09) Early Reflections of Growing Up

Early Reflections of Growing up on the Chicopee Mill Village

“Charlie Leopard Would Have Had That One”

By Jim Sanders, III

     The Dodgers and the Chix produced icons. In Brooklyn, Duke Snider hit mammoth home runs for the Dodgers and in Walhalla, so did Junior Garrett and Spec Jamison for the Chix. In fact, some of their tape measured homers would hang right in there with many of a Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa shot in the modern major league parks of the 1990s.

      Jackie Robinson was my hero at third base for the Dodgers and locally Charlie Leopard was my hero at third base for the Chix. Charlie Leopard was a solid ball player.  He was a human vacuum cleaner for anything hit his way and could take a hot shot at the corner. He was bullet- proof. Many times I have seen him field hot smashed ground balls that had took bacon-strip size divots off the infield grass, and throw the runner out with ease.  Sometimes he would trick the player into hustling all the way down the first base line by holding on to the ball. Charlie’s momentary stall made the player think that the ball had gone through into left field. Then Charlie would fire a shot across the infield to Lefty Gilden at first base and the still hustling, but the surprised runner was signaled out by the pumped right arm of the base umpire.

     In the mid-fifties, Charlie teamed with Alvin Foster and they became my Royal Ambassador Leaders at the Second Baptist Church. We use to hold our meetings in the church parsonage adjacent to the church and later Charlie purchased this same house to live there.  Many locals modeled him as a ball player and modeled his behavior as a person. Charlie Leopard was a first-class individual on and off the field.

          The Chicopee Chix home games at the ball field provided me some of the happiest moments in my life.  Watching those games there developed brightly-colored snapshots and locked them up securely in my inner chamber scrapbook along with the other snapshots of my young black and white world. I thank God for letting me live in an era where the passion for baseball shaped my life at my young age.

          It has been over 50-plus years since Charlie took his position at the corner down the third base line for the Chix. Today, they only play slow pitch on this field in the summer recreation league. But even today, if you attended enough slow pitch games, and a miscue was made at third base, I bet you could hear an old timer yell, “Charlie Leopard would have had that one.” 

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