DAY # 13:
yea, I know it has to get worse before it gets better…. I guess that goes for our government leaders too, except for them it never seems to get better…… the virus will get defeated and we will come back tougher and stronger then before but the question is: “will our government leaders ever get better ?
where are the Harry Truman’s of the country” ? …google Harry to find out what I mean….
enough wishful thinking, let’s get back to my JU college tryout for the much coveted free education (beats working on Wall St.)
my friends who were coming back to NY, accompanied me to the tryout…. we arrived early so I could meet Coach Daughton. he was a short plump guy who wore glasses and spoke as though his nose was clogged up…. he said he was also from NY but was in Jacksonville for 3 years now and loved being there. he then took me and my friends on a tour of the campus. I was blown away with the “newness” of all the buildings, classrooms, dorms, athletic facilities including an outdoor Olympic swimming pool with lights for evening swimming. a 9 hole golf course adjacent to the beautiful St. John’s river just across from the city…. my heart was beating a mile a minute..I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing.students going to class in shorts, tee shirt and flip-flops…….. I thought to myself, “I have to get into this school.”…. then the coach dropped the bombshell when he said to me “the exhibition game will be played tonight at Raiford State Penitentiary. it’s about 45 miles south of here and we will be going in cars…. unfortunately your friends cannot come, just you with me and the team.” …. I swallowed my shock, said goodbye to my friends and i got in one of the cars for the ride to Raiford State Penn….. If you google the Penitentiary you will find out that it was the roughest prison in the state of Florida. In 1963 they still had electrocutions in “old sparky”… but of course the guys on death row could not be on the team….. I was in for a big surprise as we went through the steel doors and into the prison…. we got searched from head to toe, our gym bags too. then we proceeded to walk on the field and I spotted an electric water fountain that had a sign on it that said “FOR WHITES ONLY”… again I had a big silent swallow…..and then I saw that only the white prisoners had uniforms on and found out that the blacks (that’s what you called them in 1963), were not allowed to be on the prison team… in fact, the prisoners were separated in the stands… the whites sat on the first base side, the home side of field and the blacks sat on our side, the visitors side of the field on the third base side… the lights were adequate but not as good as Yankee Stadium, for sure. however the field was surprisingly in good shape for a prison field….. armed guards were strategically placed all around the field, that gave me a somewhat level of comfort…. but I was so pumped up, I was oblivious to any fear….. as I was warming up in the bullpen which was situated by the short fence in foul territory down the left field line, I could hear what the black prisoner’s were saying… one of them said to another, “hey, this guy looks like a little Whitey Ford”, as he proceeded to bet 2 packs of smokes on J.U. hearing that pumped me up even more. finally it was time for the game to begin. the coach batted me leadoff as he wanted to see how I hit and this would give me the most at bats during the game. I had told him I was a pitcher and an outfielder… so I got a good pitch to hit and hit an opposite field single which helped calm me down. I came around to score on two more hits.. so I went to the pitchers mound with a one run lead…..and now I saw how blessed I was.
the first batter swung so hard and so early that he spun himself into the ground and hit nothing but air…. strike out #1…..the second batter did exactly the same thing…strike out #2 …so now I knew that these angry prisoners wanted to hit the crap out of the ball and send it over the prison wall! and they were facing a “junk ball” pitcher, that’s yours truly, whose fast ball was almost the speed of a change up! I took a deep breath, soaked in the cheers of the black prisoners and knew I had it in the bag!
I got two more hits and a walk in the game…. the coach came out to the pitchers mound in the 5th inning to inform me that I could take it easy now as I had the scholarship…..without a doubt that was the best day of my life up til then. I was not going home empty handed..no more “cage filling job” for me, the best 4 years of my life lied ahead…. I felt like a hero going home to tell the Neighborhood that I had a baseball scholarship to Jacksonville University, Florida. the feeling i had on the car trip home could not be put into words………. and the next four years away from home in Florida would be an education in itself….. I will tell you all about it…next time……
Read the next post Taking Stock Day 14.