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Baseball: Things Change

John W. Pinkerton



Things change. I know I’ve changed.  Baseball was once the rock core center of my existence.

Boys born in the early 40’s, like myself, were avid fans of baseball. When we weren’t living and breathing baseball, we were dreaming about baseball. If we weren’t playing baseball, we were listening to baseball on the radio and later watching it on television. Our heroes on TV: it was a miracle sent from Heaven.

If you lived in the South in the 40’s and 50’s, you really didn’t have a home team. The pros were mainly bunched up in the Northeast and sprinkled across the northern states as far west as Chicago. The closest team to my home in Louisiana was the St. Louis Cardinals.

The best we could have in the South were minor league teams. We had the Alexandria Aces. Dad took me to one of their games. The most interesting event of the game was the way the umpire could make baseballs rolled to him bounce off his foot into his hands, very cool.

Little League Baseball hadn’t made it to my part of the world when I was a kid. It was around for my younger brother, bless his heart.Afterharanguing his coach unmercifully to allow him to pitch in a game, the coach permitted  him to hang himself. Relief came after fifteen runs. Needless to say, that ended my brother’s baseball career.

Although we didn’t have a home team, we still loved baseball. I became a big fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The first game I ever saw on television was the initial game of the Yankees-Dodgers’s 1955 World Series.  Roy Campanella, Don Newcomb, Duke Snider---these were my heroes.  Whitey Ford, Yogi Berra, and Billy Martin were their nemeses and thus my enemies. I must admit that Yogi was the best bad ball hitter I’ve ever seen. He didn’t need no stinkin’ strike to swing. After he retired, I became a big fan of Yogi and his Yogisms like, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

The Dodgers won the Series that year. The world was as it should have been. A couple of years later, my beloved Brooklyn Dodgers became the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was never the same for me after they moved. Like Brooklyn, I too felt betrayed.

As an adult living in Texas, I tried to become an Astro fan, not an easy task, but
I did listen to their radio broadcasts when Dizzy Dean was broadcasting the games.  Dizzy, with his southern drawl and his country slang and true love of the game, came through loud and clear and pure even if the Astros were stinking up the place. Dizzy once said of a batter who swung at a pitch wide of the strike zone, “He shouldn’t hadn’t ought-a swang!” Runners “slud” instead of “slid” into home plate.  Seeing the Astros in person was not much of an improvement. I recall going to a game at the Astrodome. I felt as though I was watching ants through the wrong end of a telescope. Nice dome though.Maybe their new stadium is a little cozier.

As I said, all boys played baseball. All boys had bats and gloves and balls always nearby. We all jumped at any chance to play whether it was just catch with a buddy or a real game. I played a lot of church ball, softball. The height of my participation in baseball was my making third string third base in the eighth grade. I took the hint. Later I did participate on the intramural softball team thatwonthefirst championship at LSU at Alexandria. Even got a medal the whereabouts I now have no idea.

Somewhere along the way through my early adulthood, I lost my ability to judge balls hit or thrown above my head, an odd affliction that resulted in some Keystone Cops moments and a blackeye.   It turns out that this was the first of many physical disappointments.   Such is life.

As an adult, I maintained some interest in the game, occasionally checking the baseball stats in the newspaper or reading about the latest baseball hero in Sports Illustrated. Suddenly more homers were being hit. Juiced baseballs I suspected. Then two players topped Babe Ruth’s and Roger Maris’s home run records. Now the baseball players were juiced. I may have been a pretty poor excuse for a baseball player, but at least I wasn’t juiced.

I guess the juiced balls, the juiced players, and the Dodgers moving to Los Angeles were just too much for my sensitive nervous system. You couldn’t pay me enough to go to a pro game.

Today I don’t see many kids tossing the old horsehide around. Maybe they’ve lost interest too.