Sandlot Baseball Joy is Still Forever

Eagle Park Japonica @ Myrtle Pecan Park, Houston (now Japonica Park)

Eagle Park
Japonica @ Myrtle
Pecan Park, Houston
(now Japonica Park)

The sandlot baseball way of life was pretty much the same for generations. As kids, we played the game of baseball for as long as we could, each summer day, from dawn to dusk, wherever the grounds were empty, or the streets were not too busy, using whatever equipment we had, or could find, or could repair back into service.

The foot wear needs were the easiest, most natural acquirement. We all played shoeless, working against the early pain of converting our shoe-bound school feet into the calloused bare ground-talons that could handle both the heat and hard banging that awaited us in everything from concrete, street tar patches, rocks, and all those slivers of discarded glass and metal trash on our field of glory, Eagle Field at Japonica and Myrtle in Pecan Park, in the Houston East End, just south of Griggs Road on the left of the Gulf Freeway as you drive toward Galveston from downtown.

Sandlot Catcher We used everything we could find for home plate: concrete chunks, tee shirts, two by fours, old license plates, and once only, a pillow case that someone’s mom left hanging on a clothes line. The last option quickly proved itself a bad choice, particularly for our donor teammate. It was back to concrete and larger rocks. I personally preferred the flat concrete items. They often looked more like the real home plate and they stayed in one place. Tee shirts were too easy to kick toward third base for a closer plough into home by some people of lesser character.

We had no uniforms or caps – and real team jerseys and tee shirts just weren’t available to us teeming mass kids, if to anyone of the post World War II era. One time, a friend of mine from school came over for a visit in the summer after his family had returned from a vacation trip north that took them through St. Louis. He was wearing a Cardinals cap – a real Cardinals cap. The Pecan Park Eagles were simply green with envy. How does anybody from anywhere near our little corner of the world manage to get a real Cardinals cap? “My dad got it for me” didn’t seem to solve the mystery for any of us. How does even a dad from our place get the Cardinals to sell him one of their real caps?

Our gloves were the cheap or hand-me-down kind, although some of us worked and saved the eight dollars it took for a Rawlings Playmaker at Holt’s Sporting Goods in downtown Houston. That’s what I did. I just wish I could have saved it before my dad threw it and other things away while I was in college, but I didn’t wake up to their absence soon enough to save the items of my childhood that were important to me.

Our baseballs were the cheapo type that didn’t stay round for long. When we got hold of a real baseball, it stayed with us until the cover practically wore away. In came the black electric tape to keep the ball in play forever, if possible. We also used the tape, along with small nails and hammers, to repair broken bats that still had hits in them. Of course, we did. Every sandlotter did. sandlot 01

Today is May 1st. Sixty-five years ago, we would have been about a month shy of the everyday sandlot season and I still miss it. Guess I’ll just dive into the memories that make me grateful that it launched my association between baseball and joy.

The joy of baseball is forever, something to be protected against the assaults of ego and greed that crawl all over the walls of our adult world meanderings, offering nothing sweet, and everything sour.

Thank you, memories of the sandlot, for always reminding me where so many of us fell in love with the great game of baseball. May you live on forever in our hearts – in the company of those who share that same incomparable joy.


5 Responses to “Sandlot Baseball Joy is Still Forever”

  1. bob copus Says:

    i can appreciate this wonderful story. My friends and I had a similar location back in South Boston, 1970’s. Unfortunately, other than organized baseball for kids, I do not see many kids these days playing unorganized and carefree baseball at locations such as this.

  2. jd Says:

    Great post Bill. Took me back to my sandlot days. Electric tape, nailed together bats and going hand over hand up the bat handle to
    decide who gets first pick.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Thanks for the kind note, JD, but please know this too: All of your sandlot friends and fans in Houston miss you very much. Here’s a message and a potential song title for you: “We still love the game but it don’t play the same since you been gone.”

  3. don matlosz Says:

    In Hillside, New Jersey we had no sand and no lots but we had the elementary school playground. In the summer it was open from 900 am to 800 pm. Playing stickball three hours a day, softball games on blacktop and pickup basketball the rest of the day. From the age of 8 to 16 this was our second home. When I was a sophomore and junior in high school Rick Barry and some kids from Roselle Park would play basketball on these hallowed grounds

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