It’s nowhere near the most important thing I have ever learned from Mark Kleiman, but his blog post on filbuster reform contained a title phrase I didn’t know: “Go the whole hog”. This was not the usage in the West Virginia of my childhood (where no small number of people raised hogs). Rather, we omitted the “the” and just said “Go whole hog”. But I checked on Google and Mark’s phrasing is a common usage, with which many people have been going hog wild for some time.
As words will sometimes do, “hog” triggered a happy memory. My Babe Ruth league baseball team won our county level competition and travelled to compete against the champs of McDowell County, whom we played at their county fair. I was not a consistent enough hitter to bat third in my team’s lineup, nor powerful enough to hit cleanup, but I was perfect for the number 5 slot in the order because I had a knack for hitting hard line drives where the other team’s players weren’t, allowing me to drive in some runs if and when the true sluggers ahead of me in the lineup left anyone on base.
As in a storybook, I was up to bat in a crucial ninth inning situation. We were losing 6-4, but had “runners on the corners” (first and third base). The crowd, most of whom were probably at the fair primarily to participate in pie baking contests, ring toss booths and the like, nonetheless became engaged in our game, which heightened the excitement.
I started badly, fouling off the first pitch and completely whiffing the second. The hometown crowd was cheering the pitcher on to throw the third strike that would end the game. But somehow I kept my composure and hit his next pitch right on the button into the left centerfield power alley.
The field we were playing on was part of the county fairgrounds and wasn’t really intended for baseball. As a result, there was no outfield fence. With nothing to stop it, my line drive bounced a few times in the outfield out of reach of the racing defenders, caromed off a drain pipe and rolled down into the tents where the livestock competitions were being held. There the ball came to rest in the pen of a champion hog, who immediately ate it.
I was rounding second base as this happened. The outfielders started to yell that it wasn’t fair because they could not get the baseball. The opposing manager charged out onto the field screaming that I had hit the equivalent of a ground rule double and should have to stop on second base with the player on first base only advancing to third, thus maintaining a 6-5 McDowell County lead.
The umpire look flustered for a minute but then made the call that turned me into a hero who had carried his team to a dramatic victory:
Inside the pork home run.