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)  

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi Jeff. I posted in Chapter 13 just before the “Steam Meeting” chapter, but in case it gets locked away and goes stale there I’ll just repeat that I am bummed out that my B-Ham Armstrongs have been strongarmed out of first place.

    The silver linings (we call them “slinings” over in my Negro Leagues Big 12 thread in the Strat Fan Forum) are that the ‘Strongs have Oscar Charleston nice and lofty among the batting leaders and…well, there’s not much else except that this week we didn’t lose any ground to the Ellies, thanks to Chicago.

    This is a great place to turn a few phrases. I won’t stay away so long from here onward.

  2. B-Hams were getting all the rolls early on, but you’re right, except for Lord Charleston, their bats have been reduced to cheese logs. They still have six left with the Ellingtons, though, starting next week in B-town!

  3. I suspect that some of these white boys would have made great major leaguers, if given half a chance. But you have to wonder if some of their reputations weren’t blown out of proportion. I mean, they accumulated most of their stats in what amounted to scrimmage games against local yokels. People tend to romanticize what might have been.
    At least that’s what I keep hearing.
    Fine series,
    Bill

    • Jupiter Dobbs responds:

      Your dispatch is well taken, Mr. Miller, though in my youthier travels I was more than illuminated by the ribald play of a little-known white-mite by the name of T. R. Cobb. It is regretting his speedy skills never earned him fame, for he was known to be a model athlete, a lover of all humans despite his pasty color, and as polite a fellow as you would invite for noon lunch. In shortened order, sometimes you do get a gleam in your muddy gold pan.


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