Why Can’t We Let Go of Our Childhood Sports Memories?

In the summer of 1978, when I was 14, I played outfield for my Babe Ruth League baseball team. But one day all our pitchers skipped out on practice, and we needed someone to throw BP. I had pitched a bit in Little League, so I volunteered. I didn’t throw that hard, but I had decent control. My coach was intrigued, so he had me do a side session, where I showed him I had an okay curveball. I guess he liked what he saw, because he said, “How’d you like to start this Sunday?”

I think that was on a Tuesday. All week long, all I could think about was how I’d be the starting pitcher that Sunday. I felt special, like I had some newfound higher status (or to put it another way, I was totally full of myself). When I woke up on Sunday morning, I thought, “I’m the starting pitcher today.” As my father drove me to the game a few hours later, I sat there in the passenger seat thinking, “I’m the starting pitcher today.” When we stopped at the deli so my father could get coffee, I looked at the other customers and thought, “Do these people know I’m the starting pitcher today?” The realization that they probably didn’t know was somehow troubling. Shouldn’t they have known? Shouldn’t everyone have known?

The game did not go well. I walked the first batter. Fortunately, I picked him off of first base (my move wasn’t that good, but I’m pretty sure the kid had never seen a lefty’s pick-off move before, so that was a big advantage). Then there was another walk and a ground ball that our third baseman booted, so there were runners on first and second. Then I balked — second and third. I managed to strike out the next guy on a full-count pitch that would have been ball four if he hadn’t swung at it. Then another walk and my coach mercifully pulled me and put me back in the outfield, where I belonged. I never pitched again.

That was 41 years ago, but I remember all of it like it was yesterday (okay, maybe the day before yesterday). I also remember assorted Little League games and youth-league football and basketball games that I played in — some good, which still feel like moments of triumph, and some bad, which still feel like moments of shame.

It’s a little embarrassing that these memories remain etched in my mind. It seems immature — why am I still mentally replaying these long-ago scenarios? Shouldn’t I let go of all that and stop reliving my childhood?

I occasionally tell some of these stories to the Tugboat Captain. Her reaction is always the same: “How can you possibly remember all of that stuff?” She doesn’t think it’s necessarily embarrassing that I have these sports memories — she’s just amazed that I remember anything from my childhood in such detail. (Oddly enough, I don’t remember what our uniform looked like. Weird but true.)

I thought about all of this when I heard a recent segment on This American Life about a 58-year-old guy who still obsesses over his poor performance in a high school basketball playoff game. By coincidence, the game took place in 1978 — the same year as my ill-fated turn on the mound. He thinks that basketball game — and, more specifically, one particular play in that game — was the turning point that led him down the path of a difficult life. His daughter, certain that he’s being too hard on himself and figuring he couldn’t possibly have played as poorly as he insists he did, somehow manages to track down a video of the game and gets him to agree to watch it with her. The results are … interesting.

It’s powerful stuff. And as I listened to it, I wondered how many other people are reliving dreams of glory and nightmares of disappointment from their childhood sports endeavors. Surely I’m not the only one, right? Do any of you still replay your childhood sports triumphs and traumas in your mind? If so, do you feel weird about doing that, like I do?

Feel free to post about this in today’s comments. And I really, really recommend the This American Life segment — it’ll take 20 minutes of your time, but it’s totally worth it.

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Roll your own: With basketball players at all levels increasingly prone to rolling down the waistbands on their shorts, a new company called dbl Athletic is offering hoops shorts whose waistbands are designed to be rolled. A spokesman says at least one AAU team is about to start wearing the company’s gear this month.

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Glove auction update: As you may recall, D&J Glove Repair recently auctioned off a complete baseball glove relacing and reconditioning, along with a wallet made from glove leather, with the proceeds going to Uni Watch. The winner, with a bid of $150, was Michael Gray.

As you can see above, D&J has now finished its work on Michael’s old Johnny Bench catcher’s mitt. Here’s a look from the other side:

Nice work! My continued thanks to Jimmy Lonetti (the “J” in D&J Glove Repair) for generously donating his time and labor. If you’d like to contact him to get a quote for restoring your glove, you can contact him here.

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Membership update: Membership card designer Scott M.X. Turner lives in New Orleans, so he had his hands full recently with hurricane/flood preparations and the like. Despite that, he’s still turned out some great work on our latest batch of cards (and also for another project that I’ll be sharing with you very soon) — check out the fantastic textured flannel pattern he created for Benjamin Blum’s 1940s Red Sox-themed card, shown at right.

While we’re at it: Scott also did a great job on Mike DiLorenzo’s card, which is based on the old “Gate D” sign at Cleveland Stadium. An interesting design request on Mike’s part, and great execution by Scott!

This is the part where I say ordering a membership card is a good way to support Uni Watch. And remember, a Uni Watch membership card entitles you to a 15% discount on any of the merchandise in our Teespring shop and our Naming Wrongs shop. (If you’re an existing member and would like to have the discount code, email me and I’ll hook you up.) As always, you can sign up for your own custom-designed card here, you can see all the cards we’ve designed so far here, and you can see how we produce the cards here.

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One last Bouton/Ball Four reminder: Tonight at 7:30pm I’ll be participating in a tribute to Jim Bouton and his seminal 1970 book, Ball Four, at Le Poisson Rouge in Manhattan. Other participants will include the great Jay Jaffe of FanGraphs; Villanova professor and longtime baseball author Mitchell Nathanson; and Field of Schemes honcho Neil deMause.

We’ll each be talking about what what made Bouton and Ball Four so special to us and reading a few of our favorite passages from the book. I’m particularly interested to hear Nathanson’s spiel, because he’s going to read the letter that Bouton received from World Publishing’s legal department, basically telling him that half of the manuscript was libelous and the other half was slanderous. Fortunately, Bouton and his editor stood firm and the book was published almost exactly as submitted.

Doors open at 7pm. Admission is free. It would be great to see a bunch of Uni Watch readers there — please join us!

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The Ticker
By Paul

Baseball News: The Lakewood Blue Claws will wear Bruce Springsteen-themed jerseys on July 27 (from John Cerone). … The Round Rock Express will wear tequila sunrise jerseys on Aug. 3 (from Ignacio Salazar). … Lots of good uni photos in this article about semipro and amateur baseball in Colorado (nice find from Kary Klismet). … The Durham Bulls will wear NHL Carolina Hurricanes-themed uniforms on Aug. 23 (from Taylor Hood). … A’s OF Ramón Laureano wore teammate Matt Chapman’s helmet yesterday (good spot by Acolv4). … A new Indians TV commercial includes footage from 2015, when the team still wore Wahoo and the Al Rosen memorial patch.

Football News: A Ravens fan site weighed in with some thoughts on the team’s best uni combo (from Stephen Murphy). … Adidas seems to have a new, more structured collar for its college jerseys this year (from Ryan Cotter). … Iowa State players will apparently wear helmet decals showing their home state flags (from Sean Jankowski).

Hockey News: New acquired Rangers LW Artemi Panarin skated in his first practice with his new team while still wearing his old Blue Jackets helmet, gloves, and breezers (from Nicholas Walz). … Cross-listed from the baseball section: MiLB’s Durham Bulls will wear Hurricanes-themed uniforms on Aug. 23 (from Taylor Hood).

Basketball News: Bit of confusion yesterday, as the Lakers tweeted a photo of newly acquired PF/C Anthony Davis wearing a jersey with retro-style block-shadowing on the chest number. But they also tweeted a video showing a new Davis jersey being sewn with the more modern number treatment. A source has confirmed to me that the jersey in the first tweet was a blooper and that no uni changes are in the works. … As usual, you can follow the latest NBA uni number developments by checking out Etienne Catalan’s Twitter feed. … Speaking of numbers, here’s newly acquired Celtics G Kemba Walker talking about why he’s wearing No. 8 (from Joe Giza).
… New road uniforms for Montana (from @SodaPopinskiCU).

Soccer News: There was some question as to whether Huddersfield would actually wear their new kit with the truly massive shirt ad (even by soccer standards). But sure enough, they wore it for yesterday’s friendly. Looks like it may now be banned (from many readers). … Juventus’s official logo, name, and kits will appear only on PES2020. EASports FIFA will be forced to call the team Piemonte Calcio and use fake logos and jerseys (from John Flory). … Here’s a breakdown of Italian Serie A teams by kit maker (from Josh Hinton). … Man City wore ad patches over their back numbers for the Asia Trophy tournament (from @deadendnights). … You can see lots of additional kit-reveal news for smaller clubs and leagues by checking out Josh Hinton’s and Ed Zelaski’s Twitter feeds. … FC Cincinnati has released the design for the team’s new stadium. “The team also launched a new website to track progress on the stadium’s construction, which includes lots of interesting design specifications,” says Kary Klismet. … Here’s a look at lots of “wacky” kits over the years (from Alex Evans). … New kits for Tottenham Hotspur’s men’s and women’s teams (from our own Jamie Rathjen).

Grab Bag: Apple’s old rainbow-patterned Mac logo may be making a comeback. … A U.S. Army soldier ripped off his uniform shirt during a violent dispute over a parking space in Georgia. … Here’s a history of the Punisher logo being used by police, the military, and politicians. … Here’s why pro golfer Rory McIlroy is wearing a washing machine logo on his shirt (from Willard Kovacs). … New Rugby World Cup kit for Argentina (from @ohhsourry).

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Tomorrow: The results of the Bengals-redesign challenge, and a big Uni Watch announcement. See you back here then.

83 comments to Why Can’t We Let Go of Our Childhood Sports Memories?

  • mike | July 18, 2019 at 8:04 am |

    MSU basketball coach Tom Izzo famously shoots 100 free throws a day, after missing the front end of a crucial 1-and-1 in a 1972 high school tournament game.

  • John | July 18, 2019 at 8:09 am |

    The year was 1984. I was bad in Little League so Coach only gave me the minimum one AB per game. I was up with the bases loaded and lined a single to center. It was my only batted ball to the outfield all season. But the kid on first didn’t run to 2B so he was forced out. No RBI, no hit for me.

  • Typo Tom | July 18, 2019 at 8:26 am |

    Slight typo in the hockey section of the Ticker. Instead of Blue Jackets, you have “Blue Jackest”.

  • Will S | July 18, 2019 at 8:29 am |

    When I was quite young (likely “Atom” age) our regular goalie on my league hockey team was either sick or injured. I did and now still usually do play defence mainly. I ended up filling in for two games – one I don’t remember (a 2-2 tie), but the second game I do remember some: a 10-1 loss against the top team. Started crying part way though that game. Didn’t play any goal again until I was an adult.

  • Josh | July 18, 2019 at 8:34 am |

    Little league. Late evening game. I was playing right field when the batter hit a laser right to me. I run up, raise my glove and miss the ball by a foot. Shoots by me, lands and rolls what seemed to be 50 ft. I can still see the ball as I realize I’m not catching it.

    On the bright side I was never good, knew that and have never had a “What if” dream.

  • WFY | July 18, 2019 at 8:49 am |

    What did your father say after your start? I am the little league dad right now and I have seen my son have outstanding performances and brutal ones.

    I don’t remember too many things about my athletic history, but I wasn’t the competitor my son is either.

    I remember all my uniforms pretty well. I wish I still had my Senators shirsey.

    • Paul Lukas | July 18, 2019 at 8:49 am |

      What did your father say after your start?

      That’s a really good question. Honestly, I don’t recall. But knowing my dad, I’m sure he was supportive.

  • Morgan Doninger | July 18, 2019 at 8:51 am |

    I remember my childhood sports memories vividly, both good and bad. I remember turning an inning and game ending double play when I played slow pitch softball (diving stab of a line drive; doubled a straying runner off second). I remember my teammates mobbing me in celebration. I also remember being such a poor hitter when I finally tried playing baseball that once my own teammates threw rocks and dirt balls at me as I came to bat.

    I think these memories stay with us so vividly because these moments are the first things we experience as kids that have real world consequences. Your actions on a sports field have direct black and white results. Out/Safe, Win/Lose. So many of our other experiences in life exist in a gray area. I believe that gray area does not stick in our binary wired brains as easily as the good/bad outcomes of sports.

    I don’t find myself obsessing over my childhood sports moments, but I did not play organized sports again until my thirties after my baseball teammates tested me so awfully as a teenager, so there is that.

    My son plays travel baseball now (way better than I ever was!), and now his games are burned into my memory as well. There is just something about the stakes of an athletic contest (artificial stakes perhaps, but still intense), combined with immediate good/bad results that make these memories stick so easily and deeply in my memory. His memory as well.

    • Dan Pfeifer | July 18, 2019 at 11:54 am |

      This is largely what I was thinking. (Great opening piece today, Paul, by the way.)

      First off, I think our brains are a little like lint rollers — you know, the ones that have sticky, perforated sheets of paper on them. The first time you roll a lint roller over a piece of clothing, it picks up everything, often including a healthy amount of loose material from the item of clothing, particularly if it’s something that creates a lot of lint, like a wool suit. But, the more times you roll a lint roller over something, the less it picks up.

      When we’re young, our brains are like the lint roller with a fresh sheet of tacky paper, and one that’s increasing in size, too. Over time, less sticks.

      Some people are blessed/cursed (depending on what happens) with tackier lint-roller paper than others, I think, not to mention I think some of us are more inclined to remember bad things. My wife routinely tells me the same thing the Tugboat Captain told Paul. She remembers stuff from her childhood, but not nearly as much as I do.

      I’m almost one to believe that having less of a memory of past successes and failures is almost an advantage. Those for whom their lint-roller is less sticky aren’t saddled with the baggage of the past or the feeling what they do will have wide-ranging consequences they’ll remember for ages. They just go and do.

      Furthermore, when you’re young, you’re also still trying to figure out your place in the world. Sure, you’re following the instructions of your parents and teachers and trying to do the right things. But you don’t really know yet. Am I doing this stuff right? Am I even being taught right? Am I better, worse or the same than my peers? Should I plan on being successful and give things a shot that others shouldn’t? Or should I plan on being a failure and temper my expectations?

      As young people search for any clues to answer those questions, something like a sporting event can provide a lot of answers. And when a new path opens itself — the coach thinks I might be a good pitcher and has deemed me worthy of pitching over all my teammates — our minds explore the possibilities. While things didn’t go well in the end, in the run-up, I’m sure young Paul thought there was an outside chance that start could have been the first step toward becoming the next Tom Seaver.

      Furthermore, I have a feeling Paul, better than most other kids, had a feeling for what being the starting pitcher represented. When we’re kids, I think we have a sense that we’re the product of all those parents, teachers and other people in our lives and the effort they’ve put into making us who we are. Sports teams are, in a way, representations of community. When you take the ball as the starter, you’re representing all the other kids on the team, their parents and maybe even your neighborhood or group of friends versus a representation of another neighborhood and group of friends and all they stand for. Consider Paul looking at the other deli customers and wondering if they realize he’s the starting pitcher. I can’t help but wonder if, maybe subconsciously, there was that thought of, “I’m pitching, in part, for them, too.”

      Thing is, as adults, we don’t have that same feeling. We earn independence, which means our actions feel like they’re moreso the result of our own agency rather than the product of those around us.

      If anything, we’re seeing parents take too much agency over their children nowadays. Consider how many parents refuse to let their kids know what failure means because it becomes a reflection upon them as a parent. The Varsity Blues scandal comes to mind, but helicopter parenting has become a trend among all socioeconomic strata.

      Nonetheless, for those of us raised in more sane times, there was still a feeling, if we played poorly in a Little League game or a high-school basketball game where we were in front of and representing our peers, we were letting them down. When we get older and we’re not so much representing anyone or anything other than ourselves, it feels a little less weighty if we only disappoint our self.

      If anything, the case from “This American Life” is a great example of why kids should play more than one sport. It allows you to understand that life is more than just one contest. I’m reminded, more humorously, of Seinfeld’s bit about the Olympics. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xK9rbwM3omA

      I played baseball through my youth. It was the one sport I truly played competitively. Won four-straight Brookfield Parks & Rec titles. I pitched for all four teams, including being the number one starter for a couple, and hit a homer to tie the game that we would later win in walk-off fashion to win the second of the four titles after my sixth-grade year of 1994. Unfortunately, the really good baseball players in the suburb weren’t playing in that league, but were playing for the travel team that, essentially, became the high school team. I got seven at-bats on the freshman team and saw about six innings of work on the mound. Got cut my sophomore and junior years.

      Was offered a token spot as a senior in a very nice gesture (whenever the coach would ask trivia questions in the tryout, I was the only one that not only had a clue but knew them all, which clued him into the fact I adore baseball), but declined as my dad was coaching the rec team I was playing for by then. It softened the blow significantly that the high school team dominated its way to a state title my senior year. At camps run by the local batting cage place, coaches from other schools in my conference told me I would have played for their teams.

      Those years between 10-18 start to feel like the culmination of all the other things you’ve learned before. Then, you’re kind of just set free into the world to do your best and know that whatever happens happens. It’s what and who we are.

  • Peter | July 18, 2019 at 8:56 am |

    Re: Washing Machine.
    Great Album by Sonic Youth.

  • Mike Wissman | July 18, 2019 at 8:57 am |

    I don’t think it’s even remotely weird that someone would reminisce about their past, whether it be as a child, teenager or adult. I don’t see why anyone would. For me there were lessons in the successes and failures I learned from. And I believe that’s why I remember them. I remember an important race where I, just for a second gave up a little. I caught myself and tried to catch back up, but couldn’t. I learned something that day about life, and myself. And another day when I exceeded everyone’s expectations except my own, I figured out the meaning of setting a goal, working hard and achieving it.

    There’s certainly fools glory if we look back too long. But taking lessons from what we experienced (which I think fits Paul’s starting pitcher story well) to me is of immense value.

  • Anthony G | July 18, 2019 at 9:01 am |

    SImilar situation to you was my first, and only, time pitching in Little League. We mostly had games Tuesday Nights and Saturday but once time that season we had to play on Wednesday night due to a rain out. My Dad had Wednesdays off so this was the only time he got to see me play so I wanted to impress. I convinced my coach to let me pitched, which is something I never did (I mostly played catcher, 1B). Got the first kid to strike out so I started to feel myself but the the wheels fell off. Walked two batters and Hit another before being pulled. My only strike was pitch that was thrown behind the batter and glanced his bat.

    Like you said, its weird that I can remember so many details of that game. We were sponsored by the local pub and wore dark purple uniforms. The Little league field was across the street from the state prison and if you hit a foul ball behind the backstop it would sometimes go into the yard. But I think we all had some dreams of becoming a professional athlete and want to live the fantasy if we had “one good break” our lives could change. I’m not complaining about my currently life (I have a wife, two kids, good job, ect.) just sometime you do wonder.

  • Rainbow Guts | July 18, 2019 at 9:06 am |

    Clarification re: Round Rock Express.

    The team already wears a special Tequila Sunrise jersey on Saturdays; this is a special Matthew McConaghey-inspired uniform. The colorway is the same, but the stripes don’t vary in width as in the UltraStripe pattern.

    • Jim Howicz | July 18, 2019 at 10:06 am |

      Being an Astros farm team, the Express have leaned pretty hard on the Tequila Sunrise theme. (https://twitter.com/RRExpress/status/1145031934285885442) Not only is it their alternate jersey, but it’s used as their Copa de la Diversión jersey when they play as the Chupacabras (https://twitter.com/RRExpress/status/1150141372890046465).

      The alternate has grown on me, mainly because I feel the the team’s link to the Astros gives them a bit of license to have a jersey like this. It’s not just a Tequila Sunrise for Tequila Sunrise sake situation. The Chupacabras jerseys look a bit like what the Nascar Interstate Batteries team would wear, but it’s well intended.

  • Wfy | July 18, 2019 at 9:18 am |

    I feel like have seen that specific image at the top of the post in a moodboard at work too

  • William in KY | July 18, 2019 at 9:19 am |

    Paul, like the Tugboat Captain, I am also amazed at how you can recall such detail from your childhood. I can remember flashes and moments from various life events, but rarely do I remember small details like dates or exact moments. I wonder why that is.

  • Christopher Dann | July 18, 2019 at 9:26 am |

    Paul and I are nearly the same age and I have a pitching memory as well! In Senior League (13- to 15-year-olds), my regular season team (not the league all-star team at the end of the season) was really good and made it to the finals of the annual tournament around Memorial Day two years in a row. This was quite a feat in that it was a tournament involving more than 70 teams both years. We lost both times. The second time, I was the starting pitcher (unlike Paul, I was our #1 starter at the time). I pitched well, but we lost the game because I attempted to pick a guy off second base and threw the ball into centerfield! The runner came around and scored the winning run. I’be thought about that every week ever since…

  • DenverGregg | July 18, 2019 at 9:37 am |

    i was (and am still) super clumsy. didn’t see terribly well either until i got glasses in seventh grade. reached full height (6’3″) by 14 and skinny. this limited my athletic prospects

    highlight: baseball game summer of ’72 was playing right field – really more just standing there, fly ball landed in my glove without my doing a dang thing about it. surprised me that it happened and it took a moment for me to realize i should throw the ball to second base. that ballfield is now the site of a big apartment building near Porter Hospital in south Denver.

    lowlight: basketball tournament in 8th grade we were playing a team from Greeley that had four guys over six feet tall. i got three fouls in two minutes and then clotheslined a guy. this was in the town of Brighton, where i later worked for nearly a decade, and the gym floor was tile. another school we played back then had a carpeted gym. we had snazzy unis. i wore 35.

    dumb guy moment: football in ’74. i was the worst player by a large amount and one of the youngest guys on the team, so it was pretty rare for me to get into a game. Coach said “last defense”. i figured i was last-string so i scampered on out when he really meant he wanted the same defense that had been on the field for the last series. jerseys were like Georgia Tech’s gold. I wore 78. we played our home games in Denver’s Washington Park.

    • Paul Lukas | July 18, 2019 at 9:48 am |

      The gym floor was tile?

      • DenverGregg | July 18, 2019 at 10:35 am |

        yes. scroll down on this page to “seasons of change”. looks like floor now has been changed out.

        • DenverGregg | July 18, 2019 at 10:36 am |

          sorry, scroll down to “slam dunk”

      • DenverGregg | July 18, 2019 at 11:12 am |

        Most of floor looked like this and the sidelines were very much like this.

        • Dan Pfeifer | July 18, 2019 at 12:00 pm |

          There are still some high school gyms around Milwaukee like this, while others have teams play on coated, painted, smoothed concrete.

          I had a similar reaction to Paul when I first heard about teams playing “on tile,” largely because I pictured something more like bathroom tile — square, porcelain, maybe an inch by an inch with lots of grout lines, etc. When I found out the tile was more like standard classroom flooring, I was both a little less surprised and, in a way, disappointed, as that was a heck of a lot more boring.

    • DenverGregg | July 18, 2019 at 11:56 am |

      one of the team moms for my 8th grade hoops team made the uniforms. they looked like these but without a wordmark. the school kept the unis for future use. bigger numbers were on bigger sizes.

  • Brooklyn Pete | July 18, 2019 at 9:46 am |

    1962. I’m 14 years old in left field for my Babe Ruth League team. The opponent’s lead-off batter hits a line shot over the head of the short-stop. I charge the ball and it goes right through my legs. The batter scoots around the bases. A four base error.
    After the third out I avoid the glare of Coach Gino.
    Unfortunately, it still seems like I made that error yesterday. Still bothers me.

  • Keith G | July 18, 2019 at 9:49 am |

    I was playing JV baseball for my high school, spring 1990. We were in first place, I was having a very good year batting 4th. We were home, playing a local rival in second place, and the game was tied in the bottom of the 6th- 2nd and 3rd. They intentionally walked the #3 hitter to get to me. I was furious and would certainly make them pay. Intentionally walk someone to face the cleanup hitter? Puh-lease! it was now time for a tape measure grand slam.

    I dig in and swing at the first pitch. Slightly high fastball, probably not a strike, and I flied out to center. To this day I am pissed at myself for not taking a strike, or at least a pitch, and making the pitcher work. He wasn’t throwing gas or anything- I was super impatient. I felt so stupid, and I hate feeling like that more than anything.

    Fortunately, we rallied in the bottom of the 7th and won the game anyway. But out of all the at bats I can remember wanting back, and I have a few, that is the one I want to repeat the most. Whenever I drive past the field, which is now converted to soccer, I still think about it and get annoyed. This was 29 years ago. Crazy.

  • Travis | July 18, 2019 at 9:51 am |

    I live in Clinton, Iowa, home of the Clinton Lumber Kings, Single A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. When I was a kid, in the late 80’s the Lumber Kings were known as the Clinton Giants. The stadium had a Little League field where the beer tents and parking lots are now. In those days, the Little League All-Star & Playoff games were held there. I played in a few games on that field, but the one that comes to mind is my only ASG. I was a 2b, exclusively, so when coach asked if I wanted to pitch, I jumped at the chance. The first 2 hitters are both my cousins, twins, Justin and Jared. Justin comes up first, plunked him up around the head, Jared next, I throw a chicken footer at him, hit him on the ankle. I left the pitchers mound before making another pitch. But hey, I also hot a homer in that game, so there’s that. Justin, Jared, and I still reference that game, decades later.

    • Memal | July 18, 2019 at 1:19 pm |

      Half of the fun of remembering memories like these are laughing about it with friends and family with whom they happened!

  • jacket18 | July 18, 2019 at 9:59 am |

    Sports are a funny thing. I just turned 40 and I find it embarrassingly difficult at times to remember some of the most basic details about my childhood. But I remember something from every Cross Country race I ever ran in High School, many quite vividly. I remember slips and stumbles in the mud, hills, corners, crowded start lines, times when I found that extra something to push through, and others when I just didn’t have it. I vividly remember getting cut-off right at the finish line of a 2-mile race my senior year (that one still bugs me!).

  • Eric | July 18, 2019 at 10:18 am |

    12 years old, league semifinals, my team is down one run. I come up with the bases loaded and two outs. I get a 1-0 meatball right down the middle…and hit a lazy fly ball to CF. The kid catches it easily, game over. I was distraught.

    12 years later I came to bat in the exact situation in a company softball game. I was thinking of the little league at bat before coming to the plate (I was envisioning history repeating itself). I always thought I was too amped up in the little league game, which is why I jumped at that meatball and hit a lazy fly ball.

    Same thing happened in the softball game: 1-0 meatball, but this time I stayed back and crushed it for a game-winning double. It took a second “lifetime” to get redemption (12 years old the first time, 24 the second), but I might not have succeeded the second time had I not failed at first.

  • Wade Heidt | July 18, 2019 at 10:35 am |

    Like most of us, I do remember a lot of detail about sports events that happened in my childhood. I really don’t dwell on it much.

    Could tell you every team name and what every uniforms looked like from novice to midget in my minor hockey days, including the emergency alternate set of jerseys we had to wear for one game in a provincial championship tournament. Worn because we did not have a set of white jerseys required out of the 2 sets of uniforms we did have.

  • Greg Lamm | July 18, 2019 at 10:39 am |

    Oh man. I relive my childhood sports memories all the time. Baseball, football, basketball, track, you name it. I have a memory very similar to yours. I was also playing Babe Ruth baseball in 1978. I was also primarily an OF but played every position except 1B at one time or another. I used to pitch batting practice occasionally and I had a decent curveball as well. One day, our coach asked me if I wanted to start the next game on the mound. I said okay but I was scared to death. I remember thinking that I felt like the ump was squeezing me because I wasn’t missing by much. I walked the leadoff man and realized that I had never pitched from the stretch before. I never made it out of the 1st inning and never pitched again either.

  • Random reader | July 18, 2019 at 10:44 am |

    There’s a misworded comment about the Man City jersey ad: it’s more accurate to describe the ad as being over the numbers on back, not sleeve numbers. Sleeve numbers aren’t worn by City.

    • Paul Lukas | July 18, 2019 at 10:52 am |

      Thanks. Fixed.

  • mike 2 | July 18, 2019 at 11:14 am |

    I played a lot of baseball growing up and my memories are just as vivid.

    I still cringe at the time (I would have been about 11) when I was on third, there was a runner on second but nobody on first, and the batter walked. I forgot there wasn’t a force, trotted home and the catcher tagged me out to end the inning (and take us out of a bases-loaded situation).

    My son is 13 and pitches for his little league teams. I know his greatest memory so far is taking a lead into the last inning of the semifinals (where the closer closed it out and took them into the finals). And his worst memory is losing in the finals and he couldn’t pitch on two days rest.

    On a uni-related note – my son’s team was the Expos. They were all thrilled to play as a famous team, they loved the uniforms, and my son was especially thrilled to wear the stirrups I bought him. So many kids (and especially dads) complimented him on his look. He was so proud.

    • Paul Lukas | July 18, 2019 at 11:16 am |

      I was on third, there was a runner on second but nobody on first, and the batter walked. I forgot there wasn’t a force, trotted home and the catcher tagged me out to end the inning

      OMFG — I did this too! But I had forgotten! UNTIL NOW!!!

  • Robert Brashear | July 18, 2019 at 11:17 am |

    My earliest memory is playing Peanut league (t-ball before Little league) What I loved was receiving a flannel uniform with blue stirrups. The stirrups represented for me being a real player. ( this the seeds of a future Uniwatcher). Sadly our town had tryouts for Little League, and if you didn’t make it the first year, you wear pretty much done due to age quotas. Though I tried out year after year, I never made it into youth baseball again. Very painful. I did love those stirrups though.

  • bootscallahan | July 18, 2019 at 11:20 am |

    I still think about the personal foul I committed that gave our opponent a first down in the fourth quarter of our de facto district championship game. The personal foul was a BS call, and reviewing the film the following week proved it. But our opponent drove down the field after that third-and-long and scored the winning touchdown.

    • bootscallahan | July 18, 2019 at 11:21 am |

      This was almost 20 years ago.

  • Dumb Guy | July 18, 2019 at 11:32 am |

    Football glory….not.

    Playing linebacker in little league a pass (a rare thing in a division full of 10 year olds!) floated straight to me. In my mind i was off to the races and scoring a touchdown. I reality it hit me right in the numbers and went straight through my arms.

    Dang!

    Other than that I was a fairly good linebacker.

  • Jaime Galindo | July 18, 2019 at 11:43 am |

    I remember my my first game as a catcher in the mid 1980s. I had never played the position before, so I didn’t know if I would be any good. I loved putting on all the gear. I didn’t have any passed balls, and my highlight of the season came in that game. The other team had a guy on first and got a hit. The kid on first tried to score, but the ball got back to me ahead of him. I initiated a rundown with the third baseman and was able to tag him out. The giant crowd of 20 people actually cheered, and I was on cloud nine. It was the first time strangers cheered for me and it felt so good. It’s this kind of feeling that might be why people remember their youth sports.

    P.S. I also had some awful games, but I still had lots of fun.

  • Hershky | July 18, 2019 at 11:57 am |

    I never got a hit in little league baseball so I have plenty of bad memories to replay in my mind. Luckily when I was 13, there was a movie called Mr. Destiny starring Jim Belushi. I’ve watched that movie quite a few times whenever I feel down about my sports failures.

    For those that don’t know, Mr. Destiny is about Jim Belushi getting to see what his life would have been like if he had hit the game winning homer and been the hero. Sort of a sports version of It’s a Wonderful Life.

  • John English | July 18, 2019 at 11:59 am |

    It’s not at all weird to look back…we all have those moments in our life that (in our minds) embolden us or expose us.

    I remember the line drive game winning hit down the right field line. I remember booting a routine grounder and cussing myself out because I just *couldn’t* pick up the damned ball.

    I remember my 50 goal year. And I remember cross checking a kid half my size, who moments later pinned my own arms underneath me and pummeled me.

    Totally normal, in the same course of our everyday mulling of what we shoulda/coulda/woulda done different in other segments of our lives.

  • Jim Blanchfield | July 18, 2019 at 12:19 pm |

    Paul, this is an awesome and fascinating article. Love the responses. I played baseball and football for my dad in the mid to late 70’s. Best baseball story is I was an all-star but although I was a good pitcher was not selected to pitch because I didn’t throw hard, mostly curveballs and sliders and junk. Two guys got sent home from a tournament so my dad who was one of the coaches convinced the other coaches to let me pitch. I pitched an amazing 3-hitter game and struck out the side in the 6th inning.

    Our pop warner football team went undefeated in both the 7th and 8th grade and as I moved into hs I also went undefeated as a freshman and 2 years of jv. Never played my senior year due to a surgery. We were the South Seminole Hurricanes but our uniforms looked just like Nebraska. Not many players can say they played 5 years of undefeated football.

  • Richard Paloma | July 18, 2019 at 12:27 pm |

    “How can you possibly remember all of that stuff?”
    Asked several times a week by my wife but usually for MLB/NFL/NBA related stuff from the 70s.

    My Babe Ruth League moment:
    1974, 14 yrs old, I hit an off-field liner that goes off the first baseman’s glove into rightfield.
    To me, it seemed that I stood at the plate until I realized, “Hey, you still have to run now.”
    I was thrown out by the 2nd baseman who picked it up, but I replay in my head if I would have gotten out of the box quicker and not watched.

  • Eriq Jaffe | July 18, 2019 at 12:27 pm |

    Two years of little league baseball, and I was also one of those kids who only got minimal playing time – every other inning I’d get put in right field, and since every kid on the team had to be in the batting order, I probably hit 14th or something. I was not a good outfielder, and I don’t remember catching a single fly ball.

    But a couple of times in my second year, my coach put me at second base. And you know what? I was actually pretty good! Two of my most vivid memories were from those games. One was a rare night game (only one of the park district’s fields was had lights) and I caught a high pop-up off the bat of a kid that used to pick on my all the time in school. Take that, Aaron!

    The other was a sharp grounder up the middle – I ranged well to my right to make the play, but when I turned to throw to first I realized that nobody was covering the bag. Our first baseman was backing me up, and wound up standing in shallow center field. He got an earful from me on that.

  • Jay | July 18, 2019 at 12:59 pm |

    I was probably 8 or 9 at the time playing on a house league baseball team, just before I moved up to the travel leagues with more stringent rules, etc. Our league only used one umpire at the time for the whole field, and he no-showed. The convener of the league knew my dad from their slo-pitch leagues, so my dad volunteers to be the ump for the game, and both teams are OK with this.

    It comes down to our team down by one in the final inning (can’t remember if we played 6 or 7 innings at the time), I’m up to bat with runners on 1st and 2nd, 2 outs of course…

    A single ties the game is all that’s going through my head.

    I work the count full, and the 3-2 pitch comes my way, it looks a outside to me, so I take.

    “STRIKE THREE!” I hear my dad shout behind me. I go down looking, game over, we lose by one. I turned around and gave him the angriest look I could muster up, proceed to give him the silent treatment all the way home on the car ride, and probably well into the next couple days as well.

    I still bring this up on occasion to him 30 years later. There’s probably a good lesson to be learned in there somewhere about being fair and impartial and all that, but I’m still convinced that pitch was outside.

  • Brent | July 18, 2019 at 1:06 pm |

    Not athletic but I’ve been told I’m nuts for remembering when I beat legend of Zelda in the summer between 6th and 7th grade. Late afternoon, I can hear my sister is watching the Brady bunch in the living room and the smell of my mom frying okra and squash is wafting through the house. I remember thinking what’s next? I only had that game and duck hunt and Mario. But I sat up much taller at supper. No one else at the table had beat Zelda that day. Good times.

    • Brent | July 18, 2019 at 1:08 pm |

      I also want to say I enjoyed all of y’all’s stories today. Great column and comments today!

      • Lee | July 18, 2019 at 2:08 pm |

        Agreed!

        Lee

  • Tim | July 18, 2019 at 1:16 pm |

    Every time I see a C-Flap, I think about the time when I was 14 in little league (1974) and took a pitch off of the area between my upper lip and nose (a glancing blow, fortunately). My dad was behind the cage watching and thought “he’s embellishing” … right up until he saw the blood coming out of my mouth. Led to an interesting, non emergency, ambulance ride to the hospital, about 20 miles away. I had a hairline fracture of my nose, cut my lip and chipped a tooth.

    Next game was 5 days later. I played CF that game and made a diving/rolling catch. Made the local paper. I talked with the incident with my Dad a couple of weeks ago. He said to me he pushed me to play that next game immediately so that I wouldn’t be scared of seeing a pitch again. It worked.

    To this day, if I close my eyes and think about it, I can still see that pitch coming towards my head.

  • Lee | July 18, 2019 at 1:22 pm |

    I played a LOT of pick-up and lunchtime sports as a youth, its sort of what I did.
    But my participation in organized sports, because my parents weren’t really into it, and my natural shyness was limited.

    I did play baseball as a 15 year old though. It wasn’t school, and it wasn’t Little League, but it was a league for 13, 14 and 15 year olds.
    (Here is something you don’t see every day: Because teams could only have two 15 year olds per team, I was “traded” for a 14 year old before the season started, my original team already had two 15 year olds).

    What I remember:
    Although I hadn’t ever played organized baseball before, I absolutely raked during pre-season. I didn’t know what I was doing, but every swing was a rocket line drive somewhere.
    However, when the season started, I would be surprised if I hit over .200.
    I had never bunted before. During my first bunting practice, I literally stepped in front of the plate to bunt. Obviously stupid and dangerous.
    I played for Janal Plumbing (Petaluma CA). How long do you think it took for a bunch of teenage boys to fixate on the “anal” part of the name? It didn’t help that on our uniforms, the “J” was very large, and the rest sort of off-set.
    Our uniforms were white. I had to do my own laundry at home. I didn’t sort my clothes very well, so I’d throw my uniform into the washer with whatever else. By the end of the season, my uniform was a decided gray. I mean enough so that people noticed enough to make comments.
    I started one game as a pitcher. I don’t remember if I got three outs but know it was my only inning. I hit a kid in the middle of the back. I never pitched again.
    One game, against the team I was on before I got traded, and which had my two best friends at the time, I was batting and got hit in the head (it didn’t hurt). Either the other team (and my friends) were laughing at me or (more likely) I imagined they were laughing, and as I started to first base, I turned around, gave the other team double birds and yelled “f@#k you!!!”. Of course I got kicked out of the game. I sat down on the bench fuming, and my coach had to come over and tell me “Lee, when you get kicked out of a baseball game, you have to leave the park.” I rode away on my bike humiliated.
    My two best plays: Playing right field (and hating it and not being any good at all) I had a scorching line drive hit towards me, I put up my glove and in Bad News Bears style to ball hit the pocket of my glove and I caught it. The whole team was amazed. So was I.
    The second one was, I was on third, game tied. Bottom of whatever the last inning was. Our best player (and coaches son) batting. A wild pitch! I took off (without thinking of course)! I scored! The winning run! Teammates cheered, mobbed me, etc… as we are packing up a bit later, the guy who had been batting said something to the effect that he was mad that I scored, because he wanted to bat in the winning run.
    My worst game: Two times in one game I came up with 2 outs and bases loaded. Struck out both times. The weird thing is that at the time, I didn’t realize what my teammates must have thought. It didn’t even occur to me at the moment how lame I must have looked.

    This ended up being longer than I intended.

    Lee

  • Brian | July 18, 2019 at 1:27 pm |

    My grade school had a slow pitch softball league. I was a good pitcher – we won the title my 8th grade year.

    But the seering memory is the one time I pitched against my little brother – who was determined to show me up. He hit a screaming liner right back at me. Pure reaction, I put glove up and caught it. He was soooooo pissed! I can still gloat that one 35 years later.

  • Joe M | July 18, 2019 at 2:01 pm |

    1974. Police Athletic League baseball. Played for Ullman’s Laundromat. 10-11 year olds. I’m one of the younger guys. Tommy B is pitching a no-hitter. Probably 5th inning of a 6 inning game. I’m in left field because, well, the rules said they had to put me in the game. The snack bar is right next the left field fence. My buddy eating and talking to me through the fence. I hear a back crack. My buddy says, “Hey! Look!” I turn my head and put my glove up – POP! As I’m throwing the ball to the shortstop all I’m thinking is that Tommy (who was a year older) would have kicked my a** if I ruined his no-hitter. I can still hear Coach Skip yelling “Way to Go Joey!!!” Next inning Tommy got his no-hitter and I was on the field to celebrate. Still makes me laugh.

    My 9 year old team was Le John’s Liquors. Can’t image that kind of sponsorship these days.

    • RS Rogers | July 18, 2019 at 5:19 pm |

      Summer of ’82, my little league team was sponsored by the local liquor store. I didn’t realize until the end of the season that ours was the only team that had a cooler of soda waiting at the end of every game, courtesy our sponsor. The Bottle & Can took team sponsorship way more seriously than most local businesses!

  • TomInNJ | July 18, 2019 at 2:15 pm |

    I was 12 in 1975 when I played my last year of LL ball. I was a decent player overall, with an average bat, great glove, but no speed and a mediocre arm, so I generally played second or first base. That summer, I found myself riding the pines a lot thanks to a coach who fancied himself the next Sparky Anderson, but I can still remember that I managed to hit .333, including a game-winning single in the game that got us into the playoffs (where we promptly got beat).

    • TomInNJ | July 18, 2019 at 2:20 pm |

      Oh yeah, forgot to mention: Our uniforms that summer were a very Uni Watch-friendly green, gold and white. :)

  • Heisenberg's Hat | July 18, 2019 at 2:20 pm |

    I’m cursed with a particularly vivid memory. Particularly in matters of heartbreak be it athletic or romantic. 1979, 9 years old and striking out on a full count with the bases loaded, two out and down by a run (the uniforms, like they were most years I played were blood red pullovers with blue and white trim on the sleeves with white pants with red and blue waistbands). Four years later I’m the long snapper on punts. 7th grade. I snap the ball over the punters head and it gets returned for a TD. I ran for over 100 yards and scored my first ever TD in that game but I always remember the snap. I was also starting for the 8th grade team that year. We were winless and had just scored a go ahead TD late in the game that got called back because I clipped a guy. Good call. Bad memory. And this is just a few of them (uniforms were baby blue with red and white helmet stripe, baby blue Oilers style jerseys with red and white stripes on sleeve and white numerals and white pants).

    Childhood sports memories stay with us because at that age sports means so much and we get humbled publicly and have to deal with our humanity. That’s why we play right? For glory, teamwork and to learn how to overcome setbacks.

  • RobYaz | July 18, 2019 at 2:27 pm |

    Youth hockey, or playing hockey in general, is one of four things I dream about on a recurring basis. Not every night/every week, but it comes up again and again.

    My pitching memory: Fourth grade (about 30 years ago), and the coach takes the pitcher out of the game. He walks over to me, at third base and, without saying anything, hands me the ball. I shake my head and say “I don’t pitch”, and he responds “You do now.”

    Not knowing what to do, and knowing I didn’t throw very hard, I threw sidearm. Like Terry Leach and Jeff Innis. I still didn’t throw hard, and I gave up some big hits and a few runs, but nine of the ten outs I recorded were strikeouts. Sidearm was somewhat controversial because throwing curves at that age was not allowed (to prevent wrist/arm damage), but the sidearm motion naturally made the ball curve and I wasn’t breaking my wrist to do it.

  • Josh Hinton | July 18, 2019 at 2:41 pm |

    Great lede, Paul! I do the same thing (granted, I’m 16, so the matches I relive were mere months or only a few years ago).

    Soccer ticker side note: ManCity did not wear ”ad patches over their back numbers”. They wore an ironed-on ad above their numbers. Minuscule details, but soccer clubs rarely wear patches, like MLB or NFL (practice jerseys) or NBA teams do.

  • Elena Elms | July 18, 2019 at 2:51 pm |

    These memories are fascinating. I never played organized sports and don’t have detailed memories of much of anything. One thing that sticks in my mind was in elementary school in the ’60s. I don’t remember the grade, but I had a female teacher. She taped a picture of a folk-art type bird on the blackboard and asked us to draw it. I thought mine was a pretty good drawing. She gave me a C because “girls can’t be artists.” Which of course just made me more determined to be one.

    • Lee | July 18, 2019 at 2:54 pm |

      That breaks my heart. Maybe it spurred you/worked out in your specific case, but I imagine it discouraged many before and after you.
      I can’t believe that was ever an attitude (among many others in the same vein.).

      Lee

      • Paul Lukas | July 18, 2019 at 4:10 pm |

        Breaks my heart as well. That’s practically child abuse.

        • Memal | July 19, 2019 at 8:06 am |

          I concur with all those sentiments!

    • Eltee of DC | July 19, 2019 at 3:05 pm |

      Girls can’t be artists!?

      Growing up in the 60’s myself I remember all of the boobery, bigotry and institutional bad behavior of that time. But girls can’t be artists? That really gets my uni pants in a bunch.

      To counter that let me toss a couple of names of female artists who inspired me both past and present. Hint, both worked for the big mouse.

      Mary Blaire
      Brittany Lee

      Girls who are good at what they do.

  • John H. | July 18, 2019 at 3:06 pm |

    There’s nothing at all strange about remembering/reliving our sports escapades. I have sooo many memories of my competitive sports days from age 8 to my early 40s and I think of random ones almost every day. It’s the best of times reliving some of those moments with the guys you shared them with.

  • Block "O Canada" | July 18, 2019 at 3:06 pm |

    I was an average high school baseball player who started at first base my last two years. I wasn’t good enough to play in college, so I was keenly aware that the final game of my senior season, a home game, would be the last time I would play competitive baseball. My team played poorly that day, and we were down about seven runs entering the seventh (final) inning. I hadn’t done anything special up to that point, so I really wanted my final at-bat to be a good one. I also didn’t want to
    strike out, so I had decided to hit the first good pitch I saw. I ended up swinging at the pitcher’s first offering and popped out weakly to the shortstop. I don’t think I made it more than two steps out of the batter’s box as I watched the ball land softly in his mitt. And so ended my high school career, or so I thought.

    Miraculously, my team rallied, and I mentally started counting how many more hits were needed before I could get one more “last” at-bat. I few more base knocks and I found myself walking to the plate with runners on second and third and I was the winning run. Even as an 18-year-old kid, I knew that life didn’t
    offer many second chances or do-overs, and here I was being offered one on a silver platter. Everything seemed to move in slow-motion. I couldn’t believe my luck. I had no aspirations of hitting a game-winning home run. I simply wanted my last at-bat to be a good one. Being a lefty hitter, the other team brought in a southpaw to try and secure the victory. As I stood waiting for him to finish his warm-up tosses, I took a moment to soak everything in. The field, the sun, my family in the stands,
    even the feel of the bat in my hands. This really was it – the last baseball at-bat I would ever have. I took my place in the batter’s box, more focused and determined as a hitter than at any time in my baseball career. The pitcher took the rubber, came set, and made his first delivery… which was a soft curveball that hit me directly in my ribs. The ball hit the ground with barely a sound and sat right in front of me. I stood there in disbelief. Guys have admired their walk-off home runs
    and stood in the batter’s box for less time than I did that day. I finally gathered myself and trotted down to first base, barely cognizant of the fact that we still had a chance to win the game. The next batter struck out on three pitches.

    I have thought about that final plate appearance (not an at-bat, since it was a HBP) many times over the years and I’ve never been disappointed about how it turned out. I’ve always appreciated the unique opportunity I was given, and I’m extremely happythat the 18-year-old me was aware enough to recognize that day and those moments. Yeah, lacing a double to the gap or hitting a ball just over the wall would have been great, but I think that day and everything I remember about it would have been lost over time and reduced to a simple base hit. As it turned out, I’ve had a lifetime of memories and a unique story to tell.

    • Chris Weber | July 18, 2019 at 4:48 pm |

      A great recollection. Thank you for sharing it. -C.

    • Memal | July 19, 2019 at 8:17 am |

      That’s a great story! Thank you for sharing it!

  • Jet | July 18, 2019 at 3:07 pm |

    I remember a lot of details from little league baseball and youth league hockey. Nothing really traumatic though. I did spend a LOT of time geeking out over the uniforms. We received a brochure each year of LL that listed all the teams and rosters in all the various age divisions. When we had the LL parade, I took note of every team’s colors and penciled them in on the brochure. (the unis were a nice cotton material with felt letters and numbers and each team had a different color cap, stirrups and letters/numbers/piping).

    Years ago I sent you an email about how I was the only kid in Little League in my 4-year career who ever got to wear #17. Uniforms were always numbered 1 through 16 with the lower numbers being a smaller size uni. Somehow, in my second year (1970), when the coach was handing out uniforms he reached into the box and tossed me one and when I opened it, it was #17. I couldn’t believe it. I had carefully observed all the teams in the parade and all of our opposing teams and had never seen a number higher than 16. I was running around to all my friends telling them how incredible this was and of course they looked at me like I had two heads…

    -Jet

  • Jet | July 18, 2019 at 3:11 pm |

    I was also a stats geek and I recorded EVERY batting, pitching and fielding stat of my 4 years of Little League.

    My first year of LL, my team was called the Bears and we were literally the Bad News Bears. 0-12 with two forfeit wins. Coach quit after the first game, assistant coach after game 6, a parent took over the rest of the season.

    That was the only year I pitched. I have a vivid memory of batters circling the bases as I’m watching the ball go between outfielder’s legs, and in my head I’m going, “okay that’s 2 and a third innings, 5 hits, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts, these 3 runs are unearned…” All this at age 11! NUTSO!

    -Jet

  • Jet | July 18, 2019 at 3:13 pm |

    … oh yeah, I was also picked for the All Star game, but no one told me (since we didn’t have a coach by that time anyway). A friend from school who was on the team asked why I wasn’t there.

  • Chris Weber | July 18, 2019 at 4:35 pm |

    All I remember is, his name was Ricky, and he was the pitcher on the opposing team when I was playing in the Sherman Oaks Northern Little League, in 1981. He was probably only about 5-9, but to this 12-year-old with gap power to the opposite field, he may as well have been Nolan Ryan. A right-hander with a mop of blonde curly hair, he had me stepping into the bucket every at-bat. I couldn’t even foul off a pitch.

    Later that season, I went to the batting cages to try and get used to his fastball for the next time we played his team. I was determined to make contact and do better to help my team.

    When we faced him a couple weeks later, the bucket was still there. I was so intimidated, I never had a chance.

    After the season, my mom asked if I wanted to play Babe Ruth.

    I decided to play basketball instead.

    I crossed paths with a lot of Rickys in my lifetime — playing other sports and otherwise — and I’d like to think I’ve fared okay.

    But in this case, I regret not continuing to play baseball.

    It’s tempting to blame Ricky, but I can’t. This one’s on me.

    -C.

    • Block "O Canada" | July 18, 2019 at 11:29 pm |

      Thank you, Chris. And the same to you.

  • RS Rogers | July 18, 2019 at 4:48 pm |

    I remember uniform details much more vividly than the details of any particular game I played in. Brown polyester smocks for the Padres, rainbow guts for the Astros, bright yellow-and-white t-shirts for the Mets in a league that clearly didn’t pay a licensing fee. Heck, I think I remember postgame snacks more vividly than any in-game narratives, though playing ball the summer of New Coke probably makes the difference there.

    Intense emotions tend to imprint memories more deeply. I honestly suspect that that one fact explains nearly everything there is to understand about the ubiquity of “big game” memories that adults carry from childhood. When a child takes the field in athletic competition, she is more free of direct adult control than at just about any other moment in her life, and more reliant on herself for the outcomes of the stuff happening to her at that moment. For a child, that’s a big deal. It’s like a tiny slice of adulthood.

    I understand that statistically, I can’t possibly have come up to bat with two outs in the final inning representing the go-ahead run and struck out in literally every game of my youth career. But those are the moments I remember. As far as my memory is concerned, that was every at-bat in every game. Probably because I was ill-equipped to handle the stress of that sort of situation, so the couple-three times that must have happened were traumatic and seared into my memory in that place where our ancestors would have filed being chased by a cheetah.

    When I’ve coached youth baseball, I’ve always tried to remember the intensity of emotions that I experienced as a youth player. I was a nervous wreck as a batter for far too long, which ironically utterly sabotaged my ability to hit. In my teen years, I finally became good at something on the diamond – middle-infield fielding – and developing just a normal amount of confidence in that aspect of the game lifted so much of the anxiety from me at the plate. So as a coach, I’ve tried to focus on identifying what kids can do, and looking for ways to recognize and expand that. My very first year, coaching a team of mostly first-graders, my team eked into the league playoffs and won our first-round game. In the second round, we played a much more talented team and held the game close through five innings before our opponents walked away with a couple of huge innings. (It was 1999, and my team was the Devil Rays playing the Yankees, and boy howdy did it feel like the Devil Rays playing the Yankees.) Anyway, game ends, and my team huddles up and nearly every kid, and a few of the parents, are crying because that’s our last game and the season is over. A little while later, I went to seek out the opposing coach and offer him more heartfelt congratulations than the hurried postgame handshake we’d shared, and I found that many of the kids on his team were also in tears, but because their coach had yelled at them for almost losing to us. Which just sickened me. First graders! For some of those Yankees kids, that moment of being shamed for not winning big enough could be a lifetime emotional scar that could color, no matter how subconsciously, their feelings toward baseball and sports and competition generally. I mostly had great coaches growing up, and I was still a nervous wreck on the ballfield for most of my childhood. One experience like those poor Yankees kids had at any age and I’d probably have walked away from the sport entirely.

  • Dwaine Spieker | July 18, 2019 at 6:21 pm |

    I loved sports in high school, but I was a miserable athlete. I lived in a small town, where everyone who wanted to play made the team, no matter the sport. But in hindsight, I had no business being out there being humiliated by opposing pitchers and linebackers and small forwards. It took me until I was in college before I realized what a fool I’d made of myself and that my talents lie elsewhere. God, I wanted to be the star athlete. I’d have given anything to be the go-to guy of any team, no matter the sport.

    But thank God I wasn’t, because that series of failures made me work harder in every other aspect of life where I WAS good. I graduated magna cum laude; I’ve received recognition in my profession; I’m an award-winning author; I have met with financial success. I’m not using specifics because I’m not a braggart, or worse, a humblebrag. Yet I clearly see a connection between my miserable failure in every athletic endeavor I ever tried and my at least relative success in virtually everything else I’ve ever done.

    I’m very, very tempted to say I would trade it all for one home run, touchdown pass, or slam dunk in front of a screaming crowd. But I won’t.

  • John F. | July 18, 2019 at 6:36 pm |

    I sucked at baseball, hitting slightly above the Mendoza line and even worse in the field but I remember playing third base and tagging a guy stealing. I got the glove down and had his spike marks on my wrist and inner forearm but the ump called him safe. I argued the call like a major leaguer and showed him the blood on my arm but the bad call stood.

    The only other memory was playing pee wee football tight end and running the wrong route in practice. Maybe that’s why I didn’t play much in real games.

  • Charlie | July 18, 2019 at 7:49 pm |

    One time in little league, I don’t remember how old, but young enough that most fly balls to the outfield were dropped, I was playing center field. There were 2 outs and the ball was hit right to me. I knew instantly I had it. I ran straight forward and caught it without breaking stride and continued right to the bench. I remember feeling amazing catching the ball on the fly. But then after the game I asked my mom if she saw it, and she said she closed her eyes because she was scared.

    Oh well, I’ll always remember that I caught it.

    Also, red Jersey, red cap, gray stripeless pants, and red stirrups

  • Nick Kissoff | July 18, 2019 at 8:21 pm |

    One such sports incident I can’t seem to forget involved me in the NCAA Sweet 16, although not as a player. I was the mascot for my University of Toledo Rockets (Rocky the Rocket) and we were playing Notre Dame in the 1979 NCAA tourney at Market Square Arena. At the end of the half, both teams had to head to the tunnel at the end of the arena floor on which myself and our cheerleaders were stationed. I don’t remember the score at the time, but it was a close game, and Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps was ticked at the officiating. As he walked to the end line where I stood to exit the floor, he did so with his head turned, all the while berating the officials at center court for perceived wrongs he felt they made against his Irish. He was headed right at me but did not see me as he continued to yell. As I stood there for what seemed an eternity, watching THE Digger Phelps heading straight at me without knowing he was in a head on collision course with a 7’6 tall Rocket mascot, I had the wonderfully fantastic idea: Take The Charge! I planned as fast as I could, planted my feet and watched as he came within two steps of plowing me over. For some unknown reason, I stepped aside at the last moment. No collision. No charge. No Digger Phelps stomping on a goofy looking Rocket Man who got in his way. It was probably for the best, but I can’t help thinking if that my actions might have spurred on my Rockets team or got Digger off his game or who knows what. We lost by 8 with ND out shooting us at the free throw line 35 to 7 and that was that. I still wish to this day I had stood my ground.

  • Shut Up Lutz! | July 18, 2019 at 8:37 pm |

    Can someone explain the origin/purpose/meaning of rolling the waistband of your pants down, because it seems REALLY pointless and idiotic?

    Is it related in any way to the youth wearing their pants pulled down so their entire ass is exposed? I know for a fact that that one is directly related to being in jail prison and means that you are someone’s bitch/bottom.

    • Memal | July 19, 2019 at 8:39 am |

      I believe it’s because basketball shorts are very comfortable, but now a days they’re just produced a little too long to stay cool and a lot of shorts the end above the knee are a little too thin. Just yesterday I was cutting grass in the heat and I rolled my waist band over a few times to get the bottom of the shorts to end above the knee.

  • DWAYNE E SHOWALTER | July 18, 2019 at 9:20 pm |

    I have all kinds of vivid memories from playing ball as a kid in the 70s and 80s. And details surrounding a lot of the memories. I remember being the bat boy at my older brother championship game. He was 8 maybe, i was 6. He bowled over the catcher on a play at the plate. I made a sweet catch along the backstop on a foul ball as the catcher when i was 8. A diving play catch at 1st base. I missed a free-throw that would have tied a playoff game at 11. My first football carry at 9.

    I was playing tennis with my wife the other night at the same park where i hit my first home run at 10. I was telling her about it during a break because the field was literally just on the other side of the fence.

    I remember all the unis too. I remember how the felt letters on the caps would smell when they got wet.

    I thought this was normal, no??

  • Michael Emody | July 19, 2019 at 1:15 am |

    I didn’t read today’s Uni-watch until this evening, but posting about little league memories is hard to pass up. I hope there’s some next-day readers – and keep in mind – this is from memory. I could be hazy on some things (purple or maroon?) but I loved uniforms as a kid, so a lot of the details have stayed with me.

    I was in two little leagues as a youngster in 1960’s Chicago: South Shore and Ridge-Beverly. I was awfully young at South Shore, maybe 8 or 9. I wanted to emulate Nellie Fox, so my position of choice was second base. I had no clue – a speeding grounder was like dodging a bullet for me – and I had no idea how to properly catch it. If I managed to stop the ball – usually with my body instead of the glove – there was the second thing: getting the ball to the first baseman before the batter arrived. As an eight year old the tension of the moment was overwhelming! So instead of calmly lobbing the ball the few feet to the first baseman, I’d panic and throw as hard as I could, sending the first baseman diving for cover!

    Soon I was relegated to the outfield. I remember the uniforms being flannel with matching pants and stirrups! Each team in the lower/younger division wore jerseys in the Indians/Athletics/Reds style but with set-in sleeves. Expecting kids to wear the proper color undershirts would have been too much, so the contrasting sleeves were part of the jersey. Each team was assigned a unique color, so there were a lot of non-mlb color sleeves and caps. I was on the Athletics, who were assigned purple. They used MLB team names at South Shore.

    One feature was the three-line piping at the neck and around set-in sleeves. I thought it really looked great. Ours was purple/white/purple. Some teams had like red/blue/red or green/yellow/green. Each kid was issued real stirrups in your team’s colors – with three white strips! I remember the Senators were the red team but they had the same color maroon/purple stirrups as us. Most likely an ordering mix up, but they looked all right.

    Team names were in felt and (I believe) they used something other than block – a Tuscan Font maybe. I thought we looked a lot like the real Athletics 62 uniforms, except in purple instead of red and navy. I believe we had small numbers on the back below a sponsor’s ad which was on a nameplate. The older “major” little league didn’t have the colorful set-in sleeves so their uniforms looked more big league.

    Now I can’t remember if both little leagues dressed the younger division in gray uniforms and the older division in white. I’m pretty sure Ridge-Beverly did that as an easy way to tell the younger teams from the older kids. As I remember Ridge-Beverly had single line piping with a headspoon and around the sleeves. Team names were in a block font in felt and our numbers were on one shoulder, the back was for the sponsor. Ridge-Beverly also used MLB names (with one exception), but a different teams for the two divisions. The Cubs and Sox were in the older kids league. We definitely had stirrups at Ridge-Beverly, but single color as I remember. Pants matched the flannel of the jerseys, either grey or white. All teams had one uniform and like South Shore unique colors were assigned. I remember the Angels had yellow so that got strange.

    Now the team I was on at Ridge-Beverly was an outcast team – we were also assigned maroon/purple. We might have been a team thrown together from kids that none of the coaches wanted. They had kind of a farm-league idea in place: kids on the team that wore blue would move up the older blue team, which I believe was the Cubs. The exception was there was a team in both age groups that didn’t use a MLB nickname – the purple team, of course! A neighborhood bank, Chesterfield Federal had insisted the older kids team they sponsored be the “Federals.” That was strange. But the minor-league Chesterfield team – the one I was on – we were called the ”Rebels.” That makes me think we were thrown together at the last minute. A lot of kids moved to Beverly in the late 60’s. They probably had Rebel uniforms and thought they could get one more year’s use from the soon-to-be condemned team name.

    We were expected to suck and caught a lot of teasing for our team name and the purple and all. But we had this one really big kid (a growth spurt?) who belted home rums. We ended up winning most of our games and took first place! Like Paul, I thought I’d make a good pitcher and I remember them letting pitch in at least one game. My biggest asset was that I’d gone to baseball camp for two summers and knew how to step into a pitch while swinging. Most pitchers assumed my skinny ass would be an easy out and I loved waiting for a decent pitch to come over the plate. I didn’t hit homers, but fielders would move in forward for me and I’d send them chasing after the ball. I don’t think little leagues had outfield fences back then so hitting the ball well and running as fast as possible was the best we could do.

    So: two purple (or maroon) teams, the Athletics and probably the last year of the “Rebels.” Nice cotton flannel uniforms with matching short pants and stirrups. And at least one was rendered in gray. I only wish I had pictures, but it was a different time.