“Play Ball!” Friend, July 1992, 42
“Now, listen up, guys. This is the last game of the season,” Coach said. “We’re tied for first place with the Grizzlies. If we win today, we’re in first place. We can do it! Just go out there and play the kind of baseball we’ve been playing all season. OK now, let’s go!”
We huddled around the coach, listened to his pep talk, then broke with a big yell—it always gives me gooseflesh.
We were scoreless for the first two innings. Then the other team got two in the bottom of the third and one in the fourth, and it stayed 3–0 through the fifth. We were really down.
But in the sixth inning my dream came true. The Grizzlies pitcher was tiring, though I don’t know why—we certainly hadn’t overworked him—and walked the first batter. Then Tubby hit a line drive for a base hit. Tyler hit a long fly ball to center field, and the guy out in the daisies dropped it. I couldn’t believe it!
So the bases were loaded with no outs, and I was up.
I pushed my hair back up under the batting helmet and crouched lower.
I hadn’t made the strike zone small enough.
That was better.
The three-two pitch was on its way. I connected with a crack you could hear two blocks away! The roar from the crowd was like nothing I’d ever heard before. They knew it was a home run before I got to first base. I flew around those bases, almost catching up with Tyler. Thanks at least partly to me, we’d won four to three! We were the Bridgeville Little League champs!
That night at home I told Mom that the whole team would be going to Baltimore to see the Orioles’ doubleheader the following Saturday. That was our reward.
“Oh, Billy. I’m sorry. We’re going to your grandmother’s next weekend.” Gran was getting ready to move to the retirement community near our home. “I know you’re disappointed,” Mom went on, “but she called and asked if we’d help by cleaning out her attic.”
Well, I slumped off to my room and thought about how rotten it was to miss out on the Orioles games. I mean, people call me Billy-O because I’m such an O’s—that’s what we call the Orioles—fan. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me.
But happen it did, and the next Saturday I was where I didn’t want to be—at Grandma’s old house in the country.
When I went up into the attic with Mom to go through old boxes, I found some neat stuff. I was so busy looking at things that I almost forgot about the Orioles game. Then I found the box.
“Hey, Mom, look at this! It’s scrapbooks full of news clippings about the Orioles! Sherm Lollar, Stan Benjamin, Howie Moss, Kenny Braun. I’ve never even heard of these guys. They aren’t on any of my baseball cards.”
Mom said, “Let me see, Billy.”
“Wow! This stuff is from the 1940s, Mom. And everything’s written by the same person, Stats McGillicudhay.”
Mom looked at the scrapbooks, opening each book in turn. She smiled as she ran her fingers up and down the yellowed newspaper clippings. “I think you’d better ask Gran about this later.”
I wasn’t sure what Gran would know about baseball, but it was her house, so maybe she’d know something about where it all came from. I set the box aside, and we kept on sorting things—old clothes over there, books over here, and so on. Every now and then Dad came up and carried another box away. I held on to the baseball box.
Finally we finished and went down to one of Gran’s great dinners—fried chicken, potato salad, apple pie—the works!
After dark, Gran and I sat on the porch, watching fireflies.
“Gran, who was Stats McGillicudhay?”
“What? Where’d you hear that name, Billy?”
I told her about the scrapbooks in the attic, and she laughed softly. She was quiet for a long time before she said, “I lived in Baltimore when I was a girl. My grandfather took me to many baseball games every summer. The Orioles were in the old International League then. I loved baseball—the heat, the sounds, the smells, the hot dogs, the soda pop, and, of course, the game itself. Most of all, I loved the special time I spent with my grandfather.
“In high school I wrote for the school paper, but it wasn’t fashionable for girls to write about sports. That was a boy’s-domain-only in those days. So I wrote articles about books, records, and dances under my name, and slipped in baseball articles under the pen name of Stats McGillicudhay.
“I used the same pen name to write baseball stories for the local paper, too, and kept on writing them clear through college. Then I married your grandfather and, what with the farm and my kids, I never got around to even going to another baseball game, much less writing anything. In fact, living so far out in the country, I hardly ever even saw a game on TV.”
I could hardly believe it. My grandmother had been a sports writer! I told her all about our Little League season, and she really listened and understood everything.
“Billy,” she said, “next summer when I’m in the retirement community, maybe they’ll let me write about the Little League games for the Bridgeville Times. I’d like that. It would make this move easier for me if I had something to look forward to.”
That was two weeks ago. Today I got a letter from Gran. In it were tickets to the Orioles’ three-game series with the Blue Jays next week. She said that she had the seats next to mine and that if Mom or Dad would take us, I could explain to her any changes in the game since she last saw one.
Yeah, I can do that.