Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Brief History

[Backside of me then, backside of me now. Not too shabby considering the 15 years in between. Screw Pilates, ladies! I owe my ass to catching!]

The title is a lie. At least, it will certainly appear so to the 97% of you who won't give a rat's ass concerning the subject matter. Since the regular season begins this weekend, I now present a brief history of my Sunday softball team, The Bombers.

(OUCH! The sound of hundreds of people simultaneously leaving a blog is loud!)

For the three of you remaining, here's the story of our inaugural season - 1995.

The Bombers came into existence via an advertisement in the pages of Sports PLUS, a Friday supplement to the Boston Globe. Much of that section was geared to participation in sports, as opposed to sitting on your ass and watching others play games on TV. Space for free advertisements, similar to classifieds, was provided for those who sought players for various leagues and activities. Having recently moved to Watertown in 1995, I scanned the ads looking for a local fast-pitch softball league I might like to join. I saw an ad for tryouts for a Saturday morning league in Brighton. I decided to go and give it a shot.

When I arrived at the field for the tryouts, there were a goodly number of players, perhaps 15 or 16, milling about waiting for the organizer of the event to show up. I had been slightly apprehensive concerning my age - I was 38 at the time - wondering if I'd be much older than most of the guys who came down. Imagine that. Given my age now - 53 - it seems ludicrous to have worried about that then, but what did I know? Anyway, the first person I struck up a conversation with was Stu Stone, who would turn out to be my teammate for 12 years in three different leagues. He certainly looked older than me - way older, as a matter of fact - which I found comforting. As it turned out, he was perhaps 45 or 46 then. And there were a couple of others around my own age, so no need to have worried.

The organizer showed up. For the life of me, I can't remember his name now. We'll call him Asshat. As we found out later, he was the manager of one of the established teams in the league. He handed out some short questionnaires for us to complete, and then he had us all take the field for batting practice. We took turns hitting (Asshat pitched) while the rest of us shagged flies, fielded grounders, or just stood around shooting the shit and getting to know one another.

Here's the important thing you need to know about our history. As I said, Asshat was already manager of an established team in the league. A fellow by the name of Ron Johnson was supposed to be manager of the team composed of guys who passed the tryout. However, Ron wouldn't be showing up until later. Meanwhile, Asshat got a good look at us and picked off 3 or 4 guys for his own team, leaving the other 12 or 13 of us for Ron to have. In other words, he scooped what he considered the cream before Ron got there, leaving Ron to piece together what amounted to an expansion team from what remained.

For the sake of this next part, you have to know that Ron was (and still is) black. He had been a member of a team called the Bowdoin Bombers (from Dorchester, a neighborhood of Boston) made up almost completely of black players. The team broke up for one reason or another, and Asshat asked Ron if he'd like to manage a new entry in the league. Ron, being a good guy and a softball lifer, agreed. So, now Ron shows up at the field and meets his new team. As he related it to me a couple of years later (with a big laugh) his first thought was, "Who are all these white guys?" After his initial shock wore off, he christened us the B-2 Bombers.

Ron is one of the truly nice guys in this world. If he had been more of a prima donna, he could well have taken one look at the ragtag bunch of honkies he was handed and just walked away. God knows he was good enough to find a slot as a player on another team; he carried our asses that first year, leading the team in most of the significant offensive categories. But, he's a gem of a human being, so he stuck around, did the coaching, and suffered through some seriously sub-par performances.

That first year was hideous. Ron augmented our roster with an old teammate of his (and I do mean old, as Jimmy Jackson was well past 50 at the time and ran the bases about as you might imagine Fred Sanford doing so, but he was still a good pitcher - and a great teammate - and I felt sorrier and sorrier for him as the year went on and he was ill-treated by some of our defensive efforts.) We finished last with a record of 6 - 21. A few decent players (I like to think I was one) escaped the clutches of the selfish prick who ran the tryouts, but we had more than our fair share of flakes, nuts, and head cases who thought they were superstars.

We had an outfielder named Jeff Scott who seemed to think it was his mission in life to antagonize the shit out of every other team in the league. Jeff was an OK ballplayer, but nowhere near as good as he thought he was. He considered himself a power hitter, so he swung from the heels at everything within a foot of the strike zone. He had one home run for the season, and about 55 huge pop ups. In the outfield, he styled as often as possible, catching fly balls with a downward snap of his glove that just totally dissed whoever had hit the thing. And then he'd often make some comment to the opposing player as he was running in towards our bench. I'm amazed somebody didn't croak the guy. If it had been me he was taunting, I'd have had to take a shot at him sooner or later. Of course, the other teams might have taken into account the number of catches he didn't make, and figured it was in their best interests to keep him healthy.

We had another guy, a Hispanic fellow named Eli, who once beat the shit out of a City of Boston rubbish receptacle after making an out. While we all watched, he took his bat, walked over to a trashcan behind our bench, and pounded it with 12 or 15 vicious strokes that would have served him a heck of a lot better had he hit the ball with one of them during his just-completed at-bat. He accompanied the beating with perhaps the most foul string of obscenities I have ever heard spewed on a ballfield, but some of it was in Spanish so I have to reserve judgment on that part of it. Both teams, as well as the umpire, just stood in awe watching the performance. Ron said something soothing during the tirade, aimed at calming Eli down, but it seemed only to spur him on to greater insane heights. Afterward, with his demons released, Eli returned to the bench and sat down, huffing and puffing from his workout, and the rest of us tried to slide as far away from him as possible without his noticing. We didn't want to take a chance at him mistaking any of us for a garbage pail.

(I've got to be honest here and admit to recreating Eli's act myself, a few years later, substituting a stone wall for the trashcan. I had just gone something like 0-for-6 in a one-run extra-inning loss. I was trying to break my bat, but all I succeeded in doing was to chip off a few pieces of the wall and leave myself with a ringing sensation in my hands for a few hours afterward.)

The highlight of the year was our first win, and a true highlight it was. Let me wrap this up by telling you about it.

We played a doubleheader every Saturday, and it was the second game of our fourth week. We were 0 - 7 thus far. There had been a couple of decent games, but overall we hadn't scared too many people. This game, however, was against Asshat's team, the guy who passed all of us onto Ron as though we were leftovers from a rummage sale in Bangladesh. We wanted to beat him, badly, and we hung tough. Going into the bottom of the seventh (seven inning games were, and are, the norm) we had a one-run lead.

We got an out, then they got a runner by way of a base on balls. We got a second out via a fly ball, the runner remaining on first. Then Asshat came up to bat. And we all got a sour taste in our mouths when he laced one down the left field line for a double. Jeff Scott's throw came in quick and on-target, holding the lead runner at third. We still had our one run lead, but now the tying and winning runs were in scoring position, two outs.

We didn't walk the next guy intentionally, which might have been the correct strategic move, but Jackson worked very carefully to him, giving him nothing really worth hitting. Ball One. Ball Two. Ball Three. Ball Four.

At the umpire's signal for the batter to take his base, Asshat claps his hands and starts jogging towards third. Halfway there, he looks up and wonders why the runner on third hasn't moved. And then he realizes why, and desperately tries to run back to second...

Our catcher pegged the ball to second, because everybody on the field - except Asshat - realized that he wasn't forced to third by the walk. Any advance was at his own risk.

"Out!", said the umpire.

"Aarrgghh!", said Asshat, as he lay in the dirt facedown, his outstretched fingers still an inch from second base.

And we all exploded as though we had won the damn World Series. In a way, I don't know if doing so could have topped it. It is, to this day, still the most satisfying feeling I've ever had following any one win on a diamond. And that's why I'm still playing at my age. I've never won a championship at any level, and I need to find out if it could possibly feel any better than that game.



Ron Johnson 50 28 0 0 8 27 .560 9 3 .627 1.040 1.667 16
Eric Cooper 55 26 3 1 0 9 .473 5 2 .517 .564 1.081 19
Scott Sarro 36 17 5 0 0 10 .472 10 0 .587 .611 1.198 17
Jim Sullivan 62 27 6 0 1 17 .436 13 3 .533 .581 1.114 15
Eli - 53 21 4 3 2 22 .396 4 3 .439 .698 1.137 8
Mike - 60 23 4 0 3 16 .383 4 1 .422 .550 .972 15
Scot Hathaway 79 30 4 0 2 16 .379 3 0 .403 .506 .909 21
Jimmy Jackson 66 24 3 1 0 15 .364 6 3 .417 .439 .856 16
Stu Stone 42 13 0 0 0 5 .310 1 0 .326 .310 .636 6
Jeff Scott 80 24 3 0 1 14 .300 2 0 .317 .375 .692 19
Paul B. 30 8 1 0 0 3 .267 2 1 .312 .300 .612 7
ALL OTHERS 101 31 2 2 2 13 .307 14 11 .391 .425 .816 19

TEAM 714 272 35 7 19 167 .381 73 27 .438 .529 .967 178


Jimmy Jackson 4 - 7
Scot Hathaway 1 - 2
Stu Stone 1 - 8
Ariel Monges 0 - 1
Al Lewis 0 - 3

BOLD = Team Leader

Notes: The only two players remaining from the original team are Ron Johnson and me. While I'm 53, Ron is now 57. Jimmy Jackson retired following the 2003 season, well past the age of 60, and only then because he had to have both knees surgically replaced. Stu Stone was a Bomber for 12 years.

Current Bombers Homepage

Thanks for indulging my nostalgia. I'll probably detail a few other seasons as this one rolls along to a conclusion.

Soon, with more better stuff.


Sniffles and Smiles said...

Revenge is soo sweet...and this was the BEST kind!!! Jim, I don't play baseball, but I LOVE your baseball posts...Keep 'em coming...this one is definitely an out-of-the ballpark, home run! Hugs, Janine

Jewels said...

VICTORY! sigh. I do so love a good story where the bullies go down in flames.

Michelle H. said...

This definitely wasn't brief, but it was entertaining (unless you were referring to your briefs in the photos, which is more understandable and more your nature, you naughty man.

I'm printing your story to read later, but wanted to leave a comment to let you know I am going to read it. Whether or not I'm going to wear briefs (or a woman's equivalent hereof) while doing the reading is my little secret ;-)

Expat From Hell said...

You really had me going with Asshat. Seems that baseball, like life itself, has so many lightning rods around like that. You just love to beat them any way you can, even picking their sorry asses off second base. And Reggie Jackson pushing his fat-ass hip into that throw to first in the World Series. Sometimes it never goes away, does it, 'Dog? EFH

Quirkyloon said...

I read the whole post and enjoyed it which is surprising.

I'm not a huge baseball fan, but I could totally relate to your wanting to give it back to Asshat. I'm glad the story had a happy ending.

Chris@Knucklehead! said...

Well told, Jim, and interesting. Asshat got what he deserved.

"rummage sale in Bangladesh."


Eva Gallant said...

I'm sorry, but zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Jeni said...

You really do have to love it when a player makes a mistake like that and then that team ends up losing pretty much because of that error! Great post, Jim. Love your stories, all of 'em!

Linda said...

I am sooo glad that Asshat went down!

20+ years ago I played softball in a completely unorganized group in town. Whoever showed up at the field that night played, male and female, we just divided the numbers in half. A lot of fun.

Craig said...

So - I'm guessin' you don't wear 29 in memory of Mickey Lolich. . .

That's a great story. I LOVE those stick-it-in-the-cocky-bastard's-face stories.

One game I still remember from back in the day, our team only had nine guys show up for the game, so we had to play with three outfielders instead of four. I usually played a kind of 'rover', but that day I was the right-fielder; and in that league, lots of teams were tryin' to hide their worst fielder in right field. The other team had a guy, who was their pitcher/manager, who was one of those charley-hustle-types who was always goin' for the extra base, tryin' to fluster the defense. So his first time up, he grooves his swing to hit to right field, figuring that our right-fielder (ie, me) would either not field it cleanly, or botch the throw when he scoots for second. I had the ball before he even got to first, but he took off anyway, and I just kinda looked at him like, 'what the hell?' and threw him out by twenty feet, leaving him to curse his luck for having to play against a right-fielder who could both field and throw. . .

Suldog said...

To clarify a question raised by Craig:

I wear 29 because...

A) I was that old when I first wore it, and as long as I keep wearing it I can pretend I still am.

B) Because it was Rod Carew's number, and he was one of the smartest players in the history of baseball.

C) Because it was Hank Finkel's number on the Celtics, and all true Celtics fans know that Hank Finkel always gave everything he had even if he wasn't the most talented guy on the team.

D) 29 is my lucky number.

Take your choice :-)

Daryl said...

Wow.. that was exciting .. not your post, Michelle's comment .. kidding, I kid ... this was as exciting as watching baseball ...

TechnoBabe said...

You are how old??? And you are still playing ball????

Uncle Skip, said...

I wore 13 because nobody else wanted it... at least until I wanted it.
Why did I want it? Because I was twelve and wanted to be thirteen. That's one of those achievable and measurable goals things.
I didn't know Mickey Lolich's number was 29.

IT said...

I wonder how many folks started reading this post because they thought it might be about underwear?

Carolina said...

I've tried. I've really tried. But I kept scrolling up to the very interesting photos. It's your own fault I still haven't read one of your baseball pieces ;-)

Jazz said...

Dude. Nice ass...

Now what was this post about?

Suldog said...

And Jazz wins the grand prize for comment I've been waiting to hear ever since I started writing this blog! Now that I've gotten it, I'm quitting :-)

Oh, OK, Carolina came close, and I think maybe Michelle did, too. And I know most of you were thinking it.

Um... Hello? Why is it so quiet in here all of a sudden?

Buck said...

The sound of hundreds of people simultaneously leaving a blog is loud!

Not me! A good story is a good story, even if accompanied by illustrations of dubious quality.

We'll call him Asshat.

Now if that had been your lede sentence it would be on par with "Call me Ishmael." ;-)

slommler said...

Ahhh! Sweet revenge!! I could just see Asshats' and embarrassed!! LOL!! Gotta love it!
That is so cool that you are playing ball! And I happen to love baseball!

Sandy Kessler said...

interesting stuff buns and all. joking...Boston keep pouring it on. I am thrilled..

Judi FitzPatrick said...

Thanks for the walk down your memory lane. Amazing that you've kept all that detail around.

Hope you guys have a great season.

Peace, Judi

Maggie May said...

Not one for baseball and not a sporty type, but liked the picture of your backside!
Maggie :-)

Nuts in May

Angela Christensen said...

Suldog, what a GREAT spring post. (Of course, I love baseball, and as I think I've told you - despite my age and size - loved coaching Little League as much as just about anything I've done.) As Michelle H. points out, it wasn't brief, but it was SO worth it. You had me at "Asshat". Thank you so much.

Mushy said...

Nice ass!

Teacher's Pet said...

I almost passed this one up...but knowing how well you write, I couldn't do it...and I'm so glad I didn't.
The place I physically LAUGHED OUT LOUD: "the rest of us tried to slide as far away from him as possible without his noticing. We didn't want to take a chance at him mistaking any of us for a garbage pail..." You are one fantastic writer.
I played 3rd base when I was in college...not for a league (of course)...but for our church team. I love the throw from third to first....zzzzzing...straight and fast. I'm 60 now...and I wish my butt and thighs were in the shape yours are....I'm not just saying that...You are in good shape, Jim.
Love this blog (have no ideas what any of those numbers mean...but that didn't stop me from enjoying reading about the sweet revenge that you enjoyed.
Good on ya!

Kathleen said...

Looks like you have more than 3 readers on this post, Suldog! A fine story with a very nice "ending."

lime said...

what a satisfying moment to have asshat hand you his own ass on a platter and have your team carve it up so well. bravo! what a great story.

and yeah, i live with 2 catchers, they both have fantastic rumps. ;)

Craig said...

Hmmmmm. . . now that I think of it, my three oldest sons have all been catchers at one time or another (I told 'em if they could catch, their coaches would love 'em, and they'd never lack for playing time), and they all have, um, pretty ample asses.

And here I was chalking it up to happy genetics. I have no ass at all, but they seem to have been bequeathed one of my wife's most outstanding, um, physical assets. . .

Karen said...

Nice ass. Didn't read the story. :P

Shrinky said...

I like a guy who is proud of his bum (I'm kinda' attatched to my own one, too)! Okay, this post was saved by the moral to it, much as I hate to admit to it, you even made this one worth reading (grin)..!

Matt Conlon said...

I say you should have stuck with "Jimi Larue" and changed the team to "Power-line Drive."

I love when people call other people asshat. No one's every really explained, is it a hat for your ass? Or a hat that IS an ass...?

Jenn said...

Here's to an excellent season with no more Asshats to contend with. But if you do get one I hope & pray they are called out exactly like that. Awesome!