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One more story, so you'll understand that the odds were against me when I finally got into basketball. The baseball coach in my high school thought I should be able to play since my brother Vic was a shortstop; he had the best arm in our town. He threw a rock across the Willamette River at Bryant Park one summer when the water was very low. No one else could get more than a splash halfway across.
The coach assumed that I could throw, too. He put me at second base, and it didn't take him long to find out. The only double plays we ever made were third to short to first. I threw like Aimee Semple McPherson, an arm-waving evangelist of that day. I had a glass arm. A living glass arm. It shattered the first day of baseball practice. It was raining, my arm was cold and I threw as hard as I could. It burned right down the middle of the bone whenever I picked up a bat or even waved goodby; when I threw, it was like plugging in a toaster with your fingers in the socket.
The final game in the spring of 1935 for the local championship was between Albany and Lebanon at the strawberry festival. Loggers came out of the hills to Lebanon by the tens, mostly to get a free piece of the BIGGEST STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE IN THE WORLD, as the banner across Main Street read. Albany was the big city team, because we were the county seat; we had 450 in the high school. Lebanon had two hardware stores, so it wasn't all that small, but the loggers in the stands adopted Lebanon because it was closer to the hills and their camps.
And there I was, disguised as a second baseman. My batting average wasn't what kept me on the team; I didn't have more than six official at bats all season. My sole reason for being in uniform was the old get-on-base stomach-cramp crouch; it gave me a strike zone about the size of an envelope. The pitchers we were up against couldn't hit it three out of seven times, so I'd walk.
"Make him stand up!" the fallers yelled.
"Ball one," said the umpire. "Straighten up, kid."
"Hit 'im in the head!" shouted the whistle punks.
"Ball two," said the umpire. "I told you to stand up."
"Chicken!" screamed the buckers.
"Ball three," said the ump. "I'm warning you. You don't stand up, I'll call a strike."