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The day my brother Brent and I became teen-age sports broadcasters

July 13, 2017

1In the midst of a very trying summer (You remember my blog post about selling the house? We still haven’t sold it)  Jill, Julie and I threw our belongings into the van and headed up to the ol’ stomping grounds in Delaware to see my brothers and sisters.

I’m not saying we’re getting frustrated over our house’s decision to remain unsold, but as we headed out of our subdivision, I could see daughter Julie sneer at our home.  I would have corrected her but I also noticed Jill giving the house the stink eye.  I held my peace.

Took me twelve hours to get to the Delmarva peninsula.  I had to go around the D.C. Beltway which reminded me of the nine circles of Dante’s Hell.  And just as confusing.  I got lost, but eventually made it to Delaware.  It was worth the trouble.  Back to the home town.

Good old Delmar, Delaware – or Delmar, Maryland, depending which side of the street you’re on.  The town is on the state border, and during my teen years we lived in both states at one time or another.

Nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers,sisters … We had a grand time with the family, going to church at Hall’s Chapel (founded 1886 and currently pastored by my nephew Daniel Tarr IV), swimming at Fenwick Island, and visiting brother Brent’s pottery studio.

But the best part is when we talked.  And did we ever talk.

The memories came out first in a trickle but then, just as if the stream loosens other rocks, other stories poured forth out of a recollection of a minor detail from someone’s narrative.  (“Did you say Tom Kapanka was the one who broke the window?  Say, do you remember when Tom Kapanka fell out of the car when we were all on a trip…”) Stories piled up and once again, I am simply amazed at some of the stuff that happened during our high school years.

One of our teenage year memories was about our high school chum Timmy Bully.  This guy was a classic.  He was the first kid we knew to grow a moustache and for some reason he had a love affair with leisure suits – wore them all the time.  He rarely bathed, but fancied himself a ladies’s man with a voice like Elvis (disclaimer: false on both the romance and the singing voice).  We recalled the time we all went on a week-long youth group college trip and he had left his toothbrush at home.  No problem for Timmy – he gargled with musk oil cologne.  Yes, I am telling you the truth.  He gargled musk oil cologne.

Then there was the time at camp where one of our teens lost control on a steep muddy hill while running and slipped, stumbled and careened down the fifty-yard slope before finally getting back into a running upright position only to faceplant right into a school bus.  You read that right – a kid actually ran full-tilt into the side of a bus.

I could go on with numerous recollections, but it brought to mind the time that when I was about thirteen, Brent and I were walking home on a Saturday afternoon in our little town (population was about nine hundred) and happened to go by the Delmar Little League Ball Field, where the kids were having a ball game.  It was near the end of the season and the kids were just wanting to get the final game into the books.  Everyone seemed tired and the players seemed listless.  There were about twenty parents lazily cheering on a relatively quiet game that was just starting its second inning.  I glanced up behind the backstop and noticed that nobody was doing any announcing- I guess a game so late in the season with a meaningless game between two cellar-dwelling teams garnered no special announcing assignments.  I looked at fifteen-year old Brent and it didn’t take long for us to realize that this was a golden opportunity to show off some broadcasting skills.

Before the second inning started, we snuck over and checked the side door.  The stairway next to the concession stand was open, leading right up to the announcer’s booth, so up we crawled.  We unfolded two metal chairs in the midst of this messy broadcaster’s room, a plywood affair with electronic wiring snaked haphazardly all over the floor.  In two minutes we found the proper switches and called to some ball boys to get us a line-up from each team.  We acted like we knew what we were doing, so nobody questioned us.

We threw the switch and announced that we would be handling announcing chores for the remainder of the game.  Everybody seemed okay with this.

But we couldn’t leave well enough alone.  We looked over the line-up for the VFW kids and the Flo’s Market team and Brent decided that merely announcing the players was too boring.

With absolutely no permission from anyone, we decided to give the players nicknames as they came to bat.  Brent dared me to go first.  I was up to the task.

A hefty little guy stepped up to the plate.  “Batting left-handed and playing left field for the VFW,” I said, “Number 13, Peter ‘Pork Chop’ Cummings.”

There was a moment of complete silence, but then we heard an explosion of laughter from the VFW dugout.  Even the umpire turned around and chuckled.  The little batter was stunned at first, but grinned.  And he got a single.

Brent took his turn with the next batter:  “Now at bat, number 22, catcher Larry ‘Ladies’ Man’ Everett.”  This round of laughter was even harder.  And so we went.  By the time we announced the fifth batter we were getting a thumbs up from the coaches and we knew we were on to a good thing.  We gave everyone a nickname.

“At bat, number 17, first baseman for Flo’s’:  Luke ‘Skywalker’ Stevens.”

“We’d like to thank our plate umpire, Robert ‘Night Vision” Viceroy, for helping out…”

“At bat, number 32, third baseman for VFW:  Denny ‘the Doberman’ Workman.”

“Here’s a special shout out to VFW third base coach Dave ‘Steroids’ Stevens…”

“At bat, number 11, left field for Flo’s’:  Jimmy ‘Gravedigger’ Greene.”

And for the tiniest kid playing that day:  “At bat, number 8, shortstop for VFW:  Kenny ‘the Crusher’ Wiggins.”  He ran around using that nickname all day, reminding everyone that he was the Crusher.

After a while things got crazier.  People were laughing and calling out for us to give a nickname to this coach, that benchwarmer, this parent.  We obliged as best we could.  We even made up fake sponsors:  “This inning is brought to you by the Bi-State Country Store, whose latest sale on Spam is at a special price, one for two dollars or two cans for five bucks.”

I have no idea what the final score of the game was, but I can tell you that the place wasn’t quiet any longer.  We were all laughing and calling out through the sunny afternoon in a little weedy chain-link fence ballpark at the edge of town near the railroad tracks and we were having a great time.  I thought about this then, and I still do:  the greatest memories aren’t built on wealth or prosperity or minutely-organized plans to the last detail.  Memories are mostly built on spontaneous free-for-all fun.  We were all small-town folk just having a simple bit of laughter.

This brings to mind the passage in the fifth chapter of Ecclesiastes that tells us of the enjoyable surprise that God provides us, not matter what our circumstances: “the ability to enjoy … to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God.”  In other words, God allows happiness in the simplest of things, like when two brothers climb into a rickety announcer’s booth at a tiny ball field with a group of kids and parents on a dusty Saturday afternoon.

And last week’s Delaware trip down Memory Lane once again reminded me to be thankful for the little things that God slides into our lives day by day.







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