For The Love of Sports

basketballJune. Graduations. Tassels. Every year my mind goes back to my own school days and it is as though it was yesterday. I was a school girl in the Fifties. Ah, the Fifties. We were so fortunate to live in the Fifties…as long as I could play sports. I never lied and said I loved school. In my mind, studies took a back seat…way back the afternoon softball game or that evening’s basketball game.

When did I start loving baseball?  Probably when I was seven or eight years old and my brother, Rex, and I listened to the Red Sox on our old Philco radio. Curt Gowdy was the announcer and many an afternoon, we sat on our rickety front steps with the radio blaring from the kitchen corner. We made sure it was shut off well in advance of the parents coming home from work…and we saved the battery for the news that evening.

We had one bat and a glove and ball. The front yard was minuscule, but a rock here and there served as bases and we filled many days with taking turns to bat and pretending we were at Fenway. Rex was Bobby Doerr and indeed, years later, he was outstanding in the infield for our Woodstock High. I credit our front yard practices for his success later in life with the baseball team.

Years later, it came to pass that many a summer evening a few car loads of people came down from Lockes Mills and what was known as the “flat” turned into our own private ball field. I was the only girl to play and was shown no mercy. I have no idea why, after all these years, one play stands out in my mind. I was playing second base with a runner on first. The batter hit a line drive, the runner started to advance. I leaped and caught the ball and threw it to first to double up the runner. That must have been a shining moment in my life because I remember that more vividly than giving the Valedictory speech at my high school graduation!

My mother was not the happiest that her only daughter was an extension of her sons and loved the game of baseball. But wait! A few years later, she drove me on Sunday afternoons to the ball field at Lockes Mills to see the Greenwood team play. She was hooked!  She was more afraid of her windshield being broken by a foul ball, so she parked as far away as she could, which resulted in our dragging our lawn chairs quite the distance. Many an afternoon of entertainment came out of that ball field.

High school and softball became my sole comfort amongst the dull subjects handed to me. If I could play softball, I could ignore the discomfort of biology, algebra and all the other subjects which bored me to tears.

I played left field and third base…wherever I was needed most. I doubt that my brother remembers showing me a little trick I used while batting. I doubt , also, that it is anything which anyone used, but it worked for him…and for me. I got up in the batters box, looked out to see where there was an empty hole and when the pitcher delivered, shifted my feet and weight so that I could hit the ball where there was no opposition. Always thanked my brother for that tip…though it had no practical use in my future. I looked good for a little while.

During my four years of high school and playing softball, there was only one incident that scared the daylights out of everyone, including the coach. I was helping with the bases before the start of a game, was bending down, and when I straightened up, someone threw a baseball for some reason and it hit me in the temple. I saw stars, the coach came running. I remained on my feet but , yes, I actually cried and was helped to the bench. When the game began, I was up and at them again, fully recovered but with a ghastly headache. That incident has come in handy over the years because if I forget anything, I always say, “I was hit in the temple with a baseball once…” and trust me, the older I get, the more I am using it.

My three sons were all on Farm teams and then Little League and what joy to go watch them play. By this time I was writing for the newspapers and I got in touch with Johnny Pesky of the Red Sox and asked for some used baseballs for Alan’s farm team. He answered me promptly and said he had turned it over to someone whose name I can’t recall right now ( I was hit on the temple with a baseball once) and in the mail came a big carton of baseballs that the Sox had used in batting practice!

I was still listening to the Sox on the radio in my farm kitchen and eventually had a writing relationship with Ned Martin, who never forgot to send me a Christmas card until his untimely death. I also corresponded with Mel Parnell, who was a great pitcher turned broadcaster. In my box of baseball memories are a couple letters from Johnny Pesky.

And so it goes…baseball has always been a big part of my life..will always be.

Apologies to all those who really don’t care about the game.  I could start over, but the Sox are playing tonight and I don’t want to miss Chris Sale pitching.


Ayuh, It Stays With You Forever

I was minding my own business, when it started all over again. Now mind you, I may have been a little cranky, having to rise early that morning for an echo cardiogram. I didn’t think they made appointments that early..really I didn’t. But I had mangled my way through that and was presently perched ( not pleasantly, but presently) on a table in the doctor’s office. I’ll preface this by also saying I loathe having to climb up and sit on that table when there are perfectly good looking chairs within reach of my backsides. I digress. The perky little nurse wanted me there for a reason, so I perched. Ah, ha, the old EKG routine. They hadn’t seen enough of my heart, so one more time. Here a patch, there a patch, everywhere a patch with a wire attached. You people who’ve had one know exactly what I am talking about.

I pride myself with my spirit of cooperation in health matters. I had maybe an eye roll or two, but then came THAT moment. Ms. Perky looked as she attached the last patch and said, “You’re from Massachusetts, aren’t you.” Not a question; a statement. I still wonder if my eyes glazed the way they felt. “No”, I replied ( in what my son recalled later as a very frosty voice), ” I am from Maine.”   She may have felt a jolt of ice because she admitted that she knew I must be from “one of those places.”

It’s nothing new. Years ago, while working in retail one evening, a lady customer piled her purchases in front of me and after a short conversation , remarked, “You’re from London, aren’t you.” Not a question, but  another statement. “No, I’m from Maine.” “No, you’re not. You’re from London. I can tell by the accent.” Now we have always heard that the customer is always right, but this was beginning to grate on me just a bit. “Sorry, M’am , I’m from Maine.” She drew herself to full height ( at least it appeared so) and told me that I could fool some people but she KNEW her accents. That night I became a citizen of the United Kingdom.

Early in our marriage, Dick and I were in my mother’s kitchen one night when a whole bunch of her friends came to visit. It was a tea, coffee and chat group for about an hour or so. The next morning, I asked Dick if he enjoyed  meeting every one and he said, “yes, but I didn’t understand a word they said.” So much for the poor “out-of-stater”. In our 41 years, he got accustomed to hearing me talk ( or maybe it was selective hearing) and did understand more. However, the unique sayings always threw him.

We were visiting one other time when my mother was in an agitated state because one of her friends had been in an automobile accident. “That car was all stove up,” she went on to say. Dick never changed expression, but when she left the room , he said “What does a stove have to do with a car wreck?” Poor man.

So many expressions surface over the years. My Dad always added to his good-bye, “Keep  your powder dry ” or at a speeding car up the Greenwood Road, “he was hell bent for leather.”

I have to add the one time that my Maine accent almost got me in trouble.  I was working on the front desk of the chiropractor’s office and , unfortunately, was the last few minutes of a long, busy day. A patient had been seen and was on the way out. She stopped to schedule and pay and the doctor came out with her to wind things up. I answered a question the doctor asked and the patient looked rather strangely at me and said “you’re not from around here, are you..” where upon the good Doc said, “No, Sandy is from Maine.” Now you won’t believe this, but this woman actually said, “Oh, Lord, is there anything more ugly than that Maine accent? I cannot stand to listen to it one minute.” Yeah, she actually said that. Now Doc knew that simmering beneath my smile was a keg of dynamite, and he turned and retreated to his inner adjustment room.

I handed the woman her receipt which she swept into her purse and remarked, “Well, I haven’t been to Maine lately” and may God forgive me, I looked at her and said, “And I am sure the natives thank you.” She swept out of the office, leaving a huge “WELLLL” behind.  I held my breath for a couple of days, but guess she didn’t lodge a complaint.

Did I mention she was really ugly, too?