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Baseball Back When

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The following meditation on the whoosification of modern baseball was sparked by a recent trip to a swanky, new, air-conditioned major league ballpark.

Now don't get me wrong, all these ritzy new major league baseball parks are nice, I suppose, but playing baseball in the boondocks has a special ambiance all its own. Back during one of my inglorious days at old, Knotty Pine High School, the baseball team, everybody called us ‘The Knot Head Nine’ traveled even further than usual to another isolated, rural outpost on the educational low-road, this one remarkable only for being even smaller and more run down than ours. There was, for instance, no lights, no bleachers or dugouts. Dust devils made frequent appearances across the pitted, grass-less infield. Center-field sloped down so steeply the fielder had to position himself carefully to avoid the pitcher’s mound blocking his view of the batter.

Over in the comparatively high ground of right field, my late-inning meditation on the unattainable charms of Francis Lynn Henderson was interrupted by the terrifying sound of a bat making sharp contact with a baseball. My initial fear that the ball might actually be coming my way was quickly eased however by the comforting sight of it twisting away toward a weed-choked field behind our first baseman.

That swift-footed, strong-armed worthy who was dating Francis Lynn, turned and went chasing after baseball glory and the game ending out. With his eyes on the prize, and his brain, no doubt, focused on getting home early for his date with you-know-who, he appeared to snag the ball just as his foot hit the grass shrouded concrete border to an abandoned cattle dipping vat. Moments later, the only sign of life in that vicinity were moans and groans coming from somewhere below ground level.

The good news is the vat was half-full of weeds and junk. The bad news, according to the player’s vehement testimony on the long ride home, was that none of it cushioned his landing one little bit. The coach trotted over to check out his best hitter’s condition, studied the mess in the vat, and yelled, "Damn it boy, you dropped the ball!"

Given a second-chance, the batter singled in the game tieing run. We played extra innings until the game was called on account of darkness. By the time we finally got home it was after nine, and Francis Lynn, fed up with baseball-induced date cancellations, not only called off that night’s date but any future ones with our bruised and abused first baseman.

Now that, my friends, was a baseball game.

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