Take Me Out of the Ballgame

Last Saturday, I watched my first Major League Baseball game from beginning to end for the first time since 1958. Yes, it was the eighteen-inning record-breaker between the Mariners and the Astros in which the Mariners finally gave it up when the Astros scored in that eighteenth inning many hours later. It could just as well have been days. By inning eleven I was done. By inning eighteen? I was way beyond done!!

So why this very long pause between games, and does it sound as though I’m not a huge baseball fan? That is correct, I’m not a fan, and what follows is a word of explanation.

I attended grades K-8 at Greenway Elementary School in Bisbee, Arizona, graduating from there in 1958. Three of the teaching staff at Greenway—classroom teachers Mr. Norton and Mr. Goodson, as well as the PE teacher, Mr. Rosette—were all diehard baseball fans who most especially adored the World Series. As a result, every October, all the students from fourth grade up were herded into the school auditorium where a console television set,a large one for that era, was placed at center stage. Then after being handed score sheets, we were required to watch.

I’m someone who should have worn glasses in first grade and ended up getting them in second. With my current correction at the time and from only the fourth or fifth row, I couldn’t for the life of me see what was happening on the field. After all this was back in the old days of black and white TV, and the screen on the one they brought each year was actually a seasick shade of green.

During those World Series ordeals, my favorite words quickly became, “No runs, no hits, no errors, and no one left on base.” That was the signal telling us that at least that inning was over, and we were one step closer to being released from baseball prison. And at the end of each inning, I had to ask the people next to me what had happened so I could fill in my score sheet because those—with our names written on each one—were collected at the end of every never-ending game. (I have no idea of the score sheets were graded. None of the teachers ever returned them.)

What I remember most from that experience is that I once was hauled on the carpet for having smuggled a book into the auditorium—probably a Nancy Drew or a Hardy Boys. Keeping score was mandatory while reading was not allowed.

Back then, nothing made me happier than a clean sweep which meant the damned World Series ended after only four miserable days.

Incidentally, I may have mentioned previously that it’s not a good idea to make mystery writers mad, and I do hold grudges. Early in my writing career, I wrote a book that required the presence of a high school coach. Naming characters is always a challenging issue for me, and so I went shopping in my head for an appropriate name. If I wrote Sci-Fi, I might be able to give my characters names like Dalvar, for instance, but for murder mysteries, I need something a little less Star Trekkie and a little more normal.

The way my mind works, thinking about coaches immediately took me back to the Phys-Ed teacher, Leo Rosette. Rightly or wrongly, I always suspected he was the mover and shaker behind those enforced World Series viewing sessions. So I gave my fictional guy the first name of Leo and added in a perfectly ordinary last name.

The story was set on Mercer Island. Let’s just say the fictional coach wasn’t exactly a stand up guy. Several months after the book was published, my editor called to inform me that unfortunately a man living on Mercer Island, an attorney, who bore the same name as my fictional character was NOT a happy camper. As a result, in subsequent printings of that book, that character goes by a different name, one with the same number of letters. I have no idea what his name is now. All I know is, it’s not the name I gave him originally.

I’m sure a huge number of people here in Seattle are devastated the Mariners won’t be in this year’s World Series. Had they been, I would most likely have ended up watching anyway, but for right now, I’m feeling as though I dodged a baseball bullet.

As for that sixty-four year pause between baseball games? Who knew that a mere PE teacher could have that kind of lasting impact on a student’s life?

38 thoughts on “Take Me Out of the Ballgame

  1. Your blog made me reminisce to the third grade. My teacher, Miss Jeter was a die-hard baseball and Nascar fan. Every World Series she would hall her 13″ TV to class and we would all watch the game. Sometimes during racing season we might look at a race.
    Thinking back to watching baseball, I realize that may be why I don’t like watching baseball on TV. I always enjoyed playing baseball with my brother and his friends and softball in school, but for some reason I don’t like watching it. It may go back to third grade, in 1963! I never thought about why until you brought it up. Apparently you helped me understand why!

  2. When I was in high school in the 50s the superintendent arranged to have a TV set up in the gym so those who wanted to watch the World Series could. Most of us didn’t have TVs at home so really enjoyed it. I liked watching the game, but mostly enjoyed being out of the study hall.

    School ended at 4 so we had to leave no matter what was going on on the field. I think I listedned to the radio to hear how the games ended.

  3. What made you watch this game? I turned it on just to see the score and got suckered into seeing just how long it would go on. My fav team is out of the running but I do like to peek in on the playoffs.
    I have been to T-mobile park and it’s a nice stadium.

  4. You & I are of the same “vintage” & this brought back a fun memory. When I was in 8th grade in small town Montana, my teacher, Mr Sorenson, always stopped class work & turned the world series on the radio in our classroom. That was the year I became a Yankee fan. We had to be quiet, but could read a book if we didn’t want to listen. I’d forgotten all about this till you jogged my memory.

  5. You did not mention why you watched this game…was there a particular reason?

  6. I’m so sorry you had to endure that season! I had almost the same kind of sixth grade teacher… he had us listen to the games but if you were quiet and didn’t make a teacher notice you could read or nap in those classes. I felt so good for a chance to doodle and read. but at home my Dad was into that game too! haha
    Thanks for bringing back these memories.

  7. I’ve often wondered how fictional characters are named. The most amusing one to me is Adam Schiff.
    Adam Schiff, Congressman from California, was born in 1960 and has been in California politics since 2003. Steven Hill played the Manhattan District Attorney, Adam Schiff, on “Law and Order” from 1990 to 2000. Never heard that the real Adam Schiff ever complained about the fictional character’s name.

  8. This is something we have totally in common….that and being tall and walking at least 10,000 steps every day.

  9. My dad watched baseball (the Phillies) all the time. It was the only reason we got a TV – or so my mother said.
    Years later I realized it was a healthy pastime because my FIL who was the same age drank himself into a stupor. This is strange because my husband played baseball on school teams.
    My dad loved all sports – the Phillies, the Eagles, and boxing. He played bocce with family members and was involved in football when the only way to have shoulder pads was to make them from rags since his family was very poor.
    We never watched TV at school. I am the same age as you.
    We did go to baseball games in person as a reward for being on the Safety Patrol.
    So maybe the “horrible” experience you had really was not so bad. We did have to play softball at recess time. For me that was horrible. I wore glasses, too, so maybe that was part of the problem.

  10. I share your sentiments. Beall is probably the most boring sport invented. To me it’s nothing more than watching two guys playing catch and a third tying to horn in. Occasionally he gets ,lucky and one or two others have to move. I’m content to hear the results on the evening news

  11. My parents spent a couple of years hauling me back from the TV screen –“you are sitting too close” before a teacher insisted on my getting an eye exam. Couldn’t see the blackboard at all. What a relief to finally get glasses!

    My father made sure we all understood the basics of all the popular sports, so I’ve been conversant since I was small. However, as an adult I choose to watch only the ones that truly entertain me, which is the fast-moving ones: soccer, hockey, tennis, and most especially basketball. Never could play any of them worth a darn, but I do enjoy watching!

    I am always fascinated by how you name your characters. Jennifer Brady has a namesake in pro tennis, probably accidentally. These days, you can do an internet search for a name to see how common it is before you bestow it on a character in a book. I once heard an author with roots in the southeast of the USA claim that she used gravestones as naming tools. She’s used some goodies!

  12. I haven’t watched a baseball game on TV from beginning to end in 60 years. It is a terribly boring sport to watch. Occasionally, though, when a new superstar appears, it’s nice to watch him for one or two at-bats. I suppose it might be more fun to play, but at my age if I bent down for a ground ball, it might take an hour to get back up.
    What’s the second hardest thing to do when you’re 80? Bending down.
    What’s the hardest? Getting up.

  13. In junior high and high school we usually got to watch the World Series in classes that had men teachers. Each brought a tv to school for their room. It was fun because we had no work or home work. I became a Yankee’s fan. After I was married and we moved to Dayton I had the radio on and the first game of the season came on I was hooked. You can do anything and listen to a baseball game. That was in the days of The Big Red Machine. I remember one game the Reds were playing the Giants in San Francisco and we went to bed before it was over. When we got up the next morning they they were still playing. I think it lasted 22 innings. We then moved to Southern California and became Dodger Fans. I don’t see many baseball games now and we don’t get the Dodgers on the radio in New Mexico. It wouldn’t be the same without Vince Scully announcing.

  14. When I was a young kid I had 2 teachers leave lasting imprints on me, one who was great and the other one not so. It was a good lesson for me because I wanted to always do my best to do no harm to any of my students, and I think I succeeded in that goal. I still have students come visit me and I have been retired for 20 years!

  15. I’m sorry for your experience. But this does bring back memories. When I was young, I used to go to baseball games with my grandfather and I loved it. As the middle of all siblings and cousins, I always thought of myself as his favorite. He taught me how to score and the team was good. A number of the players moved up to the Yankees.
    Now, football was a different story. He took me to some of a close by college. And he never left a game before it was finished. Growing up in the Texas Panhandle meant football and snow could and did mix it up. I remember one game with huge, wet flakes coming down. The field was covered and the players were slipping and sliding all over the place. And we watched (sort of) every last minute.

  16. Judy, you were lucky. At Lowell we had to watch the games in that huge auditorium, We were so far away from tahe stage I douobt the front row had a very good view. I always chose the backrows so I could read. Lighting wasn’t the best, but when you’re reading, who caares? Thank goodness we did not have to keep score. From comments so far, we were not alone in this imposed agony,

    • If the same thing happened at Lowell School, then I’ve been wrong about Leo Rosette all this time. Shame on me.

  17. Perhaps I’ve been culturally deprived? My school definitely did not make us watch sports at all, let alone take notes on a game!
    My exposure to sports was through my father’s listening to baseball and football on the car radio when he wasn’t watching on the T.V. at home-
    So I associatee driving with such phrases as, “And the side RETIRES!”
    One thing I do aprreciate about baseball is that I pretty much know what’s going on in the game- Football is a complete mystery to me, and even when I join friends to watch a game, and even root for the team they are roothing for, I have to check myself before I cheer for the opposing side getting a touchdown-
    I try to be alert to non-verbal signals from my frineds to avoid such a faux pas-
    There is one game that is even more incomprehensible to me than football-
    Watching the BBC on PBS, I’ve encountered a fair amount of cricket played on shows that take place in the UK- I have friends who grew up in former British colonies who have tried to explain it to me- All I know is that they dress in white outfits and politely clap when something significant occurs- What that might be I could not say if my life depended on it!

    • The key to understanding football:

      1) Offense can either run or pass;
      2) Runs go up the middle 70% of the time;
      3) Third and three is a running down;
      4) Third and six is a passing down;
      5) Home team usually gets fewer penalty calls;
      6) All players are nuts for engaging in such a brutal, life threatening sport.

      • Oh, the experiences which shape our lives! Having grown up near Pittsburgh, PA, sports were a big part of our family life. Mum, not so much, but Dad bigtime. I fondly remember watching many football games with him and listening to Pirate baseball on the radio. I learned the sport rules and was so glad because I’m married to a man with whom I enjoy those games also. And I can comment without feeling dumb.

        Anyway, my local schools rarely brought up sports, which was unusual. But I never thought about it until I enjoyed your blog today!

        Thanks for another chapter in your life.

      • Thanks for your explanation-

        One thing I have always found puzzling is the Ref’s term “Unnecessary
        Roughness” for some moves- It seems to me that the WHOLE GAME
        is “Unnecessary Roughness!”

  18. When I came along 3 years behind you there was no TV in the auditorium, but several of our teachers had the World Series on the radio. It seemed like the Yankees were in it. That was in the days of Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Yogie Berra, and a bunch of others who became household names. I thought the season was played just to see who would play the Yankees.

    I always enjoy identifying who you based your characters on when you do a Joanna Brady novel – I usually have a pretty good idea about most of them.

    You surprised me when you started the series about Ali. Joanna Brady (JB) and J.P. Beaumont (JB) gave a flashback to Judy Busk, the Ali changed the pattern!

    • There’s some of Judy Busk in all of them–like the mothers, for instance. Those all contain bits of Evie Busk. But Ali and I have a good deal in common. Like me, after her marriage blew up, she had to reinvent herself with both of us ending up in circumstances we had never envisioned.

  19. “Baseball prison”!!! Love it! And then there is football prison and basketball prison! Lucky for me, my late husband was no more interested in sports than I’ve ever been.

  20. Hahahahaha!
    A good friend of mine has always been fond of saying, “Revenge is a dish best served cold!” Nailed it!

  21. A large portion of people have only Baseball and football and the Weather to be able to talk around the water cooler or in lunch room. What a waste of time and productivity. Now we have the internet to lose time to. SAD. Chuck in Tacoma. my Best to Bill and all your care about. thanks again for the stimulating thoughts every Friday.

  22. HAHAHAHAHA! And never been a real football fan (yes, my husband was and we went to our hometown games with lots of friends) I find that at 84 years old – my granddaughter is engaged to be married! TO a NFL football player. And today one of his games is on a station on my tv. I WILL TRY to make it thru the whole thing without sound and with an audiobook on! And it’s recorded so if I get a did you see what he did – I can reply after I find it and view it!

  23. Good grief, forced to watch the World Series?! That is just nuts! Was there some ulterior motive going on, like illegal betting? I don’t know. I would have certainly enjoyed reading a good Trixie Belden or Nancy Drew, instead. You give an adult a little power, and they will abuse it. I didn’t like school much, and there was little or no guidance or encouragement as to what we might choose for our futures. I guess I wasn’t very forward thinking, either. Now it seems kids are pushed to pick a career from day one in kindergarten. Oh well, here I am at 68, and due to poor communication, poor management, bullying and infighting and disagreement among the higher- ups, out of my most favorite job ever (in plain language: “food tasting”, more officially called Sensory Analysis). I’ve lost any loyalty I had to the local university, for sure. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.
    Anyway, thank you for the opportunity to vent! I continue to enjoy your books. Lately I have read “Lying in Wait” and have just started “Moving Target” (thank goodness I had some books to read while going through Covid). Feeling better now. Hope you are well!

  24. aThinking about baseball and grade school really brings back a vivid memory for me. I went to an inner city school until 5th grade. Never heard of baseball on the school grounds. Then we moved to the country and all they played at recess was baseball. I remember my first day at recess and all the kids just assumed I would know how to play. I had never held a bat in my hands, but I went up to bat and immediately everyone began shouting, “Clobber it, Janice!” What the heck were they talking about? I struck out, of course, and definitely was shunned when it came time to choose sides for further games. Eventually, I learned how and what to do and actually enjoyed it. But I will never forget that time of embarrassment in not knowing what to do. I didn’t have the nerve to tell them I had never played baseball before.

  25. Thursday, October 27th .

    Happy Birthday! I hope you have a wonderful day and many more.

  26. It’s amazing that the teachers got away with that! Baseball prison!! Lol! That’s perfect. I would have felt the same and I actually like baseball and as they say of us North side Chicagoans “bleed Cubbie blue”

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