So, the other night, on the way to softball (don’t ask) a crazy thing happened.  I was dragging my butt across a parking lot, already regretting my decision to play, when off in the distance I hear… jam band music.  Loud jam band music.  Some a$$ hat was forcing everyone within a hundred yards to listen to their obnoxious stoner music.  My first thought, “Ick.”  Me second thought, “Shirls would love this crap.”

Long story short, I get a little closer and I realize… it IS Shirls!  In all his Oakland Athletic-wearing glory.  The man himself is doing a little infield/outfield practice with his son’s baseball team.  I popped over and said hello, of course, and then went to play suckball, I mean softball.

Later that night, the wife asked, “how was softball?”  I told her the story about running into Shirls (who she’s never met).  That was the highlight of my night.  Not hitting a HR (which in softball is not even really an accomplishment).  Not having a few beers (and I love beer).  It was a two minute encounter with a guy I don’t even know that well.  It’s weird, I know.

I don’t know why.  But this random encounter really made me happy.  I’ve been thinking about it, an awful lot actually, and I’m starting to believe that this encounter meant so much to me because this league has really started to get under Nightmare’s skin.  In a good… great way that is.  A decade and a half of meeting new guys (and gals), making friends, sharing experiences… this league has really become more than just a sport, or hobby, or pastime for me.  It’s really become one of those things that’s changed me, and my life, and I think for the better.  Even just a brief reminder of the league is enough to make my day and put me in a great mood.

Or maybe crappy stoner music just reminds me of Shirls.  Who knows?

Time for jokes…

22.  The Lugnuts (0-9).  I’m running out of ways to say, “the Lugnuts are fun, but I never get to see them.”  They love Hamm’s and are always a blast.  I read a book Franklin recommended during the off-season and… I’m not not worried about him.  Also, where’s Tormund?  Did he ever find his big woman?  That reminds me, I was going to do a Game of Thrones-themed ranking… That’s still a timely reference, right?  (PR: 19)

19.  Da Bears (0-6).  Fewest games played in the league, and it isn't even close.  Weather, team schedules, and the universe are all conspiring to allow Poppa Bear to heal up and be available for the squad.  I love it.  I haven't forgotten about you Sully, you’ve escaped my wrath this week, but I will find you… That sounds sinister… maybe it’s the word “wrath?”  I’d delete it and rewrite, but I love the word ‘wrath.’  Hot take: Wrath of Kahn is not a good movie.  TT, I’ll wait for you in my DMs.  (TT is a huge Trekkie).  (PR: 18)

18.  Millers (2-8).  Wonderboy is on the Millers.  Fact: I have never pitched or hit against him.  He’s been in the league a dozen seasons and we’ve never faced each other.  Wow, so I went down this rabbit hole… in 12 seasons (excluding this one) Wonderboy and I have only shared the field 3 times.  That is some next level effort to avoid me.  Well done!  (PR: 16)

17.  Blue Sox (3-10).  I’m digging DEEP today (that’s what she said).  In his regular season career, TwoBat is 1-for-1 against Nightmare.  That hit was a bomb.  How is this possible?  (Don’t ask Nightmare’s career stats hitting against DosBattos, it is not good).  That is incredible.  I’m going to go back in time and find out what the (Danny) heck happened…holy cow, May 26, 2016, almost five years ago exactly.  I remember now, I pitched one inning and screwed up my back.  Until this moment, my only other memory of this game was TwoBat defending me against Griz who was giving me grief for whatever reason.  Probably because I was old.  Wow.  Memories.  Sigh.  I am old.  (PR: 13)

14. Mariners (3-9).  I got sucked down a deep rabbit hole the other day.  The long and short of it is, I found another Wiffle Website that does Power Rankings.  It’s the Skibbe league, who at least some of you are familiar with… Anyways, I was very intrigued as I read them (looking for ideas to steal).  They’re really pretty good… what’s my point… oh yeah, Squirrel plays in this league and got a nice little mention.  Kudos buddy!  And for the record, the coolest thing (I think) about the rankings they did was the author found booze-themed pics for each team.  I wanted to steal the idea, but… I’m lazy!  Also, this discovery lead me to reach out to Coach, and I always enjoy the opportunity to shoot a few texts back and forth with that guy.   (PR: 14)

16.  Yankees (3-7).  Torpedo is one of the all-time greats.  If you disagree, you’re wrong.  He is an HRL Hall of Famer in my book and is one of the nicest, funniest guys in the league.  At least I think so.  So, now that I’ve established my baseline love for the dude, I want to tell you about a guy I met this weekend.  I think his name was Missile (as in Rocket, Torpedo, and Missile).  Just kidding, it was Anthony.  But let me tell you, Anthony so resembled Torpedo (looks, sound/tone of voice, he was hilarious), that I texted Rocket (I don’t have Torpedo’s #) to ask if there was a third Pabon brother out there we needed to get to know.  Sadly, he was not related, but it was so hilarious (to me, I know I’m doing a trash job telling the story) I wanted to mention it.  (PR: 15)

11.   Rubber Ducks (3-7).  I have been on the internet too long looking at ridiculous stuff.  So, the Ducks got a guy Paper Boy.  That reminded me of the show Atlanta, which is awesome and has a main character, Paper Boi.  I spent too much time looking for something to include here that I couldn’t think of anything funny… sorry.  I wonder if the HRL Paper Boy is as cool as Paper Boi… Or does he just deliver papers?  Did someone do an article about the origins of nicknames before?  Someone could probably revisit that idea.  Instead of asking if they can do my power rankings.  Which happens all the time.  Jeez, get your own ideas.  (PR: 11)

12.   Twins  (4-7).  Most people don’t know this, but Flow used to be a nemesis of mine.  Do you know what “nemesis” means?  A righteous infliction of retribution manifested by an appropriate agent.  Personified in this case by an ‘orrible [person]… Flow.  I don’t know (or care) if that is the actual definition, but it’s from the movie Snatch, one of my all time favorites.  Anyways, the website is not allowing me to pull data up now… but let me tell you now, Flow used to be my kryptonite.  I don’t know what it was about guy, but repeatedly, in clutch situations, this guy came up huge.  I believe there was a Wifflepalooza occasion he knocked me out of the playoffs, and one absolute moonshot off me in Central… I think my neck is still sore from snapping back to watch that thing go… man… Miss you Flow!  (PR: 17)

13.  Marlins (3-5).  Have I made my annual “Box is underrated” rant yet this year?  If not, here we go… if so, here we go also.  For starters, he just last week struck out his 1200th batter (9th all-time).  95 wins (#8 all-time, 24 shutouts, #13).  247 career bombs (#14), RBI #500 came earlier this year, and he’s a lock to bat .300 every year.  And I don’t usually mention fielding stats, but #4 all-time fielder.  He’s a stud.  And the only thing cooler than all those stats, is he’s a great guy.  And the only thing even cooler than that is how embarrassed I know he’s getting right this second reading all these things about himself.  (PR: 12)

7.  Chihuahuas (5-7).  In general, I don’t remember a lot of wiffleball anymore.  I don’t dwell on games too long, good or bad.  I don’t think it’s healthy.  Let it go.  That’s my way of thinking (now, it hasn’t always been this way).   Anyways, one game that has stuck with me for a while, was my introduction to Air Bud.  I think I mentioned it once before, but it was Wifflepalooza 2019, and Air Bud put his puppies on his back and single handedly… handed me my backside.  I’d been having a pretty good day, but he came in and put an end to that.  He threw a one-hit gem, hit a dong to win the game, and most importantly, stared me down like a boss.  I cannot put into words the intensity, or duration, of the stare down… but it was considerable.   I was very annoyed at the time, but man, I’ve always respected the dude for the passion and competitive… vigor?  Is that a good word?  Anyways, that’s a long way of saying, I show love for a couple of the pups all the time, but Air Bud (and I am just now, this very second, realizing Air Bud was a movie about a dog playing sports and Air Bud plays for a team named after a dog)…. Anyways, always, lots of respect for you AirBud.  (PR: 9)

6.  [Racist team name] (5-7).  What can I say about DJ that wasn’t already captured in this article by Sanchez?  Probably not much.  DJ was one of the first guys I looked up to in the league.  A great competitor and a great guy.  The league needs more guys like him.  We’re worse off without him.  Jeez Louise, this guy’s first night out at the rinks he won a game on the mound and hit a few bombas… I’m surprised, but not really.  Congrats on a great career, DJ.  (PR: 10)

9.  Rumble Ponies (5-5).  The guys won Wifflepalooza last year, so obviously it isn't a hot take to say, “these guys are pretty good,” or “don’t sleep on the Ponies,” but I really want to say those things.  They are, in this old man’s opinion, really close to being really good.  They also really seem to be good guys and… their logo still sucks.  I’m sorry, I wanted to be 100% positive, but that horseman creeps me out.  I fully expected one of them to pull out one of those stupid horse-head masks at the rink last week.  (PR: 7)

8. RoughRiders (5-5).   July 6, 2007.  The day I met Hjal, aka H9K.  It was the 2007 Noob-Star game.  He was representing Eagan, I was representing… The Bowl (Hopkins, not Shakopee).  In my craziest Miller Lite fueled dreams, I never could have imagined that night, how many more nights we’d have like that, “battling” (to use a stupid word for what we do) at the rinks.  The guy would become an HRL legend, I’d go on to… continue playing in the league.  I don’t know where he goes when he disappears for entire seasons, but I’m glad he’s back.  And I hope he sticks around awhile.  (PR: I don’t remember and I’m too lazy to look)

10.   Trash Pandas (6-3).   Ummm.  (PR: 6)

5.  Manatees (8-4).  Oddly enough, that Noob Star game was also the first time I met the Kid.  I wish I could find the words to describe how much I used to hate facing him.  To give you an idea, he struck out 172 batters.  In his rookie season.  Only 8 other players have ever had 172 Ks in a season, and he did it his rookie year.  He went on to have six more 100+ K seasons… in a row.  Obviously, I only half-as$ed a search, but I was unable to find any other current player with more 100+ K seasons in a row than the Kid (Seuss, Palp, and the Man: 7).  Wowza.  (PR: 8)

4.  Americans (9-3).  I wrote this entry last.  Why?  Cause this is hard.  I’m looking all over for something, anything… and I keep coming back to this… Why does Chest Hair look so grumpy in his photo?  He is like, a super friendly chill dude.  What happened on picture day that got us this?  (PR: 2)

3.  The Vibes (8-2).   Lots of reminiscing this week.  When some of these stories took place some/most of the Vibes were younger than my son is now.  Yikes!  (remember last week when I said the Vibes made me feel old?!)  (PR: 4)

15.  Baby Cakes (9-1).  Nightmare’s highlight of 2021 (thus far): hanging out at Plum’s with Psych and HOVy on graduation day.  I had so much fun… but was home at a reasonable hour, because I’m old.  (PR: 20) 

2. Crawdads (13-1)June 10, 2013.  I wouldn’t have believed it, but it’s on the internet, so it must be true.  (PR: 3)

1. Mets (12-0).  I’ve been going at this awhile.  All these dudes are really good.  If I dug around the website long enough I’d find something, but it’s been a long day.  I know I’m tired.  Probably you are too.  So, let’s just end by saying, JC AND THE MMMMMMMMETS!  (PR: 1)

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