Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Humphrey, Big Kids, and Baseball

Pineview Drive was the fabulous sight of so many great things to do if you were 6 or 7 or 8 in the summers in the 50's. There were the marathon games of hide and seek, which we called "humphrey." The kid, who introduced us to this version of the game, Jack, I think, explained that everyone hid while one kid was "it" and counted to 100. Then, when he was out seeking the hiders, you tried to run back to the spot designated home and shout "Humphrey!" which made you safe. We played this way for years and years never realizing we were supposed to be shouting, "Home Free!" To me a game of hide and and seek and run will always be called "Humphrey."

There was also tag, and fort building, expeditions to the woods for apple wars, and riding our bikes around the block 20 or 25 times, going to day camp at the little school, where I learned to do boondoggle, and playing with our toy cowboys and soldiers in the sandy yards. But the absolutely favorite thing to do was to play baseball. There were only six "big kids" living in our two street neighborhood. We used that term to describe those of us who were the oldest boys in our families and of about the same age. On Pineview lived Paul Kreger, Jack Butler, Fred Schwind, Jeff Hainge, and I. From Apple Orchard came Gary Kibler. That group of six was pretty much together until we went off to Junior High School. If there was a ball game happening or mischief somewhere afoot, we were the usual suspects. As a result both of our baseball teams only had three players--a pitcher, an infielder and an outfielder--baseball at its simplest but most wonderful.

Hundreds of baseball games were contested between the Pineview Pioneers and the Appleview Eagles. Gary was the only resident of Apple Orchard Lane, the next street over, but we felt it necessary to include the word Apple in his team name to make him feel part of things. We played for hours most days in the summer in the Butler's backyard. Their house was on a corner lot, and had a big backyard as a result. From homeplate to the fence that separated the Butler's backyard from the Short's backyard was probably 120 feet. But when you were 7 or 8, that was a real distance. For what I bet was a couple of years, we tried to hit a homerun from homeplate over that fence, and we gave such a dreamed of but apparently impossible hit a name. It was everyone's deepest wish to hit a "shortsy!" For the longest time no one ever did, until one amazing Sunday when Paul hit the first "shortsy" in history. Later that day, I hit one. When the long Sunday afternoon game was over, Paul and I had swatted two shortsies apiece. What had seemed impossible was a reality, and I will never forget that day.

The glove pictured at the top of this blog is almost exactly what my first baseball glove looked like. I got it for my sixth birthday. My dad took me up to "Huehn's," which was a variety store in Webster. On a bottom shelf was a pile of dusty ball gloves. From that pile I chose a three-fingered model. It was flat as a pancake, had a very little web, and almost no pocket. I loved it and played with it until I was 10 or 11. I still have it stored away in some box. I think it cost 4 bucks. I also got my favorite bat ever at Huehn's. It was a long but light "Danny O'Connell" autograph model. But the bat came later and is, perhaps, a story for another time.

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