I grew up in Richmond, CA – a rather rough town. Sports were the big deal to every young person. The SF Chronicle Green Sheet listed a full page of baseball games on the weekends. Every company sponsored a team. Baseball was everywhere – the Yankees and Oakland Acorns were the ones to follow on the radio. Bud Foster was an outstanding announcer.
Younger men played in the street. Two on Two football or we went to an open field and played 15 on 15. It was tough to be gang tackled by ten or so guys. Baseball on open lots – everyone played – old guys and little ones. The field had ruts and holes. Who cared? We were playing baseball. Boxing in the back lots of the homes. Put the gloves on and become Sugar Ray Robinson. We danced, we were pummeled, but the moves were there.
Study and work. Every young person had chores. No t.v. in the beginning. Work in the morning, come home, work in the evening. No cars until you were 18 or 20. Rules were strict and were not to be questioned. Organized sports at high school levels was very competitive. Many hours of practice. One had to wait until they were seniors to play varsity.
I had nowhere to go at the end of my senior year. But two weeks before graduation, the baseball coach at UC Berkeley invited me to tour the campus. The tour was led by Matt Hazeltine and Les Richter – two seniors and they were really big. Richter kept smiling at us- he didn’t have any front teeth. Wow – go to Berkeley.
All incoming sports players had to play freshman ball. No jumping to varsity in those days. There was a lot of difference between an 18 year old kid and a bulked up 22 year old senior. No weight rooms, no trainers. Either you had the talent or not. You worked at a manual labor job to harden the body. No personal training. We learned by watching players.