Well the first week of our trip across America ended in Dakota country. Having trekked from Boston to Chicago, we spent the first week mingling with each of our families. It can be an interesting dynamic with competing schedules and desires, but everything has worked reasonably well, so far.
On our way to Chicago we made a short stop in the Keystone State of Pennsylvania, to visit Ali and Keri’s Great Aunt Ede. At eighty-five, Aunt Ede is still a dynamo of hospitality and general activity. She was quite the host for our short stay in Williamsport, taking us out to dinner, where she was spotted by one of her card club colleagues, and making sure we were well fed before continuing on down the road. She nearly held me in particular in an almost Calypso-like spell with her warmth and generosity. Ede and I certainly shared a sweet tooth and had it not been for the heat, she would have baked, and my guess is that I would have been even less likely to want to be tempted away from the double desserts that are a staple of Ede the hostess.
Aside from the prospects of meeting Aunt Ede, the mere mention of Williamsport was exciting for additional reasons, namely because it is the birthplace of Little League. More than that, I came to find that the first ever Little League diamond, Carl E. Stotz Field, is still open for ball, despite having hosted its first game in 1937. The late Mr. Stotz even has a monument commemorating his achievement at the World Series complex, as seen below. Williamsport also serves as the sport’s headquarters and hosts a museum celebrating the world’s youth playing the great American pastime. While at times the museum borders more on the hysterical than historical, it is still a must see for anyone in the area. Below and to the right is a snapshot from the lobby. Another baseball related site in town is Bowman Field, the second oldest minor league stadium in the country, home to the Pittsburgh Pirates’ A ball affiliate, the Crosscutters.
However, Williamsport’s crown jewel is the complex devoted to the Little League World Series, including the final’s home, Howard J. Lamade Stadium. I must say that when I was a twelve year-old, all-star shortstop, hardened on the base paths of Village Green in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, there was no more majestic place outside the Show. How I dreamed of stepping into the batter’s box of that hallowed ball field? From the moment I first saw kids, my own age, on television playing baseball in that place, I was captivated like every other kid that donned a cap and leather mitt everyday the weather was warm and the rain was at bay. It even had a fence in the outfield, which might as well have been a professional park as far as I was concerned. It was some time before any of the fields in Glen Ellyn had any kind of fences, which basically meant that you hit the ball as hard as you could and ran like hell hoping you could beat a throw to home. Well, I was pretty fast, but without a limit to the field of play, I hit a whole lot more triples than round-trippers.
Before giving over to the beautiful game, soccer, I absolutely breathed baseball as a youngster and believed Williamsport was the pinnacle, like every Little Leaguer. Well, I was twenty years too late and the place was empty, but I couldn’t have been happier traipsing the hallowed ground. As a matter of fact, I am not sure I could have enjoyed it nearly as much had I made it there before now. I made sure that I saw just about everything, taking pictures the whole time. The place was still as fantastic to me now as it was when I was just a kid imagining what it must have been like. I especially liked the Casey at the Bat Monument beyond the left field wall, just adjacent to the scoreboard. Ali and Keri showed great patience, waiting in the wheels while I covered every inch on foot.
After falling victim to Aunt Ede’s hostess charms and all the Little League allure, I was a little remiss to leave, but we had to make tracks to get back near those fields of my youth. Thus, we resumed our westward trek with designs on arriving before sundown, which was successful.
More on the rest of week one to come.