I saw the Little League U.S. championship game between Toms River, N.J., and Phenix City, Ala. Toms River lost, and its players cried. What impressed me was how professional both teams looked in uniforms and demeanor. They could have been the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.

This is not the way baseball was played when we were kids.

For one thing, we didn't have a stadium. We played on New York's 196th Street on a field abandoned by a builder who had gone bankrupt.

We had no names for our teams. What we did was flip a coin and start choosing sides. Bischoff always got picked first because he was good at home runs. Davis was the best pitcher, and Devries could steal bases.

Once the sides were chosen, one took the field and the other took the bat. There were no commentators and, believe it or not, no parents. The game belonged just to us. Since the one who called balls and strikes was too young to play, we complained to him when he called us out.

I must admit that there was no professionalism like that shown by the Toms River and Phenix teams when I watched.

The fact is, we couldn't have cared less what was going on. All we wanted was a nice morning with something to do.

What made the game the most interesting was that no one remembered the score when we got home.

At lunch, mothers would ask "Who won?" And the young master would reply "I don't know."

Our games never made USA Today or the Newark Star-Ledger. In fact, to this day no one recalls a score.

What we all remember is the morning we showed up and found several truckloads of pornography in the revetment next to the field. We didn't know who dumped it there, but the game was canceled that day so we could go through it.

It was only after our parents got word and called the fire and police departments that we went back to playing baseball. I think that was the only time we ever cried.

{C} 1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate