Day 23,687: The Family Diamond
I grew up in a candy store, but we sold way more than candy. Most customers likely considered us the newspaper store, but we also sold cigars, cigarettes, assorted sundries, and wonderfully affordable time killers such as balsa wood airplanes, pink Spalding balls, and, most enticing of all, wiffle balls and bats.
Wiffle ball was big in my family. Since we sold the required items, we were allowed to commandeer new supplies when needed from the existing inventory. It signalled group play was in the wind for an afternoon, instead having to entertain oneself.
The diamond was our backyard behind the store. The pitcher’s mound was in front of my mother’s rose bush.
Home plate was in front of the back living room window. The wiffle ball was light and if, by chance, hit the window, would just bounce back at the batter, who generally had to pick it up, act as catcher, and throw it back to the pitcher.
First base was the pussy willow tree; Second was loosely behind the rose bush half way in the outfield, and third was the lavender lilac bush. The white lilac bush was a little too close to home and, being more left alone than its fellow bushes, seemed to oddly thrive better than the rest.
I don’t recall having positions. I think my brothers routinely retained in their management posts as captains of the backyard, aka the pitchers. They were also the tallest and most talented to catch balls that might come directly at the rose bush. If a ball was hit, it gave them the authority to yell at us to either run, field it to first, or get the ball back to them so they could wisely act accordingly.
There weren’t many fouls. If you could hit the ball, ran, and got to base, the play was legal. If you hit it over one of three fences, it was literally a time out as someone had to climb over something to get it. The fences lined the Lumber Yard on the third base side, behind the pussy willow tree on the first base side, or separated us from a concrete easement on the outfield.
The lumber yard climb was the most hazardous and required not getting caught by either our parents or the lumber yard folks. It was filled with splintered wood, rusty nails, and all sorts of things not meant to be part of our playground.
It was here, in the backyard, I learned the nuances of the game. There were no nuances. You kept your eye on the ball, didn’t flinch as it came at you, and hit a pop fly to get it over the rose bush. That gave you a fair shot at first base as there was no shortstop, and either the outfielder or the pitcher would have to negotiate coming toward or going around the rose bush to field the ball. If I recall correctly, the pitcher usually also doubled as the first baseman and the outfielder was responsible for second. Third was a toss up between the two fielders.
A team was likely two people, but mostly we didn’t have teams. After getting caught or tagged out, or making it to home, the batter would either go again, or switch positions with a fielder. At least that’s how I remember it. The point was not to win, but to play ball.
My job for the most part was either to sit it out and climb trees and fences to do ball retrieval, or, if allowed to play, to play in a way that did not embarrass my older brothers. Tag-along sisters get very good at their roles.
My brothers, to their credit, had patiently and dutifully spent serious time schooling me on how to hit a ball, and I became a decent batter. In later years, my finest hours as a teen were during school co-ed games when the opposing team severely underestimated me. When first coming up to bat, the opposing pitcher would call the outfielders in, but after years of training with a smaller wiffle ball, I could gleefully connect with the much larger soft ball and pop it high over their sexist heads. Occasionally more savvy opponents would advise their pitchers that the outfield should stay in place when I came to bat. Then, I would most often be called out due to a fielder who could catch a pop fly. That’s likely still true today.
Staying Focused on Gun Sanity: Like the Facebook page for Women Against Gun Violence. It will help you stay up on latest proposed actions. While there, consider signing their petition that has 4,400+ signatures, but could use more to ban assault weapons.