While major league baseball teams are considering how many games to play during a pandemic, some of us remember the olden days.
In 1942–43–44, the St. Louis Cardinals won three straight pennants and two World Series Championships. When I was in the sixth and seventh grade, teachers would bring small plug-in table radios to class, and we would all listen to the Cardinals play in the World Series. Several of the other boys in class would keep track of the games, copying down the batting order on Big Chief tablets with their yellow No. 2 pencils.
I tried to join the others in keeping track of a game’s progress but ended up pretending or faking the appearance of writing down the information. I really had no idea about the distinctions of sacrifices, pinch hitters, errors, bunts or double plays, inasmuch as the only game I had ever seen or played was schoolyard softball during recess.
Furthermore, while I could spell Stan Musial, Mort Cooper and Marty Marion, I was at a total loss in trying to write down Whitey Kurowski or Red Schoendienst. While all the other guys recorded detailed statistics, I soon devolved into drawing small cartoons or meaningless scribbles on my tablet. At least it was a treat for everyone when the Cardinals won.
One of the things that happened in sixth grade still comes to mind. The grade schools were in two buildings, the North Ward with even-numbered grades and the South Ward with odd-numbered grades. The playground at North Ward was barely sufficient to play softball and had a couple of large trees in the right field area. My position was always right field when the leaders chose up sides because I was a slow runner.
I was in a growing stage at the time, and much of the growth was in the seat of my trousers (probably from too much fresh whole milk and my mother’s biscuits). My mom had given me a button-up sweater to wear that day because of the cool temperature, and she insisted that I wear my corduroy trousers even though they were getting snug.
We were in about the third inning of play during the noon hour. I had caught a couple of fly-balls on the run and was feeling elated although sweaty and somewhat out of breath. Suddenly, a ground ball was hit toward me, and I stooped over or crouched down to intercept it. There was a ripping noise that probably only I could hear, and after tossing the ball to second base I quickly tied the arms of my sweater around my waist to provide some concealment.
Not knowing what to say, I yelled, “Sweat did it! Sweat did it!” Probably no one knew what had happened, but I was extremely embarrassed. It was years before I would wear corduroy trousers again.
Bill is 88 years old and lives in San Antonio with his wife June.