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Meanwhile, the rest of the band members cleaned up the debris that had been left behind on the levee. Chicken bones, crawfish carcasses and empty beer cans were strewn everywhere, but in no time, the field was cleaner than it had been when the game started.
Only 15 or 20 spectators were left at the rim of the diamond, when an "official scorer"—the official what!—a Columbia Records representative, suddenly appeared waving a scorebook. "Hey," she said, "you guys only scored four runs in the first inning, not five. The game is still tied 9-9."
I was flabbergasted, but Springsteen didn't miss a beat. "C'mon, we haven't lost yet!" he cried, leading the band in a rush back onto the field.
My team, however, was nowhere to be found. I had only three players left—enough to send to the plate for the last half of the seventh, but not enough to field a team in case we couldn't score a run. Springsteen and his band waited patiently for my next move, patting their gloves. In New Jersey, that's known as a squeeze play.
Shaking my head, I stepped slowly out to the mound to confer with Johnston and Springsteen. Though I was still shocked by the appearance of an official scorer, I couldn't refute her evidence. At the same time I didn't believe we had miscounted our total score, either.
"Look, Bruce," I said, "I have three guys here. We might be able to score a run and win this thing, but we might not. I can't field a team if we don't end the game, so why don't we just call it a tie and play a doubleheader next time you come to town?"
Springsteen smiled and shook my hand. "Sounds good to me," he said. "Why don't we just trade hats?" Needless to say, I had no objections.
My friends and family—and future grandchildren—will never believe this, I thought, so I asked a friend to take my picture with Springsteen while we swapped. Johnston got into the middle of the picture, too. Later it turned out my friend had forgotten to load his camera.
In the intervening 10 years, we have all gone on to bigger and better, or at least different, things. Springsteen now could probably fill the Meadowlands as easily swinging a bat as he does strumming his guitar. Johnston turned down a chance to manage the E Street Band and took over the career of Gino Vannelli, who, Johnston once predicted, would be "the biggest thing since Frank Sinatra." Vannelli wasn't.
As for me, I'm still a journalist, but now I write at a computer terminal for a Virginia newspaper. In my spare time I like to hang out at the local pub, reminiscing with folks about past softball glories, like a character in a Springsteen song. Bruce and I never did meet for the other two games—but you might call swapping hats a doubleheader.