Even the Batter Disagreed

Even the Batter Disagreed


When we lived in Quinton, NJ, I was involved in kid's sports. This came about mainly because, during my first year teaching, the boys pleaded with me to coach the school basketball team that played in the YMCA Church league. The league had allowed the Quinton team since none of the local churches could field enough players but the school could. I knew nothing much about basketball and our 3-10 record the first year is testament to that. As a footnote, over the next 8 years, we never had a losing record and won 4 championships, three 2nd places, and one 3rd place, so I must have learned something. I also coached a flag football team for the school.

In 1970 or so, a committee from the townships of Lower Alloways Creek, Quinton and Elsinboro formed a youth baseball league. The local Rotary club of Quinton decided to sponsor a team and a local farmer with a son in the 8-12 age group said he would manage it. At the league player draft, he drafted his son's friends for the majority of the team and since his son was 8 at the time, this was a very young team.

The manager soon discovered that managing took a lot of time and knowledge of baseball neither of which he had in abundance and the club asked me to take it over. I agreed and for the next two seasons we won exactly zero games. Yes we were 0-40! In fact, we won our first game midway through the third season and were 0-50 up do that point. But, since I had these boys to develop for that time, by the time they were 10-11 years old, we had a pretty good team. There were six teams in the league and we finished 3rd, 2nd and 2nd my final three years.

Being involved with little league age boys is different than youth league age teens as I found out to my astonishment and embarrassment one evening in 1974 or 1975. I had been watching a church softball game when one of the coaches for the local Babe Ruth team approached and asked if I would umpire their game. The umpire scheduled to come had been unable to be there and they didn't want to postpone the game. I told him okay.

It turns out that they wanted me to call balls and strikes and so I put on the gear and since the warmups were completed, we began the game. This meant that I didn't get to watch the pitcher warm up and had no idea of his speed or repertoire of pitches. It was  a boy I had taught in 8th grade (1972-73) named Billy Willis and I remembered him as small and not that strong. Well a couple of years do make a difference as we shall soon discover.

Remember, I was used to Little League, where many of the pitchers throw straight and usually erratically. They also don't throw very fast since they haven't developed as yet. I had umpired many games in our league (we were always short handed on umpires, so the coaches often were pressed into duty) and had done a good job (well no one lynched me!). 

I called, "Play Ball!" and Billy delivered the first pitch. It is headed straight for the batter's head and I instinctively called "Ball One!" and the curveball broke perfectly over the plate. Well, Billy just stared at me in disbelief, the catcher asked; "What was wrong with it?" and to add insult to injury, the batter chimed; "I guess I get 4 strikes this at bat!". I called time, turned to everyone and stated; "I missed that one, it was the prettiest curve ball strike you ever wanted to see, but it is ball one, let's play!".

I didn't miss any more that game (at least none that blatantly), Billy pitched a good game and got the win and that first batter grounded out on the next pitch, so all in all there was no harm done. Funny though, I was never asked to fill in again, I guess they always had the umpire show up and didn't need me. Yeah, I think I'll go with that.  

Davdan @ 2008-2018