Dad painted our house one June when I was about 5 or 6. He painted it white, and it took several weeks, painstaking perfectionist that he was, all white, with green trim, and every inch free of runs and neatly cut in as if the paint was laid with a ruler. Then he resodded the front lawn but it rained and rained for days after he’d skinned the old grass and he had to put the sod on hold. Meanwhile there was this huge pile of mud in the yard, an irresistable chocolate earth playground. Soaked, squishy, mud pie packing and mudball rolling big ol’ pile of forbidden mud. Quite forbidden. Which made playing in it all the better.
Where or how I got my imagination I do not know, but I suspect it was a giant jape the angels played on my poor mother and father, because you know what I saw when I was six and looked out there at that giant heap of mucky clay? A pitcher’s mound. And I imagined I was the greatest hurler of all time…I WAS ……
“Nice arm, young fella,
Do you think you oughta stop now?”
Mailman Joe grinned at me.
No way, I thought, winding
Up and firing another juicy mudball.
I’m Joey Jay, after all,
Steely-eyed Redleg facing down
Those Brooklyn Birds – SPpla-at!
Try and hit my aloysius curveball
You pinstriped rat! 5 year old boys
Throw curveballs in their minds-
I had the best bender any ghost batter
Ever faced, even the mailman saw that.
I stood in drizzling mist, early June in ’59,
Proud and tall (tall in my own mind)
And blurred another mudder at the wall.
Someday, I thought, squatting to squish
Another dripping glob, Daddy will turn on
His radio and there I’ll be – chucking
Blazing fastballs – one and two and three!
Enthroned in favorite chair, beer in hand
Dad will yell “SHUT UP!” point at box,
“I want to hear my boy for once!”
The mudball kid, with his aloysius curve -
Granted audience with the Frightful Man!
(What really happened now)
When you’re 5, with accordioned socks
And everyone else in the world is tall,
You’ll get your frightful audience alright,
If you fire mudball strikes against your
House’s freshly white and painted walls.
Baseball is the American Past time because it can be played anywhere there are windows a kid can break. I think just about every boy imagined that moment of glory when he led his team to final victory in the last inning of the World Series – to the grownups our games were just a way to get us out of the house and doing something that would – hopefully – wear us down. Maybe mom and dad didn’t take it serious but to us it was – it was
Our Stadium was thronged with folks:
Maples, poplars, elms and oaks,
All waving limbs and whistling boughs.
What we saw were cheering crowds!
Where home plate was a paper plate
I’d take my hero’s stance and wait
For taped up ball to hurtle in
Mighty Feller was the pitcher then!
Where Nicky waited with first base mitt
To try and rob me of my hit
A rock marked first, and every base -
Crosley Field we named this place!
Where the world series of the streets
Was played each day ’til time to eat,
And here I waited with broomstick bat -
This game to win with mighty whack!
My team was ‘skins’ and we were down
And dinner bells were soon to sound,
The sacks were jammed from first to third -
The cheering crowd was all I heard!
Billy Dell was on the mound,
The fastest Feller in our town!
He kicked his leg and spun and threw -
One more strike and I was through!
It seems a dream but I recall
I swung my stick and cracked that ball -
Around the bases the runners flew,
2 ghostmen and Ricky, too!
I stood to watch and savor glory,
The receding ball, a game of story
When around the corner came disaster
The game stayed tied forever after!
Returning home came Tommy’s father,
He drove without a care or bother,
turning right in ‘centerfield’
He caught my drive on his windshield!
The rules were clear and all agreed -
The ball was dead for Iron Steeds.
To think a Chevy caused our trouble -
My homer ruled a ground rule double!
© 1970 Charles Elledge