The 'Chronicle' celebrate their 2008 ASL title with the Carmadillo
It was a game – and a season – that the late cultural critic John Leonard would have loved, its “cumulative tension” released only after the last out was recorded on Oct. 19, its Fabian policy and vagaries finally giving way to the “hand grenades and machine guns” of more traditional fall sports like football, basketball, and hockey. Of course, Leonard was talking about baseball there, and I’m talking about its slovenly civilian counterpart, softball, but whatever, the Chronicle still won.
After a four-game losing streak stretching back to a charity tournament late last year (and by charity, I mean we gave that shit away) through an 0-2 start to the inaugural Alternative Softball League season early this summer – simultaneously cementing the tendency of its “fanbase” to all but ignore the team’s very existence – the Chronicle flipped the switch in time to emerge as 2008 champions, dispensing of archrival BookPeople in a back-and-forth 11-9 thriller. The win was the Chronicle‘s fourth in six games against the Filthy Animals from Sixth and Lamar, dating back to the days of the Unofficial Shadow League of Local Businesses. The overall score in those six games? Illustrating once again that the numbers do, in fact, lie, somehow something like 70-67 BookPeople. Cumulative tension, indeed.
This latest in a long line of instant classics happened in front of a fired-up throng of 6,000-plus lucky witnesses to history at Krieg Field No. 4. The record gathering came to get face time on News 8, I’m fairly certain, but when the lazy broadcast bastards didn’t show up, they turned their attention to hot dogs, a keg, and the Carmadillo. An estimated eight of them were rooting for the paper’s poet warriors, more commonly known among longtime Austin softball followers as the Infantile Retards.
Eight was enough, as it were, because the vocal minority pro-Chronicle crowd was deafeningly loud and rabidly literate, with one fan, Samantha, rotating four – four – signs throughout the contest: “Chronicle/Softball/We Rule”; “I’d Rather Be Here Than in Tampa [where the Rays were in the process of besting the Boston Red Sox in seven games]”; “Beat BookPeople”; and “D” (one side), “Picture of a Fence” (other side). Samantha, sadly, at no point stripped and streaked onto the field, à la BookPeople supporter Noah after outfielder Dale‘s eighth-inning home run – his second of the game – that tied the score 9-9. Proving to be his favorite team’s final highlight, the speedy Noah was a blur of body hair and ecstatic savagery.
Believe it or not, there had been a more bizarre tour around the bases an inning earlier, when Chronicle publisher Nick Barbaro – basically an older, slower, wealthier, and more clothed Noah – extended the Chronicle‘s short-lived lead to 9-5 on a bloop home run down the right-field line. Apparently taking a victory lap six outs before victory was actually achieved, Barbaro casually circled the diamond with a grin as BookPeople’s comically erratic relay throws caused the ball to trail him like an outwitted smart bomb or a heat-seeking missile from assorted Looney Toons installments. Cruising for home, the ball hovering politely near his shoulder as if to say “after you,” Barbaro shrugged, seemingly oblivious to the course of events while teammates and fans screamed at him to pick up the pace, and crossed the plate. As is often the case, he must have known something we didn’t. He must have known these playoffs were his: In two games, the erstwhile role player went 7-7 with 5 runs scored and 6 RBI. That is what we in the business call production.
But if Barbaro is the Chronicle‘s playoff MVP, as many would argue, he might have to share the award with many of his teammates. Perhaps the most unexpected candidate is light-hitting catcher Kristine Tofte, whose groundout in the bottom of the eighth drove in what would turn out to be the winning run after BookPeople had battled back from a 9-5 deficit in the top half to knot things up. Other major contributors included captain and leadoff man Bobby Leath (7-9 with 4 runs); clutch second basewoman, trophy designer, and multiple gold ball winner Shannon Stott; left fielder Mike B. (5-7, 6 runs, 5 RBI, and stellar defense); third baseman Travis (6-7, 4 runs, a league-leading 8 RBI); me, for too many reasons to number here; “The Appalachian Natural” Doug Freeman, who uses a fiddle bow tied with live snakes to a ham hock in place of a bat (6-7, 5 runs); ASL Commissioner and left-center-fielder Mark Fagan (6-7), whose gliding catch in the top of the ninth stopped a BookPeople rally before it started; the great first baseman and expert batsman Michael King, who managed to score 3 playoff runs despite an absence of legs; veteran outfielder James Renovitch, who had a huge hit in the sixth frame of the championship; the dynamic Cassie Wright; Logan Youree, for his miraculously rapid improvement and his camera; line-drive machine Simon; Christina Jupson; and ace Charlie Sotelo, who returned from a regular-season injury to pitch the paper to a title in what were possibly his last two games with the team. Also Patrick’s mom.
Alas, only six of those worthies will play in the first annual ASL All Star Game, this Sunday, Nov. 16, 3:30pm, at Havins No. 1. Mike B., Jupson, Leath, Travis, Stott, and I will join representatives from BookPeople, Emo’s, KOOP Radio, and Waterloo Records in an exhibition of softball skill and a celebration of our fading youth. Come drink beer and get your car broken into. There will be a piñata filled with cocaine and jewels, as well as a mystery guest. For the full rosters and more information on the ASL, see www.myspace.com/alternativesoftballleague.