David James Brock

playwright, poet, librettist

David James Brock is a Canadian playwright, poet and librettist. Author of poetry collection, Everyone is CO2. Librettist for Scottish pub opera, The Sloans Project. Co-creator of Breath Cycle, an opera for cystic fibrosis.

Playwriting, Baseball Memorabilia & the 1985 Kansas City Royals

About ten years ago, I was writing a lot about baseball. I would read about it, I would go to an empty baseball diamond by my Victoria, BC apartment to edit my plays, and I would think nostalgically about baseball as it pertained to times in which I never lived. I hadn't yet seen Ken Burns Baseball, and I didn’t really watch much baseball outside of an accidental Seattle Mariners highlight on the TV. Most of my baseball knowledge at this point came from things I experienced on baseball cards and sticker books from the ages of 3 to about 15--before World Cup soccer came to North America and obliterated my interest in modern baseball for many years. The rest of what I knew about baseball was studied, gleaned from old photos, and romanticized at max level cliche! By using these old stories, I had the vague sense that I could make my writing more interesting to myself. Write what you like, not what you know.

My first few short stories and plays had baseball as either the central story or as mere trivia in a character's back story. The first play that got me any real notice outside a university setting was called The Perfect Hands of the Irresistible Ed; it told the story of the first baseball strike in 1912 and the team of local Philadelphia baseball players who stood in for the (my) Detroit Tigers—the regular players were protesting the suspension of Ty Cobb, who was being punished for jumping into the stands and beating on a New York Yankee fan that heckled him. For reasons that were almost entirely racially motivated, the Detroit Tigers stood in solidarity with Cobb, and this is generally considered the first professional baseball players’ strike.

This is Ed Irwin, a replacement player and stage play protagonist. He went 2 for 3 with two triples in his only Major League appearance. (Photo: www.baseball-reference.com)

Ed Irwin

Ed Irwin

As a result of the first baseball strike, The Philadelphia Athletics beat the replacement Detroit Tigers 24-2 and with the exception of one player, none of the replacements ever played professional baseball again. It’s a history (and a play) that I often think of and one that I am currently adapting into a novel (if only someone had told me ten years ago that novel writing was where the money was at...).

I still think about the Detroit Tigers a lot. I have hats. My fandom is a bit more active, though still firmly rooted in the past. Under the glass on my desk is a collection of Detroit Tigers memorabilia ranging from the late 50s to 1984, the last time the Tigers won a World Series. The rest of my baseball memorabilia collects a damp smell in storage containers.

A 1991 blood stain kisses Marty Castillo's name.

A 1991 blood stain kisses Marty Castillo's name.

Though I would prefer to take this this little trip down memory lane as it pertains to the Tigers, the return of the Kansas City Royals to the World Series starting this Tuesday night opens up a little "lived nostalgia"...so I  went digging around the storage locker this weekend through old boxes of sports memorabilia that I hadn’t looked at in maybe twenty years. This is just a small sample of timely (and poorly photographed) pieces that harkens back to 1985 (Marty McFly's favourite year) when the Royals beat the Cardinals in 7 games. It’s a World Series I remember watching, and this sticker book exists as a record of the deepest part of my brain: a dark grotto between the 1984 Tigers and the 1992 Blue Jays...

My 1986 Baseball Sticker Yearbook, recapping the 1985 Baseball Season (front cover)

My 1986 Baseball Sticker Yearbook, recapping the 1985 Baseball Season (front cover)

And while a 2014 World Series against the Cardinals would’ve been a heck of a thing to give this blog entry some cohesion, I found these two pennants in a pile of about 100...and they were actually touching in the pile (whoa).

2014 NLCS Champion San Francisco Giants (Pennant c. 1977-1982) v. 2014 ALCS Champion Kansas City Royal (Pennant c. 1982)

2014 NLCS Champion San Francisco Giants (Pennant c. 1977-1982) v. 2014 ALCS Champion Kansas City Royal (Pennant c. 1982)

Back to the sticker book, which isn’t missing a single sticker….

A visually distracting summary of the 1985 World Series in stickers (Kansas City Royals v. St. Louis Cardinals)

A visually distracting summary of the 1985 World Series in stickers (Kansas City Royals v. St. Louis Cardinals)

Closeup: Your 2014 Blue Jay heartbreak has nothing on this one....

Closeup: Your 2014 Blue Jay heartbreak has nothing on this one....

Closeup: KC wins the World Series in an anticlimactic Game 7.

Closeup: KC wins the World Series in an anticlimactic Game 7.

The 1985 Kansas City Royals (highlight: Dan Quisenberry not playing baseball)

The 1985 Kansas City Royals (highlight: Dan Quisenberry not playing baseball)

The 1985 San Francisco Giants (highlight: the original Chris Brown)

The 1985 San Francisco Giants (highlight: the original Chris Brown)

My 1986 Baseball Sticker Yearbook, recapping the 1985 Baseball Season (Back cover)

My 1986 Baseball Sticker Yearbook, recapping the 1985 Baseball Season (Back cover)

More in the "Lived Nostalgia" series to come. Any team requests?