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Ballad of a Ballgame

Do you remember that song by Janis Ian?
The one where she complains about
not getting chosen for the basketball team?
[Her song went, "For those whose names are never called
when choosing sides for basketball"
remember that depressing song?]
I would have written about that
but she did it first

When you're 5 foot 2
OK, 5 one-and-a-half
and everybody else in the whole gym class
if 5 foot 3 and even taller
it hurts

truth is, I hadn't thought about that for years
but then a recent phone call rekindled all those fears
'a softball game, ' Robin said, 'and you're invited'
'softball? great! That's my game!
why softball's practically my middle name
I'll be right over' I said, feeling excited

Even though I can't throw, I can't hit
I can't run, I must admit
I can't catch
I can't pitch
in softball I have not found my niche . . .

But I don't let details get in my way
team sports, ooh, that's what I loves to play
I got dressed, got my sneakers tied
made it to the park in time for choosing sides

Pick me pick me pick me pick me pick me pick me, oooh
Pick me pick me pick me pick me pick me pick me, oooh
Glove? Sure I own a glove
but it's in the repair shop with my rugby helmet
but I can always borrow from the other team
Pick me pick me pick me pick me pick me pick me
Pick me pick me pick me pick me pick me pick me

This part goes on for a long long time
because 20 people showed up to play
and they picked 10 to a side
so as the ranks of the chosen grew and the unchosen we depleted
I tried to act non-chalant

'cause deja-vu I was the last one chosen
even after the overdressed Felicity Rosen
[do you know her? she was wearing high heels,
stockings with seams and those Lee stick-on nails,
and they picked her before me . . .]
they put me in the field so far out and to the right
I was practically out of sight

But everybody said I had a real good day
I didn't make any errors
I didn't make any plays
you see, the ball never came out my way
and I figured it's just gonna be one of those days

Now, coming up to bat was a whole new kind
of humbling experience
I took one swing and missed
that was no surprise
I took another swing and missed
that was no surprise
then I practiced strategy
I let one go by
the umpire called it a 'ball'
I had a proud moment

Then the pitcher figured me out
he threw one I just couldn't resist
I swung and I actually hit it . . .
but it was a pathetic little dribbler that went
bloop. . . bloop . . . bloop right back to the pitcher
who threw it over to first and I was out
which again is no surprise
but as I was walking to the bench to pick up my borrowed glove
to captain of the other team
said to the captain of my team
'hey, she really doesn't know how to play
so let's not count her outs'

'Not count my outs? Not count my outs?
what are you talking about?
I want you to count my outs!
I want my outs to count!'
which made me unpopular with my entire team
so I said
'Don't count my outs? What a great idea!
And it makes me feel so special!
Thank you for being such a sensitive human being
and thinking of my needs in such an open, kind, and generous way!'

[I really said something like that.
I was babbling like an idiot!]

Well, eventually I resumed my place in the outfield
and continued watching the dandelions
grow and blossom and turn into puffs
and blow away in the chilly wind
I continued watching the clouds
making ugly formations in the sky
and it wasn't long before
I began to question my worth as a human being
and my reason for living

But then . . .

Top of the seventh
two on, two out
a crack of the bat
a mighty clout
my whole team turned and cringed to see
that speeding ball heading vaguely toward me . . .

I ran as fast as I could
I said a prayer
I stuck out my glove . . .
the ball landed in there!
no one could believe it on either team
they hooped and hollered and stomped and screamed
and total strangers clapped and cheered
(aware that God had performed a miracle here)
I was carried to the bench
I was handed a beer
then the clouds broke apart

[No it didn't. But it felt like it did in my heart.
I wanted to live again.]

Oh by the way
we lost that game 17 to 3
but I considered it a moral victory
and Janis Ian, wherever you might be
take heart, there's hope for you
'cause there's hope for me

Take me out to the ballgame
take me out to the crowd
buy me some peanuts
I'll buy you Crackerjacks
as long as you count my outs
when I come up to bat
now it's root root root, root root root
for both teams
win or lose
lose or win
we're all the same
oh won't you please take me out
to the old ball game?
come on
please take me out
to the old ball game

A true story. The weird thing is, on my way to the ballfield I found a single pearl pierced earring on the sidewalk in front of the building across the street from where I lived. For about a year I had been obsessed with the idea of writing a song somehow based on a pearl -- how such a beautiful thing is created out of what is initially an irritant.

I showed the pearl to the doorman of that building, not knowing if it was a real one or not. He said, "What do you want me to do with it? Take it -- get out of here!" So I stuck the earring in my sock (I didn't have a purse since I was going to play ball). I played the whole game with that pearl earring in my sock. The next day I took it to a local jewelry store where it was appraised at $80. I mailed it to my sister Mary (who had only one ear pierced) and she wore it the next weekend when she was maid of honor at a friend's wedding.

I tell you this story because this is ultimately a positive song that came out of a negative experience. In its own way, it's my pearl. Which is shaped like a baseball. Coincidence?

One other thing: Sometimes after this song I say to the audience, "I'm always amazed at the number of people who will come up to me after a show. They'll make their friends walk away because they want to have a private moment with me. They'll say something like, 'You know that baseball song? I'm so glad you wrote it because something terrible happened to me in sports when I was a kid.' In my heart I always want to say, 'Get away from me, you loser,' but I never do, 'cause I'm a folksinger. I always say 'Thanks for sharing.'"

But most of all, remember this -- don't ever let anyone tell you that your outs don't count! They do!