Along with my brother Rocky, I grew up on baseball. Our Dad and his three brothers all played semi-pro and followed their favorite major league teams (as did our Mom’s brothers). I didn’t play any organized ball myself as a kid (it being the ’50s and all), but my childhood summers, when I wasn’t at Girl Scout camp, were spent in the midst of a herd of ballplayers of varying ages.
My mother and her friends found roles for us girls by inaugurating a cheerleading squad for my Dad’s small fry team—they designed and sewed uniforms and taught us a few moves. My brothers were too young to play at first, so they became team mascots; it was a true family effort!
I also became the second Miss Junior Baseball in 1961, a fund-raising effort for the South Plainfield Junior Baseball Club that was fashioned after the then-popular Miss Rheingold contest. Photos of the six contestants were displayed in local businesses, with containers to collect the pennies that each constituted a vote. (I think my friends and I stuffed the ballot boxes with as much copper coinage as we could collect.)
In addition to the small fry league team play, the neighborhood kids had informal games whenever we gathered enough of us to field a game. We lived on a dead end street, so that became our playing field, with trees for bases and the woods as backstop. I’m lefthanded, so I’d borrow my father’s glove when the boys let us girls join them, or my brother needed somebody to pitch to him so he could work on his catching technique. There was also the annual 4th of July picnic at Uncle John’s, which was basically one long ball game (interspersed with burgers and beer/soda) from the time a couple of people arrived until it got too dark to play.
I’ve chronicled my personal baseball history in an essay on my web site, which includes playing as an adult in softball leagues and my current devotion to my local team, the San Francisco Giants. But this baseball-infused life all started back in South Plainfield, back in the 1950s of warm summer evenings, dusty ballfields, and root beer floats after victories (or defeats). Life got a lot more complicated in the following decades, but memories of a childhood where baseball and other youth recreational activities played a huge role in growing up remain. For this I thank my Dad and his compatriots who wanted to share their love of the game with their kids. Finally, I’m delighted that baseball has continued to be a bond between me and my brother Rocky, even though we live on opposite coasts and root for different teams.