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Game Of Catch Saves A Marriage

These days, more than 50 percent of marriages in America end in divorce. In the latest installment of his "Everybody Has A Story" series, CBS News Correspondent Steve Hartman met a man who was soon to become one of those statistics -- until a game of catch saved his marriage, and brought him and his wife closer together.

After darting to Portland and pointing out his story in the local phonebook, Hartman reached William Baughn, a phone guy.

Baughn, 58, is a service tech for Sprint; his wife, Cindy, a loan officer. This year, they'll be celebrating 17 years of happy marriage - 34 years total.

He says, "I always tell people the first 17 years of our marriage was hell. The last ones have been great."

Apparently, they used to fight something awful - for lots of reasons, but mostly just because Bill was a…

His wife interrupts with a question to her husband, "Awkward for you, dear?" "Just a little," he answers, "Yeah, I was a…I can't think of a nice word to say there."

She helps him find one, "Well, yeah. It would be an S.O.B. That is what he was like, then."

In fairness to Bill, he was never completely without merit. Their son, Casey, says he was a great dad - used to play ball with him all the time - could not resist a game of catch.

Casey notes, "I don't remember one time my dad ever saying no."

Bill points out, "My dad always did that with me. If he was home, he would play ball with me."

Unfortunately, Bill wasn't nearly as accommodating to his wife, and after 17 years, the bickering was enough.

He says, "I grabbed a suitcase, put some things in it and said, 'I'm out of here.'"

She adds, "And I said, 'If you leave, you're not welcome back.'"

Casey says, "I remember knowing that something was different about the argument."

Casey was just 11 years old. "And I remember his face was just beet red and his eyes were black," he adds.

At this point, no marriage counselor in the world could have persuaded Bill to reconsider. His suitcase was in the car, keys in his hand. All he had left (to do) was one very short goodbye.

Bill says, "I just told him, 'I'm not arguing with your mom anymore. I'm leaving. Hope you understand.' And that's when he threw me the glove and the ball - said, 'Let's play some catch.' So we did.

The kid knew what he was doing.

"I think so," he says. "And about an hour later Cindy came to the door and said, 'Supper's ready.'"

Cindy says, "And he came back."

In the years that followed, there would be other fights, but never that serious. There would be other apologies, but none as crucial.

What would have happened if his son didn't ask him to play catch that day?

Bill says, "I would probably be somewhere else today."

Casey saved their marriage.

Cindy says, "You can step off the porch and you can go left or you can go right - either direction changes your life."

Of course, we never know the path not taken. If father and son never played catch that day, who knows what Bill's story might have been? Although it's hard to imagine an ending any better than father and son playing catch under the sunset.