The Old Hidden Ball Trick
Recently I saw a photo of the old baseball field (Bay View Park) located just north of Cottage St., Orleans, a park where my father played ball long ago. In those days there was the currently lost concept of good sportsmanship, e.g. the batter ‘ picking up the catcher’s mask after he had tossed it while pursuing a foul ball.
But, there was the added dimension that everyone still calls the “home court advantage”, like the “green monster” at Fenway Park. For example, if you played in Wellfleet, there was no such thing as a ground ball that rolled at all. The whole field was essentially nothing but sand, so if a ball were hit on the ground, it stopped dead upon contact, so the infielder, instead of waiting for the ball to come to him, had to charge forward and grab the ball on the run. In Harwich, if you could drive the ball to right field between two stakes, it was an automatic double.
Of course each home team was well accustomed to these advantages and were very adept at profiting from them. However, my father revealed to me that there was a little-known advantage at Bay View Park, one that he and other outfielders, such as Elmer Darling, guarded in secret for years.
You see, home plate faced the Town Cove, so if the batter could hit one over the center fielder’s head, and it rolled over the bank toward the water, it was an easy home run, and the batter could fairly just trot around the bases. So, prior to the game and to even things up a bit, certain of the Orleans outfielders would plant a few balls ‘just over the lip of the bank, so that when the ball was hit over the bank ‘and rolled down ‘to the water, the outfielder would duck down just below the lip of the bank, grab a hidden ball and throw out the runner as he trotted confidently in to third base.
Whoever said that the “home court advantage” had to be revealed to the other team? Well, okay, so I’m revealing it.