My brothers used to gather dozens upon dozens of golf balls in the Milwaukee River. The river ran right behind our house and we were about half a mile down river from the Milwaukee Country Club golf course. What were we going to do with all these golf balls? None of us golfed, so it seemed we had two choices. 1) take the best ones and clean them up and sell them 2) hit them with baseball bats.
My brothers did indeed take many of the balls and clean them up to sell. They sat by the entrance to the private country club and sold them by the dozen. Since they had no investment in it except time, any proceeds they gained were all profit. Not being a natural business person, I chose to exclude myself from the commercial part of the golf ball adventures.
That brings us to the second option. If you have never hit a golf ball with an aluminum baseball bat, you are missing out on a great feeling. Every once in a while we would stand in the middle of the street and hit one all the way down, hoping it would stay straight enough that it wouldn’t veer off and break a window, or that a car would turn onto the street and suddenly get assaulted by a flying ball. Luckily we never broke anything as far as I knew.
More often we would take a bucket of balls up to the grade school that we all had attended, Good Hope School. Behind the school there was a playground and then three softball fields. Golf balls go a LONG way when hit by a bat, so my brothers would try to hit balls from the edge of the pavement all the way over the softball fields and eventually over the fence that enclosed the entire playground. On the other side of the fence there was a steep cliff that dropped probably 25 feet down to a parking lot for a dentist’s office, and then right beyond that was Green Bay Ave which was a high traffic street. If a ball did make it over the fence it could have hit a car, or person and bounced right into traffic. However, we wouldn’t have known since you could not see anything beyond the fence. We seemed to be in our own beautiful pastoral world of nothing but green grass.
I was never powerful enough to reach the threshold of the ‘home run fence’ but every once in a while my brothers could. I think we liked to imagine that the balls just landed in the hill, which is probably what happened, but then again, who knows. My brothers were not the kind to want to intentionally cause harm to anyone, yet this is the closest they probably ever came to it. The feel of the ball flying off that bat was just that exciting – it seemed to be worth it.
After hitting all the balls, we’d walk out in the field and try to collect as many as we could, but we usually lost over half the balls – we didn’t care – there were so many more where they came from. When I find golf balls today I always save them with the intention of taking them out to Pirate’s Cove with my wife and son and hitting them as far into the Upper Saint Mary’s as we can. They key is you need to get out of the way of the person swinging the bat!