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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

No. 11 "We didn't even get a chance to bat!"


With the onset of World War II life on Harkers Island began to change. One of those changes was the influx of soldiers and sailors assigned to Cape Lookout, and responsible for protecting this part of the North Carolina coast from the German U Boats. Eventually some of those military personnel found a permanent home on the Island as was evidenced by the new surnames that became a part of the Island demographic.
One of those sailors, whose name has now been lost, was noticed by local baseball players for a very special talent. This young visitor was a pitcher - but more than that, he was a pitcher who could throw the ball with either hand.
     
What a discovery? Here was a young man who could by himself take unlimited advantage of an age-old baseball strategy. Specifically, he could pitch right-handed to right-handed hitters, and, when necessary, could switch hands and throw with his left hand to the left-handers.

An early Marshallberg baseball team - 
photo taken from "The Mailboat," 
Spring 1991, Vol.2, No.1.
Eager to take advantage of their assumed good fortune, the Island team invited their rivals from Marshallberg to a challenge match with the intention of settling an old score. Marshallberg had been on a winning streak in recent years thanks to several young players who had shown a consistent talent for hitting the best pitchers the Island had to offer. So confident were the Islanders that they agreed to play the game at Smyrna, literally in Marshallberg’s back yard. Perhaps not suspecting that they were being set up for a ringer, the challenge was immediately accepted and the game was on.

The contest began with the Island team in the field, they being the “home team” for having offered the challenge in the first place. It thus worked out that the ambidextrous Island pitcher got to show his stuff at the very onset of the contest. Unfortunately for the Islanders and their many fans who had come to witness the game, it immediately became obvious that their intended hero indeed could pitch with either hand - he just could not pitch very well with either hand!

Batter after batter from Marshallberg stepped up to the plate and swatted the ball soundly into play as if they were taking batting practice. It was even said that several of the cattle, roaming a pasture that sat just beyond the right field fence, were injured by long-balls that disturbed their grazing.

By the time the third out had been made, and the Marshallbergers headed out to take the field, the Island boys had decided that discretion was the better part of valor. The first half of the inning had taken so long that the sun was already beginning to fall behind the tall pines that were to the west of the Smyrna School. Rather than take their turn at bat, they stole away to their cars and trucks that were waiting to take them home.

Seeing their foes run-off rather than continue the contest, some of the Marshallberg players and fans chased behind their fleeing opponents and heckled them with repeated chants of “we beat you, we beat you!”  Leaning out of the back window of one of the departing cars a Harkers Island player responded with the best retort  he could muster, “I wonder how you know, we didn't even get a chance to bat!”