Editor: Unlike today’s youth baseball, there really was a time when baseball was played just for fun without win-win-win coaches, over zealous parents, uniforms, well groomed fields, regimented schedules, and end of the season trophies for everyone.
Looking back 75 years at the unforgettable small-town baseball experiences of a growing lad in comparison to today’s youth baseball boggles the mind. Our baseball season started when the last trace of snow melted usually the first or second week of June and ended the last day before school opened in the fall. Everyday it did not rain, a group of sports-loving boys and girls in my small New Hampshire town would gather at a farmer’s field we regarded as our home park. In realty, we shared our home park with a herd of Guernsey cows and an estimated 11 million grasshoppers.
We all joined in preparing our baseball diamond by sticking tree branches somewhere in the outfield to use as foul poles, running one after the other around and around the potential base paths so we would know where to run after a hit. We used similar sized cowflops, as we called them, as our bases and a huge rock protruding just out of the ground as our pitching mound.
Our couple of baseballs usually resembled a cross between a lemon and a grapefruit with a shape created by the tightly wound black electrician’s tape. It normally weighed about the same as a small bowling ball from playing in the rain; perhaps this was the reason we seemed to have so many strong-armed pitchers in our high schools as it was rare for anyone to ever have a sore arm. I was a baseball and fast pitch softball pitcher for more than 50 years and never had a sore arm in my entire baseball career.
Our pitchers quickly learned how to adjust the black tape to one side to make the baseball dip and dart if you knew how to throw it. In those days, we all tried to throw Hall of Famer Dizzy Dean’s “spitter” but all it did was get our fingers wet.
The rest of our equipment included a couple of old, wood bats 42 inches long and weighing as much as a fireplace log because we to continued playing if it was not raining too hard. The scores did not matter as we had no pressure of win-crazy coaches, overbearing parents watching, no umpires and no trophies for all at the end of our summer. In those days, we thought the girls who always joined us belonged on our handpicked teams for most of them could out hit, out throw, and out run most of us boys.
It was simply the fun of playing our national pastime by the hour and it will always remain one of this writer’s greatest memories.
Lou Gros Louis, Lansdowne Woods