When cow pasture baseball carried the day
SHEPHERDSTOWN — The bats had been repaired with tar tape and nails. Those bats weren’t made by Louisville Slugger or Adirondack, but were bought at a hardware store instead. They were scarred and chipped and looked more like billy clubs than baseball weaponry.
The two baseballs were stained a brownish green color and had seen their share of cow pies through the summer mornings. But the stitches were in tact and they were useful enough for the small bunch of youths readying for another game on the cow pasture’s makeshift field.
Bases were flat chunks of limestone. There were no foul lines, no elevated pitcher’s mound and only two groundhog holes that were in play.
This was cow pasture baseball where the rules were flexible and the field was generally checked for evidence that the Holsteins had been grazing there before the players came.
The two teams never had more than four players each. Any grass not eaten down to near ground level was a luxury for the mostly barefoot players.
None of the players was older than 10 so batted balls weren’t clubbed into a nearby grove of hackberry, sumac and osage orange trees.
Around the field were positions not seen in big league games.
The three expansive outfield spots were “manned” by cornflowers in left, milk thistles in center and the massive thickets of multi-flora rose in right.
Along the infield were Queen Anne’s lace, ragweed, pokeweed and milkweed — all great for trying the “hidden ball” trick.
Foxtails and honeysuckle took turns doing the catching, and standing guard next to the untaught pitchers were golden rod and horseweed.
“Games” couldn’t start until the morning dew had burned off the weeds/grass.
And when they did start, base runners had their way if they could “drive” the ball 180-feet or more.
With only three or four fielders dodging the cow pies and covering the whole expanse of fair territory, runs often came easily. Catching a fly ball or pop up was rare, so such a feat was roundly cheered by the defense.
Keeping track of the outs was a surgical procedure, but a true running score was little more than fiction.
The players had much affection for their tiny baseball gloves, again bought at a hardware store known for more nails and paint than for “athletic” equipment.
Sun tans were enhanced more than any inside baseball was learned.
Trying to select teams of even talent took more than Solomon could figure out.
But with the score showing so much fluctuation, nobody was too unhappy.
When the sun got too hot or the clock closed in on noon, the game was “suspended” so the players could get an iced tea and some garden-fresh lunch.
The next morning brought a new game. With some of the same players. And the same weeds, bumpy terrain . . . and evidence that the cows had been back to see what damage we had done to their “home field.”