Academic journal article Nine

The Broncos of Buckshaw: A Reminiscence. (Tales from the Dugout)

Academic journal article Nine

The Broncos of Buckshaw: A Reminiscence. (Tales from the Dugout)

Article excerpt

It's 2:30 on a weekday afternoon in the early spring of 1971. I can't take my eyes off the institutional IBM clock that dominates the wall of my seventh-grade classroom. I have no comprehension of what the teacher is saying; her lips move and sounds emerge, but she may as well be speaking Swahili. My attention is entirely focused on that stupid clock. Why won't that minute hand move? Is it broken or something?

Finally, after what must be hours, the big black dial jerks into its proper place: 2:39! The electronic boooop blares forth from loudspeakers across the campus. School's out! With practiced haste I scoop up my books and binder and blast my way through the thronging crowds in the hallways (technically, in this 1950s-vintage suburban California school site, they're outdoor "breezeways," but no one ever calls them that). I stash my school junk in my locker, and well before 2:45, I'm on my bike, furiously pedaling away from school. Moments earlier, time moved in agonizing slow motion, but now it races, with anxious velocity. The game started at 2:30! It's going to be at least the bottom of the first before I can get there!

I rocket my bike down Benton Street, past the Carmelite Monastery, across Monroe Street and past Shaw's Ice Cream Parlor. A car, meandering into a turn, nearly cuts me off--idiot!--but, expertly, I swerve out of the way. I nearly fly into the shortcut across the big empty lot behind the Bank of America building, rattling and bouncing at top speed over hillocks, weeds, and broken glass. Then I'm onto the university campus, and that's where I first see Souza. He's on his bike too, moving with just as much speed and purpose as me. "Hey!" I shout, and "Hey!" he responds, but there's no need for further conversation.

Heavy traffic on the Alameda forces us to pause--damn!--but as soon as we cross it, we are, at last, in sight of Buckshaw. Buckshaw-- officially it's "Buck Shaw Stadium," but to us it's always "Buckshaw": one word, accent on the first syllable. It's a modest structure, an expanse of turf ringed by light towers and partially ringed by a sloping earthen berm supporting rows of aluminum benches set in concrete. Including the movable bleachers placed around the outfield, filled to capacity it seats little over 10,000. To us it is the Taj Mahal.

We drop our bikes in Souza's yard, and then we're running, across the street and through the gates of Buckshaw. The ticket takers know us well and pay us no heed as we rush past their posts. Before we can see the playing field, we hear a sudden roar from the crowd, and this frustrates us--something's happening and we're not there yet!--but now we see the big scoreboard in left-center field, and it still shows nothing-nothing.

We're no longer jogging now, because we've reached the zone in which we force ourselves to maintain a cool, knowing insouciance. We enter the playing field on the right-field side, through the chain-link gate midway between the Broncos' bullpen and dugout Souza walks slightly ahead of me now, and I let him; though it has never been spoken, we both well know that he is the primary batboy, and I'm secondary ("Manny's protege," as one of the players once put it), and as we enter the dugout and walk toward our posts, Souza gains acknowledgment from several players ("Hey, Manny, whaddya say?") and all I rate are one or two casual nods.

We arrive, finally, at the home plate end of the dugout. It's evident that we haven't been there: things are a godawful mess. The pine tar rag and batter's resin bag are carelessly askew, the weighted donuts are all here and there, and no one even knows--no one even knows!--where's the supply of freshly rubbed up balls for the umpire.

It's a wonder this team ever gets the games started without us. Shaking our heads and sighing patiently, we get to work putting things in proper order. It's just after 3:00 on a sunny spring afternoon, the Broncos are playing, Souza and I are in the dugout, and everything is right with the world. …

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