It’s an odd word. Historically, ‘scrub’ was a pejorative meant to dismiss people of poor moral content. More recently, it meant to be cleaned whole. And in sports, a match was scrubbed due to some other factor: weather, disqualification, illness, schedule. But for me, Scrub is the game we played as kids in my hometown of Delhi. I was reminded of it as the Yankees and White Sox emerged from the cornfield in Dyersville Iowa last Thursday night.
There are whole libraries devoted to baseball, so I won’t try to start another, but Scrub was a derivative of the game that frankly was a lot more fun than nine against nine players. What made it attractive was the balance of a strict empirical order of play versus wild random luck. You could be at bat, and a moment later, lost in right field.
Scrub used the same diamond as regular baseball. Our school had two diamonds, and any recess in the spring would find them full, playing this all-inclusive game.There were no teams. Everyone was welcome. Players were positioned by how quickly they responded to the invitation to play.
“Who wants to play Scrub?” This invitation was announced usually by the guy who brought the bat and ball.
Immediately, all involved named their positions as they were sequenced: first batter, second batter, third batter, catcher, pitcher, and so on out to left field. You had to be quick to get high up in the order. And there could be numerous players. That is, the outfield could have ten fielders, who were numbered as such.
The play of the game was initiated by the pitcher who as always, trying to strike out the batter. But failing that, a fly ball was an option to be caught out, and the interchange between fielders and basemen was the other avenue to get the batter out. And here, the numbers worked against the outed batter. They went to the very end of the line, maybe as far back as tenth fielder, while everyone else moved up a notch. So it was that everyone had a chance to play every position. What better way to sharpen one’s skills?
The beauty of this game however was the introduction of pure, wild random luck. If the batter popped up a fly, and it was caught, that catcher traded places with the batter, thus skipping to the head of the line. Catching a fly in Scrub was like winning a lottery, albeit a very small one.
An additional merit of Scrub, absent any team requirements, is that no one suffered the ignominy of being the last chosen for a team. I think that’s why I enjoyed Scrub so much.
There may be some baseball allegories in life: ‘striking out’, ‘getting a walk’, ‘popping up’, ‘a home run’ for example but Scrub was a receptacle for all of these. You could be on top one moment, and out in left field the next, and before you knew it, right up to bat again.
Thanks for reading and sharing! I hope you had the opportunity to watch the “Field of Dreams” game the other night. Apart from the crowds who came onto the field, and then invited to walk through the corn, it was an eye opener too: what kind of corn grows nearly twelve feet high??