The Invisible Man
As we head into a sweltering weekend in the northern Shenandoah Valley, Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” is getting lots of airplay. Local schools are letting out for the Summer, and my hope is that as parents, we can strongly urge our kids to get out into the sunshine and fresh air and put down those gaming consoles. More on that, but first a look at the sports landscape…
In the NBA, there is the Golden State Warriors and everyone else. Cleveland has been no match for arguably one of the best teams assembled in NBA history. The Warriors, with one more win, would become the first team in NBA history to go through the playoffs undefeated at 16-0. Wouldn’t you like to see Durant, Curry, etc., take on Magic, Kareem, and the “Showtime Lakers” of the 80’s or Jordan’s Bulls of the 90’s? We can dream.
And in baseball, the Nats are making a mockery of the horrible NL East. At this writing the Nationals have an 11 and a half game lead in the division, as Scherzer and Strasburg look dominant, and Ryan Zimmerman flirts with the Triple Crown.
The Orioles have faltered a bit in recent weeks, and while it’s hard to call a weekend series in June “huge”, this weekends set against the Yanks is crucial.
Now, on to today’s main event. I have become that old guy who longs for the past and laments the present. Back in the day, there was no more glorious sound than that final school bell that signaled the start of Summer. During those warm months on Talbott Avenue, our parents had to literally drag us indoors after dark–we spent dawn ’til dusk (and beyond) outside. I was lucky enough to live in a neighborhood with lots of parents who had kids my age, and our days would begin with all or some of us “getting up a game” as we called it.
A favorite was the ever-popular whiffle ball. After some broken-window incidents with real baseballs, a plastic ball and bat seemed to be a safer alternative, although on windy days, whiffle ball was a challenge. Most of our whiffle games were played at Todd Grove Stadium (named for the kid whose yard we played in), which had a nice chain link fence for home runs.
When there weren’t enough kids for a true baseball game, we invented games. One such contest was called Home Run Derby. My friend and neighbor, the great Randy Fulk, and I usually were the participants, as you only needed two for this game. We set up a wheelbarrow on it’s end which acted as the catcher, and using a small, hard-rubber ball and tiny Washington Senators souvenir bat, the pitcher would fire the ball as hard as he could at the wheelbarrow, while the batter would try to hit prodigious home runs, which would sometimes land two lots away.
What I remember most is playing baseball games with the so-called “invisible man”. When there weren’t enough kids to field 2 functional teams, the “invisible man” would act as a base runner. The speed and skill of the invisible man was always in question, so much so, that long debates would ensue as to whether the “invisible man” would have scored from second base on a particular hit to, say, right field. Usually, the invisible man on your team was a gazelle, while your opponent’s invisible man was a hippo. Great fun!
Point is, we were always outside during the Summer, and when we couldn’t play traditional games, we invented games. I don’t see this as much anymore, and I’m saddened by this.
May your Summer be filled with whiffle balls, home run derbies, and invisible men! Until next time, stay cool, and GO HORNETS!