More Slo-Pitch Softball Memories
Following up on last week’s column about slo-pitch softball, my playing days are long gone, but until about age 40, I played over 100 softball games a year, primarily in the Ford industrial league where I worked. We had a pretty good team (photo above - I’m the tall guy in the back row without a hat) naturally nicknamed the Mustangs. We won the league title a number of times, and subsequently represented Ford in the world industrial tournament at various venues around the county at the end of the season. Our team traveled to places like Maryland, Virginia, Missouri, Illinois, New York and Pennsylvania for these tournaments. Best we did was second place one year. Our problem was we had too much fun at night between games of the tournaments. I recall a party song we’d sing with this sample verse: Hey la di la di la di, hey la di la di lo, I used to date a girl named Ruth, now you know how I lost my tooth. Hey la di la di lo. We’d ad-lib verses on the fly, and they would get funnier and funnier as the night went on into the wee hours. Fortunately we'd block an entire wing of the hotel, so no one complained (much). One of the guys fell asleep during the partying, so someone placed a famous Maryland soft shell crab on his stomach to craw around. To this day, his is still nicknamed Crab-Man!
Outfield was my initial position, but as I got older and slower, I moved to first base, then pitcher and finally catcher. As pitcher, rather than charge the batter, Ralph Fleckenstein’s tactic as described in last week’s blog, I would back-pedal, literally to 2nd base after each pitch, which gave us 5 infielders to field ground balls. After a few years of that, I finished my softball career by moving to catcher. It was the year when aluminum bats first came out without the rubber plugs at each end. The plugs were coming out causing injuries, so they were outlawed. As a catcher I would keep an eye on the bats each batter used and if they got a hit that scored a run with one of the old bats, I would appeal to the umpire, who would call the batter out and rescind the score. I had a record number of putouts by a catcher that year!
Our apartment complex also had a team that I played for. They were sponsored by a nearby restaurant called Van’s Coney Island, and the uniforms had hotdogs emblazoned on the back; so you can guess our nickname around the league. But we won the title and the sponsor treated us to all the coney dogs we could eat after the championship game. A good friend played for a team sponsored by Stroh’s brewery, and literally they were given 4 cases of beer for every game, 2 for his team and 2 for the team they were playing. Everyone loved playing Stroh’s for obvious reasons, even though they were really good and beat us mercifully.
So over my softball career, trophies for the various achievements our teams had accomplished started to accumulate, to the point where my wife decided they had to go. The trophies were disassembled and used to make participation awards for one of my son’s t-ball baseball teams. Philosophically I was against participation trophies, having earned every one of mine the hard way; by winning. But this made my son and his team happy, plus it represented a more attractive solution than simply trashing them. And my wife was pleased to have cleared out the old trophies from the closet to make room for more of her shoes and clothes in case they ever come back in style!