Wiffle Ball now ‘dangerous’ game

Last week, I received an email that said health officials in New York were proposing to ban Wiffle Ball from state-supported youth camps and child care centers because it poses “significant risk of injury.” Kickball and Red Rover also were on the list.

Red Rover, Red Rover, let Johnny come over. But only if he’s wearing a chest protector, shin guards and a cup.

The sissification of America continues, at a rate that can only be described as alarming.

It was like falling asleep watching John Wayne kick some serious enemy behind on the sands of Iwo Jima with only his bare hands and a rusty bayonet. And waking up to discover the world, as Marine Sgt. John Stryker knew it, had turned to Nerf.

I am pleased to report the Wiffle Ball lobbyists marched on Albany the very next day. The Wiffle Ball resistance waffled. The proposed ban was pushed to the back burner of a Kenner’s Easy Bake Oven, next to a slightly scorched Slinky.

It used to be there were only two injuries a kid could suffer. If, say, you climbed a tree within range of your mom’s X-ray vision, you had to immediately come down because you could “break your neck.” Likewise, you weren’t allowed to run down the hall with an unsheathed sword, a cookout chef’s fork or Pick Up Stix because you’ll “poke your eye out.”

Mom never warned us about the inherent dangers of Wiffle Ball. She did tell us to pick them up at night because if we didn’t, the dog would chew on them. Mom was right about that.

Somehow, I managed to survive 214,145 official Wiffle Ball games without once going on the disabled list. I must have been the Cal Ripken Jr. of Wiffle Ball.

I do remember Gene Michael Kubacki (who may or may not have been named for the old Yankees shortstop) drilling his brother, Tommy, right between the eyes with a wicked 88-mph in-shooter.

Tommy K. went Bert Campaneris on Gene Michael, flinging his official yellow Wiffle bat at his older brother as if it were the ’72 playoffs.

Neither Kubacki brother was injured. But the next day was a Sunday, and Mrs. Kubacki grounded both brothers because Tommy had three oval-shaped welts on his forehead, and she thought it looked awful in church.

Were it not for Wiffle Ball, I believe most of the kids in my neighborhood would have become juvenile delinquents and master car thieves.

“Everybody has the same stories you do, that Wiffle Ball is awesome,” said John Pashales, 33, who used to organize Wiffle Ball tournaments at Sonata Park in Seven Hills. I had found a listing for “Las Vegas Wiffle Ball” on the Internet, and told Pashales — probably not his real name — we had better keep it short, in case the Feds or the Russians were listening.

“I don’t know how anybody could get hurt with a plastic ball and a plastic bat,” Pashales said.

Didn’t those health officials read the box? Right there, under Whitey Ford’s (or Tom Tresh’s) picture. It says “Safe Anywhere!”

Even in the house. That’s what we told the baby sitter. If Whitey Ford (or Tom Tresh) said it, it had to be true. Don’t worry about that lamp. It’s in foul territory, anyway.

Because I don’t trust these New York bureaucrats as much as I trust the old New York Yankees, I went to Sports Authority for an official Wiffle ball and bat before they hit the black market along with those AK-47s we sold to the Contras.

They had official Wiffle balls in the plastic bag — not the box — for $2.49. There were no official Wiffle bats.

“Have you checked the Sports Authority in Somalia?” the salesperson asked.

The only Wiffle bats in stock had Spider-Man’s picture on the barrel. You wanna ban something? Start with those.

When I paid for my official Wiffle balls, the girl on the register asked whether I wanted a bag.

“Better make it a crate,” I said. “These are going to Libya.”

I considered stashing the Wiffle balls in the trunk of my car, next to a set of once-used lawn darts. Instead, when nobody was looking, I lifted my shirt and taped the Wiffle balls to my chest with electrical tape.

As I pulled out of the parking lot I was sweating profusely, and the haunting theme from “Midnight Express” was pounding through my head.

Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.

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