A Baseball Mystery Solved

Thanks to a podcast, I found the answer to a random question I had wondered about — what baseball league do the Lake Wobegon Whippets belong to?

I didn’t know, and it occurred to me one day that the Lake Wobegon Whippets could — and perhaps should — play in the Green Grass League against Stumptown and Hillsdale. The Whippets, of course, are the creation of Garrison Keillor and featured occasionally in his “New from Lake Wobegon” monologues on A Prairie Home Companion, while Stumptown featured prominently in the legend of Joe Shlabotnik, Charlie Brown’s favorite baseball player from Peanuts. I even wrote an unconventional (and short) piece of fan fiction about Lake Wobegon and Stumptown, baseball rivals.

But they’re not.

Recently I subscribed to the News from Lake Wobegon podcast, a weekly download of archived “News from Lake Wobegon” segments. Curious if my goofy idea about the Whippets and Stumptown would work, I went through the archives and found a half-dozen podcasts where the Whippets were mentioned.

Stumptown (and, by extension, the Green Grass League) belongs to the affiliated minors; poor Joe Shlabotnik was sent down to Stumptown after batting .004 in the majors.

Lake Wobegon plays in the Old Sod Shanty League against teams in Avon (the Bards) and Freeport (the Flyers) and Holdingford (the Bulls) and Uppsala (the Uftas). The Old Sod Shanty League, as best I can determine, is some sort of amateur adult rec league, “town teams” in the classic baseball sense, with rosters made up of residents of the town.

A team of amateurs in Lake Wobegon will never play the professionals in the low minors in Stumptown.

A dream, dashed! A mystery, solved!

Last Night in Stumptown

A clipping from the Stumptown Progressive…

The hometown crowd witnessed something they had never before seen — the umpires examining a baseball for scuff marks and paint — when the Lake Wobegon Whippets took on rival Stumptown at Olaf Field Friday night.

The drama came in the top of the seventh inning when Whippets second baseman Jonny Gilmore faced Stumptown pitcher Frank Bayliss.  Trailing by two runs, with a runner on first and no outs, Gilmore showed bunt, then ducked down in the batter’s box when Bayliss’ throw went awry.  The sound of the ball smacking against something was heard by the entire crowd of 346, and the home plate umpire promptly ruled Gilmore hit by pitch and awarded him first base.

Stumptown’s catcher tossed the ball back to the pitcher and, before play could resume, the home plate umpire summoned the first base umpire to the pitcher’s mound.  The two umpires asked for the baseball and proceeded to examine the ball.  Conferring for several minutes and finding no scuff marks from Gilmore’s helmet on the ball, the home plate umpire reversed his initial call and declared the pitch a foul ball having struck off of Gilmore’ bat rather than his helmet.  Art Ramsey returned to first base, Gilmore returned to the batter’s box, and both runners were erased when Gilmore hit a ground ball to short and Stumptown’s infielders turned a double play.

“In my sixty years of watching baseball,” said fan Jordan McKeever after this inning, “I’ve never seen umpires examine a baseball like that and make a decision based on that.”  This reporter would note that he has known McKeever since elementary school, and McKeever has only watched baseball for forty years, not being old enough to have watched it for sixty.

Stumptown took its 4-2 lead into the ninth inning, when Stumptown closer Erik Warner coughed up four runs, giving Lake Wobegon a 6-4 lead.  Stumptown went down in order in the bottom half of the inning, extending Stumptown’s losing streak to 8 games, leaving them 12 games under .500 and in last place in the Green Grass League’s Northern Division.

Stumptown manager Joe Shlabotnik , asked after the game why he stayed with his closer after Warner loaded the bases on two walks and a hit by pitch with no outs, said, “Warner made himself a mess, and I wanted to show faith in my player that he could get himself out of it, but he didn’t, and that’s the way baseball goes, and we’ll get ’em tomorrow.” Warner now has seven blown saves on the year, including three from a critical series against Hillsdale last week.

Stumptown’s series against the Lake Wobegon Whippets continues Saturday night at Olaf Field with the first pitch scheduled for 7:10.