Friday, February 25, 2011

More From The Umpire Has A Mullet : Kid Pitch

Out here is West Cobb, they just seem to grow them bigger. I mean, third graders wearing size 11 shoes. Third graders that have facial hair. Third graders that were, um, taller than me.

I am 5’6”. I did not choose this height. It’s not like I went into a store and said, “Gee I think I’ll be short because you can always find clothes in your size.”

No, height is all of part of what I call, “The Manis Theory of Relativity”. That is, if your parents are short, you will be short.

It was real disconcerting to me to walk up to an eight year old that is already 5’9” and in a size 11 shoe and hear him talk about how mean Angelica is to Tommy Pickle. I thought he should be talking about stocks and bonds.

Our team that year was The Facility Group Angels, sponsored by the building and design firm that my wife works for. My company, Ferret Face Insurance would not sponsor a team because they were protective of their company’s image, except when it came time to close offices and move those jobs to India where people with thick Indian accents answer the phone and tell you their name is Ashley, when you know good and well it isn’t. Not that I’m bitter.

Anyway, this was going to be an important year for us because this is when Ben wasn’t going to be at the mercy of the pitching problems of an adult. Plus the kids were going to be able to steal. And our head coach’s name was Doug.

At our first practice, I was watching all of our players and thought they looked like a good bunch of third graders. I then looked over to field next to us and watched another group of third graders practicing. Except they did not look like third graders. They looked like college sophomores. I had a feeling our team was going to be in trouble that year.

I was a little apprehensive too, because this was the year people started dropping out of baseball.

But I really wanted him to play baseball mainly because if he quit it would reflect that I am a gigantic weenie. Plus, I wanted him to grow into a professional baseball player that would make millions of dollars batting .245. I think I also had a SUV dream in there too. Maybe even a shoe commercial.

The fly in the ointment was in the previous fall ball season Ben faced live kid pitching and did not get a single hit.

Hitting was always a problem for Ben. One time, when he was in first grade, I decided to take him to the back yard and throw him some batting practice with tennis balls. Bumpkis. Did not hit a single pitch. The Norman Rockwell painting of “Dad Throw Batting Practice To A First Grader” was soon replaced by a modern art painting called “Dad Screaming ‘Watch The Dang Ball With Kid Answering ‘I Am!’. I grew weary of this and decided to take another tactic.

I got on my knees maybe ten to fifteen from him and said, “Now Ben, I’m going to under hand you the ball and you hit it”. My plan was to get his confidence back by letting him hit some balls, and then back up a little bit further at a time until I could go back pitching at my regular spot.

First ball: BOOM! Ben hits the ball solid and it hits me square on the face. I was wearing glasses at the time-the glasses went straight in the air. I went straight back. I did not know a first grader could hit a tennis ball so hard.

Ben, of course, thought this was the funniest thing he ever saw. I’m sure that this had happened more often in a game, he would have enjoyed it better.

The first game of the Real season (fall ball doesn’t count) comes and it is in March. It is one of those weird March days in which it feels like December. It had to be 35 degrees. Some kids were playing with their winter coats on.

We were playing the team with the Famous Man on it.

When I was growing up, I knew nobody that was on TV or played professional sports. Everyone I knew either worked at Lockheed or in some way was involved in the Ministry.

Now, as an adult, I’ve met several ex-professional athletes and several people that have jobs on TV. Famous Man had a sports casting job on TV and he is everything I am not: Tall, good looking, and Rich. He had a good tan, too

He drove a huge SUV. One of those SUVs that takes up a lane and a half and has a truck in front of it with a sign reading “Wide Load”. This SUV had leather everything, including wind shield wipers. It also had two DVD/TV sets and a Starbucks. This guy was as loaded as a concrete bag.

My favorite story about this guy took place the previous fall. The Atlanta Braves were making their annual run at the World Series and part of the Famous Man’s job was to cover the Series for his Network. One thing I will give Famous Man: he always tried to make his kid’s game, which I thought was great, because if I was that Tall, good looking, rich, with a huge car, the last place I would be is at a Recreational baseball park.

So, we are having this game going on and in walks Famous Man.

This is 1999. The male fashion was black on black, like Regis Philben, which shows you how nuts things were back then: we were taking our fashion cues from Regis Philben.

Famous Man was wearing black on black on black. He had a black suit, black tie, black shirt, black overcoat, and he was wearing black sunglasses. Johnny Cash would have told him to add a splash of color. He looked like the Little League Coach of The Matrix.

Fast Forward to the spring of 2000 and we’re playing in the awful cold. Famous Man is wearing a long sleeve black t-shirt and a pair of gym shorts. His team looks pretty good and the Facility Group Angles look pretty bad.

The other team’s pitcher is a hard throwing southpaw. First pitch, Ben hits a line drive up the middle for a base hit. I’m seeing million dollar contracts. Maybe I could buy a car like the Famous Man.

However, during this season, Ben got three other hits. Two of those were bunts. In the same game.

Not that it was that bad. In the first year of kid pitch, any hit is a good hit because a kid rarely gets anything good to hit.

The pitchers are assigned by this athletic survey: “Hey, can Tater pitch?” Actually, the way kids become pitchers is through e-mails, phone calls, and personal confrontations between the parents and the coach wanting to know when Tater is going to pitch.

Hey Coach!!!*

Great game!! Too bad we lost 40-0!!! Maybe you could try Tater at pitcher, just to see if he can do it. Then maybe your kid wouldn’t blubber like a girl on the mound.

Tater’s Mom

Tater’s Mom,

I have Tater scheduled to pitch against the Smith’s Foods DBA Blimpies Devil Rays. For the record, my Shane was not crying—he got some dirt in his eye which triggered his tuberculosis.

Coach Bob

Coach Bob!!

We have already played the Devil Rays!!! You are a dimwit!!!! Here’s a riddle: What’s fat and has spider veins??? Your wife!!!!!

Tater’s Mom

Tater’s Mom,

I got a riddle for you: What to you call a man that sleeps with other men? Tater’s Dad.

Coach Bob

This goes on and on for days until Coach Bob and Tater’s mom have a cuss fight in front of the concession stand. Tater and his folks go to another park where, at least according to Tater’s mom in their annual Christmas card, Tater is the STAR PLAYER (!!!)

The strike zone in first year kid pitch is eye brows to the ankles. Unless the batter is good. Then for some reason it shrinks to major league standards. This causes the games to last a long time because there is always some rec league rule that you can’t end a game on time.

One time, and this is no joke, we have a Facility Group Angels game last until 10:30 at night. We had 480 walks. Ben tagged somebody out while he was playing third base for the last out of the game and I swear I saw the umpire look at his watch before the call.

The season went on and on and on. And the Facility Group Angels got beat and beat and beat. We won three games that year. My favorite win was when the Angels only got two hits in the game, both by the same kid (who, incidentally, was the smallest boy on the team) and won the game 8-7.

This was also the season my wife broke her elbow at work. I know this doesn’t have too much to do with baseball, but I had to help her with her hair in the morning and if that doesn’t get me into the Husband Hall of Fame, nothing will.

* How would women write e-mails without exclamation points?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Nuts Fell On Alabama

One conclusion that I have come to at this stage of my life is that most college football fans are clinically insane in a nice way. Ground zero for most of the insanity is here in the South, where Jesus is our Savior but Football is the King. (If you want to read a good book, buy the book God and Football, by Chad Gibbs. This is a young man who convinced the largest evangelical publishing house, Zondervan, to finance his 2009 college football road trip. For this, Gibbs deserves the Noble Prize. If I had to describe Gibbs' writing style, I would say: young Dave Barry.)

The bull’s-eye of that ground zero is the State of Alabama in which there are sixty-nine (69) colleges and universities in theory. In reality, there are only two: The University of Alabama and Auburn University.

As I have said before, college football is my favorite professional sport. My fondness for college football pales in comparison to many Alabama football fans that would not jump in front of a train save their cousin, but would for a 5-star running back from Eufaula that has committed to their school of choice. Hey, cousins are a dime a dozen while a running back rated that highly doesn’t come around that often.

Many say that the University of Alabama and Auburn University are rivals. That is nowhere close to accurate. The most accurate description is: People who hate each other for various psychotic reasons.

In the South, most states have the Large University and then a school that focuses on Engineering. Here in Georgia, you have the University of Georgia being the large Land Grant University with Georgia Tech being the Engineering school.

The University of Alabama is the large land grant school in the state and Auburn, while not totally focuses on engineering is the “Agriculture and Mechanical” school of the state. UA fans do not look down their noses at AU because of that. They look down their noses at AU because UA has won a billion college football championships under the leadership of Paul “Bear” Bryant who is probably second only to Jesus of Nazareth as the most popular historical figure in Alabama.

One interesting factor in the AU v UA rivalry is that many of the fans have never stepped one foot inside their favorite school’s classroom. Many actually go to another of the sixty-seven colleges in the state.

Auburn fans can be wacky, with all of the “War Eagle” greetings that make them seem like a bunch of cultists. However, in my experience, Alabama fans tend to be the most mentally deranged. Read very carefully: I do not think all Alabama fans are crazy. Some of them are just plain nuts, Andy.

The poisoning of the oak trees at Toomer’s Corner is just an extreme example of this. First, Harvey Updyke gets upset that Alabama’s loss to Auburn. Instead of doing what most sixty-plus year old men would do (go to the bathroom and forget about it) he takes upon himself to right this terrible wrong by poisoning the iconic Oak trees on the Auburn campus as if they had anything to do with the Tide blowing a big lead.

Then he calls Paul Finebaum. Paul Finebaum has a sports talk radio show in Alabama that is about college football all the blessed time. People say Rush Limbaugh is influential. He has nothing on Paul Finebaum. Somehow, Mr. Updyke gets on the air and then he brags about his act. This leads to an investigation which leads to his arrest which leads ultimately to the “Free Harvey Updyke” website.

Now there are calls for civility and I’m surprised Sarah Palin hasn’t been blamed for it. What will happen is that all of the great college rivalry jokes will now be banned from the public square and we’ll have to be politically correct about one more area of life.

Thanks a lot, Harvey.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Atlanta lost a radio legend recently with the death of Bobby Hanson, better known as Ludlow Porch.

There are millions of things that made Hanson special but the most important is he didn’t start out as a disc jockey. He did not go to the Connecticut School of Broadcasting or major in Broadcasting in college. He was a guy that went into The Marines then went to work after discharge. He obtained his college degree taking night courses and went in the exciting field of …insurance.

Then one day in 1972 an article written by Ron Fimrite about “Trivia” appeared in Sports Illustrated and this one paragraph started what became an Atlanta radio phenomenon named Ludlow Porch.

“ Trivia player Bob Hanson of Atlanta is a genial "independent insurance adjuster" who writes mocking crank letters to racist politicians and carries a business card identifying him as a purveyor of "land, whiskey, manure, nails, flyswatters, racing forms and bongos." Hanson's reputation as a trivialist is such that he is frequently called upon—usually at odd hours—to settle arguments of a familiar nature. It is Hanson, answering his bedroom phone, who will inform reveling friends downtown that Ken Maynard's horse was named Tarzan, not Topper, which, of course, was Hopalong Cassidy's steed.”

Hanson was a regular caller to a new radio station in Atlanta known as WRNG (Ring Radio). The station owners had Hanson come on for a week under his alias, Ludlow Porch (as he would sign his “crank letters”) and from that time in 1972 Hanson became a radio fixture.

In 1977, his step-brother who had alerted Fimrite to his Trivia prowess moved back to Atlanta after an unhappy stint in Chicago. That step-brother was Lewis Grizzard and together they shaped Southern humor. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover Jeff Foxworthy to be a secret Hanson love child.

In his days at WRNG, radio suffered under a malady known as “The Fairness Doctrine” which mandated that radio stations give “both sides” (liberal and conservative) equal amount of air time. WRNG had all sorts of hosts: a John Bircher named Harry Davey; two women libbers named Miki and Teddi and a young Libertarian named Neal Boortz. Hanson did not need “The Fairness Doctrine” because he rarely got political. Unlike today, where talk show hosts (liberal or conservative) will start their program off with a diatribe about whatever is wrong in the country, Hanson would have a topic, like “Favorite Cartoons” or “Radio Shows You Miss”.

He somehow enabled some regular people to take up aliases like he did and call and produce some of the funniest amateur radio in Atlanta. He had a guy named “M.T. Head”, a jovial mechanic. One lady was “Kitty Litter” from Tucker who once gave this sage advice: “Never trust a red headed woman wearing a black brassiere”. There were a million others and a million wannabes.

You can’t talk about Hanson without talking about his “bits”. Like the one where he interviewed a “government official” who said there was no Montana. He did another where he interviewed a Southern writer named “Homer Southwell” who wrote a book called Yankee, Go Home. This man called Northern women ugly, etc, typical Southern trash talk humor. The next year Homer Southwell appeared promoting his new book, And Stay There.

You could tell in his voice Hanson knew he had it made. He got to interview big time stars. He met Godfrey Cambridge (became friends), Lee Majors (didn’t like him), Don Knotts (liked him), Andy Griffith (was over served at a bar before the interview) and others and you never felt the he lost his sense of awe about being around a celebrity.

The owners of WRNG sold the station and it became WCNN, which is now a sports talk station. Hanson moved to WSB which for some reason put him in the late night slot until they became all talk and switched him to his traditional lunch time spot. Then the winds of change came and WSB decided they needed something edgier than Ludlow Porch and getting squirrels out of your attic. Hanson left WSB and built a small radio syndication, but was never on again in the Atlanta area except for a brief moment in time in 1997-98. His market got smaller and smaller, and soon he was on just a hand full of stations. He retired a few months ago.

Hanson’s story was so American. A guy armed with only lot of useless facts and a good sense of humor becomes a radio legend. It is kind of sad that there is nobody out there like him anymore. Everybody is yelling and fussing and nobody has any idea what to do about these squirrels in the attic.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Lori's Lump

I do things a bit backwards, blog wise.

Blogs tend to be personal. Mine tends to be general. I take great pains to leave out a majority of my personal stuff from Humor Me.

Some people can write about their everyday and make it interesting. James Lileks comes to mind. I doubt I could do that. I figure most people wouldn’t care to know if I went to Target and what I thought of the clerk that checked me out.

However, I will be making mention, now and again about something that that has entered our lives.

My wife has cancer.

She has Breast Cancer to be specific. Invasive Ductal Carcinoma to be precise, the most common form of Breast Cancer according to

Like most things in life it began as one of those “it doesn’t mean that much” moments and grows to be the last thing you think about at night and the first thing you think about in the morning. She said she felt a knot. If you have been around women for any length of time, they are always feeling a knot somewhere on their bodies.

It led to an office visit, which led to a screening mammogram, which led to a diagnostic mammogram, which led to a doctor known as a “breast specialist” (my high school guidance counselor never told me about this job) who did a biopsy which confirmed what we feared. Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. Breast Cancer.

Now, the good news: it was a Stage One, which refers to its size. The doctor called it a “wussy little tumor”, which must be a new cancer definition. One nurse explained the tumor in this manner: there are tumors that are like Jethro’s (from ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’) truck and there are tumors that are like Jeff Gordon’s NASCAR. Lori’s tumor was a Jethro. That’s not to say that Jethro couldn’t stop somewhere and have his truck tricked out and suddenly become a major problem. Then the nurse said, “Get er done”, which I think meant, go ahead and have surgery.

Because of the stage of the tumor and the fact that it was a wussy, Lori was a great candidate for a “Lumpectomy” in which the tumor is removed and the breast is spared. Some women choose to have a total “Mastectomy” in which they have both breasts removed and then they are (usually) reconstructed with a new, um, set. While that might seem like a great idea, I subscribe to the idea that I picked up from a great medical mind (Marcus Welby): only have something removed that needs removing. Lori was on the same page.

In fact, to get a little more personal, for someone who was told they have a dread deadly disease in their body, Lori was a real trooper. She was calm, realistic, and very adult about the whole thing. I’ve never been more proud of her.

The Lumpectomy went well. The tumor was removed. The Lymph Nodes were clear. It sounds easy, but it wasn’t. Even though it wasn’t a Mastectomy, there was still pain involved. The dissection of the Lymph Nodes irritated some nerves in her arm. On top of that, there was moment that I thought she actually had a Mastectomy and the doctor forgot to tell us, but it turns out I was just being a retard, like always.

After the Lumpectomy comes radiation treatment. Most breast cancer patients have a five day a week for six weeks radiation treatment. That wussy tumor allowed Lori to qualify for a type of radiation treatment called “Mammosite”, in which the radiation is targeted and she went in for treatment twice a day for five days.

Sounds good, however, Mammosite treatment involves putting a balloon in the patient’s breast with various other contraptions which makes the patient look like “Doc Ock” from ‘Spiderman’ if the bad guy had hoses hanging out of his breast.

The treatment also entails many, many (medical) people looking at the patient’s breast. I told my wife she now knows what a Playboy Playmate feels like. She didn’t find it quite as funny as I did.

The last question was this: would Lori have Chemotherapy? As we all know, Chemotherapy causes patients to lose their hair and my wife has invested a lot into her hair. Fortunately, she will not have Chemotherapy.

I learned a couple of things out of this recent bout with reality. The first and foremost is that my wife is one tough cookie and I’m not going to mess with her. She went back to work four days after her Lumpectomy.

Secondly, I’ve learned that we were really blessed by having good doctors, good facilities and good jobs that provided good insurance. We have great family and friends that sent prayers to heaven and food to our house. I appreciated it all because I know that for all of the good news we got, there was somebody at the doctor’s office and/or hospital that was getting the bad news. Why those folks and not us? I cannot even begin to explain except to add what the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:12 “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.”