Off Base: Little League glory (?) days

My hometown newspaper recently ran my former Little League coach's obituary. When he died, a little bit more of my childhood passed away with him.

I will refer to my old coach as Buttermaker, the Walter Matthau character of that name in "The Bad News Bears." That movie came out soon after I played for him, and Matthau reminded me a bit of him. He never offered us beer in the dugout, but I liked him a lot anyway. He was a good manager. He was fun, and he loved baseball.

We had three divisions in our Little League -- minor, major minor and major. Minor league was for 9- and 10-year-olds and was basically the equivalent of instructional league in that we were taught how to field a ground ball without peeing our pants. Or after peeing our pants, as was occasionally the case.

Major-minor was for 10- to 12-year-olds and was the equivalent of Double-A or Triple-A. If "Baseball America" or Keith Law had been around back then, they would have written about us.

Jimmy shows promise as a catcher, but his future is in the outfield because of his arm and because he insists on wearing his shin guards to bed and his mother is really getting tired of how they rip the sheets.

The majors, of course, were the big leagues. You played on the best field against the best players. And unlike the kids in the two lower leagues who wore T-shirts with the team names stenciled on the front, players in the majors wore real uniforms with jerseys, pants and stirrup socks. All that was missing was chewing tobacco and groupies.

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