Country Baseball

country

Growing up on the West Side of Chicago in the early 40’s was an adventure in itself. Being the children of parents who lived through the Great Depression, we didn’t have the niceties or advantages of the children of today, but we had a closeness of family and friends that bring back warm memories that can never be erased.

My Dad, Meyer, and his sister’s husband, Leo, worked until the Depression at the Aermotor Corporation as machinists, making windmills that were distributed to farms throughout the world. I still see them in existence to this day, though most are not in working order due to age and scarcity of parts. Leo went on to another company and my Dad became a plumber.

My Uncle Leo was of German extraction, and I marveled at his strength. I remember him holding his two thumbs out for me when I was a young child. I jumped,
grabbed them, and chinned myself. Leo’s father, Otto, lived alone on a farm, about 70 miles from Chicago in upstate Illinois. The story was that Otto had an ailing heart, and after an attack, his doctor stated he had six months to a year to live. Otto decided that as long as his time on earth was limited, he wanted to spend it outdoors, and not in the city, so he bought a small farm. It brought back fond memories of his childhood in Germany, when farm living was part of his youth.

Otto thrived on the farm. Instead of getting weaker, as his doctors predicted, he seemed to grow stronger and healthier. He was in his middle seventies and even
outlived the doctor who had made the dire diagnosis. He had the basics: milk from one cow, and eggs from a number of chickens. He grew vegetables and did canning for the winter. I’m sure his son also kept him well stocked with provisions.

One warm summer day when I was 12, the family decided to visit the farm and have a picnic too. I had never met Otto, nor been in farm country before. In fact, I had only seen cows in pictures, so the whole idea seemed like an adventure to me.

When I entered the small one-bedroom farmhouse, I searched for the washroom, but was told it was outside. When I asked them what it was doing outside, they said that was where it belonged. I went out to check, and all I saw was a small wooden structure with a rickety door, with a crescent carved out of the upper part. If this was a window, it sure looked strange. Inside, it had a long bench with two holes in the top. There was a box of orange papers next to the two-holer, along with an old newspaper and an ancient Sears catalog with many pages missing. If Otto used that paper for reading, he needed an update. I can only guess what the catalog was used for.

When I shook hands with Otto, I had to count my fingers. He was NO weakling.

He had long hair that was completely white, and he had a handlebar mustache that resembled a desperado from the Old West, and I don’t mean the West side of Chicago. He smoked a corn cob pipe and had sparkling blue eyes. I asked Otto where his sink was, and he laughed and pointed to a pump about ten feet from where we were standing. He said I could get exercise and water at the same time by pushing the handle up and down. I asked him how many pumps were required.  “You keep pumping until the water gushes out,” he replied. If I had to do this every time I got thirsty, I would have led an arid life. I forgot to ask him where he bathed.

After an hour I had checked out the entire farm, along with its ten acres, so was then in need of more excitement. My Dad said we were going to have a softball game before our barbecue, if we could find some bases. The family fanned out in all directions to find material we could substitute for bases. Burlap bags and sand would work, but we had neither. The rocks were more like boulders than bases. In the city we never had complicated problems like this, and it was quite vexing to me. All I wanted was a simple softball game, but I was finding things not so easy in the country.

Just as I was about to give up looking, I spied second base. There were a few more “bases” adjacent to my base, but this one would have been perfect for Yankee
Stadium, while the others were smaller. I tried picking it up, but it was either too heavy or stuck to the ground. When I ran back to the group, which had no success finding a base, I told them I found the perfect base, but needed help lifting it.

When I pointed to my base, they started laughing as if it were the funniest thing they had ever seen. As a youngster, I could always make people laugh, but never this easily, so the whole thing puzzled me. I bent down to lift one end and asked for volunteers to lift the other end, but all they did was laugh harder. Otto stepped up, took me by the hand, and explained what a cow pie was in no uncertain terms. I asked him if his cow was constipated, and then Otto started laughing.

It turns out that when a cow pie is around for a while, it mixes with the grass and hardens in the sun- making it near impossible to pick up.

All in all it was a fun day, but we ended up playing the game a little differently. We set an all-time precedent in the baseball annals—playing without bases. I couldn’t steal second base, because it was never there to steal in the first place.

(photo courtesy of federico stevanin/ freedigitalphotos.net)

Jerry Goldberg About Jerry Goldberg

Jerry Goldberg grew up on the west side of Chicago. After high school, he was drafted in the Army during the Korean conflict. Upon his honorable discharge, he joined Local 130 in Chicago as a plumber, working from 1952 to 2000. Jerry has been happily married for 60 years, residing with his wife, Gloria, in Huntley, Illinois. They were blessed with two wonderful children, and have three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
When his son encouraged him to get online, Jerry replied, "What do I need that for?" But all that changed a year into his retirement, when his daughter gave him a modem for his birthday, opening a whole new chapter. Finding stained glass insufficiently fulfilling, Jerry discovered the AARP message boards and began his one-finger magic. Eventually, he became quite proficient (two fingers), starting a board called, "Jerry's Corner."

This board was the second most popular board on AOL. Jerry bantered with any and all, and began writing humorous true stories of his past life. The stories you see here are a compilation of most he has written ... enjoy!

Jerry Goldberg About Jerry Goldberg

Jerry Goldberg grew up on the west side of Chicago. After high school, he was drafted in the Army during the Korean conflict. Upon his honorable discharge, he joined Local 130 in Chicago as a plumber, working from 1952 to 2000. Jerry has been happily married for 60 years, residing with his wife, Gloria, in Huntley, Illinois. They were blessed with two wonderful children, and have three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
When his son encouraged him to get online, Jerry replied, "What do I need that for?" But all that changed a year into his retirement, when his daughter gave him a modem for his birthday, opening a whole new chapter. Finding stained glass insufficiently fulfilling, Jerry discovered the AARP message boards and began his one-finger magic. Eventually, he became quite proficient (two fingers), starting a board called, "Jerry's Corner."

This board was the second most popular board on AOL. Jerry bantered with any and all, and began writing humorous true stories of his past life. The stories you see here are a compilation of most he has written ... enjoy!

Smiles For All