When you are young some days seem to last forever. Some of those days are like living in the magic kingdom and others like suffering in the eternal dungeons of Hades. In my summer playing left field with the Crown Discount team I had two great wishes. First, please don’t hit the ball to me. And second, please don’t hit the ball to me. Many of my lifetimes in hell were saved by shortstop, “Scooper” Hill, who could deftly snag wild hits before they reached the outfield. The Hill clan consisted of five young male scrappers, sons of drifters, who lived in paint-peeling hovel surrounded by a grassless yard and a handful of man eating half bred mutts. A few of the younger Hills defied Darwinian evolution and had possible remote links to Mongol hords. Scoop was the exception, and despite his faint odors of urine and sweat, a fine fellow and a good shortstop. He can be identified in the team photo by his missing hat, which may have been consumed by Doberman/Mastiff canines. Soon after my Crown Discount summer the Hill family drifted off to another blue collar town and faded into obscurity. In my mature years I imagine Scooper as foreman in some crude steel yard somewhere and somehow hope that he relives many lifetimes in the magical kingdom thinking about his expert glove work in that summer of baseball. He was a good kid.
Unlike noxious invasive sports like British football or Canadian basketball, baseball is an American sport. It is a true democracy where average folks, tall and short, young and old, men and women, fat and skinny can excel. The game was originally played with improvised equipment and informal rules, often on a sandlot. In its early days the game ball would be used for the entire game. By the end of the game, the ball would be dark with grass, mud, and tobacco juice and it would be misshapen and lumpy from contact with the bat. Balls were only replaced if they were hit into the crowd and lost, and many clubs employed security guards to purpose of retrieve balls hit into the stands.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” is considered by many to be the quintessential American novel. It begins, “In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since. Whenever you feel like criticizing any one," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had.” The book ends, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." In between is an American story.