A Grudging Farewell to Nimble Limbs and Glory Days

Long ago and far away, I fancied myself a pretty fair country ballplayer.

I was in my 20s and playing on three softball teams a week, including one in a slo-pitch church league in which we were perfect gentlemen, and another in a highly competitive fast-pitch league in which we cussed like drunken sailors, maybe because we were sponsored by a bar.

The fast-pitch team was a particularly deranged group of guys. We'd play the game, then repair to a nearby pub where we'd recount the action inning by inning. Our wives and girlfriends, who watched the game from crummy bleachers, would dutifully follow and be forced to relive the game all over again. If we really got rolling, we wouldn't be content to replay that night's game--we'd dip into some previous season and recount some extraordinary sequence of plays from that year, with our revelry only interrupted by one of the spoilsport women asking, "How can you guys remember all that stuff; it was three years ago?"

Ha. How could we remember? Indeed.

Didn't they mean, how could we forget?

Sure, they were scoffing at us, but what did we care? We were young and athletic and full of ourselves and proud of the dirt on our uniforms and spike wounds on our legs. Is that blood on your pant leg? Beautiful, Dougie, beautiful.

Yes, we saw our adoring women rolling their eyes as we basked in the memory of our own feats, but we merely pitied them for not grasping the importance of our collective glories.

Did I mention that that was long ago and far away?

Try previous lifetime.

Sitting here today, I can't get the Bruce Springsteen lyric out of my head:

"Glory days, well, they'll pass you by;

Glory days, in the wink of a young girl's eye."

That the glory days have passed this guy by was never clearer than last weekend, when I signed up with some office mates for a local media softball tournament. I hadn't played softball since last year's tournament and, well, let's just say the kid isn't getting any younger.

For starters, I can't throw anymore. An arm that used to be registered with the Police Department is now a feeble little device that can lollipop a throw if someone isn't more than 30 feet away. Anything resembling a toss with some mustard on it results in an electroshock jolt in my shoulder accompanied by a small voice saying, "Don't try that again, or I'll hurt you even more."

So you stand around on the field, either playing catcher (Oh, boy, this is fun; catching the ball from the pitcher and throwing it back) or somewhere in the field where there's no premium on having a rifle arm.

OK, you can't throw but surely the wheels still work, I tell myself--the wheels that used to beat out infield grounders or easily stretch singles into doubles (complete with head-first slides).

Yeah, right, the wheels still work just fine. They work like somebody lined my shoes with lead insoles. So, you hit a ball over the shortstop's head and while in the old days you'd low-ride around first and zip into second, now you ka-plunk down to first base like a car out of gas pulling off onto the shoulder of the highway.

Not that I had enough stamina to actually contemplate running hard. Made that mistake once--running to second base because it would have been too embarrassing to stop at first--and all of a sudden the world is a pinwheel, and the trees and grass and people are spinning around and, my God, why-didn't-somebody-tell-me-it's-150-degrees-in-the-shade-out-here- and-didn't-anybody-bring-any-thing-to-drink!

Who am I kidding?

Forget the rusty wheels or the unloaded gun or the old ticker.

It's attitude, man.

I got tagged out at home plate and one of our players, trying to be nice about it, said: "You would have been safe if you had slid."

I know, I know. I wanted to say, "You know, if you'd seen the way I used to play. . . ."

But what the hey. That was a long time ago.

It just doesn't matter that much anymore.

The Boss is right. Those glory days, they will pass you by. And it will be in the wink of a young girl's eye.

Hey, guess what? We won the darn tournament. Played three games and won the championship game 6-5. Lots of good plays, lots of good things to talk about afterward.

I don't know if the team got together after the game or not. I didn't hang around to find out. I was dragging anchor out to the parking lot, looking forward to getting home and sitting in a hot tub and popping a couple Advil.

And wondering whatever happened to the guys from the old team.

Dana Parsons' column appears Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Readers may reach Parsons by writing to him at The Times Orange County Edition, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626, or calling (714) 966-7821.

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