All of us can recall an adult during our youth who made our lives difficult. But there was only one kid I knew who delivered an eight-ounce glass of payback juice to his adult nemesis. That boy’s name was Freddy and he played on our Little League team in Fords, New Jersey during the 1960’s.

Freddy was a nice kid, a slick athlete who could roam the outfield like few players his age could. He had a good bat as well, yet our manager could not stand him because at age 10, Freddy spoke his mind. He was never disrespectful in words or tone. But we knew what he was thinking. And, more often than not, he was correct in his assessments about daily life.

One day the manager was addressing the team after a win. He said we were going to play a team called the Gray Sox and he went on and on talking about how tough the team was and if we didn’t win, well, that wouldn’t be so bad because our current record was 12-3 and we could still find our way into the championship game.

“Hey, Coach,” Freddy chimed in, “aren’t you supposed to be telling us why we can beat this team?”

The manager gave Freddy a glare that would have melted most kids. Freddy didn’t blink. And the manager lost it. He screamed at Freddy and told him to keep his mouth shut.

“When I’m talking, you listen,” he shouted. “You think you’re so good and have all the answers. Well, you don’t. So shut up.”

Freddy drew in a small breath and said no more.

What seemed to bother Freddy the most was not what our manager had said, but the harsh tone he took. Freddy’s teammates could tell he was hurt and after the post-game meeting he just slipped away from Woodland Field and wandered home.

Things weren’t the same afterward. Sure, Freddy played well in practice, but he seemed to lack spirit at times.

Well, the coach was right. We did lose to the Gray Sox the next game and back into panic mode went our manager. He was overbearing during our next two practices, especially toward Freddy, but the kid seemed to shake it off. Still, something was amiss with our center fielder.

Finally came the game to decide our championship fate. Our manager was ecstatic. He had been coaching Little League for more than a decade and he was now at the doorstep of a title. Visions of a team trophy danced in his head. In fact, the night before at a Dairy Queen ice cream stand, he went on and on to my father and me that this was a special moment for him. I thought the whole thing was rather silly and when I saw Freddy later that evening I told him about the conversation.

“It’s just a game,” Freddy was saying now.

“Don’t tell that to Coach,” I said. “He’s mad enough at you.”

“Well, I’ve just about had it with him too.”

The next day the two teams met at Woodland Field for the game that would determine which team would chase the championship trophy. Woodland Field then, as today, is a rock-strewn piece of acreage filled with gaping holes. Every game is a misadventure. Amazingly, however, both teams played excellent defense throughout their game and by the bottom of the sixth (the final inning in a Little League game) our team was leading 2-0 when our opponent’s first baseman cracked a run-scoring single in the bottom of the sixth.

The score was 2-1. Then, with one out, up stepped their right fielder. He moved the runner to second with a walk. Coach was at once nervous and giddy. Would he punch his ticket to the championship game?

Up stepped John Rachel. Now here was a bruiser of a 12-year-old player. He stood 5-feet, 9 inches and weighed about 155 pounds. Big for Little League then and now. Donnie, our pitcher, fired a strike on the outside corner. The coach started pacing the first-base line because there was no dugout at Woodland Field. The next pitch was in the dirt, but our catcher blocked it.

Rachel stepped out of the batter’s box and exchanged a laugh with his teammates. Then he resumed his stance. Our pitcher tried to quick pitch Rachel but he was not fooled. He lofted a deep fly to centerfield and Freddy gave chase. Woodland Field had no fence and so Freddy just kept running. The ball must have traveled 235 feet but Freddy was able to reach out and make the catch with his outstretched glove. He stumbled a little on the bumpy turf and regained his balance.

Our manager leaped in the air. The moment he had been waiting for was only an out away. Then the opposing manager yelled to our coach, “Hey, Coach, what’s your center fielder doing?”

Seems that after Freddy caught the ball for the second out with two men on, he decided to keep on running with the ball away from Woodland Field. He ran across the playground, down the street, and out of sight.

The runners on base just froze. But Freddy was nowhere to be seen so they could not be thrown out. Using his right arm as a windmill, the opposing manager signaled to his players to run home. They did and we lost 3-2.

While many of his teammates disliked what Freddy had done, we understood his actions.

But the manager had no clue. He paced the outfield kicking up clods of dirt, cursing. No one would go near him. He had missed his chance at Little League immortality and it was tearing at him.

No one saw Freddy for the rest of the summer. The story was that he had moved to  Massachusetts two weeks after our loss.

I think about Freddy at times and what he did that day only brings a smile to my face. That was one nervy kid.

So, Freddy, wherever you are, no hard feelings.


Watch Out for the Apple Watch


Oh, boy, the new Apple Watch is here. It has apps for the weather, tracking our heartbeats, sending Instagrams, telling time, reading news, turning the watch into a canvas and color palette for painting, negotiating the aisles of the nearest Target store, and countless more meaningless activities to assure we no longer think for ourselves and lead a human existence. All with just the flick of the wrist or a light tap. And all for the basic price of $349 for the Apple Watch sports version to upward of $17,000 for the gold premium Apple Watch edition.

Now isn’t the Apple Watch just like the much less expensive iPhone in many ways? And don’t we need to have an iPhone in our pockets for the Apple Watch to work?


Stop right there. Let’s not rant on Apple. It is merely a company of smart people dreaming up smart toys for us to buy, to distract ourselves, and to make them billions of dollars. We’re the dummies.

What I don’t get is why we need to buy the smartwatch because it’s practically the same thing we’ve already got in our pockets. But because it makes us look like Dick Tracy talking on his wrist radio in the 1960 cartoon, some of us must have it.

I know a guy who has ordered the Apple Watch. I asked him why and he ran down the laundry list of apps I’ve already cited. And more.

“It has many of the same features as your iPhone,” I told him.

“You don’t get it, Joe, now I don’t have to take my cellphone out of my pocket.”

“That’s because you have to keep an iPhone in your pocket when you wear the watch?”

“Sure, otherwise the Apple Watch won’t work.”

So, let’s see, an Apple Watch and an iPhone: now you’re paying maybe a minimum of $500 to “stay connected.”

Did this guy ever study simple arithmetic?

So he will now join what I call the 2015 version of the Stepford Wives and stare at his wrist all day and get little to no work done. Then, when he crosses a street, he won’t even hear the peeling of car brakes that are being applied to avoid killing him as he glances at his wrist watch and ignores oncoming traffic. And, of course, he will have less communication with people. Might he even bring the Apple Watch to the bedroom? I can hear the pillow talk now.

“I’m just taking a quick glance at MLB, honey.”

Oddly all this technology is referred to as “the new forms of communication,” but has there been a time in recent history with a greater dearth of human interaction?

Long before the Apple Watch was conceived, I was standing on the corner of 34th Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan waiting for the light to change. The woman next to me said, “Good morning. How are you?”

“Fine,” I replied.

“Thanks for last night.”

“Ah, what happened last night?” I said, turning to her.

Then I spotted her Bluetooth, the latest communication rage at the time.

So what might happen if millions of people buy the Apple Watch?

Teachers already have a tough time getting students to put away their cellphones during class. Wait until the children purchase an Apple Watch. Kids will only have to slightly turn their wrists to view whatever information they need. How uneducated will they soon become?  And children are supposed to be our future!

People are already anticipating the next generation of the Apple Watch, and possible apps to change diapers or make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

The point: It’s time to become human again, folks.

Now, don’t toss away your Apple Watch if you already ordered one. Just don’t glance at it hundreds of times a day and forego a meaningful conversation. And please, don’t get struck by a car while crossing an intersection because you’re checking out Bruce Jenner’s latest surgery. And stop reading stupid Internet articles with titles like Why Russia and Costa Rica Cannot Co-exist, When Laughter Filled the Ottoman Empire, Salad Oil and Pus: Not a Good Mixture, and Twenty Reasons Why Vincent Van Gogh Did Not Cut Off His Other Ear.

Instead, read something meaningful.

Or just sit and think.

Perhaps contemplate a flower.

Or your navel.

Even better: pay attention to a loved one.

Remember, humanity got this far without excessive gadgetry. Want proof?  Bill Gates and Steve Jobs grew up during a time when the world just used pencils, paper, and pens to communicate. So how did they single-handedly usher in our technological world?

They had time to think.