Friday, October 15, 2010

The Big Ball universe

Now,I would bet that most of you are wondering what the title means and what this will be about.
Well, it will cover the game that I spent the most time playing as a kid and yes,I likely played this more than baseball,although I played tons of that including the occasional pickup game against future major leaguer Mike Draper,more than football and even basketball,where you had to travel to face decent competition,most of which was WAY out of my league including a few games against future NBAer and N.C State Wolfpack great Rodney Monroe.
The Big Ball

Nope,it was Big Ball,so named because of the ball used-those .99 cent colored "Play Balls" that you still find for roughly the same price in any department store,grocery or just about anywhere else in the country.The game was pretty simple,just like baseball (including real bats!,none of the plastic junk in the league),except that you can throw the ball at the opponent that is off base and if the ball hits them,it is an out.
The ball is easy to hit so most anyone can play,yet it is difficult to hit far and sometimes tough to catch as the ball flutters like a knuckleball to the fielders.It really is a game that almost anyone can have fun with and even limited skill players can do passably.

This comes to mind after a return to the game just the other night at 42 years old and what a blast!
Different from the old days at mom and dads though where leagues were played in two different "stadiums",the game the other night was on a actual diamond although the bases were shortened of course.
The second stadium as a kid was kinda like old Three Rivers Stadium-plenty of space and super antiseptic.We had to move deeper into the yard because my dad wanted to start planting trees.
I wonder if he regrets that 25+ years later as the place looks like a commercial for Arbor Day now!
Between the open spaces and uphill outfield,it just wasn't the same as we laid picnic benches out for the outfield "wall" and home runs became a rarity.
I wish we still had the stats that we kept (believe it or not) as I would bet that I went from close to a hundred homers a year to maybe ten just with the stadium move.

But the first field is the one that most remember that played BB,a Frisbee for first base,an embedded rock for second and a tree stump for third and a park that we called little Fenway.
Little Fenway was most noted for the odd dimensions and the "Red Monster" for the house next door and its red shingles that loomed for the big ball power hitter in right center to right field.
Oh,you could smack them out to left,which sent the ball flying into the neighbors yard,but it was tougher having to battle lower hanging branches and you needed more of a Dick Allen rising line drive shot to take it out to left.
But the Red Monster had none of that and a ball smacked off the Monster was an automatic homer and a shot off the roof was looked at as the moonshots that used to be bounced off the roof at Tiger Stadium.
As silly as it sounds,it was kinda majestic seeing this big colored orb soar high through the air for a homer,despite every intention by my parents to keep the ball away from the neighbors area by calling balls hit into the yard or the Monster an out,that one never seemed to stick around much.One other interesting point was the constant changing of MLB batting helmets for players.We had most of the leagues helmets from getting them at Oriole games and used them all the time-I still have the Yellow Pirate one that I wore most often.

I had great fun the other night and I still have pretty control with the BB and even struck out a few batters as the strikeout is a prized possession in Big Ball!
Big Ball was a summer staple for years for me and I could post several more of these,if I wanted to (Cant you tell this is a slow day?)
Every once in a while,you really can still be young again,even if just for a few hours.


Shawn said...

From Cherie:
I think you should add the story about how your dad taught you to test for buying a proper ball and the back story. I like that one :)

Shawn said...

Perhaps on a slow day again sometime!