The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
Makeshift baseball games with broom sticks and rocks

The other day, I was discarding an old worn-out straw broom with a wood-handle, and I had a flashback to my younger days.

A three-foot sawed-off broom handle would appear to a normal person as just a useless piece of wood from a broom that was no longer worth using.

To a young boy who lived on a rural farm about 60 years ago, the piece of wood would have been a good candidate for a “bat” to use in makeshift baseball games. You see, the “playing field” was my father’s cotton or soybean field. The “ball” would be rocks from an adjacent gravel road that you would toss up and smack with the broom handle. Your “opponent” would be your brother or a cousin from the neighboring farm down the road.

Mostly, our games were analogous to “home run derby,” i. .e, who can hit the most rocks over some designated distance within the field? It was Mantle vs. Mays, “Killer” Killebrew vs. “Hammerin” Hank, or whomever we wanted to emulate. If we really got sophisticated, we would mark off distances for singles, doubles, triples, and home runs and play a simulated baseball game. We’d “call the games” by doing our best impersonation of then-popular St. Louis Cardinals broadcaster Harry Caray.

I had read about kids from big cities like New York City and Philadelphia, where the sawed-off broom handle was used in a game of stickball usually played in the streets. Except there would have been more kids on each team, the ball would have been made out of electrical tape, and the bases would have been a fire hydrant or the bumpers of parked cars in the street. I remember seeing a photo of a young Willie Mays (then with the New York Giants in the early 1950s) playing stickball in the street with kids in Harlem. On a farm in the middle of nowhere, we could only dream about playing with someone as famous as Mays.

Of course, it was a simpler time back then. There was no expensive baseball equipment, no travel ball teams, and no specialized batting or pitching coaches. We felt fortunate to play in a real uniform (flannel at the time) in a real Little League game once a week, with your coach being a teammate’s dad who took the afternoon off from his farming responsibilities.

But after hours of hitting rocks with a broom handle, hitting an official baseball with a regulation wooden bat seemed like a piece of cake in those Little League games. I guess it was the hand-eye coordination we developed from hitting rocks.

I confess to having kept that discarded broomstick the other day. Maybe one day I’ll go back to one of those cotton fields and gravel roads and see if I can still hit ‘em out.

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