We were playing totally immersed. We were as happy as fourteen sick clams in Long Island Sound. Playing ball from morning till night.
And one morning, all of us showed up there to play ball. And there were about forty-five guys with bulldozers. The end of the ball field. They were building a housing project. There was definite evidence that there would not have been a housing project built there if some smart guy walking past hadn’t seen this beautiful field. Before that it had been just a lot of weeds. Who’s gonna build a housing project? All of a sudden, the guy walks by and thinks, “Look at that fantastic field!” Twenty minutes later I can see him on the phone calling up his broker, who says, “Oh, that’s a swamp.” He says, “No, it’s not a swamp, it’s a beautiful field. It’s beautiful.” And the next thing you know—bulldozers!
Schwartz and Flick and Bruner and Shepherd and Emdee, the whole crowd—kicked right out of our ball field. Back to Mrs. Striker’s vacant lot with her yelling and hollering at us to go away, and then the cops coming. We gave up on building a ball diamond then, and we played this moving, floating, portable ball game, like a floating crap game, that floated all around the neighborhood. You’d hear yelling in the distance, it would go past your house, guys hollering, drifting past. The ball game would move, because there were no such things as organized ball fields, so you played wherever you could get by until you busted a window or somebody called the cops. Mrs. Schneider or Mrs. Striker, or Mr. Anderson would yell and you would drift on to the next lot. Then more hoopla, more yelling, and you’d drift on down the street, hit the ball, yelling, hollering, hitting ground balls and fly balls, and you drifted. It was the moving, floating, portable ball game.
Well, one day, how it happened I will never forget. Mr. Gordon—there’s always a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, chipper-eyed organizer, who pops up. He’s an endemic Kiwanis Club member. They’ve got it in their blood: “Hey, fellows, what do you say we all get together and have a blahblahblahblahblahblah. I’ll go out and get the blahblahblahblah. You get the blahblahblah, Charlie, and Fred, you call blahblah and get the blahblahblah.” And the next thing you know, everybody is at some rotten, idiotic picnic or banquet or contest or other cockamamie event. Mr. Gordon was our scoutmaster, who was fine as long as he stuck with tying sheepshank knots, as long as he stuck with the campfire merit badges.
One day, Mr. Gordon, at the scout meeting, had an idea. I admit, I was a member of Troop 41, the Moose Patrol, a sterling bunch of Boy Scouts. One summer afternoon, when we’d usually all go out and hit flints together, Mr. Gordon said, “Fellows, I’ve got an idea. I’ve just heard of something that I think we ought to try. Fellows, have you ever heard of American Legion Baseball?”
Schwartz says, “American Legion Baseball?”
Flick says, “What?”
I say, “American Legion Baseball?” What is this?”
Mr. Gordon says, “Yes, fellows, I have heard and I’ve made initial contacts, done a little organizing, and I have found that we can organize an American Legion Baseball team. We are going to have practice starting at eight A. M. Monday morning.”
More baseball to come