Note: With plunging approval ratings and a deteriorating fan base that not even my charity blogging could reverse, I have decided to end my blogging strike. When I informed Westy of this news, he simply replied, “You will blog for nothing and like it.” So here goes nothing. (Although, I fully realize that this layoff has caused my personal baseball blunders countdown list to lose momentum, and it will be both awkward and “just not the same” as I try to resurrect it in this post. Please bear with me.)
Yep, you regular readers of IJAB have already correctly guessed that this is #4 on my personal list of worst baseball moments ever. This one goes back to the fourth or fifth grade, but it actually doesn't take place in a baseball game. Rather, it happened in my friend's backyard during a kickball game, which is close enough to baseball for the purposes of my list.
So anyway, I'm at my friend's place playing kickball. We were just a bunch of pre-adolescent boys... probably 5 or 6 on each team. We all loved playing kickball, but this particular yard wasn't exactly suited for the sport. It was a rather narrow yard and it had quite a few trees in the way. In fact, it wasn't uncommon for someone to kick the ball and have it ricochet wildly off a tree in the infield--sometimes landing in foul territory and sometimes not. One time I remember a kid booting a line drive and then as he ran toward first the ball rifled off the tree and came back to take his legs out from under him, causing him to fall flat onto his chest. (And yes, we ruled him out.)
Anyway, back to the story. Now, as most of you know, the whole point of kickball is getting to kick and then capitalizing when you get that chance. When you're out in the field playing defense, the whole point is to get three outs as quickly as possible so you can get back to doing what you want to do, which is to kick.
Of course, when you're playing on a weird-shaped field with trees in the infield and a patio where third base ought to be AND you have too few players to adequately cover all of your bases, some of the innings can run on for what seems like forever. When you're kicking, that's great. But when you're out in the field playing defense, that's miserable. That's why it's important to never let an easy out slip through your hands. If you bungle an easy out, then that likely extends the inning at least another 10 minutes (or approximately 4-5 runs).
So you can imagine my excitement when I was playing left-center field and saw the kickball popped up high in the air, sailing softly in my direction. Once the ball cleared a few key branches, I knew it was mine and soon I’d be back to doing what all kickball players yearn to do—kick.
But I wasn’t about to get cocky. I had seen plenty of amateur kickball players in my day have routine popups in the bag only to have the ball ultimately bounce off their chest, face, both elbows, etc.—you name it I’ve seen it. But on this occasion, that wasn’t about to happen to me. I had a good beat on this ball as I backpedaled to get in the proper position… it wouldn’t be long now… just a little further… keep your eyes on the ball… yes, this will work out perfectly…
At this point you might be confused, but guess what? So am I. Basically, I’m just lying on the ground, moaning as I try to get my bearings straight. At first I think somebody’s younger brother must have gotten in my way, but then I looked over and saw the low, rickety wooden fence. I must have backpedaled into it and the wooden top absolutely unleashed its wrath on my lower back. Seriously, folks, at this moment I thought I might never walk again—but the worst part was that this was from my own stupidity and there were fourth-graders in the yard looking at me thinking to themselves, “I thought fifth-graders were smarter than that.”
If anyone ever tells you, “I feel your pain,” make sure you watch your wallet because you’re dealing with a liar and possibly a thief. The only person’s pain you can actually feel is your own. On this particular occasion, my pain was acute—and there was nothing cute about it. Plus it lingered (just like that song “do you have to… do you have to… do you have to let it linger?”), which means it also was a chronic pain. This was a chronic, throbbing, acute pain. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t even think much—just enough to have my pride hurt as I wondered what the young’ns on the field thought of this fifth-grader’s spectacle.
At this point, I suppose you’ve already figured out there’s no way I can adequately describe this pain. The only analogy I can come up with is the pain a woman feels when she’s in labor (which, of course, I know nothing about). I imagine at that point when she’s in the delivery room screaming at her husband that she’ll never ever let him touch her again is pretty much the same type of pain I was feeling. Except I also had the wind knocked out of me and was unable to scream. But if I could have screamed, I would have screamed at that wooden fence—and those gawking fourth-graders.
Come to think of it, nobody really paid close attention to me at first. Players on my team chased after the ball and were calling for the throw; players on the other team were running around the bases and cheering the play. Only after the play was over did people start to see what was wrong. What they saw before them was sort of like that classic picture we’re all shown in biology books to illustrate the theory of macroevolution. You know, the one with pre-historic grunt gradually getting taller, thinner, and straightening out until you have modern man. Well, with me what they saw was a non-speaking fish flopping around on dry land, gradually becoming a new life form as it eventually got onto all fours. Somebody asked me if I was okay, but my speech hadn't evolved yet. After a few more painful moments, I finally stumbled up (yes, stumbled up) from the ground, continuing this progression to yet another life form. When asked again if I was okay, I uttered this new life form’s original sin by answering, “Yuh.” This lie was immediately obvious as I continued, while hunched over, to waddle awkwardly around the yard in a lame (pun intended) attempt to walk it off.
Somehow, some way I did finish out the game. I don’t remember who won nor how many days it took me to completely recover from “The Double Kidney Shot Heard Round The Yard,” but that’s probably because the trauma has suppressed parts of my memory.
You would think with an episode as painful and humiliating as this one, there would be no bright side. No redeeming factor. No saving grace. And you would be right… for about 10 years.
This “double kidney shot” probably happened somewhere between 1989 and 1991; and it wasn’t until about the year 2000 when I saw any semblance of God’s plan in this painful episode. It happened late one night in a dorm room while watching a movie, again surrounded by my male peers much like that fateful day a decade earlier.
We were watching Payback, and it came to that scene where Mel Gibson finally comes “home” to his wife who had betrayed him years before but whom he still loves. He’s pretty sad to see that her life has been ruined by drugs. When the doorbell rings, he goes to answer it and some little punk is wanting to know where Miss Porter (Mel’s wife) is at. They get to talking and this little twerp has no idea that he’s talking to Miss Porter’s husband and in a bratty way lets it slip that he’s been knowing (in the Biblical sense) Miss Porter in exchange for giving her drugs…
At this point, Mel grabs the punk, throws his face against the wall and starts a violent rampage that consists of basically one thing: repeated uppercut punches to both kidneys.
I fall over laughing at this scene every time because I soooo feel that punk’s pain.