The Colorado Rockies run toward a possible world championship — they’ve won 20 of their last 21 games — reminded me of the one and only time I’ve ever been on a championship team.
It was the last 1950s, my last year in Little League. The team was the Fairyland Flyers. Fairyland was a tiny amusement park tucked away in one of Brooklyn’s less traveled areas. It main attraction was a rollercoaster that, compared with Coney Island’s Cyclone, was an ant next to a blue whale. At their highest point, the Fairyland coaster’s tracks were only a few yards higher than they were at their lowest point.
The team played all its games, both home and away, in Marine Park, a huge expanse of grass whose center was dotted with ballfields. It was about a 15-20 minute walk from the city projects I lived in.
I played some second base, some outfield and, infrequently pitched. I didn’t pitch often because I had only one pitch. It was faster than a slowball, but slower than a fastball. It moved on a straight line and was very inviting for any hitter who could swing without losing his balance. Though the league didn’t have many batters who could make contact with a ball and hit it fair, it had enough to warrant my infrequent trips to the mound.
The team won enough games during my last season to earn a spot in the league championship. For some reason that I no longer remember, on the season’s final day we played a doubleheader.
George Glass pitched the first game. Though he was shorter than I was — and I was short — he was heavier. And on the mound he had much more success than I did in getting batters out. In fact, he got enough out in the first game to earn us a spot in the championship game.
I’d stood on the sidelines for the entire first game. The fields at Marine Park didn’t have any dugouts or even benches. You had to choose between sitting on the grass or standing. None of the players ever brought anything to sit on. As the first game neared its end, my hopes rose that I would pitch the second game. I was the team’s second-best pitcher. But to my shock, the manager, a man named Lou whom I disliked, asked George if he had enough left to take the mound for the second game. George said he did.
Worse, Lou didn’t even write my name into the starting lineup.
The team won the second game, George pitching another complete game. To celebrate, about a week later, we went to the Fairyland amusement park where I made the mistake of riding its rollercoaster.
It made me sick.
For years I kept the cheap trophy that each team member was given to commemorate our victory. Years ago, my wife convinced me to discard it. I don’t miss it. What I do miss is not having had the opportunity to take the mound in the Fairyland Flyers’ finest moment. If that had happened, the team probably would have lost and I wouldn’t have gotten the cheap trophy. But at least I would have pitched in the “big game.”