Jack Stallard

Jack Stallard

What we need right now is an old-fashioned “do over.”

Back in the early to mid 1970s (yes, I’m that old), the Stallards, Kirkpatricks, Vanovers and Wilsons gathered almost daily during the summer to play baseball.

Sometimes the games were played at the Vanover’s house because Mark and Kent had a wide-open backyard. It didn’t take long, however, for Mr. and Mrs. Vanover to suggest a change of venue when they saw what 15 neighborhood kids playing baseball on a daily basis could do to a yard.

The change of venue then became the Stallard backyard. Our parents didn’t care. There were seven Stallard kids, and our backyard already looked like a war zone anyway.

“Don’t break any windows or bones and don’t mess with Buford.”

Those were the only rules at Stallard Field. All three of the rules were usually broken, which caused a lot of do overs.

Buford, the ornery bull in the pasture next to our playing field, was the league leader in do overs caused. Hit a ball into “his house,” and decisions had to be made.

If we were lucky, he was in another part of the pasture and one of the small, quick kids (that always excluded me) could hustle through the barbed wire fence, grab the ball and get back on the other side before Rule No. 2 (no broken bones) came into play.

We usually had two baseballs back then, so if Buford was hanging around watching and a ball went into his field, a “do over” was called and we simply used the other ball.

With the understanding, of course, the next person to hit a ball into Buford’s field had to go fetch it – even if Buford was standing beside the ball.

With a do over, the game continued. Life continued.

That might lead to a hitter launching a walk off home run, or maybe the hitter struck out to end the game. Sometimes he hit another ball into Buford’s field and either summoned up the courage to challenge Buford for the ball or decided he didn’t really like baseball anymore and went home.

But, the thing is, thanks to a do over, he at least had an opportunity to change things.

The year 2020 could sure use a do over, and here’s a couple of ideas:

Holly Ford is still around.

Coach Ford, who taught and coached tennis in East Texas for almost 40 years, died at the age of 60 in early January. She had been retired for a couple of years, and I didn’t visit as often as when she was still coaching. That doesn’t make the loss any less painful for those who knew her, worked with her or were coached by her.

Kobe Bryant and seven others – including his young daughter Gianna – didn’t die in a late January helicopter crash in Calabas, California. Instead, Bryant realized the helicopter was in trouble, and — like he did so many times during his career with the Los Angeles Lakes – took control. The helicopter landed safely in the parking lot of the gym where his daughter’s team was about to play. Gianna dropped in 45 points, and everyone went out for ice cream later.

Coronavirus lasted one day, a cure was quickly found and no one died. That’s the best part, of course, but it also meant high school and college kids didn’t have to quit playing sports and hanging out with their friends and simply got to be a kid a little longer.

And, while we’re at it, I’d love one more chance to gather in my backyard with my neighborhood friends back in Tennessee for another baseball game.

Buford, by the way, is now a big, shaggy rescue dog that brings the ball back if it happens to land in his yard.


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