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Baseball 1961


Before there was

music, there was baseball. I was

12 years old and I lived, ate, and

breathed it. Mickey Mantle was my

hero, although his baseball card

eluded me forever. My baseball story

is the stuff of Hollywood movie plots.

               A ragtag group of misfit boys who didn't make the cut

for the Little League teams, the

kids with the real uniforms. I don't

know what happened, but I had the time of my life in the Minors. This

was Providence. I got to play all the time. I was a pitcher with a 1-hitter

and an abnormally high batting average. I was filled with confidence. Those trophies in the foreground

were earned because we were winners, not merely participants.

          One practice, I was on the mound. The very hard ball took a very bad hop and hit me full on in the mouth, knocking me out for a while. My front teeth died, and I was told they would turn black and fall out, but that never happened, although for years I had buck teeth. When considering which wind instrument to take up, clarinet was given a firm no, because it would further buckify my teeth.

          And from that point, I was somewhat gunshy of the ball. I think in athletics, as in life, hesitation can have a diminishing effect on outcome. Even so, the next year I made the big league and got the fancy uniform. But I didn't play as much. It was more like real-life baseball today. It felt completely different. I remember one game I pitched, giving up a homerun in the ninth inning, with the bases loaded. That's what humiliation feels like. This team didn't win the championship, but we still got trophies. I displayed it, but it wasn't the same.

          As I said in another place, a bunch of my memorabilia got buried in

a move, or water-damaged while in storage. I couldn't put my finger on what happened to my baseball clippings. For years, I would tell people I was actually athletic when I was young, but I knew they were skeptical. Then, just a couple of years ago on Father's Day, my son brought over, framed, this old newspaper clipping. It had gotten mixed up into his stuff somehow. The size of the fish may grow through the years of telling, but folks, I've been vindic-


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