When I was a kid, we found all kinds of ways to play baseball without having the right equipment or the right number of kids or even grassy infields.
If there were two of us, we’d grab a broom handle and a spalding rubber ball and head over to P.S. 20’s narrow alley where a yellow strikezone was permanently painted onto the red brick school building. A hit past the pitcher on the ground was a single, on the fly a double, past the oak tree a triple and into Sanford Avenue a home run.
Three allowed many more options. My favorite was a game we called tagging up in which one kid stood at home, one kid stood in the outfield, and one kid stood on third base. The kid at home would throw a high fly ball to the outfielder who tried to make as spectacular looking a catch as possible – in full sprint, cap flying off head, wild calls of “I got it!” The kid at third would race home, then, trying to beat the throw from the outfield.
We lived in New York City and a lot of us were poor, or didn’t have parents who understood the culture well enough to know how and when to sign us up for Little League. So we organized ourselves. We watched major leaguers hit and pitch and catch and run, we heard television commentators explain the rules. And then we proceeded to make up versions that had familiar echoes but embraced our context. It was the same, and different.
dComposing is my writing life version of stickball and tagging up. Because writing is both the same as it was during my first job out of college, when I was a beat reporter for a small-town New England newspaper. And so very different.