Wednesday, June 23, 2010


It's been a rainy day here and there's more rain in the forecast for today. But in the midst of vacation, I'm on a little summer nostalgia kick, thinking about the warm, sunny weather and playing baseball in the yard when I was a kid.

The only reason this Beckham "When They Were Young" card is featured here is because out of all the WTWY cards, this is the one that looks the most like me when I was little. Actually, it looks a lot like my brother. Beckham, in his current state, bears a slight resemblance to my brother. Very slight.

When we were kids, we used any excuse to play baseball. I'm realizing how different it was back then. Sure, we had organized baseball teams and leagues, but you didn't need organization to play ball then. Whenever we could, we would find our neighborhood friends and head to the local high school field and play baseball.

If we didn't have the time to do that, we'd play ball in the yard, or play catch on the walk way, or play G.A.T.S.

G.A.T.S. was a game that developed after we moved to a different city. In our old house, the yard was big enough to play baseball, even if we were always hitting the ball into the neighbor's yard. But the new house had a much smaller yard. We tried to play baseball in it. Once. A shattered window took care of that.

But we couldn't control our desire to spend every waking free moment playing the game. So we'd throw the ball against the front steps and catch it. Soon after, it developed into a full 9-inning game called "G.A.T.S," which was short for "Game Against The Steps." Yes, we were very creative.

I'm sure this isn't terribly original, but we had great fun playing it. You'd throw the ball against the steps and if you caught it, it was an out. If the ball got by you, but stayed on the front lawn, it was a single. If it got past you and you stopped it in the street, it was a double. If it traveled all the way to the other end of the street, it was a triple. If the ball sailed off the steps and landed on the neighbor's lawn across the street on the fly, then it was a home run.

Needless to say, we had some close calls with passing cars. It was a semi-busy neighborhood street.

You'd be surprised how realistic a game like that could be. You needed just two people to play and it actually required that you develop some control or you'd lose. I'm sure the steps at our house suffered some wear, although my parents never complained. I know that the porch light was shattered once because the ball would often ricochet backward onto the porch (that was a foul ball). Soon after, we positioned the second player on the porch to corral other foul balls before they did any damage.

I haven't seen one kid throw a ball against the steps since I grew up playing G.A.T.S. But we couldn't have been the only ones.

One more nostalgia post ahead, and then I'll return to good old 2010.


  1. We didn't play GATS or use the steps, but we had our own version of two man baseball. I do believe you've inspired a post.

  2. We played a lot of baseball with wiffle bats (the skinny yellow kind, not the ridiculous fat bats) and tennis balls. You could throw them hard and hit them pretty hard and far (unlike wiffle balls) without doing a lot of damage.

    I also drew a strike zone on the outside of my house and used to pitch a tennis ball at it when my dad wasn't home to get annoyed. In the lower half of the zone was a ledge that stuck out, and if I hit the ledge it counted as a hit unless I caught the ball on the fly. It would pop up or spit back at me at all kinds of crazy angles.

    My brother stopped playing two-man baseball with me after I slammed a comebacker off the side of his head one too many times.

  3. the porch light damage and assigning a player to guard the porch from any damage reminds me of playing basketball as a kid.

    The home basketball hoop was mounted to the roof of the house over the back porch. If you took a shot from the college 3 point line or closer, the ball wouldn't bounce off the rim hard enough to damage anyting (including the kitchen windows or glass patio doors). As my sis and I got older and stronger, we'd be taking shots from NBA 3point line or even half-court distance shots and the ball would usually hit the rim hard and hit a window pretty good. I"m shocked the glass never broke but it quickly got to the point that the non-shooter would call "guarding glass!" and be in a position that if the ball ricocheted off the rim hard towards the windows/doors, the person would keep the ball from hitting the windows or at least dissipate a lot of the energy so the window strike was very minor.

    as for my childhood baseball games, it was played in the street with a wood bat and tennis ball. Only about 2-3 cars per hour on average in the evenings and the street was nice in that it opened up into a cul-de-sac so quite a wide "outfield" for the tennis ball to land in. If one could bat the tennis ball over 200 feet to past a certain crack in the cul-de-sac pavement, that was considered a homer.

  4. We were more football-oriented as kids, and really preferred playing tackle...well until we broke a kid's collar bone.

    The it was two-below....

    I learned so much about sports in general and football in particular just running around my front yard with my buddies playing like that.

    This may be a rash of "good old days" syndrome, but do kids play games like this any more?

  5. I didn't play a version of G.A.T.S., but like madding above, I had a makeshift pitching zone. My parents live on a pretty hard hill so the patio behind the house is about four feet higher than the sidewalk off the back porch. The whole thing is concrete. I used to draw a square with sidewalk chalk and then use the rubbery baseball that came with my t-ball set to practice pitching. With the number of times I hit the porch post and adjoining support wall, it's no wonder I never pitched in little league (I played 2B, SS, and CF).

    Also, my buddy and I were all about two player baseball. The pine tree in my neighbor's yard was first, the corner of my mom's flower bed was second and the wash pole was third (my buddy had a flimsy rubber home plate). Every time we got a hit, he had to assign ghost runners and like the really old school video games, the base runners could only advance as far as you did on your hit (if you got a single the ghosts only advanced one base). We got into quite a few arguments over where the ghost runners were.

    Those were good times. And yeah, like other people alluded to, I just don't see kids doing that sort of stuff anymore. I guess that is the by-product of organized "play dates", daycare raising kids instead of parents, and all of the technology kids are prone to own. When I was a kid, I probably watched an hour of TV each day, and that was usually trying to figure out Days of Our Lives while I ate lunch with my mom.

  6. Owl, I'm pretty sure you lived in the house I grew up in as a kid before I lived there. Okay, not really, but we had the same small yard, front steps, porch light, semi busy street/always avoiding cards thing going on.

    We just kept on keeping on with the side yard games, much to the chagrin of the side window/siding of the garage/my neighbor's fence/all of the grass in our sideyard/my mom's car. We finally wised up to our lacrosse ball/baseball ways when we grew older and switched over to wiffle ball, but the damage was already done. I now drive that Subaru Impreza and it's got a big old baseball sized dent in the I wish my brothers and I had been smarter kids!

    Our wiffleball worked well though - strikezone was a pizza box taped to a pitchback, and the diamond ended up very diamond shaped indeed, with 3rd and 1st far closer to each other than 2nd and home. Homeruns were hit over my neighbors house across the street. We never hit any of those (it's pretty far, like 350 feet maybe), but we did have a couple bombs that landed in their front bushes, which was basically a homerun anyways.

    Ahhh...good times.

  7. We played the same game but used the curb instead and called it the terribly original "curb ball".

  8. Very absorbing post and comments, all.

    Games with the neigbor kids when I was growing up usually revolved around football (not always, but usually). It was only when I was alone that I could make up games revolving around baseball. I would toss the ball in the air and hit it. Hitting the ball between certain power lines was a single, double or triple. It was a home run if I could hit it over all of them. I would keep track of stats for entire "seasons."