© 2023 KALW 91.7 FM Bay Area
KALW Public Media / 91.7 FM Bay Area
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Crosscurrents logo 2021

KALW's McLaren Park Mashers earn their first victory

Masher Holly (aka Ninna Gaensler-Debs)
Clockwise from top left: Mashers Max Jacobs, Audrey Dilling, Katie Styer, Seth Samuel, Casey Miner, Ryan Mitchell, Rina Palta, Jake Martin, Erica Mu, Lisa Ratner, Chris Hoff, Ben Trefny

The McLaren Park Mashers are KALW’s softball team. Until last night, they had never won a game. What follows is a recap of this historic moment from our Masher Supercaptain, KALW Executive News Editor Ben Trefny.

May 2, 2012. Here’s what happened:

The McLaren Park Mashers showed up in full force, with six men and seven women arriving early for warm-ups. And a good thing, too, as our opponents, the Boogie Knights, were underrepresented at game time. They asked for, and received, Masher Lisa to fill out their team and avoid forfeit. Nonetheless, for the first time in Masher history, we had 12 players in the lineup, including designated hitters Masher Ryan and Masher Holly (aka Ninna).

I should note, additionally, that Masher Jake brought a sack of baseball and softball paraphernalia – including two giant Giants foam fingers, a cow mask, four bags of leftover popcorn, and several historic mitts recently bought at a garage sale. Hereafter, Masher Jake shall be referred to as "Captain Spirit."

We were up first. Captain Spirit started us off with a double, and scored on Masher Chris' fielders' choice. Good enough.

When the Knights came to the plate, things started off typically enough for McLaren Park, as pitcher Masher Ben booted a soft grounder up the middle. But ­– and there is a but! – the rest of the Mashers' defense truly stepped up, limiting the ultimate damage to one run.

Masher Ben led off the next inning with "maybe the sweetest-feeling hit I've ever had," pounding the ball over the center fielder's head for a solo home run. Masher Katie beat out an infield single by diving headlong into first base – for the second game in a row. Hereafter, Masher Katie shall be referred to as "Headfirst Slide." That was it, but when the defense held, the score was Mashers 2, Knights 1.

Then, two and a half years of Masher frustration was unleashed.

Masher Lisa (back on our team by this point): single. Captain Spirit: single. Masher Rina: single. Masher Chris: single. Masher Ben: double. Four runs in.

Now, if you've been keeping up with this team and its 20-odd game winless streak, you've had hope before. You've seen rallies. You've known potential. But you also realize that when it comes to the McLaren Park Mashers, for every silver lining there's a cloud. And in this game, the Boogie Knights rain fell in the bottom of the third. They batted around, scoring six, taking the lead. It could have been worse, but for two of the most electrifying plays in Masher history. First, after a Knight hit a prodigious blast to the outfield with runners on, Masher Chris threw the ball in to Masher Ben at the plate, catching another Knight in a pickle. As she ran, clearly frightened, back toward third, Masher Chris bellowed, "Run her down! Run her down!!" Now terrified, the Knight picked up her pace, but a quick throw to Masher Rina followed by a tag (and an apology), resulted in an out. Then, another Knight took the plate. With two strikes she took a mighty rip, tipping the ball into the air ... backwards. Catcher Masher Casey, with the lightning-fast reactions of a player truly paying attention (and truly startled by this change in her fortunes) threw her arms up in the air. The ball landed right in her mitt. And despite her repeated jumping up and down, there it stayed, all the way to the dugout. Masher Casey was heartily congratulated by her teammates for the rally-killing snag. Even the umpire seemed swept up in the excitement, coming over and saying, "That was a really great catch. Now we're going to need the ball back, so we can continue playing." Knights 7, Mashers 6.

If you've been a fan, waving your foam fingers and wearing your rally thong, you know that a tough inning like that usually marks the beginning of the end. For all their passion, Mashers can become dispirited. Their bats, tingling with anticipation early in games, can go impotent. But – and there is a but! – not today.

Masher Seth, wearing a sport coat (and hereafter referred to as "Sport Coat Seth"): single. Masher Holly (Ninna): single. Captain Spirit: double. Masher Rina: single. Three runs in. The Knights countered with two of their own, but their momentum was stymied when left-center fielder Captain Spirit dove headfirst to snare a sinking fly ball, practically exploded as he hit the ground, and ended up on his rear end, from which he threw a strike to Masher Chris, doubling-up a runner straying off second. Another rally killed. Mashers 9, Knights 9.

One inning to go. Masher Erica: walk. Masher Max: double. Masher Ben: single. Sport Coat Seth: single, followed by a daring charge around a dazzled infield, past a bewildered Knights catcher to score on a single by Masher Ryan. Four runs! Mashers 13, Knights 9.

For a final time, the Boogie Knights had a chance to boogie down. A hit parade started, and they scored two quick runs. A good groundball pickup and toss from Masher Rina to Masher Audrey earned one out. Boogie Knights got more on base. A strong drive to right-center field could have been trouble, but Headfirst Slide stood her ground and picked that ball right out of the sky.

Two outs, two on, and the Knights down by two. A strong hitter took the plate, but, jammed by a pitch, he fisted a ball into the danger zone of short left field. The runners took off, but so did shortstop Masher Chris. With purposeful stride, and focused gaze, the Sunnyvalian ran for that ball – ran like Prometheus wresting fire from the gods – ran, though it seemed out of reach. But Masher Chris, he don't care. With back to the plate and in full flight, with the hopes of Mashers and Mashers fans everywhere lifting his feet and laying them down, with the eyes of Mashers gone by gazing down upon him: he dove. His body fully unfurled – a glorious Masher flag in a stiff breeze – and he reached out his glove. Just before that ball hit the ground – scoring two runs, extending the game, and probably bringing yet another Masher loss – he caught it. His body crashed to earth. The catch was true. Masher Chris stood up, and held the prize aloft.

And then they won. Final score: Mashers 13, Knights 11.

Pandemonium! From all corners, Mashers ran out toward left field, mobbing Masher Chris in a pile of joy. It was a celebration not seen by San Franciscans since the Giants won the city's first World Series approximately a year-and-a-third to the day earlier. Bouncing, crying, screaming, laughing, tripping, falling, shouting, rising. Winning.

Masher Erica said, "There were probably more incredible plays in this one game than there were in all three Mashers seasons combined."

Sport Coat Seth noted, "May 2nd is the most important day in the history of the earth."

Masher Holly (Ninna) added, "This is a day I will probably remember more than any other."

We all will, Masher Holly (Ninna). This was the day the McLaren Park Mashers won their first game.


Ben was hired as Interim Executive Director of KALW in November, 2021.