Writers With Balls (Vancouver Magazine)


Writers With Balls

Most players in the Twilight League are artists with a bat and glove. Literally. Meet the heavy hitters on their roster

Vancouver Magazine, May 2002

George Bowering has won two Governor General’s Awards for his writing. More impressively, the author and retired SFU prof has also taken two softballs in the face for his team, the Paperbacks, members of the city’s storied Twilight League.

“My reflexes aren’t as quick as they were, say, 50 years ago,” Bowering says of his second head-on encounter with a Pro Nine. “This really powerful 22-year-old guy hit a line drive that I never saw. Smashed my glasses to smithereens and blinded me for a few days. But I don’t care. Baseball’s important. More important than eyesight.”

The Twilighters started in 1985 as a softball league for artists and writers. Today, they number seven teams and some 70 players, supporting the theory that creative types really are just a bunch of jokes like the rest of us. Bowering, 66, is one of the most illustrious names to hobble the bases, though his career at the hot-corner was cut short five seasons ago when the old hand-eye coordination failed.

Even when he’s not in the field, Bowering participates in other ways. “He’s the biggest bench jockey in the world,” says league commissioner and Vancouver Sun movie critic Marke Andrews. “The thing about George is it’s like having a stand-up comic for the game. You get this cheap, live entertainment.”

Author George Bowering on heckling: "I see myself as an educator. So I see the young fellas out there who don't know quite as much about the game as I do – I like to inform them, give them a deeper bank of knowledge."

It’s not surprising some of the best entertainment happens off the diamond, given that many of the games are held at an East Van field affectionately dubbed Needle Park. When drunks are asleep in the outfield or the dugout, well, you just play around them. At the final one year, somebody stole writer David Beers’ shoes, which housed his wallet and keys. A posse eventually got everything back when they tracked down the thief at the beer and wine store.

International art star Stan Douglas spent some time in the league. “He wasn’t a bad hitter, but he wasn’t a great catcher or fielder,” says Vancouver Sun writer and original member John Mackie. “He was just like everyone else on the team, really. They had three really good players and then a bunch of artists.”

Other notable players over the years have included country/blues singer Suzie Ungerleider (better known as Oh Susanna), BCTV’s Keith Baldry, the Sun’s Katherine Monk, Western Living editor Jim Sutherland, the Province’s Jim Jamison and the Georgia Straight’s Kerry Banks. Victoria screenwriter Gerry Swallow (Black Knight and Say It Isn’t So) and controversial Los Angeles-based comedian Sarah Silverman (Seinfeld, There’s Something About Mary) have also made appearances – Silverman wearing a flowing scarf in the middle of July.

The Twilight League is showing its age. Andrews, 51, says, “I’m going to retire one of these days. And then somebody’s going to have to step up and take over if they want to keep it going. I’ve been hoping for a bloodless coup for years.”

But the real question is what will happen when Bowering retires completely.

“I think the league would just more or less disappear without me, to tell the truth,” he says. “It would be so ordinary.”