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Ego will trip you

Parents of children growing up in the 1950s, as well as other adults influential in the lives of young people, often issued a timeless warning. The clichéd phrases they used went like, “don’t get too big for your britches,” or, “don’t get a swelled head.” And they applied to Dave McNally and his Billings Legion Post 4 baseball team in the summer of 1959.

Their lesson in humility occurred in the small Nebraska town of Central City, as told by Ed Bayne, Jr., in the 2015 book about his father, Coach: Baseball and Life—Ed Bayne Style. The incident happened during Legion Post 4’s annual “Big Trip,” when, with Bob Glasgow at the wheel, the team bus made a swing throughout the Midwest, playing teams in Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Wisconsin (and sometimes in other states). Bayne’s plan was to have his team face the best competition possible, so it would be ready to contend for a state championship in Montana and, frequently, a regional championship and even for a berth in the Legion World Series.

Thus, Central City, a town then of about 2,400 people, which isn’t much bigger nowadays with a population of a bit over 3,000, furnished opposition for Billings.

With a few hours of spare time before the game, the Billings players asked Bayne if they could go swimming at the city pool. He said, yes, and after swimming, “we hit the DQ (Dairy Queen) for ice cream sundaes, shakes, ice cream cones and other shakes,” Ed Bayne, Jr., recalled.

When game time came, the Billings players saw a field with gopher holes in the outfield, and a snow fence surrounded the diamond.

For Bayne and his teammates, it “felt like this was going to be an easy game and (we) played like it”; the Billings pitcher, “LJT Miller,” threw sixteen straight balls. Chuck Stroup, who normally was the Billings catcher, played left field and muffed three fly balls.

As Bayne put it, “the ten-run rule was in effect, and we got our butts beat.” Billings, which held a 1-0 lead going into the bottom of the third inning, gave up seven runs to Central City in the inning, and the home team rolled to a 16-2 win.

Afterward, Coach Bayne said, “Now what do you think about ice cream, swimming, and small town teams?” As his son put it, “We got the message big time!”

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Jamie Larson