We were a bunch of kids from Barksdale Air Force Base, La. in 1965.
We were made up of a group of All-Stars from the teams in the league and a few other teams in the District. I made the team as a reserve third baseman mainly because of the offensive production statistics. The kid in front of me was an offensive machine. Maybe in another league or another time, my .325 batting average, one home run, and 40 RBI’s would stand out, but this kid was sick.
25 HR, 66 RBI’s, and get this, a .712 batting average!
He played for a team called the Gents, and they were the league’s powerhouse, with a TEAM batting average over .560!
I also happened to be the number one pitcher on our team, and I also made the roster as a relief pitcher.
So, up until my team played them, the Gents ran rampant through the league, beating teams routinely by double digits while their pitchers literally toyed with batters.
I was the starting pitcher when we faced the Gents and I am sure the batters were just as determined as I was to come out on top.
I had learned how to throw an effective curveball, and I was dominant until the end of the season, when the better hitters figured me out.
So, Mets vs. Gents and I shut them down for five innings. I mean no hits-no runs, they didn’t even sniff contact and my fastball, usually my weakest pitch, was mowing them down when I threw it. To top it off, my double brought home the only run of the game.
On a two and two pitch facing the last out of the sixth and final inning, I felt a twinge in my shoulder.
Ball three. Full count.
I raised my hand for my manager.
He walked out to the mound.
Me: “Coach, I’m done. My shoulder popped.”
Him: “What? Are you kidding me? You’re quitting? You’re gonna do this to your teammates?“
Me: “Yeah but coach, I can’t follow through and their big guns are coming up in the lineup. Maybe Ronnie should come in and mop up this last batter.”
This was the last batter on their roster, literally their worst hitter and certainly one that was not in danger of blasting it out of the ballpark, and I knew if we could just get this last ball across the plate, we could seal the upset.
Coach: “Give me a number, percent-wise how good you are to go?”
Me: “Eighty-percent,” I lied. I was probably closer to sixty.
Coach: “I trust an 80% Mark to throw a strike over a 100% Ronnie any day.”
So I grabbed the rosin bag, mustered everything I had to put the ball across the plate.
Winning run at the plate.
I would like to tell you that I stared down the most feared hitter in the league and sent his ass packing.
I really would like to tell you that.
However, he hit the first pitch I sent his way so hard and far, it probably still hasn’t landed.
Here is the next reading installment covering the letter “T”