From Chicken Soup for the Baseball Fan's Soul

Giant Killer!

It is always better to proceed on the basis of a recognition of what is, rather than what ought to be.

Stewart Alsop

I wanted to warn them. I really did. But no one had ever warned me. Besides, they were big, strong football players . . . and she was just a little girl.

It was a charity softball game in the early 1990s and O. J. Anderson and other members of the New York/New Jersey Giants football team were playing to the crowd. When Grace stepped up to the plate, Anderson ordered all the infielders to get down on their knees.

In chess one might call this knights off, giving an apparent inferior opponent an advantage to even the game. In softball, however, this was nothing but male chauvinism.

Being raised in a matriarchal household, I thought I knew better. Being a sportswriter who often covered women’s games, I thought I knew better. It turns out, however, that I didn’t know Grace. Neither did the Giants.

On our first real date, Grace and I decided to go to Grand Slam USA, which offers miniature golf, arcade games and batting cages all under one roof. Still in that awkward stage where you want to talk but are afraid of what you might say, this seemed like an ideal place to let actions speak louder than words. And my greatest action during the night was going to dump.

Whatever we played—wherever we played it—I was going to lose. I thought this was what gentlemen did.

As the night dragged on, I did lose. Not that I could have done much to prevent the inevitable.

Grace sank a hole-in-one on her first swing in miniature golf. She fired the puck off my hand, drawing blood in an air hockey game. She won at pool.

She held off alien invasion after alien invasion in the arcade. Then she suggested we try the batting cages.

On her insistence, I went first. Not competing directly against her, I decided to swing away. Unfortunately, as much as I love baseball, this was never my game. More often than not, I heard that sickening thud of the ball hitting the padding behind me. I choked up on the bat and managed to slap a ball here, foul one off there. Mercifully, it was soon over.

“Boy, that was quicker than I thought,” I said as I tried not to stare up at the huge SLOW sign connected to the battling cage that I had just left. “You want me to tell them to change the cage to softball for you?”

Grace pulled on her batting helmet and shook her head no. “I’ll just try this one.” She then stepped into the cage marked FAST and put in her tokens.

While preparing for my turn at bat, I went through all the motions. I stretched. I took my practice swings. I tugged at the back of my shirt. I may have even absentmindedly even tried to knock dirt out of my sneakers with the barrel of my bat. Grace did none of this. She dropped her bat over her shoulder like a jacket and stood straight up and motionless as if waiting for a bus.

Perhaps O. J. Anderson was thinking the same thing I thought the first time I saw Grace stand next to the plate. She was fundamentally wrong. I expected her to swing and miss. O. J. Anderson expected her to swing and miss.

She didn’t.

Once the pitch was released, Grace dropped her bat through the strike zone like a sledgehammer. The bat dropped quicker than my jaw as she smacked liner after liner back up the middle.

Against the Giants, she went down the third base line at Gary Taylor, who was a little more vocal than all his teammates about how he felt a girl would play.

The ball hit two feet in front of Taylor and kicked up dirt into his face. He got even dirtier as he dove into the ground to get away from the sharp bounce coming right at him.

The Giants wanted their laugh. Well, they got it. In fairness to most of the team, however, they seemed happier that the joke was now on Taylor.

Taylor, much the same as myself, also took it well after a moment or two of adjustment.

Stepping out of the batting cage Grace must have looked into a stunned face. “Didn’t I tell you I went to college on a softball scholarship? I’m sorry. I thought I did. Are you mad?”

Grace and I have been married eight years now. We argue about money and household chores. From time to time, we get mad at each other. This anger is never manifested out of jealousy of the other one’s strengths, though. Grace’s ridiculous-looking—but amazingly effective— swing has always been a source of pride for me. It’s also been a source of humor. There’s nothing quite as funny as watching a guy playing the outfield wave for all his teammates only to have to turn around and chase a ball that flew fifty to one hundred feet over his head.

A part of me wanted to warn these guys. A part of me wanted to warn the Giants. It is a very small part. The rest understands the best way to learn a lesson is firsthand.

Later in the charity game against the Giants, Anderson spotted who was coming to the plate before his teammates and once again ordered the infielders down to the ground. Taylor obediently dropped to his knees before looking up and spotting Grace at the plate.

Quicker than most receivers in the open field, Taylor jumped up to his feet and started to laugh. “You jerk! You jerk!” he yelled at Anderson. “If I stay down there, she’s going to kill me.”

I wanted to warn them. I really did. But hey, she’s just a little girl.

What could she possibly do against all those big, strong football players?

Kyle Moylan

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