One of my favorite lines was to tell people that I live on the Upper Westside.
It was not a neighborhood pride thing because I grew up in Corktown, or “Southern Centerville,” as my grandpa used to call it.
The Upper Westside just seemed like an ironically snooty way to describe the location of my home, which an appraiser once unceremoniously described to me as “a small house with no garage.”
A few years back, I repeated my line to one of my cousins who grew up in the 1970s about a block away from where I live now, and he was highly offended.
“You do not live in the Upper Westside,” he said adamantly. “You live on the North End.”
My cousin and his friend did not like the kids on the Upper Westside, which is a little lower from where I live. They were afraid of the kids on Boardman Street, scoffed at those losers from the Lower West Side, and I am sure they knew better than to venture anywhere near Centerville.
When I grew up in the 1980s, neighborhood pride was still kind of a thing in Butte. Telling me I lived in Walkerville constituted as fighting words. The same was true if you told my Walkerville friends they lived in Centerville.
One thing all the kids on the Hill could agree on, though, was that we were all tougher than those wimps from the Flats.
Our Little League Baseball leagues used to have some neighborhood pride, too.
When it came time for the City Tournament, players from the Northwest, Longfellow and Mile High tried hard to represent their leagues.
Players all knew their league was better than the others, and they only time they could show that was during the City Tournament or during the All-Stars tournament.
Those days of neighborhood pride are long gone in the Mining City, mainly because some of those neighborhoods no longer exist.
The fatal blow was probably when West Junior High became an elementary school in the late 1980s. That sent all the public middle school students to the same building, where the rivalries ended for good.
No longer will you hear anyone debating Finn Town vs. the McGloin Heights or Meaderville vs. the Dublin Gulch.
Butte kids these days are not from neighborhoods. They are from Butte.
Our mining camp has changed since they days of the McQueen, Chinatown and the Cabbage Patch. Butte has less population, we have better transportation, and our kids all play Fortnite with each other.
So, it only make sense if they played baseball with each other, too.
The Longfellow Little League went away years ago. It was taken over by the Northwest Little League. That leaves our Butte kids with two options to play.
There are supposedly boundaries for the leagues, though parents have violated those in recent years, mostly to sign their kids up for the Mile High Little League.
That has caused headaches and hard feelings among the hard-working men and women who dedicate their time to developing baseball and softball players in town.
Next year, playing out of league will not be permitted. Of course, they said that last year, too. And the year before that. And probably the year before that.
We should just combine the leagues because it makes sense for so many reasons.
First, just think of the headache it would save our local Little League volunteers. They would no longer have to worry about Northwest players signing up for Mile High. Or vice versa.
That happens every year, too. It causes animosity between the league officials and the parents looking to put their son or daughter in the best position possible.
If everybody who lives in Silver Bow County played in the same league, that problem would go away.
A merger could also lead to better, more competitive baseball in Butte. If all the Butte teams were drawing from the same pool of players, you would see better competition. That would lead to better play and better players in the long run.
Remember, our first goal in Little League is to make sure kids have fun. Our second goal is to develop baseball players, and there is no better indicator of doing that right than turning out successful players to someday join the American Legion program.
Another benefit of having one league would be less rainouts. By the end of last week, some Mile High teams had only played four games this season.
The constant rainouts wreaked havoc on the schedule for Mile High, meaning the league will not compete in the season-ending tournament, which used to be called the “City Tournament.”
While Northwest is playing a tournament with teams in Dillon, Deer Lodge, Anaconda and Philipsburg, Mile High is instead trying to make up a bunch of games before playing a tournament among only Mile High teams.
While it rained just as much on the Hill this spring, Northwest did not have close to as many rainouts because the fields get rid of water better than the Mile High fields at Father Sheehan Park.
If you dig a 2-foot hole at Father Sheehan, you would probably hit the water table. The park has standing water in August.
So, while players from Mile High went home to play Fortnite instead of baseball, a couple of fields uptown sat empty and playable.
Mile High would have had a lot better season if the league had the Missoula Avenue fields for back up. Those same fields — and some help for the good folks at Northwest — allowed Mile High to complete the 9-10 All-Star tournament after one good storm washed out Father Sheehan last July.
Some people do not want to give up on heritage and tradition, and, really, that is admirable to a point. The name Northwest is important to some, and it should be.
Players in the Longfellow Little League were proud of their heritage and name, too. The Longfellow alumni still are proud, even though the league went away years ago.
Just like the former residence of the McQueen, the Longfellow players still have their memories. And they still play games on their fields.
The past two presidents at Mile High have pushed for the leagues to be combined. They even suggested using the name “Northwest” for the new league if that is what it would take.
They realized it is not about the adults. It is about the kids. And it is about baseball.
Yet, those presidents fought a losing battle. Enough people are against merging the two Butte leagues, and they are not about to give up their fight.
We will probably see peace between Hill kids and those wimps from the Flats before we see one harmonious Little League in the Mining City.
— Bill Foley, who did his part in the peace process by marrying a wimp from the Flats, writes a column that appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74 4 comments