The Shot Heard 'Round The Parking Lot

by Bill Bodden

It was at Corflu Ocho in El Paso; I'm sure of it.

Lucy Huntzinger was the Tostada; in other words she was handling the toastmistress duties, and said she wanted desperately to play softball at some point during the weekend. Andy Hooper and I both said 'yeah, sure, we'll bring equipment. So we did, and on Sunday afternoon, about two dozen people strolled across the parking lot of the hotel to a nearby school playground. The field would be of slightly less than desirable quality, with a tarmac parking lot beginning just beyond second base. I hoped grimly that no one would be injured stumbling over it. If only I'd known...

Hooper and I had chosen up teams as evenly as we thought we could, but when I saw the twinkle in Art Widner's eye when he suggested to me he'd like to pitch, I readily agreed. There was something in the look he gave me, wearing his Australian bush hat at a slightly jaunty angle, the look of the wily veteran sparkling in his eyes, that I knew no matter what other decisions I might make, Art Must Pitch.

So we played. It was one of the more enjoyable games I've ever played, and I was pleased at how many people participated, and actually seemed to be enjoying themselves. Then Spike Parsons came up to bat, and I think Jerry Kaufman said to me "I've got a bad feeling about this." I'm sure I pooh-poohed the sentiment, but then, just scant instants after Art pitched to Spike,

I heard a resounding crack. I was close enough to actually see the events unfold in front of me, almost in slow motion. I saw the ball leap from the bat of Mighty Spike in a cruel line straight back at Art. Then I heard a second crack, and my jaw dropped at seeing Spike's line-drive collide viciously with Art's knee. Everyone was stunned.

Art staggered heavily, and not only managed to stay on his feet, but also to catch the ball as it ricocheted off his left knee. He was helped to the sidelines and seemed a little shocked , but not in much pain. I'm sure Spike felt terrible, and she kept checking on Art to make sure he was okay. Though it seemed to be stiffening up on him, he seemed not much the worse for wear.

After the game, we all spent time in a suite which had a lovely view of a cracking tower across the Rio Grande in Juarez, which would occasionally spew a gout of flame. I asked Art how he was, and with a wink told me he was okay, and confided in me that the sympathy he was getting from the female end of the gender spectrum was worth every moment of discomfort. He then proceeded to regale me with tales of his youth, of sneaking in to baseball games and hitching free rides on the back end of trolleys, just out of sight of the conductor. Way to go, Art. Here's to eighty more.