Wednesday, April 2, 2014

No. 64 – Baby Don’t You Do It

Performer: The Who
Songwriters: Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, Eddie Holland
Original Release: Join Together single
Year: 1972
Definitive Version: Who’s Next Tour, 1971. The copy I have is from an unidentified bootleg that I assume to be from 1971. The mix is off, so Keith Moon’s crashing cymbals sound like silverware clattering on the floor, yet it doesn’t detract one iota from The Who’s incendiary performance.

I heard this song for the first time on the way to Municipal Stadium in Cleveland to see The Who for the first time in 1989. I was so geeked to see them after hearing Baby Don’t You Do It, and the show was great, but … it never was going to be what it was like when The Who were young and had something to prove.

When Maximum R&B came out in 1994, I was disappointed that it had no version of Baby Don’t You Do It on there. I had to have a copy of this song. It turned out I had one all along, in a long forgotten bootleg tape that Scott had made years before. Oh well, better late than never.

Not all heartbreaking situations are romantic or even personal. Sometimes, the biggest ones are athletic.

In 1978, I was on the best baseball team of my life. As I mentioned, the Hoosiers rolled to a league-best 14-2 record. All that got us was a bye in the double-elimination tournament, whereupon we lost our first game and hung perilously close to having the season ruined.

But we dug out of the hole, and after my grand-slam game (good ol’ No. 150), we were in the semifinals, where we won a rematch against the Boilermakers, 2-1. That put us in the final later that day, against the same Wolverines who beat us in the first round. If we won, we’d play a rubber game for all the marbles.

The prospect of a triple-header looked good. We had a 3-2 lead going into the final inning, but our best pitcher, who had been undefeated, blew the lead—to the bottom of the order—and we lost 4-3.

I was devastated. I took my runner-up trophy home, went to my room and sulked for the rest of the day like Charlie Brown. It was the worst I felt after a sporting event I was involved in … until 13 years later.

After the glorious beat-down The 1991 Flint Journal coed softball team administered on Mike’s Upper Deck (good ol’ No. 456), we still had our first-round playoff game to play. We already had played two high-intensity and totally unnecessary innings, but that wasn’t a bad thing, because we were focused.

Our opponent was Déjà vu, sponsored by the infamous Dort Highway dance establishment of the same name. It seemed a few of the ballerinas played, and one in particular stood out—a petite blonde who played second base and was pretty good.

She played in shorty shorts that showed off her tan legs and had this batting stance that made it so her butt stuck out in a way that made it hard to concentrate on anything else while on the mound. The first time I pitched to her, I damn near lobbed the ball over the backstop, like in WKRP. I was so flustered I walked her—a cardinal sin in slowpitch.

Our catcher, Amy, saw her pitcher struggling and took me aside between innings. When she comes up again, Amy said, look at ME, not her. ME. I laughed. She couldn’t have been the only one who noticed. Oh well. Her strategy worked. At least I didn’t walk Blondie after that, and we won the game.

Sure enough, in the rematch, Blondie came up in the first inning. As soon as she walked to the plate, I saw Amy behind it, looking at me and pointing to herself. I had to turn away to keep from cracking up. I nodded. Yeah, I remember. Blondie ripped a first-pitch strike through the box and I speared it and made the easy play at first. No problem, and no runs on the board.

Our focus was good, but our execution wasn’t. We had a lead early, but then disaster struck. In the third inning, Dan, our other pitcher, fell apart. The capper of the six-run debacle was the only over-the-fence home run I ever saw at Bicentennial Park, and to top it off, it was with the bases loaded—a grand slam.

Fortunately, I brought my A+ game with me that day and kept the damage at a minimum when I pitched. I allowed two runs in the fourth inning, but none in my other two. Unfortunately, Dan allowed 10 in his three innings after probably not allowing 10 runs in any two games all year. When I put my second zero on the board in the sixth inning, we trailed 12-8.

We were dead in the water. The Journal coed team NEVER came from behind to win. When I stepped to the plate in the bottom of the sixth, it still was 12-8 with one out but two runners on.

One of the things I liked about practicing at Central High was the fence in left field, which was reachable. It’s a great feeling to see a ball you hit soar over a fence, even if it’s just batting practice. Dave didn’t like it, because he thought it encouraged men who had no business swinging for the fences to do just that.

I understood where he was coming from, but I didn’t think it applied to me. I didn’t try and kill the ball, and I hit line drives, not moon balls. The other team had seen me hit, so when I came up, they played me at normal depth.

The pitcher gave me a fat one, and I … HAMMERED IT. When it left the bat, it looked like when I’d hit the long ball back at Northam Park in 1978, like it did at Central. It soared over the left fielder’s head. I raced around the bases and was held at third. (John, the third-base coach, said later if my run mattered or didn’t matter at all, he would’ve sent me.)

I slapped John five so hard he said his hand stung the rest of the inning as I roared in triumph. I was jacked. After a season of singles and doubles, I’d finally gotten ahold of one, and it came precisely when my team needed it the most. With one swing of the bat, we’d gone from an impossible four-run deficit to a merely improbable two-run hole. It was 12-10, and the tying run was at the plate.

Maggie was a gamer, but she wasn’t the best hitter on the team. She took a cut and loped a grounder to the aforementioned second baseman. I creeped down the third-base line as the second baseman made the throw to first and … THREW IT AWAY! Maggie was safe at first! I raced home, and it was 12-11!

What had been improbable now was possible. The winning run was at the plate, and the bench was going nuts. Jared was, hands down, the fastest player in the league. Jared was (still is, I guess) a lefty, and unless the shortstop played on the baseline, a grounder to short was an automatic single.

Jared hit a big bounder through the right side of the infield. Normally, that’s a double for him, but Maggie blocked his path, so we had runners at first and second. Unless disaster struck, another male was going to bat in the inning.

The next batter—Laura, I think—hit a slow grounder to the right of the mound. The pitcher, whose knees were starting to knock a bit, had Maggie dead to rights at third, but took the out at first. Another break! There were two outs now, but the tying run was on third and the winning run—carried by the fastest runner in the league—was at second. Up to the plate strode … Dan.

Bob Brenly flashed in my head. Google “Bob Brenly Game” and watch the video. I won’t spoil it for you, but I was sure Dan was about to have his Brenly game. He’d pitched poorly all day and dug us into a deep hole. Now he was going to redeem himself and win the game for us. I had no doubt about it. All we needed was a line-drive single, and Dan did nothing but hit line drives. Any ball out of the infield that wasn’t a pop up, Jared would score and we’d win. The possible was now the likely.

I moved to the edge of the bench area where it was open to the field. I wanted to be the first one to Jared when he scored the winning run, like Eric Davis in Game 2 of the 1990 World Series, and ignite the wild celebration sure to follow.

This was going to be the capper of an incredible day that had started the day before in Boston (good ol’ No. 209), a capper of the season itself! We would follow whipping the hated Mike’s Upper Deck by an incredible last-gasp rally in the playoffs. Dan swung and … popped it up. Somewhere I could hear Charlie Brown: AUUUUUUGGGGHHHHH!!

I bent at the waist with my hands on my knees, like I’d been punched in the gut. I watched, but I knew it was over as soon as the ball left the bat, because it was hit not to the woman hiding in the right-field corner but the guy in right center. It turned out the comeback WAS impossible.

I wasn’t 14 any more, so I didn’t go home and sulk. Instead, we all went to the bar for burgers and beer afterward. Dan was quieter than usual, but we snapped him out of it quickly. Hey, you win as a team and you lose as a team. it’s just a game, you know. But I have to say … 23 years later … that loss still stings.


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