MY LOUSY WORLD: The importance of school

Posted 8/25/11

But the grandest TV sports spectacle of them all for me, the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., is being played right now as we speak (so to speak). The innocence and purity of those enthusiastic young-uns from all over the world …

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MY LOUSY WORLD: The importance of school


OK, you’ve had your time of year, sun-worshipers; now it’s my time to shine. It’s the gentle season with “sports galore and give me more!”

I’m always giddy as a schoolgirl when September rears its lovely head, college and NFL football are making their first appearances, and baseball pennant races heat up as the temperatures cool down. It darn near makes me happy to be alive.

But the grandest TV sports spectacle of them all for me, the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., is being played right now as we speak (so to speak). The innocence and purity of those enthusiastic young-uns from all over the world scrapping to be called the best, speaks to every male who remembers the sweet smell of horsehide for the first time.

The first Little League team from Billings to ever make it to Williamsport is now 2-0, and the team played again Wednesday night on ESPN. I spent a weekend in Williamsport about 10 years ago when home for a visit, when my billiards maven friend Sam Rullo hosted a huge pool tournament there and invited me along. We ate breakfast at a restaurant above the field before walking down where I took pictures and ran the bases in what must have looked pretty pathetic to grazing diners.

I’ve loved watching the regional elimination games the last couple weeks, marred only by my pet peeve: atrocious umpiring. I don’t care that these are amateurs, volunteer umps; if a thrown ball that couldn’t have been reached with a bed slat looks like a strike to these guys, they should have volunteered for the snack bar!

In all my years playing Pee Wee, Little League, High School and American Legion baseball, I never once argued with an umpire, but from solitude of my living room, I can be quite belligerent. I even find myself throwing my hat down and kicking up dirt from my carpet as I let the expletives fly.

And never did they fly like a month ago when a cross-eyed, late-for-dinner disgrace to the profession named Jerry Meals called an obviously out-at-home Julio Lugo safe in the 19th inning and sent my Cinderella-story Pittsburgh Pirates’ miracle season careening into the pit where it now resides.

I sincerely believe Meals should be charged with armed robbery, possibly resulting in a short jail sentence. Not only did he obviously steal a potential win from my Bucs, but possibly robbed the record books of the longest game ever played.

I find myself thinking often lately about another outrageous Little League ruling in Boswell, Pa., 44 years ago that ruined my astonishing young pitching career. It tops my list of “Things I should have said” over my lifetime.

Let me set the stage. I was the new kid who lived 6 miles away in the Queenahoming Dam area and peddled his bicycle to town from far away. I was a rising star with my high-kick windup and feared “sidearm” delivery everyone was buzzing about. (My rookie card was sought after by wise investors).

In the middle of one game, while locked in a pitching duel with a kid named Marty Wallet, his coach father “Fats” Wallet stopped the game and told the umpire my sidearm I was striking out his boys with was illegal. He erroneously claimed that when I fell to the 3rd-base side of the mound after the pitch, my foot illegally left the rubber. After a short conference, I was told to retire that that famous pitch, which had baffled so many batters.

It took me all these years, but it finally came to me one day recently what I should have said. Obviously, it is a virtual impossibility to throw a baseball with the speed and accuracy I threw it with, while in mid-air. Without the right leg anchored on the rubber from whence it originated during the windup, the delivery is physiologically impossible. I should have said, “OK, loud, old people, I hereby challenge either of you to throw a strike with neither of your feet touching the ground. If you can do that, I shall accept your decision gracefully and never again throw my sidearm.”

But no, I didn’t say that. Intimidated by these adults twice my height with front teeth that didn’t hang over their bottom lip like mine did, I instead said something like, “Ah fiddlesticks! OK, I’ll try it overhand.” l predictably got shelled, was later replaced by a relief pitcher and I became an infielder for the rest of my career.

I wonder if that’s where my life went wrong? I might start blaming that egregious injustice for my problems with alcohol and lack of direction throughout life. I was just another young sidearmer victimized by society and a dishonest umpire who was worse than Hitler.

That’s what I should have told the judge a few years back.