(Dearly Beloved wrote this several months ago and he and our older two kids had a big chuckle over this experience they shared. Yesterday when I wrote about my own softball experiences and added a little about one of his as I remembered it, DB informed me that I wasn’t there and I didn’t have it right. I said, “Okay, I’ll use your version” and copied it to my own computer. Moses would have had a better chance of changing The Ten Commandments than I had to change so much as a comma of this. His Authorship sat with his copy and matched it against what I had entered. For instance, I’d entered Mom, Guess What! but NO, that changed the entire meaning. Here is DB’s story…word for word. I swear…word for word.)
MOM! GUESS WHAT!
Two or three years after my retirement from competitive softball due to age, a knee injury, and a growing family, our small church started a church league team. I declined their repeated requests to play, but finally gave in after our children asked me to play and my wife said it would be a good family experience, sportsmanship, and all that.
The team was horrible. They were a good group of guys but they undoubtedly were the worst players I had ever seen on one team. Most had never played anything close to organized ball. Some I don’t think had even played at all. At our only practice, routine pop-ups would fall to the ground untouched. Hushpuppies rivaled sneakers as the shoe of choice. Only two or three had baseball cleats. One of the guys who had cleats claimed that he had played on many teams and with emphasis pronounced, “I’m a centerfielder.”
So our centerfielder he was. He had not shown for our only practice. In the first inning of our first game, a routine lazy fly ball was hit to left center field, more center than left. Our centerfielder roamed under the ball, yelling, “I got it! I got it! It’s mine!”
Then we all stared at him in surprise when he began quickly backpedaling away from the ball, softly saying, “Take it, it’s yours.”
He didn’t exactly whisper, but it was close. The backpedaling was exaggerated by waving his arms as if he was an umpire calling a runner safe.
After several games into the season, word of our lack of skills, or ultimate futility, had circulated throughout the league. But it was a church league; the other teams weren’t all that good either. So, although our skills were embarrassing, no team had or even tried to embarrass us. We were doing a fine job of that ourselves.
That changed when we played the best team in the league. They were from a small rural town that only had one team and that was the church team, so all the good players in town played on it. They actually had full matching uniforms, whereas the rest of the teams only had matching jerseys. Jerseys we did have, thank you very much.
They generally beat the other teams by ten or more runs. Since the other teams beat us by ten or more runs already, we were expecting a rout. And it came.
We were playing on our field, a nice peaceful spot with green grass and shady trees. To be corny…it was heavenly. Unfortunately, the heavens weren’t smiling on us in the visitors’ half of the first inning. They scored more than ten runs before we ever came to bat. Worse, though, was their mocking of our ineptitude. They ridiculed our every move. Our moves were ridiculous, all right, but not all of them.
Their biggest offender was Big Bubba. Everything unflattering you picture with that name fits. Plus, he wore enormous white baseball cleats that turned up on the end. Toward the end of their first at-bat, Big Bubba hit a ball to right field that of course our right fielder misplayed. I was playing third and as the throw rolled weakly into the infield, Big Bubba hit me with his shoulder as he went by. Although some say otherwise, I say intentionally.
I ran and got the ball. Bubba was lumbering toward home plate when I let loose of the ball as hard as I could at the back of his head. (It was softball.) It whizzed past his ear so hard it clanged into the backstop at full speed. I charged toward Bubba. He spun around, dumbfounded, at home plate. Players grabbed us both and order somewhat returned, temporarily.
I was third up in our half of the first inning. Bubba played first. As he threw infield warm-ups, he indignantly smoked a cigarette, crooking it in the corner of his mouth. I let the first two balls go by and then I got one I wanted…on the outside right of the plate. I turned toward first and lined it as hard as I could at Bubba’s head. I hit it too hard. It sailed over Bubba’s head and the right fielder’s as well.
Now Bubba was a good player, so before I could get to first, he was headed for the pitcher’s mound to line up the throw from right to third base. I rounded first and headed full steam for the pitcher’s mound. Bubba didn’t have a chance. I hit him with a forearm shiver across the neck. As he gasped for air, I headed for second…third…then home. Bubba was still standing in wonderment as I crossed home and started again for the pitcher’s mound.
The preacher came out pleading, “Please! This is a Christian ballgame!”
The other players gathered around us and there was the typical posturing. I was witty and brave. Oh yeah, and mature. Remember, I had my two children there. Bubba was none of those. We went back to our places. I was called out for running out of the base path, but was allowed to stay in the game since we didn’t have enough players. Bubba was sent to the bench were he sat quietly for the rest of the game.
After the game, I had cooled down, but Bubba had gone to their bus before the teams gathered to shake hands.
My wife and I have never kept secrets, but this was something I felt served no good purpose for her to know about and I told my daughter and son so on the ride home. I don’t think there was an official bribe involved, but I may have indicated that good things might happen to those who kept their mouths shut.
My wife was hosting a bridge party in our modest suburban neighborhood. All the ladies were young mothers and any evening out was special. A bridge party gave then a chance to practice being sophisticated adults with dignified friends. What mood may have been established before we got there was destroyed when our daughter and son flung open the door, yelling almost in unison, “Mom! Guess what! Dad got in a fight.”
That was the end of my softball career.