Striking out officer don; me thinks not…

When I was a young police officer, I was once touched to see one of my fellow police officers in the projects buying ice cream from the ice cream truck for any kid who wanted one. That officer was short, but built like a brick shit house.  He was a former Marine and proudly sported a gold tooth on one of his incisors.  He looked a lot like Mike Tyson in many respects, minus the face tattoo.

That officer was with me on my first Code 1 call and we became fast friends.  The unfortunate end to the story is that his police career died after he wound up in a federal prison for a non-violent offense (I’m not trying to trivialize what he allegedly did, and honestly, I’m not 100% sure of the details, but it involved helping a family member).

Anyway, that he wound up in prison is neither here nor there.  He was a good person at heart and even got in trouble because he was trying to help somebody in a way that he obviously shouldn’t have been.

Seeing him buying poor kids ice cream on a hot summer day surrounded by drug dealers, drunks and some of society’s other misfits was a real eye opener for me and an image I’m fond of recalling from time to time.  I took it to heart and tried to do the same thing whenever I could.  My beat had homeless people everywhere.  After awhile, I got to know the good eggs as well as the rotten ones.  There was a thrift store in the area where I patrolled that sold everything a person could want.  I’ve bought my share of gloves, socks, sandwiches and yes, I’ve bought them beer and booze as well.  You’d be amazed how much information a man will share for a tall can of cold beer.  Is it right to buy beer for folks who are obviously alcoholics?  That’s what the negative Nancies will harp on, but the fact is that they were going to drink something whether I bought them a fresh beer or not.

Anyway, another thing I enjoyed doing was watching kids play ball.  I’d often pull my cruiser over and watch a soccer game in the park or a pickup basketball game on a playground.  On rare occasions, I’d catch kids playing fuzzball in a parking lot.

I loved playing fuzzball as a kid, and one afternoon I noticed three kids playing the game with a tennis ball.  One was pitching to another while a third was in the outfield.  Balls not hit would bounce back to the pitcher off the brick building they were using as a backdrop.

I love watching kids play baseball related sports so I pulled my cruiser into the lot and watched the boys play for a little bit.  After a few minutes, one of the boys came over and asked if they were ok to play there.

“Of course you kids can play on this lot, there’s nobody else around.” I said.

“Cool, officer, you wanna play?” asked the pitcher.

I laughed and assured the boys that I was content to sip my tea and wait for the dispatcher to send me on my next call.  Well, the boys got to razzin’ me and insisting that the pitcher of the group could strike me out on three pitches.  After awhile, it was too much for my manhood to resist.

I was in much better shape back then, but still, the bullet-proof vest would make swinging the bat awkward.  I grabbed the long corkball bat from one of the lads and took my place in the batter’s box as the other boys took their positions.

I hadn’t played ball in some time, so I was preparing my pride to accept being struck out and then mocked by a trio of 12 year old boys.  The scene was tense, it was young versus old (though I wasn’t that old), man versus boy, citizen versus police!  I had to give this my all.  I’m not sure who in this scenario was Jackie Mitchell and who was Babe Ruth, but this encounter surely rivaled that scene, minus the many onlookers, of course.

As I knew would be the case, the first pitch came right at me.  It was a freebie for him to throw at a cop, so I knew it was coming and let the tennis ball hit me harmlessly in the side. It wouldn’t have hurt without the vest, so there was no malice intended.  He was just being a ham.

“Now you can’t strike me out with three pitches, young man!” I told him.

He looked perplexed as though the math didn’t make any sense as he tried to figure it out in his head.  Ah, the city’s public school system is amazing.

“Oh, I still can and will, officer!” He said anyway.

Sigh….

“Ok, kid, I’m ready for your best stuff!”

My new little friend fired pitch number two nowhere near the strike zone.

“That’s ball two, son. Are you scared?” I taunted him.

He laughed and got ready again.  “I ain’t scared of you!”

He wound up like he was really gonna let this one fly and threw a pitch that was going to obviously be a strike.  I squinted my eyes and gritted my teeth while preparing to softly swing at his offering just to be able to say, ha ha, you didn’t strike me out, but the competitor in me had some sort of flashback and I raised my front foot to time the pitch just right.  Before I knew what I was doing, I had ripped a line drive that bounced right off of the boy’s forehead and 30 feet into the air.

Oh fuuuck, I thought as one of the other boys came sprinting in to try to catch the ball before it hit the ground.  He dove through the air and onto the concrete parking lot and came nowhere near catching the ball.  Despite his valiant effort, he missed the ball by several yards.  He did manage to scrape the shit out of his elbows and knees, however.

One swing of the bat and I’d downed two preteens while the third stood in the outfield with his mouth agape.  I wasn’t sure whether he was going to laugh or cry, but he soon busted out laughing and I felt like a heel.

The other two boys were writhing in pain, probably overly dramatically.  I looked around and was relieved to not see another human being in sight.  The boys were still on the ground with the third one now laughing hysterically while standing over his friends and taunting them as only boys can do.

I didn’t have kids of my own yet, so I wasn’t as confident as I would be today that they could just shake it off.  While the scrapes on the one boy’s knees were nasty, they were his own fault.  The other boy looked fine, though clearly embarrassed.

“That was a great pitch you threw; I was lucky to hit it,” I lied to him.

“Yeah, that wasn’t my best stuff either,” said the lad trying to maintain some dignity in front of his pals.

When it was obvious that everyone was going to live, I offered to meet them (they had bikes or I’d have given them a lift) at a Taco Bell down the street to buy them some food.

I didn’t get a chance to stay with them long, but I enjoyed their company for a few minutes.  These were some of the “good” kids in an area with a lot of “bad” ones and I was glad to have met them.  They were appreciative and respectful beyond that of most 12 year old boys you’d meet anywhere.

While I’m sorry that I beaned that boy in the head, it’s still one of my favorite workplace memories.

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77 Responses to Striking out officer don; me thinks not…

  1. twindaddy says:

    Haha! Oops!

  2. That’s a great story. Shows compassion and caring.

  3. ardenrr says:

    You’re such a dick, Don….

  4. goldfish says:

    Awesome. You’re a good cop.

  5. Geez, you got any football memories where you break a kid’s leg?

  6. Like…I’m not sending my kid to play with you…at least not while you’re on duty. Gah.

  7. mistyslaws says:

    No, you see, that kid learned many lessons that day:

    Humility, compassion, generosity, and hopefully . . . to duck next time.

    Great story. Hope those boys turned out to be model citizens and didn’t get sucked into the life. Sounds like they were on their way to good lives.

    • They were exceptionally well mannered, especially given their surroundings. I wonder if they were related. Sad that it’s rare to see, but there are a lot of good ones out there who go unnoticed. The squeaky wheel gets the grease and all that stuff. Hopefully, they did learn to duck though. That’s important in their neighborhood for reasons outside of baseball, unfortunately.

  8. That’s a great story. Did you share it with your kids? BTW, I shared your link in this blogger’s site. 🙂 http://jesswitkins.wordpress.com/2013/06/17/the-happiness-project-award-show/

  9. merbear74 says:

    You are one of the real good guys.

  10. Jen Lawlor says:

    I used to love playing basketball with the kids in Lafayette Square on Sunday mornings. A milk crate affixed to a telephone pole in the alley a few blocks from Jefferson and Chouteau. The kids were trained at a young age not to like the police, but after sinking a few jump shots I won them over. Thanks for sparking a few good memories for me… 🙂

  11. Laura Lynn says:

    Nice. I thought it was just me. Last week I brained my 12 yr old nephew with a badminton birdie-guess ii taught him to show some respect for the net play.

  12. The Cutter says:

    I’m surprised the kid’s parents didn’t try to sue you for police brutality

  13. rebecca2000 says:

    You know this is one my favorite posts you have made. Thank you for protecting the people.

  14. I got hit in the side of the head with a line drive when I was in 3rd grade. Been afraid of balls ever since!! Well, at least the hard ones! bwhahaha

  15. findingninee says:

    Feel free to not invite my kid to play ball with you.

  16. You just melted my tiny, Grinch heart.

  17. Maggie O'C says:

    You rock! That is a happy happy story and you can regain a lot of dignity with the right chalupa.

  18. well, you had my mouth agape as well. at least you bought them lunch. haha

  19. Oh, yeah…those awkward work related incidents can be disconcerting. I imagine it’s worse if you’re a police officer. (I hit a manager at my new job in the face with a koosh ball during training.)

  20. Amber Perea says:

    I can’t wrap my mind around that dude on a Barbie bike defending the public. 🙂

  21. The blue uniform hides a lot of imperfections.

  22. flyingplatypi says:

    Is it weird that I’m happy you beaned that kid in the head? I mean, just a tap. Just to let him know who’s boss.

    Hugs!

    Valerie

  23. keladelaide says:

    I love how you looked around to see if there were any witnesses. Cop instinct or guilt?

  24. Katie says:

    HA!

    I’ve never seen any Chicago cops doing stuff like this. They’re mostly busy sitting in their cars and eating or standing outside their cars and talking (while sometimes eating).

    • Lol. They’ve always been really nice whenever I’ve asked one a question. Except for the douche who ran my dad and I off to impress some ladies because we were drinking beers in public outside a bar. The Cards were playing the Cubs and EVERYONE was drinking.

  25. Awww… I love this! You had me laughing out loud. And you not only sound like one of the “good” cops, but as we already know, a good person as well. Thanks for a great story! 🙂

  26. aliciabenton says:

    1. Did he SOUND like Mike Tyson, too?
    2. You pulled over to watch the kids play in the park. You sound like a creeper.
    3. The boy laughing hysterically at the others who were “hurt” sounds exactly like my kids.

    Great story.

    • Thanks, Alicia, and no, he sounded more manly than that. They were team sports so lots of parents and witnesses to my soccer watching thank you very much! I’m sure your sons are total douches like that, it’s not to difficult to envision.

  27. Go Jules Go says:

    This was a great story (stories) to share right around Father’s Day (and a happy belated to you, by the way). Now. What kind of information did they tell you for that fresh beer…?

  28. pegoleg says:

    Like Jules said, sweet memory for Father’s Day season.

    That song is running through my head “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…” Thank goodness the teen-he-bopped (get it?) thought the same or you would have gotten sued!

    • Ho ho, ha, I see what you did there, Pegoleg! nice. They were nice kids so I’m sure the parent(s) was nice too. I’m sure he grew to be a fine, strong young man. Hard for me to believe those kids are old enough to drink now! They probably tell the same story too but it would sound different somehow.

  29. PinotNinja says:

    One of the most overlooked, yet important, part of law enforcement (at least from my perspective as someone else in the field) is community outreach. Setting a good example for people who usually don’t have one and showing them that law enforcement are people to be trusted, not feared and avoided, goes a long way in changing patterns. Or at least that’s what I hope. Thanks for taking the time out to really serve (while protecting) your community!

  30. Daile says:

    I thought this was another post proving you to be a big softie helping homeless people out and playing baseball with kids. And then you gave one of them a concussion. Nice going Don. hahaha

  31. canigetanotherbottleofwhine says:

    I hope they were making fun of you for drinking tea. Great story. I covered my mouth and said, Oh crap! when you hit him in the forehead. You’re a really good writer.

  32. lisanewlin says:

    You clearly did everything you could….I mean, you offered to buy Taco Bell. It doesn’t get any better than that.

    You’re such an inspiration….

  33. Willow Wimp says:

    Omg… Poor guy.. at least you hung out afterwards..

  34. I’m sure this is still a favourite memory of theirs too!

  35. Big meanie. First you bean him, then you feed him fake cheese that looks like someone melted down a traffic cone. So much for serve and protect.

    Besides, everyone knows that the best fake cheese is pressurized.

  36. Pingback: Answers to your pressing police related questions… | don of all trades

  37. REDdog says:

    I bet those men tell that story everytime they get together these days. Nice one Don.

  38. Why Google has misplaced management of Android.

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