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
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Published in: on July 24, 2011 at 6:06 am  Comments (3)  

3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Jeff, If sportswriters today still wrote like you do, maybe their newspapers wouldn’t be going extinct.
    Watched “Eight Men Out Last Night.” Hadn’t seen it in a few years. Ring Lardner and Studs Terkel, ah, those were the days…
    Bill

    • Thanks for the praise.

      Eight Men Out is my favorite baseball movie ever. Bar none. Case closed. Suspense, perfect period detail and a brilliant ensemble cast.

  2. Well, the title is in sight for my B-Hams. However, the treacherous Cool Papa Bell and Detroit aren’t to be taken lightly, as Blossom and Heath have discovered.

    Here’s hoping for a doubleheader sweep – a Birmingham Bragging Rights title and love conquering all.


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