I was standing in leftfield, hands on my knees, waiting for some action to come my way, when I first noticed her. She was one of those leggy Santa Monica blondes. She wore tapered Georges Marciano jeans and a white T-shirt tied in a knot just above her left hip. Her hair was in a ponytail, and she carried a clipboard in her hand and a Polaroid around her neck. I figured she was just strolling through the park.
There certainly was no reason for her to have any interest in our softball game. She didn't know any of us. We were just a group of writers and poets out for a little Saturday afternoon over-the-line. We called it Ugly Softball. Most of the guys played like...poets. There were no double-knit uniforms, no wives or girlfriends in the stands—just a dozen middle-aged men with one bat and ball among us. (I was the only guy with any playing experience higher than Pee Wee League; I had a cup of instant coffee as a pitcher with the Phillies in 1968.)
Nevertheless, she took a seat on the bench behind third base. I continued eyeing her, trying to figure out why in the name of Jesus Alou such an attractive, healthy young woman would want to waste time on a beautiful Oregon Saturday watching a game of Ugly Softball. She looked like she should be windsurfing or hiking the Cascades.
I wasn't the only player checking her out. (These guys played like poets, but they eyed the bleachers like real ballplayers.) The shortstop didn't move an inch on a ball hit 10 feet to his right. I lobbed it back to the infield, wondering if my team was ever going to hit again. I was afraid our mystery fan would get bored and move on before I got a closer look. And who could blame her?
Finally, after the longest inning ever, the third baseman snow-coned a pop-up to retire the side. I was amazed to see she was still there. I tilted my head to one side, tucked my elbows tight and gave it my best Mickey Mantle trot into the infield, the lope I'd spent years perfecting as a kid. From the corner of my eye, I saw her motion a few players toward her. By the time I reached the bench, 11 poets and writers, none of whom could hit their way out of a teacup, had her surrounded. I took a place in the rear.
"Does your team have a name?" she asked enthusiastically.
"We're not into labels." replied one of the poets.
"We're thinking about calling ourselves More Jail Space," offered another, referring to the hot political issue in Portland.
She smiled politely, then handed one of the players a business card. I was right; she wasn't local. "I'm the casting director for Coppos Films, a Hollywood production company," she said. "We're in Portland this week to film a new Burger King commercial."
"Burger King?" interrupted the shortstop, furrowing his eyebrows. "As in Herb?"