Our Stomping Grounds….
I was driving through the old Barnum neighborhood the other day (Janet and I had just picked up a couple hamburgers at “Grandpa’s Burger Haven” on North Federal (prices not quite the same as fifty years ago) – We went to nearby Barnum Park to enjoy our lunch.
Janet reminded me of a time when she and three of her Mary Crest High School classmates came up to park in the Fall after school to watch a bunch of us guys (all from Denver West High) play a tackle football game – myself and my friends vs. the dreaded brothers – Eddie & Benny “gang”.
We were all more than a little apprehensive about tackling Eddie when he carried the ball – always weary of a possible “stomping”. He carried the ball one time in a wide sweep to the right and somehow I broke through his wall of blockers somehow catching him at the ankles and down he went!
I remember laying there on the ground – making eye contact with Eddie to see what his reaction would be. With just a nod of his head it could mean a complete and total beat down administered by his boys.
Instead – he gave me a sly grin – got up and walked back to the huddle.
Summer Means Fun
I have to attribute my good fortune to my time a few years before high school one summer when Eddie – his brother Benny and I all spent a good deal of time up at Newlon Elementary taking part in their summer recreation program – which included forming a softball team – and going into the school gym to work on leather crafts and things like plastic lanyards…..
Eddie and I sort of bonded that year becoming “Ruth” (Eddie) and “Gehrig” (me). I had told Eddie about how Babe Ruth would keep late night hours – didn’t always adhere to great nutrition (beer and hot dogs) – pointed to center field calling a home run shot (maybe myth maybe not – the film clip seems to hold up) and just sort of played the American Pastime the way he wanted to. So Eddie became “Ruth” and generously permitted me to become “Gehrig”. (I could have easily become “Marvelous Marv Throneberry” but was spared from that fate.)
We won a lot of games against other schools which also had a summer program. “Ruth” belted a lot home runs as I recall and it seems that he generally sauntered slowly around the base path demonically grinning down the opposing team.
It all came crashing down one day toward the end of summer. I arrived at Newlon and noticed some very nervous behavior from some of our other players. I think Eddie and Benny were tossing a ball around. I asked where the program supervisor was (a school teacher – probably a gym teacher) as he generally was always present out on the schoolyard.
One of the guys came up to me and said something along the lines of “Eddie and Benny tied him up and locked him in a closet inside the school”!
I guess that Eddie and Benny decided to take over the summer recreation program in their own particular style. Needless to say that sort of brought the “Ruth and Gehrig” era to an abrupt end.
Eddie and my paths would occasionally cross throughout high school – but it was never the same again.
I look back at the lucky ankle tackle and think to myself “Gosh – I could have met my maker – tied and bound – at the bottom of Barnum Park Lake!”