His curiosity was first peaked after receiving a clock radio. During the school year when he had to be in bed by 8:00, he was allowed 15 minutes to listen to Dave Campbell’s local call-in show, “The People Speak”. During the summer, the radio blackout was lifted and his preferred show was preempted by broadcasts of the Birmingham Baron’s baseball games.
Campbell was also the team’s announcer. Listening to his colorful description of events happening on the field made the game exciting and kept the young Head’s attention. On many occasions when the Baron’s were behind, Campbell would extol his listeners to stay with him, “It’s not over until the last man is out.” His predictions of ultimate victory came true just enough times to make him creditable and hold the young boy’s attention until the last commercial had been broadcast.
To Head’s delight, Mary also listened to the games. So when Head would come down to breakfast, he and Mary could rehash the previous nights ups and downs. He was new to this sport but Mary was an old hand who really loved it and spoke the lingo.
One day, his father’s best friend, Dr. Arthur, invited the young Head to go with him to Rickwood Field to see a game. It proved to be anything but the thrills that the radio had been eulogizing. Without Campbell’s colorful comments, it was only a bunch of guys standing around, scratching, spitting, and generally acting bored. When there was an occasional crack of the bat, it was over in a flash. The peanuts and popcorn were a plus but were insufficient to prevail over the boredom.
Nevertheless, the young Head looked forward to talking about his experiences with Mary. Maybe he had missed something or was still too uneducated to appreciate the nuances. He knew Mary had listened to the game on the radio and could set him straight. As part of their discussion, he asked if she liked going to the games.
She replied, “I ain’t never been.”
“Why”, the boy asked, “You love the game.”
“I can’t go cause I’m colored.”
The boy had never thought about it or even realized that Mary was anything but Mary. Sixty years later, he can still see Mary standing there in her pressed, light grey uniform with starched collar and apron; he can still smell her and the bacon she had cooked for him that morning; he can still hear her proud, strong voice telling him these things.
After sixty years of study and education, he could still not figure out why anybody in his beloved South had not loved Mary and her people the way he did.
The boy lost interest in baseball after that even though Mary never did.