Buddy Rosen and Max Campbell loved to race down the beach on their bikes ... baseball cards clipped to the spokes, ball caps backward on their flattops, bats slung on the side with saddlebags. They were the coolest bikers on earth.
They had check points. The Esso Station stop was first. Two root beers and two bags of sweet tarts would hold them over for a half hour until they reached the A & P. There they met Petey Mc Cabe, part‑time bag boy and full time pal, in the parking lot for a cigarette. Petey seemed to always have access to single cigs. Sometimes Buddy stole a couple from his dad, Abe, when he got too drunk to tell, but he was always afraid he'd get caught.
Abe could get pretty nasty.
Saturdays were usually pick‑up game days. And when they didn't have enough players, they would have batting practice. Baseball ... it was the only game worth playing. There was no other. The basketball courts got a workout from the high school kids, but none of the 10 year old beachers would even consider it.
On this Saturday, it was just Max and Buddy. Petey was out of town with his family, the Haskell twins both had chicken pox, Billy Murphy and Patrick Callahan were cleaning up old man Shindler's garage for extra spending money, Fatty Hooperman went to the zoo with his sister and Sticks Sticklehauser, the skinniest kid in the third grade, had a leg cast that looked more like a sock on a toothpick.
" Hey Max, the first one to the point gets the beer." Buddy yelled and pointed to the rock jetty that everybody called the point as they rode side by side on the beach road.
“ And the sweet tarts? " Asked Max.
" Max ... look over there." Buddy pointed over Max's shoulder and as he looked in that direction he pedaled faster ... past Max.
" Oh ... I'll let you catch up, cry baby."
They both slowed to even up. Buddy counted down, " On your marks, get set...
The wind blew through their ears as the spokes clicked loudly with each rotation until they were just blurs. A hundred miles an hour...maybe 150...nobody could catch them. "Faster," Buddy thought. " I've got to get some extra speed." He tried ... but couldn't beat Max as he saw the point come closer.
Max skidded to a stop and dropped his bike as he leapt in the air shouting, "All right! Campbell leaves Rosen in the dust and the crowd goes wild. "
Buddy couldn't stand to lose. " Jerk. I can beat you any time."
" Don't be a sore loser, Buddy. "
" Forget it. " Buddy spun his bike toward Franklin Field leaving Max behind to catch up. His heart was racing. Competition was so much a part of his makeup.
By the time they reached the field, Buddy's anger was gone. Max understood Buddy. They had been friends ever since Max had moved to John's Pass over three years ago. He knew Buddy’s tantrums and how Buddy's dad acted when he drank. Max had seen him in action.
" You wanna catch? " Buddy asked as he took the mound.
" Sure. Burn it in there ... Koufax."