I have often stated in these sports pages where I get the inspiration to write, but I am always wary of that because it might look like I am stealing someone else’s ideas. Well, that may be the case this week. I have said many times that my biggest inspiration as a column writer is Paul Daugherty from the Cincinnati Enquirer. To me, “Doc” is absolutely amazing as a columnist and not many of you probably know that when he decides to get away from the hustle and bustle he has a cabin somewhere here in the woods of Adams County.
Recently Mr. Daugherty wrote a column about growing up in the Washington, D.C, area and what his typical day was like as a kid. That got my mind to thinking about the same thing, growing up in a small town ( not D.C) and what my daily life was like. Of course, the majority of it revolved around sports.
My memory of specifics is not what I wish it was but I do know that it certainly was a life with no worries, with time to spare and the light of day as our scoreboard clock. One of my favorite movies is “The Sandlot” and growing up on Meadow Lane Drive in Ripley we certainly had our own version of that movie as I am sure that many of you my age did also.
All it took was an open field somewhere and we were ready to play ball and we used everybody’s yard that we could and the ball that we used depended on how much space we had and how many breakable windows were in range. Cramped spaces necessitated the use of the standard wiffle ball but we did that with a twist. We weren’t happy with the possible flight trajectory of a regular wiffle ball so we juiced it up, usually wrapping the ball completely with black electrical tape to give it some “oomph.” Then on a large field with no glass to shatter we used a rubber ball, which when we lost them all required a trip downtown to the variety store to by another three-pack.
You know all the terms that were bantered about-pitcher’s mound out, ghost runner, and so on. With those rules, we really only needed three players to get a game going and the other necessary requirement was some sort of home run boundary. What’s the fun if you can’t swing for the fences? Some places it was a real fence in a neighbor’s yard, some places it was a row of trees, sometimes it was the roof of a house or even a clothes line. You name it, we swung for it. A life of no worries, just rack up the home runs and enjoy just being a kid.
I grew up during the time of the Big Red Machine and of course could imitate the batting stances of all of the Great Eight, from Pete Roses’ crouch to Joe Morgan’s chicken wing. I used to collect those plastic batting helmets that they sold at Reds games and I think at one time I had one for nearly every major league team. What did that mean? Well, grab the helmet of any team, crank up the imagination, and be any major leaguer you wanted to in your mind. No worries, just grab a helmet.
There were breaks during the day, but they usually involved me begging some money off my parents and hopping on my souped up bicycle and making a beeline to the local store to buy my supply of baseball cards. At 10 cents a pack, I bought them by the box. My friends were collectors too and many hours were spent in a car port flipping cards against the wall. If we only knew then what we knew now! We also had what we thought was a neat trick of putting our initials on the backs of the cards to keep them all straight. Dumb move! No worries then about card value.
Naturally, our sports revolved around the seasons and we played football in the fall and basketball in the winter. I learned how to be a pretty good shooter because if you missed at the court at my house on the hill the ball might still be rolling away.
Perhaps the whole highlight of it all was a rivalry baseball game that allegedly took place between my end of town and the kids downtown that I don’t remember one thing about. We may not have even played it for all I know. The Uptown Orioles vs. The Alley Apple All-Stars on the high school baseball field, playing backwards (that means batting from second base) so we would have home run fences.We went all out, made t-shirts and helmets and the works and I don’t even remember whether we ever played or not or if it just a game of mythic legend. If we did, I am certain that the Uptown Orioles were easily victorious, though that fact may be disputed by some of the “town” boys.
I could likely go on and on about a carefree life as a youngster, maybe another column lurks. For now, it is time to go back to the great mysteries of life today. Things like how I can remember the lyrics to every 70’s song I hear but can’t remember what I did yesterday. Or how I will ever survive after next Monday night with no Jack Bauer. Get me those schematics Chloe!
Mark Carpenter can be reached at 937-544-2391 or on Twitter @adamscosports