Wednesday, August 27, 2008
One thing that surprises folks who are starting to make my acquaintance, & who think of me in terms of musician/poet, etc. is that I love baseball. Always have, always will. It’s the perfect sport—at once leisurely & but with a constant promise of suspense. It’s true the evil powers-that-be are doing all they can to wreck the major leagues these days—national blackouts on Saturday afternoon except for the “Fox Game of the Week,” the monstrous intrusion of instant replay, assigning blowhards like Chris Berman & Rick Sutcliffe to cover nationally televised games on ESPN—a real abomination! But the game itself still is unsurpassed, & we can fervently hope that it survives all these, & all the other recent attempts to make it—like practically everything else in 21st century American culture—into pro wrestling.
Anyway, I have a different take on baseball, too—as much as I like the major league variety (but I’ve been known to catch minor league games, & the Hawaiian winter league, too); & that was the experience of playing it as an adult—a really transforming experience because, like my experience with music, it gave me the sensation of participating in something I loved, not just watching (i.e., “consuming”) it.
Back in the earlyish 90’s I’d quit smoking for the umpteenth time (have since quit for good, & so should you, boys & girls) & was concerned that I was getting portly—at least by my rail thin standards at the time. My old poebiz buddy Jonah told me how his Ed’s Redeeming Qualities’ bandmate Dani Leone & others played baseball on weekends. I said I might look into that, but corrected Jonah, pointing out that adults didn’t play baseball, they played softball.
So one Sunday afternoon I showed up at Jackson Park in San Francisco, & found out Jonah had been right. & though I wasn’t very good at it, I kept coming back. We had pick-up games, first every Sunday afternoon at Jackson, then later Saturday afternoons at Portrero Rec on top of Portrero Hill. Only one guy got mugged & one guy got his car stolen; otherwise, there were no non-baseball casualities involved. There were a few hit batsmen that must have smarted pretty good, & a couple of times folks got balls in the face (including yours truly), but by & large we managed to stay intact & have a great time. We’d play with as few as nine people (usually both guys & gals, though admittedly more of the former), playing three-on-three-on-three with right field closed; occasionally we’d even have more than 18 & folks would rotate in.
& though several of the folks could actually play a bit (& a lot of us could play a lot less), it wasn’t the usual bunch of sports bar jock has-beens. Mostly, folks came from the punk & alternative music scene (note: drummers can hit—they have quick wrists), so when we decided to “go legit” & join the Roberto Clemente League as the Mission District team, we had T shirts that listed the following bands: The Bedlam Rovers, Ed’s Redeeming Qualities, Flophouse, Her Majesty the Baby, Jawbreaker, Strawman, & Poets—the latter not being a band, but being yours truly & Pete Simonelli, though Pete has later played in bands such as Shotwell (a band not on the t shirt that was liberally represented on the team), & the Enablers, his current gig. & of course, I’ve been in some bands since, too. One glaring omission from the t shirt was a great San Francisco band at the time, Paddlefoot, which had three of five members on the team; & when Paddlefoot put out their self-titled cd back in the mid 90’s, they used the team picture (shown above) as part of the album artwork.
There was always some debate among folks as to whether joining the league had taken the “fun” out of the pick-up games, & there may be some truth in that. I always loved the ragged pick-up games best myself, though I’ll also always remember my one day of glory in the league (2 for 2 with 2 rbi’s & a run scored)—the junkballer on the other team was actually throwing “my speed” for a change.
But the real fun—& the lesson, too, though it didn’t feel like one—was getting out there every weekend & playing, even though I was far from being a good baseball player. Those were some good days….