Sometimes you just love a game. You can’t play it well, but you love it anyway. You get a chance to play it, you go play it. You don’t care what people say about your skills, you just want to play. I had a friend like that in Viet Nam. His name was Evermeyer and he was the kind of guy they talk about when they say about his batting that he “couldn’t hit the floor if he fell out of bed.” Or when fielding that he “couldn’t catch a cold.” But we all loved him.
To explain the kind of guy he was, let me tell you this story. When you arrived in Viet Nam you got new jungle fatigues. Those were the normal uniform you wore, not the fancier green or khaki uniforms with all the fancy ribbons, bells, and whistles. They fit loosely, were always baggy (which in Nam heat was a good thing), and of course they came with nametags. The local populace provided girls who would sew on your name over the right pocket and “US Army” over the left pocket. Of course the American names meant nothing to them, so you got some odd spellings. In Evermeyer’s case one of the girls didn’t quite cut off the stitching on the two lower lines of the last “e” in his name and more or less sewed them together. That made it look suspiciously like a 6. Of course that led to a name tag that looked something like this: Evermey6r. If it was wrong, you could take it back and they’d fix it, but Evermey6r loved it, so he kept it and made sure to wear it when he was going to be in what passed for formal surroundings in our unit (that means when some bigwig was around). Someone always took the bait and the conversation generally went something like this:
“You got a six in your name?”
“That’s what it says, sir.”
“How do you pronounce it?”
“What happened to the six?”
“It’s silent, sir.”
Worked every time. So we loved him.
But he couldn’t play ball at all. He tried. I gotta give him credit, he tried. He was awful at the plate, worse in the field. We always stuck him in the outfield and told him to play deep. That led to him coming up with the following gag.
When someone asked him where he played, he’d tell them “outfield.” And of course they all took the bait and he just reeled them in.
“Which outfield position?”
“Way out.” See, I told you, we loved the guy.
So one day we’re playing on the field I’ve mentioned a few times before. It was dusty, not much of a field, and that day we had only a handful of guys on either team. Evermey6r was on mine and stationed well out in the field (I was at first as usual) when someone hit a long one. It wasn’t all that high, but it was going over Evermey6r’s head for a lot of bases. He must have been tired or disgusted or bored or something because he simply tossed his glove in the air at the ball.
And for the first, and probably only time in its life, the glove made honest-to-God contact with a ball in anger. Not only did they collide, but the ball stuck in the webbing somehow and the two of them, ball and glove together, fell to the dirt pocket side up so the ball wasn’t touching the ground. They landed a couple of feet from Evermey6r who stared at them. And all the rest of us froze.
Quite simply no one knew what to do. Today I know that it’s not a legal catch, because you can’t throw an object at the ball, but none of us knew that back in 1968. None of us had a set of the rules (we didn’t play well enough to need one), but here was a ball that was caught by a glove. The glove simply didn’t happen to be attached to a hand at the time. So we argued about whether it was an out or not. My team, the one in the field, said they guy was out, after all the ball was in leather and hadn’t touched the ground. There was no dirt in Evermeyr’s glove, he’d never managed to catch anything that would make it dirty, so you could obviously see the ball was in the glove. The other team was sure he was safe, but wasn’t quite sure where he was safe (first, second, third, maybe a home run?). After an indeterminate amount of time and argument common sense prevailed. There wasn’t much of that around or none of us would have ended up in Viet Nam, but someone finally came up with a solution. We gave the guy a ground rule double and went back to playing (and no, I don’t remember if he scored or not).
Evermey6r was ecstatic in a way only an incompetent who’d lucked into doing something right can be (dumb luck takes care of its own). He’d made a play. Well, sort of a play. Somebody suggested we let him keep the ball (which we did) and he could bronze the damned thing and his utterly useless glove so they could be together for all time.
I lost contact with Evermeyer (OK, I’ll spell it right this time) after I left Viet Nam. I ended up in Virginia and he went to Colorado (I think) to finish his tour of duty. I hope he still has the ball and the glove. If not, I hope he sold the glove for a goodly sum, after all it was only used once.
Tags: baseball in Viet Nam