Concord Observer: It’s springtime, and springtime is baseball time

June 5, 2024

By Ken Anderson — Columnist

On a recent weekend, we went to three baseball games to watch grandchildren play baseball. 

Outside of the pleasure of watching kids play the game and execute plays (ground ball to second with a throw to first for the out… 4-3, for those of you scoring at home), I was carried back to memories of past baseball.

I grew up in Concord, and we loved baseball. Among the players, there were brothers: Terry and Hoyt Taylor; Jack and Billy Donovan; Bob, Ronny and David Baker; and my brother Billy and me. 

As kids, we were at Emerson Playground to play baseball, both on our own and under the eye of Coach O’Connell. Many of us played sports in different venues after those summers, but we all held dear our time playing baseball with Coach O’Connell.

Radio days

I remember listening to baseball games on the radio with my grandmother. In the 1950’s, attendance was so low you could hear balls bouncing off the grandstands. I understood that Pete Daley, a backup catcher for the Red Sox, stored his car in my grandmother’s barn! 

Why, I wondered in my youthful ignorance, was he Number 8 while the starter, Sammy White, was 22? (I thought that since Yogi Berra was Number 8, all starting catchers were 8.)

In those days, games were televised, with one camera up behind home plate. The camera showed all the players. You could see the position of fielders based on the identity of the batter; you could see how all players reacted to a ball put in play, fielding, backing up the player making the play, backing up the player who would receive the throw, and so on. 

And, happily, there was no spare camera for a young lady to interview the manager during the game!

Diamond dreams

My mother, born in Canada, first played baseball when she moved to Lincoln as a youngster. As she grew older, she dreamed of playing baseball in high school, but that was against the rules for girls. 

And she dreamed of Ted Williams. She told me that she would go to Fenway Park, write a note to Ted, and ask the nearest usher to deliver it to him!

Back to the present: My son Cato was a coach at two games, my daughter Catharine (“Catfish,” since she always wanted to pitch) was a spectator, three grandchildren played, and Laurie Baker-McLaughlin was also watching. 

Laurie Baker was (I hesitate to use the past tense since any athlete I know thinks that they are still) an exceptional athlete. She was on the hockey teams that won gold and silver medals in the 1998 and 2002 Olympics and — Mom, don’t read this — the high school baseball coach would have let her try out for the baseball team!

The “Thinking Man’s Game” 

At the Friday night game, Laurie’s son, Ryan, was brought in to pitch. Watching him, I noticed that he would shake or nod his head, looking in at the catcher before he pitched. Curious, I asked Laurie how many pitches he had in his repertoire. 

One, she replied.

This reminded me of the intellectual aspect of baseball. While it is a team game, it is also a one-on-one confrontation between opponents: pitcher keeping the batter off balance by mixing up his pitches; batter intimidating the pitcher by exuding supreme confidence at the plate; a player fielding a ball while thinking about where the runner is.

Five generations and memories of baseball. 

Sunday night, we were at Rideout Playground. And it felt just like the good old days, with Bakers and Andersons at a baseball game!