The Austin Chronicle

C3 vs. KOOP and Why Softball Is More American Than Baseball

By Mike Crissey, April 7, 2009, 6:34pm, The Score

It’s a shame more people didn’t see this game. You could have parked a school bus in the bleachers and still had room for the boisterous pair of KOOP Radio fans with a boom box and the tall-boy-toting Alternative Softball League die-hards.

After trailing for two-thirds of the game, KOOP Radio – despite an automatic out in their lineup due to a shortage of women – tied the game and tested whether C3 Presents still had any softball left in them. C3 Presents did and won 15-10, although KOOP appeared to have them worried until the last out.

KOOP rallied for seven runs in the sixth inning, including two-run alternative homers by David Parnell (2-for-4, 2B, 2 RBI) and Peter “Iceman” Heck (4-for-4, 2 RBI), to tie the game at 8. In the bottom of the inning, Dirk Stahlnecker (2-for-4, 2 RBI) – what a name! – drove in the go-ahead runs with a two-run single and Brad Kaye brought him home with a double for what would turn out to be the game winner.

Not that anyone knew that after a couple of runs on a sacrifice fly by Nick Trevino and a single by Ben Barthy (4-for-4, 2 RBI) in the top of the eighth. Not that anyone knew that after KOOP held C3 Presents to one baserunner in the bottom of the eighth.

KOOP got two outs early in the ninth inning but Quinn “Next On” Donahue and Huston Powell had back-to-back singles to give C3 Presents a five-run cushion. Charles “Franklin” Attal led C3 batters, going 3-for-4 with a double, triple, and 5 RBIs. Lady leadoff hitter Aly Ehlinger went 3-for-4.

KOOP Radio was dead air at the plate (one run on seven hits through the fifth) until they found the right song – “Hanging Tough” by New Kids on the Block. It was the batting music chosen by Dave Yourkans (2-for-3, 3B, RBI), I think, and he should be their weekly MVP. Then again, maybe Donnie, Danny, Joey, Jordan, and Jonathan should be the MVPs.

The ASL: More American Than Baseball

After the game, some of the Alternative Softball League die-hards (Mandy Brooks, Shannon Stott, Mark Fagan, Mike Bartnett, and Nick Trevino) and me – lugged our last Lone Stars to the lights of one of the final games of the night. It was a men’s competitive league, although you would have thought the people in the stands were watching paint dry or waiting for the bus. Nobody moved or spoke, forget cheers. Maybe they were having fun.

We did, well after the game was over and the lights were turned off. I talked a lot. I drank a lot. I had about two tons of dairy products with my name on it waiting for me at Wheatsville the next morning. I wonder why I do it sometimes.

Last summer, I treated softball like a mistress. I’d lie about where I spent the night. I avoided eye contact at work lest someone smell softball on me – grass, sweat-soaked leather, and cheap beer. I seldom said the word “softball” and the few times I did, it was hushed. Why the shame?

I have since learned I have nothing to be embarrassed about.

As William H. Young and Nancy K. Young said in The Great Depression in America: A Cultural Encyclopedia, “softball, not baseball, in many ways served as the national pastime during the Depression.”

Yep. Softball. It turns out it may be an overlooked part of the New Deal. How about this? The National Youth Administration (1935-1943) helped churches and fraternal organizations build thousands of fields across the country.

And think about this the next time you see 20 people standing under the lights: The federal Rural Electrification Administration (1935-1994) gave softball players night lighting well before many professional baseball teams played under the lights.

Not convinced? Sporting-goods makers were one of the few businesses that saw increased sales during the Depression. And President Franklin D. Roosevelt sponsored a softball team, the White House Purgers.

More than 350,000 people watched a softball tournament during Chicago’s Century of Progress Exhibition of 1933-1934. A couple of years later, some 1 million people in the U.S. participated in softball. By 1939, about 11 million people played softball.

If you think softball was just for squares, the mob was also into a little mush ball. According to Chicago 16 Inch Softball Hall of Fame co-founder Al Maag, a team in the Windy City was sponsored by "Machine Gun" Jack McGurne (1905-1936), who planned the 1929 St. Valentine’s Massacre.

Why? Besides all that democracy, equality and unity on the field, it’s dirt cheap – just the kind of diversion they needed during the Great Depression (and, one could argue, now).

Most teams didn’t use gloves during the Great Depression. First, you’d likely end up boiling it and eating it if you could afford it in the first place. Second, because they used a big 16-inch ball. Few people could hit that big mushy ball into a street, river, or the woods and lose it, and players didn’t need a glove to field it.

Teams only had to chip in a couple cents per player for a new ball, according to Al Maag.

It’s a little more expensive these days. Not counting equipment and some snazzy jerseys (check out New Brohemia’s baby blues), it’s under $10 per player – a new ball costs a quarter per player; the field costs $2.50 per ASL player; and I found a six-pack of Lone Star tallboys for $5.99.

Not bad for a night out. Don’t miss your chance – you only have 61 more – to catch the Alternative Softball League in action. Here’s a list of the upcoming games:

Thursday, April 9, 8pm
Brentwood Donkeys (0-1) vs. Waterloo (1-0), Krieg Softball Complex TBA
The Austin Chronicle (1-0) vs. Wheatsville Food Co-op (1-0)
BookPeople (0-1) vs. SXSW (1-0)

Monday, April 13, TBA
Brentwood Donkeys (0-0) vs. Emo's Lounge (0-1)

You can keep up with all the games, trash talk, and your favorite teams and players through the league’s MySpace page at

Follow the ASL on Twitter at

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