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The potato play little league baseball Bad News Bears July 28, 2010

Little League Baseball has always been my favorite pastime. I played little league from 1956 until 1960 in Monroe Louisiana at Forsythe Park for the Monroe Police Department (MPD) team.

Daddy was the Major in charge of traffic on the police dept and he was our coach. I played first base and was the pitcher. At age 12, I was 6 foot tall and weighed 180 pounds soaking wet. On the mound, I looked like a mountain. I throwed left handed, underarm, sidearm, slider, and curve ball that crisscrossed the plate from left to right at the knees. I was in total command and laughed out loud when I struck out the side. If someone got too close to the plate, I hit them. You might say I was a cocky bully on the mound. I have never felt as good or in charge anywhere in my life as I did on the mound. I batted about 500 average. I was a power hitter, but I always hit line drives. I was fat like The Babe Ruth, so I was a slow runner. I remember hitting a line drive that hit the top pipe on the centerfield fence and bounced all the way back to second base. They very nearly threw me out at first base.

Monroe Police Little League Team. Daddy left, George as a young buck- second on the right. My other brother Ricky bottom.

When I was 16 I slid into home plate and sliced open my right knee on the concrete part of the plate that is supposed to be underground. I took 22 stitches inside and outside the knee. I started pitching too soon and ruined my arm. I could not hit home plate with a cannon. Otherwise I feel sure that I would have been like Whitey Ford and pitched for the New York Yankees. I sometimes feel like my little league years were the best memories of all. I even wrote a novel about it. Blue Bayou Days, The Summer of 61.

After my playing career ended, I got my first job as grounds keeper, play by play announcer, score keeper, and umpire at Forsythe Park. I got paid $40 a week and it was the best job I ever had. As an umpire, I loved the show during rhubarb with the coaches. This is probably why I have a habit of raising my voice during an argument. That and my Air Force Boot Camp days. A story related to my first job.

I coached little league for 20 years. I started coaching in Fort Walton Beach Florida where I was stationed in the USAF. I also coached in Baton Rouge where I worked for the Louisiana DEQ. The Bad News Bears was quiet a team. I had developed an attitude by then that baseball was really a kids game and that every kid should play. It really did not matter to me whether we won or lost just how we played the game. I remember one game in particular when we used a new electronic scoreboard the score was 20 to 0. The next time the other team scored, the scoreboard started over and the score was 1- 0.

To be honest at first, I got really upset with the players. Jack Oliver cured that. Jack was my bestest friend and my long time assistant coach. Jack was the Fire Marshall of Baton Rouge. The batter hit an infield grounder to the shortstop, who booted the ball, then threw it to first base. The first baseman missed the ball and it went out to right field. The right fielder threw the ball over the catcher’s head and that meant the kid had a homerun hit in the infield. I was really upset yelling at the top of my voice and Jack started laughing. He said we were a calamity of errors and if you just sit back and relax, enjoy the game, it is funny. Jack said the parents want to win, but the kids just want to have fun. Well after that I really got into it.

During one game we were losing badly, so I decided to have some comic relief. I had peeled a potato and used a magic marker to draw baseball stripes on the potato. There was a runner on third base. I called time out and walked to the mound. I took the potato out of my pocket and handed it to the catcher. I told the catcher to throw the potato out into left field when the runner led off after the next pitch. The only problem was the next pitch was over the catcher’s head and went up against the backstop. The catcher lost the ball in the high grass. I saw the ball, the runner saw the ball, but the catcher could not find it. The runner started to steal home plate, when the catcher threw the potato up against the left field fence. The runner stole home plate and the umpire called him safe, but then yelled time out. Then the umpire pointed that ejection finger at me and kicked me out of the ball park. We had an old fashioned rhubarb that was fit for ESPN.

“You are out of the game!”

“What for?”

“Throwing the potato.”

“There is nothing in the rule book about throwing a potato.”

“Yea there is!!!”

“What page?”

It ain't over until the fat cat sings

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The potato play little league baseball Bad News Bears