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Sandlot Baseball – What a Best Friend Does

May 24, 2010

For 48 years, May 24th has been a special day for me. And yet, over the years, the reasons for its significance have changed. On this date in 1962, I hit my first Little League homerun off of Wally S., the All-Star pitcher for Hunt’s Potato Chips at Watson Park in Braintree, Massachusetts.

As I watched it sail over the centerfield scoreboard, I couldn’t believe that I was the one who hit it. For years, when I replayed that moment in my head, I saw the ball exploding off my bat, the ball soaring, my Penguin A.C. teammates swarming me at home plate.

Well into my 30s and 40s, I could still feel the exhilaration of that swing, the elation of knowing that I hit one out off one of the best pitchers in the league. At family gatherings, my mother would recall how she spilled coffee on her lap as she watched the ball arc its way out of the park. My uncle would tell me how he was standing at the refreshment stand and how he turned just in the nick of time to witness the launch. Their accounts were always the boosts I seemed to need at the time.

There were a few years when I forgot about the big hit, when the quiet anniversaries were overshadowed by illness, deadlines or the stress of some job. There were years when I wondered to myself, what’s the big deal, anyway? What’s with this silly commemoration?

Not too long ago, drilling back through time for a blog post, I remembered an old friend. Gerry D was my best friend back in the 50s and early 60s. He was the “slick-fielding, left-handed first baseman” I referred to in the Road Trip posts last month. We rode bikes and ate Popsicles together. He was the kid I played catch with for countless hours.

Gerry also played for Hunt’s Potato Chips and was the first person I saw as I rounded first base after I hit the homerun. There he was, standing there with his glove on his hip behind the bag near the foul line. He didn’t say anything. Instead, he grinned and awkwardly nodded his head in acknowledgement. We were fierce competitors but, more importantly, we were best friends.

I didn’t realize it until recently, but after all these years, the thing I cherish most about that slow-motion moment was that split-second when our eyes met on that dusty infield at Watson Park. What I saw in his eyes told me what had just happened was a big deal.

That’s what a best friend does. That’s what Gerry D did for me on May 24th, 1962.

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  1. jeanne permalink

    Isn’t that what friends do? They accompany us in those miracle moments by witnessing and acknowledging that they are happening. Thanks for sharing.

  2. big o permalink

    sweet .

  3. bob edmonston permalink

    this is really out of the blue but i think I played at the same time as you did at Watson park and I think I have a photo that you may have or would love to see from back then…. email me at

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