I’ve never told the full story about Fast Eddie and the Astros’ scout at the Arizona Fall League, at least in written form. Even the oral version has only been told in hushed snippets. It is a dangerous story, Liberty Valance territory. To understand the story, one must understand the setting, which is no longer really there. Maybe it was never really there, but it felt real at the time as it was THE NOW. Powell says it really doesn’t matter, and he is usually right about these things, but I wonder. THE NOW is long gone.
Back then cell phones were only leashes, not shackles like today. Corporate Baseball had swallowed the regular MLB season, but was just starting to invade the Cactus League. Rain would send pilgrims of the Cactus League scurrying to local drug stores to purchase vast amounts of baby oil and plastic sheets so unspeakable acts could be committed in hotel rooms, but the Jackalopes would take to the streets, looking for unsuspecting Cubs’ fans lost in the flood. At first, the naive Cubs fans thought we were there to rescue them, but their relief would soon turn to terror when they realized we were not Angels of Mercy. Sure, we would pull them from the mud, but that was when our fun began.
I am often asked why the Jackalopes held Cubs’ fans in such disdain. Well, the short answer answer is they are Cubs’ fans — pasty, hideously dressed creatures from the Midwest escaping harsh winters that fail to release in a timely manner to spring. They flock to the Cactus League to fill a stadium in Mesa that is overrun with feral cats, then follow the Cubs to other venues and try to put the Wrigley Field experience on everyone around them. The long answer is more complicated, but it involves Harry Caray eating himself to death.
As an older man, I am not proud what we did to Cubs’ fans with the kitty litter during rain delays, but it felt like it was a necessary course of action at the time. As far as I know, none of them died, they just left scarred, and everyone needs a few scars as souvenirs of their past. Besides, normal personal hygiene would remove any remaining kitty litter that the garden hoses didn’t remove from their orifices. Like I said, it was a different time back then. The local cops wouldn’t blink if you drove around town in the rain with a Cubs’ fan hog tied to your car.
But I digress. The incident with Fast Eddie and the Astros’ scout was in the Arizona Fall League, which doesn’t contain the hoards. We were at Scottsdale Stadium, minding our own business, arguing about normal things like Vic Powers’ worth. There might have been fifty people in the stands, mostly scouts and an old man with an oxygen tank and a new radar gun. The trouble started over the old man, but he had nothing to do with it. He was just there to watch baseball with his new toy, a gift from his wife. He really was a pathetic looking creature, but we weren’t there to judge. However, guys like that are often the targets of bullies, and it wasn’t long before a couple of the asshole scouts began making loud cracks about him, which did not sit well with us at all.
We moved behind him to get his story, which wasn’t much to tell, and to offer him support because an ugly vibe had permeated the stands (that might have had something to do with two of the guys in my group being out of their mind on really good blow). The barbs continued, unfunny and plain mean. The two biggest culprits were the Astros’ scout and a Yankees’ scout, who hadn’t stopped talking about the ring the Yankees had given him for the entire game. We had had enough.
Yard Gnome: Why don’t you fellows leave him alone?
Me: (to the old man) Don’t let those assholes bother you.
Yankees’ Scout: Who are you?
YG: Someone who is tired of your mouth.
Yankees’ Scout: What are you going to do about it?
Sir Jolters: How old are you? Ten? BTW, what position do you play for the Yankees? It must be an important one to get that ring. The Yankees are rich, but even they don’t give their AFL scouts rings.
From there, the rooster posturing began on both sides. The details aren’t important; we eviscerated those clowns to the point that even the other scouts were splitting a gut — I do remember one of them making a crack about bringing a big stats book to a game, and I replying something about to hit people over the head with, not one of my finer moments). The old man and his wife were grateful. An uneasy peace settled, and things almost went back to normal — until we went to the bathroom, and the Astros’ scout smirked he was going to call the cops on us, then Fast Eddie went to work.