By Lewis Dolinsky
A fast-pitch pick-up softball game that began at UC Berkeley celebrated its 50th year on Saturday. It has survived through ten presidents and at least ten locales while hundreds of players, ages 12 to 70s, have come, gone and sometimes returned years later.
Memorable characters include the first World Frisbee Champion, a soap opera star, a porn actor, a plumber with guns, a Communist woman second baseman, a longtime mayor of Berkeley, pitchers from Guatemala and Colombia, and the Statman, who kept records of every at bat until the responsibility overwhelmed him and he burned all the pages.
The founders were four members of Occident, the Cal campus literary magazine: Gary Robinson, Bruce Hawkins, Steve Kellman, and me. The first fields were upper Barrows, then lower Barrows, which became the site of the Pacific Film Archive before it moved to Center Street. We played doubleheaders on Saturdays and Sundays, triple headers on holidays. Now it’s one game on Saturdays, April through November at Oakland’s Montclair Park, where good young players mix in with the veterans.
Some veterans remember checking out Bushrod field in Oakland in the 1970s. There, practicing, were former minor league baseball players in their 60s and 70s, skills diminished but passion intact. That’s how we want to be, we said. And in a way, we became what we beheld.
Journalist Lewis Dolinsky spent 26 years at the San Francisco Chronicle as an editor and foreign affairs columnist.