This time of the year around Labor Day is football time across the nation. For me, though, Labor Day weekend brings back memories of days gone by in which the best softball teams in the country were involved in special tournaments across the nation. That meant teams which had previously qualified by winning sanctioned tournaments during a long hot summer would then appear in what was called World Qualifiers. For this region, those tourneys were usually conducted in either Cincinnati, Ohio, or Cleveland. The competition in either city, which consisted of 500 teams per tournament, was titled the Eastern World Qualifier. The top four finishers received an all-expenses paid trip to Hawaii, where the World Tournament was held. I remember a rain-soaked Monday morning on Labor Day in Cincinnati once when a very weary team I was on lost 8-3 and finished fifth in that particular tournament. That probably was my best chance ever of seeing Hawaii. Oh, well, there are some good memories —like another time, which was in Cleveland, when the team known as The Brotherhood Club was participating in an important tournament there.
Our sponsor was the late Carmelo Pansera, who by his own admission, really didn’t know that much about the game of slow-pitch softball, but appreciated our efforts in winning, and sometimes traveled with us. Although we usually raised money to pay for hotel rooms on these big trips, Carmelo had graciously chosen to pay for our rooms at a Holiday Inn in Cleveland. We did not have to play the day we arrived, so most of our team chose to visit the restaurant/bar in the hotel. Carmelo, who never in his life wore anything but jeans, was stopped at the door and told he could not enter because he was wearing jeans. Because he had recently had back surgery, Camelo was wearing a huge battery with a wire attached that was somehow supposed to help him with his pain.
After a few minutes of arguing with the guy, I remember Carmelo saying, “You mean, I’m paying for all of these rooms for these guys, and I can’t get into the restaurant because I’m wearing jeans?” After the fellow again said no jeans were allowed, I figured we would all go to jail. Mello, who sometimes displayed a good Italian temper, pulled back his shirt to show the battery pack, and then exclaimed: “I’ll just blow this damned place up.” After quickly rushing to the door and letting the poor bouncer know the truth, we were at least allowed to remain in the hotel for the duration of our stay.
A year or so later, this time at a Cincy Hotel, we were again in the restaurant/bar area of the place, simply out for a good time. Again, our first game wasn’t until the following day. We were all young bucks, and hardly anybody on the team was married. Like fish out of water, these Loganites were the first customers in the place; entering even before nightfall. However, as the daylight turned into darkness outside, things began to get interesting inside. The lights went down, the music started, the dance floor was lighted up, and people began to stream in.
After a few hours and quite a few beers later, I got a little bored with the guys and their ramblings. I spotted two young ladies sitting at the bar and an empty seat beside one of them. From the dimly lit bar area, it appeared that both girls were attractive and, more importantly, I suppose, they were alone. At least (I thought to myself) the girls would be more interesting to talk to than my fellow ball playing buddies. Plus, I knew they would certainly smell better.
So, as smoothly as one could expect a young Creek boy to be, I approached the empty seat with the quiet confidence of a rattlesnake trying to charm a rabbit. “Anyone sitting here,” I asked the young lady? Luckily, she didn’t reply to my stupid question with something like: “Yeah, the Invisible Man.” That, of course, would have been the door slamming in my face. Instead, the girl seemed pleased to give me the seat. Alas, nothing like new found confidence. Par for the course, I bought the two girls a beverage, and conversations began.
Both girls were pretty, but the one sitting next to me just seemed to really like me. Considerable time went by as the evening wore on — then it happened. There are two slow dance songs that I absolutely loved, and still do: “Color My World,” by Chicago, and “I Can’t Tell You Why,” by the Eagles. “Color My World” began to play, and I simply couldn’t resist: “Would you like to dance?” I asked. That simple question would lead to one of the most embarrassing moments of my then relatively young lifetime.
A beaming smile upon her face, she practically jumped down from the tall bar chair. This very attractive young lady, whose upper torso simply did not match the rest of her body, was a midget. The dilemma was just beginning. We were going to be the only couple on the dance floor— if I chose to follow through with the dance. I knew the hysteria it would bring to my ball playing friends seated at “ringside”. Still, I could not embarrass the girl by refusing to dance; after all, I was the one who asked.
How does one slow dance with a person whose head is located at your belt buckle? Unfortunately, because of her lack of height, I had a perfect view of my teammates who were all but lying in the floor in laughter. I was writhing in emotional pain to one of my favorite songs that all of a sudden seemed to be an hour long. By the time the song finally ended, and I helped the girl back onto her bar stool seat, the damage was done. There was no way I was going back to my teammates’ table. I had to put that off as long as I could, and I did. The night wore on, but I danced no more. In fact, though, I rather enjoyed the girl’s conversation. I told her as to why we were in Cincinnati and that we were there representing Logan County, West Virginia.
A short time later, I returned from the restroom and noticed the girl was gone. I assumed she, too, had gone to the restroom. After a long while, I finally asked my midget dancer’s friend, who by the way was not a midget, where the girl had gone. “I’m sorry, but you should have never have told her you were from Logan County,” was her reply. Puzzled, I asked what she meant. Her answer has left me perplexed for all of these years.
“She had a bad experience one time with a guy that was from Man, and that’s part of Logan County, right?” Stunned, I simply said “ok,” and no further details were revealed to me. To this day, I wish whoever the guy was from Man would simply fess up. Please, what on earth did you do to my little midget dancer, who left me bewildered on a bar stool? Confess, you vile person.
The easiest stories to write are those which apply to yourself, and that come from memory. There is no research needed and sometimes, frankly, they are simply more fun to write. And, just in case you are wondering — yeah, my wife has heard this story before. Unfortunately, she failed to see the humor in it.
Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.