Still, the whole thing does raise an interesting question: If a large, Mediterranean-style home isn’t quite right for a big-league baseball player, what is? Let me put it another way: What exactly appeals, home-wise, to a player of Major League Baseball? Well, having been unable to hit the curveball, I myself remain unqualified to answer that question, too. However, I can suggest that there’s an ideal home for every big leaguer, past and present.
On April 7, 2012, when then-Tiger and current free agent* Octavio Dotel took the mound at Comerica Park in the seventh inning of Detroit’s eventual 10-0 win against the Red Sox, the Dominican reliever established the official record as the most peripatetically employed pitcher in the history of Major League Baseball. Indeed, with his first pitch to Boston third baseman Kevin Youkilis, he had officially played for 13—count ’em, 13—big-league franchises, leaving behind fellow vagabonds Mike Morgan, Matt Stairs and Ron Villone at 12 franchises apiece and making the likes of Kenny Lofton (11 franchises), Russell Branyan (10) and Orlando Cabrera (9) look like relative homebodies, so settled that they had expired pizza coupons on their refrigerator doors.
And that’s to say nothing of 19th century players Bones Ely and Buttercup Dickerson, who, in playing for eight franchises apiece, suddenly looked like shut-ins. They probably knew the mailman by name.
* As you can plainly see, the terms “then-Tiger” and “current free agent” are entirely appropriate when referencing the 15-year big-league veteran.
So, what sort of domicile would have been best for our Drifter Of The Diamond, our Bedouin Of The Bump? Well, the traditional yurt—a portable structure used for centuries by nomads on the Central Asian steppes—might have worked, but it’s hard to see Dotel dismantling the yurt and transporting it by yak on three separate occasions in 2010, when the Pirates, Dodgers and Rockies traded him like a Vance Law baseball card at a 1988 flea market. It’s also hard to see him inhabiting a portable teepee, if only because kids on spring break from Chico State would have kept bothering him for peyote and turquoise jewelry, and possibly for advice on how to get home.
“So I take, like, the 70 to the 99?”
And so with portability in mind, but also modernity, we come down to the unsurprising choice between mobile homes. I don’t mean “mobile home” in the colloquial sense, because “mobile homes” these days typically rest on immobile foundations of cinder clocks or concrete slabs. No, instead, I mean RVs and Airstream trailers; the former you drive, the latter you haul. With showers, kitchens and breakfast nooks, RVs are pretty nice. But can you imagine trying to squeeze one into the players’ parking lot in Pittsburgh?
So, Airstream it is, Octavio—or would have been, had I reached you a decade earlier. But to be perfectly honest, I didn’t know where to find you.
For much of his 11-year big-league career, Eric Byrnes was a pretty good baseball player. Granted, in his first season and in his final season, he produced exactly zero—that’s 0, with an “ohhhhhh”—RBIs, but between those ignominious bookends he put together one season with 26 home runs, another with 103 runs scored and several with some seriously stellar defense, all while boasting a style best described as boyish.
Floppy-haired and spirited, he seemed the kind of guy who, had he not played baseball for a living, would have worked part-time at a surfboard shop. And even then, his manager would have gently chided him to stop talking and get back to work.
“Oh, that Eric,” Lotus would have uttered to herself. “He is so floppy-haired and spirited.”
In reality, Byrnes would often skateboard to the ballpark. It’s true!
In sum, he seems a man for whom summer is suitably endless, and for whom old age is a rumor, a myth, a thing so ridiculously distant that it will never map his face or steal his mind, never wrest from the forever-youngness whatever it is that keeps him that way. And so we see him suited not to a high-rise condo, nor to a four-bedroom house, but to an international hostel.
“Günter,” you can see him saying in the community kitchen, water boiling beside him, “would you mind handing me that penne pasta?”
“Nein,” Günter is saying as he hands the pasta to his neuen Freund. “I vouldn’t mind at all. And bitte for sharing your dinner with the entire group.”
Later, at the guitar circle, everyone sings Kumbaya in Esperanto.
Except for Eric. He’s late for a game against the Phillies.
The Spaceman marched to his own percussionist, it’s true.
And that percussionist was Buddy Rich.
You get the idea. With Spaceman as his sobriquet, Lee became as famous for his antics—e.g., speaking in defense of Maoist China, jogging to Fenway Park with marijuana-infused pancakes as his pulmonary protection against caustic bus fumes—as for his pitching, which exceeded mediocre by a pretty fair degree. After pal Bernie Carbo got traded in 1978, Lee famously walked out on the Red Sox and returned wearing a “Friendship first, competition second” T-shirt.
He ticked off the Angels by stating that they could take batting practice in a hotel lobby and “never chip a chandelier.” He called manager Don Zimmer a “gerbil” and openly questioned his strategy. He threw a variation of the Eephus pitch, calling it the Leephus pitch. And toward the end of his career, he hurt his hip when he fell out of a building.
After retirement, he didn’t retire from his Spaceman post. As a self-styled exile from major league baseball and an expatriate of polite society, he announced in 1988 that he was seeking the presidency of the United States on the Rhinoceros Party ticket. He wrote books, made radio appearances, became the subject of a documentary film, appeared in High Times magazine and continued to play amateur baseball into his seventh decade on planet Earth.
So, what sort of dwelling would Lee have warranted?
Well, since the flighty earthling couldn’t have lived in the space pod he might have deserved, how about the kind of geodesic dome home that futurist Buckminster Fuller developed? Indeed, Fuller’s views on “Spaceship Earth,” most notably that mankind’s first priority should be the sustainability of planet Earth, frequently overlapped those of our earthly Spaceman—even if Mr. Lee did start a baseball-bat company that procured its wood from old-growth forests. The best part? With proper planning, the Angels could have taken batting practice inside the Spaceman’s dome home.
Oh, this one’s easy: the International Space Station.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking: What about Spaceman Lee?
Well, the ISS launched in 1998, some 16 years after Lee retired. Sure, you could have launched the Spaceman into orbit, and he might have liked it, but the fact of the matter is that he’d have been free-floating out there, with no way of performing experiments with the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer.
But Nyjer? Oh, that lovable space cadet would be perfect for the ISS.
The only challenge is that the Indians might have to time his pinch-hitting opportunities with one of the 15 earthly orbits the ISS completes each day.
Considering that the ISS travels 27,724 kph, that’s harder than it sounds.
After all, on reentry, Nyjer would at least need to wear a helmet with double earflaps.
The Boston leftie is a certifiable genius. How do I know? Well, it takes one to know one, you know. I also know because I looked it up on Wikipedia. Have you seen Wikipedia? It knows everything!
Anyhoo, Breslow majored in molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale University. This is not unlike majoring in large-scale basket weaving at Community College Tech. How do I know? Because basket weaving was hard! Not unlike biophysics.
And so the question—other than “where the heck did I put my keys?”—is this: Where should a Breslowian genius—namely, Breslow himself—live?
At this point I think we can all agree that he should live right here in my office. In fact, he should probably sit right here in this chair.
And now for a quicker list of ideal homes for players past and present:
A room at the Bellagio.
Ken Kesey’s school bus.
Anywhere in Amsterdam, really.
Not that Burrell would have had his own room, mind you.
But he’d have definitely had a key. Oh, yeah. He’d have had a key.
No, it’s not because he’s a recovering scofflaw.
It’s because he’s always getting caught in rundowns.
Down at the end of lonely street.
A log cabin—with no phone, TV or radio—deep, deep in the woods.
Scratch that. I think it’s a strip club in Tallahassee.
Island in the stream.
Springfield Retirement Castle.
A house, any house, that Ruth built.
The home itself doesn’t matter so much, as long as it has…
… a Tanana hammock.
Sad Sam Jones
Um, a bouncy house?
Rickey Henderson’s house.
Why? Because Rickey Henderson says so.
A suite at the Playboy Mansion.
An awesome house on Awesome Street in Awesomeville.
Why a wigwam? Because there’s no such thing as a toupéewam, that’s why.
Just for the fun of it. Or, if you prefer, just for the hell of it.
New York City Subway station.
Again, just for the fun of it.
Once more, just for fun of it.
Bed and country breakfast.
Smoking lounge at LaGuardia.
Anywhere that’s not in the inner 66.6 percent of the city.
Why? Because he’s always lived on the outer third.
Graybar Holiday Inn
Have you heard this man talk? If you have, you know he should live atop a mystical mountain, issuing wisdom in the form of poetic, inscrutable riddles.
Ever more secret dungeon.
A five-bedroom ranch-style home.
What, you thought I was going to say a cave?
What, you thought I was going to say a five-bedroom ranch-style home?
OK, clever readers. If you have other suggestions, please leave them in the space provided. As for me, I need to go make room for Mr. Breslow.