Playing the field with 'Campy' and 'Dougie'Bert Campaneris redux: Doug Curtis recreates moment in sports history
Camden — The idea
With the regular-season finale of the 2014 Camden Adult Coed Softball League upon us and our playoff seed secured with a victory the game before, the team talked about how we would handle it and I thought out loud that it might be fun to change around positions and have a little fun in our final game before the playoffs.
Long-time Rockland resident and Free Press Red Wing teammate Doug Curtis decided to take this a step further and volunteered to play all 10 positions as a tribute to former Major League League baseball standout Bert Campaneris and to create excitement for our team on the last game of the season against the Schooners Wednesday, Aug. 13 at the Camden Snow Bowl.
When Doug approached with the idea and wondered if he should bring it to our manager, Lucas Brower, I told him I would feel it out. Lucas gave the thumbs-up and said Doug had been a good sport all season and deserved a reward for giving up playing time to the young lads, sometimes not even getting into games and coaching third base instead of playing himself when we had a full roster.
Lucas gave the go-ahead for me to be the “acting manager” and to prepare the lineup and figure out how to get Doug in at every position.
The genius, the goat, the escapee
Two of Doug’s children also are Red Wings and it was decided to make this a real family affair in the final game. With Doug announced as the starting pitcher, he would throw to his daughter, Andrea, behind the plate with his son, Mike, starting at shortstop.
In the batting order, the Curtises were put in the lineup back-to-back-to-back. As the visiting team, we were at bat first and my first managerial decision of the game looked like pure genius as Andrea lined a single over third to start. Mike followed with a shot, a line drive hit to left center to put runners on first and second for Doug.
Doug then laced a deep fly ball and showed us that a 50-plus-year-old could still turn on the jets as Andrea scored the game’s first run and Mike stopped at third, with Doug at second with a stand-up double. Our cleanup hitter, Jon Moro, did just that with another hard ground ball single to right field to plate Mike and Doug. The three Curtises had scored and still no one was out.
After the inning I could see Doug walking to the pitching area talking to his shortstop son Mike about not getting a good jump on dad's blast to the gap, which cost the father a triple and another RBI.
My pure genius status waned a little in the bottom of the first as Doug gave back two runs and the 'Wings nursed a 4-2 first-inning advantage into the fifth inning.
Doug moved to first base from pitching as he began to make his way around the infield, or horn. As Doug moved to second, Mike went from shortstop to first so they might combine on a few ground ball outs. Then, moving Mike to the outfield for an inning, Doug took over at shortstop.
All went smoothly until the bottom of the fifth when it looked like I might be the goat and the Red Wings pinned with a season-ending loss. Doug had moved around the diamond and now was playing third base. His errant throw and a misplayed grounder had allowed the Schooners to tie — and then take — the lead in the game.
Doug did make a putout on a pop-up to third to end the threat but getting to the bottom of the seventh inning when Doug would catch was now not a certainty; if the Schooners could hold their 5-4 lead, as the home team, they would not have to bat in the bottom of the seventh and Doug would run out of outs before getting to all the outfield positions and catcher.
In the sixth, the 'Wings bailed Doug out with two runs in the top half of the inning as the visitors retook the lead 6-5. The bottom of the sixth was a one-two-three affair, which assured Doug a seventh inning on defense. Doug needed to start the final stanza in right field for at least one batter and then move behind the plate to finish the game.
The Schooners would not go quietly as they put the tying run on second and the winning run on first before a line drive to left field ended the night and allowed me, as the acting manager, and the 'Wings to escape with a 6-5 victory.
So the final boxscore showed this as a night to remember for Doug. Although not the winning pitcher, Doug did leave with the lead and helped his cause by giving us the early lead with his ringing double to the gap. He made at least seven putouts in various defensive positions and was behind the plate for the final out of the game in front of his wife, Ferolyn, his children, Andrea and Mike, and a dugout of enthusiastic Red Wings.
A moment and reenactment that Bert Campaneris himself would surely have delighted in.
The epitaph and comparison: Campy verses Dougie
Bert Campaneris, called "Campy," was most known during his baseball career as an Oakland Athletics' shortstop and for his speed on the bases and his stealing abilities.
It was on Sept. 8, 1965 he made baseball history and became a trivia question when he played all nine positions during a regular-season game, even pitching ambidextrously; left-handed to right-handed hitters and right-handed to left-handed hitters.
Since then, César Tovar (Twins, 1968), Scott Sheldon (Rangers, 2000) and Shane Halter (Tigers, 2000) have joined this select list of nine-position players in a Major League game.
Doug, affectionately known by his Red Wing teammates as “Dougie,” was a mere boy when “Campy” performed his feat nearly 50 years ago. Doug was himself preparing at that time to be a standout athlete for Rockland schools in a city for which he continues to reside and where he has raised his children, with his wife.
Reade Brower, owner/publisher of Courier Publications/VillageSoup, is longtime player in the Camden Adult Coed Softball League. He now serves as player/assistant to the manager for Free Press Red Wings.