It is at once comforting and discombobulating to observe the press secretary to the President of the United States getting knocked on the soiled seat of his pants trying to relay the throw from second base to first.
Jody Powell and other White House workers, sometimes including The Boss, can be found huffing, puffing and sweating - things we've never seen them do on television. All this for the good of The Team - the White House slow-pitch softball team.
About 60 times this season the White House team has put its necks on the line - against teams representing newspapers, federal agencies, armed services and the like. At last count, the team's record was an impressive 34-18.
"I really don't think people much give a damn about the White House staff if you're honest and do your job well," said shortstop-second baseman-spokeman Powell, at a recent post-game barbecue. "A vast majority of people in this country neither know nor care what we do.
"It's good to play with somebody and buy a few beers. It's much more relaxing than being in a vest and tie at a cocktaol party.
"It reassures people that we basically are the same people as before all this happened to us."
If arguing with umpires or treating a softball game like the World Series is a measure of normality in this country, the mation can rest assured: the White House staff is one of us.
The team takes itself seriously, as perhaps a team should when it turns down upward of 300 invitations to play ball games, including an offer to fly to Louisiana for a game.
The White House plays sometimes four times a week, against such towers of athletic prowess as The Washington Post (which POwell says "got drunk and lost." The unpire, Ron Nessen, was unavailable for comment), the Atlanta Constitution (which was represented by 40 people who flew to Washington for the game, only to lose), the Republican National Committee (which decorated its side of the stans with a Ford-Dole banner) and Arizona Democratic Rep. Morris Udall's team (which issued a personal challenge to the President to come to the aid of his team. He didn't.
Third base Herbert (Herky) Harris, assistant director of the Office of Management and Budget, asked his secretary to hold calls while he discussed his recent broken finger.
"I broke my little finger scoring at home plate. You can't believe the humiliation of it," said Harris. "It's disappointing to be so stupid: to break your little finger being overaggressive. I have the attitude of an 18-year-old (he's 34) but not the speed."
In a night game against Udall's team, the lights suddenly went out with the White House ahead, and Harris recalled, "they challenged our integrity."
Mark Weiner, who manages the team, t
Mark Weiner, who manages the team and sends out weekly "softball memos," says the most satisfying victory was the 19-16 win over The Washington Post.
"The Post was a biggie," said Weiner, who identified himself on the phone as Coach Weiner. He works in the President's scheduling office. "We really wanted to beat The Post. Beacause The Post is The Post."
A spokesman for The Post said The Post wanted to win the game because "The White House is The White House."
Fran Voode, Carter's appointment secretary, is a successful White House pitcher who says, "We love to beat the press."
Although softball teams on Capitol Hill are nothing new, Weiner says with some believability. "No one has been as involved as we are."
A jersey, bearing the number 1 was sent to the President, who reportedly was pleased. He has an open invitation to play in any game, and when he does play it's a problem for Carter's Secret Servicemen. The President has played several times in Plains, Ga., and at Camp David. He pitches, and his teeth grace the logo on the front of the team T-shirts.
Amy Carter has been a spectator at games, watching her governess. Mary Fitzpatrick go 2-for-3. Secretary Joseph A. Califano Jr. played recently for HEW. And the Ford team refuses to disband even though the administration has.
Power-hitter Steve Simmons, assistant director of the domestic policy staff, says softball is "a tremendous breather for people who work like we do, six days a week. Fifteen-hour days are not uncommon around here."
Simmons says that bigger names on the team, such as Powell, do not pull rank and start ahead of better players.
Simmons describes the team as"totally egalitarian," which is something you don't hear in the Yankee clubhouse every day.
Simmons feels the team is totally in keeping with dignityot an elitist White House, said Simmons. "Polo is not our thing.