Mostly Fed Softball
I figure we’re due for a softball story on the McGowan story compilation site. For starters, I’d like to recall that from age eight to about thirteen, I spent an awful lot of my time trying to organize after-school games in seasonal sports. In the fall we would play football, in the winter and early spring it was basketball and in late spring and throughout the summer we would play some version of baseball, whether it was punch ball in the backyard or stickball at PS 45 or softball at either 45 or Silver Lake. Basketball required no organization as we had a hoop in our backyard and you could play a game with just two people. Football and softball, on the other hand, required a certain minimum number of players, hence my need to organize / gather a sufficient number of players to have a game. In particular, Mike typically required eight players before he would agree to play. Rounding up the usual suspects: me, Dan, Joe, Bill and our cousin Jack left us two players short, so I would frequently ask Jerry Deforest and Vinny O’Grady if they wanted to play. My recollection is about half the time we got to eight players, and half the time we didn’t. When we were short players, sometimes we would play softball with six people, which was fine – as long as the hitting team supplied their own pitcher, the pitcher pitched from the first base line and second base formed a foul line that defined fair territory to be half of its traditional boundaries. Lots of “invisible runners” as you may imagine.
Getting to Fed softball, FRBNY had an employee-only softball league for many years and I happily joined the Markets team in 2002. The league usually had eight teams and the season ran from April to August, with each team typically playing two or three games a month. All games were after work on fields that were east of the FDR drive at either Grand St or 12 St., except, once in a while, we got to play on a very nice high school field that was just south of the Manhattan bridge. I joined the league in ’02 and during the ’04 season, the manager resigned and I took on the job, which I did not relinquish until the league stopped playing in 2020 due to COVID. As of this writing (May 2023), Fed softball had not resumed, but if it does it will be without me, as I retired in March 2021.
Most of my duties in managing the team for 16 years consisted of reminding and checking up on teammates to make sure we had enough players for each game. Sound familiar? After many years of coaching, I finally stopped making preliminary line-up’s, as I ever knew who was going to show up from one game to the next. Needless to say around 4:00 pm each gameday, I would pretty much tune out of whatever meeting I was in to focus on something more important: softball! Probably neither here nor there, but I also brought a cooler of beer to ~ 95% of the games.
We made the play-off’s 14 of the 16 years (I think) and a typical finish for us was to lose in the semi-final round of the play-off’s. We lost in the finals twice, once in a blow-out, the other in super-close series that went down to the last inning of the last game. In the blow-out series, our best player showed up more than an hour late, at which point we were down about 8 runs. What was weird is that this player actually reported to me and he was late completing a daily report of current trends in wholesale bank funding. I guess I didn’t pass along that that “tune out after 4:00 pm” guidance to my subordinates.
I’m going to conclude this note with three interesting play-by-play stories. One time my boss was at the plate and he hit a hard ground ball to third base. Unfortunately for him, he fell down – face planted – about two steps out of the batter’s box, while, simultaneously, the ground ball either hit the heel of the third basemen’s glove or his shins. The ball travels some distance from third base and the fielder has trouble locating the ball. Meanwhile my boss has a face full of dirt and is slow to get up. Finally, after what seemed like minutes, the third baseman finds the ball just as the batter is gaining steam running to first base. He was safe in a very close play.
The second cool play took place during a play-off game. We were up by two runs but the other team had the bases loaded with one out. We played the infield in, hoping for a ground ball force out at home. We got the ground ball, but the throw home was errant and the catcher had to retrieve it from the backstop. For better or worse the runner on second did not stop running, trying to score on the wild throw. Our catcher notices this and jumps / dives to home plate with ball clutched in his bare hand like a fist as the runner slides into home. At this point, all I can see is a cloud of dust followed by an out sign from the umpire. The runner not only emerges defeated but also has a bloody face and a broken nose. The umpire had to stop the game the next inning to tell the player to stuff paper up his nose to stop bleeding on the field. We finished the game – a Markets victory – after which the player confirmed the broken nose hypothesis by visiting Beekman Downtown Hospital.
The third play was in a league-wide exhibition game played at the cool field near the Manhattan Bridge. It was an Officers vs. Staff game and I was appointed the manager of the Officers squad. We drafted about two non-officers so the Officer squad could field a team and the environment was super chill, plenty of food and beer and an on-site bathroom. I think I put the drafted non-officers in the most demanding defensive positions, SS and LF, and I slotted myself in left center field as you might imagine the actual officer players really weren’t that good. Literally on the first play of the game, the batter smokes a line drive between me and the right center fielder. I thought I got a pretty good jump on the ball but I literally tore my hamstring on my first or second step and the ball continued on for an HR. When the half inning ended, I limped back to the sidelines and took myself out the game. The cool part was the rest of the players, from both teams, were telling me I HAD to play. So I ended up playing 1B with a pinch runner and I remember getting at least one hit during the game.