Backyard baseball was what we played when we where kids. Some call it "sand lot".
We had a "make shift" baseball field and played the game. If we were lucky, we even had a few baseball gloves. We sure didn't have the proper baseball cleats that are available today.
Me and the guys from the neighborhood would go to the local American Legion baseball games. Hopefully one of the baseball players would break a wooden bat. They would throw it into the trash barrel behind the dugout and we would run to get it.
A few strategically placed nails and some electrical tape gave us a wooden bat that was way too heavy for us. But we used it anyway.
Imagine telling your Dad that you needed a $250.00 aluminum bat!
We had a vacant lot next to our house back then, where we played baseball. We always called it our back yard. My Dad even put a pile of dirt down and fashioned a pitcher's mound.
We had one baseball. It was brown. Dirty and used. We didn't even know what it was like to play with a new, white baseball. I don't even know where we got our baseball. All I knew was that if we lost it, we didn't play anymore
All the kids from the neighborhood played in back yard. Boys and girls. We'd pick captains first. They were always the best players.
Then came the bat toss to see who picked first. A wooden bat!
If you were captain you got to pick which major league team you were. I was always the Pirates.
As captain, you had to know all the hand gyrations for the bat toss. The fist, the two finger and of course, the long reach between the thumb and the pinky. Whoever got to the top of the bat first, got first pick.
Losers had to buy the candy bars for the winners. So we played hard. The bases on our back yard ball field were pieces of card board. We had no equipment other than a glove or two, the broken bat and our baseball.
No catcher's gear or batting helmets. No batting gloves or equipment bags.
Most of us hit from both sides of the plate too. We had to. After all, when I was pretending to be Roberto Clemente I batted righty and when I "was" Willie Stargell I batted lefty.
If someone had an orange soda or a coke, we all drank out of the same bottle. When we skinned our knees sliding, we rubbed dirt on it. And usually we stopped playing because it got too dark to see!
Our parents knew where we were and they didn't have to be there "keeping an eye" on us.
Yeah, that was baseball. Arguing over safe and out calls because there was no umpire either. We did have "ground rules" though. Can't play ball with out ground rules.
If the ball rolled into the weeds in right field, it was all you could get. If the ball got under the old abandoned, junker car in left field it was a double.
There was a house at the far end of our back yard (center field) "baseball field". As we got older and some of our hits began to reach that house, we were forced to move the game to the nearby park. The park had a regulation little league field. It even had a water fountain! Which was great if you liked warm water.
After we moved our games to that park, it was never the same. Some of the kids stopped showing up and soon most of us were playing organized little league. We didn't have to argue and act like kids because some of the grown ups took care of that.
We had uniforms and team hats. We all had baseball gloves, although not always new gloves. And we got to start each Little League game with a brand spankin' new baseball. I remember watching the coach take the new ball out of the box and remove the tissue-like paper from it. Those new baseballs even smelled good! The team even had a bunch of wooden bats for us.
Little league was fun. I moved up through the years of "Connie Mack" league and American Legion, High School and even 2 years in the Philadelphia Phillies organization as an outfielder.
But I'll never forget those "pick up" games in our back yard ball field. No adult organizing anything. All of us knew the rules. We had our fights, for sure, but we always worked things out. Sometimes with a "do-over".
We got in trouble for being late for supper and neglecting our chores. But we were playing baseball!
I'll never forget when I was maybe ten or eleven years old and had forgotten that I was supposed to mow the grass or something. My mom was giving me "heck" and my Dad said to her (in a gentle voice of course), "..he has the rest of his life to work."
He knew where I was instead of doing the chores. I wasn't hanging out some place, or getting into trouble. I was playing baseball and that was good enough for him.
By Steve Ramer
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