In Which We Learn The True Story About Softball With The Kennedys

Recently, I told a story about my mother playing softball with the Kennedy family in Hyannisport, Massachusetts. The other day she called me to set me straight.

As my mother remembers, there were two groups of young people on that part of the Cape, in the early 50’s. My mother hung with the crowd that lived a dangerous, hot-house life. Frequented piano bars. The Kennedy’s crew called them the “Pansies.” In return, my mother’s group called the Kennedy crew the “Barefoot Boys.” Because, I suppose, they ran wild and free.

One year, the softball games between the Pansies and the Barefoot Boys went on all season. Came the final game. Apparently, in an act of ruthlessness, focus, and sprezzatura, the Kennedys brought in some Boston Red Sox as ringers. The story does not include a record of who won. We can guess.

Whether to call this “cheating,” or a brilliant act of nonchalant insolence, I leave to you. Along with the implications of terms from another time.

Pansies by turtlemom4bacon, Softball by kamau akabueze, both from the Creative Commons at Flickr

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  • and Teddy gave a 10-year old friend a really hard time at board games in Nantucket just a few years ago. They like to win. I still voted for each of them!

  • I have heard other nicknames for the Kennedy crew ;-)

    I would love to hear more about the piano bars!

  • Thanks for the story — but also for the word "sprezzatura" — I hope I'll have occasion to use it someday soon!

  • Sprezzatura that sounds delcious rolling off the tongue…
    Trust the Kennedy's to bring in the "big guns" they did not take to losing in any arena…or field.
    I would love to hear more of your mother's adventures on the Cape.

  • So special to hear stories from long ago, by someone you truly know, about people you think/feel you know…
    I wish I was sitting somewhere near your mother and listening her remembrances; thank you for telling us!

  • That's a good story. I'm glad to know your mother frequented piano bars. Good for her.

  • Such a fun story!! Sounds like it was quite the summer of fun for your mother!

  • The Kennedys cheated?? Nah…

  • Great annecdote…but curious as to how frequenting piano bars earns the moniker "dangerous?"

  • Great story – would always be glad to know more about the Pansies too.

  • I am sure that they were related to the Red Sox players in some way? They were likely Catholic or Irish or at least Democrats.;-)

  • Your mother sounds fun………….does she have more good stories? XO

  • You have sprezzatura. The Kennedy boys, while barefoot, had connections.

  • i thought cheating was the cardinal rule
    to never be broken by the aristocracy.
    shame on them. :)

  • Love this entire post, from the vision of your mother at the piano bar, to the names "Pansies" and "Barefoot Boys," it is a fascinating little snapshot into another time.

    Sending you a smile Miss LPC!

  • seriously, how cool are you!



  • LPC,
    Thanks for the gift of a new word. sprezzatura. I like it.

    I like that you also read Seth Godin.
    The Fourth Canary.

  • Keep these stories coming Lisa!

  • they deffo cheated. :os

  • such a great story. i would like to read more about your mother and her time at the Cape. i'm not a bit surprised that the Kennedys brought in Red Sox players. i'll leave it at that. thanks for sharing and take care.

  • Great story!

  • Oooh love this story. Trust them to bring in the big guns – just as in life, in play too! x

  • Intrigued by the idea that your mother's and my (much older) sister's paths might have crossed on the Cape; she had her own Kennedy stories. And the "Pansies"? My sister was in love with one or two boys in that crowd who, she later told me, were gay. Some people knew, some pretended not to- so many were closeted then.

  • Anon – My mother voted for both Kennedys too, and would do so again. In fact, she wanted me to say nothing about cheating per se, stressing that Teddy was a great senator. She is firm in her beliefs, my mother. It's one of her great qualities. I'm a lifelong Democrat, but less convinced.

    Patsy – I can imagine.

    mater – Yes, of course! I believe the first usage I know is from The Prince, by Castiglione.

    hostess – I will ask my mother for more stories.

    Anna – Thank you.

    Susan – Don't you just love the thought?

  • Preppy Pink Crocodile – Yes.

    Jan – As I said, we might just call it focus. I meant it:).

    Main Line – Oh, they are dangerous only when one has one's tongue in cheek.

    North – OK. I will ask my mother.

    La Belette – I wouldn't be surprised. Boston in those days was so separated along those kinds of affiliations.

    Gift Wrapped – We shall see:).

  • QoC – I only wish for some of their panache, then:).

    myletterstoemily – Well, the Kennedys were not aristocracy then. That's what is so interesting to me about the story. Such an American story, involving softball, the Irish, the WASP establishment, the girls following the boys, the boys following the girls and possibly eachother under cover.

    TPP – Thank you.

    QBS – Not nearly as cool as the Kennedys:).

    Fourth – Oh yes, Seth is so good at what he does. Now THERE is some sprezzatura.

    FF – You bet.

  • Ash – Perhaps.

    Kiki – I will get more stories from my mom.

    Lori – Thank you.

    Semi – Big guns are sometimes required.

    Duchesse – I am intrigued too. I am amazed to hear that the Pansies were not to more than a handful of people. Email me, let's discuss:).

  • Lisa, can't find an e-mail addy on your contact page. Anyway, do not have much to add other than that she spent time there around '58-'60 when she worked in Boston in advertising. She died in '77 so I can't ask her for details, but I do recall a few stories involving Kennedys.

  • a bunch of preppy barefoot pansies those Kennedy boys ;)

    Great story!

  • Such a great story and I bet your mom loved telling it. A joy to read. :) xoxo

  • Bear in mind that Jack Kennedy couldn't swing a bat to save his life in the Fifties – due to his injury in WW2. (He inadvertently allowed his PT boat to be run over by the competition, and was badly injured.) Even when he was president, he could scarcely swing a golf club — and never, as best I can recall, finished 18 holes.

    (As for the business of bringing in ringers, this is a time-worn custom that is more in the nature of a joke. Done everywhere, always. Just saying.)

    (I ask that no one take this as a defense of the Kennedys, as it it is not meant as such.)

  • Funny–I stop by only occasionally. Then I saw the word "sprezzatura" (sorry if I've misspelled). My daughter just read Castiglione's "Courtier" (this was first use of word, I believe) in her Renaissance lit class and sent me her paper for a read through. Everyone should read the book–it's wonderful. Practiced nonchalance–there's no real translation and it is left in Italian in many.

  • I don’t get the fascination with the Kennedys. Why????