Christmas is an aromatic season … cedar trees, cookies baking in the oven, crackling fireplaces, and that special smell of a brand new baseball glove! ..I was doing some almost last minute shopping and wandered into a local Dick’s Sporting Goods. .. ..Christmas and sporting goods forever linked in a child’s memory.
I tried on a baseball glove this week. It’s been a coupla decades since I’ve done that; but instinct took over and there I was pounding my fist to “make a pocket”. It felt good. I picked up a baseball and gripped a two-seam fastball then a “knuckler”. My “breaking balls” were always much better with a wiffle ball than a “real baseball” but I was snapping my wrist and “pretending”. The guy beside me looked at me kinda funny but seemed to understand. Do they still have “neatsfoot oil” … do they still make jokes about trapping “neats” and cutting off their little feet to make the oil?They actually have “pocket making kits” now. We just put an old ball in the pocket, tied it up tight with a belt and let it sit in a bucket of water overnight … then, of course, rubbed “neatsfoot oil” into it. Getting a new mitt for Christmas was special.I picked up a bat … you don’t just “pick up” a bat. You grab it outta the rack and grip it and do a little mini-swing … being sure to have the trademark facing up. That whole trademark thingie was hooey but I like hooey. Getting a new mitt and a new bat for Christmas was extra special.“Taking infield” is still one of Life’s special little pleasures …..Over the years I got all the boy sporting goods stuff. Basketball, football, tennis racquet, et al. I didn’t take up golf until post-college so I never waggled on Christmas morning.
Mamma said every child should get a pair of skates for Christmas. We’re talking clip onto the soles of your shoes and tighten with a key skates … not “in-line” with space-age technology wheels. I never was into skating but sure enough I got a pair one year.
Growing up Downeast we never had sub-zero weather but it could get chilly in December … no matter … you were out in the driveway and around the neighborhood with your new gear … bouncing, kicking, throwing, and the aforementioned pounding a pocket.
No discussion of Christmas sporting goods would be complete without “that electric football game” with the metal field and the little vibrating players … and that kicker that kicked a little cotton ball with his spring loaded foot. I went one better with a game called Foto-Electric Football that used a light box and offense and defense overlays. You pulled out the light board and watched the runner try to avoid the tacklers. I wish I had that game right now. I wonder if Interim Ev ever played that game.
How many had those little frogmen that ran on baking soda? Put baking soda in a special compartment and they were alka seltzer powered little frogmen in your bathtub.
Remember a horse racing game where Dad would touch his cigarette to a star on the special racing sheet and the burning lines would “race” to a finish line?
I didn’t see any of those at Dick’s Big Box Store. I saw FoosBall and Air Hockey which seem like good “play on Christmas morning while still in your pajamas” games. They have all sorts of dart boards now. We had the standard “put your eye out” metal spear darts. Most of Mom’s lamp shades had dart holes in them.
A Daisy BB gun (NOT an “air rifle”; a BB gun!), pellet guns, a single shot .22, and ultimately a .410. I worked my way up the boy’s firearm chain. I was always more of a threat to cans and bottles than the neighborhood sparrows and squirrels.
Of course, I got a new pair of Chuck’s most years. If you don’t know what “a new pair of Chuck’s” are then you’re on the wrong website. I always wanted the lowcuts as they were supposed to make you run faster.
I still have most if not all the Chip Hilton books. Written by some old coach named Clair Bee; Chip Hilton was the literary version of Danny Talbot, Paul Miller, or Leo Hart. Chip and his pals always won the “big game” with last second heroics. They played football, basketball, and baseball and always played fair, never blamed the refs, and, to the best of my memory, had no “lunatic fringe” to contend with. I always wondered what would have happened if Chip Hilton’s team had ever met Gil Thorpe team in a “big game”.
I’m the only boy at my house. Kid is not a Title lX kinda girl. Mention “Twins” to her and she thinks Mary Kate & Ashley; not Harmon Killebrew and Bob Allison. I’m cool with that. I have my own bathroom where I can leave the seat up so I can’t complain too much.
Most households right now have kids doing thumb exercises as they “play” their high tech NBA and NFL Madden video games. Those things sure are amazing examples of technology … but I bet I could take my 11 little blue men, bend their little metal strips just so, flip the “on” switch and watch their “flying wedge” vibrate right through those wussie one dimensional video players … and then kick that little cotton ball straight thru the uprights for the extra point.
Now I have all you nostalgic for those sporting Christmases of your youth. If you’ve got kids, or grandkids, … gather’em around you and tell’em about slaughtering those neats to make your mitt smell just right. If P.E.T.A. ever tries to get “neats” on that “endangered” list, let’s all grab a bat and hit’em (but not on “the trademark”, of course.)