It was the summer of 1983 in Milwaukee, beautiful and balmy. It was the season after the Brewers had choked in the seventh game of the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. I'm still bitter about that. I was 8 years old, and walking home from County Stadium where two friends and I had just finished watching the game. The Brewers had won, and it was a beautiful comeback win. I remember clearly being down by 2 in the bottom of the 8th inning when the second baseman, Jimmy Gantner, stepped up to the plate. We all groaned. Gantner was a great infielder, but he couldn't hit for a damn. To top it off, we had two men on base but there were two outs against us. We knew we were sunk.
Gantner took a couple of strikes, and just as our hopes were about to be dashed, the world slowed down. It was like a movie, everything went slow-motion. I saw the pitch heading for the plate, saw it start to dip. A sinker! My brain screamed out to Gantner, it's a sinker! He started to swing, and I knew he was gonna whiff. I knew it. Then the bat dipped low, a sudden elation gripped me and with the thundering CRACK of the hit, the world sped up again and the ball went screaming into the stands. The crowd erupted as Gantner rounded the bases triumphantly. It was a quintessential youthful baseball moment.
Yeah yeah, I'm getting to the Joe Walsh part. Keep your shirt on. So anyway, we hung on to the lead and won the game, and the way home was nothing but me, Mike and Lori gushing about the game, and mostly that homer. So we're walking down Bluemound Road, not really paying attention to where we're going, when some drunk dumbass stumbles out of the Main Gate Pub and Grill, not really paying attention to where he's going, resulting in a mutual collision. Since I was the one who was eight, I was the one who got knocked on my butt.
I was a little indignant getting up, and started off with a "Hey, watch where you're going!" I glared up at a thin, gangly, stringy-haired guy with a weird hat, who was in turn squinting down at me. "Oh, hey, whoa, yeah, sorry kid. You okay?" He swayed a little when he talked, but something struck me as familiar about him. "Yeah, I'm alright," I started to say, when it dawned on me. "Joe Walsh..?" I kinda just threw the name out there tentatively, as an eight-year-old will when confronted by a possible celebrity who drives 185 in his Maserati.
The man's eyebrows shot up and he looked around excitedly. "Joe Walsh? No shit?" He looked thoughtful for a moment, then smiled. "Oh, you mean me! Right, yeah, Joe Walsh! How ya doin'?" Having hit us with the trademark Joe Walsh phrase, he shook all our hands, and told us he had to get going because he had tickets to the Brewers game. My friends and I exchanged looks and then ventured, "Uhh, Joe.. we're just heading home from the game. It's over."
Joe snapped his fingers. "Damn. Well hey, who won?" We told him it was the Brewers, and then he asked us if there were any good highlights during the game. We all simultaneously exploded about the game-winning homer, "Bottom of the eighth, two outs, two men on, Gantner.. the guy can't hit.. it was a sinker.. he dips low, BOOM! It's gone!" We're all swinging imaginary bats and showing him the path of the ball.
Joe listened intently, nodding. When we had finished recounting our tale, Joe thanked us for our help, but said he had to go back into the bar to meet his friends after the game. We nodded, still sort of in awe by the surreal nature of the situation, and just stood on the sidewalk as Joe returned to the pub. He threw the door open, shouting, "Man, what a game! You guys shoulda seen it! Bottom of the eighth, two outs, two men on, Gantner.." Then the door shut behind him.
We stood there dumbly for a few moments, then burst out laughing, and poor Jimmy Gantner and his three-run clinch homer got eclipsed for the rest of the walk home by our brush with fame. It was some years later that, looking back, I realized that Joe must have just been messing with our heads. The Main Gate was a Brewers bar, and they undoubtedly had the game on the entire time. Joe probably even saw the play we went so apeshit over, and just played dumb like that to make us feel cool and important. Well, it worked. Thanks, Joe.