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Meet the Spectacles

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Slow pitch coed softball, as it’s played in San Francisco’s Adult Municipal Softball League, is not a game for the faint hearted, chicken-hearted or fallow of spirit. It is, somehow, a league of champions (or from another perspective, it’s a league of slightly frustrated ex-jocks who take their workplace aggressions and ill-proportioned dreams of glory out on the ball field in a continuing series of unintentionally hilarious antics). Enter into this hyena’s nest the Spectacles, the official softball team of Chronicle Books. Knee deep into our third season, the Specs are poised to turn the tables on our opponents, swamping them with our surprising mixture of sturdy athleticism, singular good cheer and unflappable team spirit.

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“Backhand” Thorpe and “Prancy Pants” Merrill exhibiting their skills

Yes, I know softball is a game of stats, but I ask you to look past our record (currently 0 for 3) and witness instead some of the awesome power exhibited in our game of a few weeks back. It started with a whimper and ended with a bang: sun-blinded eyes and an unfamiliar field threw our usual tight defense off balance, allowing our opponents, the Mighty Mabs, to hammer us for the first two innings.

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Laura “Cheesesteak” Bagnato prepares her Eye of the Tiger batting stance

But then, the tide turned. Outstanding field work in center by Gerry “Pockets” Kong and “Backhand” Scott Thorpe, was further solidified with some stellar plays in the infield, including our first ever double play: Shortstop Jake “Jake!” Gardener caught a tricky line drive and fired it to first before the over-eager base runner had a chance to hustle back. Later in the game, Wendy “Jeter” Wagner, playing at short, caught another killer infield line drive, stopping the Mabs in their tracks. Additional and excellent infield support was supplied by Traci “Showstopper” Todd at second and Colin “LIRR” Burnett at first. After the first burst of runs by our opponents, they didn’t score again for the remainder of the game.

Our offensive onslaught began with our pitcher and designated slugger, Ryan “Dunkin Donuts Franchise” Cunningham, who earned his salary yet again with two jaw-dropping RBI triples.

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Cunningham, rounding home to the cheers of his teammates

Other amazing hits were executed by Deirdre “Prancy Pants” Merrill, Tessa “DDAY” Ingersol, Matt “Slogan” Robinson, Michelle “Designated Driver’ Clair and Patrick “The Bookkeeper” Emerson. If it hadn’t been for those first two innings, the Mighty Mabs wouldn’t have stood a chance. But as Cher lamented, you can’t turn back time. Technically, we lost what was an incredibly well played game. But take heart, if we include our imaginary handicap, our multiple late inning rallies produced a come-from-behind win: 17 to 15. Like the fella says, history is written not by the winners, but by those who write it.

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Addendum (or how the Spectacles learned to stop worrying and start winning)
The scene: Tuesday night, August 28th, 9PM, 2007 AD

Maybe it was the lateness of the hour, my happiness with the Yankees win over the Red Sox, or the plate of sloppy joes in my belly, but even before last night’s ballgame, I felt like something was up at Moscone field. There was a charged, and slightly off-kilter atmosphere that I couldn’t quite codify. At first, I thought it was a premonition that I would badly maim myself on the field, but it turned out to be a symptom of destiny–the combined energy of a team whose day had come.

The Spectacles won last night in an excellently played firecracker of a ballgame. Defense was key throughout the game: we had several 1-2-3 innings that helped keep our lead healthy and our morale high. Both starting pitcher Matt “Nolan Ryan” Robinson and Ryan “Pedroia” Cunningham exhibited some lively and quick-witted defensive plays on the mound, stopping line drives and fielding wildly hit grounders. Traci “showstopper” Todd was integral at second and Patrick “Mugshot” Emerson at first had some great reaches, snagging a few important outs. Wendy “homework” Wagner had an important stop at third, and relief third baseman, Julie Ritchie helped close out the game with style (both with her fielding and her new haircut). Our opponents barely hit the ball out of the infield, but when they did, “Montessori” Jones, Gerry “Afterburn” Kong and Jake “I got it!” Gardener killed their fly balls with excellent catches and stops.

And our offense? We had a good night. Michelle “The Eliminator” Clair and Deirdre “Legal Eagle” Merrill were powerhouses at the plate. Gardener hit a bench clearing triple, Cheesesteak Bagnato hit two singles, Traci and Carey drew important walks and Cunningham, Robinson and Thorpe were on fire as usual.

As a closing note, I will quote from an email from Patrick Emerson: “I should let you know that as Ryan and I were getting into my car, 1/2 of the other team walked by saying, ‘Good game, what company are you?’ When we answered, one dude, I’m not sure which position he played, asked if we’d take his manuscript. ‘I have it right here…’ He wasn’t kidding. Sort of funny. I admired his chutzpah.”

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