Sunday, May 26, 2013

Strike Three!

He was a young Freshman pitcher from Flint. He came to Michigan State University to get an education with a major in history, and to see if he could get on the baseball team as a walk-on. If he could make the team, the prospect of an athletic scholarship could become a reality. He could very probably have gotten a scholarship at another school, but family tradition and the prospect of studying Civil War history under a noted professor among other things, brought him to Michigan State. This young hurler also happened to be by the cast of chance or design of providence, my dorm roommate.

So it was in that Spring of our Freshman year, one afternoon between classes, I went over to the ball-field where the University Freshman team was playing a game against the baseball team from a local community college. It was the bottom of the inning and the Spartan's turn at bat. It also happened Dave was coming up to bat.

It is a maxim of baseball that pitchers do not get very much batting practice. A pitcher's batting average will usually be one of the lowest on the teams. I don't remember what the exact count was; there may have been a ball or two, but Dave was quickly behind with two strikes. It also bothers me to this day that I do not remember if they were called strikes or came on a swing and a miss. But now the fun was about begin.

The pitcher wound up and threw the next pitch. Dave watched the ball go by.

"Strike three!" called the Umpire.

But as he was calling the 3rd strike, the ball hit the catcher's mitt, dropped and rolled a few feet away. Dave saw the muffed catch, dropped the bat and ran for first. The catcher was caught off guard by Dave's movement, but then recovering, grabbed the ball to throw to first to insure the out. He over threw the 1st baseman's glove, and there was Dave, safe at first!

What a whoop and holler erupted from his teammates! What would have been a strikeout, was by application of the 3rd strike rule and the catcher's error, a man on base. It was a real heads up play on Dave's part that turned a negative into a positive.

I don't remember anything else about that game, and as it was, it was the only game I saw Dave play in. He never did get that athletic scholarship and a year or so later, dropped baseball and concentrated on his studies. After those undergraduate days at Michigan State, he eventually went on to get a Masters and then a Doctorate in history with emphasis on the Civil War and Reconstruction.

If you are ever in New Haven, Connecticut, and wandering around the campus of Yale University, you might peer into a classroom and see David delivering a lecture on some aspect of the Civil War or Reconstruction. I don't know how much the Doctor remembers of his undergrad baseball days, but that one memory remains forever etched in his old roommate's memory.

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