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I have a T shirt and two sweat shirts that Say I PLAYED BASEBALL AGAINST THE 1969 CUBS. This intro lets me get on with the rest of the story. "Hello, my name is Blat, Blong, Blough—whatever, it doesn't matter—and the very fact that Ferguson Jenkins was playing me deep enough to catch a ball hit 350 feet tells you something," is how I usually begin.
"Excuse me?" people reply.
"I hit a ball 350 feet," I say.
"Pulled it dead to left. It was caught—over the shoulder, but still, he must have been playing me pretty deep—by Ferguson Jenkins. He was in left at the time. You know how guys over 35 are; they like to live out their fantasies, and Jenkins probably always wanted to rob a sports-writer of extra bases. Earlier in camp, he called me—just a minute, I think I have the exact wording somewhere...here it is: 'A good hitter.' O.K., you could say that's the kind of thing he might say to his nephew, but still...."
"No, I mean where, like in, what park?"
"Scottsdale Stadium. Arizona. Which was strangely appropriate, because...."
"Oh. Thin air."
Thin air. I may have to get another T shirt that says I HIT A BASEBALL 350 FEET AND WHY IS IT THAT EVERYONE'S REACTION IS 'THIN AIR'? The whole trouble with my baseball career, and my life, is that my T shirts have to have too many words on them.
My game shirt, the authentic Chicago away uniform shirt I was wearing when I hit the ball 350 feet, has only one word on it: "Cubs." The All-Star Baseball School's weeklong camp last month for men over 35, which culminated with a game against some of the '69 Cubs, was the closest I will come to fitting myself into that word, that one round patch.