Baseball Boy

     It was a clear, bright Saturday morning in late September. School had been open for  only a few weeks and was exciting, but more important, the World Series was about to start.  Having been born to a left-handed father who was a serious baseball fan, and being left-handed myself, my fate was sealed early in life; I was to be a Bob Feller.           In fact I was born a few hours after the second game of the 1948 series. Cleveland won. Almost every Summer day after dinner, and always on Saturdays, Dad would get the catchers’ mitt out, toss me  the ball, and we would go out back and I would pitch to him. Fifty pitches at least and from downhill! I got quite good at it; so good that the older boys in the neighborhood would come to my house looking for me to pitch to them. This was quite an ego trip for a 9-year old. I would tell my same-age friends that I couldn’t play with them if the “big-boys” needed me for baseball. All Summer I had pitched to them and now, with school open, the big-boys were serious, thinking they might play at the high school.  Sometime during the week one of them had said to me that Saturday was to be a big game, so get ready. And ready I was. It was a pick-up game, but for me it was show-time. I ate lunch in a hurry, got my glove and walked to the field. It wasn’t far; through the bushes and the hole-in-the-fence and I was there. To my surprise, no one else was. It wasn’t a surprise so much as it was a shock. Where was everyone? What was wrong?  I ran back home to see what time it was, or to make sure it was Saturday.              I was in tears. Mother said wait a while, they’ll show up, but I couldn’t wait and ran back; no one.  All the guys lived nearby so I went to their houses looking for them. At the fourth house I visited I could see into the basement and sure enough there they were. I walked in and down the stairs and found all four of them sitting around a table. On the table was a portable record-player and they were listening to a little 45 RPM record. I had seen these record-players before but had only seen girls using them. My cousin Julia had one and one of my other friends had a sister who played it constantly, but I’d never seen boys play with them. I was confused.  “Aren’t we playing baseball today?” I asked;         “Baseball?” They laughed. “Listen to this” they said, and put the record on. Then they leaned their heads back, shut their eyes and started snapping their fingers to the music.   Later in life I would call these sorts  “way-gone cats” but now I was just speechless. Over and over again they would play this strange music and do all their funny head-bobs and such. I finally got up and said; “so…no baseball?” They didn’t even answer; they were   too gone. I got up and left with my world turned upside-down. My heroes had become sissies. To get back home I had to cross the playing field which was really just a side-yard with a brick chimney serving as the backstop. There was no right field because of the many trees; Maples I believe. The trees had long roots which were above ground in some places and were major tripping hazards. While we played we would kick them loose so they didn’t trip us. Some would require just a kick while others were so big we would use a shovel or hatchet to break them. And so it was while I was walking through the field on my way home that I came across one of these roots, in perfect stride, and so gave it a big kick, partly I’m sure due to my frustration. It was a big one and did not break and as I had not stopped to kick it but had kept moving, it trapped my foot and I fell on my face.    With no one in the “bleachers” to see me, I shouldn’t have worried but being a young punk I jumped up immediately and laughed as if I had done it on purpose. “Stupid root”  I said, then “stupid trees.” I walked away and “brushed it off” as they say, but something happened; I forgot about baseball and pitching. All of a sudden I was just me, just a kid going home. My anger and confusion about the day had evaporated. I was relaxed now.    So much in fact that, without thinking about it, or even knowing what I was doing, I opened my mouth and out came the words to the song the big-boys had been playing;       “……..Well, that’ll be the day…. when you say goodbye….”

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