Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


I wrote this for my Bleachers' Brew column in last Monday's issue of the Business Mirror. I wanted to write about the UAAP but told myself to hold on to it for a week more since I'm trying to gather a few things. This however isn't filler material. I wrote a part of it about two months ago and it was based on an essay I did in my first year in college. Baseball, like football, will always be sentimental favorites. With MLB baseball action heating up (more so with Bobby Bonds a dinger away from tying Hank Aaron), the time was right.

o O o

For school kids, there’s probably no better time than summer. And for me, not having my parents’ around for two months as they were on vacation in Europe was even cooler.

It’s not like I held slumber parties at home. Instead, I was a poster child for couch potatoes as I watched the telly ‘til my eyes closed shut. I hung out with my friends as malling, our current national pastime was totally non-existent back then. We also played football and baseball, watched R-rated movies, and yapped about that Japanimation stuff that took the country by storm. Hey, this was before my classmates and I discovered the female of the species.

My “lawlessness” was put to an end when my Lolo Ramon came over from Tarlac to stay with us kids while the folks were gone. If Martial Law was about to be declared then I had another thought coming. What followed was one of the most enjoyable and unforgettable of summers a young boy could ever have.

My classmates and I used to go all the way to a park in Project 6 to play baseball with these guys from San Beda. One day we lost by the score of 12-8 with the game called on account of darkness. I felt bad because I gave the game away as the Bedans teed off on my pitching. Back then, the only thing I knew about pitching was to get it across the plate and hope they didn’t smack the ball into some car window. I knew nothing about off-speed pitches, getting batters to chase high fastballs, or curves that veered out of the way at the last moment.

The day after that loss, I taped a target on an old mattress that I propped against the wall. I pulled my cap down close to my nose then worked my fingers across the seams of the baseball that was snuck in my Rawlings glove. And this was years before I saw Andy Pettite do that in the Major Leagues.

My grandfather watched my unusual practice routine for a few minutes before he pointed out the flaws in my delivery. He corrected my form and my leg kick. I didn’t have a fastball that clocked into the 90’s, but he taught me to get by on guile. I did well enough until I switched to first base later in college.

I stayed up late to catch those wrestling programs that my folks forbade me to watch. Lolo Ramon knew pro wrestling was fake but every bit entertaining. Yet he didn't just acquiesce to what I wanted. I had to earn it whether by cleaning the car, helping wash the plates, or making sure my room was in order. One time, as a reward for my attending to my chores, he took me to watch a PBA game and we sat at courtside never mind if I was the only Toyota fan in the family.

It was golden. It was magical. And it developed in me a life-long love for sports. But at the core of it all was baseball. I inherited my grandfather’s Time and Life magazines that featured the Apollo 11 moon landings, the JFK and RFK assassinations, and… the one with Mickey Mantle on the cover.

Through those pages and my well-thumbed almanac, baseball came alive. I read of the Great Home Run Chase of 1961 and the unfortunate asterisking of Roger Maris’ feat. Incensed at the injustice, I proceeded to write a letter to Life where I batted for Maris let alone that it was like 16 years late. My grandfather laughed and let me finish my diatribe against this “evil.” We went to the post office together and mailed my first ever letter. Doing my bit to save the world, I said to myself.

But the Mick… he is why I wear #7 number on my jersey. And it was even way cool to see that some of my fave athletes wore the same number: Sonny Jaworski, Toni Kukoc, and JC Intal.

I had Bernard Malamud’s The Natural as my bedtime story. I regularly checked the standings and box scores of Major League Baseball in the back pages of Bulletin Today. I saved my allowance to buy Sport magazine at the old PDPI magazine specialty stores. And we followed the rivalry between the New York Yankees and the Kansas City Royals. In fact, he taught me to appreciate other teams and their stars as not everything revolved around pinstripes. But all that baseball speak was every bit as enjoyable as a trip down the PX store for a stash of Avengers and Fantastic Four comic books and a banana split on a hot summer day.

During the vacations that followed, I was either in art class, piano lessons, or learning how to swim. I hated swim school because the instructor always threw me inside the pool all the time. It’s not that I couldn’t swim, but I was afraid of the water after watching Jaws (which is kind of weird since it’s not even the ocean). But when those summer lessons were done, I went to Tarlac and Lolo Ramon. We played catch and watched sports on FEN. Sometimes, we went to the old Clark Air Base in Pampanga to watch those F-4 Phantoms take off to those sunny azure skies. While waiting for the planes to zoom by, I’d sit mesmerized as my grandfather recounted those fabled pre-World War II days when the Blue Eagles and the Red Lions battled almost yearly for the NCAA basketball crown.

Summer’s a couple of months over and there’s another Great Home Run Chase. This time, it’s Barry Bonds all set to smash Hank Aaron’s record to smithereens. I may not be excited about Bonds’ historic quest because of accusations of his usage of performance enhancers. Nevertheless, for him to belt more than 755 home runs is still an awesome feat. Whether there’s an asterisk or not, I couldn’t care less. This time of the year with the baseball season 60% done, all I know it’s not complete, as I no longer engage in baseball talk with Lolo Ramon who passed away years ago. There’s no more talk of pennant races and towering home runs.

It was golden. It was magical. It was a little boy and his doting grandfather who imbued in him a passion for all things sports and most specially baseball. And it is most unforgettable.

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