The weather is really warming up here in Bagwine, Ohio. I have so many fond memories of my childhood and the fun we had when the weather got warm.
One of my fondest memories, is that of playing Little League baseball. I played LLB from the age of 9 through 12…four long seasons of loss after humiliating loss.
Our team was looked upon as a team of troublemakers…a team from the wrong side of the tracks.
Our best pitcher, Goody, would frequently hit the opposing batters.
We forgot that our parents were there and we would cuss, we never slid into a base; we would always plow into the kid who was trying to tag us out.
Even our coach (who went on to become a preacher) would routinely get ejected for arguing with the ump. But you know what?
We were playing baseball.
Of course how we played only reinforced the perceptions of the other parents as to what we were.
See, the league in which we played was composed almost entirely of kids from well-to-do white families who all claimed to have had ancestors aboard the Mayflower.
Our team was made up of ruffians…poor and middle class white trash and yes, Blacks!! Even our coach…Black!! Oh the humanity!!
Our fathers weren’t doctors, lawyers, and/or bankers.
It was 1974 and the unspoken prejudices of an “integrated” society were being felt…race and class issues, taking the field.
With the exception of our parents and team mates, we were not referred to by our own names or our team name…We were referred to as, “them”.
It wasn’t really the players (although yeah, there were some real ass clowns) on the other teams that were jerks. It was of course, their parents.
The cashmere wearing dads sporting mid-70s state of the art LCD watches and their frigid Stepford wives who were “uncomfortable”, not to mention rude were there, but...
They would complain to the league that we were being too rough because little Johnny got run over at home plate and we were just not very well-behaved.
But you know what, even though we were young, we knew what was going on and we reveled in it. We put it right back in the faces of those uptight pretentious phonies.
Our catcher, Biscuit, who happened to be one of our black players, would mimic the South African Khoi-Khoin clicking language as the batter stood in the box waiting for the pitch.
Instead of saying “Hey Batter, Batter” the rest of us would murmur “Mama’s Boy, Got No Bat”.
Our plowing into their basemen got harder, and our amusement of those stiff parents became much more noticeable. We were the Little Rascals on Meth.
We slowly, yet steadily improved over those four years. We won three games the first year, four the next, and six the third year.
In our last year together, Goody, managed to hit fewer batters and throw more strikes. Brooke caught every fly ball near her, and ran the bases like a deer.
Biscuit’s tongue was not the only thing clacking, so was his bat, and he sent more than a couple of fastballs over the fence. And me, I batted .542 that season.
We went 13-3. We were so bad for so long and now we were league champions, and when the final out had come, our parents stood and clapped, but the best thing was so did all of the others.
That was nearly 35 years ago and I remember it like it was yesterday. We were a group of kids who overcame a lack of skills and turned unwarranted racial and class prejudices into a motivational tool.
We avoided turning any anger we felt inward and instead, put it out there in the form of playground humor and a nicely turned double play. In the end, not only did we win…Everybody won.
And that's the name of that story...and our championship.