It was Spring, 1960.
The last day of fifth grade.
The last day of school.
There were two fifth grades in our small town elementary school. I don’t know how we got split into two grades back in those days, but for the most part we stayed with the same group of classmates all the way through elementary school. There was always a bit of rivalry between the two classes whether it was a spelling bee or just playground games.
On the last day of school, there was a tradition of a baseball game between the two classes and we all looked forward to that game. We also took it very seriously.
We had practiced at recess time for weeks and we had picked our positions. Someone in the class must have taken charge because I don’t remember much teacher participation. We talked about sportsmanship in class but it seems like the teachers left all the details up to us. Most of the students were excited about the game, and of course, beating the other fifth grade meant owning the bragging rights of the victory.
Everyone played. I was a tomboy and my older brother had taught me to pitch and catch and bat. I’m sure I thought I knew more than I really did about the game. Gary, and Jim, and Randy were all good players… they probably were our unofficial team captains.
Everyone brought their own equipment. It was important to have the right bat… the one you were used to using. And it was important to have a baseball glove… which I didn’t.
I begged my brother to let me borrow his glove and since he had two, he let me have the old one. Never mind that he was left handed and I was not. It didn’t seem to make much difference to me, I had learned to play that way.
I don’t remember the details of the game… after all, it’s been almost sixty years. But I remember not striking out, getting to first base, and catching a popup fly ball. And I remember that our class won. It was a great way to end the school year.
It’s a good thing we didn’t know what the future held. In just a few years we watched and cried as our beloved President was assassinated in Texas. Fast forward a few more years and we watched Martin Luther King’s assassination and President Kennedy’s younger brother Bobby being shot. We watched friends and classmates head off to college, to work, to start families, and to Vietnam.
The world was a chaotic mess during those years. Lots of civil rights movement protests, protests against the Vietnam War, Kent State Shootings. It really was the best of times and the worst of times. The world was suddenly full of difficulty and responsibility and complications we had never imagined.
I suppose that’s why the memory of the baseball game has stuck with me all these years. It was something to hang onto when the world seemed to be falling apart.
It seemed so important back then, such a simple thing as a baseball game, on the last day of school.