By DOUG SMITH
Niagara Gazette — Extending a scouting report by Woody Allen, bad baseball is the fourth best thing in the world. And Base Paths enjoyed a lot of it last week on sabbatical to Buffalo’s city series.
The players were Middle Early College and Buffalo Performing Arts, their stage the Cy Williams diamond at Delaware Park. Middle Early College is a downtown school affiliated with Erie Community College, striving to get good young people on an academic track; Performing Arts pretty much defines itself, although no ballet shoes or makeup were in evidence.
Middle Early College committed 11 errors, allowed 14 stolen bases, was outhit 7-6 and won, 9-7. Base Paths was consulted twice for affirmation of the actual score. Pitchers were so unmindful of base stealers that several had reached their destination before the ball crossed the plate; once, the batter swung into a popup, resulting in a double play.
When Middle College’s catcher suffered a thumb injury, it took 10 minutes to solicit a volunteer, gear him up and teach him the rudiments, all while the umpires, with infinite patience, bade the game slow down. Most blue will concede that a well-played game can umpire itself; in this one, they’d never have gotten out of the second inning.
But when a curfew approached and they moved to end the game, giving Middle College the win after 5 ½, it was Middle College that argued for play to continue. And as Arts rallied, its fans cheering in in a United Nations cacophony of tongues, a ground ball was hit to third, where the sore-thumbed catcher had taken refuge.
He clutched it like a football, eyes blazing eagerness and fear. Mighty Casey would have been more likely to let that ball go by again. Then he ran toward first, shot-putting a lob which bounced three times into the first-baseman’s glove. Out. Mike Schmitt never completed a play with such intensity.
It’s not even how you play the game, it’s how much, at the time, you care.
GAME OVER: Sincere thanks to all who commented, pro or con, on the Niagara U softball situation, especially the player who fired off three e-mails in five minutes. She has a great future in journalism. But in this space, the issue is settled. All who wrote may check their in-box next week; Base Paths always confirms signals.
JACOBS’ LATHER: Look for Amherst legislators, who abhor anything new in their town, to try to craft a law barring Niagara-Wheatfield softball’s Nikki Jacobs, or at least charging her a fee. In a friendly non-leaguer at Amherst High’s open range last week, she launched two home runs that interrupted the distant lacrosse game.Doug Smith offer his observations and wit on baseball and softball every Monday with Base Paths. Contact him by email at email@example.com.