Tuesday, June 10, 2008
I have a long stupid story to tell. Take your shoes off and get comfortable. Have a glass of milk and some chocolate cake. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.
I’m not playing softball this year.
(Hey, I heard that! You’re saying, “Damn it, Jim, you think I don’t know this? You’ve told me this at least 20 times since last summer. Get on with the stupid story!”
Listen up, smarty-pants. If I didn’t tell you all of the little details, it wouldn’t be a LONG stupid story, so it was necessary. Also, there could be somebody else who just now stumbled upon this blog – perhaps while looking for poodle grooming tips – and we wouldn’t want that person to have no idea why I was wearing jeans, would we? No, of course not. Despite the occasional use of profanity, you and I are nice folks – especially you, since I’m the one who uses the profanity – and the wearing of jeans is integral to the story, so if I don’t tell the person looking for poodle grooming tips that I’m not playing softball this year, then he or she won’t understand why my money and credit cards ended up in Saugus, which is why I have to buy the parking lot attendant a nice sandwich next week.
See? It’s all very simple. Have some more cake. I’ll put the coffee on.)
Having retired from competitive fast-pitch softball following last season (which, if you want an even longer stupid story – the WAR & PEACE of long stupid stories, really – you could go here first to read all about my final season, and then come back in a couple of weeks) I was not expecting to be on a ballfield this past Thursday evening. Sometimes, however, our expectations get shot to hell. For instance, imagine how you felt at the beginning of this tale as compared to how you feel now.
Be that as it may – and it may as well be, since we’re going nowhere fast – I was sitting at work on Thursday morning, minding my own business in a pair of off-white chinos, when I get a phone call from Pete Mittell. If you already knew that I’m retired from softball, then you probably remember that Pete is the coach of the team I used to play for on weeknights. Of course, if you just stopped by for poodle grooming tips, you have no idea. As a matter fact, you’re probably dead by now – or, at least, kicking your dog - because how much of my bullshit could you possibly take without having built up an immunity beforehand?
Now, where was I? I know it had something to do with softball...
Oh, yeah. So, Pete calls me and says, "Sully, I need you tonight."
(The name of the softball team is The Flames, and we play in The Fens. If you’re from Boston, then you know that there are a hundred different gay jokes I could make right now. I won’t. They’re too obvious, even for a corny sucker like me. If you’re not from Boston, that’s your problem.)
Here’s the thing: After I officially retired last year, I told Pete that he could keep me on his "emergency" roster; guys to call if he had no other options and he’d otherwise be forced to forfeit a game for not having enough players. Being as he has about 19 able-bodied twenty-somethings at his disposal, I really wasn’t expecting him to call in a 51-year-old broken down catcher to come play on a muddy field in a 55-degree drizzle.
(See above, concerning the meeting of expectations.)
Since I’m a man of my word - the word is "dipshit" - I told Peter that I’d see him at the field by 6:15, which was game time. I wasn’t going to wear my off-white chinos to play ball on a muddy field, though, so first I had to go home and change. I might make it there just as the first pitch was thrown, but I’d be there.
I left work a few minutes before 5pm and hustled home to change. Having retired after last season – did I already tell you about that? – I decided I had no use for the dirty, torn-up uniform pants I had been wearing all year. I threw them out. So, I have no softball pants. I needed to wear something that would allow movement, but also tight enough for me to wear a jock under them without the jock shifting around. I might be dumb, and this might be a long stupid story, but it does not hinge upon me getting my testicles hit by a softball (which, contrary to the name, is not soft at all, especially in comparison with my jewels.)
I found the tightest pair of jeans I owned and put them on. I’ll give you an idea of how old these jeans are. They have a button fly. I think I bought them in 1975. I was rather pleased to still be able to get into them, actually. I checked the pockets to see if I had left any good drugs in them back then, but no luck.
After seeing that the pants fit, I then undid the buttons and slipped my jock on. After doing up the buttons again, I looked at myself in the mirror. The combination of the extremely tight jeans and a jock cup made me look as though I might be heading to do a scene in a remake of Deep Throat. It was an example of extreme untruth in advertising. I still had my old uniform shirt, which I now decided to wear untucked, lest I be arrested on some sort of indecency charges on my way to the ballfield.
The ballfield is over by The Museum Of Fine Arts. I drove towards the museum, planning to park on one of the streets by it. If there were no on-street spots, I’d park in the museum’s paid lot. As it turned out, no freebies were available. I pulled into the lot, up to the automatic ticket dispenser, took a ticket, and parked at the far end, as close to the field as possible. It was about 5 minutes before the game. I opened the trunk, grabbed my cleats (and one dilapidated batting glove) and stuffed the parking ticket into my inside jacket pocket, along with my car keys.
I arrived at the field to the general approbation of my loving former teammates ("Sully? What the hell are you doing here? Didn’t you retire?") and took as good a warm-up as possible considering the lateness and the miserably wet and cold weather. After a few half-hearted sprints up and down the first base line, I was about as ready as I was ever going to be.
Jack Atton was pitching. Just as I was about to take the field to warm him up, I realized that I had my money and credit cards and such in my jeans pocket. I didn’t want my valuable stuff to get muddy and wet, so I asked Jack if he’d mind putting them in his equipment bag until after the game. He agreed, so I gave him my stuff to hold. Then we went out onto the field.
It was fun being back in a game, despite the muddy conditions. I knew my legs would be a bit sore the next day, from the squatting, but I also knew I could certainly use the exercise. What with not playing, I’m easily ten pounds heavier than I had been any other year at this time.
The Flames got off to a quick lead, Jack pitched nicely, and we won, 16 – 2. For my part, I only caught the first two innings. After that, Pete had found someone else to take my place. He asked me if I wanted to take my turn at bat in the second inning. I told him sure, why not? I’m happy to report that I drew a base-on-balls, came around to score, and thus am in the Flames record books with a perfect season. I watched the rest of the game from the bench, cheering on my old teammates and enjoying being on the winning side.
After the game, I was ready to walk back to my car at the museum lot, when Jack said, "Come on, Sully, I’ll give you a ride over there. I’m parked right here."
That was nice of him. I accompanied Jack and his son, Pat, as they drove me to the lot. When we got there, I hopped out, thanked them for the ride, and waved as they drove away. I walked to my car. I popped open the trunk and changed from my cleats back into my sneakers. I hopped into the car, started it, and drove up to the gate.
I fished the ticket out of my jacket pocket, and then went to my jeans pocket for money to pay for my parking. It was at this point I realized that my money, my credit cards, my driver’s license, and every other thing that could have been of any use to me, was enjoying a ride to Saugus in Jack's equipment bag.
Ever have those dreams where suddenly you find yourself naked in public? That's how I felt, except for the naked part. I might as well have been bollicky bare ass, though, since I was in just as uncomfortable a situation.
What could I do? I had no way to get my car out of the lot. I was wearing muddy jeans, it was cold and drizzly, and tap-off for the first game of the NBA playoffs was happeing in less than an hour. I wasn't about to miss that. I gave some serious consideration to trying to squeeze my car through a space to the side of the gate. There might have been enough room. Or I could have gone all action-adventure flick and just crashed through the wooden arm. In the end, I decided not to give myself the future headache of having been caught on video destroying museum property, and I went with the more sane option of copping a plea with the security guard at the gate.
I am nothing if not eloquent. I used my silver tongue, my comprehensive powers of persuasion, and my convivial glibness. Being overwhelmed by my personality, the guy let me go. Actually, it was probably either that I looked overwhelmingly pitiful or slightly deranged. Or maybe the guy just got as sick of listening to me as you probably are right at this very moment. In any case, he was a nice guy, and I tried to get an address from him where I could send the parking fee, once I got my life back from Jack, but he said he was putting it down as a lost wallet - the truth, of course - and that I didn't have to pay at all. I told him that I'd at least bring him a sandwich or something the next time I was in the area. And I will, too. I hope he likes pepper steak and cheese subs.
I got my stuff back from Jack on Sunday, so all's well that ends well, I guess. However, I think God was sending me a message. I said I was retiring from softball - I did mention this to you, I think - and He was saying, "Jim, you can't tell people hundreds of times that you're retiring from softball, but then go and play softball, anyway. If you do it again, it will be a lot worse than just temporarily misplacing the contents of your jeans pocket. And, by the way, don't ever wear those jeans again, unless you're cruising to have me part what's left of your hair with a lightning bolt. Good Me! Those things should have been in the trash back in 1982."
Soon, with more better stuff.