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Sunday 25th Feb 2018

A short while back I noted in our Mastersblog how much fun I had going to see my friend's children playing ball. Over a few weeks I saw Evan Steinkoler, Isaac and Jacob Klein, and Ben and Zach Anderson take their hacks at T-ball.

The following weekend I went to see my guitar guru and musical partner Steve Gibson's daughter Willa play in the Berkeley girls softball league, and that too was not only fun, but was different. The young ladies, for they were all 6 and 7--about the same age as the boys--played with pretty much the same acumen as their male counterparts, with a couple of kids clearly being athletes, and the rest mostly in tune with what was going on.

It was different in that the girls have cheers for one another while they are up. A fave was "Lily Lily she's on deck, she's gonna hit the ball like heck," and the game I watched featured Berkeley Children's Dentistry versus the Five Little Monkeys Toy Store, a far cry from the Bad News Bears who played for Chico's Bail Bonds.

Yesterday, however, I went to see my friends’ (Jeanne and Bill) daughter Zoe, who plays left field for the Berkeley High Yellow Jackets, as her team took on the Alameda Hornets at Grove Field, in Berkeley.

Now, I have actually worked a handful of major league games during these few weeks while also watching my friends progeny, but somehow we are a bit more removed at ATT and the now Overstock.com Coliseum. Zoe's game started right on time to the tune that I got to the stands and found Jeanne (Bill was roving around taking pictures) we were into the second inning, sitting in the stands with a crowd of about 50, 10 yards from the field.

It was fast pitch, and the pitchers definitely got the ball to the plate quickly, and the players at this level knew what they were doing. The game was full of fine plays, and some good hitting as well with Berkeley High's pitcher, Fiona Riley getting an ultimate 10-1 win with good control and what seemed like a handful of strikeouts: there were at least three through the first couple of innings.

Alameda held the game close till a bases clearing triple by Berkeley High shortstop Jordan Baker in the fourth inning iced things. The Alameda shortstop made a number of fine plays, as did her first baseman in digging throws out of the dirt, and these girls were indeed as serious about their play as anyone, with a number of them, who are seniors, going on to play at places like Cal Poly and Dartmouth.

In the top of the fourth, however, Berkeley was up 4-1, I believe (sorry, no scoreboard and I did not keep score), and two runners wormed their way on base, with two out against Fiona, when the Alameda batter drove a ball deep into the left-center gap. Zoe took off, but the ball looked like sure extra bases. Except in one of those wondrous moments of baseball, where time seems to slow down, Zoe managed to catch up to the ball just as its arc died, and the sphere fell harmlessly into her glove as she steamed forward, notching the third out of the inning.

I cannot count the number of times I have noted that one of the beauties of baseball is that Ben Anderson and Willa Gibson and Willie Mays and Zoe Pollock are all playing essentially the same game, and that the possibilities of something brilliant--or bonehead--happening are pretty much the same.

Zoe's catch was of the brilliant ilk. Oh yes, she also nailed a double, drove in a pair, and scored a run during the fete.

So, speaking of Mays, and great catches, I must note that the great Giants center fielder turned 80 years old on Friday. I have actually had the pleasure of meeting Mays a couple of times, and even better, I had the added pleasure of seeing him play ball, in his prime.

I remember clearly the first major league game I ever witnessed was on June 9, 1961, when the Giants played the Pittsburgh Pirates at the Stick. I was eight, and thrilled to see the likes of Mays, and Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal, not to mention Roberto Clemente and Bill Virdon and Harvey Haddix, for I had been collecting baseball cards for a few years, and I already knew who all the players were.

That game I remember not just because it was my first, but because Ed Bailey, newly traded to the Giants, hit a Grand Slam, while Mays doubled, drove one in, and scored as well.

And, Willie made a great catch during the game, though not quite the quality of his famous nabbing of Vic Wertz drive in 1954. But, it is hard for me to think of The Sey Hey Kid and not think of that play first.

Happy Birthday Willie, and thank you for so many baseball memories. And, thanks Zoe, for keeping the tradition going.


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