Sports in Kentucky by Bob Watkins

Posted May 1, 2013 at 2:18 pm

Kid standing at the front door was nervous. Big blue eyes shining out from under a shock of ginger hair, he stepped forward. Was 12 years old maybe.

“Excuse me suh,” he said gripping his hat in both hands, “Can ye come out ‘n play maybe?”

Name was Richard. His words were dipped in good East Anglian treacle, and the way he said them with such fresh innocence, was endearing to a fellow twice his age.

Could I what? Come out and play?

“Well, ya see, the lads and me was hopin’ you would show us how ta play that baseball game with the hand gloves and the wooden club thing? We’ve seen pictures, ya see.”

Woodford in Northamptonshire was, and I hope still is, a beautiful and serene place it used to be.

Soon, I dragged a duffel bag of bats, a few balls and gloves from my car trunk (boot), Richard and his six pals insisted on carrying them as we walked to the Common. They fussed at first on who would get a hand glove, then asked what to do with it. “Do ya put one on each hand then?” a kid asked.

Was ripe summertime in Woodford. Here was a little band of English boys at Woodford, Northamptonshire gathered round an American, each enthralled with the equipment and American Club Ball, uh, baseball. Having played cricket, Richard and his pals soon mastered how to swing a club, er, bat at the ball. They loved the gloves too, banging their fists into them, and naturally they had to be taught how to “spit into the pocket real good then rub it in.”

Smashing good time, those golden evenings on the Common with little Brits trying to play baseball. One kid who insisted on calling it Club Ball was asked to explain what he meant. “Well, ya hit the ball with the club, raaah-et? Then ya makes a run for it, raaah-et? Wait a minute! Me runs to where exactly?”

Richard and his mates would return to my door often for awhile, asking if I could “come out and play.”

Baseball, huh?

Good memories come round when April chill gives way to May. Major League Baseball takes its traditional place as our national passtime and we begin the journey of following our teams to Fourth of July, the all-star break on to September and October.

Richard described our game with a simple English eloquence that would never occur to Americans, but stayed on with me so that I might share with you.

“This baseball game is hard, isn’t it?” he said. “Tryin’ ta hit a round thing that’s three inches across and while its thrown as hard as the bowler can fling it. Then ya try and hit it with a stick that’s also round. Sure ain’t cricket, is it, mate?”

Never knew what happened to the kid with blue eyes and ginger colored hair. But, I left Richard a ball, glove and of course, a club.

I love baseball. Weather starting to warm (even in Denver) with onset of May. Hitters gather their timing, pitchers find a rhythm and corners of the plate.

I love baseball in particular this week because, 25 games into the 162-game run, my favorite team is playing superbly and had climbed first place after the weekend.

Watching the Pittsburgh Pirates hit four home runs at Busch Stadium in St. Louis Sunday afternoon, got me thinking, wonder how Richard would react to the color and pageantry and roar of a crowd of 50,000-plus? And, what would he have said about the Pirates ‘clubbing’ four home runs?

America. I love this place.


√ Seems to me, Rick Pitino highly legible and handsome tattoo burned into his back is sort of like Gwyneth Paltrow (World’s Most Beautiful Woman for 2013, says People Magazine), wearing a burqa?

Postscript: Kudos to tattoo-ist Adam Potts of Tattoo Salvation on Bardstown Road who, in a turnaround, hustled a ball coach for advertising and his own 15 minutes of fame.

√ The NBA draft deadline to withdraw was April 28. As of Sunday 43 college scholarships opened up. Did anyone else think Archie Goodwin’s leaving Kentucky brought to mind these things.

• Latest example of high school graduate with no interest in college should have been able to exercise his civil right to join the work force immediately. In Goodwin’s case, the NBA developmental league.

• UK would have had a scholarship for a student-athlete who wanted to be in college.

• Saved fans the aggravation and money spent on an overpriced Goodwin jersey for little Johnny.


A reader wrote: “…is the most overused/over killed adjectives (used) by sports reporters (the word) fantastic?

Comment: No, fantastic is still second. Deprived of the word GREAT, Jimmy Dykes, Jay Bilas and a host of others would be bewildered and unable to complete a sentence. Too, without the g-word, Dick Vitale would’ve been looking for a real job 20 years ago.

And so it goes.