It was the beginning of summer in 1958 and school had just let out a few days earlier. I had been introduced to baseball by the neighborhood kids the previous fall when my family had moved into our new home in a budding subdivision in Washington, Illinois. These guys had become my buddies and we had been playing ball in the vacant lot all spring when the weather got warm. I was two months shy of turning seven years old and just finished first grade. Life was good. It would be a whole summer of playing baseball. Remember, this was a time when baseball was king and all boys wanted to play it.
But today my buddies were really excited because it was sign up day for Little League. Back in those days there was no T-ball or anything like that. So you had to be at least eight years old to sign up. Most of my buddies were eight or nine years old, so the gang was headed to Oliver Thomas Park to sign up. I was assured by my friends that I to would be allowed to sign up. "Heck, you're better than most eight-year-olds," they told me. "Just come with us, will get you on a team."
Well, I started getting optimistic as we approached the park. There were kids all over and a few men signing them up. My buddies went up to the guy doing the registration and got taken care of. I kind of stood in the background until a couple of guys grabbed me and took me up to the coach. "He wants to sign up too," they told him. He looked at me with a little smile and asked loudly, "Are you eight?" He had to know I wasn't eight. I was the smallest kid in my class so I probably didn't look a day over five. I looked down a little, shook my head, and quietly said, "No." Backed against the wall I just couldn't lie. "You gotta be eight," he announced with that little smile. And that was it. I turned and dejectedly walked away. Darn, I was disappointed. I really wanted to be on a team and get that T-shirt and hat. My buddies came after me yelling, "Why didn't you just say you were eight?" It was like a scene right out of the movie “The Sandlot”, and I was Smalls.
The next summer, I did get to play Little League even though I was a bit young. I was plenty good enough to play. Someone must've pulled some strings. I finally got my T-shirt and cap! www.chiefpigskin.com