Commissioner Geoff Wright wrote three great KVKL history lessons back in 2010, I will re-post them over the next few days. Perhaps these history posts are a little nerdy, and seem to yearn for simpler kickball times, but remember what American poet, novelist, and literary critic Robert Penn Warren said, “The lack of a sense of history is the damnation of the modern kickball league.” I might have that quote wrong, but you know what I’m trying to get at. How Lawrence kickball was played in 2002 was in no way better than how we play today, but goddammit Geoff makes Year 1 seem downright tranquil.
Talkin’ ‘Bout the Good Ol’ Days
by Geoff Wright
I thought that before we dive into the kickball season, and start blogging about 2010, we could reminisce about past seasons. I’d love for readers to post some of their fondest KVKL stories. Maybe a great game you watched, an awesome play, legendary players or the first time you heard about kickball. To get the discussion going, I felt that it would be appropriate to give a brief history of the league in the coming weeks. Please keep in mind that I’ve aged eight years since my first game, so I may need some corrections on a few facts. I may combine some seasons on future posts, but the first year definitely deserves its own blog.
In 2002, an energetic young lady named Natalie Winn popped her head into the Rudy’s kitchen and excitedly asked if anyone would be interested in playing some adult kickball on Sundays. I think the first thing everyone thought about was playing kickball on a blacktop in elementary school with a giant red rubber ball…only now there’s beer! The answer was hell yes, and Rudy’s and seven other businesses filled out their sign-up sheets and submitted them.
What started as a dream is now a league. That was what Natalie said to those seven teams as we gathered in South Park before the first week of games. We were cooks, and bartenders, and servers, and managers, and cashiers and doormen. Some were drinkers, some smokers, some jocks, some rockers, some skaters, some stoners, but we were all there to try out this new kickball league.
For most of us, that day was the most fun we’d ever had on a hot June afternoon in Lawrence, KS. The league was a smash hit. It seemed that everyone was either talking about it, or curious about it. “So, it’s like…the kids’ game?” It sure was, and Sunday evenings became the best night to head downtown for the rest of the summer. People came out and watched or played, and afterwards teams would find a downtown establishment to celebrate victory or wallow in defeat.
As for the actual games: We were terrible! The soccer boys that could actually kick didn’t know how to run the bases, and the softball crowd couldn’t kick worth a damn. Pop-ups routinely bounced off the outfielder’s chest, there were virtually no 3rd-to-1st outs, and most people didn’t even know where to stand in the field. Speedy teams like Let it Ride began to use the bunt as a weapon, and many catchers began standing in fair territory in an attempt to stop them. This, of course, was perfectly legal at the time. In fact, there were hardly any rules at all.
Occasionally, a bystander would volunteer to ref a game, but for the most part we made the calls ourselves while we played. Those that knew baseball rules tried to educate the others when questionable situations came up, but often times we would just declare the play a “do-over.” I dearly miss the do-over calls from back then. What a simple and efficient way to settle a disagreement that is going nowhere.
There was one team that seemed a bit more polished than the rest of us. They had been playing in softball leagues together for a while and seemed to actually have a strategy. With quick runners, big boots and infielders that could throw, Teller’s was the clear team to beat. They went a perfect 7-0 to claim the first unofficial downtown Lawrence kickball championship (we weren’t called Kaw Valley Kickball just yet, which will be addressed in the next blog).
It had been a fantastic summer, and after the last game there was already a buzz about the next season. None of us had any idea that one day we’d have 30 teams, and that the level of play would get to where it is now. We were just enjoying a beautiful Sunday evening in Lawrence and having a good time.
Love it. More history lessons to come as we work our way through our tenth summer.
Coach Billy Gay Cyrus