The Greatest Game of My Life
Baseball was my favorite sport growing up. I read every book in the children’s library about the legends of the game. I can still remember first learning about Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Ty Cobb. Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Stan Musial were all bigger than life heroes to me. My brother and I played Wiffle Ball in our front yard until the grass was bare. We wore out more than one catcher’s mitt. A new Louisville Slugger baseball bat, wooden of course, was a prized gift at Christmas.
Ernest and I would practice between two peanut warehouses in our hometown of Cottonwood. The buildings served as backstops for the balls we would hit. Our gloves hung on the handle bars of our bikes and we were always looking for a pickup game.
Babe Ruth was probably the greatest legend of them all to me. I was fascinated hearing my great-grandparents talk about their train trips to New York and Yankee Stadium to watch baseball games. They were there to see Babe Ruth hit his historic 60th homerun. There wasn’t anything more impressive you could say to a young boy in the early 1960s.
My love for baseball continued all my life. When the Braves moved to Atlanta, I would listen to their games on my small transistor radio. If it was a West Coast game, I would listen under the covers long after I was supposed to be asleep.
On my wife’s 50th birthday, I secretly flew our daughters into Philadelphia to go to join us at a Phillies game. That picture taken of the four of us at the stadium is still one of my favorites.
My singular greatest athletic achievement was stealing home plate in an all-star game against my friends from Dothan while playing for Cottonwood. My team was probably behind by 15 runs, but it didn’t matter.
However, after a lifetime of following baseball, this past week I saw the greatest game by far that I have ever seen. My grandson, Henry, played in his first T-Ball game.
Henry hit the ball being pitched to him the first time at each at bat. As he ran into home plate after another teammate’s hit, I swelled with pride that must have equaled my Great-Grandmother’s remembrance of Babe Ruth’s record home run.
These kids dove for each ball that bounced by them. They had no concept of score or winning. They just were having the time of their lives. Henry’s knees were dirty from diving for a ball. Somehow I was glad his mother would have to wash that uniform. It is what a boy, and now a girl, does when they are playing baseball.
I can honestly say that after more than a half century of loving baseball, I have seen the greatest game of my life. If you are interested in watching, I’ll be glad to share the more than 150 photos I took at this game. Way to go, Henry!
Dan Ponder can be reached at [email protected]