I was standing in line at a gas station in rural South Carolina. I had pulled over to use the bathroom, to buy a hot cup of mud, and God willing, to purchase chili cheese Fritos.
There were two kids in baseball uniforms, standing ahead of me in line. It was October.
Little League isn’t generally played in October, I was thinking. Maybe they were attending a baseball camp. Maybe it was just a practice?
They were your quintessential American boys. White pants, stained in red clay. Jerseys untucked. Hair, bleached by the sun. They smelled like little-boy sweat.
They reminded me of a thousand feckless summers I spent shagging fly balls. I was a chubby outfielder who wore Husky jeans. But in my heart, I was Dale Murphy.
When the two boys reached the cashier, the old woman called them by name and asked how they’re families were doing. And that’s when I noticed one of the boys was missing his left arm.
The boy used several contorted movements to place his items onto the counter without dropping them.
He was buying mostly candy. Resse’s.
Crunch bar. Skittles. Starburst. Gatorade—Frost-Glacier blue. The only thing missing was the Big League Chew.
Has our culture fallen so far that young ball players no longer appreciate Big League Chew? This columnist wants to know.
The woman behind the register just smiled at him. Her voice sounded like a pack of Newports.
“How’d you play today?” she said.
He shrugged. “Okay, I guess.”
“Are you in pain?”
He rotated his missing arm at the shoulder socket. “I’m still getting used to it.”
She nodded. “I’ll bet.”
Another smile from the woman. “You’re doing great, sweetie. You’ll adjust. It’ll take time, but after a while it’ll be almost second nature. Look how far you’ve already come.”
She placed his candy into a small plastic bag. “You were out there trying,…