Chapter 2: Opening Braggers

Luke Appling stares at our lineup card longer than he looks at his wife. Can’t say I blame him—regarding the card, that is. Lefty Slim Jones and his machete of a fastball is going for the Detroit Calloways in our opening game, and Luke is not just thinking about how we can hit these guys, but how we won’t get killed. Like I suspected, Charlie Keller gets to play the outfield with Williams and DiMaggio today instead of me, but hell, being a bench jockey’s still a privilege for this one.

Comiskey Park is stuffed to its upper deck rafters. I’d say the crowd’s in the 40,000 range, and except for some black dignitaries in the upper private boxes, it’s almost all white. Even the kids on hand are gussied up like they’re at church (see photograph) when all they’re doing is getting Appling’s autograph. It’s nice to know we got a lot of fans who believe in us, because I’m not sure how much the regular baseball writers do. One idiot in the St. Louis Sentinel even called us a “bunch of deluded milkies who are out of their league and especially ours.” I don’t need to tell you that Appling has thumb-tacked that clipping to our clubhouse message board.

After team owner Tommy Dorsey and his band plays “America the Free” from their little stage in the center field bleachers, Bobby Feller takes the hill for us. First up is Home Run Johnson, and when Feller makes his name ridiculous by fanning his behind on three pitches, the park roars and shakes like an Illinois earthquake. He sets Cool Papa Bell down on a grounder but hits Chino Smith in the shoulder. I can see the whole dignitary section grumbling from my dugout seat. John Beckham walks but Frog Redus makes out on a force to Keltner, and here comes our first inning!

Appling gets a big cheer, playing short for the Chicago Double White Sox most of the time, and even reaches on a Johnson boot to start things, but Jimmie Foxx rolls into an easy DP. The amazing Teddy Ballgame and Joe D. touch Jones for matching line singles, but that ugly bum Keller who shouldn’t even be in there pops out.

Feller looks damn good the first two innings, but suddenly becomes a 12-year-old in the 3rd. Johnson singles and robs second on catcher Frankie Hayes. Bell and Smith walk. A wild pitch gets one Calloway run home, moves up the others, and Beckham hammers a double down the line past Williams. After a Rev Cannady single we’re down 4-zip in a flash.

Foxx gets the home folks braying by murdering a ball over the left field roof in the last of the 3rd, but it’s all downhill and into the gutter from there. Feller’s in trouble at all times, and it’s 6-2 in the 9th when Charlie Wagner from the Boston White Red Sox relieves and gives up another right away on three straight singles. It’s nice when Williams singles and DiMaggio whacks one out to start our 9th, but Joe isn’t all that happy when I shake his hand and takes his place back on the dugout bench just in time to see Hayes ground into another DP to end the game.
CALLOWAYS 7-13-1, DORSEYS 4-10-2

Saturday’s contest is more like it. Matter of fact, it’s a thrill and a half! It’s a joy just to start in right field and give ground to Joltin’ Joe every chance I can get. See, I’m not exactly known for my foot-fleetness out there. Anyway, we get all kinds of line hits off Dick Cannonball Redding, but Thornton Lee only has the Calloways bamboozled 2-1 going to the 8th when Bell walks, Home Run Johnson gets plunked for the second time, Beckham doubles and Smith singles to put us behind 4-2. But my friend and neighbor Roy Cullenbine singles off reliever Dizzy Dismukes to begin our 9th. Appling works a walk like he usually does, Mickey Vernon singles to make it 4-3, and I rip my third hit after two earlier doubles, a single into the gap to tie the game and send Vernon to third! I lead away from first as Williams steps into the box, keeping extra alert for one of his smoking liners. Instead he golfs one out to deep center where Cool Papa makes the catch but has no play on Vernon who scores the comeback winner. Should’ve been much easier but we’ll take it!

I’m not going to say too much about game three, except that our fielding is godawful, Sid Hudson gives up too many walks in one inning and too many doubles in another, and Detroit scores nine runs in the 6th to make us look like amateurs. Doesn’t help that we get ten hits off Roosevelt Davis and just score twice.
CALLOWAYS 17-16-2, DORSEYS 2-10-2

What a humiliation. Tomorrow we take a three-day bus ride down to unfriendly Birmingham for a series with the Armstrongs, and I don’t even know what roommate Appling is sticking me with yet. I hope it’s Cullenbine, who gets on base more than anyone I’ve ever seen along with making me laugh. After the last game we go back to our apartment building on South Normal Avenue (Cully has a top floor room that could pass for a towel closet). We talk about heading over to the Skunk Den for a reefer or two, but he really isn’t in the mood and neither of us want to run into Appling or Hudson there.

So I console myself with a bottle of Nova Scotia ale instead that my cousin smuggled over the border for me. I keep it hidden in back of the refrigerator because I know I could get thrown off the Dorseys for even having it. Still, after losing 17-2, it’s worth the risk.—J.G. Heath

*   *   *

with Jupiter Dobbs
Pittsburgh Courier Baseball Blabber

at ELLINGTONS 10-16-0, JORDANS 6-13-2
at ELLINGTONS 4-6-1, JORDANS 3-8-2 (11 innings)
JORDANS 6-13-1, at ELLINGTONS 4-13-0
‘Twas a hearty opening party on the fields of Newark. To the traditional serenade of “Prelude to a Kiss” by Duke’s Dugout Roof Combo, all dressed to the hilt in top hats and tails, the champion Ellingtons took the field to take on our spunky Jordans…President Hughes tossed the first ball to catcher Gibson, a twinkle in the regal poet’s eye…Smokey Joe Williams on his game as usual, a Buck Leonard single in the first four innings all we could speak for…Josh Gibson walloped a 3-run blow off Max Manning in the 1st, and it was an Ellington festival from there, with seven extra-base knocks in all…

Tighter business in Game 2, Turkey Stearns leaving the yard twice for us, but Matlock and Winters pitched into the 11th before a two-out single by Dick Lundy scored Oscar Heavy Johnson to the delight of the shivering horde…Finally squeaked out our first win in finale on a rolling Tank Carr double in the 7th…Ellie manager Dandridge cried foul but had no case…Phil Cockrell got the win, Harry Salmon the fishy save, and we’re off to K.C. to battle the Basies.

at ARMSTRONGS 4-12-3, BASIES 3-11-1 (11 innings)
BASIES 8-14-1, at ARMSTRONGS 1-5-1
at ARMSTRONGS 5-8-0, BASIES 1-9-1
K-lassic opener happened in Rickwood Field, with Satch Paige matching zeroes with Big Bill Foster till tawdry glovework by Radcliff skooched K.C. to a 3-0 lead…The Paige got turned in the 6th, though, Oscar Charleston and Willard Brown clubbing 4-baggers in a row to tie the knot. Paige got out of a leadoff Oscar double jam in the 8th by whiffing Pop Lloyd and Tubby Scales, but not in the 11th, when Brown, Lloyd and Scales opened with dagger singles and Satch was left dead in the alley…No such drama in Game 2. Torriente, Wilson, Blackwell and Creacy went whack-crazy and Sam Streeter put all Birmingham bats back in the rack, Jack…Leon Day got smacked around right hard in the finale, but K.C. left everyone but their aunties on the paths, 12 in all, and another Charleston homer in the 1st was all the Rickwooders needed.

Until next week, baseball bees and flowers!

BRL Standings as of April 30, 1941

Newark Ellingtons 2 1 .667
Detroit Calloways 2 1 .667
Birmingham Armstrongs 2 1 .667
Kansas City Basies 1 2 .333 1
Pittsburgh Jordans 1 2 .333 1
Chicago Dorseys 1 2 .333 1


Published in: on March 20, 2011 at 4:58 pm  Comments (5)  

5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. My predicted winner Birmingham Armstrongs came through with two out of three. Hooray!!! The Big Bill Foster vs. Satchel Paige matchup was a hum-dinger. Glad to see the ‘Strongs win that one, and I’m a big Satch fan. As much as I’m a Satch fan, though, from what I’ve seen of Charleston, the guy is a pure winner. We’ll see if Charlie and Birmingham can keep it up.

  2. Yes, Mr. Charleston is the Willie Mays we never knew, and at least on the Strat field, he’s even better.

  3. Looking forward to the Dorseys vs. Armstrongs series! Anything you can tell about the pitching matchups? Has my underrated favorite William Bell of Birmingham been on the mound yet?

    • Phoned up Jupe Dobbs just now and he tells me it’ll be Ruffing vs. Chet Brewer, Feller vs. Big Bill Foster, and Thornton Lee vs. Bullet Joe Rogan. Seems that your man Bell has been relegated to long relief for the time being, due to a “flood of hit chances against right-handers on his card,” whatever the heck that means.

      • Thanks for the inside dope from Jupe. Brewer, Big Bill and Bullet ain’t a bad threesome, and I’m willing to go with Bell out of the bullpen. Man, that’s a lot of the letter b for one sentence.

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