Written by Bill Wood
Because of an August 1st birthdate, I actually played an extra year of Little League Baseball, all for the green uniformed Buffs of the Northern League. The fields were on north ‘A’ Street, a short distance north of Bowie Elementary. My Dad was the coach and I played left field the first year, then shortstop after that. My Dad gave long speeches using a lot of words before and after the games. I had trouble understanding what he was saying but I recall he always seemed very serious and well meaning. Some of it must have taken effect because the Buffs were 36-0 for my last two years of Little League. Some of the parents gave my Dad a nice trophy commemorating that unblemished record. I remember Bob Stanley, Paul Mast (at third base), Steve Combs, Quentin Remy (only that last year) and Ronnie Bittick . Bob was later a good high school football player who was one of several from Midland who went to Texas on a football scholarship. Paul became a physician, Quentin, an architect. Maybe some of the other names from that good team will come back to me. My Dad also coached our all star teams which I had dreams of going to the Little League World Series. that was never to be. I thought we were pretty good but we didn’t get far in any of those years. Pony League was a big step up in competition.
It was High Junior League (the 15-16 year old league) that provided some meaningful times and memories. Some of you probably remember Ronnie Bittick. He and I were at West Elementary together. Between the two of us, we usually could round up three or four baseballs that were still at least semi round in shape and not too heavy from being soaked in water. We rode our bikes to West
Elementary, where there was an old backstop. We would hit each other grounders and flies, then pitch to each other, chase down the balls and then do it again…until it was too dark to see. We did that on many, many, days as we grew up. Ronnie was the second baseman on the High Junior team and I played shortstop. In the City championship game at Braves Stadium (maybe in was the Indians Stadium then, I’m not sure), Ronnie was stealing second base and his batting helmet slipped off as he slid into second. the throw from the catcher hit Ronnie in the head. He seemed all right and went back into the field for the beginning of the next inning but was dizzy and had a headache. They took him to the hospital. Several of us sat on the curb until 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning outside Midland Memorial Hospital as we hoped and prayed for Ronnie’s recovery. that was the first time I had ever stayed up all night (not the last). He didn’t make it. That was my very first experience with the loss of life by someone I knew, and especially someone I knew so well. It was terrible. Well, we had won that game and that put us into the regional, and then the state tournament. The rules allowed a team to add a pitcher and a catcher to the roster. We added Mack Lawrence, the catcher who had thrown the ball that hit Ronnie. Of course, he had done nothing wrong but I know he felt bad. A real life lesson came from watching Ronnie’s parents with Mack. They wanted to make sure that he knew it wasn’t his fault what had happened to their son.We won seven straight games and won the only state championship I was ever a part of. Ronnie’s parents and siblings came to all of the games, including those in Fort Worth. I remember after each game, we all signed the game ball and presented it to Mr. and Mrs. Bittick. they were so gracious. I hope it meant a lot to them. I will never forget it.
Bill another great story. The loss of a player is always difficult to handle as we all will experience with our classmates as we see them disappear. Doing a project on John Barker as we speak. John died last summer from agent orange related cancer. John was on the football team with you. Maybe you could read what we will be writing about John. John was a helicopter pilot in the Army and was highly decorated Vietnam Veteran. Again thank you for all you great work on the book. John
Bill, that is really well written! I didn’t know Ronnie, and don’t remember hearing about that incident. It must have been a horrible thing for all of you to go through. Thanks for sharing your feelings. Charles
Thanks Charles, those are some memories that have stayed w me a long time.
Yes, the incident with our friend, Ronnie Bittick, was tragic and lingers in one’s memory forever.
I wasn’t playing in that game but I was in the stands and witnessed everything then and afterward.