Monday, August 22, 2005

Around the Horn: Dave

What position do you like to play?

Years of watching baseball too closely have curdled my preferences into some weirdly and dorkily specific shapes. I like to pitch -- even though there's no agency in it and even though Seth Nelson almost hit a ball through my torso last year. But I like to pitch middle relief. Part of this is an attempt to reclaim my Dan Plesac Award-winning form of 2003 (and maybe 2004? I don't remember), but most of it is just because I'm frustrated about only having pitched 1.3 innings in my real baseball career. I also enjoy second base. That last sentence would read as a high-five line to sixth graders.

Your softball role model:
My baseball role models are Pat Mahomes and Keith Hernandez. My softball role model is the person from the field directly South of us who ran onto the field a few weeks ago chasing a lost ball. S/he was wearing so much gear -- two knee braces, Sabo-ian (catch) rec specs, headband -- that it was pretty much impossible to ascertain gender. That's good work. (Editor's note: See post below. We may have verified that this person is, in fact, Ingrid.)

Thing you like most about Buttermilk Softball:
The laid-back, easygoing spir... uh, anyway I like playing softball quite a bit. I like high-fiving and hitting and when we execute well enough that plays look like realistic baseball plays. Also I like to drink beers at Buttermilk and put long songs on the jukebox.

Thing you like least about Buttermilk Softball:
Probably the fresh air and exercise.

What do you do in the off-season?
Train hard, take vitamins, write the back of baseball, basketball and football cards to keep my carpal tunnels sharp. Usually I try to spend a month or two down in the Dominican playing winter slow-pitch softball.

Complete this sentence: The highlight of my Buttermilk Softball career was when... sister drove me in from second base with a line drive single to right field last season. Not only did it kind of seem like something that could happen in a real game, but it was probably the closest I've ever felt to Serena. Simply having the same parents and growing up in the same house is nothing compared to the connection shared by teammates acknowledging one another's smart hitting.

With New Faces, Bodegas Defeat Jeans in Steam Cooker

Many students at the University of Minnesota are resigned to take a course called Introduction to Anthropology. This 500-plus person lecture course kills two curricular birds with one stone, as it satisfies a science credit (thanks to a laboratory component) and a "cultural understanding" requirement.

The latter is justified because students must read a pornographic prehistoric potboiler called Clan of the Cave Bear.

In this Jean M. Auel novel, a prehistoric tribe of Neanderthals discover a young blonde Cro-Magnon girl named Ayla. Though they stubbornly cling to tradition and cultural suspicion, the Neandertals raise Ayla as one of their own.

It soon becomes obvious that the men of the tribe like Ayla for more than her Nordic good looks. In fact, she represents the future of their corrupted, inbred gene pool.

Of course, sometimes this Darwinian take on genetics works in reverse when ten Buttermilkers show up for softball and will play with someone, anyone, to get a game going.

The Bodegas Unidas de Brooklyn defeated the Blue Jeans on Fire 9-7 in six innings of play on Sunday. Thanks to the participation of several players from the Field Four game, a work stoppage was averted and a real game of softball was played.

The game was close for the first three innings, but the the Bodegas blew the contest wide open with a seven-run fourth inning. In the bottom of the sixth, the Jeans pulled within two runs, but their rally could not catch fire.

Much of the scorekeeping, sketchy as it is in the first place, went out the window for this game. Few records of this Sunday's outstanding achievement exist, partly because it was just one more thing to do in the 90-plus degree heat. Jeff homered and so did someone else.

This reporter would like to acknowledge that he has talked a lot of shit about these players in general, including in the pages of this blog ("Place Your Bets," 8/17/05). But Jack, Ingrid, Sean and about three others that played for the Bodegas were pretty cool and also had about 37 sleek softball bats among the six of them. Many of the Buttermilk regulars were like kids in a candy store.

Ingrid also let Jeff use her first aid kit when he skinned a knee. (Note to self: We need a first aid kit.)

Jack did take issue with Joel's decision to put him last in the order.

"I haven't batted last in the order in, what, 20 years," Jack complained, obviously insulted that Joel had not bothered to read the Field Four prospectus. "You can't bat me last."

"It's a pretty casual game," Joel responded. "And you got to the bench last. By the way, we pitch underhand slow-arc."

Respect to another newbie: Patrick, a friend of Dan and Dave who plays in a Saturday bar league in Williamsburg.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Action Snaps

Sunday's game was an instant classic. And what better way to celebrate the 24 year and 2 month (approximately) anniversary of the longest game in the history of professional baseball, between the Rochester Redwings and the Pawtucket Red Sox? What did the two games have in common? Wade Boggs had chicken before both events. I presume. Somebody send copies of these photos to the Society for American Baseball Research!

Johnny "Carlos" Damon makes a strong throw from left as MVP Gregg looks on. Somebody get urine samples from those two.

Sam has been teaching Ben how to hit to all fields. Carlos had his number on this one, though.

Chris drops a single in front of Jim to bring in the tying run. Gregg gets ready to take the relay. Is this guy everywhere?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Place Your Bets

I am now taking bets on how soon until our neighbors in the adjacent field erupt into physical violence.

As you may recall, the game next door became quite a spectacle two Sundays ago. After a close call at the plate, a member of the team in the field accused one of his opponents of "verbal interference."

If I remember correctly, the defenseman alleged that his opponent had thrown his voice--like a ventriloquist--to coax a nervous-nelly fielder into needlessly throwing the ball.

At one point, the accuser screamed: "Never in my 10 years of playing has anything like this ever happened!" This gave me pause. Ten years? And they're still screaming at each other every week? Time for a divorce, fellas.

Game Six: You're in the Jungle, Baby. You're Going To Die.

In one of the grittiest Buttermilk softball contests yet, the Blue Jeans on Fire beat the Bodegas Unidas de Brooklyn, 13-12, in 96-degree heat. The Jeans narrowly dodged a bullet, as Greg hit a game-ending sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth.

It was a game few players will soon forget. The league is presently developing an NFL Films-style documentary on Sunday's game. The voiceover narration begins this way:

...Brooklyn. The borough of Kings. Birthplace of rough-and-tumble sporting contests. Hardnose street fights. Race riots. In the center of Brooklyn's Prospect Park on an August day under the sign of Leo, two teams clashed in conditions that rivaled the foulest games in Hades ... Storms threatened for the first few minutes of the game, but no rain was seen--only deadly lightning. The playing conditions were somehow simultaneously scorching, dusty and humid...gunplay was on everyone's mind...

Or something like that.

In typical fashion, the Jeans burst out of the gate--notching eight runs in the first inning.

Tightening their belts, the Bodegas made several key defensive adjustments and began a slow and steady run that put them on course to tie the game. Dave Roth "homered" for the Jeans, while Jeff (this reporter thinks) homered for the Bodegas.

With the bases loaded, Greg hit a fly ball to center field. Sam tagged up and jetted home to score the winning run.

Greg netted MVP honors for the sac fly, as well as his bizarre standing hook-slide at third base. Also, Greg and brother Jeff were the first players to arrive at the diamond on what was easily one of the top three shittiest weather days the league has ever seen.

By all reports, the heat left most players completely exhausted. It was all that Jeans right fielder and pitcher Joel could do to choke down a beer later on at the Buttermilk.

"I was pretty sure I was going to start puking straight-up water there for a minute," Joel said. "That's when my pitching seemed to go to hell. All I could do was roll the ball across the plate. It was super ugly."

Most players were administered Spanish-language Pringles, in cheese and sour cream & onion flavors, at the Buttermilk to replenish lost body fat.

Linda was credited with the victory for buying the Prigles, while Young Steven was given the loss because of his lack of belt and abundance of fielding errors.

An unnamed Buttermilk source suggested that several players were ready to take up the no-belt issue with the commissioner.

"I'm fucking bringing an extra belt for him next time," said the source. "I'm fucking doing it."

The meatheads who play adjacent to the Buttermilk failed to show up, yet some of last week's strangers showed up, including Ryan.

In an impressive display of the infant fan base, Jasper the Baby attended the game with mom Heather.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Game Five: Bodegas Unbutton Jeans

The Bodegas Unidas de Brooklyn snapped a three-game losing streak after defeating the Jeans on Fire, 13-9, on Sunday at Prospect Park. The Bodegas improved their record to 2-3, pulling within a game of .500.

Turnout for the game was sparse, due to a Minnesota wedding and the all-around void that tends to consume American lives in August. A roster of about 10 Buttermilk regulars were helped by about five newcomers, including Mets fan Jeremy, a woman whose name this reporter did not catch and two mystery men (Ryan and one other) claiming to know Colleen.

Sunday's game was one of the more laborious in league history, with players on both benches suffering various ailments. Ben and Sam were assigned to the weekend in the Washington, D.c.-area Wedding Guest League and arrived for Buttermilk action on short notice after a red-eye flight. Joel, meanwhile, underwent extensive physical therapy at the Hold Steady show on Saturday night and was not yet in peak physical condition. Jesse played permanent shortstop, and few on the field could fall into the rhythm of the pitch-and-catch-for-your-own-team rules.

Though he homered for the Jeans, Scott was in need of a burrito.

Jeff, who also hit a dinger, turned in an outstanding defensive performance in centerfield, catching three fly balls in one inning.

Kevin was a star in center this week, too, as it slowly starts to sink in with team management that talented outfielders--and lots of ground balls--are the secret to this game.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Web Gems

As for Joel's defensive performance, lets put this thing in historical perspective. The major league record for errors in a game by a second baseman is held by a bumbling fellow named Andy Leonard of the Boston Red Stockings who, on June 14th, 1876, came up big with an impressive nine miscues. Clearly his mind was more on the then-nascent Free Silver Movement or on the dwindling prospects of Congressional Reconstruction than on the ballgame. Or perhaps it was simply the fact that rather than a baseball mitt he was wearing a simple piece of cloth strapped to his glove hand, and that with each passing error his chances of being drawn and quartered by a mob of rabid, drunken Irish dockworkers increased. Bottom line: Joel, before you go getting everyone's hopes up about a new "Major League " film (seriously: not fair), remember that it could be worse. You could be a Red Stocking.

In fashion news, I think its important to recognize perhaps our most consistent styleballer: Samantha Anders. Whether casually dismissing would-be batsmen, pulling balls foul down the third-base line, surreptitiously adding runs to her team's total between innings, or taunting friends and loved ones alike with her mad dances off second base, Sam causes an uproar with her tight, knee-length cutoffs, regulation Buttermilk jersey, and pink Mets visor. She may not show up in a dress made only of patched-together American Quilts hand-sewn by Winona Ryder with matching cleats (but seriously Jessica Roake, lets see you field a grounder in that thing), but week-in and week-out Sam is the picture of casual grace. She could be a Kennedy on a sailboat, that one. Nuts to you, old girl.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Game Four: Jeans Edge Bodegas in Nine

In one of the most thrilling outings yet this season, the Jeans on Fire outlasted the Bodegas Unidas de Brooklyn, 14-13, in a full nine innings of play.

The Buttermilk joined forces with four free agents from a competing league that had laid a claim to Field Five that afternoon. Three of the newcomers played for the Bodegas, helping the side match the Jeans run for run and keeping everyone interested for a full three innings beyond the usual six played. Angelo was a force behind the plate, while Kim had obviously shined on a college team at Emerson and was perhaps a bit bored played with schlubs like us.

The seventh inning proved to be the key moment of the game, as the Jeans surged ahead with five runs. However, they would post no other runs that afternoon, and the Bodegas battled back--aided in no small part by Jim's towering home run. The round-tripper, blasted in full view of Jim's seven-month-old son, sparked a Bodegas rally in the next two innings, but the team effort fell short.

Defensive kudos go to Kim, who played third base with skill (and more importantly, accuracy) throughout the game. Jesse completed a double play, gloving a frozen rope at short and putting out Kim, who could not make it back to second base to tag up. Expect to cringe at Ben's Baseball Tonight highlight clips. This week's subject of "Around the Horn" made several painful, knee-skinning diving catches on the edge of the infield, perhaps trying to make up for a number of costly errors. Team medical staff verified that Ben is healthy, but taking oxygen on an hourly basis.

Intense media scrutiny has been directed at Joel after Sunday's game, when the veteran turned in a defensive performance that defied explanation. Playing at second, a position at which he exceled as a 12-year-old rookie at Armitage Park in Minneapolis, Joel flubbed at least five throws to first and attempted to tag Eddie (a new guy) without the ball in his glove--a technique that everyone believed was legal for maybe three seconds. Fans outside the park shouted down Joel after the game, accusing him of abandoning his steroid regimen and turning to Eastern religion and yoga. Several local columnists, notably the Daily News' Mike Lupica, speculated that Joel is in fact under the spell of black-widow spider Kim Basinger, who will surely try to convince him to quit the game and let the team tank. (Lupica predicted this story would end the way the book ends, rather than the way the movie ends.) Others believe that Joel is under the spell of comedy svengali Charlie Sheen and spending too much time studying lines for Major League 4.

[The Buttermilk Blog regrets that no photos were available from Sunday's game. It was way too intense.]

Around the Horn: Ben

What position do you like to play?
In high school I was a catcher, but one day I realized that I was spending my time squatting uncomfortably, wearing hot equipment and getting foul tips in the balls while my teammates were all, like, playing baseball. Screw that. Now my favorite positions are shortstop, left field (because it's fun to while away the hours in the green grass on a Summer's day) and the bleachers at Midway Stadium in St. Paul, Minn., with two beers smuggled into the stadium in my socks.

Your softball role model:
My softball role models are Kent Hrbek and Hrbek the rock band.

Thing you like most about Buttermilk Softball:
I like hanging with the buds, I like drinking the brews, I like the pretty blue sky and the pretty trees. I like fielding grounders, line drives and watching Jesse casually catch fly balls while talking on his phone. I like watching the sun set out the windows of the bar. Those are all my favorite.

Thing you like least about Buttermilk Softball:
I really hate it when I pop out. Seriously, that sucks.

What do you do in the off-season?
In the offseason I ride the subways, feeling cold. Last offseason I taught 12-year-old kids from Bensonhurst how to play guitar and flag football.

Complete this sentence: The highlight of my Buttermilk Softball career was

...I came to bat during my favorite Modest Mouse song. It was like I was playing myself in the movie of my life, directed by me. Then I hit an 8-run homer. When I say "8 run homer", I mean, "groundball".