Too Many Innings Seldom Provide Happy Endings

(Monte Dutton photos)
(Monte Dutton photos)

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Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, May 29, 2016, 10:24 a.m.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

The Furman Paladins roared from behind to eliminate the top seed, UNC Greensboro, from the Southern Conference Baseball Tournament.

That’s not the game I saw. Au contraire.

Bacon: tasty but slow.
Bacon: tasty but slow.

When I was sitting in the front row, beyond the dugout, down the right-field line of Fluor Field, Samford eliminated the Paladins, 2-0.

It’s not altogether bad. The Friday-night game started late and ended well after midnight. I was watching the end of Stephen Colbert and mainly thumbing my Twitter feed when it ended. Had I gone Friday night, I definitely would not have written a blog the next morning. Or, quite possibly, gotten my lazy butt back up the road to Greenville.

DSCF3196

I got to Greenville — Fluor Field is the charming home of the Greenville Drive minor-league team — in time to watch Mercer storm from four runs down to edge Western Carolina, 8-7, or at least the final two thirds of it. I chatted a while with Steve White, the longtime WCU sports information director I knew well more than 30 years ago when I worked at Furman. Steve hasn’t changed a lot. We mainly did what we would have done in 1985, which was swap stories about Rick Covington and Ray Parlier.

DSCF3195The conversation was convivial and relaxed, perhaps in part because the Catamounts were ahead, 6-3, at the time.

Furman baseball coach Ron Smith trotted over once his team started loosening up. The game, scheduled for 3:30, didn’t start until 4:45, which made me start thinking about whether I can ever remember a baseball tournament at any level that ran on schedule. Smith, when I first knew him, was the point guard on an exceptional Furman basketball team and the shortstop on a decent Paladin baseball squad that would have been bad without him.

This solo home run by Samford's Jordan Fucci was all the Bulldogs needed.
This solo home run by Samford’s Jordan Fucci was all the Bulldogs needed.

Coach Smith was in a spot. A four-hour, wee-hours, baseball game, in which the teams combine for 25 runs, tends to be taxing on the pitchers. The losers were lucky. They got to go home.

Furman’s Jake Crawford, who hadn’t started a game since April 3, went eight innings, yielding nine hits but only two runs. It was rather heroic. The loss dropped him to 0-5 because the heroism was ultimately futile.

From the fifth through the eighth innings, the Paladins left nine men on base. In baseball, percentages have a way of catching up. The same team that produced oodles of two-out runs the night before ran into the buzz of seldom having anyone in scoring position until two were already out.

They lost four significant players to injury, stormed down the stretch 12-4, but wound up finishing 29-30.
They lost four significant players to injury, stormed down the stretch 12-4, but wound up finishing 29-30.

If all else is equal, the difference between being red-hot and ice-cold is generally the frequency of two-out hits.

Samford pitching kept the Paladins off balance.
Samford pitching kept the Paladins off balance.

Fluor Field is cut to Fenway Park’s dimensions, right down to a 37-foot wall in left. It also means that long fly balls spiral to a graceful death in the vast center field, and, all too often, that’s where the Paladins put ’em.

I had no appetite for Samford versus Western Carolina — the Catamounts won — so I bought some underwear at Sam’s Club and ate at a place we don’t have in Laurens County.

I got home in time to watch the best basketball game I’ve seen lately.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Most of my books can be found on Amazon here. Three are available — and signed — here in Clinton at L&L Office Supply, 114 North Main Street. The links below are all for the print versions.

Denny Frawley is an ambitious prosecutor whose ambition, private life, and family are all spiraling out of control. Hal Kinley knows he must be stopped in Forgive Us Our Trespasses.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

I’ve written lots of songs. Over time, I turned eleven of them into short stories. That’s how my collection, Longer Songs, came to be.

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

Chance Benford is crazy at the beginning of aptly titled Crazy of Natural Causes. He learns to cope with the world’s absurdity in a variety of ways.

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

The Intangibles was inspired by growing up during the tumultuous sixties and seventies. It’s a tale of civil rights, bigotry, cultural exchange, and, most importantly, high school football.

Riley Mansfield is the most likable character I’ve created. He’s a pot-smoking songwriter with a stubborn streak and the hero of The Audacity of Dope.

Look me up on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and other painstaking means of circulation that don’t occur to me now. I’m easy to find.

 

 

Decisions, Decisions, and Rationalizations

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Fluor Field. (Monte Dutton photos)
Fluor Field. (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, May 28, 2016, 10:24 a.m.

I’m thinking about going to see Furman play Samford in the Southern Conference Baseball Tournament at Fluor Field in Greenville.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

I’ve been thinking about going up to watch the Paladins for four days now. I also thought about going to see Presbyterian play in the Big South Tournament in Lexington, but the Blue Hose went two and out, and school is done so the team is scattering out to points unknown now.

The Paladins won, 15-10, last night against UNC Greensboro, and the game didn’t end until after midnight, so, in retrospect, staying home was a good decision. The first four innings took more than two hours. I watched a PBS tribute to Willie Nelson that I really dug.

I've been to Fluor FIeld Senior quite a few times.
I’ve been to Fluor FIeld Senior quite a few times.

At the moment, Maryland is playing Iowa in the Big 10 tournament, which, I think, is in Nebraska in addition to on my TV. The SEC is in Hoover, Alabama, and the ACC is in Durham, North Carolina, and the Big South, which isn’t nearly as big as the 10 or the 12, neither of which actually have the number they claim, has its finals on ESPU at noon.

The world flashing in front of me on TV, and the guitar leaning against the couch to my left, and the refrigerator are all in the way of me getting in the car and eventually reaching the sun-splashed and friendly confines of Fluor Field.

Did I mention that Clemson and Wake Forest are about to start on Fox Sports South?

College is complicated. Even the sports are complicated. Keeping up with who’s in a conference, who isn’t anymore, and who might be next year, might as well be organic chemistry.

Al Pearce and I, oh, about 10 years ago at Atlanta Motor Speedway. I have no idea who took this photo.
Al Pearce and I, oh, about 10 years ago at Atlanta Motor Speedway. I have no idea who took this photo.

I got away from it all Friday afternoon. First I met Al Pearce, my old NASCAR-writing friend uptown at Steamers for lunch. Al still travels with the gypsies, though not as much as he once did, and Friday is almost always a nothing day at Charlotte Motor Speedway, so something possessed him to drive all the way to Clinton just for a club sandwich. Al graduated from PC, though, so he likes the occasional Clinton visit.

I had the chicken caesar salad, but mainly we talked, and we talked, and we talked some more, and had numerous refills of iced tea.

Then I walked around the corner and down the Hill to Yo’ Cup, where I set up this very same laptop and sipped coffee for two and a half hours, writing the 33rd chapter of my next novel, Cowboys Come Home.

Then I went home. I probably wrote better without the TV on and the plink of aluminum Clemson bats banging Virginia fastballs. I may try this again on Tuesday. Maybe even Monday afternoon once I get my Bleacher Report column done and if I decide not to cut the grass.

Lately I’ve been not doing more things than I’ve done. I let excuses get in the way. On Thursday, I decided I’d drive up to Greenville if an old friend wanted to go, but I sent him a text, and he is somewhere at a beach, so, even though I would undoubtedly bump into other acquaintances of my alma mater, I just stayed home and watched the Red Sox again.

High school sports have played out. I wrote about a spring football game on Monday and went to an awards ceremony on Tuesday, so, on the one hand, I probably won’t have as much free lancing to do until the fall, but, on the other, I’ve got aspirations now of finishing the Cowboys Come Home manuscript by the end of June. I don’t know exactly how I’ll get it published. I’ve never written a western before.

Memphis in April, on the Texas trip.
Memphis in April, on the Texas trip.

The purpose of this column was to somehow make me decide to shave and shower and get my ass up to Greenville because it might be Furman’s last game, and I like Ron Smith, the head coach, a lot, and I missed the Paladins a little over a month ago when they visited PC because I was on the way to Texas, and driving to Texas and back constituted enough travel to satisfy me for a while.

Birmingham
Birmingham

Then assignments — baseball games here and there, the occasional softball tilt, a track meet — were enough to get me out of the house for human interaction and spending money both.

For most of the spring, I was working on the layout and design of three print editions — Longer Songs, Crazy of Natural Causes and Forgive Us Our Trespasses — and the Kindle release of the latter. Maybe I can get Cowboys Come Home out by the fall.

If I go to Greenville, undoubtedly you’ll know about it, because what am I going to write tomorrow morning? Some self-serving pap like this?

Possibly.

The only obstacles are the Grand Prix of Monaco, the Indianapolis 500, and the Coca-Cola 600.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Most of my books can be found on Amazon here. Three are available — and signed — here in Clinton at L&L Office Supply, 114 North Main Street. The links below are all for the print versions.

Denny Frawley is an ambitious prosecutor whose ambition, private life, and family are all spiraling out of control. Hal Kinley knows he must be stopped in Forgive Us Our Trespasses.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

I’ve written lots of songs. Over time, I turned eleven of them into short stories. That’s how my collection, Longer Songs, came to be.

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

Chance Benford is crazy at the beginning of aptly titled Crazy of Natural Causes. He learns to cope with the world’s absurdity in a variety of ways.

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

The Intangibles was inspired by growing up during the tumultuous sixties and seventies. It’s a tale of civil rights, bigotry, cultural exchange, and, most importantly, high school football.

Riley Mansfield is the most likable character I’ve created. He’s a pot-smoking songwriter with a stubborn streak and the hero of The Audacity of Dope.

Look me up on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and other painstaking means of circulation that don’t occur to me now. I’m easy to find.

Spring Forward, Fall Back

Incoming athletics director Nickie Templeton (right) salutes outgoing Dr. David Barnes. (Monte Dutton photos)
Incoming athletics director Nickie Templeton (right) salutes outgoing Dr. David Barnes. (Monte Dutton photos)

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Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, May 25, 2016, 10:13 a.m.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

I’m not much of a fan of banquets and awards ceremonies. Three Winston Cup marathons at the Waldorf-Astoria, sitting uncomfortably in rented formal attire while watching a skit in which Dale Jarrett encountered rappers in the streets of Gotham, were enough to founder me on the whole process.

For years afterward, when the season would end, a colleague would say, “Well, see you in the Big Apple,” and I’d reply, “You won’t see me. I’d rather spend the time butchering a hog.”

Not that I actually did that while the banquet was on TV.

Cynthia McHam, the Athlete of the Year.
Cynthia McHam, the Athlete of the Year.

It’s obvious that I am mostly alone. Some people like to dress up. I like to dress down, and even at Clinton High School’s Spring Sports Awards Ceremony, which I was assigned to catalogue for the ages, how to dress is a tough call, if for no other reason than people dress every possible way.

The last time I went to a high school banquet, I was astonished at how informal it had become. When I was in high school, people dressed “to the nines,” whatever that means. People rented tuxes. Some of my teammates dressed like they were Sammy Davis Jr., who, I note as a means of pointing out how old I am, died in 1990, which was well before any of the CHS athletes were born.

Davis was prone to the garish in dress.

Among the boys who excelled in particular.
Among the boys who excelled in particular.

Back in the early 1990s, in nearby Laurens, it had become fashionable to wear a blazer with shorts. Now bowties are popular. I hate bowties. When I was growing up, only a few people wore bowties, but those people wore them all the time. Accounting professors. Economists. But, if I were eighteen now, and everyone wore bowties, I would probably wear one, too. It’s an impressionable age. I might still wear them. Once impressionable age is over, people become set in their ways.

Greatest Hits of the Lady Red Devils.
Greatest Hits of the Lady Red Devils.

I guess my ways never got set. I put on the dress shoes I’ve owned since the 1980s. I’ve been dieting, so I made the affair the latest edition of that popular game show, “Let’s Pull Something Out of the Closet I Haven’t Worn in a Decade and See if It Fits.”

Coaches... thinking about which kids didn't show ... and what they're going to say... and trying to pay attention.
Coaches… thinking about which kids didn’t show … and what they’re going to say… and trying to pay attention.

I wore a two-tone, buttoned-up, short-sleeved shirt that made me look like a cross between Biff in Back to the Future and a Puerto Rican baseball scout.

In my defense, I didn’t care.

There were lots of names. I felt uneasy any time an award was given to an athlete whose name did not appear in the program. This is an age in which John Smith might possibly be spelled J’D’Quan Sm’yth and Becky Johnson might be Bekkii Jonssyn. The story took much longer than expected because I kept looking up high school kids on Facebook. Fortunately, they all have a page, usually one with a mischievous nickname and another “for real.” Even more so with Twitter.

Nowumsayin?

The kid in front: not a varsity baseball player.
The kid in front: not a varsity baseball player.
Ah. That's better.
Ah. That’s better.

The ceremony took place in the gymnasium. Letters, bars, certificates, and plaques were arrayed on a table. All-region selections, MVPs, Hustlers, Coaches of the Year, and state-tournament qualifiers were recognized, and for those who didn’t recognize them, introduced. Then all – one side of the grandstands was about half full of athletes, parents, and interested others such as I — received invitations to the reception up the hall in what I assume was the cafeteria, which, when I was going to the school’s previous incarnation, was the lunchroom. College had a dining hall.

This was the best part because I enjoy trading quips with people, and coaches and athletes always have quips to trade. It was roughly the same as trading marbles or bubble-gum cards in grade school, only slightly more adult.

Also, I enjoyed the pimiento cheese in the cafeteria more than the beautiful food served at the Waldorf-Astoria. In direct violation of my diet, I sipped two cups of carbonated pineapple punch and obediently dipped my chicken strips in the honey mustard.

There I found the fun stuff. The stuff that decorum prevented me from writing. The anecdotes. The war stories. The one-liners.

The baseball team queues up to be honored.
The baseball team queues up to be honored.

Some of the kids I’m going to miss. I grew attached to the baseball team, which won 23 of its 26 games and barely lost the other three. It won its region and its district but fell agonizingly shy — twice! — in the Upstate pool, which has no water if one overlooks the tears.

Sipping the punch and nibbling at the tiny sandwiches with the crust sliced off, I found the relief, satisfaction, angst, and uncertainty that comes with the end of school for both eighteen-year-old seniors and exasperated administrators.

Kids are excited at the uncertainty that lies ahead. Adults have been there, done it. They’re just looking forward to a break.

 

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Most of my books can be found on Amazon here. Three are available — and signed — here in Clinton at L&L Office Supply, 114 North Main Street. The links below are all for the print versions.

Denny Frawley is an ambitious prosecutor whose ambition, private life, and family are all spiraling out of control. Hal Kinley knows he must be stopped in Forgive Us Our Trespasses.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

I’ve written lots of songs. Over time, I turned eleven of them into short stories. That’s how my collection, Longer Songs, came to be.

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

Chance Benford is crazy at the beginning of aptly titled Crazy of Natural Causes. He learns to cope with the world’s absurdity in a variety of ways.

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

The Intangibles was inspired by growing up during the tumultuous sixties and seventies. It’s a tale of civil rights, bigotry, cultural exchange, and, most importantly, high school football.

Riley Mansfield is the most likable character I’ve created. He’s a pot-smoking songwriter with a stubborn streak and the hero of The Audacity of Dope.

Look me up on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and other painstaking means of circulation that don’t occur to me now. I’m easy to find.

In Pursuit of Lost Joy

(Monte Dutton photos)
(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, May 24, 2016, 9:46 a.m.

No, it was not I. I've never even driven a Lexus.
Monte Dutton (John Clark photo).

This is a football town, located in the lower quadrant of a football county, the central-upper-left of a football state and the east of a football region.

Have a spring football game. People will show up.

Clinton High School’s spring football game was relaxed, mainly because Clinton was playing Clinton and not Laurens or Woodruff or Newberry. The Red played the White. The final score was Red 40, White 27, but no one lost.

DSCF3178Okay, maybe the defenses lost.

The aforementioned little corner of the world has been unhappy in recent years. It expects to win. It hasn’t. Each year the rich folks get a little more snooty. The poor folks get a little more bitter. The shrinking middle class shrinks a little more.

It seems ridiculous that a better football season would fix a lot around here, but it’s understandable. Lots of the people who read this didn’t grow up in these parts.

DSCF3162Football doesn’t bring jobs. It brings joy. In lieu of jobs, all in all, joy ain’t bad.

In the words of a short-lived Furman soccer player, more than three decades ago and taken wildly out of context:

It hurts. Down deeeeep inside.

DSCF3169The Red Devils, 3-7 a fall ago, look better. That was enough joy to occupy the surprisingly large crowd that showed up on Monday night at Wilder Stadium to watch a game that had been rained out Friday.

In the post-game press conference — that means I was conferring with head coach Andrew Webb by myself — he used the word “wonderful” five times in under a minute.

DSCF3154Wonderful effort. Feels wonderful. Their attitude was wonderful. It was wonderful. As Lawrence Welk was once fond of saying, “Wunnerful, wunnerful.”

Oh, yes, and Shy Spearman, who scored the final touchdown, is “a dadgum good Red Devil.” I talked to Spearman, too. I’m satisfied he is.

DSCF3181Clinton needs a good football season like Bill Cosby needs a lawyer, Donald Trump a hair stylist and the Tin Woodman a heart.

The local citizenry, good and true, had no animosity, just hope, as it munched its boiled peanuts, sipped its Cokes and cheered every long run and accurate pass.

DSCF3171Hey, Fred, it looks like the Red Devils found a kicker!

Oh, yeah, I seen him play soccer. The other kid, on the White team, he’s good, too.

Yep. Plays soccer, too.

I sure do love soccer.

Man, they got some running backs.

DSCF3165I sure hope we got a line that can block for them.

They don’t look bad.

Naw, sure don’t. That ain’t Laurens they playing, though.

We’ll worry about Laurens when the time comes.

Exactly right, Sam. Exactly right.

It’s the spring. Flowers bloom.

(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)
(Jennifer Skutelsky cover design)

Clinton also needs a certain author’s latest novel to become a bestseller. Consider Forgive Us Our Trespasses, my fourth and latest. It’s an outlandish crime thriller, complete with cuss words and meanness.

Don’t stop there. My third, Crazy of Natural Causes, has been out less than a year and is actually about a football coach, at least for a while.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

Longer Songs is my brand-new collection of short stories.

The Intangibles is set in the 1960s in a Southern town that looks familiar.

The Audacity of Dope was my first and most fun. A pot-smoking songwriter and his right-hand girl lead the Feds on a merry chase that turns serious.

Read my short stories and book reviews at wellpilgrim.wordpress.com.

I’m not hard to find on social media. I pretend it’s a useful vice.

 

 

It Happens Every Spring

Thanks to the Crusaders, I've got one game left. (Monte Dutton photos)
Thanks to the Crusaders, I’ve got one game left. (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, May 18, 2016, 10:13 a.m.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

It’s a strange sensation for this time of year. I mourn the loss of baseball.

Oh, the Boston Red Sox are playing a doubleheader against the Kansas City Royals this very day. Late last night, I switched back and forth between a baseball game and election results. The television season is young.

I’ve written about high school baseball and softball since the weather started warming. Mostly baseball. Clinton, Laurens and Laurens Academy all had successful season. The Crusaders are still having theirs. They play in Lexington Thursday for the SCISA (South Carolina Independent Schools Association) Class A state championship against the Holly Hill Academy Raiders. Last night I watched LA force a third game by defeating Holly Hill, 6-5.

Shortstop Nick Johnson
Shortstop Nick Johnson

It’s been whittled down to a nub, though. I’m going to miss the ping of the bat.

I like TV. I’ve grown adept at reading while it’s on, not to mention writing this. It’s no comparison to being there. TV does not provide enough stimulation to the senses.

On TV, I do not sit in a press box on the roof of the visiting dugout, trying to figure out of whom the burly man bellowing below reminds me.

DSCF3128
Ryan Sneed

Eureka! It’s Robert Duvall in The Great Santini!

Even with high definition, I don’t bother to trace the slow degradation of game-tattered uniforms, partly because major-league uniforms are seldom tattered and soon replaced. By season’s end, the white trousers of Clinton’s Brayden Gibbs were sliced open across the right leg, and the red pinstripe down the side was disconnected and hanging at the top. The Red Devils were winning. Gibbs wasn’t about to complain about an old set of togs.

Josh Urwick
Josh Urwick

I arrive home and follow a standard routine. Put some coffee on. Fire up the Surface. Hook up the camera. Download the photos. Get the coffee. Edit and crop the photos. Send the best ones in. Make sure the scorebook adds up. Write the story, transcribing in quotations on the fly. Proofread. Send in the story. Wait for it to pop up online while watching late-night baseball or talk shows. Writing, and perhaps the coffee, leaves me unready for sleep. I read to relax and work my way slowly toward a mindset conducive to sleep.

Holly Hill's Jem Mott makes a pitching change.
Holly Hill’s Jem Mott makes a pitching change.

I’m going to miss the reaction of kids being interviewed who aren’t accustomed to it. Some are wonderfully spontaneous. Some are wonderfully scared. Sometimes I yell or motion to a player that I’d like for him to hang around for a while so that I can talk to him, while at the same time recording what his coach has to say.

This warning gives him a short period to think about what he’s going to say. He might think of how much he wants to credit his teammates even for deeds he performed alone.

Will Price
Will Price

“What were you thinking as you waited for the pitch you hit to the opposite field for the game-winning double?”

“I was thinking about my teammates who supported me.”

Really. I thought you might be thinking about how you should stay back and wait for a fastball on the outer half. Perhaps I should try another question.

Price went 2-for-4.
Price went 2-for-4.

Sometimes I feel stupid listening to the harried questions I asked as I transcribe the tape. I listen to my mumbling questions, wondering how anyone could possibly understand them and realize why the kid tried to turn the attention to the team, because there’s no “me” in team even though there is an “m” and an “e.”

Next year Clinton High will open a new baseball field, one with a grass infield and a press box. Obviously, this will prevent being rained on because, in every season, some rain must fall, but I’m going to miss sitting at a folding table directly behind the plate of The Sponge, trading remarks with scoreboard operator Zack Wofford, public-address announcer Buddy Bridges and assorted others, primarily because it offered such a great view of the pitches. I learned more about the Red Devil pitching staff than I ever would have from a higher vantage.

Hanks Avinger hit a three-run homer but also took the loss.
Hanks Avinger hit a three-run homer but also took the loss.

This doesn’t mean I’m going to sit down there at the new place. Even a shabby home is a home, though. I’ll miss the interaction with the fans and watching them sometimes as much as the game.

At LDHS, I’ll miss the conversations with athletics director Mark Freeze about anything and everything. Almost all of it was off the record by assumed agreement. Besides, my baseball stories have no convenient place for ruminations about bluegrass music and stock car racing. Except this one.

DSCF3102I probably won’t miss music blaring from speakers almost painfully nearby. I’ve grown accustomed to it, though.

I’ll miss the experience of watching a kid win the game while his father is announcing it on the P.A. I’ll miss watching the flight of a long fly ball to right field, with the bases loaded and the outcome riding on whether or not a streaking kid can intersect it. I’ll miss the cries of fright and then relief when he can.

Baseball on TV is slightly artificial. The heart of baseball is in its roots.

TrespassesCoverMy new novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, is a story of politics, corruption, drugs, mistakes of young and old and crime.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that began in songs I wrote.

Crazy of Natural Causes is set in the hills of Kentucky. Chance Benford is a football coach who has to reinvent himself in the aftermath of disaster. It’s a fable of coping with the absurdity of life.

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

The Intangibles is a story of the South, high school football, civil rights and desegregation, set mostly in the late 1960s.

The Audacity of Dope is the story of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking singer-songwriter who accidentally becomes a national hero and is thus forced to act like one.

A Master of the Rough and Ready Life

Just a sketch for a characters in one of my short stories. I wish I had time to do Guy Clark justice. (Monte Dutton sketch)
Just a sketch for a characters in one of my short stories. I wish I had time to do Guy Clark justice. (Monte Dutton sketch)

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, May 17, 2016, 12:15 p.m.

He built his own guitars but wrote about building a boat. He was a carpenter, a man fond of using his hands but never for typing. He wrote lyrics on graph paper.

Monte Dutton (John Clark photo)
Monte Dutton (John Clark photo)

It could be that a man must be skilled in such arts in order to be truly creative. It might be it is a prerequisite of great writing. If so, I sigh, but many fields of expertise must be brought to bear. In my low moments, I worry that I do not have enough of them, but more to life cannot be made from more than one has lived.

Guy Clark died at 74. I’ll feel fortunate if I make it that far.

He was a craftsman in whatever he did, be it functional or dys. Dis or dat. His songs touched the soul. When I heard he died, nothing could I do except pick up my guitar, strum it slowly and with feeling, and play what I could remember of “L.A. Freeway,” “Homegrown Tomatoes,” “Pancho and Lefty,” and “Baton Rouge.”

I think I got all of “L.A. Freeway” right. I hadn’t played it in a while, but it was one of the first songs I learned how to play, back when I had to squint at chords above the words and didn’t think I’d ever learn to figure them out by ear.

Pack up all your dishes / Make note of all good wishes / Say goodbye to the landlord for me / Sons of bitches always bore me …

I think they did him. In person, he was independent. He played what he wanted to play and, if you’d let him be, he’d charm your soul and probably get around to what you wanted to hear. Don’t push him, though. He’d growl a little. I wouldn’t have wanted to cross him. Fortunately, we never spoke. Communication was one way. His way.

I don’t mourn when an old man dies. He’s mainly run his course. What I feel is the loss of knowing no more of those songs are coming.

TrespassesCoverMy new novel, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, is a story of politics, corruption, drugs, mistakes of young and old and crime.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

Longer Songs is a collection of 11 short stories that began in songs I wrote.

Crazy of Natural Causes is set in the hills of Kentucky. Chance Benford is a football coach who has to reinvent himself in the aftermath of disaster. It’s a fable of coping with the absurdity of life.

(Melanie Ryon cover design)
(Melanie Ryon cover design)

The Intangibles is a story of the South, high school football, civil rights and desegregation, set mostly in the late 1960s.

The Audacity of Dope is the story of Riley Mansfield, a pot-smoking singer-songwriter who accidentally becomes a national hero and is thus forced to act like one.

 

 

When All the Laughter Died in Sorrow

Tristan Smaltz was superb. His Seneca counterpart, Tristan Hudson, was superlative. (Monte Dutton photos)
Tristan Smaltz was superb. His Seneca counterpart, Tristan Hudson, was superlative. (Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Thursday, May 12, 2016, 8:31 a.m.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

Some of the finest young men Clinton High School ever produced wandered around aimlessly on a field about 90 miles away. Many wore eye-black smeared across their cheeks, now running down their faces with the tears virtually all of them cried.

Go ahead, I thought. Get it out. Let the tears do their jobs. Rage against the dying of a season’s light.

Some screamed in agony. They had aimed higher than their fate. They had aspired to greatness and considered themselves a team of destiny.

Aaron Copeland
Aaron Copeland

They were. The last time a Red Devil baseball team went further was 42 years ago, but they yearned for it all, never stopped believing, and the shock didn’t hit their collective system until the last bat waved in search of impact.

The looks on their faces said “you don’t know what it’s like,” but I do. I experienced it. It was a football game. I was on the field. I did my little job, stepping to the right and preventing the opposition from bursting in on our kick. Then I watched the intended field goal soar end-over-end over the top of the right upright. I couldn’t tell whether it was good or not. A referee was standing underneath that upright. He signaled no good.

Seneca's Tristan Hudson
Seneca’s Tristan Hudson

James Island 17, Clinton 15. That was over 41 years ago. It seems as if it were last night, but last night was another, entirely different heartbreak, in another time, place and sport. How does one compare and contrast agony? Agony doesn’t have degrees. It either is or it isn’t.

I was on assignment in Lugoff or Elgin, watching both Lugoff and Elgin play Ninety Six in a football playoff during the final gasps of 1981. The game went into overtime. Lugoff-Elgin scored but missed the extra point. The Wildcats scored. All they had to do was kick the extra point. The game didn’t even continue. A kid from Lugoff, or Elgin, scooped it up and ran all the way into the opposite end zone. I remember the field, littered with souls in agony, lying on their backs, legs pumping, arms waving. It looked like the charismatic ending of a tent revival.

Sudden death was richly descriptive, and so was it on Wednesday night in Seneca when the homestanding Bobcats lost a no-hitter but not the game against a Clinton team that won 20 straight but not the last two.

DSCF3069With the eye-black streaking down their faces, the Red Devils looked like escapees from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but no humor accompanied the horror.

After I watched it all, I packed up my laptop and camera and drove to a nearby McDonald’s, the Official Free Wi-Fi of Sportswriters on Assignment, and started sending the photos I had already edited while the game was going and finished the story I had already started writing. I left McDonald’s armed with a large cup of coffee and a tank of gas that didn’t have enough to make it home. At a truck stop, I refilled one tank with fuel and another with more coffee.

I felt a little like the last man out of Saigon.

Daytona Beach is nice in February, but it wasn’t on the day that Dale Earnhardt died. That long day’s journey into night left me feeling as if I were Edward R. Murrow, reporting from London during the bombing raids. I just kept my head down and my fingers typing.

DSCF3066Words can ill describe the agony that characterized the third-base dugout while the first-base side went ecstatic. I strolled over there to talk to the Seneca coach, Mac Field, while teeth were still gnashing across the way.

The Red Devils’ last gasp occurred with the Seneca pitcher, Tristan Hudson, having faced 23 batters without allowing any of them to get so much as a hit. He struck out the first. Then along came Braeden Webb to stroke a double that was as much a result of his legs as his bat.

Davis Cunningham
Davis Cunningham

Clinton coach Sean McCarthy pinch-hit Davis Cunningham, who hurt his elbow while pitching a complete-game earlier in the playoffs. I could tell he wasn’t at his best, even while swinging a bat instead of hurling a ball. He couldn’t swing hard. All he could do was concentrate and put his bat squarely on Hudson’s baseball, which he did. He singled to left. Webb sprinted for dear life. Seneca’s left fielder, Braxton Gambrell, scooped up Cunningham’s single and yanked the ball plateward. Webb represented the tying run. He ran with all his might, and Gambrell threw with all his. The catcher, Petey Ridley, caught it and applied a tag to the area around Webb’s knee. Whether his feet reached the plate before Ridley’s tag reached his knee was anyone’s guess, and opinion was sharply divided between those wearing red and those wearing blue, but the decision was the home-plate umpire’s and the call was “out.”

One last strikeout, Hudson’s 10th, and the season was over for the Red Devils. It was the type of call that is often overruled in the major leagues, but there are no replay cameras in Seneca or Clinton or a thousand other burgs where baseball is played for pride and not money. In terms of pride, both teams were rich.

Dakota Webb
Dakota Webb

Braeden Webb’s grandfather coached me in junior high school. He asked me what I thought. I told him I thought he would be called out. The umpire wasn’t out of position, but he watched from behind the catcher, and from that view, it was hard to see whether or not Braeden’s feet beat the tag. Sitting, oh, 10 or 12 yards away, looking through interconnected wire, I expected the call to be “out,” and I hated being right.

Barry Whitman said it would take a long time for Braeden to get over it. He will, though. Character is shaped by one’s reaction to the worst things that ever happen. Victory sure is great, but it doesn’t make anyone a better person. A victory is a result of character, not a builder of it. The character of the players on the Clinton team left Seneca High School rock solid, if deeply perturbed.

As impossible as it must still be for them to believe, they will be better men because it happened.

Yes. Easy for me to write. I do have some sense of déjà vu, however.

TrespassesCoverMiracle of miracles. All four of my novels are available in both Kindle (and free apps usable in virtually anything electronic and communicative) and print. The latest is called Forgive Us Our Trespasses. It’s a bold ripsnorter of a crime novel.

My fable on life’s absurdity, in the person of a football coach subjected to all manner of crises, is called Crazy of Natural Causes.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

I’ve put together a collection of short stories, all 11 born in songs I wrote, aptly entitled Longer Songs.

My historical novel, set in the 1960s, of the South, civil rights, integration, bigotry, and high school football, is called The Intangibles.

The adventures of a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero is known as The Audacity of Dope.

If you’ve read them, particularly Forgive Us Our Trespasses, I’d appreciate a customer review at amazon.com and/or goodreads.com.

Down the Hill and Up

(Monte Dutton photos)
(Monte Dutton photos)

Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, May 11, 2016, 9:29 a.m.

By Monte Dutton
By Monte Dutton

Laurens Academy sits stately on a hill, its gray buildings providing a backdrop for the diamond below. The home of the Crusaders is on S.C. 49 between interstate highways 385 and 26.

I’d never been there until I wrote about the South Carolina Independent Schools Association (SCISA) opening its Class A state semifinals with the Crusaders taking on the Warhawks of Colleton Prep. The last time I saw private schools tussle, it was in football and in the 1980s.

Wil Tindall
Wil Tindall

It’s a long way from Walterboro to Laurens. According to my phone, it took two hours, 22 minutes, and 157 miles to traverse the distance, and Laurens Academy will return the favor today for game two of the best-of-three series. If Colleton Prep wins at home, as Laurens Academy did on Tuesday, then a decisive game will be played at a neutral site on Friday.

The likely site of that game, should it be played, is Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, which is located on the south side of Columbia, 76 miles from Laurens and 94 from Walterboro.

Nick Johnson manages to get back to second base.
Nick Johnson manages to get back to second base.

Suffice it to say that these two teams are spending more time on the bus than they are on the field.

The Crusaders (19-6) defeated the Warhawks (17-5) by a score of 7-6 on a two-out, two-run double by center fielder Josh Urwick while I watched from the press box, atop the Colleton Prep dugout, with, among others, Josh’s father Alan and, for part of the game, his older brother Matthew. Alan is the public-address announcer, so, in a way, he was mimicking the famous description of Dale Jarrett’s Daytona 500 victory by his father, Ned.

Johnson singled in the first.
Johnson singled in the first.

“Dale Jarrett wins the Daytona 500!” Alan was less personal, but so, too, is baseball between teams as compared to racing between drivers.

Chris Reeves went the distance for the Warhawks.
Chris Reeves went the distance for the Warhawks.

Alan didn’t say a word he wouldn’t have had any other player from the home nine come through in such dramatic fashion, but the inflection of his voice may have been ever so slightly more exultant. A man must strain to contain his enthusiasm when flesh and blood is involved.

Will Price, Johnson, Tindall.
Will Price, Johnson, Tindall.

I had a lovely time. I was fairly excited by my first visit to Laurens Academy because I generally enjoy new experiences that do not involve gastric distress. No such complications occurred from Rod Holmes’ boiled peanuts. Rod’s son, Ryan, collected a hit, scored a run and was hit by a pitch, all of which his father dutifully recorded by operating the scoreboard.

Everything about the evening was cordial and sportsmanlike, beginning with the lady selling tickets who allowed me to park as close as possible to the field. My compact pickup was perched atop the bluff. I discovered that the Laurens Academy head coach, Darryl Halbert, shared a devotion to the Boston Red Sox. I chatted with fans who had followed their team up to Laurens from the Low Country, cataloguing the difference in dialect between South Carolina upper and lower. Only Yankees think we all sound alike. Natives know better. They say they love to hear us talk but don’t really listen as closely as we do to one another.

Ryan Holmes (left) and Tindall.
Ryan Holmes (left) and Tindall.

The game? Oh, it was played raucously. Laurens Academy once led 4-0 but trailed 6-5 until Josh’s clutch double, laced to right field. My GoLaurens.com account can be accessed here. Each team committed three errors. The Warhawks outhit the Crusaders, 8-6, but LA grouped three of its in the span of the final five plate appearances.

The infield grass at Crusaders Field is lush and slow, and Colleton Prep began the game getting acquainted to the unusually slow progress of ground balls, or that’s what I concluded after the Warhawks got better at it as the game progressed. After spotting the home team four runs, Colleton came from behind with two runs in the fourth, one in the fifth and three in the sixth. Plus, they stopped taking their time on ground balls and started occasionally retiring runners at first.

Now it’s off to the hills of northwestern South Carolina to see if the Clinton Red Devils can stave off Upstate 3A elimination against the Seneca High Bobcats.

Baseball, how I love thee. Let me count the ways. Maybe not. My knowledge of mathematics gets shaky when the numbers aren’t finite.

TrespassesCoverMiracle of miracles. All four of my novels are available in both Kindle (and free apps usable in virtually anything electronic and communicative) and print. The latest is called Forgive Us Our Trespasses. It’s a bold ripsnorter of a crime novel.

My fable on life’s absurdity, in the person of a football coach subjected to all manner of crises, is called Crazy of Natural Causes.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

I’ve put together a collection of short stories, all 11 born in songs I wrote, aptly entitled Longer Songs.

My historical novel, set in the 1960s, of the South, civil rights, integration, bigotry, and high school football, is called The Intangibles.

The adventures of a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero is known as The Audacity of Dope.

If you’ve read them, particularly Forgive Us Our Trespasses, I’d appreciate a customer review at amazon.com and/or goodreads.com.

The Fickle Finger of Fate

Jeremy Simmons was tough. (Monte Dutton photos)
Jeremy Simmons was tough. (Monte Dutton photos)
Aaron Todd blanked the Red Devils on three hits.
Aaron Todd blanked the Red Devils on three hits.

Clinton, South Carolina, Tuesday, May 10, 2016, 9:47 a.m.

Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Clinton High School’s baseball program, unused to such success over the years, entered Monday night’s Class 3A Upstate district game with Belton-Honea Path riding a 20-game winning streak like it was Nyquist.

The Bears were riding years, even decades, of success like it was American Pharoah. Longevity prevailed in this battle of irresistible force versus immovable object, 2-0.

For 20 games, almost everything worked. For the 21st, almost nothing did for the Red Devils. Both teams entered with 23 victories. The Bears went back home with 24.

The Red Devil fans went home disappointed, but the game was worth the price of admission.
The Red Devil fans went home disappointed, but the game was worth the price of admission.
Charlie Craven
Charlie Craven

I first experienced this feeling when I played football. I didn’t really recognize it until I started writing about sports. Sometimes it seems as if the playing field is forever tilted against a team. Everything goes wrong. The law of averages catches up in one miserable evening. During a season, every team endures at least one such game.

B-HP's Blake Holliday (left) and Dax Roper.
B-HP’s Blake Holliday (left) and Dax Roper.

Clinton (23-2) had it Tuesday night. A failed squeeze play. A bunt that didn’t get down. It happens, as winning head coach Steve Williams and losing coach Sean McCarthy both opined afterwards. Both teams pitched and fielded well. For both, the offensive opportunities were rare. B-HP took advantage. Clinton did not. The Bears (24-3) move on to play Wren. The Red Devils go to Seneca on Wednesday, facing elimination.

Brayden Gibbs makes a play.
Brayden Gibbs makes a play.

It was a wonderful atmosphere at The Sponge. Clinton had the B-HP fans outnumbered, but they made up for it by being loud. They kept chanting for Clinton pitcher Jeremy Simmons to “throw it in the dirt!” By and large, he didn’t. The stocky lefty battled in a rare start. Usually he comes to the rescue. McCarthy saved Davis Cunningham or Tristan Smaltz for Wednesday and the other, likely Smaltz, for if it goes on beyond. Simmons only gave up four hits. One of the B-HP runs was unearned.

Waiting and watching for the rally that never came.
Waiting and watching for the rally that never came.

The game hung in a balance of balls flying off bats high above the lights. The most solidly struck was that of the Bears’ catcher, Dax Roper, and it bounced off the fence in right-center field, but Roper’s blast didn’t produce a run. His courtesy runner, whose name I forgot to record, got picked off third in the fourth inning, the final installment in a rare 4-3-5 double play.

The Bears didn't stay caged for long.
The Bears didn’t stay caged for long.
Tristan Smaltz
Tristan Smaltz

B-HP’s left fielder, Andrew Ford, snagged long fly balls twice, sending up groans from the stands because the drives were less fortuitously placed.

Sean McCarthy
Sean McCarthy

In the bottom half of the same inning, Smaltz, who played first after spending most of the season either on the mound or in the outfield, swung under an Austin Todd fastball, sending it straight up. The difficulty of a catcher in tracking such a geometric oddity is underrated, and Roper couldn’t catch it. It nicked off his glove and landed on the foul line, but it looked as if his mitt had turned it inward, and the initial ruling of the home-plate umpire, at least when my eyes shifted quickly to him, appeared to be “fair ball.” Smaltz was standing on first, and Cameron Bishop, the Clinton courtesy runner whose name I did record, was at third.

Chandler Todd
Chandler Todd

What might have been the break of the season failed to occur because the umpire, under duress, apparently changed his mind, and then Smaltz struck out. It was the only moment all night in which the field appeared to tilt the Red Devils’ way, and it was fleeting.

 

Only Gibbs got a bunt down.
Only Gibbs got a bunt down.

The game, well-played by both nines, had its freak moments. The 4-3-5 double play. Clinton’s failed squeeze play in the first. The botched popup.

The Red Devils’ first-inning opportunity was the first example of bad luck following good. Copeland had narrowly reached second ahead of Chevy Brock’s tag. Brayden Gibbs bunted him to third. Chandler Todd reached first when Roper failed to make a play … anywhere. Wary of the speedy Copeland dancing off third, Roper held the ball. Todd was safe via “K, fielder’s choice,” which is about as rare if not as impressive as a triple play or a perfect game.

Now it's off to Seneca for the Red Devils.
Now it’s off to Seneca for the Red Devils.

McCarthy called a squeeze. Williams called a pitchout. Copeland got caught between third and home. He tried to avoid Roper’s tag by pirouetting like a student on the first day of ballet class, and while the tag may have missed him, Copeland was out of the baseline and dead to rights, which, as it turned out, was also to be his team’s fate.

Fate was fickle on Tuesday night. It dangled opportunities, then snatched them away.

Lord, have mercy. It was something to watch.

TrespassesCoverMiracle of miracles. All four of my novels are available in both Kindle (and free apps usable in virtually anything electronic and communicative) and print. The latest is called Forgive Us Our Trespasses. It’s a bold ripsnorter of a crime novel.

My fable on life’s absurdity, in the person of a football coach subjected to all manner of crises, is called Crazy of Natural Causes.

(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

I’ve put together a collection of short stories, all 11 born in songs I wrote, aptly entitled Longer Songs.

My historical novel, set in the 1960s, of the South, civil rights, integration, bigotry, and high school football, is called The Intangibles.

The adventures of a pot-smoking songwriter turned national hero is known as The Audacity of Dope.

If you’ve read them, particularly Forgive Us Our Trespasses, I’d appreciate a customer review at amazon.com and/or goodreads.com.

Fun in the Sticks

Brayden Gibbs, Chandler Todd and J.P. Duncan. (Monte Dutton photos)
Brayden Gibbs, Chandler Todd and J.P. Duncan. (Monte Dutton photos)
Monte Dutton
Monte Dutton

Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, May 7, 2016, 8:44 a.m.

This is starting to seem like a movie. Hoosiers comes to mind.

While I sit behind a table behind the plate of The Sponge, Clinton High School’s ancient baseball field, I hear drums beating and see, in my mind, an old schoolbus rumbling through the countryside, followed by a line of DeSotos and Mercurys.

They're off and running.
They’re off and running.
Sean McCarthy
Sean McCarthy

The Red Devils have yet to take to the road in the Class 3A playoffs. The people following them are riding mostly in lawn chairs. Any similarity between Sean McCarthy and Norman Dale is coincidental. They’re different sports in different times. One is fiction. One is stranger than that. Mark Twain said truth is stranger than fiction because fiction has to make sense. Today I write fiction, but this isn’t it. There’s truth in what Twain said.

Plotting the next move.
Plotting the next move.

Clinton was picked to finish fourth in Region III-3A before winning all 10 games in it. A few weeks ago, the Red Devils were 15-1 and still unranked. Now they’ve won District III, won all three games in it, and advanced to Upstate district play, which begins Monday against Belton-Honea Path. The record is 23-1. The winning streak is 20. The loss was on March 3. Some have forgotten it. They’re a band of brothers, something like the Avetts.

Todd, ready and waiting.
Todd, ready and waiting.
Aaron Copeland's work is done for now.
Aaron Copeland’s work is done for now.

It’s early yet. They have so much left to do. B-HP is a perennial power, but the Red Devils are a power, and The Sponge is a tough place to play. Shortstop Aaron Copeland threw out A.C. Flora’s Brendan Greene at the plate, and catcher Chandler Todd was briefly shaken up after tagging him out.

Someone in the stands yelled, “Hey, ump, this ain’t football! This is baseball!”

The Flora batter, Josh Hernandez, mimicked the fellow’s accent. He didn’t yell it, but it wasn’t under his breath, either.

A.C. Flora may have felt a smidgen of culture shock.
A.C. Flora may have felt a smidgen of culture shock.

“This ain’t footbawul,” he said. Flora is a Columbia school, presumably more cosmopolitan than Clinton, and the Falcons were playing out in the sticks on a field with a dirt infield, one that’s going to be replaced next year. I think I would have rather enjoyed the atmosphere, but I live here, and all I do for a living is write. Hernandez, whose younger brother Jonnie also starts for the Falcons, is an excellent player who also has a sense of humor, though not one that plays particularly well in This Ain’t Footbawul It’s Basebawul Country.

Troy Holmes pitched the first 2-1/3 innings for the Falcons.
Troy Holmes pitched the first 2-1/3 innings for the Falcons.

That having been noted, as a Clinton resident, I was really happy that the elder Hernandez, who had singled in the first and second innings and tripled in the fourth, had struck out to end the sixth and was five batters away when Todd, his counterpart, threw out Luke Botkin trying to steal third, and the game ended.

Copeland scored the winning run.
Copeland scored the winning run.

As tough as it’s been — Clinton’s three victories have been 2-0, 3-0, and 7-6 — it’s about to get tougher because that is what happens in the playoffs, when the masters of one geographic region are pitted against those of others. The Red Devils are game, but the games get tougher.

Tristan Smaltz has had better days, but he came out a winner.
Tristan Smaltz has had better days, but he came out a winner.

Clinton’s curveball-twirling lefty, Tristan Smaltz, had a rough night, but he battled for 6-1/3 innings. It reminded me of the old Johnny Horton song, “You Fought All the Way, Johnny Reb,” the exception being that, in contrast to the Rebs, he won with last-ditch relief from Aaron Copeland. Smaltz has struck out 83 batters this year.

Every player has been a hero at what seems to have been the opportune moment. One such example was Taylor Bailey, who started the game Friday in left field and ended it at shortstop, which Copeland vacated to move over and fire fastballs while Smaltz trotted out to left, and Bailey trotted in to short. Bailey, occupying the ninth spot in the order, cleared the bases with a double at a time when Clinton trailed, 4-0. He also scored the tying run in the sixth and went 2-for-3.

Dakota Webb
Dakota Webb

The Red Devils trailed, 6-4, entering the fifth, when second baseman Charlie Craven’s sacrifice fly brought Clinton to within one. Sacrifices are common for bands of brothers, and Smaltz had laid down a successful squeeze in the third inning. The Falcons (16-11) were playing their fourth game of the week and would have had to play another had they won this one.

Brayden Gibbs singled twice.
Brayden Gibbs singled twice.

Brayden Gibbs singled in both the fifth and the sixth, when the team most needed it. I’ve detected a pattern.

Craven's fly ball brought the Red Devils within one.
Craven’s fly ball brought the Red Devils within one.

When Clinton took the lead in the bottom of the sixth, the local basebawul fans did everything but dance around a May pole. It was a lovefest. While the postgame dance marathon was going on in the stands, and the team was kneeling in prayer down the right-field line, two players snuck away so that they could interrupt McCarthy’s meditation and douse him in ice water, and this got the party rocking even more.

If this team goes down, it will likely do so in a blaze of glory, and that’s literarily appropriate for a team nicknamed Red Devils.

Here’s my GoLaurens/GoClinton account of the game.

Taylor Bailey, Tyler Kelly, and Aaron Copeland honor America.
Taylor Bailey, Tyler Kelly, and J.P. Duncan honor America.
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)
(Crystal Lynn cover photo)

My book of short stories, all derived from songs I wrote, is called Longer Songs, and you can buy it here.

The Audacity of Dope is a tale about a pot-smoking singer-songwriter who becomes a reluctant national hero. He prevents someone from blowing up the plane he’s on, and both hilarity and drama ensue. My first novel is an irreverent, fun read.

The Intangibles is my most personal. Set mostly in 1968, it draws on memories from my childhood and teen-aged years. It’s a story of civil rights, bigotry, and high school football.

(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)
(Cover design by Jennifer Skutelsky)

Crazy of Natural Causes has a main character who is an outrageous football coach at the beginning, loses everything and has to start over. It’s a fable of life’s absurdity.

TrespassesCoverForgive Us Our Trespasses is a yarn about a corrupt, ambitious politician who wants to be governor and will do anything to achieve it. It has a parallel story of a good cop who’s trying to stop the monster and another of kids gone wild.

To peruse all my books, including most of the non-fiction ones from my NASCAR years, click here.