As the baseball season rolled along, I became more enthralled in the game than I was enthralled with Allison. I practiced every day with Jamie and Dad, not because I wanted to impress her, but because I wanted to get better. If neither of them were available, I’d even practice with Jean and Jake. Jake was walking and he had his own glove. I taught them things like the ready position and how to bring me drinks when I was winded.
I improved. I moved from right field to second base. I watched every Angels game on tv and became a fan of their second baseman, Bobby Grich. We had a lot in common. He had a strong arm, fast hands, and a great mustache.
We had two games a week: Wednesday and Saturday. On game days, I got my stirrups ready and put my underwear on the good luck way: backwards, because I hit a double in one game and got a twinkie for a post-game snack and when I got home, I found my underwear were on backwards.
I tried putting it on inside out the next game to see about hitting a triple. I hit two doubles in that game, but the team mom brought apples for us as a snack. I never wore my underwear inside out again. On purpose, anyway.
On school game days, I wasn’t allowed to wear my uniform to school. I laid it out on the bed, with “Jimmy” and the number “2” up so I could put it on the right way. I put my glove in my hat so I didn’t forget either, and I got my baseball pants out: either blue jeans or the white baseball pants.
Then I was off to school for hours of dreaming about that afternoon’s game. Mrs. Rogers would teach us about math and I would think about Grich making a game winning play at second base. I became good at acting like I was paying attention, at nodding when she was saying something in my general direction.
April 22, 1981 was my second to last game. A Wednesday. I was at school and nodding away while I thought about whether I left my stirrups inside out or not on my bed and about whether I would put my trophy on my nightstand or my dresser. If Mrs. Rogers said something during spelling hour, I nodded. Art hour, I nodded.
She said something to me during the last hour, math hour, and I nodded again. Then the class was silent and staring at me. I looked around and she said, “Jimmy?”
I nodded. “Jimmy, what’s the answer?”
I hated it when everyone knew what was going on except for me. I used my only stalling tactic. “Umm, can I get a drink of water?” I walked to the drinking fountain in the corner of the room before she responded.
I drank and drank. When I could drink no more, I let the water hit my lips while I made gulping sounds. I tried to peek to see if there was a problem on the board, but couldn’t see. I thought of possible answers in my head. It probably wasn’t too low. Four, Six, Seven, Twelve, Fourteen? I was pretty sure twelve and fourteen were too high because Rupee and some of the girls still couldn’t count that high. Seven was everyone’s favorite number and Mrs. Rogers didn’t want to make it that obvious. It was probably between four and six. I closed my eyes and thought hard. And it came to me. Bobby Grich! Number four for the Angels.
“Four!” I yelled from the drinking fountain.
The class looked at me. “Four what, Jimmy?” Mrs. Rogers asked.
I thought about drinking some more water, but heard the bell rang. I ran out the door and into Micki’s waiting Pinto. Jamie joined us in a second. “Baseball!” I said. And we were off.
The game didn’t start until 4:30, but I had my uniform on by 3:00. Jamie and I played catch for awhile and then Micki loaded us up, including Jake and Jean, to make the drive across the street to Nobel Jr. High School where the games were played. “I wonder what kind of snack we’ll get this week,” I said, “probably a ding dong and a whole soda.” I said the same thing before most games.
We arrived and there were only two other Angels there. Mom showed up and Micki walked over to Jamie’s game while Jake and Jean ran around. We were still warming up when I felt like I had to pee. I asked Coach Jim where the bathrooms were and he pointed to the school’s PE building.
I ran over to the building and found the door that said, “boys.” I pulled on the door and it was locked. I looked over to the field. The umpire was there. I really had to go to the bathroom, but the game was going to start. I ran back and took my position at 2nd base. I played for two innings before it became hard to move. Dad showed up in the stands.
He said, “Hi,” and I said, “I have to pee.” He pointed to the same buildings that Coach Jim pointed to. “It’s locked,” I said.
“After this inning, I’ll take you over there.”
I walked slowly back out to second base and hoped for three quick outs so I could go pee, but we made error after error and the other team was just running around the bases. I danced a little, then squeezed my legs, and then held perfectly still. The ground rules of that T-ball league were that if a team batted around, then the other team came up to bat. Finally we got to the last batter of the inning, a lefty. He stepped and swung and hit a pop fly that was coming right toward me.
I was torn. I’d been practicing pop flies all year, but hadn’t caught one yet. I looked up as the ball came closer. I panicked. I raised my glove to try to catch the ball. And I lowered my glove as I began to pee my pants. The ball landed right next to me, but I felt so relieved I didn’t care. I didn’t pee enough just to relieve the pressure. Once I started, I went to town. I was glad that I had worn jeans instead of baseball pants. They were heavier and soaked, but probably harder to see the pee.
I finished peeing, the boy who hit the ball ran around the bases, and the umpire looked at his watch and said, “That’s the ball game.”
I ran, dripping, to join the circle where our team would cheer for the other team before we shook their hands. Before I got to the circle, dad came and picked me up. “Let’s go, Jim,” he said.
“Dad, I didn’t get to cheer yet.”
“I know,” he said. He carried me a bit. I looked at the other kids who started cheering, “2, 4, 6, 8, who do we appreciate?”
Then I looked at our stands. The lady with the snacks pulled out two boxes of ding dongs.
“Dad! My snack! Ding dongs!” I tried to wrestle my way down, but dad didn’t let go. Jamie, in his Mets uniform, chased after us.
“Not today, Jim,” he said. As we got toward the car, he set me down. I whined, “Dad, no one can tell!”
Jamie ran up and looked at me. “Why’d you pee your pants?” I looked down at my pants and saw the clear signs that I had peed in them. Dad unlocked the car. I started crying.
We stopped by the liquor store on the way home so dad could get his racing form. Jamie and I waited in the car. Dad came back out and handed each of us a green pack.
I looked at him. “They’re baseball cards, like I used to collect when I was young. They can be worth some money if you get good players, but you have to keep them in good condition.”
“I call all the Angels!” I yelled as I tore open the pack. The hardest, best piece of pink gum was waiting for me and I shoved it in my mouth. Then I looked at the hats in the corner of each card, searching for Angels. About half way through, I still didn’t have an Angel, but I did see a Dodgers’ hat. I looked at the whole card. Even at 5 years old, I knew how lucky I was to get a Bill Russell card.
‘Bill Russell!’ I shouted as we drove home.
I was so excited that I almost missed the card tucked behind him. I saw an Angels’ hat. I held my breath as I slid Bill Russell away. My eyes widened. It was my hero. The Russell was something special, but the Bobby Grich hooked me and I was a goner. After all, we were both Second Basemen for the Angels.
Jamie got an Angel in his pack too. Dave Lemanczyk. I tried to work out a trade on the way home. I offered him all the cards in my pack except for Bill Russell and Bobby Grich. He said no. Then I offered him all the cards except Bobby Grich.
He said, “Maybe.”
We got home. I walked in and told everybody about my Bobby Grich. Jean walked up and handed me a Ding Dong. “Here, Jimmy,” she said and smiled.
“Thanks,” I said. I gave her my gum. “Here, Jean.”
“Thanks,” she said. I opened the Ding Dong and began to eat. It was amazing! I went to show my half eaten Ding Dong to Jamie. He had a purple marker. He was half way through writing his name on the back of his Dave Lemanczyk. I started to cry again.