At an early age, my interest in sports became a second addiction — second to the written word and writing. With my Dad, I listened to the Cleveland Indians’ (baseball) games on the radio. The Indians were my Dad’s team. So, already having picked up on the value of competition, I began to root for the Detroit Tigers. Dad took our family to games in Detroit when the Indians came to town.
I remember being fiercely disappointed, years later, when Detroit traded the great Jim Bunning, and he went elsewhere (to Philadelphia) to pitch a no-hitter. By then, however, “Mr. Tiger” Al Kaline had become my first real sports hero, and my sports interests had increased to include Thoroughbred horse racing. There was the Grey Ghost of Sagamore.
Baseball and horse racing were the first two major sports shown on black and white television.
The first day I boarded a big yellow bus that took me to school, my life was forever distracted. Although sports became something I later learned to write about, it, too, was an early distraction.
School and the ability to learn so much about such a large world captured the majority of my time. If I wasn’t in school, I was in the yard, playing baseball with my brothers and Dad, or up in the hayloft, playing basketball with the same company, or watching the Grey Ghost authoritatively wipe out the competition, or screaming for the Tigers running around the bases on TV.
I was six when I started the first grade. There was no kindergarten in the early ’50s.
As the above picture may indicate, I wasn’t eager about my life being turned over to school. (I was one of those late bloomers who later on really began to appreciate the life of learning and its benefits rather than letting it act as a distraction from my writing.) Although, in school, I began to learn more about getting words onto paper, there were too many other activities, things in which one was required to participate: distractions like arithmetic, which quickly got out of hand in my head, and group reading, and spelling drills, and socializing discussion periods, and blackboard exercises.
All, and everything else around me, were giant distractions that steered me away from the joy of connecting words into sentences, rather than contributed enhancement to my love of pen and paper.