I seem to remember it going this way…
Late afternoon baseball games on July 4th can be incendiary. The heat and the time team with a day full of consumption to make people act in ways that they are normally able to hide. On this day, the Jaycees were kicking the snot out of the Exchange and the coach of the losing team was done.
Williamsburg, being a Busch town, seemed to let people think it was okay to tote a Bud wherever they wanted and Mr. Spitz had carried a six pack to the hallowed grounds of Kiwanis Park. Now with his beer gone and his drunk in full force, he was about to show his true character. His team was down by ten and about to forfeit the last two innings of the game. The bases were loaded and with two outs he sent the runner home from third on a passed ball. The thing about passed balls on the little league field was that the ball sometimes hit a board under the screen and ricocheted back to the catcher. With Coach Spitz staggering in the coach’s box and his runner laboring for home, the ball shot right back to the catcher, who turned, tagged the runner, and put an end to the drubbing Exchange was receiving.
The umpire called a hearty, “OWWWoooooTTTT!” With that, the game was over and insanity was about to begin. Mr. Spitz limp legged it down the line and started yelling at the umpire, who was all of seventeen years old.
“Are you eff-ing crazy?” he said with Bud inspired breath.
The umpire was tired from doing two games in the hot sun. He had listened to the drunk-speak from this little country bumpkin for just about two hours and now it looked as if anything was possible. I was the umpire and figured if Sir Souse wanted to throw a punch, he would have to hit me through the mask or balloon chest protector. He was just drunk enough to believe that he could hurt me even though I fully protected by the tools of the trade.
“I ought to take you in a field, beat you up, and leave you to die,” he said as he drew back to hit me.
He never got the chance. He got kicked in his man brains and booger hooked for a walk off the field. I drug his sorry self around the third base dugout and up to the scorer’s box. People were clamoring for a fight and some were yelling for both of us, but I yanked him up the stairs and shut the door to the plywood box behind me.
“Say you’re sorry.”
I gave him a deeper hook, any further and I may have been able to touch his eyes. “Say you’re sorry.”
The “man” who had been so tough during the season and so bold during this game was proving to be nothing more than a drunk. Since we were away from everyone and I was protected in the umpiring equipment with my fingers firmly entrenched in his nasal cavity, sobriety began to creep into his thinking.
I released the booger hook and wiped my fingers on the chest protector. I knew this was going to be my last time umpiring baseball. The ridiculousness of adults at their kids’ sporting events was already starting to become too much to believe and it was only 1984.
“Why do you act like this, Mr. Spitz?”
“Because you, suck.”
I lunged at him like I was going to hook him again. He turned his head and cowered. I didn’t know at the time what it would be like to be a parent, but I was pretty sure that I would never act this way at an event where my children were playing. Still though, I wanted to know why Mr. Spitz was so sure that it was okay to get drunk while coaching his son’s team and then threatening the umpire’s life.
“I suck? Look at your drunk ass. You got tuned up by a high school kid. How do you explain that to your son? To your wife?”
He had no way to answer those questions and I was just sick of being around him. To that point my life had been about lessons that sports taught virtuous values like sportsmanship, honesty, hard work, and integrity. On this super hot Day of Independence, I learned that those lessons weren’t entirely true. Sports are only as noble as the individuals who are a part of them.
I opened the door, walked over to the field house, dropped off the equipment, and took my check from Pete. I realized then that I was changing and sports were becoming a whole lot less important. It’s a shame really…
At least that’s how I think it went…