''Tag, You are out''
When I was a kid I went to Union Hill School. It was a brick structure probably built back in the twenties. It was ''Gothic'' styled and sat on probably fifty acres of land. The grades were one thur seven, no cafeteria on the building. We brought our lunch and they did sell ice cream in the hallway. It had a bell tower and a large bell that could be heard for a couple miles when they rang it. The pull rope hung down into the main entrance of the school. It always stayed coiled on a wooden peg on the wall. The rope was at least an inch and had overhand knots about every foot and it had a braided loop in the end of the rope. There were playgrounds all around the school with a base ball diamond on one side and a large chicken wire backstop and a few bleacher seats behind and benches on each side of the backstop. As I remember, the ''bases'' were thick wood and buried in the ground, real leg breakers if we had used cleats on our shoes. Home plate was larger and more diamond shaped as I recall. We would usually play baseball at the afternoon recess because we had more time for the game. As I recall the afternoon recess would last for about 45 minutes to an hour, according to the mood of the teachers that day. We always ''chose up'' sides before the bell rang for recess and we would hit the doors ready to play as soon as we hit the field. Everyone usually stayed on the same side because we were fairly evenly divided in ability on each team. As it worked out my cousin Larry and myself usually were on the same team because he was the pitcher and I was the ''hind catcher''. His specialty was throwing the ball without hitting the batter too many times. Past that, he didn't have much else to offer as a pitcher. He thought he could throw a curve ball and a fast ball but neither one had much on it.
On the opposing team was a boy named James Ray. He started school when he was almost seven years old and he had been ''held back'' at least twice and maybe three times but we were not sure. When we got into the fifth grade we ''caught up'' with James Ray. Most of us were eleven and I think James Ray was about thirteen or fourteen years old. He was head and shoulders taller than anyone and mean as a snake. The teachers would make him sit in the front row, first seat right in front of the teacher to insure he was listening to her and doing his work. This seldom worked but they tried anyhow. They figured he would quit when he turned sixteen any how. James Ray loved to play baseball. He was not particularly good at but he could hit the ball and he would deliberately run over the guys guarding the bases. He could actually knock a guy off his feet and make him lost the ball when they tried to tag him. When he ran he ran like a bull. He would lower his head and churn his arms and legs without any care as to whom he would run into or over. He loved to steal bases and use the ''strong arm'' tactics of simply running into the person guarding the bases and knocking them down making them drop the ball or simply step out of his way. One day he was on first base and I walked out to the mound and told Larry that I thought James Ray was going to try to steal second base. I told Larry to throw the ball in the dirt just behind home plate and I was sure James Ray would break for second base. I told Larry to duck and I would throw the ball to the second baseman and he could tag James out. This was a good plan but it didnt work out. James simply bulled into the second baseman and caused him to drop the ball. He did the same thing to get to third base and he looked down the third base line and pointed at me and said that he was going to steal home pretty soon and I better look out because he was wearing ''cleats'' and he was going to simply run me over........
Sure enough, Larry threw a ''dirt pitch'' and James Ray lowered his head and charged for home plate when I was scrambling for the ball. I grabbed the ball and jumped into the base line to tag James out and when he got to me he simply stuck his foot out and knocked me out of his way. I was lucky that I was wearing a catchers vest or the cleats would have broken skin I am sure, He knocked me over like a ten pin, the ball went flying and he literally ran me over like a turtle in the road. He stood on home plate dancing and making fun of me for dropping the ball. Ms. Clay our teacher told him that he should not do these things because someone could get hurt and he told her that it was an ''accident'' because he had lost his footing as he ran and had to kick out his leg to keep from falling while he ran. We continued the game and I made my plans for his next attack. Sure enough the next inning he got on and proceeded thru the bases to third base bulling his way along until he was back on third base. While the batter was coming up to the plate he pointed at me and said he was coming ''home'' and I had better stay out of his way. True to form Larry threw a bad pitch and James Ray bolted off third base with his head down and his arms and legs flailing coming toward home plate. I grabbed the ball out of the dirt and pushed the batter out of my way.
I would like to inject one thing here. When I was a kid I was not real strong, or real tall, or really very good at anything except, I could throw a rock or a ball like a bullet. I could take a rock about the size of a golf ball and I could hit a bean can at twenty yards. I could take a base ball and from the catchers pit to the pitchers mound I could hit my cousins glove dead center about nine times out of ten. Within twenty to thirty yards I was dead on with a baseball or a rock and I have hit birds flying with a rock........
I stepped out into the base line and took careful aim and let go the ball when James Ray was about fifteen feet away from me. I threw the ball as hard as I could and it hit him just below the hair line in the front of his head. He made one stumbling step and hit the ground like a sack of dried beans. The ball bounce off his head and went up about five feet and landed just ahead of him in the dirt. He was out stone cold. I walked over to the ball, picked it up and ''tagged him out'' as he laid in the dirt. ''Tag'',,,,,, ''You are out''........ ''No score''................ I pitched the ball back to Larry as he stood on the pitchers mound with his mouth open As I walked back to home plate Ms. Clay grabbed my arm, spinning me around to face her.
''Young man, you are going to the principals office and tell Mr Howl why you hit James Ray with that baseball.''....... James Ray was still laying face down in the dirt.... I looked Ms. Clay in the face and said it was an ''accident'' because I was trying to throw the ball to the third baseman and I must have got off my line with the ball. Mr. Howl brought his car out to the ball diamond and took James Ray up to see old Doctor Bulla. He was informed that James Ray was alright except for the ''doo bigger'' on his head. For those of you that dont know what a ''doo bigger'' is I will tell you now.
A ''doo bigger'' is a knot on your head and the more you ''doo'' for it,,,,,,,,,,, the ''bigger'' it gets....... James Ray was out of school the rest of the day and when he came back to school on Monday his eyes were still almost swelled shut and they each had a purple line underneath. Truth be known I probably gave him a slight concussion but back then, if you weren't bleeding or had a bone sticking out, you was ok, probably.
So went life for a small skinny boy growing up after the war.... .....
He never messed with after that except for one incident on the soccer field about a year later and I shall relate that at another writing....
Thank a Vet for your freedoms. They earned them for us for minimum wages.