A Bill Qualls Baseball Story as told by X
I remember this day as if it were thirteen Thursday ago. It was the perfect late-April day for tomfoolery. That day was one of the best pranks ever perpetrated by any person in the history of the world. April Fools’ Day comes and inevitably evokes memories of this epic day. Had I not been there, I would have never believed such a prank was even possible.
Bill Qualls (top row, first on right) had come by and picked me up to go watch his friends and family play ball. Even though their jerseys all had “A’s” emblazoned on them, judging by their apparent prowess, I would have opted to name them the “B’s” or “C’s.”
Since all the adults were tired from working, they voted that I should be the pitcher for both teams. Because Miller Lite had interfered with a few of the adult’s speed and balance, they had moved me to within 15 feet of home plate. I felt like the Germans must have when the Allied Forces burst into Berlin, facing the barrels of a million rifles.
I decided to play a prank on the batting team, given the volume of ridicule and mockery they were lobbing my way. As I gestured to those playing the field to come up for a conference near the mound, everyone in the infield and outfield ran up to me and I told them my plan. We never imagined it would possibly work. We were like a motley group of idiot savants, embarking on a road trip in which no one knew how to read a map.
Kenny went up to bat and at my signal, I threw the ball as fast as I could. Or I pretended to. Like a game of distract-the-dog at the park, Kenny didn’t realize that I had in fact not thrown the ball at all. Jake, who was the catcher, hit his fist into his glove as if the ball had landed there. Bill yelled “Strike 1” from the side and then laughed. I reared back and threw another pretend fastball. (The batter should have noted that no one had the thrown the first ball back to me. I guess Miller Lite had loosened his reasoning skills enough already.) Kenny swung with all his might, spinning around home plate dizzily. Bill again yelled and shouted “Strike 2.” Kenny then demonstrated his command of every dirty word in the English language and several from Central America. He had already bragged that his batting average was “7,” whatever that meant.
As I threw the ball the third time, Bill was ready and waiting behind the plate and to the left, next to a wooden utility pole holding the electrical wire leading to the box behind the bleachers. As Kenny swung, Bill solidly hit the wooden pole with his own bat, mimicking the echo of a hit at home plate.
Everyone in the outfield starting screaming “Home Run,” or “Fly Ball.” Kenny, who hadn’t hit anything at all, couldn’t tell where the ball was. (It was still in my glove.) His own team hollering “Idiot” was drowned out by ‘my’ team, all of whom were running back and forth, looking upward to the sky, trying to get a bead on the nonexistent ball that was both going over the fence for a home run AND about to be caught for an out against Kenny. The guys looking skyward and prancing around under the invisible baseball now remind me of a ballet company being slightly electrocuted.
Kenny threw his bat and started running the bases. Even as he rounded second base, he didn’t seem to notice that the ball must be in Earth’s orbit at this point, given that so many seconds had passed since he ‘hit’ the ball. He ran even faster, although his idea of a straight line looked more like the stream of water coming out of a hose on a summer afternoon – that is to say, all over the place.
I stood between the pitcher’s mound and home plate, amazed at the spectacle of a grown man being duped into believing that he had hit a home run just by the sound of a bat thumping on a wooden pole.
In what seemed to be two minutes of Kenny running the bases, he rounded home plate. As his foot touched the base, I noticed that Bill had been standing near the utility pole along the fence, holding another baseball in one hand and a lighter glowing red with flame in the other. (This was not part of my plan.) The flame was burning the side of the baseball against his glove. He then quickly hurled the burned baseball as far as he could to right field. John caught it lazily and shouted, “I caught it. My god that thing must have been half a mile in space.”
Kenny stopped a few feet away from home and turned toward John, who was now running toward him, waving the ball he had just ‘caught’ after about two minutes in the air. John started excitedly shouting, “Look, I caught it! It went so high it got burned in the atmosphere.”
Kenny just stared at him, unable to comprehend what was happening. John tossed him the ball as he jogged past me and neared home.
Kenny caught the ball and stared in wonder at the white ball, now covered with black streaks and feeling extremely warm. He sniffed it and said “No way, man!” in a voice resembling both that of Rod Serling from “The Twilight Zone” and Cheech Marin.
We watched in awe as Kenny turned the ball over and over in his hand, his head turned slightly sideways, as if he were holding a chicken with four heads.
In unison, we all burst out in laughter, watching as Kenny admired his “Ball From Outer Space.”
Bill took a bow and smiled.