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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

The Catcher's Mitt

Blogger's Note: This is the second installment of my Growing Up In America series. The first story was "Mr. Matz." For now, I must keep the identity of the author of these marvelous stories a secret.

The neighborhood in which I lived had everything within a two to three block area. It was complete with a market, church on one corner, and a bar on the other. The hallmark of it all was the department store. Most of the people who lived there worked in the steel mill two blocks north, the battery factory two blocks south, or the textile mill in the middle.

Saturdays were special, dad didn’t work. Typically, the day started at noon at the corner bar. Everyone’s dad went to the bar and the children went, There were bar rules for children. I don’t remember ever being taught them in specific but you knew them: Be seen and not heard, sit at a table,  never at a stool at the bar, if you’re good you’ll get a soda and a bag of potato chips. When dad went to the bathroom, you ran up to his pile of money on the bar and lifted a couple of dimes for the pinball machine.

On one particular Saturday my best friend Jeff and I were at the bar with our dads. As the day progressed we went to the department store next door to check any new items that may be on display. It was the mid 70’s and spring baseball had just kicked in. Department stores back then were a one stop shopping for anything from clothing and furniture to garden equipment and school supplies. As we went into the sporting goods section of the store, Jeff and I saw a gleaming new black leather baseball glove, a catcher’s mitt. It was magnificent. A Franklin brand priced at $19.99, a small fortune. After fingering it up for a short time, we put it back on the rack and returned to our table at the bar.

Jeff and I talked about the catcher’s mitt, jazzed at how awesome it was. Unbeknown to us, a steel worker who had been in the bar since his shift ended at 7 am was listening to us. You know, he was the typical greasy guy with the steel dust covered overalls and striped engineer hat with a short brim to allow the welding facemask to drop down over the top. He stood up, took his hat off and walked up and down the row of men seated at the bar. From each pile of booze money he lifted a dollar bill and placed it into his hat. He walked over to Jeff and I, and throwing his hat on the table said to me “Go get that mitt, kid.”

Jeff and I didn’t hesitate; we grabbed the hat and money and ran out the door to the department store. We sprinted down the long walkway to the sporting good section. Ha, like anyone else could come up with twenty bucks in thirty minutes to buy a baseball glove. It was still there. Smiling, Jeff and I put the mitt on the counter with the money and in moments we were back to the bar -  proud owners of the best baseball glove in the neighborhood.

Once inside, the bar patron who benefited us grabbed the mitt for inspection. Up and down the bar he went, slapping the mitt and showing the donors the product they had just purchased for the neighborhood kids. With his reveling was finished, he placed that mitt on table in front us, smiled and returned to his stool and his drink.

I played baseball throughout high school and, ironically, played catcher. I used that mitt often and still have it today. Every now and then I come across it in the attic of my home when I’m searching for something else. I remember the kindness of a working man, for kids in a working neighborhood. Thank you Sir, I have not forgotten.


Anonymous said...

Cute story. It does sound like Jeff got screwed over in the deal. How did you end up with the mitt, when the bought it for both of you?

Bernie O'Hare said...

I am not the author of this story.

Anonymous said...

The time has passed ,when the workers of the world . We're great leaders and men like those mention
We're King of the hill . They build this country . now what generation will do better . Step up to the plate
And show your results to the nation . From 30 ies to the late 50 ies . All the those guys ,won wares build the nation .plus the highway system . And now the roads and the bridges build by those steel workers . Are falling apart . WHY
Because the workers are long gone ... Sad commentary