Summers during my Junior High days were spent on the Mound School playground. I played “rubber ball against the wall” almost every day. We loved it so much, we actually started a league. Chose teams, made up lineups for each game and kept statistics. I was so angry at the Indians for trading Rocky Colavito, I became the Detroit Tigers. Not only did I get my revenge on Frank Lane, I wound up with a pretty good team.
We bought balls for .25 cents and took care to “break them in”. We had to wear off the hard skin off or the ball or they could actually split from a had swing. We got them good and soft before they were game ready. You could actually throw a curve ball with these, although when I threw too many of them my arm hurt a lot.
One of the league rules, was that you had to bat the way the ball player in your lineup batted. So the good news was I got to use Norm Cash every game – the bad news is I had to bat left handed. I quickly learned why lefties were such sluggers, because I didn’t hit too many pitches – but when I connected – that ball was gone. I had a more pronounced upper cut swing from the left side and very little, if any, bat control.
We hit against a 20 foot fence and the goal was to hit the fence on a fly for a home run, but very often it would go WAY over the fence. The corporation that owned the lot had ADT security, so we’d have to scale that fence and get the ball and back onto the playground before they arrived. Sometimes they would turn off the alarm and come onto the playground to chase us away.
Pitching stats were kept also, but I was only an average pitcher. I remember oh too well those games when by the 5th inning my arm hurt so bad it felt like it was going to fall off. But you just played through it, and of course most of the time you got clobbered. but my batting stats were pretty competitive.
When the game was over, I made a beeline for the candy store on the corner of 55th and Mound and got a cold bottle of RC and either a bag of New Era Potato Chips or a Milky Way. Before the next game, we all got an updated list of batting average and pitching leaders (just like in the Cleveland Plain Dealer). Pretty impressive because back then, no calculators or computers, it was all done by hand.
I doubt very seriously that there are kids anywhere in the Cleveland area doing what we did and batting as Grady Sizemore or Carlos Santana. Too bad… they don’t know the tremendous fun they’re missing…