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Sandlot Baseball – Dogs on the Bases

March 26, 2010

Neighborhood dogs were the only spectators during our sandlot baseball games.  Dogs with real dog names like Rinny, Jigs and Mugsy watched our games. In the days when Jackie Jensen patrolled right field for the Red Sox, there weren’t any dogs with people-names like Ryan, Emily or Logan.  At least, not where we lived.

Dogs ran freely in those days. It was that era when kids didn’t have cell phones and dogs didn’t have leashes.

One of our sandlot’s mainstays was Rinny, named after Rin Tin Tin, the TV dog. That was a dog with presence – a majestic German shepherd. He was the faithful pal of Yarney, our pudgy, fast-talking catcher. Rinny followed Yarney everywhere; that meant he just about lived on the ball field like we did.

Rinny used to sit beyond the third base line during our games. When we couldn’t find milk cartons or boulders to use as third base, we’d use Rinny. We looked forward to hitting triples just to hang out with the incredible canine until it was time to move onto the plate. There wasn’t a better base than Rinny.

We had a few other good companions, too. Taffy and Mugsy were beagles who often chased dragonflies and hunted grasshoppers in the outfield. If you were lucky, Taffy would run down a ball that slipped through your legs and bring it back to you.

However, there were times when Jigs, a mongrel with a black, question-mark tail, would out-hustle Taffy to the ball. That was never a good thing. Jigs would snatch that old ball up in his mouth and head for his yard on Hobart Street. If he made it through his fence, you could kiss the ball goodbye.

That’s where Helen lived, the neighborhood witch. My brother and I lived next door to her. She was a widow and a sour-noted opera singer (maybe that’s why she was a widow). Helen didn’t like children and she especially didn’t like balls sailing into her yard. She must have had a hundred of ours. I think she took special delight whenever Jigs brought them home to her.

I’d like to have a happy ending to this post and tell you that Rinny saved the day by gallantly dashing into Helen’s yard to retrieve our baseballs. But that never happened. Truth is, once those balls made it into her yard, they were gone forever.

So too, now, are the dogs. What I wouldn’t give to share third base with one or chase down a few balls and dragonflies with them.

Dogs and baseballs – they really were our best friends.

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  1. Wow, great story, man. Brings back a lot of memories of playing baseball literally in the streets and parking lots of Bridgeport, where I grew up in the ’70’s. Practically never played on an actual dirt and grass baseball field until about the time I went to high school. For better or worse, those days are gone. Very enjoyable read, Bill (

  2. Thanks, Bill. Hey, being from Bridgeport, were you a Red Sox fan? You had to remember the Sox in the 1975 World Series and Carlton Fisk in Game 6…

  3. Hey Kenney, Actually I grew up a long-suffering Mets fan. Bridgeport and southern CT tended to be Mets / Yankees fans. From about Hartford on up, you would start finding Red Sox fans (in those days.) I certainly do remember the ’75 World Series. They still played some day-time World Series games in those days. I remember shopping with my mom in Sears, watching Luis Tiant pitch against the Reds on a bank of T.V. sets as my mom roamed around the store. But I did not get to stay up late to watch Fisk’s homer, one of the great baseball blunders of my life. Take care, Kenney. Nice posts, Bill

    • mike andrews permalink

      boy was i shocked when i opened todays patriot ledger and saw a pic of you, at my parents house.
      and more so you wearing the pen a.c. uni I also played for pen a.c. in the early 70,s.
      still had the wool uniforms not for long though – Mike

  4. MIke,
    A fellow Penguin AC guy who lived in the same house as me – what are the chances? Don’t tell me you wore # 12… (I think they retired that one, didn’t they?)

  5. Dan Shea permalink

    Hello Rich- I have greatly enjoyed your stories of summers past. They’ve brought back some wonderful memories of those sun-drenched marathon games played on that rock-strewn Lincoln School field. However, you did forget to mention one vicious dog named Ripper. You know, that ferocious looking Boxer that spread fear into the hearts of all little kids that raced by its home that abutted the school yard. To this day, my younger twin sisters still shiver at the mention of his name! If you remember, my brother Wally played for Penguin A.C., too. Dr.Keegan was the team sponsor. Great humor that he had, I sense that he conceived the name Penguin Athletic Club because he felt that the Little Leaguers resembled penquins! Just a hunch on my part… Say hello to your brother Steve.
    Dan Shea

  6. Dan,
    Nice to hear from you. It just may be that we last communicated during one of those sandlot games somewhere around 1962. You were one of the guys who frequently hit mighty homeruns over The Wall in left field. Great days, weren’t they?
    As for Ripper, did he belong to the Wright’s?

  7. Yes! Ripper was the scary boxer owned by the Wrights! Yes Dan I was shaking in my boots with Jean & Joan….I’d go over their, (your) house and have to walk past May St. to get home (past the ‘sandlot’) and thought that if I didn’t look up May St. maybe Ripper wouldn’t shred me apart!…My dog Buddy & the McFarland’s dog Penney would always be my protectors! Walking to school every morning, (Lincoln) Buddy would follow me & Miss Graveles or Mrs. Chiesa would make me bring him home @ recess!…Huh! Sounds like Norman Rockwell painting….

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