The passing of Stan the Man a few months ago got me “musing” the other day. When I was younger I was quite the baseball fan and I would imitate the various batting stances of the noted players of the day, and Musial’s twisted left-handed stance was prominent among these poses.
I also had a mean Joe Morgan, replete with the requisite flapping of the left elbow as well as a Willie Stargell windmill that was undoubtedly menacing (at least to my image in the mirror). Heck, I even had a Mel Ott high kick in there for good measure.
At times I would leave the safety of the bedroom mirror and work on these drills outside, following through with a swing that in my mind should have been noticed by at least a few major league scouts in the area. Alas, it was never to be. But it wasn’t for lack of practice.
So it was that day that I was practicing someone’s stance outside by the shop behind our house. About fifty feet away was my immediate younger brother, minding his own business as he was seated on an old blue Honda 70 motorcycle pretending, I’m sure, to be far away on some open road with his long hair flowing in the breeze.
That he was sporting the typical early 70’s buzz cut our dad gave us (these haircuts came in two styles- “short” and “shorter”) was totally beside the point. In his mind he probably looked Peter Fonda-esque, to say the least.
At any rate, I was taking my cuts with a 28 ounce Louisville Slugger when I had one of those moments of premonition that in retrospect should have been heeded. However, a 12 year old obsessed with the perfect swing doesn’t always take the time to note what the “still, small voice” might be whispering. What presented to my mind’s eye was a perfectly clear picture of me following through with a Ruthian whiff and the bat accidentally leaving my hands and whirling toward my brother, handle over end, and clocking him right on the forehead with a loud “Pop”! What actually happened with my next swing was that I followed through with a Ruthian whiff and the bat accidentally left my hands and whirled toward my brother, handle over end, and clocked him right on the forehead with a loud “Pop”!
I don’t recall what he did after the bat met his skull, but I’m sure he had at least a quizzical look on his face just before he passed out for a few seconds. Needless to say, my batting days were terminated, at least for that afternoon. I don’t know if the concussion my brother received has had any lasting affects; my siblings would have to chime in on this one. I do know that many of us suffered concussions during our growing up years. It was almost a rite of passage. The concern for traumatic head injury has certainly changed how these cases are managed, from the local athletic contests all the way to the rarified air of professional sports leagues.
It remains to be seen how this focus on closed head injury will affect the future of high school, collegiate, and professional sports. Some have expressed that current iterations of the games we know and love may not exist in the not-too-distant future. I do know that closed head injuries weren’t considered a public health problem way back when. What seemed to be more problematic was how to explain to Mom how my brother got that goose egg on his noggin. At least she had to believe my version of the events; he seemed to have trouble recalling much of that long ago afternoon…