Guys and Dolls: Play Ball!
When we were young, my brother Carleton and I found a unique way to satisfy both of our passions with one of our favorite playtime activities. His love of baseball and my love of dolls, two loves that would seem destined never to meet, found common ground when we discovered the joys of baseball with dolls.
I don’t know who came up with the idea. We used playing cards as bases. If my team was “at bat,” I’d simply pick up the doll that was “batting,” Carleton would toss a pink eraser “ball” toward home plate, and then I’d swing at it with the doll. Meanwhile, Carleton, out in the “field,” would try to catch or field the hit ball, giving credit to whichever doll was closest to the ball. If the ball actually hit the doll, it was a catch; otherwise, if Carleton could toss the ball over to his first baseman before I could scramble over there with my doll, then my doll would be “out.” And so on.
Some of our favorite players included Kathy, who was at least two feet tall and almost always naked, with tufts of curly black hair, much of which had been pulled out by one of my sisters, or Lucky, our dog. She was rather unwieldy to hold for batting; thus, she was an erratic hitter, but when she connected it was almost always a home run. However, she could cover the outfield like no other.
We also liked the plump baby doll that we had somehow christened, simply, Goo. She was definitely a Babe Ruth-type slugger.
There was also Clown Raggs, a plastic toy with a smooth round midsection but a tiny head. Our rules specified that we had to swing from the bottom of the doll, thus the head would be the tip of the bat. Given these rules, Clown was not much of a hitter: he was very hard to grip from the midsection and the head offered too small an area for effective hitting. He did, however, make a great catcher, offering a wide strike zone for the pitcher. One-eyed Black Teddy was another coveted player. However, when we were batting with him, we had to close one eye; after all, that’s how he was seeing.
And then there was Barbie. Barbie has been revered for her great beauty over the decades, but let me tell you: She was no ball player! She was the strikeout queen. Her comely, slender figure in her fancy get-ups was useless at the plate and useless in the field. She was always picked last and we’d grumble when we got stuck with her. She was always roundly booed when she stepped up to the plate and committed more fielding errors than all the other players combined. All the ugly duckling kids in school would have loved the way the beauty queen got her comeuppance in our house.
Sometimes Carleton and I would dispute a play or call (after all, we were umpiring ourselves). However, we never took it seriously with each other. We’d let the dolls hash it out — the benches would clear and we’d have a doll brawl in the middle of the field. Dresses might be ripped open, heads might be popped off. Kathy could often pin three opponents under her at a time. My brother and I would laugh until we cried or had to pee when we came up with a particularly new way of beating up a doll. I think one time we squeezed Baby Alive between Kathy’s legs until the yellow poop came out of her.
At times, we’d suffer what might be called a “rain delay” when my little sister Audrey would come upon us in midgame and start screaming and bawling that we were ruining her dolls. I’m not sure how much damage we really did with a pink eraser. And we would always put the heads and clothes back on after a brawl. I think she was just jealous that we were having more fun with her dolls than she was.
And then, of course, the commissioner of baseball, my mother, would sometimes declare a strike on the season because, after a game, we’d leave the dolls all over her bedroom. “No more dolls in the bedroom; now pick them up!” We’d be back for another game the next day.
To this day, I’m trying to imagine my father’s reaction when he’d come home from work and go change his clothes. I can almost hear him saying to my mother, “What the hell is with all these dolls in here?” And my mother would probably sigh and say, “On, the boys were in here playing with them again today.” I can picture the gears in his head trying to wrap around the idea of Carleton playing with dolls. (Me, no problem.)
Throughout my childhood and most of my adulthood, I and millions like me awaited the day when our beloved, beleaguered Red Sox would win a World Series. That day finally came — four times in the 21st century, in fact.
But back then, even when the Sox let us down, Kathy and Goo never did. And the Barbies of the world were lustily heckled and sent to the showers where they belonged.
Looking back on it, sometimes Doll Ball beat the real thing. But at least every spring, we can reminisce about the ghosts of baseball past, and dream of one more unforgettable summer.