Hunker Down: I never saw any wings
I didn’t grow-up with Tim Peters. This is not a life-long friend story. We didn’t go on any wild escapades. We never got arrested together. I didn’t date his sister (if he indeed had one) nor did I know his parents. I did see his father often at the baseball games.
And believe me, this is the furtherest thing from a baseball story that you will ever read…..
Tim was physically in my life for two short years. And most of our contact did revolve around the baseball season. I don’t know for sure that God sends angels down as ordinary looking folks to intervene at critical moments in your life. But after Tim Peters’ everlasting touch on mine, I ain’t betting against it!
If you are dog house lucky like I was, maybe you know someone like him…
It was January 1966. I was barely into my second semester of college. The first one had been a disaster. I was 212 miles from the house. Alone. Lost. With no place to go. The classes were hard. My girlfriend had left me. I missed my mama.
I’d only come back after the Christmas break because everyone said, “You’ve got to get that education… “
The cold wind had frozen my fingers together as I wrapped them around a Mickey Mantle model Louisville Slugger and stepped into the batting cage. This is crazy! I’m trying out for the baseball team in an arctic blast!
“Are you going to hit rookie, or read your press clippings?” Coach Majors would turn out to be one of my biggest backers but not that first year. He would put you to the test. And with, what I thought was, a bit of sadistic glee.
He pointed me out to shortstop and hit so many ground balls at me my tongue was interfering with my catching ability. He kept me after practice. Everyday! Just me and him, playing the ground ball game.
Tim was waiting for me as I was the last player out of the shower. Again. “Let’s go down to the City Café and get a hamburger.”
He was a junior. He hadn’t said two words to me in the week and a half we’d spent getting ready for the season. He was not unfriendly, just quiet and humble. Almost shy I thought. But he was the starting leftfielder and leadoff hitter and I was the rookie…. no way I could turn down this invitation.
Besides, he had a car. I was tired of walking back to the dorm alone. I didn’t think about not having any money until we were pulling into the parking lot.
I know what you are thinking. Here’s where he gives me the advice of a lifetime; reveals inside info on how to make the baseball team; puts my college life into perspective; touches my lips with a glowing hot coal from God….
It wasn’t like that. He ordered a hamburger and a Coke for both of us, put a nickel in the jukebox, played “Jackson” by Johnny Cash and June Carter and talked quietly about little things while we ate.
He paid up and drove me back to Benedict Hall.
It became a ritual for us. If he minded having to wait while Coach Majors finished my extra work, he never let on. I refereed intramural basketball for two dollars a game. I swept up after dinner at Gailor Hall for fifty cents an aisle. I dropped a nickel into the slot, played the Cash song and paid for the hamburgers and Cokes a fair share of the time.
But let me tell you, there’s no way on earth I could out give Tim Peters!
We never split the tab. Not one time in two years. He didn’t give me a reason for that. I think he wanted me to figure out that real friends don’t keep score.
Someone said he was from New York City. Tim never mentioned it to me. He didn’t talk about himself. He did laugh about my girlfriend leaving as if it were no big deal. He assured me (like he knew something I didn’t) there was someone special out there for me.
He could talk about all sorts of things. But mostly he asked me what I thought. He was genuinely interested in what I had to say. It was like he knew I didn’t need a pronouncement from on high… I needed a quiet friend.
He was consistent, constant and steadfast. I’m not sure till this day if I would have “made it” through those times without him.
Maybe I was wrong at the top of this story about that life-long friend thing.
I know this for dead certain positive. Fifty plus years later, every time I hear “Jackson” I immediately think of Tim. Not nine out of 10 times it’s played. Not ninety-nine out of a hundred.
EVERY SINGLE TIME!
This article originally appeared on The Star: Hunker Down: I never saw any wings