Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Blood, Sweat, No Tears

"Time! The ball is dead!"

What did the umpire say? Who's dead?


I was asked after the game if everything went in slow motion when it happened, like you might see in the movies. Nope. Fast as hell. If it happened in slow motion, I would have caught the damned thing.

"Sully, are you OK?"

I ran my tongue around my mouth to see if I still had all of my teeth. Yup. Oh, shit, what about the implants? Yeah, no problem.

"Yeah, I'm OK."

"Do you have all your teeth?"

I checked again.

"Yeah, I'm OK."


It's odd the things you think about when you're lying on the ground. The first thing I thought was, "They should really rake this field more often. Too many pebbles."

I guess it wasn't really too odd, though, since I had a few of the smaller ones in my mouth.


Two batters previous, there was a soft liner a couple of feet over my head. I reached up to catch it, but it was already past me. I swore. I knew that if my reflexes were just a bit younger, it would have been the second out of the inning.

Then, one batter previous to it happening, a one-hopper bounced over my head. I swore more vigorously. That should have been the third out and I should have been back on the bench.

Since I had proven that I couldn't use my glove quickly enough to catch the balls that came close to me, God had no other alternative than to have me stop the next one with whatever part of my body was available at the time. It turned out to be my face. I guess that's what I got for swearing.


We were the visiting team, so we batted first. I led off the game by drawing a walk. That pretty much turned out to be the highlight of the evening. We failed to score and then our opponents plated four runs in the bottom of the first.

We got one back in the top of the second, but after the bottom of the second the game (and the season) were pretty much a done deal. Fifteen runs. We trailed 19 - 1 after two innings.

I hate to give you the impression that the Linwood Flames are that bad of a team. We really aren't. It was just one of those innings where everything went wrong; easily the worst inning of the year for us. Only one error, and the other team doesn't score fifteen runs without hitting the ball pretty well, but there were a whole bunch of pops that fell between fielders and stuff like that.

Anyway, we get into the third inning and they're still scoring. I had been playing first base and I got the ball back from an outfielder after a home run. I toss the ball back to our pitcher, but now Kevin (a coach) yells out from the bench, "OK, Sully, it's your turn", with a tone of voice that sounded only slightly sadistic.

I took the ball from the departing pitcher, placed my right foot on the rubber and started tossing warm-ups. Felt pretty good, actually. After only four or five, I told the ump I was set. He called the next batter into the box. On a 1 - 1 count, he grounded out hard, third to first.

The next batter hit a fly to right. I'm halfway to the bench, savoring the thought that I got out of the inning with no further damage, when the right fielder dropped the ball. The batter had barely bothered to run, so he only made first. Oh, well. I can get the next guy.

Nope. The next guy hit a rocket to right. Two more runs in. I then got the third guy. Well, actually my center fielder got him. It was a decent liner that he ranged to his left to snag on the run.

I'm back on the bench now, telling my manager that I feel pretty good and I'd like to throw another inning, if that's OK.

He said, "OK?!? You're probably throwing the next four, Sull. You're pretty much it."

Not too long after that, I was counting my teeth and complaining in my head about the number of pebbles on the field.


So, it was first and second, one out. I honestly can't remember even seeing the ball. I distinctly remember it hitting my throat first and then my jaw, which is odd since there's so little space between them. I may have gotten a small piece of my glove in front of it, but I don't know for sure. All I recall is thinking, "Oh, shit" and hitting the ground. I'm not sure if the thought preceded the hit or vice-versa.

I heard the umpire calling time. I checked my mouth for teeth. Everybody from both benches was coming towards the mound as I got up. Kevin or Kurt asked me about my teeth. I said I was OK. Then someone told me I was bleeding, which I was. It was just a couple of scrapes where the ball had hit my jaw, although I was still dazed enough so that when I put my hand up to my face and saw blood on it when I took it back down, I wasn't sure where it was from.

Then someone from the other team pointed out that there was a bit of blood from my mouth. That worried me. I checked my teeth again. No, they were fine. I spit. Yeah, a bit of red. Where was it from? I guess when I went down I either bit my inside lower lip or the small pebbles in my mouth had cut it.

As he saw that I wasn't going to die, the opposing batter apologized for hitting me. Nice of him, but it wasn't like he was trying to kill me. That's just the way it goes sometimes. He held out his hand and I touched my glove to it. It was the kind of moment that would have received a thunderous ovation if there was a big crowd at our games, but since there were only ten or twelve people in the stands, I think the only noise came from the geese in left field honking.

Kurt kind of took my arm and started to lead me to the bench. All things considered, it would have been the smart thing for me to do, to take a seat. However, how often do you get a chance to be macho in a softball game? I said I wanted to stay in. Against his better judgment, he let me. So, now the bases were loaded. I threw a couple of warm-ups, just to make sure I was OK. Yeah, no worse than usual. Next batter.

Grand slam. Now Kurt comes to get me again. I beg him for one more batter. I'm really (honestly) finally figuring out this pitching stuff. I know the secret now. The idea is to avoid the hitter's bat.

I struck out the next batter, swinging, and got the final out on, I believe, a pop to Kurt at first. Now I was definitely out of the game. End of the season for me.


A nice guy in the stands - no idea who he was - went to a store and got a couple of chemical ice packs when he saw me get hit. As I came back to the bench, he was just getting back from the store or wherever and he handed them to me. I thanked him profusely. I would have bought him a beer after the game, but this game was so bad he was gone by the time it ended.


So, that's the end of my weekday season. Good bunch of guys on that team. I'm hoping to come back for one more year and I hope all of them will be there, too. We're much better than this. I'd like to see us prove it.

Four more games on Sundays - two this Sunday, two the next - and that will be it for the entire season. No playoffs for that team. My championship drought has now reached 42 years. Next year I'm 50 and I really, honestly, truly think it will probably be the last one for me. One more chance.

So, I said yesterday that I'd leave every bit of sweat I had in me on the field. That turned out to be true. I didn't know I'd leave some blood, too. No tears, though. It's all good. It always is.

Soon, with more better stuff.


James Cooper said...

Wow, I've never taken a softball to the neck/face but that gave me a phantom twinge. Still, I'm impressed you not only got back in there but managed to strike a guy out. Good job for sticking it through, regardless of the end score. And, at the very least, I expect you came out of it looking better than Magazine Man after his recent experience :-P

Sharfa said...


Who put an age limit on playing baseball? You love the game too much to stop, and the only reason you should ever stop playing is when you are too old to walk.

I like your new look.

Suldog said...

James - Not too bad, really. I've got a red bruise running from just left of my adam's apple up at a diagonal to midway between my goatee and my ear. The only pain in the ass (so to speak) is that it's too sore to shave, so I look even scriffier than usual.

Sharfa - You make it one vote for the new look, two votes against. Not much of a sampling, but so fat it looks like the old template may come back.

Stu said...

Speaking of Magazine Man, your post was worthy of his pen. A simple tale of truth, of a moment in time that becomes a photograph, to be passed around and shared. Well done, well done.

Stu said...

Also, I'm not fully endorsing the return of the previous layout. I loved the previous look, but time marches on, and we progress or we die. What I am voting for is Art. Meaning a soulful representation of how you feel in the moment. If what is there now looks like how you feel, cool. But if it doesn't, dig through the other layouts, read up on making custom headers, and create Art. At least, that's my vote.

Suldog said...

Thank you, Stu. High praise, indeed.

I actually prefer the old layout, myself, otherwise I wouldn't have chosen that one. However, as I think I said before, every time I accessed my blog from some computer other than my regular one, it came up looking decidedly wonky. And if that was a problem for other folks, then the cleaner layout is a solution.

Oh, if only I knew how to design a template myself. It would, indeed, be art. Unfortunately, I am at the mercy of my ignorance.

Sharfa said...

Have you tried looking for a new blogger template here: http://www.blogskins.com/ ?

There are over 10k custom blogger templates. Maybe you'll find something you like better?

I was very nervous about making the change at my place. The first thing I did was save a word doc with the old template, just in case. I was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was to switch & do small tweaks. It was a lot less painful than say - a baseball in the face.

Customizing something might be as simple as switching out a pic with one of yours - as long as you have someplace to host the pic.

Kailani said...

Boy, glad to hear that you're okay. I mean, you must be since you're still blogging and all. Hope you're not still hurting too much!