Just A Friendly Game Of Baseball
by Neil G. White
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††Act 1
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †Scene One
Time: †Summer of 1979
Place: Bronx, New York
Setting: A one bedroom apartment accommodates three people, a father, (Pop) a mother, (Ma) and a child (Tommy). The detailed yet modest furnishings echo the simplicity in which this family lives. A brief corridor with a child size piano and stool lay flush against the wall leading past a small kitchen decorated in warm colors; directly into an open area arranged to receive and entertain company. Straight through the dayroom was the living room which was the heart and soul of the home. This part of the abode is where the family gathers. A 19í color television is strategically placed against the wall between two windows to be viewed from every angle possible.† A long wine colored velvet couch covered in plastic upholstery is used to seat company that overflows from the dayroom, also doubles as Tommyís bed in the evening. †A long wooden table draped with a quaint doily ran parallel to the couch; barely giving the room a feeling of fullness. Early on a hot hazy morning Tommy wakes excited. It is the first day of summer vacation. He jumps out of bed puts his linen and pillow away and rushes to the bathroom to wash up. MeanwhileÖthe doorbell rings. ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
Ma: (opening the front door) Good morning Billy. (greeted warmly) What brings you here so early?
Billy: (pleasant round faced, stocky built young boy stands at the threshold of the door) Morniní maíam. Tommy and I are going to play baseball today.
Ma: Come in Billy. Make yourself comfortable. (directs him toward the dayroom) Tommy will be ready shortly.
Billy: Yes maíam.
Ma: Can I get you something to drink?
Billy: Water would be fine.
Ma: (returns from the kitchen with a tall glass) Here you go Billy.
Billy: Thank you.
Ma: (calling to Tommy who is still in the bathroom) Tommy. Billy is here.
Tommy: (responding from the bathroom) Ok ma. Iíll be right there.
Ma: Congratulations on getting promoted to the next grade Billy. Are you looking forward to the next school year?
Billy: Yes, maíam I am.
Ma: Iím proud of you boys keep up the good work. (Exiting into the bedroom)
Tommy: (Fully dressed he darts out of the bathroom to the closet. Grabs his well oiled Wilson glove with baseball in it from last year and long slender Louisville slugger resembling his build) Wazzup, Billy!
Billy: You ready? (Slapping each others hands)
Tommy: Yeah. (Following Billy toward the front door) Ok Ma, love you! (Calling to his mother in the bedroom)
Ma: Come here a minute. (Tommyís mother requests from his parents bedroom the most private room in the whole apartment; containing only what is necessary; a night table, a bed, a bureau, a wind up alarm clock and a weathered old recliner which clearly had seen better days.
Tommy: (Entering his mothersí bedroom with his mind fixated only on playing baseball with his friends) Yes.
Ma: No kiss?
Tommy: (Dropping his head for momentarily forgetting this tradition between the two) Oh, of course Ma. (Tommy hugs and kisses his mother on the cheek; before she can bat an eye he is out of her grasps rushing toward the main door)
Ma: (She calls to Tommy) You keep that cap on your head. I donít want you getting a heat stroke.
Tommy: Ok Ma. Love you. (He responds as both boys hurriedly leave to go to the ballpark)
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Scene Two
Billy: (Arriving at the field where the boys play baseball) Whereís the rest of the guys?
Tommy: (Faintly out of breathe) Dang Billy! Itís the first day of summer vacation and these guys are late.
Billy: Itís cool Tommy we got the whole summer. Yes sirrrree we got plenty of days to play baseball. (He states with the widest grin on his face) Hey, letís go get breakfast and by the time we get back the guys should be here.
Tommy: Bet. All right. (They leave the park to go to the local public school which has a breakfast and lunch program during the summer months)
Billy: (On the breakfast line) Is your O.J. cold?
Billy: Iím gonna see if I can get another one. Miss may I have another orange juice? (Smiling)
Lunch Lady: What happened to your juice young man?
Billy: Oh! I spilled it.
Lunch Lady: †Well, okay. Just be careful with this one, you know everyone gets one juice! (She looks out of the corner of her eye at Billy as the left side of her lips curl up)
Billy: I will, Thanks!
Tommy: You think youíre so slick!
Billy: (Boastfully) I told you I was gonna get another one. That lunch lady loves me. She canít resist my charms.
Tommy: Yeah, well hurry up prince charming. Letís go itís a little after 8. The guys should be there by now. (Both boys walk back to the field)
†††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††Scene Three
Billy: (Excited) Look! Thereís Mack and Verne.
Mack: (Yelling) Where you guys been? †
Billy: We got tired of waiting for you guys and went to 103 to get breakfast.
Mack: What they got over there?
Tommy: Cold eggs and cold orange juice. ( he shoots a quick† look and smirk at Billy)
Billy: This is it! Whereís the rest of the fellas?
Verne: You know them guys will be here later on. Mack and I will play you two until they come.
Tommy: (Dejected) Dang! We hardly ever have enough guys for a good game. (Pause) Bet. All right.
Verne: Whatís the matter with him? (Noticing Tommyís reaction)
Billy: (Under his breath) You know how he feels about baseball. If it wasnít for all the equipment more kids would be able to play. Look, sometimes we gotta share gloves. (He responded)
Mack: (After awhile) Look, here come more of the fellas.
Billy: This is a nice game we got going on here huh Tommy.
Tommy: (Visibly pleased) Yeah. I was worried at first. Itís wack when you only got two on two for teams. The more the merrier.
Billy: Sounds good to me. (in agreement)
Tommy: (several hours later) Oh snap! Guys I gotta go. Iím late for curfew. See yíall tomorrow. (Running home at sunset to avoid getting a whipping from his father for being late for curfew)
††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††Act 11
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Scene One††
Billy: (The next morning) Did you make it home in time? (while walking to the breakfast program)
Billy: Thatís cool. You donít want to break curfew on the first day of summer vacation and wind up on punishment. We got too much baseball to play. Come on letís go to 103. You know the guys ainít gonna be at the park yet anyway.
Tommy: Bet. All right.
Billy: Why do you suppose your folks donít let you go to 21?
Tommy: Because itís across the avenue.
Billy: So what! (Shrugging his shoulders)
Tommy: They donít think itís safe for me to be on the other side of the avenue.
Billy: Do it make sense to walk all the way to 103 when we can go right across the avenue and get to 21 quicker?
Tommy: Naw, it donít.
Billy: (Excessively jubilant) Letís go to 21 tomorrow! Itís way closer to the block.
Tommy: I donít know I could get in trouble.
Billy: Awwh! Come on your parents will never find out!
Tommy: (He snaps) I donít know. Maybe.
Tommy: I didnít say yeah!
Billy: But you didnít say no! I hope they have something good to eat!
Tommy: (Flippantly) Why do you care? You never eat the food anyway!
Billy: Sometimes I do.
Tommy: (Accusingly) You only drink the orange juice in the morning and the apple juice in the afternoon and never eat.
Billy: ĎCause the breakfast and lunch be nasty. I only like when they have hot dogs and beans.
Tommy: Yeah! me tooÖ but they only have that like once a week.
Billy: (Remembering) You still got that Reggie Jackson card?
Billy: Iíll trade you for it.
Tommy: For who?
Billy: Iíll give you Willie Randolph and Mickey Rivers.
Billy: Why not? You got doubles of Reggie!
Tommy: ĎCause I got them already. Besides, Verne got Lee Mazzilli and Tom Seaver and I wanna trade my Reggie for one of them.
Billy: Awwh, man!
Tommy: When I flip cards this week maybe Iíll get lucky and get another Reggie. Iíll just give you that one.
Billy: Cool. Donít forget!
Tommy: How can I you wonít let me.
Billy: I bet you I can get a second orange juice again.
Tommy: Bet you canít.
Billy: Iíll bet you a que (Quarter) for a game of pinball that I can!
Tommy: (Momentarily contemplating) Bet. All right!
Billy: Excuse me maíam can I get another juice my friend (Pointing at the table where Tommy was sitting with his back to them) is having trouble swallowing his food. So I wanted to ask for another juice for him.
Lunch Lady: Sure baby, here take this right over to him and tell your friend to take his time when he eats and chew his food good. (She warns)
Billy: Yes, maíam I will, thank you. (As he turns around barely containing his joy)
Tommy: What happened?
Billy: The lunch lady told me to tell you to take your time when you eat and chew all your food. (Flipping the orange juice container from hand to hand)
Billy: (Bursting out laughing) I told you I was gonna get another juice! You owe me a quarter.
Lunch Lady: Take your time next time young man! (she directs to Tommy)
Tommy: Oh, boy! (He whispers under his breathe as Billy snickers at his friends reaction)
Billy: (Out of the blue) Did you see how many toys that boy won on Wonderama yesterday?
Tommy: (Excited) Did I. I wish that was me! He won a Rock Ďem Sock Ďem Robots too.
Billy: (Responding with the same excitement) I know.
Tommy: Man I love that show!
Billy: Me too! I wonder how you get on that show.
Tommy: Man, thatís the coolest kids show ever! Iíll bet every kid in New York wants to be on that show. You know the chances of us getting on that show.
Tommy: (Putting his fingers together to form a circle) Thatís our chances.
Billy: If I ever got on that show I would die and go straight to heaven. (Displaying the emotion of an actor)†††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††
Tommy: You crazy. (Laughing as they dash off back to the ball field)
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Scene Two
Billy: Dang! (back at the ball field) Who are all those kids on our field? (surprised)
Tommy: (Squints as if to focus) I donít know. You see Mack or Verne?
Billy: Naw! (Witnessing the group of boys throwing a baseball around)
Tommy: Whatís up yíall? (He yells to the group as he walks toward them with his bat and glove resting on his shoulder)
Mack: (Voice from the side lines) Fellas, over here.
Billy: (Relieved to see a familiar face) Itís Mack and Verne.
Tommy: (Asking visibly confused) Who are these guys?
Verne: They came into the park while Mack and I were waitiní for you guys and the rest of the fellas. (Timidly) They just took over the fieldÖ we didnít have enough people to play yet anyway.†
Billy: Well, we do now! (Angrily turning toward the group of boys walking right in the middle of the field while they were playing)
Kid #1: Hey what do you think youíre doing? (Yelling at Billy)
Billy: The same thing youíre doing! (Yelling back to the kid even louder) Tommy throw the ball! (He demands)
Tommy: Here yaí go. (Hurling a baseball at Billyís glove)
Kid #2: †Maybe you didnít hear my brother he asked you guys what do you think youíre doing? (The taller/wider boy yelled at Billy and Tommy)
Billy: Canít you see! Weíre playing baseball here too! (He exclaimed defiantly)
Kid #1: We were here first!
Tommy: No you werenít! Our friends said they were here first and you guys just came and took over the field.
Kid #2: So what! You got a problem with that?
Billy: Yeah! I do. (Staring at the big kid)
Kid#2: What you wanna do about it? (Staring back at his challenger)
Billy: Whatever you want to do about it! (As the two boys got closer to each other; the other boys stopped throwing the ball around and focused on the conflict. Before anyone could make a move Billy and the big kid had each other in a headlock and had wrestled each other to the ground. Everyone had gathered around the boys now shouting and cheering the fight on.
Mack: Get Ďem Billy. (The first kid seeing his brother getting bested jumped in. Tommy observing the whole time dove into his opponent to even up the odds.
Verne: (Screaming) Yeah, Tommy donít let him get away with that! (The four boys continued to battle until their weariness demanded they stop)
Kid#2: (Slumped on the ground and out of breathe) What the hell is the matter with you guys?
Billy: (Equally out of breathe) You guys tried to take over our field!
Kid#1: No we werenít. We just wanted a place to play ball. Besides when we got here no one was playing on the field.
Tommy: (Directed toward Verne) Didnít you say that you and Mack were on the field already?
Verne: No. I said that we were here waiting for you all to come.
Billy: (With an angry tone) So you guys werenít on the field playing?
Verne: (Hiding his face in his lap) No.
Billy: I should sock you right in the nose.
Tommy: Billy leave him alone.
Billy: Because of him we fought these guys for nothing.
Kid#2: No you didnít. You guys are tough. If you guys play baseball half as good as you fight you are all right with me. My name is Rich. (Motions to Kid#1) This is my little brother Al. The other guys are friends from our block. Weíre trying to get our own team but we never have enough people to play a good game.
Tommy: I know what you mean. WellÖ weíre kind of a team. We all live on the same block 223 street.
Al: Yeah! We live on 225 street. Other blocks have teams you know. 227 street has a team. 229 street has one. I heard 230 street †has a real good team.
Rich: If we combined our teams we would be able to have enough players to challenge the other teams in the neighborhood. What do you think fellas?
(Billy, Tommy, Mack and Verne all look at each other and nod in agreement. That day the 223 street boys and 225 street boys formed a baseball team)
Tommy: Bet. All right. (As all the newly acquainted boys shake each othersí hands to seal the deal)
Al: I sure hope you guys play ball as good as you fight.
Billy: Thereís only one way to find out. Letís play some ball.
Rich: I hear that. (The boys form teams and play baseball not only the rest of the day but for weeks to come)
†††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††Scene Three
A month into summer vacation Rich, Al, Mack and Verneís respective families all took vacations at the same time; so baseball got put on hold for awhileÖ to Billy and especially Tommyís dismay.
Tommy: (Early on a Saturday morning at Tommyís home) Morniní Pop.
Pop: Good morning son.
Tommy: Off today?
Pop: Yes! What are you doing today?
Tommy: I figured I was gonna count today as high as I can. (Showing the level of how high with his hand) Next year the teacher will be teachiní different things in math so I figure the better I can count the better Iíll do in math. (He states proudly)
Pop: What are you counting?
Pop: May I make a suggestion? How about we take those coins that you been saving from your allowance and count that and put them in coin labels and open up a saving account for yourself.
Tommy: (Excited) Sure Pop!
Pop: (Cloaking his excitement commensurate with his sonsí) Letís get ready then because the bank closes early on Saturdays. (Tommy and his Pop count his money, wrap the coins in labels and walk to Northside savings bank to open up an account)
Tommy: (As they walk to the bank) What are we going to do after this?
Pop: One of my co-workers told me the Rodeo is in town in Harlem. Would you like to go to that?
Tommy: (Excited) Serious Pop? A rodeo for real!
Tommy: I never been to a rodeo before. (Thoughts putting him in a trance-like state) Man, wait Ďtil Billy hears this.
(Tommy and his Pop arrive at the Bank; open a savings account which came to a grand total of nine dollars and forty- three cents.† They proceed to the subway and take the #2 train down to 110th street transfer to the #3 train and ride back up to 145th street and Lenox in Harlem)
Tommy: (As he climbs the subway stairs to the street getting his first glimpse of their destination) Dang. (Tommy and his Pop on the way to the rodeo bumped into one of his co-workers and his son who clearly had the same plans. Tommy and his Pop went to the Harlem rodeo and spent all afternoon. The rodeo was at a baseball field converted true to form into a real rodeo. There were bushels of hay around the stands so the action would be safely contained. Tommy and his Pop snacked on popcorn and candy while they oooh! and aaah!† as the cowboys fearlessly rode horses, bulls and rustled steer. It was a rare† moment Tommy had with just him and his Pop)
†††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††Act 111
†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Scene One
Tommy and his Pop arrive back home after a full day.
Tommy: (so excited he was out of breath) Ma. Pop took me to the bank to open up a savings account and then we went to see the rodeo in Harlem.
Ma: (infected by her sons excitement) Really. Did you have a good time?
Tommy: Did I! (he exclaimed) Ma. Did you know there are black cowboys?
Tommy: Ma, I swear to you I never knew that. You should have seen Ďdem cowboys ridiní Ďdem horses and ropiní dem cattle. It was great Ma.
Ma: Well Iím glad you two had a good time. Now go get cleaned up for dinner.
Tommy: Ok, Ma. (turning to face his Pop) Pop. Thanks for today. I really had a great time.
Pop: You are as welcome as the flowers in May son.
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††Scene Two
Most of Tommy and Billyís friends were still on vacation so they had not played baseball for quite awhile and were into other things to keep their interests. Early on a Saturday afternoon Billy sees Tommy in front of Tommyís building.
Billy: Whatís up Tommy? (They slap hands)
Tommy: Nothing. Waitiní on my Ma. She went to the supermarket on the avenue. I asked her if I could play in front of the building while she went.
Billy: Ok, so you got awhile Ďtil she comes back right?
Tommy: Yeah. Whatís up?
Billy: Come with me I want to show you something.
Tommy: Show me here.
Billy: Naw, I canít. Besides itís not here we have to go see it.
Tommy: What is it? You canít tell me what it is?
Billy: Nope. I can only show you.
Tommy: Is it going to take long?
Billy: Nope, just a minute. All we have to do is go down to Bronx Park near the boulevard. Wait, youíll see. (Very serious while waiting for a reaction from Tommy) Plus itís on this side of the avenue. You gotta come see this. (Trying to coax his buddy to come with him)
Tommy: Come on, but we gotta be quick. Ma is gonna expect me in front of the building when she gets back from the supermarket.
Billy: Promise. Weíll be back way before she gets back. (The boys dash off to the local park two blocks away)
Tommy: (moments later) Ok. Whatís the big deal?
Billy: Well, I was in the store yesterday and I heard these older boys talkiní. One was sayiní to the other that they had to throw a piece away in one of the park garbage cans Ďcause he couldnít keep it at home.
Tommy:† Piece. Piece of what?
Billy: (reaching in the park trash can) This! (revealing the big surprise)
Tommy: (hardly believing his eyes) Oh, snap! Billy is that thing real?
Billy: (holding the object in his hand) Sure is. Want to touch it?
Tommy: Is it heavy?
Billy: A little.
Tommy: Does it have bullets in it?
Billy: I donít know. Probably not.
Tommy: What makes you think that?
Billy: If you had a gun would you leave bullets in it and then throw the gun away, duh. (he stated with conviction)
Tommy: I donít know. I donít know (as he grabs the gun in his left hand. Ear piercing blast is heard by both boys)
Billy: What happened?
Tommy: When I grabbed itÖI guessÖ I squeezed the trigger. (stunned by the occurrence)
Billy: Put it back in the garbage can. Come on letís get out of here.
Tommy: (slowly drops the gun in the garbage) Uh, Ok. (still stunned)
Billy: Come on we gotta get outta here! (the boys run faster than they have ever in their lives back to the block in front of Tommyís building)
Tommy: (visibly shaken) Billy. What happened today is just between you and me right?
Billy: (just as shaken up) Of courseÖ just you and me. I promise Iíll never tell a soul. Cross my heart and hope to die. ††
Tommy: Bet. All right. Then so will I.
Billy: I think Iím gonna go back home and watch some television the rest of the day.
Tommy: I hear that. Oh Billy. Mack, Verne, Rich and Al come back from their family vacations tomorrow. Maybe we can start playing some baseball again. (slapping each other hands)
Billy: Yeah, at least baseball is safe. See you on the field tomorrow.
Tommy: You can say that again. See you tomorrow Billy.
Billy: Later, Tommy.