Our coed Sunday softball group has been going strong since the early 1980s. Hundreds of people have played over the decades. The original players worked for the Press Herald sometime in the early 1980s. Our founders made up quirky rules that promoted a beautiful Sunday experience.

“Life is hard enough,” these rules seemed to be saying.

That said, we do keep score, and the games are highly competitive.

Then, as now, we came together at 1:00 p.m. for batting practice and take the field at 1:30 p.m. or so for game time. A few of us are slowing a hair – in fact, it’s reaching a point where you could stock a warehouse with our replaced joints. Doesn’t matter. We’ve played in all months of the year, even in the dead of winter.

We choose up sides by tossing our gloves into a pile and dividing them randomly. We bat by field position: Pitchers bat first, catchers second, etc. No one is allowed to strike out. No lead-offs, no bunts. When there aren’t enough players we use half the field, alternating halves every two innings. This has made our veteran players skilled opposite-field hitters. Anyone on the mend can call for a pinch runner, provided the Doctrine of Roughly Equivalent Speed is observed.

For a while we had steady access to a diamond at Fort Williams Park. It was a soft, lovely place to play. Around the fourth inning, the cruise ship Scotia Prince drifted by and we’d pause to watch. We had an ongoing battle with big families of picnickers who set up their grills in our right field. We asked them politely to keep their kids from scampering about the outfield. They usually ignored us. We responded with what we had: Tony. He was a particularly gifted opposite-field hitter with a knack for scattering picnickers with sharp line drives.


For a time we even challenged other teams. In the early 1990s, we took on the governor’s staff. They were only too happy to embarrass a group of journalists. Their team arrived in a dusty swirl of black limos. Guys, some wearing blazers, spilled onto the field. The governor, a 6-foot-4 ex-Dartmouth first baseman who allowed himself to be known as “Jock,” demanded to see our “captain.”

We looked blankly at each other, until our Jon Halvorsen stepped forward. The two pored over the ground rules and we began. It was a taut defensive struggle that saw us ahead 3-2 in the top of the ninth. The state loaded the sacks, with two out and the governor at the plate. McKernan smoked one, a rope that our Peggy Fallon leaped and speared, wrenching her back.

Mostly, though, we’ve been nomads, playing a few weeks here or there until we got chased off by self-righteous permit-waving league officials. We’d leave, muttering, only to resurface elsewhere. We still travel with our own rakes and shovels so we could make a muddy field playable on the spot.

Our children have grown up watching and playing with us on Sunday. We’ve had one marriage – Crystal and Charlie – and one tragic non-softball related death, Scott, in whose honor we planted a tree at Fort Williams. When I go, my mates have promised to scatter my ashes down the third base line.

Over the last few seasons, our fortunes have improved. We’ve managed to establish a home field at Payson Park. Game time is the same as it’s been for at least 40 years: 1 p.m. batting practice; 1:30 p.m. game.

Come join us. We can always use players, women and men. We have several players from the Dominican Republic, so Spanish crackles around the field.

Leave enough time for a a post-game beer and a thorough dissection of the game just over.

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