Jim Siergey: Just Like Proust, Approximately

April 9th, 2019

Kids don’t play in the street anymore, do they?

When I was a kid we played football and baseball in the street, baseball being 16 inch softball, of course. Play would occasionally be interrupted when a sharp-eyed youngster would call out “Car!” and we would all cease our athletic activities and flatten ourselves against the parked cars with annoyed looks on our faces as the interrupting vehicle made its way down the thoroughfare.

I don’t recall any neighbors ever chastising us or displaying concern about their parked cars being damaged. Of course, this was the late 1950s and early ‘60s so the cars were all chrome-bumpered rounded hunks of heavy duty metal that would take more than a softball or the body of a hard charging youngster to make a dent into them.

Plus we were all really young— eight, nine, ten years of age, so there were not many, if any, blistering line drives being smote.

It was quite a challenge attempting to catch pop ups and running the “bases” without cracking a rib or dislocating a knee by running into an old Ford, Chevy or Hudson. It made us tough as well as agile.

I vividly remember one day when the usual crowd of us mostly single digit in age kids were playing softball in the street. Steve Zoven, a bigger kid from down the block ambled by and insisted that he take a turn at bat. In size, Steve resembled a padded door, that is to say, he was a husky kid. Plus he must have been thirteen years of age so without any complaint, the bat was meekly handed over to him.


Are those rabbits?


An underhanded pitch was tossed to him, he swung and the ball took off like a Roman Candle. We all turned, watching in silent admiration, as the ball, now a large gray pellet, flew past two, three, then four houses and began hooking over the parkway lawn toward the fifth one.

The crushed spheroid continued hooking and began heading straight for house number five’s picture window. In unison we all held our breath and cringed in anticipation of shattering disaster. At the last second its trajectory ran out of gas, the ball dipped and with a resounding thud hit the brick wall just below the large, and expensive, pane of glass.

We all gasped a sigh of relief before dispersing in various directions like a colony of frightened rabbits.

That was our last year of playing ball in the street as the few houses on the other side were bought by the town and razed, turning it into a large open field, the size of a city block. Backstops were erected at opposite ends of the field and upon the dirt surface is where baseball, football and kickball were played as well as kite flying.

Progress marched on and cars began to be made with thinner metal.

The other night I had a dream where a handful of adults decided to venture out into an alley to play 16 inch softball. I don’t recall whether I knew any of them or not but they were definitely all adults and of both genders. Lagging behind, I went out to join them.

Despite the alley resembling a backdrop from the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari with weird angled garages, I recognized it as the alley behind the house in which I grew up. As the realization of this fact dawned on me I called out to the throng.

“Why are playing here in the alley?” I asked. “Across the street in front is a big open field. Let’s go play there.”

A leg spasm then caused me to awaken and as I sat on the edge of the bed massaging my middle of the night charley horse I remembered the little tale with which I just regaled you.


Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was The Name Game


One Response to “Jim Siergey: Just Like Proust, Approximately”

  1. Benny Jay says:

    Jim: I love Proust…

Leave a Reply:

Comments subject to approval--if we don't like it, we won't post it.

    • Archives