Although I have spotlighted the early years of Sam Lacy, I find that the experiences I shared alongside my dad helped weave this tapestry. It was during this period Pop took on the chore of introducing me to sports. In my childhood, the only learning experiences we were privy to were what we learned on the sandlots; there was no TV or internet. If there was a hot dog among us, every kid went home emulating what they learned from the hot dog.
My efforts towards being a Fancy Dan got Pop’s attention, and he stepped in and started teaching techniques and discipline. Baseball was especially interesting since this was Pop’s favorite sport, both as a participant and spectator. He taught me how to throw a curve ball and a drop pitch. My fastball wasn’t anything to get excited about, but I learned to throw it with a little hop.
What made these days an adventure was my groundball practice. We had a good sized backyard, and Pop would hit ground balls to me and I would field them, often with my face. At the end of practice, I would enter the house and receive a little sympathy from Mom over my bloody nose.
These sessions proved to be useful when I entered school. I made the varsity teams (not as a pitcher), and I could go get a grounder with the best of them.
In high school, I achieved “star” status at basketball, but there was a hitch in my game that hadn’t been diagnosed by opposing coaches. My favorite shot started with my back to the basket, then I would roll my right shoulder and spin to my left.
With a lot of practice, this turned out to be my signature shot and I found a lot of success with it. The accolades came and my ego rose into orbit. This was short-lived, however. My five-star athlete father attempted to tell his son (who no longer needed teaching) that the rolling of the shoulder was a tell, and sooner than later it would come back to haunt me. Yeah right!
We would often take a ball down the street a few blocks and start a few pick-up games. On one such occasion, Pop and I were on opposite sides and, when the time came, I decided to display my shot in his face. Have you ever tasted a basketball? If that ball left my hands at 40 miles, it came back to spread my nose all over my face at 80 miles an hour. So much for my signature shot.
It seems that in those days I had a penchant for getting my face rearranged. As one of the fastest kids in the neighborhood I was assigned the task of being the offload man. To explain, there were hucksters who would come through the neighborhood selling their wares. These fruit trucks were easy pickings for the neighborhood bandits. We would hide in a garage, and when the wagon passed, we would run out and I would hop on the back and pass fruit to my buddies.
One day as we approached the wagon, someone yelled to the man to stop. He did, and I ran into the back of that wagon at full speed. My face didn’t thank me for the experience. Despite our early years of mischief, we managed to avoid the Big House growing up.
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