Conversation Piece

I would not consider myself a good conversationalist, and you can’t convince me otherwise, because every time I take one of those personality tests, I end up with all the other socially awkward people.  But I have developed a few work-arounds over the years, and the one that I have field tested the most extensively is to ask people, “What is your favorite sports memory?”  This never fails to get a response and sometimes a good anecdote – I figure it is better than asking someone, “Have you read any good books lately?”  I am frequently surprised that some people’s favorite memory involves watching sports and not participating in them, which wasn’t really the point of the question, but I try not to be judgmental.  Of course, this topic usually gives me the opportunity to tell the story when I went “downtown” in a ladies softball game in the late 70s.

I was participating in a summer league where we were routinely clobbered.  We were a group recent college graduates mixed in with some of my mother’s contemporaries; none of us was really any good.  There was one particularly warm night where I remember a couple of our players had to retire due to an impending heat rash on their thighs.  I think that we might have had a few gals with fading baseball prowess, and perhaps one player who could heave it with all her might from third base all the way to first.  My skills were primarily related to my intimate knowledge of the baseball rules, borne of many hours watching the Cubs on TV with my grandfather after Sunday lunch at his house.  On my high school team, I was one of the few women who knew exactly when a dropped third strike was applicable, and that if you got hit by a pitch you were only awarded a free base only if you made an honest effort to get out of the way.  Unfortunately these rules did not apply in this league.  The catcher was not supposed to catch the ball, and since this was slow pitch softball, it was impossible not to get out of the way of the pitch.

We were proud to be sponsored by the local plumber – our team name was the Hoity Toities – but our opponents were bar teams who showed up with a coach, a cooler of beverages, real uniforms and cleats.  We all wore tennis shoes, and one of our plays once played an entire game in Minnetonkan moccasins.  There was one team that even sported home and away uniforms even though we always played on the same field.  After trying out several positions, I stationed myself at first base.  I clearly had no shotgun for an arm, and was shocked to realize that I threw like a girl and could do nothing to fix it.  At first base I didn’t have to field too many balls, nor throw them, and if the ball ever did come my way, it was because my teammates were trying to throw it exactly to me.  Offensively, I was marginal, and drifted down to batting at the bottom of the order.  I was also an extremely slow runner, and once I tripped and fell on the way to first base, which was all part of the fun.  

This is all by way of setting the stage for my one night of glory.  It was a nondescript  humid summer evening but as I stood at the plate, I suddenly realized that I was in an otherworldy zone, and I felt a cone of magical light shining down upon me.  I remembered an interview with George Brett, the power hitter for the Kansas City Athletics, who said that occasionally, out of the blue, everything would fall into place, the pitches would look like grapefruits and there was nothing that he could do but go “downtown” and hit homeruns. That night I was standing exactly in the same place, and I felt the magic.  When first pitch came in, everything suddenly slowed down, the ball hung there and I just stepped up and crushed it in a perfectly choreographed display of hand-eye coordination.  This was no bloop, dying quail or Texas leaguer but an absolutely frozen rope to dead center, blazing far beyond the dazed fielder.  Not bad for the 7th batter.  I slowly jogged around the bases to the cheers of my stunned teammates. 

Next time up, I don’t think that the pitcher realized that she was facing me again, and again I nailed it, this time over the left fielder’s head.  Another home run.  The third time I was up, I received probably the best athletic compliment I have ever had.  The pitcher recognized me, called time out, and turned around to her outfield and with a waving motion yelled, “It’s her again, everybody move back – way back!”  This of course is the flip side to the more typical gesture I have received when the pitcher waves the fielders in.   But my opponents were helpless – once again I hit a rocket over the left fielder.  There were no boundaries on this field and so no official home run, but as I was rounding third I could see that the left fielder was still chasing down the rolling ball.

Now just to illustrate that there is no such thing as total perfection, there was one slight disappointment to the evening.  I had a boyfriend in tow, who in fact was the only spectator in the bleachers.  After each homerun I would come to sit next to him, flushed, chest heaving from my jog around the bases, expecting some sort of recognition for this hall of fame performance.  But I got nothing, not a word.  In fact I think that he was reading a medical textbook, which he evidently found more compelling that someone who could hit 4 epic homeruns in a row.  I conjured up several possible scenarios – either he thought this was routine and expected no less (not likely and in any case an impossible standard to maintain), he felt intimidated to have such an athletic girlfriend and thus was in deep denial (not likely, lack of confidence was not an issue for him) or finally, he took it all in but didn’t give a rat’s ass (sadly, as it turned out, the truth).

The missing words in the following poem are anagrams (i.e. share the same letters like spot, post, stop) and the number of asterisks indicates the number of letters.  One of the missing words will rhyme with either the preceding or following line.  Your job is to solve the missings words based on the above rules and context of the poem.  Scroll down for answers. 

My offensive output was typically feeble and meager,

 A – – – – at a pitch might produce a weak Texas leaguer.

 But the outfield had to keep – – – – on me that one magical night,

 But even when they moved back, I just hit it out of sight.

 So you want to see perfection, just take a look at my stats.

 You’ll see a home run recorded for every one of my at – – – -.







Answers:  stab, tabs, bats


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