Before settling back into his seat in the second row, the tall young father made sure my cousin and I were positioned on either side of the nine-year-old with their soft drinks and tasty slices of pizza pie.
“Did we miss very much of the ballgame,” queried the lanky adolescent with raised eyebrows before biting into the crust of his warm pizza. “We hurried as fast as we could; and got our food in record time since there wasn’t a line.”
“The bases are loaded,” explained the homemaker as she gently bounced Quentin on her lap to keep him entertained. “Your brother David is on deck; and is about to step up to the plate for his turn at bat.”
“Looky there,” noted Miss Independence Day pointing toward the baseball field after taking a swig of her soda pop. “John is nearly halfway to home plate; but he better get back to third before that pitcher gets him out.”
Just after the words spilled out of the little firecracker’s mouth, her cousin bolted back toward the sandbag, sliding in head first, when the pitcher threw the ball over to the third baseman.
“Good grief,” mentioned the minister’s wife placing the back of her hand to her forehead while rolling her eyes. “I guess my little athlete has found yet another way to get dirt stains on his brand new clothes.”
“I’m going to have to buy another box of Tide to make sure I can keep that uniform clean,” she added chuckling at the thought of an overflowing laundry basket.
“The season has just begun,” replied the blue-eyed blonde as she leaned forward and patted her fellow baseball Mom on the back of the shoulder joining in on the laughter. “You better stock up on that laundry detergent because you’re going to need it.”
“With both of my older boys in little league last year, I went through two extra boxes of the soap powder,” she added while repositioning her bundle of joy.
When the brown-haired lad with straight bangs stepped up to the batter’s box, I yelled to my buddy as we waved to one another before he swung at a curve ball.
After getting a strike on the first pitch, the six-year-old lined up his bat with the plate to make sure if the ball went right down the middle that he would whack that ball right into the outfield.
As the wind-up began, the mid-town resident swallowed hard while tightening his grip on the bat with grit and determination to push the fear of getting another strike from his little body.
With the ball half way between the pitcher’s mound and home plate, the hazel-eyed shaver started his swing that he hoped would send the ball over the fences making it a grand slam home run.
As the circular object covered in cowhide crossed over home plate, the meat of the bat hit it head on splintering the wood into two pieces sending the baseball straight into center field.
When the first grader quickly dropped what was left of the splintered bat, the little shaver took off sprinting down the first baseline with the crowd cheering in response.
“Jeepers creepers,” exclaimed Paul as he stood to his feet before whistling through his fingers in his mouth. “I can’t believe my little brother actually hit the ball; and to top it off, he split the bat in half.”
The two families, along with all the other spectators on their bleachers, all furiously clapped and hollered as the pastor’s eldest dashed across home plate scoring his first run of the season.
“Aww, sooky, sooky,” I declared clapping joyously while jumping up and down next to the older boy. “My big brother just scored his very first point on his brand new baseball team.”
“Give me some skin,” suggested the fourth grader with dancing eyes as he moved his hands before I had the opportunity to slap him back. “Aww… too slow tater tot; maybe next time you’ll be quicker on the drawl.”
“You faked me out,” I responded with eyes as big as saucers accompanied by a sly grin while placing my hands on hips. “But we’ll see who has the last laugh, onion flake.”
The adventurous stripling began to work his magic on me as I desperately attempted to escape the clutches of the tickle monster.
Once the mischievous juvenile moved in for the kill by picking me up and flinging me over his shoulder, I smacked him on the backside like a drum while me and my cousin laughed hysterically.
The brown-eyed juvenile placed me back on my feet just in time to see the other two batters as they rounded the bases heading toward home plate.
When David passed the second runner on his way to home plate, the whole team had joined their coach along the first baseline yelling for their teammate to go back to third base.
Although the slow runner was called out at home plate, the little whippersnapper managed to slide into the sandbag before the catcher was able to throw the ball to the third baseman.
“Looks like we’re in the same boat,” assessed the mother of three boys as she exchanged a broad smile with the tall slender woman. “I’ll be putting a little extra washing powder into the washing machine tonight, myself.”
Since the Yankees were beating the Pirates with a score of fifteen to seven, the game was called at the end of the first half of the ninth inning as an act of goodwill toward the losing team.
While the two teams and their coaches lined up to shake hands following the game, the minister’s family and the Demo’s said their goodbyes until the next game when the Yankees would face off against the Brewers.
After the Price household finished loading into the family automobile, Dad led the small choir as we sang the lyrics to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” while driving down the windy road in front of Bentworth Junior High School on Washington Street.
This is the conclusion of the two-part series about the 1973 Little League season opener high atop Caramel Park in the heart of the little coal mining community nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains of southwestern Pennsylvania.
Mark S. Price is a former city government/county education reporter for The Sampson Independent. He currently resides in Clinton. If you are interested in reading the extended version of this story in his novel titled, “Little Church at the Top of the Hill,” just type the title into the Facebook search engine. Once you enter the public Facebook page, scroll down to Chapter 44, Take Me Out to the Ball Game.