I thought back to the 1930s and ‘40s, before the wave of post World War II consolidations, when Upshur County still had a number of common schools that fielded girls’ softball teams for intra-county competition.
I played catcher on Gilmer’s seventh grade team. When we traveled to the Sand Hill School I learned for the first time that the community was well named.
SUCH A far cry we were, with our little Sears mini-skirted outfits, from today’s softball teams, which, at the college level, at least, look more like pros.
In Sunday’s game between Ole Miss and the University of Tennessee, I noticed that the fashionable long hair that all the players favored was mostly tied into pony tails, but still required a lot of swishing around.
And though they wore helmets, some with optional face masks, when they came to bat, they played bareheaded in the field. A male announcer mentioned this to his female counterpart, who explained, “They’re very concerned about how they look out there.”
She noted that one outfielder was wearing a visor, but only because she would have to look up towards the sun to catch a fly ball.
The team from Ole Miss had several players who were overweight, a couple of them severely so. I guess that may reflect Mississippi home cooking, which leans heavily toward fried chicken and everything else that can be fried -- the chicken and mashed potatoes requiring a generous serving of cream gravy. No wonder that the roster lists heights but not weights.
THE SOFTBALL field takes some getting used to, if you’re accustomed to baseball games. The entire infield is either dirt or brick dust, which makes the outfield grass look a bit shortchanged.
There are separate rules for ‘fastpitch” softball and “slowpitch,” which can be used for younger ages or other reasons.
Helmets must be worn by batters and runners in fastpitch, but are optional in slow pitch.
In the NCAA fastpitch game, which establishes the college rules, you have the option to wear a helmet with or without a face mask, but the catcher must wear a protective helmet with a face-mask and throat protector, shin guards and body protector.
The biggest difference between baseball and women’s softball, as you may be aware, is the length of a regular game: seven innings instead of nine.
Softball is said to be the most popular participatory sport in the U. S., with an estimated 40 million Americans playing at least one game of softball during the year.
ON SATURDAY I was pleased to watch the middle game of a 3-game series between Texas A&M women and the UT Lady Longhorns.
UT Outfielder Torie Schmidt hit a two-run, walk-off double in the seventh as the Longhorns rallied from a 6-1 deficit for a 7-6 win over the Aggies. Ms. Schmidt, who is only five feet two, finished with three runs batted in as the Longhorns scored four runs in the fifth and two in the seventh to tie the Big 12 Conference series.
(As a concession to female vanity, I suppose, the team’s website lists the players’ heights but not their weights. But at any size they’re not short on athleticism, that term so beloved by broadcasters.)
THIS IS THE last time the Aggies and Longhorns will meet as conference competitors, since the Aggies are leaving the Big 12 this year to join the Southeastern Conference.
The Sunday game was not televised, so I had to wait a day to learn that the Lady Longhorns won the series by eking out a 4-3 win. The UT website had a picture of the smiling orange shirts holding an impressive trophy.
In a television interview Saturday the Longhorn captain was asked what she thought about the rivalry ending, (tied now, at 20-20). She said something innocuous, to the effect that these two schools were something special in their opposition, regardless of the sport.
The Aggie captain’s comment was succinct: she thought the orange color the Longhorns wear is terrible.
Way to gig ‘em, Aggie. You sure sawed varsity’s horns off.