Thursday, October 27, 2005


I loved baseball as a kid. I loved baseball as much as I hated school.

That was long before there was a Little League. It was long before the adults took over kid’s baseball.

There were almost never any adults watching us play. I played as often as I could, sometimes 7 days a week. No one in my family ever saw me play.

In our neighborhood there was only one adult who took any interest in our games. This guy lived across the street from our diamond. He had two boys for whom he had ambitions. He managed sandlot teams on which his boys played.

I admired him more than any other adult. The lone adult in a kid’s world is certain to get a lot of adulation from us kids. To be frank, he was my hero.

I never played on any of his teams. Our teams were always put together by us kids and we scratched to get organized and get equipment and get a schedule. Sometimes we played his team.

One time I was playing third base against one of his teams. This guy, my hero, was coaching at third base. There was one out with runners on first and second when a hard ground ball was hit to me. I fielded it cleanly, and then I heard this guy, my hero, shouting, “First base, first base.”

Of course I threw the ball to first base. I would have walked through fire if he told me to.

The first baseman dropped the ball. We had bases loaded with one out.

I looked over at my hero. “You dummy,” he said to me, “you should have tagged third and gone to second. You would have had a double play.” He laughed at me.

Now there was a life lesson. You have to be careful who you trust.

This guy, whom I worshipped, was a total creep. I had nothing but contempt for him after that.

I wish I could say we went on to win the game anyway but we didn’t. We lost, helped by my bonehead play.

I was reminded of that by a play in the third game of the World Series. Jermaine Dye was at bat. A pitch came in close to him, fouling off his bat. It looked to me and to the TV announcers that Dye turned to the umpire immediately and claimed the pitch had hit him. The umpire awarded Dye first base.

Paul Konerko followed with a home run.

Replays showed it was a foul ball. Dye later admitted it was a foul ball.

If it happened the way I and the TV crew saw it, that Dye first claimed to be hit and then the umpire called it that way, Dye could be having lots of problems in the future. He had put the umpire in the worst spot imaginable. He set up the umpire to blunder in one of the most important games of his life. Will there be umpiraly revenge? There would be if I were an umpire. Dye would never get another close call his way in his life.

I watched his at-bats closely in the next game. Unfortunately the Astros were sleepwalking. The Astro pitchers were grooving stuff to Dye instead of pitching off the plate to give the umpire a chance for revenge. Dye anticipated what might happen because he was swinging at anything close and connecting. There was only one pitch to hold up as evidence. It was six inches outside. The umpire, who was reputed to have a tight strike zone, called it a strike.

The season ended with that game.

Wait till next year.


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