The Road to Justice Runs Through the Ball Field

Like this, but with houses and yards on either side

One of the towns where I grew up was a moderate size burg out in the Texas Panhandle. It was nice, it was reasonably clean, it was basically crime free. It was a great place to play street baseball.

I lived in a fairly new addition on the east end of town, about a quarter-mile from the local Country Club. It was a solid middle class neighborhood with lots of kids close to my age. In the addition where I lived all the north-south streets were paved and all the houses faced on to them. All the east-west streets were unpaved because no one lived on them. They fronted the sides of houses, people’s backyards, and ran into an alley that separated the backyards of one street from the backyards of the next. This was great for playing baseball.

At the north end of the block where I lived was one of those streets. The people on the south side (my side) had no fence in their yard, neither did the people on the north side. Amazingly, the people who lived the next street east had no fence on either side, so we had the following arrangement: an open backyard, an unpaved street, another open backyard, then moving east you had the alley followed by another open backyard, an unpaved street, and one final open backyard. This allowed us to drop a stick for home plate in the middle of the street, a rock at the edge where a yard met the street for both first and third base, another stick in the street for second and yet one more stick in the street for the mound (sometimes it was pie tins or a piece of metal instead of rocks or sticks). What all this gave us was the most precious of all street baseball things, right and left field.

We had one problem, no backstop. It turned out one of the guys dad had an 8×4 piece of plywood that he’d nailed a 2×4 board to either end. None of us, even the guy who had this magnificent piece of lumber in his yard, knew why ole dad had done it, but it was never used, so we’d grab it, lug it down to the street, set it in place behind home, and lodge it in place with a couple of short 2x4s that someone always had in his backyard held in place by a few rocks. It worked well except when someone occasionally unloosed a fastball that struck the backstop just right and knocked it over. Eventually, of course, we broke it.

It did have one minor failing. It was in the middle of a public street. During an average summer morning or afternoon, there might be two cars come down the unpaved side street. Almost everyone used the paved main streets, but occasionally someone was inconsiderate enough to want to use our diamond for a drive. So, we’d grab the plywood backstop and the 2×4’s and lug them out of the way so the guy could drive down the street. The stick at home sometimes got run over, but there were other sticks. Mostly the people in the car were pleasant, patient, waved, and went on with their lives. Sometimes there’d be a jerk who’d tell us to “Hurry, you bunch of heathens” (OK, generally it was other words, but this is a family site), but as a rule no one yelled and we’d get the backstop in place and go about our game.

One August we were playing when a blue Chevy (OK, after 60 years I don’t remember either the color or make of the car, so I decided to disparage blue Chevys) turned the corner on the east side of the road and headed toward us. We saw him, started grabbing the backstop and moving it out of his way. He rolled right up to us and stopped. The guy inside was screaming “Get that damned thing out of my way” and other assorted things that had a lot of words with four letters in them. We moved as fast as we could, but one of the guys dropped his side of the north end and we had to get another guy to take his place. We got the backstop out of the way as quickly as we could but the guy was out of his mind yelling at us. It may have taken all of a minute, but he was more irate than anyone we could remember and why he just didn’t drive around us when we cleared one side of the street we couldn’t figure.

So we finished the day, went home, went on about our lives. That evening the family sat down to watch the news. One of the lead stories was about our town (the station was in another town). It seems some guy had robbed the pro shop at the Country Club and escaped in a blue Chevy. The local police, notified by the pro shop, had raced to block off the three major routes out of town and got to one (I forget which after all these years) and just as a blue Chevy approached. They nabbed the crook, recovered the money, and sent the lout to the local jail. The chief admitted that they were surprised how long it took for the bandit to get to the edge of town and speculated he wasn’t a local and didn’t know the streets well.

I like to think that we singlehandedly saved the fortune of the Country Club.

 

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5 Responses to “The Road to Justice Runs Through the Ball Field”

  1. Miller Says:

    What a great story!

  2. wkkortas Says:

    I can almost hear the whistling of “The Andy Griffith Show” theme song in the background.

  3. glenrussellslater Says:

    Great story, V! Did you live near Amarillo? I ask this because we have relatives in Amarillo.

    I’m surprised that this guy didn’t get out of his blue Chevy and steal second base, while he was at it.

    Glen

  4. Jackie, The Baseball Bloggess Says:

    I always love the stories and memories that you share!

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