Saturday, January 4, 2014

Of Baseball, Bobby, a Bicycle, and a Broken Arm

I seem to be in the mood to explain all my injuries after clearly stating that I lived a mostly injury free life. Now I am starting to doubt that myself.

My best friend in my early childhood years was my across the street neighbor, Bobby Gonzalves. He was a year younger than I was but we got along great. And we loved playing sports.

During football season we would play tackle on our front lawn. We couldn't play on his lawn because it was sloped and his father, Bob, loved his lawn. Our lawn was expendable. If we didn't have enough kids for tackle, we would stand out in the street and play catch.

Now we lived in a very residential area of Fremont so playing in the street was a mostly safe endeavor. That was until you fell down on the hard asphalt. I had a number of scraped knees and elbows from that wonderful street.

We had a safety system that worked quite well. If I saw a car coming towards us, I would warn Bobby. If he saw a car coming towards me, he would yell out the warning. Mostly it was our neighbors who drove on Higgins way, our street, and they learned long ago to be mindful of us during the day. Typically, we could play for hours without seeing a car.

During baseball season we would play catch wearing our mitts and using a hardball. I had an outfielder’s glove, he had a first basemen’s mitt. I thought his was cool because it was much bigger than mine and I would miss a lot fewer grounders when I used his mitt.

One day, Bobby and I were playing catch in the street he threw the ball way high and it drifted to the left towards the Lydon’s house. The Lydons had younger kids, and, like all kids, when they were done playing with a toy or riding a bike, they just put it down where they were and move on to the next adventure.

I was unaware that one of the Lydon kids left his or her bike at the bottom of their driveway. Why would I care? It wasn't my bike and it wasn't my house. But as the fly ball tailed towards their driveway, all of a sudden I should have cared.

My focus was on the ball. I knew I could catch it and, if need be, I would make a spectacular catch like Joe Rudi did in 1972 while playing for the Oakland A’s. You see, when we played any sport we were not Bobby and Reid. Rather we were our sports heroes incarnate.
Reggie Jackson

I was Joe Rudi, Reggie Jackson, Willie Mays, or Willie McCoy. As I was a die-hard A’s fan, I usually assumed the persona of Joe Rudi and Reggie Jackson.

Willie Mays
Willie McCovey

So here I am, intently focused on the fly ball that was sure to be a home run or at least extra bases if I failed to make the greatest catch ever. I could manage the fans in the bleachers of the Oakland Coliseum cheering me on. I could almost hear the gravel of the warring track letting me know that the wall was close.

As the ball started to descend, I noted that I was not going to get under the ball so I would have to reach as far as I could to keep the runner on third from scoring the tying run. I extend my body as far as I could, then BANG! I hit something hard. I was on the ground in pain. Could it have been the wall? Did I save the run? Did I even catch the ball? Why did my arm hurt?

Well, I was not in the Coliseum, I was on the street. I did not hit the wall and save the game, I fell over a child’s bike. I did, however, make the catch! But, boy did my arm hurt.

Bobby ran towards me to see if I was alright and to let me know that I made the greatest catch in the history of street baseball. I told him my arm hurt. He had me try to move it and see if it hurt. I could move it, but it still hurt. Sounds oddly familiar…

So we went inside to tell my Mom and she had me move my arm as she did on that 4th of July several years ago. She deemed that all we well and said go out a play (her way of saying “walks it off”). So we did. But after trying to play more catch, my arm kept hurting. So I quit for the day.

After three days, that magical number, I told Mom that my arm still hurt. Once again, we took a reluctant trip to see Dr. Wood. Once again, there  were x-rays. Once again, I had a hairline fracture.

But is still as a great catch.

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