Wiffle Ball record comes to Southern Oregon

After about 18 straight hours of playing Wiffle Ball, your mind starts wandering into some bizarre corners of the universe.

For instance, have you ever read the tiny writing on a Wiffle Ball bat? Of course, you haven't.

But I did. In fact, I memorized the legal jargon pressed into that mustard-yellow length of plastic, taking in every word and savoring them as if they were lines from a John Donne poem.

Like I said, after nearly a day beating the hell out of a hollow plastic ball with a skinny plastic bat, your thoughts travel down some strange, lonesome roads.

Here's what is inscribed on an official Wiffle Ball bat: "The color YELLOW is a registered trademark of Wiffle Ball Inc."

I remember staring at this sentence, dumbstruck at the idea that the all-powerful Wiffle Ball Inc. had somehow trademarked the color yellow.

What else do they own? I remember thinking as tears welled up in my eyes. Do they also own white? How does one come to trademark a color?

I remember approaching a few of the brave, suffering souls on U.S. Cellular Field No. 2 at 1:30 a.m. Sunday, asking them whether I had read the bat correctly or was I hallucinating out of exhaustion?

In the end, was it worth it to spend 25 hours, 39 minutes and 33 seconds playing nonstop Wiffle Ball?

Yes. And no.

I say yes, because there's a good chance I and the nine other dudes I played with will end up recognized by the cruel task masters of the Guinness Book of World Records.

We started playing at around 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 10, and finished at around 1 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 11.

The previous record was held by some losers from Connecticut, who no doubt hate our guts for ensuring their suffering was in vain.

However, it wasn't really in vain at all. I carry awesome respect for those East Coast dudes for putting themselves through the pain of swatting a Wiffle Ball and chasing one down for more than a day.

The record attempt was the brainchild of Julian Cordle, who contacted me the week before the event, asking whether I wanted to make the ultimate sacrifice for immortality.

We bonded over our shared Chicago Cubs fandom and the misery that entails.

The rules were fairly simple: Keep playing Wiffle Ball until the record was broken. There was to be no sitting down in the field, no sleeping and you had to make good-faith efforts to hustle on and off the field between innings.

Needless to say, it was grueling.

The entire affair was recorded, should the Guinness folks want to ensure Southern Oregon Wiffle Ball professionals are not spineless liars.

The toughest rule to swallow involved breaks, in that they really didn't exist. For every hour you played, you were awarded five minutes of break, which meant you had about enough time to take a leak and grab a swig of cold coffee piped in by Human Bean before taking the field once again.

It all started off with much pageantry. There were speeches by State Sen. Alan Bates and primary sponsors from the Insurance Lounge of Medford.

Cheers rang from the grandstands when the clock started.

I remember feeling positive about the mission. Three hours in, I recall dancing around in right field between pitches, enjoying the 85-degree day. The sun burned brightly, and there was very little smoke to choke our lungs.

What a great way to spend a weekend, I thought.

Six hours later, as the first pain spiders began crawling up my legs and burrowing into my lower back to lay their demonic eggs, I started to get worried.

Um, there's 16 hours to go, I thought.

Uh oh.

Because it was 5-on-5, we cruised through the batting orders within minutes. It was not uncommon to bat three or four times in a single inning.

This meant you had precious little time to sit. I remember thinking how insanely comfortable the camping chairs were that sat along the first base line.

After midnight, you began to hear long groans from the players who forced themselves from the chairs to take the field.

The nine dudes I played with and against remained mostly strangers, as there simply was not time to socialize between innings. When you started a conversation about, say, movies or your job, your spot in the batting order came up and you had to pull yourself out of the chair and pray that your numb, tingling arms had one more swing left in them.

The time ticked off on the field's scoreboard. Certain hours took on malevolent personalities. We all agreed that hours 19 and 18 carried evil intentions and ticked off somehow slower than the previous hours.

"Why is 19 taking so (expletive) long!" was the common refrain by several players.

We were saved when hours 17 through 14 moved more quickly. And then we hit 9 and 8, which again saw the Earth's rotations slow to a mind-crushing crawl.

Without a doubt, the hardest hours were between 2:45 a.m. and 6 a.m. At that point, we were so desperate for the sun that we began speculating that we might, in fact, have all died on the way to the park and were in some dank, black hell that knew no end.

And then, the park's sprinkler system spitted to life and the field became shrouded in a frigid mist that encased everything in a bone-chilling dew.

It is Hell, I remember thinking. I truly am paying for my life as an infidel. I deserve this.

It wasn't all pain and misery, though. We laughed a lot, me and my strange companions.

A cat named Tom Mercer kept us breaking up every time he swatted a home run and casually threw his bat in the air in mock celebration.

By 3 a.m., we were all so loopy from exhaustion that things of no significance sent us into a laughing tailspin.

A dude hits with his shoelace untied. We cracked up. A guy asked for hot cocoa. Belly laughs.

In the end, we banked 277 innings, hit 239 home runs, played 1,539 minutes straight and scored 603 total runs. My team won 357 - 246. But winning or losing didn't matter.

What mattered was that when the clock hit 25 hours, 39 minutes and 33 seconds, we were still playing. All of us.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email cconrad@mailtribune.com.


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