“Let’s play a game of Scrub.” That would be my old buddy, Bernie Lee, who probably taught me more about baseball from the time I was 6 years old until I was 8, when Bernie moved away, than anyone else. Bernie wasn’t the only one that taught me baseball. There were brothers Fred and Rudy Brewster, Steve Hicks, Danny McAvoy, Steve and Leslie McKimmson and many others. But Bernie was the main guy. He had the greatest passion for the game and was always thinking of a way to play ball in the summer. In the fall, of course, it was Bernie that taught my brother Dan and me to play football.
Bernie was 2 years older than me and he was kind of my neighborhood hero. Whatever Bernie did was good enough for me. Remember when you were 6 or 7 years old and an 8 or 9 year old seemed like practically a teenager? Well, that was Bernie. And boy was he good at sports. I figured he was ready for the pros any day. In the evenings I would go to the Little League Park and watch Bernie play. He was a stocky kid and was the catcher for his team. Back in those days the catcher turned his ball cap around and wore it backwards so he could put his catcher’s mask on. I thought wearing your cap backwards looked really cool, but only catchers did it. That was before the day when catchers wore protective helmets. I could only watch because back in 50’s there was no T-ball or anything like that for 6 and 7 year olds. Little League started at 8 years old, period. You just had to wait until you were old enough to play. But that was OK because as I’ve mentioned before, we played sandlot games all day anyway. Heck, I could get in 20 or 30 at bats on the sandlot.
Anyway, Scrub was a really fun game of baseball that we could play for hours. I think Bernie said he learned it from his dad, who played ball in the 30’s and 40’s. Scrub was also called “Workup” by some of the guys. The rules were simple and it worked best when you had 12 or 13 guys. Here’s how it went. We would fill in all 9 positions on the field then let the extra 3 or 4 guys be the batters. Everyone wanted to hit (although I loved playing the field too) so the incentive, or goal, was to work your way up to be a batter. Batters got to stay at bat as long as they didn’t make an out. If you made an out, you went to right field. The right fielder went to center, center to left, left to 3rd base, 3rd to shortstop, short to 2nd base, 2nd to 1st base, 1st to pitcher, pitch to catcher, and the catcher got to be a batter. We just rotated and we would sprint to our new position. A special rule was if you were playing the field and caught the batters fly ball or line drive you just switched positions with the batter. This made for great catches of liners and fly’s since you got to be a batter immediately. Guys would let it all hang out to catch a fly ball.
When I became a PE teacher later in life, I introduced this game to some of my classes. But since my classes usually had 25-30 kids it wasn’t always best. (Unless I had two games of Scrub going on at once). It worked great with my elementary classes because I would throw an orange disc on the ground to show them where they were to be for their position. Once I taught ‘em the rotation, the kids would hustle to the next disc.
Looking back, I realize it was a terrific way to learn the game. I got to play every position on the field and learned how to cover each base, take relay throws, and be the cutoff man. I learned all that from my buddies, and most of all, Bernie. Wherever you are today, thanks Bernie. And thanks to www.chiefpigskin.com for allowing me to tell my stories.