I figure my memory is as good as it is today because of backyard baseball. In the very early ’60s my sister Barbara hit a high pop-up in our backyard. I moved under it for an easy catch and miscalculated the trajectory. The hardball grazed the top of my glove and conked me right above my nose. The impact laid me down right there and caused an apple-size swelling on my forehead. I came-to right away but the neighborhood kids took me into the house and decided I needed an ice pack for my noggin.

Looking in the freezer, we discovered the ice trays were filled with grape Kool-Aid. What did you expect? It was the middle of summer. Of course we couldn’t waste Kool-Aid ice on a mere concussion with the possibility of cerebral edema. I would probably be fine, so everyone took the opportunity to suck on Kool-Aid cubes. We later found the baseball about 60 feet from where it bounced off my skull.

Was there any parental involvement in this incident? No. There was no need, as no blood was spilled and nobody went to the hospital.

At the risk of sounding like an old guy expounding on how great it was back in the day when we would eat all the sugar and gluten we wanted, allow me to touch on what neighborhood baseball was like during the Kennedy administration.

We played three or more times a week in our suburban neighborhood that could have been around the block from where the Cleavers lived. Even though I never ran into The Beaver or his brother Wally, every character from that show could be found within walking distance of home.

There was a large, open lot available to us behind the Ruttman house. I don’t remember anyone asking permission to play, it’s just where we played and if anyone was hurt because they tripped over jagged metal sticking out of the ground, it never crossed our parents’ minds to take legal action against the Ruttmans. That would be silly and rude because they provided a free space for us to play and also mowed the field. Anyway, I was reminded numerous times that tripping was my fault; we were in charge of watching where we were going and responsible for picking up our feet high enough to clear obstructions.

Six guys and an occasional neighborhood girl for a game was a good turnout. Eight or nine was phenomenal. The catcher was usually on the same team as the batter. We played hardball with wooden bats. Anything would do as a base: a rock, a rag or piece of wood. The best piece of trash was used for home plate. Someone brought a ball. Everyone had their own glove.

We picked teams. Some of us were invariably picked first and some were always picked last. It was a way of finding out that you were really lousy at baseball. You may have been lousy but you still got to play — always. Rules were changed to fit the circumstances: since there was no umpire, we would swat at the ball until we hit it or struck out.

Arguments were plentiful and had to be sorted out on the field by the players. There was never an adult present to moderate. Sometimes people would steam home when words ran out and emotions peaked, but we all came back in a day or two and gave it another shot.

Little League was just adults messing with something fun, imposing strict rules on an amusing pastime. It was hard core, with balls thrown too fast and humiliation for every weakness. Little League built teams for winning. We played for fun but discovered social skills and values.

Today I am horrified that in 30 years of living in a semi- rural area, I have only witnessed one occasion where a few individuals gathered on a vacant lot to bat the ball around.

The adults have won. It was never fair from the start, as they were bigger and older, but now they’re in charge of when and where we play and even what we wear. They settle all arguments, make up the teams, keep score, keep us safe and supply the balls.

They even supply ice packs when someone is conked in the head, but I guarantee you, their ice is not as sweet as the ice you might find playing neighborhood baseball.