Hawaii was paradise. Landing in Honolulu all the passengers received leis. On the bus to Kaneohe Bay Marine Airbase alongside of the road banana plants were growing wild. Everything was emerald green. I’d received orders to work on base as a radio repairman. Our squad bay was approximately 500 yards from the beach. Many guys on base owned surf boards, and went surfing every afternoon after work. Duffy, a surfing friend, was from Poughkeepsie, New York, he was a tall, salty, marine. He’d been in Vietnam. We were corporals and became friends.
Duffy asked, “Do you play baseball?”

My pony league team had white cotton uniforms with blue trim, blue baseball knee socks, and blue felt baseball caps. We won all of our games. We played our final game against a team with white uniforms, red pin stripes, red knee socks, and red caps. We won the city championship. As a reward our coach took us to St. Louis to see the Cardinals play the Giants. It was my first major league game in 1964.

I played right field. I didn’t think I was a very good ball player. I only played one season. I thought I was the worst player on the team. I was lucky to be on any team. Duffy said, “Our base is having tryouts. If you make the team playing baseball will be your full-time Marine Corps job. Each base has a team. So, for away games we’ll travel to other bases.”

My friend was going to try out and he asked me if I would try out with him; 40 marines came to try outs. The very next day Duffy and I, were selected to play baseball on the marine team at Kaneohe Marine Air Base. Duffy would play at second, and I would play centerfield. Twice in my life I had tried out for baseball, and both times I’d made the cut. Practice was fun and exhausting. But I ran backwards into the fence.

Practice was fun and exhausting. But I ran backwards into the fence catching a fly ball. At
the time my lower back gently bumped against the metal pipe that ran along the top of the fence.
Blood was in my urine the next morning like red Kool-Aid. My life was about to radically
change, following hospital tests, a kidney had to be removed. After surgery I was unable to play
baseball. I received an honorable discharge, and then went back to Illinois. Late at night I began
writing poems.