Jonathan Kahane: When the real game was in the sandlot
To the editor:
I enjoyed reading Richard Szlosek’s March 26 nostalgic guest column about his boyhood experience with Little League. It has prompted me to present an alternative view. I was born and raised in The Bronx. I suppose there was Little League around, but I never knew anyone who played in it. There was the PAL (Police Athletic League), but I didn’t know anyone who played in that either.
The real game was in the sandlot. Every day, from sunup until sundown there was a game going on during “the season.” “The season” seemed to start on some unknown day and ended on another unknown day. There were no uniforms. Similar to Szlozek’s experience, we played with taped up balls, we shared mitts, and as he so aptly put it, “there wasn’t an adult in sight.”
The game went on all day long. We “chose up sides” in ways that seem to be extinct now — tossing the bat, “shooting” fingers for odds and evens, inka dinka and on and on. When someone showed up, he somehow fit in. Were there arguments? Of course there were. But we honed our “intellectual” skills that way.
The only time I remember a game ending before sundown was when Angelo hit a ball out of the yard, and it broke a window across the street. We honed our running skills that way!
You weren’t concerned about where you were in the standings. There were no standings. Every day when the sun came up (and when it didn’t), the “new season” started, and it ended when the sun went down — that is except when Angelo got a hold of one. Just about every game we played revolved around baseball — stickball, punchball, stoopball, curb ball, box baseball. Virtually every conversation was about the Dodgers (yea!), the Giants (boo) and the Yankees (BOO). My kids played Little League and enjoyed it. I tried to help as much as I could. But during every game I caught myself wondering if they would have preferred no fancy uniforms, no fancy bats, no fancy balls, no fancy fields, a perpetual game going on, and most of all — no adults.