Performer: Uncle Tupelo
Songwriter: John Fogerty
Original Release: No Alternative
Definitive Version: None
This entry should be about a breakup, shouldn’t it, given that the guy who wrote it and the band that played it—at least the version that made this here list—were involved in brutal rock-band breakups. To a certain extent, this entry is.
When I got the job offer from The Columbus Dispatch in May 1994, a drawback was that I would be leaving right as softball season got going. This was a bummer, because Flint winters were so brutal—and 1994’s was particularly cold—that when it finally got warm, your reward for making it through the winter was softball. All you wanted was to be outside.
I was part of The Journal men’s team that year, and I wasn’t going to play on the coed team again unless Dave specifically asked (stories to come on all of this). Just as the calendar turned to May and practice was about to begin, he asked. Of course, I said yes. I finally was going to get all the ballplaying time I wanted.
And then The Dispatch made me an offer I didn’t refuse. (I very easily COULD have refused it; I just didn’t—but that’s another story.) My departure date meant I would play only two men’s games and one more coed game.
The men’s games were first. We had an easy blowout and then played a team that had whipped us pretty good in a fall league doubleheader and did a fair job of rubbing it in the whole time. In short, they were a team of D bags, and at the end of the losses in the fall, I couldn’t believe I shook their friggin’ hands.
So payback was the order of the day in the “real” league—the summer league. We wiped them out, and yours truly started two rallies with line-drive singles straight up the pipe. (I scored both times; the first was the first run of the game, the second started a 6-run game-clincher.) That made me 3-for-4 in the men’s league that year.
My final game was in the coed league, and we lost. I got to bat only one time, which was fine, and I’d love to tell you that in my final at bat, I hit an over-the-fence home run.
Well, I swung in attempt to achieve such a rare feat, anyway, but the result was that the bat flew out of my hands and nearly decapitated the catcher. The ball somehow dribbled through the hole on the left side of the infield for the weakest of weak singles. At least I didn’t whiff, but Dave told me that the ump warned him and nearly tossed me from the game for “throwing the bat.” Somehow, that was an appropriate finale.
After the game, the team went to Dave’s for a barbecue, and Dave surprised me by retiring my softball number, 49. By then, I actually was wearing 28, because the uniform that had 49 had the number peeled off, so I stopped wearing it, but never mind that now. Don’t go looking anywhere for a plaque that marks this august achievement, because The Journal long since has been retired as a daily newspaper. I still have the plaque, though.
In Columbus, I’d be working the night shift, so unless I caught on with a team that played weekends only, leaving Flint would mark the end of my softball career. The Dispatch had no team of any stripe, regardless, so that was that.
Once that summer, I felt the softball urge and during the day before I went in to work, I took my bat to the batting cages located at a nearby softball complex south of Downtown. I took a bunch of swings, but it just wasn’t the same. It was like having a fling with an ex after you just broke up: There was no going back.