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PUTTING FENWAY IN THE BACKYARD
Peter Alson
September 25, 1989
Rick Ferroli, a 6'1" righthander, rears back on the mound, kicking his left leg high. In the cage, I wave my bat, tensing, as he uncoils and delivers. The ball leaves Ferroli's hand, and for the barest second I am able to follow it. Then it goes schizo. It has more movements than Beethoven. Up, down, right, left, right. By the time it curves over the heart of the plate, I'm dizzy. I listen to the umpire punch me out and realize that I have just been initiated into the world of serious Wiffle Ball.
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September 25, 1989

Putting Fenway In The Backyard

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?Curveball. Thrown overhand with the holes to the right (for a righthander), index finger on the seam. No wrist snap required. Can break up to five feet.

?Screwball. Thrown overhand with the holes facing in, to the left on a righthander, index finger on the seam. This is the hardest pitch to throw, but when mastered it's a mind-boggier, more a corkscrewball than a screwball.

I study what I have written down. Unfortunately, I can't read the pitches to Ferroli and Belyea when I take the mound; I have to throw them. In the top of the first inning, that proves difficult. I walk each of them 12 or 13 times in the course of giving up 14 runs. But my wildness is contagious, and in the bottom of the inning Ferroli can't find the plate either. Norman and I rally for five runs on only one hit. (With only three balls constituting a walk, a large percentage of runs score on walks—too large to my way of thinking.)

In the top of the third inning, using a bat—half Louisville Slugger, half industrial plastic tubing—custom-made by Ted Williams's son, John Henry, a participant in the 1988 championship games, I whack a hanging Ferroli curve-ball off the "M" in the Marshfield sign, missing a grand slam by inches. Behind a fence, the next-door neighbors' kids cheer me from their perch on the roof of a shed.

Later on, sitting in the VIP box, I bask in the glow of our 39-16 drubbing. Ferroli, to my eyes at least, is still in shock from having given up 16 runs to a pair of beginners. He cues up The Star-Spangled Banner (he recorded it live at Fenway) and blasts it over the P.A. system. On the field, the players for the next game stand along the baselines, caps over their hearts, facing the flag that flies from atop the Wall.

As the game begins, a girlfriend of a member of the Maine Assorted Nuts team presents Ferroli with a cake decorated to look like the field. It has grass-green icing and a cardboard Wall complete with American flag. Pointing to a sugary white Wiffle Ball to one side of the infield, Ferroli says, "Look, the ball even has holes in it."

Dave Morrison, a Nut who works for L.L. Bean in Freeport, Maine, ducks in the screen door and gushes over the playing field. "To come to a park like this is like going to the World Series," he says. "My father used to say, 'Wiffle Ball will never take you anywhere.' But when I told him about this, he cried. Tears rolled down his cheeks."

"Let's face it," Ferroli says, "there aren't too many guys who would be willing or able to do this to their property. Sometimes I wonder if it's worth it. But then things'll happen like this cake. I mean, just take a look at it." He gestures toward the cake. "Just take a look at it, and then you tell me."

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Maine 316 0 1