By Robin Garrison Leach
We played Bottle Cap Baseball all summer long when I was a girl; the Laundromat up the street saved all the Tab, Orange Crush and Pepsi bottle caps from their machine for us. My brothers would amble there with an empty Kroger bag each Saturday morning and come home with a jangling sack that they tossed back and forth as they walked.
With an old broom handle and those cork-lined caps, Mom and my brothers and I had many afternoons of yelling, bragging and fun that turned our gravel driveway into a field of dreams.
There were ball games with neighborhood kids; games of catch with grimy baseballs or softballs whose frayed stitches wheezed puffs of country dust with each mitted whump, and even “Keep-Away from Robin” games that my four brothers invented to make sure I remembered that I was “just a girl”.
But my favorite baseball memories were ones of our Cardinals. Though I lived more than 50 miles from the stadium and couldn’t imagine what it looked like, the sounds of the game were mine to treasure.
We didn’t have a radio in the house. On hot summer Sunday afternoons, I would hear the kitchen screen door slam shut and knew it was Cardinals Baseball time.
Dad had grabbed a cold beer from the ice box and was on his way to our black 56 Chevy that sat baking in the side yard.
I’d wait a bit, until he had all the windows down and had cranked up the volume on the crackly AM station in the car’s dashboard.
Then I’d gallop, barefooted and pig-tailed, to scramble onto the steamy back seat for a sweaty afternoon of Harry Caray and the rhubarb of hordes of baseball watchers miles away.
The boozy, smooth voices of the announcers were as memorable as the scores. Their baseball commentary and manly banter was not too interesting to a 9-year-old, but the tone and timbre of each phrase melded with the smell of the hot plastic car seats and Dad’s beer to inspire excitement and a feeling of being a part of something special.
For the complete column, see this week’s edition of the Centralia Fireside Guard