Baby Head Baseball – Ted Prokash
December 29, 2018
We went to the Oblivians reunion show in Memphis; Leo, Dante and me. It was 2004. We didn’t know that in the coming years there would be numerous Oblivians reunion shows, some of them much closer to home. So this was kind of like a… an artistic pilgrimage, if you will.
The trip started off pretty inauspiciously. Dante and Leo picked me up in Leo’s 1992 baby blue Dodge Caravan. They were acting weird; quiet, conspiratorial, even. “What’s going on?” I asked.
“We’re going to kidnap Adam,” Leo said simply. And he punched the tape deck which was cued up to the opening chords of Mother by Danzig. Leo was serious.
But Adam wasn’t at home, just his roommate who took a long time to answer the door, a dark apartment and the tv on the blue DVD stop screen. We’d interrupted him watching porn.
On the long road to Memphis we each mulled over silently what the failed kidnapping might mean. Anyway, there were three Oblivians and three of us, so the math worked out at least.
We arrived in Memphis around seven in the morning. We had the whole day ahead of us. At this time of day, of course, none of the barbecue joints or record stores we were interested in would be open, so we pulled into a public park to pass an hour or two with a game of baby head baseball.
The rules of the game are simple. Anyone can play. The “ball” is the head of a baby doll appropriated from Jay Reatard’s house under circumstances that can not be discussed in print. The “bat” is the worthiest stick or branch that can be found on or near the playing field. These essential elements acquired, you then play whatever form of pitcher’s hand baseball is most appropriate to the number of players available.
So the boys and I were having a fine, healthy time playing a game comprised of innings divided into thirds instead of halves, where each player batted his team, running with ghosties, then rotated to fielder and finally to pitcher. I found myself marveling at Leo’s surprising athletic prowess. Leo was a big man in every direction, with an unnerving intellect and feral habits. At first glance, one wouldn’t expect him to be capable of making a nimble leap off of the “pitcher’s bulge” to snare a well-struck baby head by the neck hole, securing an improbable out. But that’s why baby head is so much like life; it’s always surprising us with its revelations.
In the middle of the third inning, we were joined on the field of play. He was a local, alright, employing a mean stride and a challenging stare. He came right up to us and fired up a joint, taking a big hit. “Smoke this shit!” he implored and we passed the joint around.
“Fifteen for an eight; twenty for a quarter,” he announced. “Come on now!”
Leo and Dante demurred. “No thanks, man,” and all that.
Incredibly, at this polite declining of his wares, the man became outraged! Perfectly incensed! “What?!” He put his hand to his heart. “I smoke you out. You niggas smoke my shit and you ain’t gonna buy none?”
Leo, the most naturally courageous of the group, was firm. “Listen, we don’t want to buy any marijuana, sir. We don’t have any extra cash.”
At this the man puffed up angrily, ‘ready to go’ as they say. Being a natural appeaser, I broke down. “I… I’ll buy an eighth,” I said. Our man flashed a big smile.
I went to the van and rummaged through my wallet. “Well… I only have a twenty…”
Our man took it quite readily, perfectly amiable all of a sudden. “I’ll be right back.”
We watched him walk right over second base, into straight-away center field. He kept walking and got into a red Fiero that was waiting for him on the street that ran through the park. We watched the car drive slowly away. “He’s not coming back, is he?” I said to my friends’ embarrassed silence.
The show was on Halloween. I think I forgot to mention that. I wore a Green Bay Packers t-shirt. We were dressed as small town midwestern rubes, I guess.
The Oblivians were great from what I remember. Although I was pretty drunk by the time they played.