Before getting into things, I figured it’d be best to start off with a little background information on the topic of folk groups and folklore. Although the definition of “folklore,” especially in the modern sense, may be a bit hazy to most, modern day folklorist Alan Dundes does a great job at explaining his own definition of the folk. In Dundes’ article, “Who Are The Folk,” he defines a folk group as any group of two or more people sharing one common factor. Along with this factor, the group must also share traditions, stories, rules, or myths that can all be considered folklore!
After starting to learn a little bit about folklore, it became clear to me that this wiffleball league is nothing more than a modern day folk group, with the linking factor being a love for wiffleball. In addition to this shared passion for the game, the members of this group have shared many different pieces of folklore over the years such as stories, myths, and jokes; all doing their part in displaying our goals and ideals as a group, which classifies the Ridley Park Wiffleball League as a genuine folk group....
One of our first and oldest pieces of folklore within in the league is none other than the infamous Sean Kelley emergency swing. To members of the league, this phrase is common knowledge, just another phrase in the English language, but to others, the phrase means nothing comprehensible. In short, the Sean Kelley emergency swing was the result of crazy moving pitches, along with a strike zone placed three feet behind the batter. To explain further, I'll let longtime member of the league, and my co-commissioner, Austin Bleacher, give his take.
Along with creating jokes and stories, another way groups can create and share pieces of folklore comes from the way they are willing to alter and refine their group’s rules in order to reach their goals and ideals. In the case of our wiffleball league, over the many years of playing we have had to adapt and change our rulebook in order to ensure fun, competitive games for everyone. One of our groups biggest ideals is to uphold a good competitiveness between all players and in some cases, this causes us to adjust our rules. One of our biggest rule changes was the creation of the “Chris Rule,” or the “No-hitter Rule,” as some will call it. Basically, the rule was put in place because certain pitchers, in this case Chris Durning, were so dominant, that we had to alter the rules to keep the game competitive. For this rule, I’ve decided to have one of our league’s youngest players, Joey Van Houten, explain it a little further.
In addition to jokes and rules, another form folklore takes on is in the form of legends or stories within a group. This is also the case for the Ridley Park Wiffleball League, as one of our most recently developed pieces of lore happens to be a story. After playing four weeks of the 2016 season, things were looking up for the league as spectators came out each week, and the support from the community was very positive, for the most part. After receiving several complaints from one specific party, the Ridley Park Wiffleball league hit a speed bump in its existence. The result of this “speedbump” is known to the members of the league as the “Save the Lot story,” which I will now let one of the original founders of the league and a captain who will be greatly missed this year, Greg Myers, explain further.
Because of the linking factor of a love for the game of wiffleball, along with the many pieces of folklore such as the Sean Kelley emergency swing, the Chris Rule, the “Save the Lot” story, and many other undiscussed pieces of lore, I believe there is no better way to describe the Ridley Park Wiffleball League other than a genuine, modern day folk group. Much like the other members of the league that I interviewed had stated, the league is about more than just playing wiffleball, it is about building friendships and relationships that will remain intact long after the games are over. These pieces of folklore all show that our league is about having fun, coming together to spend time with friends, and making sure the latter is true for EVERYONE, not just the best few. By continuing to pass down the pieces of folklore mentioned, along with the many other pieces unmentioned, I hope that kids for generations to come with feel as “at home” as I did while playing at the Tot Lot, and that maybe 20 years from now, I’ll drive by the field and hear players heckling the batter at the plate for none other than the infamous Sean Kelley emergency swing.