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Sandlot Baseball – A Brand New Ball Game

July 14, 2010


(click on picture to get a better view)

This picture was taken by a photographer from the Boston American newspaper on November 19, 1959. A bunch of us hopped on the fire truck the day it arrived to fight a fire at Abraham Lincoln School in East Braintree. At the time, I was 8 years old and enjoying life in the third grade.

The good news was that the school was not entirely destroyed. The really good news was that our picture would be in the paper the next day. The best news of all, though, was that classes were cancelled and no one knew for how long. We were on vacation!

Little did we realize, however, that big changes were coming. Two huge questions loomed: when would we get back to school and where would we go to school? Within a week both questions had been answered. We were on our way to Donald Ross Elementary, what many parents and teachers referred to as “that new, modern school.”

Although the school was but a few miles away, it may as well have been on another planet. Everything was different. Gone were our old double-desks and wall clocks that ticked too loudly. Gone were our squeaky corridor floorboards and tilted playground basketball court. Gone, too, were our lunch ladies and boiler room man. The seats were slippery-new, the food was too hot and the blackboards were actually green.

The girls seemed to fare better than the boys during this adjustment period. At recess, the Lincoln girls gladly played hopscotch and jumped rope with the girls from Ross. We Lincoln School boys, though, walked around with our hands in our pockets sizing up our Ross third-grade counterparts. We stood on the sidelines and watched them play soccer, never one of our favorite sports. They were good and they knew it. We desperately needed to show them how well we played our sport and, even though it was November and cold, we knew what we had to do.

The next day at recess, a dozen or so third-grade boys from Abraham Lincoln School showed up with baseball gloves, one taped bat and a battered ball that had been lost so many times in the Lincoln woods it should have had a compass attached to it. It was time to play ball.

I can’t say whether we impressed anyone or not but we realized that once we started playing our game, it didn’t matter where we were. We could have been in Russia or on the moon but, because we had our security blankets, we knew we’d be okay. The boys from Ross sensed it, too. At one point, the baseball landed by them where they gathered to watch us play. One of them picked it up, laughed and took off with it. Oh-oh, I thought. Here we go.

He ran to a shed and disappeared inside. No one knew what to make of it. Seconds later, he sprinted back to the field carrying a small box. He threw it onto the field. “Maybe you should try this one,” he said. It was a brand new baseball, still in the box.

Change is never easy. In the beginning, it can be down-right uncomfortable. But… it can also lead to a brand new ball game.

And what can be better than that?

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  1. Wonderful story, Rich. Your old Lincoln School was exactly like my own Maplewood School and, later, Bryan School, in Bridgeport. One of my teachers was so old that my father had had her when he was a little kid. Graffiti under the wooden desks went back decades, like cave paintings.
    Anyway, love the image of all of you kids jumping on to a working fire truck in the middle of a fire! And you’re right. Baseball always makes every new situation a little more tolerable.
    Great post, Bill

  2. Cindy "Burton" Goddard permalink


    I can not believe I am reading this. I remember Debbie your sister and I had to go to Ross for a short period of time. We went to kindergarden in 1960. Not only do I remember the fire but how we walked together leaving from Lincoln as a group and went to Donald Ross. Boy were those really the fun old days. We were really innocent kids. I still see lots of our old “Lincoln School neighborhood kids. Please email me and I will let them know you are out there.

    Thanks for the wonderful memory.
    Cindy “Burton” Goddard

    • Cindy,
      What a surprise to hear from you! The last time I saw you was probably a time you were riding your tricycle with my sister. You were probably 5 or 6 years old. Wow – thank God for the Internet, eh? I sent your note to Debbie. She will get a kick out of hearing from you again after so many years…

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