Memories of Baseball in My Youth
And other fond thoughts of growing up in the 1950s
“I am saddened by the fact that [my grandkids] will never experience the wonderful years of growing up in the 1950s,” writes R.G. Begora. He recalls his youth fondly, including his memories of baseball.
Growing up in the early ’50s contains many good memories for this young boy.
I lived in Detroit until I was 7 years old. I remember always trying to learn how to play baseball by hanging around the older boys in the neighborhood. I can remember playing catch and using the street as a playing field whenever we got the chance. I recall playing in my first game, or one specific part of it. The older boys stuck me behind second base because they figured I wouldn’t screw up too much. But they were wrong. During the course of the game, someone hit a pop fly in my direction and I actually caught it. I started jumping up and down and yelled, “I caught it, I caught it!” Everyone was shouting at me, “Throw the ball! Throw the ball!” I looked over and saw two runners cross the plate. That is the only part of the game that I can remember. I don’t know if I had a turn at bat or who won the game. All I can remember is that I played my first game and learned the term, “runner tagging up.”
We moved to Chicago when I was 7, and I went back to stay with my aunt, in Detroit, for about a month the next summer. I was still a Detroit Tigers fan and became bored during my visit. I wanted to get an autograph from a pitcher on the Detroit Tigers. I don’t remember why I wanted this particular player’s autograph, but I decided to write him a letter. I looked up his name in the phone book to see if I could get his address. I asked my aunt if this was the player, and she told me to call and ask him. Not knowing any better, I picked up the phone and dialed his number. When someone answered on the other end I asked if he was Steve Gromek. He said it was, and I replied, “The baseball player?” He replied with, “Yes, it is!”
I was flabbergasted and excited that I was talking to a real, live baseball player. The scenario described above is what I can remember. It was close to 70 years ago and I have no idea what we talked about, but he spent at least 10 minutes answering questions from an 8-year-old. I remember him being very nice and not at all irritated that a fan would call him at his home. A week later I received a packet in the mail with an autograph picture, Detroit Tiger pennants, team pictures, and many other souvenirs.
Years later, when I was about age 45, I was shopping at a grocery store. I saw an elderly gentleman at the meat counter wearing a St. Louis Cardinals jacket. Since I had my Cubs T-shirt on, I decided to approach him, and I made some condescending remarks about the Cardinals. The Cubs and Cardinals always had a huge rivalry over the years. He smiled and we started conversing about baseball.
During the course of the conversation, he told me a story that made a permanent impression I will never forget. He told me that he grew up in Chicago and he would go with his friends to Comiskey Park for all the White Sox doubleheaders. He was 7 years old, and he and his friends would take the train to the ballpark on those hot summer days. He only had 50 cents in his pocket, which gave him enough money to buy a hot dog and drink and pay the train fare. What was most interesting was when the first game was over, the players would come on the field and instruct the kids on batting, fielding, and base running. What a wonderful memory to hold on to for the rest of your life.
I can look back on my life and remember the wonderful memories that I will have forever. And when I see my grandkids, I am saddened by the fact that they will never experience the wonderful years of growing up in the 1950s. Oh, my grandkids will have their memories also, but they won’t be from the 1950s. And I’m sure they will be good memories. One thing is for sure: they won’t have the ability to leave at dawn and be home for dinner, filthy dirty, without so much as a “Where were you?” from their parents.
But I just remembered that I have been married for more than 50 years. If I tried that now, my wife would not be happy with me. And when I get very old and my kids have to take care of me, they would not be very happy when I got home either. Oh, well, I still have my memories!
R. G. Begora is retired. In 2006, he published a novel entitled “Smoke,” a firefighting story. He has written other remembrances to share with Boomer readers, including “A Trip to the Penny Candy Store” and “The Good Humor Truck.”
Read more childhood memories and other contributions from Boomer readers in our From the Reader department.
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