When I was young I had one baseball and only one. At school they also had one baseball for recess and only one.
Yes, back in those days when Mantle and Maris were kings we kids played baseball, not softball or dodge ball or some sissy such during recess. They hadn’t yet turned recess into a physical education course with its tedious structure.
My buddies also had one baseball only, or none at all. Sporting-goods superstores where modern kids can buy balls by the bucketful hadn’t yet been invented.
So when we played baseball here in the hometown, before the rise of football and basketball, we played with our one ball till it dissolved. A new, white baseball would quickly turn green as we’d knock it around in a vacant pasture. Then the ball would turn brown as we’d knock it around in the dirt.
Then some threads would start to loosen. Then they’d start to break.
Sooner rather than later some kid would whop a ball, and the core of yarn would go whirling one way and the cover would flop another.
With no replacement ball we’d take the old core and make do with our own homemade, replacement cover. The best cover was made with a roll of slick, black electrical tape.
I liked the look of a ball covered with black electrical tape. The ball looked cool and the tape felt good in the hands. It didn’t travel as far, which was just as well because we had trouble keeping the ball in the yard anyway and away from houses and windows.
I thought about those old, altered sandlot balls as the college baseball season got under way a while back. Some news was made when the NCAA decreed play with a new kind of ball with flatter laces.
The folks who brought us metal baseball bats in 1974 said the new college ball would travel 20 feet farther, enhancing the offense. To me, flattening laces by 0.017 inches seemed picky.
But baseball fans love offense. I don’t see how flatter laces would made a difference, but a poll released during the College World Series last month claimed nearly 90 percent of coaches said it did.
As for me, I’d like to see a big game played with a ball covered by electrical tape.
I have no idea if you could throw a curve or other breaking pitch with electrical tape. Fast-ball pitchers probably would have an advantage.
And when someone hits the ball hard in the 5th inning and the tape starts flying off, call time and go get a roll of electrical tape. That’s what we used to do in the yard.
They like to play hockey games on New Year’s Day outdoors in baseball or football stadiums. The Canadian players say they love it because it reminds them of playing outdoors in the backyard as kids.
So why not a retro baseball game with pieces of two-by-fours for bases and a ball covered with electrical tape? Wooden bats scarred by hitting rocks are optional.
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.