Not quite the Pirates field, but good enough for us
Published 6:21 pm Monday, June 13, 2022
Watching East Carolina play baseball in the Super Regionals on television, I noticed tarps rolled up down the third base foul line. These tarps would help keep the field dry in case of rain. It made me think of the days that every neighborhood had a baseball field and the boys in that neighborhood took great pride in the lot where their field was located. Oh, we did not have tarps but the Pirates had nothing on us!!
We had baselines mowed out with our lawnmowers and we used wood for our bases. We did not have a back stop like the Pirates have behind home plate, but we were proud of our field. No one had a better field than my neighborhood. It was located in front of Donnie Waters’ house on Eleventh Street and over the street was an automatic homerun.
The neighborhood boys would watch TV and to look at the Major League stadiums to find out what we could add to our stadium. It had to be simple because we did not have a fence like Boston’s Green Monster in Fenway. We did have a store where we could sit down and have a swig of Pepsi-Cola and a Lance nab after the game between other neighborhoods. We used our field to practice on and it was as hard as a rock, not manicured like the Pirate’s field.
Guys like Joe Stalls, Phil Edwards, Bobby Hardy, Woody Hardy, Lee Drake, Julian Dudley, Bubba Gerard, Donnie Waters and occasional appearance by big William Neal Martin made our team the best in town, The Fleming brothers from Thirteenth Street made an appearance if we could talk them into it. They helped make our team even better.
In the fall, we used our lot for Sunday afternoon football games or we visited Tomp and Bill Litchfield’s home to play. They had a big lot with shrubs surrounding our field and kept us from running onto Bonner Street. Phone lines were busy after church on a Sunday trying to get up with the boys in the neighborhood to play. Sand spurs were a constant ache in the fall and summer and the ball would have them imbedded so it made it hard to catch and hold. Still, we played!
During basketball season we used the asphalt courts behind the high school to play basketball. Joe Ange was the man on that court and sometimes we had Riley Roberson playing with us. If we could get into the gym at the high school, we played there until Coach Wagner would come and run us out. He always said, “Ugh, I don’t know what I ‘m gonna do to you keep you boys out of the gym.” He would never tell our parents unless we broke something like a window but that was rarely.
Life was simple back in the days and truly the best of times growing up. We never went without a game from summer to spring and that is why Washington High School was always successful in athletics. We made ourselves better by playing a sport each season and on our fields. We shot baskets until dark and then cut lights on and played until bedtime. Looking back now, they were the best of times, sandspurs and all!
They were the best of times with the best of friends and in the best of places, Washington, N.C.! The Original Washington!