The Biggest Swing of 1988, a Story of Brothers and Baseball

It’s April 1988 in rural southern Ontario. David Peterson is Ontario’s Premier, Brian Mulroney is Canada’s Prime Minister, The Toronto Blue Jays are playing their last full season at Exhibition Stadium led by Dave Stieb, Jimmy Key, George Bell and Jesse Barfield, and summer is still 2 months away.

None of that matters to this story.

This does.

I was 6 years old, my little brother was about 10 days shy of turning 4 and we were both deeply in love with baseball.

Grandma's House Garden Hill Ontario

My grandparent’s house in Garden Hill, Ontario.

It was a sunny afternoon at my grandparents house. Chris and I were playing in the front yard as we often did since we lived next door with our parents. And, as we did every chance we got, then and for years to come, we wanted to play baseball. At that age “playing baseball” usually just meant a terrible game of catch, sometimes with gloves, sometimes with our bare hands, most times with a very low catch to throw ratio.

But that day we decided (or more likely, I decided) that we should turn our game of catch into a game of pitch and hit, the 4 year old pitching and the 6 year old hitting. Here’s how it worked.

2 boys, 4 and 6 years old throw the ball back and forth and measure how far the 4 year old can throw. The 6 year old goes to his grandfather’s garage and grabs his uncle’s aluminium bat from inside the door where it always leaned up against the wall with the end of the barrel on the concrete floor.

The boys stand in the yard, a few feet away from each other, presumably with smiles on their faces from sharing their favourite game together and throw the ball back and forth a few more times to confirm the distance required for their next game. The 6 year old boy picks up the aluminium bat, its handle wrapped in white hockey tape, sticky, dirty, heavy in his small hands but perfect because it makes him feel like a baseball player, and that’s all he wants to be.

The 4 year old picks up the softball, far too big for his hands and not yet as familiar as it would be in future years after thousands of hours of playing catch, going to practice and playing little league.

The game of pitch and hit starts.

Nobody remembers how many pitches were thrown. There could have been 1, there could have been 30. But we all remember the last pitch. Even those in our family who weren’t watching, which was everyone.

That last pitch goes like this…

Dirty Baseball in the GrassChris held the softball in his right hand in the sun-filled front yard as I stood a few feet away with my hands gripping the bat in my right handed batting stance, feeling like an all-star and ready to hit the ball 400 feet.

My little brother pitched the ball, probably underhand, maybe overhand which would have been quite ambitious and very in character… and I swung with all of the power that I had in my 6 year old arms.

To this day, 26 years later, Chris will tell you that he struck me out on a high fastball. And technically, he did.

But…

When I swung that bat and the ball was in the air I didn’t come up empty on contact. The end of the bat caught my brother in the face, pushing his nose to the side and causing tears to run down his face.

I don’t remember who called for an adult, or if the crying took care of that. I don’t remember how quickly my parents had him in the car on the way to the hospital where the doctor took him into an examination room by himself to ask him what happened then gave him a popsicle and shifted his nose back into place by hand.

I do remember crying my eyes out, sure that my parents were going to kill me for nearly killing my brother.

They didn’t.

Now that we’re grown up that story gets told with smiles and laughter and thanks that everyone survived.

And now, 26 years later, I’ve learned that the story has also been told with fantastic results.

My Stepmother told me that my dad told her that story when they started dating more than 10 years ago.

But even more impressively, my little brother recently got married to his lovely wife in front of friends and family, and in their speeches this story came up. 5 years ago, in a perfect coincidence I sent Chris a text with the picture of his blackened eyes while he was at a party, the party where he met his future wife. He used that picture to break the ice and start a conversation that turned into a 5 year courtship/engagement and now a young and beautiful marriage.

My 30 year old little brother is a tough kid, and by all accounts that toughness is something he learned young.

He also learned to love baseball, just like I did. And neither one of us has stopped.

Chris and Mallory June 2014

creator of content, manager of community, writer, tweeter, coffee drinker. sports, comics, movies, food, music & pop culture geek. Proud MoBro.

2 comments on The Biggest Swing of 1988, a Story of Brothers and Baseball

  1. truongduchuu says:

    this is a wonderful story of two brothers. their love for baseball is amazing. even after marriage their baseball loves to continue. That’s great.

Comments are closed.

The Biggest Swing of 1988, a Story of Brothers and Baseball

It’s April 1988 in rural southern Ontario. David Peterson is Ontario’s Premier, Brian Mulroney is Canada’s Prime Minister, The Toronto Blue Jays are playing their last full season at Exhibition Stadium led by Dave Stieb, Jimmy Key, George Bell and Jesse Barfield, and summer is still 2 months away.

None of that matters to this story.

This does.

I was 6 years old, my little brother was about 10 days shy of turning 4 and we were both deeply in love with baseball.

Grandma's House Garden Hill Ontario

My grandparent’s house in Garden Hill, Ontario.

It was a sunny afternoon at my grandparents house. Chris and I were playing in the front yard as we often did since we lived next door with our parents. And, as we did every chance we got, then and for years to come, we wanted to play baseball. At that age “playing baseball” usually just meant a terrible game of catch, sometimes with gloves, sometimes with our bare hands, most times with a very low catch to throw ratio.

But that day we decided (or more likely, I decided) that we should turn our game of catch into a game of pitch and hit, the 4 year old pitching and the 6 year old hitting. Here’s how it worked.

2 boys, 4 and 6 years old throw the ball back and forth and measure how far the 4 year old can throw. The 6 year old goes to his grandfather’s garage and grabs his uncle’s aluminium bat from inside the door where it always leaned up against the wall with the end of the barrel on the concrete floor.

The boys stand in the yard, a few feet away from each other, presumably with smiles on their faces from sharing their favourite game together and throw the ball back and forth a few more times to confirm the distance required for their next game. The 6 year old boy picks up the aluminium bat, its handle wrapped in white hockey tape, sticky, dirty, heavy in his small hands but perfect because it makes him feel like a baseball player, and that’s all he wants to be.

The 4 year old picks up the softball, far too big for his hands and not yet as familiar as it would be in future years after thousands of hours of playing catch, going to practice and playing little league.

The game of pitch and hit starts.

Nobody remembers how many pitches were thrown. There could have been 1, there could have been 30. But we all remember the last pitch. Even those in our family who weren’t watching, which was everyone.

That last pitch goes like this…

Dirty Baseball in the GrassChris held the softball in his right hand in the sun-filled front yard as I stood a few feet away with my hands gripping the bat in my right handed batting stance, feeling like an all-star and ready to hit the ball 400 feet.

My little brother pitched the ball, probably underhand, maybe overhand which would have been quite ambitious and very in character… and I swung with all of the power that I had in my 6 year old arms.

To this day, 26 years later, Chris will tell you that he struck me out on a high fastball. And technically, he did.

But…

When I swung that bat and the ball was in the air I didn’t come up empty on contact. The end of the bat caught my brother in the face, pushing his nose to the side and causing tears to run down his face.

I don’t remember who called for an adult, or if the crying took care of that. I don’t remember how quickly my parents had him in the car on the way to the hospital where the doctor took him into an examination room by himself to ask him what happened then gave him a popsicle and shifted his nose back into place by hand.

I do remember crying my eyes out, sure that my parents were going to kill me for nearly killing my brother.

They didn’t.

Now that we’re grown up that story gets told with smiles and laughter and thanks that everyone survived.

And now, 26 years later, I’ve learned that the story has also been told with fantastic results.

My Stepmother told me that my dad told her that story when they started dating more than 10 years ago.

But even more impressively, my little brother recently got married to his lovely wife in front of friends and family, and in their speeches this story came up. 5 years ago, in a perfect coincidence I sent Chris a text with the picture of his blackened eyes while he was at a party, the party where he met his future wife. He used that picture to break the ice and start a conversation that turned into a 5 year courtship/engagement and now a young and beautiful marriage.

My 30 year old little brother is a tough kid, and by all accounts that toughness is something he learned young.

He also learned to love baseball, just like I did. And neither one of us has stopped.

Chris and Mallory June 2014

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