The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

Caught With My Pants Down (A Tale of Baseball Youth)

When I was around eleven or twelve years old, my friends and I in Bridgeport, CT used to play a lot of baseball.  Although I didn’t know it at the time, we were playing what others called “sandlot” ball, though I never saw any sand around the streets of Bridgeport.  Mostly I just saw gum-stains that looked like blood-spatter, used condoms (which, as a kid, I mistook for miniature balloons), dead cats with maggot-infested eyes, and toothless negro winos who would offer to “suck your dick” (whatever that meant) for 50 cents.

English: A German Shepherd waiting for someone...

English: A German Shepherd waiting for someone to play with him. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For those reasons, and several others, there were times when it was just as easy to stay close to the neighborhood and play ball.  The problem, though, was that the overgrown lot right next to my house on Colorado Ave. wasn’t exactly Wrigley Field.

Though it had once been a vegetable garden (who knew vegetables didn’t come from cans?), it was now a crab-apple orchard redolent of dog-shit (the fat lady across the street owned the only German Shepherd this side of Europe with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.)  But at least no one would come along and bother us.

A chain-link fence separated our modest little backyard from this larger space on a line extending about 100 feet, until it met up with a low piece of barbed wire, long since unceremoniously trampled under foot by Converse All-Stars, if not the inevitable Pro Keds.  So it was an easy hop from the sidewalk in front of our house into the semi-swampy morass that was our ball-field.

For some reason, a few girls would often stop by to watch us play ball.  They were around our age, perhaps a bit older, and they spent most of their time giggling and whispering behind their hands as we smacked the partially round sphere into the bushes behind what we decided would be second base.  To me it was strange and interesting that these girls would come over to watch us play.  They didn’t seem to belong to anyone; no one among us would claim them as sisters or cousins, yet there they remained all afternoon, cheering us on, regardless of our worthiness at the bat or in the field.

Then, disaster struck.  A small slick of mud which we had all managed to successfully navigate for much of the afternoon, claimed me as its first victim as I rounded third and headed for home, a brown-stained, embarrassed young man.  My feet had slipped out from under me, and I had gone down hard, ass-first, into the fetid, brown goo.  It is a moment I’ve since edited out of my personal highlights-of-my life mental movie reel.

English: A pice of chain link fence over some ...

English: A pice of chain link fence over some railroad tracks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What to do.  No way I could continue to play with my pants soaked through, so I told the guys (never once glancing in the direction of the girls) that I had to go inside for a few minutes to change my pants.  After the usual exchange of pleasantries between my friends Scott and Johnny regarding who should bat next (“Scott, you dumb-ass, it’s my friggin’ turn!”  “The Hell it is you midget moron!”), and on and on as I climbed the fence into my backyard.

The washing machine and the dryer were down in the basement on the side of the house where, if one looked up out the window, one could see across into the adjoining yard where my friends were still yelling and playing a little ball.  The distance was just five or six feet, and though I could see them all just fine, it somehow didn’t occur to me that they might be able to see me as well.

I didn’t go directly up into my house and on into my bedroom because my parents were neat freaks, and I knew I’d never hear the end of it if I left a trail of muddy, dirty blue jeans and underpants in the house.  So I decided instead to simply change right there in the basement.  There were always clothes drying either in the dryer itself or on the clothesline suspended in the basement between the furnace and grandpa’s workbench.

At least that’s what I must have subconsciously counted on as I kicked off my sneakers, pulled off my damp socks, and gingerly climbed out of the rest of my dirty clothes.  I threw the entire mess into the washer, dumped in a sufficient amount of powdered soap, and pulled the dial that got the old machine pumping and humming.

Except that, once naked, I glanced around and to my heart-pounding dismay, there were absolutely no clothes at all on the line, nor in the dryer.  What overly efficient domestic would do such a thing?  Then I remembered, my father had taken his annual August week-long vacation from his job at Remington Arms.

When dad was home, no one and nothing was safe from his legendary Deutsch cleaning rampages.  Lint, dust-mites and random loose threads were no match for his overworked Hoover, and the very idea of dirt inside our house was as unthinkable as my Catholic mother attending a protestant church.

So I just stood there for several minutes, completely unaware that at about this time some of my friends, and the modest retinue of girls, had now spotted me in the basement.  It took far longer than it should have for me to catch on to what all the excitement was about.  I just had to figure out how to find some clothes.

And that, of course, was when my previous level of embarrassment now blossomed into full-blown mortification.  As the throng sauntered, skipped and squealed toward the three rectangular basement windows for the free, unscheduled performance, all I could think to do was to duck behind the washing machine.  I sat down on the cool cement floor, bare feet extended out into the sunlight from my protective shadows, wondering how I could just will myself into oblivion.  It couldn’t get any worse than this, could it?

My father’s voice broke my pitiful reverie.

“Billy, where the hell are your clothes?”

I suppose I still owe him one to this day for going back upstairs to retrieve some fresh clothes, and because I don’t think he ever told my mother.

Back outside in the late afternoon sun, now softly resting upon the orange horizon, one of the girls called out to me just as I landed back on their side of the fence, my fingers careful not to get spiked by the sharp points on top.

“Hey, boy, do you wanna sleep with me?”

What an odd question to ask, I thought to myself.  Why the hell would I want to do that?  I’m sure I didn’t respond at all, but simply strode back up to the plate to take the biggest, most masculine cut I could ever take at a baseball.  I like to think that I hit it out over the trees in the distant outfield in front of the old, shuttered servant’s quarters from days gone by.  More likely, I put it in play and ran as hard as I could to first base.

One thing’s for sure.  For the rest of that day I took it easy going around third base.  But the next day, and the day after that, we took our chances back out on the streets of Bridgeport.  Riskier, yes, but the prospects for naked embarrassment paled in comparison to my recent experience back home.

Meanwhile, the girls continued to follow us around quite regularly for the rest of the summer, mysteriously glancing, winking and even blowing the occasional kiss at me.

Couldn’t they see that I was busy?

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27 thoughts on “Caught With My Pants Down (A Tale of Baseball Youth)

  1. My eyes glazed over and a small lump formed in my throat while I read this sweet post, Bill. This was clearly the summer before you discovered that girls possessed some very useful talents. On another note, your Dad was a very wise and sensitive man, and it is clear to me that the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree. Truly a touching tale, and not just for baseball fans, but for all.

    Warmest Regards, Michael / Grubby.

    • You had me worried there for a minute, Michael. When you started out with, “My eyes glazed over…,” I thought you might have been terribly bored with the piece. Anyway, thanks so much for the kind words. Glad you liked it so much. Hope to talk to you soon.
      Cheers,
      Bill

  2. A great story! Also, thanks for the links to some of your older stories (I haven’t read anything prior to “When It Was A Game” which as you know, I really enjoyed). You know, keeping it baseball-related, if you’d taken that young lady up on her offer, it’s a fair bet you would have made it at least as far as third base.

    Fortunately no one in my family has ever been a neat freak. The reason this is fortunate is that if they were, I would no doubt have been long ago exposed to the elements like an unwanted Spartan child. I am an oafish force of disorganization and clutter, and all three of my children seem to have inherited the curse.

    I once got sent home from school (I got sent home or suspended on a number of occasions actually, but only once for what follows) in the second or third grade for being dirty. It had rained the night before, and me and some of my friends decided to “Pete Rose,” which was what we called bellyfirst slides in the mud. My clothes and hair were caked with dirt and so I got sent home. I learned a lesson, but not the one I was supposed to. I hated school until I got to college, so I never minded a suspension.

    • Also, I don’t know what it is about New England, but that’s also the only place where I’ve had a strange homeless person offer seriously to fellate me. I guess I just don’t go to enough nice places.

      • Dude, you grew up in California, and you’ve never had that experience out there? Maybe the reputation of the Left Coast is overrated after all. Believe me, you can’t do much worse in Connecticut than Bridgeport, except perhaps for New Haven. Oh, and Waterbury sucks, too.
        Cheers, Bill

      • The Michelin Guides for Bridgeport and New Haven always mention the Homeless Hoover.

    • Hey man, as far as girls are concerned, I have to confess I never did hit a lot of triples in my life. I was more of a Mike Hargrove or a Buddy Bell, drawing a lot of walks, some of them intentional. Overly cautious at the dish. Scored a few runs in my day, but never led the league.
      I actually never did get suspended, though I wasn’t all too fond of school, either. My dad would have killed me if that had happened. He would give me crap about getting a couple of “B’s” on my report card.
      I hated Pete Rose. To me, a Pete Rose would have been finding a way to cheat on my homework or on a test at school while working hard to be as ignorant as possible.
      I have some of my parent’s neat-freak tendencies, though I’ve learned to temper them due to the reality that my wife is kind of a secret slob, and my two boys are virtually hopeless when it comes to cleaning up after themselves.
      Hope you enjoyed the other stories that I linked to. Eventually, I’ll compile them all into a collection of stories about growing up and playing ball in Bridgeport in the ’70’s. I hear the market for that kind of stuff is just exploding out there. 🙂
      Always nice to hear from you,
      Bill

      • B’s? My mom would have been THRILLED. I graduated high school with a 2.47 GPA, which was good enough to earn me a spot in the 53rd percentile of my graduating class.

        Sometimes, when I think back on those folks in the 52nd percentile, I wonder what their lives would be like today if only they’d taken school as seriously as I did?

      • I did great in school up through 8th grade. I had a terrible year as a 9th grader, then settled for mediocrity for the next three years. Graduated in about the middle of my high school class (at a Catholic school where around 20% of the kids were thrown out within the first two years.) I worked for five years after high school, then finally went to college when I was already 24-years old. It worked out well for me. I graduated Summa Cum Laude in ’92. That never would have happened if I’d gone to college right out of high school. Also, by then, I was earning the grades for myself, not for my mom and dad.

  3. This essay is a swing and a hit. Good ink.

  4. Outstanding Bill! A great story greatly written.

    Mike

  5. Northern Narratives on said:

    Sounds like something that would happen to Beaver Cleaver 🙂

  6. If it was the girl in the pix at the bottom (sorry about that) of the post, you shoulda took her up on it, Bill.
    Great story.
    v

  7. That is just some fine, fine story telling–frankly, I wouldn’t care if it was true or not. It’s just that good.

  8. Glen Russell Slater on said:

    Okay, I seem to have fixed my shift key problem.

    Bill, all that I can say is that I wish that I could write something as good as this. Not everyone can write a story that is Jean Shepherd caliber.

    I kid you not.

    Sincerely,
    Glen

  9. Glen Russell Slater on said:

    this is excellent and a hilarious story, bill. i don’t bullshit people or give them false praise. i’m a cynic. and i don’t give praise very readily. but believe me when i say that this is in a league with jean shepherd. i grew up listening to gene shepherd on wor radio and i know what i’m talking about, believe me. that’s no faint praise. you have got to get this published. you’ve simply got to. by the way, i’m typing only in lower-case because there is suddenly something wrong with my keyboard, and the shift button is doing weird things.

    anyway, bill, if you’ve never heard jean shepherd, listen to some of his old programs that were on wor radio. i’m sure you can find them around the web.

    again, nice going, and even if you never publish anything else, i urge you to shop this around to various publishing houses and magazines. it’s brilliant, and i mean that. i’m no phony, and i’m not going to start being one now.

    glen russell slater

    • Glen, Thanks for the kind words. I have heard of Jean Shepherd. My dad was a fan of his, and used to listen to his L.P.’s. I believe his works were the inspiration for the movie, “A Christmas Story,” one of the all time classics.
      Thanks again, Glen
      Bill

  10. Actually, no longer the forgettable Bill Miller. Funny story, and it’s nice to see another side of you, if you know what I mean.

  11. No longer the unforgettable Bill Miller.

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