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Jeb Bladine: Facts and fantasy of childhood games

For whatever reason, my mind recently turned to childhood days of neighborhood softball games.

We had detailed rules for “work-up” baseball that treated everyone equally as they moved through fielding and batting positions. We self-umpired our games with occasional disagreements, but never extended conflict. Otherwise, parents would have intervened.

One day, a new kid stepped out of a long, shiny car, walked to home plate with a perturbing air of superiority, and held out an odd-looking ball. It was oversize and kind of squishy, like a precursor of today’s Nerf balls.

Whatchamacolumn

Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

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He was a snarky little kid, somewhat oversized and soft. He demanded we replace our ball with his offbeat orb, and spouted statistics about millions of softball injuries to American children just like us.

One of our longtime players agreed with the new kid, showing off a bruise from his recent encounter with a well-hit softball. The rest of us pooh-poohed the idea that we should change our game dynamics for the uncertain protection of a silly-looking ball.

The debate grew into an argument, then a shouting match. Suddenly, the new kid and his local recruit grabbed all our softballs and bats, snatched most of our mitts and ran to the shiny car still idling at the corner. Before we knew what happened, they drove away with everything we needed to continue our neighborhood games.

We told our parents, but they said the boy’s daddy was a powerful man who could threaten their jobs if they tried to step in. Stories about all the injuries were lies, they said, but people in town were starting to believe them.

We kept going to the softball field, hoping for the return of our equipment. Every day, that shiny car drove by slowly as the new kid yelled out the window, “I’ll give it all back when you agree to use my ball for your games.”

We wanted to negotiate a solution, but whenever we talked to the new kid, he would simply repeat his demands and stomp off. He was an insufferable little cretin, as I recall, so finally we just turned our attention to friendly tetherball competition in Lower City Park.

Wait a second: The softball games were real, but the strange little kid is imaginary. I don’t know what put that wild story into my mind, but I have to ask one question:
Where are the parents today?

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

Comments

Mike

I know you've been in the writing game most of you life. You've knocked one over the fence. Your parable is great. Thank you.

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