High and Tight

Baseball fans will enjoy the following guest post by Newton Jones.                                

During summers of my youth, our backyard in Northbrook, Illinois was transformed from a grassy expanse into a baseball field for the Jones boys and their friends. Our fervent desire was to grow up and play for the Chicago Cubs.

infield

The infield team picture.  Becky Jones and her three sons Preston, Newton, and Quentin. 1960.

Our infield had no home plate…only the bare spot in front of the crabapple tree.  First base was an unused baseball glove or the arm of a lawn chair.  Second base was the cushion that belonged to the first base lawn chair, and third was the water meter cover.  The edge of the driveway was the left field line.  There was no discernible right field line but if a batted ball struck first base, it was considered fair–just to make life interesting.  Left field was the asphalt surface of Ash Lane and right field consisted of the McPherson’s driveway.  If you hit any car in the McPherson driveway you were automatically out.  Home runs had to carry into the Crear’s yard across the street or into the McPherson’s front yard.

Mom enjoyed having this semi-pro activity in her backyard, but she hated the toll our running and sliding took on her grass.  During our away games, she’d rake up the soil on the bare spots and reseed over first, second, third, and home. To protect the new yard, Mom made miniature fences of small pieces of wood with kite string tied to them.  She considered this to be a formidable barrier to the thundering whiffle ball herd, but we, as semi-pro players knew the only human deterred by these structures was the mailman.  The kite-string fences were gone in a cloud of dust at the first slide under a tag at second base.

With the arrival of Little League years, it was time for hardball in preparation for my calling as left fielder for the Cubbies. I played catch with Dad until I wore out his arm and shoulder.  This left me no alternative but to bounce the baseball off the brick wall of our garage.  After I had moved the garage several inches closer to the street, Mom stepped up to the challenge and strode bravely into the backyard to face the Iwanttoplaycatch monster.

“Don’t throw to me like I am some kind of rookie who is scared of the ball.  I am going to throw hard, and I expect you to throw as hard as you can to me. You won’t hurt me.”  I agreed because she was my Mom, and you always do what your Mom says. It’s a law.  Look it up.

newton & momOne Saturday afternoon, we started throwing. Mom was really good. Her throws were hard and had almost no arc as they smacked into my official Nellie Fox fielder’s glove. She had the same expression on her face for every throw: teeth bared, eyes blazing, and her entire arm and shoulder committed to the throw…a look of determination that said she could give me all I could handle…and then some.

The only way to deal with such intimidating throwing is to respond in kind. It was time to Sandy Koufax her.  I completed my windup and brought my arm over the top, hoping the ball would curve, but knowing it wouldn’t.

At that same instant, the kitchen phone started ringing.  Mom looked away for a moment to see if someone would answer. My throw was on its way at a velocity approaching the speed of light.  It was headed toward Mom’s head.

“Mom! Look out!”  Mom looked back for the throw, but it was too late.  The baseball caught her square in the nose.  She dropped her glove, covered her face, and crumpled to her knees.  I ran to her and apologized. Dad heard the commotion and came to Mom’s aid.

“I think your nose is broken,” he said.newton & mom2

“Why do you think so?”

“Because it looks like an ‘S’”.

Dad rushed her to the hospital. My brothers and I stayed with the McPhersons who were told that I had attempted to kill my mother.

I knew at any moment the police would arrive and draw a chalk outline of my Mom’s body on the spot where I had beaned her.  I would have to leave home and fend for myself.

After what seemed like an eternity, but was only three hours, Dad brought Mom home.  Her face was bandaged and braced with this large triangular contraption that straightened her nose.  I was grateful and relieved she would be okay, and she could continue to raise my brothers after I ran away from home.

But, Mom gave me a hug and told me she loved me. We played catch frequently after that, but I was not destined to play left field for the Cubs.

One thing I never told Mom about that fateful day because I thought it best she not know:  The official scorer gave her an error.

newton & mom

She taught him to play golf and baseball and how to maneuver  through life with care.  What a mom! Becky Jones with her middle kid, Newton, 1998.

 

 

 

7 thoughts on “High and Tight

  1. Warthog

    Better move over Viv; he may bean you with a blog.

    Great writing. Special style.

    Brings back a lot of memories, but my Mom never played catch with me. Never had gloves to do that with.

  2. Pamela Stone

    Viv:

    Newton’s writing is fast-paced, detailed and filled with humor. It moves!!!! He captured so much of his neighborhood experience in a few words. Pretty remarkable — especially since he isn’t part of our writing group!

  3. Samuel Jones

    This proves what I have always thought:

    1. If someone is not looking at you, then yelling “heads up!” will worsen the situation.
    Think of the ballpark and the scary moment when you hear the crack of the bat and don’t see the ball, you most assuredly want to keep your head down!

    2. My dad obviously had a foreign substance on the back of his glove, which he used to impart an unnatural spin and velocity to the ball.

    I don’t believe I ever hit my mom with a baseball , but I knocked a few serves through the garage :)

    Happy Mother’s Day Becky, Dalma, Vivian, and Newton :)

  4. Leslie Beatty

    Newton and Vivian, I enjoy so much reading your blog(s) and the way the scenarios you describe can conjure up memories from even ‘way back – thanks so much for sharing them!

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