Monday, August 27, 2007

Labor Day Softball: Si Se Puede

This Labor Day, you only need to remember one thing (one thing). And one other thing.

First of all: remember the dude to the left and think about where your grapes came from. Dudes are hustling for those little green joints, and that's worth keeping in mind.

Secondly: it looks like softball is going to go off. The eminently trustworthy Kelsey and Amber have been entrusted with the equipment bag for next week, and it looks like we'll have a Labor Day quorum for the first time in our five-year history as a league. If you're going to be around, come on around. I won't be there, but many others will be. We had another well-played and hugely enjoyable game today -- it's too late, and I'm too post-fantasy-draft tipsy to recap it, but it involved asthmatic heroics from Jasper, a commanding complete game win from Alf, a cameo by a North Carolinian named Kwame, and some very-good-at-softball randoms of the female persuasion who will hopefully return. Other highlights: Californian Matt Abrams and hardcore Brooklyn softballer Steve Patnode making Buttermilk debuts in black jeans (always a good call) and sleeveless shirts, respectively; amazing picks from Amber at first base and some fantastic infield defense from Jasper at short; Kelsey hitting a ball harder and further than anyone else this year; a ringing RBI double from your author (everyone has their own highlights); supreme-team oatmeal-theme cookies from Darren Guyer; postgame black-sock purchases at Commonwealth (Shame on a Buttermilk for not being open at 6). It also looks like next week could be just as good. Even without my chatter in the outfield. Look, I don't believe it, either, but people are going to show up. For real, though.

Also, on t-shirts: orders are coming in, and should continue to do so. I'd like to do a postseason get-together so we can distribute shirts and share sweet sweet softball memories with one another. I'll be away for much of the next week, but email your size and number preferences on the t-shirts and I'll place the orders just as soon as I get back. You can CC Jeff ( and Joel (, as at least one of those will probably be around next week and can provide the leadership you...probably don't really need. But you might as well CC them anyway.

It has been, and remains, a pleasure. I'm glad today worked out, and hope next week goes well for you, too. I'll think of you while I'm driving back from Maine. Probably with great envy in my heart.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Your Buttermilk Softball '07 T-Shirt Design

Time is of the essence, so there will be no voting on t-shirts this year, sadly. Luckily, though, our own Jeff Ciprioni has done so well by our design that there is no need to vote. We've got a winner, here, below. Jeff explains in text lifted from an email he sent me (sorry, JC Softballpants) below the image, but this one is the truth. We can quibble about whether we want to do red or blue ringers, and we will need to sort out numbers. But there can be no argument on this: the t-shirt is dope. Tomorrow, we'll talk about numbers and work out sizes and such. It looks like we're going to have a decent-ish squad out there, but if we don't get 18 we can 1) start drinking early or 2) get to work on round two of One-Eyed Cat. So, the t-shirt:

Jeff wrote: Develop a little perspective, you're not Charlie fuckin' Samuels. This is how I talk to myself. Okay, here's a mockup. Basically, we're looking at an American Apparel ringer t-shirt with a two-color design. The design should be as big as they should make it so that it goes all the way across the chest. And numbers should be on the back. What do you think?

You know what I think. You can say what you think in the comments -- if they're actually enabled -- or tomorrow at Prospect Park/the bar. I'll start: way to be, JC.

Monday, August 20, 2007

See Anything You Like?

I was thinking of a variation on the middle one, with the word "Milk," or possibly "BMilk" replacing the "Sox." The one on the left is pretty fly, too. Other designs are in the works, but these two -- both based on never-worn Chicago White Sox demo uniforms from the 1970s -- are probably my favorites. If anyone else has any ideas on uniforms we could repurpose, holler at me. Vote for preferences or whatever in the comments, or email me.

We're In UR Rainstorms, Playin UR Variant On Softball: Softball Week 7

Oh, hai. Your Softball Week 6.5 Update is in UR internets.

I'll explain the lumpy, furry gentleman to the left -- I'm highly allergic even to the picture, and am wacked to the gills on Claritin as I write this -- in just a moment. First, though, let me set this Sunday's scene for you: it was cloudy and kind of cold and right around 4pm the glowering sky delivered a little bit of drizzle. Not enough to soak anyone, but enough to keep those who'd been on the fence in their homes. And those who had not been in their homes -- a long list of regulars were on vacation or otherwise indisposed -- represented further attrition. I got to the park, just a few steps behind Joel and Linda expecting to find no one waiting at all. Instead, we found Kelsey and Amber and Ted and Greg under a tree, watching the all-weather Feist Squad from last year playing on our field. They'd turned out a full 18-plus. We barely had enough for 3-on-3 hoops. The arrival of Jasper and Scott Snelling helped, but even this talent-rich assemblage wasn't nearly enough to play a game (of softball) (you need to pay attention). Unwilling to bum rush Da Feist Squad so the five of us could stand in the field and complain about how wet we were, we headed to another field (the site of last year's inaugural away game).

There, we took infield and batting practice in the rain, which didn't seem terribly smart even then, but we all had gloves and what else are you going to do when it rains, go home and get high and watch a movie? (A: Yes) Everyone hit, some of us fielded, Jasper received his usual tutorial from Kelsey and managed to get catchable throws to first base from shortstop with much greater regularity than I was able to from the same position. Harold, a former random who starred last week and is hopefully on his way to becoming a regular, arrived slightly later. Gabe London and his friend Mike some time after that. But even when you consider that I have the wit and charm of six men, that's not enough for a game. For a game of softball. Which you'd know is what I was talking about if you were...forget it. Anyway here's where it gets interesting.

I know, finally, right? It turns out that Kelsey, previously known for his associations with Larry King (right) and the University of Redlands, actually grew up in Oregon. Where it rains a lot, forcing hardy Oregonian baseballers indoors to play a variation on baseball Kelsey called "One-Eyed Cat." Linda called it "One-Eyed Monkey" as a joke. I called it "One-Eyed Jack" apparently in earnest, thus displaying the same Roth-family knack with names that led my father to conflate Dead Man Walking (one of the few movies I went to on a date in high school; holla at a true playa) and 12 Monkeys (which I saw with a bunch of high school dude friends) into "12 Men Walking." Anyway, while Kelsey thought the game was indigenous to the Evergreen State, it turns out that what we were playing was a much older game than we'd thought. Once known as "Old Cat," it was a predecessor to baseball played mostly in the rain by people too stupid to stay at home and watch a movie when that was obviously what...anyway, here are the rules:

There is one base. Second base. There is also home plate. There is a pitcher (pace Wikipedia, this position was originally known in Old Cat as "The Giver"...peace, Lois Lowry), there are fielders, there is a hitter (or "Striker" back in the Andrew Jackson administration). The Striker hits and runs -- past the Giver -- to second base. Once the Striker reaches the base, he or she can choose either to run back home (for a run) or stay there; this makes possible numerous witticisms of "the base is loaded" or "play at only base" variety. One-Eyed/Old Cat is a pretty simple game (not nearly as sophisticated as the two-eyed cat above), but it's a lot simpler when Kelsey explains it. I use too many adjectives.

Due to the wet conditions on the field, there were a lot of hits and a lot of runs, and very little scorekeeping. Highlights included Scott Snelling homering in his first two at-bats, me hitting a homer and wiping out really badly (I think everyone knew that was going to happen), Linda registering an RBI on perhaps the littlest hit of the season, gnarly wipeouts by Amber and Scott, late-game cameos by Gabriel "Santiago" London and his friend Mike, and one of the most amazing home runs in league history by Harold. You may remember Harold from last week as the Yankee-fan newbie who had a nasty collision with Elliot (in the Jermaine O'Neal throwback jersey) at first base. He was back this week, dropping Mackey Sasser jokes with a panache that recalled a young Jeff Ciprioni and doing his hard-working thing in the field. On one long drive he rounded second (that is to say, got there and turned around) and headed (directly) for home as a perfect relay arrived via (I think) Ted. The throw beat him to the plate. Kelsey caught it in perfect position. And Harold leapt over the tag and landed directly on the plate. It wasn't a particularly high jump. It wasn't a particularly graceful one. But it was one of the most amazing plays I've seen in my entire One-Eyed Cat career. I may never see its like again. The game ended with Amber making a leaping grab on a liner I authored. Then we went to the bar, where the nice new rockabilly bartender guy almost made us forget the horror of Zombie Ryan Adams. Did you know that guy complimented my girlfriend on her skirt one day? Can you believe that? And then he chased a dude while mumbling "braaaains." What a jerk.

Anyway: I'm going to try to work up a recap for last week's classic. I feel badly about not having done one, and that game -- a 14-13 barn-burner played as well and as joyously as any contest this year -- deserves better than my shabby memory can probably provide. But I'm going to give it a shot, and I'm also going to post an image that includes a couple of speculative t-shirt ideas for this season, to see if we can't get someone to work up a demo on a shirt. Ted opined that after his efforts yesterday -- that is to say, getting soaked and then making audible squishing sounds en route to the bar -- he deserved a shirt. People, we all deserve shirts. Every last one of us. Ted deserves two, maybe.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sunday Cloudy Sunday

It looks like a hangover out there. And I have yet to recap last week's contest, which was probably the most competitive and enjoyable game we've had yet this season. I can't imagine how that second point would affect turnout this week, but the first part might. So if you're looking here for information on whether we'll be ballin', look no further: I'm going, and hopefully you will, too. The dog days are hard days in which to turn out full sides, but let's do this thing anyway. It's softball. It's fun. And you'll be much less sweaty than usual at the bar.

See you soon, peoples.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Carry The Wait

Long story. But your recap is going to be here eventually, you animals. You're like animals.

Anyway, I've been sleeping a lot. Something by tomorrow PM for sure. T-shirt designs will not be here this week, apparently. And Jeff is going to be in Toronto this weekend. But we will make shirts happen, that's my word. If you don't believe me, ask the weird owl (above).

Monday, August 06, 2007

Week Five: Paging Keith Moon

Buttermilk Softball is a lot like being a session drummer. When you walk into that studio we call Field Five, you have to be prepared to play with any kind of musician, in any style. You accept that you’ll never know what you’re going to play in advance.

And, you’ll never know what kind of equipment you’ll get to play on. For example, you might be asked to play a kit that looks like this:

Dozens of toms. Ten crash cymbals. Four snares. Four kick drums. The sheer wealth of drummable objects offers an endless number of options. You become the Neal Peart of softball, engaging in flashy and complicated play … simply because you can.

And sometimes, you have to play on this drum kit:

On those weeks at Field Five, you have no choice. You’re Buddy Rich. Here’s how week five went down:

A women’s pickup game was in full swing when we arrived. We told them there was no way we’d be able to field a team before 4:30, but our permit was deeply respected, as if I flashed a Masonic ring or something. They moved to an adjacent field to continue an exciting game that I, frankly, didn’t want to stop watching.

We had a small crew – Scott Snelling, Colleen, Andrew, Sanj, Amanda, Linda, and of course, Jasper (who has perfect attendance this season). We needed to find bodies for our own game.

It should be said straight away: In his first game of the season, Scott did a yeoman’s job. He was the only person who arrived before four. He brought friends. And when it looked like we were going to be short, he got on the horn and started calling more friends. Then, he started asking passersby.

Jasper asked a group of four guys playing catch nearby if they wanted to play. They may not have taken Jasper seriously, unaware of the fierce Jose Reyes-like heart that beats inside that young man. But they declined, preferring instead to play a totally sissy game of whiffleball.

We nominated Colleen to go over to proposition a couple playing catch on the “nice” field just beyond our left field. After she took a few steps, it became obvious that Colleen wasn’t kidding about the heat stroke she’d taken home from a Yankees game yesterday. Yes, maybe she was maybe a little out of it today, so I trotted over and welcomed a handsome couple named Chee and, oh, I’m forgetting her name now.

Upon arrival, Chee immediately recognized Jasper, called him “little man,” and inquired as to his whereabouts for the past four weeks. A precocious 12 years of age, Jasper sort of dodged the question and answered in a way that didn’t necessarily bind him to us. We understood.

Eventually, we were able to cobble together a five-on-five game, using rules that were very fresh and flexible. Right field was foul. Three fouls were an out. Balls have to be hit past the pitcher or they’re foul. Baserunners passing third must sing the chorus of Peter Cetera’s “The Glory of Love” before touching home, etc. (Karate Kid II fans: this Miyagi-Danielson-Cetera portrait can be yours.)

Right field was briefly reopened when a group of three women from another game joined, but they left after two innings because our rules proved too intellectual, complex, asinine, etc.

Three of Chee’s friends turned up to fill their spots, including, I swear, the actor Ving Rhames (left, with Zombie Bat). Except I think a dog at the real Ving Rhames’ estate mauled someone to death over the weekend and I don’t think Ving had time for a quick game of “You Provide Pitchers and Catchers and One Team Can’t Have a Third Baseman.” But the doppelVinger pitched the whole game left-handed, wearing a righty glove – Jim Abbott-style.

Despite her heat stroke, Colleen was a trouper and made the catch of the game in left field. Amanda and Jasper played it smart and played a lot of catch to kill time while the braintrust tried to remember the rules at the top of every inning.

Scott’s friend Sanj proved to be one of the game’s biggest surprise. The second British citizen to play the game this year, Sanj called upon his cricket experience. He also probably benefited in some way from his experience as an officer in the British military, where he commands tanks in places like Iraq. Where he’s going again this fall. So, undaunted by our fearsome game, Sanj doubled in his first at-bat and then hit a homerun (although he nearly forgot to touch home plate).

(Sanj’s nerves of steel do have a limit. Later that afternoon at the bar, Scott and I explained the American health care system to him. He went fairly green.)

All in all, a classic Buttermilk game. Confusing. The score was lost to history. Some weird old guy took me away from first base to ask me where all the 17-year-olds were. But we played with a bunch of new people, had fun, and beers were consumed later.

As if yesterday didn’t provide drama enough: Andrew is stage-managing a production of “The Tempest” somewhere in the East Village. At 9th and Avenue C, I think. More details when I get them.