Indian Pirates on the High Seas
By Rick Soisson
Almost eight months ago I posted a piece on the internet that should have been seen as a news parody. It was based on the Pittsburgh Pirates signing two pitchers, Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, out of a televised throwing contest in India. Both young men came from fairly impoverished families, even by Indian standards, and prior to the contest in April 2008, neither had actually ever played baseball, or more broadly, ever even engaged in athletic activities that might translate to baseball. Patel had thrown the javelin. (Insert your own joke here about the dangers of throwing the javelin in a densely populated country like India.)
In my November piece, I suggested that the Pirates, who are finally being challenged by another team (transplanted from Montreal) as the doormats of Major League Baseball, had become a reality show. I stuck a false news service designation into the piece and made up a few news “facts,” including one that put Commissioner Bud (Kenesaw Molehill) Selig in a hospital, stricken by the Bucs’ fictional signing with the Fox Network for the reality show.
I have done this sort of thing in the past with open internet sites, originally as a lesson to my college writing students about the dangers of depending too heavily on the internet as a research tool. My business news parody posted in 2006 continues to be taken by many of them as fact, despite a couple of fairly outrageous elements in it that should be giveaways. That didn’t happen with this piece, possibly because of the even more outrageous “news” it purported to present. However, the absolute flip side of the coin did come up. Some readers, including a friend who is a board-certified physician, took the piece to be total fiction. I had to tell him that the Pirates had, in fact, signed two baseball-ignorant foreigners to professional contracts. He decided that the truth was actually funnier than the parts of the story that were fabrications. The contracts struck us as the rough equivalent to making Nicolas Sarkozy the Phillies’ closer. This was perhaps unfair to these dislocated young men, who had only done what millions of Americans would jump at, sign contracts to play a game for money.
Therefore, it only seems right to report the actual progress of these two players in their new profession (for real—what follows is true … honest).
A July 4th Debut
After intensive tutoring and training over the winter and spring, both players—perhaps fittingly—made their professional debuts in relief roles on Independence Day for the Gulf Coast League (Rookie) Pirates in a 4-2 loss to the Yankees’ affiliate. Both pitched an inning, right-hander Patel surrendering nothing (he’s the harder thrower), and the lefty Singh giving up a run on two hits.
With a couple of games under his belt, Patel has still not given up a run (in 2.1 innings), but Singh is now sporting an ERA of 12.00 (in 3 innings), largely because of a beating he took some days back by the Tigers’ affiliate in the GCL.
But those of you who have bought your Rinku Singh jerseys should not be discouraged. After striking out the only batter he faced on July 13th against those same Tigers, Singh became the first Indian-born player to win an American professional baseball game. (Actually, most press and internet accounts have inserted a “believed to be” into their reports. Apparently the stat boys are having a little trouble running down the records of all the Indians who have played professional baseball here.)
Now, the GCL is the very bottom rung of the ladder in baseball, and the Pirates are nearly the bottom rung in MLB, but who knows? In a couple of years—and it would make a great story—Singh or Patel could be throwing off the mound in PNC Park in front of relatives poking suspiciously at their hot dogs.
The Boston Globe reports that the average seat price for Pirates’ home games in 2008 was $17.07. By 2012, let’s make that an even $20. That would come to more than 972 rupees, and the average Indian weekly wage is only 663 rupees. But we’re pretty sure that the Bucs still have enough class to handle a couple of freebies here for the family of the Lucknow Fireballer, should that turn out to be Patel or Singh.
And yes, both pitchers come from a town actually called Lucknow. Honest.
About the author
Rick Soisson was born and raised in Pittsburgh, took two degrees from Villanova, and has lived in the Philadelphia area most of his adult life, currently in the East Falls section of the city. At present he teaches writing and literature at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia and at Montgomery County (PA) Community College. His essays, cartoons, illustrations and ad art have appeared in a number of print and online publications, from the Inquirer to Studies in Contemporary Satire to The Broad Street Review. His poem “Aaron Rowand” appeared in The Chicago Baseball Museum Newsletter in 2007.