Charlie Hall recently quibbled with my proclamation that basketball was the greatest game in the world. He made the case for baseball, and although I will not change my opinion, I will acknowledge that baseball is a great game and will proclaim that it is the second best greatest game in the world. One of my earliest memories related to baseball was taking a broomstick over to the railroad tracks in New Paris and pitching and hitting chunks of coal with my best grade-school friend Dick VanDiepenbos. We would get filthy, which no doubt made our mothers quite unhappy, but we sure did develop an eye for hitting.
At New Paris High School, baseball was a summer sport, so one became eligible to play varsity ball right after graduating from eighth grade. Being somewhat of a runt at that time, I made the team, but did not play too much. The first time I got put into a game, I was sent to the position that is often assigned to the weakest player - right field. It was late in the game, and I think that we were winning, but regardless, there was a man on second and the hitter sliced one in to right. The runner no doubt noted my stature and rounded third headed for home. I picked up the ball cleanly and bounced a good throw to the plate for the final out of the inning. Undoubtedly, most everyone at the game was surprised, including me, and my teammates gave me a warm welcome back at the bench [there were no dugouts in those days].
Although I throw right-handed, my dad figured I would have a better chance to play ball if I hit left-handed - so that's how I learned and that's how I have played to this day. [Left-handed golf clubs were too esoteric in the 60's, so I learned to play golf right-handed, but putt left-handed]. As I grew a bit through high school, I moved in to second base and then over to third base and then to shortstop. Our NPHS baseball team was not as successful as our basketball team, but we were well above .500 ball. Our yearbook. The Parisian, has some great cheesy pictures of our team and players, and I will try to add them if I can get decent copies.
I am not quite sure why I did not try out for the Goshen College team since I had a decent arm, good fielding skills and reasonable hitting. Maybe it was because neither Dennis Caprarotta nor I made the JV basketball team at GC - tryouts and selection were based on running through cone mazes, dribbling around chairs, and sprinting from line to line. Hardly any time was spent assessing shooting, abilities in team play, and knowledge of the game - I am still a bit ticked :-) However, I did take up fast-pitch softball and will soon write about that.