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Heat, sand, beetles wreaked havoc in ’59 game

Don Price has an unusual story about an American Legion game in the Mojave Desert in 1959. (Colin Mulvany)
Don Price has an unusual story about an American Legion game in the Mojave Desert in 1959. (Colin Mulvany)

It was late July, 1959, around 5 p.m. when we left Chino, Calif., on a balmy day of around 80 degrees, for Barstow, Calif.

Now you have to understand that in late July the average temperature in Barstow is around 120 degrees.

Anyway, we drove through town looking for their ballfield and had to stop for directions several times before finding it nestled between two double sets of railroad tracks. The field was all sand. No grass. The lights consisted of about thirty 100-watt household bulbs.

Ground rules included anything over the first tracks in left field was a double. Anything over the second tracks was a home run. Any foul ball within 10 feet of the tracks along the first-base line was out of play. The tracks were about 30 feet from the first-base line. When a train came into view, play was suspended until it had passed.

The temperature at game time (7 p.m.) was 108 degrees. Oh, yeah!

Did I forget to mention the thousands of high-desert beetles that swarmed around the “lighting system”? Thank God there was a full moon.

As the game progressed, I hit two line drives, both between center and right fields, which would have been triples on any legitimate baseball field. Both balls burrowed into the sand and went no more than 12 inches after impact.

Now I was a l0.1-second sprinter in the 100-yard dash, but running in loose sand is no easy chore. Consequently, I had to dive into second base, and beat the throws from the outfielders with about 1/8-inch to spare each time.

Additionally, while playing third base in the top of the ninth inning, I picked up a slow roller about halfway to the pitchers mound and fired the ball to first. With the poor lighting, the first baseman never saw the ball coming and got hit in the stomach.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I can produce witnesses upon request. Sorry, but I don’t remember the score. I think we won.

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