A Little League memory: Storms and switch-hitting
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As Little League marks its 75th anniversary nationally, here’s a story from Champaign native Bill Dixon, who played for the Robeson Yankees in the Pacific Coast League during the late 1950s. (The Pacific Coast League was based at Eisner Park and was so named because it approached the western boundary of Champaign at that time.):
Rasmussen Masonry was the leading team in our League. They were coached by Illini Great Gene Vance who had two sons, Jon and Jimmy, on the team. One night when Rasmussen was scheduled to play Robeson a number of Rasmussen’s better players were away at Boy Scout Camp and Robeson built a big lead but it was clear that a thunderstorm was on its way.
Bill Plymire, a local contractor, was the Robeson coach and he didn’t want to miss the chance to beat Rasmussen. He told us that the storm was coming and we needed to speed up the game so it had the necessary number of innings to be official. Specifically, he told us to strike out when batting to move the game along.
I didn’t want to strike out so, as a right-handed batter, I asked him if I could bat left-handed and he said, “Yes, but make it quick.” He didn’t know that I had been practicing my left hand batting in neighborhood wiffle ball games.
On the second pitch, I hit a double batting left-handed. As I stood on second base, Coach Plymire shook his head and tried to hold back a smile. Fortunately, we were able to play enough innings to make the game official before the storm arrived.
Those Little League days at Eisner Park are some of my favorite memories.
Dixon is returning to Champaign the weekend of June 21 for the 50th reunion of his Champaign High School class. Later this month he retires from a 45-year career in city management, the last 21 as village manager of Arlington Heights.