Straight to the temple

School’s out and there’s evidence of kids enjoying the outdoors. I hope the trend lasts and youngsters continue to soak up some rays instead of overdosing on video games.

At the moment a dozen kids are enjoying a game of baseball in the field just north of our house. I don’t know all of them, only my three grandchildren and their neighbor Soley. It’s a loosely organized game of baseball in which every time the bat makes contact, it’s a homerun.

The most crucial part is deciding which team bats first. If your team does, you win, something like 25 to 0. Why? The other team would have won if its players had batted first.

These games are generally called in the first half of the first inning — because darkness arrives before the other team gets to bat. Maybe if they can remember tonight’s score and continue tomorrow, the other team will have a chance. But judging by the happy smile my grandson and namesake is wearing on his face, I suspect his team won.

It’s amazing how well-lubed are youth athletic programs in the summer. In my youth, soccer, for example, which occupies scores of children here, hadn’t been invented. Baseball was where the action was 55 summers ago.

It’s neither with regret nor boasting that I say I was deficient in organized sports activity in my youth. We kept busy with our newspaper routes.

Nevertheless, we had a fine recreational facility for baseball; the playing field was first-rate, the bases were clearly defined, and whisking up a grounder of the manicured surface came easy.

Or at least that’s what we would have liked. In reality, the Yankee Stadium to which I refer was the unpaved portion of Railroad Avenue. It wasn’t until the ‘70s that the entire stretch of that barrio got paved. Meanwhile, our schoolmates could determine how many chunks of boulders remained in the ground on the basis of how many times a baseball took an errant hop and decorated us right in the temple.

It seldom failed. Any grounder hit my way was destined to propel itself toward that rock in the ground, carom off, hit my temple and make me sorry.

And when a sizzling grounder came off the bat of our neighbor Don Archuleta, we’d hide.

A junked car often represented first base; the pitcher’s mound was a flattened box, and the boundaries were neighbors’ houses. Railroad didn’t have much traffic, as few people owned cars, and we appreciated that.

My neighbors Tony and Leroy Lucero and I would sometimes play a baseball version of kickover.

Kickover, usually played with a football, involves trying to push your opponent back by tossing the ball past him. If he touches the ball, he gets to kick or throw it from that spot; if he catches it, he gets to run five steps in your direction and heave it from there.

But this time we used a baseball. Tony had just learned how to throw a knuckle ball. That’s a misnomer because the thrower doesn’t usually hold the ball with the knuckles; it’s more like gripping it with the fingernails.

Whatever the intended effect, Tony tossed a knuckle ball in my direction. “That’s a piece of cake,” I said as I got my mitt ready to spear the ball. But the ball had other plans: Inches before it reached me, it squirted straight down, found the customary boulder on unpaved Railroad Avenue, and, well, you know.

Tony’s throw wasn’t deliberate. Yet, each time he threw — a knuckler doesn’t spin much — there was no predicting which way the ball would dart. According to the rules of this version of kickover, if you don’t touch the ball, and it gets past you, you keep getting pushed back. Obviously, I seldom touched the ball, and the game ended when Tony backed me up almost to the spot where Railroad meets Grand.

At school, some of my friends asked whether we Trujillos had moved four blocks north, their having seen me in their neighborhood so often, chasing a baseball.

• • •

Let’s review:

What was my grandson and namesake wearing after his team won? Where was he wearing it? Describe what he was wearing.

The text refers to “the happy smile my grandson and namesake is wearing on his face.” Is there ever a sad smile? Where else would this smile be worn but on the face?

So we need to simply conclude that Arthur was smiling. Period. The rest is redundant.

Referring to a recent column, “A murder of crows,” Ben Moffett, a retired journalist and frequent contributor, wrote, “I was the subject of a letter-to-the-editor once, because I used a direct quote, ‘a bunch of horses,’ from a source. The letter writer said it showed I didn’t know anything about horses.”

Moffett mentioned the noun of assemblage for the peafowl. He writes, “Yes, we know how well the male of the species can show off its tailfeathers, but using ‘ostentation’ more than once in a lifetime seems trite. And imagine writing a 100,000-word book about peafowl. Would you have to write ‘ostentation’ every time you described how they went from one pen to the next?”

That makes me wonder whether it’s redundant to refer to a “pride of lions.” Wouldn’t a simple “pride” suffice, as in “Look, fellas, there’s a pride”? Isn’t it enough to simply call it a “murder” when a lot of crows congregate?

If a bunch of turtles is a bale, do we need the word “turtles”? Or if a gnu, AKA a wildebeest, becomes an “implausibility” when it invites a bunch of friends over to watch the evening gnus on TV, can’t we remove the redundancy and just call it an implausibility?

One thought on “Straight to the temple

  1. Ben Moffett

    I was beginning to wonder if anyone except me every played kickover, which I have always called “setback.” I can’t remember where I learned it, perhaps at San Antonio, NM grade school, but I have taught it to several others. And I’ve never seen it initiated by anyone but me. For such a little known game, the rules you played by are much like the ones I know, including the five steps forward.
    Thanks for picking up parts of my letter, but don’t ever feel obligated. I don’t read many newspaper columns, but I find yours particularly intriguing and that’s why I respond.

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