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3 Words Washington DC Needs To Hear (Revisited)

With the election results in, perhaps it’s worthwhile running this piece again which I posted in April of this year:

Wanna play catch?

That was the question we asked each other as kids, over and over again. And the answer (almost every time) was the nod of a head, the reach for a glove or the upbeat reply, “Yeah!”

It was a question that, so many times, lifted spirits and brought to life nothing-to-do afternoons. It was a question that helped forge friendships and patch up broken ones. It was a question that almost always brought us together.

I miss those three words.

There was something about the sound of the ball popping into the pocket of your glove, the sizzle it made just before it tore into your webbing. You’d pluck out the ball, finger those stitches ever so carefully, and then let one fly to the other guy waiting 50 feet away.

It seemed as though there wasn’t a problem in the world you couldn’t solve as long as there was a ball in the air and a glove on your hand. It was a chance to dream, make plans, air out gripes, or call for a truce. You could show off, making catches behind your back; or pretend you were striking out Mickey Mantle with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth. It was freedom at full tilt, freedom in action.

Playing catch was like shaking hands – except better. It lasted longer and had more meaning. It gave you the chance to actually get to know people. You were less apt to pop off against kids after having a pass with them. You threw them your best stuff and they fired theirs right back at you. That crisp snap of ball-into-leather usually caught your attention. Somewhere, in between those tosses, impressions were made; mutual respect came into play.

Sometimes, one of the players had too much stuff. There was always a kid who lobbed junk pitches that only a Smoky Burgess or a John Roseboro could catch. To keep playing you had to set ground rules – fair ones. Throw a wild one – chase a wild one. Before long, both sides were on the mark. You had to compromise, find common ground. And almost always, we did.

We didn’t know it then, but we were dabbling with the notion of a thing called bipartisanship – two kids with gloves and a ball. We threw it back and forth. We threw the ball to a receiver, not at a target. We encouraged each other. “Nice catch,” or “way to go,” were remarks heard often. We learned how to work together to keep a good thing going.

That’s what we’re missing today. That’s why there’s so much discontent in Washington, D.C. Our leaders have taken off their gloves because they don’t feel like chasing loose balls, the ones that have veered off the mark. One player is showboating, serving up curves and knucklers, the likes of which have never before been seen. And the other is giving it right back, with smoke and fork balls no one can possibly catch.

Now is not the time to fire the kind of heat that can make someone’s hand swell. Now is not the time to throw change-ups or doctor the ball. Now is not the time to take aim at the person behind the mitt.

It’s time to put the gloves back on; time to change spins and speeds. Let’s get the signals straight. This good thing we have going, after all, is called America.

There are three words we need to hear now more than ever; three words that can bring us back together.

Hey, Washington, wanna play catch?

Sandlot Baseball – Those Summer Vampires

With Halloween almost upon us, here’s that “Summer Vampire” story again:

Night baseball – it was one of the perks of summer and a way of life for many of us on the sandlot. Even when the distant street lights came on from beyond the fence in right, center field and fireflies were the only things visible, we continued to take our swings and stabs at the ball in the darkness. It didn’t matter that the ball was unseeable, that your teammates were shadows around the horn, and that the only way to track a ball was by listening for it. What mattered was the adventure of playing baseball in the twilight.

Somehow, we managed to hit the ball into the blackness. That we knew because we could hear the crack of the ball against the bat. As for actually catching it, we’d hear the sound it made when it plopped into somebody’s glove. We recognized base hits by the way the ball bounced into the dirt, against a rock or off someone’s shin or shoulder.

Games usually ended in one of two ways. Players started disappearing when parents or kid sisters started calling for us to come in. Most of the calls sounded alike: “Billlll-ly,” with the long hold on the first syllable. “Kevvvvv-in,” with the voice trailing off on the second syllable. You’d hear the name about three times and, one by one, players vanished from the field.

The other sure-fire way to close out a game involved bats. And I’m not talking Adirondacks. Swooping bats were automatic game-stoppers. When they started flying, so did we – to the side of the sandlot hill where we’d huddle together with our gloves on our heads. Between our gloves’ webbing, we’d watch their nocturnal aerial shows, rolling to the side if we thought one was diving too low.

These were the times when talk turned to vampires and were-wolves. And if there was a moon out, you could bet someone would swear they saw a guy with a cape sprinting along the left field wall. More than a few times, my heart would race with fear when one of the older kids spun some cloak-and-dagger Dracula story. I’d clutch the nearest baseball so tightly that when I got home I’d actually see the ball’s stitches tattooed to the palm of my hand.

We loved to be scared back then, laughing at the spooky yarns about people who lost eyebrows or nostrils to the creepy, darting vampires. But when one suddenly nose-dived near our heads, everyone covered up. We sat there in the silence, everyone holding their breath, wondering if anyone had just lost a nose or a cowlick. Complete stillness, then a rustling and finally a little girl’s voice calling in the distance, “Richhhhh-ie.”

It was time to go home.

(Again, thanks to those who have purchased my new book, INSPIROBICS – Working Out Your Inspirations. With the holidays right around the corner, this self-help, personal enrichment book is an ideal gift for anyone interested in improving the quality of their inspirational encounters. The website link is www.inspirobics.com.)

Sandlot Baseball – The Last Game of 1967

(continuing series of the 1967 Red Sox “Impossible Dream” season)

The last game of 1967 didn’t turn out very well for the Boston Red Sox. They lost to Bob Gibson and Cards, 7-2. The following snippets from the Patriot Ledger tell the story best:

The excitement of the 1967 season would not be matched for another 8 years in Boston. Yaz would still be around. And another guy by the name of Carlton Fisk would create some memorable moments at Fenway…

Sandlot Baseball – “Defending The Green Monster,” Game 6 Reflections

After yesterday’s post, I received this email from Dan Shea, a fellow Braintree sandlotter:

Hello Rich,

Your stories regarding the 1967 Red Sox and their trip to the World Series brought back some great memories. What a year it was. I can remember staying awake late into the night with my brother Wally and listening to Ned Martin broadcasting the games from the west coast. It’s amazing that we were able to get up the next morning and still catch the school bus, although I think that I might have missed it a couple of times, and either hitchhiked or got my Dad to drop me off on his way to work.

One memory that will be forever etched into my mind was sneaking out of school on the morning of Game 6 with my friend, Joe. We walked from the old Braintree High School to the on-ramp of the Southeast Expressway by Archbishop Williams High School, and hitchhiked into Kenmore Square then walked to Fenway Park. Heck Rich, now that I think of it, we could have waited for you to abandon classes at Archie’s and join us on our escapade.

When we arrived at the park, we realized that we were witnessing something special. All sorts of media trucks and TV and phone cables were positioned throughout the street along with 35,000 other people anxious to see the Sox continue with their comeback. It was then that we started to look for tickets. Just before the first pitch was thrown out, a young man came up to us and offered us two “standing room” tickets for $10.00 each. When we balked at what we felt was an outrageous price, he dropped the price to $15.00, for both. We jumped on them and got to the “standing room” section in right field just as the National Anthem was concluding.

And, what a game it was! As your newspaper clipping points out, Rico hit 2 “taters” (as teammate George “Boomer” Scott liked to say) along with Yaz continuing to tear up opposing pitching with another homerun.  Leaving Fenway that afternoon, we hitchhiked back home knowing that the 1967 Red Sox were about to become World Champions with Jim Lonborg set to face Bob Gibson in Game 7!

We felt confident that he and his teammates would once again perform the magic that they had all season long. But, as we all know, it would be many years and lots of heartbreak before the Red Sox finally achieved World Champion status. However, that 1967 team breathed new life into the franchise and brought hope to New England. The 1967 Red Sox team was the impetus that made Red Sox Nation the success it is today.

You know Rich, I still have the ticket stub for Game 6.

Sox 67 – ticket

I keep it tucked into a painting/print by Ray Ellis that hangs in my office. The name of the print is “Defending The Green Monster”. My wife purchased it for me out on Martha’s Vineyard for my 35th birthday. It is a perspective of the field and Green Monster from the home dugout. Number 16, Jim Lonborg is pitching, with Rico at shortstop, Yaz in left, and either Joe Foy, Dalton Jones or Jerry Adair at third base.

Defending The Green Monster

The 1967 Red Sox will always play an important part in my life and probably most Red Sox fans who remember 1967. Hope you enjoy the World Series ticket stub and Ray Ellis print as much as I enjoyed your stories.

Regards,
Dan Shea

Sandlot Baseball – World Series (Red Sox vs Cardinals) Games 3-6, 1967

(continuing the 1967 Red Sox “Impossible Dream” season)

If you were a Boston fan in 1967, then you would rather forget what happened in Games 3 and 4. The Cardinals took both games by the scores of 5-2 and 6-0. Our backs were to the wall. It looked like the Cardinals would finish us off in Game 5 but we almost forgot who would be throwing for the Sox. Jim Lonborg pitched a 3-hitter, winning 3-1, to keep the Beantown boys alive. 

The heading in the Boston Globe on October 10, 1967, read: “The Red Sox Come Back.” 

There would be a Game 6 – in Boston. The Red Sox lumber showed up and here are a couple of the guys who drove the Cardinal pitching staff nuts:

(photo: Patriot Ledger)

And there was another guy who chipped in:

(photo: Patriot Ledger)

The Red Sox won, 8-4, and the “Cardiac Kids” were knocking on the door. Game 7 would be played at Fenway Park on October  12, 1967. It would be Jim Lonborg against Bob Gibson, the classic pitching match-up everyone had been waiting to see.

Sandlot Baseball – World Series (Red Sox vs Cardinals) Game 2, 1967

(continuing 1967 Red Sox “Impossible Dream” season)

This photo tells you what happened in Game 2:

(source: Patriot Ledger, October 6, 1967)

It was a brand new World Series, knotted at one game a piece – onto to St. Louis for Game 3…

Sandlot Baseball – (Red Sox vs Cardinals) World Series Game 1, 1967

(continuing 1967 Red Sox “Impossible Dream” season)

Bob Gibson was the man in Game 1 for the St. Louis Cardinals, striking out 10, and limiting the Sox to 6 hits and 1 run. Red Sox pitcher, Jose Santiago, came through with a gutsy performance for the Sox but it just wasn’t enough. The Sox lost 2-1, and the only run came off the bat of Mr. Santiago himself:

(source: Boston Globe)

Here are a few short snippets from the Boston Globe. As you can see, Yaz still picked the Sox in 6:

The box score from Game 1:

It was time for the Sox to re-group. Could they bounce back with Lonborg on the mound in Game 2?