Last week, I began my odyssey into co-ed men’s softball, chronicling the lives and careers of a few motley men from Missouri. Here’s the sequel, which unless it’s EMPIRE, is usually worse than the original. Keep that in mind (and the state song of Missouri, below, in your ears) as you read on…
Poop-Smeared Jungle Gym, Burbank, CA (March 5th, 2014) – What does Nicholas Cage, the Missouri Waltz and David Robinson have in Common? The numbers 5-0, baby (Cage is 50 years old and David Robinson’s number was 50, as if that wasn’t obvious). Or they did. After steamrolling through the D division and clinching the top spot in the playoffs sometime soon, Missouri Waltz rode high on victory (and Quaaludes) entering their first match up in the vaunted C division (note: there are still 2 divisions above it). In reality, the closest thing to Victory that the Waltz rode in on was Victory Blvd. They no longer share 5-0 with Cage and Robinson.
Now they share 5-1 with Ichiro Suzuki and Paula Abdul, after a 29-21 shellacking at the hands of the misleadingly named Scrubs. Well, I suppose it works if you imagine that the Scrubs would put on scrubs and take the opposing team to the ER in the nearest hospital after a good assault, maybe. Pretend that was a better joke (?); I’m no Superman.
Despite being undefeated, the Missouri Waltz weren’t altogether too confident going into the game. The Scrubs had “cleaned [their] clocks” the last time around, and the superstitious player-manager Jim Wolfe Jr., noted that they had “never won in this [3rd base] dugout.” The dread for the next five grueling games in the C division practically burst from their pores like so much pus. All of the signs were against the Waltz, though signs had nothing to do with the fact that half the team didn’t bother to show up. That was because players didn’t read the schedule (or do so correctly), or the LA traffic, a convenient excuse. More likely, they were scared.
While the Missouri Waltz were lucky to field six players, the Scrubs had six players who looked like the Monstars from Space Jam (Shawn Bradley not included) warming up on the opposite foul line.
One homeless woman was the only person on the Waltz’ side of the bleachers. After an awkward conversation, it turned out that she was a husband for one of the Scrubs’ players named “Andy.” It was an unsettling glimpse into my future.
Before my impartiality was permanently wrecked, I interviewed the least talented man on the Scrubs team. Meet the garish C-RF, who will heretofore be known as Douche. He was “a little nervous” going into the game, but to be fair, it was a leading question and Douche bats twelfth. At this point, the Waltz had 5 players TOTAL in attendance, so I suggested he switch sides, which I think he thought was a come on. Douche.
The rest of the Scrubs weren’t fazed by the task at hand. They started the year in the B division, after all, though they went 2-3 or 1-4 (clearly they don’t take their stats as seriously as the Waltz; in fact, stats are the only thing the Waltz do take seriously), and found themselves seeking redemption in the C league.
The outlook was dire. Mere hours from a torrential downpour the likes LA has never seen, the Waltz thought they might luck into a postponement. Instead, “ghost runners” were being discussed as a distinct possibility, and they had 3 minutes to get more players, and weren’t even close to fielding a full roster.
While it takes two to tango, and the same to Waltz, this was softball dammit, and the Missouri Waltz were one shy from being able to play at game time. Thanks to a tremendously tolerant/stupid umpire, and one bystander having the heart of a lion, the Missouri Waltz were saved. Yours truly was drafted into double duty, the first press-player in the sport’s history, breaking barriers that Bob Costas never dreamed of and even Jackie Robinson could only speculate at. Maury Shessel (my codename, an absent member of the roster) had arrived, just in time to allow the Waltz to get mostly crushed over the next 7 innings, and play catcher in a tie, slacks and dress shoes. It was the crowning achievement of my sporting career, except for that one time I shattered a wood bat (Ichiro replica, ‘natch) during a session at the batting cage.
After such a hectic and nerve-wracking start, the Waltz looked hapless. Prior to first pitch, Wolfe had intimated that his arm felt “shaky,” remarking that his arm felt better last week. Considering he’s the (only) horse on the staff (and pitching every game), it was natural to speculate about rotator cuff injuries. It’s exactly the kind of encouragement you want to hear as a catcher, and it was prescient for what was to come.
The Scrubs certainly didn’t need a Kickstarter Campaign to get on the board early, as they ambushed Jim Wolfe’s achy arm from the first pitch on, scoring 7 runs before we could get off the field, and we tried every chance we could get. The rout seemed on, and the embarrassment was in full force, considering everyone on the team exited the field prematurely (a personal problem for many), believing it to be 3 outs. It was just 2, allowing for another run or two to score afterwards (my notes read: “We suck at everything”).
But enough about them; let’s talk about me, the reason they could play/lose this game. With one measly run across in the first inning, I crept up to the plate, trying to emulate whatever routine I once had, and shaking the doldrums out of my bones, that had lain dormant for 4-5 years of baseball inactivity. The drama was akin to Casey coming to Bat, or any time Roy Hobbs steps to the dish in The Natural. Unfortunately, there was no literal tearing the cover off the ball, or broken lights (the field didn’t even have any). I struck out on three straight pitches (counts start at 1-1; I snuck a foul ball in there), suffering sports’ biggest ignominy. It had been years since I had played baseball of any kind, but seriously? I’m sorry.
You know what else is sorry? After two innings it was 13-1, and it felt even more insurmountable than that, as if perhaps forfeiting due to an insufficient number of people would’ve been a friendlier fate.
Then, we stopped sucking. Well, at least on offense. Our defense was looser than Snooky’s hoo-ha, but more on that later (the defense, not hoo-ha’s).
In the third inning, the Missouri Waltz bats came alive with a 5 run rally, and the Scrubs could only counter with a pitiful 3. That was just a warm-up for the top of the fourth, when the Waltz lit up the diamond like they were competing in the Missouri Dance Festival. 9 runs were pushed across the board, including a homerun by Jim Wolfe Jr., bringing the deficit down to 1 run. Lest us not forget, that the Waltz wouldn’t have come close without a ridiculously favorable call on an infield fly that prolonged the rally, when Graham Showell mistook a measly pop up to short with a homerun; at least, that’s the only thing I can come up with (aside from a Black Sox situation) for why he’d take off with the bases loaded, one out. Somehow the ump called him safe at second on the double play, and the rally bore on, much like this article. The umpire gave the Missouri Waltz chances upon chances, and they completely ignored them.
The MVP for the offense this day went to Bret Watkins. The man was perfect on the night, reaching base all five times at the plate, pairing a couple of walks with three hits, including the first grand slam in the history of the Missouri Waltz. Watkins OPS was equivalent to a certain press-player’s number of total bases (3). If Watkins 3.000 OPS was a legitimate entrant into the annals of the MLB statbook (and even if we were playing baseball, small sample size considerations would have to be addressed), it’d be more than double the record for OPS by a player (Barry Bonds, 2004, 1.4217, at the ripe age of 39). League officials suspect “random” drug testing might hit the Missouri Waltz hard in the coming weeks, considering Bret Watkins’ grand slam was the first extra-base hit he had all year. Suspicious. Plus, it’s his walk year and the confidence he has about the playoffs is insane/arrogant/stupid: “Write this down: I will hit 7 grand slams in the playoffs.” I’m going out on a limb here and predicting that Joe Namath, he ain’t.
The Scrubs didn’t lie down and take it, instead countering with 4 more runs of their own, including several “homeruns” that were merely gap shots that dribbled to the ends of the universe/grass field. GET FENCES BURBANK.
The Waltz had one more outburst left in them in the top of the 6th that gave them a satisfying, but fleeting lead (that I don’t remember even happening, but so sayeth the scorecard). In the inning (or it could’ve been the fourth, I was playing), newly anointed cleanup hitter Alicia Pharris (and noted Taurus) hit a blast over the left fielder’s head, who was caught cheating in on the ball like the sexist pig that he is.
Dan Bence rebounded from his worst performance of the season last week with a 4 for 5, 4 R, 4 RBI day at the office, and one of the few players on defense that didn’t look like they were running from the cops. Wolfe continually preached patience, swearing that the Scrubs pitcher would walk anybody and everybody if they took the first two pitches. He might’ve been right, but most of us didn’t bother to find out (with the exception of noted walk enthusiasts Graham Showell and Watkins). Wolfe never walked either, but he also went 5 for 6 with 4 RBI, so he’s forgiven.
Then again, offense wasn’t the problem. Brant Malan sprinkled on two hits of his own, driving in 3. The less we speak of their offensive performance the better, but Charlie Back and Showell at least showed up, which is more than I can say for many on the Waltz roster.
Which is as good a segue as any to pimp my own stats. After an unsightly and embarrassing beginning, I went 3 for 4, with 4 RBI, and a whole lot of liners placed gloriously in-between shortstop and third base. Decent, but as the highest paid (read: only player on salary) “athlete” on the team, more was needed, especially with the drop in quality (and delay) of this column this week. Whoops.
Stephen Leggitt had the shortest RBI in baseball/softball history, with a tapper that landed inches from home. His reward? A softball to the dome. He technically reached base due to the error on the throw, so the RBI shouldn’t count, but we’ll give it to him in exchange for the bruise. He wasn’t so lucky later in the evening. Entering the game, the lefty masher was 19 for 22, which I hear is pretty good. Then he popped up, ending his consecutive plate appearances with a hit streak at 12 (which tied Wally Dropo’s MLB record). In fact, he went 3 for 6 in this game, delivering more outs than he had in the previous 5 games combined. After his adventure in the 1st inning, speculation was that Leggitt was legging out a concussion, which isn’t recommended or effective. The Waltz didn’t follow the league mandated concussion protocol, and likely will suffer some sort of punishment in the coming days. Of course, perhaps their foes in the C division might take care of that.
But as I’ve pussyfooted around so far, defense was the problem this game, as there were at least 10 errors or extra bases given due to poor routes, lackadaisical play or being afraid of the ball. The Waltz were, however, playing a man down in the outfield, without their customary and key Rover position, and in an outfield that ends as soon as the parking lot, that’s a big deal. It’s also an excuse.
The lone highlight in the field, aside from a diving catch by Leggitt in center (that was trapped, according to the Scrubs, though I kind of bought the assessment), was that shortstop Dan Bence apparently called the next pitch: a liner right at him. Unfortunately, he also called the outcome of this game correctly: a loss, and that the club’s six game winning streak (dating back from last season), would end. Insert cunning insight about self-fulfilling prophecies here.
Even so, with their defensive lapses and inconsistent offensive output, the Waltz had all the momentum…until the Scrubs pummeled another 9 runs down the Waltz’ throats (what are they, the Bang Bros?).
Because of the earlier delay of game (thanks to a lack of players), the umpire was close to calling the game after 6 innings, because the next game had to start (for the ESPN18 doubleheader). Things looked dire…but the Waltz somehow managed to retire the side in the bottom of the sixth with ONE MINUTE to spare, before the game would’ve ended then and there (because the Scrubs were the home team and softball is for pussies/drunks).
So the Waltz had a glimpse of hope, and Lady Fate appeared to be on their side, with 3 outs to deliver a gargantuan 9 run comeback, crafting a brilliant sequel to the game two weeks previously against the Bad News Beers when the Waltz roared back from a 12 run deficit in the final inning (Heathcliff Slocumb must’ve been closing). It would’ve made for a terrific story, an even better column, and a triumphant arrival into the C division, trumpeting the cause of new contenders for the throne of mediocrity.
Instead, the bad news arrived at the Waltz’s doorstep this time around. You’d be forgiven for mistaking their “last gasp” effort in the 7th for choking on the proverbial dick, as the Waltz limped to the finish with a 1-2-3 inning, an undignified softball rarity.
As alluded to previously, in whatever kind of derivation of softball we were playing, each count begins 1 and 1. To alert every player of this situation that is common knowledge to all, an umpire can yell “one to waste.” This oft-used phrase could’ve just as easily described Waltz’s attitude toward the game.
Because “the Cheetah doesn’t always get the mongoose, but he always gets a beer,” (QUE?) several of the beleaguered Waltz team retreated to the Blue Room for shitty beer representative of their performance. The team’s mood would be aptly, and dully, described as “excited” and “angry.” They were disappointed by the loss, but were encouraged that they had stuck with a C division team, and more hopeful for the future than they had previously. Again, this is a team that lost by 8 runs and played defense worse than Gary Sheffield (when he played 3B/SS).
But they came out of the game with fire in their loins, and new enemies to add to their shit list, because if anything, the Missouri Waltz play softball in order to collect new people to hate, like they’re Pokemon cards (except no one hates Pokemon cards). Hate is a good motivator, especially if you’re a Sith lord, or aiming to become one, and hopefully the Dark Side will serve the Waltz better next week.
Before the players got into their respective cars and drove off into the night, the Waltz were greeted with an inspiring sight: the awkward and uncomfortable visage of a middle age makeout sesh at the bar. While Middle Age Makeouts (dibs on band name!) are embarrassing and uncomfortable for the rest of the world, for those in the moment, exchanging their juices, it’s absolutely necessary. It’s life, it’s passion, it’s beautiful, it might even be love; it’s certainly a reminder of youth, just the reminder that this Missouri Waltz squad need with their next test ahead.
News & Notes:
- Big Mama’s and Papa’s Pizzeria was the official pizza of the Missouri Waltz (before it was cool), until Ellen DeGeneres made them too expensive for the rest of Los Angeles.
- The quest to find Erin, the mysterious (and still missing) Blue Room Bimbo (will she…BRB?), remains unfulfilled, just like many of the sex dreams the team has had about her. Did she move on to another softball team? Is she serving up tasty treats to the Goodfellas (“I thought they’d never shut the fuck up” she purrs, rubbing Art’s temple)? We need Marty and Cohle on the case.
- The Missouri Waltz team likes porn. All of them. Most asked to be off the record as to their favorite ones, though Tera Patrick and Lisa Ann were mentioned.
- Dan suggested there was animosity between the teams before the game, because the last time they played, the Scrubs had talked about the St. Louis Cardinals playoff game, which many of the Waltz squad had DVR’d and didn’t want ruined for them. I feel like spoiler courtesy doesn’t extend to sporting events. There certainly is animosity between the teams AFTER the game, though.