Shot to the Head
I didn’t get shot in the head – I took a shot to the head. Baseball was the sport boys and men in Van Hook played most. There was no little league for any sport so boys played where they could but I don’t remember any girls playing sports. There was no football at grade school so we played baseball or softball even in the fall. High school had basketball but that’s another story.
The spring of my fifth grade year I was old enough to play with the older kids as a fill in. I was filled with pride when I got to bat against Dale Babcock. Dale was only in the 9th grade but to us he appeared to be a giant and had a sports hero reputation. He pitched for one of the adult town league teams. I didn’t have much trouble hitting the ball against kids my own age but no one our age expected to ever hit a pitch from him.
I could feel the wind as the ball went by the first time. I moved the bat off my shoulder as Dale’s arm moved towards the catcher but the ball was already in the catcher’s mitt by the time I had the bat in the air. An older boy told me to keep the bat off my shoulder and lean a little forward so I wouldn’t have to move the bat so far to hit.
As Dale’s arm was at the top of his pitching arc, I leaned forward. The path of the ball was exactly where he intended, but he did not know that I would move my head into the path. I was hit so hard that my feet went into the air and I fell on my back. I remember having a knot on my head for the rest of the day. It was a lot worse than the haymaker I got from any boxing club opponent but not as bad as the impact from my falling on the ice. No one blamed Dale for beaning me – and neither did I. After all, I leaned into the pitch and he put it right where he intended.
I gave up baseball and even softball for a long time. I just could not bring myself to stand up at the plate even in casual slow pitch games as an adult.