A voice from the crowd - reflections of my national pastime

June 12, 2005|by Byron Ferguson

From my youth, I recall the prudent words of my favorite uncle: "Young man, any activity that lends itself to sitting, is an activity that is to be cherished and revisited often."

My uncle of course was talking about that timeless, meandering sport called baseball. No clock, no deadline, no hurry. I recall relaxing in a cramped, hard plastic seat, the sun streaming down on my face, and the unending rich green grass stretched out in front of me. The unforgettable smell of hot dogs, beer and roasted peanuts wafted through the air.

Growing up in California, I recall having a transistor radio pressed against my ear as I leisurely listened to Vin Scully slowly -always slowly - painting a picture filled with excitement, tension and anticipation. While the rest of the world blurred by, the summer stretched into forever. They were lazy days, hot smoggy days, and nights filled with soft, warm breezes. Sitting in the left field pavilion at the ballpark, it was perfect weather for a night game.


I recall box scores in the morning paper. The endless debate on big John Parker's front porch about who was better, Mays or Aaron? Who was a better thief, Brock or Wills? Who was the better pitcher, Seaver or Carlton? I recall staring at my poster of Roberto Clemente in my bedroom and dreaming that I was making a great catch or hitting the game-winning home run to win the World Series.

In the wonderful world of my baseball youth, the adult worries of the day never entered in. Vietnam, Watergate, inflation, race riots ... they just never had a part in this world. A player's nationality or color never made it into the lineup. Could he hit, run and throw? That was all we wanted to know. The memories are of a player's smiling face on a Wheaties box, not a mug shot from a police blotter.

We traded for our sixth Frank Robinson baseball card, not because we thought it was worth a lot of money but because Frank was the best. We shoved wads of Bazooka gum in our mouth because we didn't know what the heck chewing tobacco was. We spent hours playing Wiffle Ball in the back yard. That two-story apartment building just over the left-field fence was a perfect color of green. Our own Green Monster! I recall sitting under the oak tree that doubled as second base and laughing as Kenny Phillips recounted how he had gone 3-for-4 on the day.

Nowadays, being a father of three, I want my kids to enjoy this great game as much as I have. I hope they find joy in a lazy fly ball, excitement in a late-inning home run, the sweet and sticky fun of cotton candy. But more importantly, I hope they can find the time in this fast-paced world to create fond memories of an endless summer of just sitting and watching the world go by and by.

"A Voice From The Crowd" is a weekly feature in The Herald-Mail which gives sports fans an opportunity to be a sports columnist. This week's guest columnist, Byron Ferguson, is a resident of Smithsburg. Comments on his column can be sent to

If you are interested in becoming a contributor to this column, e-mail Sports Editor Mark Keller at

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