"Mess with my Baseball Hat, You Mess with Me"

The following is part of a series called Short Short Sports Stories which are real life stories and things that happened around 1000 words.

Fans who love sports love their sportswear. It's just part of the game of fandom.

college, I built up a nice collection of sweatshirts, which at one point consisted of most the ACC, or Atlantic Coast
Conference, home of Duke, North Carolina, and Georgia Tech.

Along with that, I also gathered some obscure sports schools, including Towson, Louisiana
, UMass, Ole Miss, and Appalachian State. Better yet, a friend
from Long Island traded a Champion™ NYU top with his room mate from South Dakota for a heather grey South Dakota State. Altogether, we out-shirted Bill Cosby.

Eventually though, you lose track of sportswear. I lost Clemson up in Door County to a
friend unprepared for the fall weather, who forgot to return it. Miami
, a special edition, was lost to a past girlfriend
who flaunted it in the way girlfriends do, if
you're a young single man, making you proud. But I'm sure she used
it later to scrub the floor, after casting me away eventually for screwing up
on both Valentines Day and her birthday the same month. Yet hats tend
to stick around.

I got my first baseball cap in 1977 when
I was 5; a too-big Cincinnati Reds cap that arrived with my uncle and his pro-Reds agenda. But by age 7, my favorite hat was a navy hat with a generic "Baseball" logo
on it, like the kids' caps that you'd now find at Gymboree.

I should be bald now, since as a kid I had to have my cap on at all times, day and night. After my parents got divorced, safe to say it was that blue hat that
became my main security blanket, making me Linus from The Peanuts, but with a baseball hat.

We used
to spend summers, my hat and I, at the home of a local babysitter with many kids under her watch,
named "Big Arlene". Arlene
had a peevish, spoiled daughter named Arlene, who we called Little Arlene Jr.  even though she wasn't little. Junior would re-delegate her mother's orders, bossing around the ten of us who spent our days there.

Arlene &
Sons had a huge back yard with weeping willows we used to
swing on. And when we weren't playing Tarzan we could
swim in the kid pool under the supervision of April, the pretty older
girl from next door who was a life guard. I hated swimming then,
because I had to remove my shoes and my beloved baseball hat.

Monday in July, we got some new kid, another 1st grader. But by
his height you'd assume he'd flunked 1st Grade at least once and could guess that --Billy I think his name was-- would be a  troublemaker for the rest of us. He spent his
first day on board terrorizing all the kids.

He did
other things to rock the boat too. By mid-day Tuesday he had spotted the
big hornets nest in the tree about 20 feet up. When Billy got grasp of a
baseball, rocks, or anything that his 8 year old hands could throw, he took aim at the nest, but barely got close. Luckily.

the riling hornets and teasing Little Arlene, by Thursday Billy had
rubbed April wrong enough to suspend us all from the kid pool for a day
because of splashing which escalated to fighting. Billy also
bullied my kid brother who was only 4, and even Amánte, the happy soccer kid from Brazil, who never bothered anyone. While all this
stuff was going on --small fights, hornet rabble rousing, snack
theft and splashing--I sat back and stayed neutral like a wimp. But it wouldn't stay that way.

By Friday, it was my
turn to play his game. Billy took to me, timid and shy, by pushing my
buttons, flicking ears and stepping on my feet. One point after lunch, I
came out of Big Arlene's house to find my toys, change of socks and
everything else from my bag tossed all over the lawn and the gravel
driveway. Still slow to the beat, he then noticed that thing
glued to my head: my baseball hat.

So of course bully Billy
found a new project until mom showed up. He tried to scalp it a few times from my head,
but I fended him off okay for an hour, keeping my dome intact.

Then an hour before pickup time, Billy grabbed
the hat off my head and ran around the yard with it. He had me going for
about 5 minutes, chasing him, demanding the cap back with no response
except to run away more and laugh in my face. For a finale, he strode
the whole lawn, stopping at Big Arlene's house, only to chuck it on the
roof, with a nice lob for an 9 year-old. Good throw, bad move.

he stopped running I also stopped. Really, without thinking my body
took control detached from my brain, going rogue. As a result, I
punched him in the face knocking out his tooth, splashing blood everywhere. This was the
first punch I ever threw at anyone, and as a righty, this was probably the first thing I ever did left-handed.

would think such violence, knocking out a kids tooth, might
get me sent to juvenile hall, or at least punished for a
while. Not on this day.

Lucky for me, Arlene had had it
with this kid. Pleading victimization got Billy nowhere but grounded for the next hour, having to wait indoors
until his mom showed up.

In the meantime, the other kids and I took our unlikely revenge. We stole Billy's shoes from inside, tied
his shoelaces together, and filled his duds with sand. After that the toddlers littered the yard and the weeping willows with his
belongings, scattering everything they could find everywhere.

I got my hat back when Big Arlene's husband returned home with a
ladder. After only a week at the sandlot with us, we never saw Billy again.
And I haven't punched anyone, or delivered such fine tuned payback

Andy Frye writes about sports and life here and tweets throughout the day on Twitter at @MySportsComplex. Seriously, don't mess with my hat.

Written words © 2011. Hat pics courtesy of Lids.com.

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