Wednesday, July 17, 2013

No. 323 – Hummer

Performer: Smashing Pumpkines
Songwriter: Billy Corgan
Original Release: Siamese Dream
Year: 1993
Definitive Version: None

This always has been my favorite song off Siamese Dream, because it best blended the trippiness of Gish with the heavier Pumpkins material that followed. The opening line, “Faith lies in the ways of sin,” is one of my favorites of any song.

The summer that Siamese Dream arrived was brutal from a softball standpoint, as I think I’ve mentioned. In fact, I don’t remember anything from any Grand Blanc league game that season. I certainly don’t remember any highlights.

I had quit pitching. The prospect of getting my head taken off by a line drive had spooked me so much that I couldn’t find the strike zone by the end of 1992. Before, the only thought I had was spearing any shot back through the box. But Bill’s attempts to conk me during batting practice for his own demented amusement made me flinch after pitching the ball, which made me worthless as a pitcher.

So I moved to shortstop. I worked my butt off, taking grounders and making long throws, so I could field the position properly when the bell rang. When you add in the hours I put in at the batting cages near my gym, working on my swing so I could hit for more power, I had become pretty serious about my softball.

This led to conflict with Dave. Dave, obviously, had to run the team with his mind on everyone, not just me. I didn’t mind the lack of seriousness in other players, but it bugged me to get no more playing time than other people who didn’t even bother to show up for all of the games let alone any of the practices. I thought I might have had a little more pull than that.

I told Dave, look, I don’t have to play JUST shortstop, and I don’t have to play the whole game. Cycle me in the outfield rotation—a few innings here and there. I just wanna play. But Dave felt that if someone showed up for a game, he had to play him as much as anyone else as incentive to return, and Dave locked players into position. If you were a shortstop, you played shortstop, period. It drove me nuts.

The culmination was at MESS, the softball tournament for Michigan news outlets in Traverse City. We went for the first time in 1992, as I mentioned, and usually everyone went up in the early evening on Friday to get the party started before the games began Saturday.

My Sports compadre Dan hadn’t been to MESS in a few years, and he wanted to go at least one day in 1993, so I volunteered to work Friday night, so he could play Saturday before heading back to Flint to work Saturday night. That meant I had to get up at the crack of dawn Saturday to drive to Traverse for the first game around noon.

After the games, I stuck around for one beer Saturday before heading to Torch Lake to partake of the free room and board I had with Dad and Laura. Our Saturday results were lousy, so we had to play early on Sunday, for, like, seventh place. I had to be up by 7 to get dressed and head to Traverse. Ugh.

Between driving and work, I certainly felt as though I made a commitment to play softball that weekend, and when I got to the field that Sunday, I saw I was in the clear minority. Saturday night had been so good, several players didn’t bother to show up. Others showed up nursing a wicked hangover. I told Dave I could play the whole game, no problem.

That was great except that one of the few people who showed up in a chipper mood was the other shortstop. So while others who would just as soon rather be in bed that morning played the whole game, I played half. Paul played the entire game in left field feeling, as he told me back in Flint, that he’d rather have driven a spike through his head then go out on the field once more.

At some point, I should have told Paul to just take a seat, that I’d play for him, but I didn’t. I was seething and decided to punish everyone. It was juvenile, I know, but I hadn’t worked my butt off for two years for this—half of a game that most of the team didn’t even want to play. Dave also batted me low in the order—gotta make sure everyone gets a fair number of ABs, you know—so I got to bat one time that day.

Even what should have been my one shining moment of the day ended up in frustration. My one at bat, I drilled the ball between the two center fielders, just hammered it. This was going to be my first home run in softball—some definite ego-soothing—but as I rounded second, I saw the ball somehow roll under the snow netting that was used as a fence, so I had to take a ground-rule double. Of all the freakin’ luck! At least the other team complemented me on my hit.

As the game came to an end—we won, I think—with me being the lone player on the bench, I made a big decision: I was going to quit the coed team and join the men’s team.

This decision didn’t come out of the blue that day, but a little back story is required: Dave had had a brutal experience with the men’s team in 1990, and he formed the coed team as a result. The men’s team was loaded with hotheads, and Dave wanted a completely different experience.

For a while a rivalry existed among factions between the two teams. I suppose I was a part of that, but things changed. For one, Doug now was the men’s team coach, and he was a good friend. Bill was playing; Jared from the coed team also joined the men’s team. I got to know a lot better the guys from Sports who played. How bad could it be?

But even then I also knew my decision to join the men’s team would be tantamount to stabbing Dave in the back, so it was not one to be taken lightly. I didn’t take it lightly, and that Sunday I delivered it with the full force of a sledgehammer right between the eyes.

As the team came off the field at the end of the game, I announced to Doug I wanted to play for the men’s team, that fall and next spring, and I made sure Dave heard me say it. I didn’t care; I just wanted to play, and I had had enough of putting in the time and being rewarded no more than the slackers. At least if I don’t play on the men’s team, it’ll be because of merit—that I’m not good enough to play. I can live with that.

Dave, who had had a thoroughly miserable time of it himself at MESS, looked crestfallen. Again, I didn’t care, and the slowly widening gap that had been growing between us that summer turned into a canyon.

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