Struck Down by a Baseball

A friend of mine tells this story. I won’t promise it’s accurate, but knowing him, I’ll bet it is true (at least mostly).

A brush arbor (a pretty fancy one)

Yearly when he was a kid (he’s about my age so this is probably the early to mid-1960s) his church celebrated the Fourth of July by having a big picnic. It was a decent sized congregation (I think he’s Southern Baptist, but am not sure which particular type of Baptist he is) and one of the members owned something of a ranch outside town a few miles.

Now in my part of West Texas there are some pretty fair-sized ranches. Considering how many acres it takes to sustain a cattle unit (that’s one cow and one calf for you big city Eastern types) you need a lot of land. Of course a lot of it is flat so it’s ideal for assembling a bunch of people. This place also had a river. “River” in the Texas Panhandle doesn’t mean quite the same thing that it means a lot of other places. There it defines an area where water occasionally trickles through a stream bed between the sandbars. The name of the river was the Ouachita (which is usually spelled Washita) which the local joke said was a Comanche word meaning “Sandbar.” (We use that same joke where I live now using Cherokee and Cimarron). But it did have trees along the banks, so you could have a shaded area to set up the food tables and, more importantly set up lawn chairs and create a “brush arbor (see the picture above), which is a shaded outdoor church with tree limbs for a roof (and usually no seats like the picture above shows). The brush arbor served as a place to hold a short end of picnic service to thank the Good Lord for a good time, a good day, good food, and a good country.

Of course all these picnics were alike. The group got together about 10 or 11 and set up tables, made the brush arbor, set out lawn chairs. The ladies of the church brought out their finest, mostly fried chicken, potato salad, beans, rolls, corn on the cob (you get the idea). His mom brought something called “coke salad” (I didn’t want to know). And the minister said a prayer then everybody dug in and pigged out until there was almost nothing left.

After taking some time to digest and talk about whatever it was that came up, the congregation broke into various groups. The younger kids went about playing whatever they wanted to play, the older folk continued to sit and talk. The younger adult women found an area where they could lay out a diamond and played softball. The men played baseball.

The men divided up into 2 teams with a couple of deacons as umpires (you do trust your deacon board to umpire, don’t you?). My friend was a pretty fair player so he played center field for one of the teams and led off. The pitchers weren’t very good, most of the fielders were overweight and out of shape, so scores tended to get out of hand (when they were kept, which seems to have been only periodically). But there were a couple of people who actually could play.

One was “Tiny” Henderson. I knew Henderson. He was one of those guys that was 6’6″ and 250 pounds. Guys like that are always called “Tiny.” And he could hit the ball a mile. He usually batted clean up for whichever team he was on and this time he was on the other team. So my friend started backing up when he saw the batter. His gag is Tiny was in one county and he was in another.

And of course Tiny got hold of one. It went back, my buddy went back, the ball went back, so did my buddy. Out beyond the area where the ball field was (there were no fences) a bunch of the older gentlemen of the church were having their annual Fourth of July confab talking about God, their war experiences, local politics, and other assorted items. I’d throw in talking about women but there were a lot of Baptist deacons involved, as was the minister.

As fate (or the Good Lord) would have it, the minister was standing with his back to the field and the ball caught him square in the back. He went down, the deacons gasped, Tiny stopped dead in his track, and my friend, being a serious ball player grabbed the ball and started to hurl it back toward the infield when he noticed that everyone, especially Tiny Henderson, was rushing to the minister. So he  held the ball, reached out and tagged Tiny and announced he was out. Ain’t it great that someone has his baseball act together?

But no one noticed. Everyone was crowding around the minister making sure he was alright. It seems he was. He got up and looked around. Tiny was crying and apologizing, the other players were trying to tell him it was an accident, and my friend was proclaiming Tiny Henderson was out (you gotta have your priorities right). It took a second, but the minister finally said something.

“Well, it’s better be struck down by a baseball than by the Hand of God.”

Mostly everybody agreed with him. But my buddy still proclaimed that Tiny was out and the run didn’t count. They decided to call the game (no one was keeping score) and go immediately to the evening service so the minister could go home and soak his aching back.

At least that’s the way my buddy tells it. And he still insists that Tiny Henderson was out.



6 Responses to “Struck Down by a Baseball”

  1. Miller Says:

    The pictures you paint are so clear. You’re a wonderful story teller, v. Thank you for this one. As one of those “big city Eastern types” I hadn’t ever heard of a cattle unit, as least as far as I can remember. Two other things. You’re buddy is right. Tiny Henderson was out, dammit. And I had to know what coke salad was. Here’s a YouTube video.

    Happy 4th!

  2. Jackie, The Baseball Bloggess Says:

    Tiny was out. Of course he was! (And, Coke Salads still exist, although in Virginia they use Cherry Coke or Cheerwine, which is a local soda that is, basically, Cherry Coke on steroids. If you’ve never experienced Coke Salad … well, that’s probably for the best.)

  3. wkkortas Says:

    Well, Tiny was clearly out of the baseline, though I might not want to argue with him too strenuously.

  4. Precious Sanders Says:

    Not quite Merkle’s Boner, but he made a go at it. Tiny’s Boner was a tiny boner.

    Oh god, that’s awful. Forgive me on that one.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: