Thursday, February 26, 2009

Baseball Place No. 20: Rose Park Wiffle Ball Complex, and Place 20A) Wrigley Field Wiffle Ball spot

Josh Pahigian takes us to Mishawaka, Ind. for some serious Wiffle Ball action.

The Rose Park Wiffle Ball Complex on the outskirts of South Bend – No. 20 in his “101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out” -- has 22 fields and an annual tournament for five-person teams.

I’m sure it’s fun. But it sounds pretty complicated. Maybe that’s why they call it a complex.

But Will and I used to have less-organized games in far grander locations. I offer:

Alternative Place No. 20A) Wrigley Field Wiffle Ball Court.

Will winds up against a "major-leaguer."

Here’s a neat story from the archives.

We were in Chicago to cover the final game at Comiskey Park, and arrived the day before because we snagged tickets for the final night game as well.

With some time on our hands before the game, we headed to Wrigley Field to check out the souvenir shops. To our great glee, we discovered a perfect strike zone painted on stadium wall along Waveland Avenue near Kenmore.

We were happily breaking off curves like Greg Maddux from the center of the street when two guys came up to us, amazed that we would be playing Wiffle Ball alongside Wrigley Field.

If he shows me a first pitch fastball, I'm taking him downtown.

They wanted to play, and when we hesitated they tried to impress us. One was tall and stocky, and claimed to have a cup of coffee with the 1987 World Champion Minnesota Twins, even flashed what appeared to be a championship ring.

The other was slender and dark, and claimed to be an actor with a role in "Bull Durham."Reporters are skeptical by nature, of course.I didn’t recognize the name of the guy who claimed to be a former Twin.

I had a pretty good knowledge of major leaguers since baseball card companies at the time issued extensive sets that included just about every player in the bigs as well as even minor prospects from the minors.
Hey, where are all the rooftop fans to watch our big game?

And Will is a walking baseball encyclopedia. In fact, if there was a contradiction between Will and the official baseball encyclopedia, I’d believe Will. And he didn’t recognize the name, either.

The guy did have a 1987 Twins ring, but that didn’t necessarily mean he was a player. Teams give rings to a lot of employees.

The other guy claimed to be an infielder in "Bull Durham," one of the guys on the mound when one of Nuke’s eyelids is clogged, Jose needs a live chicken to sacrifice and no one knows what to get Jimmy and Millie for their wedding. "Candle sticks," of course, was coach Larry Hockett’s answer.

The guy had the lines down pat, and we didn’t have any photos from the movie in hand for comparison purposes.This was a little icky. It seemed like the kind of lines guys would be spouting trying to pick up girls over a bottle of Bud at the Cubby Bear after the game.

We told them we were in town for the final Comiskey games — a very big deal, the hottest ticket in town — and they didn’t seem to believe us, either.

Will and I exchanged some skeptical glances. It’s not like we could openly debate this in front of them. Lacking proof, we decided to let them play. We even took some photos — just in case they were legit.

Although I must say the alleged Major-Leaguer couldn’t hit my nasty Wiffle knuckleball, making his claim that much more dubious. Note the photo, the knuckler is on the way!

He's getting the knuckler, taught to me by the master.

After playing for a while, the guys moved on, presumably to hoist those brews at the Cubby Bear.

"What do you think. Were they telling the truth?" I asked Will."Who knows?" Will said. "They may be lying. But we know for sure that we really are going to the final game at Comiskey.”

The Cubs have since renovated the bleaches and outside walls, and to our horror, we discovered that the strike zone is gone.

But that’s not to say you can’t bring some chalk – I said chalk, people – and make a new one. Just don’t hit any of the Tylers and Trixies. And be very suspect of guys who claim to be ballplayers and actors, but can’t hit a knuckleball.

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