Clubius Contained Part 17 – Little League (June 1963)

I was extra happy that day third grade was finally done. The last day of school each June was already my favorite day of the year, even better than Christmas or my birthday. On those two days I got presents, usually neat toys and games, but having two and a half months without having to go to school was even better than presents. Since that day in April when Joey told everybody in class that I’d “pull down my pants for Mary”, I hadn’t wanted to go to school AT ALL.

But I had to, because that’s what kids were supposed to do, and also so mom and dad wouldn’t try to figure out what had happened, and they’d still think I was a really good kid. Mary and Diane sure thought I was a bad kid, and the other girls would tease Mary about seeing me naked, though she never did. And her best friend Diane would say bad things about me at recess, like I was a “pervert” or something. I wondered if my school friends, like Gabe, Herbie, Jake and Amanda thought I was bad or even a “pervert” too, even though they were still friends with me. Joey wasn’t my friend anymore. I still wouldn’t talk to him and he had stopped trying to talk to me. I’m glad mom and dad didn’t know that Joey HAD been my friend, because then they wouldn’t ask why I didn’t play with him anymore.

On that last day I couldn’t wait for that last bell to ring. When it finally did, Mrs Rodney said that before we left, she had an envelope for each of us with our grades to take home to our parents. Once we got our grades we could leave. Then she called each of our names and had us come up to her desk so she could give it to us. She did our names in alphabet order, so Mary was first because her last name was “Abbot”.

Mary jumped up from her seat with a big smile on her face like being first was like being the best one. I could see Amanda watching Mary and shaking her head slowly. When Mary got to Mrs Rodney’s desk, Mrs Rodney said something to her in a real quiet voice that I couldn’t hear then gave her the envelope. As Mary turned toward the rest of us to walk out the door, her smile was even bigger, I guess because of what Mrs Rodney had said. Mary saw me looking at her and looked away, and then looked over my head across the room I guess to see Diane and nodded her head, still smiling. Then she went out the door.

And for every kid Mrs Rodney called, she did the same thing, said something quietly and gave them their grades, and then they went out the door. Since my last name was the last letter in the alphabet I was always the last one in alphabet order. That meant all the other kids might be gone when Mrs Rodney gave me my grades. As each of my friends got theirs, and as they walked towards the classroom door, they said to me quietly that they’d see me outside the main doors.

As that last kid before me got their grades and headed towards the door, Mrs Rodney said, “And finally, Cooper Zale.” I walked up to her desk and looked at the envelope instead of her face and held my hand out.

She breathed in and out in a noisy way then said, “Young man, you obviously have not been the same in class since that incident back in April.”

I looked down at the floor and thought to myself, just give me the damn envelope and let me get out of here. I don’t ever want to see you again!

“I intended what I said to you as spur of the moment good advice”, she said, “But I’m well aware now you didn’t take it that way. I did not intend my words to be so critical of you.”

Tears just filled my eyes, even though I didn’t want them to. I looked up at her for just a second and took the envelope out of her hand and ran to the door and out of the room.

From the hallway, I could see that Gabe, Herbie, Jake and Amanda were waiting for me on the sidewalk outside the school doors looking through the glass at me. I tried to wipe the tears out of my eyes, but I was just wearing a short-sleeved shirt, so it was hard to use it to help wipe them. I figured my friends could see them as I went out the big doors to the outside.

“Geez”, said Gabe, “What did Mrs R say to you?” I looked down and didn’t say anything.

“Gabriel”, said Amanda, “Cooper probably doesn’t want to talk about it.” Gabe looked at Amanda then down at the ground too.

“Are you in trouble?” Herbie asked. Amanda looked at him like he shouldn’t be asking that either.

Still looking at the ground I shook my head and said, “I don’t think so.”

“Well then everything’s okay”, Herbie said, sounding happy like he was trying to make me feel happy too, “You never have to talk to Mrs R again. To hell with her!”

“Oh my god Herbert”, said Amanda shaking her head slowly, “Such a potty mouth.”

Some of my friends, like Gabe and Herbie, were starting to say swear words sometimes when no grownups were around, like I was. A lot of the bigger kids in the park, mostly boys, liked using swear words, so we were thinking we were big kids now, so we should be swearing too. I’d even heard Margie swear a couple times and then say “excuse my french”, whatever that meant. But Amanda and Jake didn’t.

Herbie laughed through his nose at what Amanda said. “Hey”, he said, and then he said that poem thing that kids said sometimes in the park. “No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks.”

He did a big smile and said, “You’re free Coop. We’re all free. What’s that song on the radio? Crazy, lazy summer something?”

Jake started singing, and moving his arms and feet around like he was one of those singer guys on TV…

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Those days of soda and pretzels and beer

Herbie pointed at him, nodding his head. “Yeah that one”, he said.

Then everybody stopped talking and looked at Jake, surprised that he had just done singing like that. Gabe started to laugh, and then Herbie too, and finally Amanda. I couldn’t help but laugh too.

Jake held his hands up in front of him and said, “WHAT? That’s just how the song goes. Don’t you guys know how to sing?”

Amanda rolled her eyes and said, “I guess Jacob, that question doesn’t apply to me?”

“Geez Amanda”, Jake said, “You know what I mean. You’re pretty much one of the guys.”

Amanda wrinkled her nose and looked at Jake like she didn’t like what she saw. “Is that supposed to be good or bad?” she asked.

“Well you’re not like a regular girl”, Jake said.

“What AM I like, Jacob?” she asked, nose still really wrinkled, “Be careful what you say. You may be walking home alone.”

“You’re uhh”, Jake said, trying to think what to say, “You’re just like you. You’re Amanda.”

Amanda pushed her lips together and moved them around, thinking. “Well I guess I’ll walk home with you… but only today”, she said.

“Ha ha”, said Jake, “Today’s the last day of school!” Amanda smiled and her eyes twinkled, because Jake had figured out her joke.

“So our Little League team has their first big game tomorrow”, Herbie said, “You guys think we can win it, with Coop at First Base and me at Shortstop?”

“And me far off in the wilds of Right Field”, said Gabe, “Looking at the clouds in the sky”.

“So you decided you’re going to play?” asked Herbie.

“I guess so”, said Gabe, “Might as well.”

“What about you Jake?” asked Herbie, “You don’t like baseball?” Jake wrinkled his nose and shook his head.

“What about me?” asked Amanda.

“Well you’re a girl”, said Jake, “So…”

“You said I’m just ‘one of the guys’”, Amanda said, “So NOW I’m a girl?”

“Do you even know how to play baseball?” Gabe asked her. She turned and stared at him.

“If they let me play, Gabriel”, she said, “Maybe I’d take the time to learn.”

“Anyway”, said Herbie, “Remember, the game’s not at Allmendinger, it’s at Eberwhite at nine in the morning.”

“You guys can meet at my house”, said Gabe, “And we can walk over from there cuz it’s not very far.”

So finally we all split up and walked our different ways home. Herbie walked down Jefferson. Amanda and Jake walked down Fifth. And Gabe and I walked the other way on Fifth, which I guess you would say was “up Fifth” because it was uphill. I said goodbye to Gabe at his street and kept walking “up Fifth” to Allmendinger Park.

All the kids now out of school for summer vacation were in the park, running a little faster with their voices a little louder. The park was OUR PLACE and summer vacation was OUR TIME. No grownups needed to be in charge of us for anything. Well except maybe for Little League.


The next morning I woke up with the smell of plants outside tickling my nose. Mom had probably come into my room when I was still sleeping and opened the windows, and probably all the other windows in the house. She loved “fresh air”, even if it was “a little chilly”. It was past eight o’clock, so I had to get going and get over to Gabe’s. I put on my long pants instead of shorts because that was better for playing baseball so you didn’t scrape your knees up. I put on my orange t-shirt and orange baseball cap, which was my team’s uniform. We didn’t get a whole uniform with special pants and socks like the older Little League teams.

I quickly ate a bowl of Cheerios in the kitchen. I could hear the birds chirping outside. Mom wasn’t around, and their bedroom door was open, so she wasn’t “sleeping in” like she did now some mornings when she stayed up late watching TV. And the car was in the driveway so she wasn’t out shopping. I heard dad typing in the basement. I wasn’t sure where David was.

I didn’t really need to tell anybody where I was going, since it was just daytime. The only rule was that I had to come home when the streetlights came on, and I figured I’d probably be home by lunchtime. But my glove was down in the basement, so I ran down the stairs, and dad turned as I got to the bottom.

“Another Little League practice for the Allmendinger Orioles?” he asked, putting a big smile on his face.

“Nope”, I said, not even shaking my head, “It’s our first game today.”

“You guys playing over in the park?” he asked.

“Nope”, I said again, almost like I was being silly saying the exact same thing the exact same way twice, “At Eberwhite.”

“That’s a bit of a trek”, he said, “Do you need a ride over?”

“Nope”, I said a third time, almost laughing now, “I’m going to meet Herbie and Gabe at Gabe’s house and we’ll all go together from there.”

“Okay”, he said laughing, “Though I’d get a kick watching one of your games if it was okay with you.”

“I don’t know how good we’re going to be”, I said, “Since it’s just our first game. Maybe once we’ve had a chance to play a few games we’ll be better.”

He nodded, thinking, then finally said, “You know, that pretty much every dad would love to see his son in a real baseball game.”

“It’s only Little League”, I said.

“Still!” he said, making an extra smiley face. He seemed pretty happy.

“Anyway”, I said, “Gotta go.”

He nodded again, thinking, then wagged his finger at me pretending to be serious and said, “Keep your eye on the ball.”

I nodded and ran back up the stairs with my glove and went out the side door. I decided I’d ride my bike over to Gabe’s so I could be sure I wouldn’t be late. I put my glove in my pressure basket and it looked really neat in there, all shiny brown and folded. I pushed my bike to the end of our driveway, because it was all stones, “gravel” it was called, and it was really hard to ride on. Then I rode up our street to the park and went left on Potter street.

Once I got by the house on the corner I could see our backyard, and there was mom on her hands and knees working in the garden and David playing with toys in the grass. David saw me and yelled out, “It’s Coop!” and pointed at me. Mom now looked at me too and waved, and I waved back, because I could ride my bike really good with just one hand. Soon I couldn’t see them anymore and I started thinking about the game and my team.

I figured that, of all the main sports with teams – baseball, football, basketball and hockey – baseball was the most fun to play and also to watch, whether you watched it for real in the park or on TV. Dad liked all sports, and when we watched them on TV together, he’d try to tell me about how they worked, and the different positions and “strategies” in each game.

In real football, the one team with the ball that was trying to score the touchdown lined up pointing toward the “end zone” they were trying to get to, and the other team lined up in front of them and tried to stop them, which all made sense. Then when the quarterback guy got the ball, most of the guys on both teams kind of smashed together and the quarterback would either give the ball to a “halfback” or “fullback” to try to run right into all the guys smashed together, or run around the side of them until they got “tackled”. Or he would try to throw it to one of his “ends”, who tried to catch the ball when he threw it to them. The other guys that just smashed together, dad called it “blocking”, were called “guards” and “tackles”, plus the “center” guy who gave the ball to the quarterback between his legs. And when the other team got the ball, your team had completely different players, not the same guys that played when you had the ball. It was really hard to figure out what was going on when you watched it on TV. And even the times when I saw a real Michigan game at the Stadium, it was hard to figure out, though if you watched the game on TV or listened to it on the radio that announcer guy would at least TELL you what happened.

When we played football in the park, it wasn’t anything like that. It was mostly just one guy being the quarterback and everyone else on his team was an “end”, running around and trying to catch the ball if he threw it to you. It was fun, but it didn’t feel like you were playing real football.

In real basketball, there were different positions depending on how tall you were. The really tall guy on each team was the “center” and he stayed in the middle near the basket. He did shooting and also tried to get the ball when someone else’s shot didn’t go in, which was called “rebounding”. Then there were two kind of tall guys on either side of him who were the “forwards”. Then there were two shorter guys called “guards” who were usually away from the basket and dribbled and passed the ball a lot. I thought it was strange that they were called “guards” because they didn’t guard anything. It was the “center” who looked like he was guarding the basket when the other team had the ball. So there were those five guys that played on a team at one time, and they played both when their team had the ball and the other team had the ball.

When kids played basketball we usually didn’t play on the “full court”, which was both ends, but just one end, which was called “half court”. If you had the ball, you dribbled until you had to stop, and once you stopped you couldn’t dribble anymore or that would be a “double dribble”. Then you would have to figure out how to pass the ball to another guy on your team. Somebody on your team would finally shoot it, but usually not get it in the basket.

And real hockey, which I’d only seen on TV, was a lot like basketball, except you had a “puck” instead of a ball and you were skating with special “hockey” sticks to try to hit the puck into the other team’s goal. Everybody zoomed around and it was hard sometimes to see where the puck was and what guys were doing, because everyone skated really fast and the puck was really small. Dad said that was because we had a really small TV. In hockey, guys crashed into each other all the time and even got into fights, which I guess was part of the game because the people watching the game in the “stands” seemed to like it when the hockey guys punched each other.

I’d seen some kids play hockey in the park in the winter when they made the ice rink you could skate on. I never tried to play because I couldn’t figure out how to skate very well.

But baseball was different and better. Because even when we played a pickup game with just kids, it was still a lot like real baseball on TV. We had all the same positions the real baseball games had, and did all the special stuff for that position. If I played first base, I had to stand near the base, and when somebody hit a ground ball to some other person playing in the infield, like the shortstop, I had to run over and put my foot on the base and get ready to catch the ball when they threw it to me to try to get the guy hitting out before he got there. That was the main thing I did. If I was playing outfield, no one ever threw the ball to me, I just had to try to catch it when it was hit to my “field”, or at least try to stop it from getting by me, and then throw the ball back to someone playing in the infield. That was the same as what the first baseman or the outfielder did in a real baseball game, even though they did it a lot better.

When we played football or basketball, it was just a bunch of kids running around all doing pretty much the same thing, except for maybe the quarterback in our football games.

There WERE two big differences in our pickup baseball games from regular baseball. We didn’t have a coach, who was in charge of everybody on the team, we only had captains, which were just kids like us, but maybe older and we all knew they were good at baseball. And we didn’t have an umpire, so no one got to say if the pitch was a “ball” or a “strike”. So no one ever got a “walk” because the pitcher threw bad pitches, and you only “struck out” if you swung three times and missed, though sometimes they’d let the littler kids have extra strikes. The pitchers in our games tried to throw it so you COULD hit it, even underhand to someone like me when I wasn’t used to guys pitching the regular overhand way yet. Everyone on both teams WANTED you to hit it, because that was more fun. When we played, if lots of kids struck out that was pretty boring. But in a real game, everyone thought it was really neat when the pitcher struck out a bunch of guys.

But now in Little League we were going to have an umpire like a real baseball game, and coaches, like a real game too. Our coach was the dad of this kid on our team named Troy, who had been in the other third grade class at Bach. I would have liked it if the coaches were other kids, maybe older ones, but older kids in the park who played little league said that coaches were always grownups. So that was the bad part about Little League, the grownups were the coaches and the umpires, so they were in charge.

And what also wasn’t like a real baseball game, was that in the nine-year-old league they didn’t pitch it to you when you were batting. You had to hit the ball off this pipe thing, which the coach called a “tee”, that was put in this really big wooden home plate with lots of holes in it. At our “practices”, which were Tuesday and Thursday after school in Allmendinger Park, we all had to hit the ball off that “tee” thing. Some grownups and older kids called it “Tee Ball”, like it was different than regular baseball, and not as good because there was no pitching like regular baseball. But once you hit the ball off the “tee” it was like regular baseball, and all the kids on our team just called it “Little League”, which was the same as the older kids played, except for the pitching and we only had the top part of a uniform.

Most of the kids on our team went to Bach School. Some were in our class, like me, Herbie, Gabe, Theo and Lenny. Even Joey was on our team, and I’d throw the ball to him if I had to, but I would never talk to him. Some kids were in the other third grade class, like Troy, Dick, Marty, Bobby, and two kids called Freddie. Since they had the same name, everyone called the bigger one “Big Freddy” and the smaller one “Little Freddy”. There were also a couple of other kids from Eberwhite School on our team too, but I couldn’t remember their names yet.

I figured Little Freddy wouldn’t like being called “little”, but he liked it. Maybe because he was really really good at baseball, maybe the best one on our whole team. He could hit the ball into the outfield and run super fast. He also played pitcher, and even though he didn’t get to pitch, he could get those ground balls that kids didn’t hit very hard, and throw them out before they ran to first base.

Another way it was different than regular baseball was that we got to have four guys in the outfield instead of three like regular baseball. So instead of just a “center fielder”, we had a “left center fielder” and a “right center fielder”, or sometimes a “short center fielder” and a “long” one. And even though only ten guys could play on the field, if you had more than ten guys on your team they all got to bat.

So there was the regular person who played each position and a “backup”, in case the regular person didn’t come to the game or couldn’t play for some reason. So I was the regular first baseman, because I was left-handed and could catch the ball really good. Bobby, who usually played outfield, was the backup first baseman, even though he was right-handed instead of left. There were only two other kids on our team who were left-handed, Little Freddy and Dick. Dad had said that it wasn’t so much that right-handers couldn’t play first, it was more that left-handers had a hard time playing the other positions in the infield because when a ground ball got hit to them, it took longer for them to turn their bodies to throw with their left hand to first base.

While doing all that thinking I rode down Hutchins street past Allmendinger Park. Those grownup guys who worked in the park were putting out those real bases that kind of looked like pillows and making those long lines with that chalk stuff on either side of the diamond that told you whether a ball was fair or foul. Then I rode across Pauline and kept going on Hutchins down towards where the street ended at another street which was the one Gabe lived on. His house was right there with Theo’s right next to it. Gabe, Theo and Herbie were all sitting on the grass in Gabe’s front yard, wearing their orange t-shirts and orange hats. They saw me coming.

“Geez”, said Gabe, “I was wondering when you’d get here. We don’t want to be late for the game!”

“That’s not very nice”, said Theo to Gabe, “Aren’t you happy to see him?”

“Theo, Theo, Theo”, said Gabe, “You don’t need to be nice to your friends. They already like you.”

“Well”, said Theo, “I don’t know about that. Don’t you know about the ‘Golden Rule’?”

“He who has the gold makes all the rules?” Gabe asked. Herbie laughed.

“Ha, ha”, said Theo. It was interesting that people said “ha, ha” when someone else thought something was funny but they didn’t think so.

Mom had told me about that “Golden Rule” thing. Treat others the way you want them to treat you. It made sense, but it seemed like a lot of work.

“Have you guys heard that new song by the Beach Boys, ‘Surfin USA’?” Gabe asked, “My brother got the album and the song’s really neat. Maybe we can listen to it after the game!” I remembered that Margie had those bigger record “albums” that had more than one song on each side, and came in those big cardboard things with the pictures and words on them that you slid the record out of, instead of that little paper thing that the regular one song on each side records had.

I’d heard the song a few times on the radio but I’d never figured it out. “What’s ‘surfin’?” I asked.

“Ridin’ the waves on your surfboard”, said Gabe, like I should know already. I looked at him like I didn’t know what he was talking about.

“Cooper, Cooper, Cooper”, he said, like he had said to Theo. He seemed to be changing the way he talked to people, trying to act like he was older. “You gotta keep up on what’s goin on, kid!”

“You know”, said Theo, “I really don’t think we should be late to our first game.”

“We better ride our bicycles”, said Herbie. All the rest of us nodded.

So Gabe and Theo got their bikes from their garages, we all had twenty two inch ones now, and the four of us rode out down their street to Seventh street. With Gabe in the lead, we crossed Seventh and went up on the sidewalk on the other side. When we got to the first street, Lutz, we turned left on the sidewalk and then Gabe went down the first driveway and back into the street. There weren’t any cars around so Gabe rode right in the middle of the street and we all followed alongside or behind him. That was neat, the four of us riding together, like the whole street was all ours. I could tell by that little bit of hurting in my legs that we were now going uphill.

We crossed a street where the sign said “Eberwhite”. I figured that up that street was where the school and the baseball field were but we kept riding on Lutz. The street sign said “Lutz Ave”, which meant it was an “avenue”, but I couldn’t figure out the difference between an “avenue” and a “street”, they all looked pretty much the same. I mean a “boulevard” was a really big street, like Stadium or Washtenaw, but “avenues” didn’t look any bigger than “streets”.

We came to kind of a neat place where three streets came together with a little triangle in the middle like a tiny block with just grass and one little tree in the middle of it. We rode to the left, still following Gabe. Then there was another small block, with just grass and a few trees on it and the road split into two roads going up on either side. We went on the left one and up ahead I could see a building instead of houses, a building that looked like a school. When we got closer, there was a big circle part in front of the school that the road went around which had a flagpole in the middle but no flag on it. To the right was one of those parking lots, and there were some cars there.

Grownups and kids were getting out of one of the cars. The kids had green caps and t-shirts, so I figured they were from the other team, which was called the “Athletics”. Our coach had said that all the teams in our “league” were named after real baseball teams, except none were called the “Tigers” because that was our Detroit team so that wouldn’t be fair. I guess that made sense. There was a place for us to put our bicycles. I took my glove out of the pressure basket and I let it snap shut with a clang.

The baseball field was just next to the parking lot, and way out behind the outfield it was all woods. It looked pretty much like the fields at Allmendinger, with that giant “backstop” metal fence and those “bleacher” things on each side where people could sit and watch. Our team was over on the third base side. Our coach, Troy’s dad, saw the four of us and waved us over.

“Good”, he said, “Now we have our ten plus one, we won’t forfeit.” I didn’t know what “forfeit” meant, but it sounded bad. But since we weren’t going to do it, I didn’t ask. Then he looked at all of us and said, “Gather round, gentlemen”, like he was pretending we were grownups, which was pretty strange to me, though some of the other kids seemed to like it.

So the coach gave us the “lineup”, which was when we were batting and what position we were playing. I was first base and batting sixth, hitting after Herbie who was playing shortstop. Little Freddy was playing pitcher and batting first, which made sense because he always hit the ball super hard and could run really fast, and even if he hit a ground ball and one of the infield guys got it, he still might be able to get to first base before they could throw him out. Gabe and Theo were in the outfield, with Big Freddy and Dick. Lenny was playing second, and Troy, whose dad was the coach, was playing third base. Joey was the catcher but didn’t get to wear that neat catcher’s mask because it was tee ball and there was no pitching. Marty was the extra guy and he started the game “on the bench”, as the coach said, though he still got to bat, and was batting fourth, because he was big and could hit the ball really far.

Dad had told me about the “strategy” of the lineup in real baseball, and what order guy’s should bat. He said usually, the guys that could get on base the most, either by getting a walk or a hit, batted first and second. Sometimes they were also the fastest guys, so they could steal bases, but Gabe said we couldn’t do stealing until the twelve-year-old league. Dad said the guy batting third was usually the best hitter and the guys batting fourth and fifth were the best “power” hitters, which meant they could hit home runs. The last guy in real baseball batted ninth, and was almost always the pitcher, because he usually wasn’t a good hitter and you didn’t want him to have to bat until he had to.

The other team got to bat first because we were the “home” team, even though we weren’t playing at Allmendinger, which was where we mostly practiced and was closest to most of our houses, so should have been our “home field”. It was exciting when the coach said, “Okay gentlemen, take the field. Look alive!” like it was a real baseball game, and we all ran out to our positions. We all knew when we “looked alive” we were supposed to run, not walk.

I had watched baseball games at Allmendinger, grownup ones and Little League ones, where people sat on those “bleacher” things and watched the game, and even cheered for one team or the other. At our game there were some people watching but they were mostly like moms and dads from the other team and sat on the bleachers behind their team on the first base side. The only people who were cheering for our team were Troy’s mom and older brother, who were the only ones sitting on the bleachers behind our third base side. Troy said that baseball was a “tradition” in his family, and all his older brothers played Little League, and his dad had played when he was an older kid in high school. I guess his sisters didn’t get to play because they were girls, which didn’t seem fair. Even though the other team had more people cheering, it was good to have at least two for our team, which was much better than having zero.

So we ended up losing the game nineteen to fifteen, but pretty much everybody got to hit the ball and get on base. Everybody on both teams were a lot better at hitting than catching the ball and getting people out. I don’t think the other team ever got Little Freddy out. I got two hits and got to score both times when other guys after me got hits too. And at least I caught the ball when the other infield guys on my team threw it to me, except that time Herbie threw it over my head and Troy threw it too low, and it was “in the dirt”. And at the end of the game we all lined up to shake hands with all the guys on the other team, which felt good. We were all still kids, all had been third graders, so we weren’t REALLY on different teams, even though the coaches and the other grownups pretended that we were.

After that our coach said “gather up gentlemen”, and he had us all come close in a circle around him. I liked that we were all in a circle together, our shoulders even touching each other, and the person behind you against your back. But I didn’t like having the grownup in charge in the middle of us, though I guess some of the other kids liked that more than I did. He said that we “fought hard”, like it was a war or something. Then he said though we played our best, we had to work on our “fielding”, which was catching the ball when the guys on the other team hit it. He said even though we were playing games now, we would still have our two practices each week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays at four o’clock at Allmendinger.

Gabe, Herbie, Theo and I rode our bikes back to Gabe’s house. We had so much we wanted to talk about the game, that we started talking about it while we were still riding. The only way we could all hear what was being said was to ride side by side instead of behind each other, so when we were side by side we filled the whole street. It was pretty neat. When a car came we had to stop talking so we could get to the sides of the street or even up on the sidewalk. But once the car went by, we would all get our bikes next to each other again in the middle of the street. Theo said we were like planes flying in “formation”.

It was interesting that Gabe, Herbie and Theo all liked talking about different stuff, even though they were all talking about the same thing, the baseball game. Gabe liked to figure stuff out, why it was happening. He said that guys on the other team only hit the ball twice to right field where he was playing, and everyone else in the outfield got the ball hit to them more. He figured that was because only left-handers hit the ball to right field, and most kids were right-handed. Herbie talked about the stuff he liked and didn’t like. He liked it when Little Freddy ran by that kid on the other team who had the ball, before that kid could tag him. He also thought our coach, Troy’s dad, was really neat. Theo liked it when everybody followed the rules and did what they were supposed to do. He said that Herbie kept forgetting to run out in the outfield from shortstop to get the throw from him and the other outfielders after someone hit the ball out there.

When we got back to Gabe’s house we were all hungry, so Gabe said we should all go inside and make ourselves some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the kitchen. Once we all made our sandwiches he had us follow him down into the basement. Theo wondered if we should have plates but Gabe said, “Nah!” It was kind of like the basement in my house with the gray block walls and the little windows up high, but a carpet all over the floor. There was a TV with a table in front of it. It was one of those tables with really short legs like Molly’s house had in the living room. Around the table was a couch with blankets on it and one of those big puffy couch chairs. On the table was a record player.

Gabe put his sandwich with bites taken out of it down on the table, and all the rest of us sat down on the couch, and ate ours. He went over to this bookcase against the wall and pulled out one of those record albums, with the big picture and words on the square cover. It was a picture of a giant wave with this guy underneath it in his swimsuit standing on a yellow board on top of the water, but with the wave all above him. I guessed it must be the ocean, but I’d never been to the ocean, and I didn’t think a wave that big could be real. Gabe grabbed the edge of the big record and slid it out of the cover.

“Surfin’ USA, gentlemen”, he said, sounding like our baseball team coach, “By the Beach Boys.” He turned the record player on and put the little hole in the middle of the big record over that round silver thing sticking out in the middle of the turning part. The record just went down part way and kind of hung there, not going all the way down to the spinning part. He then pulled this other thing up and moved it over so it was on top of the record. Then he pushed another button and the record plopped down on the turning part, and all by itself, that part that people usually picked up and put on the record to play the music went up, over just above the edge of the record, then slowly down until we heard the crackling and then the record started playing.

It started with music, real high and clangy, and then a guy singing that sounded like he was an older kid. In the first verse, after each time he sang the last word, these other guys sang “ooo”. It all sounded really neat…

If everybody had an ocean (ooo)
Across the U.S.A. (ooo)
Then everybody’d be surfin’ (ooo)
Like Californi-a (ooo)
You’d see them wearing their baggies (ooo)
Huarache sandals too (ooo)
A bushy bushy blond hairdo (ooo)
Surfin’ U.S.A. (ooo)

And when the guy sang the second part, the other guys sang “inside outside USA” each time he sang the last word. Then in the third part they went back to singing “ooo” again…

We’ll all be planning that route (ooo)
We’re gonna take real soon (ooo)
We’re waxing down our surfboards (ooo)
We can’t wait for June (ooo)
We’ll all be gone for the summer (ooo)
We’re on surfari to stay (ooo)
Tell the teacher we’re surfin’ (ooo)
Surfin’ U.S.A. (ooo)

It was all real fast and made you want to move your body back and forth to the music.

Then there was a big music part all clangy and then they sang the last words over and over again until you couldn’t hear them anymore…

Everybody’s gone surfin’, surfin’ USA

It was really neat how they sang it. The guy with the high voice sang “Everybody’s gone”, then they all sang “surfin’” together but different like a harmony, then the guy with the lower voice sang “surfin’ USA”.

“I like when they sing ‘Tell the teacher we’re surfin’, surfin’ USA’”, said Gabe, singing the song part. The rest of us nodded. No more teacher’s dirty looks OR WORDS, I thought. I was so happy it was finally summer, and that at least most of my friends still liked me and didn’t think I was a bad kid.

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