Legends Fade Under The Wichita Heat

by Kevin Burton

   The following is not a Page 7 exclusive by any means, everybody knows it: in the sports world, Father Time is still undefeated.

   It is true in all sports, even baseball for the blind.

   Father Time administers a butt kicking even more consistently than the Indy Thunder.

   To use a Cinderella analogy, the clock struck midnight yesterday on the USA Legends. 

   The team dropped all three games of a tripleheader. They were outclassed by the Thunder, lost 8-4 to an Indy X-Treme team that had more team speed than the Legends, and then lost to St. Louis 8-5. 

   The Legends, who pulled two upsets earlier in the week, were themselves upset. 

The upper 90s Kansas heat and the advanced years of the players took their toll.

   A key blow was when Joe Smolka suffered a torn left rotator cuff. That took away the Legends’ best front middle defender and sent other players into unfamiliar positions. 

   You had to know attrition would set in sooner or later.

   The people who told me the Legends could do no worse than ninth in the National Beep Baseball Association World Series based on Wednesday results were incorrect.  So part of my report yesterday was incorrect.

   The Legends will in fact play an 8:30 game this morning against the Bayou City Heat to determine who gets 11th place.  That will bring the curtain down on the series.

   I had more than a few doubts about this adventure in geezer beepball. But as the on-field part ends today I am profoundly grateful to Rob Weigand and Greg Gontaryk for including me. 

   Reuniting with Columbus teammates, people I have known forever, has been beyond great. But I have also gotten to know and appreciate some longtime opponents as teammates. 

   For instance my Legends teammate Terri Smolka nicknamed me “the quiet one.”  Dead-on accurate.

   Nothing I have ever experienced can seem so long and at the same time so short as the beep baseball world series.  Athletic failures, bad calls, bad bounces, bad bruises, even bad weather can make it seem long.  But it zooms by incredibly quickly. Before you know it you’re in the lobby of the host hotel watching people depart and waiting for your own ride to the airport.

   Another joy of this series, I got to witness firsthand the development of some players I had on the Wichita Sonics teams I ran.  Josh Sisson of St. Louis and Kevin Smith of the X-Treme each collected a win against me.  I did not get to see Cleo Stephens play, but I know he suited up for the new Wichita team and continues to love the game.  I am proud of what they accomplished and confident about the future success of all those players.

   I always get caught up in the gameday aspect, the wins, losses, strategies and disappointments of the games. But it is the people who stand out.

   The Vipers alumni lost one of our own just weeks before the series. Jim Oyer died July 3, at age 75. Oyer was a team comedian and he had three of the most beautiful swings you could hope for.  Getting him to choose just one of them consistently was a bit of a chore. But he had good speed and the knack of getting key hits.

   Had Oyer played on more prominent teams he would be remembered as one of the great characters of the game.

   The Thursday losses were a disappointment to the Legends, but as Dan Kelley articulated, just to take the field with longtime friends, brothers and sisters really is a true blessing.

   There are some within the team and some around the league who are hoping the USA Legends will keep going.  The team wasn’t designed that way, but stranger things have happened.

   This series has been a lot of fun. You just never know what teams will show up at the annual family reunion.

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