In 1965, my oldest son, Frank, was 9 years old and his one desire was to play baseball. His father was a coach on a very successful and competitive knothole team sponsored by the Sweeney car dealership. He got on the team and got a uniform (probably because of his dad’s coaching job) but rarely got in a game and served mostly as a batboy. This is my journal entry for July 26, 1965.
“Frankie gets dressed right after breakfast and takes off. Sometimes he goes to Oakley Park by himself and has a one-man ballgame, without bat or ball. He spends most of his time running bases and sliding – his forte – and his clothes are so dusty he leaves a trail behind him. He goes around with a ball in his hand most of the time.
He loves baseball – his favorite is Frankie Robinson (Cincinnati Reds) – and he wears number 20 on all his uniforms and even draws it on his regular shirts if I don’t watch him. He’s never too tired to go to the knothole games and is perfectly happy retrieving bats and helmets if he doesn’t get in the game. The first game that the Sweeneys played, they lost and we were all pretty low about it, but Frankie said, ‘Well, what do you think! We wouldn’t have lost the game if I had been in it!’ He wears his green and white Sweeney uniform with complete pride and confidence and doesn’t seem at all perturbed that he doesn’t get in the game until they’re several runs ahead. 7/26/65”
In 1966, Frankie didn’t make the Sweeney team but in 1967, a Cub Scout league was formed where every boy was on a team and had a chance to play in every game, where winning was not as important as having the boys learn some skills and have some fun. Frankie’s team was managed by a Cincinnati Police Sergeant (last row center) and one of the coaches was his father (last row left). Frankie is #4 in the second row. Apparently, Frankie Robinson’s #20 uniform wasn’t available.
It was so much fun that summer with the mothers sitting on the sidelines in big straw hats, watching all of the boys do the best they could (one mother noticed that her son was chasing butterflies in center field instead of focusing on fly balls), and stopping for ice cream cones on the way home – win or lose.
Click pictures to enlarge.