Category Archives: A Pocket of Resistance

A potpourri of posts on a variety of topics, in other words, what’s currently on my mind.

Recollections

i’m back on this patio. It seems to generate memories for me.

In the past two weeks, while i was writing posts, working on my project, generally messing around, and playing some golf, i ran across three items from the past. My find generated a thorough search for one or two photos that went with one of those items. The search did not yield the photos. i’ll keep looking.

Regardless, the two items i did have gave me reflection on a sport that has lasted literally a lifetime, an eighty-year lifetime…so far. Baseball.

The photo of the “pony” league team in 1954 has generated numerous comments about the boys in the photo. Soon, i will collect all the input and put out a follow-up with a more complete list of those players. Before that league, i had been playing backyard baseball by myself since i had conscious thought, or after about four, with friends until that pony league team assembled on the dirt diamond and coarse grass and dirt of what was primarily the recess playground for McClain students during the school year — There was a maple tree behind the backstop where someone had carved on the front, “D. Boone killed a bar here,” which i believed to be true until at least the sixth grade.

My love for the game at that time is a part of family lore. One afternoon, i was riding my bike down the West Main sidewalk, headed for a game. There was an elm tree limb hanging about a foot or two over the sidewalk from the yard of one of those grand homes that proliferated on West Main during that time all the way out until around the end of the Castle Heights campus. Being ten and a complete idiot with my glove in my bike basket, i reached up with my right hand to grab a low hanging leaf, dreaming of capturing the golden ring on the merry-go-round at the Wilson County Fair out on Coles Ferry Pike in about two months.

The leaf disagreed and stubbornly remained on the limb. My bike slid right and the front wheel caught the small ditch along the sidewalk from the immaculate grooming of the home’s front yard. The bike fell carrying me head first into the sidewalk. It hurt. i felt the blood and my mouth was aching. i began a slightly less than manly cry.

Heading down to the square was Mrs. Thompson, who later would be my seventh grade home room teacher at Lebanon Junior High. Seeing the disaster, she pulled over. She guided me to the passenger seat and placed the crooked bike and my glove in her trunk. i used that glove until my senior year season at Castle Heights when, at third base in the middle innings, it fell off of my hand.

She drove to our home and rang the front door. My mother answered. Mrs. Thompson told her she thought of taking me to McFarland Hospital but decided she should take me home first. She added she thought i must be hurt badly because of the amount of squalling i was emitting.

Estelle Jewell (i imagine she began with “Phsaw”) was unconcerned and explained, “He’s not hurt that bad. He just upset he’s not at the game.”

i suspect she was pretty accurate.

Doc Gallagher put a cap on the broken front tooth. Back then, available caps were not of the caliber they are today. i got a silver front tooth and had to live with it for about six years (another story).

i continued to play baseball and in high school its variant fast pitch softball.

i played Little League and Babe Ruth League. i was a pretty decent ballplayer, a singles and doubles hitter, fielded well except for high fly balls straight at me when i was in the outfield, had a decent arm and was versatile: catcher, third base, shortstop, and outfield, the latter mostly in left field, certainly not major league talent, but decent. Great memories. One of my favorite stories comes from Jim Leftwich, my cousin sort of since we haven’t found the Prichard connection…yet.

On the Babe Ruth League Lea’s Butane Gas and the Castle Heights Military Academy team , i was often Mike Gannaway’s catcher. Jim was at bat when Mike threw a fastball over 90 mph and Jim couldn’t catch up. When Mike had two strikes on him, i called for a curve ball. Jim jumped away to watch the ball break over the plate for strike three. He told me he still remembers looking back to see me laughing.

Then came my really, no kidding baseball softball thaumaturgical years, i was Gannaway’s catcher at Castle Heights again. We had good teams, but my senior year was something special. i played on the “Pigmy infield.” Mack Brown was about six feet at first base. He didn’t count, but the other three infields were not giants. Tommy Vassar played second. Tommy and i at third were 5′ 6.” Jimmy Gamble at short was 5’7″. With Gannaway’s pitching leading the way and a superb outfield, we won the prep school “Mid-South Conference” crown.

Which brings me to the second photo, the one that produced my search for team photos of Lebanon’s American Legion teams. It was the best baseball team on which i played. In a follow-up to this post, i will try to locate and include the photos and provide the complete lineup and will narrate several of the memorable moments of that season. In my first year, i was a sub. We won the Tennessee mid-region tournament in an epic battle with Columbia. Then we went to the state tournament with four teams, and the Memphis team drubbed us and won the state for about the sixth straight time. The Memphis team had won the national title a number of times.

That’s me over there to the right, the singles hitter with my 33″ Nellie Fox Louisville Slugger bat.

During the two summers of American Legion ball, i was in heaven. i also played fast pitch softball in the county league and in county Sunday baseball league. So while i dug graves (and mowed along with other cemetery maintenance) as my summer job (Thanks, Jessie Coe), i played softball on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, Legion Ball on Wednesday and Saturday, and in the Sunday baseball league. i had Friday nights off. What a fabulous summer.

Texas Boot Company had an incredible bunch of players assembled by Danny Evins, the creator of Cracker Barrel. i caught Cheatham Russell. Cheatham was amazing. He threw a 95-mile fast ball with movement, a wicked curve, and a floater that was impossible to hit. As his catcher, i wore a first baseman’s mitt rather than the catcher’s mitt because Cheatham’s pitches moved so much. i put a round kitchen sponge in the palm of my catching hand (left), i would then put a cotton garden glove over that. Then i would put another sponge, this one rectangular cut out roughly in the shape of an hour glass. Then i would put on the large first baseman’s mitt.

When the game was over, i would take off all of those glove hand trappings. My left hand looked about the twice the size of my right due to catching Russell’s fastball.

i kept playing, as i have noted until i was 46. But dreams of being the next Bill Mazeroski, Don Hoak, Rod Carew faded long ago. Still baseball (and softball) is in my blood. i will write more of this worship later.

I would write more now, but i have to stop and watch a Padre game on television with Maureen. She is now a fan…and she is a saint to put up with me.

Peaceful Moment

It is a Tuesday afternoon in May in the Southwest corner. i am sitting in my habitual spot on our patio. The sky is perfectly cloudless, a pure sky blue. It is a perfect 68 degrees with a very slight on shore breeze. i just watched two hummingbirds (eat your heart out, Jim Hicks) light on the larger coral tree. It appeared one was standing on the head of the other, but i’m guessing it was an illusion. They were surrounded by the bright red blooms that will soon fade when the leaves begin to fill out the tree for about eight months.

There is a Navy helicopter passing overhead, noisy things. i remember flying (clumsily) one when Bob Parker, the USS Okinawa’s operations officer asked me to be his “qualified observer” for a flight to give him needed flight hours to retain his qualifications. It was well over 40 years ago, and the development explosion here was high desert scrub brush then. He gave me the controls several times, the last of which was somewhere over where i’m sitting. We were near an aviation beacon in the high desert when he directed me to “hover.” Hah! i did it for about a minute, wondering all the time when i was going to screw it up and kill us and the crewman.

The helicopter is gone. It is quiet. i return to my music: Nancy Wilson, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, and Nina Simone. It is a jazz kind of afternoon.

i will go in soon for another scrumptious dinner from Maureen. We will watch a ballgame. i’m thinking i may climb up the slope to the chairs by our flag and look out on the ships moored at the Naval Base, the city skyline, and the dark of the Pacific.

i will not include photos. i couldn’t capture this peace in a photo. i wish one or two of many, many friends were sharing this with me.

The world is the screwy world. People are out to reek havoc on others in fear or hate created by fear. It is the way it is. It is the way it has always been. It is likely to be the way it will be in the future. i’m not optimistic.

But i am beyond that. i am me with years and years of memories, good music, in a peaceful place. i would like to share that with you, wherever you are.

Yesteryear

In a land far away long ago that no longer exists, there was a wonderful place for a young boy, nine years old to be exact about his age, who experienced youth at its best. He grew up in a small country town about an hour from the capitol of Tennessee. He walked to school. He rode his bike everywhere. And in the fantastical summer of 1954, he played baseball in the first organized youth baseball league as he recalls.

They called it the “Pony League.” He doesn’t remember the team’s name.

They had matching tee shirts with pockets, or at least some of them had them, and a few had matching hats. They played on the field at the back of the McClain Elementary School. He rode his bike just over a half mile to practices and games. He was selected to be the catcher, and that became one of his most frequent positions when he played from then until he finally stopped in an “Over 33 League” when he was 46 years old. In looking at the one home movie showing him playing he still thinks he didn’t look very athletic.

The next year, the town’s Kiwanis Club sponsored the first “Little League” at the new ball park just shy of two miles from his home. His mother or father would drive him to practices and games.

He did well in Little League, Babe Ruth League, high school, and American Legion ball, never the star but he held his own.

He doesn’t remember most of that first season. After all, it was seventy-one years ago. But he does remember loving it and will love it for the rest of his life: the smell of the glove, the feel of the ash wood bat, the sound of his bat hitting a ball, the dust, the awkward feel of wearing shin guards, chest protector and the catcher’s mask that never stayed put.

The photo below is one his mother saved. She wrote on the back the names of the players and coaches she knew:

“Top Row: 1&2 unknown, 3 Joel Martin.” The fourth one she named “Bucky Hesson,” but i’m pretty sure it was Bucky’s older brother, Bobby Hesson. “5 unknown, 6 Cullen Collingsworth, 7 unknown.

“Bottom Row: Coach unknown, 2 unknown, 3 Jim Jewell, 4,5,6,7 unknown, Coach Dennis Sircy.”

Can any of my Lebanon friends provide any of the other names for me. i would like to know who shared that field of dreams with me.

A Short Trip to Yesteryear

In the earlier part of the week, Maureen, as she is prone to do, wandered through magazines and web sites with the idea of finding another place to dine. Not that we don’t have only a few places we like for dining. In fact, i bet we could go to a different place we like every night for at least two, if not three weeks. But she has come up with some dandies. i appreciate her research.

So Friday, she came up with the diner in the Lafayette Hotel on El Cajon Boulevard in uptown San Diego. i was leery. Before i got here, in the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s, El Cajon Boulevard was a hot spot with proper dance halls, hotels, and dining. But somewhere along the way, it went downhill and at one time was a trolling place for prostitutes, drug dealers, and gangs. It has been cleaned up. We have a previous neighbor that opened up an art studio there. Still, it is seedy on the fringes, and i had my concerns.

Maureen noted the hotel had just been renovated. i remained a bit skeptical, but i trust and love her and said, “Let’s go.” We parked around the corner and walked to the hotel.

When we walked into the lobby, i was blown away. i had just walked into a world long gone.

We proceeded through the lobby that was once graced by Bob Hope,  Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Katherine Hepburn, and Bing Crosby. i continued to gawk as we entered the bar with the diner entrance on the left side.

Now folks, there are times i can get downright nostalgic. i have had drinks in the bar in the front of the third deck on the HMS Queen Mary three times. Now that kind of nostalgia can make me giddy. In the bar of the Lafayette Hotel, i was just as giddy.

This is a place where those fancy drinks should be downed, although a martini or a brandy would work just as well.

We turned and walked into the diner. Bam, wham, thank you, Ma’am. i was back in lore ville. The diner was flat perfect. Maureen had the “Chicken Schnitzel Sandwich.” Admittedly, my Waygu French Dip was a bit modern — i could relate to Kobe beef as the past but not Waygu. Still it was delicious. i did wonder what kind of beer might have been available here, say, in the 1950’s as i drank my IPA. It did not matter. i was in the wonderland of yesteryear.

We had fun with our waitress, paid our tab, and proceeded back through the past. Walking out the front and heading to our car, we passed an annex to the hotel. It was a dance hall, specifically, Lou Lou’s dance hall. i am absolutely positive it wasn’t by that name years ago, but it was a dance hall, a ballroom dance hall. Maureen’s mother and father, Pat and Ray Boggs, went there frequently to dance the night away. i don’t know what kind of dances they do there now, but if it is still ballroom, i would like to take Maureen there one night. i don’t think she’s too keen on that idea.

Sometimes, i just flat love living in the Southwest corner.

A Short Note

My passport needed to be renewed. i finally made a responsible effort and went up the hill to the Postal Annex store, which can make it happen.

The son of the owners of the place was efficient, and pleasant. He even laughed at my jokes. He took the photo, completed the forms on the computer and mailed the input to the Department of State. i was pleased.

Then he gave me the other copy of the photo.

i’m thinking i’m going to ask him to take all my photographs. Not bad for an old man: