OUR CINDERELLA RUN: PART ONE by Gadi Bossin - Ourboox.com
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OUR CINDERELLA RUN: PART ONE

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Dec 2013
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34

OUR CINDERELLA RUN

PART ONE

© 2015, Gadi Bossin

[email protected]

Gadi Bossin

P.O. Box 20

Kiryat Bialik, Israel

 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author.

1

OUR CINDERELLA RUN

PART ONE 

 

It was our second season in the peewee division of the North York Softball League. By winning five of our last six games, we finished the regular season with ten wins and eight losses and qualified for the fifth and final playoff spot in the ten-team league.

 

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We were the Duffield Boys Club Mounties, a collection of ten- and eleven-year-olds who lived in an area bounded on the east by Dufferin Street, on the west by the CN railroad tracks, on the north by the RCAF’s Downsview airstrip and on the south by Bridgeland Avenue, just the other side of Highway 401.

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That year the playoffs in the Toronto area peewee leagues followed this formula:

 

First seed: the first-place team got a bye into the finals and started playing in a province-wide single elimination tournament.

 

Quarter-finals: the second- and third-place teams played best-of-three series against the teams that finished fifth and fourth, respectively.

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Semi-finals: the winners of the quarter-final series played a best-of-three series to determine the finalist against the first-place team.

 

Finals: the winner of the semi-final series played a best-of-three series against the first-place team for the league championship.

 

In each of the series, the lower-ranked team hosted the first game and the higher-ranked team hosted the second game and the third game as well, if a third game was necessary.

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For most of the 1958 softball season, our lineup card looked like this:

 

Chipper Edwards

shortstop

Jackie Gelman

center field

Geddy Mason

catcher

Mack Lawrence

first base

Archie Rosen

third base

Wally Davidson

pitcher

Tommy Rollins

left field

Dick Clairmont

right field

Marv Reisman

second base

 Stu Roberts

substitute pitcher/infield

Bill James

substitute infield/outfield

Ned Sinclair

coach

Jim Edwards

assistant coach

 

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As the fifth place finishers during the regular season, we were slated to play the second-place team, Jane Street Lumber Company Lumberjacks.

 

The Lumberjacks’ pitcher, Big Al McDonald, was the scariest pitcher in the league. Big Al was eleven years old and qualified for the peewee league, but he was already five-ten and 160 pounds. I knew exactly how tall he was and how much he weighed because I asked him.

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Big Al and I had become friends during the weekend we played together on the league all-star team in early August.

 

Our team represented the North York Softball League’s western zone in the Ontario tournament of league all-star teams. He was the number-one pitcher and I was his catcher.

 

The other all-star catcher was the all-star team’s coach’s son, but he was afraid to catch Big Al. Like I said, Big Al was the scariest pitcher in the league.

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His high leg kick windup and deep dip down to the ground hid the ball from the batter until the instant he released it and his point of release was only three or four inches off the ground.

 

The ball then rose all along its trajectory toward the batter and usually crossed the plate high in the strike zone as it appeared to pick up speed and continued to rise.

 

Big Al struck out more batters than any other pitcher in our league that year.

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Now we had to face him in the first round of the playoffs.

 

The first game of our quarter-final series against Jane Street Lumber was to be played at our home diamond at Anthony Road Public School and already we had a big problem.

 

Wally Davidson, our pitcher, was going to be away on a fishing trip and there was nothing we could do about it. Wally’s father’s vacation time couldn’t be changed and the fishing trip had been planned for a year.

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Stu Roberts was our substitute pitcher.

 

He was big, almost as big as Big Al, and his fastball was faster than Wally’s, but he didn’t have Wally’s control.

 

He walked one or two batters in almost every inning he pitched. And now, as a substitute coming in to pitch in the playoffs, Stu was even more nervous than usual.

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Mr. Sinclair and I had a talk with Stu before the game.

 

“Stu,” Mr. Sinclair said, “you can do this. I want you to take a bit of speed off your pitch. Let’s try for more control. Your teammates are great fielders. They’ll make the outs. Make the batters hit the ball. You got it?”

 

“Yes, Sir, Mr. Sinclair,” Stu gasped.

 

“C’mon, Stu,” I said and patted him on the backside with my catcher’s mitt. “C’mon.”

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I remember the look on his face before he pitched to the first batter. It was a look of pure terror.

 

But Stu settled down and pitched a solid game that evening. He didn’t walk too many. And just like Mr. Sinclair said, we made the plays in the field. We even had two double plays to help Stu out of a couple of bases-loaded jams.

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But we didn’t score enough runs against Big Al and lost the first game of the series, 8-6.

 

That was on a Wednesday.

 

Our next game was scheduled for the following Monday evening at the Lumberjacks’ home field.

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Mr. Sinclair called a practice for Saturday morning, the day after Wally Davidson arrived back from vacation.

 

Before we started our usual drill, he told us to sit in a semi-circle and he and Mr. Edwards, Chipper Edward’s dad and the assistant coach, squatted down on their haunches at the open end of the semi-circle.

 

Mr. Sinclair looked at each of us in turn. He didn’t say anything. He just looked at us. That’s what he did for a minute or two. We didn’t make a sound.

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Then finally he said, “Boys, you’re a good team. You play together. You never get down on each other. You help each other out. You play ball like young men. You hustle. You hit the cut off man in plays from the outfield. You execute double plays in the infield. You bunt and steal bases and hit sacrifice flies.”

 

He fell silent again and looked around at each of us one more time before he continued.

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“You’ve come a long way since spring training and you’ve played with a lot of heart over the last several games of the regular season. And you played a good, tough game against the Lumberjacks last Wednesday. You’ve come a long, long way this year and you deserve to move on in the playoffs.”

 

He paused once again.

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“Jim and I have been thinking this over and we want to say something to you. You boys have a lot of fun playing. Anyone can see that. We think you have more fun than any of the other teams in the league. Now we want you to have more fun than ever, to have even more fun than you usually do.

 

“First, we want you to start calling us Jim and Ned, instead of Mr. Edwards and Mr. Sinclair. We think you’ve grown up over the summer and we want you to call us by our first names. Can you do that?”

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We all nodded and Mr. Sinclair—Ned—went on.

 

“Jim says he overheard some of you talking last week about how you have fun switching positions when you go to the schoolyard and practice by yourselves. We think maybe we should do some switching around in our next game, just for the fun of it. What do you think, boys?”

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Then Ned looked directly at me and said, “Geddy, you’re the captain of the team. What do you think?”

 

Everyone looked at me. I said, “It sounds like fun to me. What positions do you think we should switch?”

 

Ned put his hand out in Jim’s direction and said, “Jim?”

Jim said, “We think you boys ought to decide.”

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Mack then said, “Let’s do what we do at the schoolyard. Archie can play catcher and Geddy can go to shortstop and Chipper can move to third base.”

 

Mack had said exactly the right thing. Chipper and Archie looked at me and I nodded. I thought it was perfect.

 

“Great idea!” I said. “Great idea!”

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“Okay, boys,” Ned said, clapping his hands together. “That’s what we’re going to do. Let’s have an infield-outfield practice now and then some batting practice.”

 

We were all clapping and shouting and laughing. We hustled through the practice.

 

I was excited and hungry for balls to come my way. I charged all the ground balls and scooped them up the way I had seen Scooter Bodnarchuk do on the Kahan Auto team in the Toronto Area Industrial League that my father played on. I rifled the ball to Mack at first base and loved the sound it made as it smacked into his glove.

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Chipper and Archie were having a good time, too.

 

Chipper made a diving catch of a line drive to his right, just over the third base line in foul territory. The whole team applauded and whistled in appreciation and Chipper smiled, a bit embarrassed at the attention as he dusted himself off.

 

Archie looked great at catcher. He was one-hopping balls, snatching them out of the dirt and making sharp clothes line-like throws to the bases each time Ned called out, “Get him at first!” or “Cut him down at second!” or “Hold him close at third!” to simulate game situations.

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The rest of the team was feeding off the fun Chipper and Archie and I were having.

 

I could see everyone was feeling what I was feeling. It was the feeling you get on the first day of school when there’s a fall nip in the air and you wear new clothes and every notebook is fresh and crisp and virgin and begs you to write neat and clean and tight lines.

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“It’s playoff time, boys!” Ned shouted. “It’s the best time of the year!”

 

We whooped in response, shouting encouragement to one another, and felt light and strong and confident. Suddenly, we knew the next game was ours. I can’t explain how we knew. We just knew.

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