I wasn’t a great athlete in school. I wasn’t even a bad athlete. So, I never imagined that years later I would play in an actual game.
Football with a bunch of gridiron hunks? Basketball in an arena full of adoring fans? No, softball in a back yard full of chiggers and fox tail grass climbing up my pants.
It was in the summer of 1987, and I was the editor of a monthly business magazine.
The publisher liked to have parties at his country home, and my wife and I were often invited.
At one of these events, most of the younger guests left the party and gathered in a field west of the house.
“What’s going on,” I asked.
“We play softball at our parties,” he said. “It’s a tradition. Go on out and choose your position.”
“But I don’t play softball,” I said.
“Yes, you do,” he said. “Just watch the others. You’ll get the hang of it in no time.”
I decided to play in center field, as far away from the action as I could get. Unfortunately, our side was first at bat, and I was the second man up.
I hitched up my pants like they do in the big leagues and took my stance to the right of home plate.
“I didn’t know you were left-handed,” said the pitcher, a girl.
“I’m not,” I said. “Just throw the ball.”
She threw a roof-high looper that barely made it to the plate, and I took a wild swing at it.
To my surprise, I connected with the ball and it wobbled a foot or so toward the pitcher’s mound. Having completed an unintentional bunt, I ran like crazy toward what I thought was first base. It wasn’t. A paper plate had blown onto the field and it looked like first base.
It didn’t matter because my wing-tip shoes were better suited to dancing than softball, and I slipped. When I got up, the little finger on my left hand pointed outward, forming a weird-looking letter L.
I pulled on it and it popped back in place. I was happy with the injury. It got me out of the game. If that had not happened, I had planned to get into an argument with the umpire and kick dirt in his face, forcing him to throw me out of the game.
As it turned out, we didn’t have an umpire. That was okay with me because I could have scuffed my wing tips.
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