©Bruce Greene, 2019

In teaching literature,  the theme of childhood is always a winner.  Most everybody has one. Most of us lose them along with our innocence. The stories are important and valuable.  Usually, when teaching the novel The Catcher in the Rye, I’d ask my students to bring to class an object that represents their childhood.  I’d do the same. This activity came early on in the year and would work as an ice-breaker and help us all get to know one another better.  Of course, there were all manner of Barbie dolls, some traditional and some punked up. Model cars, airplanes, rocket ships, and superhero toys were frequent items shared. Some kids would bring books and others went conceptual, like the student who poured a container of water through the air into another container and said that water represented his childhood because he almost drowned.  The specific story followed. One of the most memorable was the student who brought in some clothing from her native Iran and proceded to tell the class about how she and her mother escaped a repressive regime. Upon landing in the U.S. they went straight to the airport restroom, changed their clothing, and tossed the more traditional garb into the first trash can they saw. Powerful stuff.  Lots of laughs and lots of tears all around. But then, that’s childhood.

I’d usually bring in my Little League baseball glove and tell the story of how I grew up a Giants fan in L.A. and wanted a Willie Mays glove.  My father took me to United Sporting Goods, the biggest sporting goods store in the city, and we found one! I’m convinced that glove helped me make a few plays just like my idol.  I made the case for that belief in the last Little League game I ever played, robbing a kid named Joey of a home run, much to the disgust of his father.

I was thinking about that glove the other day when I recalled the story of another glove.  Like my signature model, it was made by the MacGregor company. Only this other glove, which belonged to Paul, a neighbor kid I regularly played baseball with, was even more special.

My friend Paul’s glove was solid black and came to him suddenly. It was an accidental gift from the baseball gods. He was riding along with his father in Hollywood, California one afternoon.  His dad was a sound engineer at Technicolor and he often went to work with him on Saturdays to gather scraps of film left on the cutting room floor. He’d bring home small rolls of discarded film with scenes from such classic movies as “The Robe” and “Sparticus.”  A big deal for 10-year-olds. Anyway, as they were driving through Hollywood, a large bus merged in front of them. Just about the time they noticed the logo of the Hollywood Stars baseball team on the bus, a glove fell from an open window! A beautiful, all black, MacGregor glove.  His dad pulled over and Paul fetched up the glove, but the team bus was long gone. They made an attempt to re-unite the glove with its owner, but that never happened. Nobody claimed that glove. Paul swore his dad called the team office and reported the glove they found. Nothing came of it. That glove played its remaining days on Bonner Avenue and at our local Little League field.

Major league baseball was still a couple of years away from the West Coast.  Still, we all knew that glove was special. It belonged to a real baseball player, a pro. Even though the Stars were a minor league team (Part of the Pacifc Coast Legue) they were our team; they were all we had.

While we were all admiring Paul’s “real” glove, it may have become a curse for him.  At infield practice early in the Little League season, coach was hitting line drives to infielders. Paul was a shortstop and that black glove looked good making difficult plays. But he was fooling around and momentarily turned to joke with another player when a line drive struck his face.  One of his front teeth was knocked out—clean. Paul was rushed to the ER and we waited to hear how he was doing. Some of the kids returned to the ball park and combed the grass until they found the tooth. Ultimately it was re-inserted into Paul’s mouth and stayed a couple of years there until it was finally replaced by an artificial one.  Nobody verbalized it but we all wondered if the baseball gods were getting even for that glove.

We lost the Hollywood Stars after the Dodgers and Giants migrated to California.  Along with them we lost neighborhood pick-up games. No longer could I shag fly balls in front of Bertie Rodgers hedge, which was our ivy-covered Wrigley Field.  No more tennis balls hit on and over the McCardle’s roof, our green monster like the one in Boston. That black glove will never replace the feeling and pride of my Willie Mays glove but as neighborhood legends go, the black MacGregor remains one of the better ones.

©Bruce Greene, 2019

             Bruce Greene taught for 33 years at El Cerrito High School. As a teacher-consultant for the Bay Area, Oregon, and National Writing Projects, he’s offered many workshops on the teaching of writing and literature.  His specialty is using Blues music in Language Arts and Social Science curriculum.

           In his eclectic writing career, Bruce has been a correspondent for a national thoroughbred horse magazine and published everything from poetry to creative non-fiction and memoir.  Recent credits include the anthologies The Pressures of Teaching, and What Teaching Means:Stories from America’s Classrooms. He was the 2010 winner of WORK Literary Magazine’s memoir competition.  A founding member of The Guttery, a Portland- based writing group, he currently lives and writes in Portland, Oregon.


One Response to “Black Magic by Bruce Greene”

  1. saraschupack Says:

    Great descriptions of neighbored baseball! I enjoy the tension between gaining something (local pro baseball) and losing something ( the magic of a found mitt and neighborhood games).

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