Today we have a guest post from someone who should be no stranger to anyone who reads this site, Alex Tallitsch .  We’re happy Alex came out of retirement to share this post, from his I Don’t Know Much series of pieces which many of you may remember from The Packers Lounge. 

I don’t know much about baseball, but I did repeatedly beat a man with a baseball bat once.

It’s not something I’m proud of, but sometimes you do things out of a perceived moral obligation, and when you’re also in a gang, it’s something that happens all too often.

Even as a Wisconsin white boy, you aren’t always immune to the thug life, and I was no exception. When you live somewhere where your daily opportunities are limited to near nothing, you tend to form close bonds with those in your area and consider your piece of the world sacred.

We didn’t have an official name at all. Back then things were a little less structured. There weren’t any of the hardcore weapons or drugs, any colors either, but people knew who you were by your presence in the neighborhood, and we were always vigilant in making sure that problems were limited and that wrongs were righted. If you came within a four block radius, you would hard pressed not to find us on a corner, or a door stoop, or even chilling in the back alley eating apples off of a dozen or so apple trees that someone had planted there long before the neighborhood had changed to its nearly endless rows of houses and concrete.

There were five of us. My brother, and me made up the bulk of the gang as we had lived there the longest at the time, and were pretty well known around the neighborhood. Then, shortly thereafter, two more dudes named Matthew and Patrick eventually ended up hanging out with us. The fifth gang member was a neighbor girl of ours named Carrie that had lived behind our house since as long as I could remember. Carrie was a super good looking, tall blonde haired girl, but had a display of tomboy that would make any male stand back a bit. No one ever expected that, and I think that’s pretty much how we liked it.

I guess it does sound odd to have a girl in a gang, but it’s pretty common place. She always had our backs, and I would be dishonest if I didn’t say we all didn’t take our turns with Carrie hoping someday she would commit to just one of us. After awhile, I ended up winning that battle, and thus got the crown jewel of the neighborhood. That’s a story for another time of course, but to this day even we still get a good laugh out of each other.

Anyway… so that was the gang.

We weren’t the hardest of hardcore, but our blotter of violent outbursts, petty thefts, arguments, and fights were just as impressive as they would be anywhere else. We stuck by each other through thick and thin. That’s simply all we had.

That in mind, one summer when we started to notice some problems with Matthew we all were quite concerned for his welfare. Matthew came from what we called, “the other side of the street.” Not that the rest of us were living large mind you, but Matthews house was in total disarray, and he came from a completely dysfunctional family who spent the majority of their time entertaining the neighborhood with their loud and frequent marital spats. There wasn’t a whole heck of a lot we could do about that, not to mention that Matthews dad was an amazingly large specimen. He really was the epitome of a stereotype going about six foot tall, 300 pounds, grease stained wife beater, and 1970′s porn stache. You couldn’t make it up any better. He drank, he was mean as hell, and as we would come to find out, he was fisting our buddy, his son Matthew, late at night when he was hammered.

When we questioned Matthew, he was none to eager to talk about any of it. You could tell he was pretty scared, and quite frankly he really had nowhere to go if anything happened, so I imagine he felt tied to the situation and just hoped to avoid it as much as possible.

Shortly after finding out this bit of news, Mathew didn’t come out for a few days, and we got seriously concerned. Whether Matthew wanted us to deal with things or not, the four of us simply weren’t going to let that happen.

Period.

We talked about it as a group for awhile weighing our options, and in the end naturally gang mentality prevailed, and we decided that we simply were going to go over and kick dude’s ass. There was no plan really, at all. It was one of those moments of spontaneous disgust surrounded in the adrenaline rush of fear and anxiety. We were going to play the game without thinking and get it done.

Like I said earlier, guns really weren’t readily available, and we all knew knives were dangerous, so we opted for the baseball bats in my garage. We had a couple of nice big ones and a smaller one, and we figured between the four of us we could do enough damage to make a statement. They had previously been used as actual baseball bats, as we regularly hit the ball around the proverbial diamond quite often. To this day I remember those clear summer days running the bases, but on this day there were definitely no games scheduled.

I took the heaviest bat in the garage, I figured if it could smack a ball that far, it probably would do just fine, and we gathered ourself ready. Reminiscing, I really don’t remember worrying much. The police never really bothered us, but I do remember thinking I wanted to make damn sure that we left a lasting impression on Matthew’s father.

I think we collectively thought that our actions far outweighed the brevity of his thus far, and as far as conscience was concerned, ours was pretty clean. It’s the only way that we figured we could rectify the situation. Hindsight is 20/20 of course, but in the moment I don’t think any of us had any reservations about what we were going to do.

So, we headed over there.

I’ll never forget the moment of course. It was mid summer at around dinner time, and the sun was just barely still poking through the trees down the long alley to Matthews house. As a baseball fan, and as most fans, we all remember one moment where we carried the bat. Most of the time this is on the field or to the plate, but for me it will always be that large bat slung on my shoulder during that long heavy walk dawn the gravel alley way to make sure justice was served.

Maybe it’s just my imagination, but it seemed awful quiet on the way over there. I don’t think a word was spoken as our bodies slowly filled with adrenaline with each passing step. Not until we crossed the street to Mathews front yard did what we were about to do sink in. I reckon we all slowed down a step or two as we got closer, but if you keep walking, eventually you’ll get where you going. And, when we got to the cracked and weed covered cement of Mathews front walkway, we knew we were there, and knew we needed to finish what we started.

My little brother took the lead at first, going up to the paint chipped white front and door and banging it with his fist with about as much authority as I had ever seen. He immediately retreated as we waited for a brief moment, and and a spit second later the door flung open to an obviously scared Mathew.

Mathew started to take a few steps out the front door, and before we even knew what was happening, Mathew’s father was bolting towards the door screaming Matthew’s name at the top of his lungs. Patrick and my brother immediately turned and took off. I didn’t even realize at first until I had heard Carrie screaming, “run” from behind me. She had stayed behind, but was slowly backing down the crumbled concrete headed backwards. Meanwhile, I’m on the doorstep staring into Matthew’s scared green eyes, with my bat at the ready.

As Mathew made it to the first step, his father got to the doorway and violently grabbed Matthew by the shoulder and literally went to heave him backward into the house. I wasted no time. I grabbed my bat and started swinging, bashing Mathews father first in the shoulder narrowly missing Matthews head in the process. The shot didn’t do much more than phase the behemoth just enough to drop Matthew who immediately tore it back into the house. As his father turned towards me, I swung two more times hitting him squarely in the side of the knee full force. The shot was so firm my wrist immediately stung from moving much farther than my weapon, and the strike even left a small impression where bat had hit bone. I heard Mathew’s dad swear loudly, go to grab his knee, and after that I didn’t care to stick around to see the aftermath. I promptly turned around, bat in one hand, and Forrest Gumped it down that alley way like never before. I didn’t look back, I didn’t stop. I just burned rubber.

I hit another gear down that alley way that day. Athletes can hit that extra gear all the time, but I needed the fear of God in me to make it happen. There was nothing between my feet but air, and I flew down that gravel straightaway like the Concord.

About three quarters of the way down I also began screaming bloody murder.

Now say what you will about the screaming, but somewhere during that flight down the alley the thought of dying at the hands of a man I had just beat with a baseball bat left me with no other choice.  Screaming, in my mind at the time, was simply the only thing I could to do to save my life.

As I sat there running and yelling, I remember thinking that this could be the last time I would ever see Matthew again. We may have put an end to the situation, but what if we had put an end to our friendship, and our gang for that matter, forever?

That’s if I even made it home alive.

When I rounded the final corner into the driveway of our house, and tore towards the front door I finally knew I was going to be safe as I looked horrifically into the scared, yet angry eyes of my mother who had just witnessed her six-year-old running for his life, screaming in terror, flailing an oversized thin red hollow plastic baseball bat at his side with every death averting step as she stared into his mile wide eyes watching her child grasp the reality of reality.

When I pick up a baseball bat today, I can’t help but think back about how even at the youngest of ages we truly know the difference between right and wrong, good and bad.

I still get angry knowing that many adults have yet to grasp the concept.

 

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