(Wiffle Ball was) The Great Equalizer

great equalizer your own backyard panorama upstate new york

Does the backyard where you grew up still seem big?

These are the bases that were made of frisbees or squares of plywood. Bases that were filled with ‘ghost runners’ in 2-on-2 games of wiffleball. Ghosts that we could certainly see from the left-handed batters box with two outs and the game- nay, two outs and The Wiffle Ball World Series on the line.

This is the pitchers mound where you stared in at your best friend or little brother at the plate. With a yellow or orange plastic bat in their hand, you wanted nothing more than to make them feel terrible about themselves; a swinging strikeout or stupid pop-up back to the mound. For a brief moment at 16 they’re the greatest enemy you’ve ever known.

This is left field. A short distance away and a jumble of maple trees. They’re like weeds, you know. Somehow no matter how hard you tried, you could never catch a fly ball falling out of these trees.

This is the neighbors’ yard and driveway past left field. The driveway that forced a bunch of right-handed hitters to learn how to hit left-handed after some complaints about wiffleballs and parked cars coming together. I’ll never be convinced that a wiffleball could damage a car, but rules are rules.

This is the garden in straight-away centerfield. A full 78-feet from home plate, this was the deepest part of the park. Does that still seem far away, now that you’ve seen the world? Everyone will tell you how they once hit one into the garden, but no one believes them.

This is the home run tree in right field. A perfect distance for not-too-many homers, it was the perfect distance for a bunch of righties learning how to bat left-handed. And they were a perfect distance for a natural lefty to swing a plastic bat too hard and gain limited success. Wiffleball was the great equalizer.

This is home plate and this is home. Where there was no umpire and you learned to trust your opponent to make the right call. To compromise when needed. Out there by the ‘home run tree’ in right field, on the border with the neighbors- where you almost won the world series in the rain, only to see it settle safely into your little brother’s glove. Does that still seem like the ‘deep part of the park’?

Out there where your comrades, too, wished they were doing what the popular kids were doing; drinking and drugs and finding out about girls. Out there where everyone was on the same level. Wiffleball was the great equalizer. Out there where you wouldn’t change a thing.



This is my grandmother, Virginia Monte Verde, formerly Amico. This is Ginger. This is around 1933 or so. This is before her eyesight went. Eyes with which she had seen the roaring 20s as a first-gen Sicilian-American girl. Eyes that saw her small Upstate New York village of Dansville rise up from the dirt and gravel to paved streets and take-no-prisoners Americana economy. Her husband, my grandfather, drove taxi from the train station to the world-renowned Physical Culture Hotel. The people came in from New York to the PC and the valley town thrived on big city money from ‘the old neighborhood’. And with her sharp eyes she stayed a proud working woman all along making beautiful dresses in her very own Main Street shop. Her eyesight went around the same time my father was born, so she didn’t see the railroad get torn up, or my grandfather’s decline, or the PC go out of business. She didn’t see my father for the first thirty-two years of his life either. So here in my 32nd year on the planet, I post this in loving memory of her getting her eyesight back when my father was 32. This is my grandmother. This is Ginger.