after a handful of us guys (hat tip, lfhlaw) took in the Pirates' 3-0 win against the Cubs, Zadoras and I stopped in Washington, Pa., on the way back to Morgantown to see the Wild Things' game with the London (Ontario) Rippers. There were some strange doings of the kind you might associate with minor-league ball, and this is probably the lowest of the minors, the independent Frontier League.
The evening of Gathering III.1,
For one thing, we walked up to the game five minutes before first pitch and got seats behind the plate, just to the right, and practically in a section by ourselves. I mean this literally. While there might have been 400 or 500 people in the stands, in our section there were maybe five or seven, counting us. The Wild Things used to pack the park every night for years, but now they're one of the worst drawing teams in the league. Apparently the Rippers are even worse, but we'll get to that.
Then ... I swear I saw this, but I still can't believe it happened. I still think I must be wrong, but ... at one point, one of the teams (think it was the Things) had a runner on second and the batter took a pitch right on his hands. I mean RIGHT on. The ball fell in the batters box and he dropped his bat and started shaking his hands, and various team officials came out to check on him, and also on the call, which apparently was that the ball also got part of the bat and was therefore a foul ball. While everybody was considering all this, I looked out to second base, and the runner was trotting over to third, where he began conferring with the third-base coach. And then ... he just stayed there. (The base ump seemed to be concentrating on what was happening at the plate.) Now if he was at third base to begin with, what did he go back to second for? He must have been at second. And the batter stayed in the game and eventually made an out.
I pointed all this out to Zadoras. He said, "How would you report that?" I said, "Umpire's indifference?"
The Wild Things won on a walk-off hit by a guy named Gus Benusa, and the players did the pigpile thing on him, which made for a fun ending.
But the REAL weirdness came a couple days later, when we weren't watching:
Another story I read said the Rippers and Things pulled off an eight-player trade right before midnight, (presumably) four of the better Rippers for four Things, who almost immediately became free agents. And now the league has cobbled together a barnstorming team for the rest of the season.
Can you imagine? I doubt life in the Frontier League is all that thrilling to start with, except for the hours you're at the ballpark, and how much money can they be paying you to play? Any life in baseball is probably better than the life I'm living, but still ... what a life, eh?