Edward Pratt: Baseball trip a home run

I recently watched a few innings from the Little League World Series. Watching the fun and camaraderie of the boys took me down memory lane to my little league days in Baton Rouge.

My team, the Sunbeam (Bread) Trojans won the championship in the Brooks Park League in 1967. We had made mincemeat of Imperial Grocery, Guidry-Kennedy Tigers and everyone else.

Our payoff was a trip to the virtually new Houston Astrodome. Our parents and coaches sponsored the trip. My dad was the head coach and the manager/owner was Freddie Smith, who had a huge route for Sunbeam Bread.

Smith drove a Cadillac, so my guess is that he and the bread company footed most of the bill. His son, Felix (the only Felix I ever knew other than the cat) was one of our star players.

For most of us, it was going to be our first time heading out of Louisiana and staying at a hotel.

I told my grandmother that I was going to the Houston Astrodome to see the Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers and that we were also going to stay at a hotel.

My grandmother didn’t know what the Astrodome was, but she was terribly concerned about the hotel stay. She was an illiterate child of the Jim Crow-, Ku Klux Klan-era. She didn’t think it was a good idea for us to be at a hotel where the races mixed.

I told my dad about her concerns and he assured her it would be okay. She let me go, but encouraged me to pack my red pocketknife (more of toy than a weapon) just to be on the safe side.

I jumped on the bus with a shoebox of fried chicken and two biscuits, she had prepared for me. Other kids had similar boxes.

It was a long, bumpy, but fun trip. We made faces at people in passing cars, laughed and told jokes.

When we arrived at the hotel, most of us got very quiet because there actually were white people staying there.

Once in the rooms, we jumped on the beds, did flips, ran the water in the bathrooms just because, and of course, we “played the dozens” (If you don’t know what that is, look it up).

This was an incredible time for little boys from my neighborhood with nicknames like: “Sleepy” “Collins,” “Bro-Bro” (pronounced Bruh-Bruh) “Melboo,” “Rock,” “Babbie,” “Skip” and “Heads.”

The bigness of the Astrodome, the lights, the people, the smells wafting from the concession stands was overwhelming for us. We went to the baseball field and it cemented our dreams of playing major league baseball. (None of us even got close, but we got to see a few professional ballplayers up close.

We stood in the concession line with everyone and no one raised any questions. Nevertheless, I clutched by red pocketknife just in case there was any funny business.

I can’t speak for all of the guys, but I think it was pretty unanimous, that we took as many towels, sheets and spreads as we could jam into our bags. Very few of us had actual luggage.

This was such an awesome time for me. Finally, I would have something interesting to talk about when I had to stand in class to explain what I did over the summer. That trip locked us together as lifelong friends.

Watching the recent little league highlights on TV, I wondered if those boys had as much fun as the Sunbeam Trojans. I doubt it.

A couple of the guys from my team have died. I’ve lost touch with a couple and a few others are seriously ill. What a glorious time we had. I miss the innocence of it and I miss them.

Edward Pratt is a former Advocate editor. He is assistant to the chancellor for media relations at Southern University. His email address is epratt1972@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @epratt1972.