Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!
My mother was eleven years old at the time. She was leaning on her crutches, on a worn out patch of grass, outside of her gray, shingled, country school.
"I was the pitcher," she said.
"You?" I asked, in shock as she told me the story.
"'I had to because I had a broken ankle and I couldn't run. I was pitching for both teams."
"That's hard for me to imagine."
"We didn't have a baseball either. We were using a golf ball."
"A golf ball?"
She continued, "Yes, and I got hit with a line drive."
"In my head."
"Oh, my God."
"That's why I don't pitch anymore."
We played baseball when we were kids too.
I remember the old neighborhood spur of the moment games, that would pop up after supper in somebody's 'back yard, with wiffle balls and plastic bats. The bases were made of anything handy, a shirt, a piece of cardboard or a rock, and there were no umpires.
When there are no umpires, the majority rules.
When there are no umpires, there are only strikes.
[one_half_last]And, when there are no umpires you can run into the kind of havoc that only my little sister, Louisa, could create.
"Come on," we yelled. "Swing."
The only reason we didn't kill her, is because she was the youngest one playing. And besides that, my parents could see us, if they chose to look out the window.
Louisa stood there with her bat up in the air, ready for the next pitch.
It came right across the plate and above her knees.
She doesn't move.
"Louisa!" the crowd yelled. "Swing."
"What do you mean no?"
"I'm not going to."
"If I swing, I'll just strike out."
"But, you have to swing."
"No, I don't."
"Yes, you do!"
"No, I don't."
This is the kind of shit we had to put up with.
When the entire neighborhood was booing her, my dad came out the kitchen door.
"Okay, okay, what seems to be the problem?" he says.
Everyone yells at once. "She won't swing. She's just standing there. She's a chicken."
"There's no reason for name calling," he says. "Louisa, if you want to play baseball, you have to swing the bat."
"But, I'm gonna strike out."
"Well, are you just going to stand there all night?"
Obviously she hadn't thought her plan all the way through.
"I don't know."
"I think you should swing the bat, so that somebody else can have a turn."
For some reason my dad thought this was funny.
Louisa swung at the next pitch, spun in a circle and got her third strike. She dropped the bat and ran away screaming, "I told you!"
That is how our pick up games went.
[one_half_last]My Grandparents took my brother Cal and I to see the Milwaukee Braves at County Stadium. I got a box of Cracker Jacks and I liked yelling, "Charge!" every time the organ played.[/one_half_last]
Mrs. Berglund, our fifth grade teacher, loved baseball. If no one got caught chewing gum, we all handed in our homework on time and it was a really nice spring day, she would close up shop for most of an afternoon and take us outside and down the big hill, to the battlefield.
That is where we would play ball.
I had no idea that I sucked. I thought that she placed me way, way, out there, to get the really hard hit balls, because she knew that she could count on me to run after anything that could possibly roll that far.
It was pure heaven.
I always hit the ball when it was my turn to bat.
"We got to play baseball today," I boasted at the dinner table with my three brothers, two sisters and parents.
"Did you have any hits?" my dad asked.
Then Cal says, "Millie, you do know that they're not called hits if you don't make it to first base, right?"
"I made it to first base, once."
"Yeah, but did they throw the guy out at home plate?"
"No. It was a girl."
"Well, then it wasn't a hit."
The next year was 1969 and I was in sixth grade. The Baltimore Orioles and the New York Metz were in The World Series.
THE WORLD SERIES
Mrs. Berglund worked things out with the principal, so that both of the fifth and sixth grade classes could get together and watch the games that were televised during school hours. She rolled in the one and only, black and white T.V., that was on a tall, stand.
We took turns piling onto each others' hard tiled floors to watch history in the making.
I was awestruck.
It was The World Series, for the love of God.
The truth is, I hadn't heard of The World Series before and I had no idea that, The World Series, was not a competition between all of the teams, in all of the countries, in all of the world, that were on the globe, that spun on a sphere, in the back of our classroom.
I thought that, The World Series, was, WORLD wide. And I was amazed to think that whoever would win four out of the seven games, would be the celebrated, baseball champions, of our, ENTIRE PLANET.
If they would have named it, The Battle of the Universe, I probably would have thought that I was watching the championship of the, ENTIRE FUCKING, MILKY WAY.
As I grew older, I quickly learned that baseball and beer are just like cake and ice cream. I am not such a big fan of cake when it is all by itself. But I do love ice cream and I can certainly tolerate cake when it is served along with ice cream.
My boyfriend Jason and I went on a party bus to a Brewer game at County Stadium. We were getting killed. The Brewers were down something like, six to zero in the bottom of the ninth. Jason had a headache and he wanted to get back to the bus. So, we left the stands and we sat in that old smelly thing, where we listened to the Brewer fans go wildly, insane, for forty five minutes straight.
It seems they had a rally.
And they fucking won.
But you know what?
It was okay that we missed it.
There was beer on the bus.
Louisa was pregnant, so, NO BEER for Louisa.
She and her husband, Pierre, went to a game.
Since there was no beer, there was no reason to tailgate. So they went inside the stadium, with the other twenty people who weren't whooping it up in the parking lot. They had paid for grown up seats, right in the front row. The players were out stretching on the field. Louisa sat there in her chair with her swollen belly and she watched a couple of guys through a pair of binoculars.
And then Daryl Hamilton and Greg Vaughn, waved to her.
Because they were only about twenty feet away.
My extended family would meet at County Stadium once a year and tailgate before a game. We would then make our way into the park and take up a couple of rows in the stands. Whoever was fortunate enough to sit next to Susie Le Que, never had a clue what inning we were in or what the score was. But, it didn't matter.
One would think that with all of this baseball background that I seem to have, that when my boys started playing T-ball, I would have loved it.
T-ball is like eating a piece of dried up cake with that really gross frosting that coats your tongue and no ice cream.
Watching Rene sit in the outfield, tying his shoe as the ball rolled by, was one of my favorite plays. But, most of them were not that interesting.
The boys stayed with their dad during the summer.
It was the beginning of another baseball season. I walked from my car to the little league field with a Styrofoam cup of coffee, on a sunny Saturday morning. The game had already begun. It was going to be a hot day, but it wasn't yet. There was still dew in the grass, making my feet slip around in my flip-flops.
I was shy as I approached the crowd. I didn't know any of the other women who were already seated. These were women from Jason's home town.
"Hey Millie," I heard a voice call.
I looked up to see someone waving.
"Do you want to sit up here with me?" said a woman with short, wavy, brown hair.
"Sure," I said, and I scrambled up the metal steps that have always made me feel clumsier than shit and this day extremely un-bleacher worthy, with my slippery feet and one handedness.
"I'm Jane," she says, as I sat down. "My kids are Doug and Joey."
"Do we have any points yet?" I asked.
"Millie, in baseball they are called, runs."
"Oh. Do we have any runs yet?"
"One," she answered.
"They have two."
Then she starts yelling at the umpire. "Hey, that was a strike!"
"You can tell that?" I said.
"Well, sure. That ball was outside of the box by a foot."
"So, do you actually like baseball?" I said to her.
"There is nothing better than the sound of the crack of a bat," she says.
I about spit out my coffee.
"What?" she says looking at me like I had two heads. You don't like baseball?"
"Well, I guess there are worse sports," I mumbled.
And that is the day, that I realized, that I did like baseball.
The Brewers now play at fancy Miller Park.
I bought a round of beer that set me back seventy bucks.
I set my giant, expensive brew, down by my foot. Then I thought maybe it wasn't safe there. So, I went to move the pilsner to a more secure area. But, in trying to doing so, I knocked the bucket of hops over.
The wholesome family in front of us scrambled to save their shit from the beerfall that went on for about an inning.
People popped up as the suds continued on their way, down the concrete steps, beneath the unsuspecting fans in it's path, like lava running down the side of a mountain, wreaking havoc all the way.
"Good going," says Giselle. "I suppose you want another beer now."
[one_half]We went to a Mallards Game this summer.[/one_half]
As we were exiting the park, in a sea of people, Giselle tripped over a step. She saved most of what was left in her Red Solo cup. But she whipped her purse right into the crowd.
"Good going," I said to her. "I suppose you want another purse now."
It is tournament weekend.
We were sitting in front of the miniature ball diamond in the heat of the day and my son Marques leans over and says, "Thank God. This is the last T-ball game I will ever have to go to."
I stared at him from my cheap lawn chair with the rickety leg and said, "Right, I thought the same thing once myself. But, T-ball never really goes away."
And after all the medals, cupcakes and trophies were handed out, I headed over and to check on my mom.
She is the all time pitcher again.
Because she is back in a cast and she can't run.