Author’s Note: The Whole Story

The Bragging Rights League is a unique “what if?” baseball tale about a racially flipped-over America. Unfortunately, these 22 blog posts are also flipped over with the WordPress template I chose. I had assumed there was a button to push at the bottom of each individual post to bring you to the next chapter. Apparently not.

To read the entire story, simply scroll down on this home page, click on “Older Entries”, scroll down to the bottom of that page, push the same button again and you should have everything. You’ll just need to read it all from the bottom up, which isn’t ideal.

I fully intend to publish this in book form in the near future, along with my other blogella, Dear Hank. You can wait and read this in the more traditional “right side up” format, though the printed version probably won’t have all the fun graphics and kick-ass team roster pages.

—J.P.

Published in: on February 23, 2014 at 8:21 am  Comments (1)  

Chapter 22: Three Years Later

Guess I don’t need to tell you that America won that war they got into in the summer of ’41. Yup. Wiped out the entire Italian Air Force in about a week and then marched on Florence, where Mussolini crapped his bloomers and stuck a Beretta Modello in his mouth—or maybe it was the other way around.

The rest of the three years had the U.S. Navy and land forces circling their way into Germany through Denmark to take care of that Hitler jerk, first blowing up his bases on Borkum before the big G-Day landing on the beaches of Norddeich. The Japanese were thinking about jumping into the war, too, but could never decide which side to fight for. In my opinion they play so much baseball over there it probably took away their mean streak.

I lost touch with just about everyone on the Dorseys. Being white, hardly any of them saw combat in Europe, but Cecil Travis served with the infamous 2nd division Milkshake Company in Holland, and earned a purple heart for leading a charge on a strategic, Nazi-held chocolate factory. Cecil’s bravery must have made the difference in Gus Greenlee’s eyes and President Hughes’ heart, because as soon as the war ended he was named to be the first white man to play in the major league. That’s right, on Opening Day 1945 he’ll be in the starting lineup at third base for the Memphis Hamptons, and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer, more talented guy. Ted Williams was the first Dorsey they thought of, but he turned out to be too much of a grouch about it, talked his way into the army and messed up his swing by doing a little too much R&R over in Amsterdam.

I suppose you’re wondering about Blossom. Well, Miss Pickering and me just weren’t meant to be. She joined the Red Cross right after the war began and went to Iceland to work in an Allied hospital, where she fell in love with a handsome bone surgeon from the Ivory Coast and that was that. It hurt for a while, but who was I kidding? America may be ready for a more white major league now, but integrated romance is still down the pike a ways. Anyway, I’ve been more than occupied up here in Canada, following the war, playing semi-pro ball with the Thunder Bay Beaver Tails when I can, and taking care of my father’s maple syrup farm.

Then the other day I got a call from Roy Cullenbine, who said a bunch of the Dorseys were getting back together for a reunion weekend of barbeque, hookah-toking, and ball playing, so how could I resist? Duke Ellington was even nice enough to let us use the Newark stadium for the party with the Ellingtons out of town, as long as we let his band play in the third base seats.

Me with Lucky Cecil at the Newark reunion.

Travis was the star of the reunion, of course, looking all spiffy in his Washington Butlers uniform. He’s been batting over .400 for them in the Mid-Atlantic White League this year, and they’ll sure be sorry to see him go to the majors. Duke was there, naturally, dressed up and smiling even on his off day. With Josh Gibson hitting everything out of sight, the Ellingtons were a major league force again in ’44, 12 games in front of the Calloways at mid-season.

“Can’t say enough about how well you boys battled that year,” Duke said to me and Cullenbine over plates of indescribable ribs, “This country’s had some cockamamie laws on its books for too long, and I’m just glad I’ve stuck around long enough to see some change happen. You eating that corn bread?”

We divided up into teams, married guys vs. single ones, and I got a few hits for the Singles and only butchered one ball in the outfield, but the Marrieds outlasted us 14-11 when little Lonny Frey won it with an inside-the-park 3-run homer. A handful of curious Newarkites came out to watch us, and all through the game and the day I scoured the stands for a sign of Blossom, thinking that maybe, just maybe, things didn’t work out with the Ivory Coast bone surgeon and she had a sudden longing for something Canadian again.

Sorry, folks. Life just doesn’t work out the way it does in the movies. Unless you’re Cecil Travis.—J. Geoffrey Heath

*   *   *

with Jupiter Dobbs
Pittsburgh Courier Baseball Blabber

‘Morning again, baseball bees and flowers. For your enlightenment I can tell you my paper had me covering war battles for too long a time and it made me downright kooky. Meaning I’ve retired myself for a year down here in my Cape Hatteras beach cottage, where I follow all ball scores in the morning, afternoon and evening newspapers like everyone else and have to write nary a word about none of it, which I thank any gods who are listening kindly for.

Doesn’t mean I can’t get all nostalgy for the Bragging Righters, though, because much as my Jordans stunk up the league room and as much as I razzed this Dorseys social improvement project, it turned out to be a crazy-thrilling race in the end run, didn’t it? My final musings on each team follow, with complete player statisticals if you click on the team names:

Birmingham Armstrongs (36-24, league champions). The only club with a home winning record, and by a big gap, but it was their utter clutchiness, especially in the last few weeks when overcoming a three-game deficit that helped them take the crown. Oscar Charleston more than deserved the MVP honors for his 1.149 OPS and total conquering of all field play in the B-Hams’ final six games. Top that with his 11 game-deciding hits, and that award contest was over, Grover.

Newark Ellingtons (35-25). A failure of pitching when it was most needed, pure and simplified. Oh, Newark tabloids were quick to crucify Mr. Gibson, but Josh did win eight games single-handedly and club 16 balls into the heavens. I would blame Smokey Joe Williams and his (4-8, 6.24) effort. Nip Winters knew how to win with his 13-1 mark, and by all rights should have won the Edsall Walker Pitching Award, but my campaigning efforts for him on the Twanger news feed got him nowhere.

Chicago Dorseys (31-29). Yes, the amateur outfit rose from the darkest league cellar to snatch the third place prize on the final weekend, but it’s safe to say their namby-pamby treatment by the commissioner and President allowed them to pork up their roster and help them in every late-inning situation. Still, Ted Williams, despite his surliness and shiftless play in the outfield, did light up the league batting lights, leading all comers in OPS (1.243) home runs (19) and finishing close seconds to Superman Pennington in walks (46) and Cool Papa Bell in runs (56).

Kansas City Basies (30-30). Never seen a pitcher smoke a league like Satch Paige did since he started out 0-3, even though he did finish with two less wins than old Nip Winters, as I mentioned quite a bit on Twanger. For the season, 11-3, and league leader in ERA (2.48) and WHIP (1.17). I’d say the man has a future. Willie Wells was their only fear-inducing stick man, at .364 and 1.052 OPS.

Detroit Calloways (24-36). By far the biggest disappointers. Worthy team hitting and pitching for much of the year, but it all spilled down the river in the last month. Look at these awful “midnight hour” records: 4-10 in one-run games, 2-5 in extra innings, only 8 comeback wins to 20 blown leads, and a putrid 9-18 record at home.

Pittsburgh Jordans (24-36). I should talk, no? The Jordans finished 7-20 at Greenlee Field, amazing seeing their team featured lefty mashers Turkey Stearnes and Buck Leonard to whale away on the short fence in right and failed in almost every crucial situational moment. Rap Dixon (.209, just 22 RBIs) was even worse. It was enough to drive this man to beer drinking, and I can confess right now that much of that was done in private.

But no matter. Someday soon they’ll make beer legal, white folks will be allowed to vote, and this country of ours will change whether I gripe about it or not. Imagine that’s the shifting way of the world.

AFTERWORDS

I truly hope you’ve enjoyed my abbreviated, re-written history. It was great fun to create these fictional teams and events and roll the dice daily for Oscar, Josh, Satch, Nip, Cool Papa and the not-so-overmatched Chicago Dorseys. Big thanks go out to Strat-O-Matic for releasing the card sets, and to esteemed baseball researcher and friend Scott Simkus for his marvelous Negro League creation.

What’s my next replay blog going to be? Well, I can’t divulge it yet, but can tell you it will launch in February of 2012. I’m going to spend the rest of this year working on other writing projects, one being a book form of my 1924 saga. If I have any worthy breaking news it will appear on this site, or on my Twitter feed, where I will be Braggers41 until I morph into the next, equally snarkastic persona.

Thanks for reading, all you baseball bees, flowers, and just plain fans. —J.P., Culver City, CA

Published in: on August 7, 2011 at 6:52 am  Comments (5)  

Chapter 21: An Oscar-Worthy Finale

Skipping on out on my first game in Pittsburgh looks like a cinch. Southpaw Matlock’s on the hill for the Jordans, making it a Charlie Keller day in left, and I figure if I can rent or borrow the Packard convertible that Lawrence the club house man was bragging about the last time we were here, I might be able to make it to Detroit before Blossom gets arrested for removing Cool Papa Bell’s eyes—or worse.

Problem is that Lawrence is nowhere to be found before game time, and no one else at Greenlee Field knows where he is, and I finally resort to tracking down Jupe Dobbs in the press dining room.

“No whitey boys allowed in here!” barks the host, and thank god Jupe sees me from his table and races over to keep me from coldcocking the jerk. “I know the car you’re talking about,” says Jupe, which is no surprise because Jupe Dobbs knows everything and everybody, “Just wait outside the press box and I’ll be there in five minutes.”

I climb the stairs to the press perch, which with everybody eating their early lunch seems to be empty at the moment. I duck inside. Lean over the first row and can see Travis and Hayes taking batting practice turns down on the field. Kind of a nice view these press folks have.

I stroll past a few typewriters and stop at the fanciest Royal there, obviously Jupe’s. It has a gold nameplate for J DOBBS affixed to the side. Jupe’s stylish brown leather briefcase is open on the chair, and I can’t help peeking inside. Especially when there’s an open envelope with a return address for U.S. DEPT. OF RACIAL STANDARDIZATION sticking out the top.

No one’s around yet. I reach in, slide a letter out of the envelope:

Dear Mr. Dobbs:

Thank you again for the tip regarding J. Geoffrey Heath and Blossom Pickering’s recent attempt to flee the country for betrothal purposes. Your assistants performed their duties well, allowing us to intercept them minutes before they would have entered the Detroit-to-Windsor tunnel. Please do not hesitate to contact us again, should—

Hurried footsteps coming up the stairs. I stuff the letter back in, spin around just in time to see Jupe enter the press box. He’s sweaty, flustered. My face is flushed for a different reason.

“What are you doing in here? If they ever catch you—”

“Let ‘em.”

He gives me a wary look, then fishes a slip of paper out of his suit pocket. “The address for the Packard’s garage. Tell the guy you know me and Lawrence and he’ll cut you a deal…What do you need it for, anyway?”

“I don’t know. Maybe to go to Detroit, take in the Armstrongs’ series. Why don’t you have your creeps follow me again and find out?”

“What? You got birds in your brain, Heath. Why would I—”

WHAM! In one motion I grab the front of his suit, plaster him to the wall.

“Cool Papa didn’t do a thing, did he? It was you the whole time, Dobbs, messing up our lives!”

“You’re crazy—”

BAM! One punch to his lip and he’s on the floor.

“Okay, okay!! It was too much for me!”

“What was??”

“The Dorseys, what do you think? Playing as good as you’ve been, making our major league look bad and wiping scrambled egg all over the country’s face. Think I was going to let you rub it in by marrying the daughter of a governor?”

“You coward sonuvabitch…”

“Oh, we might be integrating everything but our refrigerators and freezers some time soon, no question. But it’s going too fast, Heath. Gotta be done right and natural. And doing it because a whitey boy ball team got some lucky rolls—”

I haul him back up, coil my fist back for another strike…

…and reporters burst into the room. Shouting, wild-eyed.

And barely even noticing us.

“They bombed Key West!” yells one of them to Jupe.

“Huh?? WHO did?”

“The Italian Air Force, that’s who! They hit the Navy yard in Norfolk, too, with a whole squadron of Capronis! Those guinea bastards…”

Dobbs and me look at each other in disbelief. I shove him back. “You’re lucky.”

And bolt out the door…

* * *

It’s a little over 200 miles to Detroit, and with the Packard’s jazzed-up engine I can make it there in about three hours. But it’s the weirdest ride I’ve ever taken anywhere. News of the Italians attacking Florida and Virginia has people going nuts, flooding the square of almost every town I go through, crowding around radios anywhere they can. I pass riots of people in Akron and Cleveland trying to storm army recruiting offices.

More than anything I’m worried about Blossom in Detroit. Figure she heard the news by now and has hopefully decided to pass on Cool Papa Bell’s mansion and hunker down at Mack Park instead. If they’re still playing the damn game.

Turns out, they are, because a tidal wave of Birminghammers have invaded town for the series and riots of a more angry kind would happen if the games were called. And I guess right about Blossom. I buy a hiked ticket on the street, squeeze in and find her right behind the Armstrong dugout with a pack of her hometowners. I’ve never hugged anyone so hard in my life.

“Isn’t it awful?” she cries, “I hear they might bomb other cities on the east coast! Maybe even Niagara Falls” I convince her that’s a little hysterical, get her to calm down enough to watch the game.

The great thing about baseball, sometimes it’s so good it helps you forget about bombing Capronis.

* * *

Game 1, with the Armstrongs just having to win two of these three to take the flag, is a battle as tight and wonderful as the B-Hams’ extra-inning thriller in Newark last week. They go up 4-0 for Rogan but shabby errors by Pop Lloyd give the lead back, and the Calloways tie it 4-4 in the 4th.

Then Oscar Charleston punches in to work. With second and third and one out in the 5th he laces a double into the right field corner off Cannonball redding and the Armies go up 6-4. A T.J. Young homer makes it 6-5. Oscar walks in the middle of a 2-run rally in the 7th and it’s 8-5. Home Run Johnson singles in two off William Bell in the 8th to narrow it to 8-7. Blossom grips my hand till it just about bleeds, and it isn’t just because of the sirens we hear going off throughout the town.

Charleston hits a two-out insurance bash of a homer in the 9th, but Rube Foster gives one of those soloists right back to Frog Redus leading off the Detroit 9th. With a popcorn bag wrapped around her eyes, Blossom suffers as Rube gets Cannady, Young, and Candy Jim Taylor to end the game and make the magic number two!

Meanwhile, way out in Kansas City, Josh Gibson breaks a 3-3 tie in the 9th with a winning homer off Sam Streeter, makes Nip Winters 13-1 and keeps the Ellingtons just one game out with two to play.

We spend a crazy night at a fancy Detroit hotel, where everyone’s so distracted by the bombing news that my white face isn’t even noticed. President Hughes has already declared war on Italy, meaning their German and Japanese friends are no doubt right around the bend, and I actually worry for Joe DiMaggio’s safety on our team. Amazingly, Joe gets three hits including a homer in our 6-2 win down in Pittsburgh, which is a nice load off my mind.

The gates are open again for the second game, but there’s still a nervousness about its fate that ripples through the crowd. Then, while the packed crowd waits for it to start, they pipe in President Hughes’ live address right over the Mack park loudspeakers. Here’s some of it:

“Yesterday…September 9th…is a day…that will live…in our hearts and minds forever. While many of our citizens see this unparalleled and vicious attack on our naval facilities in Virginia and Key West as a call to arms, let us not forget the importance…of maintaining our time honored institutions here in America. It is for that reason…that I honestly feel that it would be best for the country…to keep the Bragging Rights League going through its exciting conclusion.”

A huge cheer goes up, along with assorted hats. Pop Lloyd steps in against Roosevelt Davis, and Game 2 is on. And it’s another gut-stretcher. Who else but Oscar homers in the 4th, but Detroit ties it up off Leon Day right away. Beckwith then doubles in a run and the Calloways take a 2-1 lead through seven. Out in K.C., Webster McDonald is spinning a brilliant 2-0 shutout against Newark, but Blossom doesn’t care, being a real despiser of “back door pennants.”

She doesn’t have to worry. Rogan doubles to lead the B-Ham 8th and Charleston works a walk. Willard Brown ties the game 2-2 with a single, and after Ray Brow takes over on the hill, Tubby Scales singles in the go-ahead! William Bell is on to nail down at least a tie the pennant in the last of the 9th and I’m standing with all my adopted Birmingham friends.

Except Frog Redus, a doer of absolutely nothing the entire season, hits his second 9th inning home run in two days to tie it with one out, and we go to extra innings. Groan!

But here’s Oscar Charleston, sandpapering his bat handle right in front of us to begin the 10th. “Hit one, Oscar!!” yells Blossom, and I swear we see him turn and wink at us.

And hit one out he does, a line drive rocket that Chino Smith can’t even begin to jump for before it clears the right field fence. A Ben taylor sacrifice fly makes it 5-3, Blossom screaming in my ear, before the expected bottom of the 10th heart attack. Two outs, no one aboard, Home Run Johnson triples. Chino singles and it’s 5-4. Rube Foster to the rescue again, but this time Beckwith singles Smith to third. The tying run 90 feet from the plate and that Froggy man Redus up again.

This time he grounds weekly to Scales at second, Blossom jumps in my arms, and the Armstrongs have clinched at least a tie for first!

That’s because the Ellingtons score seven times in the 9th out west, with the help of a Nip Winters pinch-hit single, to ambush the poor Basies 7-2. I call Cullenbine on the telephone after, and he begs me to come back for the last game. Seems that half the Pittsburgh Jordans jumped the team to go enlist, and the Dorseys took the second game 9-6 against Verdell Mathis and Frank Wickware. What I forgot about is that second place money we’re owed if we finish in third place, and right now we’re tied with the Basies at 30-29. No one’s sure if we’ll be allowed to fight in the war, and me being Canadian makes that really doubtful, so if we can get those third place shares it might ease the pain.

I also wouldn’t mind seeing my Dorsey boys one last time, even if it means leaving Blossom to see the last game herself. “I’ll be fine, sugar. Got my locals to take care of me.” I promise I’ll make it down to Birmingham for the parade somehow if they win it, and then it’s a final sweet kiss for my road.

* * *

We end up clobbering the Jordans 10-5 with 14 hits to sweep the series, beating Wickware and Mathis this time instead of Mathis and Wickware, and they have Frank Warfield playing shortstop and about three dozen fans in the stands and I can make out Dobbs at his Royal typewriter looking very sad and bored and ashamed to look in my direction. I start, go 0-for-2 and finish with a crummy .257 average but that’s fine because as soon as Keller takes over for me for the last time, I kick back in the cool dugout to scoreboard-watch with everyone else.

Blossom must be melting into a happy pool in Detroit, because the B-Hams homer early and often, the first by pitcher Chet Brewer, and two of the next three by Oscar Charleston, who goes positively bonkers on the final weekend. In three games the Armstrongs have to win, he goes 8-for-13 (.615) with five homers and nine RBIs. And counting his extra-inning winner in Newark, that’s six homers in the last four games.

Anyway, what’s left of the Greenlee crowd claps politely when the pennant-winning 9-2 score from Detroit is posted. Out in Kansas City, the Ellingtons score three times in the first for Double Duty Radcliffe, never look back, and from what I hear, stars from both teams ditch the place in the 5th after they hear the Birmingham final and race down to their recruiting stations.

Tommy Dorsey stalks around our club house later, angry beyond belief. We take third place with our late surge, but people in power are way too busy dealing with the important war to make good on our winning money. We remind Dorsey what’s really important, and as far as the league went, that we were able to finish better than three other teams.

I say warm goodbyes to most of my teammates outside the ball park. DiMaggio gives me his usual limp handshake but wishes me well, not an easy thing to do for a guy surrounded by private protection just by being Italian. I figure I’ll see some of these guys next year in whichever struggling white league I end up in. Assuming baseball is still being played, of course, despite what the President says.

If it is, Ted Williams, by far our best hitter, is pretty sure he’ll be invited to become the first white player in the majors next year. But I’m not all that convinced his attitude will wash. “Those major leaguers play seven days a week sometime,” he says, “How the hell am I gonna fish?” He lays one of his big arms around me. “Bring a rod, track me down, and we’ll go find ourselves a meaty river. Oh…and bring that honey of a girlfriend along.”

Clean sweeps for the road teams!

DORSEYS 6-13-2, at JORDANS 2-3-1
DORSEYS 9-10-0, at JORDANS 6-11-3
DORSEYS 10-14-1, at JORDANS 5-11-1

ARMSTRONGS 9-14-2, at CALLOWAYS 8-12-0
ARMSTRONGS 5-13-0, at CALLOWAYS 4-11-1 (10 inn.)
ARMSTRONGS 9-14-0, at CALLOWAYS 2-9-0

ELLINGTONS 5-14-0, at BASIES 3-4-0
ELLINGTONS 7-9-0, at BASIES 2-9-1
ELLINGTONS 7-11-0, at BASIES 3-6-0

COMPLETE FINAL STATS next week along with the epilogue.

Per usual, here are Team Hitting, Team Pitching, and Assorted Miscellany

 FINAL BRL STANDINGS W L PCT GB
Birmingham Armstrongs 36 24 .600
Newark Ellingtons 35 25 .583 1
Chicago Dorseys 31 29 .517 5
Kansas City Basies 30 30 .500 6
Detroit Calloways 24 36 .400 12
Pittsburgh Jordans 24 36 .400 12
Published in: on July 31, 2011 at 6:31 am  Comments (3)  

Chapter 20: Hanging on a Dribbler

Dear Blossom:

Maybe it’s a good thing you didn’t marry me, because I’m not the smartest cracker in the package when it comes to knowing math. Here I am in Kansas City thinking we’re still alive in this pennant race, when a Basies fan sitting in the smart people section fills my ear in the middle of my pepper game and explains that because Newark and Birmingham are playing each other back east and someone needs to win two of those games, there’s no way the Dorseys can win even if we sweep the pool table.

Pretty sad if you ask me, and even sadder that no one else on our team or in the newspaper bothered to mention this. It’s like everyone wants to keep us in our dreamy dream state. 

Which brings me to my dreams of you. They haven’t stopped. I don’t know what your father’s been saying about me, or the press people down there, or even if you’re being allowed out of your mansion. I can sure tell you that it hurts to not hear anything back. My guess is that you’ve been stuck in your parlor every day under a fan, and now you’ll be forced to read Jupe Dobbs’ daily coverage of the Armstrongs’ big showdown up in Newark sometime after dinner.  

We get the news a bit faster here from the press box, but we’re still too busy doing our best against the Basies to pay much attention, because K.C. really IS still in the race, and we have a looming Satchel Paige to worry about. Please write or telegram back, Blossom, and don’t be afraid to tell me about YOUR dreams…—Geoff

GAME ONE

By Jupiter Dobbs
Special to the Pittsburgh Blabber

NEWARK—First thing you notice are the top hats and tails, got to be 20,000 pair of them in the Ruppert stands here for the opener, fans paying tribute to Owner Duke no doubt, because at this juncture they need the trying of anything. Evil Armstrong invaders are 4-5 against the home Ellingtons coming in, with nary a dollop of fear in their eye pans, and Leon Day mounts their hill against Hilton Smith, tough biscuits both.

Except Day is the one with weevils in his mix. A dangerous triple by Oms and plunk single by Gibson springs Newark in front out of the gate, before singles by Monroe, Dandridge and Lundy and a deep sacrifice of a fly by Bernardo Baro makes it 3-0 Newark after only two stanzas and top hats pirouette into the Jersey sky. Biz Mackey comes to life with a single and solo homer, but old Hilton is none too accommodating with the rest of his mates.

Lundy cracks a homer in the 6th for laughs, and if not for the relief mastery of William Bell, a bases loaded quagmire in the 7th surely unloosens the game. Can’t tell you that the Armies march quietly to their doom, though, because they never do. Down three in the 9th, Charleston and Brown single, and after Mackey skies out, Tubby Scales toasts one down the left field line to score Charleston. With top hat brims pulled over the city of Newark’s eyes, Tom Williams jogs in to get Radcliff on a weak roller and the Ellingtons take the V train off the field.

BRM 000 010 001 – 2 8 0
NWK 120-001 00x – 4 11 0

W-Smith L-Day SV-T. Williams HRS: Mackey, Lundy, GWRBI-Gibson

* * *

MIDWESTERN UNION TELEGRAM
TO: MISS BLOSSOM PICKERING
FROM: J. GEOFFREY HEATH

JOE D. HOMERED, RIDDLE GREAT IN OUR 8-1 STOMPING OF BASIES. SAD TO HEAR BIRMINGHAM LOST FIRST ONE. HOPE YOU’RE OKAY. WISH I WAS THERE FOR HUG. PLEASE PLEASE WRITE.

* * *

GAME TWO

By Jupiter Dobbs

NEWARK—They call him Double Duty Radcliffe, pitcher and occasional catcher should Gibson break a leg, and things look solid for his pension today when Oms launches a 3-run rocket off Chet Brewer in the 2nd.

Yet the B-Hams are not here to knit sweaters. A Pop Lloyd single and Ben Taylor homer shrink the gap to 3-2 in the 3rd, and in the 4th, Double Duty goes on break. Willard Brown leads with a double, and with one gone Scales walks, Radcliff singles, Brewer drops down a bunt single, Lloyd doubles and voila it is 5-3 Armies and the local press row naysayers are already dipping their quills in poison ink. When Charleston homers in the 5th, groans shake the stands.

Double Duty is left in for more toiling, cracks a solo homer to justify it, and a Wright single closes the gap to one run. Fiddlecock, declares the B-Hams, who use a Charleston sac fly and Mackey 2-run wallop to send Double Duty on a forced vacation in the 7th.

So yes, the Bragging Rights shoes are knotted at the top again, with standing room spots for tomorrow’s grand finale already gone, the famous Newark tabloids screaming headlines such as UNDESERVING and RADCLIFFE DROPS DOUBLE DOODY and two kinds of riots looming tomorrow whether the home team wins or loses.

And dare say I’ll be back here long before the sun rises on batting practice.

BRM 002 310 300 – 9 14 1
NWK 030 011 100 – 6 10 0

W-Brewer L-Radcliffe SV-Currie HRS: Taylor, Charleston, Mackey, Oms, Radcliffe, GWRBI-Lloyd

* * *

Dear Blossom:

I’m not even sure you are getting these letters, but it helps my mind to get the words out, so…

We won again! A 3-2 thriller in 12 innings, on a pinch homer off Powell by my best friend Roy Cullenbine! I was so happy for him and more for us because we’ve now won six in a row and are at the .500 mark for the first time! Can you believe it?

And how happy was I to hear your B-Hams won the second game? Maybe you haven’t replied because you’re actually up in Newark right now with your father, watching the series. Actually I kind of like that answer, so I think I’ll just go ahead and believe it’s true.

Rumor has it that Jupe Dobbs will be doing a national radio broadcast of your last game with the Ellingtons, so if you’re still down south, I hope you’ll be able to tune it in. We’ll be stuck trying to hit Satch Paige all day and will probably be late to the news.

Love, and once more begging you to write,
Geoff

* * *

GAME THREE

(Portions of Jupe Dobbs’ play-by-play, transcribed off the Bragging Rights Radio Network. Technical difficulties made it impossible to recount the entire game.)

…Not much B-Ham action through three, I’m afraid…Three runs on five hits for the home nine off Big Bill Foster…four of those hits for extra sacks…Smokey Joe Williams, meanwhile, has been whipping pebbles through a sewing needle…

…Two outs and two aboard here in the top of the 7th…5-2 Ellingtons…Big Bill was chased by four straight singles to open the Newark 6th…Jerry Benjamin already knocked in the second B-Ham run here with a pinch grounder…Smokey Joe looks in…fires…and Taylor gets a sliver of wood on the ball, pops it down the right field line…Oscar Heavy Johnson lumbers over…and HE DROPS THE BALL! Unbecredible!! 5-3 now and the crowd is downright mutinously angry!

…that’s Moxie Plus, the healthy pop drink that always stimulates, always refreshes. Okay, baseball bees and flowers, it’s the top of the 9th and the B-Hams need a prayer and a miracle. Down 7-4 with Lloyd, Taylor and Rogan due up and relieving specialist Tom Williams at the ready…And Lloyd rips one down the line and he’ll start things off with a double!…Ben Taylor now, 0-for-4… hits one up the middle and it’s 7-5 peoples! Fans who were standing now gotta be kneeling…And Rogan puts one in the gap! Taylor races to third and still nobody out!…Dandridge walks over to talk to Williams but gets waved away, says he has this pickle under control. You believe it, peoples? Not me!…

Charleston lines to Dandy for the first out, though!…Brown does the same thing into Lundy’s glove and the Ellies are one out away!…Biz Mackey at the plate…Had a good series after being in the dumps for a while…2-for-4 in this game…Williams stretches…throws…and Mackey dribbles one out in front of the dish, Gibson throws off his mask, grabs it, BOBBLES IT, grabs it again, fires to first and he’s SAFE! 7-6 now!! Unbecredible again! Tom Williams is glaring at Josh Gibson, let me tell you…And Tubby Scales puts one down the line! Rogan scores with the equalizer and this place just got an injection of embalming fluid!

Ladies and gentleman and wee ones, we are now in the top of the 13th inning…William Bell has hurled five shutout relief innings while Andy Cooper has been equally nasty for Newark…Oscar Charleston at the plate with one out…team leader and the class of the league…Lefty Cooper throws…and Oscar smacks one high and deep to right field…Wild Bill Wright back to the dirt track and this ball is a HISTORY LESSON! 8-7 Birmingham!! You can hear a heart drop in this place…

…Wright leads off the first base bag after that single…Two outs here in the last of the 13th…the witching hour for the home folks…Mule Suttles up there, he can hit one five miles with the right swing and create mass cartwheels…Bell kicks, delivers…Swing and a miss and HE gone! And the Birmingham Armstrongs have walked into Ruppert Stadium and danced right out with two wins and a one-game lead with just three to play! Don’t know where I’ll be next weekend, peoples, with the B-Hams in Detroit and the Ellies out to KC, but the hemp houses will be hot and bothered wherever that is!

BRM 000 010 213 000 1 – 8 17 1
NWK 021 002 110 000 0 – 7 17 3

W-Bell L-Cooper HRS: Charleston, Gibson GWRBI-Charleston

* * *

Well, Satch Paige threw his tenth straight complete game win (1.86 ERA in those), blew away the last 15 of us, and that was that. I got a phone call in the visiting clubhouse as we were dressing and believe it or not, Blossom’s sweet voice filled my ear.

“We won two, Geoff!”

“Yeah! And hi to you, too! Did you get my—”

“Of course! I’ve just been so nervous about our series, and Daddy’s been even worse.”

“About…you and me?”

“Oh Lord, no! About the Armstrongs! But who isn’t? They had riots up in Newark after the last game, did you hear? Riots!”

“I really wish I could be with you next weekend—”

“You can, honey! I’m sneaking out of this house one way or three and training myself up to Detroit for next weekend. Can you meet me there?”

“Well…yeah! Except I’m supposed to be in Pittsburgh—”

“Never you mind that. Neither of those teams can win a thing.”

“Not true, Blossom. There’s that second place money.”

“Money or me, sugar. Your pick.”

The Dorseys were already heading out to the bus, and Cullenbine was waving at me like a nut. “Okay. I’ll see if I can do something. Meet you at Mack Park if I can?”

“Sure. Right after I pay that Cool Papa Bell another visit and scratch his eyes out for double-crossing us. Bye, sugar.”

CLICK.

“Blossom?…You there??”

FOR WHAT IT WAS WORTH:

JORDANS 12-11-3, at CALLOWAYS 2-6-2
at CALLOWAYS 1-4-1, JORDANS 0-4-1
JORDANS 12-13-0, at CALLOWAYS 5-8-0

OPS LEADERS
1.227 Ted Williams, CHC
1.144 Jimmie Foxx, CHC
1.069 Oscar Charleston, BRM
1.060 Willie Wells, KC
0.976 Mule Suttles, NWK
0.952 Josh Gibson, NWK

TEAM RUN DIFFERENTIALS
+30 Kansas City
+22 Birmingham
+18 Newark
+15 Detroit
–27 Pittsburgh
–30 Chicago

Per usual, here are Team Hitting, Team Pitching, and Assorted Miscellany

 BRL STANDINGS (Sept. 4) W L PCT GB
Birmingham Armstrongs 33 24 .579
Newark Ellingtons 32 25 .561 1
Kansas City Basies 30 27 .526 3
Chicago Dorseys 28 29 .491 5
Detroit Calloways 24 33 .421 9
Pittsburgh Jordans 24 33 .421 9
Published in: on July 24, 2011 at 6:06 am  Comments (3)  

Chapter 19: Struck by a Dorsey Truck

Wow. Never saw this barreling down the highway.

Here we are, all jumpy and nervous and expecting the Jersey fans to attack me for crossing the racial love line a few weeks ago, but the only thing they care about right now is how their Newark Ellingtons’ pitching staff disintegrated before their eyes.

It started when the K.C. Basies rolled into Ruppert Stadium recently and pasted the Ellies by a combined score of 42-13. Smokey Joe Williams has been pretty wheezy all year, and the only reason Nip Winters is 12-0 when our series starts is because his batting mates have been using those days to punish the scoreboard.

Luckily, we’ve played Newark tough with a 4-5 record coming in, and Appling sticks me in left for the opener to take care of any egg-throwing right off the bat so we can concentrate on the games. He also leads himself off instead of Arky Vaughn, a shrewd way to set an example for us, I guess. Anyway, he walks, and I whiff stupidly, and Ted Williams walks, but Mize bounces into a DP and we’re feeling low out of the chute.

Doesn’t help when a Monroe double, Dandridge triple, and Lundy double off Higbe give them two quick ones in the 2nd. But in the 3rd, I rip a two-out single into center. Williams walks again and Mize clubs a double over Wild Bill Wright’s galloping head. I race home easy but Williams tries to tie it up behind me and gets gunned down at the plate with DiMaggio coming up. Oms triples and Suttles homers five seconds later it seems, and we’re down 4-1. Did I mention that if we lose one game to these behemoths, we’re eliminated from the pennant race? Well, I just did.

Double Duty Radcliffe is huffing and puffing for them, though. We don’t score every inning but we’re certainly getting folks on the bases. And I’m on fire (for me), whacking a double to knock in Appling in the 5th and creaming a triple between Oms and Oscar Heavy Johnson in the 7th to bring us to a 5-3 deficit. Bill Byrd takes the hill, and gets Dickey on a liner, but then Appling’s brain punches in to work. Dolph Camilli bats for Benny McCoy and doubles, scoring Joe. King Kong Keller hits for Feller, who pitched a scoreless relief inning, and singles down the line for two runs and the lead! Even Cullenbine follows with a pinch single, his first hit since forever, before I save the Newark crowd from suicide by grounding into a force.

And we ain’t done, readers. Ted singles and Mize bashes one 440 feet in the 9th, and the place gets quieter than Bernheim’s Funeral Home. Humphries closes the Ellies out with two great relief innings and we run like school kids into the clubhouse tunnel.

When you can’t lose any more games, every win is your biggest of the year, and this one has our locker room exploding in shouts. We hear that Duke Ellington visited the home clubhouse to make an encouraging speech, but was so upset about the game he couldn’t get one word out. Can’t really blame him. Eight of Newark’s ten hits went for extra bases and they still couldn’t win.

I’m rooming here with DiMaggio again, but even though he’s out buying Keller dinner at Vesuvius and invited me along, I’m still too nervous about local ruffians to wander far from the rooming house. Plus the Armstrongs beat the Jordans today down in Birmingham, are suddenly just two games out, and the streets might not be safe for anyone, let alone me.

I’m back in the second spot again for Game 2 against Smokey Joe, and it starts pretty much the same way, except this time I draw the walk and Ted hits into the DP. Joe’s a bit hungover after his night at Vesuvius, though, so Pete Reiser starts in center and shoots his first homer of the year out of the yard in the 2nd to get the home fans booing early.

Meanwhile Whit Wyatt must’ve had his Whit Wyatt Wheaties for breakfast. An Oms double and Monroe single are the only safe knocks he allows in the first five innings. Smokey smokes me my next two times up, but Ted hits a smash homer leading the 6th, his league-leading 18th, Mize walks, Travis triples, Dickey singles, we’re up 4-0 and Big Smokey is derailed for the afternoon.

The ballpark steams with sweat and worry, but cools off a bit when Gibson powers out a 2-run shot the bottom of the same inning, and after Lundy doubles in a run in the 7th, Howie Pollett relieves Wyatt and Neil Robinson greets him with a bomb high over the scoreboard in left to put Newark ahead 5-4.

Appling storms around our dugout between innings, cracking almonds open with his teeth and spitting out the innards. “We can’t lose this thing, men. Not here. Not today. Not ever.” He’d already taken himself out for Boudreau’s defense, so feels doubly helpless to do anything about our situation. He goes pinch-hitter happy again in the 8th, bringing a woozy Joe, Ernie Lombardi, Sam Chapman and Jimmie Foxx off the pine in the same inning, and despite a walk, single, and double off Andy Cooper, Travis’ DP ball kills the rally.

But the 9th is the other side of the rowboat. Boudreau rams a triple down the left field line to start us off. This brings up Keller, having replaced me for defense three innings ago. Charlie waits on a Cooper curve and plants it high and deep to right and GONE!! 6-5 Dorsey Boys! Rapid Robert Feller throws his second 1-2-3 inning for the win and we’ve done it again.

And the Armstrongs win again down south, are one game out now, and Joe takes Keller and the entire team out for dinner this time. and it’s the best eggplant I’ve ever had. There’s some angry Ellington fans milling around our neighborhood later, and Joe and me have to get back to our room up a back staircase.

And after Game 3, it’s a damn good thing our bus is gassed up and waiting outside the Ruppert Stadium exit door. Appling is feeling so cocky he puts our whipping boy Joe Gordon in the leadoff spot. It’s a full moon on the calendar, and the unbeatable Nip Winters’ other cleat finally drops. We scratch out a run in the 1st, five straight two-out baserunners for five more runs in the 2nd, Foxx adds a homer and double later and we roll the Ellies 11-4 with hardly a lick of perspiration. Keller gets the start in left field against Winters, racks up two singles, a walk and homer, and it’s a good thing I watch it all from the safety of the dugout because the eggs I thought would be coming in my direction are hurled at the home players by the 7th inning.

And guess what? Birmingham sweeps the Jordans and believe it or else, there is a tie for first place with the Armstrongs here next weekend for the Showdown of the Year. I’d sure like to stick around and watch, but hell, we’ve still got a mathematic breath in this thing and got business of our own in Kansas City, including a Satchel Paige date in the third game.

Soon as our bus rolls out of town, I talk the driver into stopping at an Eastern Union telegraph office, where I dash off a quick note to Blossom:

POUNDED ELLINGTON KEYBOARD TODAY FOR SWEEP.
NEVER SAY I DON’T LOVE YOU. —GEOFF

Chances are she’ll never even get the telegram, but it’s a chance worth taking, right?

CHIC 001 010 133 – 9 15 0
NWK 022 010 000 – 5 10 0

W-Feller L-Byrd HRS: Mize, Suttles GWRBI-Keller

CHIC 010 003 002 – 6 11 0
NWK 000 002 300 – 5 8 0

W-Feller L-Cooper HRS: Reiser, Williams, Keller, Gibson, Robinson GWRBI-Keller

CHIC 150 010 202 – 11 12 2
NWK 000 011 002 – 4 4 1

W-Humphries L-Winters (12-1) HRS: Foxx, Keller GWRBI-Foxx

*   *   *

with Jupiter Dobbs
Pittsburgh Courier Baseball Blabber

at ARMSTRONGS 11-12-1, JORDANS 3-5-3
at ARMSTRONGS 1-5-0, JORDANS 0-4-1
at ARMSTRONGS 11-12-2, JORDANS 4-7-1
Nothing more unpredictable on Earth than baseball, and that’s a Dobbsian Fact. Who would’ve wagered on those clowny Dorseys cleaning out Ruppert Stadium this weekend? This one here I would’ve predicted before the season started, but look at that rare ruby of Game Two! Max Manning and Big Bill Foster hurling goose babies at each other for seven innings, before a two-out Rogan single in the 8th followed by a Charleston-chewed triple that lands one thumbprint fair scores the only run of the game. My squad couldn’t win at home and now they’re embarrassing themselves on the road, so next week I’ll be abandoning Pittsburgh’s schooner for good to take in all three pennant-palooza games in Newark, and whatever happens on the final weekend. By the by, that will involve the Ellingtons in K.C. and/or the Armstrongs at Mack Park in Detroit. Speaking of…

at CALLOWAYS 8-11-0, BASIES 7-11-1
BASIES 6-9-0, at CALLOWAYS 1-8-1
BASIES 13-18-1, at CALLOWAYS 9-13-2
More surreal stuffing for your morning pipe: Even the mighty Basies cannot be Counted out! After dropping a tough opener, Satch Paige wins his 9th straight to get K.C. cooking again before they lay waste to Cannonball Redding, delivering eight extra base blows to his head and the surrounding area. The Basies now get the annoying Dorseys before hosting Newark, so Good Lady Fate rests in their brawny arms.

Until next unforgettable weekend from Newark, baseball bees and flowers!

Per usual, here are Team Hitting, Team Pitching, and Assorted Miscellany

 BRL STANDINGS (August 27) W L PCT GB
Birmingham Armstrongs 31 23 .574
Newark Ellingtons 31 23 .574
Kansas City Basies 29 25 .537 2
Chicago Dorseys 26 28 .481 5
Detroit Calloways 23 31 .426 8
Pittsburgh Jordans 22 32 .407 9
Published in: on July 17, 2011 at 6:09 am  Comments (4)  

Chapter 18: Out at Home

The jail cell they put me in was clammy and cold, which isn’t too easy to do at the end of a Chicago August.

What a dummy. By being so top heavy in love I forgot to be careful. I trusted Cool Papa Bell and his Calloway ways, and tried to ignore the fact that getting legal with a dark-skinned lady was still very against the law. In the meantime I’ve disgraced Blossom, her family and the state of Alabama, disgraced the whole Dorseys team and probably killed any little chance we had of winning both the right to vote or a pennant.

Good old Cullenbine comes to visit after our first game with the Armstrongs, which we managed to pull out 2-1 thanks to a pair of Cecil Travis triples. It’s good to hear that news and eat a piece of Momma Cullenbine’s mince pie, but I can’t say it cheers me up, not with Blossom being sent back to Birmingham and having to miss a series we were expecting to be one of our secret honeymoon spots.

HEATH COLLARED FOR “RACY” ROMANCE blares the front page of the Chicago Trumpeter, and from what Cully tells me, the local radio programs think I should be dropped into Hudson Bay in a floating steamer trunk. It sure puts me on edge when I hear a small crowd of respectable reefered-up citizens stroll past my jail cell window, pitching rocks at the outside wall and calling me a “de-Blossomer” and “sour milkman.”

Bullet Joe Rogan, who’s had a lukewarm year both on the mound and at the plate, shuts off our offense in Game 2 but chips in with his own homer, double, and single, and the Dorseys lose 6-3 in a contest they lead for a total of two minutes. After the game it’s Appling’s turn to visit me, and despite showing up after a loss, he seems a little more hopeful about my situation.

“Can’t imagine they’ll string you up or anything,” he says, “No one’s done that since the Maine Crab-poaching Wars.” He says Tommy Dorsey is actually more upset than Commissioner Greenlee, what with him losing a half dozen scheduled club gigs because of the incident. It also might be dangerous for the Dorseys to take the field in any park other than Comiskey the rest of the way.

Which is real unfortunate, because the next game is our last one at home for the season.

The white lowlifes on both sides of my cell have been razzing me for two days, and it hasn’t let up. “Hey Canook,” yells one genius, “What does a blossom taste like, anyway?” I have to promise to plant my 38-ounce bat in his skull someday to shut him up, but it doesn’t help me sleep. I spend a night filled with awful dreams, most involving a combination of me being drawn, quartered, or put before a firing squad, and some time the next afternoon I hear a bunch of cars drive up outside the jail.

Footsteps—lots of them—echo in the hall. A guard tells me to step away from the bars. They slide open and none other than Commissioner Greenlee and Tommy Dorsey are standing there. Dorsey has a weak smirk on his face.

“Professor Hughes has seen fit to pardon you, Mr. Heath.”

I tell him I don’t understand. “Yes well, these are the mysteriously diplomatic times we live in. It seems that the President has also wagered a small amount of money on the four-way battle for third place with his advisors, and from all indicators has invested in your club. I may have my issues with him in other areas, but the President does believe in fair fights.”

Sure, I think, as long as he’s benefiting. No wonder he allowed us to beef up our rosters.

“What about Blossom?” I ask.

“Yes, well, the governor’s daughter should best be kept off limits for the time being. President Hughes has been working on a bill to make some changes in our segregated society, and thinks a strong late showing by the Dorseys will help such a bill pass.”

“Leave that stuff to the bosses, Geoff,” pipes in Tommy. “About time you got back to the ballpark.”

Like milk through an udder I’m out of there, Dorsey fighting back reporters and photographers, and our cab weaves through midday traffic all the way back to the south side. On the cab’s radio, we learn that my substitute Charlie Keller has homered off Leon Day, Ted Williams has hit his league-leading 17th off William Bell, and we have a 5-2 lead going to the 8th. I hop out at the park, rush in, get my uniform on in record time, and hurry up the dugout tunnel.

Everyone’s thrilled to see me, even though I get a fair amount of expected Blossom-ribbing. Bullet Joe Rogan, who won the game for Birmingham yesterday, has been a complete bust in this one, whiffing twice and hitting into two big double plays, the last one the second I hit the dugout to get Riddle out of the 8th. Dickey singles with two gone in the bottom half, and Appling strolls over to me with my bat in his hand.

“Go out there and hit for Frey, Heath. Let’s get this crowd cooking.” I nervously take it from him and walk toward home plate.

The crowd goes bananas. We’ve been getting close to 70% white people, but today it seems like 99. I can even hear a few sweet screams from girl fans. Biz Mackey is squatting behind the plate, and he isn’t exactly screaming with delight. Or even looking at me. Rube Currie is on the hill for them at this point, and the first three pitches sail in about a meter or two from my scalp. The crowd boos, but I keep my cool, because that’s what we’ve been told to do at all times.

Currie tries to fake me with an outside curve and I wait it out and crack it the other way. Willard Brown, with two dingers on the day, is probably still admiring them in his head, because he gets a late start and catches the ball a few strides from the fence. I jog back to the dugout, Doerr takes second for Frey, and I still get maybe the biggest hand ever for a pinch-hit fly out.

Naturally the Armstrongs try to ruin the day anyway. Charleston leads with a single, Tubby Scales pops a 2-run homer with two gone, and Riddle has to get Radcliff on a liner to Boudreau to end the game. And here’s the real good news, until I figure out how to contact Blossom and send poison flowers to Cool Papa Bell: Our winning series puts us a game in front of Detroit and Pittsburgh and in fourth place by our lonesome selves. —J. G. Heath

BIRM 000 100 000 – 1 7 0
CHIC 010 000 10x – 2 5 1

W-Wyatt L-Foster GWRBI-Travis

BIRM 010 301 010 – 6 9 0
CHIC 003 000 000 – 3 6 0

W-Rogan L-Lee SV-Bell HRS: BRown, Rogan, Mackey GWRBI-Radcliff

BIRM 010 000 102 – 4 8 1
CHIC 100 110 20x – 5 10 0

W-Riddle L-Day HRS: Brown-2, Scales, Keller, Williams GWRBI-Keller

*   *   *

with Jupiter Dobbs
Pittsburgh Courier Baseball Blabber

CALLOWAYS 16-22-4, at ELLINGTONS 10-8-1
at ELLINGTONS 7-11-0, CALLOWAYS 6-10-0
at ELLINGTONS 8-9-1, CALLOWAYS 6-13-1
The Detroiters did a number on the Ellies to open things that reminded us all of K.C.’s recent annihilation of Ruppert Stadium , as Young and Dihigo combined for three doubles, two homers and nine RBIs at the bottom of the Calloway lineup. And mostly off Smokey Joe Williams to boot. The fairy dust washed off their heads at that juncture in the story, though. Cannonball Redding was given two runs, then gave Newark six straight hits and five runs in the 1st. Then he pitched like a champ, his mates gave him the lead back, until an Oms triple and tinker toy of a home run by Oscar Heavy Johnson won it for the Ellies anyway. Finale was just a barrel of agony. Detroit outhit the first-placers 13-9, but they were all slappy singles while Newark clubbed three doubles, a triple, and three homers in their crop. That’ll do it every time.

BASIES 3-6-0, at JORDANS 1-4-0
BASIES 5-13-1, at JORDANS 2-9-0
BASIES 7-11-0, at JORDANS 3-8-2
All I can say is that if Satchel was pitching like this when the season began, the Basies might be sizing their fingers for Bragging rings by now. He was actually wild for a change in the opener, walking six of us, but when he leaves everyone stranded like crumbs on a muffin wrapper you really don’t have a chance. The other two tilts were just your basic Jordan garbage cake of bad pitching and hitting failures at key times by Buck Leonard and Rap Dixon, not to mention incapability of winning a home game with their Greenlee mark now a horrifying 7-20 as we’re tied for the gutter slot with a tragic number down to one while looking up at that insult of a ball team in Chicago.

Until next week when my misery with the Jordans should be put to rest, baseball bees and flowers!

STATISTICS LEADERS (with 9 games to play!)

OPS
1.223 Ted Williams, CHC
1.109 Jimmie Foxx, CHC
1.035 Oscar Charleston, BRM
0.991 Cool Papa Bell, DET
0.990 Mule Suttles, NWK

BATTING AVG.
.389 R. Dandridge, NWK
.366 T. Williams, CHC
.352 C. P. Bell, DET
.349 W. Wells, KC
.345 H.R. Johnson, DET
.342 C. Blackwell, KC
.338 O. Charleston, BRM

HOME RUNS
17 Williams, CHC
13 Gibson, NWK
13 Beckwith, DET
12 Palm, KC
12 Stearnes, PIT

RBIs
55 Beckwith, DET
51 Suttles, NWK
45 Smith, DET
45 Williams, CHC
43 Wilson, KC
41 Gibson, NWK
41 Charleston, BRM
41 Stearnes, PIT

GAME-WINNING RBIs
7 Charleston, BRM
7 Stearnes, PIT
6 Gibson, NWK
6 Johnson, NWK
6 Radcliff, BRM
5 Beckwith, DET

RUNS
53 Bell, DET
44 Wright, NWK
41 Williams, CHC
40 Wilson, KC

WALKS
37 Pennington, PIT
36 Williams, CHC
33 Gibson. NWK

E.R.A.
2.64 Paige, KC
3.03 Riddle, CHC
3.13 Winters, NWK

WHIP
1.11 Riddle, CHC
1.18 Paige, KC
1.24 Winters, NWK

WINS
12-0 Winters, NWK
9-3 Paige, KC
6-3 Riddle, CHC

STRIKEOUTS
100 Paige, KC
94 Jones, DET
86 WIlliams, NWK

Per usual, here are Team Hitting, Team Pitching, and Assorted Miscellany

 BRL STANDINGS (August 20) W L PCT GB
Newark Ellingtons 31 20 .608
Birmingham Armstrongs 28 23 .549 3
Kansas City Basies 27 24 .529 4
Chicago Dorseys 23 28 .438 8
Pittsburgh Jordans 22 29 .431 9
Detroit Calloways 22 29 .431 9
Published in: on July 10, 2011 at 5:47 am  Comments (5)  

Chapter 17: Border Crossings

The cabbie knows exactly where Cool Papa Bell’s mansion is. Woodward Avenue takes us north past Dewayne State University, past Voigt Park, then left on West Boston Boulevard into a neighborhood of very old Michigan money and now here I am with my beautiful Blossom, on the night before the Dorseys’ last game in Detroit, waiting in Mr. Bell’s lavish entrance hall.

* * *

Guess I need to back up with this story. After dropping two at home to the Jordans last week and having to suffer through a Skunk Den interview with that typing troublemaker Jupe Dobbs, I was eager to put it all behind me by helping us jump in front of the lowly Calloways, a team just one game in front of us in the standings. Well, Cannonball Redding got me to ground out limply to Beckwith at first right out of the gate, and then my teammates went to work in the stink mine. After Frog Redus led with a walk off Thornton Lee, Cool Papa bounced one to Travis at third and it kicked off his glove. Home Run Johnson rolled one to Lee who flubbed that. Beckwith grounded one to Doerr, a perfect double play chance, and somehow the ball ended up in some kid’s lemonade cup about ten rows up in the first base stands.

Six Detroit runs later, topped by a 3-run homer by Candy Jim Taylor, the 8-2 first game rout was on its way, and me and Benny McCoy dragged ourselves to the same crappy room above Chatterton’s Chess Parlor I stayed in with Cullenbine on our last visit here. DiMaggio wanted no part of the seedy Brightmoor district, so I got paired with Benny, who’s barely played for us at all and was just happy to make the team.

Anyway, there was a knock on the door around midnight and would you believe Blossom Pickering was standing there? She had radiance even in the dark hallway, and said she’d been thinking about me for weeks and just had to be with me again and asked five Dorsey players where I was staying until she got the right answer. After kissing her I said the first thing I wanna do is get you out of this scary white neighborhood so we found a cab across town and checked ourselves into a quiet rooming house run by an old lady who was too busy listening to her radio plays to ask questions.

You readers don’t need to know the details, but trust me when I say we had a romantic night. And there was so much romanticness that we seriously started talking about getting married. Of course, we weren’t stupid. We knew how impossible that would be, but Blossom had it all worked out in her mind, which is why she came to Detroit. All we had to do was get ourselves a marriage license somehow and do the ceremony over the border in Canada. Blossom had a real good friend whose sister was an old girlfriend of Cool Papa Bell in his rookie days, you see, and Papa, who knew every nook and cranny and Detroit person living in those crannies, could be the one to help us.

First I had to play in Game 2, though, and I was so light-footed I could barely feel my cleats on the Mack Park grass. Roosevelt Davis was throwing for the Calloways, one tough hurler, and even though we had a double, triple, and three singles off him the first four innings we were still behind 1-0 thanks to a Redus homer smash off Riddle. Lonny Frey, our punky new second baseman from the Cincinnati Whitelegs, started the fifth with a sharp double down the right field line. Riddle fanned and Arky Vaughn bounced Frey over to third, and then it was my turn.

I had a ground out and single my first two trips, but this time I was ready for Roosevelt’s first pitch heater. I cracked it good and that ball was rocketing over the right field fence before Chino Smith could even turn around. My fourth homer of the year, one more than DiMaggio if you can believe that, and it put us ahead 2-1! Riddle pitched out of his mind from there, giving Detroit just one more single, and we won it easy.

So now back to me and Blossom at the Cool Papa Estate. He has this stuffy white manservant guy named Trumpo who greets us and makes us take our shoes off and put on Cool Papa Slippers, the star’s own brand. We walk through a giant living room and a huge billiard room and even past an open movie screening room where Cool Papa always gets the latest and best Hollywood pictures two days after the public does. Trumpo walks us out a back door and into a gigantic back yard, which has an olympic pool, its own golf putting course, and a manicured sliding pit, where our host is practicing his moves over and over in athletic sweats marked with a CPB emblem under the drawstring.

“Why should I help YOU, Heath, after what your boys did to us today?” I tell him the games have nothing to do with this, it would be for Blossom, who loves me more than anything and isn’t it about time we broke down some of these race borders?

Cool Papa doesn’t answer right away, just puts a towel around his neck, takes a cold glass of fitness tonic from Trumpo, and walks us back across the yard and into the house. “I know a character over the border in Windsor who can do the whole thing in one shop—license, ceremony, maybe even bake you a cake if you’re nice enough—but it isn’t no cheap affair.” Blossom reminds him that her daddy is the Alabama governor and money shouldn’t be a problem, and Cool Papa just nods, walks us into what looks like a big, dark study. Throws a switch and somehow gets across the room to his desk before the light even comes on.

“Character’s name is Edgar Summerbottom. He’s Canadian, but he’s safe. Long as you pay him cash right away.” He flips open an address organizer and jots one down. “Take the Detroit-Windsor tunnel after the game tomorrow. I’ll call ahead and tell him you’re coming.” He hands me the slip of paper, and gives me his coolest gaze. “Plus it wouldn’t hurt if you go easy on us out there, chief.”

Of course I can’t promise that but nod anyway just to get this thing rolling. Trumpo sees me and Blossom out and we’re hugging and kissing the second we’re back in the cab.

Fortunately but unfortunately, we kick the Calloways’ tails in the last game, with Higbe bailing himself out of constant trouble, with Arky and Williams and Foxx all tater-trotting, and we take the series to drag Detroit into a fifth place tie with us. I guess the good thing is that I go 0-for-4 and contribute nil with Cool Papa hawk-watching me from center field, so at least I don’t seem to be going back on my word.

I tell Appling that I have some emergency family business—me being Canadian after all and my dad not doing too well—and that I’ll join the team in Chicago in a few days, well before our next series with the Armstrongs. Then I meet Blossom in another waiting cab outside the ball park and we’re off to the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. They opened this thing in 1930 and it’s the only underground international border crossing in the world, which makes our whole plan feel even more safe.

We’ve paid the cabbie a whole wad of money to get us through the tunnel, but as we near the checkpoint on the U.S. side, trouble slams into us out of nowhere. Four local police cars are waiting, a half dozen or so border guards, and before you know it I’m being dragged out of the car and handcuffs are pinching my wrists.

“J. Geoffrey Heath?” blurts out the most official looking of the guards, “You are under arrest for attempted illegal race fusion, violating law 12.2 of the American Marital Etiquette Act. Come along quietly, please.”

Blossom is escorted away too, without the handcuffs, and we share just three seconds of stunned, teary, and angry disbelief. Cool Papa…you sunavabitch…

CHI 000 000 020 – 2 6 4
DET 600 001 10x – 8 8 1

W-Redding L-Lee HRS: Doerr, Taylor, Smith

CHI 000 021 011 – 5 13 0
DET 010 000 000 – 1 4 0

W-Riddle L-Davis HRS: Heath, Travis, Redus GWRBI-Heath

CHI 000 131 020 – 7 13 0
DET 001 000 020 – 3 8 0

W-Higbe -Dihigo HRS: Vaughn, Williams, Foxx GWRBI-Vaughn

*   *   *

with Jupiter Dobbs
Pittsburgh Courier Baseball Blabber

ELLINGTONS 3-6-1, at JORDANS 2-12-0
ELLINGTONS 8-13-0, at JORDANS 5-10-3
at JORDANS 6-9-3, ELLINGTONS 5-12-1 (10 innings)
Crud on a cracker. Jordannaires couldn’t play a worse first two games if they were given a loser manual and giant reading glasses. Outhit the Dukers by double amount for starters but we left 12 on the paths and lost on three ribbis by Dandridge, the first coming on a windblown lollygaggin’ pop that negotiated itself off the foul pole in left. Then it was Dobie Moore’s turn to start a local riot. Threw away a two-out Mule Suttles grounder in the 3rd inning of the second game which led to three Newark runs and the difference in the game. Make another flub later, then kicked away two more balls in the 4th of the finale, and pop bottles were hurling in his direction from the Greenlee Field stands. Vic Harris got us the lead back with a homer, and it was 5-4 into the 9th when Gibson crushed a leadoff triple. Turkey brought our infield in and it worked. Suttles hit into a force, Superman Pennington gunning Josh down at the plate. Wright flied out. Monroe then singled to bring up Dandridge. Dandy rolled an easy one up Dobie Avenue but Moore did it again, heaving the sphere halfway to the Alleghenies and bringing a storm of razzing out of the Pittsburgh clouds that’s never been allowed in these parts for public safety reasons. Lucky for his life, Turkey slammed a Double Duty fastball over the fence in the 10th, and we managed to salvage one when we sure as Shirley needed three.

at BASIES 8-17-0, ARMSTRONGS 2-11-0
ARMSTRONGS 6-16-1, at BASIES 3-10-3
ARMSTRONGS 14-14-1, at BASIES 1-5-0
Kansas City stayed magical in the first game but by the end of the weekend were sad pumpkins again. Webster McDonald couldn’t stop the Armstrong sticks in the second tilt, and the Armies just plain rolled over Trent, Powell, Drake and Mendez in the final act, scoring eight times in the 9th with the help of a Pop Lloyd grand slam. The B-Hams are back to Chicago next for some likely easy pickings, while K.C. heads up to Greenlee where Satch Paige no doubt plans to have his way with my hapless ones. For those still following this race, the Ellingtons host the always unpredictable Detroiters. Until next week, baseball bees and flowers!

FULL STATS REPORT NEXT WEEK

For now, here are Team Hitting, Team Pitching, and Assorted Miscellany

 BRL STANDINGS (August 13) W L PCT GB
Newark Ellingtons 29 19 .604
Birmingham Armstrongs 27 21 .563 2
Kansas City Basies 24 24 .500 5
Pittsburgh Jordans 22 26 .458 7
Chicago Dorseys 21 27 .438 8
Detroit Calloways 21 27 .438 8
Published in: on July 3, 2011 at 6:04 am  Comments (4)  

Chapter 16: Chatting at the Heath Bar

Had the supreme fortune to share some post-series blabbery at Chicago’s infamous Skunk Den with auxilary flycatcher J. Geoffrey Heath. Our Jordans had just nibbled two of three from his brave but decidedly doomed Dorseys, and he was not even in the partly sunniest of moods…

Dobbs: Rumors are sailing that you fancy yourself a worthy candidate to be the first white man to play in the Major Leagues come next April. Since when?

Heath: Well, I’m a very hard worker, mister. White players seem to get labeled as lazy and uninterested pretty often, and I think I could be a good role model for reversing that. See, my father—

Dobbs: Doesn’t just take hard work, though. Pure talent figures in too. And when you mass murdered that single by Buck Leonard in the first game into a two-base error, I had a few doubts up my sleeve concerning your gumption.

Heath: That’s a little unfair, don’t you think? Dixon and Stearnes were on the bases, and I knew they had a chance to windmill around them even before Riddle delivered the pitch. That’s why when the hit dropped in I mistimed the bounce and ended up kicking it ten yards. Had nothing to do with gumption or laziness, so don’t start—

Dobbs: How does being excluded from the league’s classier hotels bother the team? I see you’re buried in last place with just 15 games left.

Heath: You mean just one game behind the Calloways? I’ll take that. And I’ve been sleeping just fine wherever we hole up. Same goes for everyone on the team. If you bothered to look at our split-up records you’d see we’re a much better outfit when we’re out of town.

Dobbs: And why’s that, do you think? Aren’t there more—how shall I blab it?— lady-distractions, and a bit more time spent in reefer bars like this?

Heath: Speak for yourself, mister. All I know is we’ve been bonding better on the long bus rides and in the unfriendly ballparks, and I think it’s helped our play.

Dobbs: Guess you’ll be happy to go back to Detroit next week, then. You boys just had a great chance to win Game 2 and flat-out stunk the farm, then were lucky to take Game 3 when Max Manning went gopher-pitch silly.

Heath: Y’know…If that’s what you really believe happened then I think we’ve talked enough, buddy—

Dobbs: That’s Mr. Dobbs to you. Just remember…I got more weekly readers than you got lifetime hits with those cracker teams.

Heath: What’s that supposed to mean?

Dobbs: Means that if you want a bunch of happy press as the season winds down and got those eyeballs set on proving you belong on Newark or Birmingham or even the Memphis Hamptons when they’re back in the fold, a little humbility might take you a long way.

Heath: Maybe. But last time I checked, Langston Hughes was the President, and Gus Greenlee the Commissioner of Baseball. Not you.

Dobbs: All great men get inspired from somewhere, boy. And every one of them reads the newspaper. Best of luck with those Calloways now!

Heath: Oh, you bet. And we’re looking forward to passing your rumps in the standings. Mr. DOBBS.

PITT 003 020 000 – 5 9 0
CHC 000 001 010 – 2 9 1

W-Cockrell L-Riddle HR: DiMaggio GWRBI-Stearnes

PITT 000 010 311 – 6 13 0
CHC 001 020 002 – 5 11 0

W-Salton L-Benton SV-Donaldson HRS: Harris, Keller, Williams GWRBI-Dixon

PITT 030 002 000 – 5 10 2
CHC 002 130 00x – 6 10 0

W-Humphries L-Manning SV-Lanier HRS: Keller, Mize GWRBI-Keller

BASIES 14-18-2, at ELLINGTONS 7-12-0
BASIES 12-14-0, at ELLINGTONS 6-11-0
BASIES 16-19-0, at ELLINGTONS 0-9-0
The sun rose in the west, dead leaves flew back on their trees, my Aunt Poppy missed church, and the Kansas City Basies waltzed into Ruppert Stadium and delivered a pounding to the Ellington keyboard that has never been seen, heard or felt in recent league history. 42-13 they outscored the first-placers, people, with Charles Blackwell becoming a force unleashed. The quiet left fielder went 12-for-17, with three doubles, a triple, two home runs and nine runs batted in. Jud Wilson kicked in two doubles and two homers. Willie Wells had seven hits. And Satch Paige. What else can I blab? Went out there for the finale, told his fielders to sit down and walked one Ellington and whiffed 12 for the shutout, his seventh win in a row. By the time the Newark bodies were dragged off the field, the Basies were suddenly one game over .500 and four games out of first! I had early plans to attend this series, but am glad I junked them, for Newark is not a hospitable metropolis at the moment.

at ARMSTRONGS 6-10-0, CALLOWAYS 1-5-1
at ARMSTRONGS 6-9-1, CALLOWAYS 1-4-1
CALLOWAYS 8-17-0, at ARMSTRONGS 7-13-3
Birmingham missed closing to one game out again by a cricket’s breath. After two easy wins for Day and Brewer, Big Bill Foster got shellacked, the top of the Detroit lineup going 11-for-21 with six extra base hits. Still, the Armies soldiered on, scoring three in the 7th and 8th before Slim Jones came to his senses and snuffed six of the last seven for the squeaky win. Looks like that last Newark-Birmingham series next month could mean something after all!

OPS LEADERS
1.257 Mize, CHC
1.135 Williams, CHC
1.074 Foxx, CHC
1.071 Charleston, BRM
1.016 Beckwith, DET
1.015 Blackwell, KC

Per usual, here are Team Hitting, Team Pitching, and Assorted Miscellany

 BRL STANDINGS (August 6) W L PCT GB
Newark Ellingtons 27 18 .600
Birmingham Armstrongs 25 20 .556 2
Kansas City Basies 23 22 .511 4
Pittsburgh Jordans 21 24 .467 6
Detroit Calloways 20 25 .444 7
Chicago Dorseys 19 26 .422 8
Published in: on June 26, 2011 at 6:11 am  Comments (3)  

Chapter 15: Fatherly

My dad didn’t talk to me much. He worked as a tree sapper for Crawford Maple Industries, which just about owned the city of Thunder Bay up in Northern Ontario. He played third base for the company’s Syrup League team, and was probably a worse fielder than I am. Anything he did say to me at the supper table about playing baseball had to do with hitting, and I thank him for that after every double I put in the gap.

Dad had a wobbly left knee, so he knew he didn’t stand a chance of ever making it in one of the scattered white leagues, but it still didn’t keep him from trying out with the Chippewa Rascals and the Joeboy Lake Gupps two different times. “If you don’t believe, you won’t,” he’d tell me over and over, whenever we chopped firewood in the summer or shoveled out the house in winter. When I got picked to play for the Dorseys three months ago, he was already deathly sick with severe maple diabetes, but I went to see him in the hospital before our first game. He did nothing but smile at me through his tubes.

Anyway, I decided before we hit the field this time against K.C., that no matter how little Appling plays me the rest of the year, I was going to do Dad proud and hustle my ball and bat sack off every time I was in there. Some lefty relief pitcher once said, “You have to believe,” but I think my dad came up with that one first.

* * *

So I go to Appling before Game 1 at Comiskey and say “Ted Trent is in there. If I can’t hit that rag-arm I can’t hit anybody.” Well, I barely hit Rag-arm, but my single does drives in Arky Vaughn for our second run in the 3rd inning. Max Lanier from the St. Louis Whitebirds gets a start for us, but Willie Wells and Red Parnell have their ways with him, and it’s 2-2 when Jud Wilson singles to start their 6th. I’m playing left today because Appling wanted to try Ted Williams’ slightly better arm in right, something I wasn’t doing cartwheels about. Anyway, Wells then pounds one high and deep to my left. Reiser was shaded to right-center so I race to the fence and cut the ball off before it bounces to the wall. Wilson is chugging around third. I turn, dig my back cleat into the turf and fire one toward home.

Dickey barely moves. Catches the ball on one bounce, swipes and nails Wilson on the ankle a second before it hits the plate. Yeah!! How’s that for old No-Arm Heath?

I whiff my last two times up, but Arky’s already knocked in our go-ahead run and I’m fine with Keller taking my place in left like he usually does. Our new relief man Howie Pollet blows away Fats Jenkins with two aboard to end it, and we take the opener.

Then it’s Satchel Time. Paige hasn’t lost in a month and a half, and I gotta say we smash him around pretty good. None of it includes me though, because Appling wants all the righties in there against his screwy pitches. Still, it’s the lefties who give him grief. Keller gets three hits including a homer, Ted gets a double and homer, and after Wells puts them ahead with a grand slammer off Wyatt, we score three times in the 6th to tie it up 5-5.

Wyatt is just Whitless today, though. Judy Johnson, Spoony Palm and Sammy Highes all single to start the 8th, Paige of all people hits a sac fly, Torriente and Pete Hill single and that’s pretty much that. Satch wins his sixth in a row, up to 7-3 now, and he’s the main reason the Count’s Basies are flirting with the .500 mark.

With lefty Sam Streeter going in the final game, I’m on the pine again. Williams, who’s just been berserk for us, doubles and homers again, but Thronton Lee is off his track, and it’s 3-3 in the last of the 6th. Ernie Lombardi stinks a lazy fly out to Parnell in right with one gone, but Red loses it in the Chicago clouds and it drops for a 3-base error! “Heath! Get your behind out there!” yells Appling, and I’m tearing out there to run for Ernie.

Streeter glances at me over his right shoulder a few times, and I decide to give him the business he’s asking for. Between every pitch I run a foot or two to home and run back, just like I’ve seen Cool Papa Bell do a million times. It works. Streeter loses his concentration, throws a fat pitch to Ken Keltner, who rips it past me into left for the go-ahead run! The dugout slaps my back silly when I get in, and then I have to sit and watch three sweaty innings of of Lee and John Humphries trying to keep the Basies at bay.

We’re 18-24 now, only two games behind K.C. for that third place money, and for the first time in a while I feel good about my place in this outfit. The Jordans visit us next, and put me in cold, coach! —J.G. Heath

K.C. 000 200 000 – 2 8 2
CHI 002 000 11x – 4 6 0

W-Lanier L-Trent SV-Pollet GWRBI-Vaughn

K.C. 000 140 030 – 8 12 1
CHI 200 003 010 – 6 12 2

W-Paige L-Wyatt HRS: Wells, Keller, Williams GWRBI-Paige

K.C. 101 100 000 – 3 8 2
CHI 002 101 00x- 4 8 0

W-Williams GWRBI-Keltner

*   *   *

with Jupiter Dobbs
Pittsburgh Courier Baseball Blabber

ELLINGTONS 3-6-1, at ARMSTRONGS 1-7-1
at ARMSTRONGS 2-4-2, ELLINGTONS 1-10-1 (12 innings)
ELLINGTONS 11-20-0, at ARMSTRONGS 2-3-0
I stayed home in the comfort of my press box and smoking jacket for this one, due to Alabama summer heat and me knowing full well of the possible perils for the home team. The B-Hams just have not been hitting for whenever, and it is righteously possible their early success was the result of a smoky mirror. Double Duty Radcliffe had chinks in his work in the opener, but the Armies solidified his position with two key double play balls struck by Messers Brown and Rogan. The second tilt was a big Southern miracle, as Josh Gibson failed to hit safely in six tries and the Ellies squandered scoring early and too often. Winner was plated in the 12th off Smokey Joe on a Mackey walk, rare error by Dandridge and Radcliff single. The finale was an execution with nine blindfolds pure and simple. Birmingham collected one extra base hit to Newark’s nine. Nip Winters became 10-0. And the white-shirted B-Ham crowd filed out by the 7th, their garb and expressions turning funeral black. Oscar Charleston is still carrying their lone hitting torch, but Bullet Joe Rogan is down to .230, Willard Brown is .239, and Biz Mackey, my vote for league MVP not too long ago, has dropped to .224. Enough said.

at JORDANS 7-11-0, CALLOWAYS 6-15-0
CALLOWAYS 4-9-0, at JORDANS 1-4-1 (10 innings)
CALLOWAYS 8-12-0, at JORDANS 2-5-0
For this I stayed at home? Matters looked sunny after the opener, a thrilling spectacle. We tied it on a Turkey homer in the 8th, won it on a bases-loaded walk to Hurley McNair in the 9th. Then ennui settled over Greenlee. Slim Jones 4-hit us and fanned eight, before Cannonball Dick Redding started his own winning 7-run rally with a deep homer off the dreadful Leroy Matlock. Pains me to break the news to my readers, but when you have a 6-15 mark on your own home patch, you don’t deserve to eat dinner.

Blab to you next week from downtown Dorseyville, baseball bees and flowers!

SPECIAL: TEAM RUN DIFFERENTIALS!

+53 Newark
+47 Detroit
+1 Kansas City
–18 Pittsburgh
–21 Birmingham
–47 Chicago

Per usual, here are Team Hitting, Team Pitching, and Assorted Miscellany

 BRL STANDINGS (July 31) W L PCT GB
Newark Ellingtons 27 15 .643
Birmingham Armstrongs 23 19 .548 4
Kansas City Basies 20 22 .476 7
Pittsburgh Jordans 19 23 .452 8
Detroit Calloways 19 23 .452 8
Chicago Dorseys 18 24 .429 9
Published in: on June 19, 2011 at 6:52 am  Comments (6)  

Chapter 14: Steam Meeting

At first it’s just me, Feller, and Cullenbine. Towels wrapped around our waists, hiding out in Comiskey’s steam room before our first game against the first-place Ellingtons.

We need a little peace. The new 38-man Dorsey roster is just nuts, because we can still only put nine on the field at once, and now the clubhouse looks like Pennsylvania Station at 5 p.m. on a Friday. Okay, great. We got Pete Reiser to spell DiMaggio in center against righties, which only boils Joe’s innards even more. We got Bobby Doerr, Lou Boudreau and Lonny Frey for extra infield glovework, but neither of them get on base enough to put us in a late-inning spot where we need it.

And worse than that? “I got Lombardi sleeping on my couch,” complains Cullenbine, “And the guy hasn’t showered since Easter.” I’ve been lucky so far in that regard, but it’s just a matter of time before Appling asks me to share a toothbrush with Howie Pollet or something. How can we even concentrate on the games?

“This first-white-in-the-bigs competition? A funny little stunt,” adds Feller, “but not something I’m losing sleep over.” I admit it would be nice to get the bonus of staying in the better hotels that people like Oscar Charleston stay in, not to mention riding on first class trains. Feller’s right, though; pitting ourselves against each other to pile up better statistics is bad for the team.

“What am I missing, boys?”

Damn! It’s scrawny little Appling joining us for steam work, his favorite pet project Reiser trotting in behind him, and Pete’s Honky Dodger teammate Kirby Higbe bringing up the rear.

“Nothing Skip,” I say, “just going over that tough Newark lineup.”

“Good idea. I was gonna call us a team meeting, being 14-22 and all, but we may as well do one in here, right?”

We’re about to face Smokey Joe Williams, undefeated Nip Winters and Hilton Smith, so it’s up to Luke more than us because he has to work the right lineups like a crazed chessmaster if we’re going to have a chance.

“What’s the average up to, Heath?” he asks.  “Uhh…it’s down actually.  Around .280. But I still got those three homers!”

“Didn’t figure on those going anywhere,” he says, and then the door opens again and Mize and Foxx join us, two huge guys that make their towels look like tea napkins. “No chance, Mize, no chance,” barks Jimmie to his teammate, still testy after his forced clown act last week.

“Hey, I’m producing, ain’t that what counts?”

“Nope. Just the half of it. To make the majors you can’t be a mercenary.”

“I ain’t no goddamn mercenary, Jimmie!”

Mize and Foxx are going at it so heated they don’t even notice they’re using up most of the steamy oxygen left in the room. Appling tries to calm them down, but then the door opens again and it’s every steambather for themself. Dickey, Travis, bullpen boys Spud Chandler, Al Benton and Charlie Wagner join the club, and I end up wedged into a corner gasping for air. Then a stadium handyman knocks and enters to fix a leaking valve.

“Where’s Ted?” pipes up Feller, “Can we talk about Williams now?”

“I think he’s the handyman!” someone yells, and we all crack up.

“Personally I’d love to be the first white in the majors,” I said, but if Ted wants the prize, it’s all his as long as we win a bunch of games in the process.”

People seem to agree with me, and then Ernie Lombardi swings opens the door. He’s half dressed in his uniform and a white undershirt that looks a little yellow from where I am. We hold our breath. He takes one look and says, “Got room for one more?”

Dead silence, before Feller yaps, “Sorry Ernie, we’re all about done, right guys?” And in fifteen seconds everyone is rushing back out.

Then we take the field and Appling manages his brain off. Who can figure this game? First Ted Williams, (who never hit the steam bath because him and DiMaggio have their own whirlpools where they room), turns around a 1-0 Newark lead with a 3-run wallop off Smokey Joe in the 4th. Then Stinky Lombardi pinch-hits a 2-run single in the 8th, Doerr, Boudreau, Camilli, Keller and Keltner tag-team in for defense, Wyatt holds the fort and our three early errors don’t even hurt us in the 6-2 win.

We skip the steam room before Game 2 and it shows, big time. Not sure why Nip Winters now has a 9-0 record for them, because he doesn’t look any more unhittable than Smokey Joe, but the Ellingtons just seem to pound the opposition when he’s on the hill. Pounders in this case are Gibson (two doubles and a single), Oscar Heavy Johnson (homer, four RBIs and game-deciding single in the 8th after we tie the thing at 4-4 in the 6th. “Defense man” Boudreau gets that rally going for them by botching a sure double play ball, and it reminds me how our lack of gloveitude has been killing us all year.

But today our Big Boys give us the series. Ted bangs his 12th homer in the 1st inning off Hilton smith, Mize puts us ahead again with a roasted double in the 5th after Newark claws back to take a 3-2 lead, and DiMaggio pinch-hits for Dickey in the 7th and delivers a 2-run single. Reliable Riddle goes the distance and we’re up to 16 wins as K.C. and Pittsburgh are next up in our home stand before we head back to Detroit. I’m not saying we have a shot at first, but third place seems possible, and if that handyman keeps those steam valves working, who knows? —J.G. Heath

NWK 100 001 000 – 2 10 0
CHC 000 300 03x – 6 10 3

W-Wyatt L-S. Williams HR: T. Williams GWRBI-T. Williams

NWK 300 100 031 – 8 15 1
CHC 000 004 000 – 4 7 1

W-Winters L-Lee HR: Johnson GWRBI-Johnson

NWK 011 010 010 – 4 13 0
CHC 200 020 20x – 6 12 1

W-Riddle L-Smith HRS: Oms, T. Williams GWRBI-Mize

*   *   *

with Jupiter Dobbs
Pittsburgh Courier Baseball Blabber

at JORDANS 6-9-0, ARMSTRONGS 4-7-1
at JORDANS 4-11-0, ARMSTRONGS 3-6-0
ARMSTRONGS 11-16-1, at JORDANS 9-14-1
Hear me out on Game 3, because that was the oyster’s pearl. Somehow Max Manning pulled out the first contest in spite of a walk, homer, single, and double in that sequence from Lord Charleston, and the B-Ham offense stayed asleep against Leroy Matlock yesterday, but today? Tether your sails and bolt your hatch! Phil Cockrell had nothing for us, peoples, and I mean diddly zero. Two 3-run innings filled with four Armstrong doubles put ‘em up 6-0. Leon Day had bailed his posterior out of five straight jam-innings, but the 6th told a brand new tale. With nary an out recorded, Tank Carr walked, Bonnie Serrell homered, Hurley McNair pinch-hit a walk, Superman Pennington walked, Rap Dixon got a shoulder-plunk, William Bell rode in on his bullpen horse and Buck Leonard singled, Turkey Stearnes doubled and Vic Harris singled. SEVEN runs, and we’re bullseyeing that big sweep! Except Mackey ties it back up with a sac fly. A Dixon triple and Leonard double put us up 9-7. A Charleston single off Donaldson with two gone in the 8th makes it 9-9. Mackey and Alec Radcliff single to start the 9th and Donaldson chucks a pitch halfway to Scranton. Louis Jordan calls the dugout from the owner’s box, threatens body harm if Donaldson isn’t yanked so Turkey does do that. Verdell Mathis is no help, though, pitcher Rube Foster hammering a single and Tubby Scales sac flying in another and our 20-run, 30-hit loss is complete. Hell, though, I’ll take two over the B-Hams any day, especially in our Greenlee death trap. And especially since we hadn’t beaten their noggins for one win all year.

at BASIES 6-13-1, CALLOWAYS 1-7-3
CALLOWAYS 10-16-0, at BASIES 3-10-1
at BASIES 3-11-0, CALLOWAYS 2-7-0
Satchel Paige ain’t just not taking prisoners right now, he’s putting them out with chloroform rags before they even step on the battlefield. 5-0 in his last five starts, folks, his ERA down to 2.73 and his K/BB ratio at 74/17. The spotchy Calloway offense wakes up a day later for a nice bashing party (Beckwith with five more knocked in), before Webster McDonald neuters them again. even with a +39 run difference mark, Detroit just loses every close game they get their hands on, now with a 1-6 mark in one-run affairs. Sure glad my Jordans get ‘em next.

Statistics leaders follow. Until next week, baseball bees and flowers!

OPS
1.285 Johnny Mize, CHC
1.142 Oscar Charleston, BRM
1.130 Ted Williams, CHC
1.124 Jimmie Foxx, CHC
1.042 Beckwith, DET
1.013 Cristabel Torriente, KC
0.997 Spoony Palm, KC
0.969 Cool Papa Bell, DET
0.961 Superman Pennington, PIT
0.957 Home Run Johnson, DET

BATTING AVG.
.385 H.R. Johnson, DET
.373 O. Charleston, BRM
.362 R. Dandridge, NWK
.350 H. McNair, PIT
.347 C. P. Bell, DET
.345 T. Williams, CHC
.342 C. Torriente, KC

HOME RUNS
13 Beckwith, DET
12 Williams, CHC
10 Palm, KC
9 Stearnes, PIT
8 Charleston, BRM

RBIs
51 Beckwith, DET
43 Suttles, NWK
36 Williams, CHC
35 Charleston, BRM
33 Wilson, KC

GAME-WINNING RBIs
6 Gibson, NWK
5 Charleston, BRM
5 Stearnes, PIT
5 Beckwith, DET

RUNS
41 Bell, DET
36 Wright, NWK
36 Williams, CHC
34 Gibson, NWK

WALKS
30 Gibson. NWK
27 Williams, CHC
26 Pennington, PIT

E.R.A.
2.73 Paige, KC
2.83 Riddle, CHC
3.04 Redding, DET
3.07 Winters, NWK

WHIP
1.13 Riddle, CHC
1.17 Paige, KC
1.21 Winters, NWK
1.24 Manning, PIT
1.26 Davis, DET

WINS
9-0 Winters, NWK
6-3 Paige, KC

STRIKEOUTS
74 Paige, KC
70 Jones, DET
66 WIlliams, NWK

Per usual, Team Hitting, Team Pitching, and Assorted Miscellany

SPECIAL: TEAMS VS. TEAMS!

BRM CHC DET K.C. NWK PIT
BRM 5-4 4-2 3-6 3-3 7-2
CHC 4-5 3-6 3-3 4-5 2-4
DET 2-4 6-3 4-5 1-8 4-2
K.C. 6-3 3-3 5-4 1-5 4-5
NWK 3-3 5-4 8-1 5-1 4-5
PIT 2-7 4-2 2-4 5-4 5-4
 BRL STANDINGS (July 24) W L PCT GB
Newark Ellingtons 25 14 .641
Birmingham Armstrongs 22 17 .564 3
Kansas City Basies 19 20 .487 6
Pittsburgh Jordans 18 21 .462 7
Detroit Calloways 17 22 .436 8
Chicago Dorseys 16 23 .410 9
Published in: on June 12, 2011 at 6:27 am  Comments (4)  
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