Monday, August 20, 2007

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.