The Mighty Quinn
By Lea Sheryn
By every account, Quinn Madison was a typical All-American Girl. In her bedroom, a poster of Andy Gibb was taped on her closet door; a giant Holly Hobby doll sat comfortably on the seat of her white rocking chair. Along with her best girlfriends, Helena, Samantha and Phoebe, she had seen the movie GREASE more than twelve times. They all loved John Travolta and absolutely wanted to grow up to become Olivia Newton-John. It was the spring of 1979. Boys were expected to be boys; mother’s crossed their fingers hoping their girls still expected to be girls.
Twelve-year-old Quinn loved everything about her life. Although she was by every means an average child, the one thing she loved most of all was BASEBALL. Beneath her canopy bed was hidden a shoebox full of baseball cards. In the evenings, when she was supposed to be asleep, the box would come out of hiding. Sitting cross-legged with the pillow propped behind her and the comforter snuggly covering her lap, she memorized the stats on each and every card. Baseball was her passion; baseball was her life.
Early on a Saturday morning, Quinn woke up long before anyone else. Dressed in day-glo purple shorts with white piping around the legs and a matching t-shirt with a large white number 2 on the back, she rode her bike to the local schoolyard. Her bike was metallic red with a matching banana seat and red, white and blue streamers blowing happily from the ends of the handlebars. The white basket on the front was full of baseballs; her glove and ball cap rested on top.
Sure, she had played on the Girls’ Softball Team the year before but underhand pitching just wasn’t fast enough for Quinn. She wanted to feel the weight of a baseball in her hand; she wanted the thrill of the Fast Ball and the crack of the bat. Parking her bike next to the pitcher’s mound at the school’s ball field, she lifted her glove from the basket full of balls and inhaled the scent of freshly worked leather. Placing her cap on to her head, she was ready to go.
The ball in one hand, the glove fitting snugly on the other, Quinn assumed the position, raised both hands above her head, smoothly lowed them and released the ball. Too wide. Frowning, another ball was released. Too high. Again and again, a ball was released until the pitch was perfect.
Morning was slowly creeping toward noon as the girl became one with the ball and glove. By twos and by threes, little boys with baseball on their minds began to show up at the field on their own bikes. Many of them lined up outside the fence to stare at the strange sight that met them. Their minds screamed the same thought: GIRLS WERE NOT SUPPOSED TO PLAY BASEBALL!
“What’s going on?” Buford Brown wondered as he rode his bike toward the schoolyard. “Why weren’t the boys on the field tossing practice balls?” Standing on tiptoes, he craned to see what was going on as he balanced his own banana seat between his legs. What he saw nearly knocked him for a loop. Who was that girl who was pretending to be a pitcher?
Throwing his ride to the ground, fourteen-year-old Buford, better known to his friends as Buster Brown, stalked across the grassy field to confront the girl. As he drew closer, he recognized the honey brown ponytail sticking through the hole in the bottom center back of the purple ball cap perched on her head: Quinn Madison! One of the “Silly Sisters”, he thought to himself as he approached the mound. Well, he thought, he would just have to send her back to the quartet of Quinn, Helena, Samantha and Phoebe. There would be a clear understanding: BASEBALL WAS FOR BOYS!
Just as Quinn was about to let go of the ball, Buster Brown stepped in front of her. Grabbing her arm, he roughly forced her to drop it. “GO HOME!” he yelled directly into her face.
Without blinking, Quinn bent down, retrieved the ball and sent it flying in a direct line across Home Plate. Buster had no choice but to step aside. A second ball sailed past him; the third narrowly missed his nose. Now he was all attention: This Girl Could Pitch! Without another word, he pulled his worn out catcher’s mitt from his back pocket and strode toward Home Plate to assume the position.
Skeptically Quinn watched Buster Brown amble toward Home Plate. He was a big boy; not what one would consider fat or obese but rather what was referred to as hefty. As he squatted into position, she took in the pouch that hung over his belt and his thick thighs. Clearly, he wasn’t one of her favorite people but he was there and she wanted to play ball. As soon as he lowered his catcher mask and punched his fist into his mitt, she let loose. The ball hit the mitt with a thud.
The pitches came in high and low, left and right, and dead center. Quinn threw; Buster caught. It was a cat and mouse game to see who faltered first. Neighbor boys leaned against the outfield fence or stood spellbound with their bikes between their knees. They had never seen anything like it. Without warning, the cat and the mouse suddenly became a team.
When it finally came to picking teams, Quinn was Buster’s first pick. Thad Johnson, the other team captain, was disappointed at first but settled on Tommy McNeil as his pitcher. Back and forth, the scratch team was picked until each had a full squad. All the kids were accounted for; they all knew their positions from past Saturday games. The only newcomer was the girl.
The Game was On! By the time it was over, the fence line was full of spectators. In a small town word gets around fast. Men, women and children all heard there was a girl playing in the scratch game and rushed to see whom it was. Quinn’s mother, Jenny Madison was all for marching onto the field to march her daughter home but her father, Frank, held her back. Her elder brother, Marvin, was in awe at her skill; he always admired his little sister’s spunk.
It was a hard fought game, both teams were nearly equal, but Team Buster won the day, 6 to 4. From the mound, Quinn whipped her hat from her head and dropped it to the ground. Her long honey colored hair had lost it’s ponytail somewhere around the third inning so it hung free around her face. She was grinning from ear to ear. Laughing, shouting and waving their arms in glee, Helena, Samantha and Phoebe rushed the field. Their best friend was the hero of the day and, without hesitation, they wanted to be a part of it.
When Little League tryouts began, Buford Brown was the first to show up. He wasn’t surprised to see Quinn Madison show up as the second. Never, in the history of the town, had a girl arrived on tryout day. “So she’s going to play,” Buster thought to himself. He couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear. This was one Silly Sister who wasn’t so silly in his opinion. He had realized a great respect for this skinny little girl.
Without much thought, the high honchos of the Little League world dismissed Quinn without given her a chance to prove her self. In their minds: GIRLS DIDN’T PLAY BASEBALL! The disappointment was evident in the girls face as she turned to walk away. Her shoulders sagged, her glove hung limply from her hand. She wanted to play! Damn boys and damn men who thought that girls couldn’t play baseball, she thought as she headed for her bike.
“Hey! Are you stupid?!” Buster Brown yelled out as he rushed the men who were the deciding factor on who could play and who couldn’t. Adamantly he advocated on Quinn’s part. She was the best damn pitcher he had ever played with, he exclaimed. Finally he shouted: “If Quinn doesn’t play, neither do I.” Throwing his catcher’s mitt down in a fit of rage, he stormed away.
Buster Brown was the Little League Star of his division and the Powers that Be knew it. They charged Buster and brought him back to reason with him. After a heated exchange, Quinn was brought back too and allowed to tryout. There was no question: she was on the team.
What a season! The bleachers were full at every game. Quinn was a star! Game after game was won by the combined efforts of Quinn and Buster. When she walked out onto the field, the home side spectators shouted out: “You’ll Not See Nothing Like the Mighty Quinn!” Somehow the girl knew it was her father, Frank, who had started the chant. Still, she loved and basked in every moment of it.
Sooner or later, every child outgrows Little League but they rarely outgrow baseball. Quinn was the same. Her Little League days behind her, she moved onto to the High School team. There was no problem with her joining the team. By this time, all the coaches knew: if Quinn didn’t play, Buster wouldn’t play either. They were, by this time, practically an unbeatable team. Baseball, Buster and Quinn were words that all went together in the minds of the townspeople; you couldn’t have one without the other.
Quinn grew into a beautiful, vivacious teenaged girl. Her hair grew longer and the honey color became richer. Buster lost his baby fat and became a tall, lean, muscular young man. No longer did he want to be referred to as “Buster Brown”; his name was Buford, therefore he wanted to be known as Bo. It seemed natural that the pitcher and the catcher should become a couple.
At the end of Bo’s Senior Year, he took Quinn to the prom. Much to the surprise of the couple, they were elected King and Queen of the Prom. Since Quinn was only a sophomore, rules had to be broken but no one wanted to split up the “Dream Team”. No one complained. On the stage, they were presented with their crowns and a glove and a mitt and a bat… Cheers resounded around the gymnasium.
Alas, the magic was over when high school was over for Quinn. Although she had been able to play baseball through her school days, no college would entertain a girl pitcher. Bo was able to continue to play; he was signed into the minor league at first but was soon in the Majors. Quinn had to content herself by being his #1 fan. Still, she wasn’t worried. The next year, she became Mrs. Bo Brown, All-American.
*lyrics: The Mighty Quinn by Bob Dylan