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Baseball at Magoun's swamp

THE 1978 post-season baseball games had highs and lows, but to me the best TV coverage showed the sea gulls in Toronto. Not much to it - the camera showed a substantial flock of sea gulls in orderly array in the outfield. We see the same thing here in Maine, a good place being the diamond at the state prison farm, over in the next town of Warren. They used to call it the state prison farm, but enlightenment set in and now it's our minimum-security unit - the inmates grow some gardens and also make automobile license tags.

The baseball diamond, important to the recreational rehabilitation program, attracts many sea gulls, and before every game there is a flurry of flushing the fowl. I have always held that anybody who plays baseball can't be all bad, so I pull up sometimes when I drive by and watch a few innings. The diamond is near enough to Highway 97 so a friend of mine once caught a long fly foul with his windshield. The prisoners won no pennants this year, either, but their sea gulls seem in the same league as those in Toronto.

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I found the digression afforded by the Toronto sea gulls a welcome relief to the incessant and annoying chatter of the men who were doing the play-by-play announcing. Their extraneous piffle about somebody who fouled out three times in one inning back in 1927 offends me as needless interruption in the simple watching of the game. Even if the record still stands, it diverts me from speculating about the next pitch, and we can assume, I think, that anybody who cares enough to watch the playoffs will probably know something about baseball. When they told me there were two men on base, one out, and that a double play would be a fine idea, I turned the sound down and abolished them. We don't need those spatemakers anyway. I presume they went on telling everybody that the pitch was a ball because it missed the strike zone, but I was spared that persiflage from the sea gulls right through to the post-season finale.

My baseball career, limited to high school and left field at the beginning of Magoun's swamp, brought me no aspirations toward the big leagues, but it did let me set several records (which still stand), and it gave me a love and understanding for the game. I am the only left fielder who played 144 consecutive innings wearing knee-length clam-diggers' rubber boots.

Most of those games were played with secondhand baseballs that lost their covers in their youth and had been recycled by windings with friction tape. This tape subdued the baseballs, so if a boy swung as hard as he could, and connected, he might just barely hit as far as the shortstop. If the shortstop wasn't playing too deep. Then he would gallop toward first base with his elbows full of bees.

HENCE, activity in left field was seldom brisk, and game after game I would stand there, lonely in Magoun's mud, talking to myself about the efficacy of rubber boots.

Our high school baseball had a very short season. There was ice on Magoun's swamp when the reluctant Maine winter rose from lingering in the lap of spring, and we generally got through four home games before the June let-out. True, we played all summer in the church league, and after high school we might make the Town Team, but four high school games completed that schedule. There was nothing sectarian about our church league, and for three summers I played Congregational, Baptist, and Uni-Uni - my best average was .218 as a Baptist. But the church league was wholly local, whereas in high school we also got four games ``away.''

The Toronto sea gulls accordingly put me in mind of Henshaw's pasture, where we played baseball when we went ``away'' to Upper Riverbend. Left field, there, was well drained and I could wear my baseball spikes. We also had good baseballs there, because Upper Riverbend had a grocer who supplied them in return for a sign that said, ``Baseballs Courtesy Plummer's Meat & Provisions.''

Henshaw's pasture belonged to Farmer Henshaw, and one year he had an acre of head lettuce just over the fence from my position. So the Henshaw outfield was infested with woodchucks, which would pop up from their holes to see how the game went, and after an inning or two they would seek safety up in the lettuce. It was in the sixth inning that year that we were up two runs, but with the bases loaded the enemy batter hit a high fly right at me. As I stood there waiting for it to come down, an easy out, Farmer Henshaw began shooting at the woodchucks.

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