Friday, April 1, 2011

Will the Unbuff Scruff Regain His Stuff to Extend Shakey Career into Summer Ball???

"You could be a bona fide pitcher like Hal Kelleher of the Phillies and suffer the indignity of allowing twelve runs in one inning -- which he did back in1938 -- and in desolation punt your glove around the clubhouse while the trainer stood in the corner pretending to fold towels -- and yet that startling statistic was not what Kelleher would remember about baseball. What he would remember made you envy him, and all others who came before and after who were good at it and you wondered how they could accept quitting when their legs went".



One of my alltime favorite writers is the late George Plimpton who wrote for Sports Illustrated some years back. If you read Plimpton when you were a younger jock you may have scanned it to be cool. Now that you are weathered sports supporter you may enjoy reading him more the second time around.




Names of sports icons from the 60's resurface and bring out the kid in you again -- Bob Feller, Archie Moore, Alex Karras and the Detroit Lions, Arnie's Army, Sidd Finch and many more. So even if you've never heard of the guy you should add the compilation of his works, The Best of Plimpton, to your bucket list.




An OK fit guy, Plimpton acted on every grown boy's sports fantasies. He would compete in different professional sports and then write on his experiences through the eyes of an amateur in the world of bigtime boxing, golf, hockey, football, and baseball to name a few.


In 1960, Plimpton actually pitched to the starting lineup of the National League All Stars in a warm up contest sponsored by SI before the 1960 All Star Game. There, at Yankee Stadium wishing to be like the unstoppable Sid Finch, he faced batters such as Richie Ashburn, Willie Mays, and Frank Robinson. It took 23 pitches to Ernie Banks before Banks swung the bat while Micky Mantle enjoyed his view from centerfield, yawning as the pitch count mounted.




Plimpton was supposed to pitch to the American League All Stars too, except he crashed and burned early from throwing too many bad pitches to the NL batters. He was sent packing by Manager Ralph Houk after facing seven batters. Head bowed in disappointment he slowly made his way past his quiet teammates in the dugout enroute to the showers.





Plimpton wrote of this experience in his 1961 book Out of My League, and was part of his 1990 collection of his works, The Best of Plimpton. Referring to his brief time in the bigs, Plimpton lamented, "One of the recurring truths about my type of participatory journalism is that the results have very little to do with what happens in daydreams . I had an awful time in Yankee Stadium. Ernest Hemingway summarized my pitching efforts at Yankee Stadium as living 'the dark side of the moon of Walter Mitty'."




Ironically, I somewhat relate to Plimp's adventures. We both took risks with limited skills and lived a fantasy on the field with the best. By joining a senior's softball league, I wished to renew whatever skills I may have had and left behind on the diamond at Hart Park in '55. Even with conditioning, a trainer, time in the batting cage, and watching my old VCR of The Natural before Tuesday games, the talent my father had seen in me had rusted with age.




For eight weeks, like Plimp, I too have trudged "in the footprints of Walter Mitty on the dark side of the moon". As an old guy though, even with my terrible throwing arm and bad batting mechanics, I can say to the Mitty in me that I'm leaving the Dome as a winner. This should not be confused with being rated #74 out of 73 rostered players.




No, winning at this age starts with showing up in spite of being outclassed. It's about taking a risk exposing your weaknesses and strengths to strangers, and improving yourself as best as you can. I've been allowed to relive a heart thumping, deja vu experience going back 50 years swinging my wooden Louisville Slugger, snagging a ball or two with my Rawlings, and even scoring a few runs. It's been a good feeling.




Believe it or not, when I joined Domeball for the winter session #2 and later #3, I had no idea my abysmal performance would become self-deprecating fodder for my blogs. Maintaining a sense of humor has been a part of my life that I hope never to let go of. I blog for fun and as you can see by my journalistic skills, I'm not in the same league as Plimpton, A. Izaks, Hemingway, or even C.J. or anyone who is considered a serious author.




Prior to releasing this blog posting, I had set the stage for my battles with the Dome demons with the 1/15 release of: Unbuff 67 Year Old Scruff Drafted into Winter Senior Softball League and the second installment of 2/15: Senior Softball Update - Unbuff Scruff Out With Hamstring Injury. Sent to Florida for Rehab. Hope you enjoy part three of my senior softball saga.




If I survive Session #3, I plan on doing the spring/summer thing in Edina hoping to raise my game a couple notches . Until then, thanks to you Domers who have tolerated my rookie shortcomings and encouraged me along the way.




A special thanks to my dad who was a pre-blogger of sorts in his day. He was also a man who loved baseball and lived his love of the game by playing catch with me as a little boy.

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