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Sandlot Baseball – The Comeback Kid

May 29, 2010

Away-game cabs and late-inning gappers – those were two of the things I immediately thought of when I recently heard from Ken Cook of Braintree, Massachusetts. Thanks to the Internet, we connected after having lost touch more than four decades ago.

We played ball together in the Braintree Park League the summers of 1966 and 1967. Our home field was the field behind South Junior High School. For those of us used to playing on some of the more hazardous fields scattered around town, playing on South’s field was a treat. The grass in the outfield was mowed and the dirt in the infield was rock-free. What more could you want?

Away games!

They were the big thrills. When those taxis pulled into South’s parking lot, we’d cram 5 or 6 guys with gloves, balls and bats into each one, and off we’d go to places like French’s Common or Faxon Park. I usually rode with Kenny and his brother, Gerry, listening to the cab’s cranked-up radio – songs like Donovan’s Sunshine Superman or the Beatle’s Yellow Submarine.

Whether it be at home or on the road, the thing that most impressed me about Ken was how focused he was during each game. While some of the guys would be horsing around, Ken would be sizing up the opposing pitcher taking his warm-ups on the mound. His studies usually paid off late in the game when he’d take the pitcher deep, finding gaps in the outfield to drive in the runs we needed to win games.

He made every minute count, passing the ball with someone behind the team bench or taking practice swings with the dreaded heavy donut. You didn’t talk to Ken during a game unless you talked baseball. We always had a lot to talk about…

Here are a few of Ken’s sandlot baseball and Little League memories from playing ball at Watson Park and Colbert Field from 1959-1962:

“One vivid memory I have is talking to kids during the school day– to get a bunch of guys together to play sandlot after school. Another is the first few days of spring–when you could smell the grass and the trees, and it excited you to know that you would be playing baseball that day. I couldn’t wait for the hardball to hit the wood bat for the first time in the spring.”

“Being from a large family — my glove was always a hand-me-down.  I don’t remember getting a brand new glove until Babe Ruth League. We loved new balls – but as young kids growing up, we couldn’t afford to buy them all the time.  In my neighborhood, we used to play across the street in a field that was bordered by woods.  I can’t tell you how many times we’d hit a ball into those woods, and have to stop the game to go look for it.  Very rarely did we have another ball to continue the game.”   

“In regard to playing Little League — the anticipation of waiting for that phone call from a coach (after try-outs) to let you know who you’d be playing for– was exciting. My brother, Gerry, as a 10-year-old, made the Majors with a full uniform.  I, as a 12-year-old, got passed over, and was picked to play in the Triple-A League for Zayres, a team with black t-shirts and black hats. My hat had a big Z on it – Ughh! I was devastated that I didn’t make the Majors and that my younger brother, Gerry, was picked.  I wanted that full uniform SO bad, and I was so jealous of him with his nice full Kiwanis uniform.  But the story gets better:  I start out in AAA by bashing the ball all over the place for the first 3 games.  I tore up the league for those games.   To my surprise they called me up to the Majors.  It has to be a ‘first’, don’t you think?????  I was SO happy to play on that major league field, in a full uniform.  It’s a memory I’ll always have.”

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  1. Dan Shea permalink

    Hello Rich,
    I remember the Cook brothers at Braintree High School and the tough, hard-nosed work ethic that they brought to the infield both in games and at practice. Nice guys, too.

  2. Nice story. Things were a bit more competitive back then. Kids could actually fail to make a team. But no matter what happened, we were always just happy to be playing ball. Great post, Bill

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