Monday, August 25, 2008

Season Seven, Week Eight, On Our Six: That Which is Behind Us Matters Kind of a Lot

We all know. I don't put myself on much of a deadline for the recaps. This is not because I'm busy -- no one whose self-imposed rules are so lax (no scotch after 1am on weeknights except if it's like a special one-time thing; try to change out of sleeping clothes before the 4pm Access Hollywood; remember to floss like, sometimes) could really be considered busy -- but rather because I consider these posts a treat. Like a post-1am scotch or a day spent entirely padding around my apartment, worrying about deadlines, wearing the misshapen clothes I slept in. That's some real Treat Williams ish right there. Y'all can't live my life baby bay-beh.

So, uh, yeah. I know it took kind of a long time for this. I actually got started on it early before work intruded. My original thought process: considering that this was probably my last game of the season -- if hopefully not the league's; keep reading! or skip to the end! -- I figured I may as well be about this here preview. It's a big one, and while I'm not going to forget just how brutal my own showing was in this game (ever, I will never ever forget it), I know there's a chance I might mis-remember a triple here or there. I don't want that. My new thought process: what the eff.

Also, and this is actually for real, this was actually a busy week for me: I churned out just-warmer-than-boilerplate copy about pro sports and professional athletes with a density of intensity that was really quite difficult for someone who doesn't care about it very much. And I don't, really, relative to this. I do care about baseball, but this -- our softball, our little weird humbling thing that we do -- is the sport I care about. You are the athletes I care about. Not Alex Rodriguez. Especially not him. I mean, I was into Madonna, too, circa Body of Evidence, but I was like 14. The Kabballah bracelet is not a good look, A-Rod. "Be adequite," playboy. Also: if there's any possible photo more heterosexual than the pic above of A-Rod with his wifey, it...I don't know, it would probably have to have Rip Taylor in it.

Ah, Rip. Anyway, while Labor Day Softball is apparently on for a second straight year, I will be missing it for the second straight year. Which means that this is not only my final in-season recap, but was my last official game of the softball season. My Ones wound up winning, 13-10, on a last second field goal by Dave the Tattooed., because we had a 6-run inning powered by Dave, Jeremy, Benny and Seth. More or less our entire output was powered by them, actually -- although Abby and I both had RBIs in that big inning, if I remember right -- and helped greatly by a late-arriving Steve Patnode, who powered through an aching groin (and how!) and memories of his traumatic, Bloomberg-related dream from the previous evening. With the exception of one brutal inning in the outfield -- in which I followed a just-miss of running catch of a Scott Snelling blast that would've been a career highlight for me with an instant career lowlight about which I'll moan more later -- I was on the mound. And I was as sharp as a mound of butterscotch pudding, in keeping with what was one of the worst single-game performances of my career. Yes, it was slow-pitch softball. But even by slow-pitch softball, I gave up a metric poopload of triples -- at least one apiece to Dan May, Kelsey and Scott, and possibly to Jordan, and possibly more than one and possibly to other people -- and just generally felt kind of out of it out there. Yes, I got the win, and that's what matters. It's the only thing that matters to me, that has ever mattered. But in strict quality terms, I was right there with the numbers Hideo Nomo put up over his last three seasons. Click here and look. Look at it! I was once like you! Now I am Hideo-us.

Of course, there are other things I care about than winning and playing poorly. And I suppose theoretically it is in the realm of possibility that you could care about those things as well. One thing that I've cared about all season long was whether Kate Garroway, my girlfriend and an x-treem n00b to the world of actually playing softball, was enjoying herself. She always claims to -- and that's the kind of nice lady she is; she also claims to enjoy our nightly push-up contests (I'm like 75-2!) and to be psyched for our two-week ice fishing trip to Beloi, WI this winter -- but it's fair to say that she'd struggled some at the plate during the earlygoing and, uh, middle-going of this too-short season. But a bit of pre-game coaching from Benny -- who was also looking natty in a homemade Buttermilk Softball t-shirt and whom I respect enough not to let the latent Jersey Possessive Guido Guy out when he marched up to Kate before the game and announced, "I've been thinking about your swing" -- seemed to straighten Kate right out. She launched four line drives in four at-bats. Three were caught, but the one that wasn't drove in a run, and Kate later came around to score. I know that Kelsey does this like twice an inning, but I thought The Bird deserved a special in-blog mention.

And there's something else I should probably mention: I fell down really hard chasing a fly ball. I assume that it was funny for those who saw it -- and in the abstract, me breaking in really hard on a ball hit well over my head and then wiping out in an attempt to correct that error, is pretty funny -- but I want to get serious for a moment here. Some people were concerned that, during that play, I had been shot by a sniper located somewhere in the park. I understand that I went down pretty quickly and pretty hard, but I want to let you know, I'm okay. There's no such thing as snipers. There was a movie about them starring Tom Berenger, I know, but he's just make-believe, too. I'm fine. Just don't ever ask me about the play again.

And then we got beers and burritos and Nik Johnson -- not this one; the one who's still popular in New York -- showed up and Ramin made a brief cameo, and then we were done. Or not really. I mean, we did really get beers and such, and Bug brought this delicious salsa and it was all really good. I meant that we're not really done. We have the field for this week, and a hardy band of patriots -- Chee, Kelsey, Jeremy and Abby, Dave, maybe Ben -- are showing up to play ball. And there's still the possibility of overtime: everyone's pretty hyped to do it, the weather should be nice for another month...anyway, something we'll talk about later. I'm already at like 3500 words, and may arms hurt. A good long weekend and godspeed to you all.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Week Six: It Never Really Happened

So, you don't fuck with the weather. I mean, mostly the weather just fucks with us -- and let me say up front, this profanity is all pretty egregious so far -- and we sort of deal with it, in terms of wearing galoshes or carrying an umbrella or snowshoes or a staying inside and watching HBOWest (I guarantee you it's showing Mr. Woodcock right now; they've been showing it, without exception, for the past eight days) (and people, it is a-larious!). Such is the human condition. We crawl around, at the mercy of a great many things, hoping -- against hope, against all reason -- for the opportunity to bat with runners on base, in the sunshine. I think I'm quoting Beckett right now. Josh Beckett.

That useless paragraph was my way of beginning to communicate that we were rained out with authority on Sunday. I don't know about youse, but I really only get so many opportunities to high-five people and run bases every year, so I was inclined to overlook a no-doubter of a weather report -- 80% chance of rain at game time, which I prefer to think of as a 20% chance of, you know, oppressive cloudiness and uncertainty -- and roll the dice on leaving the game on. As our F/G train (nice one to the MTA for making a shitty commute that much shittier all season long, by the way) surfaced between Carroll Street and Smith-9th, the air was heavy and menacing but fairly dry. Between Smith-9th and 4th Avenue, it started to rain. By the time Kate and I climbed out of the 15th St./Prospect Park stop, everything officially sucked and it was raining fairly hard. And...that's your ballgame.

Respect, obviously, to Dave the Tattooed (who also bought new bases: seriously, this guy is a frontrunner for early MVP honors based on said purchase how often he's had to hump the equipment bag alone), Chee, Carlton, Jodi Bender and Joel and Linda for actually going so far as to come to the field. There were few positives at Prospect Park -- although I did find a really nice softball glove someone had abandoned in the rain, which was both nice and kind of a mild moral dilemma for me.

Things improved markedly once we reached Commonwealth -- the bar of choice for day-drinkers throughout greater South Slope -- and joined Abby and Jeremy, Scott and Catherine, and a late-arriving Stephen X. Patnode. A few beers, some tacos, and a heaping helping of context from Joel Meyer regarding this hilarious bus-accident of an interview with the Deal Sisters made the day a success, even if I didn't get to play softball. I won't get to do so this week, either, as I'm off to Minnesota for a Buttermilk Alumni reunion and to enjoy some jumping-in-a-lake action. But I hope you all get out there, and play beautifully under sunny skies. Frankly, we're due. You're all due. There should also be angels, and your favorite band playing at the Prospect Park Bandshell.

I'll see you all in two weeks, probably with a new/old glove and a couple of new ideas on how I can hit the ball harder. The ideas will be dumb, but I'll keep them to myself.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Neither Rain, Nor...Anything Else: Season Six, Week Five

I'm often amazed at how many names I know. I forget the names of friends' significant others all the time, of course -- you should forget this the next time I ask how "your special lady/dude-friend" is doing -- and yet, whenever my girlfriend tells me about an article she read in a recent New Yorker (or Cat Fancy), I ask the author's name and then respond to it as if I know who the person is. "Oh," I say, "David Grann. He used to write for The New Republic." Like he's fucking Alfredo Griffin (um, left) and he was the good field-no hit shortstop for the A's in the pre-Walt Weiss era and I know everything about his career. Sadly, though, I know a lot about both David Grann and Alfredo Griffin. More, at least, than I need to know about either. What I'm saying is...what am I saying?

Oh, I'm saying that I -- and maybe you -- compile all this useless information, and yet have no need for it. What I need is to remember the things I want to remember -- that is, the details of softball games in which I enjoyed participating, as opposed to the life stories of guys who wrote lengthy, impressive, remunerative features for The New Yorker (or Cat Fancy) while I was writing, say, this (or who retired with on-base percentages of .285 after 18 seasons (!), for that matter). I want to remember every hit, every defensive gem, every bit of salty clubhouse wisdom (note: we have no clubhouses and are not an especially salty group). But what I have for you, people, is this: the best I can do, a few days after the fact. Oh, and I'm padding the job with an LOLAnimal image somewhere down there. It makes it easier.

And there it is. So, uh, hai. An unexpected glut of work -- unexpected considering that my working life is, in general and to the extent that it can be referred to as containing either "working" or "life," defined by the absence of work -- delayed this recap by a few days, but the more memorable softball games tend, luckily, to be more memorable than your less-memorable ones. Which is to say that I can tell you this: the Ones won, 8-7, with Serena Roth (she's my sister! and a doctor!) (my parents ask that I mention that, parenthetically, every time her name appears here) earning the win and Jeff "Rhymes with Aase" Ciprioni coming on to earn a harrowingly John Franconian save.

The losing pitcher, if you need to know, is so awesome that it doesn't even matter that he lost. A lot of losing pitchers couldn't write 1500 words on a softball game played between goofy folks in their late-20s to early-30s several days after said game happened. How could a loser do that? The guy who didn't win -- because he gave up 8 runs and nearly botched an easy pop-up catch and still feels kind of embarrassed about it -- could write something like that. A loser simply couldn't. There's a difference.

Anyway, yeah: the Ones were stacked. The Twos, to be honest, were probably a little less stacked. But the game itself was pretty well-played -- despite the mysterious lack of official bases, which I'm pretty sure is my fault -- and remarkably close throughout. While the whole thing hinged on what nearly wound up being what Kelsey termed "The SCIAC Inning" -- a term from the collegiate athletic conference that includes both our alma maters, referring to an inning in which one team scores more runs than the other team scores in the entire game -- the Twos hung around thanks to solid defense, timely hitting and...hold up, let me be real with you for a minute.

Ramin was with the Twos and hit two home runs. They were both bombs. They were both to right field and were hit deep enough that there was a better chance of them injuring one of the random Hasidic dudes lounging with their gigantic families out in right field than of Ramin getting thrown out at home plate. He could've taken a 25-second Mel Hall home run trot on the second one -- and dropped the one flap like Jeff Leonard -- and still arrived at the plate long before the rightfielder tracked down the ball. The reason the Twos stayed in the game was that ol' boy hit two homers. He had fan-dudes printing up t-shirts in his honor after the second blast (see left). So, you know, hats off to the guy who's almost certainly the best softball player ever to own the last name "Hedayati." It may not sound like much, but there's this doof standing between me and being the best Roth ever to play the game. Well, Braggo and my sister.

The Ones were keyed by a powerful lineup that included Kelsey, My Sister The Doctor (there you go, Mom and Dad), Jeff Ciprioni (who, like your author, seems to have belatedly found his stroke), returning B-Milk supa-legend Joel Meyer, '07 alum Jay, promising newcomer Carlton C. Ward (who also has a Pomeranian that can do tricks, which is more than your author or His Sister The Doctor or Jeff or Joel or anyone else in the game can say, frankly) and a pair of powerful Bens, one of whom I know has the last name Tausig. The other boldly paired a Thundercats t-shirt with New Jersey State Trooper mesh shorts and made several excellent plays in the outfield; that he also authored one of the best outfield throws in Buttermilk history, and that said throw nearly murdered my (admittedly not-totally-paying-attention) girlfriend is worth mentioning only after a semicolon. At any rate, I know he felt terrible about it, and I wish I knew his last name, but I know I'd shake his hand for those sartorial decisions. I'll hopefully do it in a few days.

Theirs was a good team, and after a few innings it seemed as if the scrappy Twos might be well and truly pants-ed by the Ones. Still, we hung around thanks to the fact that many of the remarkably sharply hit line drives I yielded found the gloves of ace centerfielder Dave The Tattooed, the aforementioned Greatest Sports Hedayati Ever at shortstop, and exceptionally game third base-people Erika Friday (who stood up well to an unseemly onslaught of potentially weekend-ruining shots) and a late-arriving Dan May. All of the aforementioned owe debts to sweet-picking first basemen Jordan and Greg, who performed ably at the less-hot corner. On offense, the twos got timely hits from...pretty much everybody, as I remember it. Linda Moucha and Colleen Hooper both drove in runs (I think), and I also managed to score and drive in a run despite being robbed not once but twice by a strangely vengeful Jay at third base. I'd like to talk to Jay for a minute.

I guess it's not cool when a bloggy-recapper guy hits a ball hard, apparently. Let alone does so once, but apparently twice is beyond the pale. You could've just told me, man. I'm really sorry I pissed you off so much by daring to, like, try to be good at softball. I didn't know it was so wrong. Underneath the good looks and easy charm and nerve-jangling sensuality, I'm just an ordinary dude (who happens to be the prose voice of his generation) who's trying to keep my front shoulder closed and swing through the ball. I'm sorry I made you so mad that you thought I needed to be punished for that. Twice. Anyway, if you were wondering: you have to keep your front shoulder closed, so you're hitting with something other than your arms. Do that, and you might be able to, like me, reach base twice on errors and get one hit in four trips to the plate. I know it sounds like bragging, but I totally did that. (Also, my glove died: by pour some out, please)

While the Twos had a chance at a dramatic comeback in the bottom of the whateverth (this was a fast-moving game; it could easily have been the 9th, or 10th, or 15th), the Ones overcame an intimidating "Ral-LY CAP" chant and locked down a win when Jeff C coaxed Ramin into a game-ending groundout. Ciprioni was immediately designated for assignment (the Ones needed to make room for Ruddy Lugo), but the end result stands: Ones win, 8-7, and...everyone goes to the bar and kind of immediately forgets some stuff.

Post-game highlights include Jeff Ciprioni earning both he and I free beers through a feat of keg-related strength, Jordan's introduction of the pepperoni roll into the softball culinary lexicon, and a declined invitation to play softball from our new bartender (who has, in her tattooed and exuberant kindness, rendered Zombie Jeff Tweedy little more than a brain-noshing memory) that was briefly controversial because some peoples (what up, Linda) misheard some things.

A good time was had by all, as far as I could tell. Although possibly Joel (because he didn't have to give time, traffic and weather info every 30 minutes), Jordan (c.f., pepperoni roll), and me, Joel and Jeff (because we got to talk about the old, soon-to-be-revived, "Around the Horn" feature) (see here for my and Jeff's contribution to it) had a better time than anyone else. But, really, probably not.

After all, everyone's beers cost the same amount at the bar. And in that way -- and in terms of impending soreness and possibly in terms of hung-overness -- we were all equal. We were all, in our way, wrapped in the same embrace: the warm, slightly clammy, slightly whiskey-smelling enclaspment of half-serious athletic endeavor, done among friends and with the best of intentions. I am a perpetual risk to wax too emo about this stuff -- and also to make up words (does it surprise you that "enclaspment" isn't a word? Because it ought not) -- but I'll just say that this was another good one. Last year's One-Eyed/Old Cat-necessitating personnel issues aside, we're back (baby), and shit is more or less the same as it ever was. We play softball on Sundays and enjoy it. Then, later, we drink the beers up. It's simple, but it works; at least, it sure works for me. I'll see you all this Sunday, I hope. I'm going to start stretching in an hour or so, just to be sure I don't hurt myself too badly.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Week Three Recap: Better Late Than Never

[Editor's Note: Due to contractual issues, Kelsey's recap of our June 20 game was previously only available in e-mail format. However, these issues have been resolved thanks to intervention by the Commissioner's Office, the Environmental Protection Agency, and well-known actor Danny DeVito. Please enjoy this outstanding summary of Game 3.]

Heat. Hotness. Warmth. High Temperatures.

All these words could describe Sunday's climate at Prospect Park for the weekly rivalry that has become Ones versus Twos. But instead, these terrifying adjectives could just have easily applied to the goodness that was exhibited on the ballfields yesterday.
The Ones just wanted it more. Anyone could tell. By the way they counted off in an organized One-two-One-two fashion at the beginning of the contest- effectively filtering their team of any potential Twoness.
Because of some discrepancies with the official Buttermilk roster, some of the names might be a little off but this is basically how it went down on Field 5, Stadium 2:
Atlee Hammaker started the game for Ones.

Hammaker faced Brett Butler to start the game. Butler, brandishing a bat, sunglasses and lit Winston cigarette lived up to his name by promptly laying down a swinging-drag-bunt down the third baseline.

Butler, exhibiting the athletic ability and coordination of a Tanzanian gazelle reached first safely and with the smooth, sweet flavor and aroma you can expect from Winston. That's Winston cigarettes. The official smoke of the Twos leadoff speedster.

Then some other stuff happened. Danny Tartabull got out, followed by Von Hayes and Alan Wiggins.
This brought the Ones up to bat. The Twos started Bobby Ojeda on the hill.
Ojeda made short work of Rob Deer, Danny Heep and Dickie Thon.
Ojeda and Hammaker proceeded to make it a pitching duel for the next few innings and, after 3 and a half innings, the score remained 0-0.
But Steve Lombardozzi would have none of that.

Following a pitching change for the Twos, Oil-Can Boyd took over for a slightly dehydrated Ojeda.
Boyd promptly gave a up a two run jack to Lombardozzi over the right field plastic baggy in Prospect Parkdome right field, sending the Ones to a 2-0 lead.
Hammaker continued to hold the Twos scoreless into the fifth, when discussion in the press box led to rampant speculation that this could very well become the first documented Buttermilk shutout in recorded history of ever.

But Tom Brunansky would have none of that. As if on cue, Brunansky hit a solo shot to right center giving the Twos their first run.

As the pitching duel wore on, the players remarked they enjoyed hearing the nearby park concert's energetic soundtrack, featuring such hits like Informer by Snow.

“Informer” cover
Described by The Internet as possibly the Best recorded song of all-time, Informer no doubt gave the Ones the needed motivation to blow the game open by taking advantage of several defensive miscues by the Twos.
Twos pitcher Dave Dravecky couldn't handle a two-out comebacker from Chet Lemon and the next batter, Lombardozzi took advantage of the miscue by parking the next pitch way over the centerfielder's head.
That smash landed in the middle of the nearby Cambodia-Versus-Laos Softball extravaganza and without missing a beat, the third baseman for the Laosian team spun around, bare-handed the drive and fired it all the way back into the Buttermilk field of play- thus limiting Lombardozzi to a triple.
Holding a firm 7-2 lead, the Ones led the way clear through the sanctioned 8 innings of Buttermilk action. But with the game moving along at such as swimming pace, play continued into an extra(?) ninth inning.
This allowed the Twos Steve Balboni to nail a homer off of Ones closer, Rob Dibble.
The homer wasn't without it's own hijinx, as rightfielder Tim Teufel fielded the ball and threw it to a Random Passing By School Kid Who Volunteered To Play Second Base For The Ones Despite Being Lefthanded And Not Realizing It Until He Had The Ball And Tried To Throw it With His Glove. It was random, it was eccentric, it was Buttermilky.

The 9th ended with the Rance Mulliniks grounding out and the final score settled at either 7-4ish.