Bad News Shop: Bases Loaded, Bottom of the Ninth

thaththbaseball diamond through fence

Bases loaded, bottom of the ninth. If she can just hold off this batter, she’ll get her first win.

The 7th-grade wood shop teacher made it clear that girls shouldn’t be in shop. The alternative, home economics, had a final project to sew a silken-backed vest by hand. I wanted to wear a silken-backed vest even less than I wanted to sew one, so there I was, the only girl among heavy machinery and a roomful of boys.

Shy and awkward, I was the kid always picked last in gym class, but I had just seen Tatum O’Neal in The Bad New Bears. Her character, Amanda, had something special that others wanted. She threw a baseball like none of the boys could, so she made demands for French jeans and ballet lessons. She chewed her gum with authority, squinted her eyes at the batter on the plate, and let fly a fastball.

I slipped on some confidence like Amanda’s cleated sneakers and tried it out, walking gingerly. It seemed to fit. So even though I couldn’t throw a baseball and wouldn’t dream of changing my Levi’s for imported jeans, I carried a little bit of Amanda with me into the wood shop class.

My teacher, age 80 or thereabouts, treated any question I asked or mistake I made as clear proof that a girl didn’t belong in his class.

And here’s the windup. The pitch: a fastball, low at the knees. Ball three.

I had been fumbling with my candle holder for the last few days of shop class. I avoided asking my teacher for help by getting busy with my sandpaper any time he came around. That wood was as smooth as a Louisville Slugger.

Still, the whine of the saws, the smell of the sawdust, the new creation made by my hands, I was beginning to enjoy the class, beginning to belong.

And she lets loose a curve ball. Strike two. A full count: 3 and 2.

The boys asked him questions all the time, so why shouldn’t I? I popped in a fresh stick of Juicy Fruit and began chewing away.

Here comes the pitch. Will it be another fastball?

“Um, Mr. Jones? I need help putting the blade in the band saw to cut my next piece,” I said.

Mr. Jones put down the candle holder he was inspecting and looked me square in the face. A pause.

He said, “You are chewing your gum like a cow chewing its cud.”

There’s a long drive. Oh, what a hit. It’s over the fence. A home run!

Game lost, I stood there lonely on the mound, cheeks burning.

The fact that he’s probably been dead for 30 years doesn’t lessen my shame. That game is etched in the record books forever.


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About Marcy

I blog about trying to get out of my comfort zone, completing 101 things in 1001 days (and beyond), and writing my memoirs. My book: Timid No More.
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50 Responses to Bad News Shop: Bases Loaded, Bottom of the Ninth

  1. Those incidents stick with us… mean teacher!

  2. Great job of incorporating the movie quotes into this story.

  3. I am ashamed to say I didn’t know those were movie quotes, but I loved the baseball metaphor. I idolized Dottie and Kit from A League of Their Own.

  4. Wow! He was quite surly, wasn’t he? Kind of like a crabby old umpire. Loved the baseball metaphor. Well done.

  5. wow, he smacked that ball. ouch.

  6. What an ass. I love it when children ask for help and are shamed by authority figures – ugh. I loved that you embodied Amanda’s swagger and attitude – I have a great image of you at that age in my head!

  7. Tomekha says:

    Oh wow… Wow at the way you weaved this story and wow at your teacher. So hard and insensitive. SMH, teachers are the people who aught to nurture and support your growth, not crush your spirit.

  8. Vanessa says:

    Good teachers recognize the student’s who need some help blossoming into confident adults. Obviously he wasn’t one of the good ones.

    Never let yourself feel shame over what someone has said to you. It’s more important to not feel shame over what you say to others.

  9. 50peach says:

    Bad News Bears is a classic! Some lessons we learn are not how we should act, but how we should not act…meaning the teacher.

  10. Robbie says:

    I loved Bad News Bears & mean teachers suck!

  11. Amy Terror says:

    Wow, that guy was a dick! I think we have all had that one “bad teacher” that lives in infamy in a dark corner of our brains.

    • Marcy says:

      Yes, a group of teachers and I were recently all talking about our worst memories of being a student. Everyone had something awful to share.

  12. Paula J says:

    You are a gifted story teller. The continual image of the baseball game was well chosen. Good job.

  13. Joe says:

    Some people shouldn’t enter the teaching profession. I hope you had enough good teachers to balance the bad one.

  14. modmomelleroy says:

    Those mean bully teachers still stick with us. For me it as Sr. Bartholomew. That nun made my life a living hell. I love the way you structured this piece.

    • Marcy says:

      Thanks. I taught at a Catholic school and, even as a colleague, I was afraid of a few of the nuns. There were nice ones too, of course. Sorry to hear about Sr. Bartholomew. She and Sr. Cyril would have gotten along great.

  15. dberonilla says:

    Holy smokes! What a jack-hole. That’s a jack-ass crossed with an ass-hole but without the actual swears, FYI. 😛

    I like how you wove the play-by-play into the story! It was a good read!

  16. It blows my mind all the time how teachers can be so mean and completely oblivious to how their actions and words affect their students. I love how you used the baseball play-by-play to divide up the story. It made an already well-written piece really interesting to read.

    • Marcy says:

      Yeah, we all seem to have some horror stories about mean teachers. Everyone seems to have stories about great teachers, too, though. Thank you!

  17. Bee says:

    I had a bully teacher in high school who was such a jerk I ended up transferring schools. I still remember the humiliation like it was yesterday, not 30 years ago. I loved the way you wove the play-by-play into your story. Nicely done!

  18. iasoupmama says:

    Jeez! What a poop! I’m glad my shop teacher was a nice guy — I really liked shop. Sewing? Well, I can do it, but I hate it.

    • Marcy says:

      I never got the hang of sewing. We have a joke in my house (I think it is from an old comic strip) that my husband will ask me to darn a sock and I’ll say “Darn” and throw it in the garbage.

  19. Cathy says:

    Loved the way you used the baseball game interwoven in the post. Teachers can have such a big influence on kids..both positive and negative. Thanks for the post.

  20. Kianwi says:

    Sometimes adults have no idea how the least little thing they say could crush a child. I’m just sorry you didn’t blow a big old bubble in his mean face!

  21. Oh my, how I love the interspersing with baseball plays! I know how you felt; being a girl in a man’s world can be so demoralizing, with people like that involved. It’s funny how some things just stick with us.

  22. I love the baseball analogy. Great piece, but boo on that teacher for treating you that way!

  23. What a jerk! I loved the analogy of the baseball game. I’m sorry he treated so terrible. I remember being in wood shop and when you mentioned the whine of the saw and the smell of the wood it brought back middle school memories. Luckily, my teacher wasn’t a prick. His name was Mr. Bird, which I always thought was funny.

  24. Amazing how such a small word or phrase can have such impact. I want to run back and time and smack him before he can deflate all that hard-won confidence! Loved this.

  25. Kendra says:

    Makes me sad to read that the insensitivity of the teacher still sticks with you, but I love the way your wrote about it. Such a well-written, emotion-evoking piece.

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