that once these kids figure out there’s a bonafide professional from California watching their every move, translating their slides, steals, and singles into poetry that could melt oil-based paint off the back of a slaughterhouse, they’re not going to get stiff hands? It doesn’t mean a bloody thing now anyway. Before I could get my pencil out to start scoring the game, some local author stepped onto the diamond of Strathcona Park for a ceremonial first pitch and then wrote about it in one of the rags here in Vancouver. Roy Madison, officially scooped. I suppose this author fella threw the ball down the plate alright, which only made the fury of jealousy burn hotter. Sometimes it’s just not your day, or your life. The score was 11 to 5 for the Murder, but I’ll be honest, once I realized the story of the East Van Baseball League had slipped through my hands, I took refuge in the Strathcona Park Sauna Bus for some much needed R&R. Yes, you heard that right friends, fans, and followers — a sauna bus; finally I was warm.
Saturday April 16–3:00pm: Stevedores vs. Black Sox
It’s amazing what a little heat and Canadian beer can do to warm the soul. The previous night’s winners, the East Van Black Sox, took to the field for a match against the Strathcona Stevedores, and I was roused from the Strathcona Park Spa Bus with a sense of purpose after sweating out the self revulsion produced by the ceremony of the previous match. I settled into the Official Roy Madison Broadcasting Gondola to watch the action unfold through my field glasses and began scoring the game. I tell you friends, fans, and followers, covering the action at Strathcona Park can be a challenge when there’s no replay to revisit the past, no outfield board to reacquaint yourself with the score, or count indicator to figure out where a player sits in the count. Even the slightest distraction: a mustard spill on your slacks, a quick nip from a paper-bagged beverage, or a sultry look from a sweet looking dame in the stands will have you lost in the plot unfolding on the field in the fraction of a second.
The throwback, sandlot style these fellas and gals have brought back to baseball keeps a broadcaster on their toes! But old Roy didn’t need a scoreboard to see that this Black Sox team was a different one that had produced victory the night previous. Oh don’t get me wrong, I witnessed some hustle — Sean Elbe showed some great versatility, and Mick McDiarmid has an inspiring arm in left field — but it wasn’t enough to overcome the deficit that the Stevedores kept piling onto the Sox almost every inning. I suspect some of the celebrating that was going on after their Friday night win might of had an effect on their ability to pull out another win. I’ve seen those tired eyes before my friends, fans, and followers. If you’re not careful, life can just turn into an endless series of nights turning into day, unless you have something to help you snap back into it: like the sun, or a burning hot iron.