First, we needed a baseball – any kind of baseball

Looking for something else, I came across this in a drawer. Not quite sure why it’s still around 60 years or so after it was retired.

Perhaps because it was my key to the sandlot games of my youth. The kid that had a ball, regardless his talent level, always got picked on one of the teams.

(Anybody seen kids playing unorganized baseball recently? Me neither).

Anyhow, this one first lost its cover on Mr. Nichols’ vacant lot on Gay Road in Alexandria. That came at the hands of Ronnie Penny, who parked one of Teddy Barbe’s pitches in Terry Kirkland’s front yard across the street.

Because Terry was such a jerk about giving it back, and was also older and bigger, it was an out if you hit it that far, but Ronnie couldn’t resist and just giggled while we pleaded with Terry to give the ball back, torn cover and all.

We wrapped it with “friction tape” given to us by Mr. Townley, which made it easier to curve when thrown, but harder to hit very far.

But alas, eventually along came a gangly kid named Ernie Knoblock, who wasn’t even from our neighborhood but was visiting someone who was, and he stretched one OVER Terry’s house, a Ruthian swat the stuff of which legends are made.

When retrieved, the ball was about done, and while I wrapped it again, it really was not of much use afterward.

As I think about, perhaps I kept the ball because of all the hands that touched it.

It was, and truth be told, still is, a baseball handshake of sorts across the decades.

Jim Butler, a Bolton High School alumnus, was an acclaimed writer and editor at the Alexandria Town Talk for 36 years, the last 23 (1977-2003) as editor-in-chief. He led Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of Hurricane Katrina for the Gulfport (Miss.) Sun-Herald in 2005. Butler returned home to Cenla a few years ago, and shares his talents and insight with Rapides Parish Journal readers.