By John Blankenship
The boys of summer. The men of October. America’s pastime. Field of Dreams.
If you’re old enough to think about retirement, you probably remember stick ball, straight base, round-town and Indian ball. You may even have batted away a million marbles with your little brother’s wooden bat. Your first baseball glove came from the local hardware store.
If you were like me, you only got one baseball that had to last for an entire summer. After the cover disappeared, you wrapped it with electrician’s tape.
If you lost it, you continued to look for it until well after dark. You trained yourself to find the spot where it landed and stare in that direction until someone said: “I found it.”
If you’re over 50, you probably played baseball without a uniform, spikes, or a catcher’s mask or chest protector.
You could throw straight to any base without having to look at the glove. Chances are, the fielder didn’t have one anyway. You didn’t care if the ball stung your hand. You always coveted another kid’s glove, no matter what name it carried in the palm.
The best rock in the field was used as first base. You only had two outfielders. The ninth man had to hoe corn, bale hay or cut weeds.
Your best bat had tape on the handle to hide the crack that ran up to the trademark.
You never left your glove out in the rain. You couldn’t wait to get up in the morning to check the scores of the night games on the sports page. There were only eight teams in each league. Mickey Mantle and Duke Snyder were superheroes.
Yogi Berra was perhaps the best loved sports figure alive. And little wonder.
Yogi’s quotes are legendary:
“Always go to other people’s funerals; otherwise they won’t come to yours.”
“Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.”
“Because it gets late early” (on why it’s tough to play left field in Yankee stadium).
“If the people don’t want to come out to the park, nobody’s gonna stop them.”
“It ain’t over till it’s over.”
“It’s déjà vu all over again.”
“No wonder nobody comes here; it’s too crowded.”
“We have very deep depth!”
“We made too many wrong mistakes.”
“You can observe a lot just by watching.”
Other baseball sayings:
“It’s a beautiful day for a night game.” Announcer Frankie Frisch.
“The most important things in life are good friends and a strong bull pen.” Pitcher Bob Lemon, l981
“Well, that kind of puts a damper on another Yankee win.” Announcer Phil Rizzuto, after a news bulletin reporting the death of Pope Paul VI, l978.
“It was too bad I wasn’t a second baseman; then I’d probably have seen a lot more of my husband.” Karolyn Rose, ex-wife of Pete Rose, l981
“They brought me up with the Brooklyn Dodgers, which at the time was in Brooklyn.” Casey Stengel, l962
“I won’t play for a penny less than fifteen hundred dollars.” Honus Wagner, turning down an offer of $2,000
“Being with a woman never hurt no professional baseball player. It’s staying up all night looking for a woman that does him in.” Casey Stengel
“My favorite umpire is a dead one.” John Joseph ‘Johnny’ Evers.
“I watch a lot of baseball on the radio.” Gerald Ford, l978.
Bob Uecker quotes:
“Anybody with ability can play in the big leagues. But to be able to trick people year in and year out the way I did, I think that was a much greater feat.”
“In l962 I was named Minor League Player of the Year. It was my second season in the Bigs.”
“People don’t know this but I helped the Cardinals win the pennant. I came down with hepatitis. The trainer injected me with it.”
“I had slumps that lasted into the winter.”
“When I looked at the third base coach, he turned his back on me.”
“Sporting goods companies pay me not to endorse their products.”
“I remember one time I’m batting against the Dodgers in Milwaukee. They lead, 2-1, it’s the bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, two out and the pitcher has a full count on me. I look over to the Dodger dugout and they’re all in street clothes.”
“Career highlights? I had two. I got an intentional walk from Sandy Koufax and I got out of a rundown against the Mets.”
Top o’ the morning!
— Blankenship is a columnist for The Register-Herald. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org