The Summer of '62; Episode 7

Can't Wait To Start Losing

The last school event of the year actually happened after the school year was over. It was the first Friday and Saturday after the last day of school. It was a carnival of grand proportion for the Blue Lick Township community. Rides, games, and concessions dotted the school grounds. It was a fund raiser sponsored by the Dad's Club to pay for summer events and sports equipment for the various athletic teams.
All the baseball teams played on Saturday to allow the township folk to see how their money was spent.
The Rich' team, the Slabtown Reds played a city team Saturday at noon. Rich knew most of the players on the city team because he lived in the city up till two years earlier.
When the starting lineup was announced my the Mr. Hawk, Rich batted second.
Rich and Howie played played pitch and catch as the other team had infield practice.
Howie,” Rich said, “the first time up I'm going to bunt down the third base line and not stop until I get to second.”
You so full of it,” Howie said, “it be comin' out you ears.”
Wait and see,” Rich said.
The game started. Rich came to the plate after the first batter struck out. The first pitch was thrown to Rich. The bunt was perfect. The third baseman did not get rid of the throw to first until Rich was nearly on the bag. Rich rounded first and dug his cleats to second. The first baseman initially did not know Rich was taking off for second and then he had a hard time getting the ball out of his glove and when he did it dropped to the ground and had a hard time picking it up. By the time the ball was picked up, in his throwing hand, and his arm cocked to throw Rich was better than half way to second. He held on to the ball because neither the shortstop nor the second baseman were anywhere near to covering the bag. Rich stopped at second standing up. It was ruled an infield double.
Rich always thought it was easier to steal third than second.
On the first pitch he streaked for third. He made it to third without a throw from the catcher and rounded the bag as if to come home.
He smiled at Howie.
Howie cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled, “Candy from a baby.”
Rich called back, “I don’t want to get my uniform dirty.”
As the pitcher wound up to throw Rich dashed toward home and stopped quickly. The pitcher, confused, held on to his throw to home.
Rich smiled. “Who let the chickens out?” He croaked like a chicken and flapped my arms, “balk, balk, balk, balk, balk.”
The umpire called the balk on the pitcher and Rich trotted across the plate.
Howie proved his worth by hitting a home run his second time up and threw two runners out at second.
The Reds won the game easily.
After the game Howie and Rich rode their our bikes to Mr. Coleman’s home and changed clothes. They rode back to the carnival and watched the Blues play.
They were polished. Larry Coleman pitched four innings and did not allow a hit. John Morris their shortstop dazzled everybody with his glove and Wade Workman made incredible catches in centerfield. Tommy White, their left fielder, hit a ball into the football field.
Deep inside Rich wanted so badly to be a part of that team. He knew they were winners.
Rich played five years of baseball and had never been on a winning team. He wanted to know how it felt.

A combination of prejudice, class discrimination, and snobbery was going to rob Rich and Howie of the rewards and jubilation of a winning season.