The Screwball: Fan Diaries in the Age of Television

It's a good thing Freddie Freeman is such a patient hitter (via Charles Atkeison).

It’s a good thing Freddie Freeman is such a patient hitter (via Charles Atkeison).

You’ve seen them on TV. You’ve seen them on the Internet.

Now, at last, you can see their diaries.

The Cellphone Guy

Dear diary:

It was the top of the seventh, I think. Yeah, that makes sense. I had just gotten my fourth beer and that’s my usual pace, at least during a day game. So I’m watching the action and drinking my beer when suddenly my cellphone rings. I answer and it’s my buddy Phil. And Phil’s like, “Dude! You are not gonna freakin’ believe this, but I see you on TV!”

And I’m like, “What?”

And he’s like, “You’re on TV! Right freakin’ now!”

And I’m like, “Come again?”

And he’s like, “Dude. I’m watching the game at this very moment, and you’re on it! You’re in the background, right behind Freeman while he’s batting. There you are! It’s like you’re one of the Two And A Half Men!”

So I start waving my hand and leaning way to the left. Now that I think back on it, I don’t know why I leaned way to the left, but still, I leaned way to the left. So I’m waving my hand and leaning way to the left and I say, “Phil! Phil! Do you see me? I’m waving my hand and leaning way to the left?”

And he’s like, “Yeah, you’re waving and leaning way to the left!”

And I’m like, “I know!”

And he says, “It’s so weird. I mean, we’re talking on the phone, but there you are, on my TV, at the exact same time! I didn’t know it was possible!”

And I say, “Apparently it is!”

So he’s like, “Just keep waving!”

A comparative study on an unwritten rule of baseball.

So I’m like, “I am!”

So he says, “And leaning!”

So I say, “I am!”

And he’s like, “You’re lucky Freeman is a patient hitter. Otherwise, Upton would be batting, and then maybe some other guy would be on television!”

And I’m like, “When you say it like that, it makes a lot of sense!”

The Ball Catcher

Dear diary:

I don’t care what anyone says. I needed to get on TV. I’m the only guy in a five-block radius without his own reality show. My neighbor Stan has this show called My Neighbor Stan. It follows him as he goes outside to get the morning paper. So I had to do it. I had to be the guy who catches a ball while holding a tiny baby. It’s a foolproof way to get on TV! On MLB Network, Reynolds is always like, “Sign him up!” Which is clever, when you think about it. And ESPN will turn it into a highlight that makes ol’ dad a media star who appears on Good Morning America – “next, you’ll meet the man who has captured our hearts…” – and gets his own daddy blog at HuffPo.

Problem was, I don’t have a baby.

So, what to do? It’s not like Walmart sells babies on Aisle 5. I checked.

So here’s what I did: I borrowed my niece’s Little Veronica doll and took it to the game. Before I could catch a ball, however, I got ejected “for being creepy.” The next day I borrowed my niece – the other niece, the 10-month-old. This time I had a better plan: Prior to the game I ate six cloves of garlic and two bags of Corn Nuts, then rubbed myself with the partial remains of a run-over skunk. Now here I was, in Section G, with nobody – and I mean nobody – within 25 feet. And then it happened. I stood as the ball began its descent. Then, holding the popcorn in my right hand and the beer in my left, I positioned myself directly beneath its path while gripping my niece between my teeth, much like a female lion holds her cub. Hey, I’ve seen enough highlights to know what gets the airtime: Catch the ball in the popcorn! Catch it in the beer! Catch it while holding an infant – even if you have to hold her between your teeth! And it worked! I got myself on TV!

Of course, now I’m suing Shulman and Kruk for denouncing my “parenting skills.” I’m not even her parent! This is about to get interesting. Stay tuned.

The Phone Checker

Dear diary:

I knew it was the bottom of the ninth, and that the bases were loaded.

I knew we were down 6-3, and that our cleanup hitter was up.

I even knew the count was 3-2.

Still, I also knew that I hadn’t checked my Facebook page since the sixth inning, and a lot can change in three innings. Somebody could have friended me. Somebody could have posted a selfie. And if someone’s going to share a picture of himself, especially if he’s sticking out his tongue and holding a margarita, I need it see it. And I need to see it now.

It’s true that I have a high-dollar seat behind home plate, but does that mean I’m not allowed to check my Facebook page? Can somebody please show me a sign that reads, “Thou shalt not check thy Facebook page”?

Plus, the people watching on TV might think I missed the grand slam, but in truth, I looked up at the instant I heard the crack of the bat. And when my eyes found the ball, I tracked it all the way to the seats. That’s what made it a grand slam! The contact isn’t the thing; the landing is the thing!

Anyway, I had recorded the game on DVR, just so I could watch it when I got home. Which is what I did. Of course, when I saw myself checking Facebook, it reminded me that I hadn’t checked Facebook since the bottom of the ninth. I still haven’t seen the swing.

The Interferer

Dear diary:

I chose that seat for one reason: I wanted to interfere with the first baseman. I didn’t care which team he played for. I just wanted to be there, in the first row, when he lunged into the seats to catch a foul ball. People ask: Why? I reply: Haven’t you seen the replays? Haven’t you seen the fan who reaches for the ball precisely when the first baseman reaches for it? It’s priceless!

It’s the same every time: Just as the first baseman leans over the rail, the fan reaches up and scrunches his face like he’s in a wind-tunnel test conducted by Lockheed. Then, as he braces for impact, he scrunches his face even more, like he detects the odor of an overripe durian. Then he closes his eyes in some instinctive exercise in survival – some response between fight and flight. But even though his eyes are closed, the fan still wants that ball!

You’d think it’s the Hope Diamond, or a delicious ball of cheese.

But no! It’s just a $5 baseball!

And yet the coordinates of a collision are shifting into shape.

You’re watching at home, mesmerized by this portrait of diverse reactions – the old guy ducking; the Phone Checker checking Facebook on his phone; the little kid grinning as if he’s watching a joust at Medieval Times. And at the center of it all, in a slowly developing nexus that is now the focal point of a million-gazillion eyes, two radically disparate people with roughly similar goals are reaching for a ball that only one of them can have. Or maybe neither of them will have it. Maybe the little kid ends up with it, or the oblivious dude on his cellphone, or even the old guy beneath his seat.

The outcome waits in abeyance, ceding substance to the quirks of trajectory or to the pachinko-style randomness that often separates winner from loser.

I wanted to be there. I wanted to come face to face with that first baseman. I wanted him to nudge me, or pat me on the back, or scream at me, or grin and eat my nachos. Sadly, though, I got ejected in the first inning after I tumbled onto the field while reaching for a roller. On the bright side, I did get on TV.

The Runners

Dear diary:

I was so drunk last night. Like, “I think your sister is pretty” drunk. Like, “In high school I could dunk” drunk. Honestly, that’s the last time I put an IV drip in my boxers. It’s one thing to wear a cup, but that’s nothing compared to a one-liter bottle of Cuervo Gold coupled with a central venous catheter.

Anyway, wow, what do I remember? I remember the rent-a-cop lunging at me like I’d I stolen his Friendster password. I remember asking McCutchen if I could braid his hair. I remember telling Liriano that I was going to steal his signs and sell ’em to the Russians. I remember thinking that Joe Buck is up there saying, “We need to pause because some idiot has just run out on the field.”

And I was like, “I’m the idiot, you idiot! I’m the idiot!”


Dear diary:

I had always wanted to run on a field, mostly for the thrill but also for the fame, but until last night I never had the balls. One reason I never had the balls is that I am a female, and females do not have balls. I am not speaking metaphorically. Physically, we do not have balls. And thank Mother Nature for that. Can you imagine what a set of balls would look like in a Boho Babe bikini? It would look like a summer day in Saint-Tropez, that’s what. Just curious: How do you say ‘banana hammock’ in French? Hamac banane?

But yeah, other than old footage of Morganna the Kissing Bandit, how many times have we seen a female run on the field? It’s almost always a dude, isn’t it? – a dude with balls full of monster-truck testosterone and veins full of Cuervo Gold. So in efforts to strike a blow for progesterone while still paying homage to our macho forebears, I stuffed a pair of SuperBalls in my underwear, jumped the rail near the dugout and started running. At first I felt uncomfortable. Number one, the SuperBalls: ouch. Number two, until you do it, you have no idea what it feels like to have 80,000 eyeballs focused directly on your person at the moment you commit a Class Whatever misdemeanor. To say the least, it’s bizarre and more than a little frightening – especially if two of those eyeballs belong to Jayson Werth. Jeez, that guy is scary. The closer I got to him, the more I thought I’d see the film crew from Finding Bigfoot.

Once I made it past Sasquatch, though, I started to feel more confident. I felt even more confident when I heard the cheering of the crowd. Now I know what it feels like to be a World Cup soccer player – basically, you run around doing nothing while tens of thousands of people go absolutely nuts.

No pun intended, I guess.

Of course, as I quickly discovered, there’s a sense of fatalism to match the excitement. You know it’s going to end, you just don’t know how or when. The rent-a-cops are closing in, and they’re pissed because they didn’t have time to stretch their hamstrings or finish their nachos. And the players are pissed because, unlike the rent-a-cops, they’re not paid by the hour. Still, if I was going to get arrested, I wanted to exploit this thing for all it was worth. I played powderpuff football in college and still have some pretty good moves, so I juked Paul Blart, stiff-armed Dirty Harry, put a spin move on Marshal Dillon and then did the Heisman – Heiswoman – pose in left field.

After posting bail this morning, I started checking around. Sure enough, TV neglected to show my run to glory. But who cares? TV is stale and fleeting. The Internet is where it’s at. And nothing says “you’ve made it!” like a .gif that shows you spiking the balls, plural, and striking the Heiswoman pose.

Actually, the .gif is on TV right now.

The Sign Holder

Dear diary:

To get on TV, you’ve got to bring a sign. Question is, which sign?

You’ve got player-specific jeers:




You’ve got Pence-specific taunts:




You’ve got player-specific plaudits:




You’ve got timeless classics:




You’ve got self-deprecating disclosures:




And you’ve got random communiqués:




But here in Derek Jeter’s valedictory season, the choice seemed obvious – so obvious that in efforts to distinguish myself from the other people making similar if not identical declarations, I decided to announce its obviousness in the text of my sign. And so I did. Sadly, however, I miscalculated the letter-to-surface spatial ratio and ran out of room for the crucial letters L and Y.

And so my sign read:


I did get on TV, though.


The Heckler

Dear diary:

I needed a bigger audience. Open mic night had done nothing for my career. At the Improv n’ Pizza Emporium last Monday night, I kept getting drowned out by the Whac-a-Mole. Then I told this killer joke about Congress – about what “geniuses” they are – but right when I got to the punchline, everybody heard this instead: “Order for Jimmy T: large pepperoni with extra cheese.”

So I decided to take my act to the ballgame. That way, fans could hear my comedy and ask where I’m appearing next. (Note to self: Call Steve at the Laff Factory n’ Roofing Supply.) And if I were to heckle loud enough, the people at home could hear me. And who knows? Maybe one of them is the booking agent for The Tonight Show, or at least Comedy Driving School.

So I got to my seat and started heckling.

“Hey, Dunn! Gimme your bat. You ain’t using it!”

“Yo, Beckham! You’d better learn Japanese!”

“Ibanez! What was it like in the dead ball era?”

Granted, I got a couple of the jokes off the Internet, but that’s common. People steal jokes all the time, just because there aren’t many good ones.

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John Paschal is a regular contributor to The Hardball Times and The Hardball Times Baseball Annual.
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Jack Glasscock's Cup
Jack Glasscock's Cup

Methinks this “Not Graphs” thing might just catch on. If only there were a separate part of the website to distinguish the fun from the funner and the funnerer. Oh, well, if a man can dream once, he can dream five times.


John Paschal
John Paschal

And methinks that Jack Glasscock’s Cup is among the greatest user names in the history of user names.


Paul G.
Paul G.

Jack’s nickname was “pebbly.” Take that for what you will.

I also think Jack didn’t like wearing a glove, so the existence of a cup may be greatly exaggerated. Probably was going commando.

Jack Glasscock's Cup
Jack Glasscock's Cup

A gentleman never reveals his cup size.

And my friend, Claude Berry, decided to take all the credit. Berry’s holder proved miraculous. And punctuation can save lives, kids.

Paul G.
Paul G.
Hunter Pence does not want to #KeepNotGraphs. And I am calling out baloney on the The Ball Catcher. No one eats Corn Nuts. Corn Nuts exist solely as a farm subsidy outlet, an emergency pothole filler, and an edible hitman weapon. (The hitman does not actually eat them. He gives them to the pigeons. The pigeons die, which is great as it eliminates witnesses. Well, that and they are pigeons. If you are not in Alcatraz, your house is not overrun with self-replicating bread that needs to consumed else you become the sandwich meat, and your name is not “Bert,”… Read more »
John Paschal
John Paschal

Not to tell you how the sausage is made here at Chez Paschal, but on my first draft, in place of the eventual Corn Nuts, I used Chili Cheese-Flavored Fritos. In my second draft, Funyons. In my third draft, lutefisk. In my fourth draft, surstromming, which, as you know, is a fermented herring popular in Sweden. And in my fifth draft … well, sausage. But I refuse to tell you how that sausage is made.

Randy Jones
Randy Jones

I laughed a lot. Thank you. Well done.

John Paschal

A writer’s life is one of limousines, caviar, Cristal and groupies fighting other groupies for the right to be No. 1 Groupie. But alas, it is not a life full of compliments. So, thank you, Randy Jones, for the rare pat on the back.


Here, have another pat. You’ve earned it. Great stuff!