The Ball Field

There was one summer (about 1964-65) back in Amarillo, Texas that was our summer of discontent. Here’s what happened:

There were, as I recall, six or seven empty fields of various sizes within walking distance of my house on Hall Street in southwest Amarillo. They all had different purposes. The two largest ones were used to play “army,”  chase rabbits, and torment various reptiles. There was another one that we usually had clod fights in (it had several horseradish trees around it – great weapon in a clod fight) and one that we avoided because it was a known alien landing sight. The fifth one we used to hide in whenever we managed to get hold of some cigarettes. The sixth one was a small field full of junk that we used to go scrounge stuff from. It was next to the haunted house. On the other side of that house was a decent sized empty field. Up until this one summer, it was unused by any of the neighborhood boys.

We were out in that field one day going through some candy that we had swiped from Mr. Russell’s store when we got the idea to build a baseball field. We decided that we would need to build our own field primarily to keep the adults out of our hair. We knew we would need a backstop and bases. We figured we could add the “stands” the second year. Well….all of our grandiose plans would, of course, necessitate a trip to the junk field which lay just on the other side of the haunted house. (Those trips require another story of their own).

It took us several trips to the junk field to gather enough stuff to build a backstop. We had corrugated roof material, chicken wire, plywood, all kinds of assorted sizes of wood and rebar that we “borrowed” from a house under construction. How a bunch of ten year old kids managed to get a backstop built without tools is beyond my memory. We did, though, and it was a glorious sight to behold.  It would be a surprise if it lasted the first game though. It lasted for several games, however, but did not outlast parents. Oh, and, by the way, we used rocks for bases. Sliding into base took on a new risk for us.

There was no team. It was just whoever showed up played. It would not be uncommon to have five people playing a position. I recall one game that there were at least twenty people playing in the field but not a soul at first base. I was one of four shortstops when I caught a grounder and looked to throw to first. There was nobody there! What do I do?! The pitcher was yelling at me to throw it to him so I threw it to nobody at first base. I didn’t know why then and I still don’t.

Well, we had a pretty good summer in that field until Rusty’s dad saw what we had set up. He was a carpenter by trade and decided that he would take our old rickety backstop down and build us a proper one. Once he did that, he decided that he needed to be there as our “coach.” That ruined everything and within two or three weeks, the baseball field lay abandoned.  That oh so nice backstop was only used I think three or four times.

You know, parents can really …oh, never mind.

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