One day, back in the 50s, our neighborhoodl softball team was hosting a team from some exotic location, such as Bensonhurst, at the PS 217 schoolyard. I think I must have been playing either shortstop or second base, because I had an excellent view of the earthshaking event that I'm about to describe.
It was the case that our guys were often a little less well-outfitted than the opposition because we didn't have enough baseball gloves for the whole team and had to borrow them from the visitors. Jimmy Nolan was playing first base and early in the game, possibly in the first inning, someone on the other team hit a grounder to third and the third baseman made a good on-target throw to first. But Jimmy, who happened to be wearing an official but I suspect borrowed first baseman's glove with a big pocket, reached out for the throw with his right hand (he was a southpaw) but let the ball miss the glove. He then casually caught the ball with his bare left hand which dangled nonchalantly at his knee. I was impressed, as was everyone, and I thought, "that's the way to show these visitors how tough we are -- we don't even need the gloves that we've borrowed." I was proud to be a PS 217 Misfit.
Sixty years later, last week in fact, at a reunion of PS 217 softball players, I asked Spike Cohen if he remembered the play. He did, much to my surprise. "Oh yes," he said, 'and I even remember who threw the ball. It was Marv Lasky, and he had a cannon for an arm." So The Play became even more dramatic and mythical. I thought, wow, I'm not the only one who remembers that catch, which ought to go down in history as one of the great iconic moments in PS 217 schoolyard athletics. And then, since Jimmy himself was present at the reunion, I asked him if he recalled the Great Event. He said he did. So I asked him,"Why did you do that? Why did you let the ball go under the glove? Why did you catch it with the wrong hand?" And he answered, "I misjudged the throw. It was a mistake."
I was deflated, nay crushed. For all these many years, I had been convinced that Jimmy had made that play on purpose to make a statement. But now I know that it was merely an accident. And so another myth comes to be de-mythologized by revisionist historiography.
Next thing you know, they'll try to tell us Babe Ruth didn't point to the right-field bleachers just before hitting that home run.