Part of my life started here. Look, please. What do you see?
A telephone pole, an alley [between 25th and 26th Portland, Oregon]. A sloping driveway. A nicely painted back of a house, a fence between garage and back porch. A garage with a sliding door. Pretty much it. My home, circa June 17, 1940 to September 1994 when it was sold.
But. So much more. You, trust me on this, are looking at Miller Field. Where I began swinging a bat and pitching a ball. Modified given the field measurements. The bat sliced in half and the ball a tennis ball.
It wasn’t the garage door. It was the backstop, with home plate in the center of the garage door, a bat’s length and 6 inches from the door itself. No catcher, not enough room. It wasn’t a telephone pole. It was first base! Second base was an alder tree across the street, third base the corner of the parking strip and driveway [both out of the picture, but stick with me on this.] and home plate. Well, you can figure that out. You can also figure out no one slid into home on a close play.
Neighbor guys got together. A home run was over the cyclone fence across the street. That meant retrieval from Mr. Mallette’s back yard. Phew, he was a nice man and it didn’t hurt he gave us a bottle of Dad’s Root Beer after our games. He was the manager of that beverage in Portland. Loved root beer every since.
I saw that picture this afternoon and the memories were not a tsunami, but honestly, only a little less. For it was my start in baseball. Dad could pitch, a mean, snapping curve and I tried to hit it. First time batting whiffed long and longer. He was my father, my fishing buddy and my first and best baseball coach. The Miller Field was always in my heart, even more emotionally than Alberta Park where I pitched my first baseball as a Freshman in High School, better than the Sunken Diamond at Stanford where I learned the “get-em-out” slider pitch, better than Skavone Field in Portland for Semi-Professional games and better than Battle Creek, Michigan where I pitched my last pitch for Archer Blower & Pipe team from Portland in the Semi—Professional Baseball World Series.
The Miller Field was the start and goodness, the momentum for the next 20 years. Who would’ve thought it?
As I sit at my computer, starting my 79th year [was my 78th birthday last week] I give thanks to God that I was able to keep on keeping on from Miller Field. Part of my life and goodness to my living. I believe that, even when Ron Gee from Franklin High School, in that first game at Alberta Park hit a home run into another zip code. I saw my grandparents, seated in their 1939 Oldsmobile, clapping. After the game I asked them what that was about. Neither of them knew a thing about baseball, but they knew their grandson was pitching. My grandmother Miller, in her broken English said, “Honey, I clapped because you made him look so good!”
How could you not love that? And I hope, older now than how long she lived, she’s peering down from heaven and still clapping.