In the old neighborhood, gender lines were the quickest to draw and easiest to enforce.
We didn’t care about single- or multi-parent families, race, income or anything else, because, really, unless we were playing hide-and-go-seek, the girls did their thing, and the boys played sports. Such stringent and inflexible regulations were particularly enforced on the baseball field.
Back in my old neighborhood – filled with town homes and four-plex units, we lived a thrifty lifestyle.
Baseball gloves were hand-me-downs, baseball-bats were beyond used and the baseballs that blew off the roof were a blessing. In fact, baseballs were a luxury. So we used tennis balls.
The endless summer days and after-school marathons of baseball in one of three or four fields-turned-ball-diamonds were the stuff of legend. A spare glove or folded out cardboard box represented each base. A designated dirt spot was home plate. And you were ready to play.
Boys pitched. Boys hit. Boys ran bases. Boys fought over strike calls and outs.
And then there was Jenny Myers. The only girl we’d even consent to letting on the baseball field with us.
First, sure, it was probably because the games were largely organized and run by one of the “older” guys in the neighborhood, her brother, Todd. Between Todd, my brother Tom and others, you had the equivalent of the baseball mafia. If you were lucky enough to get in, you shut up and played ball.
Jenny and I were usually just a few of the younger participants in the endless supply of baseball, or “ten-ball,” as we called it.
Jenny played ball with the boys because she could. And she wanted to. And, every once in a while, she’d strike a guy out. In those days, if you were named all-time pitcher, you did just that. Jenny and I spent a lot of hours as all-time pitcher, unless, of course, we exhibited an inability to toss the ball over the plate for an extended period of time. Then we’d be relegated to the outfield somewhere. Or designated hitter.
It really didn’t matter. We got to play baseball. And we loved it.
Jenny was a tomboy, an opinionated ten-ball player, a girl that most certainly belonged on our baseball field.
This column is dedicated in memory of a childhood friend with whom I shared a baseball field, rode the bus to grade school and one who had the biggest smile and brightest red hair of anyone I know. Jenny Myers passed away on June 5.
Jenny’s friendship spanned a lifetime with many people. As a mother and police officer, she was able to impact lives beyond her own.
And for a bunch of boys growing up, she taught us a few life lessons along way. Things we wouldn’t even realized we learned until much, much later in life.
We feel, rightfully so, indescribable grief at her passing. We catch up with former classmates at her service. Many share stories of her days as the Blades’ mascot or on the police force. We fondly recall the girl that was, not arguably, the smartest of the William Chrisman Class of 1991.
Then, there are a few of us still simply have Jenny committed to memory on the baseball field. A warm summer day. The red-head on the makeshift pitching mound.
I would consider us infinitely lucky for those recollections.