WORTHINGTON (UBI) — Ryan scattered three hits and overcame a potentially serious injury while chasing a fly ball Saturday, ultimately emerging with a 2-0 win over his brother, Ian, in their annual wiffle ball matchup.
Ryan, 47 — who also defeated his-now 45-year-old sibling last summer in Vemont, has won a majority of the games in the series over the last decade or so. That said, Ian utterly dominated before that, winning dang near every single time. In other words, it’s safe to say that even if Ryan continues to triumph in a hypothetical yearly ballgame for, say, the next 30 years (though it’s hard to imagine the games taking place that long, though one might at least find it amusing to see a couple of old dudes with walkers playing wiffle ball), Ian would still almost certainly be the McGaughey wiffle ball king.
This past Saturday’s game, which was played on one of the softball diamonds behind Worthington Middle School, could’ve been a Ryan blowout, if not for his propensity to leave multiple runners on base in virtually every inning. The tone was set early — in the bottom of the first, he hit a single and double, but took a pathetic left-handed cut (both brothers turn switching back and forth on which side of the plate they hit from) on an inside Ian pitch for strike three and then popped out.
Ryan got a run home in the second, but had the bases loaded with no outs and could get no more thanks to a pop out and double-play grounder. His pitching, though, continued to shut the normally home-run-slugging Ian down, and he played error-free defense in the field — it may have been the first wiffle ball game ever during which he flubbed neither a grounder nor a ball hit in the air (in other words, display a spastic lack of sure-handedness).
It was Ian, in fact, who committed the key fielding blunder on this afternoon, booting a slow grounder that would have otherwise been ruled a double play through the brothers’ elaborate scoring system. (Surprisingly, a 20-sided die isn’t involved). It led to a key insurance run in the bottom of the fifth.
It was fortunate that Ryan was even able to swing the bat at all at that point, considering what had transpired a few moments earlier.
In the top of the left, the southpaw-swinging younger sibling swatted a monstrous fly ball to deep right-center field that seemed to hang in the air for days. The brothers’ rule — contest every ball struck in the air — could have been waived here, as a lot of ground needed to be covered for even a reasonable chance at a catch. But Ryan kept going back … and back … and back … reminiscent of Willie Mays chasing down Vic Wertz’s long drive in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series. Mays, of course, made one of the most famous catches of all time on that occasion. Ryan, however, wiped out near the warning track, bloodying his knees, hands and right forearm in the process.
Ian promptly ruled his hit a fly-out, noting that such a ball would have ordinarily been caught by an outfielder given where he hit it. Ryan, as he staggered to his feet, had little reason to disagree.
“I thought I had it all the way,” Ryan said after the brotherly battle had concluded. “For a moment, I couldn’t believe I didn’t make the catch. That perspective quickly changed, though — I wasn’t happy I missed the ball, but I was very happy I didn’t fracture anything.”
The siblings hope to play another game somewhat soon — potentially around Thanksgiving, perhaps somewhere in Oklahoma. No matter the time or location, the “wiffle tradition” is sure to continue — as long as either one is able to avoid the disabled list.
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