A few times I’ve mentioned the baseball diamond that we cobbled together when I was in Viet Nam. It wasn’t much of a field, but it provided a place to play, to unwind from the day, forget the war. We had fun there. We met some interesting people. We also met Captain Foul Ball.
We were playing one of those games we played frequently. There weren’t enough guys to make two teams so we were working without a catcher and probably short an outfielder that day. My team was at bat. Waverly was at the plate. I was in the hole when Waverly fouled off a pretty good pitch.
Now back a ways behind the third base foul line was a classic three hole Army wooden latrine. It wasn’t much to look at, and the smell wasn’t something you wanted to be around too long, but it did its job well. So Waverly banged one off the side wall. We had several balls so while one of the guys went after the ball, we tossed another to the pitcher and he let loose another pitch. Waverly swung and again fouled it off, again striking the latrine with a good solid “thunk,” which got the guy going for the ball to back up and grab the second while we flipped another ball to the pitcher. A third pitch, a third swing, a third foul. You know where the ball is going don’t you? Yep, right against the wall of the latrine.
So of course we go through the same routine again, but this time Waverly rolls one out to an infielder (short, I think) for an easy out. That brought up a new batter, put me on deck, and put Waverly back on the bench.
By now you have a pretty good idea what’s coming, right? About this point out of the latrine comes screaming this captain that, fortunately, none of us knew.
“What the hell are you people doing?” He shouted. (All conversation semi-cleaned up from GI English and approximated after the better part of 50 years.)
While the rest of us looked on stupidly, some genius managed to blurt out, “We’re playing ball, sir.” We had some really bright guys down in the Mekong Delta.
“Does that include throwing the ball at me in the latrine?”
“Geez, sir, were you in the latrine? We didn’t know that, sir. Besides we just had a run of foul balls.”
And of course most of us were thinking by this time that if we’d know the jerk was in the latrine it would have been a lot more than three balls.
“Fouls? You had somebody foul off that many?”
“Who the hell was it?”
We all hesitated. We all liked Waverly and besides he’d just hit three balls in a row. OK, so they were foul, he’d still put the bat on the ball three straight times and that was pretty unusual for the group of never-was types playing on our field. But Waverly stepped forward and took credit for the swings (You’re a better man than I am, Waverly).
“You foul them off purposefully to taunt me?”
Waverly looked at the captain like he was a total fool (which most of by this time were sure was true). “Captain, I swung for a hit. We got a man on second,” he waved vaguely toward second, “and my job is to get him home.”
The guy out on second waved back. To be honest, no one had called time, so he’d been smart enough not to leave the base. I have no idea where the ball was at this point, and I doubt he did either.
“You didn’t do it on purpose?”
“No, sir, no body fouls off three in a row on purpose if there’s a runner on base.”
The captain looked around, more or less snarled at us, or at least attempted the best snarl he could manage. “Well, pay more attention next time.”
And he stalked off without waiting for a salute. We went back to the game but before an inning was up we were already calling him “Captain Foul Ball.” I’d like to take credit for the nickname, but somebody beat me to it. I’d come up with another nickname, but it was a litle more off color. OK, it was a lot more off color. We also figured he was probably a football fan.
I saw the Captain again a time or two. I never knew his name or his unit, but we crossed paths a time or two. I saluted, he returned it and went on his way. He didn’t recognize me at all or hear my snicker.
Tags: baseball in Viet Nam