As a military brat, the end of the school year always meant Little League Baseball. As an eleven years old boy in May of 1965, three things occupied me life. They were Boy Scouts, baseball, and a little garage band I had just joined.
Spring and the start of the baseball season never failed to give me dreams of playing professional baseball. “Tryout Saturday,” as we called it back then, was a day when coaches and managers could see your talents. They woul have us field ground balls, catch pop flys, and take batting practice.
I could catch or knock down any baseball hit my way. My father had taught me to get in front of the ball and let my body help knock it down if it missed my glove. I could then pick up the ball and throw out the runner. I could hit the cover of a baseball in 1965. I was the only kid my age that was a switch hitter. When batting right-handed I could hit the ball over the fence with regularity. When hitting left-handed I was more a contact hitter. I would knock the ball to all fields hitting for a high batting average. I was good. I knew it. My dad knew it. The coaches and managers knew it.
Selected second overall, I went to the Cardinals. Also on my team was Bobby Mars. He was in the band that had recently asked me to be their rhythm guitarist. Bobby could do something I could never do consistently. He could sing lead. I’m talking about a pop star, rock idol, lead singer quality voice. He had a voice that the girls swooned over.
Bobby got all the boys on the team to sing. The song of choice was Herman’s Hermits (featuring Peter Noone on lead vocals) “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter.” I started bringing an acoustic six-string guitar to baseball practice. I put my handkerchief close to the bridge of the guitar body to mute the sound. It gave an almost banjo-like sound. We would sing “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” over and over.
The first time we would sing using the correct lyrics. Then we would begin substituting the last name of the every boy on the baseball team like “Mrs. Smith” or “Mrs. Jones” instead of “Mrs. Brown”. We would always end with Mrs. Mars You’ve Got a Lovely Martian and giggle. We sang the tune with a heavy, fake British accent.
One of the things that made the song, so appealing was Peter Noone. He was barely five or six years older than me and the boys on the team. Many had brothers his age. When we watched him on Shindig, American Bandstand, Hullabaloo and Where the Action Is. Peter had a charisma that we only saw elsewhere in The Beatles.
The musical summer of 1965 was special. The music of Herman’s Hermits “Mrs. Brown” and The Beatles “Ticket to Ride” captured our imagination. The Beach Boys “Help Me, Rhonda” and The Byrds “Mr. Tambourine Man” blasted from our little AM radios. The Rolling Stones “Satisfaction” became the first rock anthem our lives. Herman’s Hermits “I’m Henry VIII, I Am” had us singing along once more with Peter Noone.
We also followed the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers baseball teams in the newspapers and on the radio. After all, El Paso where I lived on Biggs Air Force Base, was about halfway between Houston and Los Angeles.
Music filled the summer days. Baseball filled the summer nights.