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UNDER CONSTRUCTION

 

"Pappy" Kramer is the original play-by-play voice of Strawberry Field Park and has remained so, with the exception of a couple lengthy court mandated rehab assignments.

Teaming with color commentator Jeff Hatz, Kramer has delighted the minicule fan base for a decade with his barely coherent babbling.

Details of Kramer's background are sketchy at best. Rumoured to be living in Bellflower during the eighties, he sold his collection of H.R. Pufnstuf action figures in 1993 to buy into a natural fibers baby clothes botique.

Pappy's knowledge of wiffle ball came largely from watching the neighbor children play, when he was a kid, looking out through his bedroom window.

 

Jeff “Sweet Potata” Hatz

In little league Hatz discovered getting beaned with a hardball was painful and decided to switch to competitive wiffleball at age eleven. “Getting hit in the noggin with a wiffleball might sting a little, but it’s a damn sight better than seein’ stars and hearin’ that sickening merry-go-round music,” he told the Pasadena Courier after a game early in his career. His father promptly sentenced him to sleep in the garage for a week for using the word “damn” in the interview. Hatz took a bat to his father’s head and tried to murder him shortly after that. But he used a wiffleball bat in the attack and the incident only infuriated his father, causing him to sell his young son to the Monrovia Tiger Sharks in the San Gabriel Valley Fruit Picker’s League for a crate of oranges and a Japanese radio.

It was with the Tiger Sharks that Hatz came into his own as a player, developing his powerful swing, rising fastball and devastating screwgie for which he would become famous. A child prodigy, comparisons came early to wiffleball greats like Frank Rumpis, Art Baggenwelter, and Eddie “Ball Wrecker” Bane. What eleven-year-old wouldn’t feel the pressure being held up to legends like these? And, having no interest in carrying the burden of representing wiffleball on the world stage, at such a young age, he pulled himself out of the sport completely and turned his focus elsewhere.

As a California native he believed it was his birthright to be included in the skateboarding frenzy taking place in the seventies. When he first climbed on a board he looked totally out of place, comical, clumsy, and reckless. But, never one to give up, he spent six, sometimes seven hours a day working on maneuvers and refining his technique. And, just eighteen months later, skateboarding God; Tony Hawk, pulled him aside and told him, “Jeff, you’re a danger, to yourself and to others. Please stop.”

And so he left skateboarding behind and decided to pursue an acting career where he was less likely to hurt anybody. He started hanging around The French Toast Theater located inside The Waffle Hut in downtown Reseda. In just a few weeks he landed the role of best friend, Skeetch, in an original play based on the true story of terminally ill wiffleballer; Nate Coogan, called “Bang the Tin Slowly.” To claim that he was less than impressive is an understatement. As one reviewer put it, “I don’t want to say that seeing Jeff Hatz perform on stage was disappointing, but it was a bit like expecting to be served barbecued ribs with all the fixin’s, and being handed a big plate of melba toast with no butter.”

Demoralized and humiliated, he decided to return to the two things he did best; hitting a little sheet of tin with a little plastic ball, and hitting a little plastic ball over a twelve-foot wall.

He returned to the Tiger Sharks where he played for six years, leading the league in homers, RBI’s, and hitting batters in the ear all six seasons. A contract dispute caused him to leave the Tiger Sharks in 1979, making him the first player to break the color barrier signing with the Compton Hell Cats in the all-black Baptist Minister League. It was while with the Hell Cats he was given the nick name "Sweet Potata." He wasn't sure how or why the fans started calling him that and after a couple weeks, curiosity got the better of him and he asked an enormous black lady sitting in the stands, with big pearl earrings and a bright blue hat, why she'd just called him Sweet Potata. And when she told him, "I don't know, you got a face like a yam,” he decided he wasn't that curious after all and never asked about it again.

After eleven seasons with the Hell Cats he signed with the Encino Dinos in the Pacific Coast League when they offered him a whopping ten beers a game to make the switch. From 1990 to 2004 Sweet Potata shined with the Dinos, becoming their career leader in homeruns, shut-. outs, and muffed grounders. And on July 23, 2004 while playing left field, he rushed back for a deep fly ball and smashed into the concrete wall, severely damaging his spinal cord and his pocket watch, causing his retirement from the game and his switching to a Timex wrist model.

Jeff “Sweet Potata” Hatz has been calling the play-by-play at Strawberry Field with his partner Pappy Kramer ever since.