A lot of hours in right field …

I played baseball for a long time as a kid. My mom still talks about the countless hours she spent on dusty Little League fields all over New Haven.

My career, such as it was, was nothing to mention. I played from the ages of 8 or 9 to 14. Most of the early days were spent playing two innings or getting to bat a single time. I remember standing in right field at Betsy Ross Field, marking off the number of steps from the foul line, the view of the tennis courts behind the batter, knowing that if a ball went over my head it would end up in the marshy reeds behind me.

I did have a few days of glory. I once pitched in a game and was responsible for making all six outs myself (three strikeouts, caught a pop up, picked a guy off, and threw out a batter on a ground ball back to me, thanks very much!) I still remember striking a guy out looking (3-2 count, pitch was low and inside – probably was ball four.) I had a couple of three hit games. I remember hitting a double of one of the best pitchers in the league. I think I was more stunned then he was. I think I hit .253 in my career (yes, I was the nerdy kid who knew his batting average, no matter how bad it was). I know I am undefeated on the mound … 1-0. Like the minor league pitcher Bill Ferrell in Ball Four, you can just call me A Thousand.

As a kid, one of my constant companions was the Baseball Encyclopedia. The volume, the Domesday Book of the baseball world, contained the stats of every man who ever appeared in a major league game and a few tidbits of biographical information. A nickname, perhaps, and where they lived and died. I loved the book – I thumbed through the whole thing. I could tell you the names of ton of obscure ballplayers whose fame, if they ever had any, had lone since subsided.

What I learned, much to my fascination, was that New Haven had a major league professional baseball team. Yep, for one glorious year, 1875, my home city was big league. The team, named the New Haven Elm Citys, played in the National Association, a paleozoic version of Major League Baseball – a evolutionary point towards the game we know today.

I’ve decided to research that lone season and write about what I find – the thought of creating a blog on one subject, and attempting to complete that subject, was appealing to me. I’ve already gone through months of the long defunct New Haven Palladium newspaper with more to follow.

Why tackle such an obscure subject?

Maybe I want to remember how it felt to stand in a dusty batter’s box, a little scared, wearing a polyester uniform and an ill-fitting helmet, thinking about the thousands of men who made their marks in a heavy blue covered book, having been to a place where I would never go.

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7 thoughts on “A lot of hours in right field …

  1. I once entered a game in relief with a four-run lead and no one on base. I walked three straight to load the bases, then walked four more to tie the game, and finally, bases still loaded and nary an out recorded, hit the next batter in the head to surrender the lead. I was better pretty much anywhere else on the diamond.

    This is a nice idea for a blog. I like a blog that curates a history such as this that you are trying to discover/uncover; there is purpose and focus. (And total book potential here, too.)

    Proceed.

    • Ah, I know the pain – did the coach get you out of there? I walked the bases loaded on 12 pitches and got a round of applause from the other team when I finally threw a strike. I actually threw behind a left handed hitter once, which isn’t actually easy to do unintentionally. We should join a slow pitch team together at some point in our lives. It could get ugly.

      Thanks for the support and kind words. I wanted to write in a more formal way again and I don’t feel generally inclined to use my personal life for fodder, so I thought this could be an interesting project and would feel a bit more like the journalism I’ve been used to. I’ve already been to the library to do some research and gone through the web looking for information. Hopefully I can keep up the discipline for the whole thing.

  2. I started playing playing baseball when I was around 7. Actually, it wasn’t really baseball. We spent summers in the Poconos and didn’t have readily available access to a legit field nor did we have proper equipment like a baseball glove and bat. Rather, we crumpled up 3 sheets of paper into a ball and wrapped it with packing tape. This was our baseball. The bat was constructed out of the finest sticks one could find in the woods.

    I mastered this version of baseball and dreamt of making it to the big leagues. Then, my parents signed me up for little league. Everything went downhill from there. Apparently, a paper ball wrapped in tape behaves very differently than a real baseball.

    I did not succeed in little league. In fact, I’m fairly certain I had a negative batting average.

    All this to say that I have a fond appreciation of those that actually play the game and do it well.

    Looking forward to reading more.

    • I bet paper baseball was pretty fun, actually. I had no idea you played Little League – were you a fellow right fielder? Wait, I just remembered something … did you and I play catch outside the Pepisco before performances of one show? I seem to recall that … it was either you and I or me and Hoover (or both – everything is a bit hazy back them.)

      Thanks for the support here, I do appreciate it!

  3. I noted today that Tricky Nichols passed away on this date (way back when). I liked his name and started to look into him a bit, and thus found your blog, which is a great idea, and which I look forward to catching up on! Thanks for taking this on!

    • Thanks for the kind words! I’ve enjoyed working on it thus far – Nichols happens to be my favorite. According to my research, he struggled with an injury in 1875, which I’ll make reference to in my next post. He also died pretty young, in his mid-40s. Well, I appreciate your interest!

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