Childlike wonder alive and well during October

Published 7:02 pm Friday, October 19, 2018

Kids have something that most adults only dream about, it’s called “childlike wonder.” Childlike wonder is a child stepping up to home plate in the bottom of the ninth, two outs, bases loaded, down by three, two strikes. And Game 7 of the World Series. That’s how kids dream.

A part of us travels back to those childlike-wonder years every October during the World-Series chase. If you’ve been watching, you will have noticed that the world-champion Astros just bit the dust at the hands of the Red Sox. I watched a great deal of baseball this year, and I noticed that you had to hold your breath and wonder every time a call was referred up to New York for replay. I learned never to be surprised when the response was “There just is not enough evidence to overturn the call.” That ridiculous fickleness ended up costing the Astros a good chance of repeating as World Series champs, even though Boston outplayed them in the series.

I am glad that, in the old days, I never had to worry about losing an appeal. I never lost one, and I never lost a rhubarb with the umpire, and I never came in on the short end of a dust-kicking contest at home plate. I was the Billy Martin of dust kicking.

All of my baseball games in the old days were home games — and our visitors could either like it or lump, didn’t matter. I had a monopoly on the league, and I was in charge of all appeals.

The home stadium where a thousand heroics found their way into legend is as vintage as Fenway Park. It has never been renovated, and it can still be found on the 900-block of Juniper Street in LaGrange, Georgia. The years of this Juniper-Street dynasty cover a good part of the 1960s. That’s when, if my memory holds, I invented childlike wonder.

You see, my big brother Wayne created this fantasy baseball league 50 years before fantasy baseball was thought about. We had some tall concrete steps leading up our front porch, and Wayne came up with the idea of playing a game where you would stand on the edge of Juniper Street and throw a tennis ball against the steps and try to catch it. If we caught it, it was an out. If it got over our head, it might be a double or a triple. Or even a home run.

If you weren’t careful, the ball would get away from you, roll across the street, and even jump the fence into Mrs. Ethel Richardson���s yard. Her house was kind of in a hole, sitting a good 20-feet below ours. When the ball got by us, it might roll to the curb on the other side of the street — but more than likely it would jump the curb and roll off of a 5-foot retaining wall on the edge of her yard. Of course, any time the ball cleared that wall it was an out-of-the-park home run. We just had to hope that it happened when our team was up to bat.

I will admit, since I pitched for both teams, I could manipulate the outcome. The good news is that childlike wonder is not at the mercy of umpires who do not know how to get out of their own way. The wonder of striving to win it all can never be diminished. Sure, it takes a bit of a hit when an umpire rules against you and your team and the replay booth upholds the egregious call.

But you can’t sit on the couch and fret. You have to head outside with a tennis ball in hand and start a new game. You will know that childlike wonder is still alive and well at the first controversial call that has to go to replay.

I had my share of controversial calls, for sure, down on Juniper Street, but I want you to know that I never had even one home run taken away; and I never lost an appeal. And all the calls against me that went to replay were overturned, no questions asked.

Now we know why they call it childlike wonder.