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The Portsider

Master of the Tirade
By Staff Writer

Raul Mondesi gave reporters an earful this summer, a speech that's an old war-horse in the repertory of baseball monologues: The Obscenity-Laced Tirade. Now, the OLT has a few standard features I thought I'd discuss with you. They are:

SETTING: A dank locker room, filled with the sweat and steam of showering ballplayers.

TIME: Right after another discouraging loss.

CHARACTER: Frustrated star/exasperated manager. Usually a guy in a slump, often a guy hitting the sauce, always a guy who instinctively knows the rhythm and punch of a good obscenity. Mondesi's rant went something like:

"_____ Davey. ______ Malone. I'm sick of all their ________. ________ them all." I like his strong attack. Those short sentences grab your ear. He hits the verb and then the falling beats come on those names with feminine endings that he's dismissing: "Davey," "Malone." People in L.A. were outraged that Mondesi wasn't fired or traded or at least sat down at yelled at for a while.

But I've heard worse. I've heard Jorge "Wild Pony of the Pampas" Marquez curse in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and an obscure Toltec dialect, comparing an umpire's body parts with animals that are now extinct. I've listened to wiry little Vince "Pea-Shooter" Tyrd run down the list of every known excrement and apply them all to a general manager standing not two feet away.

My favorite OLT came from Earl Joseph Brigham Young Smith Johnston Jones, a devout Mormon with every inclination to curse but an inability to spit out the actual words. The result was swearing by indirection. It was like listening to Esperanto; you got the gist even if the words sounded funny. Earl's sermon was based on the acts of Paul "The Portly Pepperpot" Schultz. Paul was running the Bighorn Bigamists, a barnstorming answer to the House of David. The entire team was supposed to consist of sons sired of one father, but born of nine different mothers. Of course it wasn't true. The tally on the starting infield was four brothers, one father, three mothers, but the rest of the team was just a bunch of blond crew-cut Mormons. The Portly Pepperpot was a canny manager, with one nasty fear: He was terrified of pulling a pitcher early. He was forever letting pitchers bat in the late innings; even relief pitchers would get up there and take their hacks.

This bothered Earl immensely, as Earl's role on the team was pinch hitter. Earl would sit there on the bench. Eighth inning, Bigamists down 4-3, two men on, two outs, a middle-reliever due up. Earl would look down at the PP. Paul shook his head sadly and murmured, "Once he's gone, you can never get him back": and then he sent the reliever up to strike out. I believe Paul was thinking too much about God at that point. He was calling up some core terror of falling out of faith-once you've left the LDS, you're gone forever. You lose your celestial planet. So, time and again, Earl would be left grinding a bat between his hands as a weak-hitting pitcher fanned.

Like most good Mormons, Earl was comfortable with a highly disciplined hierarchy, but after an entire season of being passed over, he suddenly vented. It came in a blood match against the Moab Genealogists. Delbert Hinckley, owner of the Genealogists, was a philanthropist. Every Moab season ticket holder was given a free genealogical search. By the end of the season, you not only knew where the Genealogists stood, you knew where you stood. At this time, the Moab team was the only other club in the area playing anywhere near our level, so we were playing for bragging rights to the state of Utah. Did I mention I was on the Bigamists? Oh, yes. One of my tours of duty in my declining years took me throughout the west, and I was one of those relief pitchers who would troop out and take my cuts while Earl steamed in the dugout.

And so it happened that night in 1953. The Genealogists grabbed a 3-0 lead when Elmer Benson tripled with the bases loaded. We scratched together two runs in the sixth: Joseph T. Smith singled; Joseph Q. Smith walked; Joseph M. Smith hit a tough chopper to the right side that advanced the runners. One out, two men on. Joseph R. Smith then lofted a sac fly to center, scoring Joseph T. Smith. Joseph W. Smith squibbed a Texas leaguer that just fell in and we could have tied the game up right then but Joseph B. A. Smith's line drive was drilled to their shortstop.

Now we're in the ninth inning. Last ups. Down by a run. First man up whiffs, but then Joseph M. F. A. Smith socks a double. They intentionally walk Joseph P. H. D. Smith to bring up-me. I was playing under the name George Heber. From the on-deck circle I looked into the dugout. I saw Earl grinding a bat between his hands, sweat forming on his brow. Now, I may have been a respectable pitcher in my day, but I never claimed any great skill with the lumber. I glanced down the bench at the PP. He clapped his hands and yelled out, "Ducks on the pond, Heber!" What could I do?

I marched up there. The Genealogist hurler started me off with some high heat. I laid off it, ball one. Maybe I could work this guy for a walk. But then he came back with a nice curveball, which I took for a strike. One and one. I decided to work him deep into the count. That went as far as the next pitch, which was a fastball down the middle. One and two. Well, now I'd better swing the bat. Got to try to make something happen. Maybe a swinging bunt. Get the runners over. Men on second and third; a single wins the game. Thatıs the ticket. Except the pitch was a high fastball and my swinging bunt swung a bit too much and popped the ball back directly to the pitcher, who turned and fired to first, doubling off the runner. End of game. Loss of face. The Bigamists got nipped by the bookkeepers.

Then I heard it.

It began as a steady stream, like the cadence of a peanut vendor gone mad. "Uh-uh-shh-shh-p-p-p-bowwow-ack. Uh-uh-shh-shh-p-p-p-bowwow-ack." I looked over and Earl was standing up. His eyes flamed, his entire face took on a greenish pall, his lips moved, but with a fluid elasticity. His mouth looked like a bowl of lime Jell-O on a roller coaster.

"Ma-ma-ma ca-ca-ca-doodie did-gummed dad-blasssss . . ."

I thought he was speaking in tongues, but then the words began to form. It was like a bullhorn squawk that fades in and out of understandable speech.

"Ya-ya-ya-you dum dum da-da-mama-mama fu-fu-fuchsia motto fructose motet fugal mothy fulgent mucous fungus muffin frowzy mufti Fokker mullein fluoride muskellunge!" I won't even attempt to put down the proper number of exclamation points. Earl lumbered onto the top step of the dugout and continued his rant, gazing up to the heavens, like Lear on the heath.

"Gas dung it! You coccyx sulfur! Golf club it! You cockle suction! Goblin damper! You cocoa suffer! Gold leaf it! You coaxial suitor! Goose neck it! You crocus succor!"

On and on he went. You get the idea. He roamed out into the infield, ending up on the pitcher's mound, baying at the moon, until he finally collapsed. We stuck a pencil between his teeth so he wouldn't swallow his tongue. He couldn't have. That tongue was so worked out, so stretched, so swollen with exertion that it hung out of his mouth like an overheated dog. Because he never actually cursed PP, the portly one couldn't even fine Earl. He just let him cool down; then we got in the bus and drove north to take on the Provo Polygamists. Now, that was a battle of genetic proportions, but thatıs another story.

Serving you the best in baseball history and fine reupholstering for more than forty years, this is Staff Writer.


STAFF WRITER has been writing The Portsider column since this journal was founded in January 1981, and over the years he has regaled the editors with many OLTs. None to date, however, have exceeded the twenty-curse-word limit set by company policy.

© 2000 Elysian Fields Quarterly


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