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the common first person room

For the Love of Baseball by Earl R. Nelson

Eddie was a master at Deerfield Academy, and also the hockey coach. He said he was looking for an assistant and wondered if I would be interested. I had never heard of Deerfield, and I was not interested in coaching or teaching. But he went on to say that the Headmaster, a Mr. Boyden, coached baseball, and that he too was looking for an assistant coach. With that my ears perked up, and I asked, “Are you sure?” My first love was baseball . . . Mr. Boyden called to invite me to interview with him in Deerfield right after New Year’s Day, 1928. When I arrived on campus, Mr. Boyden was headed to Boston, where he had an appointment with President Coolidge; he had me come along. I sat in the front seat with Jack, the chauffeur, while Mr. Boyden sat in the back and dictated to his secretary the entire trip. When we arrived, we took the secretary to the station and she took a train back to Deerfield, and while Mr. Boyden met with President Coolidge, Jack and I went to a movie and then he took me on a tour of Boston. My interview with Mr. Boyden took place during our return trip to Deerfield. We had talked for about 15 or 20 minutes when I noticed that Mr. Boyden’s eyes were closed and that his chin was resting on his chest . . . that was the end of my interview but I got the job.

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Spring 2012

I was assigned to a suite on the second floor of the new dormitory, where I was in charge of 10 or 12 boys. I also taught an algebra class, held one or two study periods, and assisted in the afternoons first with hockey, and in the spring, to my great pleasure, with baseball. I even helped Mrs. Boyden plant her garden, and did the weeding and whatever other chores she asked me to do. Every Sunday morning she invited the single masters for a wonderful breakfast before going to church. We never missed being at that Sunday morning breakfast. Between the hockey and baseball seasons, I accompanied the basketball team on its out-of-town trips. On one return trip, the bus skidded off the road and turned over—tearing all five doors off the side. I was seated in the back, over the gas tank, and my overcoat got soaked with gasoline. Although the engine caught fire, Mr. Boyden and I managed to get all of the boys out and check them for injuries. Amazingly, only one was hurt—and although his ear was nearly severed, it was a minor injury considering the circumstances. The next day Jack and I went back to the site of the accident to arrange for the bus to be repaired. When I saw how close we had come to disaster, I really got a chill . . . had we skidded off the other side of the road, we would have fallen into a river and all of us might have been killed.

Deerfield Academy Archives

It was a cold December day in 1927 when I ran into Eddie Switzer while sitting around an open fire, warming our feet after a good time of ice-skating in Aurora, Illinois. Eddie said to me, “Earl, you’re a darn good skater!” I thanked him but couldn’t return the compliment.

Spring 2012 Deerfield Magazine  

The alumni journal of Deerfield Academy

Spring 2012 Deerfield Magazine  

The alumni journal of Deerfield Academy