BY LANCE DOILY Since the main office we work out of is located right in the middle of a gritty industrial area on the outskirts of Paterson, most of the guys spend their down time meandering through the lawless concrete ruins behind the Tropicana warehouse up the block. So we took it upon ourselves to meet with a few of their Tropicana workers and started a baseball league. The warm-up games alone separated the men from the boys as they were played entirely on a hard slab of concrete, but from the beginning a decision was made to take a different approach. First off, it was understood that we would be playing in the “rowdyball” style that was big in the late 1800’s. This essentially meant that hand-to-hand combat was not only allowed but encouraged, all umpires were to be baited and bribed, and there was the deepest hell to pay if we found a baseball that wasn’t drenched in spit and scuffed to shit. In addition, we would have several small fires scattered throughout the field, and the fence gate near the warehouse that usually held back legions of feral stray dogs was left open for the day. Just to make it interesting, all players had to rub themselves down with raw meat. And, of course, it goes without saying that every inning was played blackout drunk. It was a throwback to a simpler time, and we all spoke fondly about the story of the Cleveland Spiders manager who once fired a revolver into the crowd and killed a spectator after a blow-out due to a bad call. To us, that’s “when it was a game.”
As preparation, we all got to work on growing out handlebar mustaches (I got a late start but no big deal, I can grow a Civil War general-worthy ‘stache in about 3 days) and scuffing the shit out of every ball we could get our hands on. I couldn’t help but notice that our cleats were a little soft to the touch, and something needed to be done about that quickly. Rex handed one of the forklift drivers an 8-ball and a sharpening stone, and with a cold, dead stare instructed him to “sharpen until the sight of them sears holes in their eyes.” By the time we showed up to play the guys at the Tropicana warehouse on Opening Day decked out in wool uniforms, carrying gloves barely bigger than our hands, and cleats so sharp they got stuck in the asphalt, they knew we weren’t fucking around. But when we saw them emerge from behind the abandoned condominium near the Linden Ave. trestle looking like extras from The Road Warrior, we quickly realized they weren’t either. I admit I was impressed to see one of their men resting a wooden bat full of masonry screws on his shoulder: worthless for baseball, perfect for rowdyball.
We played the first few innings without incident, if you can call Rex collapsing face first into one of the fires chasing a foul ball and Royce’s skin peeling off like a papaya while sliding into second “without incident,” but we were okay. It was a scoreless tie going into the sixth when Steve The Salesman, the only one of us with legitimate athletic ability, hustled out an inside-the-park home run off a lucky dribble (which is, sadly, what my parents used to refer to me as) down the third base line. But by then the dogs got hungry and went into full-on berserker mode, resulting in the Tropicana boys scoring two unanswered runs while we were fighting the bloodthirsty canines off with closed fists and barbed-wire bats. I scored easily on a grounder while Rex held the umpire at knife-point to tie it up, but it was nearing the end of the game and fatigue was beginning to set in. Seven innings of hardcore rowdyball meant there weren’t many among us still able to walk, so the Tropicana boys trotted their tried and true gimmick out to the mound: a 530 pound black bear. Not sure what the rule book says about that, but strategically-speaking it was a stroke of genius: the fucking thing pitched a scoreless eighth.
Fortunately, in the bottom of the ninth we also had a secret weapon at our disposal for late-inning dramatics: my good buddy Boot from repack. Boot’s a direct descendant of the Sawney Bean clan from the late 15th century, and if you look at him in the right shade of light you can still see a glint of that ol’ cannibal in his eyes. Uncomfortable as it was to watch, it was his custom to rub one out in the on-deck circle before an important at-bat to clear his head, and since nine times out of ten he’d win us the game, who were we to judge? The black bear worked better as a set-up man than a closer, so they handed the ball to their ace Fritz for the final outs. Fritz had a reputation of aiming straight for the temple on every pitch, but Boot was one step ahead of him. The second the ball left Fritz’s hand Boot swung his bat and let it slip out of his hands and hurl towards the mound like a tomahawk. As expected, the pitch went wild, so Boot circled the bases while Fritz picked up the bat and discovered a lit cigarette stuck into the end like a fuse meaning the bat was probably filled with black powder. As the rest of us ran for shelter it was down to Boot and Roy, their catcher. Boot was halfway around third when he flashed a smile that revealed his teeth were sharpened to a finer point than our cleats, so we could all guess what was coming. But instead he just Charlie-Hustled the fuck out of Roy in a majestic, teeth-rattling, bone-crunching collision that knocked the ball clean out of his mitt and handed us a well-earned victory. Unfortunately, Boot didn’t get to indulge himself in the pleasures of the flesh on that fine spring evening, but no worries; there were still 161 games left to play.
PREVIOUSLY: The Auspicious Debut Of BLOTTO
PREVIOUSLY: The Second Installment Of BLOTTO
PREVIOUSLY: The Third Installment Of BLOTTO
PREVIOUSLY: The Fourth Installment Of BLOTTO
PREVIOUSLY: The Fifth Installment Of BLOTTO
PREVIOUSLY: The Sixth Installment Of BLOTTO
PREVIOUSLY: The Seventh Installment Of Blotto
PREVIOUSLY: The Eighth Installment Of BLOTTO
PREVIOUSLY: The Ninth Installment Of BLOTTO
PREVIOUSLY: How I Came To Know Lance Doily