Playing baseball was one of my favorite things to do. There was an empty lot behind our house where at least ten of us kids from the neighborhood would get together to play. We usually played late in the evening when it got cooler.
Usually Margie and I were there, and Junior played sometimes. Then there was Annie along with Jeanie Lou and the boys cross the street from us, LeRoy and Lindell. Then there was Novelene and Charles who lived on the corner. Most of the time there were about ten of us, but if we didn’t have enough for a game, we would just take turns hitting flies to see who caught the most.
One day we were playing jacks on the front porch and just talking when I said, “Let’s try to get some kids to play baseball later on.”
Annie said, “That’s a good idea.”
“Yeah, let’s do that,” Margie said.
“I don’t know if I can,” said Jeanie Lou.
“You know my mother; she wants me to play girl games.”
“We will go with you to ask,” I said.
We did that all the time. If one of us thought any of the mothers would say no, then we would go together to ask permission for that one. I guess we thought we were stronger in numbers. Sometimes it worked, and other times it didn’t.
About five o’clock all of us girls went to Jeanie Lou’s house to beg her mother to let her play baseball. She had just come home from work. Jeanie Lou had no daddy. I never knew where he was, and she never said.
I walked over to her and said, “Ma’am, do you think Jeanie Lou could play baseball with us this evening?”
She said, “I don’t think so. Not tonight. She has other things to do.”
“Please, ma’am, we really need her to play third base for us,” I said.
“She is our best third baseman, ma’am,” Annie said.
“Well, I guess she can, but she has to eat first,” she said.
“Thank you, Mama, for letting me play,” said Jeanie Lou.
“It worked!” we all said as we were leaving.
I told Jeanie Lou to hurry and eat supper, and we went back to our house. All of us had to eat supper before we could play, so we agreed that we would meet in the field at six o’clock.
While Mother was cooking, I was telling her to hurry because we had a ballgame to play.
She said, “Don’t you rush my cooking, young lady, or you won’t be playing ball.”
“Yes, ma’am, I said.
Finally we were finished with supper, and we helped clear the table.
“Do we have to wash dishes?” I asked.
“No, you don’t. I will do them tonight. Your daddy can help me.”
“Oh, thank you, Mother. Thank you so much,” I said.
We were ready to go. All three of us ran out the back door. The field was right behind our house, so we were there real quick. Novelene and Charlie were there already. The five of us sat down to wait for the others. It wasn’t long before Jeanie Lou and Annie came. We were waiting for LeRoy and Lindell. I didn’t really like LeRoy and Lindell, but we needed them to play. They were both mean, and I was kind of scared of LeRoy because he hit me in the head once with a garden hoe for no reason. Junior said LeRoy wouldn’t hurt me though, not while he was there. This was another nice moment with my brother. He actually said he would protect me. I loved him for that.
“Okay, let’s play ball!” Junior yelled.
Junior was the pitcher. I was the catcher. LeRoy played first base, and Lindell was on second. Jeanie Lou was on third. Novelene and Annie were outfielders. Charlie got to bat first. We didn’t have enough kids to play the right way, but we made do. We still had Margie to bat, too. We just kind of played it by ear as to who got to bat next.
Charlie got a good hit and ran to first base. Margie was up next.
I said, “All right now, Marge, let’s get a good hit.”
She said, “I will.”
Junior threw the ball; Margie swung and missed. I ran to get the ball and throw it back to the pitcher. Junior wound up to throw again. I guess I must have stepped in too close to the batter’s box because Margie swung the bat and hit me square in the forehead! That stopped the game, and Margie ran to the house to get Mother and Daddy. Margie ran in the house crying and screaming, “Mother, I killed Ruthie with the bat!”
It scared my parents half to death. They ran to the ball field as fast as they could. I was just starting to wake up when I saw Junior beside me.
He was crying and saying, “Ruthie, please wake up.”
Then I saw Mother and Daddy.
“Daddy said; let’s get her to the house.”
“I’m okay, Daddy,” I managed to say.
He carried me to the house, and all the kids were following. I guess they wanted to see if I was dying. Daddy laid me on the bed, and Mother got a wet towel and put it on my forehead.
Mother said, “She really has a goose egg on her forehead.”
“I have an egg on my head?” I asked.
“Not a real egg,” Daddy said and laughed at what I said.
“Can I go back out to play ball now?” I asked.
“No, ma’am, you cannot play any more ball tonight,” Mother said.
Margie asked, “Is she gonna die, Mother?”
“Of course, not. She will be fine. Just need to keep her awake for a while and keep this cold
towel on her forehead.”
I was pretty upset about not being able to play, but my forehead was hurting a little bit, too.
Mother gave me an aspirin for my headache. The game was over for the night. Margie and Junior went out to tell the kids we couldn’t play anymore, and all of them went home. Mother heated the bath water and got me and Margie ready to take a bath. We had a new tub. It was a long one, long enough for me and Margie both.
When the water was hot, she poured it in the tub; then she put cold water in to cool it off. She picked me up and carried me to the tub then set me down in it. She took her time giving us a bath. I think she was trying to keep me awake. I was feeling sleepy, but she kept me awake.
Margie said, “I’m sorry, Ruthie. I didn’t mean to hit you.”
“I know you didn’t. It’s all right.”
I loved playing baseball, and we spent many hours playing in that field. After that, I was more careful about getting too close to the batter’s box. It seems like I was always getting hurt. I was starting to think I was accident prone. I really hoped it was just another day in the life of little Ruthie.
Janice Sautter is a great great grandmother who spends her time writing, painting, drawing, and playing video games. She lives with her husband Jim and their two dogs, Daisy and Lilly. She writes under the name of J. R. Carter.