I vividly remember the cold, windy March day I held the tryout for the actual members of the Press Club (Sam had put a notice on the bulletin board in Gothic lettering). I'm not saying they were bad, but I had some "players" out there who didn't know if they needed a lefthanded or righthanded glove because they didn't know which arm they threw with. The sportswriters were the worst. I am convinced, though I have no documentation, that within every sportswriter lurks a frustrated athlete. Well, these guys were simply frustrating.
Watching them, I understood what Casey Stengel, managing the Mets in their first season, meant when he said of his outfield, "I got two guys out there who can't play, and the other one can't catch the ball."
I stuck with an old baseball axiom and looked for strength up the middle. So I kept trying guys at second base to see if they could take a throw with a runner barreling in on them from first base. I was the runner. Most times there was no point in sliding high because the ball had either already sailed into centerfield or the second baseman had dropped it by the time I got there. But, finally, one feisty little guy from the entertainment section of the Chronicle had the ball waiting for me. I hit him in the chest, and he went one way and the ball went the other. I got up and was dusting myself off when he came at me, flailing his arms and saying words I wouldn't want your children to hear. I didn't pay much attention to it, but, when I got back over to the sidelines, Sam said, "Why didn't you hit him back?"
"Hit him back?" I said. "Why, did he hit me?"
That convinced me. I could picture both benches emptying during a brawl. I would be getting the living daylights beat out of me while my guys would be out there interviewing the other team as to just how many and what kind of punches they had hit me with.
For the sake of form, we played a couple of practice games against church-league teams (about four notches below the Commercial level), and they beat us so bad the 10-run rule went into effect in the second inning in both games.
After that, I had a quiet talk with Horlock, whose company was furnishing us with uniforms and equipment and handling the other expenses. Horlock agreed with my plan, and the next day new faces started showing up at our practices.
I brought in Phil Gray, a former college track star, as my catcher. I brought in Billy Paul as my rightfielder and cleanup hitter; he had played at Texas A & M. I brought in Jim Hughey, who had played at Texas. My pitcher was an unlikely find, in the form of a preacher from a small church outside of Houston. I don't know how he performed in the pulpit, but he could make that softball do everything but take up the collection. For my reliever and starter against the weaker teams (when the reverend was otherwise occupied with good works), I tapped no less than the Texas legislature for Russell Cummings, a very cute rocker-armer.
But my big find was Larry Prevatt, a cat-quick shortstop who could hit and run and field with anyone. How he had been overlooked by the Major City League, I could never imagine.
By the time I had finished recruiting and had filed my roster with the City Parks and Recreation Department, I was the only member of the starting team who was an actual member of the Press Club. Of course, I kept some Press Club members in uniform, fully intending to let them play if we ever got way ahead or hopelessly behind. But you know fast-pitch softball. Most games are one-or two-run affairs. So they didn't get in there very often. I still feel kind of bad about that, but as Walter Matthau said to Tatum O'Neal, "That's baseball."