When Baseball Came To Town

THINGS WERE CHANGING RAPIDLY. The year was 1964. Kennedy had been assassinated the year before. Of course I remember where I was when I first heard. I was, after all, in the third grade, a big boy, smart, and well-informed beyond my years. It was Friday at 3:15. The school bell had just signaled that school was over for that week; the weekend had begun. By 3:16 PM EST the Darien schoolyard was buzzing with news that the president had been shot. A diligent kid, I made a beeline on my bicycle straight to Darwin Gale’s house. Darwin was a kid my same age whom I had been hanging with after school playing army in his mostly dirt yard across the street from the Post Office in the large wood-planked boarding house with peeling paint common to that era. Darwin had lots of green plastic soldiers, and I brought my few, gave them to him, and we drafted armies several days a week for a season. That’s how kids rolled back then. But there was no army in the dirt that day. I needed a TV. Fortunately Mrs. Gale had hers already tuned to the news when I arrived. This was teh first time I had ever been inside the Gale home. The front room was small, cozy, warm, but otherwise comfortable. I saw little of Darwin that afternoon.

But this is a story about baseball. The next spring, Little League baseball it was announced, was coming to my hometown. The city of some 1700 souls had announced that it was building a baseball field, and would hold a draft at the school auditorium to supply the teams that would play at the high school field that first year before moving to the new ball field.

Well, one Saturday that spring, they held the draft. A small town. Everybody knew everybody, and if you didn’t, you knew somebody who did. I was still eight, and would play that first year as an eight-year old who had never played ball, had never seen it played, nor knew anybody who played the game, but I didn’t care. I knew I wanted to play the baseball. I had certainly heard of it. And maybe my memory fails me. Perhaps I had indeed been exposed to a few Saturday afternoon games by then. I hadn’t bought a baseball card yet, though, but the year was young. So I got picked near the end of the draft by Frank Farrell, a tough cuss. I would be an Angel. I was never quite sure what Frank Farrell did for a living. Maybe he worked for Georgia-Pacific or the US Forestry Department. I don’t think he was a shrimper or a construction man. Guess I never really knew. But he was definitely a tough cuss. The Farrell house at the Ridge was similar to my own family’s post-war two storey clapboard, but I was always taken in by the sight by that large beautiful yellow exterior whenever I rode by on my bike or was passing by in a car. Not that the Farrells were rolling in money but I sensed that the lack of money was never the same threatening chimera that it was around our house. The league didn’t have sponsors, so we had to furnish our own uniforms. The gray uniform with the green Angel trim plus a decent glove would have been a formidable and unwarranted expense for my family, but my mother made sure I had both. My dad would be too drunk to care.

Then it was announced that I would be having surgery in June, and thus miss all but the first three games which off course I watched from the bench. I was only eight years old in a league that included twelve year olds, after all.

Current Events 1963-1964

Life, as in a work of fiction, contains truths and untruths. Strange how that works, but in storytelling, it’s all about the imaginative ride.

  • George C. Wallace sworn in as governor of Alabama; his inaugural address states “segregation now; segregation tomorrow; segregation forever!” working as a catalyst to solidify the solid Democrat South…
  • US launches first communications satellite Syncom 1…
  • Supreme Court rules against Bible reading or prayer in public schools…
  • US Postal Service introduces (Zone Improvement Plan) zip code for United States mail…
  • Bell Telephone introduces push button touch tone telephone…
  • William Carlos Williams, US physician and poet, dies at 79; his most famous contribution: “there are no ideas but in things.”
  • Clergyman and Civil Rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. gives his “I have a dream…” speech in Washington, DC.

But this is a story about baseball. The next spring, Little League baseball it was announced, was coming to my hometown. The city of some 1700 souls had announced that it was building a baseball field, and would hold a draft at the school auditorium to supply the teams that would play at the high school field that first year before moving to the new ball field.

Speak your mind, Pilgrim...

Dateline

October 2017
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