Obit for the O Team
When Ann Arbor first organized a slow-pitch league in 1969, it was "a happening," recalls Rec & Ed honcho Larry Dishman, who umpired games that year. The sport embodied the zeitgeist of the counterculture, expropriating the National Pastime from the elite few and making it a dusty ragtag democracy.
Slow-pitch was a rebellion of sorts against the difficult game popular on diamonds in the Fifties: fast-pitch softball (which my dad and brother-in-law both played). By comparison, virtually anyone could hit a huge ball thrown in a lazy arc. Even stoners could play--or at least have a lot of laughs trying.
Nearly waist-length hair under my baseball cap, I organized the "People's Softball League" in Detroit. For years I played on the Rainbows and wore their uniform of tie-dye shirts. Our league was part ball, part child care collective, part traveling potluck. Often, when it was a player's turn to bat, we had to wait until he or she ran in from kid-watching duty on the playground.
As kids ourselves we'd played pickup games on sandlots or streets. For us, slow-pitch was yet another way to reconnect with our Inner Child, even after we had our own Outer Children. Not that we really needed another excuse not to grow up.