Maybe a few of you out there are old enough to remember better than I. And maybe some of you are young enough to remember better. Today some of the Sox talk discussion focused on Little League, and how every player will get a chance to play the different positions.
Growing up Red Sox meant a rite of passage, the Green Monster, 37 feet and the net 23 feet above. Yaz, Tony C, Boomer, Lonborg, Radatz, and too many forgettable pitchers.
Right field. "Where you put the little kid" who was either too young, or too small, or too inexperienced to have a position at all. Everyone knows that you can't HIDE a player, no matter where you put them. Sure Henry Aaron, Clemente, and Kaline played right field. What did that have to do with a pickup game? Rocky Colavito wasn't telling us how important right field was, and Dwight Evans must have been playing Little League then.
Pickup games. The Shell Station near Dolbeare School had a fence in center field, about 300 feet away, that stretched out such that left-center was even farther. Everyone longed to hit one over the Shell fence, something of an accomplishment with the stone knives (wooden bats) and chisels (beaten up baseballs) that we used. Every day after school, the game began, with Barry Corbett, the Quirks, and some other wannabes. Most of the time you played five on five, with a center and left fielder, shortstop and third baseman, and pitcher. You threw out the batter by throwing to the pitcher on the rubber. Right field was foul. Everyone became a pull hitter...by convention and by necessity.
I finally hit one over the Shell fence at age 15, not too bad considering the equipment of the day.
The Memories. We didn't have bases, we had cardboard cutouts. If you didn't know which base to throw to, or about tagging up to advance, the kids would look at you like you had two heads. Maybe that's why Sox fans are so unforgiving. We learned to play the game on the sandlot.
If you were lucky, and the days were always hot, you had fifteen cents to cross Vernon Street and go to DaVita's, a florist/greenhouse that had a Coke machine. Most of us didn't have the fifteen cents, but a Fanta sure tasted good when you did.
Barry Corbett hit the towering flies to the outfielders that taught everyone to shag flies. He really made it an art form. I hope he's out there hitting to some little kids now.
The Big Rock. My driveway had a big, round, smooth rock about four feet wide and three feet high. I painted a strike zone on it, about a foot across and maybe sixteen inches high. The driveway was probably about thirty feet wide, but with the end of the driveway, you could pitch about forty feet. You couldn't throw the high strike, because that meant chasing the ball either into the bushes or the back yard. You learned to keep the ball down, or else. You also learned to hit the corners, because that's what made pitching an art form.
The big rock still remains on the old homestead, although after forty plus years, the homeowner probably doesn't even think of it as a backstop or view the discoloration as anything but an anomaly. It doesn't mean anything to him, but it meant the world to me.