This story is about former Cleveland Indians ace pitcher and current Anaheim Angel Bartolo Colon. The facts of the story may be disputed, but the story itself is completely true.
Back in August of 2001, my ballpark-going buddy Justin and I traveled to Cleveland to see the Indians play. The kicker of the deal was that the night before we were going to stay with my uncle Peter Veneziano in Lodi, who would spend the better part of the evening being awkward and telling us about his movies he has ‘starred in with Redford’. Although demensia and Alzheimers had eaten away at his brain by that point, the old fart wasn’t lying, he was just stretching the truth. He really had been in movies with Redford, probably even seen him first hand, maybe he even made eye contact. Later the whole truth would leak out from my mother that Uncle Pete had been an extra and a guard in the background of some old Redford film. Who gives a shit, that’s good tender in my book.
We arrive in Lodi at Uncle Pete’s on a friday night, ready to relax and see our Indians play the next evening. It was around 9 p.m. when we arrived, but not late. Uncle Pete and his darling old wife Aunt Barb were sitting and waiting on us. It had been several centuries since they’d had any guests. When we arrived an awkward conversation followed about how we liked the Cleveland Browns.
“Oh yeah, the Browns. We like the Browns too, and Tim Couch. You know, Couch–the Quarterback?” said Uncle Pete.
“Yeah, I know who he is, like I said; we’re Browns fans too,” it didn’t register with him.
What also didn’t register is that around the holidays all through my youth, Uncle Pete had told me many times about his endeavors in Hollywood, and his movie spots with Redford. He started in again and it was about that time that I realized it’s not worth your energy to try and communicate normally with someone with Alzheimers. After I told him that he’d told me that before, he began to freak out entirely only to be calmed down by Aunt Barbara. My buddy gave me a look like ‘I just wanna get outta here’ but I pressed on and knew that at least we had a warm place to rest our heads that night, soak in some rays at their retirement home pool the next day and get downtown for plenty of time for autographs.
Uncle Pete next anounced that he was headed to bed for the night. I told him goodnight and thanks for letting us stay with him; and what a great idea it was for my mom to make this placement for my buddy and I. I told him we’d probably just watch some television until we got tired and then head to bed ourselves.
“I’ll show you to your room then,” Uncle Pete said–almost as if he didn’t even hear me about the whole watching television bit.
With that he showed us to our chambers for the evening, shutting the door behind us. That meant it was time for us to go to sleep too, because he turned off all the lights in the house. In the middle of the night it crept to around 115 degrees, causing Justin and I to toss and turn in the twin bed. Finally he convinced me to sneak and turn on the air conditioning. I did and about 10 minutes later I heard either Pete or Barb sneak into the same hallway with the thermostat and flip the air off. I got back up after I figured they went to sleep, flipped the air back on and headed back for my prison cell. Barb or Pete, most likely, again got up ten minutes later and turned it back off, just before any air hit our flesh. I agreed to try one last time for our sanity to turn the air back on. Again I failed and lost out to the old folks. Finally we drifted off to sleep in a pool of our own sweat.
At 7 am, I briefly opened my eyes to see Uncle Pete hawking overtop of me. I jumped back for a second because there he was with a stare and a gaze, no telling how long he’d been overtop of me and waiting for me to open my eyes.
“Barbara made breakfast!” he declared.
“Oh, great. I’ll be out in just a minute, let me get dressed,” I was just pissed. Old guy keeps me up all damn night now he’s waking me up at the ass crack of dawn. I don’t eat breakfast, Pete. I’d rather sleep.
“Oh alright,” He said as he appeared to back up one foot or so. I was amazed that he seemed to understand.
I was wrong. He didn’t understand. He wasn’t going to leave the room until we were up and out of bed. Just a couple feet from me, he stood there with the same gaze right at us. Finally I pryed myself from the sticky sheets and awoke Justin for breakfast.
Now not only was I not hungry, but I was just detested as the food that Aunt Barb shoved in front of us that morning. It tasted like cardboard, and as their little Yorkie, ‘Muffin’, licked and clawed at my damn feet, I either left most of it on my plate or shoveled it underneath to the mutt. It was on ESPN that Korey Stringer had died from heat exhaustion that morning, and being a former Ohio State Buckeye Justin and I struck up conversation about the only thing we could with Pete.
“Wow, he was a Buckeye, and now he’s dead. That’s sad.” I said to Pete.
“Yeah he died yesterday,” said Peter Hollywood.
“Yeah I know, I just mentioned that to you,” I told him again.
“Died of heat exhaustion, last night,” signaling to me that he didn’t care, didn’t hear me, or just had too much Alzheimers to digest what I said. I gave up.
style=”font-family:arial;font-size:85%;”>Just as I had finished scraping my breakfast in the trashcan, Pete anounced some bad news.
“Aunt Barb and I are headed out for the day. The whole day.”
“Oh that’s alright, we’ll probably just head to the pool–we brought our swim suits and we’ll be there or we’ll watch some TV until we leave for the game tonight.” Then it happened.
A look of concern came over Pete and Barb’s aged faces. I knew right then we were fucked.
“Oh, Muffin doesn’t like strangers.” Uncle Pete said.
Murmuring right after him, Aunt Barb echoed the same words and same sentiments.
“Yes, Muffin can’t stand strangers,” repeated Barb.
I hesitated badly. They had to be fucking kidding. What did you want us to do? Leave and head to the mean streets of Cleveland at 8 am, with no food, water, or toilet for the day and $20 to our name? This isn’t what we planned. This was disaster. I realized I had just one chance left to save us from being street hoodlums the rest of the day.
“Well……….I……………….guess we can………….pack our bags and get out of here……..if you really need us to???” hoping that by some chance they’d realize how fucking insane the idea sounded. Keep in mind the game was to be played at 7 pm that night.
“Sounds great, thanks for coming by.” Uncle Pete said, as he and Barbara rushed out to get more pills from the funny-farm.
By this time me and Justin were both disgusted, cursing and cussing Pete under our breath.
“Fuckin’ Redford. I’ll show you Redford motherfucker,” under my breath.
“Muffin doesn’t like strangers,” I mocked. It has became a running joke amongst our friends, along with the fact Justin swears 75 year old ancient Aunt Barb was wearing a push-up bra.
We packed our bags and headed out, wishing that Alzheimers would finally do the old hollywood actor in. We were going to get to see the City of Cleveland. See it we did, ever nook, cranny, crevice, crack. Every bum, every ounce. We were there from 8:30 am onwards. All because my mom set us up to stay with these two old whackos; and of course because ‘muffin didn’t like strangers’.
Around 3:30 or 4 in the afternoon, we decided to walk our blistered feet to the players parking lot at Jacobs field. Some yokul told us that the players would be arriving, and we wanted to see some guys and really just rest our heads. We were hungry, tired, and exhausted by the heat. Still, nothing could eliminate the fact we got to see some baseball that night, when what happened next when we arrived at the player’s parking lot outside the Jake amazed us both.
We were standing there and I had a Bartolo Colon t-shirt on. Colon was my kind of pitcher, a butterball who couldn’t speak shit for english and threw the ball as hard as he could. He was the fireballer the Indians needed to win the World Series that year in my opinion. Up from behind us came a strange man.
“You a Colon fan?” he said.
“Yeah I sure am, he’s my favorite Indians player!” I was excited to converse with someone.
“Come over here. You, and your friend. Yeah, come over here behind the car,” he said to us.
We walked for about 20 feet. We approached the man who had a laundry basket full of various shit. He pulled out a photo album.
“Yeah I know him. I know Colon. I know him well. He was a family member,” said the mysterious man from the Dominican.
After that he flipped through page after page of photos with himself, Bartolo Colon, Colon’s wife, and Colon’s kid. The guy kept showing us picture after picture. He was holding Colon’s baby, then he was cutting a pie with Colon’s wife. There he was again sharing a cuban cigar with Bartolo. He also in the photo album had signed contracts for several different things from Colon. He had a copy of Colon’s old drivers liscense. Colon’s passport. He worked to cover up the SS# but I could see the address, Colon lived in Westlake, Ohio. This guy was legit, for some very strange reason though.
“Ok man, so you wanna tell us how you got all this shit, what is your story,” I said with amusement. This was the most action we’d had all day and we were both amazed and amused.
“I was his guy when he came over here to the states. I known him since he was a boy. He’s my guy, he’s a little mad at me now, he thinks I screwed him for some money. He thinks that I fucked him and he told the other guys I know on the Indians that I fucked him now they’re black-balling me,” he talked so fast I could barely take it all in.
Aparently this guy who was a con artist indeed, had fooled Colon into thinking it was a good decision to be his agent. This guy most likely took too large of a cut after he was trusted by Colon and even other ballplayers (all Dominican born).
We walked back towards the fence surrounding the players lot. The man followed. He asked me to go get him a snapple at the nearby gas station and I told him no way. The players were starting to arrive. One by one, strange events surrounded this man and his relationship to the players.
Robbie Alomar pulled up and signed a few autographs. The guy said hello and Alomar scowled at him and was immediately done signing. He said something to him in native tongue that I know was a cuss word. Something nasty. Alomar quickly walked away after that.
“What did he say to
you just now?” I asked him.
“Don’t worry about it. It wasn’t nice. He’s just mad, he’ll get over it.”
Next up was Omar Vizquel, same thing. As soon as he saw this guy, he split and headed for the Indians clubhouse.
Next up, Juan Gonzalez. Gonzalez signed my used baseball, that the guy sold to me for $20, the only money I had in my pocket. It was old and dirty and the autograph faded years ago. Still, Juan Gone signed my ball. As soon as he saw the Dominican man who knew way too much about Colon, he split as well. It was very odd.
Next a black honda pimped out to the extent a Honda can be pulls up and the guy goes batshit.
“There he is!” he shouted.
“Is that Colon!?!?” I asked with excitement.
“That’s him. That’s Bartolo.” he said walking away.
“You think you can get me his autograph?” he didn’t hear me.
Clearly this guy had been showing up here every day, trying to make contact with Colon the only way he knew how to do it. Colon got out of his car, and the Dominican man who screwed him over called out some kind of nickname, I can’t remember it exactly but I think it was something to the effect of ‘Bartolito’ or something endearing or ensuing that he knew Bartolo since his youth.
Bartolo saw him. Looked at him. Shook his head and walked away as if he’d done it every day of the season. The guy came back, visibly shaken, sweaty, pissed off.
“I’ll show him. I’ll show him. He thinks he is too good for me? He’s going to turn everyone against me with his lies? I’m going to fix him. You boys want to know how I’m going to fix him? I already did it, so I tell you how I fix him. I took his baseball card and ripped it in half, I placed it in a cloth with honey and ashes and other seasonings. I tied up that cloth and I burnt it. You watch, he is cursed. He will be cursed. A witchcraft curse will be brought against him. He will not succeed again,” the guy said with such certainty.
We were scared now. We just wanted to run. He started showing us photos of Bartolo’s black honda in his garage before he’d helped Bart soup the ride up. He had everything, the papers and deeds to the car–feeling as if he had to prove to us even more that he knew Bartolo so intimately. We didn’t need to hear anymore. He wasn’t done yet.
“Yeah, you guys know something, I know all those Dominican players. Some of them still like me.” he said.
“Who else do you know?” I said to him.
“Manny Ramirez, I know Manny really well,” he said back.
“Holy shit, Manny is one of my favorite players ever. I was heartbroke that he left.”
Then he said something I’ll never forget, neither will Justin:
“Yeah well I know him well. He had a guy whacked over in the Dominican Republic last offseason. Had the guy killed. No one knows about it because he is like the President over there, he has much money and no one will find out about it, but he told me he had someone killed,”
Now this was unreal to me. This man was evil. Witchcraft, the family photos, the deeds to cars, the way the players all scowled at him like he’d fucked them. Now he was telling secrets about one of the greatest hitters in the game’s history. We told the guy we had to go. We entered the stadium not knowing if we were dreaming or not about what we’d just heard.
All because of Hollywood Uncle Pete and Muffin, who didn’t like strangers.