Playing Ball in the Schoolyard
My brother and I used to join the boys of the neighborhood to play softball when we visited my grandparents. The ball field was across the street and was part of the school’s playground. It was a pleasant escape from my grandparent’s house. At my grandmother’s home, there was no roaming or exploring, we were expected to sit quietly on overstuffed, itchy horsehair maroon chairs and sofas. The excitement was listening to the grownups talk. (Yawn)
When we would hear the voices of the neighborhood kids we would squirm in our seats longing to be free. (Children were to be seen and not heard.) One of the grownups would notice us and ask, “Is there something wrong?”
Now that we were invited to speak, e would say, “May we go outside to play?”” It was almost certain that one of our parents would tell us to” go and not to get dirty.”
We would stop to get a ball glove and bat out of the car before crossing over to the ball field. My brother and I were put on opposite teams. (New arrivals went in alternating order to the teams.
The schoolyard wasn’t very large and the ball field was even smaller. Because it was so small, you wanted to hit it as far as you could to be sure you got on base.
The street ran alongside the third base line and beyond the outfield in fair ball territory was an older two story house with five windows facing the outfield. That was the rub. When you batted, you wanted to hit a home run, but if you would hit it too hard, it would hit the old man’s house and he would come out onto his front porch to yell at us. An even worse scenario was if you happened to hit a ball through one of the windows. Then there was real trouble.
He made sure he got the kid’s name and the parents would have to pay for the damages. (It was less expensive then. The old windows were single paned. New glass and replacement putty made the window was as good as new.)
I was fortunate enough to have never broken a window; however, there was one close call. I was never the best hitter. I seldom struck out, but often popped up or was thrown out before I made it to first base.
One day, I must have eaten my Wheaties, because I connected. I had hit it high and hard. I watched the ball as I ran to first base. I slowed when I reached first. The ball was on its downward arc. It dropped closer and closer to the old man’s house. I almost stopped moving.
The ball was definitely high enough and long enough to take out a window. I stopped, watching with cruel fascination. There were two windows on the first floor, two on the second, and a smaller one in the attic. I waited, watched, and prayed. “Not a window, please! How can I explain a broken window to my parents?”
I cringed, waiting for the crash. It was headed for one of the second floor windows.
The ball hit, not with a crash, but with a thump and a rattle. I felt weak with relief and stopped at second base with my knees shaking.
The ball had hit the window sill beneath the window and dropped to the ground. Of course the old man came out and yelled, but it could have been much worse for me: so much worse.