Another wonderful Wednesday evening. We will be returning our books to the library in Ozark tonight at their convenient library drop box, after our Wednesday evening Bible teaching. And after all the years that have passed (well over fifty) I began recalling library thoughts of some of my youngest years.
I spent hours at the Hayden Heights Public Library on the East Side of St. Paul while in grade school. I read many classics (they were classics to me) like, “The GashouseGang: How Dizzy Dean, Leo Durocher, Branch Rickey, Pepper Martin, and
Their Colorful, Come-from-Behind Ball Club Won the World Series—and America’s Heart—During the Great Depression.” Yeah, that was a real classic to a ten year old boy who loved playing ball!
In those days, (late fifties and early sixties) we played the game on the street in front of the house. We could do that because there were few cars parked there. Not everybody owned a car, most did, but they usually parked them behind the homes in the alleyway, in or near their garage.
The only thing we had to worry about was the occasional ball going over the fence and into, “Old man Crabby’s” yard. If he were feeling good he’d toss the ball back – right away – into the game, but there were a couple o’ times, we never saw them again. Or, if one of us smacked a grounder and a fielder couldn’t get to the ball before it rolled into the sewer, but we’d always get those back. One of us younger kids always had to lift the heavy steel plate covering the top and jump in to retrieve the ball. Those sewers were dry and surprisingly clean. When one of us retrieved the ball and hoisted ourselves back to the top a lot of cheering and teasing would ensue. It was a sewer, but a storm sewer to catch excess water runoff during bad weather.
Those were simpler times…duck and cover drills in hallways and under desks at school….sure, that would save us! At times we were marched out onto the playground where we stood grouped together. At lunch we had to time how long it took us to reach our homes and safety. We kids were of the notion that whenever the warning sirens went off that they were air raids. Drills or not, I watched the sky.
Anyway Dizzy, I’ll bet if I tried I could be just like you and strike everybody out! Well it wasn’t in the Card’s – get the pun? I joined a little league team called the Kansas City Athletics – remember that team? It was after their move from Philadelphia but before their move to Oakland. We had their colors (green with gold outlines) on a kelly-green t-shirt and emblem on the ball cap.
Other books read about him made Dizzy my idol. He and his teammates pulled many shenanigans which made them fun to read about and I bet even more fun to watch. I felt like turning into a him when I pitched for the 1st Electric Little League team in Perryville, Arkansas. Little league teams here in the south have a following with many people coming out to watch the games.
Dizzy also grew up in Arkansas, partly in Yell County (a neat name for a county) my daughter says, “Yeah that’s my county; I like that.”. We had a professional-looking uniform – socks, pants, jersey, cap and I had a real pitcher’s mitt (at least that’s what I’d been told. In actuality, it was a right-handed first baseman’s glove. I was proud of it and oiled the sweet spot with spit. I rubbed it over and over into the leather glove! I pitched a couple summer months for them.
I was told I looked good during my wind-up and that was great because there was a girl I wanted to impress…Regina, my southern belle.
That book led me to other sports minded reading and I was into the boxing world for a while. My interest in pugilism came about because of, Gillette’s Friday Night Fights.
.I remember watching those matches on our little, but beautiful, Philco cabinet T V. Gillette would be advertising their foamy shave cream as the glamour girls paraded the numbers of each successive round.
Those televised fights kept Dad around a while longer on Friday nights so that encouraged me to read of the champions through the years…John L Sullivan, (Gentleman) Jim Corbett, Jack Johnson (the Galveston Giant) 6’1″ I believe, Gene Tunney (The Fighting Marine), Jack Dempsey (Kid Blackie & The Manassa Mauler), Joe Louis ( The Brown Bomber) and undefeated – Rocky Marciano (The Brockton Blockbuster – The Rock from Brockton)! That is only a short list of some who stood out in my mind.
My brother and I could never get through an episode without fighting each other. Then, when it was nearly over, Dad would join in and playfully thump us over and over before heading out the door to his card game. Mom worried that my brother Fred and I would hurt each other but Dad told her, “They’re not old enough to hurt each other,” and away he’d go.
Nonetheless, Dad sat us down to impart words of wisdom – “You guys better not ever get into a fight with someone. But if you do – you better not lose or you’ll get it worse when you get home. And don’t worry I‘ll find out!”
This kid was now in the seventh grade. My older brother, Fred was in ninth and Dad and I were driving down the alley behind our home searching for my brother who had run away, I mentioned to Dad, “I’m thinking of joining the Golden Gloves.”
I think he was in a heavy-hearted mood because he quietly said, “Ahh Steve, you don’t wanna do that. You’re a good-looking kid. You’ll wind up getting a broken nose and cauliflower ears. You’ve seen Tommie’s flattened nose and ears haven’t ya’? He used to box while in the Navy. Naa, you don’t wanna do that… We didn’t find Fred Jr. that night but soon thereafter he was home again.
Wednesday evenings while sitting in the pew thoughts and remembrances begin zipping through my head. Not important or even interesting thoughts, but maybe good enough…for Facebook, maybe?