In school, you could always tell who was left-handed. It was all the students whose left hand had an accumulated smear of blue ink running down the left edge of their hand; you know, the edge closest to the paper. When you’re doing cursive writing and dragging your hand across the page, that’s what happens. One of the many perks of being left-handed.
Needless to say, my handwriting was awful, and the resulting pages of in-class effort often resembled, as one teacher once told me, “a sloppy dog’s breakfast.” I’ve never met any left-handed people with good handwriting. For the most part, I switched to printing in ALL CAPS, something that seems to be pretty common these days, but I was doing that decades ago, when it was barely tolerated. Teachers would question it.
“Why do you write like this?”
“So you can read it.”
My dad would’ve been left-handed, had he been allowed. He was forced to sit on his left hand while learning to write, though he hit left with tennis and kicked left with soccer. He’s the one who taught me all-caps printing thing.
Back in elementary school, while I wasn’t forced to write with my right, there was little accommodation otherwise. For example, every single baseball glove owned by the school was for right-handed people. Catch with your left, throw with your right.
I throw very well with my left. I can’t throw at all with my right… the result being, I was always the goof who’d catch the ball, and attempt to quickly remove the glove, the ball from it, and then throw it. It’s ridiculous. I spent all my time on the field praying the ball wouldn’t get hit my way, because every time I had to make a play, chances were it’d be a botched mess.
But among all of those failed, miserable, laughable screw-ups trying to field a ball, there shines this particular moment (and apologies to those who don’t know how baseball works, but I’m sure you’ll get the gist of it):
There was this player… Michael Finch… truly a great ball player in comparison to the rest of us. He was an actual Little-League star; we were a bunch of hacks. And every time MF came to the plate, he’d swing on the first pitch and launch it into the stratosphere. Every single time. And he’d hit it so far that there was no way to play it. It’d either go soaring over everyone’s head, or you’d be so far out that there was no way to make any play. Either way, he’d already have rounded the bases by the time the ball made its way back to the infleld.
On this particular day, our team was ahead by a couple of runs going into the bottom of the last inning, but they’d loaded the bases, and even though there were two outs, it was MF himself coming to bat. “Oh well…”, I thought to myself, “We almost won.”
I was somewhere out in right field, far away from where he’d typically hit it anyway, but I didn’t want to be part of the game-losing play. I was muttering that mantra to myself… “pleasedonthitittome pleasedonthitittome…” as he stepped up to the plate, wound up and, as usual, uncorked on the very first pitch with a tremendous crack of the bat. But this time, unlike every other soaring, towering arcing cannonball, this one was a missile… a line-drive, in my direction.
I wish I could say I made some amazing, diving play… but the truth is, it was coming directly at me. I took one step forward and then put up my glove, more than anything to shield my face.
It’s good think I took a step forward; had I been standing still, I think the momentum would’ve knocked me backwards. The ball hit my glove so hard I couldn’t have dropped it even if I’d wanted to; the ball’s leather seemed to fuse with that of the glove. My hand exploded in pain, but I barely noticed. I stood there for a moment, staring at my glove — and the ball embedded in it — with the same dull surprise of man who’d just accidentally slammed the hood of the car on his hand.
And then I was surrounded by my team, all cheering wildly as if I’d just returned from the war. I recall seeing MF just dropping the bat and walking away with his astonished frustration. I remember the coach from a distance, giving me a huge smile, nod and fist pump.
For the next several days, all sorts of random people I didn’t know… other students, staff, and even (gasp) girls were coming up to me…
“Hey, nice catch”
“Way to go”
“I heard you made a nice catch”
It was, without a doubt, my 15 minutes of fame. I faded back to obscurity after that, but obviously I’ve never forgotten it. I don’t know where Michael Finch is these days, and I doubt he remembers it, but it meant a lot to me when he came up to me afterwards and said the same thing… “Nice catch.” He meant it. In the grand scheme of things, that little event was nothing to him, but he realized how much it meant to me. Mike – if you’re out there somewhere – cheers.
And…uhh…. this posting was supposed to be about left-handedness, but somehow I got lost along the way. I was going to talk about how even though only 10% of the population is left-handed, 6 out of the last 12 U.S. presidents were as well. And that a similar over-representation finds its way onto other lists as well… writers, painters, Nobel Prize winners.
But you know what – you can Google all that, if you’re interested… this is already long enough… and there’s probably a pandemic-related connection to make… perhaps something like… even though it’s looking like things are setting up for a disaster… it all turns out ok.
Yeah, let’s go with that.