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Sandlot Baseball – Road Trips (Part 2)

April 22, 2010

It was on our third road trip to Adams Park that we decided to sneak into The Old House beyond center field.

We had been playing standstill, a game played against the tall backstop in which three or four fielders stood with their backs to it. One of the fielders pitched the ball to a hitter who stood at home plate. The hitter tried hitting the ball into one of the square sections of the chain link backstop. One square was a homerun, another – a double, and so on.

If the hitter hit a ground ball to a fielder who caught it, the hitter was out. If the fielder couldn’t handle the ball, the hitter had a single. For that reason alone, hitters took vicious cuts. As fielders, we were always a little nervous.

Standstill was one of those games we often played, non-stop, for 2 or 3 hours when we didn’t have enough people to play a game on the field. The batter never had to run, hence the name, standstill.

Only when balls ricocheted off fielders’ knees did we take breaks. Thanks to the liner off Mikey M’s shin on that third road trip to Adams Park, we took a break – a memorable one that led us to the back window of a very battered house.

Gerry D, the slick-fielding, left-handed first baseman, was the first one in, carefully lifting his leg over the few surviving shards of broken glass in the window. My brother, Steve, good with both glove and stick, was next. Line-drive hitter, Bugsie P, then slipped in with Mikey M and his bruised shin right behind him. I was the last one in.

What I saw inside astounded me. There were dozens of gunk-coated spoons and forks on a warped kitchen table. Curled-up strips of wallpaper, like living organisms, seemed to be growing on every wall in the house. There was so much junk strewn about that you couldn’t even see the floor. There were tons of tattered Look and Life magazines, cracked vinyl records, and moth-eaten clothing scattered everywhere.

Upstairs, I heard the guys laughing as something crashed to the floor. The whole house felt as though it would crumble. Thinking I’d join them, I inched my way to the stairwell but suddenly stopped. There, in the living room, a dusty piano caught my eye. Unlike everything else around me, it was intact, save but a few missing keys. I gently pressed down on one of the black survivors – then two white ones. The notes were faint, almost groggy as if stirring from a deep sleep. It was like they were struggling to regain their sounds, their energy from another time.

For a few moments, I felt like a time-traveler stepping back through the years to days when the old piano was alive. Who played it? Who once loved it? Who could have left it here like this? It was while I was standing there, pondering these questions, with my fingers holding down keys that had long gone silent that I heard a muffled gurgling, a sound of urgency. I shuddered, opened my eyes and felt Gerry’s glove on my arm. Again, the sound…

It was coming from his stomach. “Let’s eat,” he said.

My brother poked me with his bat as everyone headed for the back window. I followed them, looking back at the piano one more time in hopes of hearing that distant team of notes that long ago showed up to play, non-stop, everyday – in a time when someone’s eager notes could never stand still.

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2 Comments
  1. big o permalink

    Don’t know who you are , don’t know how I got here , but , you , sir , are a good writer (and it seems your “politics” ain’t so bad , either) .

    Though not exactly mirroring my early sixties , New Hampshire childhood , many of the observations , that you have shared , have , on more than one occasion , invoked pleasant memories and tears of nostalgia .

    I will visit this site often …. and will re-read your words .

  2. Big O – thanks for the compliments. I just emailed you for additional info regarding your comments on “tossing” for teams that I would like to include in a future blog post. Hope to hear from you soon.

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