WITH spring training at hand, here's a tale from last summer's baseball season that may please you. I've been saving it. Jimmie Medloch told me about it. I hadn't seen Jimmie for a time, and was glad he stopped by. ``Glad you stopped by!'' I said. Jimmie said, ``I got something I want you to put in the paper.'' Mostly, as everybody who has anything to do with the papers well knows, people come around asking to keep something out, so my interest, and suspicion, was aroused and I signaled for Jimmie to proceed. ``Because,'' he said, ``nobody ever puts much of anything in the paper that is sweet and kind and good and pleasant and inspiring and good to know and gives the wicked world a plus mark. You get wars and muggin's and slander suits and plane crashes and recipes that leave out the blueberries, and you'd think nothing ever happens these days that could cheer somebody up and make him feel good.''
Jimmie was the one some years back who got a home run on a bunt and four errors, and when I put that in the paper it cheered people up. After he got out of college he went to coaching baseball and in late years he's been coach at Graniteport High. Has done all right, and brought along a couple of prospects who got big-league tryouts. But now he tells me it hasn't all been peaches and cream at Graniteport. New-day attitudes and wise-guy kids, and lack of interest and cooperation from parents. Same all over, perhaps, but by times it got Jimmie down in the mouth and he wondered where we're going and how we'll make out. So this happened last summer, and I quote:
``We always play the last game of the season with the team from down on the island. It's the only off-island game they play, and it's a big event. The boys get to come to the mainland on the ferry and eat in a restaurant, and after the game they have time to look through the stores before the last ferry goes. It's really a crazy game. I pull my regulars after an inning and play my substitutes and scrubs, which makes things more even, but we usually win anyway. But that doesn't bother the island boys -- they're ashore for fun, and they never fret if the score is lopsided. Happiest team we play, and a day of joy for everybody.
``Well, this year we got a sour note. The island boys began to pack up after the game, and one boy couldn't find his cleats. You know, baseball shoes. Spikes. Everybody looked all around, but they were gone, and then one of our town kids spoke up and says, `I saw so-and-so heave some cleats into his pa's pickup.' Now this so-and-so, let's call him Ted, isn't a bad boy, but he's not all good, either. Except on second. He's good on second. But he teeter-totters the edge, and sometimes you suspect the kid when there's no reason to. Could be that he'd liberate some cleats. I told the coach from the island that I'd see what I could find out, and then he got his boys on the ferry and they went down the bay.
``That evening I went over to Ted's house, and when I knocked, out comes a woman I presumed was Ted's mother. No reason to at the time, but I looked at her and thought, `Aha! You're one of those modern mothers should pay more attention to what junior is doing!' But I says, `I was hoping to see Ted.' She says, `Ted's right inside, I'll call him.' So out comes Ted, and I says, `I'm hoping to find a pair of cleats that belongs down on the island.' Ted said he didn't know anything about any cleats, and I told him he'd been seen. But he says somebody is telling lies about him, and that's about where things stood and I guessed it was time I backed off.
``But then his mother comes out, standing behind Ted, and she says, all sweet and serene, `Is something wrong?' `No, I guess not,' I says. She says, `Something is wrong -- I can tell. What's wrong? I insist!' So I says, `Ted, want to go inside?' and Ted went inside. I told his mother I had no proof except that a kid said he saw Ted heave the cleats, and she says, `Don't go away. You stay where you are.'
``When she came back she says, `Ted has the cleats. They're in his father's pickup truck.' I says, `Good! And I'm truly sorry. If you let me have them, I'll get them on the ferry in the morning.'
``But she says, `Oh, no! That's no good. Ted will get up in the morning and go on the ferry, and he'll return the cleats with an apology. Thank you very much.' So, by darn, there I was giving Ted's mother a big hug and she pushing me away, and I think that ought to be in the paper.''