There’s maybe fourteen people at the Frederick Douglass Depot to welcome our bus back from Birmingham, but six of them are my cousins and three others are loaded up on cheap hemp.
Can’t say I blame them; we played like real pooters against the Armstrongs, and now they’ve gone off to kick the league’s behind. Meanwhile we get Josh Gibson and the Ellingtons here, and it’s about time I get my trusty bat oiled. I mean, I realize I’m not playing every day, but when Luke hits me in front of Ted and Joe I see more fat balls than a stallion groomer, and you’d think I’d be able to whack a few.
In the first game Appling’s got an even bigger surprise: I’m leading off against Hilton Smith. Guess old Hilton has a bit more trouble with the lefties, and Luke really wants me on base to kick things into gear. Of course that doesn’t help my fielding work. Wild Bill Wright lassoes one over my head to begin the game and by the time I track it down he’s on third with a triple. Alejandro Oms gets him home with a deep fly to me which I’m sure he aimed in my direction. Word gets around this league fast.
Anyway, I ground out to Mule Suttles my first time up, which is lousy because after Appling bounces out Ted walks and Joe singles and it amounts to nothing. But then I’m back up there with two gone in the 2nd, Dickey on third and our pitcher Hudson on first. Smith tries to slip a tough curve by me on a 1-2 count and I smack it into right to tie the game! Man, that feels good, and the crowd that’s been pretty quiet finally wakes up.
Hudson’s throwing great and in the 3rd we set off the fireworks. Ted and Joe lead with singles, Cecil Travis smashes them both in with a deep double past Oscar Heavy Johnson in left, and with two gone, Joe Gordon, who has done nothing but make errors for us so far at second, clubs one into the bleachers and we’re up 5-1!
The Ellies can’t even wet their whistles against Hudson. Gibson doesn’t leave the infield in his four at bats, while we chip away for three more single runs, one driven in by my pal and neighbor Cullenbine with a pinch single in the 7th. I rake a double my third time up before King Kong Keller takes over, and Al Benton finishes the enemy off the last two innings.
So we’re pretty jazzed afterwards and pack the Skunk Den, with just about everyone on the team in there except typically aloof DiMaggio. Tommy Dorsey’s band spins out some fun tunes, and Tommy even strolls past our booths to wish us well in the second game. We got Ruffing going and I’ll be leading off again, this time against Double Duty Radcliffe.
The reefer hangover keeps me focused, too, because I rip a single to lead our 1st. Suttles butchers Appling’s ball for a single and error, Ted and Foxx both single, and we’re up 3-1 just like that. Make it 4-1 after Ted ‘s two-out double in the 2nd, but then we just get sleepy for some reason. I whiff twice, we strand a bunch of men, and Ruffing starts to lose it. Suttles gets a 2-run single in the 5th, Bill Monroe homers in the 6th, and they pile it on in the 7th with four straight hits including a rare Gibson single and Heavy Johnson triple. Before you know it we’re down 9-4, the Comiskey fans are screaming at us and we’re back in our crummy cloud. Wild BIll Wright robs me of a home run my fourth time up, and after we load the bases with none out in the 8th, I ground into a 6-4-3 twin killer to mess that up, too.
Appling drops me to the fifth spot for Game 3 against Smokey Joe Williams to take off some pressure, and when Ted cranks his first homer of the season with Luke aboard in the 1st, I get some hope. But pitching for us is that wild kid Feller again, and believe me, he hasn’t come close to throwing a good inning yet, let alone a game. The Ellies pound him for five runs in the 2nd, started when he walks puny-hitting Dick Lundy and helped by Gordon’s second error in two innings, and we’re barely heard from again. I go 1-for-4, am now hitting .320 but with super low slugging, and our pitching overall has been dreadful. The Basies come to town next, and if we can’t handle them and their 2-7 record, there might very well be serious changes.
After his pitching nightmare, Feller looks like he wants to smoke himself to death, so I drag him away to a movie at the Ritz starring the great Canada Lee. It’s a romantic war drama set during the American-African Revolution, with lots of exciting battle scenes and a fair amount of kissing, but as usual the only white roles are given to ditch diggers, stable boys or prostitutes, and both of us are bored before long.
“I don’t know what my problem is, Heath,” Feller says in a whisper as we sit up in the white balcony, “but I just can’t put the dang ball where I want it.” I ask him if he’s nervous about being in the major league and he says no, thinks that maybe he just isn’t communicating good with Dickey or Hayes behind the plate. “Sure be nice if we had a real pitching coach, too,” he says, “Appling knows more about spitting seeds than he does fastballs.”
At that moment a pretty young actress appears onscreen, playing a fearless patriot in a big recreation scene of the Carolina Coffee Party. I stare her, and all I can think about is Blossom Pickering’s heavenly face.
“Did you hear me, Heath?”
“Uhh…yeah. Sorry. Hey Bob, when does Birmingham come to town, anyway?”
“June, I think. Why?”
I don’t answer him, just shake my head. Feller glances up at the screen angel, at the well-dressed crowd sitting below, then back at me with a bit of nervousness.
“Keep her in your pocket, Heath, or under your hat. You can do jail time for that kind of thing.”
I’m surprised he even knows about Blossom, but I guess Cullenbine told him. Tough to keep secrets on a 35-hour bus ride.—J.G. Heath
NWK 100 000 200 – 3 8 1
CHIC 014 001 00x – 8 16 0
W-Hudson L-Smith HR: Gordon
NWK 100 021 320 – 9 14 1
CHIC 310 000 030 – 7 15 1
W-Radcliffe L-Ruffing SV-Tom Williams HR: Monroe
NWK 150 030 010 – 10 11 0
CHC 200 110 020 – 6 12 3
W-Smokey Joe L-Feller HRS: Monroe, Ted Williams
* * *
ARMSTRONGS 9-13-1, at JORDANS 8-12-2
ARMSTRONGS 7-13-1, at JORDANS 6-11-0 (12 innings)
ARMSTRONGS 5-11-1, at JORDANS 0-4-0
Disgrace. Shame. Outrage. You name the nasty word and Jupe here will back it up. We opened our schedule at beautiful Greenlee Field and turned the place into a big latrine in just three days against the vultures of Birmingham. The first two games we just plain gave away, between rank pitching by Phil Cockrell, bad-timed fielding flubs and never getting a big hit when needed…In Game 2 we got five runs after Superman Pennington tied it with a 3-run rocket off Chet Brewer, and then we got hit with Kryptonite, unable to score the next nine innings off Rube Currie and William Bell despite a gamillion chances, until a dumb passed ball past Quincy Trouppe in the 12th did us in…Game 3 was so foul I can barely jab my keyboard, Big Bill Foster sawing our bats in half like cordwood. I know it’s early, but Manager Turkey Stearnes has been an awful role model, going 2-for 14 here. We go play those amusing white Dorsey boys in a couple weeks, but the Calloways are in town next, and they’re no pansies. Everything’s breaking right for Louie’s Armstrongs so far, and if we can’t clog up their horn somebody else better quick!
at BASIES 2-7-1, CALLOWAYS 1-8-2
CALLOWAYS 10-14-0, at BASIES 5-7-0
CALLOWAYS 6-14-0, at BASIES 0-7-0
Just another sorry display by the K.C. contingent. A tight Webster McDonald pitching display and Spoony Palm homer gave them the first game, but the Count’s band of baseballers went flat from there on. Bill Drake got nailed with six extra base hits in the second affair, before Satch Paige amazingly dropped to 0-3 with a terrible outing in the finale with Slim Jones busy polishing off his mates. One can see the Basies waking up against the white interlopers next week, but so far nothing has gone to plan.
As promised, here’s a few hitting leaders for your enjoyment. Click on my handy Portable Document Formats to view team hitting, team pitching and assorted team miscellany. Until next week, baseball bees and flowers!
OPS (on-base average plus slugging average)
1.413 Biz Mackey, BRM
1.256 Ted Williams, CHC
1.194 Spoony Palm. KC
1.130 Chino Smith, DET
1.073 Cool Papa Bell DET
1.053 Jimmie Foxx, CHC
.458 Mackey, BRM
.441 Williams, CHC
.410 Smith, DET
.410 H.R. Johnson, DET
.390 Lloyd, BRM
.385 DiMaggio, CHC
4 Beckwith, DET
3 Monroe, NWK
3 Palm, KC
13 Smith, DET
12 Beckwith, DET
10 Pennington, PIT
|BRL STANDINGS (May 14)||W||L||PCT||GB|
|Kansas City Basies||2||7||.222||5|