A week or so ago I was sitting on my front porch working on a cross word puzzle when I noticed that a baseball game had started in my front yard. My grandson Luke Spraggins and a couple of his friends, Kyler Mullis and Gage Burbrink, were engaged in an old-fashioned game of back yard baseball even though it was in the front yard. They were using a plastic baseball and using a bush for first base and a mailbox for third base. They were making the rules as they went along, but they were having fun with what they had. As I watched the game evolve I must admit that my mind flashed back to to the games we played in my neighborhood when I was a youth.
Over on Garner Street there was a semi-empty lot next to Morris Albritton’s house and that was where the neighborhood kids met to play baseball. I say semi-empty because most of left field was covered with a stand of pine trees and we even used one of them for third base. Another tree represented first base and there was a rock or block of wood for second base. It was crude, but we thought it resembled Yankee Stadium! If you hit the ball over the road there was a chance that a lady, who we called “birdlegs,” would grab the ball and refuse to give it back. Not many of us could hit the ball over the road, but she did assemble a goodly number of our baseballs.
If someone came up with a new baseball or a new bat, we were in heaven. We were accustomed to using taped up baseballs and broken bats that had been tacked together and covered with black electrical tape. We just loved to play! The group was made up mainly of Morris Albritton, Eddie Boggs, David English, Sonny Philpot, Larry Willard, Lamar Crockett, Harvell Trice, Harvey Holloway, Tony Murphy, and a few others whom I can’t recall at the moment. None of us ever got into trouble as adults, so I guess our baseball games helped lead us in the right direction.
My recollection of our sandlot baseball games was enhanced last week when Jim Pruett gave me a magazine from The Saturday Evening Post entitled “Baseball - The Glory Years.” It has some very interesting stories about Jackie Robinson, Mickey Mantle, and Babe Ruth, but the main feature is a selection of numerous reprints of images painted by Norman Rockwell and other very talented artists. It is a treasure of baseball art. One section is entitled “A Child’s Game.” This contains a selection of art which shows young boys, as well as a girl or two, involved in playing sandlot baseball. The boyhood memories flooded back again!
Even though these things bring back very happy memories, there is also a sad aspect to what I have witnessed. The sad part is that you just don’t see these games going on anymore. Many years ago, on any given summer day, you could find a dozen sandlot games going on in our community. Almost every empty lot was full of kids playing baseball. Every Sunday afternoon there was a large pickup game going on at Weaver Park. Weaver Park is empty on Sundays now. Kids loved the game then and wanted to be outside playing.
What are kids doing today to create lasting memories? Playing with their computers, iPads, iPods, tablets or whatever technology they can find takes up most of their time. What lasting memories! This is so sad because today’s kids are missing out on good outdoor fun and making relationships with friends that will last a lifetime. There has even been a drastic decline in the number of teams in the local recreation department sponsored teams. This is another indication of a lack of interest in baseball and the opportunity to enjoy outside activities. Technology has almost taken over. So sad!
Yep, I really enjoyed Luke, Tyler,and Gage’s baseball game. Thankfully, Luke absolutely loves baseball. He would play it all day if he could, and loves watching the Braves on TV. He reminded me of myself as he announced each Braves’ player’s name as he came to bat. His favorite player is Andrelton Simmons. I hope he maintains his loved for the game of baseball and continues to play his front-yard games. I’ll keep on watching and remembering!