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Monday, October 6, 2014

Sunday Morning

 Publisher and  former senior

 staff writer at 

The first crisp Sunday morning of fall brings memories of long ago when the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rarely lost, and my cousin Tim and I relished in their victories. A simple time measured in the success of Notre Dame rather than our personal plight.
When times were hard but our family bonded tight.

Our Sunday mornings were filled the savory smells of frying eggs, grandma’s gravy simmering over on the stove. The call of her homemade biscuits baking would awake us from our sleep. Your stomach would begin to growl as the aroma drifted through the house.

Our grandparents did their best to help their two struggling daughters with seven children between them. My grandfather, who survived marching across France with Patton’s Third Army (a matter he rarely spoke of) would offer up thanks for God’s blessings. It was rare that a morsel was left on the table. It was a time of a lot of talk around the table, and no one needed to be encouraged to eat.

Following the breakfast, my grandparents were off to church. My grandfather was the pastor of a small country church. Dishes were done, and my cousin Tim and I settled in for the replay of Saturday’s Notre Dame football game. The telecasts would begin with Lindsey Nelson introducing himself “Hello, I am Lindsey Nelson.” To us he seemed like an uncle that was about to retell us of the game from the previous day. Unlike now, it was a time when we could only get three channels, and on a good day we could get Channel Six out of Indianapolis.

We would rush outside no matter the weather and begin to let our imaginations run wild with Notre Dame football. We had a well-worn football that was almost too slick to handle with our small hands from years of usage. We would toss the football all afternoon reliving the highlights of the game.

It was also the glorious time to follow the Notre Dame Fighting Irish under Ara Parseghian known as the “era of Ara.” In our minds, they never lost. On that rare occasion that Notre Dame would lose, we would run our plays that saved the game for the old Notre Dame. Occasionally, we would allow our brothers to participate, but not often. It was our imagination, our world. We were fans despite a high school kid telling us we couldn’t root for Notre Dame because we were not Catholic. It didn’t stop us.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish football on those Sunday mornings was fuel for our imagination. No video games, computers or other gadgets kids enjoy today; just two boys, a football, and a free Sunday in football season.

We have gone our different paths in life. I enlisted in the Air Force, and my cousin Tim joined the Marines. I am quiet and reflective, and Tim is boisterous and quick to opinion. We were and are more than cousins: We are brothers. As I grow older, I fondly reflect on those simpler times and pleasures more and more often.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Pick-Up Game

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Long before PlayStation, video games, and 400-cable television stations occupied the time of a teenager, it was the time of sweltering monotonous Indiana summers, sun, and new friendships.

It was the early 70’s; my parents were divorced. Mom had just remarried, and we moved to town. We were pleased to find the neighborhood was loaded with kids. It didn’t take long to realize there were guys who liked to play baseball. The caps indicated their favorite teams. Taking a quick census I noted four Reds, four Cardinals, and one lone Braves fan in the mix. When they found out that my favorite team was the Cubs there was a collective sigh. The kind of uncomfortable sigh you might get when someone finds out you recently lost a loved one.

The call came early in the morning (9:30 is really early for a 12 year-old). It started with a simple “you guys wanna play some ball?” My brother told me to get my glove: We were invited to the pick-up game.

I donned my beat Cubs cap, and well worn-out Cubs t-shirt, while my brother wore his Pittsburgh Pirates t-shirt. We wanted to show these town boys that we were serious ballplayers. I grabbed the Mickey Mantle model my dad had given us: We were sporting the “latest technology” as aluminum bats were called.

On the way to Mr. Anderson’s field they informed us it was best to get in a couple of games before it was too hot to play. There were 12 or 14 of us with bats slung over our shoulders, and gloves on our hands. Mr. Anderson’s field was actually was a very large well-manicured lawn. He informed us with a kind but stern demeanor that we would have to alternate home plate as not to wear bare spots in his yard.  We accepted his terms.

Big Mike still suffered from the near-miss in the spring. He had launched a line drive down the right-field line, and straight through the window of Widow Jones. They were certain he had killed her.  Worse off he had to cut her lawn all summer to pay for the damages.

The neighborhood rules were addressed. The most important ground rule was the pitcher’s hand. You had to get to first before the pitcher got the ball in his glove. Hitting into the stand of trees was considered a home run. To this day I don’t think anyone got close. I would find out that it was a ritual to address the ground rules before the games could start.

And then came the time to address the picking of teams. The guys looked at me and my brother with suspicion as to whether we possessed any ability. On that first day, we were picked second to last. A couple of brothers without gloves or bats were picked after us.

We played until the sun became unbearable and called it quits for another day. We would walk a couple of blocks to the neighborhood grocery. While enjoying a cold soda or an ice cream, we discussed the prowess of our game, made fun of each other, and swooned over the high school girls who were regular sunbathers in our neighborhood. In a short time though the girls, cars, and jobs would win over playing ball...