Emerging Writers. One Big Leaguer’s Story
On Baseball, Growing Up and Making a Difference
One Big Leaguer’s Story. Episode 2
The phone rang in the kitchen of the old farmhouse in Georgia. Try, three weeks removed from professional baseball and in the middle of breakfast, got up to answer it with his mouth still full. “Hello?” he managed to blurt out.
“Try, is that you?! Sounds like you are getting good eats down on the farm!” It was Nate calling, ready to get started on Try’s story. “Can we talk some now, maybe?” Nate was wondering.
“Well now that you’ve interrupted my breakfast, we might as well! Actually, the mornings are a good time to talk as my brothers have the early chores and I stick close to the house in case my father needs anything. He had a run in with one of the horses he was trying to break, dang near broke him, but the doctor says he’ll be fine in a few more weeks. So where should I start?”
Nate thought for a moment and then suggested, “Wherever you’d like.”
The years melted away as Try went back to the beginning. His birth in 1915, the oldest of five children, four boys and then a girl. Try was adored by his grandfather, the eldest Johnny, and his grandfather made sure that they had plenty of quality bonding time before he was too old to do anything. Try’s father came along fairly late in Try’s grandfather’s life, so by the time Try was walking, his grandfather was nearly eighty though fit as a fiddle still. As Try got a little older, he wanted to play soldier with his grandfather and the eldest Johnny would take out some relics from his old soldiering days with the Confederacy and the boy was thrilled. But Try soon caught the baseball fever and then that was all he knew.
His brothers were more talented athletes than Try, but Try had both the heart and the determination his brothers lacked. Try was going to succeed at whatever he put his mind to or die trying. That went for baseball too. The dirt yard between the house and the fields was the baseball diamond and the boys, and quite often their father as well, would be out there playing well into dark on those long summer nights after the chores of the day and supper were done. Try’s grandfather, often the umpire for their games and Try’s biggest fan, was certain Try had gotten his indomitable spirit from his great-grandmother who ran the very same rural Georgia farm singlehandedly when her husband left to follow his restless streak and he himself, her only child, went off to war.
“That ole war changed our lives forever,” Try’s grandfather would often say, but Try could never really understand it all at first, especially since his grandmother Emily would always reply to her husband, “Well Johnny, things didn’t really change all that much in the end, did they?” And then they would all laugh and smile.
“I want to be just like you one day, just like you!” Try would tell his grandfather.
And Try’s father would say, “Don’t you want to be like your dear old dad?”
“Oh yes, I want to be like you both!” And they would all laugh again.
Try’s grandfather and grandmother died within months of each other in the winter of 1922. Try’s father buried them alongside Sam and Becky, their lifelong dear friends, in the adjoining back field behind the house. Recounting it all to Nate that day, Try could still feel the sadness of goodbye, even after all those years. Even though he was still only a young boy at the time, his grandparents’ deaths helped him to finally understand back then, at least a little, how some things, such as death, much like his grandfather’s war, could change one’s life forever.