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
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Published in: on July 3, 2011 at 6:04 am  Comments (4)  

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Cool Papa Slippers – his own brand.

    Now THAT’s cool.

    After all, could a cleat-wearing, base-stealing entrepreneur find any market in a line of “Ground Bells”? Spikes for the masses?

    Slippers…nice and relaxing.

  2. Does Blossom Pickering, by any chance, have a sister? Just asking…
    Fine work, as usual,
    Bill

  3. Looking for some help from Detroit against the Ellingtons and for the B-Ham bats to stay heated. We could have a crucial Newark vs. Birmingham series coming up, eh?

    And you can have Air Jordans. I want me a pair of those Cool Papa Slippers!!!

  4. Help from the Calloways would be sweet, though Jupe Dobbs may have a better chance of becoming a rabbi. Detroit is a robust 1-8 against Newark.


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