Friday, June 22, 2012

Blood, Sweat, No Tears

Over the past two weeks, two pitchers I am friends with were hit in the face by batted balls.

Both my good buddy, Big Jay Atton (left), and my current teammate on Quencher, Steve Mills (right), are OK, Thank God, but it's always scary when someone gets one in the mush. In their honor, I now present this re-print from 2006, wherein I received the same treatment.

BLOOD, SWEAT, NO TEARS (from August, 2006)

"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.

[What a lie that turned out to be! - 2012 Jim]

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.


messymimi said...

And it's still good, or you wouldn't still be doing it..

Hope the rest of your season turns out to be fabulous.

Tabor said...

I guess baseball games are as dangerous as things like fishing!

Buck said...

I don't remember reading this, so I guess I haven't been around yer place as long as I thought. Softballs ain't all THAT soft, are they?

IT (aka Ivan Toblog) said...

Shades of Herb Score
I guess you can be thankful a softball loses velocity faster than a baseball and has less density
My own experience involved being decked at second base by a late throw from right field
If I hadn't fallen on top of the base, I could've been tagged out
Talk about adding insult to injury

Suldog said...

IT - Funny thing, which I didn't mention in the blog, since it seemed way too esoteric, but since you mentioned Herb Score...

As soon as I was on the ground (well, just after saying "Oh, shit" and thinking about the pebbles in my mouth that I hoped weren't teeth) I thought of a pitcher by the name of Carlton Willey, who threw for, among others, the 1964 Mets. I remembered reading, as a kid, how he had had his jaw fractured by a line drive back at him, and thinking how terrifying that must have felt. And I now wondered if he had basically thought all the same things I was thinking.

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

Really, not much more I can say than - Dude...ouch!

Michelle H. said...

Ugh. Ball in face is just the worst.

If you had a dollar for every time you claimed you would retire, well, you wouldn't be rich but you could buy some hot curry food to tackle that cold.

Karen said...

I got a line drive to my belly when I was a kid playing neighborhood baseball. Knocked the wind outta me!

Chris@Knucklehead! said...

"How often do you get a chance to be macho in a softball game?" GREAT line.

Also, reminds me of the comedian Brian Regan's bit on softball (look it up).

"Why's it even called SOFTball? It's not like you get hit in the face with a softball and say, HEY, THAT WAS DOWNY SOFT! FELT LIKE COTTON! NO, NO, DON'T WORRY, THAT'S JUST BLOOD LITE!"

Uncle Skip, said...

I've been hit in the face with a baseball ...twice.
Once at the end of year fifth grade picnic I was playing catcher (with a first baseman's glove and no mask ...heck, no equipment) and was nailed just below the right eye. Fortunately it was the fifth grade so it's not like it was a 90mph fastball.
The other time I was running the bases (in Little League) and a second baseman managed to plant one upside my nose. There were a few tears on that one, but it had more to do with where it hit me than anything else. Again it was only surface damage, meaning, of course, unless you actually saw it happen, it was almost unnoticeable.

joeh said...

Thats why I am a bowler. You can get killed if you get hit in the face with a bowling ball, but it hardly ever happens.


Barbara Shallue said...

I guess it's good it hit you in the throat and not the nose, but OUCH! I can't believe you got up and pitched some more. I pitched in a company softball game once and got hit in the crotch - the batter had played for the Green Bay Packers before coming to work at the plant. He was profusely sorry. He still apologizes! And everyone was grateful I was the pitcher and not them. :)

Stephen Hayes said...

You're luck to still have all of your teeth after this experience. You still do, don't you?

Angela Christensen said...

ALWAYS (and yes, I meant to shout) when you talk about softball, which I translate in my head to baseball and love no less. All those years of Little League seem to be summoned to the surface like bubbles in a geyser when I read 'em. So (slightly revised): A gentleman and a player. And I mean both in the nicest way.

Craig said...

Back in the days when I played a lot more softball than I do now, I usually divided my time between first base and the outfield. One day, though, our third baseman couldn't make it, so they had me fill in there, since, you know, I could play first, and third is like, the same position on the other side of the infield (well, no, not really, but you know what I mean).

Man, there must just be one helluva lot more strong right-handed pull hitters than there are similar lefties, 'cuz I got drilled - chest, shoulder, leg (no teeth, thank God) - three times in the first two innings I played there, and I can't remember EVER getting drilled playing first. . .

Shammickite said...

Ouch! That hurts!
My beautiful DIL is brill softball player and she plays on a ladies league on Monday nights. I usually go to watch. She's pretty good at being aware when a ball comes towards her, but some of the other ladies aren't so fast, and my DIL can really throw and she's hit some of them.... mostly body blows so far, none in the fissog yet.

Christine Macdonald said...

I just lost my Lady Wood.

Jackie said...

Oh my goodness! (Sounds like Shirley Temple...but that's exactly the way I feel after I've read this!) Oh my goodness! I'm soooo glad that you didn't have any long-term ill effects from the hit you took. I cringed when I re-read this. I had to re-read it, though. Just wanted to make sure that you were all right. Why is it that we read tragic things more than once? Sigh
I'm also glad that Big Jay and Steve are OK. Were they pleased that you presented this blog today in their honor? You are a great bunch of guys.
Take care of you...please.
I played 3rd base when I was in college. Loved that throw from 3rd to first. I used to fire that ball straight, hard and fast 'back in the day.' There were some guys that were envious of my throwing arm. Sigh... Those days are long gone, now... :))

GB said...

Strange game. I've never understood why you can't play cricket like everyone else.

lime said...

yikes! glad you weren't seriously hurt but yikes anyway!

Quirkyloon said...

Ha! Not that you biffed it, but because if I ever hit the ground I'd be soooo worried what my butt looked like as well as pebbles on the ground.