By Charles Sacchetti
In 1955, I decided that I wanted to be a baseball player. My dad had taken me to my first Phillies game and I was enthralled by the smell of the grass and pure beauty of the game. Soon after, I joined my first baseball team, the Southwest Colts just before my 8th birthday.
Back then, things were different. Teams played to win and actually kept score. No trophies for just showing up. You had to earn them for individual achievement or by winning the championship. You had to beat out the other guy in order to play. Being the team’s youngest and smallest, my position was “bench.” We were undefeated, and the coach played the guys he thought were the best. I couldn’t get into the lineup, and it was frustrating. After each game, my Dad arrived from work and asked me two questions:
Did you win?
Did you play?
My answers would be yes and no and always in that order. Dad wouldn’t say much more, obviously feeling that I was now old enough to deal with adversity. I wanted to show him that I was good enough to play but the disappointment continued.
Then one game, while doing my best to avoid the splinters, a few tears began to flow knowing I’d have to once again go home and give Dad my yes and no answers. My dismay turned to horror when I saw my mother talking to our coach. This was a disaster. No kid wants “Mommy” interceding for him. However, the next thing I knew, the coach said, “Grab a bat; you’re pinch hitting.” It seems Mom had “reasoned” with coach, just about begging him to give me a chance.
I now can look back and realize that from that moment, my life probably took a major turn.
I went to bat with Mom, my older teammates and coach watching intently and lined the first pitch right through the middle for a single. I felt like I had just won the World Series, although I acted like it was no big deal. It was very important to be cool at the age of 8 when the other guys on the team are 11 and 12.
I could finally tell Dad I played.
Thereafter, I went on to play for many teams, including John Bartram High School, Roche Post American Legion, Temple University and a brief stint with the Phillies, shortened by active duty with the National Guard during the Vietnam War. Fortunately, my baseball career was filled with many individual and team honors.
In April of 1970, during Basic Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, I received a letter from Temple University’s Al Shrier. Al offered me the position of Business Manager of Athletics, which I assumed in August. Two years later, I moved on to the Facilities Department. My boss was Bud Wilson, the brother of my baseball coach, Skip Wilson. During this time, I met a sweet young lady, Luann. She was a student, the daughter of my co-worker, Rose. Luann and I were married two years later. That was 43 years ago. Now there are two children and two grandchildren.
Back in 1955, it would have been easy for me to sour on the game, especially after “failing” all of those times, suffering the humiliation of underachieving. Who knows, I may have even given up the game. It certainly wasn’t any fun and I sure didn’t like telling Dad I was a benchwarmer.
It was Mom grabbing the coach and pleading with him to give her little boy a chance that made me realize I could play and be successful. As you can see, the most important events of my life had a connection to my playing baseball.
One can never know the consequences of a mother’s act of love.
Charlie Sacchetti can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org