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LJI:3 brushback pitch
It was the summer of stitches.  Nearly every kid in our neighborhood had ended up in the ER to fix knees, elbows, foreheads, and in one particularly memorable bike accident, a hand and fingers.  We had all been admonished by parents to 'play safely, please' but we couldn’t be concerned with caution if it got in the way of fun.

The site of most of our games (and injuries) was the neighborhood ‘backyard’.  Our block had an empty grassy lot that touched on the edge of all our yards.  The lot was an old cemetery and no one could build there without exhuming the few bodies still buried, so it stayed empty.  We all knew this history because of Mr. Carter who died in 1880.  His was the only tombstone left, and we all examined it regularly.  Mostly because it was frequently used as part of our games.

On this particular afternoon my brother wanted to use his new wooden bat, so the game was baseball.  We created a vaguely diamond shape out of a sapling tree for first base, a Frisbee thrown down for second, Mr. Carter’s stone for third and a slight sandy depression that we drew an “X” in for home plate.  Our games were usually four on four and heavily weighted in favor of the team batting; the team in the field needed a pitcher and a catcher, which left only two kids to cover everything else.

I don’t remember much about how the game began.  When I came up to bat Ritchie was the catcher and I told him he was standing too close.  I told him more than once, in the bossy tones of the oldest kid in the neighborhood, that he was going to get hit if he didn’t back up a few steps.  He didn’t back up a few steps.  And on a mighty swing – I missed the ball completely – I connected with Ritchie’s forehead.

Now Ritchie had just gotten stitches taken out of his forehead a few days before.  That time he had been trying to jump from the porch swing to the porch railing and back and he missed.  This time we all looked at Ritchie who was crying and had blood all over his face and kids scattered.  My brother and I got him up and walked him to our back door.  Ritchie agreed that the person to talk to first was our Mom, not his.

Mom got him cleaned up and brought him next door to his mom Annie, who sighed and put him in the car for another ER trip.  I was crying a little by then, freaked out that I had hit him.  I told Mom the whole story and she reassured me that it was an accident and Ritchie would be okay.  She talked my brother and me into staying inside and playing a board game for the rest of the afternoon.

After that baseball fell out of favor in our neighborhood.  I didn’t mind, I was never very good at it anyway, and it took some time before I stopped hearing the sound of the bat meeting Ritchie’s head.  We started playing kickball instead, which had the advantage of being less likely to cause damage to us.  The Sampson’s windows however…

***This is my entry for week 3 of LJ Idol.  Other folks' takes on brushback pitch are at the link.  I did not get any stitches that summer, but on the last day before school I broke my arm falling off a sllide.***

This is an awesome all American tale, baseball, stupidity ( Ritchie's), blood, and all! From the first line I was hooked! Great job! Hug and peace~~~D

Thank you for the kind words. I forget sometimes how - hrm classic, quaint - my upbringing was. We all got smarter at keeping our insides inside as we got older, luckily.

were you an accident-prone bunch of kids, or just kind of reckless? even with all the blood, this has a really nice nostalgic sheen. i think my favorite part was richie's mom sighing as she put him in the car, like "not again."

A little bit of both. Most things were accidents it was just that everyone had one; Ritchie was just crazy.

I ended up apologizing to Ritchie's mom the next day, possibly a little more sincerely than I apologized to Ritchie. She was so ready for all of us to go back to school.

Awwww...reminds me of all the backyard baseball we used to play.

We usually had some game going - we played a lot of tag and all it's variations. Thanks for commenting!

We played almost everyday in a lot like this when I lived in Ohio one summer. Brings back good memories!

The Midwest seems to have spots like this - I was in WI. If you were bored you drifted back to Mr. Carter, and then other kids would appear and we'd start some game. I'm glad I could bring back happy thoughts.

This was a wonderful reminiscence! We had our share of accidents growing up, although not quite so many. This was a lot of fun, and brought back some memories.

Thank you fun was the goal. Mostly we weren't accident-prone it's just that everyone took a turn that summer so someone was always showing off a new scar or shiner.

Summer of Stitches! Of course, a baseball is sewn together with stitches so it's a double meaning!

Really nicely told tale

Heh, honestly the pun didn't even occur to me.

Thanks - it was fun to think back, even if I still feel a little bad.

I had to laugh at Ritchie's mom sighing. Because really, as a parent, there just gets to be this point where you're like, "Rly? Again?" I'm sure my mother hit it all the time between me and my brother. xD

Everyone else went to the ER maybe once. Ritchie was there four or five times, because he was the one who was reckless in addition to the fearlessness of being ten. I think they knew him and his mom by name at the ER by that August.

I loved this it brought me back to my childhood and using tress and other assorted objects for plates. Thank you for the nostalgia.

Thank you! We built a lot of different game 'fields' in the extended back yard, kids are always pretty creative if they want to be.

Kids are dangerous, yo.

Well written snippet of kid life. I like it.

Indeed kids are dangerous, to themselves and others.


What a neat reminiscence! I'd be a little uneasy about playing on a cemetery, but you can't beat the location. And geez, you warned the kid to move back. Bats are dangerous, and in neighborhood games all you usually have is balls, bats, and mitts.

Oddly the fact that it was a cemetery never really bothered us until we got older. But having a large (mostly) empty grassy lot that we didn't have to cross a street to access was amazing.

Bats can also be used as a weapon for a reason. I still feel a little bad about it.

Very American dream childhood, I like it. I also love that there was an abandoned cemetery in the back of your neighborhood!

It's funny, when we were in grade school we gave the cemetery very little thought, in jr high it was creepy, and by the time I was in high school it was the coolest thing ever. Thanks for reading!

Heh, when I was little, the neighborhood kids had a game of riding piggyback and running up and down the sidewalk. Why did we run on the sidewalk and not the grass? No clue.

I was riding piggyback and the girl running tripped. I flung out my arms to brace the fall, but her arms were caught holding my legs, so my arms braced the both of us. Somehow, I managed not to break either arm or wrist, but my hands, arms, and elbows were scraped up badly and she ended up with eight stitches in her forehead.

I bet a lot of parents sigh heavily and are happy when the kids are back in school.

Oh yes.

I used to hold on to the back of a friends' bike with my roller skates on and get towed down the sidewalk. Once I missed stepping over the large crack - so my feet stopped while the rest of me kept going. No stitches but I think everything was scraped.
I think getting banged up as a kid teaches us that we're not invincible, and annoys parents who had already figured that out.

Sounds like Ritchie was his own worst enemy, poor kid. I can relate a little, I stopped playing because I couldn't break the habit of throwing the bat after hitting the ball. I didn't mean to, but I hurt another kid once, too.

This is a great use of the prompt, and a really fine story.

Great job!

Yeah Ritchie was the only one of us who was flat out reckless, and a little dumb.

Thanks, this was the first thought to come to mind seeing the prompt and I decided to go with it. Sometimes that works out.

This reminded me of 'Gully Cricket' where a small passage is converted into a cricket pitch; you make do with what resource you have and creativity was at it's peak:) This was a great read and very well written. Thanks for sharing.

Yup it's the same idea. Our backyard became whatever we needed by adding a few items.

Thank you for reading and commenting!