A plastic batting helmet that flops over the eyes and spins nicely around the head. Baggy pants (don't call them knickers, Mom). Bats too heavy to swing, stockings (they're socks, Mom) that slip down to the harmless rubber cleats (spikes, for Pete's sake). Such are the problems when boys play like men, but so what? To pose, that's what counts. To take a cut like Mantle...to rock and throw like Koufax...to hitch up the pants just so, or to tug ever so earnestly at the bill of one's cap...to smack the fist, blam, blam, in the deep pocket of one's Pete Rose glove, or to chant, with feeling: hum, babe, chuck it to 'm, babe, fire that ol' pill in there. Do you think I look like Gibson, Mom? Do you, do you? Honest? And so it goes through the summer. These Little Leaguers from New Jersey are Little Leaguers Everywhere.
A sissy walk...yuechh...this slugger tosses his club away disdainfully, just like on television.
Nobody plays harder than mom and pop, but kid brother (right) finds knee scab more intriguing.
In any league desperation is sliding into home when the catcher has the ball safely in his mitt.
It was going right over my head, see, so I jumped real high and got my glove up there, and just....
It did look like it was over to me, dad. Gee, you'd think a guy never struck out in a ball game before.
The agony of betrayal by one's best summertime buddy, the fielder's mitt, can be compensated by the sublime pleasures of wearing a catcher's mask atop one's head, or making funny faces at the ump from beneath the security of an old cap.
WALTER IOOSS JR.