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JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Story–Baseball 2

So Schwartz and Flick and Bruner and Shepherd and Emdee, and a few other guys and stragglers from the neighborhood, one hot summer afternoon, set out down towards the end of the street.  There was a big vacant lot down there.  Great, big, fantastic lot that was covered with weeds.  The big weeds.  Weeds just grew waist high, neck high.  Stickers, thorns, thistles, swamp, snakes, bugs, frogs, grasshoppers, groats, crummies—the whole business.  It was all growing out there.

So one day we decided we were going to build a ball diamond.  I have a sense of involvement when I hear stories of guys building pyramids because—I don’t know whether you ever tried to build a ball diamond in a giant jungle when you were a kid.  But me and Schwartz and Flick and Bruner and Emdee, for what must have been three weeks, every day from morning to night—we slaved with little hand sickles, cutting away weeds.  I had a blister starting six inches out from my hand that went all the way down to the soles of my feet and about six inches into the ground.  Shepherd’s one big blister.  I was one big walking blob of water.  If you’d have stuck me—Aaaaaagh!

You don’t stop.  The blisters break, you keep going, chopping away. So we were chopping away, chopping away for two or three weeks.  You could see the ground!  For the first time in this area.  We found all kinds of stuff.  Junk that had been there for years, old Indian-head pennies, we found stuff from the seventeenth-century.  The ground had never been cleared.  It was a great sense of real accomplishment.

We had gotten ourselves some chicken wire, which we’d stolen somewhere.  We made a backstop out of it with big sticks holding it up.  We made baselines, we put sand around the home plate area.  And there it was—it was a baseball diamond.  And we started to play on our own baseball diamond—Schwartz and Flick and Bruner and Emdee and me and all the guys.  What a great time!  What a fantastic moment of success!

We would choose up every morning.  And kids play ball—I mean really dedicated ball players—they start at the absolute crack of dawn.  Instantly after breakfast you started playing ball and you did not stop playing ball until around eleven-thirty at night.  You know, when it says that Mickey Mantle at bat went two for four, on a good day at bat I would go something like seventy-three for a hundred and twenty-eight.  We would not keep score of runs.  It was all done on a time/unit basis, so we would play on and on, over and over, with all kinds of complex rules.  If you caught a ball on the second bounce it was an out, if you bounced one off the fire hydrant it was a double, but bounce it off the left side of the hydrant it was foul, all kinds of things.

More baseball to come.

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