Thinking back to my Little League days — and looking at pictures of my batting stances of the day — I guess aliens from another planet taught me how to hit.
I remember, too, our mothers dressing us in heavy flannel uniforms with round sponsor patches (about the size of a medium pizza) on the front.
Those stirrups socks they made us wear weighed two pounds each. When I look at my Spalding Alvin Dark-model mitt, I wonder how I ever caught a ball with three fingers, a thumb, no pocket and leather stringing that had to be redone after every practice.
We wore head gear at the plate: two cruddy Formica ear flaps that were no help if you got hit on top of the head.
(I learned not to wear my Little League pins in the front of my hat when Paul Douglas drilled me with his best fastball. The pin stay left a hole in my head that remains in 2011.)
And we all hit with wooden bats!
Keep in mind, my first year of Little League was 1956: not even a decade after American Little League went national. It was only in 1953 (Joey Jay pitching for Milwaukee) that Little League had its first player in Major League Baseball.
Those things that stand out in my mind about baseball 55 years ago are crystal-clear, accurate as a laser and about to be relived in a way of which most of us oldsters can only dream.
Come Saturday, I’ll throw out the first pitch at Davis Little League’s Opening Day ceremonies. NOBODY knows how honored I am by this invitation (which is really a salute to the work done by the ENTIRE Davis Enterprise staff in covering youth sports).
Davis Little League will have its players and coaches parade from Davis High to the baseball complex F Street and Covell Boulevard.
That first year I played, we had a parade in my hometown of Hawthorne. Knowing I’d be riding with my Braves teammates in the back of a new truck from Kenneth Chevrolet gave me goosebumps, a sense of pride — and kept me awake with anticipation the night before.
Lining up on the field with the other 12 teams that April day 150 years ago is ingrained in my psyche.
The highlight of the event? Free hot dogs, great finds in my baseball card pack (Ted Williams AND Joe Adcock), my mom and dad and my best friend and his mom being there, and the Braves winning our first game. (I wouldn’t get my first hit until the last game of the season, off the guy that put the hole in my head, Paul Douglas.)
So now, as Saturday nears, I get to relive the excitement of this 9-year-old’s first uniformed game of baseball. Not just in memory — which is always enough when my thoughts turn to such things — but through a not-so-instant replay of that PERFECT spring day in 1956.
On Saturday, as DLL catcher Jack McAdam awaits my best imitation of Stu Miller, I’ll be looking over his shoulder for a moment … smiling. Because there, behind the backstop, will be Bill Goslow — my best friend all these years. The very guy with whom I played Little League baseball back so many years ago.
We’ve never stopped being there for each other. We’ve never stopped loving the sport, or one another.
His being in town is coincidental … or is it?
Since both my mom and dad and his mom are in a Better Place, it must be that they have new connections that can make coincidences like Goslow being here for my Big Pitch a reality.
Anyway, thanks SO much to Davis Little League for the honor. To Dad: Please don’t tell me I dropped my arm on the throw (I know, and I don’t care anymore. I’m a third baseman). To Goslow, having you here means the world to me — and to celebrate the occasion, we’re going out afterwards to get a couple of packs of baseball cards and a Royal Crown Cola.
What? They don’t make Royal Crown anymore? Trust me: On this particular Saturday, Bill and I will find a bottle of Royal Crown Cola…
While I Have You Here: This first-pitch honor also must go to my Sports Editor Chris Saur, correspondents Will Bellamy, Benjy Egel and Jordan Souza, and our photography staff of Wayne Tilcock, Sue Cockrell and Fred Gladdis.
To my seven colleagues, this strike’s for you.
— Bruce Gallaudet is a staff writer for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at [email protected] or (530) 747-8047. Comment on this column at www.davisenterprise.com