A Braintree Sandlot Revisited
I can’t remember the last time I visited the sandlot behind Lincoln School off of Hobart Street in Braintree, Massachusetts. It’s probably been more than thirty years since I last set foot on the old field. That all changed when my brother, Steve, and I recently walked the sacred grounds of our youth, “The Bank’n.”
Our elementary school, Abraham Lincoln School, is long gone. I believe it was razed sometime in the 80s or 90s to make room for a park. The park itself is very green. Gone are the glass shards you would find along the third baseline or in the rocky outfield. Gone are the occasional boulders we used for bases. Gone, too, are the kids who used to bring that place to life. On a perfect day for a pick-up game, we didn’t see one person out on the field lofting homeruns into the left field woods. Not one kid was shooting baskets on the now-level playing surface of the basketball court.
There was a time when kids would sit on the side of the hill with their bats and gloves ready to take the places of anyone who had to leave the game. Broken arms or knees, though, were the only ways players exited games. Sometimes, we’d sneak into the outfield trying to blend in. But we were nabbed as soon as we’d make our ways to the cardboard plate hoping for at least one whack at the ball wrapped in black tape.
As I looked out to left field wall, well hidden by vegetation, I recalled the thrill of launching one into the treetops, the thrill of rounding the makeshift bases of tree parts or milk cartons or the third base boulder that doubled as a resting spot.
It felt good to be back, to be on Hobart Street. Steve and I visited the corner candy store now known as the Braintree Variety. Decades ago, it was Edward’s Variety run by Mrs. Mutzenard who used to let me take home jars of pennies so that I could fill my penny collection book with old coins. I once found a 1909 VDB. Anything older than 1959 was too new…
It’s good to go home again, good to see some old friends who stayed loyal to the neighborhood. Mike C and I were in every class. He kept me laughing from kindergarten through sixth grade. Sometimes, he made me laugh so hard teachers made me stand in the corner. And Mike M – he and I carried JFK signs up and down Hayward Street when John Kennedy ran for president in 1960.
Back on Hobart Street with my brother, Steve. He hit his share of long balls into the trees in back of Lincoln, too. I guess we need to get back more often, to get back to our home field. Next time, we’ll bring a few bats and a ball wrapped in black electrical tape.