On a lazy summer day in July 1967, my friend Frank and I found a golf ball. We were out looking for discarded bottles to return for the deposits, but we found the golf ball and that distracted us from our money-making scheme.
I was as interested in sports as any other nine-year old American boy, but golf was pretty foreign to me. I had seen it on TV, and my Uncle Mario played, but I had never been on a golf course and had never held a golf club or a golf ball. Frank and I were experts on the Red Sox, who were playing their best ball in years on their way to winning the American League pennant that year. I was a fan of Jim Nance, Babe Parilli, and the rest of the Boston Patriots, and Bill Russell and the rest of the Celtics were like gods, but I knew next to nothing about golf, golfers, and golf balls.
Despite our lack of interest in golf, the ball intrigued us. It was hard as a rock, but it bounced off the pavement pretty well. What would happen if we hit it with a baseball bat? How far would it go? There was only one way to find out.
I was the hitter, and Frank was the pitcher.
My house was on the corner of Dexter Ave and Dartmouth Street. The front door was on Dexter Ave, but our short, wide driveway was on Dartmouth. Frank stood in the street, and I stood in the Ciomo's driveway, across Dartmouth Street from my driveway. That was the usual layout of the field for wiffle ball games: home plate in the Ciomo's driveway, pitcher's mound in the middle of the street, and my side yard was center and right field. If you hit it over the bushes into my side yard, it was a double. If you smacked it off the first story of the house, it was a triple. If you hit the second story or higher, it was a homerun. In wiffle ball, it took a pretty good stroke to reach the second story.
Frank pitched the ball right down the middle, perfect height. I swung a little late, but other than that, it was a good, hard swing.
I learned right away that golf balls go a lot further than wiffle balls. I wasn't dumb, I knew the golf ball would go a long way, but curiosity is about seeing it not knowing it.
The ball jumped off the bat like it was shot out of a gun. I barely saw it as it streaked into right field, a line shot that was still rising as it headed for the corner of my house. For a brief moment I thought it would miss the house, but no such luck.
Our house was a three-story, two-family building. There was a tenant on the first floor. We had the second and third floors, including a three-season porch on the second floor at the front. The porch was all windows on all three exterior sides. It was a veritable monument to windows, and just to make things interesting, the windows had top and bottom wooden sashes on the inside, and combination screen and storm windows on the outside. It was a beautiful July day, so all the windows were open and that meant that for each window, four panes of glass were in the up position. Four.
The golf ball rose just enough to smash through the top pane of the side corner window of the porch. Four panes of glass broke in one loud crash. After any loud crashing noise, my first inclination was to run. That's what kids do; something bad happens, they run. Frank and I took a couple fast strides down Dartmouth Street, and stopped. We knew it was no good trying to escape. My mother was in the house, she knew we were outside, she must have heard the crash, and she wasn't dumb. She'd know it was us.
We went in the backdoor, up the stairs, through the kitchen and down the long hall to the front porch. It was like walking to your own funeral. I dreaded each step.
My mom was on the porch, of course. She wasn't as mad as I expected. She seemed more amazed than angry. She said, "Do you realize you broke eight panes of glass?"
Until then, I hadn't thought about how many panes of glass were broken; I'd hit a ball, and a window was broken. That happened pretty regularly. Unfortunately, this was different. The golf ball had entered through the side corner window on a diagonal, breaking four panes of glass on the way in, and continued on its merry way out the front corner window, breaking four more panes of glass on the way out.
At the time, I thought I was cursed. Who breaks eight panes of glass with one swing? A few years later, I realized how lucky I was. As soon as we decided to hit that golf ball with a baseball bat, something bad was bound to happen. What if I had swung a little earlier, and hit a line drive straight back at Frank? I could have killed him!
The golf ball disaster was my crowning achievement in glass. A few years later I place-kicked a football through a big picture window that cost a fortune to repair, but millions of kids have done that. Eight panes broken at once, now that's rare.
After helping my mother clean up the mess, Frank and I went outside and looked for the golf ball. We couldn't find it. As far as I know, it didn't break anything else on its way back to earth.
When my father got home from work, my mother and I told him the story. At first, he thought I hit the ball with a golf club. When I explained that I hit it with a bat, he just shook his head. He said I had to pay for the repairs, and a lot of allowance money was gone forever.
Copyright © 2006 by John Cardinal. All rights reserved.
Despite breaking eight panes of glass with one ball, I am not the champion window-breaker in the family. My brother Paul holds that title, but that's another story.