Dan Corkery: The pitcher's hand that guides us through life

Dan Corkery: The pitcher's hand that guides us through life

Give a kid a bat, a ball and a glove, let him or her loose outside, and creativity thrives.

Add in a few friends, and they'll have a baseball game — even though they have far fewer than nine players per side.

As a 15-year-old in Moline, my friends and I would play two-on-two whiffle ball in the Fosses' backyard.

One pitcher, one fielder, one catcher, one batter.

If you got a hit to left field, an "imaginary runner" was on first base. If your teammate followed that with another single, imaginary runners were on first and second.

Hit the south end of the Fosses' roof and it was a double. Launch one to the neighbor's garage roof, a home run. Right field was out.

The pitcher was expected to throw strikes, and the batter had to swing.

In earlier years, we played tennis ball, because a regular baseball dents siding and breaks windows.

In the Glancys' backyard, we had a 90-degree field, from foul line to foul line. At the Radoviches, who had a long narrow yard, the field was closer to 45 degrees, the infield resembling the diamond on a playing card.

To play four-on-four or five-on-five, we recruited younger siblings and neighbors (even girls). To make it fair, we had "little guy" home runs and "big guy" home runs.

You didn't need a catcher; the side batting took care of that.

Instead of a first baseman, we'd play "pitcher's hand." The batter was safe if he reached first before the pitcher caught the throw from the fielder.

I first learned about pitcher's hand from my dad, who played a lot of baseball in the 1930s with his brothers on their farm outside Fairbank, Iowa.

In the early 1960s, Dad would gather my four brothers and me to play in our backyard.

The silver maple was first, an ornamental tree that oozed sticky sap was second, and the swing set was third.

Home was a worn spot in the lawn.

Equipped with a Charlie Brown-like mitt that required two hands to make a catch, Dad pitched and we played pitcher's hand. The score didn't matter, but the time together did.

The real joy of baseball is, it's a game shared across generations.

For 10 years, my wife and I have been playing whiffle ball with our daughter and a few neighbors. We call it "street ball" because the brick intersection of High and Orchard streets in Urbana is our infield. We discourage sliding.

We started out playing games (pitcher's hand, of course), but we found it's more fun just to clobber that little plastic ball.

Like my dad, I pitch.

For the benefit of my wife, I throw what we call a "Mitch pitch" (named after my childhood friend Mitch Radovich). In reality, it's a hanging curveball, which she wallops down Orchard Street. Luckily, no ball has yet reached Green Street.

Friendly pitching and good parenting have a common purpose. Throw a fair pitch and see what your kid can do with it.

In professional baseball, a "quality start" is one way to measure a pitcher's performance. My Father's Day wish is that all dads have quality starts; our kids need our best efforts.

If any dad aspires to throw a perfect game, I suggest he learn from my dad, Leon Corkery.

He's been pitch perfect for 93 years.

Dan Corkery is a member of The News-Gazette's editorial board. His email is dcorkery@news-gazette.com, and his phone is 351-5218.

Sections (2):Columns, Opinion


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