We lost The Skip a week ago.
So the only thing to do was go out and play ball.
The Skip was 50 when he asked me to join the Wisconsin State Journal’s softball team — the Muckrakers — in the spring of 1983.
The Skip was of average height, a little skinny, with glasses and rust-colored hair and a big, bushy, rust-colored walrus mustache. He always wore black cleats and a ringer T-shirt tucked into an old pair of work pants that ran just a tad short and were held up with a leather belt.
He loved playing and managing, although I wouldn’t recommend his managing style.
He ran the Muckrakers with maddening logic. Because newspaper people so often have irregular schedules, you couldn’t be sure who’d be able to make a game from week to week. I arranged my schedule so I could make every game. And then I would sit for part of the game.
The Skip would regularly play guys who didn’t show up all the time because if he didn’t, they wouldn’t show up. He wouldn’t regularly play guys who showed up all the time because they would show up anyway.
That, and I never had a regular position until the last full season I played with the Muckrakers. That used to bug me, too, until I realized I did have a regular position — as the guy The Skip could play anywhere needed.
We won our league championship the first year I played for the Muckrakers. Then we saw The Skip’s hopes dashed for the next five years. In 1989, we again won our league title, sweeping a doubleheader from a team we never should have beaten once, lest twice, on a hot, steamy, dusty August night. I’ll never forget The Skip’s sheer joy that night.
Cancer got The Skip last week. He was 75.
I don’t know how much longer he ran the Muckrakers, nor whether they ever won another championship. He worked until he was 68 and I wouldn’t be surprised if he played until he was 68, too.
I do know The Skip used to put a little trailer behind his car and drive out to Arizona every spring to watch the Cubs and Brewers in spring training. That must have been some road trip.
And now The Skip is on that road trip we’ll all be taking someday.
Maybe he saw Monday night’s game, which our over-30 team lost to cap a perfect 0-16 season, led by a guy who manages just as The Skip did.
Maybe he saw Tuesday night’s game, which our over-50 team lost, putting the finishing touches on a 3-9 season that nonetheless was an improvement over last season.
Hey, Skip? Those two line-drive singles to left? They were for you.
Hey, Skip? About your beloved Cubs? This is for you, too.
“A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request,” Steve Goodman, from “Affordable Art,” 1980.