Monday, June 11, 2007
FLAMES – 9 Rob/Paige – 6
FLAMES – 15 Drive - 10
BOMBERS – 18 Rockies – 13
BOMBERS – 16 Rockies – 13
One of the great things about playing a game like softball is that the possibility exists, in every game, of you seeing something you’ve never seen before. This week, I actually did two things I’ve never done before. Both of them were bad things that turned out good in the end because I’m one lucky son of a bitch.
On Tuesday, the Flames beat Rob/Paige, 9 – 6. Jason Atton got his first win of the season, giving up only six hits, but three of the six hits he gave up were home runs and he also walked six men. That’s why Rob/Paige scored six runs on only six hits.
You may be saying to yourself, “That’s not so weird, Sully. I’ve seen stuff like that before.” If so, two things:
1 – That wasn’t the weird thing that never happened before.
2 – You should stop talking to yourself.
No, the weird thing was something I did in the sixth inning.
There were runners on second and third, one out, and we were leading, 8 – 6. On a 1 – 1 pitch, I hit a very weak grounder back to the pitcher. Normally, you’d think the pitcher would look the runner on third back, then go to first to get me. What happened instead was that the pitcher looked over to third, but our runner (Eric Elam) had taken a few steps toward home already. The pitcher, thinking to catch Eric going back to third, threw to the third baseman.
Eric didn’t hesitate. As soon as he thought about what the pitcher had in mind, he took off for home. The pitcher had already committed to throwing to third, so he followed through and did. The third baseman, now seeing that he had just about no chance to catch Eric on a throw home, turned and fired to first. And that’s how I was out, 1 - 5 - 3 on a ground ball, but got an RBI in the process.
Weird enough for you?
I’ll tell you - and so will everybody else on the field, except the umpire – I was safe. I’m an old fart and I’ve slowed down a lot, but not that much. When I saw the weak grounder, I didn’t exactly run like the wind. That was wrong. I figured I was out, anyway, but that’s not how the game should be played and I should have been digging. Then, when the throw went to third, I slowed down even more. I figured I was safe then. Again, that’s not how the game should be played. I still should have been digging. When I looked up and saw the first baseman expecting a throw, I finally ran all out. And I was safe. The umpire called me out, though, so that’s the way it goes into the book. I can’t have any complaint about it. I wasn’t playing the game the way it should be played. I should have been out on general principles, and I probably was.
Eric’s hustle gave us that extra insurance run – and gave me an undeserved RBI, so thank you, Eric! We held them scoreless in their next at-bat and won.
Never-before-seen weirdness #2 came on Thursday when we played The Drive.
We had beaten them earlier this year, 9 – 7, behind Jack Atton’s seven-strikeouts-in-six-innings pitching. This time around, neither Jack nor Jason Atton was available, so we turned to Bob Ridley to pitch.
I’ve mentioned Bobby here before. He’s 79, no typo. And while there are a handful of guys my age (50) or close to it, most of the guys in this league are in their 20’s and 30’s. Think of it. He’s playing against a majority of guys who are one-third his age. He’s played more years than twice the age of just about everybody else.
Here’s how old Bobby is: When he was 18, the color line was still a part of major league baseball. When he was 20, the only black player in the show was Jackie Robinson.
I mention this stuff not to make fun of Bobby, but because I have great respect and admiration for him. He’s old, but he’s a valuable member of our team. We don’t keep him around out of sentiment. He contributes. And he’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever played with, too.
Anyway, Bobby pitched and we won, 15 – 10. Our record moved to 5 and 3, while Bobby’s went to 2 and 0.
79-year-olds winning games is rare, but once again you’d be wrong to think that the weird thing is the first thing I mention. Here’s the weird part.
Since there are three games played on Clemente Field each night our league plays, the games are under a time limit. The games are scheduled for 6:15, 7:45, and 9:15. So, as you can see, the time limit is an hour and a half. This night, we had the 9:15 game.
After 3-1/2 innings, we trailed 10 – 8. With that much scoring, there was no way we were going to make a regulation seven innings. At this point, Bobby was getting pretty tired, too. He had pitched four for us. He had done his job well enough. There were a couple of errors and a couple of bad calls. He deserved to have given up less than 10.
Here’s where I get to extol the virtues of my manager, Pete Mittell.
I say this with all kindness, but sometimes it appears that Pete might not have his head in the game. He’ll be making up the line-up as we bat in the first, and he usually has to ask someone else if we’re home or away that night. However, when it comes to in-game strategy, he’s pretty damned good. As an ex-manager myself, I have to admire how he worked this game to every possible advantage for us.
Pete knew that we were approaching the time limit somewhat rapidly. It was about 10:15. We might only get one more chance at this. He also knew that the lights, which are supposed to go off at 10:45, had been going off at about 10:35 all season. So, here’s what he did.
First, he pinch-hit for Bobby to lead off the bottom of the fourth. He knew that Bobby was tired and that we needed runs more than we needed another inning out of Bobby. Pete’s son, Chris, was sent up. He’s a smart batter and was a good choice to lead an inning. He was patient and drew a walk.
Now it went back to the top of the order. I drew another walk behind Chris. A fielder’s choice wiped me out at second. Carl Hyman’s sac fly scored Chris. We’re down 10 – 9, two outs, runner on first, Dave Vargas up.
Dave hit an absolute moon shot to left. We went up 11 – 10. That started a parade, all with the two outs. By the time we had batted around, plus a second at-bat for pinch-hitter Chris, we had a 15 – 10 lead.
However, we had no pitcher.
Stroke of genius number two for Pete: He sent ME in to pitch.
I don’t say “stroke of genius” because I’m some kind of great pitcher. As a matter of fact, I suck. I suck harder than a vacuum cleaner factory. I suck harder than a porn star convention. I... well, I just plain suck. That’s all there is to it. So, why is it a stroke of genius to put in the worst pitcher on your staff?
Simple. The time when the lights would go out was fast approaching. There were only two possible outcomes. If, by some miracle, I pitch decently and get the other guys out, good. We still lead and we have our at-bats again and we either add to our lead or the lights go out and we win. If I do what you'd expect me to do, which is to suck mightily, then the other guys can keep batting all night, except the lights will go out and then the rules say we revert to the last complete inning, so no harm done. We still win. The only thing that could screw up this scenario was if I was mediocre, giving them just enough to take the lead, and then we don’t score enough to take it back, with the lights staying on long enough for all of this to happen.
Luckily for us, I sucked.
I gave up back-to-back singles, then a walk, then another single, and then two more walks, then a grand slam. The score was 17 – 15, them. I still hadn’t gotten anyone out, either.
The manager of The Drive, no strategic slouch himself, realized what was going on and invoked a little-known ASA rule. He told the plate umpire that he now wanted to take three outs, which he was entitled to do. Under ASA rules, a team can give themselves up like that. It’s a rare situation when you’d want to take three outs, but here was a situation for which that rule had been written. Smart move by him.
Now, trailing 17 – 15, we had to bat. If we score three runs, we win. If we score two, we tie - and that’s how it ends, since there won’t be time for another complete inning. If we make three outs without scoring at least twice, The Drive win and their manager is the genius.
Or yours truly can be batting leadoff in the inning, take four pitches for a walk, and have the lights go out just as he’s beginning his trot down to first base. Game over. Score reverts back to the last complete inning. We win, 15 – 10. My ERA goes from 49.00 back down to 0.00, and instead of my being the losing pitcher, 79-year-old Bobby Ridley gets his second win of the season. Instead of us falling to fourth or fifth place, we take possession of second. And Pete Mittell is a managerial genius.
And another thing that you probably never even considered before has happened in the game of softball.
Sunday’s games, playing for the Bombers, couldn’t possibly top those, could they?
Tune in tomorrow.
(Sorry! It’s been a long day. Hang in there. It will be worth the wait.)