Photo via iStock
We went for lunch at the Asian Bistro on Sunday. My Wife ordered the Maki Combo: California, yellowtail and tuna rolls. In an effort to outsmart the system, I ordered my preferred combination a la carte - California, tuna and cucumber - for 50 cents less. Well, I was feeling pretty clever until the waitress brought My Wife her soup and salad. Mine didn't come with soup and salad. I had to order my salad separately. Foiled again!
Our kickball playoffs were on Saturday. We played very well on a sweltering day but lost in the second round to the top seed and eventual champs. Our fielding, especially, was very smooth. Mock insists (arm-twist) that I mention both of our starring moments. He scored our winning, walkoff run in the first game with a spectacular slide. He earned a decent raspberry burn on his knee for his troubles. In the second game, I had a game-saving catch in right field at the end of the fifth (usually final) inning to send it to extras. I rescued a line drive bobbled by our first baseman. There was much rejoicing.
Mock's heroics inspired a discussion about walkoff hits/runs/home runs/wins/etc. He and I went out to a Lake Monsters game last night and hashed it out further. I promised to do some research on when the term first came into use for baseball. I couldn't find that but I did find out when the game rules changed to allow such an occurrence. I have a wonderful book called A Game of Inches by Peter Morris which is stuffed to the gills with such vital information.
Before 1880, teams were expected to play out all nine innings, regardless if the batting team had the lead in the bottom half of the ninth. The rule was changed in December of 1879 and was put into immediate use on Opening Day 1880 when the Chicago White Stockings came from behind to defeat the Cincinnati Reds, 4-3. Morris has no reference as to when the word walkoff itself came into use. The Oxford English Dictionary was also surprisingly unhelpful. Mock, through his own research, found that ESPN popularized the term.
Kickball was a lot of fun, a far more relaxed and sociable atmosphere than we have for broomball. As I said before, our team fielding is pretty good but we need to do some work at the plate - I as much as anyone. I went 0-for-2 on the day with one effective sacrifice bunt thrown in to salvage my pride. Our best kicker is a soccer player and has offered to run a clinic for us - a fine idea, I think. Others seem resistant to the idea of "practice" but we'll work on that. Even with sub-par offense, we were a far better team by the end of the season than we were at the beginning. We should be able to improve on our eighth seed finish next year.
Last night's baseball game was a fun one, a 4-3 victory over the Batavia Muckdogs of the Cardinals organization. Whenever we've gone to games with a big group, I've left regretting that Mock and I didn't have more time to chat. So, for this game, I suggested we go just the two of us. I'm glad we did. We covered a lot of ground beyond the walkoff discussion.
Social sports and minor league baseball - that really is what sports should be all about. Watching the Olympics, I can't deny that the nationalistic expressions occasionally make me uncomfortable. Shouldn't we be able to appreciate all of the athletes at the Games, not just the ones playing under our own flag? The regionalism expressed in our own professional and scholastic leagues isn't much better. Minor league baseball keeps things in perspective. I want the Lake Monsters to win but...
Wait, you're a Muckdogs fan? I hate you. I'm going to set your car on fire!!!Sound ridiculous? My point exactly.
An evening out with a good friend watching a game we both love at a reasonable price. Watching athletes who are exponentially better at the sport than we could ever be but still just young men trying to extend their dreams of playing professionally for as long as they can. They are not gods. Just people. The past year has shown us the worst of what can happen when sports figures are deified. Minor league baseball brings us far closer to where we should be.
As for kickball, a game played with friends. Win or lose, we can be proud of playing well and enjoy each other's company. In the end, I prefer J.R.R. Tolkien's worldview to Vince Lombardi's.
Thorin Oakenshield's final words to Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit:
"There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world."