Sunday, May 12, 2013

No Crying in Baseball

My grandson registered for the 9-year-old baseball league. I vowed not to project my experiences or expectations.  I could be forgiven if I allowed myself to take him shopping for a baseball glove and bat, since I knew something about proper fit and sizes. 

When I was his age, and for a few years after, I could not get enough baseball.  I played on different teams in different leagues simultaneously.  Every Wednesday night and Sunday afternoon, my daddy and I went to Atlanta Cracker baseball games at Ponce de Leon Ballpark across the street from Sears.  I read everything I could get my hands on about baseball: newspaper sports pages, magazines, library books, biographies, fiction by Jackson Scholz (a series of youth books with similar heroic plots, not much different from that used by Bernard Malamud for his literary classic The Natural, also a successful movie, neither for the young).   Baseball made me a reader. 

My grandson Chance was the first batter up at the first batting practice for his baseball team.  The pitcher, at age 9, was prematurely practicing a Hall of Fame flaming fastball but not necessarily getting it close enough to the strike zone to require interpretation by an umpire.  Pitches sailed off in all directions.  Chance hit none of them, but two hit him, one on the wrist and another on his hip.  I took him to the Grand Slam Batting Cages on North Druid Hills Rd.  The pitching machine, labeled "Little League," could not be set below 45 mph, according to the attendant.  Even so, the machine was faster than 9-year-old  pitchers throwing as hard as they could and/or harder than they should.  My grandson backed away from almost every pitch for fear of being hit.  

In the fifth week of a six week spring season for my grandson’s team, the games still consist mostly of walks, wild pitches and passed balls, while the fielders stand by to no useful purpose, enduring the tedium of run after run scored without any ball being hit, definitely not gaining any experience at catching and throwing baseballs.  A pitcher has been identified who occasionally gets the ball near home plate.  Each inning is halted when the team batting scores five runs.  The coach walks out to the mound to talk to the pitcher.  The pitcher holds the baseball in his glove, which he uses like a handkerchief under his nose.  The heel of his free hand wipes each cheek in turn, then again.

Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, and Madonna lead off the line-up of director Penny Marshall’s engaging 1992 movie A League of Their Own, about an all-girl professional baseball team, coached by has-been Hanks. 
In a famous scene, Coach Hanks criticizes one of the players, who begins to weep.  Hanks utters with patented Tom Hanks dismay, “There’s no crying in baseball.”

Maybe.  Maybe not.

1 comment:

Hawaii Bill said...

You might remember David Moffett, sports editor for United Press International south-east division. It was a great pleasure working with Dave, who has passed on.

Out of the Atlanta bureau we were an enthusiastic pair. Atlanta did not have a significant professional team at that time so Dave and I vowed to give that idea a boost.

Every pre-season game brought to town by the big leagues -- both baseball and football -- was covered by us with the enthusiasm you might expect from a World Series final. And we did the same with car races out of Daytona!

Curiously -- in stories we shipped out on the A wire -- the stories were carried by many papers the next day whether their home teams were represented of not. We liked to think later that those tales got attention for Atlanta as a prime big-league city and it was made so early in the expansion days.

UPI was a great service and it was a shame that it folded. There is nothing like it today. Back then every story that went on the wires was written with a national outlook and it paid off.

With one exception. I wrote the first story to move on the national A wire about Martin Luther King, a feature long before he was famous. Checking the papers, we could not find a single paper that carried it though he was truly a major league figure in every sense of the word.


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