Retro Writing: The DreamRummaging through old boxes can lead to pleasant surprises. While doing just that over the holiday season, I discovered several examples of my earliest baseball writing dating back to my high school and college classes. Those classes were my first serious writing lessons. At the time, my baseball reading was limited to the Chicago Tribune's Sports section, factoids on the backs of baseball cards, articles in Chicago Cubs team yearbooks and Sports Illustrated.
This paper was written for my Creative Writing class at Dwight Township High School (Assignment #24 / April 18, 1991). No edits were made to the original unless suggested by the instructor. Enjoy.
"Welcome to beautiful Wrigley Field. Today's match-up is between the St. Louis Cardinals and our 1991 Chicago Cubs." The Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals have a rivalry that has spanned several decades. For two young Cub fans this is no ordinary game; this is their first.
The two young boys find a seat on the benches out in the Wrigley Field bleachers. The oldest boy turns to his brother, "I don't believe we are actually here!" Wayne Messmer announces, "Here are today's starting lineups. First for the visiting St. Louis Cardinals" Just as any loyal Cub fans, the two boys boo the visiting players. "And now here is the lineup for your 1991 Chicago Cubs!" The entire crowd releases a booming roar. The youngest boy turns to his brother, "I would love to catch a Ryne Sandberg homerun. He's my idol!"
"Everyone rise as we honor America by the singing of our national anthem." The two boys turn to face the flag high above the green scoreboard. As Wayne Messmer sings, the youngest boy continues to dream of catching a Sandberg homerun. "I just know I'm going to catch one!"
"Now it's time to PLAY BALL!" The Cubs take the field and the game begins. Greg Maddux retires the Cardinals in order in the top of the first. Jerome Walton, the lead-off batter for Chicago, flies out to left field. "Look! Sandberg is batting next!"
"Now batting, the second baseman, number twenty three, Ryne Sandberg!" Bryn Smith delivers his first pitch. Sandberg begins his swing and drives the ball deep to left-center field. The two boys rise to their feet. The oldest boy screams, "Hey kid, here's your big chance!" The ball dropped short and was caught at the warning track. "That was so close!" exclaims the younger boy.
As the game continues, Sandberg goes hitless in three at bats. Greg Maddux and Bryn Smith are both pitching outstanding games. Both pitchers have two hit shutouts into the ninth.
"It's the bottom of the ninth. I hope Sandberg gets to bat once more." There is only one out as Sandberg goes to bat in the ninth. "Now batting, the second baseman, number twenty three, Ryne Sandberg!" Bryn Smith releases the first pitch high, ball one. Sandberg takes a swing on the 1-0 pitch, only to foul it out of play. Sandberg receives a letter high fastball and delivers a monstrous homerun swing. "Oh my God! Here it comes!" The crowd rises to its feet. The ball continues to carry closer and closer. "I've got it! I've got it!" The screaming homerun nails the young boy in the forehead. The left-center bleacher bums trample the boy as they scurry for the homerun. The message board on the scoreboard reads, "CUBS WIN!" Everyone in the park files out after the exciting game.
The two boys sit outside the "friendly confines" and wait for autographs. "I really wish I caught that ball." The older brother turn to the other, "The only souvenir you have is the brain damage from that ball!" The younger brother turns his severely swollen head away. "Shut up!" Ryne Sandberg heads for his car and meets the young boy. "You're Ryne Sandberg!" Sandberg chuckles, "Way to use your head, son!" Sandberg pulls a baseball out of his bag, signs it, and hands it to the ecstatic younger.
Postscript: According to the hand-written notes at the end of the paper, I earned an A. My teacher, Tom Patterson, added a few notes: "Very well-written. Good integration of dialogue. I like the ending; for a moment, I thought he'd been killed."
Photo: National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum