Wednesday, June 01, 2005
The Major-Leaguer, the Actor and the Truth
He was getting the knuckler!
Will and I were so into Wiffle Ball that we carried a ball and bat in our trunks at all times. You never know when you’ll come across a great place for a game.
We had one of those moments in Chicago in 1990. We were excited to be in town to cover the historic final game at Comiskey Park and arrived the day before because we snagged tickets for the final night game as well.
With some time on our hands before the game, we headed to Wrigley Field to check out the souvenir shops. To our great glee, we discovered a perfect strike zone painted on stadium wall along Waveland Avenue.
Will delivers to the alleged Major-Leaguer.
We were happily breaking off curves like Greg Maddux from the center of the street when two guys came up to us, amazed that we would be playing Wiffle Ball alongside Wrigley Field.
They wanted to play, and when we hesitated they tried to impress us. One was tall and stocky, and claimed to have a cup of coffee with the 1987 World Champion Minnesota Twins, even flashed what appeared to be a championship ring. The other was slender and dark, and claimed to be an actor with a role in "Bull Durham."
Reporters are skeptical by nature, of course.
I didn’t recognize the name of the guy who claimed to be a former Twin. I had a pretty good knowledge of major leaguers since baseball card companies at the time issued extensive sets that included just about every player in the bigs as well as even minor prospects from the minors.
I'm taking this guy deep!
And Will is a walking baseball encyclopedia. In fact, if there was a contradiction between Will and the official baseball encyclopedia, I’d believe Will. And he didn’t recognize the name, either.
The guy did have a 1987 Twins ring, but that didn’t necessarily mean he was a player. Teams give rings to a lot of employees.
The other guy claimed to be an infielder in "Bull Durham," one of the guys on the mound when one of Nuke’s eyelids is clogged, Jose needs a live chicken to sacrifice and no one knows what to get Jimmy and Millie for their wedding. "Candle sticks," of course, was coach Larry Hockett’s answer.
The guy had the lines down pat, and we didn’t have any photos from the movie in hand for comparison purposes.
This was a little icky. It seemed like the kind of lines guys would be spouting trying to pick up girls over a bottle of Bud at the Cubby Bear after the game.
We told them we were in town for the final Comiskey games — a very big deal, the hottest ticket in town — and they didn’t seem to believe us, either.
No roof-top spectators for our big game.
Will and I exchanged some skeptical glances. It’s not like we could openly debate this in front of them. Lacking proof, we decided to let them play. We even took some photos — just in case they were legit. Although I must say the alleged Major-Leaguer couldn’t hit my nasty Wiffle knuckleball, making his claim that much more dubious. Note the photo, the knuckler is on the way!
After playing for a while, the guys moved on, presumably to hoist those brews at the Cubby Bear.
"What do you think, were they telling the truth?" I asked Will.
"Who knows," Will replied. "They may be lying. But we know for sure that we really are going to the final game at Comiskey!"