Five Stitches and a County Title- Winners Never Quit, Quitters Never Win
When I was fourteen years old I had a ball game on a Saturday afternoon and it was a huge game. I grew up playing football, basketball and baseball and after advancing into pony league ball I was a pitcher for the local school team. Back in the day everyone played for their local elementary school distinct teams regardless of age. Most started playing coach pitch, then moved to pee wee. Next came a little league where the competition started getting better. Then came pony league and at the time that was the oldest ages in my county about 12-14 years old. I loved playing baseball and was a big kid so I learned to pitch the ball when I was little so I could use my size to an advantage.
By the time I reached pony league I was 14 years old in the 8th grade and stood 6’0 and weighed 190 pounds, Back in the late 1970’s that was a big kid for the age. Now kids are like 6’2 240 at that age and many claim it is hormones in the hamburgers. I just think kids just have gotten bigger over time as advances have been made in sports training, foods, and eating habits. Anyways here I am on the big day. A day I had worked for since I was seven years old. I was the number one pitcher on the team, I was the ace on the mound and had a great season going. Well, the morning of the county championship game I was in the dirt road playing with some friends and as I rode down the road on my bike a local dog ran under my wheel throwing me off the bike over the handlebars.
If you have ever experienced that you will know that crushed granite rocks on a dirt gravel road are not very forgiving with the skin. The skin loses that fight and my hands, elbows and face got all scratched up. I got up and went into the house to show my dad waiting on him to get me for being stupid on a game day and not relaxing like I should have. Mom checked me over and my left (glove) hand had a big cut. A cut under my thumb that would require stitches. The game was at 5:00pm across the county and it was like 2:30pm. Mom took me to the doctors office and they put five stitches in my glove hand, cleaned the wound and sent me home. I was mad because the doctor said not to play that day because I would tear the stitches out and get an infection.
Well, we went home dressed and all the time my dad was very quiet and not saying much, I could tell he was concerned about my hand, but also the team as I was the number one pitcher. I was 8-0 that season in games and was scheduled to face the best team we would see all season in that championship game. They had a pitcher that was really good also and he could really throw the ball hard for a 13 year old 7th grader. He was tall and lanky and could bring the heat with an occasional breaking ball. I was a fire baller. I threw heat and tried to move the ball around and had no off speed pitch.
We load up, get dressed and drive across the county 30 minutes to the game site. Back then we had home phones so none of the boys or parents knew I was hurt until we pulled in and got out and here I am standing there with a wrapped up hand. I instantly saw the stress on my teammates’ faces and tried to field their barrage of questions as to what happened, could I play, who was going to pitch for us. My dad and a family friend named Leon were the coaches so they started warming up my friend Chris and he was a pretty good pitcher also. He wasn’t very fast but threw strikes. Chris warmed up and I begged him to let me play. She told me the doctor said no game today.
As fate would have it I was standing there beside the other pitcher talking to him and our catcher threw the ball back a little wildly and it came right at me. Out of instinct I reached out and snagged the ball with my glove and in the process the stitches out of my hand. And it didn’t hurt too bad (well honestly it hurt bad) but I wasn’t going to tell. I proceeded to warm up and get ready for the game. My friend got real nervous and started the game and after a few batters was in trouble. All I could do was stand and watch in the dugout with my torn stitches and open cut. Chris ended up having to come out and we were in a bind with nobody better than him. I told my dad to let me throw. If I hurt bad enough I would walk away, hand him the ball and we could go with put #3.
I walked to the mound, threw a few warmup pitches and the catcher threw the ball back to me very easy each time. The umpire called the game back into action and here I am on the mound 8-0 with no outs and bases loaded. I had a torn hand, busted stitches and was hurting real bad. I looked at my glove and many years earlier my dad had written this in the glove. “Winners never quit and quitters never win”.. It hit me that I had to do this, I had to take one for the team, I had to survive and try to help us win. I went on to pitch the best game of the season. Struck out three straight batters to end the first inning and avoid any runs crossing the plate. I finished the game with ten strikeouts and no hits allowed with one walk.
We dominated the game and won 16-0 in five innings of play called due to the lead being more than 10 runs after five innings. My teammates did a great job making a few key outs when the ball was hit by the opposing team and we smashed the ball at the plate for 16 runs. I was the #4 hitter in the lineup (cleanup hitter). I didn’t bat until the 4th inning as a teammate pinch hit for me. I went to the plate with my old wooden monster named bomber. Tom, the opposing pitcher, had gotten tired and walked the bases full. Well, he hung one of his curveballs over the plate and I got it all. Old bomber sent it over the left field fence for a grand slam which made the score 10-0 and blew it wide open for the win. This story is not about how great a pitcher or hitter I was. It is about the power of positive thinking, working hard and pushing through life events that can get in the way. Winners never quit and quitters never win!