Baseball in 1960 was big for kids as well as for Bucs

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I remember baseball from the year 1960.

I was a 9-year-old tomboy with long legs, sun-blond hair down to the middle of my back -- pulled up in a ponytail and tucked under a baseball cap -- and the proud owner of a catcher's mitt and a fielder's glove.

Between two neighborhood teams in Butler, I was the only girl. Our ragtag South Hills neighborhood team -- including my younger brother, our pitcher -- played the Terrace neighborhood team from over the hill and down the road.

My brother was not a big kid but strong, which made up for him being small. He could pitch and crack solid hits. Several years later when Dad coached his Little League team, he pitched a no-hitter.

We played on the top of a hill that served as a border between the two neighborhoods -- ours being a city neighborhood and theirs in the country. We walked to school and they were bused.

From a nearby road all you could see were the trees. Just behind the tree line was a field of tall grass and prickly weeds. Walking through that field to get to our dirt diamond, my socks always got covered with stickers. On both teams, we'd all pack our lunches and play pickup games all summer long.

It felt one day like the hottest day of the summer. It had to be over 90 degrees in the shade. Beads of sweat trickled down my face on the bike ride over to the field. I wanted to go home, because it was so hot, but I noticed Ricky D had showed up.

I felt sorry for the kid, knowing he couldn't play well. He was just one of those kids that had no coordination, no meat on his bones, was pale and looked like a mass of limp egg noodles. It was different when he played.

His brother was there as well that day, and we did need Ricky D to make an almost full team. What were we to do? Although we were only a neighborhood ragtag team, we had a rule for fair play. If you showed up, you played.

We let Ricky D play, though it was obvious he was afraid of the ball. He couldn't hit or field. We put him in the outfield where he would do the least damage. That's what we thought.

Danny Z from the Terrace team came up. I held my breath, praying he'd strike or foul out, but he was a slugger. "Oh, man, this could be bad," I thought. I don't remember what inning it was, how many runners were on base or what the score was. What I do remember was something amazing.

Danny Z, of course, sent the ball to the outfield with a crack of the bat. It was a slow, lofty kind of arc, and we were all yelling for Ricky D to run, run, run. "Get under the ball!"

Ricky D cowered under the incoming ball with his gloved hand over his head to protect it. It looked like he had closed his eyes as well, when the ball plopped into the pocket of his glove. He caught the ball just like that!

You should have heard Danny Z cursing up a storm and seen him stomping his feet, sending clouds of dust floating upward, causing him to cough and sputter more cuss words. We all laughed so hard that our sides ached and Ricky D's brother fell over.

We never saw anything like that again at our field, and Ricky D didn't come back, even though he was the hero for a moment in time. Good for Ricky D for ending his career on a high note.

Some days we'd ride our bikes home, and half the team would stop at my house. Coming into the house through the basement we'd find the downstairs refrigerator filled with pitchers of Kool Aid and a freezer full of Popsicles.

The Pirates were having an exceptional season. It was an electrifying time. Each game had drama, its main characters and thrilling stories.

With Popsicles in hand, we'd sit and listen to the animated voice of the Pirates, Bob Prince, call the play-by-play drama, while watching the Pirates make a little magic of their own in becoming the 1960 World Series champs.

That was the magic of 1960 and the baseball I remember, whether played at Forbes Field or on our dirt diamond on the south side of Butler.

intelligencer

Cathy (Taggart) Kennedy, a school crossing guard in Pompano Beach, Fla., can be reached at cgcg17@aol.com. The PG Portfolio welcomes "Baseball Lore" submissions and other reader essays. Send your writing to page2@post-gazette.com; or by mail to Portfolio, Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh PA 15222. Portfolio editor Gary Rotstein may be reached at 412-263-1255.


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