LHHS CLASS OF '65
The following tributes to Freddy Barger, Ricky Lescalleet, and Mike Lovas (all class of '65) were written by Jody Williams (class of '65).
A DISTANCE CLOSE TO HOME
We called it “tagging up,” out of school and free.
The first to write his name behind the plate, at home,
Would be the first to hit when all the rest had come,
eager and ready.
And though every boy among us loved the game,
waking to play,
Living near the field, most often it was Freddy—
Mostly the same three: first Freddy, then Ricky or me.
On any summer’s day, you could guess,
A devoted group of six—the baseball guys—our critical mass—
With bats and gloves showed up to play. Others, drawn in
while passing by,
Now and then arrived. These we absorbed into our games
of Home Run Derby and scrub, of grounders
Or, given sufficient numbers, we’d choose up sides,
Keeping score (though playing still for fun).
Fred was always first among the Chosen, then,
one by one,
The rest would follow in our simple draft,
In descending order of dexterity and craft.
Baseball, it turned out, was the perfect sphere
For a kid like me, set adrift on a second-hand Schwinn
in a new neighborhood—
I must have been nine that year—
Bereft already of old haunts and friends—for good of family,
It was understood—loosely fated by numerology and chance
Lucky to find myself at home with room to grow
In this new circumstance—
And, as well, being shy, to find myself on that first day
A new best friend nearby and a schoolyard sandlot
not far away.
Now, looking back some 45 years hence,
and still a boy at heart,
Despite having read the classics and dabbled in the arts,
Advanced perhaps in reason and good sense,
More than ever I find myself entranced by visions
of those high, arching flies
Launched in such profusion against the Texas sky
Toward and then beyond imagination’s fence—
Like the long trajectory of a lifetime, foreshortened,
The rise and disappearance of that boyhood friend,
his soul in flight,
Among the first of us chosen to haunt
the diamond-studded night.
RICKY: A MEMOIR
Years now – ten, it seems—since he died.
Unexpectedly, of course. Still, he stood alongside
Only last night, in a dream, he was there
In place neither space nor time.
Yes, we were young, yet aged enough and wise
Not kids, constant companions, baseball guys…
Uncertain, clumsy dancers at the hop, soda sippers, daredevil
Riders pedaling beneath those vast suburban skies.
Older instead, as I recall—in between demise
And warm days spent in serious pay tracing Freddy’s flies
In outfield pastures overgrown…on dusty diamonds,
Till mothers called or till our eyes
Could barely see to hit at all.
Now—in the dream, I mean—each appear to be the man
He would become in life, so far as we can understand,
At least, the fiction of identity, persistence, and romance
Of self and soul through changes—we children, educated, grown
Pass as solid citizens, two as one, with kids, though really
Then , unsurprised at meeting, how easily we talk--rare
Old friends in worlds apart, familiar, who share
Commonplace interests in casual pursuits—who care
For immaterial things (music, singers, players, scores)—
Disregard art of the deal, futures, stocks, retirement plans,
securities and bores.
Spectral figures, here among possibilities was our chance
Once and for all perhaps to tell what we know will pass:
How little, how much, how lucky we were, how well
aware at last
Of love and loss, of happiness, diminishment and death,
The cost of business as usual, do what we will—
curse, deny, or bless.
And how can I, bewildered infidel, invest a faith in schemes…
Among the swirl of gods and gurus, or someone
I have no market ability where wonder leads to dread.
No sales pitch can alleviate the weight for me, the fool,
Remotely comprehending just what the thunder said.
What then do we consider when heavy turns to light?
The memory of the games we playedbefore the darkened night.
And how to hit the inside pitch, swinging left or right—
To counteract the tailing sphere, the dark, the
That threatens now to break your bat, now to crack your skull.
Put fear aside, expect the worst, think balance, and stay tall…
Breathe, relax, stay back, stay back—await the speeding ball.
A moment comes, Prince Hamlet said, when timing dictates all
The readiness, the action, the tragic hero’s fall.
I try to seize some metaphor—to grasp what it may mean—
As if one could at all account for the strangeness of a dream.
AIR FOR MIKE LOVAS
When Michael J. stepped up to the board,
Everyone stopped to watch and wonder
At the ease and coordination of his show—
The way he stepped up to the place he more or less owned.
He’d do a little trot, already so free and loose-jointed.
You’d have thought such artistry would require
a more studied approach,
More caution and care in preparation for that
leap and float.
He must have been coached, we tried to explain,
In order to achieve such form, to fold, then open
With such balance, such grace,
Adding a last split-second twist to the flight and descent.
With such perfect knowledge of time and space.
At fourteen, it seemed almost unfair.
But missing him now, I recall the scorching days on end
At the neighborhood pool, where friends, liberated
Gathered in hordes for purposes of exposure, to compare
flesh and limb,
To cool and chat, crowded exhibit in the welcoming air.
Still, in all that fullness, even without asking,
You couldn’t help but notice—
The place was never quite the same, even a little empty,
When Lovas wasn’t there.