(I decided to take a month off because of the long season ahead and because I needed to get away from the noise for a bit, to be honest. But, it’s time to get back in the mix again. Here’s an offseason fictional tale for you on this January day.)
A neon Coors Light sign hangs on a wall in a barn, casting red, white, and blue colours throughout the room. It swallows up the darkness like a thirsty American at the ol’ local watering hole, a thirsty American who had a hard day of hunting and kicking some wilderness ass. An old beer fridge decorated in magnets from the Florida Keys, Tulum, Punta Cana, and other tourist destinations sits underneath the neon sign and keeps all the barley and hops sandwiches cooler than Charles Bronson in The Magnificent Seven. Empty beer bottles and tall cans are scattered all around the barn. John Gibbons and Tim Leiper sit in two beat-up leather recliners next to the beer fridge. Brooks & Dunn’s Boot Scootin’ Boogie begins to play on the radio.
“Turn it up, Leips. And grab me another beer while you’re at it.”
Leiper gets up, walks over to the stereo on top of the fridge, turns up the Brooks & Dunn, and grabs a couple of bottles of Coors Light. Leiper hands ol’ Gibbers a beer, sits back down in the recliner and excitedly sings along, “They got whiskey, women, music and smoke. It’s where all the cowboy folk…Go to boot scootin’ woogie.”
Gibbers looks over at Leiper, “It’s boogie…not woogie.”Gibbers puts down his bottle of beer on the table in front of him and reaches for the tin can of Copenhagen, puts some tobacco under his bottom lip, and hums along to this classic early nineties country song.
“You feel like tossing some darts at Hillenbrand?”
Gibbers looks over at the beat up poster of Shea Hillenbrand hanging on the wall, “Nope.”
“What do you feel like friggin’ doin’?” Gibbers doesn’t answer Leiper. “You wanna go in your yard and blow things up?…You wanna go work on your C10?” Leiper looks over at Gibbers, who is staring off, ‘You alright, skip?”
Leiper notices that Gibbers is staring at an old picture of DeMarlo Hale from a fishing trip that the three of them went on in Perry Sound a few summers ago.
“Boot Scootin’ Boogie was his favourite song.” Gibbers says.
“I thought it was Simple Man, skip.”
“Damn it, Leips. That’s my favourite song.”
“That’s what I friggin’ meant.”
Bobby Bones, the DJ for San Antonio’s KJ 97, interrupts the two bantering old men, “…And that was a little B & D to keep you company on this fine January evening folks. But before I play you another nineties classic, it’s time for us to pay the bills so we can keep the ol’ lights on here at the studio. So let me remind all of you River City people that the best gear oil is Moto-Master’s 75-90 Synthetic Gear Oil: it puts the good in automotive goods y’all. It’s the 75-90 way.”
“75…90…” Gibbers says under his breath.
Bobby Jones continues, “Now, since I’m taking the ol’ pick up truck down nineties memory lane, how ‘bout a little late nineties Shania to fill the Texas air, here’s ‘You’re Still The One’ only on KJ 97, San Antonio’s number 1 country station.”
“I miss DeMarlo.” Leiper says.
“This friggin’ song reminds me of him.”
“Haven’t heard from him in months.”
Leiper walks over to the fridge and turns off the radio.
“75…90…huh?” Gibbers mumbles.
“What’s that skip?”
“Is ol’ Gibbers completely boxed out of his ol’ batter’s box, Leips?” Gibbers asks.
“We’re all a bit boxed out of the ol batter’s box, skip…why?”
Gibbers leans forward, reaches for an empty beer bottle, and spits his dip into it. He picks up his Nokia flip phone and passes it to Leiper.
“75…90?” Leiper says reading the numbers from a text message.
“Who is this?” Leiper asks.
Gibbers shrugs his shoulders.
DJ Bobby Bones speaks slowly in a monotone voice through the speakers, “75-90…nineties lane…north of the sound…it’s the 75-90 way…That’s where you will find him.”
Gibbons and Leiper look up at the radio and then look back at each other.
A few minutes pass and Gibbers and Leiper sit in their recliners with a look of confusion on both of their faces.
“Maybe we’re just one too many sheets to the ol’ Coors Light wind, Leips?”
“Yeah, maybe, skip…One too many sheets.”
“Goddamn 75-90 way. That’s where you will find him.” Gibbers chuckles to himself, “Boxed out of the ol’ batter’s box I tell ya. The ol’ batter’s box has boxed Gibbers into straightaway center. Straightaway.”
“But I heard it too, skip.” Leiper says.
“I know ol’ Gibbers is sometimes one brick shy of a load, but…”
“That fuckin’ radio spoke to us.” Leiper excitingly interrupts Gibbers and then reaches for his iPhone and googles 75-90, “Synthetic fuckin’ gear oil…Fuckin’ giggle me fuckin’ Google fuck, skip. What the hell does it mean?”
“Simmer down cowboy. That’s four.”
“Stupid dumb New Year’s resolution.” Leiper pulls out his wallet and hands Gibbers four George Washingtons.
“Stop cussin’ like a farmer in the middle of a drought and pass Gibbers his ol’ thinking cap.”
Leiper rushes over to a wall of old Jays hats, “The clinch?”
“No. The ol’ thinking cap, Leips…”
“The Lilly?” Leiper asks.
Gibbers nods and Leiper tosses him his ol’ thinking cap. Gibbers puts it on his head, reaches for the Copenhagen, and leans back in his recliner and mumbles, “north of the sound.”
A few minutes pass. Gibbers reaches for Leipers’ iPhone and opens up Google.
16 minutes later.
Leiper is still standing in the same place watching Gibbers lean, think, and Google.
“C’mon Gibbers…think. Remember Gibbers, there’s no slack in your damn rope.” Gibbers pauses for a second and continues his gibberish, “And it’s never good to squat on your own spurs.” Gibbers chuckles.
“You alright, skip?” Leiper asks.
Gibbers doesn’t respond and continues to talk to himself, “This is hog killin’ weather, Gibbers. Won’t be a hog in sight.”
“Hog in sight?”
“Not one, Leips. Not a goddamn pig to fry.”
“What are you going on about, skip?”
“75-90…” Gibbers mutters.
“What in heck are you going on about?”
Gibbers takes off his Lilly thinking cap and looks up at Leiper, “The Arctic Archipelago, Leips. We’re going to the goddamn Arctic Archipelago.”
“Yup. 75-90. The coordinates to the Archipelago. We’re going to the goddamn Archipelago. I think that’s where we will find him.”
Gibbers and Leiper are walking in a barren field just behind Gibbers’ barn. It’s barren. It’s a field. No purple prose can paint this picture. Although there are some metal trash containers scattered throughout the yard that have been used to blow things up in.
“Where you takin’ me skip?”
“The ol’ bomb shelter.”
“’Cuz we’re going to Archipelago.”
“Shouldn’t we book a flight or something. Maybe buy some proper friggin’ clothes.”
Gibbons looks at Leiper, who is wearing his Blue Jays hard helmet, a mint green ‘cheeseburger in paradise’ shirt and Levi’s jeans.
“You’ll be fine.”
Gibbers approaches the bunker door, opens it, and walks in. Leiper follows behind him.
“When did you build this?”
“Ha. The first time ol’ Gibbers got tossed in the can, Leips.”
‘’Cuz the world is all stove up, Leips. All stove up. And ol’ Gibbers ain’t about to burn in it.”
Gibbers leads Leiper down a dark concrete hallway. He stops in front of a metal door, presses some numbers on a keypad, and the door unlocks. Gibbers walks in, looks back at Leiper, “You comin’?” Leiper walks slowly into the cold room.
“There she is. Real beut, I tell ya.” Gibbers says.
“A phone booth?”
“A phone booth? It’s Gibbers’ ol’ matter transmitter.”
“Yup, Leips. Teleportation.”
Leiper looks at the brown tinted glass phone booth made from Coors Light bottles with an antenna made from old Copenhagen tin cans on the top of it and wings made from aluminum baseball bats.
“You sure this thing works, skip?”
Gibbers shrugs his shoulders, “Dr. K gave me the blueprints to this back in ’86 on a road trip.”
“Yup. Built it that offseason. And Ol’ Gibbers has been as scared as a squirrel in a trailer park to test her out, so I don’t know if it works. But ol’ Gibbers has faith that she can ride the rough string.”
Gibbers goes inside the phone booth, “You comin’?” Leiper walks slowly in and closes the door.
One second later.
The two stand in Gibbers’ matter transmitter phone booth, which has just landed in the Archipelago. They could be on Baffin Island, maybe Devon Island, or Ellesmere Island. Either way, they’re on an island covered in ice and snow. Gibbers opens the door and looks at Leiper, “Well. Goddamn. Gibbers. She works…You comin’? Gibbers doesn’t have all day.”
“Aren’t you cold, skip?”
“Ol’ Gibbers never gets cold, never gets hot either.”
Gibbers begins walking into the white, into the ice, into the rough, Canadian terrain. He swaggers his way into the heart of whiteness and Leiper follows.
2 hours later.
“Hey, skip. I don’t know if I’m going to make it?”
“Ya goddamn right you’re gonna make it, Leips.”
“I’m serious, skip. My body feels like it’s on fire, but I’m cold. I feel confused. Weird thoughts, skip. Iron thoughts. The nature is eating me alive.”
“You’re a damn trooper, a goddamn trooper. It’s just the ice taking a few bites out of ya. Nothing to be scared of, Leips. Just ice bites, nothing a little A535 can’t fix.”
Gibbers pulls out the A535 and throws it at Leiper. Leiper misses it and it falls into the snow. Leiper reaches into the snow to look for Gibbers’ rubbing ointment.
“I can’t friggin’ find it, skip. The white monster ate it. Ate it like it’s eating me.”
Gibbers slowly crouches down and begins to dig around in the snow.
“Well, tickle me purple and call ol’ Gibbers king.”
Gibbers clears the snow with his hand.
“Yup. A good ol’ fashioned secret steel door.”
“Yup. A door, Leips.”
“What the heck is a door doing in the middle of the Archiwhatchamacalled?”
Gibbers shrugs his shoulders and bangs on the door. Nothing. Gibbers bangs again. Nothing. Gibbers bangs again. Nothing. And again. Nothing.
45 minutes later.
Gibbons and Leiper sit in the same spot on the secret steel door.
“I think I’m dying.”
“Could you pass the A535?”
Gibbers tosses the A535 to Leiper who smothers it all over his face and body, “It’s keeping me warm, skip.”
Leiper tosses it back to Gibbers, who rubs it all over his face. The two sit there. Gibbers is as still as a can of spam on a shelf at a grocery store in Yorkville. Leiper shivers like the pig before it was stuffed in the can.
“Did you try opening the door?”
“You think you should?”
Gibbers reaches for the door handle, turns it, and the door opens.
The two slowly walk down the metal stairs in this underground concrete box.
The two look at each other. They reach the bottom of the stairs and begin to walk down the hallway that leads to the groovin’ nineties country sounds of Brooks and Dunn. They open the door and see DeMarlo Hale, Cito Gaston, and Tom Henke. DeMarlo and Tom Henke are drinking Coors Light and working on a computer control centre punching in numbers. Cito Gaston is sitting in a chair watching them work. DeMarlo is singing along to his favourite jam, “Oh, get down, turn around, go to town…Boot scootin…’” DeMarlo sees Gibbers and Leiper standing in the doorway, “…Gibbers! Leips! What took you guys so long?”
“So long?” Leiper asks.
“I’ve been sending ol’ Gibbers coordinates using the Rogers mothership satellite. You guys wanna beer?”
“Right friggin’ on.” Leiper excitingly replies.
Tom Henke walks over to the beer fridge grabs two Coors Light and hurls them at Gibbers and Leiper. The two duck under the bottles and Henke starts laughing. He grabs two more bottles and gently tosses them.
“Whatchya got on your faces?” Henke asks.
“We don’t have time for shootin’ breezes.” Cito interrupts.
“Yes. No time for the breeze.” DeMarlo says.
“Ol’ Gibbers has missed ya, Mar. I’ve been as worried as a stray dog in heat.”
“Well, I’ve been put on special assignment by Shapiro.”
“Special assignment?” Leiper asks.
“Yes. Special assignment. It involves quant edge data.”
“We need you two to terminate the problem.” Tom Henke jumps in.
“Terminate?” But you’re the…” Tom Henke cuts off Leiper.
“I am. And I have been building a terminating system to terminate the Goose, who is destroying baseball.”
“The Goose?” Leiper asks.
“Gossage.” Tom Henke answers.
“The Goose has hacked into the MLB mothership and has sabotaged the Rogers satellite, which controls all the data being relayed to our club.” DeMarlo explains.
“What is this ol’ concrete box?” Gibbers asks.
Tom Henke takes off his glasses, looks at Gibbers and Leiper with his intense eyes, and explains, “This is the Rogers Control Centre: the control centre that bounces all data and other signals into outer space. And the Goose is intercepting the data and rewriting it to sabotage the 2021 plan. I have built a Rogers rocket to send you two to the white dinosaur in space that wants to destroy Blue Jays baseball. Once you get to it, I will hack into its system and open up the doors.”
“It’s the Goose’s ship.” Henke says.
“Why Blue Jays baseball?”
“Well, not just Blue Jays baseball. He has already destroyed the AL Central. Most of the AL West and is now working on the East.”
“And what’s ol’ Mr. Back-To-Back’s role?” Gibbons says as he points at Cito Gaston who is sitting in a chair.
“He’s here to make sure that the plan is carried out.”
“And what’s ol’ Gibbers’ role in this?”
“Well, the Rogers defence system has been shattered by the Goose, so you two are going to go to outer space and get inside the white dinosaur space craft, find the Goose, and end this now,” Tom Henke makes clear.
“But you’re going to need this.” DeMarlo hands Leiper a José Bautista baseball card.
“What am I supposed to do with this?” Leiper asks.
“You’ll know.” DeMarlo says.
Gibbers and Leiper sit in Tom Henke’s Rogers Rocket. Tom Henke presses a red button, two trap doors open up, and the rocket takes off into outer space.
17 minutes later.
The rocket approaches the big white dinosaur, its doors open up, and the rocket enters. Gibbons gets out of the rocket and Leiper follows.
“Now what?” Leiper asks.
“We’re gonna find the Goose on this damn ship.”
Gibbons notices the sound of a guitar shredding in the background.
“Goddamn it, Leips. What is this awful noise? I don’t think ol’ Gibbers can keep going.”
“I think it’s Iron Maiden, skip?”
“It sounds like a dying goat on astro turf.” Gibbers falls to the ground in pain, “You’re gonna have to do this without me, Leips. I’m not sure ol’ Gibbers can go on. It’s that noise. I feel thin like a gnats whisker. I’m near about past going. I feel so sick I’d have to get better to die.” Leiper looks at Gibbers, who is on the ground with his hands pressed up against his ears.
“Save the Jays, Leips. And save me from this noise.”
“Sure thing, skip.” Leiper rushes down the hallway.
“They’ll make a song about you and that helmet one day. A song about …” Gibbers passes out.
Iron Maiden’s ‘Trooper’ echoes throughout the ship. Leiper opens the door and goes into the control centre and sees Goose Gossage playing air guitar to the main guitar riff of this early eighties classic. The Goose turns around and sees Leiper, who is looking at him with a stoic Charles Bronson-like stare. The Goose stands up and runs at Leiper. Leiper takes off his Blue Jays hard helmet and throws it at him, but misses. Then, Leiper reaches into his pocket and holds up the Bautista baseball card. The Goose stops dead in his goose tracks and lets out a bloodcurdling scream. Leiper flips the card at the Goose and it strikes him in his lip. He falls down to the ground. Leiper walks over and looks down at him.
The Goose slowly turns into a pile of mashed potatoes and floats away.
Leiper walks over to his helmet, picks it up, and puts it back on his head, “Friggin’ A” Leiper mumbles to himself.
…and baseball was saved.
(about the heroes)
Tom Henke is still working at the Rogers Control Centre on an island in the Archipelago. He is probably sucking back a Coors Light right now, as he creates new data that will make all of our 2021 dreams come true.
DeMarlo Hale is still alongside Tom Henke leading the Blue Jays’ ‘2021 Quant Edge Project.’ He takes time out of his busy schedule to hang out with ol’ Gibbers and Leips.
Cito Gaston is sitting in his chair making sure that the 2021 plan is carried out.
Gibbers and Leiper are sitting back in their recliners, listening to country music, and enjoying retirement. Gibbers still hasn’t fully recovered from his Iron Maiden experience.