Diary Of A Mad Man

Excerpt from Chapter One

Dale E. Sperling
 

© Copyright 2004 by Dale E. Sperling
 
 

 

Photo of a little league pitcher.

Jeff Spencer was born midway through the twentieth century in a different time and place than most youngsters of today know about. It was a time of innocence, when crimes where petty, fighting was done with fists, and coke was a soft drink.  The local sidewalk cafe had an honor box where a customer paid for his newspaper and took his change and the box usually contained the exact amount due, sometimes more. Ladies wore dresses and red lipstick and were proud to be wives and mothers. In that time they were called housewives, not stay-at-home moms.

Jeff attended Sunday school, played baseball, and never heard of a foreign car. Television was black and white and broadcast live and there was no such thing as microwaves, calculators, word processors or computers. Schools were segregated and there were only forty-eight states. Only poor people and farmers wore blue jeans and tennis shoes were worn to play tennis, basketball shoes were worn to play basketball and sneakers were worn on vacation to the beach.

Jeff was a good student, fairly athletic, and shy. As most children were of that day, and this day for that matter, Jeff was not interested in polities. He loved baseball and the Giants were his favorite team and "Say Hey" Willie was his favorite player. Jeff worked out a complicated formula, in his head, in which he predicted what batting average Willie Mays would have at years end and how many home runs he would hit. He got his batting average correct, and picked the exact number of hits, including doubles.  He missed the number of homers by two.  Not bad for a thirteen year old.

Jeff didn’t write when he was young but he did have a keen memory and when he was older, he recorded his memories of the past in his diary, storied in his computer.  Jeff’s father was a mechanic for Ford Motor Company for most of Jeff’s childhood.  It wasn’t until Jeff was seventeen that his father began to preach. During that same period of time, Jeff’s mother was a housewife and only took a job when her children were almost out of school.

Jeff was smaller than most boys his age and, because of his keen intellect, the older kids often picked on Jeff as he was growing up.  Jeff didn’t like to fight but if he had too, he preferred his opponent to be much larger than he was.  Jeff learned early that in order to win he had to land the first punch.  Bigger boys never expected Jeff to fight them and were really surprised that Jeff could hit as hard as he did.  Jeff was quick and strong and usually had a fight won before the other fellow knew it had even begun.

Jeff was quite intense in most things he did and his mother was perplexed in how to handle him.  Whenever Jeff tried to argue logically with his mom, she usually just told him to shut up.

Perhaps a few excerpts from Jeff’s diary will give some insight into the workings of Jeff’s mind and his values.

     “For the love of money is the root of all evil”: I Timothy 6:10a
 

               DIARY OF A MAD MAN: Chapter one

Jeff Spencer, a twice-divorced middle-aged man, grew up in small town southern America, in what is considered the buckle of the Bible belt. He was a good athlete in High School, starred in baseball and played football and track. He learned to pitch horseshoes as a young man at church socials and, in college he went undefeated for two years. While in the Navy, he was the All-navy champion and the champion of Puerto Rico.

He earned three college degrees, which he never really used, except for a few jobs in the newspaper industry. After military service, he worked in pharmacies, working his way up the corporate ladder to become a supervisor for the fastest growing chain in America.

He kept a log of highlights from his life on his computer and the following is a few excerpts from them.

                     Her name was Geneva:

She was young, in her twenties, she was nice, she was beautiful and she was black. She mesmerized me. I was younger, maybe thirteen or fourteen, and I was white. I really didn't notice we were a different color. My brothers would be outside playing but I would sit in the den by her feet and listen to every word she had to say. She was charming and interesting and told me of things I didn't understand.

She told me her husband didn't work because black men with a wife didn't consider themselves manly if they worked. It was the wives job to provide for the family and well as cook, clean, and take care of her man. She said black women were on the bottom of social ladder.

She liked me because I was the only person she knew who pronounced her name   correctly. Her name was Geneva. She took care of our family while my mother was in the hospital.  I do not remember much of what we talked about then; it was over forty years ago and I have not seen her since, although I think of her often. I do remember feeling hurt when one day she did not come. My Mom was home then and feeling better. If Mom had just said that Geneva wasn't needed anymore and left things at that, then maybe I would have forgotten about Geneva. But Mom said Geneva wasn't coming anymore because she was a thief. When I asked her what she meant. Mom just said, "All black people are thieves."

I had never seen a black person before. This was the 1950s and I grew up in a rural area in a rural county. Schools were segregated then and there were no blacks living in the communities from where my fellow students came from.  We had only owned a car for a few years and seldom took it into town.

We had only moved into the city a few months before, and although we only lived a few miles from the black community, none attended my school and they didn't venture into the white neighborhoods and we didn't go there. I did not know all black people and I doubt that my mother knew many her self. All I know is I liked Geneva and I knew she did not steal, at least from us. I was with her at all times because I liked being with her.  My mother's comment upset me greatly and for the first time, I realized my mother could lie. Maybe she believed what she said but it did make me realize that the things Geneva had told me were true and I know those things she told me about hurt her deeply.  Geneva was too good of a person to be hurt that way.

                             *******

I remember going to the movie theater downtown on a Saturday morning.  There were two entrances to the theater, one leading to the main lobby and the other leading to the balcony. Outside the entrance to the balcony was a water fountain and I was hot and thirsty. I started to get a drink when a friend of mine stopped me. He pointed to a sign above the fountain that read "Coloreds Only," This upset me because I was thirsty and "they" got fresh, cold water, for free and I had to wait until I got inside to pay for a soda. That wasn't fair.

What wasn't fair either was the fact "they" could sit in the balcony but I couldn't. "Why were they privileged?" I wondered. It wasn't until I was sixteen that I met my second black person, Junior Dula. He was a big man, six feet tall and weighed at least 280 pounds. He had played football for the Washington Redskins until "Too Tall" Jones hit him during a scrimmage game. Junior said it hurt so bad he decided to quit. I enjoyed working with Junior. I was impressed by his knowledge, his hard work, his kindness towards me, and his respect for me. He made me feel good about my self.

                               *******

The only two black people I had ever known in my life were two people I liked more than almost anyone else. By this time in my life I had become more aware of the dislike whites had for blacks and how things were done to keep them in their place. That was the way things were and I was concerned about living my life, not making a difference.

I grew up in Hickory, North Carolina, a small town in Catawba county, in the part of the state known as the foothills. It was called that because it sets as the base of the surrounding mountains. Hickory is known for three things. Many hosiery mills were located there and were                                                                                      3

Hickory's biggest industry. Furniture plants were in abundance. In fact, as of 2003, over sixty percent of the furniture made in North Carolina is manufactured in the Hickory area.

In 1950, Hickory had more millionaires per capita than any other town in America. Still. Hickory is more famous as being the "buckle of the bible belt." A town of around 30,000 citizens in 2000 boasted of over 900 churches.

I attended a segregated High School, graduating in 1965, the largest graduating class in school history and the last all white class. The students liked to go to the Hickory Community Center as they had pool tables, a bowling alley, and a restaurant downstairs and a gym upstairs.

The largest swimming pool in Hickory was located there as well as several baseball fields, and a petting zoo. After being away for almost a year, I returned to Hickory and, wanting to rendezvous with some old friends, I decided to check the Community Center out. I was shocked when I got there to find that it wasn't called the Hickory Community Center any longer.

It belonged to a couple named Moe and Carolyn, long known for the “Moe and Carolyn sock Hops" at the National Guard Armory. The city had sold the facilities to them and they made it a private club.

A young black male was standing at some tables set up at the main entrance where three white people were explaining to him "this is a private club. You have to become a member to come in and all our memberships have been sold," I remember he walked away slowly looking so very sad. I explained to the three people at the table s that I was just in town for a couple of days and asked if I could just come in long enough to see if any of my old friends were there.
“No", I was told, "Only members can come in." I started to leave when one of the people asked me if I wanted to buy a membership.

"I thought you had sold all your memberships" I asked them.

"Oh, we just say that to certain people we don't want to let in." indicating the young man who had just been there.

"Is he a bad person?” I asked.

"No," I am told, "he is black and since no black people belong. He would not enjoy himself here."

I started to leave but for some reason, I changed my mind. I asked the man if I could let someone use my membership card since I would be going back to school and wanted to visit tonight only. He said that was fine, as they were sold not so much to let people in but to keep certain people out. I paid the man my five dollars for the year's membership.

The card only had the name of the place, a number and a date on it; but no name. I walked over to the young black lad, now sitting on the rock wall, looking very sad.

"Why are you still here?" I asked.

“I don't have a way to get home and my ride will not be here or two hours."

"Here” I said, handing the young man my card, "enjoy yourself until your parents come to pick you up. I changed my mind about going in. You keep it."

He just looked at me with a puzzled look as I walked away. He didn't say anything but the smile on his face was enough thanks. I only turned to look back to catch a glimpse of the faces of the three people sitting at the tables. He was such a nice kid. He reminded me of Geneva and Junior.

No, I wasn't a rebel with a cause and I was not trying to accomplish anything. I was not a civil rights activist and I was not trying to
change anything. I just wanted to do something nice for someone who probably deserved being nice to.
 

                               THE FLIGHT

After college I joined the US Navy. That was in December 1968 and the Vietnam War was still going strong. After boot camp and training school, I pulled some duty in Puerto Rico, and then was transferred to Vietnam.

Before heading overseas, I took a vacation and then headed to California for some specialty training. Mom drove me from Hickory to Charlotte where I boarded a plane, flying non-stop to Los Angeles. Knowing it would be a long flight, I asked for a window seat. Being the trusting person I am, I did not check the ticket to see if it had been issued correctly.

My seat on the plane was near the front of the economy class behind two very old, but apparently wealthy, white ladies. They wore long dresses and fir coats and had on lots of jewelry. If they were not wealthy, they wanted to give the impression they were. My curiosity wasn't about them but was focused on wondering who would be seated next to me. After a long wait, I decided to retrieve my book to read and forgot about who I would be seated with.

I had just started to read when I heard a female voice.

"Excuse me. I think you are seating in my seat!"

I looked up to see this very beautiful young women standing there holding out her ticket for me to see.

“I'm sorry", I said, "I had asked for the window seat."

"Well, if it is going to bother you that much, just sit there" she replied.
“Oh, no. If this is your seat then you sit here. I should have checked my ticket."

I stood up to let her pass by me. I was thinking how fortunate I was to be seated next to such a pretty lady, and especially one about my age. I didn't expect anything to come of our time together. It was just nice seating next to someone I might have something in common with, and nice to look at too. But apparently, she didn't feel the same way. She made no effort to be nice or even acknowledge my existence. She could have been flying by herself for all the interest she showed me.

It wasn't until we had been airborne for an hour or two that she spoke to anyone. She leaned forward and tapped the lady in front of her on the shoulder.

"Excuse me, what time is it?" she asked.

The woman she asked acted very gruff and refused to tell her the time. I figured being an older southern woman, she had no use for black people and was not about to be civil now. Seeing her rude reaction to the woman beside me, I checked my watch and told her the time. My seating companion looked at me with a very stem look. I realized then that she really did not want to know what the time was, as it was plain to see she was wearing a watch. I guess she just wanted to prove to herself that the older lady was prejudice.

"Where are you from?" my companion asked.

"North Carolina" I answered.

"What religion are you?" she asked.

"I am a Baptist."

"What does your father do for a living?"

"He's a preacher."

"What kind?"

"He is a premillennial, fundamental, independent, country Baptist."

“That is the worst kind."

"Worst kind of what?" I asked.

"WASP" she replied.

"What is a WASP?" I asked.

"White Angelo Saxon Protestant."

Figuring I had just been told politely that she considered my family
bigots and wished not to converse with me, I politely turned my attention to my reading. I retrieved my book, turned to where I had left off, and continued to read. I had not read but a few pages when I heard this woman speaking to me."

"What are you reading?" she asked.

"Soul on Ice" by Eiridge Cleaver" I answered, curious as to why she wanted to know.

"Why are you reading that?" she asked.

"It seemed like it would be an interesting book. The man makes many valid points and I like what he has to say," I answered.

"What else have you read?"

"I read "Black like me." I also read four or five other books, all non-fiction; by black authors about black experiences but it has been thirty years since this day. I can neither remember her name or the names of the other books I read. I do know that as we chatted about the books, her attitude towards me changed. She told me she was a graduate student at UCLA and of a play she had performed in dealing with prejudice. I told her of Geneva.

She told me that she would always consider me a friend and she would never forget me.
I think we both were glad the long flight was over, but also regretted that the end of the flight also brought to an end our relationship. Even though we would never see each other again, I believe she has never forgotten that day any more than I have.

I have often heard that prejudice against blacks was something that white folks taught their children but it was not me who was prejudice. This woman assumed that I because I was white, and a WASP, that I would be prejudiced. Prejudice, as defined by Random House  "an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason."

Except for that one remark my mother made after Geneva left her employ; I have never heard either of my parents make a negative comment about anyone because of their race. I do know my first wife was very prejudiced against blacks. I also know for a fact that her parents did not teach her this. Her mother never saw a black person in her life and probably did not even know black people existed. My wife was from the Philippines.

She learned to dislike black people because of the way they behaved when they frequented the restaurant where she worked.  I have a theory that prejudice is a natural defense mechanism. I have never heard anyone express a valid reason for anyone becoming prejudiced except that they are of the opinion that their parents taught them it. I have no scientific evidence to prove my theory: only my own observations.

When my adopted son turned two years old, he suddenly starting becoming afraid of me when I came into a room where he was. I was curious as to why so I did some research. What I learned was that children often become afraid of people that they perceived to be different. This is a natural defense mechanism. I do not believe that prejudice is a learned. We do not have to be taught to be prejudiced, but we do have to be taught not to be. I may be wrong, and if I am it is the very first time I have been wrong in the last half hour. But if you think about it, then it will make sense.

                      My Most Unusual Day (3)

I am a loner, not necessarily by choice, but people are not particularly taken with me. I really do not know why because I like myself just fine. On the other hand, people don't particularly dislike me either. I'm the type of person that you make a judgment about and then when you take time to know me, you find out you were wrong.

People tell me their secrets, ask my opinion, discuss their problems, and think I know everything, or a least something about everything. They never invite me to go out with them. At work, I have proven myself over and over again. I am always there, always on time, always work hard, and always do a good job. People always doubt my abilities to perform and seemed surprised when I do. I have never figured that one out.

My friends and co-workers consider me laid back and I have often heard people say, "If you can't get along with Jeff you can't get along with anyone." I am not particularly ambitious but I will accomplish any task given me and do it well. I guess the best word to describe me is "geek" but I don't see that myself. I may be a member of Mensa but I have never excelled at intellectual things except on the rare occasion I set a goal for myself.  I played sports as a youngster. I was not a star but I was always a starter. I have a few accomplishments I am rather proud of. I never lost a game as a pitcher and I finished ever game I started. I was a world-class horseshoe-pitching champion. In one tournament, I gave up points in the first game and the last game I pitched but in all the other matches, I beat my opponents 21-0, 21-0,
21-0. I once scored five touchdowns in the second half of a football game. The coach would never play me before that because I was too small.

Being a loner has its rewards though. That trait allows me to "do my own thing" and live life like I want to live without having to answer to anyone. But still, none of this has anything to do with my most unusual day, of which I have had many. That day was in April 1969. I had just finished boot camp and my 15 days of leave. I was heading to Florida for "A" school and Mom was taking me to Charlotte to catch my plane. On the way down, two very attractive girls riding in the back of a car in front of us kept waving at me. I was flattered, for sure.

I noticed one of the prettiest girls I had ever seen standing at the entrance to the airplane when I was boarding. I showed her my ticket and as I was starting to walk past her she stopped me. She wanted to see my ticket again.

"Is there anything wrong," I asked, fearful that my ticket had been issued improperly.

"No" she replied, "I just wanted to check your seat number. When I finish all my work, I want to come and sit with you." I was flabbergasted.

I was flying second class and when I started to enter the coach section of the plane, the stewardess there, another beautiful girl, stopped me and told me to sit in first class. I told her that my ticket was for coach but she said it didn't matter. "On my flight, you will fly first class."

It was this girl that came to sit with me after she had finished serving the drinks after takeoff. It had been only a few minutes when one of the passengers noted that we were approaching the Charlotte airport instead of Atlanta. The pilot then announced that there was a problem and we had to return to Charlotte.

As soon as we were ready to disembark, a man pushed his way to the front and began running as soon as the planes doors were opened.  A group of men in black suits chased him down and wrestled him to the ground, leading him away in handcuffs.  There were another group of men in black suits checking the luggage.

We were lead to the terminal and placed in a large room filled with chairs and more men in black suits.  Each had a clipboard and we were all interviewed about whom we were and where we were going.  I asked one of the stewardesses what was going on and she promised to tell me once we were airborne again.  We were in that room several hours before we were allowed to return to our plane.

At that time in history, first class passengers received two free drinks.  Once we were in the air again, everyone was offered two free drinks, meaning first class received four.  I had been offered two while on the ground so I ended up drinking six mixed drinks. When we landed in Atlanta, I had to change airlines so I had to say good-bye to the lovely stewardesses who had made my flight so unusual.

I did find out what the ruckus was about in Charlotte, but I will save that for another time and place.  Being the center of attention from so many attractive women was what made this day so unusual.  That never happened before and never has happened again.  I will always remember that day.

Okay, you win.  The men in black suits were FBI agents who were responding to a call alerting them to a hijacker and possible bomb on board that flight.  I assume the man running was the suspected hijacker.  I understood that the bomb threat was real and that the bomb threat was totally unrelated to the hijacker. Maybe when the man from the FBI yelled, "I found it" after he had checked a suitcase meant that there really was a bomb planted.

In spite of that, it was a very good day.

                     The best baseball game (4)

I coached a group of young boys in little league, ages 11 and 12. It has been so long ago I do not remember any of the names of the kids except for one boy, my pitcher. This was my first experience as a coach and they deserved someone with more experience than I had. But we had fun, won a few games, and played well as a team. That is what the season is about. Some parents take the game too serious and want the boys to win. Winning is more fun but losing builds character and makes us work harder to become a winner.

There was one boy on the team who told me he was an outfielder. He was very small but I tried him in an outfield position anyway. He did not have the range to cover an outfield position and his arm was too weak to make the necessary throws. I tried him at second base but he could only field balls hit directly to him, and he couldn't handle the double-play combination. I tried him at first but that didn't work either. I even gave him a shot a being a catcher but that was too hard for him.  The weakest spot I had on the team was third base so I decided to give him a shot at that position. If he had been a better hitter, I believe he would have made the All-Stars. I had a good group of older players including the All-Star catcher from the previous season and Andy, the league's second best pitcher.  In tryouts, I chose the boys more for their speed than other abilities. I wanted a team                                                                                          that could get players into scoring position. I could teach base stealing, base running and other fundamentals. I could not teach ability or speed. I took my chances on everything else. I figured the odds. Out of ten boys, there would be one really good one, one really bad one, and the rest would be about equal.

We had a shot at the league championship and might have won it except for two factors. If I had been a more experience coach, I might have been able to win a few games we didn't. The second factor was my catcher. While playing outstanding ball the year before had given me a great deal of confidence in him, it turned out to be unwarranted. The boy had developed an attitude problem that I was never able to solve.  His abilities behind the plate suffered and he was even worse at the plate. I ended up placing him on the bench. Without a strong catcher to lead the team and discipline the pitchers, the team really suffered. We could have used a strong player in that position.

The league's best team had many talented players and a very experienced coach. While it would have been nice to have players with more ability, I would not have traded my team for his. My group of boys had heart and played together as a team. I tried to make all the boys an integral part of the team and played them according to their special talents.  Winning was not as important as developing a sense of dependence on one's teammates.

Curtis, the best pitcher in the city was a big boy, well over six feet tall at age twelve. He had never been beaten by anyone, whether city league or school games. My ace, Andy, was a small kid who wanted to be the first to beat Curds. Andy was a leader, very good   at shortstop, and a descent pitcher. He didn't have the speed of Curtis but Andy did have   good control and a strong competitive spirit.

When it came time for our two teams to play, I gave Andy his chance. I picked my lineup carefully and developed my game strategy to give us a change to win. This is the only game I coached that winning was my main goal. I wanted this one for Andy.

Even though Andy was small and my pitcher, I still batted him in the clean-up spot. In our half of the second inning, Andy came up for his first trip to the plate. After the first pitch blew by him for a strike, I could see that Andy knew he was outclassed. I felt sorry for him. I think he was very surprised when the second pitch came a little to close, high and inside. As Andy turned to his left to avoid being hit, the ball and bat made contact.

The ball was thrown with such speed that it ricocheted off the bat with such force as to clear the second baseman's head. Andy ended up on second with a double. That hit energized the team and Curtis lost a little composure. My next batter was the kid I had chosen for his speed on the base paths. He was not a good fielder and a poor batter but he could steal a base. Many times I waited until I had a slow runner on base to put in him the game, especially in critical situations. That was his specialty and he was proud of it.

He expressed his concern about being able to hit against Curtis. I told him just to swing at every pitch and maybe Curtis would throw the ball where he was swinging. He just smiled and said okay. Maybe that took some of the pressure off him, or maybe Curtis was upset about Andy's hit. I don't know why, but Curtis threw his next pitch chest high down the center of the plate. My batter drove the ball over the center field fence, almost to the swimming pool behind the parking lot. Before the innings was over, we had collected five hits and three runs.

We managed to hold the lead going into the last inning but they did score a run in the fifth, so our lead was down to 3 to 1. Starting the seventh, Curtis hit a solo shot off Andy to narrow our lead to one. Andy was shaken by that hit and began to falter on the mound.

He gave up a walk and a single to give our opponents runners at first and third with only one out. Andy spotted the next batter two balls so I decided to talk with him.

"You seem to be a little nervous," I said to Andy when I got to the mound.

"I am," he replied. "I want to win this game so bad I could throw up."

"This is your game so I will leave the decision up to you. Do you want to finish or do you want me to put someone else in to pitch?"

I was shocked when Andy handed me the ball. "Please, I am too nervous to go on."

This decision of Andy's had come as a huge surprise and I had no plans in place to deal with this. I had hoped to calm him down so he could finish but he couldn't handle the self-imposed pressure. I had to make a quick decision. My second best pitcher would be eaten alive by the other team so I knew we would lose if I chose him to pitch. I looked over my players quickly trying to figure a way out of this.

To the team's and Andy's amazement, I sent him to shortstop and told my short stop to take over first base. I called my first baseman over and gave him the ball. "You need to finish this game for Andy", I said as I handed him the ball.

"But I don't know how to pitch" he protested.

"All I need you to do is play catch with the catcher. Forget about the game and the batter. Just throw the ball to the catcher and he will throw it back to you."

"I can do that,' he said as I turned and walked back to the dugout amide boos from the parents of my players. That really hurt me because it was Andy's decision to come off the mound, not mine to take him out.

The next batter was a little feller and I was concerned about a squeeze play. I brought my infield in but the batter swung away. He was trying to drill one past my infield. I brought my left fielder and center in close. If a ball got through the infield they would be close enough to still make a play at home. I was very nervous and I doubted my decision to leave my infield guarding against the bunt. Still, I had to go with the percentages on this one. The batter swung away on the second pitch.

I knew the odds were not in favor of the batter attempting a bunt on the third pitch, but I was afraid that the other coach was setting a trap. If I pulled my infield back and the kid bunted, I lost. The boy was small and maybe if he hit the ball, he couldn't get enough on it to drive in past my fielders. For the third pitch, I still left my infield in. I felt my stomach knotting up as my pitcher delivered the third pitch. When the batter took a full swing at the ball, I knew my opponent had had me. If that little kid got a hit, I would never forgive myself for leaving my infield in such a dangerous position.

Andy's dream and the game lay in this one swing. It seemed like the ball was moving in slow motion as it soared towards home plate. The batters swing looked good and I felt my heart sink at the moment the bat and ball should have made contact. But he missed!

Still, we had one more out to get. I have played in a lot of games before but never in my life have I ever wanted to win anything as bad as I wanted to win this game. And as bad as I wanted it for Andy, I wanted it for myself. I was coaching a game against the best team and the best coach and the outcome of the game rested on my decision to pull Andy and to put a first baseman with no experience in the game as pitcher. My prestige as a coach was on the line. If I lost, how could I justify my decisions to the parents? If I won, I would gain their respect and the respect of the other coaches.

The next batter to come to the plate was a big kid with a good batting average. He will not be fazed at all by my pitcher. I knew he was not going to strike out. I was stuck with a pitcher that could only throw a straight ball to the catcher. He knew nothing about curve balls, mixing speeds, corners, or anything about the batters abilities or his strong points or his weaknesses. I just hoped I had my players positioned correctly to deal with whatever pitch he did hit.

I had thought the other coach would go for the tie and maybe extra innings when the little kid came to bat. Maybe he would have but my pulling the infield in changed his mind. Maybe my decision had been the best one. I taught my players bunting skills and they were very good at execution. Had the situation been reversed, I would have had my batter bunt down the first base line anyway, knowing I had another batter and a power hitter at that. Unless the other coach wanted to share his decision making process with me, I will never know the answer to that question. I do know this batter has no intentions of bunting. His coach wants the win. With a stronger line-up and a more experienced pitcher, I would have still gone for extra-innings but I think my opponent was over-confident. He didn't want to lose and not to me. He wanted an in-your-face win and he wanted it bad.

After the last out, I think my teams confidence soared. Still we had one more out to get and it wasn't going to be as easy as the last one. I let my team know that if an attempt to steal second was made to let it go. I wasn't going to lose this game on a bad play. In the big league's, an attempted steal would be out of the question. In little league, no. It didn't matter if the winning run was on second or not. If we didn't get this batter out, I don't think my team could hold together for the win. It is do or die with this batter.

My pitcher winds up and delivers a pitch towards home plate; identical to the first three pitches he has thrown. That is the only pitch he knows and it is better than trying to be something he isn’t and walking people. It is a good pitch to hit and the batter knows it.  He takes his full swing and makes contact. He doesn't get much of the ball and it bounces in the dirt in front of home plate. It is a very slow roller towards the mound.  The runner on third breaks for home as soon as the ball is hit and the batter takes off for first. My pitcher heads towards home plate, trying to get to the ball, pick it up and deliver it to the catcher before the runner gets home. The fans are all standing now, excited with anticipation.

My pitcher reaches for the ball, picks it up and drops it. He reaches a second time and again drops it. The runner is almost home and there is no time for an overhand throw. My pitcher reaches down the third time and with a throwing motion scoops the ball and a handful of dirt and throws all towards home plate. The runner slides, kicking up more dirt, making home plate invisible to everyone except the catcher, the runner, and the umpire. The runner crosses home plate amidst the dust and the catcher pulls the mitt with the ball still inside away from the runners body. We all are breathless as we await the umpire's call on what just happened.

In a moment that seemed like forever, the umpire makes his decision, and as the dust begins to settle, it is clear that he is standing there with one thumb in the air. We won. Andy got his victory. My team held together, and I got my respect.  What a great game....
 
 

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