Baseballs, bats and tape

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Learning the game of baseball in the early days was a world away from the organized levels of today.

The learning in Little League action today covers it all — good coaching, good facilities and good equipment.

The only thing that has not changed is the parents are still just as obnoxious as they used to be when it comes to their children. That is not likely to change either.

Looking back at the early days of neighborhood baseball, a roll of black tar tape was just as important in the equipment bag as a bat, ball or glove.

We shared back in those days, too, because all of the kids didn’t have a bat or glove and even few had a ball. There was usually only one of those and most likely it existed on the life support of tape.

We used a ball so much that finally the seams began to unravel and the tape came out and continued to come out until there actually was not much baseball left.

Occasionally, some kid in the neighborhood had a father who would donate a new ball, but that did not happen very often.

Money in those days was not handed out freely.

Once in a while, the neighborhood kids picked up enough soft drink bottles and sold them, shared their earnings and bought a new one.

Tape was also a major tool in repairing broken bats.

Remember, every time you picked up a bat, someone in the crowd said, “Don’t hit it on the trademark.”

Rarely was there a bat on the playing field that had not been broken and sported a coat of tape.

Routinely, the team on the field left their glove right where their position was at the end of the inning so the opposing team had a glove to play with.

There were no umpires.

It was agreed upon by both teams that the pitcher on the mound would make the call, and he had taken an oath to be honest.

It worked most of the time.

There were a few arguments, but it never got out of control.

It was the adults watching the game who got out of line.

They would stop by the neighborhood field after getting off work in the afternoon and watch those late summer day games.

They made no bones about getting vocal, and often it got into fisticuffs, but there was never any cuttin’ and shootin’.

Such adult behavior still goes on today.

Earlier, kids had no coaches except the older boys on the team, and as the seasons went by and they grew older they, too, helped in the learning process.

Each neighborhood had its own talent, and many of the kids went on to play on the local high school team.

I rode by the old neighborhood baseball field the other day. It is buried under tons of concrete now.

But I thought I heard Mrs. Parker, who always came to the games and sat in her lawn chair, screaming and hollerin’.

William Holloman is a staff writer for the Mount Olive Tribune. He can be reached at wnh9326@gmail.com.

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