While rummaging through what is known in most households as the junk drawer, I came across this medal. It is a Good Conduct medal issued to my father during his service in the United States Marine Corps.
I believe he received it early in his enlistment before he ended up on an all-expense paid cruise up the coast of South Korea. Followed by some beach time. (The Marines call it an amphibious landing.) Other than the North Koreans shooting at them, Inchon was lovely.
He later got a full land tour all the way to the Chosin Reservoir where the Chinese cut the trip short. Along the way, he gathered some other tokens of his time in Korea, three Purple Hearts, Two Bronze Stars, and the Silver Star.
But this one he gave to me and seeing it brought back memories. Funny how it is the only thing I have from when we lived in Pawtucket, RI. But here’s the story.
It was 1960 or 61, just before we moved to Cumberland. My sister Peggy–do not call her Peggy Ann. She hates Peggy Ann so do not call Peggy Ann, Peggy Ann—were playing in a neighbor’s yard. In this yard was a rather large hole being dug for some purpose I never knew. In the bottom of this hole were pipes, rocks, and water.
The hole was several feet deep and surrounded by…nothing. Different times, those.
Of course, we were intrigued.
Anyway, Peggy An..I mean Peggy got too close and tumbled off the edge. I managed to grab her by the jacket. I wasn’t strong enough to pull her up. All I could do was hold on.
Eventually, someone noticed this. Whether it was me yelling or them I don’t know, but the next thing I knew my mother ran over and pulled Peggy up.
When my father came home from his tour of duty with the State Police (they lived in the barracks then, so it was a few days later) my mother filled him in.
For my actions in the line of facing deep, muddy, and dangerously unprotected holes and for hanging on I was awarded the medal.
I wore it to bed.
I wore it to Kindergarten.
I wore it to Church. (Yes, I used to go there, under penalty of parental damnation mostly)
And somehow, after all these years, it’s the one thing I’ve held onto…or it held onto me.
On a recent walk along the bike path onto Martin Street in Cumberland, I chanced past a field where I experienced my halcyon days of Little League baseball. It was where I believed my professional sports career would flourish.
Halcyon, yes. Flourishing career, not so much.
I believe I set a record that stands to this day in that league. I was hit three times by a pitch at-bat in one game.
The pitcher, a rather sizeable 11-year old who looked like he shaved and, I believe, parked a car somewhere hidden from view since I never saw his parents, had two conflicting abilities. He could throw a fastball, and he lacked any control over the direction of the ball.
Combine that with my sloth-like reflexes, and you have a recipe for disaster. I wasn’t so much a batter as a backstop. My ability to move as if in slow motion earned me the nickname “Turtle” from my teammates. The longest ball I ever hit bounced off the fence in center field, and I got thrown out.
At first base. Slow doesn’t even come close.
I’m not sure which one of those guys gave me the name, no matter how well deserved and accurate as it may be, but I recall Eddie Reilly, John Johnson, Scott Partington, Greg Vartanian, and others hollering it with great vigor in between laughing at me and falling to the ground.
Now that I think about it, I was bullied. I probably have PTSD from all those games, plus the bruises. I should sue.
What sparked this memory was the changes going on in the field. They are installing lights for night games.
NIGHT GAMES in Little League. Next thing they’ll have signing bonuses and no-cut contracts.
Our idea of night games were those interminable games when the score was 25 to 23 in the fourth inning, 8:30 on a Saturday night in August, and the darkness creeping in. At the sound of the ball hitting the bat we all had a fleeting glimpse as the ball disappeared into the night. We pretended to look for it, but we were really trying to figure out where it would not land so as not to get smacked in the head.
Now they have lights.
They probably have pitchers with some control over the ball.
Where’s the fun in that?