It was summertime in the late 1950s, and the men from Easton were taking on the men from Stoughton in a game of softball at the Unionville Playground.
Among those on the Easton team were my dad and Willy Nixon, my dad’s BFF (for the uninitiated, that means “Best Friend Forever”).
In the previous inning, a player from Stoughton, a tough guy who had played Div. 1 football, was running the base path and he — according to credible witnesses — leveled a cheap shot hit on one of the Easton players covering a base.
The Easton guy who took the cheap shot was not my dad, but another friend of Willy Nixon’s.
A little background: my dad and Willy Nixon coached athletics together for close to 30 years.
Also important here — Willy Nixon grew up in Brockton and knew Rocky Marciano. Willy graduated from Brockton High School, served a stint in the Army, went to prep school, and then on to where he earned his bachelor’s degree and was in one of the college’s first graduating classes.
Mr. Nixon (he is “Mr. Nixon” to me) was, and is, not a big guy, but wiry and a gifted athlete — and while at Stonehill he took up boxing and became very good at it — and won an intercollegiate boxing title representing the college.
Willy Nixon was good with his fists.
Actually, Willy Nixon, 84 years old, energetic, active, and out and about every day — and quite frequently at night — is still someone with whom I wouldn’t want to trade punches.
So, anyway — back to the softball game — Mr. Nixon was upset with the cheap shot on his buddy. And he couldn’t let it go. He needed to make things right. He was going to make things right.
Willy Nixon made things right.
My dad told me what went down.
It was the inning after the cheap shot, and Easton was at bat. Willy Nixon was on second base. The Stoughton guy who had leveled the cheap shot was playing catcher — he was covering home.
Okay, hear me here — I don’t know at this point what the score was, what inning it was, how many outs, if any, there were, and if anybody else besides Mr. Nixon was on base.
What happened though was that, with Willy Nixon on second, an Easton batter put the ball in play.
Fly ball? Ground ball? Dribbler? Stinging line drive?
I don’t know.
What I do know is that the ball being put in play was Willy Nixon’s cue.
Almost surely, Willy Nixon, as he started to sprint for third base, didn’t care about outs or baserunning strategy, or the score — for his only concern was the score he was about to settle at home base.
“Willy just turned at third and kept running for home,” my dad recalled with a laugh.
As it has been told through the years, everybody knew what was coming, and all players in the field and on the bench started running toward home base.
This was going to be a good one — a donnybrook within a donnybrook.
Willy Nixon was now around third and sprinting full bore.
Where was the ball?
The Stoughton catcher — bigger and stronger than Mr. Nixon — readied himself.
And there was a terrific collision within a stone’s throw of Washington St./Rte. 138.
Both players sprawled in the dirt.
And then they got up — and it was on.
“You should have seen Willy,” my dad recalled, again with a laugh. “He was good, jabbing and throwing punches and nonstop, connecting one punch after another. You should have seen it.”
At the playground that day was a young Frank Jardin, who grew up in Stoughton, and who make his career as a guidance counselor at OA.
Frank Jardin, who lives in Easton, says that fight was a good one — a keeper.
In boxing parlance — and even though Willy Nixon’s opponent outweighed him in no small measure — Willy Nixon won a unanimous decision — on points.
And in that this was long ago, another day — and in which being a gentleman was more in vogue than today — the fight was over and it was settled. That was that.
For all I know, the two guys who had just duked it out may have then walked next door to the and sat down together for a beer.