Big Billy – Peanuts and crackerjack

OK, I’ll say it. I had enough of the Little League.

Don’t get me wrong now – the ball itself is fine, and everybody loves the kids and wants them to win. I’m cheerin’ on the hometown boys and everything else. It’s not really the Little League itself I got a problem with. It’s the way anybody who ever put on a pair of cleats and spit into a glove sits back and tells all kinds of long stories like they were Babe Friggin’ Ruth or somethin’.

See, we shoulda known it was comin’, because the last time the championships Big BIllywas in town there was a solid week where all Tommy talked about was the time about a hundred years ago when this team he played for – the Junior Mets they were called – played in some big game or somethin’.

So all the fellas got to Tim’s one mornin’ there last week for the usual coffee and I seen Tommy wasn’t there yet, so I says to them – For cripesakes, boys, whatever yis do, don’t get Tommy yangin’ on about when he used to play ball.

Everybody groaned and rolled their eyes and mumbled about it, but of course as soon as Tommy comes in, Murph says to him – because he’s a real crap disturber – You must be lookin’ forward to the Little League, eh Tommy? You used to play, didn’t ya?

Every time the story starts the same way. He leans back in his chair and says about a half dozen times – Play? Yuh-huh, well I guess I did play! Then he tips his hat back a bit on his forehead and says – them were the days, bye!

(That’s how we know we’re in for it.)

OK, he says. We’re down three runs headin’ into the last inning, eh? And the only reason that was, was because Ronnie Fat-Lips was pitchin’ for us that day and he didn’t know what the hell he was doin’, throwin’ meatballs right down the plate all day, the Tigers – it was the Tigers we played – was eatin’ him up.

Was it a hot day, Tommy? Murph asks him, and a few of us have to pretty much swallow our tongues to keep from laughin. Because every time he tells the story Tommy spends about fifteen minutes tellin’ us –

Hot?! Holy cripes, he says. I’ll tell ya how hot it was. Remember Johnny Mumbles? Lanky fella lived over – well yis know him, eh – he used to take his gum out and stick it on top of the metal fence post when he went up to bat, and then when he came back to the dugout he’d pluck it off and pop ‘er back in again. Anyways, it was so hot this here day, that he stuck his gum on the post, went up and hit a double, and while he was takin’ a lead off base, we heard this sizzle over by the fence. We went over and looked and sure enough – it was so hot out, his gum was actually fryin’ on the metal post!

Could yis see it bubblin? Murph says, because that’s always the next thing Tommy tells us, and offers to get in a fight with anybody who says he’s lyin. (Holy cripes Murph can keep a good straight face when he got to.)

Bubblin’? I guess it was! There was three of us seen it – me and Mikey and Brian was all there and all three of us seen it. I swear to God! he said. I swear on my kids heads! (And if that wasn’t enough, he said -) And if ya don’t believe me, ask Mikey and Brian next time ya see them and they’ll tell ya. Some hot day! I guess she was!

We all take a sip of coffee and before Murph can egg him on again, Tommy pipes right up.

Anyways, we’re down three runs, eh? Johnny’s on second base with his gum fryin’ on the post, and that’s when Mikey gets up. He he hits a looper right over the shortstop, eh? Buddy damn near made a play on it – it was so close …

How close was it? Murph jumps back in, cuz we all know the answer.

It was so close ya couldn’t fit a snot between the ball and the tip of his glove, Tommy says. (Holy cripes, I don’t know where Tommy got that expression but he uses it every time he tells the story.)

Anyways, there’s two on, and then their pitcher walks Brian, eh. So now the bases are loaded and I come up to bat – the winnin’ run is at the plate, eh?

And ya hit a grand slam and won it? Murph says (knowin’ damn well he didn’t)

Whuh? Tommy says. No. I popped out to the catcher on the first swing. But there was no outs, and the next fella that got up hit the grand slam and we won ‘er all! One of the best days of my life, boys!

Cyril and Timmy and them start clappin’ and everything.

And that was the senior little league provincials ya won, was it? Murph says.

No, Tommy says. That was the consolation game for the “C” Division in sandlot.

Consolation game? Murph says. So ya finished third in “C” Division and that’s the third place division? In sandlot, which is like junior little league?

Exactly, Tommy said. So I know what it feels like to be these boys representin’ your country and that, eh.

I don’t know if he was tryin’ to make a joke or what, but that sent the whole bunch of us howlin’ laughin and makin’ fun of him somethin’ awful. By the way he slowly put the brim of his cap back down, I think maybe he was serious.

And my point is, every little league story told this week sounds just like that one. We’re all fat old men now, boys – just let the kids play for cripesakes.

But did I ever tell yis about another time, the unbelievable catch I made in right field? Tommy says.

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