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THE DAY WE BLASTED MOSCOW
Ron Fimrite
June 19, 1989
On their annual road trip, the aging denizens of a venerable San Francisco saloon challenged a team of Soviets and struck a blow for softball diplomacy
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June 19, 1989

The Day We Blasted Moscow

On their annual road trip, the aging denizens of a venerable San Francisco saloon challenged a team of Soviets and struck a blow for softball diplomacy

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The game was covered by both Soviet television and CNN, as well as by Sergey U. Toporov of the daily newspaper Sovietsky Sports. Les Lapins moved out smartly to a 3-0 lead in our half of the first and held the Teapots scoreless in their half. Defensively, we were superb throughout the game. Our shortstop, Billy Brisbane, made diving stops all over the infield. I, normally a nervous wreck even in practice, was strangely calm throughout this historic encounter, setting a personal record of handling six chances at second base without an error. Our scorekeeper, Patsy Glynn, is notoriously generous in this regard, but I was fielding and throwing so cleanly that I did not require her customary largesse.

In the third inning, the first officially recorded double play in Soviet Softball history was made—Brisbane to Fimrite to Rowell. We had become the Tinker to Evers to Chance of the U.S.S.R. Bob Rowell also hit the first Softball home run in the Soviet record books, a tape-measure shot over the grandstand in rightfield. Afterward it was suggested to Rowell that years from now he will be the subject of trivia games in barrooms from Kiev to Vladivostok.

With Les Lapins leading 12-0, Moose began substituting freely, even dragooning George Wendt, better known as Norm of television's Cheers, into playing an inning in rightfield. Wendt, who was filming a TV movie in Moscow, had come merely to take in the action and down a few beers, but he happily joined in the fun.

The Soviets, for their part, were having a ball. Their rightfielder, Viktor Lisitsky, startled the spectators by doing cartwheels in pursuit of a fly ball in the gap. Later, we learned that he had won five Olympic medals as a gymnast in the 1964 and '68 Games. The best of the Teapots, however, was shortstop Anatoly Kirilov, who fielded flawlessly, and was awarded a home run by the ever-accommodating Glynn when his hard shot down the third base line bounced past the usually impeccable Frank Bruno and then was kicked in leftfield by the usually reliable Keith Fitch.

Even Moose suppressed his boiling competitive juices this fine sunny day. When Teapot catcher Viktor Snegirov bunted past him for a base hit (bunting is a no-no in slo-pitch), our manager uttered not a word of complaint. Snegirov then roused the crowd with a theatrical belly slide into second base when the next hitter grounded softly to short. The final score was 18-4, Lapins.

We had a party back at the Kosmos, exchanging vodka toasts deep into the evening. Rowell saluted Kirilov as the Most Valuable Teapot, and Kirilov toasted all the Lapins as "great all-stars." Art Groza, a Washington lawyer, presented Pozner with a Softball signed by President Bush, and Pozner promised to have it signed in turn by President Gorbachev. "We expected to lose this game," Pozner told us, "but really, no one lost. I think we both won. We became friends. We had fun." We all drank to that. And in our mutually expansive mood, the world seemed somehow smaller. And brighter.

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