A Friend Passes on Without Fanfare

Now that it’s the offseason, I thought I’d sprinkle the blog with some recycled content. You know, for the planet.

This ran in 1993. Its origins trace to a conversation I had with my editor and fellow baseball fan John Harmon, when we were old man lamenting the absence of kids playing outdoors, primarily baseball. I started writing this column in my head shortly after that conversation, planning it for my week off in June.

Then, about two weeks before my column was about to run, John wrote his own column based on that discussion. Initially I panicked, but I soon decided I could work his effort into mine. This was the result.

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It’s hard to believe a man of such stature could pass away in obscurity.

The Republic has learned of the death of an American legend, Sandlot Baseball.

In ill health for the past 20 years, Sandlot, 155, was pronounced dead Saturday in a park outside Ogden, Utah.

Officials investigating the death said he was supposed to meet 12 boys, but they suddenly abandoned him when a 13th arrived to announce he had acquired the new video game, “Desensitizing Violence.”

Foul play has not been ruled out.

The exact whereabouts of Sandlot’s birth is unclear, but one commonly accepted theory says he was born June 12, 1839 in Cooperstown, N.Y. Still, Sandlot was never confined to one address, moving frequently and gracefully from large city to small burg.

Like Johnny Appleseed, Sandlot traveled the country by foot, entrenching the roots of the national pastime.

The seeds of the game took hold in more than a few local residents. Among those he befriended were the city’s hardball skippers, Columbus North’s Joe Preda and Columbus East’s Lou Giovanini.

“It seemed like everybody knew him,” Preda said. “But I can’t remember the last time I saw him.”

Giovanini also had difficulty pinpointing his most recent encounter with the legend. But the veteran manager had a theory on the demise of Sandlot and two of his buddies.
“(Sandlot) Baseball, (Backyard) Football and (Pickup) Basketball were all we knew. Maybe today there are too many others,” the coach said, pointing to younger kids Tele Vision and Play Station as prime suspects.

Both coaches said Sandlot’s ill health in recent years left its mark on the diamond, where today’s ballplayers aren’t as knowledgeable of the game’s nuances as they once were.”

From Sandlot, “you learned the game a little better,” Giovanini said.

Sandlot taught kids the strategy of the game, Preda said. “We knew where to hit the ball and when to squeeze bunt.”

The impact of Sandlot’s death is not just felt by those who made a career on the diamond. The Republic Editor John Harmon, who recently embarked on a fruitless mid-afternoon search for Sandlot, was also dismayed to learn of his passing.

“Sandlot Baseball played a large part in my life and other kids in the neighborhood. I hope we can at least keep his memory alive for future generations,” Harmon said.
“But you know, you’ll never really know him unless you were lucky enough to meet him.”
Sandlot is survived by one brother, Stick Ball, in critical condition at his home in Brooklyn, N.Y., and one half-brother, Little League, living comfortably at his estate in Williamsburg, Pa.

In lieu of flowers or memorials, Sandlot’s last will and testament requested one gesture.

The deceased has asked for 10-12 boys and girls to gather on a nondescript piece of property, with a ball (preferably in shoddy condition), a bat (most definitely wooden) and shareable gloves in tow. The will states that no uniforms be worn, no rule books carried and, most importantly, no adults present.

Sandlot was a firm believer in reincarnation.

 

 

 

 

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