First of all, what the fuck am I doing up at 6:30am ready to play a non-SQ baseball game?
Secondly, where the hell am I and how did I get home from JJ Bubbles in Bay Ridge?
Culminating a week of neurology conference meetings, and rubbery chicken in tasteless sauce, I had the ultimate gift of being able to play with our brothers to the east, the Brooklyn Ramblers in Prospect Park.
The Ramblers started about a decade ago when Dave Johnson moved back to NYC. He missed playing ball, so he scraped together a few players from various sources, and they in turn, scraped a few more until they had a nice roster of regulars. And while they are not able to play year-round due to the inclement weather of the Northeast, they still incorporate the ethos of the Mission Baseball Club. While I knew that I was not probably going to be facing a hostile crowd, I was a little apprehensive about stepping onto the field and taking the ball as a starting pitcher. One would have to have some pretty serious credentials and a few rabbis to get that kind of treatment first time out at the MBC game.
Credentials and character vouchers notwithstanding, I got by on the weight of Dave, who is clearly the captain of the squad. Dave takes a firmer hand in managing the team than any of us in SF would, and I would liken him to a hybrid of Greg/Bob, except he deals with things that Greg/Bob would have neither the interest nor inclination in handling.
One big difference is that the Ramblers are expected to pre-pay for the entire season! This in turn, makes collecting of dues a more hefty occupation than the rumpled $5 bills that we shove in Bob's hand after each game. For all Ramblers reading this- get right with the dues to Dave, or enjoy your season of hitting last and playing right field.
No judgement on this next one, but another big difference is that the Ramblers keep score —including the formulation of a carefully considered lineups— and the players are equally distributed, according to skill set. The practical implication is that pitchers and catchers can be in short supply, so resources have to be even. I admit that we of the MBC always attempt to balance the teams so we don't end up with blowouts. However, I would also say our weekly teams are usually more organically grown (Insert CA joke here). We play in SF and are a self-admitted bunch of pinko lefty commies after all.....except you, Bob.
The Ramblers also play by the rules of baseball, which means walks and HBPs are enforced, balks are called. From a pitching perspective, my fear was that I was going to end up walking a bunch of people, not having the advantage of a count reset.
One last difference that you probably already noticed, the Ramblers start their games early. The Ramblers play at 8:00am and I don't think that the MBC would last very long if we had to do that. In fact, I know it. That being said, once past the initial hangover gurgles that always accompany a good Saturday night, I actually enjoyed being out in the fresh air of the morning. As well, having the game done by noon, one still has a full day to accomplish all the other shit that takes over one's life. Dave said that sometimes that accomplishment is just hanging out in Prospect Park and drinking, and I can think of plenty worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon.
In any case, after waiting around for a little while for the gates to be unlocked, we unloaded our stuff and established camp in the third base dugout. The field was in great condition—the infield grass had just been re-sodded— and real clay abounded! The dugout was sunken, complete with extra storage, a nice fence for leaning, and a drinking fountain! It reminded me of what Crocker-Amazon could be like if it was refurbished and if it wasn't used as a public toilet for the indigent and intoxicated population of SF.
The lineup consortium debated each position and hitting potential while we warmed up and arrived at the final teams. We skipped infield warm-ups to get the game going, since we are were already at 18+. Starting for the homers was Tom, who played college-level ball, and who had a whole bag of tricks and junk to work with. He also changed his arm slot continually, which made it hard to get a handle on tracking the ball. He had his good stuff working too, to the tune of 11 Ks in 5 innings. The only run we scored was a walk that came into score on a ball hit to right. There was an exciting play at the plate, and the runner (another collegiate baseballer) named Dave, came in hot and then at the last second, slid into, rather than bowled over the catcher. It had the looks of a Ray Fosse/Pete Rose All-Star moment until the last second.
I definitely did not have as large a bag of tricks as Tom, but I stayed efficient. From the looks of the scorecard, I pitched 7 innings, struck out 5, walked 1, and gave up 4 hits. I'll take that any day of the week.
What really made me feel at home, was the presence of THE INNING. Those who follow this rambling narrative on a regular basis know exactly what that is. The plot rarely varies, a few no-doubt, well-placed hits, and then....the wheels come off. The defense that previously locked down ground balls can't grab the handle, I am leaving pitches up in the zone to be crushed, and ultimately, a shitload of runs go on the board. This particular one wasn't that bad, four runs scored, and it was familiar to me as the golden hills of California. I was told that the proper phrase in Brooklyn for this is "You got Rambled." Very similar to our own home-grown phrase of "real Mission Baseball play," or the Brian Girgus favorite,"[that rally had] some good, old-fashioned shitty fielding."
We had made such good time in the game that by the time that the 9th inning arrived, we still had 50 minutes left on the permit, so we kept the game going. I had bowed out after 7, and JC—who is counted among the original 17 Reasons MBC players— came in for an inning and did a great job, as did the two pitchers after him: Money, who kept on the fake mustache while he threw, and Rob, who peered over his glove like Randy Johnson. Tom went out after 5 innings of giving us the business, and Dr. Milo Vassallo came in for the homers. He continued to shut us down completely, and it was only in the 9th and beyond, with the entry of a third pitcher, Brian, that the visitors managed to finally score a few runs.
Those runs live on only in our memories, cuz the scorecard notations were abandoned after the 8th inning (see pics).
Final Score- 7-4?
* It was an honor to play with the Ramblers, something I have wanted to do since they were created.
* There was a tense moment before we got to the game. Dave is still rocking that '71 BMW 2002 and it sputtered to a complete stop (on the Prospect Expressway I think) on the way there. I made my peace with the fact that everything was fucked and my baseball dream was gone. Dave tinkered under the hood for a second, then had an epiphany, and took my suitcase out of the trunk where the weight of it had been crimping the recently installed external fuel pump hose. Problem solved.
* I was sure glad that it was 65 degrees and overcast, if it had been a full-on heat and humidity Brooklyn day, the conditions and the cumulative hangover would have killed me.
* It was good to see Ted B. who you should all remember from his visit and SQ game, on his home turf.
* Tom deserves a cap tip for an overpowering pitching performance, as well as shaking off a nasty cervical compression scare in the last inning, while fielding a play at 1st.
* After 6 innings, I tried to do the gentlemanly thing, as we do in the MBC when we have 12-12 games, and take myself out so that I have my turn to sit and let other play. That is not how they do it in Brooklyn. Dave said, and I quote," Fuck that. Keep pitching. I'm catching."
* Milo (pronounced Mee-lo) wins the Terry Steinbach Helmet award
* The team that was waiting to take the field after us, showed up two hours early!
* The Prospect Park field had a snack bar, something that we should try and instigate at our local fields. At the very least, get some hot dog cart out at Golden Gate Park once or twice.
* I was expecting to see a few familiar faces (Ezra, you suck) but Randy wasn't one of them. He was waylaid in NY waiting for a job in Europe, and has ended up playing with the Ramblers. Great to see him.
* Dave K. made an awesome play at 1st and JC almost had a amazing catch on a foul ball line drive near first
* Speaking of MBCers, Will Rockwell-AOY 2013, is known in the Ramblers circle as SF Willie. He is still an asshole too, cuz he got on a plane to SF at 6am on Sunday morning and missed the game.
* Another Rambler nicknamed Money, played the entire game in a fake mustache and sleeveless shirt, in parody of Milo. I didn't ask if they take turns doing this, or if it's just his thing.
* I ended up with a 1.000 on-base percentage, by way of a dropped third strike, a walk, and two singles. The Ramblers were nice enough to allow me to have a runner each time, my quad/hip thing still being a pain.
* I tried to get Simonelli to come out for a game. His response: Not at 8am I'm not. Fuck that.
* Only two extra base hits the whole game: JC had a nice crack to right center for a double, and Nick (with a manly beard) had a long double over the left fielders head to score a run in the midst of THE INNING.
* I am sure part of it was being unused to it, but I didn't get much response when I occasionally tried to be witty with the hitters from the mound, everyone was pretty locked in to their game. Or maybe playing by the rules of baseball extend to the unwritten stuff like not being overtly genial with the opposing team? Or maybe I am just not funny?
* If there is one bad thing about the field, it needs a net or something for foul balls. The field is surrounded by a perimeter fence, so you have to completely exit through the one open gate, to get a ball that is about 30 feet away from home. First World Problems.
* The 4-9-6 play to end the 3rd inning, you know, the usual
* I figured a 6 hour flight after playing a game would break me, but I feel surprisingly good for a Tuesday.
* Always a pleasure when I can get new guys to swing at the knuckleball, I think the humidity on the East Coast helped too
Thank you again for all the good times and the opportunity to play Ramblers ball. I highly recommend any MBCers that find themselves in NYC to get to a game.
|The man and the mustache|