May 22, 1948
Mitchell Lipensky was not too athletic, and really not too interested in sports of any kind.
Oh, yes, he’d play football, both touch and tackle with the guys, but as for softball, his enthusiasm was minimal, except when…
"Mitchell! Yooo, Mitchell!”
Running from the kitchen, letting the screen door slam shut behind him, he leaned over the banister. “Yeah, Sharon?”
Almost fifteen, Sharon was a pretty Jewish girl with the unlikely last name of Duffy. She and her divorced mother lived in a second floor apartment, in the two-story building on the southwest side of the bisected alley. “Yo, Mitch! You wanna play baseball?”
Considering, he looked to see who was there.
The kids were sitting on the low, broken wall of a 4x6 cement incinerator that was to the side in the junction of the tri-cornered alley. There was fifteen-year-old Phyllis Koscinski, the Polish girl that lived next door to Mitchell. It was her porch that must be crossed when entering or leaving the Lipensky porch. Sitting next to Phyllis were the fourteen-year-old twins, Susan and Sally Gugulski. Next to Sally was Marlene, the thirteen-year-old daughter of Abe, from the corner deli, and to the left of Marlene was “Big” Rosalind Feigenbaum. On his porch, Norman was awaiting Mitchell’s answer because, though he’d rather play ball with the guys, he’d rather play ball than not play ball, and if it had to be with the girls, so long as Mitchell played, he’ll play, and besides, Mitchell’s team usually lost.
Tossing the split-seamed, ten-inch softball in the air and catching it, “So, you wanna play?” Phyllis called.
Mitchell looked at Norman, who shrugged his shoulders.
“Yeah! Be right down!” Rushing back to the kitchen, letting the screen door slam shut behind him, shoving the rest of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in his mouth and gulping down half a glass of milk, slamming out of the apartment again, running down the three flights of stairs, “Same sides?”
“Yeah, sure.” Norman answered. “Why not?”
As always, it was Norman, Marlene and, for fourteen-year-old girls, the hard-hitting, fast-running Gogulski twins against Mitchell, Sharon, Phyllis and lumbering, Big Rosalind. Norman and Mitchell were the power hitters and by then actually had a team rivalry… of sorts.
Norman tossed the bat to Mitchell, then wrapped his fist around the bat on top of Mitchell’s fist. Mitchell’s hand went snugly against Norman’s, then Norman’s and, “Buttercups!” like a small steam shovel, Mitchell’s hand capped the top of the bat. “We’re up!”
They played facing east in the long portion of the alley, with “home” just opposite the first floor of Mitchell’s building.
Norman’s team took their places in the field; Norman pitched. Marlene went to shallow left, but because of the tall fence that bordered the alley, left was actually closer to center. Sally took deep center and Susan right field.
Phyllis was up first.
The following batter was always catcher, so Sharon knelt a few feet behind the crushed tomato juice can that on that day served as home. Slow, but if connecting, Big Rosalind was powerful and, waiting her ups, Rosalind stood in the shade leaning against the building. Batting clean-up, in his usual spot, Mitchell sat on a cinderblock in the dirt to the right and just slightly forward of the batter.
“Okay,” Norman called from the pitcher’s mound, a chunk of broken concrete, “Batter up!”
Phyllis and Sharon’s standard baseball uniforms were blue jeans and one of their father’s old, short-sleeved, loose-fitting dress shirts open at the collar and, depending on how hot it was, an additional one or two buttons down…
And on this day it was hot.
Phyllis came to home and, grasping the bat, hunched forward, leaned to the right and concentrated on Norman’s pitch.
Sitting on the cinderblock with his elbows on his knees, his head held in the palms of his hands, hunched forward also, Mitchell cocked his head to the left and, “Come on, batter!” he called to Phyllis watching her closely. “Slug it!”
Straining to “kill it,” the tip of the poised bat moved in a slow, tight circle, and Phyllis crouched even lower…
The collar of the loose fitting blouse gapped open and…
Phyllis’s breasts swung pendulously, openly, and in full view of Mitchell.
Sharon was up next.