Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Cow Pasture Baseball

In mid-June we were invited to the 2002 Potosi Baseball Hall of Fame Banquet at Sunset Lanes at Dickeyville. Our son-in-law, Jeff Buttikofer, was one of the first thirteen inductees. Jeff had an outstanding career as a pitcher while attending Potosi High School, also UW La Crosse. He, his wife Pam, and family now live in California. As Jeff had other commitments and was unable to attend the event, he invited Gloria and I to represent him. Potosi High School’s popular and highly successful baseball coach Ron Kading presided over a very interesting and enjoyable evening.

After a delicious dinner, the inductees were introduced. The group included the great pitcher, Jack Cardey, who had a long professional baseball career. All in all, the inductees were a fine looking group of men. Jack and I have about an equal amount of silver in our hair. But most of the rest of them made me feel old. Very old. They looked so young. Even most of their parents looked young.

We met a few old friends there. And made a few new friends. We met Bill Leeser, one of the inductees. He let us know that he works for the Telegraph Herald. Bill was kind enough to circulate one of the programs through the group of inductees, obtaining the autographs of most, so we could send it to Jeff as a memento. (Thanks again, Bill).

It kind of topped off my evening when Dennis Leibfried dropped by our table to say hello. And too let us know that he reads and enjoys this column on a regular basis. His son Gary was one of the inductees. Denny was once one of the premier fast-pitch softball pitchers in the area. And is, himself, a double hall-of-famer, having been inducted into both the Dubuque Fast-Pitch Softball Hall of Fame and the Dubuque Kiwanis Club Softball Hall of Fame.

I was never a baseball player, but did play several seasons of league softball. And, as a boy, I played a far different type of ball game. For that game there was no official book of rules. How the game was played depended on whatever players, facilities, and equipment were available. If a baseball or softball got its horsehide cover knocked off, we knew how to protect the ball’s cord windings with black friction tape to prevent it from raveling. We also learned how to tape up a cracked bat so we could continue to use it. And if our baseball got lost in the weeds, we were not above using an old tennis ball, sponge rubber ball, or whatever other kind of ball we could get our hands on.

That great game was called


I’ve had lots of baseball heroes.
Starting in my younger days
There were Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig,
Then, much later, Willie Mays.

Gabby Hartnett and Carl Hubbell,
Dizzy Dean, yes “Me and Paul,”
Mel Ott, and now Sammy Sosa.
There’s no room to list them all.

Out here in the farming country
And in most villages small
We played our own Big League ball game,
One called “Cow Pasture Baseball.”

Much like most Chicago Cubs games,
But not exactly the same,
Kind of a downsized version of
The Great American Game.

Our play was not organized like
League games played at today’s schools.
We furnished our own equipment.
And made up most of the rules.

With no set sizes or limits
For the diamond or the teams,
A vacant lot or cow pasture
Could become our “Field of Dreams.”

For home plate we’d use a short board
Or any small slab of wood,
Sometimes a player’s old sweatshirt,
Folded up, worked out real good.

With a burlap sack for third base,
Tall weeds for second and first.
Or even old dried-up cow pies,
When conditions were the worst.

If our baseball lost its horsehide,
Friction tape took care of that.
We’d give it a new black cover,
And taped up each broken bat.

When no baseball could be found we
Would use an old tennis ball,
Or one of solid sponge rubber.
Hey, I’m sure we tried them all.

Most games didn’t go nine innings
At our rustic baseball park.
We played until called home for meals,
Or until it got too dark.

Back then, grownups were not needed
To coach or umpire our game,
We all played as well as we could
And enjoyed it, all the same.

We tried our best to play just like
Our Major League heroes great,
Hoping one day we’d join them, but
Such success was not our fate.

Though none of us made the Big Leagues,
I don’t regret that at all.
I cherish my memories of
Times we played Cow Pasture Ball.