Growing up in the late 70’s and early 80’s, I was involved in baseball. I played it, my brothers played it, my friends played it. It was a part of my daily life throughout the summer from when I was seven to about thirteen. In Rapid City, baseball was revered and celebrated. We had a strong baseball program throughout the city and success at the national level with our American Legion Post 22 team. Even the amateur teams had a strong following and summer was full of games.
Besides playing the game, we would enjoy watching the game. Sometimes I would sit in the crow’s nest and announce my brother’s game. Other times I would sit in the bleachers and spit sunflower seeds with my team-mates. Many times, I would stand along the fence line and hope for foul balls to be hit.
See, back in the day, the teams and the leagues only had so many baseballs that they would use during a game. So, if a ball became lost, they would need to replace it. So, the kids around the field would wait for a ball to be hit out of play (either via a foul ball, which was more common, or a home run). When the ball left the confines of the field and the fence, the kids would scramble like ants on something sweet to get the ball. The ball needed to be returned so that they could continue to play the games.
Besides the need for the balls to be returned, another reason for all the excitement was that the retriever of the ball could turn the ball in and receive a quarter reward at the concession stand. Although a quarter today does not have much buying power, back then it sure did. You could get a Chick-o-stick or a Fun Dip. You could get 5 pieces of bubble gum. Or, if the concession worker was feeling helpful, they would let you accumulate “credit” for each ball you turned in and then you could get something more expensive, such as a slushie.
I spent many hours enjoying baseball games as a kid. Many times, I would just watch the game since there were so many kids actively searching for the foul balls. But, some days I would hang out with my friends and actively search out the missing balls. I had many cavities to confirm that.