Little League

One of our guiding principals here at Baseballisms is the fact that we live in a digital age that provides us with tools to preserve our history in the making.  The game of baseball is built upon continuity (mostly, but that’s another story) and legacies at all levels.  How many of you remember the name of the kid who was the all-star flamethrower in your Little League? And how many of you cherish the memory of getting that big hit off of him?  If you grew up prior to our current digital age, what you have are memories, there is only a slim chance of a recorded history of your baseball career.

That is no longer the case. Kids of today’s era might as well have highlight reels on YouTube that they can re-live forever.  This post is born out of  jealousy, but also as a warning to never take this capability for granted.  The 1’s and 0’s preserved on a drive somewhere will increase in personal value over time. They must be preserved and nurtured through the years and the payoff will come when those special moments can be shared with others.  Do not get fooled by the cheap medium, cheap storage and plethora of content … the value to you is actually immeasurable.

So here you go, my entire baseball playing career boiled down to a 37 second video captured on an 8 mm camera that my Dad owned.  It was taken at the 1975 Little League All-Star Game played at the “Green Fence Field” in Lexington Massachusetts. My love of lineup introductions during the postseason was born in this moment, when we got to wear the ceremonial gold and blue hats with an L adorned by two stars, while we stood along the third base line for introductions.

I was a catcher for a team called Toronto and loved playing the position (except for getting pinged by the occasional foul tip – man I feel for those guys). You can see me handle three pitches at the beginning of the video. As is pretty typical for playing at that age, one of my best skills was an ability to get in the way of balls that didn’t exactly find the strike zone. I laugh when I think about how hard I worked at breaking in my catcher’s mitt. It was more likely to deflect than to softly cradle the incoming pitch.  I sure wish I had that catcher’s mitt today.

The rest of the video is dedicated to the one at-bat that I had before giving way to another catcher from another team.  Where that hitch in my swing came from I’ll never know, and is not indicative of how I remember the thousands of other moments at the plate.  The end result is consistent however. I guess I would have been considered a high OBP guy if they thought of things like that back then. I hit a lot of balls up the middle and took alot of walks. No power.

It is kind of funny how memories work though.  I can instantly call to mind numerous plays on the field .. scrambling to catch a low pop foul, moving the target around on batters during Jr. High tryouts that I believe won me the spot on the roster, throwing a runner out at second on the Bowman School field … but I don’t remember this All Star Game from the perspective of the moment.  I have the memories that this video represents, but not the physical and emotional aspects like those other memories possess.

In a sense, I hope that today’s always on camera kids don’t end up with diminished memories simply because they have handy digital recall. That would be sort of a shame.

How about you?  Do you have any ancient video that you can share with us?  Drop us a link and tell us about it.

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Baseball scribes made a few references during this postseason to the fact that the last time a visiting team won a Game 7 in a World Series, it was when the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Baltimore Orioles in the 1979 classic.  Of course, we were acutely aware that we were running this daily Scoreboard easter egg on the site, and thought it would be a great coincidence to follow up a Texas Rangers win in St. Louis by finishing our 13th Legendary Game to match.  Alas, the Cardinals took the 2011 Series in stunning fashion, and the We Are Family Pirates remain the holder of this interesting distinction.

As this final scoreboard shows, Kent Tekulve finished off pinch hitter Pat Kelly for the final out, inducing a lazy flyball that landed in the glove of the speedy centerfielder Omar Moreno, and we are left to marvel at the lasting legacy that Chuck Tanner’s club embedded in our brains.

Final Scoreboard

 

The Black and Gold Bucs had a unique charisma that young fans in that era had rarely seen on the World Series stage, especially coming off back to back years of Yankees vs Dodgers, a matchup of the traditional powerhouses.  It is arguable that if you were to randomly ask fans who were in their formative years at that time to recall their top 5 most memorable teams, these Pirates would appear on a majority of the ballots.

This team had larger than life superstars in Willie “Pops” Stargell and Dave “Cobra” Parker.  There was the stringbean reliever with the glasses and the submarine delivery, Kent Tekulve, who made everyone wonder if their math teacher had somehow found a sinkerball.

Then there were the intangibles that caught the attention of casual fans including the pillbox hats with the “Stargell Stars” to represent good play on the field, multiple uniform variations and of course the theme song, Sister Sledge’s disco hit We Are Family.

It’s a challenge for some to remember that it was an Earl Weaver led Baltimore Orioles team, including Cy Young Award winner Mike Flanagan, that lost both games 6 and 7 at the old Memorial Stadium.  (BTW, this game has played a few times on MLB Network and it’s incredible to see how dark and dingy that place was .. even during a World Series)

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Baseball fan Floyd Sullivan’s email submission to Baseballisms.com reprinted with permission.

A Friend of Baseballisms, Floyd Sullivan, is the author of Waiting for the Cubs.  Floyd graciously submits this true story from his days as a youth baseball coach.  We would like to take this opportunity to thank Floyd for all of his contributions to the Baseballisms community and look forward to many more stories about his devotion to the game he loves.   You can find Floyd on Facebook.

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No one saw him arrive at the field.  He stared at us from the sidewalk that separates the lakeside park from busy Sheridan Road on Chicago’s far North Side.  At first I thought he was too old to play on our tee ball team, and so paid little attention to him.  He stood a head taller than the other kids, and I had my hands full with a dozen or so third and fourth graders running wild around the dirt diamond.

T Ball Batter | Baseballisms.comAfter about ten minutes of letting the team kick up a cloud of infield dust, I called for them to gather at the chain link backstop.  The tall boy now stood on the grass, a few feet closer to the first base dugout. I noticed that he held a mitt close to his left side, and his long, curly, sandy blond hair stuck out in all directions from under a brand new Cub hat that was a little too big and so rested just above his eyes and behind his ears.  He wore a crisp, maroon Loyola University sweat shirt, blue jeans so spotless they looked dry cleaned, and a pair of top-of-the-line Nike athletic shoes, charcoal gray without a hint of mud.

“Okay,” I shouted, “settle down.  Let’s see who’s here and who’s late.”  I checked names against the roster supplied by the Chicago Park District.  The tall boy watched.  Each team member answered “Here!” when I called his name, except two.  I repeated those names and tried to keep my eye on the tall boy, who had edged a few feet closer.  But he still showed no sign that one of the names was his.

One more time.  I bellowed the two names so they could be heard across the street.  The tall boy’s right arm moved slightly.  I took a couple of steps toward him and asked, “Are you one of the two kids I’m missing here?”

He nodded once, his chin dipping just slightly toward his chest.

“Come on over and join the team.”

He approached but stopped a few steps from the group.  Up close, his hair, face and hands looked as fresh and unsoiled as his new clothes.  Someone had gotten him all ready for something, but that someone was nowhere to be seen.

“Now that all but one of us is here,” I said, “I’d like to welcome you all to the Indians.”

“Indians?” said one of the kids.  “Why can’t we be the Cubs?”

“Why can’t we be the Sox?” asked another.

“Sorry, fellas,” I replied.  “Those names were taken.”

“How come you didn’t take one of them?” asked a short boy who stood right in front of me, his feet spread and his arms crossed.

Great, I thought.  A punk with attitude.  I wanted to reply, “All the good players were taken, too!” but let it drop.

It was true, though.  We had moved to the Edgewater/Rogers Park area a couple of years before and so had trouble finding the right dates, the right park and the right field house for signing up our son Steve for his first year of organized baseball.  We were lucky to get him on a team at all as registration had formally closed a few days before we stood in front of the Park District official who handled the baseball leagues, Steve and three of his friends from the block looking on with hopeful young faces.

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During the summer of 1975, while the Red Sox were thrilling Beantown with a team that according to Bill Nowlin, would go on to save baseball, a team of neighborhood kids banded together to rule the Lexington Summer League.

Stacking up some strong pitching performances with a fun cast of characters, these boys went on to collect their pride and joy championship jackets.

Budgets and stitching technologies in those days limited the per jacket costs the league was willing to spend, but this one was top notch!

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In this baseballism, we hear directly from 7-year old Ryan about his Little League walk off homerun. His telling of the story is now a captured to replay & enjoy over and over again. Watch his excitement as he tells of the shot – and his journey around the bases – with two runners on and two runs down in the last inning of the game.

Also, keep an eye out in the background for a great stab of a line drive by the second baseman at the :50 second mark!

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