Thursday, June 18, 2009

Baseball Best Left to Kids

Once he stopped hunting down Christians, St. Paul told the Corinthians he was all grown up. "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things." Paul may have been one hell of an Apostle, but he'd be a lousy baseball coach. Last night, a gaggle of mini-Apostles put away childish things and ruined a baseball game for 9 and 10 year old kids.

It's the playoffs, damn it.

I skipped last night's meeting of Northampton County's Personnel and Finance Committees for something far more important - kids' baseball. In fact, I snuck out of the courthouse early so I'd be at Bethlehem Northwest Little League by 4:30 PM. I threw on my old baseball cap amd lumbered along in my battered old jeep, which is always full of spilled sunflower seeds and loose baseballs this time of year. Along the way, I stopped for more sunflower seeds, gatorade and some jerky. Hickory smoked. I embrace those childish things. To hell with Paul.

Would baseball's deadliest enemy - rain - ruin another game? Would one of the boys send one over the 200' fence? Would another make a diving catch? I pondered these weighty questions as I drove between the raindrops.

Amazingly, the baseball gods did stop the rain, but those grey skies told us this was just temporary. Everyone came early to do their warm ups and take a few mighty swings. We were ready to go by 5:45 PM, game time. But instead of seeing one playoff foe, we saw two.

The Fountain Hill Hoses and Lower Nazareth Diamondbacks both insisted they had the right to play us. Both had just played each other. Both were equally certain they had won the game, which involved all sorts of protests and appeals that are probably winding their way through the courts. Coaches put away their childish bats and went for their very adult cell phones and earpieces to talk to district commissioners and league presidents. Nobody would budge.

We tried staying loose. Some kids went out to toss the ball while a few others snuck to the concession stand for a hot dog and candy. Those are their power bars.

Finally, at 6:15 PM, some Apostle announced we would play The Fountain Hill Hoses. Our kids call them the Hos. They have absolutely no idea what they are saying. I think.

The kids rushed out into the field and started a pretty good game. But after five minutes, another Apostle made a dramatic appearance and stopped the game. He called the coaches and a puzzled ump to the mound, and began yelling at them all. He even yelled at our manager, whose only crime was to let the kids play. "This game is illegal."

"Can't the kids just play for fun?" asked a childish mother. The Apostle ignored her. Fun has nothing to do with it for some of these guys. It's instead about standings and bragging rights.

The baseball gods can't be happy about this.

Blogger's Note: Jeff Stoffa sent me the cool baseball pic. Each ward in Peanutville had its own baseball team, as did many businesses. A baseball field mural above the Call Chronicle building in Center Square (southwest corner) appeared with every World Series. Crowds would watch as figures would be placed and moved around the mural to see what was happening in each game. The Call Chronicle used teletype to get the updates.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I always love your writing, but when you write about baseball history in our Valley, your writing glows. It is honest and inspiring.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Wow! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Happey Birthday Bernie!

Love the baseball posts, too.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I can't spell!

Happy Birthday Bernie!

Anonymous said...

I grew up in the sixties, an era just prior to the one which we now experience. Today's kids seem to have no choice other than to submit to "organized" leagues, if they want to play ball. My generation may have had more in common with my dad's generation in that, we could still gather a group of boys, scrounge up some balls, bats and gloves, then head off to some area where we could play ball without parental "involvement". Do kids do this amymore?

Living in an urban neighborhood, just behind the Boyd Theater, we would always have enough for a game. There once were four or five macadamized parking lots, owned by either the city or the old Union Bank along the West North Street/Garrison Street area back then. The lots were not level, and there were obstacles to be sure, but that never stopped us from playing. There were no adults to tell us what the rules should be...we policed the games ourselves. We even kept statistics! If we only had two guys who wanted to play, we could use one bat, one ball and one glove (optional) and use that little lot between the Union Bank and the back of the theater for a game of "strikeout". This game honed a pitchers skills as well as your batting eye. When we had anywhere from 6 to 18 kids, we went to "Slippery Field", so named because of the ever present gravel spread across the macadam lot. I still have bruises on knees and elbows from my experiences there. This was a full-size "stadium", one where we could deploy players in fielding positions. Bases were anything we could find; special rules were promulgated to penalize certain behaviors. Example - If you hit a foul ball into old lady McGlathery's yard, it was an automatic "out". Balls that ended up rolling down North Street could be swallowed up by a storm sewer. Fortunately, we were always able to deal with this disappointment, since a rubber ball cost 25 cents at Milgreens on Broad. We played past dark every night, since the lots were open to cars all day.

There were few fights, and we all grew up (as far as I know) to be mature, well-adjusted adults, despite having to fend for ourselves. I have never regretted not playing "organized sports." While some kids "OD" from playing organized sports as kids, I developed a love of sports that remains with me at this day.

VOR

Anonymous said...

Bernie, what happened is awful, I feel so bad for those kids... Nothing like 'adults' to ruin things, and it happens all too frequently.

Rick Reilly just wrote a story about another out-of-control 'adult' on ESPN.com - here's the link:

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/columns/story?columnist=reilly_rick&id=4263659

By the way, happy birthday!

The Banker

Anonymous said...

This reinforces why I love kids and usually hate their parents.

BTW, is Clemens injecting steroids into his team mate in the profile photo? I thought Jeter was clean! Say it ain't so, Derek. Maybe Andy Pettite DID "mis-remember."

Open up your ears! It's Rizzo! said...

We have apostles running around in the Valley? See I told all of you that the end is near.

It is time to repent!!!

Happy b-day Bernie!

And for your present, E-Times reports that JC Kelleher has dropped out of the exec. race.

Looks like Stoffa is in home free.

What are the chances that I can get a Stoffa made birdhouse for our seminary?

Peace, ~~Saul (who became Paul)

Bernie O'Hare said...

VOR, Loved youir story. I'm trying to imagine it all.

Bernie O'Hare said...

To the b-day well wishers, I turn 39 today. Thanks.

Larry Kisslinger said...

yea BO & I turned 39 two days ago!

Seriously, there are many sports stories in Bethlehem's past too!

Jr. Miss softball LV/Bethlehem State Champions, pitching to hit pictured strike zone on neighbor's brick wall in playground at St. Joe's school, stickball in streets of So. Bethlehem, half-ball in Marvine Village, black taped baseball with sandlot baseball games, Catholic League baseball, sandlot football, basketball and baseball all around Bethlehem. Sportsman's Cafe, Beth. 5th Street, near Chuck Bednarik home then & and all Phillly Eagle visits there every Friday night while I lived there with my brother Jack (Navy retired at 37) & Mom (cook for her Brother owner, Uncle Carmen Palumbo, star of Catholic League with Bednarik, my Dad as catcher, etc). low income projects Tri-Village Little League successful participants (catcher Jack was home run king with 8 one year) Jerry & other Seyfried's, Romigs, on and on. Mike, Joe Long Brother was our first baseman on Local 2600 AFL-CIO Sons Union sponsored team. All City League softball. Tri-County and Blue MT. hardball since then. many other LV sports, and political figures seldom recognized! I could write a book if I had a willing author! LV sports and politics would be paramount therein. great stuff posted here. Thanks.

Larry Kisslinger said...

Bernie,

BTW, my single Mother hardly ever attended games! She had to work to support me, her and my Brother as we moved to low income Marvine Village when I was 6 years old.

Jack is 18 months older than me!

Mom, very much like me & Jack, always appreciated, never forgot nor will we ever forget all who took care of us during our growing up years while Mom had to work.

Mom did not want to cheer or not when we played any games, even if she was available. Mom always said: Please do your best and let me know result afterwarda.