The glory days of whiffle ball

Published 9:13 pm Sunday, April 22, 2018

My Dad spent many hours planting azaleas, dogwoods and rose bushes to make our yard one of the prettiest in our neighborhood. He spent hours watering and fertilizing the extra shrubs to help them grow. Pine trees surrounded our yard and helped produce pine straw that was put into beds later to keep all the plants warm in the winter. Despite all of Dad’s efforts, our yard was better known as the best “Whiffle Ball” field in the neighborhood.

Whiffle ball was played with a plastic bat and plastic ball with holes in it. The holes would restrict the distance it traveled and the direction it took. Rules for the game were much like baseball but could be modified at any time, according to the number playing.

The plants and pine trees were used as bases or a wall, and if you hit one over the pine trees, it was an automatic home run. The azaleas could be used as bases and the rose bushes got destroyed catching fly balls. The Twins (Betty and Jane) were good for a home run a game, as was Rose Ann.

Ed and Mary Walker had just moved beside the Gerards’ house on Ninth Street. This added Larry and Steve to our neighborhood, giving us two more good athletes who could be counted on to play. Their older brother, Rusty, was in high school and was a tennis player. He never got involved much, as he was older, but Larry and Steve could always be counted on. Larry and Steve are avid tennis players still to this day.

We used our imagination to make the games more fun. We taped the bat, ball and even used a bigger bat to hit it to make it go farther. There were times we threw overhanded and other times we threw it underhanded. Rules were flexible! Off the house could be an “out,” and you could throw the ball at the runner to get him “out” if necessary. The whiffle ball games became very competitive but still fun and played daily and sometimes at night. With backyard lights the night games were fun. One night, Lee Drake (Burger), brought Joe Stalls over to play. Joe was left-handed and hit one of the farthest balls that I can ever remember, and it landed in the Singletons’ yard. I would love to see Joe Stalls, as he has moved to Florida after his college days, and I have not seen him since. I hear that he is doing well but sure do miss him, like many others from the neighborhood.

Even with the pride my Dad took in our yard, he never asked us to stop playing whiffle ball. He was like most parents of that time: if the children were in the yard, they knew where we were. They expected some damage to either their yards or homes by children playing and having a good time outside. I wish we could see more children outside today, but with the invention of television and internet, imagination is not being used as much, and that is a shame. Wish they could get in a good game of whiffle ball!

The best of times, with the best of friends, in the best of places — Washington, NC.

— Harold Jr.