The New Yinzer
Home |  Contributors |  Letters |  Submissions |  Archive |  Books |  Radio |  Events |  About
kinda hit by lightning...
by Devon W. Thompson

Part One — On Keeping a Scorecard: A Primer

“The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to one who does not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself.”
–Joan Didion, "On Keeping a Notebook"

“Rat behind 2nd base after Posada K… umpire kicked it.”
–Margin note in baseball scorecard
(Yankees beat Red Sox 5-3, September 9, 2000)

I’ve not yet had the pleasure of taking Joan Didion to a minor league baseball game, of buying her a hot dog and a beer at some sun-drenched field on the west coast, of goading her into standing and singing during the seventh-inning stretch. She would wear shades, naturally, and a secret smile. Her heart would leap when she saw the quickness and grace of the middle infielders, and she would take my hand, hold it gently between both her own. Of course, she would sit to my left.

I know that Joan would sit on my left because I am neither ambidextrous, nor sinistral; more specifically, I am right-handed and would need to keep my good writin’ paw free so that I might tend to my scorecard. Joan, dabbing mustard from her lip (she has the good sense to not eat ketchup on a hot dog) would understand. I would have already explained to her how the meticulous arcana of the scorecard notation records a game’s progress, how a "K" indicates a strikeout and the number 9 above two small lines stands in for a double to right field. I’ll point out that the mysterious equation 4!6-3 signifies the amazing diving stop the second baseman made on a hard line drive, starting a double play, saving a run, ending the inning, and inspiring a small gesture of affection and shared admiration.

Joan would appreciate the desire for such scrupulous attention, although she would not immediately feel inclined to follow suit. She would recline in her box seat, feeling the sun on her throat and bare arms, eavesdropping on the conversations buzzing around us in the summer heat. At some point in the third inning, or the fourth at latest, she’ll glance over and notice a small note scribbled in the margin of my scorecard, let’s say: “lined foul hits Japanese man in the ass.” Suddenly her focus is shrewd, her attention keen, weighing the potential. At this point she will briefly excuse herself to visit a vendor wearing a paper hat. She will soon return carrying a scorecard of her very own and rolling a sharp, stubby little pencil between her delicate fingers. She opens it on her knees, and considers where to begin.

By the end of the game, her team lineups still have not been filled in, and the nine innings columns remain a pristine grid of empty, unblemished squares. Anyone looking for information as to when the starting pitcher left the game, or how many hits the leadoff hitter might have had will be sorely disappointed in Joan’s efforts, as that information is entirely absent. What they might find instead is a multitude of marginalia: cryptic lines concerning plaid silk skirts with falling hems, overheard quotes shaded with some nameless, aching sense of distance. The margins of Joan’s scorecard are overfull with oblique impressions entirely peripheral to the game played on the field, and I love her for it.

Part Two—A Portrait of Minor League Baseball, Assembled from Scorecard Marginalia, Summer 2003

Washington Wild Things vs. Evansville Otters
Falconi Field, Washington, Pa.
Cap Night
  • 4th inning–milk and cookies for sale behind home plate
  • Little leaguers batting water balloons after 5th
  • Rains and lightning come in 8th inn.; impossibly beautiful and rich blue hole opens in black clouds, bottom 9th
Otters win, 7-3

Hagerstown Suns vs. Augusta Greenjackets
Municipal Stadium, Hagerstown, Md.
Feed Your Face Monday
  • Free oral cancer screenings on home plate concourse
  • Top 2nd, Woolie B, the Suns’ wooly bear mascot, leads a group in the crowd in singing Happy Birthday
  • Dollar drafts when Augusta goes down 1-2-3 in 5th
  • Chiropractic Pain and Rehab 7th Inning Stretch–kids from Oklahoma singing out of key
  • WP 8th inn., deflects off catcher’s glove and hits on deck batter
Greenjackets win, 7-2

Bowie Baysox vs. Binghamton Mets
Prince George’s Stadium, Bowie, Md.
Camp Day
  • Nothing but trees beyond the outfield fence–merry-go-round at end of 1st base seats
  • Went down on the field after 4th inn. to roll three giant dice–won $500 gift certificate towards the purchase of a big screen TV
  • Little boy in a chicken suit dances on the Baysox dugout when they score
Baysox win, 7-2

Frederick Keys vs. Salem Avalanche
Harry Grove Stadium, Frederick, Md.
Fireworks Night
  • Got a Frisbee tossed into the stands by the players, gave it to a young girl behind me
  • Keys are named after Francis Scott Key, native of Frederick
  • For the 7th inn. stretch, they sing not ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame.’ Instead, they sing a ditty of their own composition. It includes the line, “We’ll park one in the bleachers,” although there are no bleachers in which one might be parked. Guests are encouraged to take from their pockets any house keys or car keys they might be carrying, and to shake them about. This they do with some enthusiasm.
  • Lady in front of me won the ‘dirtiest car in the lot’ contest
Keys win, 6-1

Myrtle Beach Pelicans vs. Potomac Cannons
Coastal Federal Field, Myrtle Beach, S.C.
  • If Shramek strikes out, everyone gets cheese fries (w/ 2 strikes, the PA man leads the chant, “Cheese fries!”)
  • A yellow lab named Dinger brings balls out to the ump
  • Clemson and WVU both have groups in attendance, and both fight songs are played between innings
  • “We want a pitcher, not a belly itcher” tossed out, top 9th
Cannons win, 6-2

Elizabethton Twins vs. Princeton Devil Rays
Joe O’Brien Field, Elizabethton, Tenn.
Fan Appreciation Night
  • Topics of conversation overheard include: coyotes, little horses, truck races, open well shafts
  • Top 1st inn. 3rd base coach hit between shoulders w/ line drive; ball bounces to SS, coach points and shouts, “Fair ball!”
  • After 5th inn., amusing version of Let’s Make a Deal w/ a hairy man in a dress
  • 9th inn.–Speigner vs. Speigner*
  • Sound of crickets, smell of incense
Twins win, 8-0

*Levale Speigner, age 22, 5’11”, 163 lbs. from Thomasville, Ga., pitcher for Elizabethton, faced Princeton catcher Brent Speigner, 22, 6’, 209 lbs. from Birmingham, Ala. Speigner struck out.

Tennessee Smokies vs. Orlando Rays
Smokies Park, Kodak, Tenn.
Money Grab Night
  • Mid-4th inn.–about 20 children inexplicably chase a man in a chicken suit across the field.
  • Orlando mgr. vehemently argues the Gathright play at the plate, 7th inn. while the P.A plays The Love Boat theme
  • Bird or bat on the infield dirt delays play for a minute, bottom 8th
Smokies win, 7-2

Savannah Sand Gnats vs. Hickory Crawdads
William L. Grayson Stadium, Savannah, Ga.
Sand Gnat T-shirt Night
  • Woman in front of me in 5th inning tells her friend of “kinda” being hit by lightning in the Wal-Mart parking lot
Crawdads win, 4-3

Part Three—[Going, Going...]

After the game, Joan and I may sit on some coastal cliff, watching the sunset and drinking a Thermos full of grapefruit juice spiked with vodka, talking about writing being a way to shout into the void, a means to ward off the dogs of mortality. We are still holding hands. Joan will remove her sunglasses and lie back in the grass while I peruse her scorecard—I find a description of a man in a luxury box dropping money to children in the seats below. She says, “Writers are always selling somebody out,” and plucks a blade of grass.

And she would smile, and sigh. The sun would burn into the ocean, the clouds would roll and topple over the horizon, eagles and condors would wheel far overhead, soon out of sight.

Yes, it would be a good day when Joan Didion and I went to a minor league baseball game.

Respond to this story at HOME | NEXT ARTICLE »
Home |  Top of Page |  Copyright TNY 2003  | About The New Yinzer |  Contact